Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lost and Left

Just taking a brief left turn from current topics on my mind to expose a more human side of my recent experiences. I have gone through a lot of angst this year in how I view my participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Depending on the scope, I have differing attitudes towards Iraq, its people, the 'enemy', and our mission.

Today, we did another CLP mission. Expected it to be business as usual but the initial briefing took a different tone. SSG Cunningham briefed that the locals had become increasingly aggressive due to two factors; the massacre of innocents last week by those goddamn idiots in the 3ID, and the ego-driven aggression of the 101st's Band of Brothers wannabes. First, those dumbasses in the 3ID deserve to get their heads handed to them for being so stupid and scared behind the trigger. No excuse for that, none. They pulled hat little stunt in the same area we do our CLPs so now the locals who were calm and passive really have something to hate us for. Second, the Rambos that came down here posing as a well trained high-speed unit have stirred up more hostility from the locals. I posted before that a few had gotten killed within the first 2 weeks of their arrival here at Caldwell. Understandably so, unfortunately, when you start off with guns-a-blazing. Let me explain. No one cares that they are the 101st. Haji doesn't watch Band of Brothers. So when the 278th left, who were relatively respected amongst the locals, the 101st came in with a sneer and an attitude that they'd show those Nation Guards wimps how to do it. Sure did. Here's a story relayed to me from a soldier that knows the SF commander:

"We have been doing sweeps and patrols for some time before the 101st came here and thought they would take over fully. Instead they asked us (Special Forces) to assist them on some sweeps. We agreed and began a night patrol of a local town. Both teams formed the perimeter around the group of houses where we were to search. The 101st guys had us go in instead of them. So the SF team did a sweep of a few houses and found nothing but cooperative people. On the way back to the trucks, someone on the .50 cal started lighting up the home on the end and screaming at the top of his lungs. The SF ran over to stop him and then got out of there. No one saw a threat, the gunner just got spooked."

How professional. Some may have thought that I am overboard wanting to face the fight, but remember that everyone is better off with someone that respects the combat. Fear has no place down here. Besides, how can you lose your balls behind an M2? Disgusting.

Why does this happen? Two main reason; fear and facelessness. Fear is obvious, some kid gets behind a .50 cal and loses all perspective that an unarmored minivan full of people is NOT a VBIED and no match for an up-armored HMMWV. Similarly, firing on a mud home in the middle of the night because you may have seen a goat move is simple cowardice. At best, these residence have AK-47s. If there would have been insurgents found with RPGs then the SF would have been dragging them out.

Facelessness is what vexes me. Over the course of the year, we've engaged in discussions about who the enemy really is and how to size him up. I recently stated the enemy is a ghost. That is not to say the enemy does not exist or is just an illusion, although I do think that the threat has been sadly overstated. The enemy, and dealing with it, is akin to the boogeyman. As a child, you hear stories of this dangerous creature called the boogeyman that somehow pops up in your room when you least expect it to do you indescribable harm. No one has ever seen him and lived, no one can accurately describe him or prevent him. But he is rumored to be there at any time, any place. Same with insurgents. For most of us, we never get to see the enemy face-to-face. Doing so would allow us to measure him up, identify him, make him real....mortal. Some get to engage the enemy directly and root him out. I admire those soldiers that can root out the real enemy instead of making an enemy like the 101st has seemingly done.

So this all effects my CLP team and I because the usually docile locals now are acting more aggressive and 'stupid' when they see us coming. Vehicles blocked our way in traffic, stares from pedestrians were notably hostile. The lead truck TC emptied a magazine and then some in warning shots just on the trip home. "They can't tell us apart from the 3ID or the 101st, and I can't really blame them." said SSG Cunningham in the briefing. I agree. If those pesky Canadians opened fire on my townspeople, I'd be one of the first out there leading the resistance. Enough said.

Today, I was faced with a fleeting quandary. As we were leaving Cobra Gladiator 9 came across the radio with a warning, "Watch out for the child in the road!" I spotted a small boy no more than 4 years old running across in front of our speeding HMMWVs. He stopped on the opposite side of the road and stood there as we went by. I initially thought that he was just another convoy fan, like so many other Iraqi children. But as my truck, the last truck, passed, I noticed that the little boy was crying at the top of his lungs. That's when I noticed that there were no Iraqi adults around....anywhere. Outside Cobra is nothing but flat field for as far as the eye can see; a few mud huts a significant distance up the road. I wanted to stop, in my mind the risk was minimal, but I couldn't stop the convoy. Where would I have taken the boy anyway? I can only say "stop" and "hello" in Arabic anyway. So we drove on past.

Coming next, the conclusion to Children of the Grave.

I'm no Picaso but....

