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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chapter V.1

Days of the 'Con

My Time in the Sun

In late July, 2003 I found myself, through no fault of my own, headed to Baghdad as part of a security detail for a former ambassador and a general. Ironically, which was to become more common than naught, things were too quiet to justify the size of the detail and instead I started up an intelligence program from scratch to support what would become over a thousand personal providing security for the CPA and other agencies at some ten separate locations throughout the country as well as in direct support/liaison with the Force Protection office within the Republican Palace in the dream zone.

Nothing I have ever done prepared me for the complete and total alienness of the Mid-Eastern culture, the US military/political environment in which we would operate, or the train wreck that would ensue as the two met in a confluence of dysfunction and ill will. It was a time unlike any other in my life, both loved and hated, and I seriously doubt that it will ever be recreated in anything else I ever do again. As a wise westerner who once read something about a Buddha and comprehended even less of it once said, “You can never invade and occupy the same country twice.”

12JUL03 (Journal)

Denver, CO

Went to a Rockies game Thursday night with Kim, Kristen, and Shane. Had a blast; such a beautiful night, watching the sunset fade— incredible blues and oranges with the brilliant green of the outfield.

So many people go through their lives recording an endless number of firsts, yet rarely aware of lasts. Knowing that you are leaving for Iraq doing what I do will put that in perspective for ya, easily.

So I sat there, watching the game with a big smile on my face, not talking much. I wasn’t morbid but it did occur to me that this could be the last ballgame I ever saw. I thought about my life— all of which has been more or less a surprise— and I wondered what the point of it had been to date. I couldn’t really think of anything. And I considered that if the whole point of my life had been to sit, watch and enjoy that one game, the sunset, and boo Barry Bonds, then by god, it had been worth every penny.

Welcome to the Sandbox

Flew into Kuwait via London. Had the luxury of a friend stationed there for the Navy and had a chance to take a shower and get a nap and her flat and get some dinner during my eight-hour layover. The advice from my buddy who’d beat me by about a week was to start pushing and be rude. He’d had the misfortune of flying Kuwait Airways instead of BA, so there was no stampede for a seat when I boarded my flight.

The first thing that hits you is just how goddamned hot it is; and then that you shouldn’t drink any water that doesn’t come out of a sealed bottle. The CPA had pretty much rented out the vast majority of the rooms at the five-star Hilton. I have no idea what that was running the taxpayers, though I know it wasn’t cheap, and I just happy that I was able to get some of my money back by spending a couple of nights there.

Flew into Baghdad on a RAF C-130 with two more Suburbans. The US had their own radio station up and broadcasting and I remember Britney Spears singing something as we made the mad dash from BIAP to the safety of the dream zone. We had a room in the basement of the palace, which about six or seven other guys were also living in, and I got the only cot left, which also happened to be the most fucking uncomfortable one, if not in all of Iraq than certainly in Baghdad. And the games/madness began…

08AUG03 (Journal)



Second night here. Drove up from Baghdad yesterday with Roger, Marc B. and a bunch of Gurkhas. Met J. and Gary (Aussie) in Mosul. The drive was about three and a half hours. I couldn’t believe it. We pull into the Khanzad and the four Gurkhas riding shotgun in my Suburban all drop their mags at the clearing barrel and every last fucking one of them has an empty chamber. I about went through the roof. The only person in the vehicle with rounds chambered was me, and I was driving. The next day, I told them all to chamber up. They looked at me like I was crazy. I told them I didn’t care, would rather have them ND than not able to immediately return fire if needed. They weren’t too keen on my driving either; you could feel your ears pop as the pressure in the car dropped from them all inhaling in unison in terror and the windows would bow in a little. That would be followed by quiet and largely incomprehensible muttering in Nepalese…budda budda budda (my bad Nepalese), bad driver, etc.

Later, I’d laugh my ass off at stories that J. would tell me about training some of these guys in Kuwait…the guys not wanting to shoot because the guns were too loud, to hot, etc. However, they did fend off an RPG and small arms attack against the CPA house in Kirkuk.

When the rifle misfires, or his bullets run out, the Gurkha unsheathes his 'Khukri' and makes his final run upon the enemy crying 'AAYO BIR GORKHALI" (the Gurkhas are upon you!) in a fury to finish his business. The enemy tumbles in two clean pieces, even before he can express his surprise because his is the kindest, quietest and quickest death......"

11AUG03 (Journal)


Blew into Baghdad yesterday about 1600 local. My front-seat Gurkha (who I affectionately call “Pointy” or “Wavy” depending on what he is doing) finally came around to my point of view and laughed when I slid thru 14 July Circle sideways— blocking for Roger. How many people can say they’ve done that? I think that whenever I am asked what I have done with my life, “…blasted thru 14 July Circle, Baghdad, sideways in a Suburban with a loaded gun and a Gurkha,” will be my reply.


Lost a Gurkha yesterday in Basrah. Cash-in-Transit for the UN— a crowd of protestors slowed down the vehicle and an unk gun opened up with an AK. 1 round in the left shoulder; less than 2 minutes from an aid station but it was too late.

What can I say? I feel bad for the team but the guy was just another name. Ambassador Kennedy (one of the good guys actually) came by to extend his condolences but I have to wonder how many units he’s visited when some kid get’s blown away by some IED that he never sees? How many letters has he agonized over by candlelight— trying to rationalize the sacrifice that some family doesn’t even know has been made yet?

