"Hopefully this Buck won't stopone of the best damn MilBloggers to ever knock sand from his boots." -- The Mudville Gazette

31 January 2006


Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.
-Harry S. Truman

Elections do matter.

The following is the first in a four-part
American Citizen Scholar series examining the influence and impact of presidential leadership (or lack thereof) in regard to U.S. foreign policy and its outcome during tumultuous periods in our nation's history.
In recent months, two Muslim nations have partaken in the voting process for the first time in their respective histories. Participation is high, the enthusiasm even higher; many brave death simply by registering or showing up at the polls.

By contrast, less than half of the eligible American voting public participates in our national elections every two to four years. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, say the pundits, critics, and cynics. Presidents and politicians are all the same.

When referring to such trivial domestic concerns as budgetary tug of war, the daily he said/she said of Capitol Hill carping, or the routine hitting below the Beltway -- perhaps the naysayers are correct. But when it comes to major foreign policy decisions that have wide ranging and long term consequences on the world stage -- history begs to differ.
This is precisely why elections matter.

How the Truman Doctrine Prescribed Containment for the Cold War and Trumped Communist Hegemony

President Harry S. Truman was a man who thought in plain and simple terms: black and white, right and wrong, good versus evil. And understandably so -- he lived in seemingly clear cut, straightforward times, where a man’s word was bond, and personal experience his ultimate guidepost. Unappreciated in his day, Truman was an old school Democrat who never flinched from the hard work and difficult choices of defending America, and whose bedrock political notions favored common sense over dollars and cents. "I never did give anybody hell," he said. "I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."

The War to End All Wars
At the ripe age of thirty three he volunteered to tackle the Germans in the bloody trenches of war-ravaged France. His eyesight was poor, to the degree that in order to enlist he was reduced to memorizing the army eye exam chart. By war’s end, however, he was not so nearsighted that he could not recognize the Allies’ grandiose folly of forcing round pegs of expectation into square holes of reality. The failure to exact an unconditional surrender -- coupled with a punitive peace treaty and a feckless League of Nations -- sowed the seeds of Nazism that would take root over the next two decades and ultimately lead Europe hurtling again toward war. As a newly-elected senator from Missouri, Truman would watch helplessly as Hitler’s aggression became emboldened by the western democracies’ refusal to stand up to him at Munich, and silently fumed as America remained mired in isolationism.

Despite being shut out of the halls of power as FDR’s third vice-president in four terms, he inherited the role of Commander-in-Chief in the final year of World War II. After only four months on the job -- barely seven of those in the executive branch -- he approved the coup de grace to the Japanese over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that would forever change the world. Ultimately taking lives in order to save them, it would unleash an atomic age in the process.

Civil Servant of the People
It was Harry Truman who -- in an election year, no less -- issued an executive order mandating the desegregation of the armed forces and the civil service; a hugely controversial move in the pre-Civil Rights America of 1948 that dumbfounded his supporters and ignited a firestorm among his critics. His explanation? It was the right thing to do. "We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God."

It was Truman who called the Korean Communists’ bluff as they deemed to take by force what they could not acquire through negotiation, laying American lives and stature on the line to protect the legitimacy of a new global institution unable or willing to do so itself. Following the recent loss of China to Communist takeover, the decision was a no-brainer, a requisite that succeeding presidents have not always met. Will Rogers called diplomacy "the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock." Give 'em Hell Harry took this to heart.

Truman pushed the Soviets out of Iran; came to the aid of Greece when their Communist surrogates threatened to overthrow it; and saved West Berlin by airlifting supplies in the face of a Red Army blockade. He was the first to recognize the infant state of Israel, the first -- and until recent events -- the only true representative government in the Middle East; "I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it - not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization;" and presided over the Marshall Plan, the original blueprint for the proven feasibility of imposing democracy on a subjugated enemy. Modern-day cynics should take heed.

