Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Back in college, a "weather day" meant that it had snowed too much for professors to safely take to the roads, allowing us a brief respite from our studies to go outside, get some fresh air, play some snow football, and pile up snowbanks behind Vince's door. Weather days in Iraq look a little different:
Today we're experiencing a shamal ("northern wind"), which is a steadily blowing heavy wind from the northwest that scours the desert of loose dirt and sand and throws it all up in the air (as opposed to a haboob, which is a sudden dust storm caused by the downdraft of a collapsing thunderstorm; it creates a wall of dust pushed outward from the center of the storm but doesn't last very long). Shamals last as long as the wind is blowing - which, as of right now, has been about twelve hours and shows no sign of letting up. On moderately dusty days, you can still see the sky, which makes you feel like you're in a ring of dust. Today, we're in a red bubble of dirt, as if our headquarters building has been dropped on the surface of Mars (could be good training for future colonists...). So, I've been sitting here, alternating between playing Warcraft III against another pilot, reading Jonah Goldberg's new book, and trying to figure out how the hell to transform my Blackout Transformer (it's a level 3, only decipherable by quantum physicists and 5-year-olds. As I am neither, I am SOL). This weather is killing my flight hours, since I only need a few more to be placed in the section leader syllabus and that won't happen so long as we're here on the Red Planet.
I've been engaging in some amateur archaeology on my last couple of flights (as best I can way up in the air), making my co-pilot take the controls so that I can snap some pics of the many ancient bridge ruins along the Euphrates:
These things dot the riverbank by the dozen, and so far my humble efforts at uncovering their origins have yet to yield success (Googling "ancient bridges in Iraq" being all I have time for). I will keep investigating, but feel free to submit any theories or information you might uncover. Perhaps I'll publish it all in an over-sized coffee table book when I get back.
In other news, al Qaeda in Iraq has been discovered executing other Sunnis whom they deem "false" and insufficiently loyal. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is a bad sign for the insurgency: 'eating your own' hardly reflects strength and confidence. Perhaps this is yet another benchmark of the success of the surge. We'll see.
And finally, an interesting story from the heart of Africa: President Bush received a hearty welcome in Tanzania a few days ago from its president and several thousand locals, who thanked him for initiatives he implemented, designed to reduce malaria and HIV and improve schools and health care. For all the adulation Bill Clinton got for 'feeling your pain', it seems Bush went beyond feelings and actually did something concrete for that forgotten part of the world. His future legacy in our country will doubtlessly hinge on the outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's good to know that other nations will remember him as something besides the anti-Christ.