Sunday, September 25, 2005

Stuck Inside of Texas With The Baghdad Blues Again

Even if I was inclined, it would be impossible to leave Iraq behind. It was in that God-forsaken land that I saw how low, how vile, humanity could be. I also saw the possibility of the human spirit triumphing over the base viciousness that characterizes far too many of our fellows.

I've been back from the war for just over six months now. I've had time to digest, reflect, and ponder. What do I think about the most? Proud Comanche Company was gutted by a stupid, insensitive Army "system" that cares nothing for comraderie forged in battle. We are a pallid shell, a slim imitator of the powerful band of warriors that existed not that long ago. Sometimes I feel like a piece of me left with those other men. I wish them luck in their new units, but if I could, I'd reassemble the old group for the return to Iraq.

Returning to Iraq. The thought doesn't fill me with dread, not in the slightest. I dread having to work a normal 6am-5pm schedule. I dread dealing with the ignorant mass of Americans who won't listen past the media distortions about Iraq. I dread having to do paperwork. I dread the insignificance of much of life in the States. Iraq? Bring it on. I'm ready to go back.

The reader might be asking him or herself "what exactly is wrong with this guy?" A fair question. For a few years, starting in adolescence, I imagined myself as a future historian. Perhaps that profession still lies ahead for me, but for now I prefer an active hand in world events. I'm not a billionaire, a religious leader, an aristocrat, or influential writer, but I am a soldier. I'd venture to guess that some of the decisions that I, and men just like me, made in Iraq, will reverberate for decades. The decisions I make here are limited to banalities such as which variety of gin to purchase or which particular shirt I'll wear for the trip to the HEB grocery store down the road. Monstrously dull, just like school and work. Boring and without consequence.

I'm not saying that I would enjoy the prospect of my life being an eternal conflict, but at least now, in my younger days (some of my men would disagree with the "younger" part), I feel the need to make a difference. That statement might possibly sound hopelessly idealistic, especially coming from a hard-bitten veteran. Oh well. I find it amusing, though, that the most idealistic people I know are soldiers or supporters of soldiers, most of whom would identify themselves as "conservative." Hope for a better world, and the guts to try and make it happen, are needed in this chaotic era. Sounds pretty liberal, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Jenny

Sometime in August of 2004 -



The bastards wanted to fight again. After a month-long "truce," the Mahdi Army had apparently decided that they hadn't had enough the first time around. Unlike the ambushes of April 4th, we had plenty of warning this time. You could smell it in the city, from the increasing amount of anti-US rallies, to the vacated houses in the friendly areas. All of Sadr City knew the war would be back on soon, and now, after getting to know how things worked around here, we knew it to.

Near the end of August, after a good deal of death and destruction was meted out to the Mahdis, it was decided that the battalion would take and hold buildings in the city, rather than do drive through "movements to contact." Fine by me. I'd always said that the only time the Mahdis could hurt us was when we were moving. Setting up in a building, especially down the street from one of their mosques, really pissed those guys off. Sooner or later, they'd come and try to fight. Of course, when they did, they walked into prepared kill zones. The next morning after one of these fights, if the families of the Mahdis were lucky, there was a body to recover that hadn't dragged off and eaten by wild dogs.

One of these periods sticks in my mind. We were on route Bravo, near the Gold gas station. We'd taken some light contact during the day, and renovated the sides of a few buildings in response. After dismounting, our LT decided to take over a two-story building. It had storefronts on the ground level, and apartments up top. Pappy and I were trying to pry open the door leading to the upper story. The occupant evidently had fled for safer digs, and had put on a thick padlock. As we were working on it, and RPG flew down the street at us. I looked at Pappy, and he looked at me. I dropped the prybar and tried to find some cover. The whole platoon was scrambling around, some firing back. I could hear our Bradleys shooting, but I had no idea where the rocket had come from. I and a few others dove into an abandoned lunch counter through the broken-out front window.

Once inside, I peered out to see if i could spot any enemy. All I saw was our Bradleys destroying the side of a building. A palm tree that was growing from a second-story terrace on the building was cut in half, the leafy top tumbling to the street. After the dust settled it was clear that either the RPG guy was dead or wasn't coming back. I collected my team, and we went back to the door. By this time Pappy had gotten the thing open, and the platoon pushed its way upstairs.

Paydirt! It turned out that of all the places we could've taken over, this suite of apartments was occupied by a rabid supporter of Muqtada. His fat face was postered throughout all of the rooms. This immediately put us in an even worse mood. Either the cocksucker who lived here was off fighting in another part of the city, or he had taken his family and fled. We ripped most of the posters down. Ziggy, our translator, a mid-fiftyish man from western Baghdad, was raised Shia, but hated the political posturings of "all those fucking Shia imams," as he put it. Ziggy wrote some Arabic messages on the few remaining posters, the content of which, I was assured, dealt with Muqtada's predilection for interspecies coitus.