Explains a bit. I guess I have a year's worth saved up. Watch out ladies!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE. a three part series

Children of tomorrow live in the tears that fall today
Will the sunrise of tomorrow bringing peace in any way
Must the world live in the shadow of atomic fear
Can they win the fight for peace or will they disappear?
- Children of the Grave, Black Sabbath

Part 2 - Justification for "Staying the Course"

Bill W recently enumerated The Plan on which we are "Staying the Course". I suppose I heard this so often and saw things so differently that it lost its meaning. But Bill captures it completely when he states:

1. Appointed Interim govenrment, June of 2004;
2. First elections for interim government, January of 2005
3. Select delegates to draw up constitution, and draw up the constitution
4. Government ratifies in August
5. Iraqi people vote up or down in October of 2005.
6. If passed, elect first permanent government December of 2005.
7. In the meantime, train Iraqi Police, National Guard & Army (and hopefully, since you are there, you won't fall for the "well it only takes us six weeks to train recruits, what's wrong over there?" For those that have not thought it through, we send recruits through an already established program at already established bases, and then they integrate into already established armed forces, which have already established NCO staff and Officer staff and already established bases, uniforms, equipment, supply chain, etc, etc, etc.)
8. As they get better at standing up, we stand down. You yourself talked about that happening, and every day you can read about it on the milblogs.

I can't disagree at all with this, but I will express some concerns that I think need examined. Again, this is just my point of view, how I see things, how I try to compare apples to apples to make sense of my contributions during this year of my life. This is not a criticism of Bill W. I have tried to show, first hand, how 159,000 Americans are going to waste as many are sitting idle here. Maybe if we were better managed and utilized then I would have more faith in the veracity of such an Exit Plan. Most of us seem to be here to justify our own presence. We've had several FOBs that consisted of our Signal soldiers providing communications to another unit who was there simply to provide security to our signal unit. Think about that one.

In essence, the soft point is #8. Subjective evaluation of any military operation is dangerous. How safe is safe? Let me try to compare some real statistics to hopefully provoke thought and discussion. Murder rates from Camden, NJ, a city of only 80,000 people, in 2003 recorded 41 while Detroit, MI, a city of nearly a million, killed 366 of its residents. Already, between those two urban centers, over 400 Americans lost their lives. To compare, in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2115 Americans have lost their lives since the initial invasion. The population of Iraq is very roughly 1/10th that of the United States. Comparing the total murders of Americans by Americans in America, 12,658 in 2000, to a proportional 7000 American deaths in Iraq (2115 * 10 (population factor) / 3 (years)) per year, lends one to see that I am actually less likely to get killed here than if I visit an American urban center.

What scale can we accurately and ethically judge the safety of Iraqis and the security of this nation? Baghdad murder rates are lower than in American cities. Iraq murder statistics. I am not alone in thinking this a bothersome comparison.

"At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country." - Donald Rumsfeld
That is a hell of a standard, as I have stated several times before, and a hell of an evaluation methodology. Now we are supposed to believe that providing a timeline bolsters the morale of the insurgents. So. We all know that the war presented on the evening news is a facade for what really is happening. I could accept an Exit Plan or better yet, a Mission Plan, that included some real measurable final goals. The process seems to be defined somewhat but not the completion stage. I say WE set the timeframe with the milestones, then mandate that the Iraqi government fit to OUR process instead of how it currently is. We need to say that they will have this done by this time. They need to meet this standard by a certain date or our aid will dissipate and THEIR nation will fall apart. That's motivation.

As a final thought to instigate some debate, what if the Canadians saved us from ourselves by invading due to American crime statistics? Clearly we are not a "secure" country as we define security here in Iraq. Our porous borders are a flaw worse than the Syrian border. What would you do as a responsible patriotic citizen if you woke up to a Canadian tank rolling down your street one morning? Do Canadians even have tanks?

Friday, November 25, 2005

CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE. a three part series

Several topics have come together and begged to be examined. Information presented alone is often far different than that same information presented in the light of other ideas. Over the next few days, I hope to provide Eyes-On level info with a large amount of rhetoric in hopes of challenging your stance on this "war", the government, the media, and how you allow yourselves to be swayed. I present none of this as conclusive or as the only correct point of view.

Let the disillusionment begin....

Revolution in their minds
The children start to march
Against the world in which they have to live
And all the hate that's in their hearts
They're tired of being pushed around
Andtold just what to do
They'll fight the world until they've won
And love comes flowing through.

- Children of the Grave, Black Sabbath

Part 1 - Troop Levels and Base Closings

Much debate has been happening lately over an Exit Plan. From what I have seen, the opposition calls for a drastic and complete removal of all troops while the current administration wants to "stay the course". We all should know by now that the "course" they speak of is undefined to anyone outside that clutch.

I avoid watching the corporate media news as much as possible, but sometimes in the DFAC I am forced to watch the circus sideshow that is displayed as American Culture. The information you are being fed is wholly inaccurate and painted for you in such a way as to have you not doubt or second guess. Numbers are thrown around with the intent to shock and justify, but when comparing apples to apples, the numbers become insignificant.

Troop levels are not the only measurement for progress in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the media and government want you to believe that it is the sole issue. Sure I agree that fundamentally we need less of me and my friends here in this country, but how many of us is not a direct indicator of how secure Iraq is. Apples to apples, would police levels in Los Angeles dictate the crime level there? Still crime in L.A. but has the government moved to increase cop levels until all murder is eliminated?

