If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chapter V.3

Just Keep Laughing...and Load Mags

Piss Poor Planning…

At the Strategic Level…

“History is “a cautionary science” but only if you know some.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin

Rob and I were sitting in the office one afternoon or evening talking. Things were quiet for a change. We were laughing about how the general assumption of the guy on the street, far removed from the workings of the machine, was that those in power actually knew what they were talking about/doing and spoke with knowledge and authority. And how after being here for only a couple of months and seeing things up close it was ironic, revealing, and funny in a really sad and scary kind of way, to see that most the people in charge, allegedly, had little to no clue at all about what they were doing; yet they were still looked up to as though they did. Maybe it should have been self-evident, I don’t know. It was interesting, if disheartening, though to see it up close and personal.

And that is part of our problem here. Back in the early 20’s T.E. Lawrence said, “Arabs believe in persons, not institutions.” The problem is that the US, in order to protect against the individual— the Papacy and monarchies of Europe— created the institution as the height of government, effectively replacing the individual; the individual is beholden to the office, not the office to the individual. We believe in institutions to protect us, not individuals. From the get go, we are operating in a paradigm/reference that is the complete opposite of those that we are trying to rebuild/fight/understand in Iraq.

“See, one of the interesting things in the Oval Office — I love to bring people into the Oval Office — right around the corner from here — and say, this is where I office, but I want you to know the office is always bigger than the person.” —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2004

On top of that, the idea of exporting democracy at the business end of a rifle is ludicrous. Especially when you consider that almost all of what are considered functional democracies in more than name were created from the bottom up, not the top down. Further, the idea of democracy in the West is based on the responsible and developed ego-individual making informed decisions based on their own personal interests, those of their family, community, etc. Iraq however, is closer in practice to the Orient, where there the idea of the ego-individual is largely unknown. The individual, its identity and desires are subsumed and secondary to those of the family/clan/tribe; the individual attains their sense of identity not from the self but from belonging to a larger group and therefore what is good for the group is good for the individual. Democracy, as conceived in the West, is a complete anathema to such a culture and doomed to fail, no matter how many dollars or guns try to implement it. That is not to say that democracy cannot work in Iraq, only that western-style, cookie-cutter democracy won’t. The democracy that succeeds here, if one ever does, will be decidedly Iraqi in flavor and will little resemble governance in the US. Wishful and/or ideological thinking will not soon override thousands of years of culture and history. Ah, but you wouldn’t know that walking around the halls of the palace here in the company of allegedly learned men and their kool-aid moustaches. Sisyphus had an easier task than the one we have undertaken.

An old saying in Iraq has it that you cannot buy a tribe, but you can certainly hire one.

…And the Tactical

The Force Protection office and officer had the lamentable job of defending, at a minimum, the palace, Al Rasheed Hotel, and convention center within the dream zone but had no assets to do so or OPCON of any assets. The CPA/CJTF-7 had nothing other then themselves and the weapons they carried; and 2BCT was unwilling, understandably so, to give up any of their units to another command. In simple terms, the Force Protection Officer was tasked with protecting and providing security to multiple sites, in what was starting to look like a war zone to even the most optimistic skeptics, with no men or equipment to do so other than the privately contracted Gurkha guard force. It’s like trying to play army with no army men to march around the battlefield. 2BCT provided personnel/security at the checkpoints to enter/depart the dream zone but their mission was not the same as CJTF-7’s or the Force Protection officer’s. For them, it was a coincidence and an annoyance that the CPA/CJTF-7 happened to be HQ’d in the same place as them. Ah, the fucking joy of joint commands

After the second rocket attack v. the Al Rasheed a det of Marine Security Guards, trained in protecting US embassies around the world, arrived at the palace as temporary assets for the Force Protection officer. They lived down in the basement where we were still staying. I remember the first time we got rocketed/mortared after they arrived. I went downstairs to get something and the marines not on watch had rolled out of their racks in their skivvies, thrown on their bullet bouncers and were kneeling in all the doorways with their rifles at the ready securing the basement, from what I have no idea, but the place was fucking secure. It was one of those surreal moments as I strolled by these guys, nearly oblivious to the rounds impacting outside, and I pitied any insurgent dumb enough to try and direct assault the palace basement. The marines of course, looked at me with that contempt that is reserved for all civilians who are too damn stupid to know anything about marines, security, or safety, theirs or anyone else’s. Everyone gets rocketed for a first time; at least they were doing something.

Anyway, the most logical use for these guys would have been to emplace several sniper teams on the roof of the Al Rasheed, the Big Tall Building (BTB) in the IGC complex and the convention center and then retain the rest as a QRF, which would have prevented both rocket attacks v. the Al Rasheed. This was a great idea and represented the best use of their particular skills pursuant to the problem at hand. However, the surrounding land/territory was part of 2BCT’s AO and fell under their tactical and operational control. The only way that the FP office would be able to use the MSG Det in this way was to give OPCON to 2BCT, thereby losing all command and control of the Marines that were supposed to give him something to use in the first place. Catch-22.

