One Veteran's Voice

30 January 2006

Online Appeal for Legal Counsel, as per my constitutional rights

I received this email today.

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE

SGT Van Reet, I tried contacting you at your AKO and your MSN address with the below message last week.



SGT Van Reet

The 902nd MI at Fort Hood contacted me concerning some photos you have posted on flickr.com. A returning soldier likes to share memories with people, and in no way do we want to stop that. However, on the web site, there are five photos that expose weaknesses of our weapon systems. These photos are (tank, camp war eagle, 75862612, 74920791, and 75674977. I'm sure you can appreciate the need to keep vulnerable areas on our weapon systems from falling into the wrong hands.

Thank you for your cooperation



Security Management Office

U.S. Army, Human Resources Command

St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5200

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE

I took the aforementioned photos during my tour in Iraq. I am still a member of the IRR (individual ready reserve), but I'm not on active duty, and not in the Reserves. Do they have any legal right to force me to remove the photos? What are my options here? If I chose to publish the photos in a future book, could they stop it? If a journalist had similar photos, could the government legally stop them? I need some answers, preferably from real lawyers. I have this paranoid fear that they are eventually going to call me up on IRR to silence me, apparently I'm already on the radar-- I thought it might be a while longer. So I'm documenting that fear here, in case it actually happens.

To the MI guys reading this-- the only way these pictures show "weaknesses of our weapon systems" is by documenting what the people who shot RPGs and detonated IEDs at me already knew-- these weapons can cause damage to US weapons systems. I think the insurgents already knew that. These photos are journalistic and documentary in nature, and do not reveal anything about our weapons systems that one can't see on CNN or the Discovery Channel, or in a Soviet or former Iraqi Army field manual.

Lawyers? Any out there that want some extra work?

The top photo was one of those singled out in the email.



While the bottom photo (also on flickr), was not mentioned.


Conclusion: These two photos feature the same tank, the same superficial IED damage, from different perspectives. I have no idea what criteria they are using to deem a photo worthy of OPSEC violations. Either they are simply harassing me, not looking at all the pictures, or maybe a little of both. In any case, I'm not going to do anything until I hear from a few people. By the way, the damage shown in these pictures actually represents a success of the armor of the M1 series tank. We kept rolling, no one got hurt, just a little shaken up.

29 January 2006

It's the Hypocrisy, Stupid

US president George Bush today insisted Hamas could not be a partner for peace without first renouncing violence but said its shock election victory was a "wake up call" to the Palestinian old guard.
Guadian Unlimited
The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why.
WhiteHouse.gov

It is indeed impossible to be a partner for peace without first rejecting violence. It is my sense and hope that President Bush and the rest of the Washingtonian old guard will receive their very own democratic "wake up call" later this year.

27 January 2006

"It is just hard to get a country happy and stable when your kids are drinking from puddles."



Shortfall on Iraq Goals
Posted by Perry Jefferies
02:00 PM Jan 27, 2006

A preview of an Inspector General report today details shortfalls in project completion in Iraq. You can read the whole thing here but it discusses what is now obvious - that the insurgency and instability increased the price of civil engineering projects, which will now be curtailed to save money.

There are larger implications for our forces though. As the report says "In polls and everyday conversations, Iraqis routinely describe the lack of basic services such as clean water and a steady supply of electricity as perhaps the biggest problem facing the war-ravaged country, ranking it alongside -- and often ahead of -- insecurity and persistent insurgent violence." It is just hard to get a country happy and stable when your kids are drinking from puddles. This inability to rebuild keeps a level of anger seething in the Iraqis that our men and women have to deal with. The lack of reconstruction limits the choices a young might have when considering whether to accept payment to place an IED for instance. If his choice was between a clean and stable area, with a job; the twenty or thirty dollars offered to emplace a roadside bomb might not be so attractive. In many areas now though - what does he have to lose?

One of the administration's three legs of the Iraq strategy was supposed to be a reconstruction. In recent documents, that leg has been deleted. When that strategy falls, as a two-legged stool must eventually - it will fall on our troops.


IAVA.org is a non-partisan group of soldiers and veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

26 January 2006

Skeptical or Sleeping


Army troops from Fort Riley, Kan., listen to President Bush deliver a speech about the war on terror during the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University Monday, Jan. 23, 2006 in Manhattan, Kan.. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

25 January 2006

If the hurricane comes to Missouri, I'm looting Wal-Mart.



We, the people of this great nation, can no longer afford to stand idly by as our nation's health is undermined by the profit margin.

I shop at Wal*Mart. Why? Because I'm a consumer, money is tight, Wal-mart has the cheapest prices on almost all items, their inventory is very good, and many items in my mid-sized rural hamlet of Columbia, Missouri are only available at Wal-Mart. I suppose I could shop over the internet, and only pay a little more, but, like most human beings, I want to visually see and hold what I am purchasing (the exceptions to this being books, music, and DVDs-- the only items I purchase online with any regularity. These are all intellectual properties, and the ideas contained within mean more to me than the packaging). So I shop at Wal-Mart. It's simple economics-- people are generally rational and self-interested. Generally. And that includes the executives over at Wal-Mart.

It's easy to be part of the urbane liberal elite, to shop at organic food stores, buy handmade clothes, scoff at the "poor mid-western American sheep" like me who continue to line the pockets of the ultra-rich; all the while secretly hating themselves because they have become the true bourgeois class-- indolent, slothful, pompous.

Then there are their suburban counterparts, the SUV driving, flag drenched soccer moms who shop at Wal-Mart and don't even know what is happening. And meet her husband, The Organization Man. Maybe the other side knows, and they hate themselves just as much. Maybe they are too busy being self-righteous about abortion, bird flu, God in schools, white girls getting raped and murdered, all the Mexicans, and whatever else FOX news and CNN are using nowadays to terrify white America, to bother with issues like the gradual decline of our great republic.

I hate myself because I know, and I do it anyway, like an addict. Self-absorbed, acting out of convenience and economy rather than principle. People are generally self-interested. What's your excuse?

These CEOs, the new kings-- they now make right around 430 times as much as the average American worker. In Japan, another CEO crazy culture, they make about 20% as much, relative to the Japanese worker's average income. Conclusion from factual data-- in America, our CEO's are especially greedy, and we don't seem to care. Maybe we should start caring, start shaming these guys into putting more of their outrageous salaries back into the companies they profess to love. Maybe we don't because we're too busy being jealous.

There are some enlightened ones, however. The Google founders pay themselves annual salaries of $1. Of course, they own stock options which are now worth billions. But it's the principal of the thing.

Check out the story of this walking antithesis of business ethics, who also happens to be a defense industry CEO. When this insane crusade in the middle-east is over, historians will trace the money made, the millionaires and billionaires created by this war, back to the very people whose foreign policy ideas spawned this war. The best case contingency plans of defense corporation boadrooms became our national reality when the CEOs became politicians. Bush is the first CEO president. His vice president was the CEO of a major company which is now doing a booming business in Iraq. Bush's previous companies usually ended of failing, propped up by Saudi money or his father's business contacts. Future historians will most likely note the supreme irony of the two Bush presidencies-- the two bold military experiments in the Middle-East, father and son quixotically fighting a mad dictator for control of the world's oil reserves, only to find out a few decades later that they were quickly running out.

These are old statistics, and I believe Wal-Mart recently surpassed Sweden.
Wal-mart, with US$274 billion in turnover, is larger than Austria with a US$251 billion GDP. Austria is ranked 20th in 2003 GDP country rankings. At Walmart's growth rate, Sweden with US$301 billion GDP is within Walmart's reach.
Wal-Mart's price is the best because they buy huge quantities of products manufactured on the cheap in China, where factory workers make about $.65 a day. And you thought the American workers had it bad.

Wal-Mart employs more people in this country than any entity other than the federal government.

