Friday, May 16, 2008

The media has a tendency to cast the military in Iraq as either villains or victims, but they are rarely viewed as humorous. At a checkpoint, this Marine shows both levity and bravado in a situation that can quickly turn from droll to dire.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fiction and Superheroes

Iron Man the movie is a great thrill, inspired by a comic book series that began in the 60's. Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer, visits Afghanistan to test a new weapon system code named Jericho. Stark is kidnapped by an international group whose members look suspiciously like terrorists. This group has a compound and plenty of armament that, as fate would have it, comes from Stark's company--Stark Enterprises.


Seeing that the fruit of his labors actually causes destruction for so many innocents, Stark escapes and dedicates himself to a pacifist way of life swearing off the production of weapons. Nevertheless, Iron Man is brought into one fight after another and decides that he alone can protect the unprotected. In other words, he'd like everyone to disarm, while he (a child prodigy and MIT graduate) remains the only one with any fire power, because he has the best of intentions.

I've reads thousands of comics as a kid, but as an adult I see just how left-wing comic books have always been, and now that they are made into movies it's that much harder to avoid the simplistic cliches. A reporter chides Tony Stark for being a "merchant of death", but Stark is quick to give his pedigree as a patriot--his father was key in the construction of the atomic bomb used to end the War in the Pacific. As the movie continues, Stark's conscious even relativizes the roll his father played and wonders if the bomb was justified--as if the Japanese were going to surrender if you asked them politely enough.

Throughout the movie Iron Man, the characters are categorically skeptical of the government's motives, but are not terribly curious about what motivated the terrorists in Afghanistan. In fact, the whole conflict in Afghanistan is sanitized to exclude religion or responsibility--none of the Afghan women are shown in the socially mandatory burkha. We learn that the head honcho of the terrorists, a shaved head Arabic-speaking tyrant, wants to "rule the world" like any other generic evil dude.

I always enjoyed comics as a kid, maybe it was the storytelling, where my imagination filled in the gaps between the panels. In the movies the artistic team has more control over the presentation, so things like ideology have a much more prominent role.

Going all the way back to 1938, one of Superman's first crusades was against "war profiteers", arms manufacturers, fueling a fictional conflict in Latin America. The two youngmen who created the Man of Steel were social progressives projecting their frustrations and solutions through a superhuman character. Despite seventy years later and leap to the big screen, not much has changed.

Universal Care for Health?

Pic_0666The 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, set out to provide the local population, just outside of Fallujah, with basic health care. These knuckle jarheads risk their lives and limbs to bring eye drops and aspirin to people who often have no indoor plumbing, but share a feed to international satellite television with the neighbors. Iraq is a place of surrealistic contrasts, of power games that are counter-intuitive and images that can be as clear as the piercing blue sky or as grainy as the sugar powdered dirt. Between car bombs and cough syrup, many inhabitants of al Anbar have decided to just say no to violence both imported and domestic.

Continue reading "Universal Care for Health?" »

Live Leak--Video of Afghanistan

Projects, Governors and converts. Check out the sites sounds of Afghanistan at my channel.

Sheik Sattar Assasinated!

Update: Sheik Sattar was just killed by an enormous explosion that was felt on Camp Ramadi more than a mile away.


I just finished interviewing one of Iraq's most fascinating people, Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, the man accredited with starting the Anbar Awakening. I'll print the interview in depth shortly, but a small introduction is in order.

Sheik Sattar is one of the few real sheiks in a country that currently has a lot of wannabe sheiks. An Anbari born and breed, Sheik Sattar lost his father and three brothers when al Qaeda pulled into town.

Charismatic, determined and very ambitious we may see a lot more of Sheik Sattar in the near future, his role in the Awakening could make Ramadi the next Gettysburg.

The Ramadi Run


In Iraq, everything before the fall of Saddam Huseein seems to have faded from collective memory, but in Ramadi, the Anbari capital of one of Iraq’s most important provinces, the general agreement was that an organized race in the streets of the city had not taken place for nearly a decade.

Ramadi was the focal point in the once infamous Sunni Triangle. Marines from the 1/6 and 3/7 out of Camp Lejeune and 29 Palms fought up and down the streets that were now a flag spangled race route. The Northwest bridge was the starting point, but the year before it was also prohibited territory as it provides no cover from possible sniper fire. A Marine set off the starting flare.