I find myself pissed off when I see how incompetently the whole show is being run. It is a fucking disgrace and affront to everyone who has ever served in the military. The business of killing is a sacred thing that should be left to those who understand it, have sacrificed and tasted the comradery that only they can ever know.

Wake Me Up When SEP Ends

He never heard the explosion

eyes focused on the sides of the road

mind already considering

how to best deploy his men

if attacked under the overpass ahead.

He rode in the first of three Humvees—

leading from the front.

He never saw the explosion

cleverly shaped and buried under the road

by an enemy he would never meet,

though tasked to best

on an irregular field of battle.

He died thinking about his men

only afraid

of letting them down when it counted the most

or not doing enough;

they were his family

and he only wanted them all to come home

on the day after tomorrow.

He died in a town with no name

on a day with no date

his name was Legion.


looking back,

neither he, nor the men he saved

knew why he died

on the day after yesterday.

14AUG03 (Journal)


Memorial service last night about 2000 for the Gurkha who bought it in Basrah. Ed, Larry, Collin, and I attended on behalf of the white devils. Maj. Dan conducted the memorial, which was held in barracks Tent #4— in Nepalese. I think every Gurkha not on watch was there and they were all very respectful. Collin said a few words, very appropriate for the occasion since Gary and Damian thought business more important.


From Larry R:

“The duty officer called me to the front door. An Iraqi woman had been brought in by a KBR contractor. It transpired that she did not have any information to give (as had been intimated) but was seeking work. She claimed to be a widow with 4 daughters and had American friends (I am sure she has). She carried a letter with old regime eagle and was signed by?? The letter proclaimed "This woman is a Panzer Commander. She is part of the Kampfgruppe Kessler." I politely directed the woman to the way out”

This story is at once both fucking hilarious and heartbreaking. Welcome to Iraq, there is no crying in baseball.

“Hamid, "a 26-year-old translator/bodyguard/heavy-metal fan," who was an Iraqi soldier until he deliberately shot himself in the leg to avoid fighting the Americans and now smokes weed and writes protest lyrics set to the tune of The Wall by Pink Floyd: "We don't need no occupation, We don't need no CPA...."”

"Expats need a place where they can wear thongs, eat hot dogs and drink beers," Mr. Zamadi says. "You can make a lot of money here."

From Intel Log:

1640 Larry walks in report of a poss impending attack v. a hi-rise building with Americans inside it from another/near hi-rise building. Notified Jack and Mike- Mike W already notified.

1754 Larry reports that the convention center is being evac’d- NFI.

2240 Collin received phone call, CPA-S poss pulling out to stronger pos- reliable reports of imminent attack by large force.

August Something (Journal)


Running on hour twenty-nine now. You are not going to believe this shit…really. Couple of guys with Dyn, supporting the judicial mission, kick in the door and take down a room of some guys that were surveilling a high-profile hotel in Baghdad. They bag and tagged ‘em and called CIK and myself to come down and talk to them. We go down and speak with them for three or four hours. Four expats: a brit and a Canadian who are both patsies; a Belgian and an American who is dead on or John Walker Lynn’s brother— both bad dudes. Long story short, a whole bunch of shit that only adds up one way and it ain’t good— turned then over to the FBI earlier this morning. Will update as I get more. I gotta tell ya, it was pretty surreal driving around Bdad around midnight with these guys in the back of the Yukon with bags on their heads, riding shotgun with an MP-5K and rocking out to Public Enemy. Anyway, chalk one up for the good guys. Off for some well-deserved time in the horizontal time accelerator.


So we’re sitting out in this little office complex just outside the palace near one of the gates with each of these kids in a different room. The force protection guys don’t want anything to do with them nor does the AF OSI. The FBI have agreed to come interview them in the morning but they don’t drive at night (located out at BIAP) nor do they leave, as it would become clear, before breakfast. So, we have to watch them till the FBI gets there.

We’re sitting around talking and the guys that actually grabbed them are talking about kicking the door in and taking down the room. The first guy through the door was a veteran black NY detective, D.. The Canadian kid throws up his arms, seeing him come through the door with an AK, and screams, “Please don’t rob us!”

We laughed our asses off— kid’s in a country with 25 million Arabs and the first thing he thinks of when seeing a black man coming through the door is that he’s getting robbed. We commiserated with D, “…shit man, brother can’t get a break nowhere.”

Later, long before the FBI ever showed up, D. left to head back to the hotel, his parting cry was, “See ya suckerz.” It summed it all up too perfectly and became the de facto goodbye for months to come for all who had participated in this little fiasco.

"Look at the British. They were in Iraq for 18 years, and they didn't even leave a footprint in the sand."

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad but the responsibility, in this case, is not on the army which has acted only upon the request of the civil authorities.”

--T.E. Lawrence, The Sunday Times, August 1920

17AUG03 (Journal)

Helped Maj. Miller with a force protection issue yesterday. Seems that a member of the Ministry of Health (MoH)— an American citizen of Iraqi descent (with a PhD) had claimed to have family in Baghdad and went AWOL a couple of times for several days. When queried, he got defensive and the decision was made to sack him— sadly, without a debrief or any CI measures to figure out what was going on.