The Marines ended up replacing the Gurkhas at the palace entrances, much to the dismay of the silly-vilians who worked there as they found the Marine’s professional and stern demeanor intimidating as opposed to that of the Gurkhas who most saw as some kind of cuddly, M-16-toting Ewok. The Gurkhas pushed out, having none of the training, comms, or equipment of the Marines, to secure the outer perimeters. In the end, nothing changed other than the FP officer now had a det of Marines that he had complete operational control over as long as they remained on the grounds of the palace where they were largely ineffective, given their capabilities, until well after pretty much all the outer perimeters had fallen or been breached.

11NOV03 Threat Warning

Based on the potential indicators below, that there exists a significant possibility of major activity by insurgent/anti-coalition forces within Baghdad and Iraq starting immediately through the next five days. XXXXX has heightened security in its locations and recommends that all others due the same.

Potential Indicators:

Ambassador S. left Iraq 10NOV03 and Ambassador Bremer was mysteriously called away today, missing an important meeting with the Polish Prime Minister. Of note, Paul Bremer was out of the country for the Madrid donors conference and Ambassador S. left the country unexpectedly 25OCT03, one day before the rocket attack against the Al Rasheed Hotel and two days before the multiple VBIED attacks in Baghdad.

IP’s captured one VBIED in an ambulance with 200 lbs of PE-4 last night (10NOV03). However, a second ambulance, in company with the first, evaded capture and may also be intended for use as a VBIED.

No IP’s showed up for work tonight (11NOV03) at the IGC facility.

Although not privy to all threat warnings, there has been a decrease in the number of threat warnings received through official and unofficial channels over the last 5-7 days, possibly indicating that active cells have gone into preoperational hiding and/or planning. There are so many groups/cells active in Iraq that it may not be possible to discern when one is about to conduct an operation based on traffic analysis but the drop in reporting cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Continued mortar and rocket attacks against the “dream” zone.

Compound bombing in Riyadh 08NOV03 and the continued threat in the region.

Almost all the lights are out across the river directly behind the CPA palace.

Significant Dates:

11NOV: Veterans Day

13NOV95: Riyadh Bombing, At 11:30am of November 13th, a car bomb exploded at around a Saudi Arabian National Guard training facility in the middle of the Saudi capital Riyadh killing five Americans and two Indians. Sixty people were injured in the blast, 34 of them Americans.

13 November 1997: Ramzi Yousef convicted of New York World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

14 November 2002: Mir Amai Kasi executed for 1993 murder of two CIA employees.

Significant Dates w/in Ramadan:

Liilat al Qadr- Night of Power- night believed that the Koran was translated to the Prophet Mohammad. There are three different dates within the Moslem world.




14NOV- Imam Ali stabbed by a sword

16NOV- Imam Ali died


Capt Infidel,

This is good. Please advise all key players about your concerns regarding the possibility of combined arms attack on the Palace/Green zone from Thur. to Sun.

Good work. You know you called it right and that’s all that matters.

We need to sniff around and find out why Bremer is in DC. I think he is gonna sack the whole governing council .........and start with some kind of new gov. Diem is out Ky is in.....hahahahaaa!


From Intel Log (11/12NOV03):

0037 Rough of events tonight:

2115-2117 6 mortars launched from approx grid MB xxxxx (FP reported POO approx 1500m W of Al Rasheed Hotel). Only one POI reported- 19° and

3-500m from the 500-man camp

2139 3 launches heard directly to the rear of the palace- assess POO MB xxxxx, 2 tubes/IRLs, TOF 10 seconds. 2 detonations heard, very close. FP reporting indicates one POI in the middle of the new car park. Another POI is reported ivo 28th CSH, although it is not clear if this is from the 1st barrage or the second. Dean reports hearing the rounds fly overhead and Chuzu reported hearing them whistling as they closed to impact. Note- this is the 3rd launch from this POO.

2141 Dean reports (from military channel) that there is a poss commando-style attack going on as well- small arm fire ivo 28th CSH. A little later, Mike reports small arms fire N of the Al Rasheed Hotel. At this point, all civilians were moved into the basement by Force Protection/MarDet and the palace secured (?).

2155 Beth reports (from National Guard unit at the Convention Center) that they are reporting a vehicle within the dream zone with 2 pax that attacked a UID CP with small arms. The vehicle then attempted to exit the dream zone via CP#3 (this is not a vehicle CP- foot traffic only) and were still on the lose within the dream zone.

2300 All clear sounded.

NOTE: 1. The IP’s normally assigned to work at the MMI facility as well as the facility night watchman did not show up for work tonight. 2. Approx 98% of the lights across the river were off, first noticed between 1930-2000. ALL lights were back on at 2150- 10 minutes after the last mortar barrage. It is assessed that the lights were off to allow the mortar team to in/exfil under cover of darkness.


When Bremer returned, his immediate concern was replacing the vehicles that had been damaged by rockets landing in the parking lot across the street from the palace; he didn’t want the people to dwell on the dangers that their destroyed SUVs were likely to engender. He wanted people to feel safe, even though they really weren’t. One wonders why he didn’t maybe suggest that 2BCT actually try patrolling the areas that were being used by the insurgent rocket/mortar teams, set up surveillance, or do anything to try and prevent the bad guys from lobbing anything they could get their hands on into the dream zone. Instead, KBR threw tarps over the damaged/destroyed vehicles and carted them off, as if it never happened, and brought in shiny new SUVs for the fortunate unfortunate.