Runners burst down Route Michigan, once known for IED’s, leaned left toward Racetrack and sprinted to the finish line at Firecracker, within walking distance from Ice Cream and the 17th Street Joint Security Station the 3rd Battalion, 7th Lima Company Marines called home. Marines have a wry sense of humor and many of the street names reflected significant events, some good—many bad.

Corporal Mickey Schaetzle, a Marine infantryman who patrolled the streets during his last tour with the 3/7 Marines in 2006, said he could barely believe this was the same Ramadi where his fellow Marine were wounded—some killed. The Colorado native prefers this tour, “Things are a lot better this time.”

Spectators mobbed the winner of the race even before he crossed the finish line. In a sign of how much the security situation has changed, Captain Marcus Mainz, Lima’s company commander, danced with local Iraqis as everyone hailed the city’s improved security. “You just couldn’t’ have done this last year, you just couldn’t,” repeated Marine 1st Lieutenant Mauro Mujica.

It's an honor to cover the men and women here in Iraq, they are truly the best our country has to offer. I really thank all those who have supported me so far, I could not have done it without you.

I promise to keep bringing you the stories, images and details you won't find in the mainstream media, I also promise to bring you the voices of those you hear the least--the troops here on the ground.

Thanks for listening and I appreciate all the mail.

Keep those comments coming and take the polls!


Matt Sanchez

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Life In Saddam's Palace




Life in Saddam's palace

Former dictator's residence now home to U.S. military

By Matt Sanchez
© 2007

1aThe origins of the name Baghdad are almost certainly Persian, but even that is disputed by a people who see the nation of Iran as the greatest threat to the country of Iraq. Baghdad has been host to many visitors, both invited and otherwise. "FOB Prosperity" (FOB means Forward Operating Base) is an Army base in the Green Zone – and resident to the previous government. In the past, Saddam Hussein paraded his Republican Guard beneath the Hands of Victory, arches formed by two fists and dual swords. The monument was built to commemorate victory over Iran, two years before the war was declared a stalemate.

Returning military forces marched, in columns, down the parade grounds, eyes right to the former ruler. I met a Baghdadi who called those days a special event for all of Baghdad. Everyone was invited. Today, the Green Zone is named the International Zone – and its streets are reserved for the very few possessing authorized access. In Baghdad, change is inevitable, but complete upheaval is what has truly marked this city so near the cradle of civilization.

Continue reading "Life In Saddam's Palace" »

The Killing Field

The Jamia District is the home to the Baghdad "killing field". It's nothing impressive to look at, lots of trash in an empty field, but more bodies have been dumped in this plot than any other place before. Major Norrie also fought in the Haifa Street Ambush on January 6th, 2007.

I'd like to continue to provide my audience with unique first-person reports that you won't get from the mainstream media. I can only do that with your support. I've had enormous feedback and support so far and I thank you for your contribution.

Please Contribute


Anbar Awakening

Anbar is at the center of the famous Sunni Triangle, the triangle of death. Just last September a "secret" intelligence report, that somehow reached the hands of the mainstream media, declared the former Baathist stronghold "lost" to American forces. Al Qaeda declared Anbar city of Ramadi, the capital of The Islamic State of Iraq.

Things have changed since the "spurge". Over the next few days, we'll bring you commentary and analysis of the people who have caused that change, as well as assessments of where things are heading in a place the media declared the "Key to Victory in Iraq"

Captain Dennison relates his experience in the Anbar Awakening.

Stop the Presses


An American 'martyr' is being hailed in the Sunni Triangle for restoring peace to a town where soldiers now fight only water leaks.

When we went out on patrol, the London Times reporter, Martin Fletcher, accompanied by the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, felt so secure, he did not bother to wear his flakjacket or helmut.

How the Marines Pulled Fallujah from out of Hell


Ralph Peters has written a couple of great articles on the current situation in Fallujah. Men like 2nd Lt.Nick DeLonga, pictured below, are rising heroes who can adeptly explain the situation on the ground.

Hack Job

Ramallah is a neighborhood, or slum, depending on who you ask, that was settled by "widows". There are quite a few widows in Iraq, many from the war with Iran (1980-1988) in which an estimated 250,000 Iraqis were killed.