Wal-Mart's workers don't make nearly as much as other blue-collar workers, like the guys on the assembly line over at Ford, who might make $26/hr starting out, and get some good benefits. That's because those guys have a union, and literally had to fight at times for the right to be part of the American middle class. And now they are out of work because Ford is doing what Wal-Mart is doing, relying on cheap Chinese labor to cut costs, all at the expense of you, me, your neighbor, and everyone else other than shareholders of Wal-Mart or Ford. The wage gap between the rich and poor is growing. The real value of wages earned by the middle class is stagnant. The working class is working longer and harder, and getting less. The federal minimum wage is $5.15. One could work 40 hour weeks 52 weeks a year and make $10,712. $10,712 is nothing. I can't imagine trying to raise a family on one income of that size. So both parents work, and work overtime, and the kids are raised by day cares, shot at day cares, running the streets, and the family is still just eeking by. Consuming like a motherfucker, kids running crazy through the aisles, then puttin on the uniform and going to work at Wal-Mart, stocking shelves, running the register. These are jobs that we need in this modern age where technology seems to do everything except the REAL work-- and we as a nation need to start providing for the segment of society that works these jobs. The fast food employee. The construction worker. The nanny. The pizza delivery guy. The Wal-Mart Associate. They are the new blue collar workers. What right do I have to say that they can't have health care because they happen to work at a company that refuses to pay for it? Everyone is entitled to life, and saving and preserving life involves health care. Docor bills are outrageous, and insurance is out of reach for the working poor. Either the doctors charge less, or the government (and ultimately the uber-rich, who should be taxed much more heavily than they are now) needs to pick up the bill. Ever hear of generic drugs? What about those dangerous Canadian drugs that our government is protecting us from? Who am I to say that a man can work "full-time" for our economy and still be below the poverty line? Maybe our government isn't really looking out for us, the people. Maybe they're really concerned with accomodating the CEOs. Maybe they are the CEOs.

Low ranking soldiers with families are often eligible for many state and federal assistance programs. Meanwhile their counterparts at Blackwell Security can make six figures.

Things are booming over in China. We're consuming as fast as they can dish it out. The CEOs are making money. The shareholders are breaking even. The workers are working harder than ever. Everyone seems apathetic. The government is corrupt. The government is always corrupt. Life isn't that bad. At least there's not a war on. Wait..

In the end, what is all the consumption worth if the spoils are hoarded by the few, at the cost of the many? I'm no commie. Trust me. I believe in our democratic republican form of government so much that I was, at one time, willing to risk death for it. No one, excepting suicide bombers and other martyrs, sane or insane, is ever really willing to die for beliefs. Risk death-- maybe. Kill-- if they shoot first. Die-- no. Ideology isn't worth dying for. It's all just a bunch of different ways to look at the world. People can be worth dying for, depending on how much one loves them.

I like the free market. It gives me a lot of choices. But the market is rigged. China bootlegs the intellectual property of American companies with impunity. I have about two dozen DVDs from Iraq that are the result of this kind of shit. I am generally rational and self-interested, and the bootlegs were cheap.

Not that I think that the Hollywood conglomerates need the money that would come their way if China started playing by the rules when it comes to copyright, but the overall boost to our economy would be worth it. Idea can be traded just as readily as crude oil. If we're going to have a worldwide free-market, China has to play fair, or we have to penalize them. Then the market isn't free, but at least it's a little more equitable. I'm not suggesting military action here, just monetary incentives.

I propose that we stop treating the corporations of this country like they always have the best interests of America at heart. An entity that is bigger than all but the largest countries, simultaneously global and completely decentralized, controlled by a few board members, maximized for efficiency-- is it The Illuminati? The World Bank? No America-- the killer is calling from inside the house. It's Wal-Mart.

What is good for Wal-Mart is NOT always good for America, sometimes it's good for Wal-Mart (and China). In the end sum game of economics, the world benefits, but we are not the world. We are still America, the land of freedom, a place where every citizen has the right to the pursuit of happiness. Unless we want to live in a future world dominated by a mega-corporations, maximized for efficient consumption, brainwashed into unquestioning mindlessness by inane mass media-- we might want to wake up and take this country, the world's supposed bastion of freedom and democracy, back.

So if the hurricane comes, I'm going to loot Wal-Mart. Who's with me? We're just acting in our own (and collective, if we give ourselves a name) interest, the driving factor of the market. People are generally self-interested and rational. The free-market is efficient, efficiency is good. It is in our interest to take Wal-Mart's capital when the reward of action outweighs the risk of getting caught. The best economic decisions are made on the margin. The hurricane changes the margin. People are generally self-interested. Wal-Mart should have hired more security. Wal-Mart wasn't interested in itself enough. Wal-Mart wasn't rational enough. People are generally self-interested and rational. The best decisions are made at the margin. The free-market is efficient, efficiency is good. I was more efficient than Wal-Mart. I was more rational than Wal-Mart. Efficiency and rationality are good. I am generally self-interested.

If we want to live in a world driven by the bottom line, that is the bottom line.

I don't want to live in that world, but I know I can.

"Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested."
Alexis de Tocqueville



If you are a wal-mart stooge, take this missive for what it is, social commentary and satire. Perhaps pass it up the chain to your top execs. Maybe they'll realize they are pissing America's future away, handing the torch of prosperity to china for thirty pieces of silver, maybe they can figure out a way to stop it before it's too late, maybe the CEOs will be shamed into giving some of their billions of stock options to charity, or to their workers. I do not intend to ever loot a walmart, and I am not plotting to loot wal-marts now, nor will I be in the future. Later, wal-mart stooge, we'll meet again. Think about it.

24 January 2006

ROTFFLMAO

I have been busy with school and other projects, but I can find the time to point you towards this great piece of political humor. I almost pissed myself when I read this,
49. Michelle Malkin

Charges: A curious case of racial Stockholm syndrome with a palpable lust for violent ideological oppression and displays of imperial power. Rose to prominence in conservative circles by congratulating white America for its most shameful chapter since slavery, and encouraging a return to form in her book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for “Racial Profiling” in World War II and the War on Terror. Malkin thinks it’s hunky-dory to detain an entire demographic indefinitely if it makes the rest of us feel more comfortable. Her newest, Frenzy, argues that liberals have lost their minds, because they are upset with the direction their country is taking. Her evidence is a carefully collected selection of the dumbest things liberals have ever said, as if she couldn’t have just as easily filled an entire library with the insane ravings of right-wingers. Her accusations of blind hatred and vitriol mimic soul sister Ann Coulter’s classic tactic of psychological projection: whatever Malkin is, she sees in her opponents.

Exhibit A: Internment was so irresponsible that it prompted 40 history professors to sign a letter condemning it.

Sentence: Detained indefinitely without charge and waterboarded hourly for looking at a cop “all slanty-like.”
Our Commander and Chief is up there at number 3,
3. George W. Bush

Charges: Simply put, the stupidest man ever to lead this country. Bush’s lobotomized Will Rogers routine is a satirist’s dream, a European intellectual’s caricature of the dipshit cowboy American, all balls and no brains. Often responds to questions by attempting to define the word he finds the most challenging in them. Thinks press reports of his various crimes are responsible for his waning popularity, rather than the deeds themselves. Interprets the constitution like a Unitarian interprets the bible; for maximum convenience and with no regard to the actual text. Foreign policy vision is less serious and more simplistic than an issue of Captain America.

Exhibit A: “I want to thank the President and the CEO of Constellation Energy, Mayo Shattuck. That’s a pretty cool first name, isn’t it? Mayo. Pass the Mayo.”

Sentence: Trapped for eternity under shoddily manufactured Diebold voting machine, unable to reach nearby refrigerator full of hot dogs and bourbon.
Worth a laugh, anyway.

22 January 2006

USA LOVES IRAQ




villagevoice.com

20 January 2006

Bad Karma

Damage to former Iraqi government building from a US airstrike. The complex of buildings was turned into a US military camp, located near Route Predators.
Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म from the root kri, "to do", meaning deed) or Kamma (Pali: meaning action, effect, destiny) is a term in several eastern religions that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done and is currently doing. The effects of those deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well.

One of the closer calls I ever had in Iraq was with bullets fired by US soldiers. This incident happened on an early morning IED sweep. Blue platoon was traveling south on Route Predators, looking for IEDs. As we approached a traffic circle, my platoon sergeant's vehicle suddenly swerved and sped up. They radioed to us that they had seen an IED on the side of the road, buried in the rubble on the side of the traffic circle�s curb. Since the vehicle was already in the kill zone, they stepped on the gas and pulled ahead of the bomb, while the other two vehicles, mine included, stopped short, on the northern side of the traffic circle.

“Charger Mike, this is Apache Blue 1.“ Blue 1 was my platoon leader.
“This is Charger Mike.“
“This is Apache Blue 1, we have a possible IED at Charlie Poppa 3.”
“Roger Apache Blue 1. Secure the area, and send the IED report.”
“This is Blue 1, Roger. Stand by for that report.”
Damn, where’s the TACSOP?
“Blue 4, this is Blue 1.” This time on platoon internal radio net.
“This is Blue 4.” The nasal voice of Blue 4, my platoon sergeant, already sounded irritated, like he knew what was coming.
“Can you send up that IED report to Battalion?”
“Roger.”