Anyway, I helped a USAF Capt. escort the guy to get his gear and get on the bus to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport). We walked him out to the checkpoint (CP) east of the Al Rasheed Hotel to meet his sister and get the rest of his gear and so he could give her some money. They hugged and she was crying. When we told him it was time to go, he turned and walked back towards the HESCO barriers. He never looked back— not once— god only knows when, if ever, he will see his sister again and he didn’t look back. It made me think of my sister and if I was in the same situation. I can’t believe he didn’t look back.

Guy was definitely involved in something, hard to say what exactly. The whole thing was a complete failure from a CI/FP perspective. No wonder we can’t win.

Yes…I’d like to place an order…

When I first got into Baghdad phones were in stupid short supply in the dream zone, something that still wasn’t rectified when I left. Even then, LP Bremer and his band of true-believing, kewl-aid drinkers saw fit to deliver a phone to the local Iraqi pizza guy outside the dream zone so that they could phone in their orders and pick them up hot. I can’t tell you how much this still pisses me off.

19AUG03 (Journal)

Had a couple of drinks tonight at the Al Rasheed to the badly if not earnestly sung chorus of The Boxer. Somehow it seems to me to be the perfect song to describe what the coalition mission in Iraq has become.

It seems that I find myself with heavy heart most days— these kids are dying most every day and I don’t know that I am making a difference. Even though I curse them for their piss-poor security/operational practices I wish that I were out there with them; that maybe I could bring one home— just one would be worth it.

I don’t know how to save them. I don’t know that the intel, at least at this point, is making a difference…if it even can. The only thing I can see now is finding some geographic areas to work out of and start taking people off the streets and I’m just not set up to do that now.

There are a million cowboys here already and I hate them all. I don’t want my time here to be that, is must have mattered, it must have made a difference or it would be better that I was never here.

From Intel Log:

1650 Larry reports that a car bomb went off at the Canal Hotel (UNHQ) approx 1625D- explosion rattled windows in palace. Notified Chuzu, Jack. Not able to contact Mike.

City of Dust

A warm breeze


gently, undulated


with the yellow curtains

in the window

mesmerizing light and shadow

along the bare, white stucco

ceiling and walls

a thin film

of perspiration

covered his forehead—

cooling in the breeze

and afternoon shade.

Through the open windows

a grove of date palms

swayed green

against an indistinct sky,

the lone ‘karumph’

in the distance

of a mortar—

Abu Ghurayb Prison

or police station


and outside

Barron Samadhi



at the Crossroads.

I always knew

I could never stay

knew that I had stayed

longer than I should’ve

been able to.

This city of dust— careless

running blind

dodging echoes—

who will take me to the See

that I might finally call

on its distant, golden shores

home at last?

24AUG06— Email from high school buddy with the Army up north:

We are going on a mission to Sulaymaniyah tomorrow. Is it too late for you to take a look the route for security considerations? Sorry so late. We are leaving tomorrow about 0730 local. I’ll check my email before I go. If you don’t have enough time, don’t sweat it. Oh, by the way…our XO has decided that your intel assessments would be a good thing to look over each day.


Email to CIK, re: Salary


Been here almost a month, earned my first day of pay. Am working on second.


From Intel Log:

0920 Got back yesterday afternoon safely. No problems. Shortly before we arrived in Sulaymaniyah, there was some sort of explosion according to the locals. Just as we were leaving there was a huge fire at the UN/UNICEF compound in town.

1022 Larry reports a riot down at the MOJ with shots fired.

1315 Roger reports that the Cedar Hotel was hit.

SEP03— Email to Gwen

Heya kiddo,

Happy birthday. Afraid that I am a little short on worldly possessions right now (my most prized possession is a packet of MRE jalapeno cheese spread sitting on my desk- if you don't count the guns) so I'm sending this picture. It was taken on a beautiful night- things finally starting to cool off a bit- from a firing range just off the banks of the Tigris. We were there to zero the rifles of the Gurkha guard force. These guys are definitely not the fierce warriors that so impressed the Brits in the 1800's or whenever. They are a mix of proud and noble guys (generally the older ones) and whining children- Ewoks or Gremlins come to mind. In any case, they were like kids on Christmas morning at the range. I have never seen any of them move faster than slow and yet they were running up to check their targets, bouncing- "booda booda booda...bulls-eye, booda booda booda hee hee...miss" and so on. The whole thing made me smile. Anyway, hope you like the pic and you bday is a good one.



Reply from Gwen

Dear Capt Infidel,

Tis hard to be a fierce and noble warrior when one is 200 years old.

Thanks for the note on my birthday!


"It's something wonderful to get a letter," said Ibrahim Ismail Zaiden, a postman in Dora. "The paper, the stamp, the envelope. It is not just a piece of paper. It is something sacred."

From Intel Log:

1100 dep for Baghdad Hotel

1320 RTB

1500 Dep for 5th group with Mike and Nick

1600 RTB

1635 Larry drops off report of violent activity planned in Bgdad tomorrow

20SEP03 (Journal)


If the nights here are long (which they aren’t) the days are even longer.