Coalition Forces paid for food to be distributed in the Ramallah neighborhood. It's a way of engaging the population, but it's the Iraqi police who were going to hand out the rice, wheat, and seven kilos of lamb.

Live from Anbar--Kevin McCullough

I've been doing a lot of radio shows since I got here, depending on where I am in the country and if I have a decent phone connection. It's great to talk to people back home and share what's going on here.

Real Deal in Ramadi--Sgt Eddie Jeffers

Real Deal in Ramadi
World Sgt. Eddie Jeffers, USA (Iraq)
April 17, 2007

Sgt. Eddie Jeffers was killed in Iraq on September 19, 2007. He was 23.

At the behest of my father, I wrote down some notes to be included in a little situation report (SITREP) on Iraq. I decided to address this letter to everyone because by now, you all have probably heard every news station popping off about this and that. So here's to give you an update and clear up some stuff.

First off, in the last six months, 1-9 Infantry has pushed itself into limelight and set the example for victory in Iraq. When we got here six months ago, lesser units that came before us held very little ground in East Ramadi. We pushed in and slowly began taking ground in the northern districts, which were definitely safer. We made nice with some sheiks up there, got them on our team and pushed them into near autonomy in their regions. All this was done for the task of securing those areas and pushing the insurgents there into the fortified and deadly southern district of our sector. Going back was deja vu, as this same area is where I cut my teeth as a private.

Read Jeffers' own Words.

I was saddened to hear of milblogger Sergeant Jeffers' passing. I was just with the 1-9 Infantry unit last week, but I did not, to my knowledge, meet the Sergeant. Jeffers has reason to be proud, Iraqis who had been terrorized in East Ramadi, today, are grateful that men like Sgt. Jeffers were dedicated to their job. Read Sergeant Eddie Jeffers own words and decide for yourself.

Prisoners and War

WorldNetDaily Exclusive

Terrorist or hapless victim? Soldiers sort them out
'We're working to change from witness-based convictions to evidence'

Posted: February 14, 2008
2:26 am Eastern


Matt Sanchez

Editor's note: Reporter Matt Sanchez, who has been embedding with military units throughout both Iraq and Afghanistan, is providing WND readers with a glimpse into the war on terror most Americans have never seen.

By Matt Sanchez

Sadr City, Bagdad: Staff Sergeant Dukes with the 1st platoon "blacksheep" 118th Military Police Company (Airborne) of Fort Bragg takes time out of his busy schedule to take prisoners to the roof, to get fresh air. The military police are assigned the task of teaching Iraqi Police modern police work, including the treatment of prisoners.

Who planted the bomb? Who threatened the politician? Where are the weapons caches? The detainee or prisoner may have the answer to all of these questions, or he may just be the hapless victim of circumstance, a poor guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Prisoners are held throughout Iraq. Some of the bigger facilities such as Bucca, 300 miles southeast of Baghdad near the Kuwait/Iraqi border, are major operations run by the United States military, but the majority of detainees for all crimes both big and small are held in Iraqi facilities, where the rules of detention can depend on the mood of the incarcerators.

During Saddam's time, prisons were a one-stop destination. Detainees and prisoners often were sequestered and sometimes held without a trial or simply executed. In Ramadi, a wealthy businessman told of how he was held prisoner for five days and tortured, just to prove his loyalty to Saddam Hussein. Someone apparently had suspected the Ramadi businessman of collaborating with the Syrians.

"I was not unloyal before I was abducted and tortured," said the businessman from his Ramadi home where he had invited Marines for dinner. "But from that moment on, I knew I wanted to see Saddam go."

"We're working to change the process from witness-based convictions to a convictions based on evidence," said Emery Haskel, the Navy commander heading the the "Rule of Law" program. The "Rule of Law" initiative is an effort by the American Justice Department to modernize the post-Saddam Iraqi judicial system.

"The Rule of Law" initiative is ambitious. The goal is to set a standard for the Iraqi judiciary that will make the Iraqi judicial system the most advanced in the entire Muslim world.

VIDEO:In the Green Zone, Camp Honor, I observed as a man confessed to killing more than half a dozen people. The young man, no older than 25, gave a detailed account of how he had planned to kidnap and murder his countrymen. For the American military, the main concern was to verify his story and assure that the testimony could be upheld in an Iraqi court of law.

