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Blame it on the Rain edition.
Yesterday we looked at the LA Times profile of Mike Yon. The Times seemed a bit dismissive of his efforts - his total numbers of readers being far, far below the figures for big media sites like... the LA Times.
We say they're right!
By himself, Yon represents no threat to the LA Times. He doesn't have the inside scoop on the Lakers, offers no clue as to whether his readers will need an umbrella tomorrow, and offers no advice whatsoever for the lovelorn.So it's time for our roundup of one week of developments in Iraq - and the home front. Much of this week's edition is brought to you by military bloggers. Often dismissed for their "soda straw" perspective, we think that applies to mainstream media reporters, too - but that enough such views offer a fairly complete picture.
By himself, that is...
News? We got it.
Ashura is a Shi'ite Muslim holy day commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Mohammed. Killed in battle near what is now the Iraqi city Karbala, for many years Saddam Hussein suppressed the observation of the day. Restrictions ended with the US invasion.
But in 2004 - the first year after the fall of Saddam, multiple terrorist attacks killed 180 people gathered to observe the day of mourning. Last year another 50 were killed.
The Iraqi government has worked very hard to ensure the safety of pilgrims this year. Last year, there were many coordinated attacks on celebrants. Keep your eyes on the news today - how Iraqi security forces deal with today’s events will be used by both pro and anti-war pundits as a yardstick to measure progress or lack of progress in this nation.
Today will be an interesting day here. I hope the Iraqi security forces perform well and the world sees progress in this nation that needs rebuilding, not further tearing down.
Of course, you probably heard how it all turned out on the local news, right? If not, click here.
We've had thunderstorms and rain that have soaked much of Iraq, and most of the areas I am in are a foot deep in mud.Sports - you bet:
So, Im in my sleep coma and life is good. Then the alarm clock from hell part two sounds off at 0130 Monday morning. The Super Bowl pre game is starting and I asked myself, self why am I getting up?? The Cowboys aren’t playing, the Broncos aren’t playing (the two greatest teams that exist-in that order I might add) so why get up? Knowing I could watch the game and enjoy a cold haji Pepsi and cigar was a good enough excuse to get up and check it out.And more...
Here are a couple of long-time milbloggers enjoying a bit of good natured "one-upmanship". As a bonus, there's an Army-Navy angle too.
In Iraq, you define your status by where you fit in a hierarchy of suck. Paradoxically, those who have it best inhabit the bottom of the ladder -- those poor souls in Kuwait or Qatar or Bahrain who get the combat patch and tax-free income without the risk of being in Iraq. Next up on the ladder are the "Fobbits". These are soldiers who live and work on the big FOBs like Speicher, never to leave the wire nor be placed in any real danger. Although the large basecamps do occasionally take incoming rocket or mortar rounds, it's rare that those inflict any casualties. Fobbits get to live in relative luxury, whether at Speicher, LSA Anaconda or in Baghdad. In short, they earn the perquisites of a combat tour with none of the risk; the worst hardship for them is being away from home.Which has Ed at Hardtack and Havoc a bit vexed:
I Am Still A Fobbit...Aren't I?Read the whole thing - Ed's just moved in with his new Iraqi pals. I think you'll want to visit often.
I was reading this article from the Intel dump and I became deeply concerned. I thought I was a Fobbit. I wanna be a Fobbit. I promised my Bride that I was the very definition of a Fobbit. Now my most closely held security blanket belief has been called into doubt. I don't live on a big Coalition base but I do live on a fairly big Iraqi one.
That discussion reminds me of this blast from the past:
All in good fun, from long before the Iraq war. (The first Iraq war, you young whippersnappers...) But I must grant the last word on Fobbits to Phil:
Nonetheless, these people don't get to see the same Iraq that other soldiers do, which in my opinion is too bad. Two of the things I like most about my job advising police are the ability to interact with Iraqis, and to see the fruits of my labor on a daily or weekly basis.
For another update on the weather, here's Sandgram:
I once wrote about the hazards you face while out here on Combat duty. You worry about the rockets and stuff, but it’s the simple things that can really hurt you around the base. Take for example the rain.Yes, take the rain... please.
Every deployment I've ever been on has seen days like that. (Korea comes to mind.) I'm sure every remote outpost through history has been the same. It's one of the reasons this blog is called Mudville.
With the FOB unsafe, it's best to go outside the wire - if you can.
I cant prove it, but Im beginning to think that about half of our time is spent waiting to get permission to go outside the wire.Funny, the things Milbloggers complain about.