False Flag Operations and MMI/14JUL Bridge

Even though they don’t teach you in boot camp, the first rule of the military is, “never ask permission always beg forgiveness.” The degree to which this is true within the fog of a combat zone goes through the roof exponentially. Often times it is the only way to attain anything looking like success, particularly when you ran up against that most fearsome enemy…military bureaucracy.

We were in a heightened state of alert in early SEP and since the DoD-provided weapons package had yet to come in the Iraqi Governing Council Complex, a tasty target which was directly accessible from the red zone, was guarded by a company of unarmed Gurkhas, a half a dozen cement planters, about three H&K G3’s and Beretta .380. Not an ideal situation, particularly for target #1 in Baghdad.

I typed up a short threat assessment and Tim and I made our case to the 2BCT XO requesting a platoon of guys for about 3-4 days to beef up the overall posture. The XO, a nice guy, was amenable to our plan, realized the importance of the IGCC as a target and actually suggested that he might also be able to free up a BFV or two as well. Things were looking good and Tim and I walked away pleased. Of course, someone else further up the food chain didn’t think it was such a good idea and the whole thing was yanked— no support at all and in fact, the army moved the location of their checkpoint at CP 2 further back, actually worsening our situation. So much for joint/cooperation.

We made it through without event but I learned a valuable lesson that day. I really went about it all wrong. Fuck threat assessments and presentations and trying to make nice, that just doesn’t get you anywhere. You have to take action yourself and make things happen. If I had it to do over again I’d take a whole different tack. I’d sketch a rough map of the area in which I was looking to get added security and then have one of my IZ translators annotate it in Arabic detailing all the ways we were going to, allegedly, bring the wrath of Allah down on the area that I had no protection on. I’d then pay some IZ kid a couple of bucks to deliver the piece of paper to a GI manning some other CP and then run away before they could talk to him. That’s it, within twenty-four hours I could probably expect to have at least two mech platoons taking up positions on my exposed flank, whether I wanted it or not. Mission accomplished indeed.

And it was at that point, with that realization, that I also realized that I wouldn’t necessarily even be against mortaring or RPG-ing my own facility if I thought that it would help me get the assets that I needed in order to meet the larger strategic objectives…you know, like protecting the interim government of Iraq. In fact, after the second rocket attack v. the Al Rasheed Hotel and the further problems that having the 14JUL Bridge open to Iraqis was creating (a massive military mistake that you can equally blame on Bremer and Sanchez) I began to seriously look at what I would need to do in order to blow the bridge up myself. If Bremer/Sanchez wouldn’t close it I would.

Common sense finally prevailed before I got too far in my planning and the military closed the bridge; but once you’ve crossed that line, even if only in thought, you start to look at a lot of the incidents that were taking place and you have to wonder, you really do; ‘cause you know you’re not the only one thinking along those lines— never ask permission always beg forgiveness— and you start to wonder, with all these people running around, just who the hell the real Slim Shady is.

14NOV03 (Journal)


From Intel Log:

1130 Faced with a worsening security problem, coalition authorities said Thursday they were closing a major bridge over the Tigris River which reopened about two weeks ago for the first time since the city fell in April. Coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said the 14th of July Bridge would be closed indefinitely “following recent serious events.'”

1405 Daryl reports a threat warning of a Black BMW and a gray Mercedes traveling together in Baghdad- VBIEDs.

2230 A U.S. civilian was killed on Friday when a convoy he was travelling with was raked by gunfire. U.S. military officials said the attack occurred on a highway west of Balad, 70 kilometres north of Baghdad. Another American man was wounded.

28NOV03 (Journal)


28NOV03 (Journal)


A gray, drizzly, Thanksgiving Day. Saw Tim and Chuzu off today and for the first time since I’ve been here I don’t feel like anyone’s got my back. Didn’t realize what a sense of security it was knowing that Chuzu was out there, not too far off, on the wire.

Got back from the Airport and Greg S had ripped apart the office— shit still missing. I’m getting mad as shit just thinking about it. A stranger in a strange land.


Back on the, hell, I don’t know what day— almost two weeks ago— I received a call from some dude at the South Korean Embassy requesting that I, me, brief the South Korean Fact Finding Delegation when they arrived in Baghdad. But let me digress for a moment or two.

Back on or about the 27th of September, CJTF-7 decided to cut off all intel, classifying the SIGACTS and stopping all threat warning reporting. I about went through the fucking roof, well, actually, I did, with hate and rage that these assholes could be so stupid. They just didn’t get it (hate contractors) we’re the ones defending the IGC and the Palace yet they won’t tell us when there’s threats. The net effect is that I stopped producing a daily sitrep (no info) and have been forwarding some “so sanitized it’s almost worthless” summary of incidents. In some ways though, this has been a good thing as I switched my emphasis over to more strategic assessments and predictions, of which I have been surprisingly on the money. And, as far as I can tell, no one else is doing anything like this, which is amazing because it is what intelligence is. Everything else is just reporting.

At one point, Maj Becket, the new force protection officer, asked me where I was getting my info from. I replied that it was “open source” and “analysis” as I wasn’t able to read through reams of classified documents. He turned and asked the DIA rep, Chris, “How come is it that we DO have guys who sift through reams of classified stuff and they don’t write any assessments?”