Here is a fact that may not have been reported on the news. Several Forward Operating Bases are closing or will be turned over to the Iraqi Army within the next 90 days. I know this first hand, the FOB I have been living on is one an more within my AO (Area of Operation) will follow. This was scheduled way before any Exit Plan debate came to the surface. Does this mean troop reduction? Not necessarily, but it should show that the IA is making progress in being in control of their own country. My battalion is pulling out and being replaced by another element of greater size. Troop levels won't decrease but the number of idle soldiers will.

Commercialization as the goal of "The Reconstruction" should be one of the main factors in determining progress. So far, much has been said about a conversion from our military assets to civilian technologies. There seems to have been little focus on a development for Iraq and more a edification of some of our current FOBs. My picture entitled "Evidence of the Reconstruction" was obviously lost on some of you. The potent statement intended with that picture, besides its tastefully rendered artsy feel, was that in the 11 months I have been a coerced citizen of Iraq, that is the only change I have seen besides laying some asphalt to repair a road. Farther north, civilian/commercial systems have begun replacing our communication equipment. I would deem that a gigantic failure. The new systems with their new high-speed technology are barely operable. Delays on the phone line all but prevent a conversation. Connections are down for days, even though the distance the equipment is handling is less than a 4 mile radius. The new systems only seem to integrate with the existing communication systems when the moon is full on a Tuesday. And it took them the entire time I was here to accomplish such a back flip. So where's the improved infrastructure for Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul?

What is the news feeding you? What are the protesters really protesting and is it accurate? Anyone remember Aghanistan?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Triptophanic Genocide

It occurred to me today that throughout this whole deployment the normal, unthought of facets of daily living erode the most. For instance, it wasn't until InterstellarLass wished me a Happy Thanksgiving did I realize A) it was Thanksgiving, and B) what day of the week it was. When every day is exactly the same (to quote mattandriver who quotes Nine Inch Nails), there is no need to differentiate between a Tuesday or a Sunday. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving and thank all of you for your support. Thank you even more to those that have screwed me over and/or unnecessarily criticized me; you make me stronger - without you I couldn't show how right I am. To all the, it doesn't matter anyway.

- Roughly a month until I will be back in beautiful Deutschland.
- I am hoping to be Boots-On-Ground in Sunbury, PA, on or before 30 Dec 05. Some know why. If you don't, then don't worry.
- My missions for this week fizzled and were changed. So, the exciting missions in to the hot spots turned into the Combat Logistic Patrols that we usually do.
- I just got a Playstation Portable, hacked it already and am loving the games. Yes Zak, got all the ones you asked for ;)
- If you are in the Pennsylvania area and would like me to come talk your local school or group about Iraq and the deployment experience, please ask. I will be giving some presentations to my alma mater (my kids' current school).
- The Rev. is looking for motivated people to help with a movement. Please stop over and show the man some support.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Coitus Interruptus

(or How to Successfully Pull Out When Screwing People)

I don't usually watch the news for the same reason I typically don't read Dungeons & Dragons novels... fantasy fiction just does not appeal to me. But lately, while sitting in the DFAC wasting time during a meal, I notice the news reporting that Congress or some ballsy Dems wish to have an Exit Plan. What an idea, who woulda thought? All sarcasm aside, this is a strategically prime time for my boss and his cronies to end this mess. Here's how it works:

1. Someone gets fed up enough with the eratic leadership and non-answers to finally give up on debate and call for a blatant removal of troops from Iraq.

2. Nominal resistance is shown by those in charge to provide themselves a chance to test the waters of public opinion.

3. If harranging becomes loud enough, Bush throws his hands in the air and says, "OK, I submit to the will of the American people. I am a man of the people. America and Amricans come first. I will bring our sons and daughters home."

4. Troops are removed en masse leaving Iraq in a state of shocked chaos.

5. Bush's public approval rating goes through the roof.

6. Not that it matters to anyone, but Iraq collapses and becomes a wasteland until Islam comes back in to rule with an iron fist.

7. People see the results in Iraq, become disgruntled again with Bush and begin blaming him for the situation in Iraq and the low opinion of Americans through the rest of the world.

8. Bush points fingers at the Dems for coercing him to bring the troops home prematurely against his original plan of "staying the course". This is repeated enough by the puppet news agencies that the American sheeples believe it.

9. Bush absolves himself and his cronies for the sake of historical immortalization.

10. We all win. Iraq doesn't really effect Americans any way. Right?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Book Review: MY WAR by Colby Buzzell

What follows is a a review of a book submitted to my by Penguin Publishing. I apologize up front that the review contains harsh language. I assure you that it is not my language, it is necessary quotes from the author. Apparently, my review is unique. Enjoy.

Killing Time in Iraq

by Colby Buzzell

A Review by D. M. Dorman

Brief Review

According to the front cover, “Colby Buzzell is the voice of a generation. We can read a thousand dispatches from Iraq, but we will never know the war – or ourselves – as we will after reading My War.”-Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers. That is the standard by which I will measure this book.

I read this from a fairly significant perspective. As a currently deployed Active Duty soldier, I have gone through all of the training (and more), all of the pre-deployment processing, and a year's worth of war in Iraq. I have been to many of the places Buzzell recounts and done most everything Buzzell has done except enter into a firefight. Therefore, I am intimately familiar with the topics he presents.

