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War Stories: "Tom and Jerry" Breaks Down The Language Barrier In Iraq

And you thought it was just a silly cartoon.

(Photo: Miramax/ Everett Collection | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013)

For those of you who don’t know, or simply haven’t been paying attention, the primary element that makes Army Special Forces (aka Green Berets) different from the rest of the SOF world is our ability to make friends and build armies from those friends. If you didn’t know that, don’t worry! The average civilian typically thinks a ‘Green Beret’ is some lesser-known Prince song that was on the top 40 list in the '80s.

Anyway, back to my original point – so there I am in Iraq hanging out in our Iraqi Army Scouts team house watching TV and drinking some chai. The Iraqi Army Scouts were roughly equivalent to our Rangers. This equivalence is in structure, not ability, though we trusted their abilities enough for them to go into houses with us and operate alongside us. We even trusted their loyalty to a great degree, though there were always elements of operational security we kept to ourselves. Good guys for sure. I truly enjoyed spending time with them and even earned/shared the title of “brother” with a few of them.

Normally when we all sat around together, drinking chai and smoking flavored tobacco from a hookah, the television was just background noise for me. I would try to pick up as many words as I could, or get whatever I could from the context and occasionally ask our interpreter some questions about what was being said.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing television via satellite in the Middle East, I quickly noticed there were really only two types of shows to choose from: music videos with guys spinning flutes in the desert surrounded by belly dancers and music videos that tell a sad soap opera-like story with a blue lens filter. I got lucky this day and we happened upon Tom and Jerry. I instinctively said “La! La!” or ‘No! No!’ to the Scout holding the remote. Don’t change this shit! I didn’t think any of them had seen this show before.