How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Truman’s enduring legacy, however, will remain his willingness to split hairs, not atoms; to engage international communism in a protracted war of competing ideas rather than a swift exchange of nuclear ordnance. Many scholars and critics have laid the blame for the Cold War’s gestation at Harry Truman’s feet, yet they fail to mention that the alternative could very well have meant another global war; only this time, one with the potential for unimaginable devastation. “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,” remarked Albert Einstein, “but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

As the Third Reich crumbled, the Soviet “Iron Curtain” descended across Europe, setting the stage for the final confrontation between East and West that fortunately would never come to fruition. Yet, if Soviet aggression was to be met, it would have to be met early with unambiguous resolve and steely determination to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures" — a sweeping ideal promulgated as the “Truman Doctrine.”

With its clarion call for dramatically increased defense spending, Truman’s directive would serve as the blueprint for U.S. resistance to any further Communist encroachment upon war-ravaged Europe and, to a lesser extent, the economically fragile East Asian Rim. In short, the U.S. was undertaking an essentially open-ended commitment, both military and economic, to defend freedom across the globe.

A Line in the Sand

Truman and his inner circle believed that an enduring peace could only be attained though demonstrative strength, based on the proposition that America—as the greatest independent democratic power—had moral, political, and ideological obligations to preserve free institutions throughout the world, and must equip itself with the military means to shoulder them. Consensus quickly formed that the Soviet Union would eventually hit a logjam if met with steady resistance when it sought to expand, a theory put forth by the State Department and Truman’s foreign policy inner circle. Put into practice, this strategy became known as “containment.”

Restraint of the Soviet menace would necessitate a massive buildup of forces not only to meet such a threat if it occurred, but also to discourage such belligerence in the first place. Extensive aid to the beleaguered nations of Western Europe and the Mediterranean would also be required if only to head off subversive elements within their own borders that could potentially spell disaster politically, if not militarily. Few within the State Department expected the Soviets to push for another costly war so soon after the last one, but none doubted that they would seek strategic advantage whenever possible, especially if the opposition was reluctant and the risks were minimal. It did not appear to most government analysts that war was likely; the Soviets simply did not seem strong enough yet to stage a war. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that they wouldn’t keep pushing their interests and pushing them hard, just short of war.

Career diplomats in the State Department cautioned to expect the Soviets to be extremely aggressive; to press and prod whenever they spotted weakness and opportunity. In order to beat the Soviets at this game, the West would have to vigorously contain the Soviets, which would probably engage the U.S. in a struggle that could last several decades or more. Though Truman tended to view the world as a struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, he feared that the steep tax hikes that his policies of containment called for could stall the economy, gut his domestic program, and potentially cripple his beloved Democratic Party. Since the end of the war, he had virtually dismantled the military and converted the nation back to a peacetime economy, planning to put more funds into healthcare and education. Yet, the hawkish Republicans in Congress were eager to pounce -- “soft on communism” their chief battle cry.

Confessions of a Reluctant Superpower

Americans by tradition were not keenly interested in foreign policy, and they certainly had little interest in maintaining the kind of gigantic military establishment that would be needed for containment. They remained deeply apprehensive about taking a lead role in world affairs, preferring to focus on all things domestic. And as they had after the First World War, they pressed Congress to demobilize quickly as soon as the war ended. In each case Congress had complied, cutting back on the military budget and ending the draft. President Truman needed to instill enough fear in Americans for them to approve of a gigantic new commitment to internationalism, a commitment totally at odds with the country’s deepest traditions: taking charge of the free world’s security, entailing huge financial costs and risking the transformation of the U.S. into a giant militaristic society. As he would later write: "A president either is constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him. I never felt that I could let up for a moment."

Containment jibed well with Truman’s innate sense of morality: it constituted the right thing to do and what needed to be done to bring it about. As an added benefit, upping defense expenditures so drastically offered him political cover on the conservative Right, and partially shielded him from increasing attacks from the anti-communists as well as critics within his own party. "All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway." Containment stood as not only the best option for the preservation of democracy across the globe, but for the preservation of Harry Truman and his presidency as well. Still, he recognized that a successful president could not always be popular. "To hell with them. When history is written they will be the sons of bitches -- not I." How right he was.

