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

26 June 2006


Pfc. Shirey and Sgt. Boyle caught in flagrante detaino during an Afghan village HVT raid.

This is the continuation of a series of selected excerpts from my Afghanistan war journal hand-recorded from October 2003 to August 2004. All OEB entries are previously unpublished.

Author's Note: This post is chock full of "inside baseball" in terms of the way we approach missions and how we make adjustments on the fly to the situation as we actually find it on the ground. Some may find the level of detail excessively banal, though I found it necessary to include it in order to fully grasp the bigger picture. However, reader discretion is advised.

The most precious commodity with which the Army deals is the individual soldier who is the heart and soul of our combat forces.
-General J. Lawton Collins

Friday 13February2004
Kabul, Afghanistan
We leave Kabul today, nearly two full months older, bolder, and wiser. 2nd Platoon has now officially spent more time here than at our battalion’s main camp at FOB Salerno. The FOB is going to feel like a foreign country (!) when we step off the bird. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s changed in the interim. We’ve been told that KBR (Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton) is already set up there by now working their contractor magic. If that’s true, then praise Allah, it’s about damn time already. Just because we’re stuck in the Land Before Time doesn’t mean we should have to live like it. “Hi, Afghanistan? Um, yeah, the dinosaurs called. They want their habitat back. They warned that you’d better not have changed it too much. I told them not to worry.”

Friday the 13th. What better day to travel in a C-130 over a combat zone. On my way out of the chow hall last night (snidely referred to as our “Last Supper”) I noticed that some particular individual had left several back issues of American Funeral Director sitting out in the lobby. My initial thought was, Who would read such a morbid periodical in a place like this? Soon followed by, Why do funeral directors need their own magazine? Are there really people out there who get excited when they see the postman stuff this into their mailbox? “Look, Honey! The July issue of American Funeral Director is finally here! Yippee!” Whomever said truth is stranger than fiction didn’t know the half of it.

The ranking officer here at “Camp VIP,” full-bird Colonel Varney, spoke to us briefly before we loaded up and boarded the trucks for Kabul International Airport, otherwise known as “KIA.” (Yes, the Grim Reaper is quite the jokester today.) Col. Varney thanked us for our time spent protecting him and his fellow officers and for our professional demeanor in carrying out our duties, even as monotonous as they often were. He also made it clear that the average Afghan is grateful that we’re here and of the fact that we left our families and lives behind to travel across the globe to lend a helping hand to a part of the world that most other nations had written off entirely.

The officers and senior NCOs here at Camp Blackhorse work closely with the Afghans and have much more personal contact with them than we do, so it was nice to hear that we aren’t perceived as just another group of meddling invaders by the average Joe Haji. It helps to know your sacrifice is appreciated on some level by someone somewhere, especially when so many of your own countrymen could perceivably care less.

Observing the Afghans go about their daily business in Kabul did not leave me unduly optimistic about the prospects for their future, however. The inherent laziness of Afghani culture abounds. The Afghans are natural merchants with a knack for suckering one into buying even the most worthless of crap. Still, there’s simply no evident work ethic to speak of. Mexicans on siesta make them look like army ants. Don’t look for skyscrapers to spring up in downtown Kabul anytime soon, or for infrastructure to dramatically improve, or a chain of Burka King fast food joints to materialize out of the ether. Hong Kong, this is not. (Although it does often smell a lot like King Kong).

Friday 13February2004 -- Monday 16February2004
FOB Salerno, Southeastern Afghanistan
The weather is much improved down here in the south compared to Kabul. What a difference a mere 2,000 feet in elevation makes. Sunny and warm (dare I say hot) in mid-February. This does not bode well for the upcoming summer months.

The FOB is indeed much improved since we last set foot on it. KBR has installed ready-made Force Provider showers and toilets in the expansion area, a 110% improvement over our previous Gilligan’s Island-style accommodations. They also have a new chow hall and gym in the works, though for the time being our food is still lacking in the edibility factor. No surprise there. We have a mini-PX now, though, which almost makes up for it, even if it is just a wooden shack.
Our first few days back were lazily (and gratefully so) spent lounging about between regular pick-up games of touch football on the air strip. (“Time out! Inbound C-130!”) We ate chow, tossed around the ol’ pigskin, caught up on our sleep and our reading (or I should say, my reading -- everyone else’s movie watching and video game playing), and suffered through endless variations and retellings of 3rd Platoon’s war stories. Apparently, every man in their platoon somehow managed to single-handedly take out the four Taliban baddies they tagged and bagged while we were away. John Rambo had nothing on them.

Our brief respite from the tiresome pace of Kabul was to be short-lived, however. Charlie Company is back on mission cycle and our platoon is scheduled to venture back out into Indian country once again on the trail of A Few Bad Men, aka Afghanistan’s Most Wanted.
Operation “Kill Bill” commences tomorrow.

Tuesday 17February2004 -- Friday 20February2004

Disrupt Anti-Coalition Forces in and around Objective Sequoia in order to deny ACM sanctuary and freedom of movement. Locate and apprehend suspected ACM operatives known to frequent area (Mullahs Tajmir, Raof, Sultan, Mohammed, Nabi and Akbar Zadran)
[Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s go around asking people in a Muslim country if they’ve seen a guy named “Mohammed” lately. We’ll get the phone book in response. (That is, if they had phone books here.) As for the rest of this motley crew, I think we just listed half the bad guys from Star Trek. Are we looking for Taliban or Klingons?]
Location: Various villages 10km northeast of Khost
Key Elements: Mounted reconnaissance of area, village assessment, cordon and search of targeted compounds, possible vehicle checkpoints.
Soft search vs. hard search:
-Ask permission to enter [enter either way]
-If weapons/contraband found, transition to hard (forceful) search
Notes: No CAS (close air support) available. [Yeah, that’s comforting.] 105mm artillery support on request, though not approved for use in or near villages. C co. HQ 60mm mortar team attached to platoon.

