Monday, September 12, 2011


THE SETTING:My husband, Shelly, had served in the Air Force 4 years (one tour in Korea) and over 6 in the Navy before I married him. He was single, but, certainly a seasoned world traveler having "sailed around the world" with several years in the Mediterranean area. He was enlisted, not commissioned.

He was assigned to "overseas shore duty" in Morocco, a country of great contrasts. The tour counted as sea duty but family could accompany him. It was to be my first and only journey overseas. We'd been married 2 years and in our 30's. We both were apprehensive the first day we landed at Rabat. Soldiers met the Pan Am jet. (I quickly thought --I wonder if we are being hijacked--don't even think that terror was so common then.) As we deboarded, Shelly and I quickly noticed soldiers with all sort of weaponry on the airport rooftop. Shelly recently admitted he wondered at the time what we were getting into. As our assigned sponsor whisked us away to a hotel we noticed the entire area around the airport was surrounded by military apparatus and soldiers. We were told this was NORMAL. [We have not idea what the word SECURITY MEASURES meant.]

In orientation we were told we were subject to search, and passport inspection anyway, anytime, by almost anybody. We were advised in our behavior, dress, & eating habits to NOT offend the citizenry. Most were reasonable suggestions (I was horrified some of us, especially women, were irresponsible, especially in dress.) The majority Islamic religious sects there were moderate. There were a goodly number of French still living there; the Moroccans tended to dislike us both, especially where we existed in goodly numbers.

We lived off base on an Atlantic beach where some of Patton's troops landed. (There was insufficient base housing for all assigned there.) I immediately noticed irony of the fully clothed (covered) Moroccan women on the beach besides the nude, sun-bathing French, and a few Americans who might as well have been nude. Three cultures colliding head-on.

As a prelude to the terror episodes, I must add there were several conditions the country allowed us to have bases. U.S. had to provide training, particularly fighter pilot training, to their air force, as well as military (arms, planes, etc.) and civilian equipment (like tractors, heavy construction equipment)--also considerable economic aid. Further, we granted their King and all he chose to accompany him, first shopping privilege to our commissaries, PXs. We had one supply ship per month. When the merchandise hit the floor, the king and his entourage shopped before the doors were opened for the military. (I suspected, but never proved, our officers somehow got to shop before us enlisted peons.)

(Herein lies one of Bin Laden's grievances: as "infidels" U.S. has desecrated Islamic culture, particularly Saudi Arabia, homeland of Mohammed, [where the most holy landmarks are] with our presence militarily or as civilians employed with American companies, like oil.)

Our instructions were to have one bag per family member packed of our personal effects, for emergency evacuation. Further we could not bring our pets--something I really dreaded as I am an unabashed dog lover. Every other possession would be left behind--cars, furniture, etc. The state religion was Islam but in deference to Catholics there was Catholic churches. For a short time there were enough Church of Christ personnel (7-10) and we met in a quonset hut. Two men did everything. Singing/preaching was terrible, but there were times I personally felt closer in fellowship than I do now. Maybe we needed it more.

Living off base, we made friends with Moroccans and some French. We tried learning the language, but we both only got by. Most citizens were multilingual, Arabic (several dialects), English, French, and Spanish. I inadequately remembered Spanish from high school. (Our homes were marked with signs; our military required, but of course, every Moroccan knew where an American lived.)

I noticed every night the Moroccans listened to short wave radio to the rantings of Omar Kadafi who constantly ranted about the Americans and the Arab nations who courted us. He was the major source of discord among the various Arab sects and inciting terror wherever he could.

TERROR in the 70s. really tame by today's standards. (1) Our military, especially officers, mingled socially with the Moroccan military and the King. At some point the Moroccan army decided to kill the King while he was playing golf with his cronies and a goodly number of our officers. It was unbelievable how fast we were notified to stay out of sight, do the suitcase drill, etc. as we had no phones. The TV such as it was and air waves were controlled by others.

