The Villagers Visit Us
I had a bit of a surprise today. Some bears came by and asked to see me! Fortunately we were able to get them onto the base for a meeting with relatively little trouble. The gate guards searched them, of course, but since bears don’t wear clothes it was easy for the guards to see that our visitors were not concealing any weapons.
I met them in the Animal Squad area. It turned out that the visitors were the sheikh and two of his brothers. I invited them in. Unfortunately I didn’t have any pillows that were the right size for them to lean on, so they had to make do with what was available:
In Iraq (and many other Arab countries), it is customary to serve guests chai (tea) as soon as they arrive. So I immediately told Winston to make some tea (I figured he was the best one to do this, since he drinks tea every day at 5 o’clock).
Unfortunately, our only teacup was being used.
After a bit of a delay, Winston was able to serve the tea.
After drinking tea, we got down to business. The sheikh told me that he was sorry about what had happened in his village. Unfortunately, some insurgents had come in and told all of the bears in his sleuth that if they helped or even talked to coalition forces, they would be killed! The sheikh explained that he and his tribe just wanted to live in peace, but the insurgents wouldn’t let them. He also said that because we helped the wounded civilian after the last battle, he could see that we meant well, but he knew that the insurgents were up to no good.
The sheikh offered to help us, but he asked for weapons so his bears could keep the insurgents out of their village. He explained that the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police never go out to that area, so there was no other way for them to defend themselves. He also asked for money so that they could dig new canals and replant the berry bushes Saddam had destroyed.
I told him the money was no problem, but that I was afraid that if I gave weapons to just one tribe, the other tribes might think we were playing favorites. After all, we’re fighting on behalf of all Iraqis, not just one village, tribe, or sleuth. So I told him that if the other tribal leaders were also interested, we might be able to make an arrangement.
Sure enough, the next week, all of the local tribal leaders showed up to meet with me!
(This time I made sure the tea was ready when they arrived.)
We reached an agreement to arm and train a few selected animals in each sleuth or herd so that they would be able to defend themselves against insurgents, in return for which they would have to cooperate with us.
I think that worked out very well!