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LETTERS FROM IRAQ
  Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour is back in the U.S. but still on active duty.
  Below is his final "Letter from Iraq." We all thank him for doing his
  utmost best in service of our nation.
  *Note: The political views expressed by Lt. Col. Ridenhour
do not necessarily
represent the views of Attackproof.com

              Meet Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour, up close and personal
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                             Lt. Col.  Ridenhour:
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Lt Col Ridenhour USMC

1/18/06

Well folks I have some bad news and good news, the bad news is this will be my final “Letter from Iraq” the good news is I should be out of here before this letter hits the street. I know I haven’t written in a long time but between the highly successful elections and dealing with people who like to blow themselves up we’ve been kind of busy. It’s been a loooong year and what a year it’s been. It’s strange because like anything else, while ecstatic about leaving and returning home there is also a sense of remorse knowing I’m leaving some of my fellow Marines and Soldiers behind. Such is the nature of things. First of all I want to thank everyone for all of the support and goodies over the past year, as I’ve said numerous times such little things makes your time here more tolerable.

For those of you who have emailed me and I have not responded I am truly sorry though you may not think it’s a big deal I always like to respond to folks it helps me get through the long days, of which there are many. There are so many folks to thank I wouldn’t even know where to begin from Thanksgiving and Christmas cards to the candy and cookies the level of support received has been truly overwhelming and greatly appreciated by the men and women who I pass that stuff off to. Once again for the newly promoted Black Belts congratulations and well deserved it was good to see folks being recognized for their achievements.

For this final installment I thought I would try to sum up some things as to this fight we’re in and where I think it’s heading, understand that these are just “my views” [have try to stay out of trouble here] so you can take it with a grain of salt but I think in the morass of negative news that seems to be the only thing the media cares about you need to hear it from the horse's mouth so to speak.  I’ll try to clear the air if you will and share some insights and perspective that I think gets lost in the translation when viewed through the distorted lenses of “Pravda on the Potomac” [The Washington Post] the awful L.A. [as in “Lazy A__”] Times or “The Paper of I will reveal National Security information that is harmful to our nation but my source refuses to go on the Record” [The New York Times – PS. Me thinks you had better get a lawyer boys because you’re probably going to need it]. I don’t mean to be so hard on the NY Times but I just don’t see the editors doing well at the Federal Detention Center in Brooklyn I just hope none of the folks who write in the Sunday Edition are mixed up in this because it’s the only remaining vestige of a once great paper.

I’ll try to sum things up in sections so here goes…

Remember this is just my own perceptions, while things are improving there is still much to be done before we can say that we are done here.

Cultural Factors:

While the elections were highly successful as you can imagine there are still some malcontents out there who would love nothing more than to continue the chaos in Al Anbar because they have nothing to gain by stability in Iraq. As a result many people who are very fed up with these malcontents are turning on them. The Sunni have finally realized that the true way to reestablish themselves is through the political process otherwise they will find themselves quickly marginalized. In truth most Iraqi’s could probably care less who is in power it’s all about what’s in it for them as an average citizen and how are they going to feed their families. If the local sheik or tribal leader is able to provide for folks and maintain stability then his power will grow while at the same time the tribal chieftain is able to enrich himself which is the primary goal of most of the leaders here in Iraq. Think of it just like the Mafia. To outsiders they are corrupt abusers of people but to the people that are either loyal to them or in fear of them because they command some local militia they are revered figures and often defended by the very people they victimize against outsiders.

This is something that I think we are remiss to understand from a strategic standpoint. We view corruption with disdain as seen with what is going on with the GOP at this moment however here in the Middle East such corruption is par for the course all leaders to some degree have to be assumed to be corrupt in some way. This makes it difficult for us to get thing done because we continue to want to view things here through western eyes and as a result we continue from a strategic standpoint to want to place all sorts of conditions on the local leaders whenever we want something done however this only serves to divert our attention away from what the ultimate goal should be. So for example if they want us to fix the water system in some local town because we know there are folks who will skim off the top for their own personal gain we tend to place all sorts of conditions on them which in turn only drags the process out to the point where there is no action or it creates a “perception” that we are not responsive to the needs of the people and since everything is generally worked through the local leaders this has a detrimental effect on their credibility. The more crafty chiefs play off of this by making it appear that the reason for inaction is because the Americans are holding out on them thus deflecting blame onto us in order to save face [these guys never accept blame]. Depending on the influence of the tribal leader I think this tactic of blame it on “The Great Satan” works more than we think especially since as the outsiders our motives no matter how pure are easily perceived as illegitimate, sinister…

Influence Foreign Fighters:

This is one of the most overly exaggerated threats in theater and continues to get a lot of play in the media at home and in Europe however it is not the threat that people are making it out to be and is more of a political hot button issue than a strategic concern. When I say foreign Fighters I’m dealing with no kidding terrorist bad guys coming across the borders to do evil. The focus on foreign fighters is one which I feel is misguided and seeks to divert resources away from the real fights, our I/O campaign, public works and the localized IED threat, in that order! While I can’t in this forum get into specific numbers I can tell you this that with the exception of suicide bombers the impact of foreign fighters is minimal at best. Most of the attacks in large part are due to local actors and not because they belong to any specific groups but more likely because there are financial incentives for them to carry out acts of violence by cell leaders in order to collect a bounty.

Just like politics all terrorism for the most part is local. When you can make more money planting an IED than you can for a hard days work the reward more than outweighs the risk. Part of the problem is that there is little in the way of an economy in many areas this is due to the fact that in large part many people in Al Anbar are either of low skill or made much of their living on the government dole during Saddam’s reign. Many were probably soldiers in the military or connected to the Baathist regime through their tribal connections and now for the first time in their lives they actually have to go out and earn a real living. Some of the actors are also people who made a good living dealing in black market goods which was a thriving business during Saddam’s reign especially after the imposition of sanctions, so in effect these people who I like to call the “Ali Babbas” were an integral part of the Iraqi economy and our presences with our western anti-corruption mindset is an impediment to that. These same people are now the same ones who have no problem placing and IED on a road or taking a pop shot at coalition forces, for a “nominal fee” of course.

As a final note to this it needs to be understood that for terrorist operations to take root not only takes money but requires support in the form of documents such as passports, local safe houses etc… and when you are dealing with these third world countries where the government controls virtually all aspects of people's lives mostly for fear of assassination of its leaders moving from one part of the country to the other when you feel like it is usually a non-starter. It has been proven so many times over that it has become a tired theme, the connections from the over 2 million documents uncovered here in Iraq on Al Qaeda’s [AQ] connections to the Muk-habarat [Iraqi Intelligence run by Qusay Hussein] and the influence of the Iranian Parasdan on terrorist groups including AQ are so well known they are almost spoken of in the same breath over here. The only ones this was a mystery to were our intelligence agencies that dismissed such connections because it didn’t fit their preconceived world view of Islamic terrorism [i.e., the old tired theory that die hard Islamist like Osama Bin Laden would not work with a secularist such as Saddam Hussein because of his devout Muslim beliefs]. Given the number of Mosques and the role they play in Iraq many of which were built by Saddam Hussein’s regime I find this assertion laughable and dangerous as well. Fallujah alone has nearly 40 Mosques thus dubbed the “City of Mosques” and is less than 40 miles west of Baghdad. Such thinking in our national psyche brought us the horror of 9/11 and will bring us greater horrors if the Iranians are able to develop an atomic weapon.The real influence of foreign fighters are not those here in Iraq but those waging proxy battles against the west under the banner of Islam supported by foreign governments such as Iran and Syria and at one time Iraq and Afghanistan. We ignore Iran’s influence over terrorist groups including Al Qaeda at our own peril, there is already ample proof that Saddam’s Iraq was involved in a number of pre-9/11 terror attacks and assassination attempts against the west as revenge for their crushing defeat in the first Gulf War.

Influence of Foreign Actors:

One area that I don’t think from a strategic stand point that we have placed enough emphasis in is the influence of foreign governments in supporting groups here whose sole function is to continue to sow the seeds of chaos. In 4th Generation Warfare one of the problems when fighting against an insurgency is that the stated goals of “this” group or “that” group are often paradoxical to their true objectives in which they [the terrorist] themselves may not even be aware of. The local and regional actors in many respects are but pawns being manipulated to cause a specific outcome and serve as a shield for the true “Puppet Masters” thus allowing the real agitators plausible deniability if the true motives are ever discovered. They are provided with the tools of destruction through a series of intermediaries with little conception as to the source.

Back in the states and amongst some entities here in Iraq they will tell you that the problem is the influence of foreign fighters, however once again if that is true then why is it that no one asks the hard question as to how is it that foreign fighters and contraband can get in across the borders of Syria and Iran without the knowledge of these two countries?

How is it they are able to transport these items to include funding without their knowledge when both of these countries are some of the most Orwellian societies on the planet?

Remember with the exception of the last election Sunni turnout has been low to almost nonexistent. At the same time the Shia have worked to consolidate political parties along tribal and religious lines and create militias capable of maintaining order so while the Sunni’s fight each other and the foreign fighters [possibly supported via proxy from Syria and Iran] bomb them, the Shia are able to present themselves as the model of stability and democracy in Iraq. Also we cannot rule out Iran’s role in influencing activities in Shia controlled areas because although the Shia to the south are primarily Arabs they still have strong traditional ties to the Persians in Iran, lest we forget history the borders between Iran and Iraq were drawn by the British and mean nothing to the Arabs, Persians and Kurds especially amongst tribes that may have ancestral ties in neighboring countries. Remember that when the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini was forced into exile by the Shah of Iran he didn’t go to Mecca or Medina but to Karbala, Iraq which is the powerbase of the Shia majority.

The Way Ahead:

I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel but in order to reach it, it will require a few things, patience and moral courage to see things through to the end because in my view we are going to continue to go to war for a very long time. Right now as Hackworth would say may he rest in peace, we’re in round three of the 30 round fight.  As the Iraqi government grows stronger along with the capabilities of the Army I foresee a lessoning of attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi forces. The key here is that we have to work to continue to improve the infrastructure and basic services along with being on guard against foreign influence from Iran and Syria.

I predict that groups like AQ in Iraq will eventually become marginalized simply because they continue to attack people without rhyme or reason and I see possible infighting amongst them. In the famous Zawahiri letter to Zarqawi we saw some of this in which Zawahiri went on to chastise the latter for his indiscriminate killings of Arabs thus eroding the good will that all insurgent groups require if they are able to operate effectively. We should not underestimate this because it may be a glimpse into the first signs that AQ is feeling the heat from our world wide interdiction efforts, this is all good.