The Obstinate Opsimath

Despite his relative lack of formal education, Truman remained all his life a keen student of history, and understood all too well that the impact of his decisions could reverberate far beyond his own presidency. Soviet expansionism would have to either be engaged head on with direct force, or slowly and deliberately suffocated with a massive projection of American military muscle, while simultaneously undermining it with substantial foreign aid and unwavering Allied commitment. Yet he never lost sight of the forest for the trees: "We shall never be able to remove suspicion and fear as potential causes of war until communication is permitted to flow, free and open, across international boundaries."

The diminutive senator from Independence, Missouri entered the office of the presidency feeling much too small for the role thrust upon him so abruptly. Hearing of FDR’s sudden death and his own succession to the job, Truman remarked that he felt as if "the sun, the moon, and the stars had fallen on [him]." Yet, he would leave the White House, as Winston Churchill would later express, having done “more than any other man to have saved Western Civilization.”

The incidental presidency of Harry S. Truman was one of immeasurable consequence, and history’s ledger has finally caught up with his uniquely American brand of ordinary exceptionalism. Whatever landed on his desk, the buck truly stopped there.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

26 January 2006


A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.
-Alexander Hamilton

Sunday 04April2004
FOB Salerno, Afghanistan

Today was a crude reminder that the grass is always greener (or in our case, browner) on the other side. We were pining for the “relaxed pace” of FOB security only a week ago, yet today was one of the longest, most tiring days we’ve had to date. SSG Sarten (“The Mad Runner”) decides that our squad needs to jog twice the perimeter of the FOB this morning, despite it being “no-PT Sunday” when everyone else is sleeping in. This takes about two hours. Of course, our platoon is on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) duty at the time, thus when a sling loaded 105mm howitzer gets jettisoned from 500 ft. somewhere south of Khost, it becomes our job to roll out and collect what’s left of it. This takes all day.

When we finally locate it, the local townspeople had already stripped it of everything that wasn’t welded on. It was amusing to observe a captain from the S-3 shop try and talk tough with the crowd, demanding that they return the missing pieces. His words had to be translated by one of the terps, who was clearly not conveying the same tone of indignation.

“Tell them they have 30 minutes--I’m starting my watch--to produce every last item they stole, or we’re going to go house to house and tear their village apart until we find them!”
(Likely translation: “The U.S. captain would like the broken pieces of his big gun back if it’s not too much trouble, m’kay?”)
Suffice it to say, no one exactly “beat feet” to go comply with his ultimatum. The village elder eventually turned up and, seemingly eager to curry favor with the generous but gullible Americans, announced: “We don’t have any of your missing equipment--but our rival village over there does!” (Points to area roughly two klicks away). Wouldn’t you know, our leadership actually fell for that one.

We did end up getting about a dozen or so of the twenty stolen pieces back--one kid came riding up on his bicycle dragging a huge chunk of metal behind part of the slingload itself; God knows what he planned on using this for--but in all, the day was far too long and the jerky ride out there way too hard on my posterior for it to possibly be worth it. So what if a 105 runs about $200K. Subtract it from my postwar chiropractor bill and maybe we’ll break even.

As usual, SGT Manning epitomized the true nature of the mission by making an ass of himself--literally: S-3 “Captain America” is sitting nearby, chatting with the village elder and generally posturing for his tag-along photojournalist sycophants, when here comes Manning, careening across the road at the helm of a donkey cart, all the while bellowing, “Combat patrols, baby! Combat patrols! Woo hoo!” A perfectly ridiculous finish to a perfectly ridiculous day.

Well, it might have been, had our day been over. We still had 9 ½ hours left on our scheduled 12-hour night shift by the time we got back to the FOB. We were more than just a little exhausted by that point. About midway through the night our platoon medic PFC Edmondson drove around to all the OP towers to bring us coffee and make sure we were staying awake. I was pretty out of it by that point--I had been up continuously for at least 24 hours by then. He later recounted calling up to us for nearly two full minutes before I even noticed he was out there in the dark.
“Wha..? Doc, izzat you? Who dat? Where am I..?”
I then abruptly sat up from my chair, forgetting I was atop a raised 12” platform, and fell flat on my face on the floor of the moonlit OP. That part I remember.

