My Weather

Sunday, April 29, 2007

More on where I am at...

As far as I can tell, this base used to be two separate areas. One was the “zoo” or the hunting club. The other area, with the lakes and palaces used to be for the exclusive use by the senior members of the Batth party. Form all of the walls and guard towers, you can tell this place was pretty exclusive. At least they said please.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have to say that the recent actions of congress has had a demoralizing effect on me. I truly feel that they are committed to defeating the president at every turn and thus, any indication of success over here will not be tolerated. Constantly, we hear our leaders say the “war is already lost” and how we have failed miserably. “We support the troops” is starting to carry as much weight as “the check is in the mail”. Since when does crushing morale and giving aid and comfort to the enemy equate to supporting the troops?

To the troops, this is known as the “Long War”. I wonder if we were fighting in the “Clinton War” or the “Obama War”; would the actions of congress be any different? Sadly, it think so.

It was once said: “that when it comes to war, the only good politics are no politics.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

I thought this was the desert?

Today was a bit of a change for us. We all thought that the rainy season was over, but we wound up having some pretty good thunderstorms roll through. So now we are back to the muck and mud. It’s OK though—the dust was starting to get bad. Things often turn out different than what we expect are around here---it rains in the desert and the bad guys are not the only ones that will snipe at you. Funny place.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


This is a picture of “The Bird House” which is located in one of the trailer parks known as…Dodge City. Rumor has it that this part of the base used to be a zoo. Another rumor is that it was Saddam’s private hunting preserve. No one seems to know for sure. I asked some of the Iraqis I work with and they really don’t know. What they tell me is that place used to be desert and then Saddam built “something”. All they could see were the walls from the road that leads to the airport. Most had no idea what this place was even called and most were afraid to ask.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What’s in a Name?

Back in World War I, the bad guys were known as “The Huns”. In WWII, the bad guys were the “Japs” or the “Krauts”. In hindsight, not very politically correct. In Korea, they were known as “Reds”. OK, not very original. In Viet Nam, the official designation of the bad guys was “VC” which stood for either Viet Cong or Vietnamese Communists. Pretty descriptive and more politically correct than some of the other names used back then. To the troops, however, the enemy simply became known as “Charlie”.

Over here, there are several official names for the bad guys. Collectively, they are all lumped together as “AIF” which is Anti Iraqi Forces. Within the AIF you have the “AQI”-- Al Qaida in Iraq and “JAM”-- Jaysh al-Mahdi. Very politically correct, but not very easy to say. Instead, they are often known as “Hajjis”. The funny thing is, the only Hajji I know of is from Johnny Quest and he was from India.

I know, I know, a lot of people will be like: “oh don’t say that, you might offend them”. I would imagine that they have more important things to worry about and I’m sure their name for us is equally non-offensive. Besides, what’s in a name?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


After a while, you get used to the sounds that you hear around here. What once was an incoming mortar turns out to be nothing more than a trailer door slamming. Last week, I was sitting on the patio of our palace, talking with one of our new guys when I heard a distance a faint, yet very familiar “whack”. I didn’t think anything about it as well as the splash that occurred a few seconds later. The other guy almost jumped out of his skin. I did the best I could to keep a straight face. We kept talking and a few seconds later “whack” followed be another splash. He jumped again and I bit my lip. After a few more iterations, I finally broke down and pointed across the lake to where some guys were hitting a bucket of golf balls. Between their building and ours is a small island where there they put in a hole and flag. Not being a golfer, I have no idea what par this course is.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another good reason why we invaded Afghanistan

One of the many canals that run across this base.

The other day, a little girl I know went to the doctor for a UT infection. A few minutes in the doctor's office and a shot in the butt and she will be fine---no big deal. Something then occurred to me. If she lived in Afghanistan-especially before it came under new management, this would have been a life threatening condition. Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to be doctors. In addition, male doctors were notallowed to examine female patients. The net result: Afghanistan is oneof the few countries in the world were women have a shorter life expectancy than men.
Funny, I don’t recall any feminists thanking the president.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who to Pray For?

When I was home on leave, a friend asked me “who should I pray for over there?” Personally; I don’t think there is a bag limit on prayers. If there were, I would say, first and foremost, the wounded soldiers would be at the top of my list. Some time ago, a kid (I never knew him) lost both legs, an arm, and at least one eye. Every day for the rest of his life, he will have to struggle and I’m sure he can sue all the prayers that he can get.