Roger is a word that can mean almost anything and can be used in almost any way, kind of like ’fuck’. Obstensibly, “Roger” means, “I understand.” It can also mean, “I understand, but I don’t care; I understand, and I agree; I understand, but fuck you anyway; I understand, but you’re still a dumbass“-- all dependent on context and intonation. In this particular case, my platoon sergeant was saying “I understand, but you’re a dumbass.”

My LT, Apache Blue 1, god bless his soul, was (and probably still is) a kind human being, a loyal soldier, and most definitely not a cynic, like I am. He was also not the most competent combat leader I have served under. We all have our faults. One of his was an inability to communicate verbally over the radio. He’d rather outsource the work to his platoon sergeant. Platoon Sergeants hate this type of shit, and generally aren’t too excited about Lieutenants in general.

Blue 4 sent the IED report to headquarters, and they ordered us to block traffic on the four lane divided highway in both directions until EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) could get on the scene and diffuse the bomb. My vehicle was tasked with blocking the southbound lanes of traffic. We turned around so our headlights faced north, and I threw some chemical light sticks out in the road about 50 meters in front of our truck. I had a three million candlepower spotlight with me on the truck, and if a driver didn’t get the message to stop by seeing the headlights facing the wrong way, the light sticks, or the armed men standing around in front of the headlights, I shined the extremely bright spotlight in his eyes and flashed it on and off, and that did the trick. Luckily, it was very late/early, and there was not much traffic at all.

The worst part of finding an IED, other than the possibility that you might die, is waiting around for EOD to show up and diffuse the thing. They were notoriously slow to respond, and being one of a few teams for our entire AO (we didn�t have a fully equipped EOD team on our camp), very overworked.

After thirty minutes or so of shining the light, standing around nervously smoking and joking, I saw a car approaching us from the north, traveling fast. I started shining the spotlight at him, flashing it on and off. He didn’t slow down. I waved my arms in front of the headlights, showing him my rifle. He still didn’t stop. By this time he was only about a hundred meters from us. During the first part of June 2004, there was a string of car bombings in Baghdad. I vowed to myself that if he drove past the light sticks, I would shoot. He did, and I did.

I fired two shots at the windshield where I believed the driver to be. The car rolled to a stop. Unsure of whether I had hit him, and what I would find, I approached the car with my rifle up. I found a bewildered and unharmed cab driver, reeking of alcohol. My adrenaline was pumping, and I jerked him out of the car and threw him on the ground. My platoon sergeant, who ran over when he heard the shots fired, roughed him up a little and handcuffed him. The man was wailing in arabic, crying and mumbling “Taxi, taxi.” I quickly searched the car and found nothing. Apparently the guy was just drunk and either didn�t see me or didn�t feel like stopping. On the windshield was a star in the glass right about where the driver’s head would be. Bullets occasionally ricochet off glass rather than penetrating it, especially if they hit at just the right angle, as this one apparently did. This guy was the luckiest cab driver in Baghdad that night, as he very well could have wound up with a hole in the head instead of a cracked windshield. I have no idea where my second shot went.

Being alive didn’t seem to console the cabbie; he was fairly terrified and would not stop crying. The crying bothered me, so I yelled at him in Arabic to shut the fuck up, and he did. Immediately after we had gotten the situation with the cab driver under control, another car ran the blockade from the opposite direction. The platoon sergeant opened fire on it, and the car slowed to a stop. Blue 4 kept firing, and the driver threw it in reverse and hauled ass backwards, away from the guy shooting at him. One of the tracer rounds imbedded itself in the right front tire, catching it on fire. Realizing his car was on fire, the driver finally stopped, and was promptly yanked out and beat down in the street, just feet away from his car, which had, by this time, become engulfed in flames. This guy was also drunk as hell, and happened to be an Iraqi police officer (although at this point, nobody knew that).

We stood around, smoking and joking, watching the car burn in the street. The two Iraqis sat on the curb next to me, handcuffed with zip ties, also watching the car burn. It was pretty impressive; I had never seen a car burn, besides in the movies.

Before the car had stopped smoldering, yet another car traveling the wrong way in the northbound lane sped by our position. My team leader joined the party and took a few shots at it as it passed. It continued south down the road towards the EOD vehicles (who had, by this time, arrived on the scene and begun to assess the situation with the IED by using a camera equipped, remote controlled robot). EOD promptly opened fire on this new interloper. The major problem with their action was that my humvee was located directly downrange of their fires. At first I did not realize what was happening; I believed that we were being ambushed. Gunshots sound different when the muzzle is pointed in your general direction, they sound like a cue ball hitting the eight at high speed. I stood amazed for a second, and then my brain started working again and I ducked in front of the humvee. I could hear the sound of bullets cutting through the air, and sparks flew on the cement near me as bullets impacted and bounced off. A tracer passed a couple feet to my right, making a zinging noise exactly like the movies. At least they get a few things about war right.

When they stopped shooting, I got on the radio and told EOD where they could shove it. All told, we destroyed two vehicles (EOD blew up the third car because they found a suspicious package in it, which turned out to be nothing), beat up two drunken Iraqis, and generally caused chaos and mayhem in the street. It is a miracle no one got killed. If Iraqi police with their flashing lights had been on the scene, the probability of any shots being fired would have greatly decreased.

Once I had �broken the ice’ by firing the first shots that night, everyone else joined in, even when the situation might not have called for it. Then again, any car that ran the roadblock could have been laden with explosives, so our actions were justified under the rules of engagement. Taking a shot at another human being when one is unsure if he’s actually hostile is hard to do. Unfortunately, it gets easier with time and repetition.

19 January 2006

VFW Endorses War

In an unprecedented move, the Veterans for Foreign War has passed Resolution 440, endorsing the President's military action in Iraq.

National VFW Commander James Mueller had this to say,
"This is something new...Resolution 440 will support the commander in chief of the U.S. in his efforts in fighting terrorism over there. We felt we needed to take a stand."

The VFW, a veteran's advocacy organization, is also lobbying the administration to allocate more funds for the overburdened and grossly underfunded VA system.

"2007 is going to be a fight again," said Mueller.

Mr. Mueller, if you want my money and membership, you should stay focused on the purpose of your organization-- keeping our government honest when it comes to veteran's affairs. Keep the VFW apolitical, and support the troops by lobbying on their behalf, not President Bush's.

18 January 2006

Interesting Articles & some self analysis

Yesterday was my first day of school.

Read these if you've got a minute.

You can have the best armor the army's money won't buy, just as long as you're a general.

Interesting review of recent soldier memoirs.

So Sara said that I have a good memory, but the truth is that the two war stories I've posted so far were adapted from journal entries that were written much closer in time to the actual events described. My memory is pretty good, but not that good.

I've tried to make sense out of life by writing about it from the time I was young. So no surprise that I was doing some writing in Iraq. I handed a trusted friend a stack of war stories a few months ago, after I got back stateside, and he read them carefully. He then told me in so many words that the writer sounded like some kind of sociopath.

As I approach the end of reading My War, I must say that the more that I read, the more I appreciate my friend's comments about my writing. The thing is, at the time, I didn't even realize that what I was writing could be interpreted as it eventually was by my friend. There were crude jokes thrown in with passages about fighting, a lot of generalizations about the Iraqis that sounded vaguely racist, and a lot of punditry (shit, guess I haven't gotten all that out of my system either). Why did the author of my war journal seem like such a total sicko racist dickhead, when I, the person, am not (or at least believe myself not to be)?

To do the opposite, to take a humanistic view of war while simultaneously writing and fighting in a warzone is, to me, nearly impossible. In Iraq, one truly does just get numb to all of the shit that would freak most 1st world people out. Shit like people trying to kill you, explosions, soldiers treating Iraqis with disrespect, car bombs, RPGs, IEDs, the insane heat, the huge bugs, the stench, the smog, not to mention the thought that at any moment on any given patrol it could all come down to a pointy piece of metal flying towards your face at 3000 feet per second, and you wouldn't even know it.

War is scared kids taking pot shots at each other because some other guy says it's the right thing to do. War is collective insanity. It can be justified by logic, but it's still chaotic, collective insanity. Sometimes, once you start it, you can't stop it. Maybe you even start to like it-- the rush of temple throbbing, "holy shit that was close adrenaline" that is like a drug. There are most definitely sadists, thugs, and war junkies in the current military. Lowering recruiting standards doesn't help the situation. Most soldiers in Iraq, however, are decent people thrown into an insane situation. They generally react by acting insane. Morality goes out the window. It's law of the jungle time. It's up to America's citizens, not her soldiers, to interpret the morality of our actions in Iraq.