0400 Rehearsals 16FEB
0030 Stage 17FEB
0200 Departure 17FEB
TBD Return 20FEB

Khost Bowl’s Most Wanted:

Mullah Tajmir: Implicated ACM leader in Yaqobi; former Taliban chief of Jalalabad
Mullah Raof: ACM leader in Yaqobi; former governor of Khost
Mullah Sultan: ACM leader in Yaqobi; former Taliban intel chief in Kabul
Mullah Mohammed: ACM leader in Yaqobi; former Taliban mayor in Kandahar
Nabi: Arms dealer in Yaqobi and brother-in-law of Malem Jan
Muhammed Akbar Zadran: Yaqobi sub-governor (should be able to provide info on security situation in Yaqobi)
Osama bin Laden: Chickenshit A/Q fuck too afraid to face U.S. forces mano a mano; delights in frequent straight-to-video releases to Al Jazeera TV demonstrating the terrifying power of terrorists repeatedly training on monkey bars. Shoot on sight (preferably in the balls):
“Infidel dogs! You are no match for my legions of monkey-bar swinging jihadists! No one is safe! Not Bush! Not Blair! Not Britney! Nobody!! God willing, the Great Satan will fall to its knees! All I need is another Democratic administration and I’m back in business. Go Kerry! Give ‘em hell, Howard! Draft Hillary!”

Our platoon truck-assaulted into an area northeast of Khost today to search village compounds, scout for bad guys, and solicit HUMINT (human intelligence) from willing locals (or unwilling, if need be). We searched by day and bedded down in various secluded wadis (dry riverbeds) rather than return to the FOB each night. We needed to remain in the area in order to be on station to support 3rd Platoon if necessary, out performing night ops while we slept.

We quickly surmised that village cordon and searches are eminently more high-speed to read about others doing than they are to actually do yourself. For many of us, the mission wasted no time morphing into Operation Take a Knee, as the majority of an infantry platoon is often tasked to pull security on doorways, entrances & exits, and detained individuals -- sometimes for hours on end -- while the remainder clear and search maze-like mud-walled compounds.
We feel like the U.S. Army Traveling Circus as we roll into these dusty, no-stoplight towns, facing out from the bench seats in the back of our five-ton trucks. The locals gawk at us like we’re space aliens and then proceed to follow us wherever we go. Haji cable, we call it. They’ll congregate in large groups and do nothing but stare at us stare back at them while we pull security around our vehicles in the scorching heat, waiting patiently for EOD to arrive to dispose of any weapons contraband we’ve uncovered.

Typically, a few in the crowd will speak pidgin English and attempt to engage us in all manner of non-sequitor smalltalk:

Haji: “Amarika! Amarika! Waht is yor name? Give me biscuit. You like chicken?”
Us: “Where is al-Qaeda? Where is Taliban?”
Haji: “Pakistan!”

That is Haji’s one-size-fits-all answer for every bad guy we’ve ever looked for: “Pakistan.” It’s not necessarily them just blowing smoke up our asses, either. Afghan Pashtuns are a tribal society and only loosely recognize the sovereign borders that arbitrarily separate them. Consequently, Pakistan does about as good a job of keeping rogue elements out of their country as we do keeping illegal aliens out of ours.

Anytime our convoy stops in even semi-populated areas for any length of time, the local Afghan militia or police contingent will typically make an appearance in order to “impress” us with their crowd control skills; i.e., large switches or sticks which they then proceed to whack the bejesus out of the locals with when they invariably creep too close to our security halt perimeter. The locals don’t seem to like these authority figures much and I don’t really blame them. Though I must admit it was amusing to watch the crowd’s Gandhi-like passive resistance, absorbing blow after blow with the switches, only to defiantly return to their previous vantage points once the Afghan militiamen had moved on to others. I got the uneasy feeling that our presence was the only thing inhibiting these proto-soldiers from unslinging their AKs and taking things up a notch. But then again, they could have just been showing off in front of the big, bad Americans who were clearly allowing the locals to push them around in their wimpy, Westernized fashion. I’d love to see a bunch of NYU college kids protest in front of this bunch of Muslim men in blue and dare to call them “pigs.” The aftermath would make Kent State look like a bitch fight.

PL's Intel Roundup for TUE 17FEB04
Nuri Kalay
Name/Owner: Bagh Dargul
Action: Random house search. Owner claims equipment left by brother (Amir Gul) who was a former jihad fighter long ago. Amir now resides in Dubai. Owner remained friendly and talkative.
Action Taken: All weapons caches destroyed by EOD same day but owner still has [1] AK-47, [2] .303 bolt action rifles.
Cache Description: [3] tactical AK bandoliers (3 full mags each), [15] boxes w/20 AK rounds each, [6] RPG rounds (new), [6] RPG propellant (sealed), [500] rounds 7.62mm, [100] rounds 7.62mm on clip. All ammo good condition or like new

Location: Nuri Kalay
Name: Unknown (lives in compound w/five brothers)
Action: Random house search. Owner stated that suspect A (Mullah Tajmir) lives in Kuwait but family lives in Kurru. Suspect B (Mullah Raof) lives in Junghund, 15km east. Suspect C (Mullah Sultan) lives in Dubai but family lives in Kurru. Owner remained friendly and talkative.
Action Taken: All caches destroyed by EOD same day; owner still has [4] old AK-47s w/2 mags each and [1] .303 bolt action rifle.
Cache Description: [6] AK mags, [6] PKM rounds, [3] worn bandoliers, [100] armor-piercing AK rounds, and [2] hand grenades.

