Saturday, December 31, 2011

From our Neighbors to the North

In an otherwise unrelated article in The New Yorker [not free online], The Sanctuary: The world's oldest temple and the dawn of civilization, by Elif Batuman, in the magazine's Dept. of Archaeology, published in the special double issue 19-26 December 2011. Locus of article is the archaeological site Göbekli Tepe, located near the town of Şanlıurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa), in southeastern Turkey near Syria.
[ . . . ]

After my last afternoon at Göbekli Tepe, I decided to devote the rest of the day to the other Urfa pilgrimage--the Abraham one. [ . . . ]

I reached a large park with manicured lawns, a rose garden, gushing fountains and shady tea gardens, and made my way to a rectangular stone-line pool crammed with fat gray carp, indicating the spot where Nimrod failed to burn up Abraham. It's said that anyone who eats one of these carp will go blind. All kinds of people--tough-looking men in black leather jackets, women in shapeless trenchcoats and head scarves, two girls dressed like Arabian princesses with gold coins on their foreheads--were buying fish food from the venders and hurling it into the pond by the fistful. The sacred carp accumulated in a great heap below the surface of the water, their gaping circular mouths angled upward.

[ . . . ]
Fish Haiku #15

Giant sacred Carp

Living in the lakes protect

Iraq's future hopes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


from an otherwise unrelated New York Times article about the discovery of classified documents in an Iraqi junkyard:
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
Fish Haiku #15

Giant sacred Carp

Living in the lakes protect

Iraq's future hopes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Farewell to the Americans!

It had to happen. Yesterday, at a formal ceremony at Al-Faw Palace, the United States, represented by Vice President Joseph R. "Joe" Biden, Jr., turned over Camp Victory and the Victory Base Complex [VBC] to the Government of Iraq and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, effective today. This is one of the final steps in implementing the Bilateral Security Agreement between the two countries, reached in late 2008.

We, The Fish at Al-Faw Palace, must - and will - now survive by, with and through the Iraqi people.

Fish Haiku #15

Giant sacred carp

Living in the lakes protect

Iraq's future hopes

Hat tip to BLT and NPR.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day: We Make the New York Times!

Here's the caption of a pic we can't figure out how to post: Large carp live in the canals and lakes of the complex, and the fish were cause for many rumors among Iraqis. The Iraqi government harvested a number of the fish in the waters around the Al Faw Palace to use in restocking many of the rivers and lakes in Iraq in 2009. Note: This refers to Operation Carpe Diem. From Leaving Camp Victory in Baghdad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fish Haiku #26

Fish Haiku #26

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell": Dead.

Soldiers leave Camp Victory . . .

Who will feed The Fish?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our first link: from The Washington Post

Camp Victory, the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq, getting ready to close, by Annie Gowen.
[ . . . ]

The base eventually came to have its own myths and urban legends, such as the often-told story about the outsize carp that still swim in the lake outside the al-Faw palace. These fish were said to have developed a taste for human flesh after they were fed Hussein’s victims, a tale that has never been substantiated. They will eat a baby duck whole, however; you can see it on their fan Web site.

[ . . . ]


We thank Annie Gowen of The Washington Post for sharing us, The Fish at Al-Faw Palace, with all humanity, as part of our World Heritage. Well done!

PS. We welcome Washington Post readers. Please check back again in a month or so.

Fish Haiku #25

Camp Victory shrinks

DFACs closing, one-by-one

Send more ducks our way!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Fish in Tripoli, Libya!

Money quote from The New York Times:
Gilded Traces of the Lives Qaddafis Led

[ . . . ]

Given Colonel Qaddafi's noted flamboyance, the residences of the House of Qaddafi were not quite as grand as people might have supposed.

They lacked the faux grandeur of Saddam Hussein's marbled palaces. There are no columns that bear the colonel's initials, or fists cast to resemble his hands or river-fed moats with voracious carp. [emphasis added]

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Make The New York Times

In Iraq, Last Days at Camp Victory's Version of Five-Star Hotel.
[ . . . ]

Last week, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was at the Joint Visitors Bureau [J.V.B.], the “Incoming!” alarm went off in the middle of the night as sensors tracked a rocket attack. Everyone jumped out of bed and into gym shorts and scrambled into cement bunkers until the all-clear sounded 15 minutes later.

