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, January 31, 2009

Chapter V.7



See Ya Suckerz...


“There is no glory to be salvaged in the desert.”

— Yasmin Alibhai-Brown


video



08JUN04 (Journal)

2045 local

Sitting on the lower rooftop, twilight, still hot with a slight breeze; just a few stars out, after glow from the sunset not yet having faded. Supper finished and working on second cocktail of the evening; probably don’t have time to do this but who cares. Reminds me of Canyonlands…except for the rumble of AF jets low over Baghdad. It will probably be another long night in Sadr City.


23MAY— woke up early in London at Wendy’s and started reading the book about the cat that disappeared into Alaska and died. His story resonated with me, struck a chord that had long been left alone. He and I had many similarities— only I never burned my money.


The night before, went on a pub-walk along the Thames with Wendy and her friend, whose name I forget. At the end, after dark (after she’d about walked my feet off my legs), we were half way across the London Tower Bridge when I stop and go, “Oh no…” I suddenly remembered a poem (almost haiku) from a dream years ago—


And I went down to London

to cross as many bridges as I could

before I died


The poem leapt, unbidden, into my head crossing the damn bridge…days before I go back to Baghdad, ostensibly to watch the country spiral out of control and die. Jesus, when will I stop doing this to myself?


From Intel Log: (6th-8th)

0932 Mahdi Army is attempting to decentralize out of Sadr City and into Baghdad proper on a much greater scale than previously witnessed. Teams have been organized consisting of two Nissan or similar style small PU Truck with 3 to 4 individuals in each. Arms per team include RPG and crew served GPMG plus AK and assorted small arms. Mission is to seek out and attack western contractors operating in the city. Main areas of emphasis is 1st ID Bridge (Jumeriah Bridge-Bridge leading to Assassins Gate) operating along feeder roads leading into main traffic circle just prior to the bridge. Karradah area to include main traffic circle just prior to 14 July Bridge, BIAP road; and ancillary targets include western occupied villas throughout Baghdad. Looks to me like they are vehicle borne wolf packs attempting to cut the "sea lanes" that feed into CPA and hitting opportunity targets as they present themselves. Minimum enemy force of 8 pax would be substantial number for any of the morons trying to pass themselves off as "security experts" these days to deal with......get 4 trucks swarming into an area and you double the number etc etc.......Nice to see BIAP road closed.

1000- 1400 Single vehicle move to BIAP with only two people for no reason, extremely pissed!

1408 06JUN04 Mosquito- Al Mashriq’s editorial expresses concern that Al Yawar’s tribe, the Shummar tribe will emulate the Tikriti tribe, who were Saddam’s favorites. Rumor: In Al Sadr City, trash collectors are gathering empty soda cans, and even asking for them. People suspect they might be used in IEDs.

Xxxx Taji had 2 VBIEDs this morning. 2 EODT people hurt. Don't know names yet. Security manager quit last week. The other VBIED was at the RSG (Local Iraqi Security company) gate and killed several. Believe it is the compound across the street from North gate of Taji. –RH

1620 Mercenaries in 'coup plot' guarded UK officials in Iraq Mercenaries accused of planning a coup in an oil-rich African state also worked under contract for the British government providing security in Iraq, raising fears about the way highly sensitive security work is awarded, The Observer has learnt. The Department for International Development (DfID) signed a £250,000 deal last summer with the South-African based Meteoric Tactical Solutions (MTS) to provide 'close protection' for department staff, including bodyguards and drivers for its senior official in Iraq. Two of the firm's owners were arrested in Zimbabwe last March with infamous British mercenary and former SAS officer Simon Mann. The men are accused of plotting an armed coup in Equatorial Guinea. MTS is based in Pretoria and run by former members of South African special forces. Its owners are Lourens 'Hecky' Horn, Hermanus Carlse and Festus van Rooyen. Horn, the firm's Iraq contact when the contract with Britain was signed, is now in Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe with Carlse. The pair appeared in court on 23 March accused of forming an advance party for the coup with Mann. It is alleged they arrived in the Zimbabwe to buy weapons for a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. The trio tried to purchase 61 AK-47 rifles, 45,000 rounds of ammunition, 1,000 rounds of anti-tank ammunition and 160 grenades. The weapons were allegedly to be used by 70 mercenaries planning an assault in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, to kidnap or kill President Obiang. But the arrested men claim they were just hired to guard diamond mines in the Congo.

1628 Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides “It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.” In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration. “We’re at war, there’s no doubt about it. What I don’t know anymore is just who the enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing.”

1946 Armor Group got creamed in Mosul the other day by a SA drive-by. They abandoned their disabled vehicle, with one of their own still in it, and fled. 1 KIA and many wounded. Mosul sucks.

2147 Hey what’s up? Where are you at? I am due to take my leave in a couple weeks, finally. Few weeks ago a mortar landed in my parking lot, missed me by 23 meters. Got hit with shrapnel but not even a cut, and had shrapnel and dirt in my hair. Fun here as always. We still get mortared on a daily basis. Kind of breaks the day up a little. We always have that feeling of anticipation. Hope all is well. Let me know what you are up to. SG

2316 Some Alabama soldiers getting sneers, not cheers in Iraqi town American soldiers liberated this village from the subjugation of Saddam Hussein, but you wouldn't know it by the way townspeople look at those soldiers - with utter contempt. Friday, as a column of three Humvees, three Bradley Fighting Vehicles and two M-1 tanks rolled through the Yousefiya market, Iraqis along the streets either turned away, gave the soldiers dark sidelong glances or just sneered at them unabashedly. A few younger villagers clumsily attempted America's favorite obscene gesture or deftly displayed the finger-wiggling Iraqi equivalent. Nobody waved. But some locals have shown their contempt in more tangible ways. Soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, supported by tanks and Bradleys tripped over a fuse and some wire and followed it to a 250-kilogram aerial bomb buried in the roadway just around the corner from the station. More explosives had been packed around it, and the whole device weighed between 400 and 500 pounds. The ordnance disposal unit dispatched to disarm the bomb did not want to detonate it in place, fearing it would level the whole block. Many soldiers of the 1165th believe planting such a large bomb had to be a veritable public works project, that some Iraqi police at the station, less than 200 yards away, had to know the bomb was there, that half the town had to know as well.

2234 Yesterday in Mosul a XX convoy was hit with an IED and a small arms follow-up. Gurkhas returned fire killing at least two terrorists. XX personnel sustained only minor injuries. Also yesterday R. fell down some stairs and landed on his head. Broken nose and 20 staples. He went into shock last night and had to be medivac’d. He has been a prick to everyone lately so there isn't great lamentation. Later, SG.



22JUN04

Baghdad

Email to Bud

Sorry this is late, the days all kind of melt into each other here and a week can easily slip by without realizing it. Anyway, I wanted to say thanks so much for everything over the years.


The Iraqi who runs the house here is Nasser, a former Republican Guard officer and in a small way he looks like an “Iraqi Buddy”. Anyway, he is the most gracious guy in the way that all Iraqis are and is always checking up on me when I am working late to see if I need some coffee or some water or anything. I can’t help but like the guy because he reminds me of you and in a small way, it feels like he is you looking after me here.