15 January 2006

First Contact

Photo taken by SGT G. Davenport on orders from B.CO. 20 ENG Commander to document the scene

Every soldier (some would say every man) secretly wonders how he would react if confronted with a hostile enemy trying to kill him. For those souls who have been through the experience, it is a confused one. A man can try to piece it together after the fact, can try to describe it using words and imagery to his fellow man, but like any story, it doesn’t approach the reality of the experience. With the foreknowledge that any description that follows is fundamentally flawed, I will make the attempt anyway.

The first major action that I saw occurred on the early morning of April 8th. I say major action because a few days earlier, a lone RPG had been shot at a vehicle trailing mine in a convoy, but it was over so quickly, and without result, that it doesn’t warrant the title “first contact”. No, the first firefight I took part in occurred that morning around 3am or so, at the tale end of an IED sweep. IED is Army speak for improvised explosive device-- a roadside bomb planted by insurgents to disable vehicles and kill personnel. These bombs are usually constructed of old artillery shells wired with detonating cord to a remote control device, sometimes a cell phone or garage door opener. The bomber watches the convoy approach, and times his detonation to strike whichever vehicle he feels is most vulnerable. The attack is cowardly in nature, but quite effective, as it is very near impossible to see most of these devices before it is too late, since the roadways in Iraq are littered with trash, crushed cement, potholes, tires, cardboard boxes, dead goats, and almost anything else one could imagine. If every convoy stopped at every possible hiding place for an IED, nothing would ever get accomplished. So one pretty much has to just roll on through, clinch his asshole tight, and pray. Some genius wearing more rank than I came up with the idea that a special patrol should be sent out at various times in the middle of the night on the roads most affected by IEDS to try and spot the bombs before they hit the supply convoys in the morning. These IED sweeps, as they are called, consist of a platoon’s worth of vehicles driving very slowly, between 5-15mph, scanning the sides of the road with spotlights. In April, we still hadn’t gotten our tanks, and we had one up-armored M1114 in our platoon (the LT took it-- good for me, since I was on his crew). Needless to say this is very dangerous work, especially in unarmored vehicles. Some might even say it’s insane-- driving up and down the road in the middle of the night looking for bombs that you probably wouldn’t see anyway until you’re too close.

In the wee hours of the 8th, my platoon had completed one such IED sweep without incident, and was about a mile outside the gate of the camp when the ambush hit us. Driving at 5mph and shining spotlights around does more than assist you in looking for IEDS; it presents a perfect target for ambush. I was in the gunner’s hatch of the humvee that night, my head nodding up and down from exhaustion. We had been up since 5am running hard all day, and my body and mind were anticipating the sleep I needed. I think my eyes were actually closed when the first RPG flew behind our truck. They snapped open at the sound of the explosion as the RPG hit a house to the west of us. I am honestly not sure how many RPGs were fired at us, but I believe it was three. The 2nd flew directly in front of the humvee trailing us; one of the soldiers on that truck swore to me afterwards that he could feel the heat of the rocket. I couldn’t feel them, but I could sure hear them-- they made a noise like a bottle rocket, only louder and more fearsome-- almost like a large model rocket.

For those with little knowledge of the Soviet military arsenal, an RPG is a grenade attached to a solid fuel rocket, fired from a shoulder mounted launcher. There are a great many RPGs floating around Iraq-- having an RPG launcher in Baghdad is kind of like having granddaddy’s shotgun in the closet back in the states. The more modern RPGs are especially fearsome, as they have the ability to penetrate thick armor, as we found later on. These penetrator grenades are designed to direct the blast into the vehicle, sending a molten stream of liquid metal and shrapnel through the armor and into the crew. Luckily the men shooting at us that night were not very skilled in the art of their use, and they missed with all three shots in their volley.

My reaction upon hearing the first RPG explode was simply put, shock and confusion. “What is happening?” That probably lasted about two seconds, although it seemed much, much longer. Sometime around the 2nd RPG flying behind me, I realized that we were being attacked. I immediately scanned to my right, the east, as this was the direction the RPGs were flying from, but I could identify no targets. I yelled at my driver to kill the headlights, in order to make us a harder target to kill. Then the third RPG exploded on the ground about 50 meters short of my truck, spraying gravel and shrapnel through the air. I felt something burning hot hit my neck, and I dropped into the turret of the humvee, thinking that I had just been shot. I yelled at my driver to look at my neck.

“Is it bleeding, is it bleeding?”

Assured by him and my own hasty inspection that I had not been shot, the fear that had risen in me in that instant turned quickly to anger. I hopped back in the turret, and began indiscriminately spraying machine gun fire in the direction the RPGs had come from. Throughout the course of the training for the deployment, it had been pounded into our skulls not to engage unless we had positively identified an enemy target, and then only to engage until that target was destroyed, and no more. This got thrown out the window real quick once the rounds started flying. The machine gunner behind me was spraying tracers out like laser beams, and I heard M-16 fire. I shot about a hundred rounds or so, and didn’t stop until my lieutenant yelled at me to stop, well after the RPG shooters had decided to stop firing. I never saw them, so I can only speculate on what they were thinking/doing, but I would assume there were three to five of them in concealed positions in the field to the east of the road. I assume they fired their initial volley and then high-tailed it out of there to a waiting getaway car. The insurgents are realists, and they know that they have neither the numbers nor the firepower to stand and fight against US troops, so they don’t.

We set up a defensive coil in a traffic circle about 100 meters away from the site of the ambush and communicated our status via radio. “Is anyone hurt?” “Any damage to the vehicles?” No wounded, no damage done. My lieutenant was on the radio with battalion headquarters, and had been since the incident started. He had given virtually no commands to the platoon; the platoon sergeant took control of the situation. This would become an issue of contention among the men later.

Just then we noticed the headlights of a car approaching the traffic circle from the east-- the same direction that the RPGs had come from. Naturally, nerves were on edge, and everyone was suspicious of the vehicle. We blockaded the road with two trucks and stopped the car at gunpoint. The occupants spoke no English, and we had no interpreters, but we made our intentions clear-- get out of the car and approach us. We did not want to go anywhere near the car in case it was rigged to blow. The occupants seemed very reluctant to leave the vehicle, and there was a brief moment when tensions ran high and the Iraqis were very nearly blown away. I know I had my finger on the trigger and the safety off of my machine gun, trained directly on them. They finally left the vehicle and we discovered upon inspection why they were out in the middle of the night, and why they were hesitant to leave the car. A dead man was in the back seat. Apparently it was the driver’s father, and they were taking him to the hospital. He was not shot, and it appeared to be just a weird coincidence. I’ve wondered since if he didn’t keel over from a heart attack when all the machine gun tracers started flying over his house, which, judging from the direction the men drove from, was directly downrange of us. Probably not, but the thought did occur to me.

After the incident with the car was finished, we began searching the field directly east of the road for any enemy that might have been killed when we returned fire. What we found will be burned in my mind till the day I die. Along the dirt shoulder of the road approaching the traffic circle from the east, the same road the car carrying the dead man had come down, was a cart and a heap of bloody objects. One was a horse, still living, but shot up. The lower torso of a woman was visible to me in the headlights of our truck, her black dress around her waist, exposing her blood covered lower extremities for everyone to see. It looked like another body was lying under her and the horse, which was covering half of the woman. By this time backup had arrived, among them the company commander of B. 20 Engineers. He took out his 9mm Beretta and shot the horse in the head to put it out of its misery. Except he missed and shot it in the neck, causing it to make a horrible noise and lift its head in the air. He shot it two more times in the head before it finally stopped twitching. Watching all this from the gunners hatch, I couldn’t help but think of the “cow execution” scene in Me, Myself, and Irene. Tasteless, but that’s what I was thinking about. I was also thinking that the company commander seemed way too comfortable doing all this. Maybe he was just acting hard.

Next, we drug the horse off the other two bodies so they could be searched and identified. It took a chain and a humvee to do this. The bodies were laid out and searched by the Iraqi police who had arrived on the scene. The man was shot through the gut, and his intestines protruding out of his abdominal cavity looked like a big “outtie” belly button. The woman was bloody, but it was not immediately obvious as to where she was shot. They were obviously husband and wife. The police officers were quite agitated and gestured wildly at the woman. I think they thought us butchers. Maybe we were. No RPG launcher was found, but a loaded pistol was found on the woman. The Iraqi police cleared it and smelled it. It had not been fired recently. We turned the scene over to the bewildered Iraqi police officers and rolled back into camp. I remember feeling a little sick after the fact. I had never seen the body of a human being killed violently before that night. The suddenness of it all shocked me. One minute you're alive, and then BOOM. Much has been said about the fragility of life, but I didn’t truly understand it until then.

