David and his team in the Shia heartland of Iraq represented the best values and hopes of his country as he remained
indefatigable over his 7 years there – outside of any perimeter – in pursuit of leaving some lasting good behind within the larger Iraqi context of dismay and disintegration.
~ Christopher Shays
Congressman, 4th Congressional District in Connecticut:
In my name and on behalf of the community of al Hayy in Wasit Governorate, Iraq, we are praising the extraordinary efforts made by the humanitarian organization as led by its Director, Mr. David Holdridge and his Iraqi staff who provided such exceptional services in the province from 2003 to 2010.
~ Sayed Sa’ad Mehdi
David’s book pulls no punches in taking on the charity industry and foreign policy pundits. For over four decades, he and his family have experienced fully the social and political realities of the world’s conflict zones, natural disasters, famines and crises. Starting as a young infantry lieutenant who was gut shot in Vietnam, he has since taken on countless missions as a humanitarian aid worker into hotspots such as Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Gaza and Haiti. This foot soldier’s evocative story, in equal parts, exposes a flawed approach to soft power and expands our understanding of ‘right relations.’
~ Phil Karber
Postmarks from a political traveller
Edition #88 March 26, 2017
THE AVANT GARDE OF WESTERN CIV
By David Holdridge
Excerpt from Chapter 23
I was relieved to be out on the pavement. Wolfe’s raw and unsettled land – the groaning continent – braving the north Atlantic, Yankees, Southerners, and Africans working the land around towns where the tap of the telegraph and the wail of the locomotive gave them to wonder about the great hear-tell of the multicolored, polyglot, pulsating, pullulating swarms of swarthy immigrants, eight to a room, under the machinations of those Yankee carnivores who raised steel and poured concrete like no tomorrow in that great symbiotic amalgam of squalor and opulence, freedom and desperation.
And I could feel the dynamic – in the mess and muddle of faces and languages as I walked downtown. Clacking down the street past the panhandlers, musicians, street vendors, working stiffs, dealers, and executives, I walked back to the Hotel Chelsea. Here, Burroughs, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Ginsberg, and so on incubated the music and prose to inspire the world, clacking down those threadbare and day-glow halls to my metal frame bed for the night.
With an original radiator spitting steam, I knew one damn thing for sure: that there on that walk were American interests and values, which had been usurped by the faceless charity fonctionnaires who now felt vested to make that interpretation before the world.
So this Uptown memory gets rolling around in my sun baked brain the next time I am visiting the Shia heartland. Imagine: back in 2003, Paul and I had to assure the locals that the streets would be cleared of our male staff each day by 2pm and kept cleared until 4pm, so the women of Kut could walk past our offices and not fear being seen, emerging out of their gated confines in a parade of black tents, perhaps to meet at the little grocery store at the end of the road and trade a rumor or two.
Then, barely two years later, quite by mistake, I remember that day when I had been given a peek by an adolescent girl flying out of a room in the home of a native son to which I had been invited. The women were huddled before a TV glued to Al Arabiya and simultaneously engaged on their cell phones, all the colors of a rainbow. In a relative heartbeat, they had moved from a small gossip at the corner store to calls from over the horizon.
Yes indeed, reminiscing now, in 2008, on that constant refrain, “new technologies turning old sociologies on their heads.”
David Holdridge served in the Vietnam War in 1969 as an infantry platoon leader outside of Chu Lai. He was wounded and spent eighteen months getting repaired at various hospitals in the United States, culminating with operations at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut where neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Whitcomb managed to free him from his trauma.
Subsequently, he spent thirty-five years working with humanitarian organizations amidst populations suffering from war, exploitation, and impoverishment, including assignments in West Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
From 2010 to 2012, he directed an advocacy effort in Washington D.C., which argued for significant transformation of the current systems and approaches of American assistance abroad.
Currently, he lives on a tree farm in Vermont with his wife, Annie. His daughter Hank was born in Beirut; his son, Alex, in Tunis.
David is currently working on a book describing the beginnings of the counter culture revolution in 1962.