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

30 July 2006


One of our tasks in Tal Afar was to keep the Iraqi Army
"in check," a task at which Sgt. Romero often failed
spectacularly. photo by Buck Sargent

We have good corporals and good sergeants and some good lieutenants and captains, and those are far more important than good generals.
-William Tecumseh Sherman

Homecoming, Interrupted
Mosul, Tal Afar, and now the belly of the beast. It was announced this week that our unit, the 172nd Stryker Brigade, has been extended for up to four additional months in Iraq in order to bring additional force to bear on the persistent lawlessness of the capital city of Baghdad. My platoon was already in Kuwait, homeward bound, when we were first notified of this occurrence via Yahoo! News, of all sources. The media, our families, along with anyone else in America who cared knew long before we did that not only were we not returning home as planned following an already mentally and physically draining year in Iraq, but that by the time we finally do we’ll more than have qualified for in-state tuition to Baghdad University.

Of course, not a word of this possibility was breathed to us in recent weeks. Hundreds of our advance party were already home. Many more had already purchased tickets for block leave, had sent home much of their excess gear and equipment at the behest of our command (and at our own expense), and had assured our families and loved ones that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was finally shining upon us. And yet, like much of what passes for optimism in the Middle East, in the end it was all little more than a mirage.

Pass the Mustard
I don’t often criticize the Army Powers That Be. For one, it’s not my place to do so, being such a low man on the totem pole; and secondly, I fully realize that the big picture and the soldier’s bottom line are not always going to be in perfect agreement. That being said, I’m going to make a rare exception to my usual modus bloggerandi.

Here’s the setup: The Pentagon pinochle players have demanded more boots on the ground in Baghdad, tout de suite. Our brigade has finished its tour and is in the process of redeploying home. There are no other available units with a comparable level of combat power and recent experience that can as rapidly fill the gap. Ipso facto, voilà, presto: we’ve become the latest unwilling guests in the grand opening of yet another Extended Stay Iraq. For the brass, it’s a no-brainer. But for those affected, all it looks like at the present moment is a heartless non sequitor.

The battalion commander from my Afghanistan tour several years ago once described my former Airborne unit’s similar predicament of shifting redeployment dates as “taking a huge bite of the Army’s shit sandwich and spreading some mayonnaise on it” in order to choke it all down. He had been around the block long enough to know that it was simply a distasteful aspect of military life that is often unavoidable. Even so, I believe we’re going to require a few additional condiments this time around.

485 days and a wakeup. Not many can claim they spent two birthdays in Iraq -- on the same deployment!

The Three P’s
The Army feels free to make last minute decisions concerning our fate because to them we are little more than chess pieces to be easily shifted across the board with even less regard for the human costs that lay behind such actions. My bunkmate’s wife fully expected to hear next from her husband when he landed stateside. Instead, he was forced to drop the bombshell that he wasn’t coming home just yet after all. No one looks forward to that call.

Those of us in uniform expect to have our chains pulled. It’s part of the job, and it’s usually par for the course. But there’s simply no excuse for jerking our families’ around, playing mind games with their expectations. Mental preparation is everything when it comes to enduring the stress of a combat tour, especially for those left behind. To survive a year with your loved one away at war will always constitute a Herculean effort. But to offer no warning whatsoever of even the possibility of such a long tour extension is truly beyond the pale.

Our families will cope as best they can, and we’ll suck it up and drive on, just like we always do. But I don’t think it’s any surprise that we’re livid at the sheer ineptitude of those who purport to lead us. The seven Army Values rammed down our throats in Basic from day one were identified as Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. In lieu of recent events, I believe a new addition is more than warranted: Piss Poor Planning.

All Quiet on the Northern Front
Never before have a single one of the Army’s three active Stryker brigades been mobilized in large numbers in the Sunni Triangle, having seen the majority of their action in the northern-most Iraqi provinces. Three months ago, I was of the opinion that our battalion should have been rerouted to Ramadi following our successful stint in Mosul rather than dispatching still more tankers and Humvee-bound units demonstrably unsuited for that type of counterinsurgency fight. Not surprisingly, my views were overruled by the 300,000 some-odd people in the Army that presently outrank me. Instead we were moved to Tal Afar and its surrounding areas to ride out the remainder of our tour in relative ease, as -- courtesy of the monumental efforts of the Army’s 3rd ACR last fall -- little transpires up there these days that the Iraqi Army and police forces cannot handle sua sponte.

I’ve witnessed firsthand what Stryker units are capable of. It’s a combination of might, muscle, matériel, and most importantly -- mentality -- that quite frankly is not displayed to greater effect or in greater numbers anywhere else in the U.S. Army. Strykers not only always roll to the sound of the guns, but exhibit an aggressive “swarm tackling” response to attack that is a step above the conventional troop dread of simply “waiting around to get blown up” that has been reported out of Iraq ad nauseum for the past three years. Bloodying our noses only makes us angrier, and will frequently unleash the entire hive upon all responsible parties to potentially devastating effect. The quickest route to having platoons of Strykers with their squads of lethal dismounts roaming your neighborhood every day for months on end is to dare to attack one of their omnipresent patrols. You won’t get the desired response.

But if we arrive in Saddam's old stomping grounds only to find ourselves pulling "force pro" duty on some enormous installation so that the hordes of Fobbits don't miss their prime sun-tanning hours by the palace pool... you're going to hear about it, the whole world is going to hear about it, and the people who knocked our morale into the porta-john will hear from all of us soon. Note to Donald Rumsfeld: Do not waste our time.

The Politics of War
The time has come to face facts: Baghdad has a seemingly intractable security problem. The local government has been impotent in the face of unrelenting sectarian-fueled violence. There are some very bad people residing there who require killing or capture, first among them the lawless militias of the Shiite-controlled Mahdi Army. We can deliver this in spades. What we cannot deliver is the political will to keep such men locked up once caught. An astounding number of our insurgent detainees from the past year in Mosul have long since been turned loose. This is unacceptable, just as the preposterously soft-on-terrorism rules of engagement we’ve been forced to operate within are unworkable. Not only do the gloves need to come off, they need to be slapped across the face of every would-be warlord like Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who never passes up an opportunity to undermine the legitimately elected government of millions of fellow Iraqis; Iraqis who want nothing more than to rebuild their fractured society and live their lives in peace.

