|7 March 93
Our open fire policies and rules for confiscating weapons have changed
again, very effectively tying our hands. We are no longer allowed to shoot
people breaching our wire unless they have a weapon or are stealing
weapons, ammunition or communications equipment. This is crazy, at night,
all you know is that the person breaking into your compound who may
have a grenade or weapon and could do you harm. At night you cannot
see well enough to make subtle distinctions.
This is all because the media is blowing the killings of the Somali all
out of proportion. Once again we are letting our policies be set by public
opinion which is shaped by the media coverage and slant they decide to put
on the news.
As for weapons confiscation, the sweep of Beled Weyne has been called
off. We are no longer allowed to confiscate weapons we find during the
day. At night we can confiscate weapons at the platoon commander's
discretion (which is questionable.) Now the bandits will adapt again
and start moving in the day. Just the other day bandits shot up a relief
convoy killing five people and injuring a score of others. What good are
They tell us in O-groups that they know where the bandits are, but the
intelligence is never acted upon. It is as if higher is just doing their
time here and is afraid of actually committing their troops for fear
someone may get hurt. That would be a bad career move. They would rather
pretend the problems are solved and ignore the evidence to the contrary.
Coalition troops are dying, will their deaths be meaningless?
427 Squadron has been arriving over the past couple of days. Hopefully
they will be used to give us the mobility we need to chase down the
bandits, instead of just to get some flyboys another medal .
We have firm word on redeployment now. The first troops will be
leaving on the 15th of May with the last troops out by the end of
June. The longer the better.
9 March 93
We were relieved from garrison duty at six this morning and were out on
patrol by seven. It was an extremely boring day, two five kilometer
sweeps for weapons caches along the river. It ended up being a hot
walk in Somalia. We did see some interesting things though.
Three boys were copying the Koran onto long planks shaped like tombstones,
two large 4 foot long lizards swam in the river (possibly camens),
vultures standing over 4 feet high and large cranes almost as big that
left footprints about 6 inches long.
In the afternoon we came across a tunnel dug in the side of a
bank. We thought that it might contain weapons, so Daren grabbed my
pistol and a flashlight and crawled in like a tunnel rat. He came
backing out swearing as quickly as he went in, it was a porcupine
den. The 13 inch long quills around the hole attested to its size,
but no-one else was willing to go in and look for themselves.
We returned to camp before dinner to find more beer in the
canteen. Happy day.
Orders tonight were interesting. All sweeps have been called off
because coalition forces in other sectors are not keeping up with
disarmament, leaving the people in our area open to bandits raiding from
other areas. Bandit activity is on the rise on the border of the
Italian sector. We are also allowed to confiscate weapons again.
12 March 93
The last couple of days have been busy. I have been taking the
classroom portion of a scuba course which I will finish on R & R in
Mombasa. I'm really enjoying the course and may take the advanced
and rescue courses next month. It is rather strange though, sitting in the
middle of the desert, without water in sight, learning to scuba dive.
I read in a scuba magazine and advertisement for a commercial diving
course at Seneca. I could probably make a better career commercial
diving as opposed to being a climbing guide. It would allow me to
keep climbing as a passion/hobby rather than pollute it by leading
wannabes up easy routes.
Last night we went on an all night patrol with full blackout
drive. We patrolled the eastern part of our sector down to Yesouman
returning to camp at close to 3 a.m.
13 March 93
I spent most of yesterday catching up on my sleep and writing
letters. The days are becoming unbearably hot. The average
temperature is over 50 degrees celsius in the shade, Ugh!
In the past couple of days we have killed two camel spiders in our
tent. They are huge beasts, the colour of sand and the size of my
hand. It makes me nervous sleeping with them running around.
We guarded 1 commando's compound last night then took over garrison
duty here this morning. I am on canteen duty again. Once again
I am running on 4 hours of sleep and will get the same tonight. I'm
on empty and getting lower. I spend the day reading Old Path
White Cloud about the life of Buhdda. It is a great book, a
This evening as the sun set, the camp filled with birds like starlings
flying all around our heads. What beauty, these birds filling the
orange sunset sky.
14 March 93
It bothers me the way some of the others have been treating Mussa and
all Somalis in general. The other night while returning Mussa and
the other interpreter, Abdi to their homes, Daren and Tim were reported
for their conduct. They went flying through town with the searchlight on
and the turret spinning. They ended up physically kicking the two
interpreters out of the carrier and taking the bottle of water Moussa was
carrying away from him. The crowd that had gathered was so incensed by
Harding's and Steven's behavior that they were going to kill them. Luckily
the interpreters intervened on their behalf preventing a riot.
When word of this came back to the Commando, everyone covered Daren and
Tim's asses by transferring the blame to Mussa. They said that Mussa was
hoarding water among other half true charges. Now Mussa's job is on the
line because he is working for a section of red necks. I am by far the
minority in this situation and don't know what to do.
"I have lost my smile, but don't worry. The Dandelion
-Marion Tripp as quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh
We are going out again tomorrow for a two day dog and pony show for six
reporters. Mussa will be coming with us, I'm worried. Apparently he is
scared of us. I don't blame him.
When you take young, immature people who have never been confronted by
poverty or vastly different ideals and thrust them into a situation like
this they get scared. Everything is against all their preconceived notions
and beliefs. The only way they can rationalize it all, within the confines
of their limited view, is to dehumanize the people. If they are savages or
lesser beings, one no longer feels compelled to care.
Racism and bigotry stem from our own fears and a lack of understanding.
Our perceptions of a society are often erroneous, tainted by the values of
our own society. How can we judge another country when our own society is
plagued by racism, hatred, immorality, sexual misconduct, corruption,
oppression . . .? I blame it on a lack of maturity, but that does not
explain Chris who is much older than me. I think it more likely a lack of
experience, vision, and understanding.
How can I make them see when they cannot even perceive the impropriety
of their beliefs? I try and set an example, but that does not work, nor
does reason make any impression on them. What can I do but insulate and
15 March 93
The reporters didn't arrive, so we left around ten. We set up a
roadblock just north of Treejante and sat there until one-thirty. Then we
moved south to set up in a different location. A couple hours after
arriving, Mussa approached me and said that he wanted to go home. He was
quitting because he couldn't work with Harding after what had happened.
I tried to talk him out of it, but couldn't. He said he would not work
with someone who called him a "Mother fuckin' niger" and treated him the
way Daren had. So Mussa hitched a ride on the next vehicle going to Beled
Weyne. I told him I was sorry to see him go and gave him the box of
candies and gum I had been saving for his kids. Then he was gone.
The Platoon Commander questioned Daren about the matter, but of course
he denied everything except taking back the bottle of water. He was
'believed' and the incident quickly forgotten. That is fine, Daren should
be protected by the family, but at the same time the incident should have
been dealt with by the family. The fact remains that we lost a good,
dedicated interpreter because of the actions of one person. Mussa put it,
"one bad friend can lose you many good friends."
I don't even think Daren understands the wrong that has been done
today. Right now he is over there laughing and joking about Mussa. It
makes me sick.
We stopped a vehicle this afternoon and took an old Lee Enfield from an
even older man. We continue to take weapons from people who only use them
to defend themselves. This is right, but only if we are also taking the
weapons from the people who are using them against others, the bandits,
which we are not doing. We are chasing down the wrong people, and in the
end probably doing more harm than good.