Chris, who is a good guy, replied meekly, “We write assessments…” But the fact is they don’t, at least not on anything that matters.

By way of another example, there was a large explosion on night and I’m down in the Force Protection Office and some initial reporting indicates that it may be a bombing v. an embassy. While Maj. Beckett is trying to find his list of phone numbers, I call the US Consul, get the number, and call the embassy in question— confirming that they have not been hit. Meanwhile, CIK has arrived on the actual scene of the bombing and is passing me info. Maj. Beckett asks me where I’m getting my info from, not believing me (Army’s still drawing a blank) and I tell him that I’ve got guys on the scene. His reply is along the lines of, “How do you have guys on the scene? I need to tap into your network.”

The last rocket attack v. the dream zone (Tue., 25NOV03) he called me to ask what we had, what our take on what happened was. On one hand, it is flattering as hell, but on the other, deeply, deeply disturbing!!

Anyway, the last three weeks I feel like I have done about fuck-all. Part of it is just waiting to go into ‘crisis’ mode due to the heightened threat during Rama-lama-ding-dong; part of it is just being dead tired; and part of it is not knowing what the next logical step is.

So I get the call from the South Koreans in this state of mind and forward it on to CIK, who agrees to the briefing. I probably had at least a month and a half notice but did nothing to prepare.

Two days prior, I start to put together the security/intel package. The end result was thirty-one pages and could have easily been more but my heart just wasn’t in it. Tim still thought it was a great product but I skated/gun-decked this one, though the intel was all good and was not to be found anywhere else.

So I end up briefing this delegation down by the pool in plastic white chairs because all the conference rooms are allegedly tied up for important CPA business. There is actually a place where you can sit underneath the boughs of a large tree, where no one can see you and that is where we ended up. I remember counting the delegates but don’t remember how many there were, though there were close to fifteen. They had brought their own interpreter— something I hadn’t considered— since most didn’t speak English.

Anyway, it was surreal as shit because here I was giving a briefing to a national delegation that had requested me specifically. And as I’m sitting there listening to the interpreter translating my last paragraph it sinks in— I’m influencing national policy for a country. Me, the level 0 without a uniform! These guys, professional politicians and military men were hanging on my every word; and the crazy thing was that they agreed with me.

Of course, I’ve never had a more captive audience; their hotel (the Palestine or Sheraton, I forget) was rocketed at first light so they got an up close and personal taste of the insurgency in Baghdad and I also interrupted the briefing to tell them that a DHL plane had just been hit with a SAM (just like I warned of as the weather got colder and the IR seeker’s more effective) taking off and had to make an emergency landing with an engine on fire.

I have to believe that almost everything I said was in complete contravention to what the CPA told them. It was too late for me to save a lot of American lives, but if I could save a few South Koreans…you do what you can.

It wasn’t even that I wanted to screw the CPA, only give these guys enough accurate info to make informed and wise decisions. So there you go. I don’t know that I have anything else to say about the matter.


It’s Thanksgiving and I am one of the few who is thankful to be here. But every fucking day, I see the bullshit, I count the WIA and the KIA and it wears on me. Other “government” analysts have called me a pessimist, but I call it like I see it and haven’t seen any good news since I’ve been here. And the sick part is, even though you wish otherwise, secretly you hope that what you predict comes about because it builds your credibility. I’d rather be pessimistic and wrong and wrong a thousand times than be right. But every time something happens, there is that secret pleasure, “I fucking told you so and you didn’t fucking listen!”

I wish I was producing more intel on how we could stop these guys, not what they are going to do next, because the CPA/CJTF-7 doesn’t do anything or does the wrong thing. Jesus. So anyway, that is where I’m at tonight— tired, angry, and a little lonely. Happy Thanksgiving.

From Intel Log:

1557 Top Shiite cleric demands immediate polls in major blow to US Iraq plans Report: US may agree to elections for Iraq government; Powell calls UN to be more active

1955 XXX MP reported that there are freshly dug fighting positions on ROUTE XXXXX. They also reported that there are holes dug in the pavement of the road. These holes are approximately 12 inches in diameter and span the entire length of the road (running perpendicular to the direction of vehicular travel). According to the patrol, there would be no way for a convoy to miss these holes as they travel. They are in the north bound and southbound lanes.

2119 Dear Capt Infidel, it is a possibility that these holes could have been made by burning pots placed on the asphalt. It was a method commonly used in Mozambique, where they placed an oil can and burnt wood in it until the surface had melted. They then buried an anti-tank mine with a chicken wire stand off cover (nicknamed a "Christmas Cake") in the hole and re-melted the asphalt, covering it again. The chicken wire protected the fuse from being detonated by the asphalt, and could prevent it being detonated by the pressure of the first vehicle going over it. If there is no way of travelling on the route without hitting one of the holes, I suggest that they take even greater care should these holes be miraculously repaired. Incidentally, a TM-57 Former Soviet Union Anti-Tank mine has a diameter of 300mm, which is almost exactly 12 inches. It contains 7kg of explosives, and can ruin a perfectly good day. The mine cannot be neutralised.

Things Change

The palace
holds the cold
like old bones—
long tired and brittle—
relinquishing it grudgingly
to the endlessly
shifting sands
where a thousand tears
will never be remembered.

In Their Own Words

The Marine’s motto was, “No worse enemy. No better friend.”