I also remember feeling exultant and powerful. I survived. They didn't.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the people we killed that night, and why they were killed. Out of everyone in my platoon, the only people who fired their weapons were myself, one other machine gunner, and the platoon sergeant. I honestly don’t know if any rounds that I fired hit those people, but I remember seeing the horse and cart for a brief instant during the actual firefight, illuminated by tracers. I’m not sure if they were my tracers. I know the platoon sergeant deliberately fired on the people with his M16. He swore that he saw an RPG launched from the horse drawn cart. We didn't find any RPG launcher. Another man swore he saw the people launch a flare, an indication that they were collaborating with the ambush. Yet another swore that the flare was fired by one of our soldiers from his M203 grenade launcher, and a chunk of burning crap from the flare shot out near the cart. I believe this to be the truth, as one soldier did fire his 203. I can't say for sure; I was too busy spraying and praying to notice. In the end, determining what really happened only matters to the living. The couple we killed don't have the luxury of hindsight. Whether they were innocent or guilty, they were, and are, dead.

"It is only the dead who have seen the end of war."
Plato

13 January 2006

More Healthy Debate

Another cut and paste quickie debate, this time from the comments of american short-timer's blog.

OneVeteran'sVoice said...

yo your shit is dope AST

If all else fails
blog the Iraq war
cause the bullets ain't workin baby

Hey Maybe if the STUPID FUCKS
who run this country realized that the only way to kill fanaticism is
THE FREE SPREAD OF INFORMATION, the army wouldn't need to feed bloggers "the good stories" from Iraq that aren't really being reported. Yeah, everyone really cares about some Joe giving a tootsie roll to a dirt kid, cause that's why we went to Iraq, to give out candy. Yeah, all those car bombs and dead soldiers and tens of thousands of dead hajis aren't really news.

Yep, blog the war
cause bullets ain't workin baby
this is a war over information now
and we are fighting it brother

12 January, 2006 20:37
Delete
TBone65
TBone65 said...

This is an information war. I think people know inherently that war = death + violence at a basic level. The shit they don't know is the positive side. I'm not talking about handing out candy either. Most 11Bs don't do infrastructure rebuilding projects per se...so other than security missions in support, they don't have their eye on the prize.

We aren't necessarily the people who need to hear about the good shit (infrastructure rebuilding, peace and security, etc)...the Iraqi people need to hear about it, especially if it isn't happening in their neighborhood yet. They need to hear about it because otherwise how will they know they can get it too? If all they hear is negative shit, then they will undoubtedly remain negative. Is the goal to keep everyone negative about this shit?

I used to tell the Iraqis to raise up and kick some ass. Kick the ass out of the insurgents in their neighborhoods because the sooner their enemies (notice I didn't say my enemies because my enemies are inconsequential to the argument) are gone, the sooner I can get the fuck out of Iraq.

Whether we agree with the administration or not...whether we agree with war or not...whether we want vanilla or chocolate doesn't make a difference in the long run. If we don't work towards a positive resolution to this shit, we will stay there longer. On the flip side; if we accentuate the positive things being accomplished in Iraq, we will be able to wrap this shit up sooner. If the insurgents realized that their actions keep us there, I don't know if they would be so zealous. If the regular Iraqis (asskrackies) knew their inaction keeps us there, I'm sure they would be jumping around like monkeys to make shit happen.

12 January, 2006 23:43
OneVeteran'sVoice said...

TBone, have you ever heard of the enemy of your enemy being your friend?

My true enemies are fanatics all over the world who wish to further an idea by killing other people.

Some of them wear towels on their head. Some of them are working in my own government.

I will do my best to make them all look as ridiculous as they wanna look.

"Whether we agree with the administration or not...whether we agree with war or not...whether we want vanilla or chocolate doesn't make a difference in the long run. If we don't work towards a positive resolution to this shit, we will stay there longer."

Tbone, god bless your soul, like the lifer you are, you are loyal to the bitter end. The positive resolution is us getting the fuck out of Iraq and impeaching the current leaders of our government. Maybe then we won't be looked at as the shitbags of the world.

And before you say, "who cares what the world thinks," I remind you that what they think is all that matters in the war over information. The Iraqis can see through the bullshit even easier than I can-- after all, they've been getting fucked over by colonial powers and strongmen for the last few centuries or so. What's so great about democrazy anyway, it gave us Bush? Iraqi democracy is not worth my life. I can't ask others to sacrifice if I am unwilling. I can't even abide it happening. It makes me fucking sick to think of these draft dodging sons of bitches wearing army gear and acting like generals. Playing their own little game of Risk with real pieces. Bush is a fucking moron and more people are starting to realize it. Like the 19 year old burnout I was, I didn't vote in 2000. Then I enlisted. Then I voted for Kerry from Iraq. So don't blame me. This guy is literally tearing this country and others apart in his wake of incompetence. It has to end. Impeach Bush. Impeach Cheney. Abuse of executive privilege. Blatant disregard for the constitution they are sworn to protect. Waging an illegal war of aggression in Iraq. Failing to properly secure the nation against terrorist attack and natural disaster (Where the fuck is Osama, why aren't we pressuring the Pakistanis more to let substantial numbers of US forces in to look for him?), AND THE FACT THAT HE BELIEVES THE JURY'S STILL OUT ON EVOLUTION. Our last president was a scholar (lecherous and slimy, but not an idiot)-- good god what has happened to my America? We are a nation of dumbasses. Our president is the chief chimp. TV lies like a heartless bitch, and can't be trusted. I find my solace in this strange world of clashing consciousness. Maybe there's some hope Tbone. I give you that. But before redemption must come an accounting. Impeach. Hit the reset button. Send me back to 1999. Damn that was a good year.
End Rant
OV OUT

12 January 2006

Culture Shock

Man on the street in the al-Shuada neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.

Our government has sent trained killers to police a culture they don’t understand, using a language almost none of them speak. The military hires Iraqi interpreters, but I would estimate that our platoon had an interpreter with us about 1/3 of the time. Even then, the interpreter can only be in one place at one time, usually with the LT. The rest of the time we got by with gestures, broken Arabic, and what few words of English the locals might speak. Obviously no deep communication could take place, but it’s surprising what one can convey with his hands and facial features.

The Iraqis are kind of like American cowboys in that they love to shoot their guns off in the air for pretty much any reason. Weddings, funerals, births, sporting events, these are all worthy of at least 30 7.62mm rounds fired at full auto out of an AK-47, which, by the way, is nearly ubiquitous in Iraq. Every household has at least one. This practice is relatively disconcerting to the newly arrived American soldier in Iraq; he tends to jump at the sound of any gunfire while out on patrol, because he believes it to be directed at himself. With time, however, the sound of sporadic gunfire becomes background noise.

I distinctly remember one night on guard at the United Nations compound in Baghdad. The compound had been car bombed many months earlier, but it was still guarded by a small force of US soldiers to ward off looters and preserve the property as much as possible, in case the UN ever decided to come back. Seemed like a waste of manpower at the time, and looking back, it still does. That night I was on guard, sitting in the gunner’s hatch of a humvee at the front gate. We had been observing gunfire to our south, a little more than usual.

Suddenly the whole night sky lit up with tracers. The noise of automatic rifle fire surrounded the complex from all sides. It looked like a thousand anti-aircraft batteries were shooting at phantom bombers. Tracers arced high over the compound. I couldn’t understand what was happening. It seemed as though the whole of eastern Baghdad had gone mad and was assembled in the streets shooting off their rifles in the air. I frantically called on the radio to the sergeant of the guard and relayed that a large armed mob had assembled in the streets and was firing into the air. I gripped my rifle tightly, said a prayer to whoever was listening, and prepared to die defending an abandoned building.

The sergeant of the guard came on the radio several minutes later and informed all the guard towers that the Iraqi national soccer team had just beat Saudi Arabia, and that had prompted the spontaneous celebration in the street and all the gunfire. We don’t do that in America, we just loot stores and turn over police cars when our favorite sports teams win (or lose). That night, besides being a surreal experience which I will never forget, impressed upon me just how well armed the populace of Iraq is.


