BAGHDAD — Sometimes a word enters my thoughts and I fixate on it. Obsess over it. Make brainlove to it. Five minutes ago the word “transmit” popped into my head. What a great word. Its definition and its phonetics. Two syllables: One broad, the other sharp, sounding like the funneling of something vast into a fine point. Trans. Mit. From the Middle English “transmitten” from the Latin “transmittere” — “mittere” meaning “to send,” “trans” meaning “across, over, beyond” from the verb “trare,” meaning “to cross.” To send across. To send over, and beyond. Transmit. For some reason — its use in military jargon? — the word made me think of a photo I took last month while riding in an MRAP vehicle in Anbar province. I was sardine’d between a plated window and the blond, spectacled, 23-year-old company medic. It was his first deployment. I looked at his ring and asked if he was married. Yes, he said. His wife’s 20. I asked about kids. Not yet, he said. They’ve got a decade or more to think about it, he said. All the time in the world, he said. I looked back and forth and back and forth between his silver ring and the rutted roadside and didn’t exhale until the world started to spin.
A community of Iraqi language interpreters — they call themselves “terps” for short — remains stuck in a bureaucratic limbo...Read More