A month before leaving the British Army, I stayed at the London apartment of an army friend. An electrician called by one morning and asked about a photograph of my friend in uniform, which prompted me to ask about his accent. He was from Kosovo. After telling him I had been there for two months at the beginning of my military career, he put down his tool box and shook my hand energetically, thanking me. I felt like a fraud — Iraq a silent, condemning attendant — and had to turn so he did not see tears welling in my eyes.
What can I, or any veteran, say to an Iraqi? Whatever desperate words are chosen, they are not likely to result in a handshake, nor should they, which breaks my heart and always will. Damn you, Basher-75; damn all of us for what we did or failed to do in a time and place that I will always long for.