Santa Claus Wears Kevlar

morte.jpgThirty-nine-year-old British Army Captain Steve Morte rides into the tense, sweltering city of Basra in the steel belly of a Warrior armored vehicle, wearing a Kevlar helmet and toting a rifle. But when his patrol arrives at a downtown orphanage and Morte dismounts the Warrior, the helmet comes off and the rifle disappears behind his back. He extends one meaty hand and grins broadly as he greets Fadil, a tall Iraqi man wearing slacks and a dress shirt."Salaam alaikum," Morte says. Peace to you."Alaikum salaam," replies Fadil, a 39-year-old local construction contractor with a $56,000 contract, issued by Morte using U.S. reconstruction funds, to shore up the orphanage's ceilings and build new bathrooms. It's just one of more than 200 projects that Morte oversees. Officially, his title is Civil-Military Cooperation expert. Unofficially, he's like Santa Claus to the thousands of Baswaris who rely on him for employment and the hundreds of thousands who benefit from their labors."Buying a little consent in the area, showing them the way," is how Morte describes his mission. For eventually the American money will dry up and the 8,000 British troops will leave. When that happens, contractors such as Fadil will be on their own."That's a problem," Morte stresses, adding that hopefully the contractors he has set up in business will work for the Iraqi government as it assumes more responsibility for reconstruction in Basra.Read the rest at Military.com.--David Axe

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