“Lt. Son offered a sobering and frankly despairing view of the situation. He said the marines' hopefulness that they could change the Iraqis' lives for the better is all but gone. "What some (marines) say is maybe there is a reason the previous regime controlled the country in such a heavy–handed way."”

“We once did a raid on a place where we heard they may have been storing 'mustard gas,' [and] being the patriots that we are and always out to prove our Commander in Chief's allegations, we geared up in our chemical suits and stormed the place. It turned out to be a restaurant ... but they did have mustard, and some guy there had gas."

“``Chemical munitions could mean any number of things,'' including smoke grenades, he said.”

"We had some Navy Seals down at our checkpoint the other day," a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to me. "They asked if we were having any trouble. I said, yes, they've been shooting at us from a house over there. One of them asked: That house? We said yes. So they have these three SUVs and a lot of weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards the house. And later they come back and say 'We've taken care of that.’ And we didn't get shot at any more."

“A soldier who serves as a gunner on a Humvee in Iraq was recently asked his MOS, or military occupational specialty, by an officer. "My MOS is 'target,' sir," he replied.”

““I joined the Army to see places. I guess this is places," he said”

"In Iraq the wind doesn't blow it sucks"

"Iraq may kill me but it can't make me care."

"We’re trained killers ma'am, we don't have a second job"

"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, "I don't want to be here anymore."

"You know, a lot of people are dying around here. We got bigger things on our mind to worry about than who wants to be president."

"We are losing guys left and right," says Cpl. Cody King, 20, of Phoenix, not hiding his anger. "All we are doing around here is getting blown up."

“"The only person I know who believed Iraq was improving was killed by a sniper in May," the blogger, identified only as Alex from Frisco, Texas, said in a separate e-mail.””

“These guys shot at some of our guys, so we lit 'em up. Put two .50-cal rounds in their vehicle. One went through this dude's hip and into the other guy's head. The third man in the car lived. His buddy was crying like a baby. Just sitting there bawling with his friend's brains and skull fragments all over his face. One of our guys came up to him and is like: 'Hey! No crying in baseball!'”

"I think we're just targets. I don't think we're doing any good."

"Time flies when you think you're going to die."

"Combat is a dirty, nasty business,"

"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?” Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."

"You can have my job. It's easy. You just drive around all day and wait for someone to bomb you. Thing is, you have to hate Arabs."

''There's some serious fog of war out here,''

It's Alabama in Arabic. (speaking of Fallujah)

There is no justice in combat, only regret.

“I was speaking with a security consultant freshly back from a trip to Iraq, and I asked for his prognosis. It's terrible, he said. We're not winning. "What about Fallujah?" I inquired. "Hasn't the city been retaken?" "Forget Falluja," this former military officer said. "All you have to know is the road to BIAP cannot be traveled safely."”

"They are pie in the sky. They're going to lead us to a Bay of Goats, or something like that."

"This occupation, this money pit, this smorgasbord of superfluous aggression is getting more hopeless and dismal by the second," a soldier in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, wrote in an Aug. 7 post on his blog, www.armyofdude.blogspot.com

A Marine lieutenant named MacDonald, whose job is to travel Iraq in support of the air wing, was riding in a convoy that was hit five times in 50 miles. "One kill zone lasted 1.8 miles. There was smoke everywhere. Some Hajjis would zip past us in cars blasting their horns, alerting the next ambush. Then others would come right out of the reeds firing," he said. "Now I prefer to fly."

The Marine took me in, my Red Sox hat and wanna-be-an-adventurer shirt, and shouted, "Don't worry dog. Something goes down, you stick close to me!"

"I'm in the desert, I'm gung-ho, ready to kill," he said, putting "your tax dollars to work. Unfortunately, your tax dollars went into a lot of civilians. I was there. I pulled the trigger.”

“When I go to visit the 172 INP, American officers from the 2-2 SCR admonish me to wear my body armor — to protect myself from accidental discharges by the Iraqi police. "I did convoy security in the Sunni Triangle and was hit by numerous IEDs, complex attacks, small arms," Capt. Cox tells me. "But I never felt closer to death than when I was working with Iraqi security forces."”

“On a few occasions, some in the Iraqi corps (ICDC) have mistakenly fired on their own men, Olveraleija said. Once, while guarding an entrance to the American base, they sprayed bullets at a car carrying their returning comrades. No one was hurt. "The good thing is they can't hit anything," Olveraleija said. Then he turns to look at me. "And these," he says meaningfully, "are the officers."”

“"2100: Clown Car arrives," the slide said, referring to the helicopters. "2101: Be ready for negligent discharges," the entry continued, warning of accidental shots from the AK-47's carried by many of the recruits. "Recommend 'Duck & Cover,' " it concluded. (in a slide that one of those Marine officers presented at a daily briefing just as 150 new Iraqi police recruits were due to arrive by helicopter)”

“Outside, as the convoy got ready to leave, two members of the (Iraqi) national guard accidentally dropped their automatic weapons in quick succession. Both men did push-ups as punishment on the spot, the first with a cigarette dangling from his lips.”

