Prev | List | Random | Next
Once again I woke early, in the quiet watches.
And glanced at the quiet watch on my wrist. 12:30 - but quick mental math told me it was... damn! 20:30! Late late late...
No, wait. There's the clock on the nightstand, and it says 04:30. In the morning haze I had done the wrong math. All was well. Not only was I now awake and aware, but I was awake and aware at roughly the proper time. Jet lag's ass was half kicked within hours of ending a trip of 24 hours plus - including a time-stopping westward jaunt above the clouds and across the Atlantic flown in the endless twilight of a seven hour sunset. So much for days of long nights and long shadows...
Now outside the hotel room window it is pre-dawn dark. But it is also America. Soon the sun will rise and so will an aircraft taking me on the first of two short hops home.
Five hours' New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm.
It is that flat and spectral non-hour, awash in limbic tides, brainstem stirring fitfully, flashing inappropriate reptilian demands for sex, food, sedation, all of the above, and none really an option now.
She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.
-- William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
So it is 0430, and I'm in a hotel room somewhere in the megalopolis of the east coast of the US of A.
And it is hot. Before falling asleep I'd misjudged the power of the room ac/heating unit. Nudged it a bit too high. So now in the pre-dawn coldest part of the day I throw open a sliding door to a foot-wide fourth floor "balcony" and let the cool air in. The cold feels good. It is no colder than Baghdad, where desert winter has replaced the searing 120+ of high summer. It is perhaps a bit warmer than Ramstein Air Base, Germany, once just down the road from my home but now my final stop before America.
It is a cold that I find useful for many reasons.
That quote above from Gibson is from page one of the book. I'd had it in my locker in my room in Baghdad for a couple months. Grabbed it from Amazon because it was available as a bargain book, but didn't want to dive right in. I'd read others of his books on this trip - as readers here well know - and had moved on to other authors, variety being key to avoiding the deployment doldrums.
But with mere days left in country it was time to take it off the shelf, to take along for the days-long ride home. That page one - and many subsequent pages - would deal with jet lag and cross-ocean travel can only be called synchronicity. An added element of immersion...
"What's on tap?" I'd asked the friendly hotel barmaid the night before. Made the choice as I almost always do (the one I'd heard the least about) and selected "16" as an answer to the question "16 or 22 ounce". It's best to ease back into these things.
Perhaps two minutes later I had to point out to her that tragically my glass was empty.
By closing time I'd quaffed about four of them, along with a couple shots. And if you can't get that along with an Angus Burger and fries in a fairly nice hotel lounge somewhere near an airport in the great megalopolis then it's likely that someone paid (anonymously) for a round or two for the guy in the sand-blasted ACUs.
And a very few hours later I had not one hint of a hangover. And the cold air felt good, every bit as good as my first beer and my first shower in a
Obviously I had consumed alcohol before my soul had arrived. Therefore it had snapped back into me fully sober, waking me at 0430 and demanding action.
Or at least motion.
Certainly no laying around.
By the way - no, you don't fly across the Atlantic at hundreds of thousands of feet.
Unless you do it on the Space Shuttle.
More to follow...
Tending Distant Fires
Far from hearth and home, watching
Cold alone but not alone
On distant shore and only wanting
Safe return and little more
What tales we'll tell
When that time comes
When tales can be told
When things grim
Seem far away
When other fires go cold
Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on other shores,
for them live well, the price is paid
-- Iraq, December 2004
That's from my last tour - this year I get to be the guy who came home just in time for Christmas.
And still to come in The Mudville Gazette Christmas Special, 2007, special appearances by (alphabetical)
Rachel Smith, Miss USA 2007
The Winthrop University Men's Basketball Team
And a cast of thousands.
Post begun 2007-12-20 13:42:57 (UTC) and updated subsequently with more to follow throughout the weekend.
Merry Christmas, America.All done!
Don't worry - the Mudville Christmas Special '07 will begin soon. But hey - it's that time of year when the networks roll out the old Christmas specials, and here at Mudvile we think that's a fine idea, so we're going to do some of our own. Here's one originally from Christmas 2003 - and while some of the links no longer function we think you'll get the drift of our look at why you see the headlines you often do at this time of year...
Everyone in America Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch, who lived just left of most folks, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
Was his heart (or something) was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes,
When Hanukah came he hated the Jews,
On Christmas his hate spread throughout his views
to Christians, Republicans, and right wingers too!
"And they're hanging their stockings!" he snarled with a sneer,
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!"
"I know just what to do!" The Grinch laughed in his throat.
And he sat down and started by taking some notes.
And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy thing!"
"With a choice few news stories some despair I'll bring!"
"This'll do for a start..." The Grinch said, "and how!"
And he told the whole world about America's Mad Cow!
"And just wait, now I've started some none-too-subtle spinning
on this story so you'll think that the terrorists are winning!
And toss in this plane scare, that should keep them home
where they can spend Christmas, miserable and alone!
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the newsroom, and he laughed at the "peasants".
He looked for a story of deaths in a fire,
when suddenly Baghdad news lit up the wire.
"Whee hee!" He cried out "This on page one goes;
even though they caught Saddam the violence grows!"
