Note: These are the thoughts of a gay soldier — a
North Carolina native — who has been deployed to Iraq. Because of
the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,
he must remain anonymous.
Saddam’s palace was surrounded by the first nice grass I have seen
in months. It was a fortress that reminded me of some upscale resort — but
one that included armed guards. The furniture was elegant — most
of us would die to have it in our homes if you like elegant pieces. The
tapestries were as nice as the ones you would see in the Biltmore Estate.
The ceilings were painted with the most ornamental themes. There was a
theater and it had over two dozen plush leather chairs. I wonder what movies
Saddam watched there?
The marble that was used in the palace could cover the entire football
field of the Panthers Stadium, probably twice. It was like one of the Seven
Wonders of the World.
The grandeur of the entire thing made me sick. I enjoyed seeing the palace
but the plight of the average Iraqi kept that in check.
It was amazing; it was overwhelming. It made me cringe to think of the
money it took to build these palaces, over 15 alone in Baghdad, for the
former regime. I have visited three now. It’s especially galling
when you think of the over one million Iraqi people displaced as a result
of sectarian violence and because of the war.
Flying into the International Zone where the Palace is located, you can
see trash everywhere. Bombed out buildings, animals roaming free — it’s
primitive and yet new all at the same time. I saw the tomb of the Unknown
Soldier here in Iraq and the famous crossed sabers. The Tigris and Euphrates
rivers are both in sight.
With 30-some-odd years of seclusion from the technological world as we
know it, the Iraqis are just now coming into the age of all the creature
comforts we have taken for granted my entire life. It’s sad to see
such devastation and the poverty that runs rampant all over. I pray for
an Iraq where peace can occur and all people have the opportunity for a
free and safe life.
It’s less than 100 days before I’m back with you all in Charlotte
and you know I’m looking forward to being home. I hope that any of
my fellow soldiers who read this know that I thank you from my heart for
your selfless service. If you’re here, I pray for your safety. If
you’re not, I pray that you may be spared the experience of life
over here. See you all soon, my friends.
— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte