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.)
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
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
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
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.