Tripper sends this email about his recent experience during a peaceful evening:
As an Army media officer, I'm frequently asked to address various groups about the 'real story' in Iraq. I served nearly 2 straight years there, working various tasks related to media operations (and other things) with OIF. Last night, I faced one of the most unusual groups yet. Quakers, peaceniks, other soldiers (both for and against our involvement) and a true Iraqi.
A gentleman contacted me 2 weeks ago about helping him with his PhD thesis in Conflict Resolution from Antioch College (THAT should be a clue to the context right there) and I agreed to present my experience in Iraq, as I have to countless groups. As this was his personal need, he wanted it to stay strictly on focus of NOT being overtly political; that is, leave your politics outside and relate how the Iraq conflict has personally affected you. This was held in a small community theater in Denver, and he invited people from both sides of the spectrum and with varying experiences on Iraq...
I have to tell you, I was expecting a shout-fest. The list of invitees:
Ken - an 82-yr old member of American Friends Committee (The Quakers); a WWII vet, pilot, and convert (his words) to Pacifism. Ran for Congress in Boulder under the Green party; lost out due to a breast-baring Mayor in a Colorado mountain town.
Terri - an ex-medic who served in Gulf War 1; vocal, opinionated woman’s-rights devotee. Very vocal on how lucky women are to be in the West compared to being Muslim. Or living in the Middle East.
Dahlia - One of the most interesting of all. Her father is from Basra (Shiite); her mother is European Jewish. Med school grad, and has visited Iraq twice in the last 2 years. By DRIVING in.
Peter - A local governance expert, served in USAID in Baghdad helping to form the Baghdad Mayor's Council and Council of Governments in Baghdad. Was there from late 2003 to late 2004.
'Idaho' - Not entirely sure if this was just a nickname or what, but this is all he went by; a Combat Medic from the 2d ID, he opened his part by saying ''I've seen too many dead people...'' Survived 6 IED's.
Mag - Ken's partner, also in her 80's, who is a lifelong member of American Friends and follows Mohandis's non-violent life precepts. Served as an Election Judge in Bosnia. Follows Cindy Sheehan's group closely.
Open to the public, there were several others in attendance that I got to meet during intermissions- one was the Peacenik mother of a Marine now in boot camp; she was dealing with great conflicts in her love for her son and his commitment to the Marines and what that may mean in the short-term (read: going to Iraq). She had raised him to protest and speak out against war, now he's 'one of them'. Two others that attended were ex-1st ID sergeants who served in Iraq as squad and platoon NCO's.
Each related a story or two on how conflict has affected them, centering on the current one in Iraq. Dahlia related her harrowing drive from Amman to Baghdad in Feb of '04, and her later visit into Basra in '05 that shook her greatly. 'Idaho' related all the stories most medics in combat seem to experience, and for some reason, was fixated on the medals each person received, "even if all they did was die." He told of the inequality in prep training between the medics and the infantrymen (medics had been promised the 'goat-survival drill' but never did it while the infantry received months of prep) and of how one soldier was killed by a mortar landing on his back while he was laying on the ground; this prevented the round from exploding and saving all his buds in the immediate area. ''They gave him a silver star, and all he did was lay there''. I got the feeling he didn't get what he felt he was due.
The most interesting part of the evening, though, came afterwards when we had a chance to mingle, and this was the scary part. While each of these had a reason to oppose war or conflict, their views were solidly based on horrible, misleading, non-factual information best described as Urban Legends worthy of SNOPES.COM. Dahlia tried to convince me that UBL was a CIA agent at one time; that 9/11 was definitely a conspiracy. While I agreed with some of her views on what Iraqi's truly want at this time (Americans AND foreigners to leave NOW) she was obviously swayed by heat, not fact. She then tried to convince me that Bush Sr. and UBL's father belonged to the same organizations. (Not realizing or admitting that UBLs family had disowned him years ago.) The two NCO's from the 1st ID were convinced that 9/11 was a cover-up of some sort - when I made the comment at the end that ''on 9/11 the Islamo-fascists brought this on US, then themselves) they began to get very agitated and stated they couldn't believe I had bought into Bush's bullshit.
They all had this feeling, its seemed, that this was all a lie, they had been lied to, and that lying was all the US was capable of. It was shocking. While it was well mannered, I sensed that it could have gotten far more animated and lasted well into the next day trying to sort it all out.
Intelligent people, it seems, are no less susceptible to misleading facts than anyone else. Worse, they WANTED to believe the lies, because it seemed it was the only way their minds could accept it and deal with the situation.
I've got a LOT more work to do, it looks like...