While watching the departure of the US Forces from Afghanistan, I reflected upon the time I watched US Marines hastily depart Sana’a Yemen. A few weeks later, I had a simple exchange with a local that symbolized US interventions in our countries.
In Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen, most of the cars int the second-hand yard at the end of my dusty street come from South Korea or the USA. The Korean cars are usually decommissioned taxis still dressed in Korean taxi livery. American cars are usually tray back pick up trucks still sporting “America First” bumper stickers.
A man was circling around a shiny pick-up, marveling at his new ride. He wore in a tan coloured thawb dress, that came down to his shins and a dagger belt embroidered with fine gold thread around his scrawny middle.
He stopped at the back of the pick-up and gazed upon a bumper sticker. I noticed he’d fixated on this point, so I asked him if he knew what it was. He didn’t. I told him it was a US Marines sticker.
A look of horror spread across his face and he stared at me a moment as if not breathing before asking, “what do the words say?”. I translated into Arabic, “My brother fought for your freedom.”
The man burst into action, squatting down at the back bumper and feverishly started scratching off the sticker with his new car key while muttering astaghfir Allah (God forgive).
The key wasn’t effective, so he unsheathed his dagger and looked at the smooth mirror surface of the blade lovingly and started to shave the sticker off carefully so not to scratch the paint. He didn’t stop until the sticker was a pile of curled plastic pieces on the dust.
“How noble of him,” said the man as he wiped the blade of his dagger and returned it to the leather sheath at the front of his belt.
He looked up at me and flashed a grin of satisfaction before swinging into the drivers’ seat and driving off.