While I clearly understand the concern with minimizing civilian casualties, there is one very important distinction that is rarely mentioned in the press. Every Muslim that has ever emplaced a roadside bomb, ever fired an AK at a convoy or lobbed a grenade at a foot patrol, that has ever sheltered or passed information to the enemy -- has been by definition a civilian. They don’t wear identifiable uniforms, they don’t carry their weapons openly, they don’t take live prisoners, and they show absolutely no mercy to anyone they encounter, Iraqi or otherwise. "The fate of our country and yours is tied," said new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before Congress during his first official visit to the U.S recently. He made it clear that if democracy fails in Iraq "then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere." I couldn't agree more.

Why the sudden urgency over the three-year-old insurgency in Iraq’s capital city? In a word: politics. Theirs as well as ours. Al-Maliki had his chance to turn the tide in Baghdad. His plan failed, as he has all but admitted. But with the U.S. mid-term elections on the horizon that will decide which party controls Congress, it’s do-or-die-on-the-vine time for the war effort. If the political opposition is victorious, all the progress we’ve made in the last two years will be for naught, as the investigative power of the new majority will be wielded like the hammer of Thor, bludgeoning a path toward eventual retreat.

With the concentrated media presence in Iraq’s most populous metropolis, the war as seen on TV will be won or lost in Baghdad, regardless of the conditions on the ground in any other province. The fight for the country’s center of power must be decisively won, and sooner rather than later.

“This will place our most experienced unit with our most mobile and agile systems in support of our main effort,” said Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, explaining the redirecting of forces. “With the rest of the elements of the plan, this gives us a potentially decisive capability to affect security in Baghdad.”

Soldiers may decry the effects of politics on the battlefield, but in a republic such as ours, one can never be divorced from the other. Such was the case in Lincoln’s war, as was Wilson’s, Roosevelt’s, Truman’s, Johnson’s and Nixon’s. Bush is not the first and will not be the last. “It is clear,” wrote Clausewitz, “that war is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.”

That is undoubtedly not much consolation to the hundreds of mothers, fathers, wives and children whose elation has turned to despair in the past week. Yet we were chosen precisely because of what we have proven in the past year we were capable of. The unfortunate result for us is what’s known throughout the service as “performance punishment.”

Soldiers of Misfortune
Our parent brigade has suffered over a dozen deaths with hundreds more wounded in action during the past year, yet every single 4/23 “Tomahawk” in my own battalion was returning home alive, an all-too-rare distinction in a frontline infantry unit, not to mention a feat the gods of war seem bound and determined to rob us of. But the man who famously declared “God is dead” also wrote that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

By pairing with homegrown Iraqi Security Forces, Stryker units have ultimately nullified enemy activity to acceptable levels in every area they’ve been employed in. We’re now old hands at going door to door, interacting with the populace as much as possible, engaging the enemy as much as necessary, and ultimately building confidence in the ability of their own forces to be able to eventually accept the baton without fumbling it. It’s no accident that the Army leadership is finally waking up to this fact. The tragedy of our achievement is that they have only just now realized it.

Success has often been defined as luck meeting opportunity. In our case it appears to constitute a marriage of exceptionally bad luck with particularly worse timing. Nevertheless, we’ll do our job and do it well, but don’t expect us to be happy about it.

Just be sure to keep the grill warm and the beer cold.

18 July 2006


All the cool lizards are doing it.

The nature of war certainly does not let us see at all times where we are going.
-Carl von Clausewitz

Clearing the Deck
The time is nearly upon us when I must bid adieu to fair Iraq: her rollicking hills and lush green forests, her spring gardens and clear blue lakes of… okay, so I’m full of it. You want to know the real reason why I believe so strongly in American victory in Iraq? So that I never have to come back here -- ever
. No offense to the locals, but if it wasn’t for the Western ingenuity to harness petroleum, after Allah handed out real estate they would have found themselves with the dog slobber end of the chew toy.

The following consists of my unreleased b-sides from over the previous year; the black sheep of my unfinished work that otherwise would have been doomed to the Seventh Circle of Hell otherwise known as the bowels of my computer hard drive. In a few cases, perhaps there it should have remained. But I made the time to write it; the least you can do is read it -- I don’t think that’s asking a lot. It is in this vein that I submit to you the

Best of the Rest of American Citizen Soldier:

When a Stranger Calls
Several months after posting Zen and the Art of Marital Maintenance, I received the following in the comments section:
My boyfriend of nearly 2 years has been away as much as he has been home and I have been searching for any advice on anything, because as I girlfriend I am often left out of the communication loop. That you for investing the time to post and would love any advice for how to act when a soldier returns home, as that is my biggest fear.
With that in mind, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a follow-up entry. The previous one found your humble milblogger freely dispensing advice for “successfully navigating your marriage through the minefield of deployed expectations.” This time I will address what the Army calls the “reintegration process.” This may appear at first glance to be common sense, yet there are several different factors at work that may often get overlooked.

First among them is the anxiety of expectations. Has he changed? Have I changed? What should I do or not do? What a deployed soldier craves more than anything is a return to normalcy; to the routine of daily life that he left behind. However, he typically arrives home to find that the “routine” he knew has changed in his absence. If he has kids, they have become accustomed to Mom’s new role as the first and last word on everything that transpires. Suddenly you’re back like an absentee father who thinks he can disappear for a year and then reclaim his position of authority overnight. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work like that. They will require as much time to readjust to your daily presence as they initially needed to adapt to your absence.

This goes for couples as well. You may have experienced tremendous growth and personal development in the time he has been away, yet he is returning from a male-dominated environment to a now alien world where he can wear his own clothes again even though they’re probably out of style; where he can no longer bark out orders and expect immediate compliance; one in which every day is no longer exactly the same as the one that preceded it. His life has essentially been on hold for the previous twelve months. He’s going to need time to reorient to his surroundings, recalibrate his behavior and manners, and rebalance the learned give and take -- the natural rhythms and patterns that develop within the context of every relationship.

If you’re worried that your husband sounds like a stranger over the phone when he calls from overseas, do not be discouraged. He is a stranger while he is away. He has to be. A combat deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. You learn early on that counting days is the surest way to prolong the misery of being far from home. You have to sublimate the life you knew for the one you currently know: that of doing your job every day to the best of your ability without regard to what tomorrow brings or what is going across the world in your absence; because with a few exceptions there is very little you can do about it anyway.

