Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Safely Home and On Leave

My apologies for not posting since my departure from Kuwait on March 18.

I arrived in the U.S. the same day thanks to the time difference, and spent an ennervating week demobilizing at Ft. Bliss. (Although I had some measure of fun with a friend from Baghdad.) I arrived back at Reagan National Airport here in Virginia on the 23rd, 428 days after my flight to Ft. Jackson, SC, to start my activation. I have been home for the past two and a half weeks, the longest stretch of time I've spent with David since he was born. I haven't been posting for several reasons:

1) Sheer exhaustion, residual from my time in Iraq.
2) Sheer exhaustion, the result of chasing a rambunctious 15-month old around the house ten hours a day; and
3) I haven't picked up a newspaper in the past three weeks.

#1 is something most soldiers coming home from Iraq (or Afghanistan) can probably relate to.

#2 is something most parents can relate too, and to be honest, was what I was looking forward to most during the past year, even if it severely taxes me mentally and physically.

But #3 comes as a shock to most people who know me. The simple fact is that I've after living the headlines for the past year, when I returned home I found myself emotionally exhausted with all things Iraq-related and in serious need of recharging my batteries.

Also, from what I've gleaned from the snippets of the news I've heard, the new leadership in Congress has completely given up on any attempt to win the war in Iraq. This in itself is depressing to think about.

What is outrageous is that while claiming to "support the troops" they added billions of dollars in pork-barrel spending on peanut, shrimp, and other subsidies that have nothing to do with the war. And they admitted they did so in order to bribe their fellow members into voting for defeat! Even if the President finally exercises his veto over these fraudulent funding measures, it is insulting that so many politicians will cloak themselves in the mantle of the troops in order to gain narrow perks for their districts at the taxpayers expense.

If the Democrats or any Republicans think the war is unwinnable and want to end it, they should have the courage of your convictions and vote to defund it rather than play these cynical games. It is that simple. I will strongly disagree with those who do, but will at least respect their honesty.

Okay, that's my vent for now, likely one of my last as trying to introduce integrity to some members of Congress is probably an exercise in futility.

Below are some pictures expressing what occupies most of my time and most of my thoughts, and what is really important in life. In the next few days I'll post a few more pictures from my last few weeks in Baghdad.

Until then, I'd like to thank everybody for their support to me and my family over the past year, and my best wishes to everybody who emailed in the past few weeks to make sure I made it home safely. While my faith in our Congressional leadership has been somewhat shaken, my faith in the American people, especially the young men and women in uniform, has been increased exponentially.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Safe in Kuwait

It is deja vu all over again.

I'm sitting in the MWR computer lounge here at Ali Al Saleem Airbase in Kuwait, at exactly the same computer where I wrote from almost a year ago. The key difference, however, is that this time I'm waiting for a flight back to the States instead of a flight to Baghdad. (I should be airborne and headed back to Ft. Bliss for demobilization sometime in the next 24-48 hours).

When our C-130 touched down in Kuwait, and the rear ramp opened as we taxied to the pick up point, I thought, "And with that, my war is over." It is a strange feeling to realize I'll likely never set foot in Baghdad again. I'm eager to be permanently reunited with Marya and David sometime in the next week, but leave behind a lot of mixed emotions about the war and the politics surrounding it.

Well, at least I'll have something to write about for my four weeks of leave after I get home. But the most important thing IS that I'll be home soon and in one piece.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


My apologies for the sparse posting recently. By the time our technical problems were resolved last week, I was caught up in a frenzy of outprocessing and awards (I won the Bronze Star) and couldn't find the time to post.

The bottom line is that I'm now less than 24 hours from leaving Baghdad and Iraq, and depending upon the vagaries of demobilizing at Ft. Bliss, hopefully about a week and a half from getting home to Marya and David for good.

There is so much I want to say, but not enough time in which to say it. I will try to write some while I'm in Kuwait for the next few days, and maybe while I'm at Bliss.

Until then, thank you to everybody who offered words of support over the course of the past year. I leave with a very heavy heart knowing that some better men than I aren't going to make it home to their families. I pray for the safety of every servicemember I'm leaving behind, and for the common goal for which we are all making sacrifices . . . victory.

Success in Iraq is not guaranteed, but it is still possible. Although I'm slightly burnt out on the politics surrounding the war, I'll try to offer my final observations in the coming weeks before I return to a normal civilian job.

Ma'asalaama, and G-d Bless all our servicemembers fighting the terrorists and bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Technical Difficulties

Sorry for the even lighter posting than before, but for some reason on Thursday our information management people here decided to block almost every website on the internet from our computers. So for the time being, I'm unable to access this blog (or worse, my wife's blog with the newest pictures of David) on a regular basis.

As soon as I can figure out a workaround, I'll be posting the pictures of me dropping off the care packages at the Combat Support Hospital, pictures of the orphanage where the children's toys went, and some other pictures of me doing touristy things in the IZ again when my friend came to visit last weekend. Stay tuned . . .

(Oh yeah, less than two weeks to go now!)

P.S. In case I don't get to blog about it later, once again, Ann Coulter has proven what an absolute idiot she is.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Sorry for relative sparse posting lately.

I've officially succombed to the disease that affects almost everybody in Iraq as the end of their tour of duty approaches . . . malaise.

I've got less than 20 days left in country, and find myself having a hard time caring about much other than returning home and starting life over again with Marya and David.

Actually, it's not that I've stopped caring, but rather that caring so intensely has left me completely exhausted. I'm tired of the office politics that I endure everyday, I'm tired of the posturing and obstructionism of the national politics surrounding the war. I'm tired of being awaken by mortar fire and by the helicopters flying so low over my trailer it sounds as if they are about to land on the roof.