If it rains we can be canceled. If there is lightening we can be canceled. If there is action almost all convoys might be canceled.
I am beginning to suspect the Army is becoming obsessed with limiting casualties due to public opinion back home at the risk of the aggressiveness that saves lives and accomplishes missions.
Like the weather:
It's raining, it's pouring...Boy do I hate this place!Okay, rain or shine - here's a chance to escape the confines of the FOB:
Well, along with winter months in any region comes precipitation. Unfortunately, since Iraq doesn't get a lot of rain strewn out over a few months or a season; it all just comes down at once! The accumilation of water hear is something like that seen in New Orlean's during the first stages of it's demise, or maybe this is what Noah built the *Ark* for...days like today!
A couple days ago my squad had to take some of our replacements to another camp through the "Red Zone" as we like to call it. These guys are fresh off the plane and this is their first time outside the International Zone (or Green Zone), so it is kind of a big deal for them. You can see the slight nervousness in all of them - we all had the same thing, but my squad has run this particular route probably 30 or 40 times and we know it to be a very safe road. I am (or was) the lead driver in all of our convoys, which I enjoy and miss very much.
Okay, weather changes fast in these days of global warming. Is it still raining?
Yeah – it’s still wet here. I am down to 2 pairs of soaking boots and a pair of flip-flops...Of course, rain and the Air Force aren't the only things to complain about:
The Air Force engineers forgot about something called drainage. So, instead of a muddy road- we now have a muddy pond. And the only thing that stands between us and the XXXXX (insert truck, shower, bathroom, food, gym, flight line, internet, mail, or pretty much anything) is a 2-foot deep pond of mud, and refuge. It is really kind of a morale buster. We have all run out of dry socks, and dry boots. We think this is all a conspiracy by the Air Force to prepare us for next seasons’ Hurricane relief efforts somewhere in Louisiana.
You have to love VIP’s, those Very Important People who cause all sorts of chaos around the area as they just stop by for lunch and some “I love Me” pictures with the Marines etc. I received a call from higher headquarters somewhere out in the green zone that we had 6 congressmen arriving who just wanted to pop in say hi and then go tour another base. I said, “that’s fantastic, give them my number, I’ll say hi and they can stay there with you!” He just laughed at me “Nice try bubba, they are coming to you, I’m tired of dealing with them, and so I’m passing this monkey to your back.”Which is why some folks don't mind getting off the FOB:
There was a weather system building to the south that looked pretty bad and I knew it would cause them to be stuck somewhere and by God, I was hoping not here!!
As I’ve stated many times in this blog, I am a communications officer. My job on this deployment is to keep my Battalion connected through various means. I advise the Commander and staff on all things Signal. Still, the Commander feels it is important for even his staff officers and NCOs to get out and participate in operations. This doesn’t happen all the time. We are usually highly engaged in organizing our sections, planning, and prioritizing the workload. But some days, when asked, I go out and help where I can.There's just no escaping it...
I recently had a day like this. I rolled out of the FOB with a few other vehicles. We were heavily armed, locked and loaded of course, and just plain old bristly with our antennae and the gunners sticking out of the top of the Hummers with their Billy-Bad ass weapon systems. So, we rolled up on a Main Supply Route, a local highway more or less, and started driving aggressively against traffic.
The sky was a flat gray and I could almost feel its weight. I could smell rain in the air.
This is the rainy season in Iraq. When it rains it pours all the low areas fill up and the water does not soak in as fast as the soil is like clay.And you'll have to forgive me, but I've been setting up this story all the way:
Iraqi, U.S. troops aid flood victims in Iraq
TIKRIT, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 6, 2006) – Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers rescued dozens of people southeast of Mosul Saturday after powerful storms swept through northern Iraq, causing flooding along a Tigris River tributary.
Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division used small boats and braved strong currents to rescue nearly 100 people stranded on small islands in the rain-swollen Great Zab River.
Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the 542nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance) responded to the Ninevah governor’s request for assistance and transported two men stranded on an island that the boats couldn’t reach because of the current. The MEDEVAC crews also dropped off food and drinking water.
Two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters searched the river’s course for additional victims, but none were found, officials said.
