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Real Confessions From Iraq
March 6, 2007 2:15 AM   Subscribe

A Good Morning Coffee Read (or Tea or Grass Juice or Gammel Dansk ; ). The warden of Fallouja.
posted by MapGuy (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
On one such night, you will turn on the television news and see that Anna Nicole Smith's death has trumped the coverage of America's 3,118th fatality, 31-year-old Petty Officer 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr. You will note that, at 39, Smith was younger than most of the helicopters flying in Iraq. You will turn off the TV and sit in the dark and feel your eyes water as you think about how you took 55 Marines and sailors into a combat zone and brought all 55 back home, and that no one in America besides you and those 55 really cares or understands what you went through.

You processed 1,230 detainees, without a single incident of abuse, while America sat on the couch and watched girls go wild.


Thanks for posting this MapGuy.
posted by three blind mice at 2:37 AM on March 6, 2007


Likewise, thanks for this. Good post.
posted by dreamsign at 2:45 AM on March 6, 2007


Very nice writeup.
posted by smeger at 2:47 AM on March 6, 2007


Your post is the same link twice. What gives?
posted by Happy Dave at 2:53 AM on March 6, 2007


Awesome post though, great read.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:00 AM on March 6, 2007


Happy Dave, perhaps because it's worth reading twice ; )
posted by quarsan at 3:07 AM on March 6, 2007


quarsan, good point.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:12 AM on March 6, 2007


, after viewing documentaries and reports that paint American forces as Redcoat invaders

liberal media!!!

for such a smart guy -- in such a long, thorough piece -- he seems extremely unwilling to analyze the reasons why the Iraqis may not like him -- and his 55 good men and women -- as much as he obviously thinks they should.

if he figured that out, maybe he'd grind his teeth a little less.

I also want to sincerely congratulate him for the monstrously high ratio of successful arrests -- he says only 30% of his detainees are innocent, an extremely low ratio if compared to actual data from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. he either deserves a medal or he's, you know, lying.

he also seems to have a worryingly large chip on his shoulder about other Americans who didn't share his Iraqi experiences, the contempt in his op-ed's coda is obvious -- I hope he's getting therapy, for the sake of his future, of his family's, and of the people who'll have to share post offices and McDonalds with such an angry -- and so well trained to use weapons -- man.

it's also important to blame Anna Nicole Smith and not the men who sent him to Iraq in the first place.
posted by matteo at 3:44 AM on March 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


Great post. Thanks mapguy.
posted by buriedpaul at 4:02 AM on March 6, 2007


it's also important to blame Anna Nicole Smith and not the men who sent him to Iraq in the first place.

I didn't read it at all like that matteo. His bitterness seems mostly reserved for the American public whom he (correctly) perceives as not giving a fuck about his sacrifice, the sacrifice of his family, and the hard work he (and the men under his command) endured.

While he was doing his duty in Iraq, the only sacrifice asked of the American public was to patriotically accept tax cuts (as Mark Shields recently quipped.)

The crack about late Anna Nicole Smith being younger than the helicopters is pretty clearly directed to the men (and women) who sent him to Iraq in the first place.

It is, however, a bit worrying that he seems disappointed that he didn't do as much killing as a Marine is trained to do.
posted by three blind mice at 4:19 AM on March 6, 2007


His bitterness seems mostly reserved for the American public whom he (correctly) perceives as not giving a fuck about his sacrifice, the sacrifice of his family, and the hard work he (and the men under his command) endured.

Get real. If anything, the American public is thinking *too much* about the troops, and it is getting in the way of their critical examination of policy from the civilian leaders.
posted by DU at 4:38 AM on March 6, 2007


Wow. What a burden to bear. I have to say, I have no reason to doubt at all that creative writing is a discipline this guy was born to pursue. It's a shame that he felt so unsupported by his superiors (both stateside and in Iraq), and the American public he was supposed to be serving.
posted by LiliaNic at 5:06 AM on March 6, 2007


he also seems to have a worryingly large chip on his shoulder about other Americans who didn't share his Iraqi experiences, the contempt in his op-ed's coda is obvious -- I hope he's getting therapy, for the sake of his future, of his family's, and of the people who'll have to share post offices and McDonalds with such an angry -- and so well trained to use weapons -- man

I am sympathetic to a critical reading of the post, but spend on this point, I think you should spend while in a place where there is widespread suffering and/or acute danger and then come float through a north american city some time. What you describe might be acurately termed contempt, but not because people "don't give a fuck about his sacrifice" but for the utter contented ignorance of it all.