In the past, witness testimony was often enough to get a conviction and throw someone into prison. This, of course, led to abuse in a society that so heavily relies on tribal ties. Rivals, both political and financial, denounced one another and continue to do so. It's not uncommon to be charged with terrorism, so every accusation requires two signed affidavits for the military or police to act.

False accusations are not unheard of. In Ramadi, several commanders suspected Iraqis of accusing rivals of terrorist activity in order to secure building contracts. Today, the focus is to teach the Iraqi police modern techniques of evidence gathering – a test for explosives residue on hands is especially popular. The goal is to reduce the amount of abuse in the system.

In 2005, the media published photos of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses. The small prison, roughly 30 miles outside of Baghdad, became an international focus point, a rallying call against the war in Iraq.

Coming into Iraq, I made sure to ask everyone I could about the Abu Ghraib scandal. It was surprising how many people knew nothing about Abu Ghraib or cared even less.

On the outskirts of Ramadi, in the company of the 5th battalion 10th Marines, the leader of the al Awani tribe, Sheik Rad Sabah Muklif, was, through an interpreter, very frank about Abu Ghraib.

"We can't blame all Americans. Americans did something bad, but look at what Iran is doing in Baghdad." Members of al-Qaida had killed the sheik's father and his brother. Muklif himself had been the target of several attempts.

"You have some bad people, but I can promise you that we have much worse."

For Iraqis, security was the most important subject, no one cared to speak much of the past, and like most things international, the Abu Ghraib scandal had an entirely different effect in Iraq. Many Iraqis resisted the closing of the prison, because it showed a sign of weakness to the terrorists.

As one man in Ramadi told me, "There were some very bad people in Abu Ghraib."


In Fallujah, members of 5/10 Marines took me to an almost finished outdoors prison facility. The facility was a civil affairs project the Marines had paid for and employed local Fallujans to build. This was not a typical prison. No series of sliding, reinforced prison doors or redundant security systems for men who had been accused of killing enough people to easily qualify them as mass murderers.

VIDEO:Sadr City: Detainees must be charged within a reasonable period (normally 48 hours). The 118th 1st Platoon Blacksheep Military Police CO (Airborne) are responsible for the oversight of the prisoners, which means making sure the Iraqi police do not abuse them. Much of what we would consider abuse: insufficient food, unsanitary conditions, no healthcare and little access to a judicial process, was the norm for Iraq.

The facility was in the open air, with several tarps to protect the prisoners from the sun. The "cells" were shipping containers retro-fitted with bars, bunks and an incredible luxury – air-conditioning. It did not look like much, but it was an enormous upgrade from the old prison that was still in use.

In an old, very run down building, 75 men were being held in a cell slightly bigger than a two-car garage. No lighting and no visible ventilation, the 125-degree temperature outside made the climate inside unbearable, if not lethal. There was not a chair or bunk in the room. Men slumped over each other looking for a place to sit or rest. The air was heavy, fetid, and the smell was beyond description.

Men passed out on filthy floors that reeked of human waste. The prison keeper informed me that these were typical prisons left over from Saddam's time. He saw nothing particularly wrong with facilities and was a bit concerned that the Americans may be treating the prisoners too nicely.

Before the new detention cells were built, the only person who got air-conditioning was the police commissioner.

In Haditha, I ran into a different, but not entirely unique situation. The Marines were holding a prisoner who had been cleared of any wrong doing. So, why was he still in the cell in downtown Haditha?

"If we let this guy go there could be a problem," said Chief Warrant Officer Harold Kiser.

The detainee had been accused of carrying out terrorists acts. There was not enough information to substantiate the accusation, so the man was going to be released immediately, but the sentiment towards potential terrorists was so strong in Haditha, the mayor of the city feared setting the former suspect free would get that man killed. So, the man was held for his own safety and he was grateful for the protection.

In Sadr City, the military police visited the local police station to ensure the fair and humane treatment of the prisoners. Staff Sgt. Dukes took me to the holding cell where he was going to take the prisoners up to the roof so they could have some exercise and see the light of day. On the roof, the prisoners stripped down to their underwear and began to sunbathe. It was a beautiful day and the Iraqi prisoners were grateful for the time they were allowed outside of their cell.

"How have they been treating you? Did you get enough to eat?" asked Dukes, who felt badly that he only could let the prisoners spend 15 minutes on the roof, he had plenty of things to do that day.

