Learning how to shake hands and drink coffee in Iraq
Shake hands only with your right hand. Never set down your cup of coffee unless you want to insult your host. Shame and honor are very important to Iraqi Bedouin culture. Tribalism is the bedrock of Iraq, but jobs and security can transcend blood ties.When you ask "Where is the enemy?" and they point at you, there may be a problem. Fortunately, these days the Iraqis are pointing out al Qaeda in increasing numbers and when you read the stories about the interaction with the Iraqis by our troops you get a sense of how both are concerned about the security situation and how appreciative the Iraqis are for the US patrols that have stopped the militia death squads. I would not be surprised if the Marines do not also have a procedure for what to do if the Iraqis point to you when asked about the enemy.
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Those were just a few of the messages that Marines from Camp Pendleton's 5th Marine Regiment started hearing Monday in a weeklong session of Iraqi cultural training. The training is aimed at making the regiment more effective in its mission to quell insurrection and help establish a new government when it heads off to Iraq.
Col. Patrick Malay, the regiment's commanding officer, sat in his modest office at the base's Camp San Mateo Monday morning, quizzing Joe Harris, a Moroccan-born cultural trainer with the Marines' Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning.
Malay started with a brief religious overview, which included the differences between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and the background of the philosophical divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. He ended with advice about the cultural importance of tea, greetings and handshakes.
Harris, who was formerly with the U.S. Army and spent a number of years in Iraq, said the cultural training that Malay and his regiment were getting ---- which included laminated handouts with strategic phrases in Arabic such as "Hello," "Stay here," "Where is the enemy?" and "Thank you, God be with you" ---- was not just about training warriors how to get along better with the Iraqis with whom they'll come into contact.