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13 June 2005 This is a letter from Major Ben Busch ([EMAIL PROTECTED]), son of the novelist Fred Busch. Dear All, A long letter for a long month. You just never know how much you will write when you sit down to explain your situation. The ceramic plates in our body armor keep sweat from the relief of moving air. My uniform feels as though it may dissolve beneath them after long patrols. So do I. As we move through the day, we realize that we are almost alone outside in the heat. The people of this land have long abandoned the afternoons to the sun and only foreign transients walk, overburdened and in undefined defiance, through the streets and alleys. Our eyes burn and narrow against the light. It seems to know us. It is directed towards us from every surface and we are somewhat certain that it has an intelligence. Too malevolent to be as indifferent as we should suppose. It portions time. If the heat does not humble us, time will. In other news, the news on reporters may have been ill-reported. TIME Magazine just sent a journalist to Ramadi for two days and Ollie North stopped by. Rumors. Every mission out into this city requires a conscious escape from the resignation that there is nothing here to win and every occasion to fail. That the sullen stare on faces passed on each street carries an inconsolable blame for something that we can, somehow, not repair. It lingers, gathering elements of defeat and revolution and is meant for us only because we are here. I imagine that there must develop a fatigue and a resent in a people occupied by another that has almost nothing to do with the manner of their occupation. To be a subject has to involve being subjected. We are trying to empower their own police to walk post instead of Marines but the graft has not yet taken and is hampered further by the graft. There is something culturally childish in their understanding of basic Western governance and management that will require immeasurable education and probably several generations to overcome if they find it of any interest. That education is, of course, a choice that they have to make on their own. They are not our people. Our understanding of their tribal governance and its relationship to formal civic management is equally naive and charges our frustration. The problem now is that their every inconvenience has become our responsibility. They act as if they can not comprehend our sacrifices and are thus ungrateful for them. The reality is that they can not, culturally, comprehend our altruism or believe our stated intentions. Even though it is not their desire to offend, we are insulted and it bleeds us of affection and tolerance. Liberation will compete with invasion as our legacy but locally we are ideologically irrelevant. Our presence is, mostly, only of interest to those who seek to benefit from our contracts and donations. It is a region of people making alliances, business deals, friendships and enemies one day at a time without a real concept of sustainable services, resources, or trust. No future. Just daily survival as they know it. Family and tribe. Our contributions may be counted long after we have withdrawn but they will not recount the names of the fallen. So many now. Each wound will be absorbed into the quiet sadness that we allow to pass beneath us as a people and a country. Our loss will have never even occurred to most people here. Missing sons and husbands and broken families. The Iraqis have had considerable casualties too but they are accorded a different estimation. A death can be forgiven for a $2,500 consolation payment here. Every damage has a monetary equivalent including emotions and lives. I witnessed a consolation payment to a family during the initial invasion and found the experience surreal, unfathomably arbitrary, and businesslike. A conversation of calculated glances. Their detachment from sorrow and vengeance was visibly settled when currency was presented. The Middle East. Impossible to imagine if you haven't been in the business of negotiating apology and forgiveness to conclusion in a civilian battlefield. Of assigning a reasonable and final value to the dead. We still receive kind reception from young children because they are children and excited by excitement. They believe that "Mister, give me." is a complete sentence and that, by itself, gives example of a poor future of entitlement and dependency. Their parents just use longer sentences. People have often asked me if I like the Iraqi people given the incredible difficulties in dealing with them in order to improve their situation. Many troops are convinced to despise them after a deployment here. I must say only that I understand them. Understanding is enough to accept fate here. I know what will frustrate my sensibilities before the moment arrives and I make the intellectual and emotional allowances in advance. I understand the Iraqis and so I do not hate them for being themselves. I account for cultural predispositions and inclinations. I never thought that they were American when I arrived so I have not been horrified by the discovery that they are, in fact, not. There is not one democracy in the Middle East. There has never been one. What did we expect? We still have to hope for progress and small victories. Possibilities. So what news about the new government you may ask. Well the Provisional Military Governor was replaced by the Transitional Governor who resigned under threat and was replaced with another Transitional Governor. He was then replaced by the Emergency Appointed Governor who was just replaced by the selected Governor chosen by the elected Provincial Council. He never made a speech or publicized his views, never debated the other candidates and was not present during the selection, never making an acceptance speech. He was promptly kidnapped by a rival tribe while his tribe fought another tribe on the Syrian border. The recently displaced Emergency Appointed Governor returned in hopes of regaining the position however, the Deputy Governor is now serving as the Acting Governor while the actual Selected Governor is in captivity. But there was an election so democracy is in full bloom I am to understand. We are now trying to force the power of decision onto the elected Provincial Council and the city officials. It is a difficult thing to keep myself inactive in matters of governance here. The instinct to impose order and command the requisite discipline in the Iraqi leadership must be quelled in order to allow sovereign stewardship to develop at its native pace and in a native form. I fight myself to remain insignificant in the process. I haven't the nature for passive observation. I share the American fascination with action and it has consistently betrayed us in our foreign policy. Our continued involvement will continue the state of dependency and our eventual departure will leave nothing but cosmetic structure here. Iraq will return to what it is. Our common sense is not common to this people and that understanding must be given proper respect. I