8.30.2003

everything is relative...i sound like a broken record...but nothing is more true...i was out at another compound...all out and gone in the middle of the desert...the similarities to afghanistan caused me stop and take notice...it felt like deja vu...green tents...not the kind with frames that i have now...but the kind with big poles in the center...they were every where...their sides rolled up because they have no a/c...they were pitched right in the middle of the moon dust dirt...not a tree in sight...or even a bush...just dirt...and more dirt...mud brick buildings everywhere...bombed out warehouses...with soldiers living in the undamaged areas...clothes hanging to dry in the dust...soldiers in every inch of shade...bunkers dug into the earth covered with plywood and sand bags...brick walls...and guard towers wrapped in camoflage...

i stood out side my HMMV...gawking...eager to return to my compound...a strange feeling...because i hate it here...but i have always been aware of just how good we do have it...my young soldiers on the other hand...they have no experience to compare anything with...i can only hope they never get the chance to see how the other half lives...

there are no mountains here...as far as i can see...a big difference from the jagged horizon of kandahar...the mountains there looked like no others that i have ever seen...america has a large rolling skyline in comparison...and the swiss alps are just immense in contrast...

the land is so flat...it's just amazing how quickly the land changes the closer you get to the tigris...towards the inner city...the roads starts to roll with hills...and the expressway is lush and green...on the way to BIAP...the shrubbery was actually burned away so that I.E.D.'s could not be hidden with in the bushes...

on our way back from one of the other compounds...we took a wrong turn...and we were lost for a few minutes...i'm freaking out on the inside...but i've got the game face on...inside i'm shaking because i know this is how people get killed in this country...or kidnapped...and i don't want to be a hostage...so i tighten up on the grip of the rifle...i'm steering with the wrong hand...reaching up and over my weapon...iraqis are eyeing us hard...stopping their work...pointing...i don't see to many smiles or waves...we eventually get back on the right road and head for home...i will not miss that feeling...

we are barricading this country up...with giant concrete walls...we truck them in piece by piece...like a puzzle...they use cranes to off load them and set them upright...there are at least 15 feet tall...and they look like they could with stand an A bomb...nothing is getting past them...at some of the check points...iraqi masons are laying down foundations...permanent structures will soon be there...

the roads are pot marked with deep craters...cluster bombs...most of them are about the size of basketballs...but there are a few that are much larger...the masons are laying concrete down in those as well...

after a full day of driving...we get back on post...and i never thought in a 1000 years that i would be glad to get back to this sticking palace...relatively speaking...it's not so bad...but it sure as hell ain't home...
more convoy madness...pictures...

8.29.2003

I started to write yesterday…but I think I was on some kind of sensory over load from the convoy two days ago…I needed time to take it all in…I wanted to write about the presidential palace…but there was just so much going on in every direction…I didn’t even know where to begin…today the internet is down for the count…and I’m not sure when it is going to come back up…so you might see a few capitalized words…you can thank Microsoft spell checker…grammar and punctuation just slow me down…and I’m way to busy doing nothing to be bothered…

at the doors of the palace there are filipino guards in tan uniforms...i think they are part of a civilian security company...brought in by the u.s....i recognize the uniforms...they had them in doha...but in kuwait they were americans...guarding all the gates to doha and arifjan…I read yesterday that close to a third of the billion dollars a week that we are spending out here goes straight into contractors pockets…I can believe it…we’ve got some civilian dudes out here who are doing my exact job as contractors…they are each getting paid $120,000 a year…they’re both 26 years old…the money is out there…but money isn’t everything…

the filipino guards speak tagolog and they give us ice cold water bottles from their cooler...big friendly smiles under their boony caps…they’ve each got M-16’s and desert boots…we have to be escorted in because of our lack of appropriate badges…the point of contact guy ushers as past the guards and into the amazement of the palace…we were told that the palace we are from was for fun…this one is for business…

