JimSpiri ”THE LAST LAP #3”
The latest journey called, "The Last Lap" - IRAQ, 2015
© Jim Spiri 2015
It is in the afternoon about 4:45 pm. I have had three full days here in Iraq so far and that’s not to mention the two days of travelling just to get here and the week it took to get ready to come. Needless to say, it’s been quite a drain on my body that is now 59 and holding. Recently, I hurt my shoulder a few months ago and I know it’s a torn rotator cuff. The pain is excruciating and it has caused me to be on guard doing simple things. Throwing a baseball or reaching behind my back is out of the question. I know it needs surgery but I had to wait until this journey is over. I knew the recovery time would be too long. Most say six months or so. Today, the shoulder is hurting. But, I’ll get over it. I was taken to meet two very important men. Their names are General Abid and General Abdullah. They are brothers and live next to each other with their families. These two men are about my age. They are military men and also extremely intelligent. They also are excellent hosts and treated me with incredible dignity. In the past two days I have come to know them and their stories. It is exactly what I thought might be here and the dialog I have struck up with them is the best conversation concerning situations all over this country that anyone could be privy to. The one thing about being near the age of 60, all over the world is the fact that one gets a little respect just because one has managed to stay alive on the planet. From time to time back home, it is difficult to convince people of some things if you’re not wearing a suit and tie. I like being here and having people treat me with respect just for having made the journey to come and see and listen. It is something that always stokes my interest in what people have to say. Someone told me once that if you want people to listen to you, learn to listen yourself. I’ve done a lot of listening lately and from time to time it pays off. This current experience is one of those times. On this evening I would learn from these two Generals the recent history of the battle for Dholoyia. What I heard was the story of what happened beginning last June, 2014, and lasting until December 31, 2014. That is a span of nearly 7-months. During this time in Iraq, we at home heard that this group we now call ISIS had taken over a fair bit of territory in Iraq, most notably in Ninevah province, Mosul. Mosul i s in the north of the country. It was one of the most important cities in Iraq and suddenly it was now under ISIS control. The speed and intensity of this takeover of Mosul caught everyone’s attention. Shortly after this event here in Iraq, a move was made to come south. I do not recall hearing about this all that much but some things were known to me. I knew Tikirit was in the scope of ISIS but below, or south of that, I was unaware of what was going on. Turns out, what was going on was the push south was going to an area that I was a bit familiar with. The area near Balad, specifically Dholoyia, which is an agricultural area on the Tigris River. There is a lot of farming in the area. It is all the “Fertile Crescent” as we learned in grade school. The two Generals, Abid and Abdullah began to educate me on what has come to be known in Iraq as a kind of “last stand” situation that the residents of Dholoyia took. Unbeknownst to me, this place took a firm stand and basically said, “No” to ISIS. ISIS has lots of names from times past. Here, their new name doesn’t really mean that much. It is all old and new remnants of what we called AQI, or Al-Queda in Iraq. Names change but pretty much it’s another gathering of bad guys fighting the remaining population that has refused to go along with what we in the west call, radicalization. This is by no means meant to say that everyone here was, is or has been the best of friends towards the west. In fact, exactly where I am at this point had been known as part of the “Sunni Triangle” which was full on bandit country during the war years. I spent the late afternoon and well into the evening discussing the current situation in Iraq. I was later invited to the Iftar meal (during Ramadan, fasting during daylight hours is the custom with the sunset bringing the time to break the fast, which is called the Iftar meal) for the next evening. I readily accepted. Getting to know these two military men of Iraq is quite an education for me. I am constantly impressed with the levels of education among the folks that I am meandering about. All are wise beyond their years and have much insight into how things in the world, especially Iraq, really operate. It makes me wonder again why Paul Bremmer made it his personal agenda to rid Iraq of these leaders after the invasion of Iraq. Later this evening, we returned to my hosts home and I began to download and upload my work from the day and write what I could. The night was now late. Sleep and time changes and heat and all the information gathered began taking a toll on my body. Eventually, sleep came as I stretched out on my accommodation and treasured my pillow. I was exhausted. It was very late. The sun would be up soon. I was here doing what I had come to do. All was well. I was safe, I was not hungry, I had plenty of good water and my host is the best thing that could have happened to me in Iraq. I was in perfect hands. All my prayers had been answered. End of #3.
Fruit stand in Dholoyia Grocery shopping in Dholoyia Another market place business in Dholoyia Unique street scene in Dholoyia Daily Life General Abdulla (L) and my host, Haithem (R) The Generals back yard on the Tigris Recreation and fishing on the Tigris Summer on the Tigris in Dholoyia Gen. Abid (L) Spiri (C) Gen. Abdullah (R)

The Last Lap #3

Unique street scene in Dholoyia