Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Get Out the Vote!

Two days left in the MilBloggies contest. It ends at 8pm EST on 27 Feb.

Go vote- I'm neck-and-neck for the lead right now.

UPDATE: Acute Politics is now ahead, 74 - 67. 1 day left. Keep it up!

Nervous Tics

Several days ago we were on another mission out through the farmland surrounding Falluja. It's the middle of the night, and my truck is out in front again, swapping places periodically with the mine sweeping truck. The road is ugly- it's narrow, muddy, sloped slightly towards the deep canal on the right, and elevated between six and ten feet above the field to the left. It's the kind of road that would make you nervous to drive on at home, and here there are people trying to blast you off of it into the canal. It makes me very nervous.

Usually, I tend to avoid thinking about things that make me nervous. There's too many of them. That night, however, I started to compile a list in my mind. It's quite a list, and as anyone who has been to Iraq or even seen a few pictures knows, the items on the list are everywhere.

Blast holes.
Man holes.
Cut-out holes.
Concrete patches in holes.
Dug up and/or disturbed earth.
Broken concrete.
Bumps in the road.
Geometric arrangements of rocks, sticks, or scrap.
Dirt roads.
Canal roads.
Paved roads.
Narrow roads.
Elevated roads.
Muddy roads.
Moving traffic.
Stopped traffic.
Twisted hulks of vehicles.
Abandoned vehicles.
Especially fuel tankers.
Absence of people.
Strings that look like either.
Cassette tape.
Tall reeds.

There's a sampling. I'll edit later with more entries and some pictures.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Badger 6: Badgers Down

Badger 6 has written here about the events that cost the lives of three of my friends, three members of my platoon, and three of his soldiers. He has other posts as well, telling about who they were as more than names and faces. Go there if you want to learn. Don't mistake anything you read about them there as hyperbole- the CO is giving you the straight story. He knew these men, too. I doubt I'll write more about them for a while.

Milbloggies: Milblog Contest

Ok. The nominating that you did over this last week for Milbloggies was the preliminary heat. Now, the top five blogs in each category will compete for the next two days in final voting.
Acute Politics finished the nomination phase solidly in the top position in both Iraq Milblogs and Army Milblogs. If you can spare the time and frustration, go back and brave the servers at and cast your final votes among the nominees for the top blog in each category. The voting starts today.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Faces in the Crowds

Every time I get into a conversation about Iraq with someone back home, they ask me what the kids are like, or what the people are like, or what the women do. Normally, the only time I see given to the Iraqi people in the news is for the numbers of the dead, and the rantings of radical Muslims. I can look around me as I go on patrol and see faces everywhere that belong to neither group.

There are the middle-aged men in black robes and red headdresses who glare at us as we pass. They squat in circles and whisper to each other, and strike their children when they wave and call to us. I rarely see women among them.

There was the young Iraqi girl in an orange headdress that blew a kiss at me as we passed her at a checkpoint. She got embarrassed and hid her face when I smiled back.

Once, as we returned to Ramadi from Falluja, I saw an Iraqi man driving his truck through the rain. There were four women in traditional garb in the back of the truck, huddled together for warmth. On the front seat next to the man was his dog.

In one small village near the canals in Falluja was one of the cutest kids I've ever seen. She was only four or five, and looked like my sister did at that age- curly dark hair around her round, dimpled face. She smiled big and waved, asking for candy- I spread my hands and told her I didn't have any. She covered her eyes and started pouting, and then turned again to smiles within seconds. As we drove out of sight I could see she was still waving.

There was the old man out working his field- I saw him leaning up against his shovel watching us leave underneath the setting sun. He was old enough to have known life before Saddam as well as after. I can't help but wonder what he thinks of us.

Everywhere, there are children. If the streets are free of children, we start to look for the imminent attack. They love to have their picture taken, and all of them know that American troops are endless wells of candy. These kids are the future of Iraq. If they grow up to hate, I have little hope that there will ever be peace on this place.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Random Tidbits

New Readers:
I've been getting a lot of new visitors over the last few days. If this is your first time here at Acute Politics, I'd like to encourage you to browse through the archives. You can find some favorites of mine, and of my regular readers here, here, here, here, and here. Enjoy!

Good Humor:
I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to give thirty bored soldiers super-strength mouse catching glue (the humorous translation from Arabic on the tube is "Magic Power Adhesive") and a box of mousetraps, but it happened. NEWS FLASH: FUNNY, BUT BAD IDEA!