The Dog and the USMC Col

When I was in Baghdad there weren't that many bomb dogs there and they were terribly overworked and often sick. I was going to the Al Rasheed one day in Aug for lunch with Chuzu and there was a German Sheppard at the gate there. He was exhausted and lying, panting, tongue hanging limply out, in what little shade he could find, sides heaving. Some Marine Col walks by and yells at the handler, "Why is that animal lying down on post?"

“He's a dog, sir.”

“The fuck he is! He's a US Marine and he'll stand his post like one. Get him up! Now!”

We were all in shock. Another Pentagon pinhead here to get his orders stamped ‘combat zone’ and then go home to tell damn lies about his contribution to the war.

08DEC03 (Journal)


Dubai, UAE—It always goes back to my first birthday in the Navy— can’t remember if it was Gitmo or Rosy Roads but am inclined to think the latter— walking back from snorkeling listening to Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic. It was magical in that it was so ordinary in a non-ordinary sense. How many people walk back to a guided missile cruiser on their birthday, sipping a gin and tonic and listening to Bob Marley? And those who do, how many feel the weight of it? Either you get it or you don’t. Trying to recall between now and then and somehow they have faded away with the tide.

And now I find myself in Dubai believing myself burnt-out and licking my wounds? There is a full moon tonight and I so desperately want to be excited about being here but all I want to do is sleep and take really long showers. Nothing excites me. I feel at the same time guilty for not “bouncing” into this place and for not “attacking” my new intel projects.

I don’t like to say that I’m burnt-out; it makes me sound like I’m weak, possibly true, but not easily admitted to. It is like being down under water so long you forget how to breathe. It was culture shock to fly into Kuwait City and see infrastructure— real infrastructure, clean streets, stores with crap you really want to buy in them. I’m so used to Baghdad; it’s a completely different world.

And quite honestly, all I want to do is drink till I pass out, sleep, and jerk-off, all within the confines of my room, safe. I feel naked without a gun within reach. This is funny, I think, without sitting down to think about it; which my brain is already trying to do.

From Intel Log:

1355 Italy Was Warned of Iraq Attack -- More than a month before suicide bombers blew up Italian military headquarters in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Nov. 12, Italian intelligence officers warned three times of an imminent attack on their country's contingent in the city, according to intelligence reports.

1807 Top commander warns of increased violence Asked about the length and severity (resistance) raging under US occupation, Sanchez told a press conference he expected it to intensify and the targets to widen over coming months, right through June and July. ‏ "In terms of the length ... we expect to see an increase in violence as we move towards the transfer of sovereignty at the end of June," he said. ‏ "By the time we pass sovereignty back to the Iraqi people those (enemy) forces will have to conduct some sort of operation against the political and economic sector while keeping pressure on the military to derail that process," he said. ‏ "Into the spring and through the June timeframe we expect continued violence. ‏ "We are expecting to have some periods where there is increased violence in the coming months."


Dave Letterman’s here, to see the troops. Pretty fucking cool in my book. Did a little routine for ‘em out by the pool yesterday. The Indianapolis Colts and cheerleaders showed up as well, handing out stockings full of geedunk. I didn't take one, fuck, I'd chosen to come, not been drafted. Some full-bird Col chased me down though and gave me one. It was one of the most touching things in my life.

Spent the night in the office on a cot, on the odd chance that things got interesting…fell asleep listening to CNN International and waiting for the “karumph” of incoming Christmas mortars. Hardly seems like a long shot given that they managed to hit the IGC complex on the 23rd. One round didn’t go off and was sticking out of a roofing tile. The rocket has to spin so many times before the fuse for the detonator is armed and many times, when the rockets are launched out of improvised launchers they don’t get the correct spin so you get a dud/blind, a half or three-quarters armed rocket that hasn’t exploded. Army EOD guys came and started beating the thing with a sledgehammer. I went and stood around a corner till they were done. Those fuckers are crazy.

From Intel Log:

0036 Jets over Baghdad- don’t like it.

0615 Rich reports 2 explosions to the north.

0616 2 explosions nearby- no launches heard. FP reports 2 impacts- MB XXXX and MB XXXXX.

0732 Rich reports 3 launches to the north.

0915 -According to Bearing Point, the al-Hayat hotel was hit by an RPG this morning at 6:15. Barzani also stays at this hotel but I don't know if he was there this morning.

-At 6:30am, three rockets/mortars hit the Sheraton 9th floor. It took out glass and the elevator. According to RTI at the Sheraton, there were no casualties.

-There were three rocket/mortar launches at approximately 6:15am towards the Green Zone, in addition to the rocket attacks on the al-Hayat and Sheraton hotels. About 1 hour ago there were another set of launches, but no detonations.

0930 FP meeting- Reporting is as follows:

-1 (UID) round landed in the RR north of the Al Rasheed (why do they keep shooting up there?)

-City hall was hit with 2 RPG- 1 on the 6th floor and one landing in the street.

-The Iranian embassy or an Iranian-controlled building was hit with 1 RPG.

-UNK individual(s) were attempting to place IEDs near the German Embassy.

- NO ROUNDS landed in the dream zone.

Merry Christmas!

Strategic Iraq Assessment

1-3 Month Outlook 26DEC03

Executive Summary

November 12, 2003- A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the insurgents. The report paints a bleak picture of the political and security situation in Iraq and cautions that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the country as a democracy could collapse unless corrective actions are taken immediately. L. Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, a senior administration official said.