Having said that, this might possibly be the worst book that I have ever read. That includes the first book I ever read, Curious George Goes to the Zoo. Why such a harsh critique? Because the book is essentially empty; lacking any substance or merit. Plus,much of the information Buzzell tries to convey to the reader is inaccurate and poorly presented. Buzzell's apparent intention for this book was not to enlighten the reader on the situations which he faced or present any depth of thought but to promote himself and his book. Anyone reading this to find a new view into the real situation in Iraq will be disappointed as Buzzell spends more than 300 pages with pointless vignettes in an apparent attempt to prove to you how “cool” he is. There are very few stories of “a soldier in battle”, instead there is a plethora of disjointed tales. Not until more than 300 pages have gone by does Buzzell tell a story and give some emotional reflection on the scenario and his role. Too little, too late.

The title is a true misrepresentation of the content and purpose of the book. I expected either a soldier's personal reflections on the horrors and thrills of battle or a soldier's personal introspection while thrust into a year of mind numbing duty. The reader is provided with neither, though the opportunity is there for Buzzell to expound on his experiences, he stops short by trying too hard to be a wise-ass. There is no struggle, no climax, no denouement, no depth of character, and very little opportunity for the reader to connect with his experiences.

I suffered through reading the entire book as a duty to give it a complete review. If Buzzell is a “voice of a generation”, then that voice is babbling incoherently. The book is truly an annoyance to read, with its format and writing style inconsistent and theme unclear. I am still uncertain of the message Buzzell is intending to convey. Most of the book seems to be about the book's development and his own self-aggrandizement. Is it blog or is it book? Buzzell copies & pastes both together unapologetically. Buzzell short-changes himself by not drawing on the strengths that made his blogging notable. He focuses too much on describing how great his writing is without providing samples of that great writing. Many blog entries are included, but Buzzell needed to delve deeper into the goings-on behind those entries. The focus should have been on his experience in Iraq and not his blogging in Iraq. Target missed.

Maybe I missed something, maybe I am out of touch, but the whole experience of Iraq offers so much more to a reader that Buzzell gives. I truly hope this is not how the American public sees the military experience.

For a deeper analysis of the book, please read on.


Part One

Part One is a series of disjointed vignettes that could be and should be summarily removed from the book. As a matter of fact, it only serves to display the vapidity of the author. Buzzell spent a total of 2 years in the Army, which hardly makes him any form of subject matter expert. He does not overtly claim to be, but his use of terminology is intended to have you believe so. And many times he uses terminology incorrectly and in a purely self-aggrandizing manner. Let me list a few of my favorite peeves from Part One:

Style – Very conversational, especially if you were conversing on a corner in the ghetto. People speak in a certain way, that does not mean that it is also a good choice of writing styles. This is not fiction, like Catcher in the Rye, so the apparent use of the extreme vernacular for character development is unnecessary and detrimental to the overall tone of the book. Could be that Buzzell is trying, in a very immature manner, to impress the reader with how cool he is/was. I understood early on that he was, what the Army calls, a “shitbag” and had hopes of finding a real purpose for Part One. I was left hoping for a transformation into a real soldier with a purpose and point-of-view.

Vocabulary - Fuck – Yes, “fuck” and all variations thereof are gratuitously and annoyingly overused. There is actually a vignette (pg. 34) entitled such in which Buzzell proudly reveals that the was
corrected for his overuse of the word; to which he responds disrespectfully to the NCO, as Buzzell cowardly walks away. This is a totally pointless vignette, possibly included in an attempt to impress some 15 year old rebel kid, but just adds to the annoying stream of empty vignettes.

Audience - Reduce the number of pages in the book. The copy I was sent for review contains 354 pages. I estimate that the publisher could get the book down to an even 300 if someone would simply remove every instance of the word “fuck” and its derivations. To quote, “I was sick of living my life in oblivion where every fucking day was the same fucking thing as the day before, and the same fucking routine day in and day out. Eat, shit, work, sleep, repeat.” Again, possibly very impressive to that 15 year old rebel kid, but I don't even care to maintain a live conversation with anyone that speaks this way. Why would I want to read it?

Consistency – When creating the tone and theme for a book, it is important to be consistent. In the vignette entitled Hometown Recruiting (pg. 27), Buzzell states that he was “totally and completely embarrassed” that he had to walk around in his Class A uniform at a local junior college. But later on Buzzell curiously states that “it was the first job he'd (sic) ever had that he (sic) was proud to do, like he (sic) no longer had to worry about being embarrassed...when someone asked...'So what do you do?'” (pg. 38).

