My tour of duty in Iraq is over.
I have completed my mission. Now I'm back in Mexico with my family.
I'd like to thank all the VDARE.com readers who were concerned about me, asked after me and prayed for me.
I was stationed at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq, part of a complex of coalition bases located near the city of Nasiriyah on the Euphrates River.
The whole time I was there, we were only attacked a few times, and nobody was hit.
The region around Tallil is classic Mesopotamian plain, flat alluvial land with real soil—not sand. The countryside is inhabited by Bedouin who raise sheep, goats and camels. The Bedouin have a good relationship with the U.S. military. The tribal sheik, who lived in a quite spacious house—not a tent—was actually the owner of the land. The U.S. military paid him rent.
It was fascinating to realize that I was in Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization. Due to the lack of trees and rock, for millennia, the people in that region have constructed buildings of brick and clay.
I was able to visit the ruins of Eridu on a patrol. The ruins of Ur were actually within our security perimeter, so I was able to visit it a number of times. It was a great opportunity.
The Bible describes Mesopotamian building techniques used at the dawn of civilization, when it says:
"They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar."[Genesis 11:3]
Sure enough, gazing at 4,000+ year old ruins at Ur and Eridu, I saw the brick and tar, just as described in the Bible.
My military duties changed throughout the year.
I worked on guard towers, gazing upon the Mesopotamian plain surrounding our base. Nobody attacked while I was on duty.
I went on patrol several times and got to see the Euphrates River, and did a stint at the front gate.
For a month a few other soldiers and I were tasked to construct a fence to protect a base. We worked with local Iraqi civilians. For me this was a great opportunity to practice my Arabic and I enjoyed working with and conversing with local Iraqis.
A few of them even invited me to accompany them to Najaf and Karbala, where they were planning to go for a Shi'ite festival. I was honored to be asked, and thrilled that we were having the conversation in Arabic. But of course I had to say no. I told them in my limited Arabic that the Army doesn't let me. Even if I could have gone, an American alone in a place like that could end up on the internet getting his head sawn off. But I still believe my Iraqi co-workers themselves invited me with good intentions.
After the fence project, I spent a few months in a communication center working with the U.S. Air Force which gave me an appreciation for the work done by that branch of the service.
Also during my Iraqi tour, I had the opportunity to meet a great variety of soldiers from our coalition partners, who are doing a fine, though under-appreciated, job in Iraq.
I met soldiers from the following countries: Italy, Britain, Romania, Australia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Ukraine, El Salvador, Japan, Mongolia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Bosnia and Denmark. I saw a plane from the country of Georgia and I flew to Iraq from Kuwait on a South Korean C-130.
I worked about four months as a liaison with the Italian Army, another assignment which was quite interesting. While working with them, I learned some Italian. Already knowing Spanish was a big help, so it wasn't like starting from scratch. Sometimes if I didn't know a word in Italian, I'd just say it in Spanish. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
The Italian Army (Esercito) is doing good work in Iraq and is responsible for the security of most of Dhi Qar province. It was an honor to work with them and I admired their professionalism.
They also knew how to enjoy themselves. They cooked their own pizzas in a brick oven, and invited me to join them. In contrast to the U.S. army, which prohibits alcohol in Iraq, the Italians actually provide it to their soldiers. Not being much of a drinker myself, that didn't cause me any problems.
I felt I shared a common Western identity with the Italians. Italy too is facing some serious National Question issues these days, what with mass immigration, Islamic activism and EU integration. Sometimes Italian soldiers would discuss these issues with me.
I also had the privilege of working with Romanian soldiers. Only 16 years ago, their communist government was our enemy, now they are our staunch allies. The Romanians have a unique culture. They speak a Latin language but are predominantly Eastern Orthodox. Historically, Romania was a bulwark against repeated Turkish invasions. And, as the Romanians correctly point out, the rest of Europe failed to appreciate this.
I was also able to talk with British and Australian soldiers, fellow heirs of our common Anglo-Saxon culture. On the nametags of their uniforms, I would see quite familiar surnames: Smith, Jones, Taylor, Williams, Evans, Couch, Nelson, Palmer, Carter, Cameron and Campbell. All familiar surnames in my home state of Oklahoma, the majority of whose inhabitants descend from the British Isles.
Near the end of my tour I traveled in a few convoys, to and from another base, in the Sunni Triangle. There is definitely more danger in that region. Every day I would hear some kind of explosion nearby.
