Most Americans greeted the end of the Iraq War the same way they responded to the beginning of it—with a shrug and a yawn. The List, a documentary screening this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a timely reminder of what’s still at stake, and that the war there isn’t over for our allies just because we’ve mostly departed.
In many ways, actually, it’s just begun for them, as they flee or hide from their past—from us. For me, the film resonated because of a man named Suge Knight.
For many months in the throes of the Iraq surge, my scout platoon and I patrolled the dusty towns of northern Baghdad province, trying our hand at counterinsurgency and winning over locals’ hearts, minds, and pocketbooks. Sometimes it worked. With us throughout, for every midnight counter-IED mission and every tedious patrol tallying hours of working electricity, was a middle-aged interpreter we called Suge, because of his striking resemblance to the hip-hop entrepreneur.
Suge was more than our translator—he was our only conduit to the foreign land we found ourselves stewarding. He became a friend, confidant, and mentor to my men and me on matters ranging from the nuances of Arabic culture to the nuances of an even more mysterious tribe—women. His English was sometimes choppy, but his loyalty was as relentless as the desert sun. He wasn’t just with us, he was one of us, a subtle but critical distinction.