He filed his stories with a gleam in his eyes
"Tonight's work should get me a Pulitzer prize!"
But his head hurt from all of that serious thinking,
so he sat himself down and he started to drinking...
The next day, quite hungover, he slowly awoke,
but smiled and cackled, grabbed the cable remote
"Pooh-Pooh to the fools!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!"
"They're just waking up! Then they'll see the news!"
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the sheepleville sheeple will all cry Boo-Hoo!"
"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "That I simply MUST hear!"
So he cranked the surround sound, put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising on the news show.
It started in low.
Then it started to grow...
But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at America! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Everyone cross the nation, the tall and the small,
were singing! Without any real cares at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinchy-head pounding in pain,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "They must be insane!"
"I know - they're too stupid! They don't realize!
It's me that they need just to open their eyes!"
And what happened then...? Well...there's some who might say
That the Grinch's small heart shrunk three sizes that day!
'Cause he pulled all the shades and he locked up the door,
and started drooling and typing, snarling "Dean in '04!"
But all over the country, much to my relief
people sat down to dinner.
(Original post: 2003-12-26 22:06:57)
Here (with spelling errors intact) is an absurd comment left under Michael Toten's first report from Fallujah:
Your no Micheal Yon, and your reporting seems to be all over the place. Are things better or not in the town? Seems like you give it a "Wow, I'm not in harms way since the surge helped the country, how many ways can I say things are bad over here, but not as bad. I suggest these readers go to someone who goes out on combat missions he's attached to with the ground pounders, and get a real feel of reporting. Micheal Yon.I don't want to promote any discussion of the relative merits of the various bloggers who've actually come to Iraq to cover the war first-hand - I greatly admire them all, and I've yet to find any who weren't worth reading. The more the merrier, as they say; after all, there are a million stories to tell over here - plenty to go around. But I wanted to highlight this for two reasons: one, to provide the link to Totten's Fallujah report (which should be widely read) and two, to point out something most readers here have probably seen but not noticed: two of Yon's most recent posts have actually been advice columns on suitable cameras for deployed reporters. That's not a knock on Yon - his latest report from Mosul is an outstanding look at a city that (like Fallujah) has vanished from the American news of Iraq, and it too is a must-read.
[COL Stephen] Twitty commands US operations in Ninevah and his brigade has kept control here with what amounts to a skeleton crew. We’ve had only one battalion in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, all year. In other words, less than 1% of our combat power has held one of the most challenging cities in Iraq for an entire year.Sort of reminds me of this quote from Totten, regarding Fallujah:
There are only 250 Marines in Fallujah, a city of about 350,000, right now. Last year, there were 3,000 Marines. Because the city is pacified, troops that were here can join the additional surge forces that are clearing and holding more volatile areas.Which can be done, because...
...any insurgent who shows up and announces himself in public won't be rolled up "eventually." He'll be arrested by the Iraqi police within minutes.As someone else recently said...
But I'm not a fan of death metrics. Up, down, and chaotic - an exceptionally low month means it will be quite easy for the next month to be higher - a helicopter crash could do it.So once again, Michael Totten:
But interspersed throughout the above are the < i>right numbers, the real indicators of victory in Iraq. Civilian tips leading to terrorists and their weapons caches...
But few people are paying attention to what those of us who are here fighting this war might have to say. Everyone is focused on the death metrics, and everyone is wrong. Call it "hearts and minds" or people fighting for their lives and futures who do not fear turning to us for help and helping us in return without fear of retribution from an enemy falling fast - these are the numbers that tell the tale. These are the numbers that indicate something worthwhile. These are the numbers that will drive the death metrics further down and keep them there.
It wouldn't be quite right to say Fallujah is safe. You do not want to come here on holiday. But I'm a lot safer here as an American than any terrorist or insurgent would be.Most of Iraq is even better. Which is why Yon, who does indeed spend a lot of time over here with combat troops, still has time to write about cameras. That's a good thing.
Meanwhile, back in America 48 percent of respondents to a Pew Poll feel that the military effort is not going well, and 44 percent feel we are losing ground to the insurgents.
From our good friend Haider Ajina:
Greetings, The following are two articles from Iraqi Media,Semblance of normal life returns to restive Doura in Baghdad By Zainab Khuder Azzaman, November 30, 2007
Normal life is slowly returning to Doura, once one of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods. Anti-U.S. rebels and criminal gangs have apparently left the district following joint Iraqi and U.S. military operations. The neighborhood was almost under the full control of Islamic radicals, mainly those affiliated to al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia who imposed by force their strict interpretation of Islamic jurisdiction.
Religious minorities like Christians were either forced to leave or embrace Islam. The churches had closed their doors. Many Christians are reported to be returning. So have others including Sunni Muslims who objected to the imposition of Islamic rule in the neighborhood.
Meantime, Baghdad municipality is back with full force, paving roads, tidying roundabouts and squares, extending water pipes and collecting garbage. But residents say only portions of the sprawling neighborhood are so far covered with municipal services. They say such services have yet to cover the whole area. Adhra Mahmoud says public services have improved recently and the areas covered are tidier than before. “It is good that the government is employing people from Doura itself, leading to a drastic drop in the rate of joblessness,” she added.