I have a 10-page account of this failed coup written by one of our officers. The soldiers terrorized our officers by shooting rubber bullets at them (today they would for sure be real bullets), temporarily imprisoned some, and having them strip to their undershorts. When the coup fell apart, the American officers were stuffed in a truck and dumped several mi. from the base gate, still in their undershorts. They never received their clothes, and personal possessions back. Some one then had Military IDs, passports, and other identification of these men. Losing clothes of was the least of their problems. The coup fell apart when one of the soldier trainees was placed in charge of the King. He told the king they had been told they were going on a "training" mission,but he was really loyal to the king. The coup participants then seem to turn upon each other; then Americans jumped in to a ditch to avoid the real bullets that began to fly, and some loyal trainees saved the King, for another more serious coup. For several days we had to move into friends' quarters on base until stability was restored.

These early attempts at assassination were really unorganized, and show how far in planning, training and manipulation, fanatics like Bin Laden have come.

(2) We decided to take a trip to Spain. (I, of course, would like to have toured Israel, but no one could Passport to Israel from Morocco--for sure!!) We left our beloved Ger. Shep. in charge of a Moroccan American couple who now live in St. Louis. We knew if something happened to us, they loved the dog and would give it a very good home. (We've always had this breed, and they've been nothing but loving pushovers, no protection whatever...)

While in Spain I became ill and we went to a US military base in Spain for medical treatment, thus prolonging our trip. We were on our way back to a coastal Med. town to spend the night and catch a ferry back to Morocco. We decided to check ferry times at the port and were told the borders were closed; the Moroccan Air Force whom the U.S. trained, tried to kill the King by gunning his unarmed Boeing 707 out of the air

I can't remember how long we had to stay in Spain--a few extra days--and we were allowed to return. Arriving home, we found the Moroccan man (where we left the dog) had been imprisoned, accused of participating in the crew. His wife, an American, still had the dog. Again, we had to move into quarters on base for a period of time.

When we learned to details of this coup which involved Moroccan pilots stationed with our personnel in Kenitra, it, became a really laughable matter, MUCH LATER. There were 6 pilots (all U. S. trained) tried to gun down the unarmed Boeing 707. They missed, and no longer had any ammo. One pilot decided to kamakaze (sound familiar-modern equivalent- persons blowing themselves up in support of jihad) by dropping his fuel tanks on Boeing. He missed. Of course he crashed his plane and survived, only to die before a firing squad, as he said ALLAH is the true GOD, or whatever is the most important repeated phrase from the Koran. Further when the other pilots perceived their failure, they tried to land at a different, wholly Moroccan operated air force base, thinking they might figure a way to escape the certain punishment before a firing squad. Because they learned to fly in English, they could not figure out the air controller's Arabic directions and had to return to Kenitra where they were captured upon landing.

Oh yes, thankfully, the Moroccan man, who was NOT a pilot, was cleared after months in a filthy prison. Believe me, you would not want to me to describe "prison" life. Suffice it to say, there were no beds, no porta pots, no TV, scant food and water, no family visitation. Sometime after we returned to America, he resigned his commission and somehow managed to move to America, partly because he had an American wife. He is a US citizen and has quite a successful business.

Despite the fact that the U.S. provided military, economic, and monetary resources to this country, the very personnel that benefitted the most, tried to kill their own King, primarily because he was a Western, particularly, a U.S. sympathizer. He was not tyrannical. He built many living quarters for his people, who like our poor, managed to turn them into instant slums. The majority of the country was poor, uneducated, (we have no idea what POOR is unless we go abroad). The King, like we, were perceived as incredibly rich. In their minds I'm sure they perceived the vast inequity of living standards had something to do with the US & King connection. The military who trained in US no doubt described their perception of our wealth from their personal observations to the natives.

There are many parallels between these coups and our current American tragedy. Remember a Russian leader once said America would fall from within and we all perceived a decadent moral society. But consider this: we trained the pilots in this tragedy, and in the coup, with our technology, our planes, IN OUR COUNTRY. The personnel had unrestricted access to observe the way we live, our security or lack there of, in essence our unrestricted freedom. No doubt, their hatred/envy(?) of our society vs. theirs, was fueled by their observations here.

For this American in a third world country, it was a sobering call to how different cultures can be--How paradoxically the US is perceived by the very countries it pours its funds and resources into, and how misguided and unsuccessful some of these agreements appear to me. And how incredibly rich I am compared to the most successful of their society, except a few.