Monday 05April2004
The face of 2nd Platoon is slowly starting to change. PFC Belloli is gone to Bagram due to a resurfacing heart condition, SPC Love has moved to the S-3 shop in return for a kid who’s never been in a line squad before, and now we have a new platoon sergeant in SFC Johnston as SFC Blenker swaps places with him in the TOC. The times they are a changin.’ In that vein, I’ve decided to lobby for a new role myself: civilian! Whaddya think, Magic 8-Ball? All signs point to…fat chance, sucker!

--Reports indicate that the recently wounded SPC Riley has been spotted around the FOB already on crutches. Apparently, he received what you’d call a “million-dollar-wound” from his encounter with the elusive B.C. Sniper. Shot clean through the ass, Forrest Gump style. Though still no word yet on Lieutenant Dan or Bubba.

--The Air Farce--excuse me--Force, broke another C-130 (again), so all week we’re going to have Big Bird guard out on the tarmac between our regular shifts. I guess they figured we were getting too much sleep, what with our whopping four hours per night average of late. How about this: You bring us some goddamn mail, and then maybe we’ll think about watching your plane for you, okay flyboys?

--The area around the female tents has turned into a virtual nightclub in the evening hours after dinner chow. Guys aren’t permitted inside the female tents, but there’s never a shortage of cheesedick pogues hanging around outside, vying for the attention of the two or three pre-menstrual soldiers who’s ages don’t nearly equal their dress sizes. One of them will be coming back from the chow hall with a Haley’s Comet-like tail of men trailing behind her just to bask in the rare but familiar scent of a recently-shampooed woman. Yep, war is hell.
On a semi-related note: Culled from The Book of Useless Knowledge by Joe Edelman and David Samson:

"Hookers got their title during the Civil War, when Gen. Joseph Hooker, of the Union Army, tried to boost morale by allowing prostitutes access to his troops. Quickly dubbed “Hooker’s girls,” the prostitutes shortened the name to “hookers.” The term stuck."

Considering the multitude of stories I heard about all the females running around up in Bagram--they actually sell prophylactics and pregnancy tests at the P/X there--it would appear the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Tuesday 06April2004
The 501st at War
Scene: Yesterday afternoon, the TOC (Tactical Operations Center), FOB Salerno (as recounted by 2nd Platoon RTO Scholz).
Radio chatter suddenly lights up the net. An element on patrol reports “shots fired” at them from two fleeing individuals.
Cut to: Chaos in the TOC: “We’ve got troops in contact! We need clearance for fires! Get Col. Glenn on the horn, ASAP! OH-MY-GOD!!”
Cut to: SITREP (situation report) from the field:
A lone shot.
Fired from approximately 700 meters out.
At a goat.

Black Goat Down: Leave No Lamb Behind
(Coming soon to an FOB near you)

Wednesday 07April2004
Just when you thought pulling guard couldn’t possibly get any worse: Enter the 12-hour shift. Sharing an OP tower with SGT “Sleepy” Kair is mildly aggravating at best, as he cannot manage to stay conscious for more than three minutes at a stretch.

The day shifts are tolerable, as the combination of sodas, chain-smoking, and illicit book reading at least help to ameliorate the crushing boredom. The night shifts are another matter. It is an accepted scientific law that time not only passes more slowly during nighttime guard shifts, but that it even appears to go in reverse by approximately the midpoint. (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, if I’m not mistaken).

Smoking is not permitted at night due to it’s non-tactical nature (a cigarette cherry can be seen from quite a distance under night vision devices), though SGT Kair’s intense nicotine habit would not be denied. I witnessed him spend thirty minutes wrapping an ordinary water bottle with “100 mile/hour tape” (jargon for green army duct tape), poking a hole in the bottom (“For ventilation,” he explained), and clandestinely smoking a Marlboro Light through it like a MacGyver-inspired crack pipe. “I learned this trick in the 82nd,” he says. “Star cluster flare canisters work better, though.” Another proven axiom is that a soldier’s creativity is directly proportional to his level of enforced boredom.

