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Surviving terror: Confessions of an Iraqi translator
Ahmed Abdullah put himself in danger by volunteering to help coalition forces inside Iraq. Now a prison guard in Lawton, OK, Abdullah dreams of becoming a U.S. citizen.

By Ken Raymond | Published: September 10, 2012 27

Watching the men approach, Ahmed Abdullah readied the Glock 9 mm pistol in his lap and waited.
Traffic had stalled, as it often did, on Main Supply Route Tampa. American forces somewhere ahead were sweeping for improvised explosive devices, turning the highway from Balad south to Baghdad into a makeshift motor camp. Parked vehicles, scattered haphazardly on and off the pavement, had disgorged their occupants into the summer heat. People stood in clusters to talk or walked in search of a breeze.

Ahmed Abdullah is a man without a country. A native Iraqi, he emigrated to the U.S. after harrowing years spent as a translator for coalition forces. He and his immediate family live in Lawton but are not yet American citizens. DOUG HOKE - The Oklahoman

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Not all of the vehicles were empty, though. Abdullah, for one, remained in his sweltering Ford Windstar minivan, leaning outside the driver's side window. His face betrayed no evidence of the fear that was trickling like perspiration down his spine.
Surrounded by danger
Abdullah, now 31, was no stranger to terror. He'd lived with it his entire life; by now it was as familiar as hunger and discomfort. All three were the product of growing up in an Iraq governed by dictator Saddam Hussein and the Sunni-led Ba'ath Party.
Hussein had risen to power through luck and intention. He was an early member of the revolutionary Baathists, who merged a wave of nationalistic fervor with socialism. Hussein failed in an attempt to assassinate a government official, then survived exile and imprisonment to become a political strongman, officially taking power as Iraq's president in 1979.
The occasion was marked by blood. Hussein immediately denounced many of his fellow Baathists as traitors, and within two weeks, hundreds had been executed.
Hussein was a Sunni, like Abdullah and about 80 to 90 percent of Muslims worldwide. In Iraq, though, the majority population is Shi'a. The two major Islamic sects are much the same but divide along some theological, legal, economic and social lines. Both suffered under Hussein's totalitarian regime.
“Hussein ... was one of the world's indisputably evil men: He murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas,” Dexter Filkins wrote for The New York Times Magazine in 2007. “He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis.

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