Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Winged Man

"Let's meet at the Winged Man," or "See you at the Winged Man in 20 minutes," or "The driver is almost at the Winged Man, let's go."

Such is the talk around travel to/from the Baghdad International Airport which we did yesterday to meet General Fadel Barwari, the commander of the Iraqi Special Operation Forces (ISOF).

The Winged Man is a statue of Abbas Ibn Firnas, Iraq's very own Icarus. Back in the first century, Ibn Firnas tried to fly by sticking feathers onto a wooden frame (like a glider). He didn't succeed. But he didn't die either.

And I think that's the best way to sum up our last 24 hours. We didn't accomplish much. But we didn't die either. And, hey, Ibn Firnas had a crater on the moon named after him!

After a quick start out of the gate our first day here, we've been humbled by the reminder of just how difficult it is to get things done in Iraq. And it didn't help that we were stranded at the airport overnight because we'd missed the midnight curfew (good laughs, though, at the karaoke bar watching men from Fiji butcher Scorpian hits).

And there are reminders all around of how many people have some of the toughest jobs on the planet. Take General Fadel. As commander of ISOF, units that have been trained by U.S. Special Forces since 2003, much of the future security of the country is resting on his shoulders. And he's starting to fly...

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