Friends of Padre Steve’s World
Just a sort note on this Columbus Day…
I was taken back to Iraq this weekend when the author of a book that will be published next year sent me next year sent me the excerpt of a section that he included on me. It was very well done, something that even Judy agreed. That being said it was so well done that I was immersed in thinking about my time in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, and my sleep was interrupted by dreams of those times. In fact it felt like I was back there, in a place that I knew so well…
I think that my thoughts and memories were also jogged by re-reading Michael Korda’s biography of T.E. Lawrence, (Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia) and the current battles occurring in Iraq and Syria.
It seems that no matter how far I get from Iraq that a part of me will always be there, and I think that a fair amount of me will be in that land. If I was 20 or 30 years younger and not married I might even go back, because of how connected I still feel to Al Anbar Province and the tribes who live there.
My experience in Iraq was different than many, if not most Americans who have served there or in Afghanistan. I knew something of the history and culture of that land before I went there, and had a respect for the Arabs that most Americans do not have. I was greeted with hospitality, and had the opportunity to spend time with Sunni and Shia Moslem, as well as Christian Iraqi Arabs. I will never forget those times, meetings that occurred during missions where at times the troops that I was with took fire from insurgents.
I left Iraq in 2008 with hopes, hopes fueled by my visits with Iraqis who believed that the country had reached a point where things would continue to get better. However, that was not to be, the corruption of the Shia led Iraqi government and its disenfranchisement of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities opened the door to the so-called Islamic State, something that is neither Islamic, nor a state.
I grieve for my Iraqi friends, and pray that those who I know have survived the chaos in the region. Like Lawrence, who left the Middle East disappointed and dejected by the outcome of the war and by the actions of governments, I have felt the same way about successive American administrations and those of the Iraqi government. That disappointment often leaves me bewildered and discouraged, and I sometimes feel like Lawrence when he penned this note to one of his friends in 1935:
“You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.”
Anyway, I do hope that somehow that things will get better, for my Arab friends as well as those of us who served there.
P.S. When the book that includes some of my story comes out I will let folks know.