I recall receiving stern warnings from my parents before venturing off for an extended term overseas a long while back now. They told me of the son of friends of theirs who had gone off with the Peace Corps and come back "bitter and disillusioned with North American life and living". Never questioning that it was, you know, the wrong attitude to take on the whole. Maybe it was the right one.
posted by dreamsign at 5:08 AM on March 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


wow, don't know how that got messed up.

but on this point, I think you should spend...
posted by dreamsign at 5:09 AM on March 6, 2007


It is, however, a bit worrying that he seems disappointed that he didn't do as much killing as a Marine is trained to do.
posted by three blind mice at 4:19 AM PST on March 6


I think that we have a Marine Corps one of whose missions is "counter-insurgency." The reason he's so worked up about the "Redcoat" comment is the idea that Corps has that if the Redcoats (read U.S. Army) knew more about counter-insurgency we wouldn't be in the mess we are in wrt North America err... Iraq.

Can anyone ever think of a situation where a U.S. military force should be engaging in counter-insurgency?

The institutional history of the modern Marine Corps is very much grounded in early 20th century action in the Philippines and Central America. I think the "Gung-Ho" mentality is very much a function of the mission the Marines are expected to take against insurgencies (not just suicidal island amphibious invasions.) You have to have alot of training to sleep at night after spending all day shooting people with spears or "sling-shots" as was the case in the Phillipines.

I don't think we U.S. citizens can take any comfort from our history, and I don't think history will be very kind to us unless we start winning fast.
posted by geos at 5:59 AM on March 6, 2007


dreamsign:
the utter contented ignorance of it all

That's it, right there.

One of the first things I had to do when I came back was overcome my bewilderment and (yes) contempt given how utterly ignorant everyone around me seemed to be. The things that they thought were important, things that I used to think were important, seemed so small and ridiculous compared to one's priorities (as a civilian or a solider) in a place like Baghdad.

It fades, after a while. But there's that bit in the back of your head that will always feel relieved that your family is alive and safe, and that aches with fear at the knowledge that the society and culture that gives them that safety is, ultimately, fragile.

Great post.
posted by xthlc at 6:03 AM on March 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


thanks for the post. kind of makes me straighten my shoulders up a bit on the way to work, for my days are not nearly as horrid as i have been believing them to be.
posted by ms.jones at 6:56 AM on March 6, 2007


I just watched Ground Truth. In one scene a vet missing a hand and forearm recounts somebody asking him how he lost his hand. He said it was in the war and the person said "Is that still going on?"
posted by srboisvert at 7:32 AM on March 6, 2007


But there's that bit in the back of your head that will always feel relieved that your family is alive and safe, and that aches with fear at the knowledge that the society and culture that gives them that safety is, ultimately, fragile.
posted by three blind mice at 8:00 AM on March 6, 2007


But there's that bit in the back of your head that will always feel relieved that your family is alive and safe, and that aches with fear at the knowledge that the society and culture that gives them that safety is, ultimately, fragile.

Well spoken xthlc, but it is a bit like the old saw that one does not appreciate his health until he is sick. It's not "contented ignorance", it's willful ignorance in order to be contented.

If anything, the American public is thinking *too much* about the troops, and it is getting in the way of their critical examination of policy from the civilian leaders.

A "critical examination of the policy" is for thinktanks and eggheads and mefites and other mental masturbators.

Forget about the "policy" that resulted in U.S. soldiers and marines being sent to Iraq - LOOK AT WHAT AMERICA IS DEMANDING FROM ITS SOLDIERS:

Extended tours of duty: Already in 2005 "the Pentagon announced ... that 21,000 U.S. soldiers who were supposed to leave Iraq in a few weeks after a year-long tour of duty must stay there for three additional months."

Shorter periods home between rotations: "The Army's original goal was to give soldiers two years at home for every year in Iraq, reports Martin. It first slipped to 18 months at home, and now it's just 14 months between tours."

Stop loss: "Army officials announced yesterday that thousands of active-duty and reserve soldiers who are nearing the end of their volunteer service commitments could be forced to serve an entire tour overseas if their units are chosen for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan."

And so on and so on and so on.

In WW2 the average combat tour of duty was FIVE months.

In Vietnam it was 12 months.

In Iraq? Who the fuck knows?

You can debate "policy" all you want, but for me, these numbers represent a massive sacrifice that is being asked of U.S. troops AND THEIR FAMILIES. Waiting for "the policy" to change doesn't change this. It's ain't fair, it ain't right, and blaming "policy" and civilian leaders isn't going to relieve this burden anytime soon. What is needed is a draft. A massive and immediate call-up of America's youth to relieve the men and women in the field. Once that is accomplished, then debate the policy.
posted by three blind mice at 8:41 AM on March 6, 2007


three blind mice - the American people are not demanding this of our troops. The Department of Defense and the Bush administration is. I'd reckon the American public is pretty horrified by what is being expected of the troops. So that's why debating the policies is important. Or, we could all just shut up and say nothing. Which would be the more willfully ignorant action?