Think milblogs are one-dimensional? Here's an interesting post from a Marine in iraq:
The two individuals whose photographs appear today, Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal and Hollywood documentary film maker Pat Dollard, were my battle buddies while at Ar Ramadi's Observation Post Horea. These two gentlemen, though fundamentally different creatively and politically, have fearlessly shared the common lot of the Marines here in Iraq. Mike was here on his fourth visit and Pat his third. Mike, a seasoned photo-journalist, works diligently to maintain the aloof impartiality of a judge even while enduring all the dangers and hardships faced by the Marines he covers.
The guy that wrote that is also the guy who drew this.
"I am the artist in residence for the United States Marine Corps. I'm currently deployed in Iraq creating a body of artwork reflecting the experience of fellow Marines engaged in the War on Terrorism."Good stuff.
So far that's News, sports, weather, and an art department.
Now for our Travel section
During a delay on a recent mission, I was able to visit the ancient city of Ur. It is located just outside of the city of Nasiriyah. What a neat place. Other than it being the birthplace of Abraham (revered as a patriarch in the Bible, Torah and Koran) and the starting point of his migration westward to Palestine in about 1900 B.C., I really didn’t know much about the city . But, the tour guide there, Muhsen, gave us an informative, close up tour of this amazing place.And crime reporting, from CSI Baghdad:
The most visible dwelling in the area is the Ziggurat. It stands about 70 feet tall. Here are pictures of the Ziggurat from afar and one with me running up its steps
Today I visited the MCU HQ in Baghdad. The MCU is equivalent to the FBI. They solve major crimes such as kidnapping, murder, terrorist attacks, and narcotics. Part of our Brigade's mission is to train these guys so that they can be more responsive and effective in solving crimes.Human Interest:
Packages for the Abu Ghraib elementary school children arrived...And personals
In the past few weeks, I have been tossing around the idea with Kristen about putting in an active duty packet under the new "seamless transfer". Basically I put in a packet to the National Guard Bureau and they let me know which jobs I hold that the Army would take me back in.Arrivals
Still not to my final destination. In fact, I now don't know what my final destination will be. I am currently doing the WAITEX at the Regional Support Unit (RSU) that supports the Garrison Support Unit (GSU) I am supposed to dispense questionable advice too. The problem is the RSU is still a BSU which is what we called GSUs last week....and departures:
Recently there have been several comments from people who do not necessarily support the troops, or who just believe we should not be here. That is fine. It was citizen soldiers like me who guarnteed you your right to speak your mind by fighting for freedom and democracy since the Revolutionary War.And that's just a few from one week.
But there have been substantially more comments and emails from those of you who support me and my fellow soldiers. I thank you, as do my soldiers.
Peace Prevails In Iraq As Shiites Observe Holy DayUSA Today
For the first time since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites on Thursday marked their most important religious holiday without suffering a terrorist attack.
BAGHDAD — Iraq's largest political alliance has narrowed its field of prime minister candidates to two.The London Financial Times:
The top candidates are Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents, said Basam Ridha, an al-Jaafari adviser.
In other news, Iraq's election chief started the clock Friday on the long-awaited formation of a new government, announcing final certified results for the country's Dec. 15 parliamentary polls.
Intense negotiations are underway to form a national unity government that would see dominant Shiites and Kurds welcome Sunni Arabs into powerful positions.
US Colonel Sees Cut In Fighters Coming To Iraq From Syria(Okay, so they tried to make it a bad news story. Old habits die hard.)
Alleged infiltration of foreign militants into Iraq through Syria appears to have dramatically slowed down, according to US military officers on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
In spite of continued allegations from Washington officials that Damascus is continuing to support the infiltration of jihadis into Iraq, the American commander in the northern border region says that in more than 130 detentions of smugglers by his troops along the border in the past nine months, "we did not find one foreign fighter".
ON a Baghdad street last month, one of the darker visions of Iraq's future suddenly materialized.It's almost getting hard to tell these guys apart from the reporters for Stars and Stripes
A group of about 20 uniformed Iraqi men, with a prisoner in its possession, was halted at a checkpoint. The men were wearing the telltale camouflage outfits of the police commandos, an American-trained paramilitary force that Sunni leaders here accuse of carrying out widespread atrocities. They were carrying ID cards from the Ministry of Interior. They seemed legitimate.
But, after some checking, the Iraqis manning the checkpoint discovered that the men were not commandos after all. They were taking their prisoner to be shot.
"We believe we captured a death squad," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, the American commander who oversees the training of Iraqi police forces. "They had an individual, and they were going to kill him."
TAL AFAR, Iraq — In a region conquered and shaped by a succession of history’s most fearsome armies, this centuries-old city was fast becoming an example of how not to fight a modern- day insurgency.