Acting on a tip from a locally “recruited” informant, we stormed a sprawling compound not knowing how much resistance, if any, to expect. Our squad (3rd) led the way, going in hard and fast through a gauntlet of locked doors that we forcefully breached and ordered all inhabitants “on the floor!” as we came upon them. SGT Boyle, leading our alpha team around a corner, startled a group of Afghan males congregated in an expansive courtyard. He shouted and motioned for them to get down with his left arm as he leveled his M-4 carbine in their direction with the other. One haji made a mad dash for a nearby room instead, prompting SGT Boyle to fire two quick shots, hitting the man in the lower legs as he dove through the open doorway.
“I don’t know what made him bolt like that,” Boyle would later recount. “Panic, maybe,” he said. “But I wasn’t about to let him reach that building not knowing what he may have waiting for us when we go in after him.”

Turns out the man had family inside and we soon discovered seven or eight of them huddled inside a tiny crawl space after we took down and cleared the room. They likely thought we had come to execute them, Afghanistan historically being a harbinger of all-too-swift justice -- or vengeance. Nevertheless, SGT Boyle did exactly the right thing under lightning-quick circumstances, and our chain of command would later back his decision fully.

By chance, a freelance photographer for Time (who’s name escapes me) had been accompanying us all week and was literally part of our alpha team stack as we cleared the corners and rooms of the mud-walled compounds, fearlessly snapping pictures at a rapid fire clip.

[If I’m not mistaken, the above photo of my team was taken by him during this particular raid.]

The next adjoining entryway we breached like a bull in a china shop, smashing through a door that led to a courtyard of nothing but terrified women, children, and assorted farm animals. One spooked bull in particular took the resulting commotion and frenetic activity so badly that he managed in one fail swoop to uproot his heavy linked chain, sprint straight out the now open back gate, and all the way up the side of a nearby mountain. Whoops, our bad.

This courtyard is where my fun ended for the day, as PFC Christy and I were tasked to stand watch over the group of women and kids that we scared half to death when we burst through the door. They had by now settled down and looked upon us with impassive expressions. There the group of us remained for hours on end while the rest of the platoon cleared and searched the rest of the compound. The three women sat predictably huddled together in a tight cluster with their faces covered as we stood nearby, but the teenage boy among them was not the least bit shy in attempting to communicate with us. I finally relented and handed him a pack of cinnamon chewing gum just to shut him up, and he proceeded to smack away and blow giant bubbles like a seasoned pro.

Several hours passed, the blazing Afghan sun baking us in all our cumbersome gear, when another shot rang out from across the compound. Weapons squad leader SSG Carmoney, the token platoon blowhard who also happens to be a spitting image of the Little Caesar’s “Pizza! Pizza!” guy, was soon heard over the ICOM radio net:

“Yeah, uh… roger, this is 2-4. I had to fire at a dog that was charging at me, over.”
“2-4, 2-6 (1LT Harber). Did you solve the problem? I can still hear a dog barking, over.”
“Um… that’s a negative, 6. The dog is unharmed, over.”
“So what you’re saying is, you fired a warning shot a dog? Is that the story you‘re going with, over?”
“Roger that. I think he got the message, over.”
[Hysterical laughter over the net]

I'm still not sure which is more comical -- SSG Carmoney unloading a shotgun at a snarling canine from point blank range and missing, or him then attempting to convince everyone that it was intended as a “warning shot.”

Once we began wrapping up, our medics finished treating the leg wound of the Afghan male that SGT Boyle inflicted earlier, also recommending that he make his way to the aid station at FOB Salerno for follow-up treatment. We then rolled out to seek out our secluded wadi for the night, as the sun was quickly receding behind the hills.

The First Sergeant somehow got it into his head that we needed a break from the constant stream of Meals, Ready to Excrete and arranged to have hot chow trucked out to us in the dark. The only problem was, it tasted worse than the MREs. I ended up devouring what was supposed to be a kielbasa sausage but was in fact a balled-up piece of stale bread placed in the bottom of the pan to soak up excess grease. And that wasn’t even the worst part of the meal. An unfortunate consequence of pitch-black “tactical field chow,” where we stumble around trying to eat food we can’t see and maintain a 10 meter separation from each other (in case of mortar attack or ambush), is the likelihood of tumbling head over heels down the steep sides of the wadi in the process amid a string of belted expletives.
A fitting ending to a crazy day.

PL's Intel Roundup forWED 18FEB04
Name/Owner: Family of Suspect C (Mullah Sultan)
Action: Hard search of compound. Notes handed over to company HQ/Geronimo 5. Several photos included.

Haji TV is back on the air as we surround another compound in yet another Afghan village in perpetual search for “evil doers.” We encountered a shady-looking character with a nasty hole in his leg who disavows any nefarious ties, though we would later receive intel that not long after we departed he was visited by an entourage of up to twelve known ACM guerrillas. Sneaky Afghan bastards.

After taking a knee outside an alleyway among several Afghan “surface mines” (apparently, not many of them have heard the operative phase “don’t shit where you eat”) we would return to this same house again in search of Haji Wounded Knee in order to PUC (detain) him and sweat him out for info just five days later. Ironically, I would end up providing security in nearly exactly the same spot as before. I even saw my gum I had spit in the dirt the previous week.

The locals present told us he had heeded our prior advice and had left to go to a hospital, but was later ratted out by people who said that he split after receiving a cell phone tip-off that we were rolling back into town. (Our convoys unavoidably stir up tornadoes of dust and can be viewed from miles away). Our leadership, fed up with these typical displays of Afghan cat and mouse, warned the locals that if they did not produce this wanted individual within a few days time, we would come back in the dead of night and arrest everyone. That got the message across, and a local runner was dispatched to the FOB to drop dime on him by the end of the day. (FYI: Haji Wounded Knee turned himself in for questioning a few days later).