Next on my prayer request list would be the regular soldiers over here. Things are tough over here and with the 15 month extension, getting tougher. Some are handling it well enough, but some can’t. Since I’ve been here, there have been 2 suicides that I know of. One kid got a bad phone call from home, went outside, and shot himself in the head. These guys are super, but they have their limits and can sure use some extra prayers as well.

Finally I would say that families of the troops need some extra prayers. Repeated, long deployments are taking a severe toll on families. It is not uncommon at all to hear that a guy went home on R&R only to come home to an empty house and no family. According to Army Times, repeated, long deployments have not had an adverse effect on divorce rates. The families are coping well enough, but they could use some extra prayers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Talkin' trash

Smoke rising into the air is a pretty common sight around here. Some times, it is a sign that someone is either having a very bad day (or good day, depending on who got blown up). In this particular case, I’m pretty sure that the smoke is coming from “Camp Trash Can”, which is the garbage dump on base. Since they haven’t built an armored garbage truck, the next best thing for us to do is to burn it. I guess it helps that there is no EPA around here. The Iraqis, well, they don’t put that much effort into waste management, they just dump their trash wherever they feel like it. It is not uncommon to see the remains of a butchered goat in a gutter or a sewer pipe from a house dumping straight onto the street.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dust Storm

We had another dust storm the other day. From the air, they look pretty cool—something like a scene from the movie “The Mummy”. On the ground, the sky just takes on an eerie orange color. Visibility went down to about a half a mile. It is a very fine dust—almost like talcum powder that irritates your eyes and blankets everything like pollen

An Army of losers

Waiting in Kuwait for a flight to Baghdad.
Well apparently I work with an Army of losers. According to Andy Rooney on 60 minutes that is. He based this claim by the stating that the Army is scraping the bottom of the barrel to meet recruiting goals. He said that the Army has granted thousands of "moral waivers" for those individuals that had been convicted of crimes. Mr. Rooney also said that the army represents America and that america's image abroad is damaged by a "growing Army of losers". An interesting though, but I wonder, what was his stance on impeachment? From what I remember, didn't the President commit a crime by lying to a grand jury? And doesn't the President represent the country abroad? Himm? Good ole' Andy seemed to be very much in favor of giving him a morale waiver. Of course, he said that the Army was greatly improved after he and other upstanding citizens joined the Army in 1942. If it wasn't for the fact he would break a hip, I would recommend the old hypocrite climb in a truck over here and take a trip outside of the wire--he'll see exactly what kind of losers these outstanding tropps are

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stayingin touch

I couldn’t resist this picture—I took it down in the "Green Zone" in Baghdad--nothing like exporting good old fashioned American values!!

It is relatively easy to stay in touch with my family back home. There are a large number of VoIP phones that are run by the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) department. Although the quality is not the best, they are relatively inexpensive. The lines can be fairly long at times however—especially if you go to one of the MWR tents. There is a narrow band of time when we are awake and the folks we are calling back home are also awake. ATT has calling centers but they are the epitome of price gouging. For those that know what DSN lines are, they are another option to call home--there are direct lines that will connect you to a stateside operator. From there, you just use you calling card and you are off to the races.
Most of the MWR tents also have free internet access, but just like the VoIP lines, the lines can be long. We also have wireless internet access in some of the trailers. It costs about $70 a month and the speed is slower than dial up. The advantage with internet access in my trailer is that I can call Braye and the kids when they are awake, using Yahoo messenger. Using a webcam is fairly slow, but the phone works most of the time. It is a good thing that I’m an early riser. I try to get up around 0400-0430 or so and call them. That way I can say good night to them before they go to bed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Selective grief or hypocrisy?

Just like back home, all the TV shows here have been about the Virginia Tech shooting. It was a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the victims. They are in my prayers .

I am disappointed to see that the “blame game” has started already and, sadly, I see that many politicians are already cashing in on the terrible event.
Congress shut down and tearful speeches were given—all for the benefit of the pollsters and the media. Look at some of the people that are “grieving” so loudly. Do they grieve for the 30+ innocent Iraqis that are killed every day? What about the 300,000 that Saddam murdered? Sounds like a case of selective grieving to me.