It has been growing steadily, a little at a time— not so much that you would ever notice it till one day it was just there and even then, when you looked back, you still couldn’t see it coming. I felt it for the first time last night, at least consciously— a physical knot in my stomach. Something big is coming and I don’t know what. I can sense it— a giant tentacle or snake— black, moving in the dark of the night, sometimes only a fraction of an inch, lying still during the day, but not asleep…watching, growing, plotting. It has no physical form, other than darkness, and a sense of dread that weighs heavy like too much gravity. I feel it but I can’t get my mind around it— discern its intentions, its plans, its targets. Something big is coming and it will change everything. A storm is brewing and it isn’t going to be pretty; it’s not moving towards us, we are moving towards it, a giant trap/ambush. We are fast running out of time.

“The senior officials said the White House's mood toward the INC changed markedly after Chalabi told a British newspaper Feb. 18 that it didn't matter whether the group's prewar information was correct because its goal of ousting Saddam has been achieved. Chalabi was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: ‘As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.’”

04FEB04: "We have six to 12 months left of this insurgency," Odierno said. "I think constant pressure will bring it down."

“The British occupation in Iraq took three years to fail between 1917 and 1920. It took us, the British, three years to unite the Shiites and the Sunnis behind us. It's quite an achievement - the Americans have managed to unite the Shiites and the Sunnis against them in just one year.”

“We will burn a blanket to kill a flea” –Turkish Saying

From Intel Log:

1040 Larry reports that Akila Hashem (IGC member) has been shot in the stomach- two bodyguards also shot. Spot Report Activity: U.N. LNO reports Aquila Al Hashim, an Iraqi Governing Council member was shot in the stomach. The attack occurred near the Al Jahad area. Two of her bodyguards were also shot.

1130 Spot Report: Activity: A demonstration is taking place at Assassins Gate vicinity MB XXXX

1135 Spot Report: UPDATE Activity: A demonstration is taking place at CP#4. This checkpoint is now closed. Assassins Gate vicinity MB XXXX is now open.

On Intelligence, What Passes for it, or the Lack Thereof

”A hero is someone who gets the job done, bravely when necessary. Courage is an admirable last resort for when intelligence fails.” —David Brin

The intel situation was deplorable and people were more concerned with protecting their little fiefdoms than actually working together to make some progress and save some kid’s lives. I was shocked and sickened. However, there were some great guys— DIA, AF OSI, and others who understood that we were all on the same team and that the info needed to get out to save lives.

I met up with an Army intel Sgt. here with 2ACR who was using MS Excel as a database to keep track of insurgent activity. He didn’t have anything else— no intel specific software or even a COTS database program. I gave him a copy of the crappy little database I’d created in MS Access and he was like a kid on Christmas morning; I’d just made his day and his life/job a whole lot easier. The whole thing is just criminal. Christ, we’ve had reservists come into our office asking for additional weapons from us to make up for shortages in their companies.

How Fucking Stupid Can You Get…

Anyway, just back from a Basrah trip and I find out that CJT-7 has decided to classify the SIGACTS and curtail all threat reporting. I go through the roof.

The Force Protection Office had a fairly good relationship with civilian contractors providing security for various DoD and USAID programs but as always, there are a few idiots who ruin it for everyone. Most notably was an idiot of a former SS agent working for USAID whose distro list included a reporter for Knight Ridder and various others who had no business receiving this info. Understandably, CJTF-7 wasn’t too happy about their threat warnings and activity reporting winding up in the hands of those without a need to know. Their one-size-fits-all answer was to just classify everything; nobody gets nuthin, shut off the flow.

We Find Out…

I’m arguing with the Lt. Col. who’s made this decision, or at least enforcing it. Myself and the company I work for are in a unique position; we are actually responsible for the physical/site security of the Iraqi Governing Council Complex, the Al Rasheed Hotel, where a number of military personnel are living, and the Main Palace in the Green Zone; not to mention the sole physical security at some 5-7 other CPA sites throughout Iraq. The people who are responsible for protecting the building he works in and the compound he sleeps in are now not going to be receiving threat warning intelligence as it comes in. You start to see the dilemma— you are contracted to protect this site, we have information of potential attacks against it, we cannot give you that information, but you must protect the facility and the people within it, be alert.

As if that point wasn’t understood, the Al Rasheed had been rocketed, for the first time, the day before. Damage was minimal. The tangos would learn from their mistakes and come back in a month and do it again, killing two and wounding many in an attack that could only be described as spectacular. After that, the only people who lived in the Al Rasheed were our security guys who were responsible for its security.

To further add to the Catch-22 sense of things, I was a main conduit for threat reporting coming in outside of military channels and now, information that I passed to the military would be classified by them and then I wasn’t cleared to know the info that I had just passed to them. Some serious mind-fuck going on here.

The Lt. Col, and those he worked for, were inflexibly beholden to the rules of classification, there was no way that they could be bent, modified, or a workaround created. He starts talking about getting security clearances for a thousand Gurkhas, as if that was even financially/physically feasible— how the hell would you do the background checks? The fucking dog just keeps chasing its tail and people point and laugh while kids keep dying.

I ended up sending the below email out to all the recipients of what had been the daily intel summaries.