The second worst aspect of the night shift (after the Herculean effort required to stay awake) is the morning after. Following a quick pit-stop at the chow hall for breakfast, all you want to do is crawl into your rack and sleep the rest of the day away. The problem lies in the fact that it is already approaching 90 degrees by mid-morning, rendering it nearly impossible to snooze for longer than a scant few hours before waking in a pool of your own sweat. This is then followed by several hours of tossing back and forth, unsuccessfully trying to locate the “cool” side of the pillow, and muttering “Fuck, it’s hot” every few seconds to no one in particular. I’ve come to realize that Afghanistan has only three distinct seasons: Cold, hot, and flambé.

Thursday 08April2004
Coming soon to the Sony Playstation 2 from Electronic Arts:

Operation Enduring Boredom: the Video Game
Utilizing the latest developments in first-person-shooter action, and based on the popular "Medal of Honor" game engine, OEB: the Forgotten Front requires you to navigate your way through twelve challenging tasks in order to complete your mission and be awarded the ultimate prize of any soldier--a one-way-ticket home courtesy of Anywhere But Here Airlines.

Level One: Man a dizzying array of OP guard towers, in both day and night conditions, tempting fate in order to stay awake for the critical hourly radio checks. (Power-up on caffeine or you will fall asleep!)

Move on to Level Two and try your luck at a series of increasingly pointless LMTV convoy missions. You won’t receive contact, but you will fall off if you fail to hold on tight enough. Mount and dismount the trucks repeatedly without sustaining a stress fracture or a sprained ankle and you will successfully advance to:

Level Three: Circumnavigate the FOB, all the while maintaining the proper uniform as authorized by the chain of command. Earn extra lives by making it from your tent to the latrine and back during daylight hours without your weapon or boonie hat. (Watch out for the Sergeant Major!)

Unlock hidden bonus rounds and dare to:
--Call home on the MWR “morale phones” and actually get through in less than seventeen attempts.
--Stoically listen to your idiot team leader's rantings and ravings about nothing of consequence without gleefully kicking his teeth in.
--Stomach your twentieth MRE in a seven-day span without vomiting off the side of a mountain.
--Stand fast as the locals incessantly pester you for “wah-tahr, wah-tahr, wah-tahr” or “mis-tah, give me yoh pen,” resisting the urge to gouge out your own eardrums or mow them all down in cold blood.

All this and much more awaits you in: Operation Enduring Boredom: The Forgotten Front. Are you man enough to handle ten months of monotony? Or will you crack and go AWOL in a foreign land? Only you can decide.

Buy it today wherever video games are sold.

Electronic Arts is not responsible for any possible side effects of extended gameplay, to include but not limited to: Prolonged bouts of extensive boredom, depression, suicide, compulsive self-mutilation, diarrhea, homicidal rage, acute-onset diabetes, alcoholism, and/or death.
Ages 6 and up.

Sponsored by GoArmy.com. You too can be an Army of One.
(Yes, we know. That would entail multiple Armies of "One". We agree, it makes no freaking sense).

Friday 09April2004

Wouldn’t you know it, Bravo Company finally gets their act together and starts going out on actual missions further than a stone’s throw from the FOB, and what happens? They get ambushed by all kinds of cool stuff like RPGs, PKM automatic fire, and IEDs. Dammit!

And they were almost in the exact same spot we were at for Operation Avalanche when we didn’t see jack shit. How is this fair? What's more, B co. failed to even pursue these guys after they hid in some caves. Personally, I think Geronimo Six (the BC) is getting gun-shy the closer we get to leaving. So far he’s able to point to a host of ho-hum though brass-impressing accomplishments (mainly FOB construction and infrastructural improvements) with a bare minimum of friendly casualties (one, and he’s already on RTD status).

If you ask me (and no, they usually don‘t), the Colonel already has his sights on one of those shiny general’s stars and doesn’t want to do anything at this point to risk scuttling his future prospects. Frankly, I think that stinks. What happened to the good old days when climbing the military ladder meant treating your troops like expendable cannon fodder? Now, it’s one guy gets shot in the ass and it’s game over for the rest of us? I think I must have been born a few generations too late. (Yes, I fully realize that these lamentations are a tad abnormal). But honestly, what medical professional in his right mind would spend seven years in medical school only to pray to the Lord every night to please cure all those who are sick in the world? I'm no doc, but the impulse is no different.

