March 26, 2008

We have had to stay in the hotel this evening...

... unable to go to the DFAC (dining facility) or our SHUs (Single Housing Units or home trailers), because of fighting nearby. It's been nearly a week since my last journal entry, so this gives me a chance to write one.

Yesterday saw the imposition of a dawn to dusk curfew in Babil, which continued through today in an effort to tamp down outbreaks of violence. Most of this has come from disaffected Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM) elements (the Mahdi Army, also known as the Mahdi Militia). I met with the Governor and his key advisors today about this.

We are fortunate that our situation is better than that in Basrah. Babil's very competent SWAT forces have regional responsibilities, although they were quite engaged here in Hillah last evening. Prime Minister Maliki is directing the effort to reestablish government control in and around Basrah. That southern border is an area through which Iranian weapons are smuggled into Iraq. The events in Baghdad and Basrah, of course, have reverberations throughout the Shia community in the south, and tensions here are high.

Met two Polish soldiers this week up from their neighboring area. The province in which the Polish forces are based has seen lots of JAM activity this last week.

On a local note, yesterday was the day Shia celebrate the Prophet's birthday, while the Sunnis commemorated his birthday on March 20.

Last Thursday, I attended the opening festivities at the Babylonian ruins celebrating Babil's designation as Iraq's cultural capital. PM Maliki was there with the Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Minister of Culture. He gave an inspiring speech about the importance of freedom and how it has reshaped the country. I was taped being introduced to the PM, and was mistaken by some viewers as an Iranian diplomat, according to one of the PRT staff, because of my beard and dark suit. Barbara used to say that a beard made me look like a European socialist, something that didn't have much of an impact on me. But an Iranian diplomat?


Kenneth said...

Were you wearing a suit with no tie?

Kenneth said...

Rock on Dad

mwittke said...

Phew. I'm in awe. Last time I saw you (maybe 30 years ago) you were in a t-shirt and jeans. I'm praying for yo'ur safety. I'll keep checking your blog for the real news in Iraq. Thank you for your work, Mary Dixon

Kenneth MacLean Hillas said...

Mary Wittke Dixon: What a pleasant blog benefit to hear from an old family friend. Send me a message at and we can catch up. KMH