Dumbass of the Week:
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) calls for stricter gun control laws to "prevent further violence", such as the mass murder/suicide this last week in Philadelphia. She manages to believe that the gunman carried a "legally purchased AK-47", rather than two handguns, as the police said. Strike one. She says "The deaths in Philadelphia could have been prevented if Congress had done its job of protecting the homeland and renewed the assault weapons ban", apparently failing to realize that said ban failed to ban either handguns or AK-47s. Strike two. Since strikes one and two weren't enough for one day, she continues by saying "I remain committed to passing common sense legislation to prevent further acts of gun violence", referring (among other laws) to the AWB. Right. Common sense to airheads and fan clubs for symbolic yet useless legislation. Unless any of you have heard of recent drive-by bayoneting cases, or shootings in which the gunman used more than ten rounds AND didn't have time to change a mag, I will maintain that the restrictions of the AWB on weapon functionality amount to functionally worthless legislation.

Sorry, Ms. McCarthy. That's three strikes. Hopefully New York has the sense to put you out.

Pending Move:
Blogger continues to frustrate me with authentication problems and lack of features such as integrated traffic statistics. I'm in the process of migrating this blog over to a Wordpress account. I'll be keeping Acute Politics mainly short stories and some prose, but I'll also be posting more poetry on a separate account I am in the process of setting up. Hopefully, that will cater to both the readers who want to read poetry, and those who could just as easily live without. I'll also probably post more poems than I otherwise would.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

How Human Are We?

It's time for another one of those posts. Yep, the kind of post that gets nutjobs at places like Vanity Fair all up in a tizzy. Maybe I'm pushing too far with this one- I'm writing about something that I feel many of you can never understand.

I left the billets early tonight for the mission. I racked my machine gun in the cradle, and sat on top of the truck. I plugged in my iPod, took a sip of coffee, and sat back to watch the sunset. Somehow, the setting sun always seems to look better here than at home; the sunsets are the one beautiful thing about this place. I watch as the dying sun slowly sinks, its rays falling across sand, mud, guard towers, satellite dishes, and all the other things that have come to mean home for a time. The sky is brilliant with golds and crimsons- here and there a tendril of flame licks up a wisp of cloud.

Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice/From what I've tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire

The sun has set, and Venus shines low in the sky in poor reflection. The others are starting to straggle out to the vehicles. It's time to prep for the mission. Tonight, we're going back up into the general area where we lost three of ours so shortly ago- not the same road- and this is the first time we've been back that way. I look around at my friends and try to read their faces. They could be scared, and most of us are, a little. They could be numb- just doing their job. Again, most of us are, a little. However, I think that most of us are out for blood. It might sound horrible, inhuman, even medieval, but the fact of the matter is that someone out there killed friends of ours, and we're going back into a place where we just might get the guy that did it. We'll never know if it was him, of course, but there's always the chance that we'll even the scales unknowingly.

Killing is not natural to sane people, no matter how often it has happened over eons. There are many ways that you can reconcile yourself in some way to the idea of killing another human. You can think of it as duty- you have a job, and that job requires violence. You can hate- the easiest of all excuses, and the most exhausting. You can look at it as simple survival- if you don't kill him, then he'll kill you. However you justify it, you are still in a war, and people will still die. It wears on everyone- the American deaths, the "collateral damage" we inflict on people in the wrong place at the wrong time, the innocents killed when some faceless murderer blows himself up in a crowd. Yes, even the enemy dead take their toll.

The headphones sing-
If I ever leave this world alive/I'll come back down and sit beside your feet tonight/Wherever I am you'll always be/More than just a memory/If I ever leave this world alive

One more mission.
One more chance to find a bomb.
One more chance to save a life.
One more chance to take one.

One more chance to die.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I'm going to be taking it slow for a few days on the blog. I know, I know... some of you would remark that me taking it slow is nothing unusual. Don't worry, though- I'll be back in a few days with some new posts and perhaps one about the memorial that we had Tuesday.

In the meantime, go to, register for an account, and nominate Badger 6 and/or myself in the 2006 MilBlogs contest. The nominations run through 22 Feb, at which point the top 5 blogs in each category (Service Branch and Country) will move on to voting for another four days.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Road To Hell

The DOD has officially announced the deaths of our guys. This is the post I mentioned earlier: written on the 8th and held until the brief came out.

I reported this morning for guard duty at 1115. The sergeant of the guard told us that someone had been hurt in Falluja, and taken to the Falluja Surgical Center. Falluja. My thoughts ran wild: is it my guys, or another platoon? Who was in front today? Who was it? Right before we leave for the towers, the sergeant comes back outside and tells us that the wounded man didn't make it. I know the name- shit- it's my guys. The tip of my cigarette is glowing, but it doesn't seem to ash. Time is supposed to slow down when you're in the moment, not when you're hearing of it.

The next four hours are glacial- slower and colder than I could have thought. The 1st Sergeant comes out to the tower to update us: It's not just one guy, it's three, and another in bad shape. The news is like a punch in the stomach.The lead truck took a hit from a massive bomb. Two of my friends died instantaneously. A third passed away on the helicopter flight back to the base medical center, and a fourth man lies badly wounded but stable at the FSC.

