Friday, November 03, 2006

Baghdad Cops

Chester interviews two American MPs who are training Iraqis cops in Baghdad and go out on patrols with them. For a snapshot of what things are like; the exciting and the mundane (car theft is the most common crime) listen here. It starts slowly at first, then as the interviewees warm up, the pace picks up until you get to the part where they tell the story about Iraqi policemen showing the MPs video of girls dancing on their cell phone screens. The Sergeant plays the straight man and the woman MP has the lighter touch. But at the end you get the feeling that the MPs and police do a hard, but necessary job whose worst edges are just in the shadows out of range of the microphone.


One of the most trite yet truthful of common literary observations is that cops tend to resemble other cops the world over. That's not to say the Mexican Federales would exactly resemble the FBI but they would understand each other. And I think that's true in part to the fact that low-lifers the world over resemble each other even more. Listening to Chester's conversation I was struck by how little discouraged the Sergeant seemed to be at the daily difficulties, and then I realized that a cop really has to have something of the attitude of a trash collector. He goes out on the street each day knowing it will be there. So you do your job and quit worrying needlessly about solving the trash problem for all time.

I'm afraid that one day some smart cop is going to write the next Great American Novel and it will be one without a single large theme but a million small ones. Maybe salvation is really a process of fixing one thing at a time, one moment at a time. "There are 8 million stories in the Naked City." And hard thing in life is to spend five minutes caring about each one.


Blogger Smitten Eagle said...

A corollary is that good soldiery tend to be alike, too. War and police work are inherently human endeavors. A very bland truth, indeed, but at the same time, comforting. All true soldiers have an essential kinship. Ernst Juenger in "The Storm of Steel" talked about this essential kinship between the German and British Armies (though interestingly, Juenger didn't have much respect for the French.) This kinship is why I, as a Marine, am able to read Juenger or von Mellenthin or Rommel or Bloch, and am able to share a kinship with these men, no matter how totalitarian their politics, or inhumane their armies. War is essentially a human thing, and it's soldiers are essentially alike.

GEN George S. Patton in a way was correct when he said that he was reincarnated and had served on many battlefields.

11/03/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Didn't you think that both of them were biting their tongues trying not to say anything bad about the "different culture"? The Sergeant did go out of his way to talk about how brave the police he's working with are, but just calling them "IP's" throughout the interview was a real distancing technique.

I don't think the pronoun "we" was used once, and the Sergeant stressed that it's important to maintain a distance and keep a separation, for the Americans to go back to their own space every night.

I wonder if American soldiers would use that same tone and language in discussing common maneuvers with, say, Australian military police.

I wanted Chester to ask if there were any laws on domestic abuse or if Iraqi police do anything about people related to each other beating on each other.

11/03/2006 07:05:00 PM  

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