Memoirs of a Modern-Day Ksatriya: Part Five
Posted August 4, 2004
Four months in
Our routine was solid, but ever-changing. Each mortar attack brought forth new implications and strategies, and every day brought forth new challenges.
Convoys were being attacked left and right, and four thousand of the civilian workers who were contracted to transport food and supplies ran home, hardly to blame. After weeks had gone by without any deliveries making their way through, the post was forced to ration out what remained. The DFAC (dining facility) reverted back to the old menu of meat and potatoes, supplies like fuel and oil were nearing extinction, and mail was limited to one delivery per week.
It took almost a month for patrols to secure the roads for safe passage, allowing our supplies to be replenished.
Almost immediately after the shortage had ended, we received warning to avoid food that had been cooked in the DFAC, as there were several soldiers who had discovered capsules hidden in the food.
I had been wondering from the get-go why we allow the Iraqis to work on post and cook our food, especially since cooking is the largest occupation in the Army. Apparently, it was part of some redevelopment program to help the Iraqi economy, which was good, in theory, but not the best move as far as troops were concerned. I'm not sure what kind of security clearance was required of these men to be allowed on post but, apparently, it was not enough.
Over the course of the next two weeks, there were five more cases of contaminated food, as well as several instances in which Iraqi workers were caught trying to photograph or map classified areas. Some had succeeded.
One night, an Iraqi man had managed to sneak on post, cutting a hole in one of the perimeter fences and crawling through. He detonated a bomb in the civilian living compound, killing two Filipino workers and escaping, only to repeat himself the next night. Three people were killed without this man being caught and, eventually, the Army began putting a stronger emphasis on perimeter security.
With the increased security to our perimeter, the insurgents figured they'd just have to work from within the gates, instead of from the outside. Thus, it wasn't but a week later that two men were caught trying to steal weapons and ammunition from the dining facility. Two weeks later, a civilian worker was kidnapped from right here, within the confines of our "safe haven", and found dead nearly forty miles north.
No one knew whom to trust. On the one hand, there were people like Fouad, the electrician, and Akil, the painter, both of whmo were nice folk, trying to put food on their families' tables, and on the other hand, there were the former Saddam loyalists who may or may not have had ulterior motives for working for the U.S.-led occupation. I'm sure some of them were just trying to provide for their families but, more than likely, an equal number of them were plotting some subversive action.
Nevertheless, our position had become a little more dangerous. News reports started flowing in about various civilian and military workers being kidnapped, but none had been beheaded . . . yet.
That would be in the weeks to come.
When word got out about abuse of the detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, the effect was everything but pretty. For months, we had felt the hostility of Iraqi insurgency, but now, we also bore the brunt of the American anti-war sentiment. Not a newscast went by without coverage of some protest or other, soldiers were becoming known as barbaric torturerswith no respect for anyone, and we lost the support of many countries' military forces. All this because a handful of soldiers made a stupid move.
The attacks on Camp Anaconda increased steadily, and a good portion of our days was spent in the bunkers, dodging mortars and pulling guard. How would I ever begin preaching in an environment of constant dangers, threats and near-misses?
Nrsmha caturdasi was just around the corner, and the time for worshipping Lord Nrsmhadeva could not have been better. Krsna was the only steady one I knew at this point. Everything else was fleeting, uncertain and ever-changing, much like life itself, but more obvious and high-speed. Krsna-consciousness is never like that. Despite all of the experiences that Krsna consciousness has brought my way, and therehave been plenty, one thing that's always there is steadiness, because you know what's waiting for you, and you know that, wherever you are in Krsna consciousness, whether it be a temple in India, a house in Russia, or a ballroom in Venezuela, everything -- the art, the smell, the sounds, the love for Srila Prabhupada -- everything is the same.
But here, everything was quite different. Everything but Krsna.
A prayer to Lord Nrsimhadeva
Nrsimha caturdasi, May 2004
O, Lord Nrsimha! What will my experiences here tell me and how
will I learn from them? Without the association of Your devotees, how
will I remember You and what service can I possibly render?
Although there is very little sense gratification here to be found, surely my independent nature will steer me on a quest for more.
Please help me strive to remain conscious of You, for maya is a far greater enemy than the men I have come to face.
I served You as Your pujari in Germany not more than three years ago.
When I would dress You in the morning, You were always adorned with various clubs, swords and shields.
I pray now that You take one of those clubs and smash my pride and attachment on a regular basis. Cut these ropes of bondage with Your sword, and shield me from danger with Your divine protection.
If ever You were satisfied with me in any capacity, if ever I made an offering that You enjoyed, or if ever I pacified You with the wisp of a fan, please remember that and be merciful.
The living entity's eternal love for You knows no bounds. May I use my time here to awaken even a spark of that love, and may my experiences here strengthen my preaching upon my return.
You are the friend, father and fierce defender of the devotees, and the goal of all living beings. The demigods shower flowers when You appear and the demons tremble in fear and anxiety, but devotees like Prahlad Maharaj simply beg for the chance to serve You.
Please grant me the desire to obtain the mercy of Sri Prahlad, who is as worshippable as You, and allow my sadhana to remain steady.
May I never be drawn away from Your dear Srila Prabhupada's movement, which is the only hope for mankind.
May Your guidance and counsel enable me to deliver the gemstone of Krsna consciousness, regardless of circumstance, and may You give me the intelligence to seek out opportunity.
To You, Lord Nrsmhadeva, I pray: Let Your holy names reverberate throughout the battlefield and give these souls something worth fighting for.