Collateral Costs

Codepink03 Free speech comes at a costs, and it's not just those who are willing to defend it, but those who are actually willing to pay for it.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Berkeley spent $93,000 on police overtime to control the Marines protest outside City Hall Tuesday, a city official said. cont...

Politics and Procurement

MRAPs arrive at Haditha Dam in the Fall of 2007

Senators will call for an investigation into an internal report stating that field commanders were given a lower priority for the acquisition of MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Proctected vehicles).

I spoke to many procurement specialists in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I can assure you no one purposely sought to deny the troops in the field anything that could save a life.

The MRAP procurement push came at a time when Marines were learning that the best defense against an IED was not thicker armor, but an Iraqi showing a Marine where the explosive was planted. The "up-armored" strategy had proven ineffective in places like Baghdad. The MRAP, for all its many advantages, follows that same "fortress on wheels" logic.

It's important to note that the Marine Corps reduced the initial order for MRAPs by 1400 vehicles.

It's great to have a healthy debate about what could and should have been done, but I take ssue with politician attempts to capitalize on the controversy for political payoff.

Here are the comments of Senator Joseph Biden:

"This is a stark warning that the military brass back home is not acting on needs of our war fighters,"

He quickly added:

We need an official investigation to figure out why this happened and to make sure it never happens again."

Does anyone honestly believe the senator will solve anything after this "investigation"?

Debbie Lee

I had the honor of meeting Debbie last year when she was on her way to Iraq. She's quite a fighter. Her son would be proud.

"For years you told our troops they didn't belong in Iraq, now you're telling them they don't belong in America?" --Debbie Lee mother of Marc Lee first Navy Seal to fall in Iraq.

Iraq War No More


Iraqi police have been trained to the point where they really do take care of most of the day to day business, especially in Anbar. Please note this Iraqi has his finger off the trigger, as taught to him by some well-disciplined Devil Dog.

Many have cried to put an end to the war in Iraq and they may just get their wish. As I write about my experiences in Iraq and read the dispatches of the people who are still there, I have a difficult time calling the "war" in Iraq a "war" at all.

Yes, there are still problems and yes there are still casualties, but, for the most part, day in day out, the conflict has simmered so much and the enemy is so weak that I don't think "war" is the proper word anymore.

At some point, someone's going to have to declare the war over and begin to call it a low-level insurgency or simply day to day life.

CNN's Reconciliation With Reality

CNN is attempting to make a concession without appearing completely discredited for all the shoddy reporting of doom and gloom over the past year. CNN cameras poked in and out of neighborhoods, especially after a "flashy" event, to keep up the illusion of a desperate Iraq.

Despite the coverage, and despite CNN, things have changed in Iraq over the past year and there simply is no denying it. I have no problem with critical reporting, unfortunately, all too often, CNN stacked the cards against the efforts in Iraq and stopped reporting the news in order to start dictating it.

more to come...

(CNN) -- A year after President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq, American and Iraqi officials said there has been a drop in violence and some baby steps toward political reconciliation, but they see no cause for celebration.

A U.S. soldier patrols an Iraqi neighborhood in an area west of Baghdad earlier this month.

"There have been significant steps forward. There's been quite a bit of progress against al Qaeda in Iraq and against other extremist elements," said Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, speaking in an interview last week with a radio station.

"But having said all that, again I want to be very cautious upfront and note that there's nobody here doing victory dances in the end zone or talking about 'turning the corner' or 'seeing lights at the end of the tunnel,' " Petraeus said. "There's still a lot of hard work still to be done."

Bush announced his deployment plan in January 2007 aimed at stopping the violence long enough for Iraq's S

Forest Green or Desert Sand?


With a tiny footprint in Afghanistan, the Marines are about to take a bigger step into the Taliban's backyard.

Marines are psyched about heading to Afghanistan, but the real question is what color uniform will they wear forest green or desert sand? Northern Afghanistan has what's left of ancient forests, and there are Marines in country who wear green "cammies", but down south, in Kandahar, is much more arid and most of the Marines running around with the Afghan police and military units wear desert sand.

US Marines relish Afghan mission

CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina (AFP) — Some of them have never left American soil, but at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit say they can't wait to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Obama's Drama

Sgt. McGee loading up some of the "scarce" equipment in Afghanistan

During the last debate, Obama made a statement about the military that just didn't cut the mustard.