Certain sections of Doura are on the fringes of Baghdad, believed to be the world’s largest city in area. For example, the Mekanik district is close to an abandoned marsh which the rebels have been using for hit-and-run attacks. Hala Mustafa does not hide her happiness on seeing municipality workers with their equipment roaming the neighborhood after an absence of nearly two years. “We do not have piped water but the workers are extending a new network and we hope clean water will flow to our homes soon,” said Mustafa.
The older network is rickety and sewage water seeps through it, added Mustafa. But there are fears that violence would return, forcing the municipal workers to flee.
Abdullah Mohammed said Doura was in need of “a comprehensive reconstruction plant” because it has suffered perhaps more than any other part of Baghdad.He called on the authorities to boost public services and expand them to cover the whole of Doura and “keep or rather reinforce the security forces charged with protecting its people.”
Gates: Largest military division to pull out from Iraq in weeks
Baghdad - Voices of Iraq Wednesday , 05 /12 /2007 Time 9:58:05
Baghdad, Dec 5 (VOI) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Wednesday that the biggest American division is to withdraw from Iraq by December 2007.
The withdrawal of more American troops is to take place next February and March, provided that security conditions continue to significantly improve.
“The largest American unit in Iraq will start withdrawing by December 2007, if security improves significantly. More units are to pull out next February and March” Gates said in a joint press conference with Abdel Qadir al-Ubaidi, his Iraqi counterpart.
180,000 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in Iraq since U.S. President George Bush announced a surge in the level of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq in early 2007.
Gates added, “Numbers of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq are trying to regroup and move back into the areas that they have been pushed out of.”
Yet he notes that “al-Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened with U.S. troops and friendly tribal forces pushing them out of Anbar province and Baghdad.”
When asked about the affects of military bases on civilians, Gates answered “I understand the nature of the affect that military troops have in a populated city, but we are talking about ways to achieve progress in security and not other things; enhancing security is what is now important.”
Gates' plane landed in Iraq's northern city of Mosul coming from Afghanistan," the head of the Joint Media Center, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
It is the sixth visit for the U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates since assuming the post in mid-2006. Gates' last visit to Iraq was on September 3, 2007 when he accompanied President George W. Bush on a surprise visit to the Sunni Anbar province, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi at Al-Asad air base near Ramadi.
Cafés and shops in Baghdad are beginning to stay open for longer hours and are having a resurgence of clientele and improvement of Business. Abu Nawass Street, a four lane wide street running along the Tigres in Baghdad, famous for its well light cafés and Mesgoof fish restaurants. Mesgoof is a style of cooking fish in front of an open wood fire. The fish is opened and held up by wooden stakes. Similar to how our local Native Tribes cook Salmon. Prime Minister Alamliki recently reopened Abu Nawas Street after improved security, much refurbishment and improvements to the road, wide sidewalks and infrastructure. Speaking to my father, in Baghdad earlier this week, he said, ‘If just four months ago any one would have said that security in Baghdad would be this good no one would have believed them’.
The surge (thanks to our men and women serving in Iraq and the Iraqis) is defiantly making a large positive difference in the security of Baghdad in specific and Iraq in general.
aka Re: first Murtha...
I share your enthusiasm for the trend,
Immediately prior to denigrating the achievement of the troops over the past few months, Webb offers the requisite preface to any such attack..."I don’t want to take anything away from the performance of the United States military" - which seems to be the magic phrase for members of one particular political party that apparently protects them from any potential backlash from doing it anyhow. You can see the BIG BUT coming like a slow-motion train wreck, because these days such a claim is like a piercing siren with twelve flashing lights warning that the speaker is going to do exactly that.
Of course, most politicians are a bit too astute to offer the actual word
I don’t want to take anything away from the performance of the United States military tactically when they’ve been put into a situation.Well, yes, we have people in Iraq who are on our side, and are working with us to a common goal. I think Michael Totten's quote from a Fallujah resident offers the best counterpoint to Webb (or others of his persuasion):
Butthere are a lot of other pieces to this, and al-Anbar is a classic example.
"Security is good now because the coalition, Iraqi Army, and Iraqi police all work together," said an Iraqi fruit stand owner. "One hand does not clap."And it honestly disturbs me that a guy like Webb probably can't read that quote without feeling a bit of dismay.
Numerous factors contributed to our military success here, the surge and the awakening movement are two of the most significant. Neither would have succeeded without the other, and yes, the awakening movement came first*. I'm not sure exactly why acknowledging that would be seen as slighting the accomplishment of the Americans here - but Webb seems to feel very strongly that it does.
Feh - let's cut out the bull shit. That's the very point he's trying to make. Short version: Iraq is less violent now than last summer, but this isn't due to efforts of US troops. US troops were given a job that was too tough for them by our political opponents who also failed to give them training and equipment. We don't want to deny credit to the troops for that drop in violence (in fact deep down we actually know we're being complete assholes) but we must or else the foundation of our position erodes to nothing.
And oh, by the way, bring the troops home.