‘We apologize for the inconvenience’

In Ramadi, an Up-Close View of Skirmishes

Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children in action:

Pausing at a black gate, a Marine knelt and another stepped onto his back, hurtling over to unlock it from inside. There was no polite request for entry. The threat from insurgent bombs or snipers was too great.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” 31-year-old Staff Sgt. William Brooks of Houston said as a man, his wife and two children came to the door to watch Marines take up positions in their courtyard. “We’re just stopping by. We’ll be on our way soon.”

Most people would be shocked to see a dozen heavily armed troops taking cover in their front yard. But after three years of skirmishes between insurgents and U.S. forces, folks in Ramadi are used to it.

These Marines are back for a second deployment to Iraq. While the Army generally uses year-long deployments, the Marines usually sticks to six months at a time. While this is welcome news for the new arrivals, some wonder if the Marines don’t leave just as they are getting their feet under them with the locals and the situation in their area of responsibility.

Several Marines sat with the family, who appeared genuinely at ease, curious and smiling. They joked in broken English with the Marines sitting on their blue couch.

The sons and daughters stared at their equipment with wide eyes. Each Marine was crammed into a full set of heavy armor, clutching an automatic rifle. Night vision equipment was on their camouflaged helmets.

There was no serious questioning. A couple of Marines appeared simply to be getting to know the family.

The family was surprised that Walblay speaks basic Arabic, which he picked up from a translator last year.

Speaking broken English, one of the sons, Issa, said “we were watching the Oprah Winfrey show.”

Oprah Winfrey?!? Maybe things aren’t going as well in Iraq as I thought. What’s next? Demonstrations because searches are interfering with voting for American Idol?

Political impasse. Squandered government cash. Biased media. Oprah Winfrey.

Iraq is closer to the American way of life than I would ever have imagined possible.