I spoke with a buddy of mine, Army Sgt. Anthony McGee, currently stationed in Gardez, Afghanistan. I last saw Sgt. McGee, a former Marine, in November. Anthony had these comments that I have reprinted with the Sergeant's permission.

Anthony: I think Obama's full of sh**

or he just doesn't have all the facts right

Anthony: We have enough equipment in my area

8:49 AM me: Have you heard of shortages elsewhere?
Anthony: Just because one captain can't figure out how to use the supply system doesn't mean we're all f**ked
8:50 AM I've heard of people getting short d*cked by outgoing units but all that can be taken care of pretty quickly

9:02 AM Anthony: If it was really to the point where he was scrounging for weapons like he said, I wonder if he went through his chain of command or went straight to the press
anyhow man, I got to get out of here so I can get some chow
I got to do some crew serve maintenance in a little while
later man
Sgt. McGee at work in Afghanistan.

Bright Idea--Iraqi Electricity

By Matt Sanchez

Most of us expect something to happen when we plug in an appliance or flip a switch, but in Iraq flipping a switch to get power is a key part of fighting terrorism.

The strategy to combat a counter-insurgency consists mainly of improving the living conditions; that means bringing a national infrastructure neglected by dictatorial socialism and asphyxiated by a decade of sanctions to a functional level for a growing population with an increasing appetite for energy.

In the past, the media reported how little electricity the average resident of Baghdad had. During a low point, only two or three hours of power was available daily to the residents of the Iraqi capital. How hard could it be to repair a couple of fallen lines, even if terrorists targeted infrastructure, the American public back home thought while shaking a collective head.

The answer could be found over 100 miles north in places like Haditha, site of a major hydroelectric dam that provides power to parts of Baghdad and every major city in between.

Haditha Dam is a mish-mash of several projects combining mostly East German equipment installed by mostly Yugoslavian engineers. The dam is a concrete fortress and the current home to the 3rd battalion 23rd Marines, a reserve unit pulling in Marines from states throughout the South. Thick concrete bulwarks make Haditha Dam one of the safest places in Iraq, but the importance of electricity guarantees that Iraq's second supplier of hydropower always will be a target.

Marines in Fallujah patrol the streets. Besides sniper fire and improvised explosives, troops also have to watch out for dangling live wires

Soldiers from the eastern European country of Azerbaijan are stationed on one side of the river; they're job is to protect the dam from any attack. Al-Qaida has the goal of wrecking anything that could make life bearable in Iraq.

Iraqi engineers are in charge of the six whirling turbines that emit a constant hum as they turn water and motion into light and heat. The engineers live in a village not far away. Of course, the nearly 400 employees have to be protected, the employee village itself is just outside of Haditha.

VIDEO:Haditha Dam is built on the Euphrates River and requires special security measures. The Marines revived the type of river patrols that were common in Vietnam. New equipment such as the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) are used to protect this crucial structure.

Continue reading "Bright Idea--Iraqi Electricity" »

Americanization of the Iraqi Army

At Habbaniya, in the Anbar province I embedded with the Marines who run the Iraqi Army firing range.

It was a long day of firing the AK-47, a rattling weapon that is inaccurate and clunky. Like any Marine, I was very happy when a fellow devil dog handed me the well-known M-16 that we all know and love.

Now, the Iraqis are going to have the same weapon. I spoke to MANY people, both on and off the record, about the adoption of the M-16 as the weapon of choice for the Iraqi Army. The knee jerk reaction of the average soldier was "bad idea". The reaction of those behind the scenes was a lot more complex and reasonable.


The front sight post of the AK-47, one of the most widely-used weapons ever created.

Heavy Metal

This is what happens when mommycrats try to run wars.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Pentagon and Marine Corps authorized the purchase of 84,000 bulletproof vests in 2006 that not only are too heavy but are so impractical that some U.S. Marines are asking for their old vests back so they can remain agile enough to fight. cont...

At degrees over 120, Marines in Fallujah sometimes had to do without the body armor when the task demanded. No one wants a Marine to die of a wound that could have been prevented, but bulky body armor could cause more damage than good.

Different Narrative

Doura at night. The community has repelled al-Qaida and hates the terrorists organization more than the average American.