I'm even more tired of seeing MedEvac helicopters skimming above the palm trees, ferrying more wounded soldiers to the Combat Support Hospital.

I did have a brief respite from this affliction for two days recently as a buddy visited the IZ from Camp Victory. It did my heart good to see an old friend the CRC at Ft. Bliss, to compare our experiences in Iraq with the expectations we had when we flew into country together eleven months ago . . . and okay, to vent. The companionship ended up making it one of the best nights I've had since activating almost 14 months ago. But once separated again, it only made me wish that security conditions would have permitted us to visit more frequently, especially given that we were only separated by a few miles of highway.

There are still reasons to be hopeful for the war and Iraq's future despite the suicide bombers' continuing nihilistic onslaught. But I'm too tired to go into it right now.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Resolution

I meant to post this last week, when it was actually relevant, but was having technical difficulties at the time.

Last Saturday, the Washington Post editorial board absolutely eviscerated Representative John Murtha for his attempt to undermine the President's constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign policy by ending the war through subterfuge. Key quote:
Mr. Murtha has a different idea. He would stop the surge by crudely hamstringing the ability of military commanders to deploy troops. In an interview carried Thursday by the Web site, Mr. Murtha said he would attach language to a war funding bill that would prohibit the redeployment of units that have been at home for less than a year, stop the extension of tours beyond 12 months, and prohibit units from shipping out if they do not train with all of their equipment. His aim, he made clear, is not to improve readiness but to "stop the surge." So why not straightforwardly strip the money out of the appropriations bill -- an action Congress is clearly empowered to take -- rather than try to micromanage the Army in a way that may be unconstitutional? Because, Mr. Murtha said, it will deflect accusations that he is trying to do what he is trying to do. "What we are saying will be very hard to find fault with," he said.

Mr. Murtha's cynicism is matched by an alarming ignorance about conditions in Iraq. He continues to insist that Iraq "would be more stable with us out of there," in spite of the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that early withdrawal would produce "massive civilian casualties." He says he wants to force the administration to "bulldoze" the Abu Ghraib prison, even though it was emptied of prisoners and turned over to the Iraqi government last year. He wants to "get our troops out of the Green Zone" because "they are living in Saddam Hussein's palace"; could he be unaware that the zone's primary occupants are the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy?

Again, this is the Washington Post editorial board, not exactly a right-leaning institution.

Also, last weekend, retired Colonel Ralph Peters discussed the House's resolution in an op-ed in the New York Post. I think Peter's goes way too far in implying that the Democrats (and 17 Republicans) who voted for the Resolution are guilty of treason. This kind of hyperbole, much like Senator Reid's comment that Iraq is the "worst foreign policy mistake" in American history, produces more heat than illumination.

(By the way, Senator Reid, 52,000 more U.S. servicemen died in Vietnam than Iraq. You may want to ask their families which was worse, or for that matter, the millions of refugees our subsequent abandonment of South Vietnam caused, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis likely to die if we follow your policy of similarly abandoning Iraq. . . But that's for another post).

Peters' does make some good points when not going into hysterics. The resolution will not affect the morale of American troops. Those in the field have more pressing matters to worry about than what a bunch of politicians in Washington think and say. The real damage lies in the potential impact it has on the Iraqi moderates we are encouraging to stand up to the 5% fringes on each side of Iraqi society that are creating the horrific violence in Iraq. It is difficult to ask them to join the Iraqi Security Forces, to take political risks by reaching national reconciliation, and to radically restructure their economy away from Saddam's decrepit socialism and corruption if they will be left to assume all the risks for themselves in the very near future.

Iran is not going away. The former Ba'athists and Sunni extremists are not going away. But if these Iraqis -- whose security forces are taking casualties at a much higher rate than ours, by the way -- believe we are looking for the nearest exit, why should they make sacrifices for a democratic, multi-sectarian Iraq?

While the House was debating the Resolution, Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement playing precisely to this fear:
The deputy also said US-allied governments in Iraq and Afghanistan should consider their future.

"These traitors in Iraq and Afghanistan must face their inevitable fate, and face up to the inescapable facts. America ... is about to depart and abandon them, just as it abandoned their like in Vietnam," he said.

Also, the obvious desperation to withdraw from Iraq does play in to Al Qaeda's strategy. In documents discovered in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, Al Qaeda discussed their lessons learned from Somalia:
There is an important observation that we must not ignore, which is that the Americans were not defeated militarily in Somalia. Effective human and economic losses were not inflicted on them. All that happened was that the Somali battle revealed many of their psychological, political, and perhaps military weaknesses.
The Somali experience confirmed the spurious nature of American power and that it has not recovered from the Vietnam complex. It fears getting bogged down in a real war that would reveal its psychological collapse at the level of personnel and leadership. Since Vietnam America has been seeking easy battles that are completely guaranteed.

I do not think the Congressmen who voted for the resolution did so with the intention of playing into Al Qaeda's strategy, nor do I question their patriotism. (Neither did Dick Cheney, for that matter). Although there are no doubt some who want to lost the war so as to embarrass President Bush, I believe most are sincere about supporting the troops and wanting to obtain the result in Iraq that bests safeguards American interests.

However, resolutions such as the one the House passed eight days ago do have consequences in terms of Iraqi behavior and enemy morale. I fear that although many Representatives voted for the Resolution because they believe it will improve the situation in Iraq, they did so unaware of the second-order effects it creates, effects that will make it harder for Iraqis to step up and solve their nation's problems.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Prince Harry Comes to Iraq

The money quote from CNN's story about the third-in-line to the British throne coming to serve in Iraq:
There is no way I am going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.

F*** yeah, Harry, GET SOME! (P.S. It might be a good idea if you leave the Nazi costume at home. Just saying. . . )