On patrol in Al-Tamar, a small neighborhood located just east of Sadr City, we heard gunfire coming from our direct front, very close. I hopped out of the humvee and saw a man firing a pistol. I trained my rifle on him and flicked off the safety, waiting to see if he was firing at us, although I didn’t think he was. For about three seconds I had him perfectly sighted, waiting to pull the trigger. Some sick part of me wanted to kill him, even though I was pretty sure he had been firing into the air. He would have the pistol on him, and I could have claimed that he had pointed at me, and then I would have been authorized under the rules of engagement to use deadly force.

I don’t know why I wanted to kill the stupid bastard, probably because I was sick of hearing gunshots and wondering if they were directed at me. The better angels of my nature won out, and I didn’t pull the trigger. The shooter walked back off the street and into the courtyard of his home, and I ran after him, yelling for the truck to follow. Our lieutenant had also dismounted, and was covering me from the other side of the street. I ran into the entrance of his courtyard, and saw him raising the pistol in the air again to fire it. I lifted my rifle, trained it on him, and began screaming, “Stupid Fuck, Drop the gun!” over and over. There were other men and a few women in the courtyard with him, and one of the men finally saw me and started frantically motioning for the shooter to stop. The guy was still firing his pistol with a big shit-eating grin on his face, and apparently could neither hear nor see me, although I was standing about ten feet away from him. Finally the man who had seen me was able to get the shooter’s attention. The shooter turned his head, saw me, and dropped the gun to his side. I immediately rushed him, head butted him with my Kevlar helmet, and simultaneously karate chopped his gun hand with my rifle. He dropped the pistol. I pushed him back, picked up the pistol, and tossed it out in the street for one of the soldiers in the truck that had just pulled up in front of the courtyard gate. Just about this time the lieutenant came running in, tripped, and fell on the shooter, knocking him to the ground.

The women in the courtyard had vanished inside the home, but the men were frantically spitting words of broken English at me. I heard the letters, “IP, IP,” repeated several times, as well as the word “Wedding.” I quickly inferred the obvious, that the occasion I had broken up was a wedding party, and the gunshots had been celebratory in nature. I relaxed my guard a bit, helped the large gentlemen lying on the ground to his feet, and was quickly offered a glass of some kind of juice . Just a minute before I had been ready to shoot this guy if necessary, pointing a rifle in his face and screaming at him, and now he is giving me refreshments, and everyone is laughing.

Some of the men produced ID cards identifying them as IPs, Iraqi police officers. It appeared as though one of the policemen was getting married or had just gotten married, and was celebrating with his coworkers, including the chief of police in that neighborhood, who happened to be the one I had head butted and taken the pistol from. We contacted Battalion headquarters, and they told us to confiscate the pistol, since it was technically illegal for the chief of police to have discharged it on the street, and to give him a note which he could bring the next day to our camp and exchange for the confiscated weapon. The men were not happy that we were confiscating the pistol, but they seemed to understand that they would be able to get it back. Who knows what they really understood; we didn’t have an interpreter with us.

Later I reflected on the public relations fiasco that would have occurred if I had indeed shot and killed the chief of police of Al-Tamar at a wedding party. Incidents like this are the rule, and not the exception in Iraq. And it is usually not the fault of the grunt on the ground. He is thrust into a situation for which he is neither properly trained nor equipped, in a hostile and foreign culture, and is expected to make life or death decisions within a matter of seconds. Bad things are going to happen, and it is a miracle that they don’t happen more often.

tags
Iraq, War, Culture Shock

If I had been born in Yemen...


Before I get jingoistic trolls accusing me of being a "Jane Fonda" in the comments section, allow me to quote Sun Tzu,
"Know thy enemy and know thyself, find naught in fear for 100 battles. Know thyself but not thy enemy, find level of loss and victory. Know thy enemy but not thyself, wallow in defeat every time."
This article, found at RollingStone.com is outstanding, and one of the few times I have seen jihadists interviewed in depth in an English language publication. Truly fascinating journalism. A choice quote from the article,
At thirty-two, Khalid was beginning to have serious reservations about the course of the insurgency in Iraq. They are overkilling there. Fighting foreign soldiers was one thing -- he had been doing it all of his adult life. But did his faith really sanction killing civilians in their own country? The blood of people is too cheap. Fifteen years in the jihad, fighting in five foreign wars, imprisoned in England and Yemen, enduring the death of a close friend on a mission in Iraq -- enough. The cost was just too high. Although he was proud of all the fighting he had done in the past, Khalid wanted to settle down to an ordinary life as a father, husband and son. He was a soldier fighting a war. But what if the war had no end?
Khalid and I have a lot in common. It's time for the sane people to speak up and lay down their arms. Khalid, I don't think you'll ever read this, but if you do, I forgive you for trying to kill me. I hope you'll forgive me for trying to kill you. It wasn't anything personal, just jihad. To all the insurgents in Iraq--take a cue from Khalid. Lay down your arms, and start rebuilding. My government will be forced to leave your country if you stop fighting.
War is over! (If you want it)
John Lennon

Can Anyone Help?

I recieved this email from someone who believed that I was still in Baghdad; do I have any readers who can help out?
First off I am proud of you guys!

Hello Brian,

I am a Christian who recently lost contacts with some Iraqi Christians in Baghdad. They were killed as best as I can tell from the reports that I read.

I know that this is a stretch, but I have a request if you can at all possibly do it. My friends were the Pastors of St. Georges Church in Baghdad, and they were killed on their way from Jordan, back to Baghdad. They were my only contacts and I did not have an opportunity to meet anyone else.

I was hoping that maybe you can get a message to anyone at St. Georges Church and give them my email address. I am concerened about the church and how they are doing without their leaders. I have some photos at my website, and there are two men in the photo who I don't know but if you were able to contact them that would be even better.

My email address is: robert@praisechapel2000.com

You can also stop by my website and read about what happened to the Leaders of St. Georges Church at www.praisechapel2000.com

God bless,
Robert Jimenez

Your tax dollars at work in the war over information

Dear government,

Why haven't I been contacted by a PR firm hired by you to disseminate "exclusive content" in the blogging of the Iraq War? I am a half-decent writer, a veteran of the war (unlike Fuzzybear Lioness), and a patriot. I swear to only tell the whole truth, and to be ethical.

Sincerely,
One Veteran

via Sploid.com and LFG Watch

UPDATE
See William Arkin's take on it. If you decide to go to the Lioness's blog and comment, make sure to play nice. She raises money for wounded soldiers, and that is very admirable. She also disclosed that she recieved the offer, which is ethical.

tags
Iraq, Blogging, Propaganda

11 January 2006

Paul Bremer MUST be a crazy liberal

From commondreams.org

In the memoir, titled My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope, Mr Bremer says he sent Mr Rumsfeld a copy of a report by a respected thinktank that estimated 500,000 troops would be needed to stabilise Iraq, but the defence secretary did not respond. Mr Rumsfeld also failed to respond to his recommendation in May 2004 to add 30,000 troops to the 160,000 in Iraq at the time.
From CBSnews.com
Mr. Bush was emphatic in stating that the decision on troop levels will be made by American commanders and "not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington," reports CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller.

tags
Iraq, Paul Bremer, Bush

10 January 2006

From the Minister of Information


"2006 will be a time of more testing and sacrifice," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The terrorists and Saddam loyalists want to continue to try to derail the transition to democracy."

Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.


tags
Iraq, Scott McClellan, Orwell

The Nuclear Option?


"First, because you've been named to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the pivotal swing vote on a divided court; second, because you seem to have been picked to placate the extreme right wing after the hasty withdrawal of Harriet Miers; and, finally, and most importantly, because your record of opinions and statements on a number of critical constitutional questions seems quite extreme."

Sen. Schumer on why Alito's burden of proof is especially high.

Pretty well sums up my view on Alito. When Bush's unconstitutional wiretapping (aka the data mining project) goes to the supreme court and they give it the green light cause the senate dems didn't stand up and say, enough is enough--

I'll say I told you so.

Bush will smirk.

Executive power will go unchecked.

And the war will rage.

tag
Alito

08 January 2006

7 Minutes



All the conservative apologists and all the king's men aren't going to put this president back together again.

Yeah, forget all the documented acts of duplicity that led us into our current holy crusade for democracy in Iraq. Forget the spy scandal. Forget abuses of executive authority, including authorizing prisoners to be extradited for torture at black camps in Europe and elsewhere. Forget Abu Ghraib, and the lack of accountability at a strategic level for that scandal. Forget Valerie Plame.