Pete Hegseth just filed another dispatch from Baghdad. He noted something extraordinary that most people back home do not understand.

These gains, however, were costly. In their first 30 days in Doura, the unit was attacked over 50 times. On the very streets we’re walking today, LTC Crider has lost nine good men, with dozens more injured. But the unit persisted — honoring the sacrifices of their brethren — and has not been attacked in their sector since September 27. As compelling testimony to the unit’s dedication to the task, LTC Crider’s squadron had the highest reenlistment rate in all of Baghdad in 2007, exceeding their goal by over 500 percent.

I met many members of the 1/4 Cav. These guys patrolled a tough neighborhood and they took quite a few casualties. Despite that, many re-enlisted. That's risking your life for your beliefs, but it's also something difficult to describe in the current "soldier as victim" narrative, so common in the media.

The War Prince


The Prince sports a baseball cap with the American flag. The color is darker so that the flag is visible through night vision goggles.

Prince Harry is/was in Afghanistan, which has put that war zone back in the news. It's good to see the prince went down south to join his countrymen in arms, but there is a problem with the British presence in Afghanistan.

When I was in Kandahar, I noted the disparities between the British engagement in Afghanistan compared to how much weight American forces were pulling. This will eventually be the subject of a bigger article, but a reader sent me a picture of the prince in Afghanistan that I thought was particularly revealing.

Puppy Tossing

By Matt Sanchez

The video is grainy, but it's easy to make out the features of the smiling Marine holding a black and white

puppy by the scruff. Another Marine is recording the whole scene. The camera focus on the dangling dog, one of the two Marines says the puppy is cute. The Marine pauses, throws back his arm and hurls the puppy through the air, like a lopsided football. There is the sound of the cute canine squealing and the thud of it hitting the earth motionless. [Video is posted online – viewer discretion advised.]

From Iraq, we've seen video of real-time beheadings, pictures of men being led by a dog leash and numerous post-bomb carnage, but despite spectacular events, the American public has been mostly immune and indifferent. Yet, the sight, thought and sounds of a puppy yelping after being thrown into the air and presumably killed is enough to cause a national uproar.

As Americans become more cynical and render the value of human life relative, are we looking for intrinsic innocence in cuddly faces that bark? Or are the images of wounded soldiers, crying mothers and aspiring human bombs pledging allegiance so complicated that it's easier to emotionally invest in the purity of a puppy and condemn the malicious Marine?

Watching the video, I couldn't help but think of how different the rules are in a place like Iraq, a place where dogs are often treated more like rats scampering for food in mounds of trash. I met shepherds who used dogs to herd sheep. I asked one Iraqi what the name of his dog was, but he looked at me confused. They don't name their dogs in much of the Middle East.

Servicemen have to be a bit more attentive. Marines are under orders to shoot any animal that gets too close; the alternative is risking a viral bite and possible infection. Rabies shots are what waited for one Marine from the 5/10 civil affairs unit. Obviously, none of this applies to the Marine who flung the puppy down a cliff – he comes from a different culture.

This Marine came form a culture where we have the luxury of keeping pets and the resources to spend more on four-legged creatures than some peoples around the world can spend on their own offspring; a country where cats inherit millions from wealthy owners, like one cat did in Florida, and where PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) compares a chained elephant in a modern zoo to a chained black slave in 19th century America.

Sympathy is an enormous emotion; it helps human beings understand one another – but how do we understand the abused puppy? Does our own indignation make us feel more human? When we watch the video of the Marine abusing a puppy, do we feel sorry for the puppy, or are we angrier at our own human failing?

Lt. Col. Jay Koppelman showed much humanity when he risked bodily harm and even breaking military law to bring a stray back home with him from Iraq. In his riveting tale, "From Baghdad with Love," Koppelman details just how important his relationship with the abandoned puppy was for his well-being. With each frustrated attempt to get little "Lava" out of the war-torn Iraq, the author wrote of having to save something from Iraq, but it becomes evident through the course of events that the dog saved the lieutenant colonel as much as the Marine saved the dog.

But the dog in the video won't be saved, if the video and puppy were real at all. The images were probably shot last year, and the four-legged critter landed inert at the far end of the cliff. Yet, it's the idea of such an "injustice" that has galvanized the American public.