We also need to be on guard of the Iranian’s in their zeal to acquire nuclear weapons and not over react to this. While a considerable threat they still hold tremendous sway and influence over terrorist groups in the region and could send waves of terrorists against the Iraqi people to thwart any efforts we may take to rein them in. Then our intelligence agencies must also stay on the ball and not allow “group think” to cloud their judgment causing them to over look the obvious. Such group think caused them to overlook the following in no particular order:

·       The fall of the Shah of Iran
·       The fall of the Soviet Union
·       Iraq Invading Kuwait and the lack of Intel on the Iraqi Regime
·       The World Trade Center bombings
·       India and Pakistan’s nuclear programs and testing
·       The 9/11 Attacks
·       The real skinny on Saddam’s WMD’s
·       The links between Saddam’s regime and terror organizations including but not limited to Al Qaeda

You get the point and this is not an exhaustive list, what is that  expression? “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan…”

Finally we need “patience”, we say it over and over here in Iraq but it seems to get lost in the translation as the message filters back to the rear. This nonsense of placing time tables for troop withdrawals or when we will pass the baton to the Iraqis only plays into the hands of our enemies and is watched very closely by them and gets much fanfare here on Al Jazeera and on the Radical Jihad websites. Our enemy is very in tune with western culture and our propensity to avoid pain and seek pleasure but most important of all our desire for quick solutions to long term complex problems. They are counting on our lack of fortitude and the desire by some to turn tail and run for it conforms to many of their preconceived notions about us as a nation and the west in general.

We saw this in Spain, we see it from the Canadians and we saw it on full display in France, the French have been psychologically emasculated to the point that even after France burned instead of banding together to prosecute the law breakers and deport them their remedy to the problem was more government programs and concessions for people who openly refuse to assimilate to French society at the expense of the natural born French people. France as well as with much of Europe is on the downward slide toward national suicide and I am convinced they have absolutely no moral will to fight, the barbarians are not at the gates but in their midst.

To that end if we are to survive we must gird up or loins and root out the Brutus in our camps and no matter who they may be and have the moral courage to imprison those who seek to provide aid and comfort to an enemy that seeks only one thing and that is the death of as many Americans as humanly possible. This is a touchy subject because there is also the temptation to accuse the government of establishing a police state and just another example of the government trampling on the Constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. However, if we refuse to confront the traitors in our own land even if they are non-violent then how do we expect to muster the will to fight those who mean to do us physical harm? Caesar made this mistake and it cost him his life at the hands of the man he adopted.

Well I know that was long but there it is, the bird's eye view.

That’s all from Iraq once again I want to thank all of you for your support over the past year not just for me but my family as well, you know who you are and what you’ve done for me, it is a debt I will never be able to repay. If there is one regret that I have and that is leaving behind all of the fine brave young men and women who will be still here fighting the good fight ensuring that NY does not become like down town Ramadi. Their bravery and courage will for the most part go unmentioned but for me it will never be forgotten.

Anyway take care to you all and God Speed…

Semper Fidelis!

U.S soldiers in Iraq

Boss man

Ready for battle

Show time

Lt Col Ridenhour in the reeds

in the reeds



 2006 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year
Staff Sgt. Kent Padmore Marine of the Year

Staff Sgt. Kent Padmore
4TH TANK BATALLION, MARINE CORPS RESERVE
Assignment: Anti-tank missileman, 4th Tank Battalion,
Marine Corps Reserve, Hialeah, Fla.
Personal:   Emigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago at age 22 in 1990. Enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1994. 

The Purple Heart on Kent Padmore's chest isn't for the shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade that tore a cheek-to-cheek gash across his face. That wound was never documented; Padmore fixed it himself with a liquid suture in the rearview mirror of his Humvee.

Padmore, a Marine reservist, works in civilian life as a City of Miami Fire-Rescue Department emergency medical technician, so he knew what to do. He patched himself up because he didn't want to steal precious time from the corpsmen in his unit, who were busy treating more seriously wounded Marines. Instead, the Purple Heart he wears is for the second-degree burns on his hands and arms he suffered while dragging 10 Marines out of the burning wreckage of a 7-ton truck on June 23, 2005.

An anti-tank missileman by military specialty, Padmore was leading the security force at a civil-military operations center near Fallujah, Iraq, when he and his Marines were assigned to escort a two-vehicle convoy to Camp Fallujah, 20 minutes away.

The lead 7-ton truck carried a special detail of female Marines trained to search Iraqi women. Padmore and most of his Marines were riding in the back of the trace vehicle when a suicide car bomber crashed into the front of the convoy.

Padmore's driver slammed the brakes and the security detail in the back of the truck tumbled forward as debris from the lead vehicle flew over them.

Padmore, then a sergeant, said he knew it was a mass-casualty situation that could potentially overwhelm the one or two corpsmen on hand. As enemy small-arms fire began barking from rooftops lining the road, he leapt from his vehicle and rushed across 200 yards of open terrain to reach the wounded.

When he made it to the burning vehicle, rounds from its mounted .50-caliber machine gun were cooking off in all directions. Padmore dragged six Marines to cover, left his helmet and weapon with them, and returned to the vehicle to rescue four more people.

Disregarding the burns on both his hands, the native of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, went into EMT mode, triaging casualties and administering first aid that was later credited with saving the life and leg of one of the wounded Marines. For that, he was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with "V."

Padmore has been an EMT in Miami for eight years. For the last two, he has also worked as a flight medic for Baptist Hospital, a position that required six years' experience "on the street as a paramedic," he said.

"I wanted to be able to continue the care of the people I transferred to the helicopter. I wanted to do more," he said.

Around Padmore's fire station, his co-workers know he's too humble to talk about his bravery and compassion, so they do most of the talking for him. Fire Chief Dan Meadows said he wasn't surprised to hear June 8 that the local Navy League was naming Padmore the Broward County, Fla., Marine Reservist of the Year - at a ceremony Padmore had never mentioned.   "He serves his community every day … with more heart than most people who were born here," said fellow paramedic Jose Almeida. "But if we didn't say this stuff, nobody would know."

Padmore's co-workers talk about how he still writes to an 8-year-old girl named Farah whom he befriended in Iraq. Padmore said he taught her math when she'd visit him on guard duty, and that when he's with his 5-year-old son, Kemario, he imagines Farah playing alongside him.

Junior Marines idolize Padmore, according to Maj. Chris Guarnieri, inspector-instructor at Padmore's unit.

He's "a very persuasive leader," Guarnieri said. "He doesn't yell or use threats. He has a lot of credibility with the Marines, and they listen to him."

By John Hoellwarth


 

10/5/05
First of all I just want to express my condolences for the passing of our friend Bill Dempsey, I found out about it thorugh an email once I arrived back in theater. Bill was a great man and will be dearly missed.  God Bless Bill...

Well I made it back to Iraq and I can tell you it feels like I never left. I guess this is what if feels like to return to the scene of the crime. I know I haven’t written in a while but as you can imagine I’ve been as busy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. I have to tell you that it was really great to get some R&R and see everyone first of all as always I want to thank everyone for all of the support and goodies that were sent to Iraq. The Marines, Soldiers and I greatly appreciate it. Almost all of the items were sent out to our troops minus a few packs of gummy bears, sorry but I have to draw the line somewhere. What made my visit even better was the fact that I finally had a chance to see my family for the first time in nearly 7 months and I had the pleasure of seeing my Son play in two football games. All is well now especially since the Nittany Lions are now 6-0! Go PSU!!!

One thing that I noticed and it is something that I have always suspected is that there I believe is more support for what we are doing here in Iraq or Afghanistan than is reported in the media and especially in some of these bogus polls [by the way as an aside understand that “opinion polls” are not designed to measure public opinion but to shape it, be not deceived]. Everywhere I went people were very appreciative of the service we perform and I suspect while there are people who may take issue with the prosecution of the war, which is understandable given the often biased, negative and most important of all incomplete reporting, people are generally supportive of our war effort because I think that there is what I call a silent majority of Americans who “get it” and are probably not avid readers or “Kool Aid Drinkers” of the NY Times international section. I have to tell you when we left the airport in Atlanta as we marched through the airport I almost got a little choked up as thousands of people stopped everything they were doing to applaud us as we transited the terminal. People even left the sports bars, gift shops and restaurants to come out and clap for us. It was pretty much the same scene everywhere we went. Anyway it was just great to see that.

I also have to say that it was great to work out with Ari, Kevin, Adam, Little Patrick, Andre, Vinny and of course Matt just to name a few, you gents have come a long way in your development and have much to be proud of. I also signed a whole bunch of Black Belt certificates that Master Perkins will be awarding at a later date so because I won't be there to help John give them out, congratulations to all those newly promoted Black Belts and to those who have gone up in rank. Trust me it is well deserved and perhaps in some cases long overdue. I also want to thank Ari for a really great article on the proper mind setting needed for the kind of violence that usually visits people in their everyday lives. For those who haven't read it you really missed a good article that ties a lot of key concepts together. Also for those who participated in the weekend seminar congratulations on from what I heard was a very successful seminar. Sorry I couldn't make it but I was still recovering from seeing my Son play that weekend.

One thing that I want to reemphasize and that is the importance of performing the KCD drills because they truly are the secret to developing the type of ability that keeps you out of harms way; like I've said on numerous occasions I can't even tell you how many times I would have been seriously injured had it not been for being on balance or having the ability to drop to a new root point rather than slipping and falling and losing a few teeth.

Like I said it's been a while since my last newsletter; one thing that I will discuss is the way in which the war was covered while I was home and once again it is absolutely amazing at the dearth of information on the war that the media did not or does not cover. I guess they couldn't break away from drinking their Mai Tai's out by the pool at the Al Rasheed hotel in the "Green Zone". Typical…

It seems in the midst of hurricane Katrina and the more recent storm you would never know that there was a war going on based on the media's reporting. With the exception of a brief mention of some of the bombings in Baghdad there were virtually no stories covering the brave actions of our young men in Iraq. Too bad because our young lads are out there fighting the good fight day in and day out so that the streets of New York don't turn into the Ramadi or the Gaza Strip. Speaking of hurricanes I have to tell you that I have been very disappointed in the manner in which we went about that whole thing. I'm probably more disappointed not so much in our leaders although there is plenty to blame to go around on all levels but in particular how many people used the tragedy as an opportunity to commit acts of violence against their fellow man. I was also disappointed in the lack of moral fortitude of some people as well. One thing that I have noticed over the years and this is just as personal observation and that is that we as a nation have really lost much of our pioneering spirit.  I'm not saying that everyone is capable of running into a burning building or diving into a lake to save someone from drowning nor am I saying that you're a coward for not doing so but what I am talking about is the perception of helplessness that some people seem to exhibit whenever tragedy befalls our nation as if common everyday folks are incapable of handling some of the problems themselves.