If you follow the war, you know about the dreaded IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. They are now the biggest killers of our troops, slaying our soldiers as they travel along the roads of Iraq. As our convoy of humvees and cargo trucks made its way down the highway, I could actually see craters in the road left by previous bombs. But none of the convoys I was traveling on were hit.
The size and scope of the American presence in Iraq is enormous, and I saw only a small part of it.
We operate a vast infrastructure, a complex of bases, served by fleets of supply trucks and manned by hosts of military and civilian personnel. Bases are constantly being upgraded in continuous construction projects. We have altered the landscape.
Aside from the soldiers, there are thousands of civilian employees. Many of them hail from the Indian subcontinent. Once I was in a cafeteria at a table with a number of Pakistanis. I asked if they were speaking Urdu. No, we're speaking Pashto, one of them informed me, but "they" are speaking Urdu. "They" referred to another group of Pakistanis at another section of the table.
Who says language isn't important?
Speaking of which, even among soldiers of Mexican ancestry in the Texas National Guard, one finds a great spectrum of assimilation. Of course, everybody in the U.S. Army knows English (and it had better stay that way). But some would seem to prefer speaking Spanish if they are conversing with others who speak it.
Others however, though of Mexican ancestry, don't even speak Spanish. They are native speakers of English, and seem culturally indistinguishable from Texas Anglo-Americans.
I completed my tour in Iraq, I've returned to my family, and I'm proud of my service. I was impressed at the good work being done by the American and coalition soldiers, and the help they give to local Iraqis, often at their own initiative. There is no doubt that American and coalition soldiers are doing many good things in Iraq.
I am very concerned however with the general direction things seem to be moving in Iraq.
The new Iraqi constitution in Article 2 designates Islam as the official religion, and stipulates that no law shall be passed in contradiction to that ideology. This doesn't bode well for freedom of religion.
Islamic activists in Iraq are growing in power. They harass religious minorities like the Christians and Mandaeans.
Iraqi women, though dressed modestly, don't conform to the activists' standards. As a joke, I purchased a burqa for my wife. But for many Iraqi women, it's not a joke, it's their everyday attire, even when it's hot. [VDARE.COM note: They're now for sale in America, as well!]
The growing influence of the Iranian government over Iraq is also quite bothersome. Are we handing Iraq over to the heirs of Khomeini? If we have to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, what will happen to our troops in Iraq?
As a Christian, I find it sad to see reports of the persecution of Christians actually increasing since Saddam's overthrow. Christians have lived in Iraq since the first century A.D., long before Islam even existed. Ironically, George Bush is regarded by both supporters and detractors as an outspoken Christian. Yet I have never heard him speak out for Christians persecuted in the Islamic world.
Why didn't our leaders foresee these things?
I believe Bush and his War Council failed to consider Iraq's cultural realities. They were beguiled by a utopian vision of universal democracy and multiculturalism. Overthrowing Saddam only took three weeks. Bush and his advisers failed to give enough consideration to what could come next.
Iraq is a diverse country—an amalgam of ethnic groups, tribes, factions and jostling Islamic sects that has always been held together by force. "Iraqi" identity is weak.
In the Tallil area, where I was, there was a struggle between rival police factions. There were tribal disputes. In a bizarre example of competitive bidding, rival Iraqi construction companies had a shootout to determine who got to construct a new school. And, in what I call "The Shi'ite Shootout," one night in August, fighting broke out between rival Shi'ite militias. Coalition leaders, wisely, stayed out of that one.
What will become of Iraq and our involvement there? I honestly don't know. But in my humble opinion, our leaders' failure to take into account the ethnic, cultural, religious and balance-of-power considerations has cost us dearly. Iraq's National Question has become ours.
I support the troops and hope for the best in Iraq. But for me, the war is over.
Now, I'm back in Mexico with my family, my wife Lilia and our two sons, David (now 6) and Raphael (now 3). It's great to be back with Lilia and the boys.
When I was called up in 2004, I lost my English-teaching job and my Mexican work permit, so it's like starting over for me. But I am here in Mexico legally, with a 6-month permit for the "turista, transmigrante, visitante persona de negocios o visitante consejero" ("foreign tourist, transmigrant, business visitor or councilor visitor").
So I want to jump right in and start churning out Memos from Mexico...
American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he is married to a Mexican woman and has two children. He serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.