Happy Father’s Day,


*****


An Iraqi State of Mind

A friend who was a producer for a local affiliate TV station asked me if I would be willing to be panel member via satellite from Iraq for a local round-table show if she could convince NBC to trade for some satellite air time. I said I’d be happy to as long as the time didn’t conflict with any of my operational requirements or the enemy’s plans— VBIEDs, mortar/rocket attacks, etc. So, on a warm evening in late JUN James, Tim, Call-Sign Clown, and I found ourselves making the short hop over to the Al Hamra Hotel, just across the river from the dream zone, where NBC had their HQ.


NBC was up on the sixth or tenth floor and James and I headed up while CSC and Tim hung out downstairs talking to the local security. Besides James and myself there was only a camera and a light/sound guy present. The setup was on a west-facing balcony and the sun was setting during the early part of the interview.


The panel guests back in the States had arrived early to tape this and while they could see me via a TV screen, I could not see any of them and only had audio feedback. Later, for reasons that are entirely unclear to me, it would become apparent that I was having about the worst “bad-hair day” of my life. So it goes I guess. On top of that, under the lights it was damn hot and I was sweating like a bear, and squinting like Mr. Magoo at strip club. However, my fine Kramer Leather holster did NOT make my ass look big.


Both of the NBC guys had earpieces so they could hear both sides of the conversations and they gave one to James so he could listen in as well. This episode was specifically about Iraq and the imminent handover of power. The other three panel members were an Imam from Iraq who ran a local mosque, a retired USMC General, and some poor women who had like ten relatives in the military in Iraq and ran a local support group. The was general chatter before taping started and the general stated that he hoped that I would come out and go fishing with him when I got back. Inwardly I cringed, it was obvious that he thought I was going to mouth the standard party line and not give what I believed to be an honest assessment of the situation on the ground.


I still laugh when I watch the thing to this day. Without meaning to at all, the Imam and I agreed on just about everything while the lady and the general wound up on the other side of the fence; talking about things like democracy, sovereignty, terrorism (vice counterinsurgency), stability, and a whole slew of things that either weren’t happening or I (and the Imam) didn’t believe were going to happen. I was definitely raining on the parade.


At the end of the taping, just before we dropped the sat-link, I said that I hoped that the general’s offer was still open. He didn’t reply. I had to laugh; he probably would have pulled a Cheney and “accidentally” shot me, while fishing.


The thing that really struck me though, that made me feel good about the whole thing was that when we were all wrapped up, both the NBC guys shook my hand and told me that they hadn’t heard anyone say what I just had and that they were glad they could be there to hear it. It’s hard to argue with praise like that, bad hair or no. On top of that, Call-Sign Clown and Tim had been busy downstairs while we were taping and had managed to buy a bunch of guns out in the parking lot. All around it had been a good evening.


Capt Infidel, I try to show a neutral face in these discussions on the TV show, but privately I was saying “Thank goodness for Capt Infidel!” You made all too much good sense! I was especially grateful that you made two distinctions that the people on the other side of the argument wish to ignore: this is an insurgency, and the war in Iraq isn’t necessarily an effective part of the war on terrorism. Anyway, thank you for your passion and your candor; you were terrific. Having spent stretches of time in Iraq, I wish you air conditioning and lots of cool water.


Stay safe,
The Moderator



Red Shift


Sitting on the roof—

a cigar and cocktail

warm

listening to Dead Can Dance

writing in the notebook

Tim Sev. gave me.

The wind here blows

and blows

and takes a bit of you

with it.

I have been

blown away

a bit at a time

the sand

etching a hardness

into my soul

that did not used

to be there.

You can tell

at night

based on the trajectory

whether a helo

is going to the CSH

with wounded

or elsewhere;

you learn to discern,

like the Sphinx,

what is

by what is not

reported.

The wind, the sand,

the sun

sharpen some senses

and dull others—

the magic here

is still strong

and malevolent

the Goddess

having gone to ground—

and there is

a great loneliness

that the blood

cannot quench

a region in red shift…

the old earth

bitter, angry

relinquishing its hold

grudgingly.


From Intel Log:

1125 "Iraq's interim government must divorce itself from US" "If the Iraqi interim government was a truly national government not appointed by the occupier, then I believe the Iraqi people would willingly work with that government to put an end to the insecurity and instability in Iraq." "If we give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose the interim government manages to divorce itself from its link to the occupier, then the people will stand by it and it will succeed. This is the big test for this government but I believe that the seeds of its own destruction and failure are built into it," Dr Al Douri said.

1219 A huge gang of 50 masked Iraqi guerrillas, among the largest paramilitary forces that has operated in the Sunni areas aside from the siege of Fallujah, blew up a police station at Jur Askar, south of Baghdad. Kimmitt reported, "Approximately 50 armed insurgents wearing black masks dismounted their vehicle by the Iraqi police station in Djor Askar. . . When coalition and Iraqi security forces approached the station, they saw five vehicles matching the description of the attackers. Forces engaged and destroyed one of the vehicles and pursued another vehicle to a residence, where they found a wounded attacker, an AK-47 shotgun and blueprints of the police station."

1712 Car Bomb Blast Kills Bodyguard of Iraqi Minister A car bomb exploded in a Baghdad street on Tuesday as a convoy of U.S. troops and Iraqi police drove past, killing two Iraqi bystanders, police said. They said a bodyguard of Iraqi minister of state Adnan al-Janabi was killed in the blast along with a six-year-old boy. Janabi himself was not in the area.



Letter 30JUN04

Hey buddy, trust you got home all right.


Swung by the palace today, hoping to pick up some mail (first day I felt like walking without crutches, another stupid story). The palace seemed empty and quiet, a hollow of its former self. I seemed to be fighting a bout of nostalgia and didn’t put up much of a fight. Remembered the first day I got into Baghdad and standing up on the balcony talking to you, trying to take it all in; a better time— the first dinner with Chuzu in the dark ‘cause they’d lost power, back when they had that giant table in the DFAC. Things were wild and wide-open then, now you could feel the shadow of that but the weight of the suits and their “order” was overwhelming, sickening. I wanted to piss on everything I saw, mark the territory that was once ours and fuck off all the newbies that had no idea and no appreciation of how it was, how it is. It is a different place and I don’t belong anymore, no matter the contacts that I have made. MREs have been traded in for milquetoast and tea, the deprivation we happily lived and operated in has gone from being a badge of honor to one of shame.


It’s funny, when I got back; I felt the weight of coming back and wondered if I could make two months. Now, half-way through, I’m horribly bored and wondering how I can justify thirty more days. I came back to watch it all go down the toilet and settle some scores once and for all, and it has been a bigger let-down than ‘Hell Day’ and the day after Rama-lama-ding-dong combined. Guess I get off on a different biorhythm.


I believe it’s still going to go to shit, but it has a different dynamic now, a DoS-diplomatic-stamp on it and who cares, the sense of frontier, of being on the edges, what made it great, a challenge, is gone. Who knows, maybe I’m just crazy. Somehow the Ramones’ Bonzo Goes to Bitsburg seems to fit as Iraq will never again be what we knew her to be, or what we left behind— a magical ali-babba time that passed on soon enough. And to think that git Bremer passed a law throwing Iraqis without driver licenses into jail, FOR A MONTH, before he left. I feel for the military kids.