Just from my observations in the few weeks that I was home and had a chance to take in the magnitude of the tragedy of Katrina. If there is one great failure of the whole incident it is that as with all of these "wonderful plans" we as leaders whether in government or even in the military never enlist the help of the local populace. This is a major mistake and we will continue to learn the lessons of Katrina and 9/11 until we acknowledge that no city response plan or emergency plan is worth the paper it is written on unless we involve everyone in the community and charge them to some degree with being responsible for their own survival in the precious few hours during a major crisis after the event has begun. In truth even the best response effort at most cannot respond fast enough in an emergency, just like the old saying that there is never a cop around when you need one, well guess what, there is never a whole rescue team, helicopter or row boat around when you need one either.

The point being is that no matter how much they try to convince themselves the government is not "omnipotent" sorry and so you and I need to have a plan. Just as we say in Attack Proof that you need to become your own body guard well in the same way you need to have some type of plan as to how you and your loved ones are going to respond when there is an emergency and every local municipality needs to have some form of civil defense corps that can respond and aid in an emergency to make up for the lack of capabilities that exists at all levels during an emergency. When I was a kid we use to do things like this but because we have become a society that would rather avoid such things because we don't want to inconvenience people most of us in our communities wouldn't know where to go or what to do in an emergency.

Those who have been in our classes know exactly what I mean, sure it's easy to blame the President, the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana but at the end of the day the person with the greatest ability to help you and your family are you and your neighbors. Now in all fairness from some of the reporting that I observed during my brief time home there were many people who reached out to others who were in need of assistance. However our over reliance on the government to take care of us during a crisis has made us in certain respects a nation of victims. This attitude is not only found in national tragedies but carries over into many other facets of our daily life. How many people have abdicated their moral authority and mastery over their own homes because they have bought into the notion that if something goes wrong the government will protect them? The truth of the matter is that the government has only the power which we give them and can only respond but so fast with the limited resources they have available and as seen in Louisiana we were able to see the limitations of what the government can do when experiencing an act of God on a magnitude far beyond our response capabilities.  Enough of that…

So far so good here in Al Anbar as we await with baited breath for the first in a series of elections that I'm sure are going to be a major turning point in the future of Iraq. There are those who I know want to “poo poo” on the whole process however all I can say is that we'll all have to just sit back and wait but more importantly we need to be patient with the Iraqi people as they stumble toward a more representative system of government based on the will of the people instead of the cronyism that has been par for the course over the last 40 years under Sunni domination.

Not to get into too much speculation here but I think in spite of the best efforts of those in the media who choose to downplay the significance of the elections. In truth the elections in my view are going to be a crucial turning point in the history of Iraq because for the first time it is going to level the playing field with regard to the power structure that has been long dominated by the Sunni's, something they fear. Well but we shouldn't expect too much too soon since democracy even in the best of circumstances is messy business as demonstrated with elections in free nations throughout the world.

My view is that as long as folks get out and vote regardless of the outcome it is still a success. This is something that I don’t think many people understand and an issue that I’m sure many in the media will downplay with regard to its significance. It is not our place to try to influence who should rule in Iraq but only to support the Iraqi government in their efforts at a free and fair election, the rest is up to the Iraqi people and if they choose to reject the Constitution then so be it, that’s their choice not ours and that’s the only outcome we should be concerned with. At the end of the day the only question we need to be able to answer are; were the elections fair? Did they get the opportunity to vote? If so then it’s all good. Remember that equal opportunity doesn’t guarantee equal outcome. One thing that I have noticed is that people are becoming less afraid to sign up in spite of the risks [Iraq is still a dangerous place] in support of the elections and many of the politicians have been out on the forefront promoting it. As a side note I have to tell you having met some of these folks all I can say is they have the heart of a lion. I don’t think people realize but there are people here in Iraq who will kill you without batting an eye and would have no problem killing your family as well. Every one of these folks who are engaged in the elections process are not only risking their own lives but that of their families as well. Could you imagine an American politician running for office with the full knowledge there is a bounty on their heads and that both they and their families are at risk of assassination or kidnapping? I can assure you given the general character of many of our politicians the number of prospective candidates would drop off exponentially, trust me!

Since I got back in the saddle I have been doing some traveling and one thing that I have to share and that is during my most recent travels I was at one of four air fields and I had the privilege to run into one of our young warriors who had been injured in combat so I went over to talk to him and shook his hand and thanked him for everything that he did and I have to tell you I was moved by his courage and willingness to want to get back into the fight against people who want to do us harm in a worst way. This young man couldn’t have been older than 20 but you could already see that his experiences had already matured him far beyond his years. I don’t know what it is but if our nation ever runs out of young men like this we’re going to be in serious trouble!

I’ve also noticed that there continues to be positive signs of improvement all around Iraq. Shops are beginning to reopen, kids are going to school and Iraqi’s are becoming less apprehensive of our presence and more intolerant of the insurgents. These are all good signs. I was out one day and there were throngs of children coming up to us to have their pictures taken it was great but I have to tell you looking at the pictures it was also a little sad, man these kids are poor… it’s not even funny how poor they are. They are as innocent as they are adorable you can’t help but feel for them. Every time I’m out and about doing the nation's business I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am to live in a country where there are poor people who have cable TV. Trust me if there’s one thing I’ve learned over here is that being poor is totally relative and it all depends on who you’re comparing yourself to. The other thing that I notice something we take for granted and that is just how bad it could be without basic things like a regularly scheduled trash pick up. I was out on one of the city streets in Fallujah and I’m telling you the stench was so overpowering it could have made a maggot gag. There were a bunch of street vendors selling meats and for some odd reason didn’t think there was a problem throwing the discarded animal parts in the street.

Well that’s all for now I would tell more but I have to be real careful these days because the DoD is now cracking down on the content of what people are allowed to share on web sites etc... It seems that some of my fellow servicemen can’t distinguish between what can be discussed versus what can’t so I have to be careful lest something I said be misconstrued as being inappropriate content. In truth I think it’s a good thing and I’m all for information security now if someone can tell some of our General officers to stop reveling sensitive information to the press we’ll be alright. I’ve attached a few humble but “benign” photos for your viewing pleasure.

Shukrun ma-a salama

Iraqi Children

All Right

Iraqi angel

Photo of the Year

candy for the kids

The Crowd Gathers

more candy for the kids

Sharing a little Good will

July 24, 2005

Hey check this out! This was sent to me by one of my Marines who is a part of the “Corporal Mafia” who received this from the “Lance Corporal Network” from a Marine who sent it to his wife, who sent it to her girl friend, who sent it to her boy friend who happens to be a Marine, who sent it to another Marine in our unit and so on… (Hey that’s just how the network operates.) These were taken out by a town called Jebel-Ali in one of our barriers.
I’ll be thinking about this the next time I decide to walk in some tall grass out in “the Ville”.

monster snake

monster snake jaws

Letter#5 July 23, 2005

Well gang it’s been a long and I mean a “long” few weeks and I’ve been as busy as a southern preacher on a Sunday. It’s also been a rough few weeks for us out here in Al Anbar. For those who have been following the news we’ve been in the middle of a serious dog fight and like I’ve said in previous letters we while we’re still making progress we still have a ways to go. I’ll return to this theme later. First of all I want to thank whoever sent the letter I wrote which ever one it was to Free Republic, I received a lot of letters of encouragement.

It’s always good to hear from those who support what we are doing over here in Iraq from back home. Also thanks for the emails from my students it’s always good to hear from the old gang. I’ve received a lot of mail from folks wanting to do something for me over here by sending me stuff. The only thing I can say is if you send me something just make sure you send enough so that I can share it with my fellow Marines and Soldiers otherwise I’ll get run out of town although I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing. Since people insist on sending stuff here’s our selfish wish list and also some “do’s” and “don’t” when sending stuff. I’ll try not to sound like some kid at Macy’s sitting on Santa’s knee so here goes.

Chocolate – please do not send chocolate if you’ve seen the last weather report that was posted you can understand why, something about 120° F and chocolate just doesn’t go together. I had some buddies of mine from NYPD ESU – Truck 1, send me one of those industrial size Hershey bars and it resembled a baby’s diaper when opened. Luckily they wrapped it in plastic otherwise the cigars that they sent would have been ruined causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Coffee – any kind except the flavored kind will do. It doesn’t have to be fancy heck we can’t tell the difference anyway but it must smell like coffee and not like rose petals.

Gummy Bears – this is one of our main staples, many successful missions have been completed on little more than a belly full of Gummy Bears and a couple of Red Bull’s. Also make sure you send the ones made in lower Bavaria that have that “oily feel” to them and don’t stick together, you know the ones. We received about four pounds of the stuff once and between the heat and a little compression during the flight by the time they arrived they looked like they’d been sent through the “Transporter” from Star Trek by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, they ended up looking more like “Gummy Quasimodo’s.” They still tasted good though. Subsequent shipments corrected the problem.

Swedish Fish – I doubt the Swedes are even aware of these things but they’re a great back up after we run out of our provision of Gummy Bears.

Red Liquorish – I got caught last week swiping some from the Chaplains office after our supply ran out. Actually I was “dimed” out by my fellow officers but you get the hint.

Gossip Magazines – I’m almost embarrassed to say this but we can’t get enough of this stuff, between Brad and Angelina and Paris Hilton these magazines are a welcome distraction. These guy’s [The Enquire et al.] are almost as good as the CIA but with a better sense of humor. These people are as nutty as a fruit cake and always make for some great late night satire. Although we were disturbed to find out that the Weekly World News reported some archeologist found “ten more” Commandments and one of the commandments said something about, “Thou shall not smoke rolled leaves…” I hope they were talking about “wacky tobacco” (you know what I’m talking about), otherwise it’s going to put a damper on our cigar night.

Girl Scout Cookies – any kind without chocolate is fine especially the butter cookies that taste like short bread. We received a free shipment about a week ago as a gift from the Girls Scouts there must have been a couple hundred boxes and they were “gone” in like an hour.