inside the presidential palace the marble floors are unending...intricate geometrical designs in white grey and black stone...when you look up at the front door...the ceiling is in 3-d...it's a reverse pyramid...with wooden tiles at 1 foot intervals...dark wood...green marble...and ivory borders...there are arabic words...which in themselves are art...the cost to make this ceiling is more then i will make in my life...saddam spared no expense…I guess I can thank the Iraqi people for this beauty…it’s a shame most will never get to see it…

there are couches every where…nice leather black ones…and there are an assortment of soldiers and important looking officials reclining…a few are asleep and unknowingly getting their pictures taken…it’s not everyday you see majors and lieutenant colonels sleeping on the job…there is a concession stand selling Iraqi juice and cigarettes…candies and coffee…I can see young Iraqi males sweeping and mopping the unending marble floors…they are wearing white button down shirts and pants…their back pockets are stuffed with great stacks of Iraqi money…I wonder if I should tell them about the exchange rate…

there is a make shift deli set up…it’s being stocked by more local nationals…they are filling refrigerators with sodas…there is a sign that says…’free sodas-limit 2 per person’…where the walls meet the floor…there are lines of LAN cable and phone wires…running off in every direction…I remember hearing about the problem that the ‘cable dogs’ where going to have trying to run cable through these palaces…the walls are a foot thick…
if you forget to look up once in a while you miss out on half of the palace…saddam had a thing for ceilings…and they are all immaculate…the guide tells us…”if it looks like gold…it is gold”…there are golden plates and knobs and handles every where…I don’t believe it…maybe gold plated…but then again…I’ve never had the fortune of a nation to squander…so it could very well be gold…I knock on one the plates…the test yields me no results leading to a conclusive answer to my gold question…I just have to take it at face value…

I notice at around this time…that I’m kind of chilly…I’m drenched in sweat from the ride over…a flak jacket does not allow for good air flow around the body…and now I’m cooling off…the power of the a/c’s running over time in this place is enough to boggle the mind…1000’s upon 1000’s of BTU’s of air cooling goodness…

We step into a bigger room…more like a hall…and there they are…real beds…as far as I can see off in either direction…some of our guys that were set up over here actually made out with a few of them…which they brought back with them…they wouldn’t sell them for 100 bucks…I wouldn’t either…there are lots of Iraqis lounging on beds that are not claimed…I can see british and American soldiers…trying desperately to sleep through the day…night shift waits for no one…there is a gym…complete with real equipment…I’m so used to seeing improvised benches and bar bells that the real deal strikes me as out of place…the stair ways are roped off at the banisters…they wind up and around disappearing into the second floor…

British troops are every where…stopped in the halls…conversating with American civilians…moving out briskly…paper work in hand…

Our guide shows us to the ‘internet café’…he boasts about it and tries to show it off like we’ve never seen such a thing…I play along…I ask what a NIPR is…”I’ve heard of these…man what I wouldn’t give to check my hotmail”…if he only knew…I spend about 8 hours of my day online…your tax dollars at work…thank you very much…

As we walk by offices…I sneak looks inside…there are well dressed Iraqis…in business suits…males and females alike…many of the females are not wearing any kind of veil…they are chatting at the proverbial water cooler…or typing away behind computer screens…most of them are young…my age…what a job that must be…no matter what your political beliefs…you’ve got yourself a job in the Iraqi white house…especially when jobs are so scarce that people just wander the streets begging for work…

I know that we pay the skilled labor on this compound 40 bucks a week…those are the engineers and the electricians…the unskilled get about $15…I wonder what these office jockeys get…

Up on the roof…the ‘saddam god heads’ are enormous…his moustache is twice as big as I am…there are ladders set up so that you can climb up onto his nose…I don’t risk it…if I look out towards the front of the palace I can see devastation and carnage…bombed out buildings…bigger then any we have on this compound…I can see the tuna can building…or the ‘tomb of the unknown soldier’ as it’s officially called...it’s beautiful…I can also make out the stadium…with it’s huge lighting towers…

Towards the back of the palace…I can see trailers…white ones…like what they have in doha…troops live in these…they have bathrooms and their own a/c’s…they are real buildings…I can’t even remember what it feels like to sleep in doors…or to use a toilet…it pays to be important…which I am not…

