Some Harvard students go skiing for winter vacation. I shook thousands of hands, heard hundreds of stories and saw things that I have never seen before and will never see again. For eight days last December, I worked as an assistant on a United Service Organizations tour of Kuwait and Iraq.If we are truly going to support our troops, we ought to feed them right and pay them well. Stern ’04 is a history concentrator affiliated with Eliot House. With the top applicants from every high school applying to the best schools in the country, it's important to have an edge in your college application.Most importantly, let them know just what it is they are doing over there. These are 10 Harvard application essays and profiles from students who made it in.Safely within the American-controlled area's fortifications, the 10 modest villas can command rents to rival the best parts of Mayfair or Manhattan.Other perks include views of Saddam Hussein's old palaces and a personal Iraqi shopper to avoid the need for death-defying grocery trips.According to the commander of the Air Force camp at Baghdad International Airport, the ratio of support staff to combat troops is 10 to 1. There is even an entire unit whose sole purpose is to make sure all the Hummers have gas.The Civilian Engineers Corps makes sure the generators are working and that the tents are sturdy. Most of these people signed up thinking that they would be going to reserve trainings a few weeks out of the year and earning some extra cash doing a patriotic duty.
While most soldiers are not compelled to such cold, calculating brutality, self-doubt and moral ambivalence are weaknesses in a place like Baghdad.
I held a suicide bomber’s belt; I met a man whose face was burnt and eyes were blinded by shrapnel; I dined in a tyrant’s water palace; I even detonated a bomb (albeit a small one).
Life in Baghdad seems a lot like life anywhere—complicated, difficult, often mundane and very real.
While Iraqi residents face rigorous checkpoint searches whenever they go in or out, few complain because it means their homes are spared the anarchy raging outside.
Growing numbers are putting their properties up for rent, aware that for Westerners, life outside the Green Zone is now so dangerous that not even the most heavily fortified hotels or homes are safe.
Familiar social realities persist even in a war zone.