In any case, I feel that I am largely done here, I cannot come back in any role which I may be tempted to care and have probably fucked off a great deal of people I used to call friend without so much as a second though (see crap below). Jane Arraf is starting to look kind, I need to come home.


As always, KLMF,


Capt Infidel, S7G


Email to the mindless masses in a fit of rage:

As previously stated, if I send on an article re Iraq it is because it corresponds to ground truth. I INVITE ANY AND ALL WHO HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO VERIFY ANYTHING IN IRAQ FIRST HAND TO STEP FORWARD AND STATE THEIR CASE!


I am not interested in wishful thinking and regurgitated network swill passed off as fact. That may work at your feel-good-slap-each-other-on-the-back-things-are-going-fine-high-fives-all-the-way-around-we-really-showed-them parties, but that shit don’t swing it here. And, if the on-going events in Iraq are not important enough to you to become well-informed, or hell, even partially informed, do not suppose to pass off your wishful thinking and petty politics on me as if you have found the high-and-mighty road that vindicates everything you hoped would come to pass. Too many kids have died here already and the least that can be done for them is to be cognizant of the reality on the ground— anything less is dishonorable and an insult. The day that you prove me of forwarding propaganda in Iraq had better be the day you are willing to eat a bullet for the price of being wrong.


You are certainly entitled to your beliefs; however, in regards to Iraq, the vast majority have done nothing to earn that entitlement which was paid for with the blood, limbs, and lives of others. And the fact that you would suppose to that entitlement, think to speak for those men and women, or to the situation on the ground in general without any idea what they have gone through or what is really going on is repugnant and arrogant beyond belief. Their sacrifice is not yours and the majority of you will die without knowing what it feels like to walk out the door sure as hell that you will never come back.


I stand in the Purgatory between the hell that the military in the field is living in and your comfortable-ass, risk-free lives. It has changed me and I’m not sure that all the changes are for the better. I have become far less forgiving of those who meander on in ignorance and there is very little that I would not sacrifice for the convictions and truths I have seen here or the knowledge of just what these kids have died for.


Honest debate should not be stifled, but at the same time, charlatans in the temple are not suffered the way they were before. Jim Rome has a saying, “Have a take. Don’t suck.” I suggest you learn it, love it, live it.



Reply to 30JUN04 Letter


Crutches? I didn’t know they made them out of gin bottles….heheeeee…don’twanna know how that happened.


Bro, the enemy has their own timetable and it doesn’t suit ours. Give them time, they are gonna launch some good ones soon and all the stuff you know is gonna happen is gonna happen. Ignore State, they make the military look like mental giants— if you thought Bremer was bad, wait till Negroponte and Co. really start exerting some influence. It gets real ugly and interesting from this day forward and there will be enough blood in the streets to soak more than a Shriner’s convention worth of red fez…


Don’t be dejected, just know in your heart like you already do that we “been there, done that” and fuck the posers…they are has-beens and are dining at a table they couldn’t set themselves. Remind them all in your own way that they are only a year late to the show.


Say what you need to say. Those who can’t take it weren’t friends or anyone worthy of consideration to begin with. They can be in denial when the enemy forces have overrun their position due to the ignorance of the motherfuckers that think they know ANYTHING.


Just laugh and load mags…


CIK



There I was…


Slight accident

with a subconsciously homicidal Iraqi

that works for us

and his now,

even crappier Mazda.

Suffice to say,

when the dust had settled

and those around me

were at a loss

(and possibly “Batman”)

I had landed

rolled into a kneeling position

and was covering my arc—

mother-fucking professional!

You can’t teach that shit.

The doc says

I will play the piano

again

once I get off the crutches—

so I got that going for me,

which is kinda nice.

In another

not-so-high-speed incident

cracked my lip open

on the scope of my Dragunov

scaling a wall the other night.

One of these days

it will all come

together

and we will be worshipped

like gods.

Until then,

well hey,

at least we aren’t

Custer’s Battles.


From Intel Log:

1220 11 Wounded in Attack on U.S. Base - Insurgents fired at least 10 mortar rounds at a U.S. base on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport on Wednesday, wounding 11 soldiers, two of them seriously, and starting a fire that burned for well over an hour. Guerrillas struck the logistics base on the edge of Baghdad's airport at about 8:15 a.m., said Lt. Col. Richard Rael, their commander.

1232 Lack of electricity among biggest failures in Iraqi occupation Three months ago, U.S. occupation officials predicted that by June, Iraq would be producing enough electricity to keep the power on for 18 hours a day throughout the country. They weren't even close. Electricity in most parts of Iraq is still as sporadic as it's been for the last year - on for a few hours, then off for a few hours. The missed goal is one of the occupation's greatest failures. Although vast sums of American taxpayers' money will continue to be spent in an effort to turn Iraq's electricity back on, no one's prepared to say when that might happen.

1818 More than 7 million small weapons circulating in Iraq More than seven million small weapons are circulating in Iraq since the US-led coalition dismantled the Iraqi army, a loose arsenal that could pose a threat to stability in the greater Middle East, according to a report published here Wednesday. The Small Arms Survey of 2004 said the fall of the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in April 2003 and the subsequent dismantling of the old Iraqi army the following month, in May, gave rise to "one of the largest and fastest transfers of small arms ever". "The consequences of the great Iraqi small arms abandonment may endanger stability in much of the Middle East for years to come," it said.

2211 Iraq is worse off than before the war began, GAO reports In a few key areas - electricity, the judicial system and overall security - the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released Tuesday. The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation.



04JUL04 (Journal)

2010 local

I have been back six weeks now and I still don’t have a phone, none of our vehicles are reliable, I wouldn’t have any weapons if I didn’t already have my own arsenal, and I have been poisoned by the house cook more times than in the entire preceding ten months. I have half a mind to go home now. Is it too much to ask that somehow, someday we get beyond fucking amateur hour?


Been back almost six weeks now. At first, tired as hell, dragged down by retrograde inertia and not enough time away from this place…hard to get a clean start. That was replaced by the excitement, the prospect of a fresh start and a new, better way of doing things. However, that has faded into sheer unadulterated boredom that has pointedly manifested itself with the transfer of authority and the days that followed.


I came back for one reason— to be here when everything blew up, to complete the circle and get some first-rate closure from this place. Paul (escape from Baghdad) Bremer though has robbed me of that, had robbed Iraq with his cowardly early transfer of power conducted in some undisclosed basement. Now it is a waiting game— death by a thousand cuts.


Iraq could have survived “blowing up”, even if it lasted several months. The end (and it would be the end for a number of people) would have replaced the hole left by the unfinished end of “offensive” operations in Baghdad.


However, the low-level tit-for-tat constant tension, no clear victories or victors that is likely to emerge now will pit Iraqi vs. Iraqi and destroy the country’s psyche, whatever fabric is tenuously left holding this place together. Iraq could have survived blowing up but I don’t think it can survive the tension of a death by a thousand cuts.