29SEP03 1043 local

Hep Cats,

CJTF-7 has decided, in all its wisdom, to completely shut off the flow of threat warnings as well as classify the SIGACTS from which the Summary of Activity Last 24 Hours is drawn. This morning's Farce Protection brief (see below) consisted of several reports (that could neither be confirmed nor denied) of IEDs detonating on a 6 lane HWY, possibly in Iraq, as well as in an undisclosed city. NFI. There are also some areas in Baghdad which you should be especially vigilant in and all precautions taken but no zones could be given as they are now also classified (Comment: Neighborhoods may be able to be given in the future but it is doubtful, as zones would then be able to be deduced. It is assessed as likely that CJTF-7 will "rezone" Baghdad to restore a semblance of OPSEC. End Comment).

The bottom line is that we are tackling this problem on several fronts to restore access to vital information. We will also be looking at alternate means of conducting intelligence gathering if CJTF-7 should prove to be as thickheaded and stupid as I believe it will be. In the mean time I will cobble together whatever info I can and get it out. It is now imperative that local sites create, improve and expand existing sources. It is also of critical importance that daily intel reports be submitted to this email address as you are now all there is. Updates will follow as necessary. I apologize to everyone for this. Stay safe.


Capt Infidel, S7G


Daily Update: 29 SEPTEMBER 2003



Zones without continuous Coalition Forces physical presence are zones considered dangerous. It is recommended the use of all security precautions when moving about these zones. Do not travel there unless you have urgent business.

Zones with partial Coalition Forces presence are considered uncertain. It is recommended the use of all security procedures when traveling there.


According to reports yesterday ended with fourteen soldiers WIA, and one soldier WNBI. An MP unit was attacked with an IED while traveling on HWY 1 vicinity of Fallujah, wounding six soldiers. Two soldiers were air medevac to a military hospital, and four soldiers were treated at the unit’s aid station. NFI.


· IED attack West of Baghdad. A patrol found and IED, and when an EOD element was attempting to disarm the IED a second IED exploded wounding two soldiers who where providing security. EOD reports the second IED was command detonated. One soldier was evacuated to a military hospital, and the other wounded soldier was treated and RTD. NFI.

· Antitank weapon attack West of Baghdad. An element conducting a mounted area reconnaissance patrol was attacked with what soldiers reported as an antitank weapon. One soldier was wounded and a vehicle was damaged. NFI.

· Vehicular accident Central Baghdad. A convoy en route to their unit’s location was struck by a civilian vehicle injuring one soldier and damaging one HMMWV. The soldier received back and hip injuries, and was evacuated to a military hospital. NFI.


· North Region, vicinity Mosul, Grenade attack: A grenade was thrown from a passing vehicle to a dismounted patrol wounding one soldier. The soldier received shrapnel wounds to his leg. The soldier was treated at the unit’s aid station. NFI.

· North Central Region vicinity Taji, IED attack: A convoy consisting of three HMMWV was attacked with an IED while traveling north on HWY 1. Two soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a military hospital. NFI.

· Center South Region, vicinity Iskandariyah, IED attack: A transportation unit convoy traveling north on Highway struck an IED. Two soldiers received minor wounds, and one vehicle was slightly damaged. NFI.


The primary threats in Iraq remain FRLs and terrorists groups who organize, arm, and plan attacks on Coalition Forces. These subversive groups continue to emerge throughout the AO, and are adapting and perfecting their attack Tactics, Techniques & Procedures (TTPs). The use of small arms fire and RPG attacks, command detonated IEDs, and mortar rounds continues to increase; specially the frequency of attacks which utilize command detonated IED’s daisy-chained together, buried or hidden along roads and highways. Most ambush attacks by FRL terrorists are initiated by a combination of RPG or IED attacks, and immediately follow by small arms fire. This continued trend in our area of operations may indicate that FRL’s perceives this TTP enhances their mobility, thus their survivability. FRL’s prefer hit and run tactics instead of engagement. Reports indicate that after some, if not most, IED attacks, Coalition Forces have discovered other devices in the vicinity of the attack. This could be a way FRL’s cover their retreat from the area. Lastly, maintain proper convoy interval in rural areas so as to prevent too many vehicles in the kill zone at one time. Avoid as much as possible less travel roads; isolated areas allows terrorist to set up, and better conceal their ambush sites.

Out of sheer frustration, I tacked the following onto some of the hard-copy versions that were printed out and distributed to the various players at the morning briefing. Those who read it could be divided roughly into two rough groups, those that got it and the bewildered. It seems even more fitting to me now as the role of intelligence, as was currently being employed/practiced by the powers that be, was essentially no different than a daily horror-scope.

Astrological Forecast
August 23, 2003

The sun trails Venus into Virgo's well-tended realm of flat and hot. This begins a vicious cycle of nurturing that is best turned toward our own lives. Use the next four weeks to inflate that eval -- a clothes closet, a career on the wrong track or a love relationship that's lost its groove. Virgo helps us be very smart about fixing things.

Aries (March 21-April 19). A change of job or a change of scenery, something different sounds extremely appealing. Give yourself two days before you go for something big. Right now, settle for smaller adjustments and jersey barriers.

Taurus (April 20-May 20). You look for encouragement, but don't forget to be your own best cheerleader. Only you know how well you've fared at TCPs. Errands seem to multiply, but you're clever enough to not get stuck doing them all or passing them on to a subordinate.