Remember 9-11? The day that everything changed?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the President was reading to school children. After he was notified that "the nation is under attack," he continued reading to school children for 7 minutes.

In modern war, 7 minutes is an eternity, at both the macro and micro levels. If a surprise nuclear attack had been launched, the strategic capabilities of America (not to mention tens of millions of lives), could have been lost. That day could have been the end. Thankfully, brave American citizens who were more informed, aware, and willing to act than the president caused one of the planes to crash before the terrorists were able to reach their target.

7 minutes people. 7 minutes of complete inaction. In the words of Bill Maher, "What, did he think he was getting punked?"

The crazy thing is that there's video footage of it. It appeared in a movie. The movie was successful. Where's the outrage?

In my opinion, 7 minutes is negligent. It's impeachable. President Bush didn't act to "protect and defend the constitution" when it really mattered-- when we were under attack. Instead, his handlers had to escort him away from the schoolhouse when it became horribly apparent that he had frozen up. He choked. He sat there for 7 minutes while our country was under attack, and he did absolutely nothing.

If a commander in Iraq reacted to a sneak attack as President Bush did on September, 11, 2001, he would probably be relieved of his command, and rightly so. Bush is the commander of all the commanders. Let's relieve him of that burden; it's become horribly obvious that he can't hack it.

Next time someone tries to engage in "Bush apologetics", remind them of the 7 minutes.

06 January 2006

War Profiteer

From Wikipedia's entry on this subject
Making unreasonable profits from war is widely considered unethical and is deeply unpopular, so attempts to prohibit excessive war profiteering, such as the imposition of an excess profits tax, receive much political support in wartime. Defining 'excessive' accurately is difficult, however, and such legislation frequently allows some instances of profiteering to go unchecked while reducing the income of others' war-related business to loss-making levels.

This isn't exactly new news, but I have been thinking about it for awhile and wanted to post on it. Why isn't the MSM into this stuff, if they are really so "liberal" and want to end the war and all that shit? Why don't they report on stories like this, which might enrage the general populace enough to actually write their congressman? Instead we get "The War on Christmas," read as "The Fake War We Made Up So You Won't Think About the Real One."

A recent United States Marine Corps forensic study obtained by DefenseWatch slams the interceptor OTV body armor system, claiming "as many as 42% of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest. Nearly 23% might have benefited from protection along the mid-axillary line of the lateral chest. Another 15% died from impacts through the unprotected shoulder and upper arm," the report says.

Reported by Nathaniel Helms on Soldiers for the Truth

The interceptor vests in question are manufactured by DHB Industries. The CEO of DHB Industries is David H. Brooks. In 2004, David earned $70 million dollars, 13,349% more than his 2001 compensation of $525,000. This isn't the first time that the Marines have had problems with DHB, in May 2005 they recalled more than 5,000 DHB vests. All told, about 23,000 vests have been recalled.

For his daughter's bat mitzvah, Mr. Brooks threw a $10 million dollar party at the Rainbow Room, hiring everyone from 50 Cent to Aerosmith to perform.

I contest that Mr. Brooks is a war profiteer, charging unreasonably high rates to our government for a sub-par product.

Mr. Brooks, if you will donate $10 million of your hard-earned dollars to a charity for disabled veteran's, many of them disabled because you took your company's profits and lavished them on yourself and your family rather than using them to build a higher quality product, you could begin to redeem yourself in my eyes. Until that time, however, I will continue to call you what you are, a war profiteer, the worst kind of treasonous scum who makes money off of human suffering at a time when everyone should be pitching in and helping the war effort.

tags
David H. Brooks, War Profiteer, Iraq, DHB Industries

05 January 2006

Healthy Debate

The following was copied and pasted from comments on The Un-Apologetic Atheist's blog. He reposted part of "Building Walls" with his own analysis, and it set off a good debate on the war. The Atheist has a pretty cool blog, and there's always some spirited debate going on in the comments, kind of like here. Someone suggested that I use haloscan for my comments to block the wackos-- I think that's a good idea, and blogger has some features to block those kind of people as well, but in my experience it is better to acknowledge someone than block them right off the bat, unless they're just flat-out malicious.

In any case, Tbone65 is the owner of Tbone's War Journal, a decent milblog. He and I are at odds on many issues, but we came to some consensus towards the end.

TBone65 said...

What he says is true to some extent...and yes, I've been there too...but he omits certain facts.

First of all, the Mahdi Army has a political agenda NOT driven by any heavy handed US tactics. Their war is a power play for dominance of the Shia population in the South, specifically in Najaf.

The leader of the Mahdi Army, Muqtada Al-Sadr, is a young firebrand with delusions of grandeur. He derives his assumed power from the fame of his father, who was an esteemed Shia cleric and Grand Ayatollah. Muqtada is not an Ayatollah, and has not graduated from the Hawzah, or Shia divinity training. This makes him a fraud in the eyes of most Shia in Iraq, who look to Grand Ayatollah Sistani for spiritual guidance. The power play is between Al-Sadr and Sistani, with Al-Sadr using his father's Shia credentials to bring himself to secular power.

In this situation, the US is a convenient target to show Al-Sadr's followers how committed he is to "the cause", and to attract more followers.

This is the politics of Iraq. The dynamics existed before the liberation/occupation. Have subsequent US actions brought negative consequences back on US soldiers? Perhaps...but, this is the nature of war. Hey soldier, what the fuck did you think you were signing up for when you were in the recruiter's office? Did you think war was going to be orderly and nice? Every read Clausewitz? Does the fog and friction of war sound familiar?

One last comment. Your post highlighted this:

Day to day tensions with checkpoints, run-ins with heavy-handed US patrols, and convoys that hog the road (or worse, I saw countless Iraqis run off the road by overzealous US drivers), have been alienating the average Iraqi for years.

Perhaps your soldier hasn't been on too many combat patrols on dangerous roads. If he had, he would know that survivability relies on speed and aggressive driving. Driving fast helps because the enemy sniper and IED triggerman has less time to react and blow you up. Fuck what Mr. Iraqi driver thinks. Additionally, the American driver is constantly worried about a vehicle borne IED man coming up to him and detonating next to the convoy. So your man's post is filled with reality, but also filled with holes. I am driving aggressively because I don't want to die. If he wants to die, that's his business.

He soldier, tell the fucking whole truth. Don't "cherry pick" the truth to fit your agenda. And don't say you've been there and done that, when it's obvious you haven't. If you have been on those kind of convoys, were you sleeping?
1/04/2006 2:56 AM

TBone65 said...

I have to apologize for my tone in the above post. I went to oneveteran's blog and read his post...it was articulate and fairly on point. My apology is in making assumptions about his combat experience. If in fact he has a BSM w/ V device, he must have been combat tested at some point. Sorry dude. I agree the way we drive might piss them off, but like I said previously: if my aggressive driving saves me and my boys, then fuck what they think.

Once again, sorry for the quick trigger finger.

TBone
1/04/2006 5:37 AM

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

TBone - Your point is valid and well-taken, though. Thanks for pointing out the rest. I believe my point is not whether or not the tactic is a better tactic (I have little doubt that it is, just as using WP shells in a city is far more effective and helps troops survive), but whether or not the peoples will see this as a sign that the army "protecting them" is actually not interested in truly being on their side. As long as they feel that, guys like Al-Sadr Junior can take advantage of their apathy and/or hatred for us, to continue supporting himself among the populace-- the "power play" as you call it. Note that I am not pointing a finger in accusation of supporting the enemy's power-base, only pointing out that it is a large factor in feeding it.

That "screw them when it comes to my boys" attitude is precisely why I think the Iraqi will have such a difficult time accepting American ideals as they are being offered, and believe that they should shoulder the load with us. Which is too bad-- I really wish the best for the Iraqi people, but like the British who tried to administrate them almost a century ago, I'm not sure we can develop a working plan, either. The only answer to this will come from educating ourselves about all the angles as best we can, and trying our best to see it from the perspective that is NOT our own. It may not come at all.

As such, I also greatly appreciate your lesson on the history of Mahdi and Muqtada Al-Sadr. If you would ever care to write some remarks on your opinion on the history and future of that operation, and its impact on future US policy in the region, perhaps after you exit active duty, I would be delighted to feature it, here.
1/04/2006 8:26 AM

Diane S. said...

Anyone fighting against a foreign occupying force is not a terrorist, they are a patriot. That's not to say I'm cheering on the guys shooting at U.S. forces over in the 'Raq. I'm most definitely not. But I do get it; we are a foreign occupying force. We never had any business over there in the first place, and we need to leave.