To pass the quieter hours, soldiers assigned to the J.V.B. cast fishing lines into the lake that separates it from the looming palace that is headquarters for United States Forces-Iraq.

The lake is home to a vicious breed of carp grown giant by constant gorging on food refuse. The Camp Victory carp are so conditioned by human feeding that any shadow over the water causes them to roil the surface like piranhas in a James Bond movie. One soldier-fisherman last week had a biceps tattoo that read “Carpe Diem,” suggesting a pun about seizing the fish of the day.

And then there is golf.

A tee has been set on the back porch of the J.V.B., and soldiers use the lake as a driving range. At night, they like to crack open incandescent tubes meant for marking landing zones and roadways, coating golf balls in glowing orange and green chemicals. Like tracer bullets, the balls arc over and vanish into the lake, one more reason not to eat the carp. [emphasis added]
Comment: We appreciate the publicity in The New York Times. Thank you!


The Fish at Al-Faw Palace
Camp Victory, Victory Base Complex [VBC]
Baghdad, Iraq

Fish Haiku #15

Giant sacred Carp

Living in the lakes protect

Iraq's future hopes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't Forget the Fish!

U.S. Troops in Iraq Leaving Saddam Palaces
[ . . . ]

A prime property at the Victory [Base] Complex is Al Faw palace, whose construction became Saddam's personal architectural hobby. He made more than 400 changes to the plans, according to the history of the complex.

"It has gorgeous ceilings and chandeliers, but we use it like a regular office building albeit with a lot more marble," [former U.S. military historian in Iraq Col. Les] Melnyk said.

Saddam's most dramatic – and, as it turns out, most damaging – alteration grew from paranoia. Flying over the building, he thought he saw a cross woven into the design and suspected the Yugoslav architects did it on purpose.

"He assumed, being the paranoid man ... that he was, that they were trying to insert a Christian symbol into his country. So he made the decision on the spot to double the size of the palace," Melnyk said.

The result of the hasty remake is that the back half of the palace is unstable, Melnyk said. Cracks are showing, chunks of the walls are falling off, and the palace may cease to be inhabitable. Meanwhile, the staircases are chipped and nicked after years of U.S. troops' weapons accidentally banging into them.

The troops do not mind climbing three floors just to use the massive bathroom – 12 sinks in one room alone. The bidets are used to store toilet paper.

The U.S. military has made many improvements to the palaces it has occupied – smoke detectors, new wiring, upgraded plumbing. Interiors have become cubicled office space and machines clean the floors at Al Faw.

The security agreement governing the withdrawal, however, does not require the U.S. to fix any damage it has caused to these buildings.

It does not help that the palaces were not always built very well. In the back of Al Faw, the paint looks haphazardly applied to the plaster ceiling moldings, the chandeliers in the hallway do not line up and the floor tiles are uneven.

Saddam was thinking "Versailles," but the materials he bought were more half-price sale at Home Depot. At Al Faw the banisters are gypsum, not marble. The Arabic script on the walls looks like gold but it is really brass.

It's difficult to believe that this reporter toured Al-Faw Palace and didn't notice The Fish.

Let's hope that The Fish continue to entertain - and be fed by - distinguished visitors and, more importantly, their hard-working entourages.

Fish Haiku #15

Giant sacred carp

Living in the lakes protect

Iraq's future hopes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We make the Austin [TX] Statesman

Money quote from The Austin Statesman:
Camp Victory's Odd Allure

Former hunting resort is now U.S. military hub near Baghdad.

[ . . . ]

The nerve center of the base is the magnificent Al Faw Palace , a former vacation retreat of Saddam Hussein's next to another artificial lake. It's now home to American generals and officers running day to day operations in Iraq, but it still guards its share of mystery. "There's a lot of myths and urban legends that work their way into the story," said Lt. Col. Les' Melnyk, the Army's historian at Camp Victory, who gives regular tours of the palace.

Rumor has it that the place used to be a brothel or torture chamber, had a basement full of gold bars at the time of the invasion of Baghdad and that the fish in the lake eat ducklings (and perhaps small children).

[ . . . ]
Comment: Sorry, but we would never consider eating small children.