We don’t think of it as a death wish, it’s more of a death to them wish. Easily a win-win situation for all of us. The bad guys want to meet Allah, and we merely wish to help them along in their journey. Is that so wrong?

Saturday 10April2004
Another rocket attack last night, waking me up from a hard earned yet well deserved slumber. Standing there in the bunker with the rest of the platoon, joking around and waiting for the “all-clear,” I had to wonder: Do these Talibantamweight retards really think they’re scaring us with this crap? Because I assure you, they are not. All these “attacks” do is annoy us and fill us with blind vigilante rage for being harassed in such a fashion. If I ever do encounter an enemy towel-head, I’m not just going to riddle him with scores of 5.56, I’m then going to pull out my bayonet and cut off his balls for my trophy case. Sorry, but these fucks aren’t legitimate soldiers, but illegal combatants not covered under the Geneva Convention protections--which can bite me, by the way.

[Ad hoc disclaimer: Buck Sargent disavows all responsibility for the insane ravings of his former self.]

These scum aren’t fellow warriors to be respected, but lawless thugs and mercenaries who believe in nothing other than what furthers their own selfish wants. As President Bush stated during his June 2002 West Point graduation address:

"Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."

That is why I joined the Army, that is why we’re in this rat-hole of a country, that is why we fight.

19 January 2006


photo by Buck Sargent

Every war is begun, dominated, and ended by political considerations; war and politics are siamese twins, inseparable and interdependent.
-John Nicolay and John Hay, trusted aides to Abraham Lincoln

Once Upon a Time in Mosul

Where better to get your view of the frontlines than straight from the soldier’s mouth?
Several recent critics have dismissed this site as being more pro-Bush shillblog than pro-victory milblog, all but accusing yours truly of being on the GOP payroll. While I would ascribe my personal philosophy more to conservative values than purely Republican ones, it did strike a chord. Perhaps I have been too focused on the overall politics of the war, and less so on the day-to-day events and experiences that have been shaping and sharpening my opinions on it in the first place.

My original impetus for this site was to maintain a weekly opinion piece, allowing me the opportunity to fight both the war
and the war of ideas simultaneously. Indeed, the latter may turn out to be the more important of the two. It would appear the web is also at times mightier than the sword.

It is with these concerns in mind that I bring you the following series of random thoughts, pointed commentary, and (occasionally) amusing anecdotes from the frontlines of the War on Terror.

Bowling for Palestine
Mosul, the second or third largest city in Iraq (depending on whom you ask), is an immense urban sprawl of nearly 2 million people. The largest part of our platoon’s area of responsibility is a residential section of the city called Palestine. This area has made an amazing turnaround in the past 15 months. This time last year, nearly the entire police force fled their posts en masse after being relentlessly hammered by insurgent attacks, ceding the city to the enemy in a no contest bout. (Some may even argue it was a thrown fight).

Mosul’s proximity to the Syrian border, coupled with the American assault on Fallujah in November ‘04, sent hordes of foreign jihadists and homegrown insurgents in search of friendlier territory, and many settled here to regroup and reassert their dominance over the local populace. The Iraqi citizens of Mosul were left virtually defenseless as roaming gangs and thugs routinely left shattered bodies and headless corpses littering the streets and alleyways.
What a difference a year makes. Coalition forces have since taken back the streets, putting the fear of Allah back in the enemy and placing them on the defensive and on the run where they belong -- or placing them six feet under. That works too.

Many of the locals have clearly tired of the daily hassles of living under the U.S. presence, and understandably so. Nevertheless, most are not so short-sighted that they would prefer our swift departure over having to endure frequent traffic congestion or the occasional housecall by American troops. It's still preferable to being dead. For all the talk about Iraqi extremism, the overwhelming majority appear instead to be realists.

Inshallah for Dummies
A seemingly random page of the Holy Bible bearing the following passage floated out of the clear blue sky in front of my hooch the other day. Naturally, I took it as a positive sign.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. --Luke 10:19

Thanks, Luke. May the Force be with us.

