Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virginia Memorialized in Afghanistan

In the war, I find myself desensitized to the deaths back in the states. Well, that, and last year I was working in Afghanistan I lost a few friends, one in Seattle to mass killing at a party. I was surprised to get this press release today from ISAF, NATO's soldiers in Afghanistan.
FARAH, Afghanistan (21 April) – Soldiers and sailors of the Farah Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) here gathered Friday for a memorial service in remembrance of the students killed and wounded in the Virginia Tech massacre.

“We value human life, whether it is in Afghanistan, or Blacksburg, Virginia,” said Frank Hughlett, PRT Farah commander, a Virginia Tech graduate.
“We’re far from home. And whether it’s 33 Afghans or 33 Americans, the value of human life is precious, and we’re here to safeguard it and enhance the human condition any way we can.”

Flags were lowered to half-mast as Capt. Terry Hestilow, a former Baptist pastor, led the troops in a prayer that the families and the victims of the tragedy would be comforted.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mass Killings--Western and Islamic

Being in Iraq has offered me a new perspective on suicide bombers. Last spring I got news of a shooting in Seattle. Some random guy came into my friend Ian's party and shot his place up and killed his roommate and friends. Today in the news I see that there is another shooting.,22049,21570733-5001028,00.html

I've struggled to understand the drive of suicide bombers here in the middle east. I know that it has to do with religious beliefs and the idea of dying in a holy war for Islam is supposed to take these bombers straight to heaven. Most of the killers in the states, I am guessing, don't have such a religious basis for their actions.

But we do have a sort of American cowboy mythos, that and the gangster. Going down in a blaze of bullets. I am not sure exactly what I am getting at. Perhaps just trying to understand the human condition.

The bottom line is that every minute of every moment more people are on this earth than have ever been here. Despite war, murder and natural disasters, humans are reproducing at a rate greater than we are dying. Our resources are running out, or will run out. The party is just beginning.

Friday, April 13, 2007

US Soldiers Kicked in Balls by Uncle Sam

I have to say morale is not horrible here after the announcement that deployments are being extended another three months. The rumor was in full swing a few weeks before the news hit. It was sort of an air bag.

One officer told me that my headline for the work I am doing here should be “Soldiers kicked in the balls.”

I can tell you that almost every soldier I have talked to said that they are going to leave the military as soon as they can. Most have done a tour previous to this and to be on the second and third tour AND have it extended has simply burned them out, despite the $1000 a month bonus.

The bottom line is that these soldiers have family. It's too long away from spouses and children. I have heard it over and over. Putting ones life on hold for 15 months at a time is just too damn much.

I did ten months over here in 05/06 and that was enough for me. About 8 months of that time were spent in Afghanistan. I found a link today to something I wrote about a friend of mine that died in Afghanistan last winter. Wais was not a soldier in the traditional sense, but he was a fighter and survivor. He managed the Mustafa Hotel in Kabul.

All hell is breaking loose here in Iraq, it seems. Woman suicide bombers, bridges exploding and bombs in the safest parts of the Green Zone—the Iraqi Parliament. Well, that is determination. I am not sure what a surge of troops and extending the Army three months on a twelve month tour can do when all of the attacks I mention are by people willing to blow themselves up. Nothing will stop a suicide bomber easily. Of course you can shoot them if you get a chance, or take the bomb away. Sure. But that is hard to do.

I've been working in Tall Afar at FOB Sykes with the 2-25 AVN attached to 1/17 Air Cav. Good bunch of guys. I took a little video you can see here.

If you like the music, I'm playing the electric guitar, Shurd, the pilot with the rubber chicken is playing a classical and Chris, a contractor was on keyboards. It was our first song and first time jamming. We started out with BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN. If you click on the first podcast you can here the entire jam.

The extreme heat of Iraq has not hit—its rainy, making lots of mud, and cool. Probably in the 50s at night. I have a few more days here, then I am off to Al Assad in Al Anbar.