These are good people over here and they have been through a lot. I guess that most of the professional “grievers” back home don’t see it that way. Are the Iraqis any less human? Do they not feel pain and suffering? Or do they only grieve when it is advantageous? I saw one prominent politician talking about the shooting and tears were in his eyes. Just the other day, he said that the war was a mistake and that we should have never invaded. OK, by invading, we stopped a murderous dictator that killed 10,000 times as many innocent people. Is it just me or is the hypocrisy blinding? If you were to take some of these grieving anti war politicians’ words at face value—then they would be demanding that we do more to end the sectarian violence that is killing so many innocent people—not advocating running away and letting the slaughter continue. But I’m just a guy on the ground—what do I know?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Al Qaeda Chicken?

One of the unique aspects of the military is that one person’s bright idea can have such a big impact on so many others. For example, the “powers that be” here decided that because under cooked eggs can cause salmonella; they are no longer allowed to serve eggs to order. So now our only choices are a ready to cook egg mixture or hard boiled eggs. Of course, there hasn’t been a single case of salmonella reported. But it seemed like a good idea to someone. Of course Waffle Kind simply puts a warning label on its menu—Can Waffle King be smarter than the Army?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Breakin' the law! Breakin' the law!

The picture is one of the “mini mosques” that are around here. They are all strictly off limits—I guess to avoid offending the locals. To me it seems disrespectful to board up a house of worship, regardless of the faith—but what do I know?

OK, this one fits under the heading of “I can’t make this up”. Several weeks ago, I gave a ride to one of our new guys back to hit tent. I went inside for a few minutes and when I came out, an MP was writing me a parking ticket.
Tried as I might, my best efforts to weasel out the ticket failed and this young man kept filling out the ticket form, when suddenly “Boom!” something exploded nearby. Seeing an opportunity to get away, I asked him if he better go find out what blew up.
Nope, enemy action wasn’t his department, enforcing the parking regulations around tent city—now that was his bag.
Then “Boom!” another explosion. Now, at this point I’m impressed with his tenacity; so, resigned to my fate, I asked him: “Can you at least turn off the flashing lights on top of your truck? So we're not marking our position.”
“No sir, I can’t, safety regulations”

Saturday, April 14, 2007

العباس بن فرناس

On the road to Baghdad airport, there is a statue of 'Abbas Ibn Firnas who was a medieval Iraqi scholar who, according to Arabic lore, designed and flew a hang glider in the year 875. According many Arabs, it was him and not the Wright brothers that first flew.
Since the Middle East lies between the Far East and Europe, much knowledge passed through the region along with commerce. The region prospered for many years because of this trade and exchange of ideas. What happened? I haven’t gotten that far with my Iraqi fishing buddies.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Reason

Another reason that we went to war is very simple. Saddam was an evil and he had to be removed. There is an old saying: "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Saddam was a homicidal dictator who killed hundreds of thousands of men women and children. One of our interpreters told me a story of how Saddam visited a school as part of a photo op. When he asked a little boy if he knew who he was, the boy replied “you are the man whose picture my father hits with his shoe. Saddam had the father rounded up and shot in front of his son.
This is the same guy that used chemical weapons, supported terrorism and invaded two of his neighbors. Should we have sat idly by and do nothing? Just look away and pretend bad things aren’t happening? What would that say about us as a people? Should we have issued some more sanctions? That worked so well in the past. Maybe reach out to him and try to understand that his underlying hostility isn’t really his fault and he is lashing out…blah, blah, blah…Doing the right thing is sometimes difficult and painful. We are the world’s loan superpower and with that comes great responsibility. If there are Americans out there that think we should look the other way and appease evil—consider moving to France—they’ll love to have you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

15 Months

Well, today the SECDEF announced that Army units will extend for up to 15 months—up from the normal 12. Click here for the story. What does that mean for yours truly? I have no idea. Although I officially belong to the Navy, I work for an Army unit—one that was scheduled to go home around about a month before my tour ends. Will they be extended? Who knows? Will I be extended as well? I don’t know. No sense expending energy spooling up over something that may or may not happen.
I’m just going to do what Braye and I have always done when it concerns the Navy—prepare for the worse and hope for the best.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What the hail?

After our first touch of summer, the weather threw us a curve ball. Early this morning, our trailers were rocked with some pretty severe thunderstorms. Later, when I was at work, we were actually hit by some hail. Something kinda Old Testament about hail in the desert,. I guess I could think of some deep symbolic correlation—but that would take effort. I’m just glad that the temperatures were back in the 60s. The picture was taken at 0930 in the morning!!


