Sunday, July 29, 2007

The contrast of cultures

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Defying orders from authorities, celebratory gunfire resounded across Baghdad and revelers poured into the streets after Iraq beat Saudi Arabia to clinch its first Asian Cup soccer championship on Sunday while mosques broadcast calls for the shooting to stop.

The warnings that get e-mailed to me from the confines of the International Zone about the need to wear full protective body armor and kevlar helmet to protect the Fobbits from the potential of getting hit by falling celebratory gunfire must sound ridiculous to those who receive it that are actually out in combat areas frequently. And the AP article illustrates one of the issues we have in trying to understand the culture we are working with.

Celebratory gunfire is a common practice here, and in many Arabic cultures. The Iraqis could not seem to care less if the practice is dangerous. And when dealing with army and police, our culture is accustomed to soldiers and police that are trained to fire only when they have "positively identified" a target- they see it, and identify it as a threat, and shoot to kill. They don't fire into the air, etc. And when the Iraqis won the Asian Cup today, they once again ignored laws, the pleas of their religious leaders, and everyone else, and the celebration began, safety be damned.

We don't really understand this. It comes across as a lack of discipline, and I claim no insight into it. Thankfully, we disarm all of the police before they come into the Academy, or we'd have been, like the coalition forces in the IZ, putting on our protective gear, as they finished watching the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

Congratulations, Iraq, on your victory in soccer. Hopefully there will be not be casualties from the celebration, and there will be some positive spillover into the Iraqi political scene, where the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni are not nearly as cooperative with each other as the Iraqi soccer teammates were.

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