Teddy Bears and any sort of stuffed animal – do not, do not, do not send us any form of stuffed animal! Thou shalt not do this! You have absolutely no idea the level of ridicule Marines and Soldiers have to endure when that kind of stuff comes popping out of a box.

Funny looking or “unauthorized” underwear – don’t send Speedo’s or any form of GQ gear, I know a guy who received a pair as a joke from his wife and now no one wants to sit next to him in the chow hall.

 Alright I’ll cut it out now…

Oh this is a funny Iraq story, you know how people always say that we’re all creatures of habit well we had a situation at one of our locations where they thought they had seen a rocket or mortar round impact and thought there were more on the way so they got everyone to quickly evacuate the chow hall. Do you know that almost every person on the way out still took the time to dump their trays and stack them up before leaving?

When I heard that I couldn’t believe it! At first I thought it was an urban legend until I tracked the story down through the “Private First Class / Lance Corporal Network®” which is an indispensable source profanity and blunt unvarnished truth. And believe me Iraq is full of urban legends and has no shortage of profanity. Sure enough it turned out to be true. It kind of reminds me of doing fire drills when I was a kid yet everyone took the time to grab their coats on the way out just in case it was cold outside.

I received a letter from Captain John Edwards who’s getting ready to ship out, soon Master Perkins you're going to have two students over here. If you keep training and sending guys over here pretty soon you’re not going to have a class. Just kidding. He’s doing really well and his spirits are high, it was good to hear from him. I think when he gets here he’s going to find the same things that I found and that is just from the things he’s learned from John over the years his sense of awareness is going to be off the chart. I don’t know where he’s going he couldn’t say for obvious reasons but I have the utmost confidence he’ll do really well.

Okay I did it again, I was watching TV over the last few weeks and I have to say I just cannot understand some people in our country. From politicians who make irresponsible remarks about our war effort to these wacky anti-establishment dirt munching tree hugging druids. I can’t for the life of me understand what these people think they’re going to accomplish. Now frankly as I’ve pontificated in numerous letters you probably can tell that I could care less what people think but it doesn’t mean I have to put up with it. You see that’s the funny thing about the First Amendment, just as you feel you have the right to say it others have the right to not accept it.

People have to get their heads screwed on right because we are in a war for the very survival of our nation. This war on terror “in my opinion” is the kind of thing that could totally destabilize our nation. I can’t state it any plainer than that. Listen and I think I speak for many servicemen and women when I say this, we don’t always agree with the decisions our leaders make just as I’m sure most people don’t always agree with their bosses at work. But at the end of the day you have to decide whose side you’re on. I kind of liken it to when my son played high school football, you know I didn’t always agree with the plays the coaches called but I always supported the home team. I think any reasonable person can understand that.

These people had better get their minds right because I have news for them if they think there are problems in our nation now they’re not going to like it if the Osama Bin Dirt Bags or Musab Zarqawi’s of the world get their way. What these people including some of our elected officials don’t realize that every time they do these things by talking out of school this stuff gets maximum air time on Al Jazeera and the Jihad web sites which only serves to embolden our enemies which is something we do not have a shortage of.

Everyday in the press you have people in the foreign press calling for the destruction of our nation and unfortunately you have many Americans and I use the term loosely when describing them who are all too willing to become instruments of our enemies. Stalin use to call them “Useful Idiots” and I can tell you that if he were alive he would have his pick of the litter.

I’m sure everyone was watching the London bombings since there was little else in the news. I can assure you that our enemies were watching it very closely as well and taking notes. Understand one thing if we can’t win in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever the war on terror may take us, we can’t win at home. Believe me this is the kind of fight where you want to have all “away games” lest that level of destruction become common place in our cities and towns.

 We continue to fight the good fight and as usual our young Marines and Soldiers continue to perform above and beyond the call of duty. I’m telling you if my son were ever called to duty I would only hope that he would be just like many of the young men I see here in Iraq everyday.

I was recently reading about how an “unnamed” US Senator recently went down to Guantanamo Bay detention facility and got an ear full from some of the guards who are from his home state. Good on them! Did he really think that his remarks and those of the members of his party would not reach the ears of the constituents of his state who are in the military? In the story, the “good” senator was blasted by the troops for his anti-war statements.

I have to tell you that these guys just don’t get it. They in my opinion have no clue as to the type of evil that we are dealing with. Part of the problem is that we have some people in our country who just do not have the moral will to fight our enemies. They think that they can appease people who will drive cars into crowds of children receiving candy from American troops and blow themselves up along with the children.

To quote author Bob Just in his excellent February 2003 article “The 1 Weapon Essential for Victory,”

“No one can doubt the fierce commitment of radical Islamists who are willing to kill themselves in waging this war of terror on America. But as the war heats up, both in the Middle East and here at home where terror attacks are expected, the world will be watching to see if average American citizens can demonstrate a similar will to fight...”

Is this assessment cynical? Perhaps but it is sober and realistic acknowledgment that the potential “soft underbelly” of the United States is public opinion, led by media opinion. So we must ask ourselves: When the terror really begins (as in London and make no mistake, it's coming), will we have the necessary determination to achieve victory, no matter what the sacrifice?

I believe that we do however it’s going to take the moral outrage of the silent majority of Americans to finally say enough is enough and take up the sword and fight back.

I think what Bob Just has to say has some merit especially when we have people in positions of leadership that have either already capitulated to the enemy or seek to undermine our efforts just to score political points. These people are dangerous and we should “regard them not.”  

Just to provide further proof of the mind set we’re dealing with recently here in Iraq there was a bombing in Baghdad where a suicide bomber drove his vehicle into a crowed of children who were being given candy by some of my Army brothers and if I remember correctly one soldier was killed and about a dozen little children were killed along with 27 other people.

I’ve been out at times myself when we were giving candy away to the kids this is a common practice amongst our troops, and I have to tell you for someone to do such a thing is just beyond comprehension. Yeah we know war is brutal but when you’re out there amongst the population dealing with folks it still shocks the conscience that there are people in this world so full of hate along with some other things they’re full of that they would deliberately drive a car into a crowd of children and then detonate a bomb blowing them to pieces and when I say pieces, I literally mean “pieces”.

There was also another bombing to the south of where I am located in which one of the terrorists detonated a bomb next to a gas truck and set about half the town on fire. The fire was so intense that it trapped people in their homes you had mothers tossing their babies from windows trying to save them as they burned to death. The sad reality is these are all Arabs doing this to each other. Remember what I said in my last letter that the “god” of our enemy is chaos, misery and death!

More recently we had the bombing of a vehicle which made national headlines of Marines and Sailors being killed by a suicide bomber in Fallujah, I’m not going to get into any of the details but I’ll say this I attended the memorial service of those brave men and women and the speech that the Regimental Commander gave was the kind of speech that if faced with a similar tragedy, I would hope it would be the kind of speech I would be capable of giving. The gist of his speech which they video taped was,

“We are representatives of the United States and we have a sworn duty to defend our nation and what keeps what happened out in Fallujah from happening on the streets of America is the job that we are doing here. Make no mistake about it there are people who want to bring this war in the worst way to our cities and towns. We have a job to do and the best way we can honor the memory of our Marines, Soldiers and Sailors is by going out and getting right back in the enemies face! You will do your duty because that’s who you are and that’s what we do and we do not run…”

What I admired most about the good Colonel is that he never fixed blame, he never blamed our leaders (as I’ve seen some do) nor did he make excuses for what happened but simply made people realize that this is a war and that it could have been anyone of us and that if it were him he would still want us to carry on with our mission of putting “foot to behind” by bringing the fight right to the enemy.

It’s interesting to note that after the bombing there were several Marines both men and women who were actually on the vehicle when it was hit, who even though they received minor injuries, the next day went right back out. This is the epitome of courage to get blown up, lose friends and then get right back in the saddle, it’s also my understanding that many of the Marines from another unit who responded in force “ran” about a half mile in their “battle rattle” cordoned the area of and commenced to slug it out with a few of the bad guys.

I’ve attached a few photos of some of the sites of Iraq for your viewing pleasure. These are photos taken during some of my more recent travels. In some of the photos we had kids come right up to us to either have their pictures taken or to get candy from us. I think they got a little ticked off when they realized they could have the hard candy but they weren’t getting the Gummy Bears from me. In the one photo with the little boy by himself I thought it would be cool to try my conversational Arabic on him, usually when I speak Arabic at some of our “locations” I usually find my self telling people to shut up and show me their ID. I figured I’d keep it simple so I said, “Marhaban, is me al-Moocadum Al, shismeck?” which means, “Hello my name is Lt Col Al, what is your name? To which he replies pointing at my camera “Hi Mister, you give me?” in English!

So much for my Arabic lessons.

Ma a salâma…

Cpl Jasso my body guard
Cpl Jasso my body guard

Capt Wild Bill Coffey
Capt Wild Bill Coffey

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

MGySgt Franco and GySgt Watson
MGySgt Franco and GySgt Watson up to no good

more candy
Col Stone giving out candy

neighborhood market
In the hood

Major Graham giving away candy
Major Graham giving away candy

Two Little Angels
Two Little Angels

Iraqi boy
Hi Mister


 

July 20, 2005

"Hey, looks like it’s going to cool off on Friday…"

96-Hour Weather Outlook For Fallujah:

Wed 20th   July
Sky:            Mostly Sunny.
Temp:         90F/120/104F
Thu 21th   July
Sky:           
Mostly Sunny.
Temp:         92F/121/105F
Fri 22th   July
Sky:           
Mostly Sunny.
Temp:         89F/119/104F

Sat 23th   July
Sky:           
Mostly Sunny.
Temp:         89F/120/103F

July 16, 2005

"Whoa!!! I think I better drink some more water…"

96-Hour Weather Outlook For Fallujah:

Fri 15th   July
Sky:            Sunny.
Temp:         89F/115/99F
Sat 16th   July
Sky:            Sunny.
Temp:         89F/118/101F
Sun 17th   July
Sky:            Sunny.
Temp:         89F/118/101F

Sun 17th   July
Sky:            Sunny.
Temp:         89F/120/102F


Letter #4 June 7, 2005

Hey Gang, thanks again for the letters and thanks for the “Slam Bag”, the bag is great the only problem is I lent it to some Marines that I’ve been working with and now every time I ask about where my bag is they always have the look on their faces of the “Three wise Monkeys”.

