Monday, April 18, 2005

Ali Baba

As I have mentioned before, part of my job here is making sure my battalion has the "stuff" it needs to function. That "stuff" includes everything from bullets for our weapons to paper for the copy machine. Think of me as "Red"; the character played by Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption. He was the inmate who knew how to get things. That's me. I know how to get things, and yes...this is a lot like prison.

One of the contacts I've made is the man I'm pictured with below. His name is Alawi, and if I ask for it there's about a 99% chance that he is able to sell it too me for a pretty handsome, cash only price. I tried negotiating a lower price with him once, and he explained to me that he travels all the way from Baghdad to bring me the goods, and that he has to change vehicles three different times because of "Ali Baba". It took me a minute to figure out what he meant, and then I remembered hearing about this nick-name the locals use to describe the bandits stalking the highways throughout the country. It stems from the old Muslim fairy tale, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Alawi is always travelling with a lot of goods, or a lot of cash so the highway robbers see him as a high-payoff target.

What's even more interesting about Alwai is that he used to be a Colonel in the Iraqi Air Force under Saddam's regime. (Don't worry...this guy is definitley not a Saddam loyalist). I explained to him the U.S. was helping to train a new Iraqi Air Force at one of the base camps, and asked if he was interested. In his strong arabic accent he politley replied, "No sir. No...this is much better."

I smiled and then thought to myself, "Man, what a dumb question. Enlist in the military of a country that is financially bankrupt, or make fist fulls of money selling stuff at a ridiculous mark-up to the U.S. military." I know which one I would pick.

Don't worry. I'm using your tax dollars wisely. At the very least you can take comfort in the fact that you are pumping money into the Iraqi economy. I do...and I actually feel pretty good about it.

Until next time.



Blogger rmiller said...

When you see Alwai again, tell him thanks for me and I am praying for the success of his capitalistic, democratically motivated new business. Although he may not be able to expand his customer base yet (even though his current sole customer is a pretty good one), it's only a matter of time...


9:47 AM  
Blogger rmiller said...

oh yeah, BTW, you really look like a 'tough guy' with those glasses on... "I'll be bauck..."

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Kelly & Clint Bridges said...

All I can think of now is the movie "Aladin" where they sing a song about Ali Baba. Probably same fabel. You look good John, how much extra weight does that high-tech vest pack on? Looks like you are wired pretty well. All is well in Dell land - looking forward to having you home.

Kelly & Clint

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey big brother
next time you see Alwai, tell him i need a camel, no more mowing the grass for me, Joan for the camel straight up ha ha love you joan,

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sound more like Radar than Red! :)

I've got you bookmarked. Look forward to more post.

Take care,

Your anonymous neighbor

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Shelly and Jessic said...

Hi John! I loved your pics from Baghdad and was glad to hear you made it back to base with no problems. I can't imagine how scary it must be to feel like a sitting duck out in the middle of nowhere.

Thinking of you!

PS~Please tell Alawi to be safe and that we are thinking of him, too. His journeys sound very dangerous.

PSS~It's amazing that even a stranger can see that Jus needs to "GET THE GIRL A RING!" LOL :)

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John - What an awesome trip you had. I really do hope that Amy is kidding about the decorations, though. I just think it would look a bit ostentacios in Texas, but then again, maybe not, everything in Texas is big! I want to ask you who James Carroll is? He made a comment several blogs back about "checking six" and i was gonna write then and tell you that I used to hear that all the time when i was in my F18 squadron ready room. Then he said in a recent one that you should have called his F18 buddies up to clear the field for you. So, needless to say, I am interested to know where he has been stationed and all that OohRah stuff. We are prepping to move, very excieted, too. Prayers and love to you and your troops. Say hi to George Dees for me! - Carol

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: Hope you discussed the finer points of working for a company like Dell. You need to tell him that if he does not lower his prices you will be forced to put him through an Internet Auction and then his pricing will be completely bastardized and he will go broke like all Dell suppliers.
Hope all is well and that you are receiving the care packages. Sent you some cool stuff along with other goodies.

Drop me a note when you have time.

Bob Hajek

4:10 PM  
Blogger membrain said...

What an excellent blog you have. Great writing style and I like the way you work the pictures into the body of the story, which is quite unique. I'm going to be dropping by daily. Thanks for serving. Stay as safe as you can.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see that our BN has all the items we need. Where are our lights and new bumbers for the vehicles you promised me two months ago???
The world wonders.

No really your doing great. Keep it up.
LTC Neal

12:44 AM  

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