Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My God, What have we done?

The Israelis bomb Beirut Airport. Hezbollah rockets kill two children in Haifa. The Iraqi electrical crew we hired to install two large transformers is late again.

I am pissed. Not once yet this week have they been on time. The job is already 7 days late and half of that again will be wasted redoing their shoddy work. How can they possibly think a cable is okay when it’s rated for 30 amps and they have it connected to a 60 amp bus? Oh that’s right – they don’t read. So we have to go behind them and make a list every night of what needs to be done again. I have to admit, they are more than willing to do the work over, but it’s so damned frustrating just to have to.

And then sometimes they just go home at 3:00. Poof! They are gone! They arrive whenever they seem to want to and now they want to leave early again? So I tell them we’ll work until dinner and then go home. No one is very friendly to me after that, but they stay. About 5:00 pm we start to clean up and I tell the interpreter that they can go now. As I turn to speak to one of the escorts I hear the interpreter telling them men that they’ll be taken on the truck to the gate. There is a slight murmur and two of the guys are disagreeing. Christ, why does everything have to be a struggle here?? I let the interpreter handle whatever it is and go inside to find G-----, the inspector. I tell him I‘d like him to prepare the list for tomorrow so that we can wrap up and I can get to chow. For once I feel like we got a good day’s work out of these guys.

Ten minutes later G---- and I go back outside and I am surprised to see the Iraqi work crew still there. The interpreter comes over to me and tells me that the men are afraid to leave. That everyone knows that the men who go to work for the Americans go in at 0800 and leave work at 5:00 – just like in America. At first it doesn’t dawn on me what this means, but then one thirty-year old can contain his emotion no longer and bursts out crying. He’s literally crying, with tears running down his face, and jabbering, and shaking and the interpreter says that he says he has kids, and that he’s just trying to make money to get by. Finally I realize what it means for these guys to come to work here – In one instant these guys cease to be just another group of sweaty, uneducated men in sandals and soiled trousers, and become husbands and fathers who risk their lives every day by coming to work for the Americans, just so they can feed their families. Most feign unemployment, rather than tell even their closest friends that they work on the base - this is why these guys come in at different times, and why they never seem to work a full day. It could be very bad for them if the wrong people noticed the pattern and figured out what they were doing.

I find some stuff for them to do for another hour and a half before letting them go in small groups. And I vow to try to not be so judgmental. Didn’t have much of an appetite after that…


Blogger Jen Jen said...

You are a very good man, Major Binkowski!
If the world were filled with more men like you, perhaps we wouldn't be at war at all!

August 02, 2006 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


August 02, 2006 4:32 PM  

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