After a sputtering offensive well over a year ago that left few U.S. troops in place to keep the peace, Tal Afar, in northwestern Iraq, soon emerged as a haven for Muslim extremists and Baath Party loyalists who held sway through a campaign of kidnappings, beheadings and assassinations.
The chaos touched off long-simmering tensions between rival tribes and religious groups, and much of the local police force fled. Those officers who remained degenerated into a sectarian hit squad. Residents feared leaving their homes as insurgents operated with near impunity. Training camps were established to teach bomb construction and guerrilla tactics.
Suicide bombers were dispatched to all areas of northwest Iraq.
“They would order car bombs like it was pizza delivery,” said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “They’d just pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we need a car bomb,’ and the car bombers would come in from Syria.”
Today, Tal Afar is a very different and, at least for now, a far more peaceful place. Residents greet U.S. soldiers with smiles and waves, and, in the most significant indication yet of progress here, more than a quarter-million residents in the region turned out for a largely peaceful Dec. 15 parliamentary election.
Sunni Tribes Turn Against JihadisThat's an act of raw courage, as these next stories make clear.
Sheikh Osama al-Jadaan, head of the influential Karabila tribe in Sunni Arab-dominated western Iraq, is more politician than traditional sheikh these days. He's given up his dishdasha and Arab headdress for a pinstripe suit with a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket.
He's also turned away from supporting Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters in Iraq. "We realized that these foreign terrorists were hiding behind the veil of the noble Iraqi resistance," says Mr. Jadaan. "They claim to be striking at the US occupation, but the reality is they are killing innocent Iraqis in the markets, in mosques, in churches, and in our schools."
Sunni Leader Killed For Joining Ceasefire TalksAnd The Washington Post:
A SUNNI tribal leader was murdered in the Iraqi city of Ramadi a day after taking part in talks with American and Iraqi officials aimed at curbing violence there.
Sheikh Nasser Kareem al-Fahdawi, head of the al-Bu Fahad tribe and a physics professor at Anbar University, was shot by insurgents opposed to the talks in late December.
Gunmen Kill Head Of Fallujah City Council
A prominent Sunni Muslim cleric and civic leader who ran for a seat in Iraq's parliament and worked closely with American forces policing Fallujah was fatally shot Tuesday on his way to work in the western city. Kamal Nazzal, head of the Fallujah city council and a preacher at the city's Shakir mosque, was arriving at city hall when gunmen in two dark-colored BMWs riddled his body with bullets, police and residents said.
Iraqi Neighbors Join Together To Stay SafeAnd with each story like that, there's hope for the future.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In a nation being pulled apart by sectarian violence, the residents of a religiously mixed neighborhood in Iraq's troubled capital are joining forces for their mutual protection.
Alarmed at an outbreak of brazen killings in their once relatively peaceful enclave of Hai al Salam, Shi'ite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians have begun working side-by-side to guard their western Baghdad neighborhood.
Yet just as the fate of newly democratic Iraq depends on whether national leaders can cooperate in spite of religious and ethnic differences, Hai al Salam's remarkable unity also depends on whether residents can resist growing pressure to splinter violently along sectarian lines.
"We managed to unify," said Kamil Tahir al Bidhani, a neighborhood civic leader. "We expect the government to do the same thing: to solve its problems without resorting to force."
Damp In Numbers But Not In FervorBlame it on the rain.
As he waited for a 30-foot-high effigy of President George W. Bush to fall, Freddy Taiefero told the story of how he ended up here. Homeless in Atlanta a day ago, he now was amid a few thousand protesters on the soggy ground by the Washington Monument.
"They were passing out these leaflets, and I picked one up at the homeless shelter," said the 56-year-old unemployed caterer. "Bush's administration causes joblessness. . . . When he got in, it was like the world was snatched up from under us."
So, Taiefero said, he boarded a bus, slept the night in his seat and yesterday bore the sticker reciting the message of all those around him: "Bush step down."
Yesterday's demonstration, which stretched through five hours of rain and ended with a march around the White House, was organized by a group called World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime. The organization helped lead a smaller rally near the Capitol during Bush's State of the Union address last week.
Yesterday's demonstrators came from as far away as Hawaii. New York alone sent 12 buses. Still, the crowd was significantly smaller than the 30,000 protesters organizers had anticipated.
Of course, I'm told the Swedes have a saying: "There's no bad weather, only bad clothes".