PL's Intel Roundup for THUR 19FEB04
Name/Owner: Islam Gul (brother of Nabi Gul)
Action: Search of house, acting on tip from local informant. Islam Gul states he was former soldier for PKZ and was shot in the leg six months ago. Claims he worked around the Khost area.
Action Taken: All caches destroyed by EOD same day; owner still has: [1] AK-47, [1] .303 bolt action rifle, [1] BDU field jacket (claims it was his dead brother’s). Left note with Islam Gul to come to Salerno for medical treatment. Told him he would probably die if he didn’t seek medical treatment based on condition of wound.
Cache Description: [1] field expedient antenna, [1] grenade, [1] mortar stake, [3] AK chest racks, [1] map of Kabul showing embassy locations, [2] sets of American BDUs, and [1] American boonie cap w/sergeant rank sewn on.

My final day in the field was spent rather uneventfully providing additional security for a commo humvee (one with a round, telescoping antenna that gives it a turtle-shell appearance when lowered) on a hilltop with my team leader SGT Boyle and PFCs Shirey and Christy. The rest of 2nd Platoon proceeded to search another few villages with only meager results.

Everyone dreads dry holes -- it’s disappointing to expend so much effort and energy in what is ultimately a fruitless exercise. Though it also has its upside: not having to wait hours on end for EOD to arrive to dispense of any confiscated ordnance. The Army in all its grand wisdom has suddenly become so risk adverse after losing seven soldiers in last month’s weapons cache explosion near Gardez that we aren’t even deemed competent enough to utilize our own combat engineers in the capacity they’re trained for.

This is yet another classic Army move -- treat you like an overprotective mother of an asthmatic paraplegic who desperately wants to try out for the soccer team when it comes to relatively minor risks like UXO (unexploded ordnance) disposal, yet then send you on your way via the insanely dangerous “SGLI Express,”* teetering on the edge of ravines and careening down steep wadis in near total darkness. We don’t fear the Taliban’s mines or rockets anywhere near as much as we fear faulty brake lines or high centers of gravity. The Army doesn’t worry about our broken bodies splayed at the bottom of a remote ravine among the scattered remains of a flaming wreckage -- it frets more about all the secondhand smoke we might be subjected to as a result.
*Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, the policy that covers U.S. soldiers

Again I refer you to the Law of Time in Service, which clearly states that a soldier’s IQ is inversely proportional to his pay grade. The longer one spends in the Army, the more likely he is to be a complete imbecile, as any rational human being would have gotten out long before. Sorry, but I'm just calling it like I see it.

Haji TV created a bit of a reality show around me today, albeit in its own twisted Afghan fashion. The viewership camped around our hilltop position caught a glimpse of the snapshot of my girlfriend that I keep tucked inside the helmet liner of my K-pot. After much internal commotion they finally sent forth their one English-mangling studio audience member to ask to see it. Amused by their curiosity (and glad to be spared the usual litany of requests -- “Water! Pen! Pen! Water-pen!”) I complied and was instantly swarmed.

“My friend… (Everyone in Afghanistan is “your friend”) …this girl look very interesting. You marry?”
“No, we’re not married. She’s my… (I rack my brain for the Pashto word for “girlfriend.” I’m not sure there is one). …girlfriend. She’s my girlfriend.”
Girl...friend? How old you are, my friend?”
“Twenty-eight,” I answer, flashing the appropriate amount of fingers to help them out. This news creates a strange buzz among this all-male crowd, just enough to sufficiently creep me out. Apparently, 28 and not married equals “bi-curious” in this part of the world.
“My friend,” he says. “My brother asks if you like his hair. Very long and beautiful, yes?” He began stroking it as if to hammer home this uncontestable fact. I reluctantly glanced over at him. His brother looked like Yanni in a man-dress and Jesus sandals, his fingernails painted bright orange as many rural Afghans inexplicably seemed to have. (Whether this is the result of a common Third World medical condition or vitamin deficiency is something that we’ve never to be able to determine. God if only that could be true).
“Um… yeah, I’m sure it’s real nice. I think I’m going to go stand back over here now.”

I nervously scrambled for an exit strategy to extricate myself from this increasingly uncomfortable situation, wasting no time in changing the channel on this freakshow. Jerry Springer’s got nothing on these guys.

PL's Intel Roundup for FRI 20FEB04
Kholbesat, north side of bazaar area (main road)
Name: Sabir From: Noor (village)
Action: Caught taking photos of C co. convoy as it passed
Action Taken: Confiscated camera and Sabir was given a note to “pick up camera at Salerno.” Photo was taken of Sabir.
Additional Personnel: Two males traveling w/Sabir
Name: Bismallah From: Noor
Name: Habibjan From: Noor

After Action Review [AAR]
PL’s Notes for OBJ Sequoia (16-20FEB2004)

Mission transportation/vehicle coordination
Discussion: Trucks for mission 24/hrs prior to conduct PCIs [pre-combat inspections]. Prep w/classes of supply, what heavy weapon they are equipped with, who the driver is, are gunners provided, are gunners qualified with weapons system, test-fire heavy weapons system, and PMCS [preventative maintenance checks & services] of vehicle.
Recommendation: Truck drivers w/vehicles, weapons system, and gunners should link up w/company at least 24/hrs prior to departure. This should be done in order to conduct PCIs, prep w/classes of supply, etc.

Issue: Vehicle Accessories
Discussion: Ops that cover multiple missions require different weapons systems. A storage area is needed to transition to alternate weapons systems based on mission requirements. M-14 long rifles should not be used to enter/clear buildings and rooms.
Recommendation: Wooden seats in the bed of trucks that serve a dual purpose: storage area for extra weapons/equipment and a seat for squad members to face out while in transit.

Issue: Designated Contraband Vehicle
Discussion: During ops several items were dispersed over several vehicles to include Geronimo 7’s [command vehicle]. In addition, a metal box or coffee can needs to be attached to the outside of vehicle to transport small explosive times like blasting caps and grenade fuses to EOD collection site.
Recommendation: Attach metal box/coffee cans to vehicles.

Issue: Entering a Building/Clearing a Room (w/Local-National Interpreters)
Discussion: During hard searches, terp did not meet the PL’s [platoon leader’s] intent. Amid the chaos, along with the language barrier, terp was not as loud or effective as desired to assist with the madness.
Recommendation: Train/rehearse with terps in a MOUT [military operations in urban terrain] environment. Terps also need megaphones so all in house/room can still hear after Americans start yelling. Pointing a rifle and shouting in our native tongue is highly ineffective.

Issue: Leaders Recon Prior to Hard Search
Discussion: Objective building was only pointed out as convoy pulled up -- this technique permitted barely 30 sec. to develop a COA [course of action].
Recommendation: Pinpoint objective from a distance utilizing optics or have the PL don a man-dress and conduct initial drive-by in civilian vehicle.

Issue: Hot Chow in the Field
Discussion: Hot chow was horrible.
Recommendation: Ask cook not to piss in spaghetti.

Sodas, Bread, PB&J in the Field
Discussion: It may seem insignificant, but it’s all about morale.
Recommendation: These are valuable items that need to be supplied every day whenever possible.

1LT Harber
“Long Hair Two-Six”
Platoon Follower

Thus ended Operation “Kill Bill,” wrapping up with more of a whimper than a bang. It would have been nice to have caught UBL with his robe around his ankles, but the only thing we managed to kill was time.

I’ve come to the hard conclusion that nothing worth remembering will ever happen on this deployment, and have since shifted from an outlook of cautious optimism to merely counting the days until we can blow this joint for good. If there are no bad guys left to kill here, then either send us someplace where there are or let us get back to our business of sleeping in a real bed, wearing real clothes, and drinking real beer. Cause we sure as hell aren’t fighting a real war. Not anymore, at least.


15 June 2006


We live in a wondrous time in which the strong is weak because of his moral scruples and the weak grows strong because of his audacity.
-Otto von Bismarck

Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

-Butch, Pulp Fiction

For those who wait to get their breaking news from the magazines in their dentist’s reception area, happy belated V-Z Day!

It looks as if Newton’s 3rd Law finally caught up with the Jordanian Terrorist formerly known as Prince of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. After three long years of false sightings and near-misses "Elvis" has once again left the building, albeit this time on a gurney at room temperature -- his last full measure of devotion to chaos and instability aimed at winning a war of concession from coalition forces.

Live by the IED, die by the GPS.

In lieu of the standard fawning eulogy, let’s instead review Zarqawi’s legacy, particularly his winning political strategy for Painting the Map Blood Red in Iraq:

  • Prevent holding of elections.
  • Suppress voter turnout.
  • Discourage army and police recruitment.
  • Defeat ratification of Constitution.
  • Ignite sectarian civil war.
  • Discredit permanent government.
  • Drive U.S. from battlefield.
  • Score Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News cover story trifecta.
  • Die in place.

Overall, a 1 out of 9 on-qaeda-percentage doesn’t even get Zarky Zark above the Mendoza Line, and with stellar lifetime stats like those I doubt they’ll be retiring his jersey at the Martyrdome anytime soon.

But where is all the schadenfreude solidarity in the press corps for the extermination of this white-sneakered soldier of misfortune? This development is supposed to be good thing, right? (Remember what I said about how "no news is good news"?) Is it just me, or do I detect more subdued depresso liberalism with nearly every click of the mouse? One recurring lament decries the failure to capture Zarqawi alive, thus forfeiting a treasure trove of enemy intelligence. Are these not the very same mollycoddlers who decry our aggressive interrogation techniques as "torture" at every possible opportunity? How is it exactly they propose we induce these maniacal terrorists to talk? With the tickle monster?

Here, I’ll give you a CLUEtm:

Agent Bauer.

In the holding room.

With the electric sponge.

Any questions?

Actually, I'm now dreading the eventual capture or elimination of any more al-Qaeda bigwigs simply for the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in the details of their dysfunctional upbringing. "The Killer in Me is the Killer in You: the Memoirs of Osama bin Laden." Beethoven's Ninth through the world’s smallest violin.

But it appears the bleeding hearts of darkness in the press still don’t even realize their own Cassandra curse has finally been lifted. It would seem their warrior pathos knows no bounds.

Iraq’s Most Wanted Killed in U.S. Aerial Strike; Haditha Investigation Continues

Iraqi PM Names Remainder of Cabinet
Continued on page E17 between personals and TrimSpa ads

Am I the only one who often cannot distinguish their vacuous subtextual sloganeering from the enemy's?

End Iraqi Suffrage Now!

The papers all smell a Pyrrhic victory, but at least the Iraqi Army knows a tally in the win column when they see one. The IA gossip around the guard tower this past week surprisingly has not been over rising U.S. gas prices or terrorists committing suicide at Gitmo, but the oh-so-timely death of the used car bomb salesman who has done his worst to tear their country apart. "Zarqawi mufahkaka" (go boom), they excitedly state for the fifth time in an hour, drawing a finger across their throats in the universal sign for "hasta la vista, babykiller."

The Iraqis are not stupid; they know the fight for Middle Eastern Earth continues. But the tide of battle has now turned. Al Qaeda is on the skids and "Ali Baba" (the homegrown criminal element) remains on its heels. But tagging and bagging Zarqawi is a huge military coup precisely because it is the coup de grace for the al-Qaeda PR machine. Zarqawi had the terrorist mojo, the je ne sais quoi, the name recognition worthy of a movie star. Attach a Hollywood A-lister like Tom Cruise to the worst script ever written and piloted by a first-time director, and the project would still be greenlighted with a near unlimited budget. But replace him with Dolph Lungren and listen to the giant sucking sound as the financial backing vanishes overnight.

