Big John the Translator

The Iraqi guy I mentioned in the post below was a translator who worked for us in a nearby city.  In his garbage-bag luggage were gifts for his wife and children.  He was going to visit them.  When we landed at TQ, we had to walk around 400 meters over the dirt.   His bags looked heavy (and they were) so I helped him carry them and we got to talking.

Ironically, he called himself John.  That was not his given name, but evidently Americans found it hard to pronounce his real name, so he took the expedient of using one that was easier for the Anglophone tongue.   I told him that I did the same with my name for a similarly prosaic reason.   My father mispronounced our family name with a hard “a”, but since the toy company Mattel was better known than we were and was pronounced with a soft a,  the current generation has chosen to go with the majority.  (I thought about naming my kids Barbie and Ken, but that was just silly.  Of course, now I have to explain that I am not responsible for the lead paint in Mattel toys imported from China.) I will not include John’s real name or picture for reasons you will shortly understand.

I asked him how things were for him and he told me that they were bad. Terrorists figured out that he worked for us.  They shot his father (who survived the attack) and shot at his house.  Fortunately, his wife and four kids were not at home.  They have since moved to their native village, where the local people protect them from the bad guys as best they can and it is easy to spot outsiders like the terrorists.  It is like the witness protection program.

John’s family had been reasonably well off.  They own a date farm (orchard?).  John told me all about dates and date palms. It was a lot like Bubba telling Forest Gump about shrimp, but I was interested.  I will not repeat it all.  Date palms can live 200 years and they have a special cultural value in Iraq.  According to John, dates are good for almost everything.

He hopes to take his family to the U.S.  Our lawmakers, in their wisdom and compassion, are making it possible for those are threatened because of their work with us to get green cards.  I wondered about the pain he must feel leaving Iraq.   He had spoken with such passion about his home and date palms there. 

Leaving is not really his plan.  John wants to get his family safe in the U.S. and then he wants to come back to Iraq to carry on the fight working, again, as a translator for the U.S.  What you have here is an honorable man who loves trees.   How much better can it be?   I will make it my businesses to make sure my State Department colleagues treat him fairly when the time comes.

I left John at the landing zone in Baghdad.  He will catch a taxi to his home.  He knows the dispatcher, who will give him a reliable driver and he told me that he thinks he will be safe.   Terrorist used to beset the road.   They mostly just robbed people, but sometimes they killed if they were feeling nasty.  The coalition surge had chased them away in any case and now the Iraqi police were doing a better job of patrolling.  We sometimes forget how secure our lives are.