The Signal to Noise Ratio is low…I hear ya but I don’t read ya:


“I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein.” —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004


“The temporary Iraqi administration council has approved the temporary constitution. Thus, the American administration, which could not take a very permanent step in Iraq, has taken one more temporary step! The agreement on the temporary constitution is temporary too. The main reason why an agreement has been reached is that basic issues have been left unclear.”


“A US victory gained at the expense of "clarity, certainty and even stability".”


“The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the — the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice.” —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003


"We are seeing a fact-free, faith-based approach to Middle East policymaking”


"The Americans believe in democracy, but they do not believe in its results."


"The Iraqi people now equate democracy with bloodshed."


Bakhityar Amin, Iraq's new "minister of justice and human rights" - a combination of roles unheard of anywhere else in the world


The situation was summed up by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison: "We want electricity in our homes, not up the arse."


"Never in the history of the US Armed Forces have so many done so much for so few..." MAJ (Task Force Warrior) on the "success" of the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF) Training Program, where 1100 Army troops trained 77 Iraqi exiles at the cost of, ...well, ...way too much..."


"Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." LTC (JS) on OIF coalition-building


"Our days are spent trying to get some poor, unsuspecting third world country to pony up to spending a year in a sweltering desert, full of pissed off Arabs who would rather shave the back of their legs with a cheese grater than submit to foreign occupation by a country for whom they have nothing but contempt." LTC (JS) on the joys of coalition building


"I guess the next thing they'll ask for is 300 US citizens with Hungarian last names to send to Iraq..." MAJ (JS) on the often-frustrating process of building the Iraqi coalition for Phase IV


"Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?" CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vice sea


"I finally figured out that when a Turkish officer tells you, "It's no
problem," he means, for him." Maj (EUCOM)


Firefighters responding to the area fired guns into the air to disperse the crowds


“The country’s on the verge of a civil war.” —Gen Ricardo Sanchez, 04JAN06


“You're free. And freedom is beautiful. And, you know, it'll take time to restore chaos and order — order out of chaos. But we will.” —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 13, 2003


"It was discovered that the freedom in this land is not ours. It is the freedom of the occupying soldiers in doing what they like, such as arresting, carrying out raids, killing at random or stealing money, No one can ask them what they are doing, because they are protected by their freedom, No one can punish them, whether in our country or their country. The worst thing is what was discovered in the course of time: abusing women, children, men, and the old men and women whom they arrested randomly and without any guilt. They expressed the freedom of rape, the freedom of nudity and the freedom of humiliation."


video


There’s Something About Me, Cars, and Mortars That I Just Don’t Get…

Sometime around mid-July we were asked to escort another guy and his client out to Camp Victory so that the client could apply for a CAC/military ID card. We made the mad dash down Rte Irish to Victory in two cars. I was driving the lead, a BMW, with the dude and his client; Tim and Call-Sign Clown were tailing in our “local” minivan— the purple-people-eater.


We had to enter Victory through the west CP as the CP right off Rte Irish wouldn’t take people without IDs. It really wasn’t that big of a deal for us, just meant a longer drive and a chance to swing by the 10,000- some square-foot PX. Anyway, on Victory proper, there a place where the road swings around the east end of a manmade lake for one of Saddam’s palaces and then runs along right next to it on the south side for a good stretch. We had just made the loop around the end and were heading west alongside the lake when I hear a thump/explosion. I wonder, out loud, if it’s incoming or outgoing; the latter being far preferable. Up ahead of us, at the other end of the straightaway, a soldier is walking towards us on the left side of the road.


No sooner are the words out of my mouth when I notice a big geyser in the lake to our right, like something right out of a WWII Navy movie. This is followed by about eight-ten more thumps/explosions. I can’t fucking believe it; it’s incoming and it’s incoming on us. More geysers appear in the lake, walking back our way. I snap back to the road as I red-line the BMW, the soldier down the road is in the process of going into the full prone, about two feet above the deck. He hits the ground and disappears, burrowing for whatever cover he could find. The lake was about ten feet or so below us, so I wasn’t too worried about spall/shrapnel but if the rounds walked further south and up on the road then we’d be in trouble.


Once again, the whole thing was just surreal. We weren’t being targeted, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’d think that you’d be relatively safe in the middle of the base. You’d think. Rounds were now landing about fifty feet to our right, still in the lake, and then one lands about seventy-five feet in front of us, just to the left of the road. There was about a four to six inch curb up to the road and that must have taken all the brunt because we should have been fragged pretty good but weren’t. We hit the hairpin corner, racing by the lone GI, no longer visible, and swung around it. Another couple hundred yards we hit the parking lot for the badge office and bailed out into the hard shelters there. By that time the barrage was over.


Call-Sign Clown comes over the radio as I’m sitting there wondering if it’s really over or if the bad dudes are just taking a break, “Hey, where the hell are you guys?”

“The parking lot, in a bunker. Where are you?”


“We pulled over and bailed out.”


“Are you fucking kidding me?”


“No. Why didn’t you guys bail out?”


“I didn’t feel like staying on the X.”


“Where?”


“You know; that place where all the rounds were coming down.”


“Right. Okay, rodger that. Well, we’ll be your location in a couple of mics.”


From Intel Log:

1303 BOLO - Silver KIA van Situation: BOLO Vehicle Activity: Local IZ Male (reported to US CF at checkpoint, stating he observed a silver KIA van, late 90's model, with two Arabic males wearing black shirt and trousers, black / white headscarves. As he walked by the van he noticed the back seats were removed and protruding from a white covering were 3 to 4 missiles (rocket or mortar rounds). He could not see the launch system because of the covering but the rounds appeared to be set up at an angle to be fired out of the back of the KIA van.

1556 3 killed in Baghdad foiled car bomb Three people were killed and one wounded in a foiled suicide car bombing against a national guard station in central Iraq when the guards shot the potential attacker dead, security and medical sources said. The man was shot as he tried to ram an old Renault against the guard post at 10:00 am in the centre of Baquba, 60 kilometres (36 miles) northeast of Baghdad, said one of the guards, Moslem Abdallah Abdel Jabbar. Two people queuing up outside the station hoping to join a branch of Iraq's fledgling security forces were also caught in the cross fire, witnesses said. "After the attempted attack, two dead bodies and one wounded person were brought here," said doctor Wailid Abbas at Baquba's main hospital.

0045 Rumsfeld 'approved' Abu Ghraib tactics The former head of the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad has accused US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of directly authorising Guantanamo Bay-style interrogation tactics. Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade, which is at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, said documents yet to be released by the Pentagon would show that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved the introduction of harsher conditions of detention in Iraq.



Hot…

It is hot in Iraq, damn hot. During the summer it wasn’t uncommon to be around 130°F and I saw it hit 160 once. You’d wrap up for the day and take off your body armor and kit and your olive drab shirt would be stained white and crusty from all the salt you had sweated out during the day.