In a poll conducted in October and November, nearly 80 percent of Iraqis have little or no trust in the U.S.-led coalition and the forces occupying the country, and the majority place their faith in religious leaders instead. The Iraqi public's deep suspicions -- coupled with unstoppable violence, rampant unemployment and a ruined economy -- raises the specter that a tipping point could be approaching where Iraqis give up on the coalition.

The situation in Iraq has continued to worsen, particularly on the security front, which continues to suffer from the lack of a recognized or viable political process. With the political process in limbo, the three main sects of Iraqi society: the Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds have begun to maneuver to shore up or expand powerbases and sphere of influence, often in opposition to one another. The potential for this to spill into civil war, as it will be impossible for the CPA to please all parties adequately, is a serious concern.

The current situation is largely the result of two missed windows of critical opportunity in which the Coalition had the potential to secure an adequate future for Iraq and its citizens. However, it has missed both of them and has lost the good will and patience of most Iraqi’s. Whatever emerges will likely be the result of ad hoc diplomacy and wild compromise set against the backdrop of impending timelines, rising casualty counts and a looming presidential election in the U.S.

The first window came immediately after the fall of Baghdad when the military did nothing to prevent widespread looting, particularly of key facilities; with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stating that democracy is sometimes messy. There is an Arabic saying, “Better forty years of oppression than one day of anarchy.” Those few days were the first experience many Iraqi’s had of freedom and democracy, which were epitomized by lawlessness, savagery, and terror; and has been indelibly burned into the minds of the citizens of Baghdad.

The second window of opportunity was the ensuing three-four months following liberation when serious strides in reconstruction and security should have been made. However, electricity is still sporadic at best throughout much of the country[1], lines to buy gas extend for miles and take the better part of a day to get through, and the security situation has continued to spiral out of control with thirty-six major bombings since August 8th, seventeen in Baghdad alone.

Currently, if the CPA has not lost the good will of the majority of Iraq yet, it is on the brink of doing so. Top heavy management, cumbersome reconstruction processes, a general inability to understand the culture and influences within Iraq, and failed security have resulted in the CPA floundering about, stymied by its own weight while the majority of Iraq has waited patiently for things to get “better”. That period of waiting is almost over; and then it will not only be the “bitter-enders” and “Saddam loyalists”, but all of Iraq that speaks with one voice for the Coalition to leave.

The following assessments are based on current events and trends; demonstrated capability and goals; and predicted courses of action and outcomes.

§ Coalition forces are considered by the majority of Iraqi’s to be an occupation force. However, if the Coalition were to pull out any time soon, the country would likely fall into civil war, turning Iraq into an even more permissive environment for terrorists and/or Islamic extremists.

§ Saddam’s capture will have little positive long-term effect on the insurgency; and in fact, has now enabled other groups who might not have previously participated, such as the Shi’ites, to openly oppose the Coalition.

§ The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) will delay and fail to meet deadlines for the new transitional government in order to wrangle more concessions from the CPA. The IGC will also attempt to remain in power, possibly in the role of a second parliamentary body.

§ Neither the CPA nor the IGC will be disbanded 30JUN04, or the change will be in name only, with no significant modification in either parties or personnel.

§ Sunni/Ba’athist insurgents are no longer fighting for Saddam (if they ever were) but for Iraqi/pan-Arabic nationalism and political power.

§ If the new transitional government process goes poorly, Shi’ites will likely cooperate with Sunni insurgents by joining the insurrection, citing their common Arabic heritage, Iraqi nationalism, and Islamic duty to drive out the foreign invaders. If the transitional governmental process is going smoothly, Sunnis will wage a campaign against the Shi’ites, who are almost guaranteed a political majority, in an effort to blunt their political power in the emerging government.

§ Lack of security, honest reconstruction, a viable and legitimate political process, and a sensitive and sensible military strategy will incite the insurgency, swell the ranks and ultimately lead the Shi’ites to join the opposition- either by the call of Shi’ite clerics (worst case) or with their blessing because the cleric’s can no longer maintain credibility with their constituencies and still preach patience/tolerance.

§ Iran is likely involved behind the scenes in Iraq, in Shi’ite communities, and has a vested interest in the outcome and the shape and form of the new government and country.

§ Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani and Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim (IGC member, leader of SCIRI, and former head of Badr Brigade) are the two most “at-risk” Shi’ites within the Iraq right now. The assassination of either of them could lead to a civil war with the Sunnis or open opposition to the Coalition.

§ The Kurds will continue to create and prepare for an autonomous Kurdish-controlled region in the North (to include oil fields as far south as Kirkuk), possibly going so far as to incite dissention between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis in an effort to draw attention away from the north.

§ What will Turkey’s reaction be (Turkomen have said such an attempt would incite/invite civil war)?

§ What will the Kurd’s reaction be if the Coalition attempts to stop them- will they join the insurgency or acquiesce to the Coalition’s demands?

§ If the Shi’ites join the opposition against the Coalition, the Kurds will attempt to secure a unified “Kurdish-north” while the Coalition is focused on the rest of the country.

§ If the Kurds attempt to establish an autonomous federation, Turkey will become involved (how much and in what way are not clear at this time).

