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Bedouin Emir with Goat Hair Tent and ‘42 Dodge | Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs

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Bedouin Emir with Goat Hair Tent and ‘42 Dodge
1943 January

At that time, at home in the USA, ordinary citizens could not buy any new car and gasoline was severely rationed. Everything went to the "war effort". Great was my surprise when the Emir said, "I see you have a Dodge ambulance. Would you look at my Dodge? It is making strange jerking and banging noises." He had them push it out from his tent.

He said this shiny new 1942 Dodge Sedan had been given to him last year by his friend, the American General in Baghdad. He wondered if it would get him back to Baghdad. If so, he was sure he could get another new one from his friend.

I found out that the gears were stripped, probably from not using the clutch properly and from lack of lubricating oil. He wanted me to take him out hunting gazelles in my ambulance on the way to Baghdad. I thought (to myself) that he would be better off riding his beautiful pet racing camels.

Ironically, I was also beginning to hear troubling whispers that underlay the overwhelming good will of Arabs toward Americans. I had heard rumors of concern about the oil pipelines that ESSO Standard Oil and other foreign oil companies were building across the Syrian and Iraqi Desert. The fear was that Bedouins would no longer be able to move at will across their Desert.

The pipelines were enormous, too high to climb over and too low to crawl under; they had a bridge over the pipe only every hundred miles. I began to understand the insidious danger to the Arab and Bedouin way of life that was inherent in the foreign corporations developing Middle Eastern oil. When I got home, still feeling strongly about this, I sold my stock in ESSO Standard Oil.

Today, this black satanic petroleum that, by accident, lies under so many nations of the Middle East, has come to be an underlying force of avarice and evil in World politics; it is corrupting the Semitic cultures of that region, to which we owe at least three great religions.

Location: Syrian-Iraqi Desert.

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Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs
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Scanned by John C. Cobb or Picture Perfect ca. 2002-2004.
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