The palm trees and vegetation are a dull green and tan which contrasts well with the aqua of the tigris…the sky line looks like that of any other city that I have seen…brown buildings…billboards…bridges with vehicles passing over them…they all would be interchangeable…well maybe except for Venice…nothing can compare to Venice in the spring time…go before it sinks…

back at the front gate…people are waiting…armed American soldiers…in full battle rattle…they give us the nod…the gate is big and black…the walls are 10 foot high and they disappear off into the distance…there are television production people sitting on benches in the shade…their hats resting on their cameras…waiting for the scoop or the story…there appear to be Iraqis in uniform sitting at a desk…I wonder if they could be part of the new Iraqi police force…

the parking lot across the street is an assortment of all types…military N.T.V.’s (exhibitions and suburbans)…red cross trucks…little import types…chevy’s…and Toyotas…one arab man is passed out in the front seat of his s.u.v….his door is open and he is blasting Robbie Williams…his mouth is open…we spot another Iraqi…walking past cars and looking through windows…I think he was trying to rip some one off…

8.27.2003

my alarm clock...went off early...a freakin' hour early at that...i've dropped/thrown it one to many times...and it doesn't read right anymore...but i make do...

i'm up now with about 4 hours of sleep...late shift last night...i'm dressing...and off in the distance i hear small arms fire...it's 5 in the morning...outside it's pitch black...and i make my way towards my hmmv...in the back ground is the islamic call to prayer...as i sit down in my truck...there are more sounds of shooting off in the distance...and i wonder to myself...does that mean that it's going to be an 'interesting' day...or just an 'ordinary' one...

i'm the first one in line at the chow hall...because no other idiots are up at this time of the day...i'm there about 15 minutes early so i stand outside...i remember that i've got my camera...it's digging into my thigh in my right cargo pocket...with my ammo...so i start taking pictures...i ended up taking quite a lot of my day...the first few didn't turn out very well because of the mixed light of the windows and the darkness out side...but there is one of the signs that litter the walls of our chow hall...i eat rather quickly once they open up...because i've got places to be...

i'm at my van...i load up my magazines...210 rounds...6 in my L.B.V. (load bearing vest)...and one for my rifle...the time comes and i make my way over to the trucks...the l.t. is there and he gives us the brief..."if you are engaged shoot everything and move out"..."if you are engaged by incoming mortars just move out"..."the convoy speed for this mission is keep up"..."are there any questions"...no...

i'm in the back of the truck...sliding around on the troop seat...there are open boxes spilling water bottles out on to the bed...cushions for asses on those long convoys...old m.r.e. wrappers...and me...we have a 'troop strap' which is basically a ratchet strap tied across the back of the truck...it's there to keep troops from falling out...it replaces the seat belt...i'd rather have a seat belt...especially when we are moving at 65 miles an hour...but i do have my kevlar on...

our first stop is BIAP (baghdad international airport)...there are some soldiers going on leave...they get two weeks...soldiers usually only get leave during deployments if the mission is going to be a big long one...this one is...i'm watching the sun rise from the back of my truck...the canvas sides are rolled up...and i have a good view of the air field...and of a palace under construction...it's kind of peaceful in a bouncy noise filled way...my platoon sergeant is a loud guy...who cracks a lot of jokes...i can just barely hear him over the drone of the engine...i'm taking pictures of it all...palm trees...pot holes...10 foot walls...iraqi truckers...check points...it's grey outside with the horizon lighting up orange and yellow...there is a cool wind...

we drop the soldier off...we check his bags...his paper work is straight...there are tents...filled with waiting soldiers and air men...they are sleeping on every flat surface...and some that aren't...they are dirty...and uncomfortable...there are giant t.v.'s broadcasting cnn...there is trouble in israel...what else is new...we say good bye...and we are back in the truck...driving really fast...too fast for me...and i feel helpless back here...

we get back to our compound to drop off the soldiers excess gear...there is a delay...and the l.t. informs us to report back in a few hours for the next leg of our convoy...