The plumbing in the palace, for the most part, didn’t work (not that that stopped some people) and what did or looked like it might often required a bit more acrobatics than I was comfortable with— it’s bad enough to shit your RR 9.11’s but even worse if they were around your ankles at the time. That left the row of portolets outside behind the palace. Getting in them early meant that they were still, relatively, clean; but more importantly, you wanted to get in (and out of) them before it got too fucking hot otherwise it was just like those sweatboxes the Japs threw the POWs in in Bridge On the River Kwai. No kidding, it was that bad. Later, you’d also have to start scheduling your evening constitutionals as well as you definitely didn’t want to be sitting in one of those when the insurgents decided to mortar/rocket the dream zone. Dying, overrated; dying with your RR 9.11’s around your ankles in a portolet…well, some things are worse than death.


Just damn hot, that’s all you can really say. I remember sometime in late NOV or early DEC, looking up and seeing a cloud, the first I’d seen in about five months. I called Chuzu and told him to go outside and check it out and then just stood and stared.



15JUL04

Report— RPG Ambush ivo Al Khark Water Treatment Plant

A convoy consisting of approx 17 flatbed semis and 5 cranes, and escorted by 3 x M1 tanks and multiple HMMWV’s was ambushed on 15JUL04 with a lone RPG fired from the east side of an elevated canal road approx 500m north of the Al Khark Water Treatment Plant. The single RPG impacted a conex box on a flatbed truck, penetrating it completely. There were no injuries or additional damage. The military reported an ambush grid of MC XXXXX and a time of attack 1215L. Based on time and distance calculations, ER security consultants estimate the time of attack as closer to 1200L. A QRF of two OH-58’s were reacted but contact was not regained. All vehicles were safely recovered to Camp Cooke as planned. Another security company, which frequently visits the water treatment plant, stated that they had been ambushed on that road 5 of the last 7 visits- all on departing the plant and all from the east side of the road. Four of the attacks had been small arms and one was an IED. A known Wahhabi village is in close proximity to the plant and it is likely that the majority, if not all, of the attacks have originated from there. It is highly likely, and is suspected by the other security company, that the plant is under surveillance from within and/or without to possibly include the attached FPS plant security. Based on that and the fact that there is only one route in/out, OPSEC and surprise can only be expected for arrivals at the plant, but not departures. Based on all the information available, this incident represented a smaller insurgent response than was expected and can almost completely be attributed to the large show of force conducted on our behalf by the military which began operations approximately eight hours prior to the start of the initial convoy move.


*****


This whole op was largely a fiasco, of the manageable kind I guess, from the outset. Tim and I were operating in support of another gentleman who worked for a completely different company who was representing another company (or two) and needed to liaise with a third security company and the military; you start to get the picture. It started to sink in just what we were in for when we were gearing to make the liaison and recce trip up to Taji. The guy wanted us to sit low in the cars so that no one would see our chest rigs, he didn’t want anyone to know that we were expats; as if my big white head in the car window didn’t give that away. We were using his local drivers, Kurds, which he claimed were Peshmerga. Of course ALL Kurds are pesh, at least that’s what they tell gullible expats. He said they were trained. When asked what that meant he said that they kept their radios/walkie-talkies down low so no one would see them talking in them. High-speed, low drag to the nth degree indeed.


The thing I remember about the drive up there was looking out to my right as we were going under the underpass that was HWY 1 right before we merged onto it. There was a big garbage dump which was always full of Iraqi kids, and adults, looking for food or anything they could salvage and the place always reeked. There’s a joke about an Iraqi living in the States who’s ill and none of the doctors he goes to see can figure out what’s wrong with him. Finally one says to him, “Go home, shit and piss in a bucket, light it on fire and sit with your head over the bucket and a towel over both. Do this for a week. After a week, the Iraqi returns and tells the doctor he’s cured and asks what was wrong with him. The doctor replies, “You were just homesick.” And the thing is, it’s funny ‘cause it’s true. You remember the smell— smoke/smog, dust, cordite, and burning…shit, tires, buildings, anything and everything, the sewers backed up, the garbage piling up in the streets, the constant haze. Anybody who’s been there will know what I’m talking about.


Anyway, I look over at this garbage dump and there’s this dog, standing in a puddle of water up to his belly. His tail is up, his tongue is hanging out of his mouth, which is open, and he has this look of supreme contentment on his face. It was hilarious and surreal, and then it was gone as we sped by and I shifted by gaze back up to the overpass to make sure that no grenades, SAF, or RPGs unexpectedly came raining down on us and our high-speed pesh drivers.


The military was simply superb in their assistance on this op; their assistance and the resources that they committed to this went so far above and beyond. It was a joy to work with them and their professionalism was second to none. The guys were incredible. Sadly, the same thing could not be said for the third security company we had to liaise with, DEH, who for the most part looked like roadies for Alice in Chains and that may be an insult to the roadies for Alice in Chains. It’s what you get when you pay $250-$300/day. You pay peanuts you get monkeys. The night before the scheduled move we finally get these twenty-two or so semis and cranes through the base checkpoint and parked within DEH’s compound. No provision has been made to put them up for the night, feed them, or Tim and I for that matter. We try to start cycling the guys through DEH’s DFAC until the security manager barges in and starts screaming, “Get these fucking Iraqis out of my fucking chow hall…” The guy’s an ignorant fucking lout and an embarrassment. The driver’s have now been insulted and are threatening to leave. Some of the other DEH team members are embarrassed and help us out by arranging for to bring out the leftovers and provide water for the Iraqis.


Tim and I spent the night racked out in sleeping bags on the back of one of the flatbed trailers. I remember waking up and hearing a drone loitering overhead. Later I was taking a piss and a huge explosion lit up the entire sky to the NE. I waited for the report but it never came. It must have been fucking huge though to have been that big that far away.


video


The day started off bright and early; rousting the drivers up and getting them lined up behind our military escort of M1A1’s. Army scouts had been out since about 0400 overwatching our route. I watched the sun come up driving behind the lead tank, sucking down gas turbine exhaust. It was nice having that kind of firepower on hand though.


The day was largely nondescript. The generators that were being picked up were too heavy for one crane alone and it was frightening at times to see them picking these things up with two cranes, just gundecking the shit out of things. It definitely wasn’t OSHA approved. On the way out of the plant, one of the semis got stuck in loose dirt/sand and an M1A1 tried to pull it out and succeeded in ripping the guy’s front bumper off. We got him out but I can’t even remember how.


As you have already read, the convoy was ambushed with exactly one RPG that hit and penetrated one of the conex boxes we’d picked up at the water plant to no effect other than putting a hole in the thing. However, when we got back to Camp Cooke the Iraqi truck drivers all bailed out and began screaming at Tim in an angry mob, wanting to know why the military hadn’t done anything, why they hadn’t shot someone, etc. The fact that the road was about all of eight feet wide seemed to be lost on them. They were pissed. I started edging around the group positioning myself so that I would be able to shoot as many as I could if they jumped on Tim. Once again, it is the Gurkha uprising all over except irate Iraqis this time; and I wonder, not for the first time, why it is that I seem to keep finding myself in situations where I am closer to shooting the guys working for us instead of the enemy? I just can’t explain it. Tim screamed at the guys enough that they calmed down and we extracted ourselves. Our part of the job was over and it was all someone else’s problem at that point. We recovered our high-speed Peshmergas and got the hell out of there, glad to have it all behind us and Taji fading in the distance in the rear-view mirrors. That’s just they way things went and I’d say that it was more the norm rather than the exception and in reality, given all the things that COULD have gone wrong, the mission was a stunning success, however ugly it might have looked at the time.


