A Letter of Endorsement from Iraq James Haldeman, a retired Marine colonel and American Airlines pilot now campaigning for a seat on the Rhode Island state assembly, was recently endorsed by a good friend: the mayor of Fallujah, Iraq. Haldeman spent seven months working with government agencies in Iraq. He tells Scott Simon he's honored.
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A Letter of Endorsement from Iraq

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A Letter of Endorsement from Iraq

SCOTT SIMON, host:

James Haldeman is running for the state assembly in Rhode Island. He is a Republican. The incumbent candidate is Democrat John Patrick Shanley, Jr. And while each candidate has endorsements, Mr. Haldeman has received one from a long ways off, Iraq. Dhari Abdul Hadi al-Irssan, the mayor of Fallujah, wrote a letter endorsing James Haldeman. Now, it's unclear whether the mayor has ever been to Rhode Island, but Mr. Haldeman spent seven months in Fallujah, running the Civil Military Operations Center there.

James Haldeman joins us from his home in West Kingston, Rhode Island.

Mr. Haldeman, thanks very much for being with us.

Lieutenant Colonel JAMES HALDEMAN (Marine Corps, Retired): Well, good morning, sir. It's certainly a pleasure to be here with you today.

SIMON: Now, you were a pilot for American Airlines...

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: ...had been in the military, retired Marine lieutenant colonel. And how did you wind up back in Iraq?

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: Well, sir, I had a glorious 20 years with the Marine Corps. Unfortunately, a couple back surgeries took me out of the cockpit of flying fighter aircraft. And so I went in what they called the Technical Retirement, the IRR, always hoping that there would be something that would come up, that I could support my friends in the Marines Corps by, again, volunteering to go back.

SIMON: Well, tell us a little bit about what you did there in Fallujah, and perhaps how you got to know Mayor al-Irssan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: My job was a humanitarian and kind of worked with humanitarian affairs, sort of the civil issues. And so what it allowed me to do was to work with the ministries and the government officials. And the mayor was a sheikh. His name is Sheikh Dhari.

SIMON: Mm hmm.

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: Every day he would come in to me and say, you know, I can't do it. I quit. I'm being intimated. I'm being threatened. And I begged and pleaded with him on a daily basis that he stand up. And he continues to this day to be a mayor. As a matter of fact, I was told that he, in fact, was going to put his name in that hat to go to the parliament in Baghdad, but was talked out of it because he was doing such a good job as a mayor.

SIMON: I have to ask. Have there been people who have told you this endorsement could hurt you as much as it could help you?

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: You know, sir, I'm flattered by the letter. But I think most importantly, sir, I think it shows that there's still great compassion in friendship that exists between our two countries. And I think that was the main focus. As far as hurting, no, sir, I don't think it's hurt. I'm actually very, very proud of what I did over there. And I loved Mayor Dhari and I still do. I miss him.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Haldeman, nice talking to you, sir.

Lt. Col. HALDEMAN: It was quite a pleasure speaking with you, sir.

SIMON: James Haldeman is a pilot for American Airlines. He's a candidate for state assemblyman in Rhode Island, running against the incumbent, John Patrick Shanley, Jr. And he's been endorsed by the mayor of Fallujah.

This is NPR News.

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