Hmmm… oh well at least I know they’re training.

By the time you read this letter another Memorial Day will have come and gone. For this installment of my “Letters from Iraq” I’ve decided that rather than focus on my exploits running around Iraq I’m going to focus on the real heros of our nation and I’m not talking about these post adolescent overpaid whiners know as professional athletes but the young men and women of the Armed Forces of our great nation. I’m going to be even more candid in this letter than in previous ones because I want to emphasize the importance of what they do over here everyday and why I get so angry when I hear nonsense in the media from the mouths of fools who don’t even have the moral courage to leave the “Green Zone” to get their own news and then speak on things as if they have first hand knowledge of these matters. I know I said I would stop watching TV but ever since they got us a direct feed from Fox News we’ve been glued to it every chance we get.

For most of us Memorial Day is just another day off from work, an extended weekend that allows us to spend time with our families and friends. We go to cook outs, drink beer, swim and sun ourselves and so on. Some of us go to ball games and others just sleep in. Our national leaders make the usual speeches and talk about sacrifice, lay wreaths on the tombs of our fallen brothers and retire at the end of the day satisfied after having fulfilled their official obligations. Flags are flown at half staff and for an ever increasingly smaller segment of the population. We weep for those that served along side us or those who have gone before us who paid the ultimate price. Such things serve to remind us that freedom is not free and in truth the only thing that any of us truly own is our lives, take that away and you take away all that a man has.

General George Patton once said that “In comparison to war all of man's endeavors shrink to insignificance…” In the grand scheme of the human experience, probably no truer words have been spoken. While I’ve pontificated before that we are making progress in Iraq understand that we along with the Iraqi government still have a ways to go. Make no mistake about it-- war is dirty ugly nasty business, real bullets, real bombs, real bad guys.

We’ve had citizens bombed and executed at point blank range, policemen, contractors and innocent people murdered. We’ve even had social workers from Islamic charities of all things kidnapped and cut to pieces and foreign citizens operating under dubious reasons [usually for some anti-American cause] beheaded. Why?

Well because…

We’ve had reports of people with their hands cut off by the so-called “Holy Warriors” because they chose to rebuild their communities with infidel money. We have discovered slaughter houses and torture facilities that rival anything from the dark ages. Saddam would be proud of these thugs. Some of this is crime related or motivated by revenge for sure but some of it is because there are people here who are only happy when they make others suffer.

For those who still wish to draw foolish comparisons between the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq, let me be very clear about something, the North Vietnamese just wanted the Americans out so they could create a communist Vietnam. The insurgents in Iraq want nothing! They only want an excuse to murder people that is why they bomb Mosques and kill other Muslims all in the name of Allah.

What!?!

They are losers and thugs and the only people who don’t understand that are the American media. Their desire is utter chaos, their “gods” are misery and death! And what stands between them are our young servicemen and our Iraqi counterparts.

Oftentimes people in the armed forces are asked why we do what we do. Usually when people ask this question, especially in the media they are looking for some long winded philosophical convoluted answer, when in truth the answer is very simple, because it is our duty. Often this proves unacceptable for many people in large part because they have been duped into believing a lie. If you were to listen to the elite intelligentsia they would have you believe that the only people who serve in the armed forces are people who were either a) are not smart enough to get into college; b) they needed a job or vocational training skill; or c) if they were smart enough to go to college but couldn’t afford it then they were only there because they needed money for school. There are other equally offensive reasons they give but I think you get the point.

While there are a small minority of people who do join the military for those reasons the truth is far simpler than that. It is hard for many people to understand that we do what we do out of our own sense of personal honor, sense of duty and patriotism. The reason for their erroneous belief is obvious they [our detractors] have to believe this because honor, duty and patriotism are very the qualities that they lack. We have honor, they do not, we are duty bound to our brothers in arms and our nation, they are bound to themselves, we are patriotic and they are not. As a result in their narcissism they can not fathom that there are people who volunteer to serve for such altruistic reasons. The same is true for Police Officers and Firemen and any of a number of dangerous professions where selflessness is required.

Every moment of everyday, young men place their lives on the line and walk into the heart of darkness. I see them all of the time, I see them standing on the wall, sweeping areas on patrol, manning check points or rooting out insurgents. Everyday they face down death because it is their duty and right or wrong they do it without fail at great personal risk.

At one location when a car bomb blew up, a fire fight ensued and our young lads went into action beating back the insurgents. Two days prior to that a similar situation arose at the same location; at the time we were in the process of providing services to some local Iraqis who due to no fault of their own got caught in the cross fire and an Iraqi citizen was injured by the insurgents, one of our Marines (see photo of Sgt Padmore) while firing his weapon went out and rescued the person. He would fire his gun and drag the person, then fire his weapon and drag some more until he had pulled the person to safety, and then went on to provide the person basic first aid. He literally saved the person's life.

Even on Memorial Day while our nation celebrates with parades, hotdogs, potato salad and booze, young men, many of them the same age as my Son, went into action at one of our security check points against some bad actors. My boss told me jokingly, he’s going to stop going out with me because every time my men and I go somewhere something happens. Must be that bad Karma we bring everywhere.

When I’m out and about doing the nation's business I try to always make a point to speak with the Marines and Soldiers, just to hear their stories because I often find it encouraging to hear from the ones who take the greatest risk just to remind myself what it’s really all about. Whenever I speak with them I know I can always get a little ground truth. Granted there are always things that they will not tell me simply because I’m an officer but none the less I always walk away with a good feeling knowing how fortunate we are to have such men and women on our side.

I remember when a young man was critically injured by an IED just outside of Fallujah, due to the severity of his injuries the call went out on base for people with type A+ blood to get down to the hospital, I remember seeing the lines outside of the base hospital, the line was so long they had to send some people away for fear they would pass out waiting to be screened while waiting around in the heat of the day. Later that evening I ran into the young man's Battalion Commander who would inform us that the young Marine had passed on into eternity later that afternoon. His sword will be missed…

When we see medical helicopters during the day it’s like all of the life gets drained out of you because you know it can’t be good news. Yet our young men and women continue to march on because they refuse to take council of their fears. I could go on and on about the heroism of our young men. I remember watching the battle of Fallujah on TV last November and to see it in the flesh is to realize it was by far one of the toughest battles ever fought by US forces and will go down in the annals of Marine Corps history as one of the most decisive battles ever fought ranking up their with the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Even Oliver North when he saw Fallujah could not believe how fierce the fighting was and this from a guy who won the Silver Star in Vietnam.  The destruction is unimaginable and yet many of these same Marines and Soldiers who fought that battle are back for a second and in some cases though not rare, a third tour of duty in Iraq working side by side with Iraqis to restore order. Many of these Marines have lost friends, men who they’ve served with since leaving Paris Island, they could be bitter but they’re not because they know it clouds their judgment.  After speaking with many of these young men I have to say that having been in the Marine Corps for nearly 20 years I can’t remember a time when I was prouder to wear the uniform of a Marine. Not because I’m an officer but because I can say that I’m a part of the same brotherhood of men such as these. The honor they bring to our Corps and our Army truly belongs to them; the privilege to be counted amongst them all is mine.

An IED here an RPG there you just never know, there are no guarantees that any of us will make it back but that’s the chance we take and the choice we made. While we’re very optimistic about the future of Iraq in truth no one really knows, nor do we know what tomorrow brings for any of us here in Iraq, we can only keep our K-bars sharp, our powder dry and our rifles clean. At the end of the day we’re in God’s hands and if it’s our time “Selah”.

However I leave you with this thought, everyday these young men and some women do things and take risks that no one including their own families will ever know about. They do it a thousand times over everyday and tomorrow they’ll go out and do it again, no whining, just their duty.  Because of their courage even though I’m here in Iraq, at night I sleep very well!

And so should you…

I’ve attached some photos of some of the real heros in Iraq for your benefit.

Shook-run…

Lt Col Al

Marine on duty
A Marine on duty has no friends

Sgt. Padmore
Sgt. Padmore

Lt. Jennings
Lt. Jennings

Marines guarding post
Marines guarding post.


Letter #3 May 10, 2005


Once again I want to thank everyone for all of their kind letters of support, keep them coming because it’s that little taste of home that gets you over the hump. I was recently asked in a letter from a friend of mine who visits the website about the picture I took with all those little kids around me and why they were so close to me, because unfortunately there are those who will use children to do their dirty work (I’ll leave that up to your imagination) the truth is they actually were living side by side with us near one of our compounds for protection. Hey why not?

If you’ve been watching the news lately then you’ve probably seen there have been a lot of bombings in and around the Baghdad area especially on Saddam’s birthday (I wonder if they sent him a card?) anyway, while these things are portrayed in the media as major set backs to the revitalization of the country believe it or not they are still the exception rather than the rule in Iraq and are mainly confined to those areas known as the Sunni triangle. The main reason the insurgents focus their attacks in Baghdad is simple, they know that it guarantees them media coverage, no sense in having a bombing to score a cheap propaganda victory if no one is around to report it, the only ones who don’t seem to get that are the media in and around Baghdad. Without getting down in the weeds let’s just say there are many things that are taking place in Iraq that are far more positive than negative but again good news doesn’t generally sell.

I don’t want to sound bitter here (even if I am) but you have no idea how frustrating it is to hear outright lies being portrayed as fact because let’s face it unless you’re here you just don’t know and that’s what these people are counting on. If you have a bias in your reporting then fine but at least make sure what you say is the truth and if you don’t want to report the other side then fine leave that up to Fox News to pick up the slack.

It’s like the cop on the beat who gets questioned after shooting some “upstanding citizen” whose spent a better part of his life victimizing his community or incarcerated at one of our fine upstate NY facilities such as Greenhaven or Attica, and then when he gets shot for pointing a weapon at an officer people ask stupid questions like, 

“Even though this dirt bag had over 150 arrests on his record do you feel you were justified for shooting him for pulling a gun on you that later turned out to be not loaded?”

Okay, maybe the questions are not that stupid but they might as well be because the implications are the same. Such questions totally turn the facts around and draw conclusions about the officer’s alleged negligence without even considering the facts.

Speaking of bias reporting if you’ve noticed there was all sorts of fan fair surrounding the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. After coming back from one of my excursions I had the chance to catch the BBC broadcast dedicated to the event. Granted I’m an American serviceman serving in Iraq so I do have a bias as if you didn’t notice but I have to tell you that special was probably the most one sided misrepresentation of the facts that I have ever seen on the Vietnam War. From start to finish the whole documentary was a hatchet job in an attempt to draw some form of parallel to the Vietnam War to the War on Terror and in particular to Iraq. I thought I was going to shoot the HDTV until I realized it was one of few that actually worked in Iraq. So I holstered my weapon after thinking better of it.