Accuracy – If there is one peeve that tops self-aggrandizing it is the authoritative use of incorrect information. Buzzell excels at this, once again, in a style that is apparently intended to impress the reader instead of convey an idea. So many inconsistencies exist, I will just pick some glaring ones. First, he continuously refers to the machine gun as a “M240 Bravo” (pg. 48 et al.), when in fact it is an M240 B. The “Bravo” is spoken as part of the Army's phonetic alphabet and not written. Makes no sense to write out “bravo” when a simple and correct “B” will suffice. Next Buzzell states that the “M4 rifle fires a 5.56-caliber round”, when in fact it fires a 5.56-mm round. The caliber is close to that of a .22 rifle. Most blatantly, in the vignette 'Tied Down', Buzzell claims to “dig something called a Hastings fighting position.” It is a “hasty fighting position” and is the most fundamental lessons in perimeter security taught at BASIC training (section 071-326-5703 of the Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks, Skill Level 1). This isn't a simple misspelling, this demonstrates a clear lack of understanding. Keep in mind that Buzzell is 11B, infantry, and all this should be his subject matter expertise. He even claims that he “studied all the training manuals and field manuals that he (sic) borrowed from Sgt. Vance, he (sic) read them and reread them, and took down notes, and even copied an entire training manual word-for-word so he'd (sic) have it memorized... And surprisingly, he (sic) was able to memorize the stuff by doing this.” (ppg. 38,39).

Part Two

Part Two of the book shows a marked improvement of style and content but still shows many irritating inconsistencies. Now, not only is this section broken into vignettes, it also has dated segments interspersed. Overlooking this indecisive and rather meaningless construct, I found the beginnings of purpose and substance. I thought Buzzell finally got around to addressing some real subject matter. In a way he does, much more successfully than any attempt in Part One. He now has some framework in which he displays his ideas so that the reader is not left trying to figure out what to understand from disjointed vignettes. Herein lies the beginnings of plot. Herein is also where I begin to enjoy reading this book.

That is not to say that Buzzell had completely corrected his stylistic and informational problems. Maybe it is the fault of an under-educated proof reader, or rally the slack writing skills of Buzzell. In the vignette Hell Is My Destination (ppg. 86-91), Buzzell presents a character named 1st Sgt. Mayo. Several things are wrong with this. First, the proper title for a First Sergeant is either fully expressed as such or using the abbreviation 1SG. Sentences later, he refers to 1SG Mayo as Sgt. Mayo, then First Sgt. Mayo. All three variations are flatly incorrect. Again, that is drilled into trainees' heads during BASIC training.

Buzzell, though, does begin to draw the reader in to an otherwise fairly accurate scenario. The processes that soldiers must endure during the pre-deloyment and deployment phases truly are that trivial and mind-numbing. Buzzell is dead-on with the trainings, convoys, billeting, safe stops, and missions; finally giving the reader and inside look at the experience. But it ultimately proves an empty experience since he does nothing with the information.

Part Three

Buzzell's writing style begins to mature here and the reader can now find a scenario being painted. His vocabulary cleans up, which There is a story lurking here somewhere that never really takes a substantial form. The problem of disjointedness is still present while form is less inconsistent. Buzzell leaves the reader unfulfilled by not adding more than a superficial look at the events he describes. We never get into Buzzell's head deep enough to understand how the vignettes relate.

There is no consistent format in which Buzzell's information is passed to the reader. He switches from vignettes with titles, to chronology, to copy & paste blog entries, to other sections with headers; all seemingly randomly chosen. Also, Buzzell becomes much too self-serving by providing at least three different stories of how he was praised by his Chain of Command for his outstanding writing skills. Is this a book about how great the book is? Let the reader be the judge.

Part Four

Buzzell finally ends the string of empty disjointed episodes by relating his personal angst over his role during a bombing. This is the first story which exposes any depth of character and provides the reader with the opportunity to formulate a response. Too bad it is just prior to his departure from Iraq. The book then ends on a story as vapid and superficial as the previous parts. When you expect an emotional and meaningful recollection of his return to the States and reunion with his wife, you, the reader, get another braggart story of Buzzell's immaturity and lack of self-control.

The story gleaned from this book is not the story told but indeed is found in the difference between what Buzzell tells and what the reader should justifiably expect. Overall the book becomes a testimony to Buzzell's desire to promote his 'cool' facade. The writing could have easily been done by several different writers, as it appears to be significantly dissimilar in skill and style from section to section. The book lacks refinement and homogeneity, as if it was presented as a rough draft from a word processor. If this were Flowers for Algernon then that characteristic could be claimed as a device of character development. But this is non-fiction.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What's a Motto with You?

Occasionally, I change the motto under the title of the blog to fit my mindset or the current trend of my posts. After the tragedy of my R&R, I posted the motto “Vengeance is Redemption, Violence is Prayer”. An original quote from me, I caught some serious flack from readers that were put off by my apparent adoption of violence as a solution, or because I draw a connection between violence and religion. Many emails were sent with brief explanations as to the origin and meaning, but none satisfied the hardcore. So, here it is, the long explanation. Be prepared to be vexed.

Let me break some things down to fundamental pieces. Christianity is the primary religion of the west. Christianity is an Abrahamic religion being derived from Judaism. Islam is an Abrahamic religion also, having written its history in parallel to Judaism. Almost all of the people that have commented on my blog fall under one of these three religions, or have been raised in one of these traditions. On the surface, Abrahamic religions denounce violence in any form. But history and current conditions show that that claim is quickly forgotten. Abrahamic religions have spread throughout the world, not on merit, but by domination by the sword. The Bible records thousands of years of Jewish history that complements western history.

