Posted by CODEPINK Staff
Hello everyone, Sally writing from Amman, Jordan. I'm wearing a couple hats here - I'm a very active member and at times spokeswoman for Code Pink, but I'm also a law student, and I'm traveling with Yale Law School's Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). IRAP helps displaced Iraqis get official refugee status from the UN and the DHS so they can access aid and legal benefits, and assists them with paperwork and appeals when they actually go to claim those benefits. It also helps resettled refugees once they've arrived in the US, and does policy advocacy.
I spent the night sleeping in bits and pieces on my flight to Amman, waking up occasionally to chat and sympathize with Eric, the Blackwater security contractor seated next to me. We joked about the food and the cramped seats, but he also told me a little bit about his job over our twelve hours together. He told me about how he misses his wife and kids. About how he hates working in Iraq, he's sick of the violence, but he gets paid more than he could ever make at home. He told me about how after seven years in the military, he quit and went into private security because it pays far more for essentially the same work, and explained that his company can pay more than the government because they don't have to have the same support network, and the government is willing to pay a lot for the contract because it "keeps their hands clean." He also likes working in the private sector because he gets assignments for only three months at a time - he was once kept in Iraq for a fifteen month tour.
I tried to keep the conversation somewhat lighthearted (Eric was a very nice guy), but really, it's tough. When I started flipping through my lonely planet trying to learn some Arabic phrases and asked if he knew any, he shrugged. "Naw. Just 'put your hands behind your head' and 'freeze' and 'down on the ground.'"
Well, what can you do? I learned the word for freeze - kif - which who knows, maybe will come in handy. I passed on the other phrases though.
Sidenote: this one time, I went speed dating in Boston and I met an interrogator for the Navy in Guantanamo. True story. He told me that Americans don't understand what has to be done to protect them. The end of our eight minute date cut short our conversation, but John, if you're out there, I understand what is being done, and it isn't protecting anyone. Not me, not the Iraqi people, not the young Americans who have now spent years risking their lives chasing the aftermath of phantom weapons of mass destruction and their imagined mushroom clouds.
P.S. I'll be blogging over the next ten days or so about my experiences in Amman. I generally won't use the real names of the people I meet in the interest of their safety.