VIDEO:The relationship between Marine and man's best friend is historically solid. After World War I, the Germans gave Marines their nickname of "devil dog." The Marine Mascot is a stout bulldog. Corporal Martin's military job involves co-habitating with animals. Besides bomb detection, tracking and defense, these canine Marines literally absorb stress in a war zone, because Marines love to pet him.

"That's pretty mean," said the Marine holding the camera to the other Marine shrugging his shoulders.

It's hard to believe what we are seeing. One is tempted to call the whole thing a hoax and believe that it may be a big practical joke. An investigation is under way in Hawaii, where the unit has returned after its tour in Iraq.

"I'm just feeling retarded," is what I think the Marine and presumed puppy killer says, but it's hard to make out the audio. After such an uneven display, we're all a bit confused.

Cult worship


I'm the first to admit the Marine Corps dedication to honoring the past is almost a cult, which makes the use of the emblematic image of Marines raising the flag on Mount Sarabachi practically a sacrilege, or at least in extremely poor taste.

Time Magazine decided to run the above image to "raise awareness" about the environment and to coincide with "Earth Day", a quasi-religious holiday celebrated by Oprah Winfrey, and everyone else who believes the sky is falling. I'm all for conservation and an advocate for a clean planet, but I've always been struck by how polluted poor countries are, as compared to the wealthy ones.

"In honor of our Earth, I love her, I'm asking all of you today to implement just one green idea to help the fight against global warming," Spoken by the Oh Mighty Oprah

How does one "honor" the Earth? Why is the Earth a 'female' and not a male?

The readers of Time Magazine, North America, Asia, and Southeast Asia voted on whether they would recommend the cover or not. I was pleased to see just how many had rejected it.

Getting it Right


I just got off the phone with Michael Yon and I'm glad to hear that the first run of his book has sold out. If you want to know what Iraq is really like, nobody knows better than Yon. He spent 15 months in the country at different stages of the conflict. More books have been ordered.

Milblogs at Columbia University


Today, I was at Columbia University to take care of some paper work for the upcoming semester. At the home of the Pulitizer Prize, I stopped by to do an interview with members of the Columbia Journalism School.

Mainstream journalism has a reluctant relationship with bloggers, but the situation becomes even more ambiguous when military bloggers or milbloggers give the depictions and details that the mainstream either misses or neglects. At the Columbia Journalism School, this afternoon, we covered life as an embed, censure, bias, freedom of speech, perception and objectivity. As both a war correspondent and a military blogger, I straddled the line between two worlds. Journalism students have much theory, but there really is no substitute for actually reporting from the frontlines.

interviewers on the spot with some questions of my own. I found myself eyeing the roof tops for snipers, while talking to the subject of my interview.

Artificial Controversy?


Periodically, reporters will put out requests to help gather information. Just the other day, I got this one.

I'm looking to speak with medical and military personnel who can share their experience with (or knowledge of) soldiers that have self-inflicted injuries. I'm particularly interested in intentional injuries -- or other creative methods -- that have successfully gotten reluctant soldiers shipped back home or prevented them from being shipped to the frontlines. I understand the sensitivity of this inquiry and am committed to protecting the confidentiality of each source -- and each soldier -- on a case-by-case basis. Contact: ****
D***** T***.****

If you ever wondered how a news outlet creates controversy, look no further than the request above. Personally, I never met someone who tried to injure himself in order to return home from Iraq or Afghanistan, but I did stumble upon a few women who got pregnant in a warzone to achieve that same goal.

The problem with the above request is that it starts off with a foregone conclusion--some soldiers overseas want to injure themselves in order to go home--and sets out to find proof, through a mass e-mail. To be fair, I don't know how many incidents or persons this Newsweek reporter has found to fit the description above, nor do I really know if records are kept on this sort of thing. Unfortunately, this looks like another attempt at pandering to sensationalism.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Substitute for being there

Mainwsjlogowhite_2I was speaking with Michael Yon about the state and future of Iraq.  Yon first traveled to the war zone in 2004 and has made several trips since.  Michael Yon is unique, he has seen the conflict at different phases and for extended periods.  His recent op-ed is a must read. 


Given the slew of poorly performing Iraq war movies recently
produced, it's no wonder why so many in Hollywood believe the situation
in Iraq is so dire. There are few in Tinseltown who really understand
the situation in Iraq, but there are some diamonds amid the lumpy
mountains of coal. cont...