Gemini (May 21-June 21). A suitable Iraqi opponent surfaces -- a little competition is good for you. The time is right to bring out your aggressive side and strap on an M-4. Shopping trips are IED free, despite the crowds. Tonight, just trust your partner.

Cancer (June 22-July 22). Heat that felt like it was fading gets an infusion of strength today. A problem solved together reminds you of how great a team you can be. Drug Deals are not necessarily bad.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22). You and a loved one don't have enough search mirrors for each other tonight. It's because you're similar! Get space, and the storm clouds roll away. Karma arrives late in the day in the form of someone paying you back.

Today's birthday (August 23). Everything's coming up Iraqi this year! You experience life at its hottest during the next two weeks, when you see a creative project come to a grinding halt as your engineers are pulled by another unit. You are an anchor for friends and family during October. Tell it like it is. For singles, April’s muddy encounter with a Cancer or Sagittarius is just the beginning. Don't miss parties in June! Your lucky numbers are: 6, 45, 26, 52 and 17.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22). Your energy level is attractive to Gurkhas and relatives who need to calm down. Close friends are waiting to hear from you. Even if you have to schedule time for social calls, make sure you connect with people who care.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). Chronic Geriatric Profanity is your greatest asset in love today. You aren't fazed by distracting events or Threat Warnings this morning. Partners and Arabic love interests respond well to the faith you have in the Coalition.

Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). Give yourself some time to adjust to a new tent, even through you would like to be a pro right away. It's good to have expectations of others, but when they're too high, they can turn into a fucking problem. There is an ND in your future.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). Snags in the plan happen to good, even air force, people. Recent negative events really don't have anything to do with you or what you've done and are everyone else’s problem. Give yourself a break from blame and go to the pool.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). A killer deal is printed in the paper, and if you're first, it's all yours. Superiors ask a lot of you, but don't underestimate how devious giving can be. Return all of the items you've borrowed this week (except the razor wire, and blocks of C4).

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18). Group activities confuse you. New teams or community service groups -- especially those with a marital bent -- are very satisfying. Shifty sergeants send you enticing offers. Be aware of their tricks.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20). You're inspired by nature programs and napalm, trips to the range or time spent studying plants in your backyard. Thinking about the horrendous complexity of the OPORD makes you more in awe of it.

The fact of the matter is, in spite of everything, the whole fiasco ended up making me a better intel analyst as I had to get creative for sources and couldn’t just drink from the establishment’s teat any longer. I found workarounds and while I still did what I could for daily activity reporting and analysis I really switched over to a larger picture and became more assessment focused, which is what intel is supposed to be, not merely reporting what happened yesterday, which is exactly that, reporting. As it was, I became about the most widely read analyst among the foreign dip corp in Baghdad. It was shocking how little info most of them got. The lack of good intelligence seemed to be endemic to just about all parties playing.

You Sank My Battleship!

Although most companies had their own intel guy, trained as such or not, few if any were actually doing anything other than reporting what had taken place the day before, and even that wasn’t always factual; the aforementioned former SS agent with USAID coming readily to mind. Some, though well intentioned, had no idea what they were doing. For example:

On page one of the 18APR04 SOC-SMG Daily Intelligence Report it is mentions that the SPG-9 had been used to initiate several attacks of late (I couldn’t find anyone who could confirm that; the thing is not exactly small, or useful in your typical ambush shoot ‘n scoot scenario). On page six, there is a picture of the behemoth and the weapon is described in further detail, to whit:

SPG-9 Recoilless Gun, 73mm

Introduced in 1969 to replace the B-10 and B-11 recoilless rifles, the SPG-9 is a lightweight recoilless anti-tank gun with rocket-assisted round. Widely used in the former Soviet army and supplied to Warsaw Pact forces, it has seen action all over the world. Operated by a two-man crew, the SPG-9 is mounted on a tripod (tripod weigth 26.4 lbs). The weight and cost is for the recoilless gun, sights (iron and x4 optical) and the tripod. The rounds cost $100/$300 each (Prices are 1970's/1990's). There is also a HE round (dam 6dx3 [4d], 1/2D 1,300, AWt 8.8). The SPG-9 has a 14-yard backblast (4d6 flame damage).

Range: 1000meters / Armor Penetration: 400 mm / Ammo Types: HEAT, HE-RAD, AP,

Weight: 60 Kg / Sustained Rate of Fire: 8 rnds per minute.”

The description looked a little odd to me, particularly, “There is also a HE round (dam 6dx3 [4d], 1/2D 1,300, AWt 8.8).” I did a Google search on that exact text and came up with only one result, which is pretty unusual for Google in itself. The text on the website was exactly the same as in the SOC-SMG report and it had obviously been cut and pasted from the website to the intel report. The website however, had nothing to do with military weaponry but GURPS. Suspecting as much, I did another Google search on “GURPS” and came up with the following:

“Welcome to the Generic Universal RolePlaying System! With GURPS, you can be anyone you want -- an elf hero fighting for the forces of good, a shadowy femme fatale on a deep-cover mission, a futuristic swashbuckler carving up foes with a force sword in his hand and a beautiful woman by his side . . . or literally anything else! GURPS has been the premiere universal roleplaying game for almost two decades. The new Fourth Edition makes it even better!”