In the report the commentator spoke of how the fall of Saigon was a major defeat for the US military as it had to retreat from the city as the NVA rolled into the city.

What!?!

I don’t know what this guy had in his tea but it was definitely stronger than caffeine. This had to be one of the worst pieces of revisionist history I’ve ever seen.

That would have been true if the US military had been in Vietnam at that time! The last of the US units were out of Vietnam as early as 1973, and 90% of them were already gone by 1972. Heck Saigon wouldn’t fall for another 2-3 years and only after the US Congress voted to cut all funding of the South Vietnamese. The only Americans left were the Embassy personnel and the local nationals who worked for us and the evacuation was only of the Embassy and those who wanted to get out before the door to freedom shut on them.

Also according the Gen Vo Nguyen Giap who commanded the NVA during the war in his book “How We Won the War” he clearly points out that the turning point in the war was the 1968 Tet Offensive, in which in his own words was a total military failure for the Viet Cong and NVA. After the battle the entire Viet Cong had been wiped off the planet all 300,000 of them. He stated that if the US President had given Gen Westmorland what he wanted (a troop increase and permission to cut off the Ho Chi Min trail in Cambodia and Laos) it would have utterly crushed the NV government because they had nothing left. However he also commented that the Tet Offensive was a major propaganda victory because the biased reporting became the turning point in American public perception about the war.  In addition to this I suggest people read former Soviet GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence Directorate) Col. Stanislav Lunev’s book, “Through the eyes of the Enemy” in which he matter of fact states that the US failure in Vietnam had nothing to do with the US military and in fact he had glowing things to say about American military might which in his words “they so rightly feared.” He would go on to state the GRU and KGB provided more funding to the US anti-war movement during the Vietnam war than it did in military aid to the NVA and were very much in tune with manipulating the anti-war movement and the media through their surrogates and front groups.  And these are the words of our former enemies.

I guess the 1 million boat people leaving the communist utopia after reunification meant nothing to the BBC which conveniently left that part of the story out. How is it that I know all of this when I was only in the fifth grade when most of these events took place yet the BBC missed them?

Pathetic…

As I have spoken about in my last newsletter from Iraq I discussed the courage of the Iraqi people; as I stated before they are some of the most courageous people I’ve ever seen, even in the midst of these attacks they still find a way to endure, “um-shala.”

While I know for some based on what’s reported in the news that’s hard to believe but one thing that almost never comes out in the media and that is the Iraqi people have endured far worse than anyone can imagine. Just from conversations that we have had with some of the Iraqi’s when Saddam was in power the number of people who use to be executed by the regime annually is staggering and ironically there are far fewer people dying now with an active insurgency attacking them than when the Baathist were in power.

The point is it’s all based upon your perspective, from an American perspective things may seem bad because we don’t have people blowing up Mosques in America, also death in our culture is relatively rare in comparison to the rest of the world. For those who have traveled extensively out side of the continental US (OCONUS as we like to say in government speak) the world outside of the US and most western nations is one of suffering and misery. Hey there’s a reason you don’t see people beating down the doors to move to Sudan. Sure we have our fair share of deaths but when was the last time we had thousands of people die from an earthquake or from an infectious outbreak? When was the last time we went to war because we didn’t like the outcome of an election? Most people especially in this part of the world live through this everyday. During one of my travels I had the chance to go down to the Euphrates river which is really beautiful however like may things in Iraq looks are deceiving because while is looks clean the water is non-potable and would make you sicker than a dog. Heck even the Iraqi’s get sick from it. Part of the problem is the river is a source of drinking water for some and a septic tank at the same time.

I was at location recently, that used to be one of the many resorts of Uday Hussein and the place is amazing, this place literally looks like a brochure for some tropical island retreat, with a man-made lake and all of the trimmings (see the photo). He also had another palace that we bombed out during the initial stages of the war that was absolutely amazing; you can still see some of the remains of the buildings decorative art work and architecture. It’s my understanding that most of the work was actually done by an Egyptian contractor who would come into country to do work for the regime. Or at least that’s what we’ve been told, (they were probably French) then again we’ve been told many things which I can tell you that Iraq is full of all sorts of urban legends and rumors many with of course a little embellishment that turn out to be true. Heck every blue moon we still have “Saddam sightings” by people who didn’t get the word from CNN or Al Jazeera, I guess they still want to know if the $30 million reward is still available, we always tell them “yeah we know and he’s probably hanging out with Elvis.” Yes they do know who “The King” is…

One Iraq Officer we ran into whose name I can’t even begin to pronounce (my Arabic is not that good yet) was telling us about the wild parties the Hussein boys use to throw at their little “chateaus” outside of Baghdad, you name it, it happened. He knew about this first hand because he use to go to the parties.  It’s a surreal feeling when you talk with many of these guys knowing that some of them used to be officers in the old regime and now are working with us side by side to rebuild the country. The hard part is in screening out the bad actors which there are a few of who slip through the cracks from time to time with the guys who truly want to see a new future for their nation. 

On another note I was at another location where we’re doing some joint staff work with the Iraqi Army and there was this Iraq Captain watching the whole Abu Ghurayb trial on Al Jazeera. It was interesting to watch his reactions as they were showing some of the photos of Lindy England holding some Iraqi guy on a leash, I could just see this guy shaking his head but he said nothing. While the focus of the broadcast was obviously that this was not our finest hour I found it ironic how Al Jazeera was reporting this in all of its gory detail yet this type of behavior amongst the old regime was routine. I think the take away from this, which will probably never be appreciated, is that it’s good to know we live in a country where such behavior is not tolerated even amongst servicemen and women because I can assure you in many other countries such as the former Iraq and elsewhere, such a thing would have gone unpunished.

Recently in a letter to me I was asked point blank about the whole Weapons of Mass Destruction thing amongst other things, the President’s case to go to war and if he knows more than he stated then why didn’t he make a better case etc… as I’ve said in previous letters Iraq is a strange place we’ve found all sorts of stuff, planes they’re not supposed to have, mass graves, tunnels and weapons caches the size of the Palisades Mall complex. I’m serious!

Here’s the deal and I have to be careful here, one thing about warfare is that in order to have the edge over the bag guy you not only have to have the element of surprise over him but also he can’t know all of what you know. There are many things that we know that we will not say and let’s just say that we know a whole lot more than what we are saying for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them is that the information we protect, preserves the lives of our brothers in arms. Just by revealing the information would compromise our source methods. So for example if we reveal that we have a certain type of technology that allows us to do certain things against the enemy, just the mere knowledge that we can do certain things, even though the enemy may not understand how it works is enough to cause him to change his behavior and thus close off vital information to us that may allow us to root out the source of our trouble. This is what happened during the hunt for Bin Laden under the Clinton Administration when in a moment of candor and in my opinion smug arrogance, a senior Clinton aide revealed a technological capability that we were employing in the search for Osama “Yo-Mama” Bin-Dirt-bag al Medina. As a result he was able to counter our efforts and of course several thousand dead Americans later we’re still looking for his head.

Anyway enough of that…

If you’ll notice in the photos I’ve sent you will see one of the worst sand storms they’ve probably had in a long time here in Iraq. We get them where I’m at from time to time but nothing like this. In the photo and I apologize for the quality, what you are looking at is a sand storm moving at 60 mph, from the person who sent the photo within a matter of minutes it was as dark as night out.

On a brighter note, guess who I ran into on the way to breakfast? Yes that’s right that’s Oliver North (see photos), he’s here to do a segment for Fox News for his “War Stories” show we chatted a bit, you know, the weather, the Yankees, a job at Fox News when I get back and then we went to breakfast together along with my boss. After hearing him talk I can tell you he probably hasn’t changed since he left the Marine Corps. Good on him! One of the interesting observations that he had was the fact that he’s been back and forth to Iraq numerous times and each time he comes back he’s noticed a marked improvement in the conditions. Yes Iraq is still a dangerous place but he has seen much improvement.  

Well that’s all for now, I’ll try not to watch so much TV next time it only makes me angry, please keep those letters coming…

Al

Col. GI Wilson, Lt. Col. North and Mel
Col. GI Wilson, Lt. Col. North and Mel

Lt. Col. North and Lt. Col. Al
Lt. Col. North and Lt. Col. Al

monster dust storm
This doesn't look good...

Uday\'s resort
Uday's resort


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Letter #2 April 12, 2005
First of all I want to thank everyone for their letters you have no idea how much it means to hear from someone back home. I’m also glad that students are still working hard in their training.  I’ve attached a few more photos taken by my team for your enjoyment. You’ll notice in the picture of the Mosque there is a big “chip” taken out near the top left hand side of the tower from what I understand that’s where they had to take out an enemy sniper during the battle for Fallujah. Ouch! I’ve also included a photo of a placard for a base named after Lt. Bob Kalsu who was a pro football player who left the pro’s to fulfill his ROTC obligation during the Vietnam War. When this photo was shown to me by my Marines, and I read the sign I was speechless. My guys do good work…

In some of the letters that I received people asked me several questions, one question was with regard to my comment as to how the art has helped me. It’s a fair question but most important of all the explanation is important because it validates all of John’s teachings. One of the things that we all have gone through as martial artists and that is the old adage of whether what I know is for real or will work in a real scrap. Not that I ever had any doubts but I think it’s important that students know what’s what. Those who have trained with me in class have often heard me say that in order to not let “this” or “that” happen to you that the answer is “don’t let it happen in the first place…” probably nowhere is that truer than in a war zone. The truth about war is that there are a million variables that we can control and there are a million we can’t and that’s just the way it is. No cool plan or fancy technology is ever going to account for the myriad of ever changing often confusing things that take place.