Our presidents, are getting a taste, or the fear that the King, and other who rule in these countries, live with everyday.

Besides the conception of (1) our incredible wealth (vs. their impoverished existence) and the (2) Jewish-Arabic hatred which our commentators fail to see goes back to Isaac & Ishmael (not just the formation of the nation Israel), there are several other perceptions third world countries and others have which provoke their hatred of us.

(3) If their GOD, being Allah, or some other deity, is so wonderful, why do Americans thrive as seemingly irreverent, sinful, arrogant? They believe it is their duty to avenge what they perceive as the infidel in the name of their God.

My perception of what I know (admittedly minscule) the Koran is not as peaceful as modern commentators are trying to convince us--never has been. The Islamic culture believes anyone who dies defending Allah goes straight to Paradise, all other sins are instantly forgiven. Like Christianity and Judaism there are so many sects; there is no one pure interpretation, best I can tell. The solution is to wipe us, as the enemy, off the face of the earth. It is not a new idea. Revisit the Crusades; the Inquisition. The latter were in the name of Christianity.

(4) Anyone, not believing in Islam, particularly Americans, defile the country by occupying it. (Funny, they love our tourism dollars.) In Morocco tourism is a major economic industry.

(5) We talk about the widening economic gap between the extremely rich class and our poor: This is the status quo in many countries. Not our fault, but we might take note.

(6) Also, the conception of the U.S. and western women is an abomination to many cultures and religions. I've recently seen a book written by a Moroccan woman who, with her family, was imprisoned for 20 years for an infraction of Islamic law, that would not make the back section of a newspaper in US. She now lives in France. (I'm not sure if she escaped or was freed.)

(7) The ugly American syndrome. Somehow, as a nation, and individually, we provoke the image of "the rest of the world owes us something" . Some of this comes from being the mightiest nation who once liberated the world of tyranny, but we personally contribute to it, too.

I noted a vast failure in our efforts in many areas. For example we provided expensive farm equipment, but no training in operation, maintenance, and no replacement parts. The machinery was operated, abusively, till it stopped. It then was left rusting in the fields.

A peace corp worker pointed out to me another shortcoming. We sent millions of dollars in birth control pills. But it was largely a failure for several reasons: (1) the women were truly unable to grasp the concept you had to take the pill once every day, not just on weekends, when their husband returned home (many husbands were away from home during the week). (2)they simply could not COUNT. (3)the birth control packets were designed to begin on Sunday, a day percieved as Christian, comparable to their Friday and (4) birth control is not a popularly accepted concept. A bull dozer plowed literally millions of dollars of the pills underground on one base. We Americans had heard the pills were good to stimulate growth in pot plants and mourned we were not allowed to have some for that purpose.

These two instances are minor examples of costly failures in our economic foreign aid, which included food, like flour products. I bought a empty flour sack at a souk in the desert.

[These are my personal observations, opinions and thought, perhaps outdated (10 years old), and some details may be error from a faulty memory. I do not remember the origin of this writing, but think it was incorporated into a lesson to a Ladies Bible Class.]

Later I plan to write a series are my experiences  in living in Morocco, which I treasure. It will be day-to-day, some humorous, experience, laughing at myself-type  experiences.


Arkansas Patti said...

Wow,you have really seen first hand what most of us just read about.
I can understand how we are resented and how economic class differences breed such distrust and hatred.
The have-nots will always resent the haves. Oddly the have-nots in this country would be considered rich in most other countries. I know of no answer.
Interesting post.

Lorna said...

you have led a full, interesting life, not entirely free of danger.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Very interesting, Carol. I've not had the opportunity to live abroad, anywhere. Your experiences were, I suspect, both stimulating and somewhat frightening. I look forward to reading more of your remembrances.

Liz said...

That was certainly an experience for you.

It was interesting to read your take on the continuing situation between Islam and Christianity, west and east.

Nezzy said...

What an interesting life you have lived sweetie.

This was a post full of experience and knowledgeable data that no one could tell unless they had experienced it first hand.

You do like to live on the edge, huh??? Heeeheheh

You have yourself a marvelously blessed day sweetie!!!

rosaria said...

Wow! This is wonderful recollections, and yes, indeed, you ought to expand and write a bigger version.