Fantastic! What was the source for their background on the SPG-9, Janes, FAS? No, it was some website for a role-playing game, and the guy wasn’t even aware of it. We used to have a saying back in the intel center on the Kennedy, “Keep you bad gouge to yourself,” because bad info is worse than no info at all. Ah, but such were the times and there was no shortage of bad info and it wasn’t limited to contractors of questionable abilities.

When a non-Robbery Isn’t a Robbery…

The company I worked for was also involved with the distribution of the new Iraqi currency to banks and banking center around the country as well as the collection of the old currency. There was fairly close liaison with the military for this. After a rather substantial engagement in Samarra picking up old currency on 30NOV03, the Army assessed that the insurgents, due to the size of the attack, were desperate for cash. However, it never occurred to them or they didn’t realize that the convoy wasn’t even carrying the new Iraqi currency but was picking up the old one which no longer carried any monetary value at all unless maybe you were a collector.

On top of that, had the convey been delivering the new currency, it didn’t occur to the army analysts that if the insurgents had wanted to rob the bank that maybe they would have waited until the technicals full of Fijians, the Army HMMWV’s, MBT’s, and BFV’s had all departed the location before walking into the bank and taking what they wanted. Instead they assumed that the only way to rob the bank was to do it while almost a company of mech troops were on site, believing the insurgents to obviously be stupider than themselves. I couldn’t believe it; it wasn’t even logical.

Given the events and the fact that no money was taken from the bank, it seemed apparent that the insurgents were hell-bent on making a statement about non-Iraqis operating in their AO and likely trying to inspire others to join their cause in resisting the occupation, er, liberation forces and that they would do so whenever the Army and/or Fijians showed up in Samarra, whether they were transporting cash or Russian Dancing Bears

When You Just Can’t Find a Reason— Circular Logic

Another favorite assessment of mine was submitted by Miss Libby’s second-grade class from Spokane, Washington. Oh wait, no, it was produced by the best and brightest residing in the CPA’s high-paid intel/C2 cell. It seems hard to believe that the obvious has ever been stated more obviously, particularly at that salary level, but there is always the first time I guess.


There will continue to be IED, mortar, RPG and small arms attacks against Coalition forces; since reports continue to come in predicting many numbers of these types of attacks. Although threat forces continue attacking convoys and patrols both day and night, they appear to be attacking more with stand-off weapons like IEDs, mortars and sniper rifles indicating some tactical coordination and control. Mortars are being used with more frequency mostly against more permanent Coalition positions (as opposed to the more mobile kind). IEDs are continuing to be hidden in a variety of methods, to include: boxes, bags, debris, soda cans, dead animals, MRE sleeves and broken-down vehicles. Give wide clearance to any items that have been left on the roads. The use of IEDs is becoming increasingly sophisticated based on the variety of methods being used to detonate these weapons.

Need I say more?

Saddam’s Capture— Intel Success or Catastrophe?

The last big example of the poor intel situation in Iraq is open to debate and that is the capture of Saddam Hussein by American forces on the night of 13DEC03 which was announced on the 14th and was going to be the end of all the US’s problems in Iraq.

The military’s back-story was that a couple of reservists (one officer and one enlisted) with little to no training at all, using commercial software, and conducting a detailed link/pattern analysis were able to track Saddam down. It was a great example of Army know-how and a can-do attitude; kinda like Jessica Lynch. You remember her don’t you? She held off overwhelming Iraqi forces while the rest of her transport unit hid and begged to surrender. Or something like that; only her rifle jammed immediately because it wasn’t clean, she was unconscious for most the time her comrades were fighting off the Iraqis and she was then rescued from a hospital full of civilians after, not being raped but given medical aid. Hey, chalk it up to fog of war, the kind generated by our own side.

Personally, I don’t believe the Army’s Saddam story for a second. I find it far more probable that Kurdish intelligence tracked him down and essentially sold him to the US; wrangling a number of political concessions for an autonomous government/region in the process. I’m not the only one that believes that. The main problem is that the military expects you to believe, with this story, that every single intelligence resource that was at the disposal of commanders in Iraq from TF 21 (SEALs/Delta) to the CIA, DIA, and NSA— billions of dollars in equipment, training, budgets, etc.— was completely ineffective in tracking down Saddam and where all these alleged professionals failed a couple of plucky intel neophytes with a can-do attitude were successful. Highly fucking improbable. And what is even scarier to consider, is that the Army is telling the truth. The implications are definitely disturbing.


Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said. Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer. The newspaper said the full story of events leading up to the ousted Iraqi president's capture on December 13 near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq, "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete". A former Iraqi intelligence officer, whom the Express did not name, told the paper that Saddam was held prisoner by a leader of the Kurdish Patriotic Front, which fought alongside US forces during the Iraq war, until he negotiated a deal. The deal apparently involved the group gaining political advantage in the region. An unnamed Western intelligence source in the Middle East told the Express: "Saddam was not captured as a result of any American or British intelligence. We knew that someone would eventually take their revenge, it was just a matter of time."

Ask Snoop

Around this time, there was a website called asksnoop.com. It is no longer running, which is a damn shame. The site was a parser and you could type in any URL for a website and it would parse the site, graphics and all, into Snoop Dog-ese. I wish I had printed out and saved some of them because it was the greatest fucking thing ever— the CPA’s website talking about izzle this and schanizzle that, for real, Iraqis getting capped and the latest hooptie bomb. God, it was the little things, the ridiculous things that made you laugh and got you through the days.

