August 21, 2005

CNN on the "Bomb Hunt"

With dramatic voice, the announcer sets the tone for the next story: following CNN's Alex Quade as she and her cameraman accompany a special detachment of Marines on the hunt for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). This special squad is trained to root out and find IEDs and their triggermen (the guys who push the buttons to detonate the bombs) before they are used to kill American soldiers or other targets. It's an exciting story.

But one part really makes me wonder. An American Marine is trying to explain to an Iraqi civilian the dangers of his driving fast and is trying to tell him, in English, to slow down. The Marine is using hand motions to show a steering wheel and then he pushes his hands down and says slowly "Slow down." The Iraqi is shaking his head, not understanding a word.

Why is it that Marines, who I presume have been in Iraq for weeks or months, don't have even rudimentary Arabic language skills, especially in light of the fact that this team engages Iraqi civilians all the time. At the very least, why haven't these men been issued simple English-Arabic dictionaries? How can the commanders in the field expect them to enter Iraqi neighborhoods, look for Iraqi or other Arabic-speaking bombers, and not have even the most basic knowledge of how to say things like "SLOW DOWN?" Wouldn't it be safer for the Marines and the Iraqi civilians if the Marines knew how to say "slow down?"

On a lighter note, as part I of the piece finishes, Alex Quade is talking to a Marine about a suspected triggerman who turns out to be a sheperd, the Marine reports is only tending his flock of "sheep." As he says this, the camera pans along a whole row of goats.

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