The puppy's name -- for those of us who cared to give her a name -- is "Felafel." She lives at a patrol base we've handed over; I'm not sure what the Iraqis call it now. They don't call the puppy anything at all, but she comes running when she sees an American hummer.

The Iraqis are skeptical of the American love of dogs. "You should not touch dogs," they tell us. "Dogs are filthy."

"Yes, she is!" we reply, crouching down to rub her belly. "You're a filthy girl!" Dust pours off her when you rub her belly, and she is very grateful.

I recall the look from our Iraqi hosts, which I suppose I would describe as frustration. They're trying to make a point, and we seem to be agreeing with them, and yet are enthusiastically doing the opposite of what they advise.

The Wisdom of Jim Bowie:

Our chaplain had a few free classic TV DVDs, including a selection of a show about Jim Bowie from the 1950s. The hymn-like music is risible, but there's a bit of honest folk wisdom to be had.

"I don't know which is the bigger nuisance to the world, the tight fisted money-grabber, or the dreamy-eyed rainbow-chaser."

The shopkeeper's sneer at Jim Bowie strikes a bit too close to home, too: "And you're home about two weeks out'n the year..."

*Cough!* I feel just that way when I talk to folks back here, sometimes.

The Finest Words:

Rolled under a young buckskin's side he had started to train;
Slipped under his side in the mud and the September rain;

And she'd sing: "Rowls that ring like bells in the night;
Silver spurs flashing in the Utah moonlight;
Hoofbeats that echo out over the hills;
Songs and stars and a memory that thrills
My heart, my heart, my heart,
Like the ring of his spurs...

The last words that he whispered to me as I knelt by his side;
'You know Jack, I'd give anything just to see my boy ride;'
These were your father's, you've earned them, and now son they're yours;
As he took from his heels and handed me these silver spurs.

The finest words in the English language are, I am convinced: "You've earned it."

If you've another suggestion, post it below. Yet beware: What can match it? Here is a recognition that what you have is won by right, given by men of equal standing. We are Americans, after all: this admission is granted freely, by free men. What matches it?
A Mosque from Route Irish, in the Dust of Baghdad:

Religious Flexibility

Islamic Mortgages and Religious Flexibility -

In Wednesday's Best of the Web, James Taranto blogs about "Islamic mortgages" in Minnesota (scroll to "very interesting"). He opines that the method used to get around the Koranic prohibition of interest is just a "loophole" - and intelligently compares it to Jewish techniques for getting around the prohibition on leavened bread at Passover (simple: sell it to a Gentile, leave it physically where it is, and buy it back when it's over). This is of course a commonplace in religious history. If you read even John Robinson's Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades, you'll read many examples: medieval Catholicism opposed usury quite strictly, but the Templars provided financial services suspiciously like banking. No interest, of course, but the beneficiary would make a donation to the holy Order...In another part of the book, Frederick II is leading a Crusading army that wants to follow him, but technically they can't listen to him because his excommunication hasn't been lifted; he gets around it by issuing all orders "in the name of Jesus Christ" (it was his crusade, after all) - quite good enough.

Mr. Taranto expresses the humane hope that "if Islam can adapt so that Muslims can get mortgages, perhaps the more invidious elements of Shariah are open to reinterpretation as well." He doesn't seem aware that this already happens all the time. See the scholarly Islamic side of this debate with the anti-Islamic fanatic Ali Sina. The good professors squarely face the more brutal verses you know - smite the unbelievers' fingertips off, fight them until they convert "or, with willing hands, pay the jizya, and feel themselves utterly subdued," etc. etc. They argue, as many of the Muslims called moderate do, that those verses were only for that time (lawyers call it "limiting the case to its facts"). They argue that whoever lived at the time of Mohammed could see his Godly nature and had no excuse to deny it; but men ever since have only hearsay, and can't be held so strictly liable. Moreover, and this fascinates me, they take this doctrine as obvious and self-evident. Theologians can do to the plainest scripture what the Supreme Court did to the Commerce Clause, or the Ninth Circuit to the Second Amendment - and often they do this in a way that accomodates a stark doctrine to Life as we live it on the Earth, and makes it more humane. You know what Jesus said about divorce; perhaps you've read what Milton did with it?
A Soldier of the 9th Iraqi Army Division:

The uniform variations are endlessly hilarious to US soldiers. Our XO said that a good unit of the IA will have at least nine different kinds of uniforms, none of which will be worn to standard; and our HTT leader once said that he was going to just start calling them "polyforms."