I mentioned before that part of this base was Saddam’s private game preserve. The building above used to be a hunting lodge. Now it is a Troop Medical Clinic (TMC). Inside, it is all wood and very rustic—just like you would expect of a hunting lodge. The nurses’ station used to be a wet bar (devout Muslims here). I normally don’t spend my free time on inside of medial clinics, but I made an exception today.
I was just minding my business fishing today when I ran into an Iraqi suicide Bass. Long story short, he kept up his jihad long after I pulled him out of the water and as a result, I wound up with a treble hook in two of my fingers. My Leatherman wasn’t quite up to the job, so I figured I’d better let the pros have a look at it.
I guess being combat medics; they don’t see very many fishing injuries around here and they tried to make the most of it. Good thing they think I’m a Major…I overruled them on the X-rays, didn’t let them cut my finger open with a scalpel and shot down the ring saw idea. Considering all of the dead bodies that used to be in the lake, I did take them up on a Tetanus shot though.
All in a days work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Forget spring, summer is in the air. You can tell by:
It is already in the mid 90’s (only 40 to go!) Basrah is already in the 100’s.
The big fish have come up from the bottom and are now swimming off our back porch.
The flies are starting to get bad. Everywhere I look, fly traps have sprung up. I’m sure the mosquitoes are not too far behind.

There is a pool here, but I wonder how refreshing 120 degree water will be? This pool is actually on a nearby base though

Monday, April 09, 2007


I made it to Mass yesterday. Compared to other services I’ve been to here, it was pretty good. I went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and it was awful--the priest barely spoke English and the 3 man choir tried to sing 3 different songs at the same time. Each time, each choir member kept going thinking the others would join him. At one point, I thought to my self “the only thing that would make this service any worse would be a rocket hitting the church”. A couple of seconds later I heard a pretty big explosion. (It was just outside the wire). OK I thought, message received: time to start paying attention.

One thing that was interesting was the variety of people attending Mass. It was like the UN, I saw Englishmen, Aussies, Africans, Koreans, a couple of Chinese guys and a good number of Iraqis.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Today is Easter Sunday, but so far, it is just another day. I guess it is best since holidays really remind you of how far away from home we are.
I ran, went to work and plan on going to the gym. Sometime today, I need to get to Mass. Just like in America, there are no references to religion as it applies to Easter—the only decorations you see are Easter Bunnies and eggs.
Today is also a Muslim holiday—the date that marks the death of the second Caliph—Umar. Since the big split between Shiites and Sunnis didn’t happen until after his time, will the locals celebrate by hiding exploding eggs? Who knows? The really don’t need a reason nowadays to whack each other.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Braye III

Braye the First was my trusty 2 seat beach runner. A couple of months ago, I had to give it back to the Army. Braye the Second was the truck that my guys spent weeks rebuilding. After the drive shaft broke, I put in a request for a non-tactical vehicle (NTV).
Yesterday, I took delivery of Braye III—a Chevy Suburban. It doesn’t have A/C and only 3 windows work, but it is sure better than walking. I don’t have to wear a helmet while driving (an Army requirement to drive a HMMVW) and I have a radio (a British station and 2 Armed Forces Radio stations).

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Warrior’s Prayer

Usually, the chaplain comes out and prays with the troops before they head out on a mission. His prayers are good, but pretty much typical of what you would expect from a man of the cloth. The other day, the chaplain didn’t make it, so the Sergeant that was leading the mission, filled in. To put things in proper perspective, if a movie were to be made about this until, he would be played by someone like John Wayne—a very gruff and tough NCO. He actually did a very good job. Part of his prayer went like this:

“Lord, if it is you will that we fight today… give us a clear sight picture and allow our trigger pull be smooth.”

