BAGHDAD — All of us here got some bad news several weeks ago. The Army (or someone) decided to cancel all the DoD badges and issue a new one with much greater restrictions on it. I have mentioned a number of times that the most valuable thing I have in Iraq is my DoD badge. It is what lets me go anywhere, eat anywhere, and shop anywhere, while doing it in the company of others if I want to. Apparently, the Army recently discovered that this very expansive and generous policy has resulted in the Army mess hall system feeding half of Iraq because they never imposed any access limits. It may also be what accounts for all the money Halliburton makes here — they are paid on a per capita basis and they operate the mess halls. Those of you who are critics of Halliburton should know one thing, however: they run one hell of a good mess hall.
The DoD badge is to be replaced with an “All Iraq” card. This one clearly violates the “Truth in Labeling” law since it lets you go practically nowhere in Iraq! It appears I will not be able to go to the mess halls to eat, or to the PX’s to shop. We will be forced into the streets of Baghdad to shop, and to eat in our own dining facility, a dismal prospect indeed. There is a sign posted in one of the mess halls that a lawyer someplace, in some sort of class-action, is willing to represent the survivors of anyone killed or wounded as a result of being forced “into the streets of Baghdad.” I suspect the sign was actually posted by a soldier, probably a chronic malcontent, since no self-respecting American lawyer would harbor such a self-serving notion.
Initially, I reacted to the switch to the new badge with relief. My present DoD badge carries the wrong Social Security number. It is on the back and I never looked at the back of the card until I had had it for a couple of months. God knows why it is on the card in the first place, since one is always warned to be very careful with his SS number. Besides, we all carry passports everywhere we go. I would certainly accept a passport as proper ID before a DoD badge. In my case all nine digits in the Social Security number are wrong; obviously someone else is walking around with my number on his card.
I felt the new card would be a chance to correct this error before it might affect me. An Army officer had told me ominously: “You better get it fixed or you might have trouble when you are leaving the country.”
We went to get our pictures taken for our new cards three days ago. When I was looking at the pre-printed form I had to sign, I discovered they showed the wrong passport number and attributed someone else’s middle name to me. Next time someone comes up to you and says, “I’m from the government, I am here to help you,” give him a weird look.
THOSE WHO ARE COUNTING the days until we leave Iraq should probably start counting again. This morning, we received a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build a chapel at Camp Striker, which is inside the huge Camp Victory complex in Baghdad. (Wouldn’t you have loved to be on the committee that named these camps?)
The chapel will occupy 7,000 square feet and have 12 stained glass windows, two chaplain’s offices and two offices for their assistants. In addition, it will have a large counseling office, which is now always de rigueur in such undertakings.
Building chapels doesn’t exactly equate with a quick exit strategy.
ALL RFP’S HAVE SOME PROVISION for a thing called “liquidated damages.” This is akin to a penalty clause if you fail to perform some item on time, or as required by the contract. For example, the contract for the Detention Center in Kham Banisad states there is a penalty of $50,000 per day for every day you are late beyond the agreed-on schedule.
We received an RFP the other day that contains an interesting variation on this provision. It says, “Liquidated damages: There will be NO liquidated damages on this project. Failure to complete on time without adequate explanation MIGHT result negatively on the company’s consideration for future work.”
That should put the fear of God into them!
TODAY HAS BEEN ONE OF THOSE days that brings into very sharp focus one’s sense of the absurd and preposterous.