Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Email From Dante's Hell

The full story is in Time magazine , but in case it disappears, here are the most memorable bits:


All: I haven't written very much from Iraq. There's really not much to write about. More exactly, there's not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I'd rather just forget about it, never mind write about it. The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it's a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that's worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you. I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It's like this every day. Before I know it, I can't see straight, because it's 0400 and I've been at work for 20 hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process.

And once again I haven't written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It's not really like Ground Hog Day, it's more like a level from Dante's Inferno.


Worst City in al-Anbar Province — Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Lots and lots of insurgents killed in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.


Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

Biggest Surprise — Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we'd get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest. Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming. The insurgents continue to target the police, killing them in their homes and on the streets, but the cops won't give up. Absolutely incredible tenacity. The insurgents know that the police are far better at finding them than we are — and they are finding them. Now, if we could just get them out of the habit of beating prisoners to a pulp...

Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate — Any outfit that has been in Iraq recently. All the danger, all the hardship, all the time away from home, all the horror, all the frustrations with the fight here — all are outweighed by the desire for young men to be part of a band of brothers who will die for one another. They found what they were looking for when they enlisted out of high school. Man for man, they now have more combat experience than any Marines in the history of our Corps.

Best Chuck Norris Moment — 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in a small town to kidnap the mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the Bad Guys put down his machine gun so that he could tie the mayor's hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machine gun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can't fight City Hall.

(found via Andrew Sullivan)

3 comments:

Trevor said...

Chris I was particularly struck by a part you did not copy:-

Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."

Chris Black said...

Hi Trevor

Yes, it probably is the most profound comment. Maybe I should have included it, I wanted to represent the more hopeful bits and the depressing ones.

But the mayor seems the most interesting guy.Pity we can't poach him for RDC. I bet he could get a swimming pool for Rayleigh if he wanted to...

Roger Owen Green said...

Chris- I'm NOT hopeful about Iraq. Build a school here, civilians killed there. It reminds me of some game with a wooden board filled with holes. A gopher pops up in one hole, you smack it down wwith a mallet, and as gopher posps up somewhere else.

Of course, I opposed the incursion in the first place. It seems that even the more conservatives among the Congress asre asking for, if not a timetable per se, which is what the liberals were asking for 6 months ago and more, then a "if we don'yt see progress in two or three months" (conveniently AFTER the November elections), then we'll have to re-evaluate how long we'll stay."
Which, if said by a Democrat, would be labeled "cut-and-run" by the Bush administration. But "stay the course", when the course doesn't seem to have any ending, and with increased American casualties - not just more killed, but a LOT more injured in October - even Republicans are rethinking this. It's what some [people have been saying for months: declare victory -"Iraq is a democracy!" - and go home.

Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.


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