Your deployed soldier has now worn his “game face” for so long that he may find it permanently etched on his visage. You will still notice it lingering for some time after he has returned, but with a good dose of patience and forbearance it will gradually fade away at approximately the same rate as will his nervous habit of reaching for his weapon that is no longer required to be an extension of his person. In its stead, you are once again the constant companion that he can and must rely on. For his part, he must apply to your relationship the same level of attention to detail, basic maintenance, and proper care of equipment as he did the instruments that he depended on in the desert. Those are terms and conditions he’ll understand.

Ultimately, what should you expect? Expect to be patient. Expect for things to be the same, only different. And expect to embrace these changes for what they truly are: opportunities to chart a different course, though with the same eventual destination in sight. Because you can rarely recapture what once was, but you can always reclaim what now is.

So welcome that stranger home, and before you know it he’ll actually feel at home. Like he never left.

*And if all this sounds way too philosophical for your tastes, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Fix him his favorite meal, pour him his favorite brew, give him all the lovin’ you can muster, and don’t nag him -- about anything -- for at least three weeks. Boom: reunion accomplished.

Fahrenheit 4/23
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. He easily could have been speaking to the state of mind of a soldier on a modern combat deployment. Because despite all the varying manners of distress he may undergo at one time or another, the one constant is the mind-numbing, soul-crushing boredom. No matter how busy your day-to-day routine, there is always an indeterminate number of hours in the duty day that you simply do not know how to cope with.

Different people seek relief from it in their own way. Some try to sleep as much as possible. (One of my compadres from our Afghanistan tour who’s also here in Iraq with me recalled how he tried to sleep up to twelve hours every day that he could get away with it over there. He figured it would render a yearlong deployment into a perceivable six months). Others become gym-rats, or buy up every last movie theater-pirated HVD (Haji Video Disc) of just released Hollywood blockbusters they can get their hands on. If the web access at your respective camp is decent, you’ll find many young, single joes whose mission in life becomes to add as many good-looking women to their MySpace profiles as humanly possible. (Quite prevalent in my own battalion, the 4th of the 23rd Infantry Regiment). Still, there are time and personnel limits to any FOB-provided internet, thus most opt to spend it emailing or IMing the wife or their families.

And of course, that leaves the old standby of yore, that bygone throwback to the Industrial Revolution when literate types of all stripes enjoyed nothing more than to sit down with a peculiar little object called a “book.” In that sense, I’m practically a dinosaur. In the course of my two Middle East deployments (OEF IV and OIF III) I have completed a combined total of 104 books, a total undoubtedly greater than I likely even attempted in my entire four years of college. (I’ve actually kept track of the titles read, and a complete listing will be provided in the comments section for any fellow bibliophiles out there. We few, we happy few, we band of bookworms).

Be that as it may, I still have a small bone to pick with an otherwise fine and much appreciated organizational drive called Operation Paperback: Recycled Reading for the Troops that collects used and donated books to send to us all across Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over the previous year I’ve stumbled across some stellar finds and classic works sent over by these patriotic-minded men and women. Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. We Were Soldier’s Once…and Young. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The last three recent works of genius by Tom Wolfe. The unsung great American novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Numerous titles from Robert Heinlein. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Even Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, the content of which I could comprehend for only a brief moment in time. But for every nugget or gem discovered among the stacks, there is an absolute mountain of elephant dung obscuring their existence. Here are a few of the lesser touted “classics” that I pulled at random for your assessment:

Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh [Many will recall this celebrated author from high school English Lit. You know, Hawthorne… Twain… Hemingway… Ngaio Marsh…]

Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Zombie Vampires - Vol. 4 [Do they really expect me to skip all the way to Volume 4 and still know what the heck is going on with Galactic Hero Bill?]

In the Shelter of His Arms: A Heart to Heart Harlequin Romance [You know, I felt the plot development was weak and the character development thin; even more so the second time around].

Mightier Than the Lipstick: Stories by Women [I never could figure out what exactly was mightier than the titular lipstick. And yes, Beavis, I said “tit”].

Die Firma [What‘s this? A new novelized sequel to the Diehard films? Nein, apparently that got lost in translation. This was legal scribe John Grisham’s first best-seller -- only this time in GERMAN.]

Lives of the Monster Dogs: a Novel [Well I would sure hope so!]

Menopause: the Silent Passage [No comment necessary].

New Profits from the Monetary Crisis by Harry Browne
From the (quite dusty) dust jacket: “The New York Times best-selling author presents his new investment strategy for capitalizing on the chaos of this new economic era.” [Now this one actually sounds right up my alley. The only problem: It was last published in 1978! If it said to invest in a yet unheard of software company called “Microsoft” and came fully equipped with a time machine on the back flap, I would gladly remove it from the list.]

My intent is not to squelch the patriotic fervor at Operation Paperback. I realize that their donations most likely consist of the most unwanted and unread trash people are grateful for someone to take off their hands. I just wish they’d exercise a little more scrutiny in the titles they send us. They don’t all have to be Melville or Dostoevsky (although I did find a copy of Crime and Punishment among them.) But come now, Killer Dolphin? Less is more, people. Less is more.

‘Prepare to Copy’
The last thing you ever want to hear when you’re already heading back to the FOB following a long patrol or mission is, “3-2, this is Blackhawk Base…

…prepare to copy.”

In others words, get ready to write down the grid coordinates or details of a follow-on mission that will send you back outside the wire and likely make you miss your third consecutive meal of the day. Sure, not the worst thing in the world, but when transmitted in jest it’s a prime target for desk jockey jokesters who know just how to get a rise out of their comrades.

I’m not naming any names, but they know who they are.

The Good Idea Fairy
n. 1. mischievous and highly dangerous sprite; known for planting the seeds of faulty ideas within the brains of those around it:
Good idea fairies feed upon the frustration and confusion created by the implementation and use of those ideas it suggests. Found most often around TOCs and other areas with high concentrations of fobbits or tocroaches. The feeble-minded, inexperienced, and easily confused are most often targeted by the good idea fairy. Causes the brains of those affected to become addled, unable to tell good idea from bad, and utterly incapable of hearing actual good advice.