UA, when the Chinese, the Iranians, the European Commonwealth, or hell, the Swiss come marching in, I'll grab the first gun I can get my hands on and defend America-The-Beautiful to my death. Or more likely, I'll hide my pansy ass behind someone like you and pass the ammunition.

This is my home. I'll defend it.

If only we could defend ourselves from the Bush Administration.
1/04/2006 10:11 AM

JPourtless said...

If only it was the Bush administration alone against which we must defend ourselves.
1/04/2006 11:45 AM

mariemon said...

The comments to this post show the true power of war. War is ugly, dirty, and will drain you of your very soul. There are no winners, only survivors. Our troops are moved around like pieces on a chessboard, to be removed and discarded at the whim of the players in DC. I wish we could sign up every son and daughter of every congressman to fight in Iraq. Hell, let's send the Bush twins too. Bet they all come home tomorrow!!!
1/04/2006 6:10 PM

TBone65 said...

Well said mariemon. War is all those things you described. Another thing it is: inevitable. A tool of diplomacy. The only thing that keeps those who are willing to take away our way of life at bay.

Knowing it's sometimes a necessary evil, the government must make sure force is meted out in a judicious way. That is not always an easy task considering the myriad of variables life throws at us.

I believe folks like you provide the yin to war's yang...thanks for being there for us.

TBone
1/05/2006 1:20 AM

OneVeteran'sVoice said...

Tbone:

"Fuck what Mr. Iraqi driver thinks."

Me:

That's why we're losing. I heard this so many times from so many American soldiers in Iraq in so many different forms. The end result of this kind of thinking is torture, Abu Ghraib, paying for stories in the Iraqi press, and all the other shameful and counterproductive things that have occurred.

And yes, I went on many, many, combat patrols. And yes, I ran a few drivers off the road. And you know what, it wasn't always cause I had to, or even because I felt threatened (although I suppose I felt threatened every time I left the FOB). I abused my power because I could. That's the god's honest truth. And I think if you do some soul searching, you might come to a similar conclusion about some of your own actions. Or maybe you're above reproach, I don't know you. You sure acted like you knew me, though.

Tbone:"And don't say you've been there and done that, when it's obvious you haven't."

Me: I bet I've killed more people than you, does that make me more of a man than you?

BTW, Tbone, I accept your apology for the quick trigger finger.

Does driving fast and crazy make you a harder target to hit? Sure it does. But I would contend that it also leads more people to shoot at you. Would I still do it, if I was back in Iraq. Yep.

I don't blame the troops, or even myself (too much) for my own actions. I was put in an impossible situation, asked to win over the hearts and minds of a country of very foreign people who had already turned against us by the time I arrived (March of 04). We need to start getting the fuck out of Iraq, NOW. As fast as possible, without sending them into complete anarchy. Make them step up and do the bitch work. It doesn't take Apaches, or tanks, the insurgents don't have any of those. It takes the will of the Iraqis to stand up against violence, to lay down their arms and stop killing each other. Without that, which is not something we can really give them, no amount of military support will defeat the insurgency. Didn't Vietnam teach us anything?

BTW Tbone-- I enlisted shortly after the Sept 11 attacks to protect and defend the constitution. Not Iraq. And I will continue to protect and defend the constitution, against all enemies, foreign, AND DOMESTIC. No one really knows what war is when he/she enlists, but I had an idea. I am just saying that I was asked to fight a bullshit war that was mismanaged, poorly planned, and doomed from the get-go. I will fight again if the cause is just. I will never, however, go back to Iraq. I would rather go to jail if they call me up on the IRR. Hell, that might happen. Iraq is not worth my life, and I won't risk it again there.
1/05/2006 8:12 AM

TBone65 said...

I agree on getting out of Iraq...soon. The throwing them into anarchy part is the real question though, isn't it. We are trying to get them to do the "bitch work". I personally trained the ICDC around the same time you got to Iraq (my second time) and saw how inept and fucked up they were. You can send a monkey into space, but if you can't get him to read the check list, then he's worthless. Some of those guys were excellent, but some couldn't hack it. The training takes time.

As far as killing goes...I don't think it takes a man to kill someone. Killing another human being is a necessity in war if you want to come home and mow your grass...but it doesn't make me happy. I don't like war...it sucks. I don't like hurting people or seeing people get hurt. I lost a teammate and another good friend over there. Three more of my buds were non-RTD injured (all better now) and that makes me feel like shit. But you know what? I signed up for it. I didn't have the chance to pick and choose which parts of the oath I would live up to. Part of one of those oaths says something like follow the orders of those appointed over me and that is what I do. If civilians don't do what the boss says, they get fired; if we don't do what the boss says, we go to jail or get killed in combat. Little different world for us.

I don't want to go back to Iraq either. The place blows. I was in Baghdad in spring of '04. I know what you guys did because I read daily SITREPS. Didn't some of your Bradley guys guard a compound on BIAP? Maybe I saw you downtown sometime. I was riding in the no-armor NTV real, real fast ;)
1/05/2006 10:34 AM

OneVeteran'sVoice said...

I was stationed at camp war eagle near sadr city, 19kilo. I am sure you know all about that friendly borough of Baghdad, and all the anarchy that went on there in 2004. When I was on active duty, I kept my mouth shut, followed orders, and was consistently promoted ahead of my peers. I kept my oath, no article 15's, no court martials, nothing. So I know exactly what you're talking about. With that said, I am out now, and I don't have to obey shit. I am just speaking what I believe to be the truth. I always dug the SF dudes, thanks for fighting for what you believe in. You truly have a right to support the war, if you want to. You also have more power to end it than you know.

04 January 2006

Just another ignorant asshole

Check out the comments on my last post, if you haven't already.

Skeptik said...

Hey,

Just a question on your "rack" in your blogger profile...

I notice you don't have your PLDC ribbon or your good conduct medal. This could mean a few things: either you are a two-year enlistee, or you are a shit-bird, or you are a liar. Which one is it? Unless you did some pretty spectacular shit, a junior enlisted person (that is what you have to be since you didn't go to a leadership development school) doesn't get a bronze star. And how can stop-loss be a bitch if you are only a two-year enlistee? I think you're probably full of shit. How 'bout it?

And he goes on and on.

Here's a new link to a scanned jpg of my bronze star certificate. I have the orders as well, Skeptic, if you'd care to see them.

Skeptic:
I don't care what your political affiliation is. I just can't stand liars who claim to be war heros just to seem credible to their audience. Trust me, I will crush you.

To the readers out there: you must understand that pretending to have a Bronze Star brings discredit on all those who legitimately earned it. This guy is full of shit. I know combat arms NCOs and Officers who had their BSMs w/ V denied...and those dudes kicked some serious ass. Fobbits like this turd burglar don't get awarded BSMs...that is just the way the Army is.

Yeah, I have a feeling that if I were touting Iraqi democracy as the next best thing since sliced bread, Skeptic would have been thanking me for my service and bravery instead of calling me a fraud without any proof.

I propose that Skeptic does indeed care what my political affiliation is, in fact, that's all he really cares about. For the record, I don't even have any official political affiliation; I'm not a member of any party.
Skeptic: Might be a good idea to take that shit down now...and did you register your blog?

Don't think we can track you? Did you make any entries from a government network lately? Take it down...now.

From my cold dead hands, Skeptic. Sadly, a lot of milblogs from active duty guys have been taken down when they start telling the truth about what is going on over in Iraq. People like you are the reason. Unfortunately, you have no such power over me. From my cold dead hands, Skeptic. Bring it on.

tags
Swiftboating

03 January 2006

A Life, Wasted

I spotted this at the Washington Post, and it really got to me. It is the opinion of a father whose son was killed in Iraq.

A Life, Wasted
Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed

By Paul E. Schroeder

Tuesday, January 3, 2006; Page A17

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

The writer is managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland.

So my New Year's resolution is to "stop whispering my opposition to this war", something I have been guilty of in the past. As a veteran of the war, many people have asked my opinion of it, and while (at least after my discharge) I believe I have always made it clear that I think the war is not going well and that we need a change in strategy and leadership, I haven't always said what I really think, for fear of offending or sounding un-patriotic.

This blog is the result of me being tired of holding my tongue when I talk to real people. It's easy to rant in cyber space about whatever, and it's cool because people are actually reading this (thanks, by the way, for all the support), but interactions with real human beings are still much more important.

I hope you will join me in my resolution for 2006, if you have, like me, whispered your dissent in the past.

tags
Current Events, Iraq, Bush,