Celebratory Fire…Maybe the Odd Angry Shot

Kids come out and wave as we drive by.  When I got out and walked toward them, they started to run off.  When I sat down on the curb they came back.  We are evidently a curiosity. 

The day started out auspiciously enough.  We scheduled a full slate of appointments.  We were supposed to meet with the regional agricultural representative, visit the local bank, talk to the microfinance people and tour some local farms.  Beyond all that, we planned to go on a foot patrol through the marketplace.  I had grand hopes to spend my first Iraqi dinar at an actual Iraqi market, even if it was only to buy a can of Coke and some kabobs.

We DID mange to meet the ag official.   I did not have much business with him and only went through the greeting rituals, but my team members spent a couple of very useful hours looking over plans and proposals.  Our first bad news came when we learned we would not be able to visit the market.   An IED had gone off there a couple days before.  The Iraqi police said that it was a local matter, more a case of criminal intimidation than terrorism, but since the site was where we were going, the Marines thought it was not worth the risk. 

Instead, we went straight to the bank to meet the microfinance guys, but there was a flawed communication.  The people we were supposed to meet had gone.  The guard called them and they said they would be right back.  We were having a good into talk with the administrative manager.  He has survived some rough times.  AQI had murdered his father and his ten year old brother.  His family had to hide out in the desert for six months until AQI cleared out.  But now times were better. 

We heard shots, quite a few.  It was “celebratory fire”.  Evidently some detainees were released and their joyful relatives were celebrating the way they do around here: shooting guns into the air.  These kinds of celebrations are dangerous for two reasons.  First they sometimes turn nasty.  Maybe for some of the former inmates, the joy of getting out does not completely balance the annoyance of being put in.  Second and probably more important is that other rule of law — gravity.   What goes up must come down.  Falling bullets hurt and kill people.  They tend to tumble a little, but they come down with force similar to what they went up with.  Not a good thing to get caught in that rain.  The Marines told us that it would be very embarrassing if we got shot while under their care.   They ushered us out quickly and we missed the rest of our appointments.It is surreal.   Our hosts at the bank were not armored or protected and they were also not particularly concerned.  They were just bringing out cakes and little cans of Pepsi (very cute little cans) when we made our excuses.  Those kids you saw in my picture just kept on playing.  I understand the need for safety in general.  I also understand that given the circumstances of the celebrations our presence might actually cause a celebratory mob to turn unpleasant creating danger for ourselves and those people around us.  I just hope there is less such joyful noise so that we can get more work done.