Friday, April 6, 2007

As Baghdad Watches a Burning Bush

The military gets a selection of channels on AFN cable tv here in Iraq. Simpsons, with Fox and CNN, stuff like that. So I was walking by a tv in waiting area of a military camp in the Baghdad area. I'd just flown into Baghdad and was waiting to drive to the Green Zone.
The Resident of the White House, George Bush, came on tv to talk about the strings that were attached to the war funding bills, specifically the withdrawal plans being attached to the budget.
The room was empty at the time when the speech ran live, except for a NCO at the LNO desk. This soldier was not impressed and made disgusted sighs every time Bush said it was the democrats that were making this war suck.
Later, the news replays all night long showed the footage over as the room filled up with soldiers. No one said they wanted to go home. One Marine Corps Colonel was rather upset with Senator Harry Reid. To be honest, while almost every soldier I have talked to says they want to come home, many of them want to stay and finish this job.
I suspect that their will be a spring offensive soon. Many soldiers and others have said that now the insurgents see that they are winning they will work hard to cause trouble and get our politicians to pull out of Iraq. I know they watch what is going on—when I was in Afghanistan last spring, when the US phased out much of it's combat operations and handed it off to ISAF and the Canadian/British troops. The fighting got bad, as bad if not worse than the initial invasion in 2001.

Bush says that if he doesn't get what he wants, the troops will suffer because of the democrats. Well, that does not seem to be true.

Most of the shit going down is because of his administrations fuck ups, not the fuck ups of the democrats.

Personally, I like a few ideas related to the withdrawal—1). Have the Iraqi's vote. Do they want us here? 2) make the deployment to Iraq voluntary. Instead of ordering people in or out of this war, let's exercise a little democracy. Iraq is not our enemy, really, and this isn't some crazy shit like WWII where we need all hands on deck. Shia and Sunni have been killing each other for 1385 years. We are not going to make a difference in five or ten years when this blood feud is way older than even our country.

Swedish Meat Balls, or the biggest newspaper in Sweden reports on Iraq

FOB ISKAN, pictured here, where a Swedish journalist I meet claimed that all the soldiers keep the toilet seats in the up position "because they are so disciplined."

Some journalists are assholes, unlike me. Others are assholes, snobs and idiots. I met Johanne Hildebrandt, a journalist from Sweden, while I was in at FOB Kalsu working on this article:

I asked her what she was working on. She couldn't tell me. It was a secret. She said, “You know, stuff.” Like I was going to steal her article, please. This is her story.,2789,1028769,00.html

She later revealed to a Marine Col. that picked us up at the helopad in the Green Zone that she was at FOB Iskan. I spent a week there last summer and covered a big fight. I never thought it was a secret.

She went on to talk about how a big US soldier pressed his body against her, when they was some small arms fire. And continued that on about how disciplined the soldiers were, because all the toilets had the seats up. So, let me tell you, the bathrooms there are divided by sexes, so she only would have seen the womans room. However, the porto-potties are unisex. They also have spring loaded toilet seats.

She bragged about how she worked for the “biggest newspaper in Sweden” but couldn't even forward her article to me. I found it on google.

So, we were all invited to see the Iraqi Police Graduation at FOB Kalsu. She screwed off and ignored it. The solution to this war is Iraqi Police and Army taking over. Some crazy journalists like me think that maybe that is something news worthy to cover. Call me Crazy . . .

If you can't tell, I really dislike snobbish journalists, that think they are above the rest of us covering this war, especially when they choose only to pay attention to being shot at, and toilet seats. Shit, I was shot at more in Nevada when I worked for Burning Man than she was in Iraq, I bet.

I asked her and her photographer if they covered the Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan. They said no. Well, at least they can inform the Swedish public erroneously about the condition of the toilet seat lids at FOB Iskan.

Translation of the article provided by

Well, it's nice she was touched by a soldier and never used her journalistic skills to look and see the toilet seat lids are spring loaded.