§ If a civil war breaks out between the Shi’ites and Sunnis, Iran will likely covertly support the Shi’ites and Saudi Arabia tacitly approve of Saudi Wahhabis supporting the Sunnis.[2] The potential for instability to spread within the region would be a grave concern.

§ In many cases, the U.S. military is using troops and techniques that are not only inimical to insurgency warfare, but that actually promote hostility in return from the populace they are attempting to pacify, protect and win over. These tactics will not change with little overall positive effect, except in areas where the U.S. Marines operate and possibly areas where units are returning for a second tour in Iraq and are already familiar with the terrain, populace, and culture.

§ Insurgent activity will increase in the first months of the New Year as new, “green” replacement troops are rotated into Iraq.

§ Al Qaeda will expand its operations against the Coalition (U.S.) within Iraq.

§ Insurgents will turn to international drug trafficking to assist in financing the resistance.

I. Current Situation and Factors

A number of factors have recently come together that have changed the face and nature of the insurgency and will likely escalate it in the next three to four months. Those factors are:

§ Saddam’s capture

§ Rising nationalism replacing Saddam as the epicenter of the insurgency

§ Rising Shi’ite dissatisfaction with the CPA and current political process

§ Former Ba’athists and Sunni fear of increasing Shi’ite political power

§ Kurds moving to secure their own autonomy

§ A shaky and undetermined transitional government process, which is viewed skeptically by Iraqis as being motivated by the U.S. presidential election in November 2004.

§ Foreign influence (predominantly Iran and Al Qaeda)

Coyote Wind

There is a Coyote Wind

blowing through Baghdad


I don’t even know

what that means

but I can feel it

in my bones.

Mischief is afoot

and possibly death—

everyone’s trying to

outsmart something

and ‘ol Coyote

just keeps laughing—

AK fire and mortar impact.

The only harmony here

is chaos.

08JAN04 (Journal)

I remember a day— seems years ago now— when Tej and I were going in search for one of our disabled Yukons between Maqmudiyah and Iskandariyah. Poor Tej was sicker than two dogs and yet driving one of our vehicles on this ill-fated mission. It was only there that I began to realize how hard some of these guys worked. I had to threaten him to go see the doctor when we got back.

Anyway, I had a bad feeling about this trip. CQMS was out to wish us all a safe and successful mission. At the time, it did little to raise me spirits, actually worsening them. CQ though, he is a good man. He told Larry one day, “Saab, if it comes today, I will die like a man.” So he’s out there to see us off, waving at us as we drive out the gate.

We came back, sans Yukon but completely uneventful otherwise. I’ll always remember CQMS coming out to see us off though.

From Intel Log:

0715 This morning around 0715, a C-5 was struck by an MANPAD rocket on the starboard side engine, approx 2 minutes south of BIAP at 6000 ft. The plane was on its second spiral. Witnesses say automatic chaff was deployed when the missile locked on and the plane was still struck by the rocket. At that point, the captain manually detonated more chaff and witnesses say another rocket struck the engine. None of the 51 passengers were injured and the plane returned to BIAP.

16JAN04 (Journal)

Bermuda— Leaving Baghdad always hurts, no matter how well deserved the break. It feels like you are dying, going away, going back; while everyone else remains, doing what’s important. On one hand, you don’t want to go— you aren’t some reservist— you want to be there, chose to come, are getting paid good money for what you do. Yet you know you need to go ‘cause you are king-hell fried, fucking worthless for the last two weeks, or so you feel. And though you feel like you’re selling the guys out by pulling chocks, you know, secretly, that you are a liability by staying, though you hate to admit it. And you only hope that the shit doesn’t hit the fan till you get back, cursing your weakness, secretly knowing but hating that you are all too human.

“Dominating it all is a photo of Jessica Lynch with a bubble caption reading: "Hi, I am a war hero. And I think that weapons maintenance is totally unimportant."”

“Ali Baba, you owe me a strawberry milk!”

From Intel Log:

0345 Attack on CPA-SC— at 0345hrs we were attacked – No casualties, no damage to compound. At this moment we believe it to be 2 x rockets fired at us. The first explosion woke us and within the 30 seconds another. I was up looking out the window of my room and the second impacted 200m to the north and landed in the river opposite. Reports coming in suggest that the first explosion hit a building to our north. NFI.

xxxx Sistani Ups The Stakes Against U.S. In what could be a major challenge to the U.S. Authority in Iraq, the most influential Shiite scholar, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, threatened Friday, January 16, protests and a strike if the U.S.-led occupation authority did not back down from its plan to form an Iraqi government without direct elections. "In the coming days, we are going to see protests and strikes and perhaps a confrontation with the occupying force if it insists on its colonial plans and designing the country's politics for its own interests," said Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai, Sistani's representative in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

[1] Baghdad's electricity supply will not improve much until June next year from its current patchy three hours on, three hours off, said an official of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

[2] Consider a statement that Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Najdi, an al Qaeda spokesman, issued in early October 2003. What preoccupied him was rise of the Shi’ites in Iraq: We call openly on our brothers, all the mujahideen in Iraq, to kill the Sunni clerics who befriend the Americans, because those clerics are infidel apostates; and to kill every satanic Shi’ite Ayatollah who befriends the Americans -- first among them the satanic Ayatollah Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum and those like him. Likewise we demand from the Shi’ite youth that they return to the book of God and the Sunna of Muhammad.

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