As the Arabs say “Um Shala” or “fate”. In other words if it is your time, it is your time and it’s just that way.  With that said the one thing that gives us a major advantage which allows “fate” to work on our side is because we train to focus our awareness outward and train to rely on what our subconscious minds tell us as opposed to trying to convince ourselves to believe something other than the reality that is before us, we are just in tune to things that others usually have to learn the hard way. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

When I’m out in the Ville, I’m always focused outward as a result you quickly begin to develop an eye for what to look out for. For those who have had relatives who served in combat before or for those who were cops in rough neighborhoods there is literally a sixth sense for trouble that you begin to develop. Some people call it intuition “Spider Man” would call it his “spider sense” we call it “the gift of fear” or the ability to know bad “Ju Ju” when we sense it [there’s all kinds of Ju Ju, just like good and bad Karma but I digress]. The point is whether you’re in Iraq or on the streets of NY if you’re not mentally on your game and the bad guys get the drop on you you’re done. It’s a cat and mouse game out here in the “Wild Wild West,” we put foot to behind and throw the bad guys out and like rats if we’re not careful they’ll find a way back in so you always have to be on your game and what keeps you on your game is training.

Anyway enough of that…

As I stated in my previous letter being in Iraq and dealing with the Iraqi’s can be a strange and eye opening experience. Something that is often under-reported is all of the good that we do over here. No one talks about the schools we rebuild, the sewers we repair [which is a huge deal over here] or the homes we repair or the food and assistance that we provide. Right now we have Iraqi people who eat better than they ever had-- granted they haven’t broken the code on keeping their water supplies clean but life will eventually turn for the better. Each day life gets a little better for them. Before we got here the average Iraqi family lived off of the equivalent of a few US dollars a month. Maybe 5 to ten US dollars. I kid you not!

Now we have Iraqi soldiers who get paid and return to work the next day with cell phones and their cars are adorned with the same moronic nonsense that you see on the cars of every 22 year old American male who thinks he’s driving the latest chick magnet. I was out one day and this Iraqi guy already learning the virtues of a free market economy wanted to sell me $250 Iraqi Dinars for $3 US dollars. In the spirit of capitalism I bought them, the funny part is I know I was taken on the deal, hell the money still has Saddam’s picture on it so I know I got beat.  The point is this guy already knew the value of free enterprise, under the old regime that $3 dollars was probably more than he made in a month now he’s laughing all the way to the bank ripping off Yankee suckers like me.

Sad to say but the mainstream media really does us a disservice and I have to tell you the few times that I am able to watch TV on a personal level I have to question not only their loyally to our great nation but their sense of humanity, I’ll return to that later. You know it’s bad when Al Jazeera is considered more pro-western that the other networks. I’m serious, our Public Affairs Officer sets up press conferences from time to time and invites all of the major news organizations and more often than not the only ones who show up are Al Jazeera, BBC and to their credit CNN. While not a fan of Larry King’s show, [too many soft ball questions Larry], I’ve gained a new found respect for CNN. Granted their reporting is as biased as the day is long but at least they go out to get their own news. Fox News does a great job as well, granted I admit they have a conservative bias but at least they haven’t forgotten whose side they’re on in this war.

As I alluded to in my last letter, slowly journalists are beginning to learn what this is really all about. In past wars journalists were given basically free reign in war zones and as long as they towed the line for the bad guys they were left alone. Now, forget about it! If a journalist is caught alone by the bad guys they couldn’t die fast enough. One thing that you will notice in the middle east and I saw this in other countries that I have visited and that is their perceptions of American culture are purely shaped by the entertainment media which may explain at least amongst the Muj as to why they do not respect journalists nor do they have a hands off approach when dealing with them.

The media just does not understand that the Muj views them as the enemy every bit as much as they view the US military. To the Wahabi’s who make up the majority of the Muj our culture presented to them through the skewed lenses of Hollywood is hell on earth. When they see our TV shows, our western fashion they view it as not only an attack on Islam but an attack on Arab culture and traditions. As an aside for some reason there is a “strange fetish” for fashion shows on TV, especially for French fashion shows which is strange, because you don’t see any of it rubbing off on anyone. I would say at least 1/3 rd of the programming offers some form of fashion show as a part of their normal programming. It must be some kind of weird sweeps week thing, we haven’t figured it out but I can tell you this it is our least favorite show especially during March Madness, Marines and Soldiers don’t do fashion. If they pull this stunt during the Super Bowl we may have to invade Paris and liberate the French, again, from their high-minded sense of fashion.


Here in Iraq when we’re out and about taking care of the nation's business we have the to pleasure to interact with numerous people from Iraq of all walks of life. In once instance at the direction of one of the Generals, who basically told me I had to do it so there was no choice in the matter [hey the Marine Corps is not a democracy] I had to go to a location and check out the security so I took a team with me and at this one place on a daily basis people line up to receive help from the Marines and Soldiers and other US agencies, anyway there was this family there in which they had two beautiful little girls, both had been burned pretty badly and were being treated by our Naval / Army Doctors who are like a Godsend for the people of Iraq.


As the story went, a couple of “Muj” A___holes had broken into their home and were using it as a safe house. This is a very common occurrence in Iraq especially with foreign fighters and Muj buttheads. When we got wind of it we paid them a little visit to see who was ready to meet Allah, a fire fight ensued and unbeknownst to us this family was caught in the cross fire, as a result in the middle of this a fire started and the Marines evacuated the family, the youngest son was killed, the father was badly wounded and the two little girls were burned, and the Muj got away. The oldest girl lost the fingers on her right hand as a result of her burns and received burns all over her face.

In spite of everything the family did not blame the Marines, the US or the President but they did blame the insurgents because they knew that it was the result of their actions and not the Marines. Stories like this are common in Iraq, the great fear that many people have is that we may leave because they know that wherever US forces are there is peace and security. But you never hear these stories in the news, but you can be sure if a US serviceman dies or if we shoot someone in self defense it’s all over the news in all of its gory detail.

In a village just outside of Fallujah it’s the same thing; wherever we are along with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) there is stability. True they have a long way to go but I can tell you that both the ISF and Iraqi Police in my view are some of the bravest people in Iraq. While it’s true that they have a bad habit of shooting at anything and I mean anything, they are improving. In the beginning we probably averaged some Iraqi soldier shooting himself by accident per week, I kid you not.


They have some very peculiar cultural idiosyncrasies. For example it is very common whenever there is a wedding or some other event for the men to go out into the streets and shoot into the air, for some reason they don’t think that when you shoot in the air that the bullets are going to come down somewhere. When you used to see video of Saddam Hussein shooting his rifle in the air at celebrations as nutty as they may have looked it’s actually par for the course in Iraq which is why every time we hear gun fire we’re not overly alarmed, we just check our bodies to ensure we didn’t get hit and carry on with our business. It never fails for example, “my daughter’s getting married’ they shoot, “I just got a job” they shoot, “I want to hold a town meeting” they shoot. If it weren’t so dangerous it would be funny, and when you tell them about it they have a strange way of looking at you with that look I use to give my dad when I was 10 years old after I screwed something up.


Many Iraqi people who seek to work with us risk their lives daily either at the hands of the terrorists who want to kill them for working with the “infidels” or from the local scum who want to rob and kill them for their money. It is a daily struggle to protect people who just want a better life for their children and the future of Iraq. There is a sense of nationalism that is growing here and there are a lot of positive vibes that is impressive to watch. It kind of reminds me of stories throughout history when brave people stood in the face of death and answered to a higher calling and stood their ground. There was a time when such things were common amongst our people, which is probably why many American servicemen seem to have bonded with many Iraqi’s. Granted Iraq will probably never be the United States but you can sense the mutual admiration that we both share. They admire us for our courage to fight 9,000 miles away from our families and loved ones and we admire them for their courage to stand in the face of death everyday not knowing if the next car that drives down the street could be a bomb waiting to blow them to bits. Even in areas where there are numerous reports of violence many people refuse to leave even in the face of daily threats. And I have to tell you I don’t know how many Americans would be willing to stick around and defy people who would willingly blow themselves up along with anyone else around them.


Like I said, the Iraqi people, as crazy as their world seems, are some of the bravest people I know. Back in January if you will recall there was a bombing outside of a police recruiting station in which 110 young men died. I was talking with a buddy of mine who was here when that happened, and he told me that the next day at the same location there were three times the amount of men lined up looking for jobs as police officers.

The other thing that I notice about the Iraqi’s is that their threshold for suffering and abuse is unbelievable. A good friend of mine who’s an FBI Agent in the civilian world, Major Al Schmidt (also known as the “Uber Marine” because he speaks three languages and looks like one of the FBI’s most wanted) use to work a detail out of my group which has become another entity all to its own called “Mass Graves”. You can think what you want about the President's decision to invade Iraq, and question his judgment all you want, but all you need to know is a fraction of the horror that Saddam and his Bastard sons used to visit on the Iraqi people and all you can say is for that alone we should have put foot to ass a long time ago!

Even to this day we still find mass graves and while not revealing too much, here I can tell you this: no matter how many of these things you have heard existed from the mainstream media reports, the true number far exceeds anything reported to date. We have no illusion that we’ll ever find them all, there’s that many. At the end of the day the number killed over a 30 year period under Saddam’s reign could well exceed 1 million. Again we’ll probably never know the full count and we may not want to.

One thing that I’ve learned is that the reason we’ve been able to find so many mass graves is not because of great intelligence work on our part but because the only ones it was a mystery to were us. Everyone in Iraq knows about this. Here’s the deal: Saddam made sure that people knew who was in charge because he would murder people and bury them literally at the edge of their own village just to ensure everyone knew who was boss. There are still stories of how his sons use to go out into the countryside and choose from the daughters of their subjects, rape them and murder them for pleasure. These are not my words but that of Iraqi’s who have revealed these things. At first we thought they were just urban legend until we started finding the graves. Men, women, and children it made no difference. Under Saddam, beauty amongst women was a curse and guaranteed you a visit to one of his many palaces and if your family didn’t like it they always had the option to watch you get raped.

Speaking of hiding things or lack thereof, in one of the photos I sent you, you will notice that I am standing next to a plane, that plane is a Mig-29 Fulcrum which is a top of the line Soviet-- I’m sorry, I mean Russian fighter jet. You may say no big deal after all it was well known that Saddam brought planes from Russia, here’s the only problem: this along with a variant of it that we found was a technology that he was not supposed to possess. Most of his Mig’s were thought to had either been destroyed in the first war or sitting in Iran, brought there by the pilots who deserted during Desert Storm. Like I said Iraq is a strange place, there are tunnels that we have discovered, and all sorts of stuff.

