Tag Archives: Society

Its a Small, Small World

A question on the Worldbuilding SE site about military contractors / mercenaries / “evil henchmen” / whatever caught my attention and I responded. A discussion started between myself and another guy who has contracted before in the same places, but on the tech side of the business instead of PSD. I’m preserving the conversation here because it illustrates the point I was trying to make in my answer, but doesn’t really fit within the answer and will certainly be deleted by the mods:


@zxq9 I’m impressed by your answer. I worked as a contractor as well, and ran a bar at night in one country (Middle East). Lots of the guys I worked with were former Ranger / SF. I did tech instead of PSD, but some jobs we were responsible for our own security, travel, etc. All the guys I saw ended up going back to the States (or the Philippines…) after contracts; nobody really hung out in theater after jobs. Are those little communities you’ve referred to really that common? Because I’ve yet to see people hang around after the fact.
hathead 15 mins ago

@hathead If you were ever in Baghdad you might remember that along the main E-W road between the traffic circle and Triple Canopy’s base Olympia was a mish-mashed neighborhood with a few shops and restaurants, and a couple of smaller contract company offices working out of houses. (Near the “Hot Tomato” restaurant that was always weird.) That neighborhood is exactly the sort of spot I’m talking about. Kabul has something similar. I think most of that may have been invisible to you if you didn’t work PSD or base def (and therefore have your own wheels) — but its there. Similar in Kampala.
zxq9 10 mins ago

@zxq9 – I remember the neighborhood but didn’t spend a lot of time out there. People bought alcohol there. I worked on Bes-maya, I guess you know where that is. My glory days were in Kabul, though. There we all lived on the economy and would pop into the embassy / base to do work, or speed out to Bagram. Kabul was always weird- you can get whatever you needed and half the guys at the bar were wanna-be journalists. Tourists even popped in sometimes. This neighborhood you’re talking about in Baghdad – it seemed like it was within the confines of base (checkpoint controlled). Was it not?
hathead 7 mins ago

@hathead I also forgot to mention… There are contracts in the southern Philippines, Indo, Malay, Cambodia and Thailand , too — and there are two SF association houses (the front half of which are really bars, like Garfield’s in AC and Tilac II in Pattaya). The neighborhoods near there are full of older SF guys who married locally and never left, and sometimes its easy to source logistics or meet the right folks to get a crew together locally. Pace of life is a bit slower there, but the shape of things is fairly similar — but not everyone wants to have anything to do with contracting.
zxq9 6 mins ago

@hathead The neighborhood wasn’t, but right next to it was the former finance minister’s house and apartments for his wives — which was turned into a business development center. The edge of it was right on the NW edge of the circle and had walls + a guard force from TC (which I was in charge of for 6 months once). That place gave the impression the neighborhood was controlled, but it was just that one facility. The volume of alcohol trade there always surprised me! A lot better than the “parts cleaner” thing the Poles had going on down in al Kut.
zxq9 3 mins ago   edit

@zxq9 – half the ex-Army guys I worked with had houses in the Philippines. You probably know some of the same guys. It’s not easy getting work as a tech with a PMC but I managed to find it with a big name (closed now, but you’d know them) and it was a lot of fun. Hanging out in Turkey now. It’s not hot enough yet that a worthwhile expat community has established. Yet.
hathead 2 mins ago

@zxq9 – The Europeans had fine alcohol, it was just a matter of finding it. They had a bar on Liberty that was wild. Panties stapled to the ceiling. I only saw it once; kept out of that sort of thing mostly. Did brew my own beer, though.
hathead 1 min ago

@hathead Likely do know some of the same folks. They’ll put this thread in chat or delete it pretty soon. My url is the same as my alias here: zxq9.com . Drop me a line. Turkey is an interesting place right now, too!
zxq9 46 secs ago

@zxq9 – I’ll drop you a line, and delete my previous chats if I’m still able.

The economy of good intentions

This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.
Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody knew that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Somebody wouldn’t do it.
And Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Conveying Observations About Iraq and Other Garden Spots

I’ve been speaking today with several members of my battalion who recently returned from a rotation in Iraq about their feelings on which direction the country may be headed, what is working and what isn’t, and why we are where we are.

Understand that their views (and mine) are generally pro-invade-Iraq, but keep in mind that in Special Forces we work at a different level than most military units do and interact much more closely (and live with) with our Iraqi counterparts (or whatever our counterparts happen to be — Iraq isn’t the only thing going on, of course). We actively seek to understand our counterparts’ viewpoints and over time tend to absorb and adopt some of their views. While we understand where they believe themselves to be coming from, this does not necessarily extend to sympathizing with them in every respect (or sometimes any respect). One of the reasons that understanding doesn’t extend to sympathy is that, quite frankly, what many Iraqis (and Americans, for that matter) believe is reality is often not quite true — well, in the case of Middle Easterners very often much of what they believe is completely fabricated. As much as I bash the Western media the fact we have a free press does actually prevent us from going too far any one direction — and its easy to forget the vital function a free press serves until you spend some time in a place that lacks one (whether because government controls it or because local thugs violently enforce a specific view — and sometimes there’s not much difference between the two).

Understanding how a person’s values were enculturated, what experiences they’ve had and other things they have been exposed to does not mean that you must agree with them. You can understand all the why’s and still hold judgmental views on their society (as a culture or even a foreign subculture), how its run, or have very strong feelings against the way they do things. Understanding situation, motive, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with a Muslim teenager holding an RPG any more than it means you agree with a serial killer who keeps body part trophies in his fridge.

I’d like to explore things I’ve come to realize about places like Iraq if I ever get the time. Part of the problem is thinking hard enough and completely enough about the subject to organize the thoughts into something coherent enough for consumption outside of my own mind or my own little community of SF guys who all approach things from a background of similar experience. This may lead to a few essays over time that I’ll post elsewhere.

…unless I never write them. I’ve got a horrible backlog of essays I want to write and some that others want me to write… enough that a few folks have actually complained. Which is weird, since I thought nobody ever read this blog.

The Iraq issue in particular so strongly influences discourse in our society today and will frame political discourse across the world for decades that I feel compelled to explain the views I and most of the SF community have developed over a period of involvement with terrorism and Second and Third World problems that is much, much longer than this particular event we call the Global War on Terror.