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Dinner with the general

Post by Scott Fontaine on Feb. 28, 2009 at 2:29 pm with No Comments »
February 28, 2009 2:29 pm

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAWK, Iraq – Only after dinner, two hours after the Americans had first arrived, did the general air his complaints.

Brig. Gen. Abbas Abdul Jabbar Eidan al-Kubeisy wanted his base – which lies inside the grounds of the larger Contingency Operating Base Qayyarah West – hooked up to the Americans’ power supply. He also had problems with securing replacement equipment for his gear.

But when the meeting ended, about three hours after about 15 American soldiers first arrived, the general was all smiles. He gave a colonel visiting from Mosul a coin emblazoned with the brigade’s logo. He posed for photos and made small talk even as the American soldiers were climbing into their cars for the quick ride back to Q-West.

This was military politics, Iraq-style.

Abbas, commander of Iraq’s 7th Brigade, 2nd Division, extended the invitation earlier Saturday afternoon. When we arrived at FOB Hawk, he invited eight of us into his office. We sat on plush couches and chairs while Abbas and the higher-ranking officers talked about the on-base souq, which hosts a monthly meeting of sheiks, community leaders and military officials.

A younger soldier entered the office every few minutes, each time entering with an Iraqi salute: a stomp of the foot and an open-palmed hand to the forehead.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Garrison of the Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion brought a football. “I see you’re a big football fan,” said Garrison, motioning to three soccer balls atop a shelf. “I thought you could use a proper football.”

Abbas let out a big chuckle.

Soon it was time for dinner. We filed into one of the dining halls, where communal plates of mutton, rice and flatbread sat on long tables. And then it was back to the general’s office, where one his subordinates constantly brought trays of sweet tea for the visitors. The meeting ended with praise heaped on both sides.

“Thank you for coming," Abbas told the visitors. "You must come again soon. We have much to discuss."

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