From Intel Log:

1912 New Suicide Bombing in Iraq Kills 10 A car bomb exploded near a police station in the western Iraqi city of Haditha on Thursday, killing 10 people in a second day of violence that highlighted insurgents' disregard for the country's interim government.

2010 Five liquor shops blown up (Noooo!! Booo!!) Attackers blew up five alcohol shops along a street in a Christian district of Baghdad overnight, the latest in a series of such strikes by suspected Muslim radicals. The attacks devastated stockpiles of liquor and damaged other shops nearby but did not cause any injuries, witnesses and staff said

2021 Iraqi PM vows to crush insurgents Iraq's Interim Prime Minister has announced the formation of a new security body. He said that the new body would help wipe out insurgents attacking US-led troops and Iraqi forces. Speaking at a news conference amid an upsurge in violence in Iraq, Iyad Allawi said he was forming a General Security Directorate - a domestic intelligence agency - which he hoped would infiltrate and expose those behind the insurgency. "We are determined to bring down all the hurdles that stand in the way of our democracy ... terrorism will be terminated, God willing," Mr Allawi said. (This all code for Death Squads)

2023 Headless Corpse in Orange Jumpsuit Found in Iraq A headless corpse dressed in an orange jumpsuit has been found by Iraqi police in the Tigris river and handed over to U.S. forces, but it has not yet been identified, a U.S. military spokeswoman said on Thursday. She said it was not known whether the body was that of a Bulgarian hostage killed by his captors earlier this week.

2115 Gunmen Open Fire on Iraqi Official's Car Gunmen opened fire Thursday on a car belonging to Iraq's foreign minister, killing one official and wounding two others, an Iraqi National Guard official said. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was not in the vehicle at the time. The attack on the two-car convoy occurred at about 7 p.m., about 65 miles south of Kirkuk.

2125 Gunmen kill Mosul governor Gunmen in Iraq assassinated the US-appointed governor of Mosul yesterday. Youssef Kashmola was driving from the prosperous northern city of Mosul towards Baghdad when his convoy of cars was attacked. Around 60 miles into the journey gunmen threw a grenade and opened fire. The governor was killed in the shootout. "He was on his way to Baghdad with a security escort of four cars when the attackers in another car pulled up beside his vehicle, threw a grenade and then shot at his car," an interior ministry source told Reuters.

2141 U.S. Insists Iraq Coalition Still Strong The United States insisted on Thursday its coalition in Iraq remained strong despite the Philippines' decision to withdraw its 51 troops and pointed to Mongolia and El Salvador as evidence of its strength. Mongolia has about 130 troops in Iraq, and Bush was to praise the Mongolian presence in a meeting on Thursday with Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi.



25JUL04 (Journal)

2029 local

I used to dream, of a place where I fit in— a place where I was home. I think the closest I’ve ever come to that was at Sea.


I remember talking to Beth, while she was still here, and asked her where the hell people like us fit in. She said that there wasn’t any one place. That we met like-minded people in our travels and found some place to fall back to to recharge our batteries and store our shit at.


I think I have finally resigned myself to that. No, that’s not quite right. Resign implies giving up; rather, I have come to see this as the likely truth.



The Nomad and My Heart of Darkness

Months ago, Rob B. and I drove down to Basrah to do the assessment on the new CPA HQ at the palace— miles and miles of fucking nothing. We were heading back up, driving through the stretch of Hwy 1 that’s just dirt road. Don’t ever want to hit that when the army conveys are going through there, visibility down to about ten feet or less.


Anyway, off on the east side of the road is a nomad alone with a caravan of camels. It’s funny, ‘cause talking with Rob later, we both had the same though: I could just shoot this guy, right as we’re cruising along at 140 kph, just let off the whole fucking mag and there’s absolutely nothing anyone could do to me. If anyone should question me, all I would have to say is that I saw him point a rifle at us.


The whole thing, from a personal safety point of view, morals and ethics aside, was a bad idea as my Gurkha driver would probably have careened off the road in abject terror— rifles fired in cars are loud, especially when you’re not expecting it.


How much better are we than animals? I don’t know if that was the first time I’d had that though, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Am reminded of a scene in Thin Red Line where a kid shoots a Jap and he’s like, I just committed murder…and there’s nothing anyone can do to me. I just killed a man, the greatest human taboo.


I remember driving back from BIAP, I think with Chuzu in the follow, after dropping Beth off. There was a guy in the median with something on his shoulder. I had a split second to make a decision and I decided not to shoot. As best I could tell, he was a cameraman. What he was doing there, I don’t know and it was suspect. I would have been justified in killing him, assuming I could have managed to hit him at 70 mph. I wouldn’t have lost sleep over it. At the time, that was the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq and everyone knew it. You were only that road for one of two reasons, to get between the dream zone and BIAP or to kill those who were.



Warm Gin and Things That Don’t Happen

They ended up manning the Basrah CPA HQ with Fijians vice Gurkhas. The first large demonstration the Iraqis held in front of the main gate the Fijians ended up chasing the Iraqis in the street and beating them with whatever was handy. The CPA-South folks didn’t know whether to be horrified or happy. The image was just war zone comic/surreal.


Rob and I had stayed at the old CPA HQ, a hotel that was a security nightmare; god only knows why they chose that location. Anyway, we’re sitting up in the bar the first night there and I ordered a glass of wine. Little did I know that it came from some backwater former Eastern-Bloc country that knew exactly fuck-all about anything wine related. My glass cost me one dollar, US. I took a sip and pronounced around my grimace that I was not a poor man and would give him another dollar, US, to take the horrific thing away and that I’d then like one of those glasses of warm gin and 7Up that he’d earlier mentioned.


It was about that time that some DfID or Brit officer starts telling Rob, a former Royal Marine, and I that there is no way that the insurgents would be able to fire mortars from across the river into the new CPA HQ, which was also the UK military’s main base aside from the det at the airport. Rob and I laughed at him. I’m sure you can imagine his surprise the first time those impossible mortars came crashing down in his camp. I only wish I’d been there to say I told you so. It was amazing the number of self-proclaimed experts who knew exactly what the insurgents couldn’t do and never ceased to be amazed when they did exactly that. Nothing ruins a war faster than a bunch of no-honor having, talking assholes who think they know everything about everything and trying to tell you what’s going on and what to do. Honestly.



The Politicians…

“"Economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." -- June 2003, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz”


“[Iraqis] know we own their country...It's a good thing, especially when there's a lot of oil out there we need.” U.S. Brig. General William Looney


A year ago, testifying before Congress, Wolfowitz predicted that securing postwar Iraq would be an easier job than the United States and its allies faced in Bosnia or Afghanistan. After all, the deputy secretary said, there's no ethnic tension in Iraq.”


Michael Ledeen, a prominent neoconservative, told a forum that "the level of casualties is secondary" because "we are a warlike people" and "we love war."