Iraq Whips Syria, All Heck Breaks Loose
A torrent of gunfire spontaneously erupted throughout the city last month, bringing several of us out to the front of the motor pool in only our t-shirts and underarmour to witness the abundance of glowing tracers crisscrossing the night sky.

“One of our units is in quite a firefight out there,” remarked one bystander. “Sounds pretty one-sided, though.” Sounded one-sided in the enemy's favor, to my ears. In the words of Gunny Highway, AK-47s make a "very distinct sound when fired."

Digital cameras and night vision goggles were quickly produced; quality firefight footage is hard to come by. If you have the time or inclination to film one, you more than likely aren't in one. One of our company's 'terps casually emerged from the latrines, surveyed the scene and shook his head with a laugh.

“You think there are this many bad guys in the Mosul?" he said in his trademark Arabish. "This is the futbol match, the soccer. Iraqi team beats Syria four to three. This is how the Iraqi man he celebrate.”

Fantastic. Can hardly wait to see what happens when they lose.

Coitus Misdirectus
My loyal but spasmodic SAW gunner, SPC Gunderson, recently penned a blistering love letter via email to his dearly beloved back home.
“It was juicy,” he says. “Real juicy.”
“So what exactly's the problem, Gundy?”
“Well, you know that quick address box on Hotmail, right? The one that just lets you just click on the recipient’s email without actually typing it in?”
“Well, they should really space out those names more. Cause as soon as I sent it off I got a confirmation page saying I’d emailed this racy love letter to some friends of my parents!”
“Hahahaha.! So what’d you do?”
“What could I do? I immediately called my folks, that’s what I did. I told them to tell their friends that they were not--under any circumstances--NOT to open any emails with my name on them.”
“And… they said they didn’t read it.”
“And you believe this?”
“No. Of course they read it. I would have."
He got up to leave. “But the next time my folks have them over for dinner, it sure is gonna be awkward."

Doc Clark: the Action Figure

During a random patrol, our platoon’s vehicle convoy rolled past what appeared to be a dead Iraqi male outstretched on the side of the road. Upon further investigation, he was found to have multiple gunshot wounds to the head, left arm, torso, and legs. The blood that had escaped his wounds had already begun to coagulate on the sidewalk. A horde of flies fluttered and danced across his body, oblivious--or merely indifferent--to the fact that he was still very much alive. Though unconscious, his breathing came in laborious gasps, the rise and fall of his chest mimicking his fading pulse.

We hadn't kept our line medic especially busy up to this point in the deployment, as the enemy had been yet unable to inflict any significant casualties among our platoon. They apparently prefer softer targets, such as unarmed middle-aged locals on late-afternoon strolls through the neighborhood. Those types typically don’t shoot back or call in fire support from hovering Kiowa gunships. It’s a high-percentage roll on their part.

It's possible he was an off-duty IP (Iraqi policeman).
Perhaps he was a coalition forces collaborator being repaid for his trouble, or just a civilian in the right place at the worst possible time. Or maybe he was just way late on his monthly Opel payments.

Whoever he was, Doc did his best fixing him up and prepping him for casevac. Still, Mohammed Doe’s chances didn’t look good -- his pulse took a discouraging nosedive during the home stretch and he was last seen going into defib.
If he was indeed yet another innocent Iraqi caught in the crossfire, then his family has our condolences. We did our best.

However, this case did pose a timely example of the crossover between terrorist activity and routine criminality in Iraq. At times, the two are indistinguishable, which contributes to the sense that insurgent activity has not abated even as successful attacks on U.S. forces dwindle. But the L.A. Times wouldn't characterize routine gang activity or petty street crime in it's own backyard as "insurgent violence;" perhaps it should refrain from doing so in it's coverage of Iraq as well.

Tyranny of the Minority

Reuters recently proclaimed the “Honeymoon Over as Sunnis Cry Foul Over Iraq Vote”:

Iraq's rebellious Sunni Arab minority cried foul on Tuesday over results of last week's election, angry at signs Shi'ite Islamists will remain the dominant force.