How is this germane? Boil down Abrahamic religions to their thinnest substance and what you have is a God commanding prophets and armies to eliminate peoples with extreme decisive prejudice. Many stories contain commands from God to have a city of people that have offended Him, wiped out as their justice. God even states that he is a vengeful God. Jonah, for example was a reluctant prophet, charged by God to warn a city to repent or be destroyed. Jonah resisted and fell out of favor with God who then promptly put him inside a fish. Jonah was then redeemed to the Lord by changing his mind, prophesying to the city, and preaching about the promised genocide if they refused to listen. Vengeance was the vehicle for redemption.

If vengeance, being the summation of the act, is redemptive then violence is the process through which it happens. Destruction of cities and genocide are not accomplished through peaceful means. By definition, these acts are violent. Prayer takes many forms; internal dialogs with God, ritual acts such as animal sacrifice, redemptive acts. Prayer is the method through which the supplicant begs favor of God for redemption. Vengeance has been brought about through violence, hence if vengeance is the redemptive act then violence is the actions taken. This means that all those people that chatsised me for my apparent pro-violence stance, claiming a religion as their basis for opposition, do so in ignorance of the religion to which they subscribe. I understand the desire people have to create a basis for a non-violent existence. I fundamentally do too. But rewriting religions, history, philosophy or selectively believing parts thereof, is intellectually dishonest.

In my personal situation, I apply this principle concretely. My children and myself have been greatly wronged and have been forced to suffer the unavoidable repercussions. I seek redemption through vengeance – an evening of the score. Many precious things have been taken from my children, myself, and my life at no cost to the thief. The reconning will not occur over dinner and a conversation. Without vengeance, we are victims and the perpetrator is rewarded for his actions to be encouraged to take again. Vengeance, we are scared to admit in American society, is a necessary course for the correction of misbehaviors. Like gun laws, without righteous vengeance the wrongdoers prey freely on the sheep. Not me, never.

Now, the current motto “Disillusionment is Mandatory” is not only a credo for my life, it is also a rule for reading this blog, as well as a command to the readers thereof. Enjoy, and unplug from the matrix.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I'd like to take a moment to welcome a new link to my link-list: Rev. Billy Bob Gisher

The Rev. runs an amazing blog whose title succinctly sums up my view of humanity - less people less idiots . Prepare to be entertained as well as challenged. Check it out, and don't miss reading my favorite entry while you're there.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Open Ended

Getting on the Chinook was, as usual, a quick and orderly process. The key to it all is giving up any and all personal attachment to your luggage. We walked up to the rear gate of the copter in single file. I had more than the usual amount of gear since I was once again transporting equipment to northern Iraq. Luckily I was last in line; my equipment would be near me and I sat at the end of the row. This allowed me not to be rubbing thighs in a soldier sandwich, small consolations. The best part was that I sat next to the tail gunner and an open rear gate.

The Chinook is pretty much the cadillac of the Army helicopter world; there is plenty of room for people and storage, plenty of power, and a smooth ride. This, like most all the other flights, was at night. Since the 101st took over, the flights coming in and out of our FOB have been almost exclusively under cover of darkness. Makes sense. The birds fly without the flashing tag lights like fixed wing aircraft, so they are much harder to target.

I buckled in to the end seat on the right side of the bay, a load of gear separating me from the soldiers across the aisle. The gunner raised the rear gate slightly to put the gun and his seat at a better angle. I hardly noticed as we took off. Peering out the open tail, I could see the Iraqi landscape painted in subdued shades blue-gray; the lights from Caldwell blurred by the engine's exhaust. My mind started to wander, amidst the drone of the rotors, and I found myself watching mile after mile on non-descript land roll out under us, dotted occaisionally by a light from a mud house. Amazing how normal this all has become to me. I had to make an effort to remember the initial thrill of my first helicopter trip. I've lost perspective. What is thrilling? What is dangerous? What is fun? What is risk? All now is just mission.

Behind us, the black smudge of our Blackhawk escort swung across the night sky. My daze broken by the movement of the tailgunner as he sat on the lip of the rear gate, feet dangling outside. Turning his head to scout outside the Chinook, his eyes shone with the ghoulish green glow from his night vision goggles (NVGs). He seemed at that moment alien, and the scene surreal. Here we were in the middle of the night, the only light coming from the nearly full moon. The drone of the engines hypnotizing us. The vast Iraqi landscape visible through the open tail. And me, a few hundred feet about the ground, ten feet from the gate's edge, held in by a single strap seat buckle.

Would have made a perfectly dreamlike scenario except for the bag. Sitting on the end, in my opinion, is the best place on the Chinook, last on - first off, and none of that "should I give him the ass or the crotch" decision making when squeezing past another soldier. But someone didn't take out the damn trash. So, hanging above my left ear was a half-full kitchen garbage bag flapping in the wind, banging me on the shoulder. Annoying. I fumbled around in the darkness with my gloved hand, to try to tuck the stupid thing under some webbing. No luck. I tried to ignore it for a while. No luck. Finally I was able to get the bottom corner of the bag to catch on something behind the seat webbing. Good. Back to the midnight daydream.

