Vol. 3, Issue 22, November 1, 2005
Baghdad Trick or Treating Goes Somewhat Awry
American troops stationed in Baghdad inadvertently gave residents an unpleasant surprise when they tried to bring some Halloween spirit to their adoptive locale.
"I thought it would give the troops a morale boost," said Lieutenant General Foster McClaren, who authorized "Operation Trick or Treat" last week. "You know, since we're extending their rotations indefinitely and whatnot, every little bit of home we can give them helps."
Hundreds of troops reportedly participated in the operation, going door to door in a variety of costumes and shouting "Trick or Treat!" to the extremely perplexed and often terrified Iraqis who opened their doors.
"Well, upon reflection, it might have been a better idea to exclude the on-duty troops from this particular operation," said McClaren, scratching his chin thoughtfully. "The fact that they were carrying automatic weapons may have sent the wrong message to some civilians."
Observers simply smacked their foreheads in frustration at the sheer depth of the cultural faux pas.
"What on earth made the Army think that Iraqis would understand this extremely American holiday?" said a weary Jack Yarborough, a regional observer for Amnesty International. "You'd think the learning curve would be a little less steep. Remember when they freaked out the residents of Tikrit with an impromptu Easter Egg hunt last spring? The residents assumed the whole town must have been strewn with mines or something."
In an attempt to forewarn residents this time, the Army did apparently issue flyers explaining the custom of trick or treating to Baghdad residents. However, due to the short notice, there wasn't time to translate it into Arabic.
"Turnaround for a reliable Arabic translation runs several weeks," admitted McClaren. "We did try to cover our bases. I mean, that flyer is multilingual: English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. We figured those who could read it would just, you know, pass the word along."
Even for those few residents who were able to decipher the hastily distributed pamphlets, the concept of the holiday proved less than comforting.
"So let me get this straight: on this night Americans dress up like horrible ghouls and go about demanding sweetmeats from one another like beggars?" said Ahmad al-Yussuf, a resident of northern Baghdad. "How can we hope to understand them if they even treat each other in this manner?"
The military has acted swiftly to distance itself from the embarrassing gaffe, promptly relieving McClaren of his command and promising to ship several tons of candy to the city for distribution.
"We're not going to try and retrace our soldier's footsteps from Halloween," said a weary-looking Brigadier General Marvin Spence, speaking off the record. "We'll just give it out throughout the city... It's just hard for some of the guys up top to understand that Iraq isn't going to be the 51st state."