From BOB on the FOB by Sgt. Albert J. Merrifield
Task Force Band of Brothers Public Affairs Office
101st Airborne Division, FOB Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the infantry, this should ring true to your ears. It makes you wonder how many of these GI Fairies must be inhabiting the cavernous halls of the Pentagon. Dare I say, hundreds?

Dishonor Among Oxygen Thieves
For every one hundred men you send us, ten should not even be here. Eighty are nothing but targets. Nine of them are real fighters; we are lucky to have them, they the battle make. Ah, But one. One of them is a warrior. And he will bring the others back.

Every Army battalion has their fair share of douchebags -- those soldiers who, for whatever reason, simply cannot hack it on deployment and end up disgracing both themselves and their entire unit with their behavior and actions. Our company outed quite a few over the course of this year, but one in particular stood out among the rest. To keep myself from being sued, or more importantly, off of his “People to Kill” list, I’ll refer to the individual in question only as Specialist “Kidneystone.” This is a kid who started the tour off on the wrong foot and then proceeded to shoot himself in the other.

After barely a few weeks in Mosul, it came to pass that Kidneystone was removed from patrolling with his platoon any longer due to the fact that he was so keyed up when outside the wire that he was making his leadership nervous. Some expected to see him perform a “combat roll” if so much as a car backfired. Thus he was reassigned to a series of Iraqi Army outposts with a small contingent of American officers and senior NCOs to support and assist in their training (known as a MITT-Team). While there, Kidneystone’s only duties or responsibilities would be to share time monitoring the radios, and then doing whatever he wanted in his spare time. (Watching movies, emailing, cable TV, sleeping, etc.) Of course, the chow and living conditions there are slightly worse, so it was only a matter of time before he’s whining to our First Sergeant over the radio that he can’t take being there anymore either. By now, a few of the NCOs on the MITT-Team already have had just about enough of him and willingly send him back.

At this point he begins to claim PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) -- from what is anybody’s guess -- and warrants a psyche eval. Of course, they find nothing wrong with him, other than that he’s an idiot who’s trying to fake his way out of the deployment and be sent home. The situation regresses to the point where, back once again on the FOB, Kidneystone locks himself inside his room with his weapon and refuses to come out. On this particular evening I walk outside my door and notice several members of my company suiting up in full kit in preparation to storm his room loaded to bear. I suggested they simply toss a grenade through the window and call it a night, but alas, cooler heads prevailed. He emerged from his cocoon upon being told that he had mail waiting for him.

But wait -- there’s more.

So by now the fouled machinery of the Big Army had finally begun to turn and eject this “oxygen thief” and danger to everyone around him from our midst. (Ironically, precisely what he sought all along.) He gets put on a plane back to the rear with one of the company’s NCOs along as a military escort. While on a stopover in Germany, he is inexplicably allowed by those in charge to travel off post on his own recognizance where he proceeds to get drunk in public and put his head through a pane of glass, which he then attempts to blame on his NCO escort when the German authorities arrive. Why he was ever allowed out of his handcuffs, I will never understand.

Eventually he arrives back at our home station in Anchorage to begin the process of discharging him from the service. Pending this action, he was last seen at the Post Exchange attempting to purchase a shotgun and shells, wherein he threatened to “kill everybody there” upon being denied the sale and failing the instant background check. Last we’d heard, he had been permanently banned from post.

Somehow this pathetic individual and congenital liar scammed his way into the Army when it is clear he never even wanted to be here. The tragedy is not that such people slip through the cracks, but that it takes so long for the Army to correct their mistakes once they realize they’ve made them. True, some would use that excuse as an easy way out of their commitment, but that’s no reason to punish the rest of us who have to deal with them on a daily basis.

Consider this pitiful saga the next time you read an interview with a disgruntled ex-soldier who claims the Army “screwed him over” or that next article you read about the “Iraq veteran” who came home and hung himself in his parents’ basement. There may be more to the actual story than meets the eye. Not all who served were heroes. Not all were very good soldiers. And not all were even passable as human beings.

Going Ballistic
So I had this great idea for a new personal hygiene product…

Browsing through the FOB p/x I couldn’t help but notice that the military theme has been adopted to everything from baby wipes to energy bars, complete with camouflaged packaging and the word “Hooah” prefixed in the name of the product. Thus was born the idea for Ballistic Condomstm.

Perhaps these will only appeal at first to soldiers, though there are quite a few of us spread around the country. But having lived in both a college dorm and an enlisted barracks, I do believe I understand the unique needs of my target customer: the horny, young, testosterone-crazed American male. Every man who has ever put on a condom knows that the current two-size-only standard of “average joe” and “male porn star” is woefully inadequate. While the male ego would have us believe that we’re all giving Magnums a good stretching, the truth betrays us. (Though to be fair, who among us hasn’t been choked out by a run of the mill Trojan or Durex at some point?) What we need are custom fits, to adjust for the varying measurements dangling throughout the male locker room. Would women stand for only two bra sizes: “mosquito bite” and “cow udder”? That’s what I thought.

At the very minimum Ballistic Condomstm would offer four different fits to start with:

.22 Rimfire: “The Peashooter” (For the modest mice among us)
.357 Special: (The industry standard; crafted to fit the average American manhood)
.44 Magnum: “The Dirty Hairy” (For those immodest oaks of masculinity)
And last but certainly not least,
.50 cal. BFD: (If you even have to ask what that stands for, you haven’t been paying attention)

With optional features to include:
Rifled Barrel: Ribbed for her pleasure.
CLP: Lubricated for the smoothest action possible.
Barracks Strength: Double-wrapped to defend against “negligent discharges” during those “not-so-sober” moments.

I’ll allow you the privilege of voting on the best commercial tagline. (Kindly annotate your preference in the comments section. Or contribute your own!)

Ballistic Condomstm
A. “We Gotcha Covered”
B. “Combat Action, Combat Proven”
C. “Go Ballistic in the Bedroom”
D. “Eye Pro for your One-Eyed Ranger”
E. “A Higher Caliber of Protection”

Deep Thoughts from the Crapper III
So here I am yet again in my favorite reading spot blazing through Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (a fantastic book -- if all you know of it is through that horrid film adaptation, you’re truly missing out). Although it was written in 1959, the story is set far into the future and revolves around a young man who volunteers for the army against his parents’ wishes in seek of adventure and a sense of purpose. Heinlein apparently views the experience of military life as timeless, as all the same themes and issues that soldiers today deal with are described to a tee.