Well, well, well. Yet another group of "disenfranchised" voters perturbed by the fact that they are no longer in charge because a majority of their fellow citizens disagree with their views. Could “Sunni” be Arabic for “Liberal Democrat?” Cries of election fraud can't be far behind.

Dude, Where’s My Car Bomb?
Despite the impression given by the nightly doses of terror TV, most of what passes for modern combat is really just extended, drawn-out boredom. The realization of this produces some strange impulses among many young infantry soldiers. Perversely, it's not unusual to catch yourself praying for someone--anyone--to break up this miserable monotony and just go ahead and take their best shot. Now of course, this doesn’t mean one wants to be hit; as Churchill said, the exhilaration comes from being shot at and missed.

What it must be then is simply a latent desire for the opportunity to utilize one's skills and training; the desire to test one's mettle; to see if you're made of bedrock -- or sheetrock. One almost becomes jealous upon hearing of another platoon that took fire or got hit with an IED or V-BED, although you then feel immediately guilty until it is known whether or not any comrades were seriously injured.

Still, you always have to be careful what you wish for.

Torture Statistics Long Enough and They’ll Confess to Anything
A brand new cherry private from one of our companies was in country a grand total of twelve hours before being shot in the hand by a sniper’s ricochet. A minor grazing wound, he’s already on RTD (return to duty) status. Welcome to the suck, kid. Collect your million dollar wound and your meds, do not pass go.

Remember this when you read the latest liberal fruitcakes and Egg (on her face) McSheehans wailing about the “tens of thousands of horribly mutilated soldiers” that have borne the brunt of the war. Nearly half of the total of the wounded have been RTD cases, meaning -- just like John Kerry and all three of his Purple Hearts -- they didn’t require even a single day in a hospital for treatment.

The several hundred amputee cases that do exist are both tragic and ironic. Tragic because of their grave injuries; ironic due to the fact that they are alive at all. Without modern advances in battlefield protection like body armor--the liberal battle cry of the week -- they would be buried in Arlington rather than laid up at Walter Reed. Better body armor = more horrific (yet survivable) injuries.

Ask an infantry soldier how much armor he really wants to lug around on his person before you pass a Congressional Resolution and shove it down our throats. I'm sure they could develop a helmet strong enough to deflect a direct RPG hit, but I don't know too many soldiers willing to don a 27 lb. k-pot for eighteen hours straight. But honestly, wearing a tank wouldn't even suffice when you've got M-1 Abrams's getting cut in half by 500 lb. shape charges.

If there's anyone who needs more personal body armor, it's Donald Rumsfeld. He's caught a ton of flak in the press for expressing that "you go to war with the army you have, not necessarily the one you'd like to have." Characteristically glib, perhaps, but also entirely correct. The age old trade-off of protection vs. speed vs. cost has always applied throughout the history of warfare.

Example: Remember those high tech bat-suits in Batman Begins that Morgan Freeman's character claims were designed for the army and could stop all enemy rounds cold?
"Why didn't they order them?" asks Christian Bale's nascent Dark Night.
"They cost $300,000."

If you truly believe every American soldier is worth that expense, Senator Clinton, let us know. We'll expect you to actually show up for that vote, and we'll gladly cash the checks.

Deep Thoughts From the Crapper
It's difficult to imagine any sport in which one can compete while comfortably wearing a silver, Swiss-made TAG HEUER wristwatch -- yes, I’m talking to you, Tiger Woods -- as being much of a sport at all. Forgive me if I fail to recall Joe Montana ever taking the snap from center… dropping back in the pocket… reading the defense… and then checking the time.

The Tao of Fox and Socks
What do you know about tweedle beetles?

SAW gunner Gundy never leaves the wire without his trusty copy of the Dr. Seuss classic tucked securely inside his flak vest. It was his favorite childhood book and his copy contains inscriptions from all his family members and loved ones. He trusts it to stop the bullet with his name on it more than his own ballistic body armor.

And to think he actually had to spend his own money on it. Where's the outrage? The Congressional investigations? The hyperbolic NY "High" Times hit-pieces?

Wait just a minute, Mr. Fox Socks.

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln