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In the case of our guys, the ritual involves chambering bullets, clearing the weapon, popping out the rounds and catching them in mid-air, engaging in endless metal-on-metal sliding noise, practicing a quick draw, slamming a new clip into the butt of the pistol, releasing it and slamming it home again. A while ago, I jokingly told all the other passengers in an SUV that I would no longer ride with them for fear of being shot while they were going through their warm-up routines! What’s really interesting about all this Rambo-like posturing is that none of our people have fired a real shot in more than three years!!
The end of the routine always concludes with sliding the pistol under their left thighs with the barrel pointed in a direction that guarantees a Bobbit-like calamity. The theory about this is that, the under-thigh location is the one allowing the quickest draw in the event of an “underway emergency.” The other day CJ (one of my associates) placed his pistol in the hot sun right above the dashboard and conducted such a lengthy warm-up, that by the time he slipped the pistol under his thigh, it was so hot it gave him a blister right through his jeans! That can easily happen when the outside temperature hovers around 130 degrees!
WHEN JOHN RESUMED DRIVING after hearing the bad news that Irish was closed, two things happened. Just as we were about to pass a beat up pickup truck, John said to Mike sitting next to him in the front seat: “Hand me your pistol!” He then rapidly sped up to 90 miles an hour and pointed the pistol to shoot straight through the glass of the driver side window! I asked him about that later and he said that he felt suspicious of the pickup we were passing and, had his observation confirmed anything untoward, he would have shot at the pickup’s front seat passengers through our closed window. Fortunately, he detected nothing “untoward.”
After passing the pickup we moved in behind a truck that was speeding along so we used him as a “blocking back” for about a mile. Then traffic really started to slow down. The one and only rule of the road by which we live in Iraq is this: “When you are on the road speed saves lives. Excessive speed saves lives many times over!” John then said to me: “This is no good. It’s too slow. Now you’re going to learn why they pay me the big bucks!” (And, big bucks is indeed what people like him get. The most frequent number I have heard is $180,000 a year, but I have also heard much higher figures.)
We slowed down sharply, made a 90 degree left turn, and bounced across the torn-up center median. When we cleared the median, we made a 90 degree right turn so we were headed right into the oncoming traffic on the other side of the median! This was like driving north in the southbound lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike!
In Iraq, all traffic is alert to the kind of maneuver we had just performed. No one is truly shocked when he is suddenly about to be run down by a wave of oncoming traffic. With constant horn blowing and John’s deft driving, we managed to work our way over to the extreme left side of the highway (the slow lane for the oncoming traffic) and found it pretty clear. We were then able to make brisk and very steady “wrong way” progress until we came close to the BIAP gate. At this point John said: “There is a Humvee convoy coming towards us. If we don’t get back where we belong they will just start firing at us. They will assume an SUV on the wrong side of the road driving towards them is hostile.” So we crossed back over to the correct lane and proceeded to get into the “DoD” lane in which inspections are swifter, the dogs fewer, the delays shorter.
About a month ago, a car-bomb exploded between two SUVs at almost the same point where we crossed back. Since then, all the lanes leading up to the checkpoint have been framed with a solid wall of 12-foot high Texas Tees — massive, concrete barricades four feet thick at the base. One now arrives at the checkpoint as if in a tunnel — but no one can ease up beside you and set off a car-bomb. Once we got through the infamous BIAP checkpoint we were able to proceed at very high speed — over 100 miles an hour. There was virtually no traffic, but the holes left by earlier car-bombs nearly caused John to lose control of the SUV on two occasions. The high speed is not just posturing. It’s essential in order to throw off the timing of roadside bomb crews hundreds of yards away with a video camera ready to film your death for the CNN evening news.
As we neared the BIAP terminal itself, someone fired a six or seven second burst from an AK-47. I didn’t know if it was fired at us, or by our side at the enemy, or whether anyone or anything was hit. I could tell by the decibel level that it was fired from pretty close by. John summed it up very neatly: “If the dudes don’t hit our car, they don’t count.”
We finally pulled up in front of the terminal and our trip was over. It was a scary trip but I’m not sure that any of the scare was caused by actual danger. I suspect a lot of it was caused by our imaginations. I never saw a terrorist; I never saw anything get hit; I never saw anyone get hurt. Perhaps we could have taken a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive out to BIAP and no one would have done anything to harm us. Maybe there wasn’t a soul out there. But maybe there was.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online