One of the perks in this future world are full citizenship rights only for those who have previously served in the armed forces. It’s certainly an interesting thought. What would an America look like with the eligible voting populace consisting only of veterans?


--I’d venture that a larger cross-section of Americans would join up, if for no other reason than to obtain their full citizenship afterwards. (Although Heinlein makes clear that many instead begin to view citizenship in a cynical vein as “naïve patriotism” with no benefit or relevance to their lives whatsoever). It’s not impossible to picture that reality.

--I’d also be willing to bet that silly and counterproductive gun control laws would be unheard of. (Firearms cease to be “scary” when you’ve become as familiar with them as with your toothbrush and toted them 24/7 for months on end).

--Wars would likely still be waged when necessary, yet be free of political correctness in their execution. (The quickest and most efficient way to win friendly hearts and minds still being to place three-inch shot groups in enemy heads and torsos).

--Excessive sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products would be unknown. (Self-explanatory, really).

--Military compensation would definitely be a sight better, especially if we could vote ourselves pay raises every few years like Congress is wont to do.

--Corpulent sea turtles like Ted Kennedy could no longer possibly win reelection through four consecutive decades in the Senate, Massachusetts liberals be damned.

--Public opinion polls would cease to be relevant. “I’m going to write my Congressman!” Knock yourself out, non-voting hippie. He could care less.

I do believe I’m beginning to like this idea a bit too much.

We’re Here Now; It No Longer Matters Why
*Author’s Note: The general substance of this last entry initially appeared in an off-the-cuff email interview with The Real Ugly American. My thoughts are reposted here in extended form.

Do you suppose the millions of small children in Afghanistan or Iraq really care why we went to war in their respective countries? Do you honestly believe they sit around cross-legged and cynically debate the existence of WMDs or the politics of why American soldiers are in their homelands? Or do they simply enjoy the fruits of our labor, enjoy their newfound freedoms, their chance to attend school, their chance for a real future?

The next generation of Iraqis and Afghans don’t reflexively despise us precisely because they don’t understand -- much less care about -- the underlying politics behind the endeavor. Because they bring no ingrained biases or prejudices to the table. Because their opinion of us is based strictly on their own powers of observation; judging purely on what they see us do and how we treat them. Our presence here benefits them and they know it.

I believe a majority of Iraqis understand why we’re here and are appreciative of the opportunity to begin anew. I also understand why many of them would be frustrated with the slow pace of progress when viewed in terms of the improvement of their individual lives. Iraq was a failed state long before we arrived, and it will take decades to get it back on its feet entirely. Antiwar critics have long asserted that the toppling of the former regime ipso facto caused the current divisions and instability, however, the resultant animosity and violence is precisely the brutal legacy of Baathist rule. Saddam exacerbated the latent sectarian tensions within his country and used them to hold and maintain power.

The truth of the matter is that sooner rather than later the Iraqis have to learn to start doing things for themselves. We didn’t come here to take Saddam Hussein’s place, we came here to allow the Iraqi people to take his place. “But it is simply impossible for the soldiers to be wholly liked,” writes Robert Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts. “There is no nice way to barge into people's houses, bristling with weapons, stomping your dusty boots on their Oriental rugs, and expect it to be a pleasant experience for them, even if you hand out candy to their kids and replace a lock you had to break with a new one.”

Even so, at the end of the day we are not the enemy -- we want Iraq to succeed, not fail. But if we leave right away as many claim to wish, the tenuous situation on the ground will get a lot worse before it gets better. Our job -- our underlying mission that overrides every other concern -- is to prepare Iraqis themselves to take our place as guardians of the peace. This can and will be done, but it will take time. It took a minimum of three years for the best military in the world to adequately train a sergeant such as myself to be able to fight this kind of counterinsurgency war and be successful at it. Why do we expect the Iraqis to be able to learn this in less time, with less education, less institutional history, less equipment, and with less manpower?

Those Iraqis (read: Sunni Arabs) who were relatively sheltered from the horrors of the Baathists tend to be the only ones who remember the old days fondly. But you won’t get that view from a Kurd whose entire family tree was chopped down, or from generations of Shiite males who were drafted into ten years of bloody, pointless slaughter just to stroke a madman’s ego.

I believe to my very core that we are doing the right thing over here, and have been from the beginning. I know that may be hard to stomach based on what is commonly passed off as news from the frontlines, but as a savvy information consumer you have to be patient and retain some perspective. You have to step back and keep the historical picture in view and not lose your nerve as an American generation brought up in an era of get-rich-quick schemes and instant weight-loss dieting. This is not going to be a quick and tasty Happy Meal war -- and apart from the initial toppling of the regime, I can find no instance within any major administration address where it was ever billed as such. (If you can, please direct me to it).

Contrary to what the mainstream media and the punditocracy would like you to believe, ¾ of Iraq is presently secure, and as the months wear on more and more areas are being relinquished to local control. The Iraqi army and police forces aren’t yet strong enough to stand completely on their own in the worst provinces, namely al-Anbar and the outer reaches of Baghdad. But at this point in time the war is essentially won. Despite the daily body counts (didn’t the Vietnam-era media discredit body counts as a measure of military success? And now they point to them as a sign of impending military defeat?), there is no Iraqi civil war under way; though that prospect still looms if we follow through on the reckless calls for immediate withdrawal.

As things currently stand, we’ve given the Iraqi Security Forces their learner’s permit and they are now the ones driving the car. The coalition is now just along for the ride, to offer advice, and to assist if they find themselves in a tough spot. It is my reasoned opinion that by the time President Bush leaves office they will be ready to receive their license and go it alone for good. I think this is a workable timetable, and I think it has to be because whoever the next administration turns out to be will not have nearly the political backbone of current Commander-in-Chief. Say what you will about him (and trust me, it already has been), he is the very antithesis of the stereotypical poll-driven statesman. At times, almost maddeningly so. But I challenge you to name another leader in American history since Lincoln who has had more invective thrown his way, who has endured more abuse and yet never wavered from his course for even an instant. Some would call this intransient stubbornness. I would agree with them.

I had a similar conversation some months ago with one of our Iraqi interpreters, an Assyrian Christian who lives in the Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh on the outskirts of Mosul. I asked him how long he thought we (the U.S. military) needed to remain in Iraq, and he matter-of-factly stated “five to ten years, or there will be civil war in the streets.” I told him no, that his country has until January, 2009 -- the month President Bush leaves office -- to get their act together, because no other politician -- Republican or not -- will have the spine or the support to maintain the status quo any longer than that. He seemed to get it.

From my vantage point, the only way we can still lose the war at this point is if we as a nation turn on backs on the people we’ve committed to support. Congress hung the South Vietnamese out to dry after the last American soldier left Southwest Asia and millions were interned, “reeducated,” and ultimately slaughtered as a result. The antiwar movement purports to stand for peace, yet if successful, their aims will only lead to untold carnage of ordinary Iraqis we’ve sworn to protect.

If 9/11 proved anything, it is not that we were too engaged in the world, it is that we were not involved enough. The danger of allowing failed states to implode in this day and age is that there will always be consequences that reach far outside their own borders, and the applied fix only gets harder the longer we wait to address it.

But that is all water under the bridge now. There will be dire consequences if America walks away from this fight prematurely. They may not materialize overnight, but the enemies of our country will recognize it for exactly what it is: weakness. And they have shown that nothing emboldens them more.

For the record, I do think we will succeed, and Iraq and Afghanistan will eventually remake themselves into civilized societies; perhaps models for the entire Muslim world. But only if we don’t quit while we’re ahead.

We’re here now. It no longer matters why.

Next week will be Buck Sargent's final column from Iraq

11 July 2006


photo by Buck Sargent

For God and the soldier we adore,
In time of danger, not before!
The danger passed, and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.
-Rudyard Kipling

Mind the Gap or
The Tao of Modern War
a Buck Sargent Epic

Until years have you spent ‘cross the world from your loved ones,
In triple-digit temps short on privacy and bank funds;
Unless mags do you load vice mugs before work,
Pressed with graver concerns than the Boss is a jerk;
Pay heed to the gulf between civvies and warriors,
American Citizens; Citizen Soldiers.

Forget not our spouses who’ve endured more than average,
They’ve suffered with dignity, expected to manage.
Sporting yellow-ribboned magnets so cruelly disparaged,
Alone through the pivotal years of their marriage.

The times they have ‘a change-ed since our granddads were lauded,
Their excellence, their fiber, their cause never doubted.
Did they know what it was to be disparaged by journalists,
Protesters, college kids, Red-diaper activists?

Bygone is the era of the Stars and Stripes raised,
Our flag flown in triumph along V-day parades.
‘Twas a rite placed in stasis lest talking head cases,
Deplored our galling lack of cross-cultural graces.

Academia nuts deign to denigrate our profession,
Haughty tenured fanatics with a 40-year obsession.
Rendered victims or villains, yeoman’s service demoted,
Our patriots as jingoes; passé, outmoded.

Sly congressmen posture to charm the most cameras,
Jousting and jockeying for electoral advantage.
Antiseptic tank thinkers who prattle on C-SPAN,
Play up to the crowds of American Grandstand.

See Tinseltown slander our time in the sandbox,
Conforming to type and in accordance with script docs.
"Feats are for Hobbits, real-life heroes anachronistic,"
Watch how they scorn what they view as simplistic.

Professional peacemoms, lunatic fringe neocoms,
"I told you so" prime-pumped and perched on their lisps.
Sardonic elitists, perpetual defeatists,
Invertebrate ideological wisps.

The critics, the cynics, the skeptics, dyspeptics,
So quick to condemn us as all misanthropic.
How doth they judge fighters when few have they met?
Longing for new My Lai’s,
Thirsting for new Tet’s.

* * *

Medieval incitements we neglected to answer,

Scoffing in the face of long malignant cancers;
Enthralled with our scandals, portfolios, and navels,
Heedless to warnings they’d hit us when able,
To claim thousands in seconds, twin missiles on wings,
And stir a colossus distracted by triflings.

Embassies, truck bombs, flattened barracks, busy flight trainers,
Diplomats, bureaucrats, waylaid airmen, ambushed sailors;
No indictments, subpoenas, nor G-men in Riyadh,
Could satiate the blood lust of Generation Jihad.

Cast now was the die as our armies set sail,
To correct with the sword where the pen thus had failed;
All the speeches and rallies and cable news fuss,
Spoke in terms of surrender,
But by George, they meant us.

"Bring the troops home!"
"Wrong war, time, wrong place!"
Tired bleats of "Are we there yet?"
Absurd on their face.
One thousand... two thousand... twenty-five hundred...
Grave markered milestones with little context warranted.

Editorial ire kept on stirring the mix,
Unfriendly fire, better cover our six.
ROE second-guessing MSM zeal,
Al Qaedist nihilism, to them no big deal.
"Upon our signal, unleash syndicated hell,"
Gentlemen, prepare to defend yourselves:

Pensioned general mutineers, inordinate theocratic fears.
Pop cultured vultures for months descended,Scavenged Abu Ghraib unended.
Recruiting depots placed under siege, KIA funeral-crashing sleaze.
Haditha jarheads, "hang ‘em high!" Murthacrats can’t wait to try.
Paper of Record free to choose, national secrets for Page One news.
Saddamized Deal Or No Deal trial, Iraqi justice: O.J. style,
From riches to rags to spider holes, to tailored threads/patent leather soles.
"Stop NSA!" "Close Gitmo Bay!"
Top antiwar accompli faits.
Patriot Acted kabuki dance,
Why can’t they just give war a chance?

On this the appeasers so desperately cling:
"Hostilities have never solved anything."
Except for:
British Crown colonialism... Soviet Block communism... Prusso-German aggression... Southern slaveholding secession... Holocaustic European tragedy... Rising Sun Bushido savagery... Generalissimo Italian fascism... Third Reich Nazi cataclysm...

Although horrid in deed, not the ugliest of things;
Fighting war on the cheap shot, waging politics by other means.

* * *

Jundis and shurtas, Iraqi patrollers,
Shot down and blown up or pelted with mortars.
Security forces trained from the boots on the ground up,
Uncredited valor amidst body count roundups.