The guard shift change comes with directions to go find the 1st SGT again- something has changed. I make my way to the company operations center, and find the entire staff and the few members of my platoon who stayed behind gathered around the big screen that shows the positions of vehicles on the ground. Another truck has taken a hit, and they've medevaced another wounded soldier by helicopter.

I learn that the mission they were on was clearing the route to the site of an American helicopter that crashed the day before. The previous night they had cleared a path out so that the bodies of the crew could be recovered. Today, they had gone back to clear a path home for the Marines left to guard the airframe until arrangements could be made for its recovery and/or destruction. After the the first truck had been hit, they had pressed on to reach the Marines at the crash site, only to turn back when the second truck was hit. A Marine route clearance unit is diverted to the site, and eventually clears through. Meanwhile, we all sit and watch the screen track our platoons slow and painful progress back towards safety. I take my leave again, and go with a few friends. We sit, and begin to speak of the dead.

One of the dead men had been a friend of mine as long as I'd been in the unit. We'd laughed together, drank together, and talked about the future. He'd got me started smoking at NTC at the same time that he was trying to quit. Tonight, I'm helping organize the things he left behind. His girlfriend of a year meets me at his room to give me another box. She's from another company; they met just prior to our deployment alert, and have struggled to build their relationship through the midst of war. She looks smaller than I've ever seen her, as if she's lost a physical part of herself.

Under a sky streaked blood-red and angry with sunset, I carry my friends belongings from his room. In my head I can already see another sun setting over the memorial to come; the breeze twisting dogtags around a rifle like a devils windchime, and carrying once again the plaintive notes of the bagpipe playing Amazing Grace.

Rest in peace
SGT Holtom
SGT Clevenger
PFC Werner

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Heads Up:

As many of you have no doubt heard, we lost three soldiers just a few days ago. There was something of a slip up somewhere in the process, and the facts of the incident were released before the official DOD brief (but after the families had heard, thank God). All three were from my platoon, and I was pretty good friends with two of them. It's been a rough week, especially on the tail of losing one from another company. I have a post written that I'm hanging onto until that DOD brief comes out, and I'll post more as I'm able.

Edit: Once again, I've been convinced to post a poem. I hope I never write another like the last two.

Halls of Valhalla

Four days ago, they left
From safely guarded walls
Three taken now by theft

Four days, and yet it seems
Fate made three captive thralls
To laugh within our dreams

Four days, and now they dwell
Within Valhalla's Halls
Maidens, treat our fallen well

Show them not the road to Hell;
Rather gird the path with beams
Hide them deep inside a cleft
And Valkyries- heed their calls

Friday, February 09, 2007

Amazing Grace

The haunting wail of bagpipes is drifting over our corner of Camp Ramadi. Bravo company's amateur pipist is slowly pacing while he practices a song none of us want to hear. The tune he plays is Amazing Grace. Tomorrow morning he will play it at the memorial service for CPL Shannon, the first member of our task force to die here in Iraq. He fell to an unlucky hit from one of the improvised bombs that litter the roads. He was from another company- one of the few from that group that I've spoken with. I didn't know him well, but I'm proud to say I knew him. I wrote a poem in his memory that I didn't plan to post, but one of his friends asked me to.

See now, the soldier-
So far away from home
He's staring into night
And wishing it would end

See now, the bomber-
Fighting war for Allah
He's laying in the grime
Waiting by the trigger

See now, the splinter-
Chased by fiery lace
It's flying with the blast
And tearing flesh in flight

See now, the father-
A bomb-hole in his heart
He's weeping for his son
So far away from war

Rest in peace, Steve.

This post was written 6 days ago. I held it for a few days out of concern for the soldier's family. It took me a few more days after that to publish because of various concerns these last few days.


The Military Channel is looking for video taken by military personell deployed overseas. As their representative wrote to me:

" Real-life moments captured on film by service members will be broadcast
on the Military Channel as part of a new on-air programming initiative.
Servicemen and women anywhere in the world who brought a camcorder with
them on a recent deployment, or those who currently have a camera with them on
the frontlines, can submit their videos directly to the Military Channel. "

If you're interested, you can send video clips to, or the address below. You can also email for more information, or check the DOD Brief.

Mailing Address
8045 Kennett Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Monday, February 05, 2007


I'm starting to miss my internet. I'm stranded away from my platoon this week, doing the guard duty that all of us get stuck with at some point. I'm continuing to write on my personal computer, but it's difficult to get online, and often harder still to connect to Blogger. Basically, in my own long and rambling way, I'm excusing myself from consistent posting for a week or so. We'll see what happens.

Also, as readers of Badgers Forward know, I got my promotion to Specialist several days ago. That was a nice bright spot in the week for me, as I've been waiting for it for a long time. Add that to the Combat Action Badge I was awarded not too long ago, and my uniform is starting to get heavy. Don't worry- I'll try not to fall in any canals.