February 27, 2009

From the Front: 02/27/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

A Battlefield Tourist: An Afghan Experience Part 2 - February 21, 2009 - Musa Qala, Helmand Province - While there hasn’t been a lot going on here lately, I’m not at a loss for things to do. In the mornings I usually write and log video clips in between meals which makes the days go by pretty good. And, as I mentioned previously, I break all of that up with trips to the Afghan Army post on the other side of the helo pad. Near the end of the day, I made my way over after declining an invitation to play volleyball, so I could get some food and tea and say goodbye to my new friends. Like usual, we sit around their poorly lit room doing our best to communicate. This time I brought along my computer so I could show the guys my family and the other pictures I had taken on this trip. They all thought my badcha, Davin, was just adorable. However even more fascinating to them was my wife. Particularly because the only pictures I have of her in the computer show her smoking. They really thought that was something. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Two Very Smart Men; Missing The Point-Counterpoint - Dr. John Nagl is always ready for a point/counterpoint type of exchange with an opposing point of view. In his latest joust, Dr. Nagl takes on Professor Andrew Bacevich in U.S. News and World Report. Dr. Nagl offers a course of action that is predicated upon the belief that Afghanistan - and Central Asia - is vitally important to the security of the United States. Prof. Bacevich dismisses even addressing this issue in what appears to be a de facto assertion of the irrelevance of Central Asia to national security, and counsels that departing Afghanistan is the only way for President Obama to truly cast his legacy. This misses the Point/Counterpoint that was advertised. Dr. Nagl, the new President of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS,) a Washington-based think tank which was co-founded by Michelle Flournoy, a very smart woman in her own right and recently sworn in as American goals in Afghanistan have suffered from the most fundamental of all strategic errors: (READ MORE)

SPC Brittany Gardner - Blogs Over Baghdad: Mundane Realities… - January 15, 2009 : my boots hit the concrete in the sandy suburbs of Baghdad, Iraq…..This is what I saw: Checkpoints…t-walls… palm trees…speed bumps made from tank tracks… ID checks… search points, the sound of helicopters hovering overhead, billowing smoke in the distance, bright blue skies, concrete, dust… … ..sand… …sand… ……and more sand. Iraqi’s walking the streets, driving their mopeds, trying to make it to wherever they’re going on time. Inshallah. (God willing) These are the things I am surrounded by daily. It’s become my life. Imagine the things you’re so used to that you may not even notice anymore. Maybe such things as the sound of a plane passing, stopping at a red light, or even only having to walk a few feet away from your bed at night to use the restroom when “nature calls“. These things, my American ways of life, have now been replaced by the new mundane reality here in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

SPC Brad Richardson - Blogs Over Baghdad: Blah Over Baghdad… - Well, we’ve been here over a month now and we’ve all gotten settled down into a decent “battle rhythm.” As you may or may not know, we’re not doing exactly what we thought we would be. I thought I’d get to do some electronic news gathering while I was here, but I am not. My job here is to help coordinate Western media embeds in Iraq. I provide guidance to reporters on how to get the process started, send requests to division Public Affairs Offices, and coordinate travel for the reporters when they get here. Not a bad gig, it’s an important part of getting the story out…getting the storytellers where they need to be. But there is a great lack of creativity or even variation in my schedule. You’ve seen Groundhog Day with Bill Murray right? That’s what this is like. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke: Shutter Bug - Here are a few photos I've taken of places/things here so far. [Ed Note: Visit his blog to view the pictures in context.] This is one of the mosques that poke up out of the skyline of Baghdad. This one is across the street from the al Faw Palace. I was dropping off two of my guys at the helipad early in the morning. This is a sunset view from the porch of our building. It's in front of a lake many here call Z Lake. People run around that thing everyday. I saw this sunset today when I ran out after a Soldier who forgot something. I ran right back in the building to get my camera and get this shot. I guess I should carry the dang thing around with me. More to follow in the coming days and weeks.... (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Nits and Noids - I finished a new painting last night. It's in acrylic, about 30"x24", more or less (I don't have a ruler), and based on a watercolor painting I did a while back. I discovered that I do not like working in acrylics. At least here - with Iraq's low humidity, I usually had less than a minute to use any color I mixed up. Even then, it was like painting with tar. The acrylics just wouldn't flow or blend or anything. I felt like I was fighting the paint most of the time rather than thinking about the image. It just wasn't fun. As for the image, well, I think it's not bad for somebody that hasn't been in the studio for months. The painting was one of the things that I needed to wrap up before leaving. I got everything at work done, so last night I dove into the painting and finished it. Today I spent most of the day running around doing the checkout sheet. It took me over a week to get checked in when I arrived, but almost all the checkout was done in just over two hours. (READ MORE)