One thing, and I have photos of this that I have seen, and if I wasn’t finally told what they were I would have never guessed it in a million years. In a nameless location it is common amongst Iraqi’s that whenever Saddam liked to get away from all of the trappings of being a full time murderer he would travel into the Al Anbar province and he would take along a few VIP’s and take them to see his “special zoo”. From what I understand it was usually a disturbing experience for his guest, not due to the conditions of the animals but what the animals were. Yes, that’s right, you guessed it: he had a “Human Zoo”! This was the place he would send his political enemies and would put them on display and show them off for two reasons, 1) as punishment and 2) as a lesson for his guest that he was in charge and if they didn’t tow the line they may very well end up as the next attraction. These things were air conditioned and everything, he wanted to make sure you didn’t boil in the heat before he had a chance to show you off. Once again this was all common knowledge to the Iraqi people, notice you don’t here the media telling any of these stories, so much for their false sense of humanity.

Another peculiar thing in Iraq, when you move about the housing areas going up and down steps one thing you’ll find is that no two steps in Iraq are alike. One will be 6” inches high and the next one 10” inches, one will be long and the other short and sloped downward. I was at one location looking at the security of one of the Iraqi base camps and the steps and the floor felt like I was walking on the floor in “The Riddler’s” lair from Batman. Each step to include the floor, were on a slope, I practically rolled one of my ankles just walking down the steps. I couldn’t imagine running down those things in the heat of battle. If it weren’t for the “ninja walk” [notice the KCD tie in] I’d probably be missing a few teeth right now.

Part of the problem is that most of the laborers use age old methods of construction that probably go back to King Nebuchadnezzar. Everything is done by eye and with a straight edge and string so if the guy's a little off, hey what the heck. They seem to do a great job with Mosques, arches and doorways but can’t seem to break the code on stairs and floors, go figure, it must be something like making cabinets. As I’ve said before there are things in Iraq that probably haven’t changed in a 1,000 years and our presence here is probably not going to change that.

S/F

Al Taqaddam 3-10
Al Taqaddam 3-10

Downtown Mosque Al Fallujah Al Anbar Province Iraq 3-23
Downtown Mosque Al Fallujah Al Anbar Province Iraq 3-23

Home sick road sign
Home sick road sign

ISF getting some
ISF getting some

Lt Bob Kalsu
Lt Bob Kalsu

Iraqi kids
Why we do what we do

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Letter #1
"Everything is going well here in Iraq, we’re just doing our usual thing. Everyday here in Iraq is like the movie “Ground Hogs Day”, you get up, you go to work until midnight, sleep and do it all over the next day. I do a lot of traveling around the country so when I have a chance to kick back on the base I take advantage of it. Obviously there’s lot’s more that I can’t talk about in this forum but let’s just say that things are very interesting over here. The funny thing is like with many countries in this part of the world, due to cultural differences and such things that make absolutely no sense to us, the more you learn and examine it the more your realize that in Iraq or Kuwait they make perfect sense.

The food here for the Iraqis is really bad and the water’s worse, while there’s plenty of fresh water where we’re at people use the water out in town for so many things that you just can’t trust whether it’s contaminated with something. I was out talking to some of my Marine and Army buddies out in town last week and they were telling me that they stopped eating the food here because all it did was make them sick. Even the Iraqi soldiers get sick from the food. It’s funny, because they keep eating it, go figure. When we asked them what they ate they said they basically subsist off of “Gummy Bears” and soda. Maybe every now and then they’ll eat some cookies some guy’s wife sent them. That’s about it.

The people eat so poorly that their physical development is stunted. I see men and women probably not much older than I am who could pass for my father. They are broken down and their physical stature is stunted. I would say we outweigh the average Iraqi by at least 40 lbs and are on average a good 6” inches taller. Many of the men are so frail looking you would think they couldn’t lift a thing yet they do. Those who don’t work don’t eat it’s that simple there’s no welfare here so if you don’t work you’re going to be a hungry, angry “mo fo”… Saddam did them no favors with his food rationing etc…

It’s starting to get hot here I was in the Ville today and I could feel the heat rising as the day dragged on. Also I thought we were going to have to put foot to ass at one of our check points but it was no big deal. Just people getting stupid, they would have gotten jacked up quick and probably “meeting Allah.” It’s funny no matter where you go in the world there are stupid people, I guess America doesn’t have a monopoly on jerks.

I’ve been out in Fallujah checking things out with my teams and let’s just say things are improving however they are still a little testy and we still have to be on our toes because the bad guys have not changed their minds about things and we still see action from time to time. Also I’ve attached some pictures for your professional development. The chair I was sitting in was one of the chairs in Saddam’s palace in Baghdad. I was in Baghdad for a meeting of the minds from the respective major sub-commands so it was a good trip and nice to see how they live at “Camp Cup Cake”. The Al Faw Palace is one of over 100 that Scumbag Hussein use to have like that so while people were living in squalor this dirt bag was living high on the hog. Disgraceful. Unless you saw it for yourself you just could not believe how bad people live over here.  

Also the other pictures you’ll notice in the one picture with me on the roof, don’t worry we were well out of sniper range, there is a ladder stretching between two buildings. The reason for the ladder was because the Iraqi soldiers were so lazy to climb down the ladder to get to the other building that they placed that ladder across the opening. The drop was more that adequate to kill you but they didn’t care they just didn’t want to have to climb up and down all day. I have to tell you working with the Iraqi’s is one comedy after another. This stuff is too funny. When I was over visiting an old friend I use to work for Col. Malbert and I asked him how was the progress going with the Iraqi’s he was training he said, “Well before they use to poop anywhere now we’ve at least got them to poop in one area…” I went over to the area where the Porta-Johns were and I kid you not, it was like walking around the East Village only the poop was human poop.

They could live better but they choose not too. I was out one day with some of the Iraqi’s and I asked this Iraqi Major who’s English was better than many of the home boys I know and I noticed some graffiti repeated over and over along a wall and I asked him and our interpreter who spoke like little or no English, I kid you not, what it said. It said, “Long live Iraq, f__k the mujahadeen. [a.k.a. the Muj]. Some of these interpreters are too funny, at one nameless location they had an interpreter who was just awful, it reminded me of that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer was doing sign language and when he couldn’t understand it from the deaf woman who taught sign language he said she didn’t know what she was talking about. Anyway, yet the doctor, an Iraqi fellow educated in England no less who spoke perfect English, when they asked the Doc about something the interpreter said, the doc said, “Don’t listen to him he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about…” They had one guy who really cut his arm pretty bad so when the Doc wanted to give him stitches he refused. When the Marines asked why the Iraqi soldier didn’t want stitches, the doc replied, “Because he’s f_____ing stupid!” One guy who’s like a computer Wiz and helps the Iraqi Army run their computers and download their “porn” got mad at this one soldier named “Maat” but pronounced like Mat in English, when they asked him what his beef was with Maat the guy in his best English said, “I don’t like Maat, he’s um F___ker Mother!” They were like, ah that’s Mother F___ker…” the guy then says, “Yeah that!”

Here’s another funny story, one night out in Fallujah some Iraqi guy being trigger happy as usual, hears like a mouse run out in front of him so he starts shooting, so the other OP like three blocks away starts shooting, the next thing you know everyone is shooting RPK’s not in the air but out into the Ville where people live. When they do the debrief they ask the guys who were three blocks away, “What were you guys shooting at?” they replied, “Well, we heard them shooting so we started shooting because we wanted to show them that we were brothers and we supported them and that we were with them…” this wouldn’t be bad except they were “shooting in the opposite direction”. How these guys don’t kill more people is amazing but they are getting better and gaining in confidence, now if we can only get them to point their weapons in the right direction we’d be out of here in no time.

Also, and I kid you not contrary to how they are portrayed by the American media there are two distinct classes of people here in Iraq. I saw the same thing in Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries. There are those who are educated so they along with the tribal chiefs, who are as corrupt as the day is long by the way, who run things and everyone else. With the exception of TV, yeah we get that too and not reruns either the shows just come on at all sorts of hours but no Oprah thank God.  Things haven’t changed for many of these people for probably 1,000 years and they don’t want to change. While everyone is glad that Saddam’s gone including most of the former regime elements the average Iraqi could care less who’s was in charge just as long as you weren’t going to blow their house up. Just so you’ll know we’re right in the heart of what is referred to in the news as the Sunni Triangle this is where it all happens baby and we’re living it everyday. Just the cat and mouse game with the bad guys keeps you focused because they are always trying, always.

Anyway, without getting into any details, we’re having an enormous and positive impact here but as we all know we have a ways to go. Whatever people back home may think of our mission here, one thing I can say from my own experiences so far from being on the ground and I go out quite a bit because I travel a lot around our AO is that they are learning fast and want to learn and beyond cultural differences, as they gain in confidence they become less tolerant of the Zarqawi types. People are just sick of these guys and I have a feeling just from what I sense I think one day they’re going to come to us and say thank you for all that you’ve done, now we want you to turn the other way because we have some unfinished business to tend to, and like the Godfather they’re going to settle some old scores. Count on it!

I know this was long but I just had to tell you guy’s these stories, the war goes on and we’re getting better here in Iraq everyday. It may not always be apparent by those in the media who want us to fail here but that’s the ground truth. Someday I’ll tell you about how the mainstream media gets all of their news from CNN and Al Jazeera and report from poolside within the Green Zone with absolutely no awareness as to what is really happening in and around Iraq and report it as fact. The reason they will not leave the Green Zone is because it’s become very dangerous for journalist to travel without military escort so unless they’re embedded with a military unit they’re on their own and none of these guys wants to make the 6 pm segment of Al Jazeera TV as the latest decapitation victim. A little known secret, we are able to get the news here through the MWR via satellite so we see the news about things that many of us see and experience everyday and their views are so slanted and biased it’s really a shame that they get away with it.

There’s very little truth or substance to their reporting and definitely no balance to it at all. And that’s the truth!

Well that’s all, tell everyone I said hi and to keep training hard because I cannot tell you how much the art has really prepared me for the stuff that goes on over here. Unlike the first war I fought over here where they pretty much gave up so they could receive three hot meals, a roof over their heads and a cot to sleep on. This is nothing more than a cat and mouse game of “dirty street fighting.” Without getting into any details there are some very nasty things that are going on. John as my Master and more importantly as my friend you will never know how well you prepared me to have an impact on my Marines and to be able to deal with the complex situation over here with calmness, strength and focus of purpose, and for that I will be forever in your debt…

Stay in touch guys.

God Bless…"

Sadaam\'s throne
"Not as comfortable as it looks."

Lt Col Ridenhour with kids 
"My new friends"
 
On the roof
"On the roof"

Lt Col Ridenhour in Fallujah
"Me going through Fallujah"



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