Just as I started to relax and drift off for a nap (soldiers are trained to sleep whenever not actively on task), the damn bag started banging me again. Worked itself loose. I fumbled with it again for a few minutes but it refused to get tucked back behind the seat. Then the lights came on. The crew must be doing something. Bright white bay lights, against the black night sky. Immediately and calmly the gunner stood up and walked over beside me, reached around the stubborn trash bag, and shut the lights off. Uh,my bad, I must have hit a switch accidentally and turned the whole bird into a humongous target for 5 seconds. I guess I will put up with the bag banging on my shoulder for the rest of the ride.

I could see the headlines: "Fully Manned Chinook Shot Down by Insurgents." Followed by, "In an exclusive interview, Haji said 'and as I pray with my RPG by my side, I look up and see a huge bright star appear over me. I knew it was divine intervention. I knew Allah was speaking. So I shot it.'"

Friday, November 11, 2005


I have been reading a book by a soldier and blogger. I have read several other military bloggers, and a few things enter my mind. First, there are two basic types of military bloggers; bitchers and battlers. The first group I have absolutely no time for. Reading a blog that is entry after entry containing childish complaints about the first-line supervisor and inside jokes, to me, is a humongous waste of time and an embarrassment as a soldier. (I realize may of the people that dislike my blog or my perspective are rolling their eyes right now and swearing that mine is also a large waste of be it.) The other group - battlers - produces such deep jealousy. Maybe not jealousy exactly but I definitely covet their situation.

I have done everything within my power to place myself into combat. I have volunteered for the convoy team (apparently the luckiest convoy team in Iraq because we've received essentially no contact except a blasting cap sized IED early on), I even was working on going out with the SF, 278th, and ING on night raids.

These battlers draw interest due to their ability to provide first-hand personal accounts of events that do not get covered by the media accurately. Many of the bloggers add thoughtful commentary, allowing readers a vicarious experience. Many just regurgitate the events in a seemingly disjointed manner. But these bloggers have raw, poignant material from which to form their entries.

I, on the other hand, see myself as an example of the majority of soldiers deployed. Coalition forces number nearly 150,000... US military comprising 130,000 of those troops. The vast overwhelming number of these troops are combat support, like myself. We provide communication integral to the operations. Others provide medical, food, or mechanical support. So many troops in so many different positions are currently deployed so that the small minority of combat soldiers can effectively do their job.

But our war is not the same. We fight a war closer to the human spirit. We endure the personal erosion of deployment; the long term ache instead of the quick sharp stabbing pain of ambush. I have lost everything except my children and my dogs; and all were mistreated. Time and absence is our enemy. We don't have many intense, flashy stories to tell. Ours is a more reflective role.

I started my blog to keep in touch with friends and family, to reduce the repetitive emails I sent, and for me to keep a record of my experiences here. By nature, I am contemplative; an observer. That is not to say that I do not get involved, on the contrary. But over time my perspective and understanding of my situation has evolved. In many ways it has become more personal, more private, more realized, more negative. Therefore my posts have taken a different turn. At first I was apprehensive and naive. I took in all the events as fresh and new and meaningful, as with the woman and daughter on our first convoy. Everything I did was new. Now, 10 months later, there is nothing new. Therein lies the source of ennui.

I have considered several times to open up and dump all my personal issues into this blog. But I haven't for a few reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that I wished to keep the blog topic/debate format. I've revealed some of my innermost personal issues when I saw them as relevant, as when I discovered my STBEW's infidelity and neglect of my children when I returned on R&R. But those topics don't hold much potential for discussion. I don't want pity and I didn't want this blog to become completely self-serving; my second reason. Lastly, there are a few folks that I work with that are regular readers. And though I try to remain void of office politics, I am aware of them. Becoming too honest and revealing can bring about a shitstorm. So the myriad personal battles I, and most other deployed soldiers, face have not been exposed.

Things are changing here though. I am receiving a new mission with new people at new locations. This may free me up to post more personal entries, as well as giving me new experiences to write about. I will be going closer to the hot zones, hopefully serving missions into locations you are familiar with from the evening news. A regular reader requested that I write about myself prior to my enlistment and the motivations that led me to my decisions. I feel comfortable doing that now and already have that in the process. If I have lost the momentum that drew the numerous commenters previously, then stay tuned for my redefinition.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pretty Fly for a White Guy

Again....bored soldiers with money. This clip features SPC Alan Kenyon skipping a few links in the food chain. I wish I had actual combat footage to show but I haven't been lucky enough to capture any. So, this is what I have and this is what you will get.

Video is in Xvid/divx format, roughly 6.3 Megs. As always, right-click on the link below and choose to Save Target As.... Do NOT click and try to stream the video!!

The Islamic Terrorist Name Generator

In my incessant quest to have a genuine fatwa issued against me, I bring you the brainchild of my sick mind.

Please, when passing the link around, use this blog's URL as the generator will always appear at the right side of the page. All complaints will be completely ignored or ridiculed. This is what happens while I have been waiting for feedback.

The Islamic Terrorist Name Generator

Ever wanted to be part of the most active and well known religions on Earth but didn't feel like going through the whole conversion and training process? You too can make the evening news as just another worthless Islamic Terrorist (yes, it is redundant. Get a fishing vest, some explosives, and generate you Allah-approved martyr moniker!!

