- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 21, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

I'm not about to call myself a casualty of war, but I must say that this business in Iraq is already causing collateral psychological damage.

If you followed the geography lessons on this page last week, you know that Armenia is closer to Irag than the White House is to an outhouse.

So while missiles were flying not far from here yesterday morning, I went to the cyber mail box to be greeted by a message in which the subject field read: "Warden".

We've all got pasts, right? It's not what you think but, well, mine happens to include uneasiness with the word "Warden".

Short of saying something like "Internal Revenue Service" or "Pinworm test results", little could have been less welcomed on the screen while I was Yahooing in the same general neighborhood where George W. was scudding.

(And while we're on that subject: An assassination of an only moderately well-known figure was carried out in Armenia recently with a single bullet and allegedly $50,000. The Bush administration, by contrast, spent $40 million launching countless missiles into a building where they "thought" one of the most notorious and recognizable men in the world was kicking back, and still missed. Lesson: Give an Armenian a gun and a reason, and soon Saddam Hussein would not be at the center of a controversy that has Americans pouring French wine in rivers and a soon-to-be ban on French kissing. And everybody gets off cheaper.)

Anyhow: Warden.

Turns out I've got one. Guess all the American ex-pats here do. And I'm pleased to report that in this case the word is more nearly defined as "caretaker" or "guardian" than the penal association of its common use. He's the guy who gets on the phone or the Internet and shouts "run" when the color-coded alert panel goes from mellow yellow to aren't-you-sorry-you-moved-here-now crimson.

And "wardens", I guess, are part of the U.S. State Department program for getting guys like me out of places like this when bullies in the playground start threatening the American Way of Life no matter how far from America it might be lived. (Well, not really guys like me, but guys like me who happen to be making Lexus-driving American money in a Lada-driving Armenian dram economy.)

My warden wanted me to know that although Dr. Strangelove's Homeland Security threat level has reached orange (whatever that means), here, 500 miles from Scudville, not a creature is stirring.

The message was "not due to a specific threat against Americans in Armenia, but is a general notice of caution . . ."

So later that night as I was leaving one of the ex-pat saloons with a belly full of $3 Armenian wine, I took extra caution in the stairway. My warden would have been proud.

I got an email from North America later in the day from a friend asking if I could hear from my window what she was seeing on her television, the Missiles of March.

I wrote back that I couldn't hear anything from inside my gas mask. It's the kind of retort that lends cache to living in a place most only know about if it appears on a Defense Department map. Or if they hear it mentioned when camouflaged guys with whiskers for hair say things like "Our intelligence tells us . . ." when what they really mean is "I heard the other day on CNN . . ." By default, such places are assigned a largely undeserved and wholly exploitable exotic character.

Here's my favorite bit of Iraq-related hyper-horror:

The Northern Ireland Football Club has cancelled next week's match with Armenia in Yerevan. Sportsmen from a country where pubs blow up and post boxes are used as bomb storage, are afraid to come to Armenia because its too close to a place were (mostly) precision weapons are being fired.

A friend from the States told me that people in his organization have cancelled plans for a trip to Armenia in May. This, I really don't understand.

Even after I told him I would be their warden.


Flight of Fear: As war begins, some from Iraq seek refuge in Armenia

Full story


Border War: Kurds in Armenia watch fighting in Iraq with special interest

Full story


Before the Bombs: Locals and foreigners gather in small war protest

Full story


  Photo of the week
  Minor Protest
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Minor Protest

Members of "Mister and Miss Armenia", an organization that produces children's pageants and contests held a beauty protest outside the United States Embassy in Yerevan Thursday. The kids recently were in Iraq, and wanted to demonstrate their feelings to the US presence here.



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