at 11...we head back out to BIAP...this time i'm driving...and we mix up the root...we have to stay unpredictable...because they are watching...we pass check points...with tired soldiers waving us through...there are iraqi kids sitting on the sand bags in the middle of the road...talking to their g.i. friends...men try to sell me cold soda and juice...my soldier...the heat baby...is with me this time...he points out where all the 'trading' is done...he comes out here a lot on details...he's going on r'n'r...someplace where the beer flows like wine...he's excited...it's an adventure...

since i'm driving i don't feel as helpless...we hit 70 mph...the needle in the hmmv starts to wrap back around towards 0...it only goes to 60...driving fast is fun...and i'm sure my truck has never been driven like this before...there are so many people on the road way...caravans and convoys...of all types...there are n.t.v.'s (non tactical vehicles)...suburbans and brand new exhibitions...who do i talk to if i want one of those...

we drop off the r'n'r soldiers...i tell my heat baby to call me when he's good and drunk...he says he will...

now we lock and load...we chamber a round...the rifle barrels out the windows...pointing at nothing in particular...we don't want to be seen as a 'soft target'...armored hmmv's with gun turrets and 50 caliber crew serve weapons are 'hard targets'...we have canvas doors...a drivers side rifle operated by a driver who is driving and a passenger side rifle being operated by a right handed guy pointing the weapon lefty...hard targets...we head down town...very fast...my truck has trouble keeping up with the l.t.'s...there are cars of all types on the road...orange white 'taxis'...chevy cavaliers...pick up trucks...we pass u.s. patrols under over passes...and m.p.'s parked at intersections...i see graffiti on an over pass that says "u.s. go home"...it's been X'd out in bright blue paint...

i'm sweating profusely under my flak jacket and kevlar...the sweat is dripping down my nose...and my back hurts...

on the expressway...off to our next stop...the presidential palace...or ACPA...i have no idea what that stands for...it used to be ORHA...there are 'saddam god head' statues...4 of them...they are impressive...the building is immaculate...outside the gate there are reporters...iraqi and foreign...waiting for who knows what...there are iraqi woman...going to work in side the palace...they are beautiful...i try not to stare...i fail...the soldier at the gate gives us a little bit of a hassle getting in...we need some kind of badge that we didn't know about...we assure him that we will get it...and we have urgent business..."we're the signal guys and we've got stuff on the roof"..."alright go on in"...we track down our point of contact...and ground our gear...the p.o.c. gives us the tour...i've been here before...but that was 4 months ago and a lot has changed...there are civilians every where...american and iraqi...iraq is being run from this building...or this building is attempting to run iraq...i don't know which one is more true...

our guide gives us the 50 cent tour...he shows us the chow hall...and the coffee shop...the movie theater...and the weight room...the people here have real beds with mattresses and sheets...i can't even remember what that feels like...it's really cool inside the palace...the a/c is pumping...outside we climb service stairs to the roof...we take another ladder and then we are as high as you can get...and there it is...all around me...baghdad...the tigris...there are roads and highways...hotels...apartment buildings...bombed out wreckage...and people...i can see people on the other side of the river...ordinary people doing what ordinary people do...it's all the same...no matter where you are in the world...and i am in baghdad, iraq...crazy...

apaches circle us...i've never seen them this close in the air before...we start our work...i snap some pictures...we all stand for a while in amazement at what is in front of us...who would of ever thought...

back down the ladder...and the service staircase...into the palace...down the marble hall ways...my platoon sergeant calls all the iraqi sweepers and moppers 'Nick'...they smile...and he says "see i told you his name was nick"...i'm looking for bremer...or one of the 'nine puppets'...i don't see them...

we ruck up...and we roll out...this time i get the passenger seat...because driving at 70 mph and taking crappy digital pictures is just to dangerous...we pass an abrahms at a check point...it's colossal...it's supposed to be that way...

