Reporters’ Notebook: Does anybody know what time it is in Iraq?
BAGHDAD — All things are relative in Iraq, even time.
The switch to daylight-saving time created confusion in the country’s capital city last week — and not because it’s something that’s never been done before.
In the last several years, Iraq, along with several of its neighbors, has moved the clocks ahead one hour on April 1.
Some say the practice began because the day fell on a Thursday. So those making the switch could have a day’s grace period the following day, because most Iraqis don’t work on Fridays, their holy day.
But April 1 came and went this year and the clocks stayed the same. The Iraqi Governing Council called a news conference that night and announced the clocks would change on Friday night — a day before the clocks changed in the United States.
The clocks in Iraq are generally two hours ahead of those in most of Europe and eight hours in front of those on the East Coast of the States.
When asked what time it was Friday morning, one Iraqi man shrugged and said that Saddam Hussein had always told the country when it needed to change its clocks. He suggested that Coalition Provisional Authority chief administrator L. Paul Bremer was the one to ask this time.
Coalition authority officials, however, declined to comment on the issue.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Unofficially, they’re known as military working cats.
Officially, they’re just run-of-the-mill strays living around Afghanistan’s Kandahar Airfield.
These base cats have become a fixture around some soldiers’ tents, not necessarily for companionship but for their mouse-hunting skills.
Unfortunately, General Order 1A states that soldiers aren’t supposed to become unduly familiar with local animals.
Though not authorized, the cats do play an important part in preventing disease by keeping the base rodent population down.
Mice, said 10th Mountain Division’s preventive medicine officer Capt. Alex Giambone, bring a whole host of bad things to humans.
“The main thing is they carry fleas, which can carry diseases,” he said.
He listed some of those either spread by mice or their fleas — leptospiros, salmonella, plague, richettsialpox and murine typhus.
“This is what decimated Napoleon’s army,” he said about murine typhus. “We’ve seen it in refugee camps here in Afghanistan.”
Mice also draw snakes. Giambone points to a thin, 5-inch-long snake in an alcohol-filled water bottle on his shelf. The bite of this full-sized, saw-scaled viper can kill a man.
Unfortunately, they’re common in Afghanistan, as are a few other types of vipers.
In a land where both the mice and snakes can kill, cats are definitely seen by many as the lesser of two or three evils.
As long as they continue performing their military duties, these cats should continue to enjoy their enduring freedom at Kandahar.
On the boardwalk
Dozens of feet clump down the wooden boardwalk toward a coffee bar that never closes. A handful of people sit along the walk’s edge, cheering or moaning as a volleyball player dives into the sand in an unsuccessful attempt to return the ball over the net.
It’s a little slice of life that could be typical of many American beach communities.
Except for the fact that most of the strollers here are armed. And, there isn’t a beach within 500 miles of Kandahar.
Kandahar Airfield’s newest “tourist attraction,” a covered, few-hundred-meter-long boardwalk and two sand volleyball courts, has been drawing a lot of attention from the few thousand military and civilian members deployed here.
The U-shaped boardwalk surrounds the volleyball courts. On the top of the “U” is the post exchange and barbershop, and on the left side are an outdoor clothing and shoe store, phone center, beauty salon and shops with Central Asian-related items.
Another “souvenir” shop is at the bottom, while Kandahar’s main drag is on the “U’s” final side.
Even without the boardwalk, this would still be a popular area. But since the sand volleyball courts opened recently, and the boardwalk is nearing completion, hundreds of people visit the area each night, staying and enjoying the still-cool evenings for much longer than they had in the past.
Kandahar will never be southern California, but here, it’s the only “next best thing.”
— Stars and Stripes reporters Kent Harris in Iraq and Jason Chudy in Afghanistan contributed to this report.