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

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New News

For those of you who didn't hear it on the radio:

I am going back.

I am not going back with the Army, this time, though that may still occur at some point in the future. I am going back of my own free will- I am becoming a participant in this great experiment of independent, citizen journalism. I am going back to Iraq as a photojournalist, accredited by the recently developed Public Multimedia, Inc.

If you would like to donate towards the purchase of equipment for my trip and receive some return on your investment (besides quality journalism, of course!), there is a new photo album up. Viewing is free- the photos are also available for purchase as high-quality prints. All proceeds will go directly to benefit citizen journalism.

It's too soon yet to talk about where I'm headed and when- I'll fill in those details once we're done working out paperwork and red tape and I actually head for the sandbox again.

al-Dhari Is At It Again:

Sheik Harith al-Dhari. You remember him. He's the bunny of love who said these words in Falluja on March 19th, 2004:

"I hope that your resistance will escalate through words, actions, prayers, demonstrations, protests, and other forms. I also hope that all our brothers in the homeland will wake up and rise up to join their brothers in resisting the occupying to expedite its departure, God willing."

11 days later, a Blackwater convoy was ambushed in Falluja. 4 employees were killed, mutilated, burned, and hung from the "New Bridge" across the Euphrates. That incident was the spark that lead to the first and second battles of Falluja.

Since that time, al-Dhari has increasingly thrown his lot in with al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations. He fled to Syria to escape Iraqi authorities and the Sunni tribesmen that had turned against reckless violence. From Syria, he continued to decry the Government of Iraq, the "occupiers", and the Awakening Councils even as his organization was dismantled inside of Iraq.

Now, he is claiming that the Awakening Councils are no better than al-Qaeda:

"Dari, during the interview published over two episodes, said it is true that al-Qaeda has been involved in unacceptable activities with the residents of the region where it existed, but the Sahwa [Awakening] Councils are doing just the same: blackmailing and intimidation."

Now, my reasoning could be a bit off here, but I want to stop and consider the subject. One of the first Sunni tribes to ally with Coalition Forces against al-Qaeda was and still is infamous for smuggling and general lawlessness along the Syrian border. Some of the others are little better. Still- do al-Qaeda radicals limit themselves to "blackmailing and intimidation"? I. Think. Not.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Sandbox

I will be appearing on NPR's KUOW Seattle tomorrow morning, alongside David Stanford of The Sandbox, and several other bloggers featured there: Army Girl, CPT Benjamin Tupper, and CPT Traversa. We will each read a short portion of our writing, and talk a bit about our experiences.

If you are in the area, you can listen in at 9am on 94.9FM. If not, you can download the entire program as a podcast. Follow the link from Weekday at 9. Those of you who catch the show may get to hear a bit of exciting news a few hours earlier than everyone else.

Friday, January 04, 2008

And Once Again

The snare is beating slow and the pipes are wailing somewhere far away. A man I never met, but always read and respected, was killed in the Diyala province of Iraq yesterday. Major Andrew Olmsted was a member of a Military Training Team- the guys that eat and sleep in small teams among Iraqi troops as they groom them into professional soldiers. He and another member of his team, Captain Thomas Casey, were killed by small arms fire.

While in Iraq, he blogged at his own site, until the DOD found him in violation of policy. He moved to posting on the Rocky Mountain News website, which is where I found him many months ago. I looked up to him and respected him; I felt then, as I still feel, that the small training teams of which he was a part were essential to the conflict we were fighting. His last post was written months ago against his possible death, and has been posted at his old blog site and at Obsidian Wings, where he occasionally guest blogged.

I'll let his words finish out this post. From his last message to all of us and the world at large:

On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.

But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

My feelings remind me very much of the words he wrote a couple of months ago about the memorial of another soldier in his squadron:

I had never met the soldier, but I found it very difficult to keep my eyes clear as I saluted a good man who had so much more to offer the world.
We are in a dangerous business. Soldiers die in war; there's no way around it. But that knowledge does not make those losses any less bitter.

Rest in peace, Major.

MAJ Andrew Olmsted
CPT Thomas Casey

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blogging Happiness:

I've noticed a serious lack of quality blog material coming out of Iraq/Afghanistan lately, so today I went looking for new authors. I found one who just got to country, and I think he's gonna be good. One of the first posts is on how to write a Dear John letter/myspace message/email/etc:

Dear (insert rank and name here):

Hi. I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. I’ve gotten all your letters … it’s just hard, you know? With you in (insert foreign nation here) fighting in (insert war from American history here), it’s not like things back home have been easy. Or simple. I don’t really know how to say this, so I’m just going to tell you like it is: I’ve met someone else. His name is Jody. I swear to God, I wasn’t looking for anything like this to happen – it just did and now we’re in love.

I know you have to hate me. I promised that this would never happen to us, but it did. Life’s funny like that, isn’t it? While you’re half a world away, getting shot at for a living by (insert enemy here), protecting freedom, justice, and the American way of life, I’m discovering my inner concubine, getting penetrated by Jody’s inferior geothermal thunderstick on a nightly basis. But he’s a far better cuddler than you ever were, he flatters me every morning, and he communicates with me! Imagine that, you insensitive prick.

What else needs to be said? You’re probably going to go crazy now, so you should recommend to your C.O. to take away your weapon for a couple of days. Suck it up, tough guy – remember, like you always told your friends, you can’t make a ho a housewife.

From your former dream forsaking you to a lifetime of what ifs,

(Insert every horribly negative term for a female here)

P.S. I’m keeping the dog.

I will confess to some confusion on the actual (as opposed to metaphorical) meaning of "geothermal thunderstick".

Monkeys in the House:

I just discovered this on the internet. Late, yes, but funny/harsh nontheless:

I would say, though: The New Republic only has room on the payroll for two fact checkers (err.. excuse me- "reporter-researchers"). Those monkeys will have competition. I suggest getting a leg up on the other monkeys by marrying off to a source who can provide sensationalized stories of questionable accuracy.