Sent: Saturday, September 27, 2003 11:03 AM

Subject: CNN- Den of Liars...

Just got back from a couple of days south in Basrah and missed all the fun this morning at the Al Rasheed Hotel. Anyway, I have noticed that CNN reporting has become less and less accurate- often not reporting all the facts in an incident in an apparent effort to downplay the negatives. Attached are two photo's of the Al Rasheed- one was taken by a guy I know personally, who lives there and the other is CNN's take on the Al Rasheed- which hardly looks like the 14th floor of anything- an outright lie. Here's what really happened:

About 0630 three rockets (unknown size or type at this time) were fired at the Al Rasheed. There were a total of eight in the launcher- 2 sets of four. Of the three that fired, one fell short- exploding in an Iraqi home, one hit the 14th floor, causing minimal damage, and the other is suspected of flying over the hotel and not detonating.

The Al Rasheed is about the third most high-profile in the military controlled "green zone" a mythical place where nothing bad is supposed to happen. A large number of coalition and military personnel live within the hotel. It is suspected that the two army guys manning the observation post on the roof were asleep, as they would have seen rocket launcher being set up if they were awake- they claim to have seen nothing. They were confirmed asleep an hour later on the same post with weapons about 20 feet away from their position.

That's what we know at the moment- sure that there will be more over the next couple of days.

From Intel Log:

0635 At approx 0635 local, three mortar rounds impacted in the area of the Al Rasheed Hotel in the Green Zone. One round hit the hotel. COMMENT: There is some confusion over if they were mortar rounds, or RPG's.

1300 Spot Report: Situation: VBIED found in Zone 1 Activity: A VBIED (Vehicle-Born Innovative

Explosive device) was found next to the Ministry of Transportation. Evacuation is in Progress. EOD is

on site. Location: MB XXXXXX Zone: 1 Unit reporting: CMD & JOC

1445 RTB

1800 PM meeting

03OCT03 (Journal)


Been awhile since I felt what I wrote about before. Lately I just get depressed when I think about how I see this shit ending. Talked to an Aussie spook today and told him that I saw the beginning of the end starting at the end of Ramadan at the earliest and the end of the year at the latest. He said I was the third person in two days to say that to him. He didn’t disagree.

From Intel Log:

0100 DST- switch to Charlie +3 time zone

0930 Daily Farce Protection Meeting

1131 Chuzu- 2BCT passed on threat warning of an imminent VBIED attack b/w now and 1330. VBIED will get inside perimeter w/inside help and detonate next to support building.

2250 Bush Refers To The War In Iraq As An `Excursion'

"The attacks of September the 11th and the march to war leading up to the Iraqi excursion affected the psychology of the country. We had a recession and we had the attacks, the national emergency, plus the march to war. But we're a strong country, we're a resilient country, because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong and things seem to be OK," Bush said.

04OCT03 (Journal)

Dashain— a number of holidays (Christmas, New Years, and god only knows what else) rolled into one for the Gurkhas. And I am one lonely round-eye extended courtesies beyond belief by them, beyond my humble station.

Watching the Gurkhas enjoy themselves; I feel old, jaded, cynical; beyond redemption, in spite of technology. The music is simple, the dancing simple, the pleasures simple and yet abundant, like a river flowing down a mountainside.

I watch men, old enough to be my father, who have been in “the shit” since before I was born dance like children while I walk past children fixing to go out on patrol with stares like old men— and I don’t even know how to finish, the dichotomy so great.

The CQMS— I love this guy, you can’t not— he says with all seriousness and innocence, “Sir, if it comes today, I will die like a man.”

When we set off to recon for the lost Suburban and all I could think of was how many rounds I hadn’t brought with me and how I was the only ex-pat on this ill-fated mission the CQMS comes out, even though it was an obscure mission and he had no part in it, he comes out and personally wished us all a safe journey. The tears come to my eyes now. At the time, it was both touching and highly distressing

I don’t even know his name— shame on me— but the CQMS is the epitome of a gentleman and a warrior.

When the Gurkhas were sighting in their new M-16 A2’s, they fired their first three-round grouping. J. asked CQMS how he had faired. CQMS replied that they were ALL bulls-eyes…he hoped. The poor guy ended up not hitting anything for which he was very apologetic. The next night he shot a great grouping and you never saw a happier guy.

From Intel Log:

1129 Spot Report: Situation: Multiple Gates and Check Points are reported closed due to protest and demonstrations. Activity: Due to Protests and demonstrations the following Gates and Check Points are closed: Check Point 2, Assassins Gate, Route XXXX between Rt. XXX and Rt. XXX, Bridges # 1, # 2, # 3. Rt. XXXX closed from Bridge #4. 5 KM around train station is off limits. 80,000 Iraqis are gathered at pay site XXXX. Demonstration is becoming dangerous. A reinforcement unit is being sent to the location.

1153 Spot Report: Situation: IED Explosion. Activity: An IED exploded hitting an Iraqi civilian vehicle vicinity MB. The number of injuries is unknown at this time. There were no U.S. casualties or damage to equipment.

1519 Received threat warning of attack on central bank in Baghdad from G2

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