My team's assigned sector of fire was overlooking the street to the west and south. Our little area consisted of the master bedroom. The woman of the house was a packrat; there was an entire china cabinet filled with plates, cups, and knick-knacks. We thoroughly searched the room, looking for weapons, ammo, or counterfeit money (we did find a huge stack of Iranian cash). While searching, I saw something that made me chuckle. Stapled to the wall was a toy package, a Chinese Barbie knock-off. She was called Jenny. Jenny was still sealed in her package, and she was stapled about six feet from the floor. I thought of the little girl to whom this belonged. Why did her father staple it to the wall, clearly out of her reach? The whole situation reminded me of those guys who buy Star Wars figures but leave them in their packages "to preserve resell value." Ugh.

Now here was a man, a supporter of, if not a fighter for, the Mahdi Army. He had at least one small daughter, evidenced by the clothes in the wardrobe. To me, the "Jenny" situation spoke of the cruelty that the devout Shia in Sadr City exhibited toward their females. Keeping a doll out of reach of a little girl isn't very high on the cruelty scale, of course, but turning your city into a war zone at the behest of a Iranian-funded religious maniac is. The Mahdi Army shut down schools, firebombed music stores that sold nonreligious music, sacked beauty parlors for promoting "loose" behavior, and planted bombs all over the streets that killed hundreds of their co-religionists. I truly felt sorry for the little girl who owned Jenny. She had almost no chance in life to be anything but a baby factory for an illiterate, unskilled goon. If she did go to school, what were the chances that she'd be allowed to continue her education after getting married at age twelve or thirteen? Her life was going to suck, and her asshole father wouldn't even let her enjoy what little childhood she had left. He wouldn't let her play with Jenny.

Monday, August 22, 2005

It's Just Like a Bicycle

I stopped blogging in Iraq because I had little time to do it in, it cost $2 an hour, and I just plain lost interest. The other day, something happened at Protein Wisdom that made me want to get back into the game.

I have grown weary of the "chickenhawk" argument...very weary. So, when I read this little gem at Jeff's blog, I had to respond:

Hey cowards-

Casey Sheehan was a man. You are pussies.

Put up or shut up.

1-800-GO-ARMY


Go here to see what happened next (or here to see the action in it's original context).

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Back to the S**t (with apologies to Millie Jackson)

Yes, I'm back in Iraq. Now it's cold and sometimes rainy, so the craplakes are overfed with rainwater, keeping them from even slightly evaporating off of the streets. The folk in the northeastern part of Sadr City are still surly, ignorant, and filthy, but they have apparently calmed down - slightly - since I left in late November. Right now they are in the midst of a remembrance celebration for Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, killed by Saddam in 1999, and father to Muqtada al-Sadr ("Mookie"), the doughy, monkey-brained spiritual "leader" of the bands of Shia criminals that plant bombs in the road and beat up women for patronizing beauty salons. Perhaps I'm being a tad too oblique: I loathe Mookie, and if I had the chance I'd feed his writhing, pudgy body to hungry feral pigs. His "resistance" has fairly well destroyed what little the people of Sadr City had, and it has kept US-led reconstruction efforts from proceeding at an acceptable pace. Of course, although the majority of his hysterical, hyperventilating followers live in squalor so profound that even Sally Struthers would run out of tears if she witnessed them, Mookie himself doesn't even live in the city that bears his name. Too nasty, I guess.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Busy, Busy, and Going Home

No, I'm not going home for good (yet). I finally get my fifteen-day leave - which I'll be spending in SPW. Maybe I'll blog from there, and maybe I won't. I haven't decided yet. I may find that I enjoy being totally disconnected from the world. We'll see.

Until then, goodbye!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Elsewhere in Iraq

Check out this letter home from a Marine in Fallujah. Our leatherneck brothers over there have had their hands full since April (which I can sympathize with...April was the beginning of the awfulness in Sadr City also).

(thanks to Donald Sensing for the link)

Friday, November 05, 2004

That's Finally Over...

On the morning of the 3rd of November my platoon did an operation jointly with Iraqi security forces - both police and military. I won't (and can't) go into the details of that operation, but that's not the subject in any event. While we were doing our Army thing, we were receiving messages over the radio unrelated to the ongoing operation. Someone "at higher" (as in higher echelon of command) was passing blow-by-blow election updates to the units operating in sector. It was great to see American soldiers so involved. Most, of course, were rooting for the incumbent, but there were a few guys looking for a change in the White House. At one point I even had an ING (Iraq National Guardsman) ask me how it was going and who was winning. I'm not sure if he even knew who the other guy was besides Bush (they all, even the little kids, know who he is), but he was interested all the same.

When we returned to our temporary field-operating base (a more hellish patch of blight and neglect has never been glimpsed by man), I took a little break by sitting in the back of a Bradley and smoking. By that time news passed to us that Kerry had conceded. There was a palpable sigh of relief from everyone, and not just because most of the guys wanted Bush to win. I heard a few people mutter about how they were glad it was over so we could get back to work. I can say that I share that sentiment (I'm also overjoyed that there will be no 2000-esque recount). My unit has passed the halfway mark in our tour here, and we're ready to get on with business and get it over with. Now we can concentrate on the January election in Iraq, which I predict will be a circus of confusion and death, with me and the guys stuck right in the middle of it.

I'll really be able to relax when that election is over and done with.