"V for Victory." Now there's a Hollywood production I'd pay $9.50 to sit through.

Even as lightning quick as the individual successes may appear on your television screen, overall progress in the Long War on Terror is slow and incremental -- a Great Game of inches measured on several levels and across many fronts. The enemy has its own yardstick for success, but it isn’t located anywhere near the battlefield. It’s in our own backyard. Cowing the American people through an elaborate and sophisticated PR campaign of terror is the end that justifies their by-any-means-necessary amoral methods.

In Allah They Trust, In Submissive Fear We Cower. Is this really the message we want to project to the rest of the world? Is this the legacy we want to leave our grandchildren? Wouldn't a wiser, stouter, and ultimately safer, choice of words to convey be: Not in Our Backyard, Not on Our Watch, Not a Chance in Hell you Thirteenth Century Psychopaths?

Last summer a memo addressed to the late Mr. Zarqawi from the al-Qaeda Executive Vice President for Regional Marketing, the Egyptian phantom menace Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, spelled out in clear terms the nature of the competition they’ve been up against:

I say to you...we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of [the entire Muslim community]. [But] however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us.

That’s right, Doctor Death. And we’re currently working our way backwards through the A-hole alphabet soup. Sorry to break it to ya, Z2, but laser-guided bombs don’t even whistle.

"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq," announced Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie. Time (not Time) will tell if he is correct. As for al-Qaeda in Anywhere Other Than Iraq, he may be a bit premature.

"This is not the end," admitted Sir Winston in 1942, qualifying reports of the long-overdue British victory over Rommel's corps at El Alamein, the decisive battle for North Africa and the soft underbelly of the Nazi empire. "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."

This week marks the end of the beginning of the end for al-Qaeda.org. Let us be thankful even for small victories.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (1966-2006)

05 June 2006


The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
-Albert Einstein

If my wife and I ever decide to traverse the Old Country, I’ll be sure and pack a special bag for France, one containing all the necessary accoutrements to blend in seamlessly into le haute couture. Decked out in my Texan Lucchese cowboy boots, an oversized stars & stripes belt buckle, my NRA ballcap and a George W. Bush high-fiving Jesus t-shirt, I’ll gladly mortify my better half by munching on a quarter-pound…er…royale w/cheese while asking everyone in earshot for directions to the Paris Hilton from the rolled-down window of a rented Hummer H2.

"Excusay-moi, monseniors. But do y’all happen to speak German?"
"Non, monsieur. We do not."
"Yer welcome!"

Have they forgotten their own history? Or more importantly, are we doomed to repeat it for them?

Over the past six years, an outbreak of European birdbrain flu has slowly but steadily made its way across the pond, fueling an intellectual insurgency that's raging through the fever swamps within our universities, newsrooms, and bookstore coffee bars. Those terminally infected are still relatively small in number, though in a reverse-quarantine they command immediate attention from media televirologists the world over whenever and wherever they surface to spread their contagion.

Europe’s gunboat diplomacy of yore has gone out of favor, out of style, and out of date, replaced with a nouvelle vague don’t-rock-the-boat disability. Which is convenient, considering that over the previous decade the Old World combined has budgeted less for military hardware upgrades than we have on targeting software updates alone.

Still, the domestic Barnes & Noblesse oblige crowd -- with their claptrappucchinos and their sophisticated taste for yellow (dog) journalism -- are hardly the world-weary isolationists they pretend to be. American interventionism did not appear particularly troubling to these citizen-skeptics during the previous decade when it pertained to solely humanitarian impulses; but add American security to the mix and suddenly their travel mugs spilleth over. Within the span of one electoral cycle any prevailing charitable impulses evaporated, leaving nothing but a naked desire for America and its military might to be knocked off its pedestal; to be sent packing from the Middle East with its tail between its legs, humiliated and discredited before an Islamic world that respects only strength and routinely mistakes kindness for weakness.

To believe as such is assuredly their prerogative as Americans. But with any civil liberties come civic responsibility. True, our hard-won freedoms protect the right to march on Washington, spin elaborate webs of intrigue about the powers that be, and rudely shout down invited speakers at commencement addresses. But they also protect the right to drink Zima, name your children after fruit, and wear socks with sandals. Just because you can do it doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.

Take the liberal pullout method as it relates to the war -- cynical sixties defeatism at it’s worst. (And who would’ve guessed there were still so many G'n'R fans out there?) The same people who scoff at the idea of abstinence being taught to our children deem it perfectly reasonable for the main plank of our foreign policy platform. (In reality, they’d just as soon abort the effort as we enter the third trimester, but so far we’ve made up our minds, we’re keeping our baby.) "There are ideas so absolutely stupid that only an intellectual could possibly believe them," said Orwell, the ideological ancestor of the House of Blair. "The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact." Indeed, a Concorde-speed flight from fact that would behoove us to impress upon the modern antiwar Left. Representative Murtha, call your office.

We all draw our own conclusions, some just use crayon and have trouble staying inside the lines.

Hey Gray Lady, Le Monde's on the horn. They want their knee-jerk reportage back. For all you stubborn Luddites who insist on sticking with Old Media, go right ahead. Peruse your illusions.
As for the rest of us, there's been few sources of pepto dismal for this chronic casus belliaching other than the League of Extraordinary Amateurs. The meteoric rise of the milblogs has provided a notable reprieve from the mendacious mediacrity of previous American conflicts: spotlighting erroneous reporting; outing phony Ft. Braggart veterans; highlighting troop heroics that in another era would already have been greenlighted into John Wayne trilogies. Someone must have told Hollywood producers circa 1968 that discretion was the better part of valor, because they've certainly taken it to heart and never looked back.