Foreign jihadists and tribal omertas,
Turn on each other, both routed, Inshallah.
Though Arab versus Arab and Muslim on Muslim,
Long driven by the Prophet Mo (Peace Be Upon Him).

Shifty attacks from those dressed none more black,
Thy nature of the beast roaming free the Middle East;
Baghdad... Samarra... Fallujah... Ramadi...
Our rank and file hunters on insurgent safari.

Toting carbines and ‘fifties, 240s and SAWs,
Flashbangs and flex cuffs, and Kevlar and gauze;
Strykers and Bradleys, Kiowa gunships and tanks,
MREs, IEDs, Humvees... (no thanks!)

Though the instrument of warfare that 'ever dwarfs any gun,
To earn the trust of the people once the battle is won.

* * *

Whole seasons may pass without a trace of reporters,
From the streets of Mosul to the Syrian border;
Green Zone commandos lay sounder than embeds,
Though visions of Pulitzers still dance 'bout their tin heads.
Filing omens of doom like a skilled reverse-carpenter,
Drawing troop snarls of Thank you sir, may I have another?

Carnage attracts coverage like payouts tempt lies,
If it bleeds its gonna lead -- sunni outlooks won’t fly.
Objective J-schoolers with no dog in this fight,
Doling cash out to stringers who deliver on site.
Do such double-dipping locals with dubious ties,
Also moonlight as bellhops at the Hotel Palestine?

Plead my case, O Lord, with them that strive with me;
Fight against them, that fight against me.

Combatants in street clothes seeking cover behind women,
Still asserting all the protections of the Geneva Convention.
Fomenting chaos is the thrust of their aim,
Planting bombs on the corners, unconcerned who they maim.
The aged... young children... to them all the same,
For cowing of the masses through death in His name.

These long-time sufferers/first-time voters -- quite acquainted with fear,
Their ancestral lines calloused and accustomed to tears.
Out of a Baathist cultivation of decadence and violence,
Ran a Euphrates of blood demanding monastic silence.

But every dynasty has limits, brutal reigns that diminish;
A time to bury demons:
Sic Semper Tyrannus

* * *

Though their land is now free in the technical sense,
Rule of law not of men, outspoken dissent,
A swaggering press, a backbiting parliament,
All of the trimmings of consensual government;
A new dawn shall we see only after many moons hence,
When their Umma has chosen a side of the fence.

For only time will reveal what our actions have borne,
When old wounds have all healed, and the fallen been mourned.
Will seeds we have planted grow unencumbered and free,
Or sprout bitter fruit from an oft-poisoned tree?

Long hours, longer faces, routine tasks fraught with danger,
All of this and more for the benefit of strangers.
Our lives and our futures, our fortunes and honor,
Pledged till the charge is kept,
But not one day longer.

We’ll demand not of others, to have walked in our shoes,
Least of all once we’re privy to what’s been passed off for news.
We’ll expect no commendation for the impossible we’ve done,
Nor charity for all, so long as malice toward none.

We ask only for consideration of the veteran’s refrain:
Withhold judgment upon us -- give history the last say.

The benefit of perspective, the abstention from blame,
A courtesy we’ll gladly extend all the same.
Though an occupational hazard, the moral gaps that divide us,
Need not be a bridge too far,
To the ties ultimately that bind us.

05 July 2006


photo by Buck Sargent

Nothing is more dangerous in wartime than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup poll, always feeling one’s pulse and taking one’s temperature.
-Winston Churchill

Do you get the feeling sometimes that we just can’t win? You know the drill: no matter what we do, no matter what transpires, no matter what the eventual outcome, our efforts in the Middle East will be construed as a loss irrespective of the truth on the ground. Haven’t we played this game before?

Two Severed Thumbs Down
It’s been barely a month since When Abu Met Allah emerged as the top dramatic comedy title from Bunkerbuster Video, and already the critics are falling all over themselves to dismiss it as a bomb dreamt up at the Fox office. Their tastes must run more toward romantic tragedy, I suppose.

There They Go Again…
Shareholders, start your engines. The way it looks from here, America’s newspaper industry won’t be satisfied until the only one left on their subscription database is the al-Qaeda mailing list. Not content with subverting the ability of the NSA to monitor the phone calls Middle Eastern sheiks are placing to their "brokers" in Dearborn, the NY and LA Times have now swiftboated the
SWIFT program that our government has been clandestinely utilizing to track terrorist financial networks. The only way the double-crossing double-Times can now top themselves would be to publish the transponder code to Air Force One. Dare I smell a scoop? "Secrets… Git yer national secrets, here… Read all about ‘em…"

Texas Hold ‘em While I Shoot ‘em
It does appear the Collateral Damage Control Freaks finally have the Long War on Terrorism right where they want it -- on the ropes, blindfolded, with one hand tied behind its back. I must admit there are times when wearing the uniform during this war feels about as rewarding as working as a body double for the Weekend at Bernie’s trilogy. It’s not being in Iraq that scares me, it’s coming home to a country I’m not entirely sure I can stomach anymore. The throngs of insatiable Iraqi children have given me an up close and personal sample of unbridled celebrity that I now know I could just as soon live without. But that first American military-age male with the pot-smoker’s cough and NO WAR FOR OIL tee shirt that sidles up to me at the bar and asks me how many innocent civilians I killed "over there," I’m probably going to have to punch in the throat. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Looking Out For a Few Hundred Bad Men
I noticed on the chow hall TV the other day that the Supreme Beings have also gotten into the act, applying their usual fuzzy math to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld -- aka Al Q. Aida versus the Honorable Donald H. "I Browbeat More Generals Before 6am Than Most Senators Do All Year." You know, that prickly septuagenarian SecDef that engineered the obliteration of the Taliban and Baathist tyrannies in less combined time than it took for all the WWII troopships to cross the Atlantic? Apparently SCROTUS deems him not even fit to hold Osama bin Laden’s camel jockeys.

Loser’s Justice
The ACLU and Amnesty (for terrorists) International and all the sorry rest refuse to shut up about Gitmo, spelling the inevitability of having to close it all down. Fine, we’ll let them out, provided they all attend a mandatory behavioral seminar first: "Don’t Go Away Bad, Just Go Away." Although, I do believe there still may be time for them to register for the fall semester. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer to you the Yale freshmen class for 2006!