do my best but I twitch with an urge for the folly of intrusion. We are currently Grafting a lesson in administration using funding to lure responsibility in the new elected Provincial Council. The hope is that they will learn to work together to prioritize projects within the limitations of a budget without giving them the actual money. We will still control the purse and own oversight of the contractors to minimize direct political profiteering but the decisions that are made will come entirely from the council. We have, after two years of allowing waste, fraud and abuse to define our financial support to Iraqi leaders and American and Kuwaiti businesses, learned this much. Last week I negotiated the lowest of three project bids from $110,000 down to $7,400 in 15 minutes. The same amount of work will be done. Frustrating? Well, yes but I blame us as much as I do them. The project would probably have been approved at its bid cost less than a year ago and would still be approved in other units now. You have to know Iraq to pull punk cards on an Iraqi. Independent Iraqi planning will be a first and will begin to transfer substantial authority to Iraqi civic leaders. They have had no consistency in policy, direction or representation since our invasion and have not yet been required to actually accomplish anything. Yes, Lawrence of Arabia warned us of this too... "My head was working full speed in these minutes, on our joint behalf, to prevent the fatal first steps by which the unimaginative..., with the best will in the world, usually deprived the acquiescent native of the discipline of responsibility, and created a situation which called for years of agitation and successive reforms and riotings to mend. We are, of course, beyond the fatal first steps and have paid dearly for them. Their task now is to produce a national constitution so that they can have another national election. I am doubtful that much of it will be ideas of their own about government and its relationship to freedoms. Democratic idealism laying latent in the Iraqi people for years finally defined in law. No, my guess is that it will sound unlike an Iraqi voice when it is read aloud. We are trying. Some of them are trying too. One of the infantry companies in the battalion that my team supports discovered a little girl under blankets in a home during a search. She had second and third degree burns over forty percent of her body and had been lying there on the floor for 25 days. Her mother had been cleaning her as she could but the girl was not healing and infection would likely kill her. She had set her dress on fire while lighting incense. She was three years old and doomed. The Company Commander brought the story to me and I set to scheme a solution for her care. I worked an agreement with a Doctor in a hospital for a private room and examination by a burn specialist. Poor families receive symbolic healthcare here, much like in America, but anyone can get decent treatment for a fee. Medical care in Iraq is said to be free but this is a criminal state and all services are openly or secretly related to cash. The family could not afford to have "Hope" treated for her burns for the six weeks that it would require. Favors were exchanged, as is necessary in this place, and then I went to her home to explain the slight of hand to her family. The world beyond her mother, and a dark room of drawn curtains, had given up on her. She lay silently exposed and studying each of us in detail with dark eyes, her suffering interrupted by the distraction of our gathering around her. We had a doctor of our own who prepared her for transportation to the hospital and she cried out as she was wrapped in protective gauze. Piercing the cry of a child in pain. Filled with helplessness and giving sound to the unfair. I thought, of course, of my daughter. The sound was intolerable by association with fatherhood. An ambulance would arrive for her in the morning of the next day. We would be invisible in the process. Insurgents would punish the family and staff for our sponsorship so we controlled the events through the thin assurances of a small collection of professionals. She is called "Hope" between Marines involved but I know her name. I visit her once a week under cover of inspections, supply deliveries and meetings with hospital staff. She will recover. She smiles when we come now. She has a chance to be a woman. I wonder if I have done her any favors. She is young enough to forget all of us when we go but there are strange pieces of memory that rise in us later. Maybe a pleasant edge of our presence will come back to her. What better thing could we hope to leave here.. .and in this life. So there are moments when this work bears some reward. One girl saved is a good start. I dare not imagine what she must now survive by her survival. I can say that we have done some good this month. We delivered $500,000 worth of medical supplies to the Maternity and Children's Hospital and have provided for the installation of 23 new electric transformers to make power distribution more equitable throughout the city. The fliers included with this letter were produced to get the word out on those actions. I have submitted for the purchase of 20 new infant incubators for the hospital as well. They deliver an average of 20 newborns a day there. I also have contractors cleaning the streets that the Department of Municipalities will not. Ramadi's trash collectors are paid by the central government but can not be "encouraged" to work. A typical problem here. If men are already on the books, then they will not do the jobs that they are paid for unless they are paid an additional salary by another agent to do the job that they should already be doing. Iraqis do not like to work at all. Without the benefit of state sponsored fear, most city managers can not enforce employee participation. I spend much of my time criticizing their failure to establish authority and fire bad employees but the answer is always the same: "I can't. They know insurgents and they will have me killed." I respond that if they tell me who the insurgent collaborators are, I will have them removed by other means. They reply that if they turn them in, then they will be noted as coalition collaborators.. .and will be killed. If no one does anything, then no one will be killed. Nothing gets done.. .but someone will be killed anyway. And so the days go by here in Ramadi. Time that we won't get back again. All of the tomorrows will be hot and we will roll out of the Camp Hurricane Point gate into the city past sagging Hesco barriers full of dirt and mingled rolls of concertina wire. The sound of radio static from higher headquarters in one ear from the handset and the crosstalk of the vehicle commanders in the other ear from a head set, both pushed uncomfortably under my helmet. The sweat that I can't wipe gathering on the inside of my ballistic glasses. Watching the roadsides for bombs and the rooftops for snipers. The people regarding the inconvenience of our convoy. 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