What can we do?, you ask. We’re but a silent majority, cowed by a vocal insanity. Know thine enemy. Venture forth into the Democratic Underground lairs -- the chant rooms that drip with bile and venom. Sample the moonbat-out-of-hell message boards that seethe with hatred for all things conservative, military, traditional, patriotic, or anti-anti-American. The New England expatriates and Jon Stewart Mills ("War is a funny thing, but not the funniest of things…"); the nationalism = Nazism Kos-heads and Huffington Post-er children for Bush Derangement Syndrome -- they’re not just left-of-center. They’re left of Darth Nader.

We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Nations General Assembly. And to the collectivist utopia for which it stands, One World Government, under (non-denominational moment of silence), dependent on the state, with licentiousness and social justice for all.

While we’re preoccupied with fostering tolerance and liberty abroad, at home it is being undermined by our own American madrasas; spreading self-hatred for our origins, our history, and the long-held traditions of our dominant culture. Mission fait Accompli!

"Incurious" minds want to know: Is our children learning? Or are they still trying to figure out what the meaning of "is" is?

If you are unaware of what precisely is being inculcated into your kids' fuzzy little heads, go ahead, ask them sometime. (Assuming you can tear them away from the X-box long enough to hold a two-way conversation.) Quiz them on what they’ve learned in school or at that really expensive college your tuition money is paying their bar tabs for. Ask them what they learn when they’re plugged into the Matrix that is our current American education system. Ask them what they think about the ideals upon which this country was founded and what they continue to mean today. Ask them what it is that we’re memorializing on that three-day weekend that falls at the end of every May.

For grades K through 9, expect to get a blank stare. The Anointed Ones view unapologetic patriotism as indoctrination bordering on religion (and we all know how welcome that is in the public schools.) Besides, the teacher’s unions take advantage of these formative early years to quote/unquote: "format the hard drives." But for the learner’s permit crowd and above who‘ve actually read their unreadable history texts: if you find yourself on the receiving end of some bizzaro emotionally-charged rant elaborately weaving the Halliburton Address to the military-industrial complexity of the environmental destruction of the endangered wetlands habitats due to the increased human traffic from the underground undocumented workers railroad run by proto-feminist Sacagawea as she exercised her Womyn of Color’s Right to Choose to prevent transnational robber barons from pillaging the Native American coastal oil reserves…

Don’t write me, write your congressperson. That is, unless you happen to reside and vote in either the Uncommonwealth of Massachusetts or the People’s Republic of California. (In which case, you're probably better off writing someone else‘s).

* * *

19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer revealed all truth to pass through three stages: "First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. And third, it is accepted as being self-evident." The American idiotocracy worships anyone they feel speaks "truth to power," believing in their heart of hearts they remain founding members of the counterculture club for Boomers without Borders. To ex-Peace Corps commandos like Hardball's Chris Matthews, the Woodwards & Bernstein legacy is one of forever young dynamic duos of Davids hitting below the Beltway against real or imagined goliaths. But the very truths they hold dear are often illuminating in the lies of the beholder.

Need an easy to remember yardstick for measuring the military’s progress in the Middle East? Repeat after me: "No news is good news." This works on two levels. One: very little of what is reported will ever be good news, and two: good news for us but bad news for them is the inability to dream up anything “fake but accurate” to report that day. But just when you think the irrational exuberance of the Loony Tunes Left is on the verge of bursting their own conspiracy bubbles, they‘re saved by those pesky bellwethers of Ba'athist belligerence whose die-easy nature belie their die-hard intent.

But even many of the remnants of Vichy Iraq not actively fighting us are content to sit back and watch as fellow Muslim instigators foment chaos within their country, about which they do little or nothing. Some are active collaborators, others simply too afraid to get involved. But involved they already are. While we don’t expect all of them to pick up a gun, we do expect them to pick up a phone.

There can be no impartiality regarding an enemy that makes no distinctions between uniformed personnel and civilians. How do I know this? Osama bin Laden said it back in 1998, the Year of 'That Woman': "We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians." In other words, banning ROTC from the WTC would not have lessened the KIA from bin Laden’s live-to-tape remake of Gone in 60 Seconds one iota. Could anything have? The FBI? CIA? INS? U-S-A? S-O-L.

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality.

Hotter than even the Middle East? That’s a level of warmth I never want to experience. Then again, I’m betting Dante never had to survive a Mesopotamian summer dressed up like a samurai.

Of the hundreds of myriad conflicts around the globe at any given time, Muslims are usually involved on one side or the other, or in most cases, both. Is this the ripened fruit of their once magnificent civilization? Is this all they have to offer the world? The Hammurabic code, the numeric zero, then rioting, religious war, street violence, death threats, kidnappings, beheadings, fear, loathing, and fatwas? Is there anything in the last seven hundred years they can point to and say, "Look, we did this" -- other than the Islamic Enfrightenment?

Hyperventilating over cartoon drawings only further cements the hyperviolent caricature to which the Islamic religion has in recent year succumbed. Without the West, those precious Middle Eastern oil deposits would still be just a sticky black worthless goo thousands of feet below ground. But on their own merit alone, their societies haven’t produced so much as a toaster oven.

Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely like the majority of the Iraqi people I‘ve met. Many of them are no different than you or I. But they are a complex lot, these Iraqis. For every Jalal Talibani or Ali al-Sistani there’s a Moqtada al-Sadr or a what's- his-face. But our nation has given Iraq a unique chance to start over. A rare opportunity to build up and create rather than tear down and destroy. And every so often they seem to insist on flushing it all away.

Let every nation know, whether they wish us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and success of liberty.

Identifying with those words four years ago on a marble gravemarker in Arlington overlooking an eternal flame, I wondered at the time if they were the anachronism -- or I was.