On the other hand, note the correct eyepro, the soldierly bearing, and the fact that somebody thought enough of him that they gave him a combat patch (even if he is wearing it with a Marine Corps uniform). That's not too surprising. The 9th IA, under staff Major General Qassim, is pretty squared up. Someday this will all be theirs... someday soon, as likely as not.



The discussion I was having with our captain in the Civil Military Operations section pertained to a labor dispute that had reached the point of absolute crisis. We were rushing to prepare a plan of action when the alarm went off, letting me know that I was late to... ...No, that was not it at all. I wasn't late. I was waking up, in Georgia, on leave. It was the strangest sensation, and clear proof that my mind had not -- has not yet -- adjusted to being home.

It is a strange thing to come back from that world to this one. They would be hard-pressed to be less similar. The world in Iraq is a world of work: from the time you wake until the time you lie down is uninterrupted labor. Thirteen hour days are normal, fifteen not unusual, longer yet not shocking. There is no weekend, though you may be given a few hours of Sunday morning for worship services if you like. There is otherwise no rest of any kind. Every moment is employed.

It is also a world of crisis. The war has reached the point at which it is, frankly, no longer a war at all: it is now what is properly called a Foreign Internal Defense mission. The war is over. Yet the crises continue, because now there are new problems -- like how to reduce forces. The brigade I work with is now occupying the space of what was, a year ago, four brigades' space -- a division. When it arrived, it had one brigade's space, then three (as it replaced a brigade that had already assumed a second brigade's battlespace), then four. The operating environment has constantly expanded as it has taken over land where other brigades were leaving and not being backfilled. The planning and logistical and operational challenges of that kind of continual movement and expansion are not small.

It is also a world without tenderness, although there is plenty of companionship between comrades. At home, when you grow tired or sad or any of a host of other things, there is a wife or a loved-one to comfort you. At least there is a dog or a cat! Not so in Iraq, where there is no whining permitted. Drive on.

This is a major gear shift when you come home suddenly on leave, as I have just done. The travel home provides no opportunity to begin the mental transition, as it is itself a grueling ordeal of paperwork and lines and multiple flights on military and civilian aircraft. Then, suddenly, it is over. The birds are singing, and you have nothing to do. You are home, for a while.

Hospitality and Politeness

Hospitality and Politeness -

Michael Totten writes of "the personal and political in the Middle East." He opens thusly:
Roger Cohen is taking heavy criticism for a piece he recently wrote in the New York Times in which he said the “annihilationist” anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Iranian regime tells us less about Iran than the fact that he, an American Jew, was treated with “consistent warmth” on his trip to Tehran and Isfahan. I can’t say I agree, but I sympathize to an extent with what he’s saying because I've had similar surprises in the Middle East, happening upon hospitality instead of expected hostility.

Arabs, Persians, and Kurds are so well-known for their considerate treatment of guests it has become a guidebook cliché.
It fits right in with Theodore Dalrymple's first experience with Afghans ("Even their hospitality was fierce...You knew that they would defend you to the death, if necessary—or cut your throat like a chicken’s, if necessary. Honor among them was all."), and, for that matter, Genesis 19:8.

But what I like is the`way Mr. Totten illustrates the larger point - in a time of topsy-turvy manners, it's important to draw the distinction between good manners and substantive agreement. In some parts of the world, even this online world, there are those who can only be civil if you don't disagree with their cherished views - in others, like the houses Mr. Cohen visited in Iran, and Grim's Hall for that matter, the contrary is true. But if you are used to the former, you may conclude too much from your host's kindness when you're in the latter.

I remember, in rude boyhood, thinking that manners and "etiquette" were barriers to honesty, but now think quite the opposite. We are biased and emotional creatures, and find it hard anytime to listen aright (and thus to answer straight) to a truly opposing argument. But it is harder still when the opponent is rude, and the harder argument over facts can be replaced with a scolding about tone. And this to me is the most hateful thing about PC: It takes the perfectly natural and legitimate desire not to be personally offensive, and distorts it into a creed to stifle subtantive ideas.