Michael Totten interviews an Iraqi interpreter for US troops. You have to read the whole thing to get the flavor of it.
MJT: Do you like working with Americans?
Hammer: A lot. Especially when I go outside the wire. I feel like a stranger here. When I go back inside I’m home. I have no friends outside, only family. When I go home I stay in my house. I don’t go out on the streets.
MJT: Why don’t you have any friends?
Hammer: I don’t feel like I belong to this society. They think like each other, but they don’t think like me. I can’t continue with them.
The interpreter is a man who just won't fit and just won't bend. Some people may think that the interpreter is slightly addled or exaggerating. Personally, I don't think he's crazy because I think I have met the type, though not in so extreme a form, typically a smart, sassy guy unable to accept the cheap horrors and rewards of a distorted millieu. The guy who thinks there's something sad about the thin stripper gyrating on a plastic tabletop while the rest of his thuggish companions find it hugely titillating. The kind of guy who turns down the earnest offer to kill a Chinaman from a hitman friend because it's not his idea of fun. The kind of guy, who if you can believe it, actually finds an Army unit in wartime a sane and comforting environment. A man with the right kind of values in the wrong kind of world. The reader may not agree with all of Hammer's assertions, but if you amp them down some, ask yourself: how much of what he says would you expect to be true, given the history of Iraq?
Of all the things I found it hardest for visiting, educated Americans to do in the Philippines what seemed the most difficult was to "get outside their own skins" and imagine living in a world where you were an instant suspect; an automatic pariah; a poor man with the wrong passport from a Looney Tunes world.
I wish Hammer luck in the same way I hoped an African I once met in Pointe Noire with a pocketful of Green Card lottery tickets would win one of them. But that was some years before Pointe Noire was overrun by trouble. I wonder where he is now.