And, on the first day of a draft, should things become so horrible that a draft is necessary, I fully expect anybody who had been calling for one to be the first in line at their nearest recruiter's office. Fair's fair.
posted by contessa at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2007


What is needed is a draft. A massive and immediate call-up of America's youth to relieve the men and women in the field.

that's obviously the only fair solution -- empires come with a price tag attached, and not just a financial one.
posted by matteo at 9:43 AM on March 6, 2007


So, while you're all busy feeling sorry for the marines and their wives and the fragility of the culture that they come from, may I just ask, is this war being fought in a desert populated only by soldiers, insurgents and dogs, or is it perhaps in a country where there are local civilians, as in ordinary non-insurging people who happened to live there, rather than choose to be enlisted there, and who might just have more to worry about than mobile phones and celebrities?

(even assuming that being a voluntary soldier demanding unquestioning support and sympathy and understanding is a good starting point for social critique of one's own culture as a whole, but nevermind that)
posted by pleeker at 9:54 AM on March 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Umm, sorry to quibble, 3bm, but what is this "average tour of duty" with respect to WW II? From when you enlisted to V-E or V-J Day? If so, it's apples and oranges, although the current war will wind up being considerably longer than the US' shooting participation in Big Mistake Number Two.

With rare exceptions (Bond-drive tours for people like the crew of the famous B-17 Memphis Belle), troops didn't rotate back to the US as is happening in this war. Once you were over to England or the Continent or west of Hawaii, a "Stateside ticket" generally meant a serious but nonlethal wound.

Even guys training Stateside didn't get to swoop home much between the end of Basic and the end of the war -- it was hard to get to travel in a wartime economy. Combat troops may not have been continuously in the line for years, but they didn't certainly didn't get these sorts of programmed rotations, as units or individuals, at all.

I'm going largely by what Dad & friends discussed over the years and secondarily by what I've read -- do you know anything different?
posted by pax digita at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2007


Tim O'Brien redux.

Maybe one day he'll figure out how to employ full-blown narrative, instead of just bullet points. Still, evocative.
posted by Hobbacocka at 8:57 PM on March 6, 2007


"...but what is this "average tour of duty" with respect to WW II?"

WWII? - you mean the declared war we were fighting with allies and support like rationing back home and songs being sung and people looking at able-bodied men fishily and asking them why they're not overseas and actually mobilizing the country on a war footing so there was not only enough equipment but enough files in combat to rotate you out - as in out of shooting/being shot at - for a while if you accrued enough points?
That thing as compared to...well what is Iraq anyway? I don't know that you could even call it a police action. Either way - you have a very large job being done with not so much support vs. a larger job being done with not only massive support, but nearly as much support as could possibly be mustered.

"the American people are not demanding this of our troops. The Department of Defense and the Bush administration is. I'd reckon the American public is pretty horrified by what is being expected of the troops."

You'd think so, but most of 'em seem to be watching t.v. Of the few that are questioning policy, they seem to mostly be concerned with their side winning. Or indeed championing "peace" and other noble ideals by showing the other side what bastards they are. Meanwhile, guys are getting chopped up overseas. I don't see a lot of horror. Except when I visit folks at the VA and DAV.
What mitigates that though is trust. Soldiers have a great deal of interpersonal trust for each other, the people in their unit, their leaders who have trained them - basically it's a self-sustaining web of trust and that's all that motivates a volunteer military to fight.

Any special reason to trust someone who - whether it's because they hate administration policies or feel really sorry for the Iraqi people or would just rather watch TDS - seems like they're not really concerned with you?

It's not like they'd be fucking over there anyway if we hadn't sent them. It's not like Joe Soldier signs up and says "Hey! Let's go to Iraq break all their stuff and kill their people! Oh, boy, hope I get blinded!"
They get sent places. They get asked to make sacrifices. YOU ask them to. YOU are interested or not. And in fact YOU are pretty obviously more busy watching t.v. (that's the universal "YOU" - I don't know what anyone here is doing personally, perhaps you're marching this weekend, I dunno)

Like it or hate it they are doing the job given to them. Don't like it? Do something about it. Like it? Do something about it.
But let's not mistake rhetoric for action or the magnitude of personal sacrifice being asked of the people in uniform. Unless you're willing to go that far yourself. (and hey, maybe YOU are, but most of the country isn't).

(three blind mice - can't go with you on the draft - but I recognize the desire to have something large enough to galvanize people into recognizing their personal involvement)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on March 21, 2007


/I'll add - everyone was in WWII. Hence the classic Mel Brooks line "I was in WWII - I didn't see you there."
posted by Smedleyman at 3:58 PM on March 21, 2007


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