Because you see, everyone knows the Air Force only flew them halfway around the world to incarcerate them on a tropical island and force them to pray five times daily and eat nothing but culturally sensitive meals for no other reason than because they’re Muslim. You don’t see too many Irish Republican Army types turning pink in the blazing Cuba sun, do you? Besides, like the Stupid White Man says, you have a "better chance of being struck by lightning than being a victim of a terrorist attack." (But that’s little consolation to those poor souls who’ve been struck more than once.)

I have only one condition: that those like Mr. Hamdan first be remanded to the personal custody and "eminent domain" of one John Paul Stevens. As a lifelong bachelor, surely Justice Stevens must have a spare bedroom or two he could convert into a halfwit house, or at least a space above his garage for a few natural born cabbies. The Odd Couple meets Driving Miss Daisy meets The Occidental Terrorist? I’ll bring the popcorn.

Scratch that, I have a better idea. It would only be proper to drop them back off precisely where we captured them in the first place -- you know, the battlefield? I’m sure Mr. Karzai’s new government will amply provide them all the proper accommodations befitting foreigners of such high standing. Do you suppose those soccer stadiums in Kabul are still taking appointments?

'Strategic Redeployment,' Hell!
"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress," quipped Mark Twain, as less the acclaimed novelist than the politically acerbic
Mark Steyn of his day. "But I repeat myself."

Congressman John Murtha -- the token liberal "war hawk" who fought in Vietnam before it was cool -- has an all-new new plan to end the war. He’s advocating that all U.S. forces in Iraq be repositioned "over the horizon" to the tactically advantageous twosome of Okinawa and the Kuwaiti desert. (It would bequest a staffer to point out to Professor Murtha that the islands of Nippon are actually closer to "below the equator" than "over the rainbow.") Geographically-challenged or not, you’ve got to hand it to Old Mirthless. He’s so old school, not only does he think we should reliberate Kuwait City -- we need to reconquer the Japs! "Didn’t you get the memo, Yamamoto? No Blood for Embargoed Oil, Mister!"

I find it instructive that Murtha finds it instructive that President Reagan found it instructive to "change courses in Beirut," just as "Clinton changed courses in Somalia." Our "strategic redeployment" from a scary late-seventies Iran notwithstanding ("m-m-m-my, shari’ah"), it was precisely our own Black Hawk Down’s Syndrome in response to militant Islamist aggression in Lebanon and the Mog that bin Laden quite specifically cited as his raison de Neuf-Onze. Ultimately, those who forget their Osama quotes are doomed to have me repeat them.

But come now, Okinawa? Has the Viagra finally gone to Murtha’s brain? I have never met a single solitary soldier who, if he must be away from home and family, would rather be sweating his sack off in the Sandbox or cooling his heels in the Orient than doing his job and taking his chances on the battlefield. (There’s a reason why we didn’t join the Navy, you know.) Either way, the risk of boredom-induced suicide would easily make up for the reduced threat of roadside attack. Perhaps such sunshine soldiers do still exist, but if so, I don’t have the foggiest who or where they are. Perhaps I am just naïve or simply too gung-ho for my own good. But please, stand up and be counted. Yes, all five of you.

Overcoming Postbellum Depression
So let’s take stock of where we find ourselves at this point: Saddam’s regime has been toppled, his prodigal sons killed, himself pulled out of a hole in the ground, a new constitution approved by the people, a consensual government installed, an army and police force reconstituted from scratch that has quietly assumed responsibility for most of the country, a new prime minister who has been all but Churchillian in his tenacity to reclaim the high ground against the insurgents who’ve threatened his homeland with perpetual ruin, a people who’ve courageously refused to be goaded into civil war despite the encouragement of every pundit in the world to just go ahead and do so, U.S. losses after three years still less than were vaporized in three hours on Blackened Tuesday…

I should have known we couldn’t possibly win this fight.

Freedom: Now 99% Sacrifice Free!
At some point during this past July 4th weekend as you were poolside sucking down a few cold ones, stoking up the grill and wondering which would start first: the city fireworks or your hangover, I hoped you at least contemplated for a moment or two precisely what it took for our society to progress to the point where the biggest worries many Americans have is whether or not their Tivo caught the season finale of Lost. Our own Independence was bought on credit and spread across a number of not-so-easy payments over several decades and considerable blood and treasure. Two centuries later we’re finally starting to pay down the principal on the loan, but we’re still not debt-free. Not when so many cosignatories are in default on their share of the mortgage.

De Oppresso Liber
Much is made over the enormous civilian cost of the Iraq War, as if Saddam could have been removed by a simple vote of no confidence at the UN. The Arab world concedes that it is a good thing to be rid of the Butcher of Baghdad, yet lectures us that it is something that Iraqis should have done for themselves. But what do you suppose the toll of a true Iraqi revolution would have been? Assuming they could even have pulled it off in this lifetime -- a stretch by any imagination -- would not a bona fide civil war have been the result? And not simply a low-intensity cycle of revenge killings and random violence as we’re seeing now, but a Lebanese-style wholesale shelling of neighborhoods and annihilation of cities? Is there any doubt that out of the ashes would have arisen yet another monstrous power-mad tyrant? That the hard decision we declined to put off was between a bad choice and a worse alternative?

The U.S. military could have about-faced and got the heck out of Dodge after the statues came down and returned home en masse to another Gulf War parade with less than 150 flag-draped caskets. And then we could have flipped on the tube and watched the genocidal bloodletting from the comfort of our couches just like most of our countrymen do today. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.

But that was then, this is now.

"War," according to Thomas Paine, "involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen and unsupposed circumstances…that no human wisdom can calculate the end." (Unless, of course, you’re Nostradumbass.)

Bet On Iraq
Still, I find it mildly disconcerting to be pinning our hopes solely on the rope-a-dope strategy, wagering that the disloyal opposition will wear themselves out with their relentless pummeling while conditions on the ground quietly meet up with long overdue expectations to little or no fanfare. But that is the predicament we now find ourselves in. We’ve placed our bets and rolled the dice. It would be a shame at this late stage to only now discover they’ve been loaded from the start.

But for the record, my money’s still on Iraq.

Suppose you’re publicly against the war, and suppose you’re privately hoping it ends in failure. But I repeat myself.


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