Dispatches from FOBistan: The Importance of Local Solutions to Local Problems - FOB MORALES-FRAZIER, AFGHANISTAN — One of the most interesting clashes in perceptions one can find when talking with the elders of Kapisa province is that American and NATO policy in the area is pretty out of step with what at least some locals seem to want. This past week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with several of them, and the insights they lent illuminated some striking ways in which the overall situation could be very easily improved. In a lovely discussion over scalding hot tea, an elder from Afghanya Valley told me that many current and former members of Hezb-i Islami Gulbuddin—one of the many insurgent groups we misunderstand when we label as “Taliban”—want nothing to do with the government. That could be related to the ways in which HiG has been cut out of government positions, but it could also be because the government operates in a way many of its members view as counterproductive and against their interests. (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: Portraits R Us - I've been working on a lot of things since I last posted. One project I've been focusing on lately is a series of portraits of Marines-- members of VMM 263, the first Osprey squadron to deploy to the War on Terror. Here are three of the portraits in their beginnings: Every time I do a portrait, I swear I'll never do another! They are quite difficult, but when they work out, they are satisfying. I guess that's why I always end up doing another... (READ MORE)

S4 at War: When Will We Learn? - First of all, I’ve been suffering technical problems. My access to the internet is subject to the whims of satellite technology which, if the reliability of my internet connection is any indication, is about as consistent as the global economy…a fluctuation I’m happily immune to these days. I’ve been reading The Village, by Bing West. For those who haven’t read it I strongly recommend it. We hear about how the Military is finally starting to learn how to fight an insurgency but its clear from this book that someone had a strong grasp of it at some point. The question is, when did we forget? Reading about their patrols in Vietnam was like reading re-cap of Ranger school. Clearly, patrolling in Vietnam is where we learned most of the small unit patrolling techniques which are taught in Ranger school today. We held on to a lot of the “what” but seem to have lost all of the “why.” (READ MORE)

World Wide Matel: Getting the Moving Finger - Nobody really cares about Iraq anymore. A couple of colleagues and I did a “brown bag” seminar on our experiences there. The few people who showed up did so mostly out of sympathy for me. It was nice of them and I appreciate the support, but Iraq is the past. Media coverage mostly disappeared last year, just about the time things started to improve. Even I have trouble remembering that it was such a big deal not so long ago. Iraq is no big deal and that is a big deal. It might be useful to consider how that happened. It did not happen because the problem just went away. It happened because we solved it. In a less timid age, we might have said that we won a victory there. Back only a couple years ago, most experts were predicting defeat and not just a little one. The general view was that Iraq would collapse into chaos and civil war and that it would take most of the Middle East with it. In fact, the more “realistic” pundits claimed that had happened already. Their sage advice was to get out as quick as possible and leave the place to its unavoidable violent tendencies. (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: Soccer field names in honor of Iraqi Policeman who paid the ultimate sacrifice - RAMADI, Iraq – Recognized as a martyr, Capt. Ali Raqaij Assafi, an Iraqi Police officer, was tragically killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle in a nearby neighborhood, Nov. 13, 2008. While he cleared the surrounding area of the suspected car bomb to prevent innocent casualties, an insurgent detonated the bomb inside the vehicle, killing Ali and several innocent bystanders. His selfless actions saved the lives of numerous civilians and fellow police officers. For this reason, Sheikh Ghazi Abdallah Mish’al Al-Ubaydi, a local councilman, and Col. Anwar Hamid Nayif Al-Assafi, chief of al Shaheed Iraqi Police Station, wanted to honor the memory of the captain. They decided to reconstruct and dedicate a pre-existing soccer field in his name. The idea was presented to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment and a contract was quickly created to support the memory of Ali. (READ MORE)

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