we pass a building with a roof like an open can of tuna...it's quite beautiful actually...the architecture is amazing...there is a stadium...with lights...and there are the hands...rising up from the earth...clutching swords...it's a very powerful monument...i believe it is a fair ground...there are beautiful buildings every where...mansions...mosques...this is not home...most assuredly...we are flying in the hmmv's and the iraqis are going even faster...an s.u.v. passes us...and there is a girl in the back seat...she is wearing her scarf over her head...and her whole body is turned to look out the window at me...she is expressionless...her eyes are wide...haunting...i notice that my rifle is pointed at her...i shift it down ward...and we accelerate away from them...she never takes her eyes off of me...

we pass through the next few check points...more kids...perched up on the sand bags...more men and woman sitting by the side of the road...selling drinks...we make it to our gate...inside...at the 'clearing barrel'...i drop my magazine...i stick the muzzle of my rifle into the barrel...i pull the bolt back...the round flies out of the chamber...and i catch it in my hand...


8.26.2003

i've spent the last 20 minutes trying to fix my M-16...it wasn't feeding ammo correctly...i would try to load up a magazine...but it wouldn't chamber a round...so i took it apart...worked at it...reloaded a different mag...released the bolt a few times...it jammed...i then have to wedge out a round that is lodged...i pull it out...i reload over and over...trying to make it work properly...every time i pulled the bolt back...the round that was in the chamber flies out of my rifle and strikes my equipment...it's loud...as it clatters to the floor of my van...

finally i think i've fixed it...i hope i have...i pull the bolt back...locking it into place...i take the magazine...it's heavy...it slides up into the weapon and locks into place...i'm holding the weapon at my shoulder...in a mock aiming position...pointing it towards my door...i check the safety...it's on...with my thumb i hit the bolt release...and there is that sound...that unmistakable sound...that horrible...bone chilling sound of one of my rounds chambering into the barrel...and i take a step back...i pause as reality strikes me like a 2 x 4...i look at what i am doing...i mean i really look at what i am trying to do...and it scares me...it horrifies me...

what am i doing...

but i have to do this...i have to protect myself...i have to protect my fellow soldiers...i'm convoying tomorrow...i'm leaving this safety nest and i can't go out there with a faulty weapon...i will not go home in a body bag...not if i have a say in it...but now i sit wondering..."at what cost"...it is a me or you situation...and whether i like it or not i am knee deep in an 'us' or 'them' problem...i have to live with that...i will live with that...
they are working on getting us some perstempo (personnel op tempo[the number of days deployed]) money...i'll believe it when i see it...they cancelled it last year as soon as we got to afghanistan...they made me fill out a sheet listing all of my deployment time for the last two years...i was amazed to find out that i was deployed for 266 days last year...and this year is at 192...so out of the last 20 months...i have been stateside a total of about 4 months...crazy...i didn't even realize it had been that long...you kind of start to lose track...
it's been a pretty eventful day...i got up at 6...only because i had to use the port a potti...and while i was out there in the dark stumbling around...i noticed that the rest of my company was up to...pretty strange because it's supposed to be a day off type of deal...i wouldn't be so lucky...they had formed a 'sand bag detail'...not exactly the best news to hear while your wandering around in the dark wearing shower shoes...that means my 4 hours of sleep was over...and i'm up at the butt crack of dawn...as they say...

i think that the 'sand bag detail' is in response to the mortar attacks we've come under recently...they've started putting up barricades every where...and it is impossible to drive right up to any building...the u.n. must of scared the shit out of them...or it was all just still the works at the time...

i heard a lot of soldiers moaning and groaning about the work...i mean it's hot dirty heavy work...that seems never ending...we filled sand bags for about an hour and a half...the whole company...digging into the dirt...some soldiers put on the happy face and start singing chain gang songs...or village people songs...and laughter makes the work go by faster...i got stuck with the chore of tying the top of the canvas bags closed...there is a little string that is sewn into the top of the bag...you pull it out of the stitching when you are through filling it...and you wrap it around real tight...and tie it off about 3 times...many people don't complete this step properly and i feel like it's the most important one...if the bag isn't tied good enough...it's just going to open back up on you while you've formed your line to move them from the truck to the tent...and be worthless to the sand bag effort...the knuckle creases in my fingers are raw and cut...they sting under water...but i'm a man...and i can suck it up...