The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”


The CIA was so convinced Iraqis would warmly greet US troops that it proposed smuggling hundreds of small American flags into Iraq ahead of the 2003 invasion, to give them something to wave at the soldiers, a report said. The New York Times cited unnamed intelligence officials as saying the CIA was planning to capture the event on film and beam it throughout the Arab world, taking credit for what it called the "ultimate information operation."


"This isn't a war. It's violent nation-building." - U.S. official in Iraq


"I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy.” — Terry Jeffery


“The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.” (Applause.) --GW’s 26FEB03 speech


“There is a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-governing. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily – are a different color than white - can self-govern.” --GW


"One of the problems I see and frustrating things is our ambassador keeps giving advice to the Iraqis," Murtha said. "Every time we give the Iraqis advice, they vote for someone else. The Iraqis don't pay attention to our advice."


“"I'm not trying to win their hearts and minds," said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, an assistant commander of the First Armored Division in Baghdad. "We're in a race against time to win the trust and confidence of the people."”


Nathan Sassaman, who bulldozed homes and called in air strikes, and who was fond of proclaiming that "there is no God - I am god here".


“Battalion commander Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman: of the Sunni Triangle, he believes, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."”


“The new equipment and fighting machinery is aimed to "scare and deter" domestic and foreign terrorists who attack coalition forces, the official said.”


“In one recent high-level meeting, Rumsfeld looked at Secretary of State Colin Powell and said, "Jerry (Ambassador Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian in Iraq) works for you, right?"”


Blair Says Iraq War May Hamper His Party


“They made a wasteland and called it peace.” —Tacitus


From Intel Log:

1006 Explosion heard. Poss smoke seen rising bearing 080 from ER casa ivo LZ Washington.

1040 THE first raid by all-Iraqi security forces on suspected terrorist hide-outs in Baghdad descended into chaos when members of the two teams involved turned their guns on each other, Scotland on Sunday can reveal. The captain in charge of a detachment from the newly-formed Iraqi civil defence corps threatened to shoot anti-terrorist squad officers who were using strong-arm tactics against a taxi driver trying to get through a road block. The anti-terrorist officers then drew their guns in a Hollywood-style stand-off that only ended when the captain’s own men defused the situation by surrounding him and persuading him to lower his weapon.

1350 Yesterday (24JUL04) at about 1300 two mortar rounds landed near us (BIAP), one by the terminal and one fifty metres from Camp XXXX, we didn't even merit a mention much less a highlight. As I suspected, the green zone is totally anal.

2345 Civil War In Iraq? Observers continue to ask, "Will Iraq descend into civil war?" The answer is that civil war is already underway in Iraq. Most people do not see it, because it is not following the Sunni/Shi'ite/Kurd fault lines on which we have been lead to focus. As is usually the case in war, we are the victims not of deception but of self-deception. In Iraq's civil war, the most prominent faction is what America calls Iraq's "government." It is, of course, not a government, because there is no state. The "government's" goal is to recreate an Iraqi state and become a real government. What are its chances of success?

2357 The government rules only in the capital After the city of Hillah, I came across the police and a scattering of new Iraqi army soldiers. At Kufa, they insisted on escorting my car into the holy city of Najaf. But miles from the city centre, they turned round and told me that under the terms of the ceasefire with Muqtada Sadr's "Mehdi Army", they could drive no further. They were right. Sadr's militia - which the US army promised to "destroy" last April - guards the old city, the main roads to the mosque and the entrance to the great Shrine of the Imam Ali.



27JUL04— Email

Fr0m: Beth

I bet you are counting the days— I find it hard to even remember what life was like in that crazy place—the longer I’m away the more it feels like an incredibly weird dream. I heard from Pablo today and he had very nice things to say about you. I’ll never forget that at one point we met in Mansour for lunch and he walked home from the restaurant—now he’s living in the embassy and barely moves. Sure you want to go back?


To: Beth

Re: Ab0ve

I like the Pablo (that’s what the Gurkhas would say, if they knew him). As to your last, rent Four Feathers, only I never ran from anything that mattered. I’m at a loss to explain it myself; only that I know that lines have been crossed. I don’t know that I ever saw them or was aware when one slipped behind, but sure as shit, one day you notice that you are standing way out in front of where you were and nothing looks the same and you are left with the knowledge that you can never go back. Fortunately for me, wherever back was wasn’t for me anyway. And the scary thing, if there is one, is that the weirdness, the fear, the pain…you know they are real, they mean you are alive, still kicking. And it is so easy to get in a rut back there, sit down in front of the TV for five minutes and come to five years later not knowing what’s what. If the weirdness isn’t more real than what was left behind, it is certainly more “now”. The world has gotten a lot smaller since I’ve been here, a great deal has become more unimportant and irrelevant and I shall not waste my time with those things again. As Robbie Robertson sang, “…when you find what’s worth keeping, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away…”


I need to go home, am so short I can taste it. Yet a part of me, knowing this, is still not happy about it as there will be people back here and I won’t be. Jimmy Buffet sang, “…the life of a sailor steers a wandering course.” I know this to be true but it still doesn’t take the edge off the feeling some days that I am The 4th Wiseman.


From Intel Log:

2003 Militants threaten to cut highway Militants bent on disrupting the supply chain to the U.S. military threatened Tuesday to cut the highway linking Iraq to Jordan in 72 hours and said it would hit at Jordanians as well as Americans. The threat, from a group calling itself "The Group of Death," was made in a video obtained by Associated Press Television News. The video showed seven men wearing black clothing and masks armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rifles. The group's warning comes amid a wave of kidnappings of foreigners, mainly truck drivers, entering Iraq from neighboring countries to delivering supplies and other cargo needed for this war-ravaged nation's reconstruction effort.

2145 U.S. "outposts" hold line in Ramadi Hunkered down in the turquoise-domed Islamic Law Center, a dozen Marines wait for the enemy to make its inevitable move. Insurgents equipped with Soviet-made sniper rifles keep the building in their cross-hairs. Assailants with AK-47s and grenade launchers regularly peer from nearby alleys and roofs. Attacks can come from anywhere. The wait is unnerving, but it's better than being in the streets of this turbulent city. On Wednesday, a Marine convoy was attacked here with a roadside bomb and as many as 100 insurgents unleashed a barrage of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in rolling firefights that lasted for much of the day. Thirteen Marines and one soldier were injured, and the U.S. military reported killing 25 fighters.



31JUL04 (Journal)

2033 local, Amman, Jordan

Flew out of Baghdad today. Going home for at least two months— am hooked up to come back with CIK and Co. but it seems like such a long time that I wonder if I will make it back. Hell, I was only ever supposed to come out for three months. Who would’ve thought a year could pass so fast? It seems like nothing— 365 days pressed into so many adventures and long nights…not even close to 1,001.


I feel guilty leaving, knowing that I am leaving friends in harm’s way. Yet I know that I need to take some time off. So many tears, so much sweat spilled in the hot and dusty sand.


I told Rob the other night that my Virginia Slims “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” moment came a week or two ago when Call-Sign Clown starts telling me about some incident he’d heard about that I had been involved in. You know you’ve probably been around too long when you start hearing third-hand stories about stuff you did from people who don’t even know that you were involved.


