Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"95% of Our Work is with the American Army" Smile


I had a meeting with the purchasing manager of a real estate firm, they are looking for suppliers... In these tough times dollars seem to shine a lot brighter... Our guest was very friendly, rather polite and from another Arab nationality...

The meeting started, he introduced his firm... "we are working in several countries.." he talked about how difficult it is to move from one spot to another in Iraq. "It is very dangerous, we have to move with helicopters to visit to places like Ramadi".

It doesn't really take a genius to guess who uses helicopters in Iraq, but I wanted to make sure so I asked what kind of projects do you perform. "95% of our business is with the American Army, Iraq, Afghanistan...etc" He smiled and was soo confident as if it was meant to impress me and my boss... he continued bla bla bla and I remember hearing my diplomatic boss kidding with him "so wherever there is trouble you're there..." and my mind was going blank, here I am in a meeting with one of those who I loathed in every news report on TV, I hated the fact that they seem so nice in person... This is the type that is soo detached from the fact that he has blood on his hands, honest people suffered and he thinks of it as something that might encourage people to do business with him. So he boasts his 95%... to him dealing with the US Army is a badge to be proud of... and here I am trapped with one of them in a meeting room, totally unprepared, I have never imagined such people...


All I could think of is how can I say I can't... times are tough... all traders in our field have suffered a great deal... I'm responsible for a number of things including logistics... I'm supposed to brief this man on the best and cheapest way to do business in Iraq on the hope of nailing partnership with a very willing establishment in a booming market when all other markets are shrinking...

Thoughts crashed, seconds passed and small talk ended with my manager, I gave my manager "the look" he knew exactly what I meant, I will not cooperate, I even shook my head when our guest was not looking... maybe my boss can find a graceful way out of this issue... but then I thought why should we be polite... he is the one who should be ashamed... eghhh but he is very nice and polite...


My manager noting my gesture looked at me, said we just want to tell them what is the best way to do business, here goes... I hated myself, because I was weak... my voice trembled when I said: "But I have a problem"


My manager quickly: "I know you have a problem, but we only want to talk, we will not be finalizing anything now"


"I still have a problem" I turned to the nice proud man in front of me... "I don't know how say this in a diplomatic way" voice weak "but I have an ethical problem"... stopped talking for a second hoping that the thought would sink in or that someone would say anything... the nice guy still a bit puzzled but confident of himself...


" It feels like trading with people's blood" voice almost shattered... I hated myself for stating my position in such a way, weak and trembling voice, eyes gazing in a million direction... I thought I was a much stronger man... but alas, at least I've cleared my conscience...


Then the nice man started talking again, "we have alot of work for the sake of the people, like ports, infrastructure, hotels" he delayed a word for a second... "Security" and you will be amazed many people think differently in Iraq...bla bla bla...


I felt stronger bit by bit as he talked on how he went out of a meeting when an Israeli was present... He was now defending his position, his percentage changed at the end of his talk to 60-65% of work for the American Army, "besides you wouldn't have known if I didn't tell you"...


Voice getting stronger, "you don't understand... to me an American in Iraq is the same as an Israeli in Palestine, they are killing our people"


My manager, " of course they are the same, we only want to tell them the outcome of the exercise we've done for ourselves, they might use our facilities or choose to operate on different projects..."


"This is against all my principles, and I don't want to have anything to do with it... not even A word that might help, sorry... I think I have to leave now..." and I left...

I hated the fact that I was weak to the point that I didn't shine with confidence when we argued... unlike our nice proud guest...


He had no traces of guilt whatsoever... He loves his work and is so proud of it all... I hope he will at least think of what part he is playing in this ugly play...

3 comments:

Bilalٍ said...

Hey abu Elshabab,are you kidding?!! You were not weak at all! You told this man in his face that he is trading with people's blood, that what he is doing is wrong and you said it when your boss was present, left the room and put your job at risk. Now, how many person in Jordan would do that? very few i think.
If you did not do that at that moment, you will feel bad about it for the rest of your life. Now i am sure you are happy you said that.
What you did is great, Congrats:)
ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجا ويرزقه من حيث لايحتسب ومن يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه

Bilalٍ said...

Don't you just feel good when you face someone like this a tell him in his face that what he is doing is extremely wrong instead of smiling in his face.

M Kilany said...

Bilal,

Allah yojbor be7'atrak...

True, I did feel good about it once it was over... :)