Over here, things are different that in the rest of the world. Although it may sound strange, if not morally wrong, to pray (on Holy Thursday of all days) for the ability to kill one’s fellow man, that is the reality over here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Going outside the wire

From time to time, my job requires that I go outside the wire. As far as I’m concerned, it is no big deal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take unnecessary chances, but going out is not as bad as it sounds. The media lives by the rule “If it bleeds, it leads”. So as a result, all they talk about are the casualties. This slanted reporting makes the area outside the base sounds like the boiling caldron of death and destruction. The truth is, we have thousands of troops who go out on missions everyday with out incident. Also, like everywhere else in the world, you have your good neighborhoods and your bad neighborhoods. Some areas of the country are very safe. Others may require a little more caution.
There is a difference between hazardous and dangerous—a hazardous situation is one where there are certain risks that can be mitigated. In our case, we have safety systems in our vehicles that would make a NASCAR driver jealous. We are also heavily armed and armored. Most importantly, we have the finest, most professional soldiers in the world. All of these factors greatly reduce the risk of going outside.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WMDs and Peanut Butter

This is a picture of the Perfume palace. According to local legend, this was the residence of senior bath party concubines—thus the name.
One of the reason we invaded Iraq was the threat of WMDs.
Did Saddam have WMDs when we invaded? Who knows? But look at his behavior beforehand:
He used them before on the Kurds as well on Iran.
He refused to allow inspectors in.
We received intelligence that he was trying to reconstitute his WMD programs.

Given the preponderance of the evidence, we acted correctly at the time. When speaking about the Global warming, Al Gore said “we have to act, even if the science is wrong, the consequences are too dire to take the risk of doing nothing” Himm dire consequences—questionable evidence. So to paraphrase the inventor of the internet: we need to error on the side of caution.
Remember the great peanut butter recall from a few months ago? Well Wal-Mart is still sold out of peanut butter. Why? Because Wal-Mart and consumers threw out all of their peanut butter. I think it comes under the philosophy of “better safe than sorry”
Would any mom send her kids to school with a peanut butter, jelly and Salmonella sandwich? No, of course not.
Can you imagine the outcry if Saddam did launch a chemical warhead against another country? Liberals would be screaming from the hill tops to impeach the president because he didn’t act on the intelligence he had.
Ok, so Saddam didn’t have an active WMD program, so what. The world is still a better place without him.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


This is a picture of one of the chapels on base. It is sad that you have to surround a holy place with concrete barriers, but that is the reality around here.

Well, I broke the drive shaft on my trusty truck yesterday, so I am on the walking tour of the base. I hate walking—sure I run 5 miles a day, but I can’t stand walking. Back home, I will drive to the local college to run on the bike trails—but I will do everything I can to get the closest parking spot to where the trail begins. I did put the time to good use, however, and composed several blog entries in my head, but since I was late for work, I didn’t have time to put those thoughts down on.

Monday, April 02, 2007


With all of the traveling that I have done lately, one thing really comes to mind—all of the thank yous I have gotten from people along the way. On my way home, while I was passing through different airports, quite a few people came up to me and said: “we just want to thank you for your service”. Every time I hear that, I feel truly grateful and humble.

A few people were extremely generous. On my flight to Pensacola, one very nice lady gave me her first class seat. I tried to say no, but she was very insistent. On the way back from Pensacola, another lady thanked me and gave me an angel medal and a picture that her kids drew for me. I really am so touched. (The peace symbols really brought out the hippie in me.) I’m just doing my job over here, but doing it for such wonderful people makes the sacrifices so much easier.

Since I spent so much time waiting in airports, I had quite a few conversations with folks about how things are going over here. Over the next few weeks, I will try to give my best answers here to some of the questions that people asked me—like what does peanut butter have to do with weapons of mass destructions?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Made it back

I’ve finally made it to Baghdad. It was a long trip, but considering that I got to see my family—it was more than worth it. I flew from Kuwait to Baghdad in a C-130. The flight crew was nice enough to let me ride u front with them—too bad they didn’t let me drive. I’m beat and will hit the rack soon, but I expect to be back to full time blogging tomorrow.I’ve finally made it to Baghdad. It was a long trip, but considering that I got to see my family—it was more than worth it. I flew from Kuwait to Baghdad in a C-130. The flight crew was nice enough to let me ride u front with them—too bad they didn’t let me drive. I’m beat and will hit the rack soon, but I expect to be back to full time blogging tomorrow.

In Kuwait--again

I'm back in Kuwait. I left Pensacola around 0900 on Friday and I arrived here around midnight on Sunday—a long trip. I must be getting sued to these long plane rides—this one didn't hurt so bad, although it was wrought with the typical delays.
I watched the Will Smith movie”The Pursuit of Happyness” on the flight—I really enjoyed it.
The Army issued me a ten last night and I was able to sleep for a few hours last night. On positive thing about the way the Army transports large numbers of people—you are so exhausted by the end that jet lag isn't a problem.
One more plane ride to go. It will be nice to be done with all of the traveling.