You are:
Please enter your name:

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Call for Feedback

Since we are entering a phase of our deployment that prevents me from giving too many details, I thought it would be an appropriate time to get some reader feedback. Why? Topics, and to take advantage of the unique situation I am in to answer questions and hopefully dispell myths / disinformation.

So, having said that I ask two questions. First, I would like to compile a list of maybe the 5 essential entries in this blog and post the links to he right. That way the new readers won't have to sort through the entire blog to find the gems. Please post the title of whatever entries you feel should appear on that list.

Second, there is so much that I have yet to discuss simply because I am uncertain what civilians, especially Americans, find interesting, curious, suspect, or inspiring. I am asking all readers to submit via email or by comment, any / all questions or topics they would like me to discuss.

To accomplish these ends, I am going to drop the comment posting restrictions temporarily to allow those without blogger accounts to post. I will stay on top of the comments as best I can to eliminate the inevitable spam that precipitated my move to posting restrictions. Also, feel free to email me if you are uncomfortable posting publicly. My email can be discerned by viewing my profile, finding what is listed under Contact, and putting it all together. That is my IM as well as email info.

I hope to hear from you all soon.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in......

You know I am not into blog-tag or these games too much, but this one I lifted from Graven Images is kind of interesting. Instead of listing all the way through High School, I will only do my elementary experience. High School was uneventful and College was, well, college. So here it goes. Something I remember from each Elementary Grade.

Kindergarten: First day, in the parking lot, trying to rationally talk my mom out of sending me to this whole "school" thing.

1st Grade: Bob (sorry dude) raising his hand repeatedly to ask to go to the bathroom. Denied. Then Bob got up to go anyway and left a pool of urine in the contoured wooden seat....I was told by Ms. Novy that I will "burn in Hell" for trying to help settle an argument between two other students in class. (I went to Catholic School, so you can imagine what that's like for a 7 year old.)...being put in 2nd grade reading.

2nd Grade: practicing for a play with Chris Sabol, as the queen, and I as the king. Play called for a kiss. I vehemently objected.

3rd Grade: Mrs. Lieb cooking dirt for a science experiment, which stunk up the entire 1st floor of the school. I was taller than her.

4th Grade: Sister Roseanne would sneeze frequently. Since we were all smart-assed 10 year-olds by this time, everytime she sneezed we would all wave back in our one-piece desks, leaning back and yelling "Whoooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaa!". That lasted a day.

5th Grade: Had a cold most of the time. Blew my nose and showed it to Kelley Smith. She promptly told the teacher and I got busted. Girls don't appreciate mucus.

6th Grade: Met Bill Young and that started a new era. John Komara always had "extra spit" so we talked him into making this big huge spit ball made from the rough pulp C-fold bathroom towels. He chewed that thing for nearly 20 minutes in Science class before launching it at the side wall over the lockers while the teacher's back was turned. We all surpressed our laughter. His "super-spit" made that thing stick long after we left 8th grade.

7th Grade: During Science class we were learning about sea creatures. Octopi in particular. Greg "Gig" Poltonovage would say under his breath to Bob and I, "testicles?" every time the word tentacles was spoken in class. We all had to hold back laughter. He forgot himself and was called on. Obviously as he was reading, he accidentally said "testicles" instead of "tentacles" and was hauled out to the hallway for a talking to.

8th Grade: Mrs. Bzdil had us do sentence diagramming for a large part of the school year. I still think about sentences in that format. Got my first gray hair spot on the side of my head. Confirmation. Still an altarboy....Jimmy Kerstetter and me were the "Twin Towers" dwarfing Father Fennessy.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Welcome to Iraq! - love, Haji

Well, history and pride and a cool series on HBO just does not buy you enough respect with the local Hajis. The 101st came to town and will take over this area as the 278th National Guard rolls out. For instance, there is a firing pit that we and the 278th have used for test firing before convoying. Well, we never had a problem. We even wave to the Haji shepherds that walk by as we pull in.

Not so gentle a reception for the 101st. Nope. Haji apparently didn't like their bravado and placed an IED in the firing pit which then blew the front end off a HMMWV. No one killed but one hell of a lesson learned.

I just got back from another multi-day mission to Balad, we expected some action this time since it is the closing days of Ramadan, but saw none. As a matter of fact, I was able to take a bunch of pictures (below) on the mission. On the way back home, we expected some action. None again, to my disappointment. But, when we rolled into the FOB, we were told that the 101st had been in the town we had just traveled through. One of their soldiers was killed. They just got here. Hopefully, the arrogance they had shown towards us upon their arrival will give way to good prudence towards the Haji.

On a lighter note, here is a collection of pictures I took on the mission. Click on pics for larger image. Enjoy.
Rare appearance of clouds in the sky. Soon the skies will change from the oppressively persistent blue to a depressing gray/white.

SGT Rawlerson on the .50 cal

SSG Cunninham, convoy leader


Evidence of Reconstruction

Iraqi school girls taken with my Salvadore Dali camera. Taken in the town that attacked and killed the 101st soldier. Before we (collectively) got here, this would have been a rare site.

An absolutely beautiful sunset Iraqi style. Photo unretouched.

Guard Tower.

Iraqi Women.