all of our work yielded the completion of one side of one tent...it's going to take us weeks at this rate...they want the bags waist high...and encircling every tent...i can almost feel the anger at the work rising deep down in my belly...but then i remember that i'm leaving in a few weeks and it really doesn't matter what they make me do for the rest of the time that i'm here...i feel invincible...

after the 'sand bag detail' was finished for the day...to be continued tomorrow...we had a class called n.c.o.d.p...this stands for non-commissioned officer something that starts with d and something that starts with p...i really don't know...but it is basically classes on our situation...and lectures on how we as n.c.o.'s need to step up and do what we know is right...it's all stuff we've heard before...the main class was on 'i.e.d.'s...that wonderful term that is being thrown around now...like shock and awe...and wmd...i.e.d.'s are improvised explosive devices...and the sergeant first class giving the instruction really broke it down for us...these things are popping up all over the place...he had some slides that were a map of baghdad...with markers indicating the spots of the i.e.d.'s...scary shit...they are every where...

the militants/terrorists/freedom fighters are using all kinds of methods that are quite ingenious...good ideas that will end in american death...they are using kids to stop convoys...they set up fake bombs to make convoys stop far from the supposed bomb...only to detonate other hidden bombs where you have stopped...the use pot holes filled with bombs and dirt...and coke cans filled with c-4...it's a crazy mad freighting world out there...and tomarrow...i get to convoy...i'll take my camera...

my soldier...the heat baby...had 'haji watch' yesterday...he told me about one iraqi...who while working...whipped out a foot long butcher knife...my soldier freaked out and confiscated it at gun point...the iraqi gave it up...and my soldier...he's just a young private first class...was absolutely horrified at this...the iraqi went and found a major...and amazingly enough...my soldier had to give the knife back...this was on post...inside the compound...the iraqis are allowed to have knives...big ones...while they work...i can understand a pocket knife...or ironically even a box cutter...but a butcher knife...what the hell...i brought this up at our meeting...and i was told that "i'm sure that all the iraqis are not caring around butcher knives...that's an exaggeration"...well it doesn't take all the iraqis...it takes one...who doesn't care about making it through the rest of the day...

it's a whole different mind set from ours...many of these militant/terrorist/freedom fighter arabs do not care about living...they would rather be a martyr...and it doesn't take a 100 crazed iraqis strapped with explosives to do some damage...it could take only one...with a butcher knife...killing one american soldier before they are gunned down is martyrdom...they would be praised as heroes...

8.25.2003

they told us today...in a battalion formation...early in the morning...standing in the dirt of our motor pool...that we are here...to fight terrorism on its home ground...that we are taking the war to the terrorists...i'm not so sure about that...i think we've brought the terrorists/freedom fighters/militants/loyalists/what ever to iraq...i've read that al-queda is rushing to iraq to support arabs and their fight...

i remember reading that osama wanted nothing to do with saddam and his stalinist regime...osama's only concern was for the islamic people of iraq...saddam is now gone...thanks to us...and we are here...in full force...convoying everyday...easy targets...ignorant of just about everything...and we are on their home turf...so we might have to play by their rules...

i'm so baffled...and confused...9-11 changed my life...in every way...and i do think that if we wish to stop such things from happening we do need to step up and take action...we do need to fight these things on their home turf...but i'm not really sure if the people that hijacked those planes...and brought down those buildings even have a home turf...how do you fight an enemy that has no borders...how do you win a war when the enemy can be anyone...any where...at any time...

it's a 'war on terrorism'...kind of like a 'war on drugs'...and we know how well that one is panning out in america...unwinable...because the more you fight it...the smarter the enemy gets...the more you try to squash terrorists and terrorism...the more martyrs you create...the more troops yo send...the more symbols of rebellion against 'unjust occupiers' you spawn...the longer you 'occupy'...the more people will want to step up and take action...they want a higher meaning...and they want to do what they think is right...i'm terrified of this cycle...and it all seems so simple to me...i wonder why others can't see it...