I’ll admit I’m not always as confident in Iraq’s future as I may seem. There are times when I feel our nomex-gloved hands that've been rocking the cradle of civilization have developed carpal tunnels. There are some days when I would be glad to leave this part of the world tomorrow and watch from the comfort of my living room as the country self-destructs on CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, the BBC... If nothing else, it’d be almost worth the price of admission of failure just to watch those jackals try and top their own hysterical news reports of the past three years. "This just in: Iraq really is a quagmire! And this time we’re not totally full of [bleep]!"

The northern Kurds are similarly fed up with the inexplicable unrest in their nation‘s southern Koran Belt. "We should just seal ourselves off from the rest," I’ve often been told by our U.S.-contracted interpreters from Dohuk. "In Kurdistan we are safe, we are free, we are prospering. Let the Shia and Sunnis fight amongst themselves. Let them all go kill each other if that is all they know to do."

The leading cause of violent death for Iraqis is overwhelmingly Muslim on Muslim. A tennis coach and a few of his players were recently gunned down on the streets of Baghdad for the blasphemous crime of wearing shorts. (But presumably, not socks with sandals.) Which of course begs the question: What exactly were Mohammed’s views on proper tennis court attire?

But an American army doesn’t quit simply because something is difficult. When has war ever been easy? Like Iraq’s fledgling democracy, we also were born out of wedlock and nearly died during delivery. But we improvised. We adapted. We overcame. We out-Darwinned Darwin. Our own founding four-star believed that "perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages." Perhaps it's cornball to admit, but many of us still believe that. The military ranks may be chock full of cynical optimists, but no one mocks our own anachronistic idealism better than we do.

Any Middle Eastern nation replete with palaces but sans parliament buildings will never get the memo that Israel is not the source of their frustrations and America is not the appropriate outlet for their anger. Those who cannot petition their government for a redress of grievances will instead they take them out on us. The Iraqi people had been ritually abused and raised under a climate of fear for three decades. It may be that this cycle of violence can never be unlearned by those who have internalized it. But it can be broken. The next generation of Iraqi children will not despise the West in lieu of their own self-loathing, like their parents before them. Our camouflaged ambassadors -- likely the only Americans they will ever meet -- have seen to that personally.

If a future prosperous Iraq never throws a parade in our honor, never remembers the sacrifices of those who paved the way for their newfound freedom and prosperity; if the greater Middle East fails to note which country has been the most relentless defender of Muslims worldwide in the history of the world -- Lebanon, Kuwait, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan... Even if 40 years hence the Mid East pulls a Japan on us and starts building better cars, exporting more electronics, and buying up all the primo real estate on our own shores -- bully for them. We don’t work for tips and we don’t need anyone’s gratitude. Veterans know what they did and why they did it; they don’t need to wait around for Tom Brokaw to write a new bestseller in order to feel proud of their service.

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day that my child may have peace...

Less than one one percent of the American voting populace currently serves in the combat arms, about the same percentage as the tiny sliver of troop misconduct that white-collar memesters delight in painting the rest of us with the same tainted brush. (Haditha: Coming soon to bumper stickers everywhere).

But as we approach the one millionth uniformed customer of the three-year-old war ("Iraq: over a million served"), it bears reiterating that our nation’s most basic responsibility is to provide for the common defense by supplying the manpower needs of its military. (That includes you too, 90210.) The government’s job is just to sign the checks. Yet recruiters continue to be harassed off campuses and embattled in public venues even as our so-called elites prattle on about enlistment shortfalls and the need to bring back the draft for thee but not for me.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy...

We fully realize that you don’t want your children to have to face the prospect of dying in some far-off foreign land. You know, we don’t particularly relish the idea ourselves. But we also don’t want to see any more of our fellow citizens being incinerated, perhaps next time by a French-made Airbus piloted by French-bred Arab immigrants who received their terrorist training in French-fubarred Algeria. That’s why we’re serving now during this unusually turbulent era: so that our own families will not have to face that prospect thirty years hence at the mall or in a high-rise office building or on their way to work in a subway tunnel. If America’s building safety codes are updated in the near future to reflect a new parachute and gas mask requirement, then you will know we have failed.

One can’t help but wonder what percentage of French schoolchildren -- or French adults, for that matter -- could identify the significance of June 6th in the annals of our two nations. (For those of you scratching your heads, wondering what Father’s Day could possibly have to do with the only country glad to see Lance Armstrong retire -- you owe your American heritage approximately 2,500 pushups. Start now.) Ditto for Omaha and Utah Beaches, the 101st Airborne, the Marshall Plan... I wonder how many realize that a brigadier general and son of a former American president landed with the opening waves of Allied troops on D-Day, earning the Medal of Honor for rallying his men to press in the face of murderous enemy fire? Cricket, cricket...

Following the Second World War, both Germany and its snooty neighbor lived under the umbrella of America’s protection for nearly half a century. We didn’t birth them, but took them in when no one else would and with the Soviet bear salivating at the door. For fifty years we nurtured, protected, and ultimately, spoiled them. And like any overindulged teenagers, naturally they came to hate their guardians. "You’re not our real parents!"

Some things never change.

Lucky for human freedom, America never will:

It is not in our nature to seek out wars and conflicts. But whenever they have come, when adversaries have left us no alternative, American men and women have stood ready to take the risks and to pay the ultimate price.

People of the same caliber and the same character today fill the ranks of the Armed Forces of the United States. Any foe who might ever challenge our national resolve would be repeating the grave errors of defeated enemies.

Because this nation loves peace, we do not take it for granted. Because we love freedom, we are always prepared to bear even its greatest costs.

President George W. Bush
Memorial Day Address, Arlington National Cemetery
May 28, 2001

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