Q & A

I answer a few questions while I convalesce and prepare to join some friends in Arbil.

Some of you have been asking questions in the comments sections of this site. I will attempt to answer some of them as best I can in a quick one-off. These are questions that don’t warrant a full story or dispatch.

What was the problem with the Iridium satellite phone?
There was nothing wrong with the actual phone, as it turns out. But for some reason I couldn’t connect to the Iridium network that allowed me access to the Net. No connection, no email. And that was bad. This wasn’t Iridium’s fault, of course, but really more a connection issue between the Toughbook and the phone. Anyway, the data guys at Iridium set me up with a static IP address rather than DHCP and it’s working fine now.

Why’d you use a dumb — and offensive — metaphor about the Bataan death march?
Because I was in such a hurry to get to sleep that I got lazy and used an inappropriate metaphor, for which I apologize, especially to people who lost relatives in Bataan. What I experienced was not a death march. However, it was a forced march in that once I signed on, there was no stopping. I was physically hauled to my feet several times or pushed forward when I thought I was too far gone to continue. We climbed five or six mountains in pitch blackness, sometimes going high enough to trudge through calf-high snow. I hallucinated and became delirious. There was little water to drink and not much food. The language barrier was beyond frustration. Death march? No. But I honestly wanted to die several times.

When are you going to start reporting?
What, interviewing Kurds about their aspirations for nationhood isn’t good enough? Talking with peshmerga about their support for the war too mundane? Should I be throwing myself into the pitch of battle immediately after a 36-hour forced march (see above)? I just got here. I left a little over a week ago, and I think there’s been some decent reporting already. It’s not Associated Press inverted pyramid-style writing, but I didn’t think people wanted that on a site such as this. My reporting combines the personal, the micro and the macro. It’s not necessarily new, but it works for me.

How do the gitem control the villagers?
Well, by receiving guns and money from Ankara, they intimidate, bully, harass and sometimes torture — or just kill — the villagers they supervise. They’re local thugs used by the Turkish military to keep order in the southeast. The system reached its apogee during the 1984-1998 Turkish-PKK war, but they’re still around and terrifying the people of the region. While the emergency rule has been officially lifted, Turkey finds the gitem a valuable hammer for pounding the nail of Kurdish nationalism. (Mind you, most of the people abused by the gitem system are just simple villagers who get caught up in personal score-settling. Nice, huh?)

What the heck is chai?
It’s what people call tea in this part of the world.

Where are the pictures? And how do we know you’re really in Iraq?
Patience, patience. I’ve just sent three of the pictures — of the Orthodox Church in Mardin, at our camp in the meadow waiting to leave and a picture of J. and two peshmergas who helped us. They should be up later today, I hope. My bandwidth is extremely limited. Also, bear in mind, that the last two days weren’t exactly conducive to snap-shooting.
That’s it for now. At the moment, I can barely walk. My feet are in bad shape, but J. and I will head to Arbil tomorrow where I will hook up with some old friends and renew my contacts with the KDP and the KRG. I’ll post a full accounting of the forced march tonight in a few hours. That is, if anyone’s interested.