americans like to think in terms of we...or i...or us...and them...and those...and you...they don't see both sides of the fight...they only perceive right and wrong...good and evil...america and terrorists...many many arabs think america is evil...and they think along the same terms as those americans...only in reverse...so who is right...who is misguided...is there even such a thing as good and evil...

i laugh when i hear americans spouting off with what they think the terrorists reasons are for hating america..."they hate our freedoms"..."they hate our religions"..."they hate our capitalism"..."they hate our s.u.v.'s"...i think they hate us because we make them our business...we come to their countries...and we bomb them...they then come to our country and fly planes into sky scrapers...we then send more troops to their countries...and we drop more bombs...i'm not sure who started this cycle...and does it even matter any more...what is important...is how will we end it...and when i say we i mean all of us...everyone...because it is our problem...

many of those arabs think up conspiracies...they try to figure out our real reasons for dropping bombs...and many of them think that we americans laugh and dance in the streets each time another arab child is killed...they think we rejoice at their demise...they think that all of us are 'zionists'...it's all so sad...the level of misconception...

part of me is so relieved...my time is almost up...and i will head back to the states...i will be reabsorbed back into the ignorant masses...i've wondered hard about how i will continue my life...and i know for sure that the first thing i will do is unplug my t.v. for at least 3 months...well maybe i'll watch 'the simpsons'...because that is the best show on television...but i'm not sure if i even will want to care...i thought along these same lines when i returned from afghanistan...i thought that if i even saw a picture of that country on the news i would change the channel...but i watch them now any way...because i've been there...and i know that place...

people throw around terms like 'brain washed'...and 'misguided'...and 'wrong'...they do this a lot when they them selves are brain washed...by such things as politics...and patriotism...and religion...because how could 'they' be right...that would mean that every thing that 'i' believe in could be wrong...it's easier just to blame others then admit your own misconceptions...

8.24.2003

today...i found river bend...she is the author of 'baghdad burning'...and she is 24 like me...she is an iraqi woman and she is in baghdad...her take on this is not stereotypical...and she puts things in a much better perspective then i ever could...i'm very much reminded of salam when i read her words...and as i finished reading her whole blog...it's not very long...yet...i asked myself why i felt so connected with this woman...is it because we are on opposing sides of this same monster...or maybe because we are so geographically close...or maybe it's because we both write in a very western style...or maybe because of the age similarity...or maybe even knowing the shared terror of waking up to explosions...what ever it is i'm thankful for having found her...people like her restore my faith in humanity...and i could really use a fill up sometimes...

she wrote about the disbelief that westerners have that an iraqi...woman...in baghdad...would even have a computer...or know how to operate a computer...or have internet access in their mud hut in iraq...or even speak enough english to hold a conversation...some people are so ignorant...and caught up in their own little circles...where they all pat each other on their backs and tell each other how smart they are...when the truth of the matter is...you don't know it...until you've lived it...you might have an idea...but at the end of the day...it is still only that...an idea...

i've been given the unofficial date of departure...either the 16th or the 19th of next month...but that could be changed or altered at any minute...i'm one of the lucky ones...

i walked into my shift change brief the other day and my commander was playing 'it's beginning to look a lot like christmas' on his computer...he was smiling...at his own sick humor...and i looked around the room...at soldiers whose attitudes always remain upbeat...soldiers who are quick to offer a joke or a helping hand...and you could see it on their faces...the total relaxation of their facial muscles...long eyes...heads dropping...you can see it...the realization that they are not going home any time soon...and i felt like a shit bag...a giant pile of crap...how could i sit around any longer feeling tired or upset or aching for home for one more minute...when i know that i will be leaving months before my friends and colleagues...

sitting in my little van...alone...all day long...i forget about my fellow soldiers...i'm not around them so much...but i have to tell myself...that i've done my time...and i've almost fulfilled my obligation and my duty...6 years is no joke...and there is so much more to me as a person then there was when i was 18...i feel bad for them all...but we make our own decisions...unless of course...someone else makes them for us...