Im November 2007 beschrieb unser Mitarbeiter James Hagengruber in einer Reportage das Leben der Zwillinge Robert und Matthew Shipp aus Idaho, USA. Er hatte sie auf ihrem Weg von der High School zu den Marines, einer Einheit der US-Armee begleitet. James’ Geschichte endete damit, dass sich Matt Shipp von seiner Frau verabschiedete und, wie sein Bruder Robert, in den Nahen Osten aufbrach. Kürzlich besuchte James die Zwillinge auf dem Schiff USS Germantown und im Irak. Für jetzt.de schreibt er in einer Kolumne über seine Erfahrungen und darüber, wie es den Brüdern ergeht - hier die Übersicht zu den bislang erschienenen Folgen. Als etwaige Übersetzungshilfe hier ein Link zu LEO. Teil 8:
They can't fix New Orleans but spend Billions for Baghdad! Late one night while waiting for a flight at Al Taqaddum air base in Iraq, I met a medic from New Orleans. We were killing time by smoking cigarettes. I asked him about his job, which was to fix broken soldiers. “I don’t mind being here. I don't mind the job,” the medic told me, taking a drag from his Marlboro. “I don’t mind the broken legs and the blood, but I don’t know why we’re here.” According to the patch on his dirty uniform, the medic’s last name was Simmons. I didn’t ask his first name. I didn’t want this to be a formal interview. I just wanted to listen. Simmons told me his mother and grandmother both lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. Nearly three years later, the two women were still without homes. “They can’t fix my city but they can spend $3 billion on new streetlights for Baghdad? We can’t even take care of our own people,” Simmons said, nearly on the verge of tears. Simmons had been in the military five years. He was at the end of his contract, but his commanders had ordered him to return to Iraq. Simmons was bitter. He wanted to care for his mother and grandmother. He wanted to be the next president, so he could order politicians who have supported the war to send their own sons and daughters to Iraq. “If they all had to fight, we wouldn’t be here right now,” he said. ***
Get the hell out of here! Eventually, I caught a flight from Al Taqaddum, but the plane didn’t take me all the way to my combat outpost destination. At 3 a.m., the plane dropped me off at Al Asad Air Base. After landing, I went to a tent and found an empty cot. A man wearing a baseball cap sat on a bench outside the tent smoking a cigarette. I sat next to him and lit a Camel Light. I said hello. It was dark. But I could see the man’s eyes when he turned and looked at me. His breath smiled like alcohol. “What are you doing here?” he asked, not offering any introduction. “I’m a journalist,” I said. “Go home. There is no place in Iraq that is safe,” he told me. “The people have big smiles. You will see them. But get the fuck out of here. Get the hell out of here. The country is never going to love us.” Eventually, the man told me he worked as an investigator for a government agency. He had been working in Iraq for four years. He was originally from Jordan and he spoke fluent Arabic, but he now was a U.S. citizen and owns a house in Las Vegas. “What should America do?” I asked him. “It’s not our war. Get the hell out of here. You need to go home,” he said. He told me that in his four years in Iraq he had witnessed dozens of deaths. Hours earlier, in fact, he had been with a group of Marines in a marketplace when a bomb went off, severely injuring three of the men. That’s why he had whisky on his breath, he said. He needed to have a strong drink to wash away the memory of so much blood. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. I felt something on my foot. A rat. It ran back under the tent. The man laughed. “We need to get the hell out of here,” he said. ***
More than he would earn in a decade in Sudan During my time at Combat Outpost Norseman in far western Iraq, I noticed an old man sometimes sitting in front of a shipping container on the edge of the base. Unlike everyone else on the tiny base, this man wore civilian clothes. He was not a Marine. One evening, I noticed him sitting in front of the shipping container watching the lingering light in the western sky. It was beautiful – purple, blue and red mixed above the horizon of sand. I waved. He waved back and smiled. I sat beside him. He spoke only a small amount of English. His name was Jacob Josef and he was from Darfur, Sudan. He had been working on the base as an electrical generator repairman, earning $1,500 per month. He left Darfur two years ago – after his father and uncle had been killed -- and now lived in Iraq in this shipping container. When Jacob Josef arrived at the combat outpost, rocket, grenade and sniper attacks were common. He wore his helmet to the bathroom. Now, he wanders the base wearing sandals, shorts and a baseball cap. Jacob Josef is a Sunni Muslim. Unlike many Sunnis, who resent America’s invasion of Iraq, Josef thinks it was a good idea. He also thinks American troops must stay to keep the peace. “If American troops leave there will be war,” he said. When we met, Jacob was preparing his return to Darfur. He had saved $7,000, which is more than he would have been able to earn in a decade in Sudan. He was going to use the money to build a new house and buy more cows. As we spoke, a scorpion crawled out from under Jacob’s shipping container house. He stomped it. “Welcome to Iraq,” he said, laughing. ***
Chuck Norris would end this war!
Everywhere I went in Iraq I saw shrine erected by U.S. troops to honor Hollywood action star Chuck Norris. In movies such as “Missing in Action,” “Delta Force,” “The Green Berets,” and “A Force of One,” Norris helped to define for a generation the idea of a righteous American warrior. A tough guy with a big heart who always did what was right, even though he had to battle huge forces of evil. It’s no surprise, then, that Norris has become a cult-like figure for U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
Troops pay tribute to Norris by writing small tributes to his power on bathroom walls and in these shrines, including one I saw at a helicopter landing base in Baghdad. Messages at the helicopter base included, “The fastest way to a man’s heart is with Chuck Norris’ fist,” and “There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Chuck Norris lives in Oklahoma.”
Chuck Norris has visited Iraq several times. At Al Taqaddum Air Base, I found a portable toilet where someone had written: “Chuck Norris shit here.” Most toilets include at least one message about Chuck, such as, “The reason they don't have a street named for Chuck Norris is people would be afraid to cross it,” or “Hurricane Katrina was caused by a roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris,” or “Chuck Norris grinds his coffee with his teeth and boils the water with his own rage,” or “There are no such things as tornados. Chuck Norris just hates trailer parks,” or “The reason they don't have a street named for Chuck Norris is people would be afraid to cross it.”
I didn’t want to forget the Chuck Norris “facts,” so I typically brought a notebook with me to the toilet. But there is one Chuck Norris message that I didn’t need to write down to remember: “Chuck Norris would end this war.”
Whenever I think of this message, I picture the young man who wrote it – he was probably 18 or 19. Maybe he was from a small town in the Midwest. He was raised watching action movies and he came to Iraq believing his service would make the world a safer, better place. Now, he’s not so sure.
Hier eine Übersicht zu den bislang erschienenen Folgen der Irak-Kolumne.
Text: james-hagengruber - Fotos: Brian Plonka