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August 01, 2005

How 'Bout Some Fries With That Sheik?

A blonde American deemed a "sheik" by Sunni Arabs.

Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Dr. Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Horn's first Humvee patrols.

Horn says he was intrigued, and started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk to people about their life and security problems.

Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area: he now boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.

"They saw that we were interested in them, instead of just taking care of the bases," Horn said.

Mohammed, Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote, Horn said.

Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have originally started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Horn each month to discuss security issues.

...

To Horn's commanders, his success justifies his unorthodox approach: no rockets have hit their base in the last half year.

"He has developed a great relationship with local leaders," said Lt. Col. Bradley Becker, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. "They love him. They're not going to let anyone shoot at Sheik Horn."

He has even won occasional exemption from the military dress code β€” villagers provide a changing room where he can change from desert camouflage to robes upon arrival.

...

"I still refuse to kiss him," joked Becker, referring to the cheek-kissing greetings exchanged among sheiks. "He doesn't have any sheep β€” he can't be a sheik," said Becker, apparently unaware of the recent donation of the small flock.

Thanks to NickS.


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posted by Ace at 03:16 PM

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