Soldiers Chafe At Extra Weight Of Body ArmorBut they better not lose the pieces they don't use:
Staff Sgt. Joshua Winchester, a 30-year-old Pepsi truck driver from Jesup, predicts the extra weight would become a hassle for him in his already cramped Humvee. The Georgia National Guard soldier doesn’t plan to wear the plates, citing the intense heat soldiers face in Iraq.
“You think about how much of a pain in the neck your maneuvering will be. You will feel like a robot. You will feel like R2D2 in a turret. Forget that junk,” said Winchester, a member of the Savannah-based 118th Field Artillery Regiment Task Force stationed at Al Asad Air Base.
Winchester is guarding U.S. supply convoys in the violent Al Anbar Province of western Iraq. He wears the military-issue neck and groin protectors attached to his body armor, but many other soldiers have shed them, saying they hinder mobility.
The Army is sending the new side plates to every soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan starting this month in an effort to shield body parts vulnerable to sniper fire and roadside bombs.
A former soldier injured in Iraq is getting a refund after being forced to pay for his missing body armor vest, which medics destroyed because it was soaked with his blood, officials said Wednesday.Refunded - good. But it was a non-story from the get-go. A paperwork snafu in a world where stories of GIs selling armor on ebay earlier in the war led to a program of accountability that made such an event inevitable.
In fact, Rebrook's father explains that his son just didn't want to wait for the paperwork to be completed:
Edward Rebrook said his son would have had to stay in the Army, continue to live on base at Fort Hood and wait possibly weeks while those forms were processed. Instead, he chose to pay cash for the missing items and get out of the Army.Speaking of wounded troops (and rain):
Army Sgt. Orlando Gill wasn't going to let a little rain keep him off his snowboard Friday. After all, he didn't let losing part of a leg keep him from living his life.
Gill, 32, was on patrol in Iraq in 2004 when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade that shattered his right leg. Growing up in the Bronx, he'd been an athlete - track and field, soccer - and he didn't want to let that go.
"I did it before my injury. I don't see why I should stop now," he said.
For A General, A Tough Mission: Building The ArmyHis toughest opponent? Perhaps it's the US Army:
From his office in the command center here, where dozens of recruiters answer questions about military life via e-mail and chat rooms, Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick is trying to retool the Army's strategy for fighting a war within a war: persuading young people and their families that the military is a good choice, even when combat duty is almost certain.
Davidson was 19 when he met with a recruiter in July 2004 to discuss joining the Army.But he's in now:
At that time, recruits could not have tattoos visible above their uniform. Davidson said the recruiter told him to have his neck tattoo--two inch-high Japanese characters that mean "brothers"--removed.
Davidson, who lives in Elwood about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis, was unaware that Army policy prohibits recruiters from telling would-be recruits to have tattoos removed to improve their chances of being accepted. So he spent $1,000 on ink cover-up and laser removal sessions to erase his.
It was faded though still visible, but he got the go-ahead from five officers at the Indianapolis Recruiting Battalion to ship out. Once he got to Oklahoma's Ft. Sill, however, officers there didn't agree. They sent him home, saying his neck tattoo violated Army policy.
Since then, Davidson had been fighting to get back in, taking his story of television stations and newspapers.
A man whose tattoo led the Army to reject him as a recruit--and who spent $1,000 in an attempt to erase it--has learned he can join the service under a newly revised tattoo policy.And that's our happy ending for the week.
Cory Davidson, 21, recently got a call from the Army informing him that the neck tattoo is not a problem under the revised policy.
"I had this huge smile on my face," said Davidson, who got the news Jan. 23.
(But last week's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front can be read here)
I do believe you should be contacting this guy. He's a believer in "just telling the story".(His politics lean a tad left...but what the hell)Soldier's Dad at February 12, 2006 04:22 AM
Take a look at the logos on that flag being burned. The NBC and CBS logos are on the field of blue......Posted by David Earney at February 12, 2006 08:00 AM
This is a great report! Keep it up and there will be more reason than ever to cancel that subscription to your local MSM outlet. By the way we did that several years ago.Posted by Mahlon Moore at February 12, 2006 11:59 AM
Great job of pulling this all together! I'd read a lot of the different blogs already, but the cohesion was terrific! Thanks!Posted by MissBirdlegs in AL at February 12, 2006 05:12 PM
Thanks Greyhawk. A LOT more interesting than the LA Times.Posted by marinemom at February 13, 2006 07:42 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(5) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)