Seems like I had more to write but it’s escaped me now.



Parting Shot—

U.S. sergeant mauled by Iraq tiger is vindicated

Last year, U.S. Army Sgt. Keith Mitchell became an international poster boy for the misbehavior of U.S. troops in Iraq.


In a bizarre incident, Mitchell's right arm was severely mauled by a male Bengal tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. To save him, another soldier shot and killed the caged animal.


Reports that the soldiers were drunk and tried to feed the tiger while roaming the zoo grounds after hours provoked worldwide outrage. "What is so unexpected about one drunken U.S. soldier killing a zoo tiger when his commander-in-chief, who once had a drinking problem, commanded the bombing of Iraq, killing and maiming thousands?" a Malaysian newspaper said. The New Yorker magazine cited the tiger-shooting by "drunk" soldiers as an example of "the stupidity and carelessness" of the U.S. occupation.


Red-faced military officials, led by a U.S. Army general, apologized to zoo personnel. Mitchell, who hasn't heretofore been publicly identified as the tiger's victim, was demoted. The Army launched multiple investigations of the incident.


But a year later, Mitchell has been at least partly exonerated. According to a copy of an Army report given to Mitchell, the military concluded he was not drunk and that he was on zoo premises with the permission of superiors as part of a unit barbecue. Mitchell admitted drinking beer that night - he says one beer, while a witness told investigators Mitchell said he had had three. He was found in violation of an Army order against consuming alcohol in Iraq. But his rank recently was restored after a three-month probationary period.


The Army even dug up the tiger and performed an autopsy, to check on reports that Mitchell was trying to feed the creature. The autopsy found nothing but zoo food in its digestive tract. In addition, no foreign food was found near or in the tiger cage.


"It was a freak accident," said Mitchell last summer on the porch of his house here. Lean, with close-cropped dark hair and a long-sleeve shirt covering his dangling right arm, Mitchell spoke about what the injury means to his 14-year military career. "It's gone. Over. I can't believe this happened."


An Army spokesman says Mitchell has been treated fairly.


"The soldier was involved in misconduct, he got injured, an animal was destroyed in the process, and he got in trouble," Lt. Col. Hans Bush said. "That's pretty much what happens in these cases."


Mitchell, 33, is a San Diego native who joined the Army out of high school in 1989. He served in northern Iraq during the first Gulf War and joined the Army Reserve after being honorably discharged in 1995. After settling in Charlotte with his wife, Angelique, he took college classes, tended bar and did other jobs before being called up to serve in Iraq in 2003 as part of the initial invasion force.


Mitchell's unit, the 422nd Civil Affairs battalion out of Greensboro, N.C., worked in small teams throughout Baghdad, helping rebuild sewer systems, schools and the power grid.



31DEC04 (Journal)

1930 EST

Last year this time, after the PM briefing, Greg pulled out a bottle of Dom Perignon— ’95 I think, though I don’t remember now. One of the MP Sgt’s at Sanchez’s villa had given it to us, from Saddam’s private stash, for the help we had given him on security for the joint. Greg, Daryl, James, Ben, I, and I don’t know who else, all stood around the table and raised a toast to us. What a fucking year.


*****


All detonations are controlled; the question though, is by whom…


Looking back on it all, it’s too close, still too immediate to put it in a place, to make sense of it; not in a logical, chain of causality sort of way; but just, what did it mean to me. I’m not yet sure where to hang the picture of this on the wall of me. In some ways, you saw and did some incredible things, were glad you were there; it’s not often that you get to see history in the making up close and personal. On the other hand, there were parts of it that just leave you feeling dirty; not only for being involved but that the whole thing ever even happened in the first place, that we as a country could be so duped and so blind with our support based out of our fear. A few of the more notable of those, the fact that I knew from my time in the Navy that EVERY reason for invading the country was, as Mark Twain said, a damn lie, aside, were:


George Bush trying to cut veterans benefits before the military had even taken Baghdad.


George Bush trying to cut hazardous duty pay in AUG03 for all military personnel; including those then conducting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The prayer cards that the White House had printed up for soldiers to fill out and send back to George Bush saying that THEY, the soldiers in harms way, were praying for HIM, the guy trying to cut their benefits and pay.


The fake letters sent to hometown newspapers allegedly from soldiers in Iraq, all worded exactly the same way.


Bush’s fake turkey.


Dumsfeld rubber-stamping condolence letter to families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Soldiers being billed for their meals while in hospitals and gear destroyed in attacks against them


Dumsfeld’s, “You go to war with the Army that you have…,”


It’s all fucking shameful. Really.


In real terms, my world has changed, or maybe it is me. What I came back to will never be the same, what it was before I left, I’ll never see it the same way. That’s not all bad. Shane says I seem more laid-back, easier going. I hope so. I still wake up in the night, heart racing, having heard something in my sleep— you would be goddamned surprised at the number of things that sound like a mortar launch— counting seconds, estimating TOF and listening for detonations and/or more launches. Garbage on the road doesn’t bother me quite as much as it initially did; though every time I see a car with sagging suspension, front or back, in my mind I’m engaging the driver before he/she can detonate their payload and looking for a Hesco to duck behind.


I think I’m suffering from some mild PTSD. Watching myself over the holidays, more irritable than I should be with no cause, probably drinking too much. This too will pass though, I imagine. I still think of going back, dream about it. I just don’t know what good I’d do; like pissing in the ocean. Those early days when those who understood could actually get things accomplished are gone and there’s no point in trying to get back to them. And so it goes…


"The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that." —D. Rumsfeld


"Why are you here? You overthrew a tyrannical government but then you demolished the security structure, so you had to stay. Was it oil? Did you hope to take charge of the region? What did you have in mind? And what are your plans?"


“I was approached by Salih, 30, an unarmed security guard. He started by saying that he wanted to visit Britain. And then he broke down. Here's what he said, more or less verbatim. "I sorry. But I die in Iraq. I die now, every day. Maybe I shoot me. I can't live here. Weapons, tanks, enemy all the time. I can't sleep with shootings. No money. I die. I must go."”


Casting his net near one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces in central Baghdad, Dawood spoke movingly about being a fisherman, a trade he said he learned from his father and grandfather. From his old wooden boat, he had seen British imperialists, Arab puppet kings, military putchists and Saddam rule Baghdad. "I saw the looters rampaging through Baghdad from my boat when the Americans entered the city. I barely catch fish now. But I am a fisherman. It is an honest way to make a living and support a family."


"I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans," Khamis tells me, "but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."


A young Iraqi woman, frustrated and in tears, explains to her classmates: “If Iraqi people come at you with shoes, you have lost their hearts and lost the war and God help us all.”


"I do feel sorry for the young soldiers, though they killed my son," she said quietly. "They came such a long distance to die here."



Life as Art


All things eventually

come to an end—

can only be lived in for so many moments

before moving on.

A melancholy that great, in order to be understood, appreciated, reckoned

needed an frame, a boundary

with which to adequately position and delineate

the Experience.

And after that,

needed a space to be hung in

that it might be seen

from time to time

and the haunting ache reawakened

to remind of us the cost

of such Foolish Folly.



END GAME








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