MY WAR – Fear And Loathing In Iraq

16 07 2004

This is, as far as I know, one of a kind. Not only is it a blog written by a soldier now serving in Iraq, it’s written by a soldier who can write. His grammar isn’t great, his spelling is OK, his punctuation is horrible. All of that is beside the point. Like Emmett, he can communicate a sense of time and place so clearly that it’s almost physical–you can hear it, you can see it, you can almost reach out and touch it. In a post called ‘Cleaning Up the Streets of Mosul’, he describes going on an IED Sweep.

We had an IED Sweep for a mission this after noon. An IED (Improvised Exploding Device) Sweep is when we drive around town for hours until we hit an IED speed bump, or until one of us visually finds an IED along the road. No lie, that’s how we find IEDs on IED Sweeps out here, we drive around until one literally blows up on us or if one of us visually finds one. Today was a successful sweep, we found 3 rocket launchers, two of them with rockets in them. We found them right there next to the road, not even hidden, in front of a playground. We stopped our vehicles and pulled 360 security around the area and had our demo guys blow em up with some explosives. You have to be careful in situations like this, whenever UXO is placed blatantly in plain view like that, it could be a possible ambush. Example, one time we found a bunch of artillary rounds by the traffic circle in the middle of Mosul, just sitting there, and we went to secure the area for the Demo guys to show up and blow it up, and we got hit with an RPG, or like this one time in Sammara, I had a demo guy tell me that the terrorists placed some UXO (Un-Exploded Ordinance) along the side of the road (Artillery Rounds) that was totally visible for them to see, and they booby trapped it with a solar powered calculator. They placed the solar powered calculator under the ground, and when the demo guys came and picked up the UXO, it shifted the dirt off the solar panels on the calculator, which turned the calculator ON, and thus set off the UXO, which was actually an IED. Lost some guys from that.

His voice, like most combat infantrymen’s, is flat. He doesn’t embellish, he doesn’t try to make it pretty or boost the horror or milk the pathos; he’s just telling it like it is. When he’s funny, I’m pretty sure it’s unintentional, as in ‘Things To Pack In Your Rucksack If Your Going To Iraq’.

SLINGSHOT: These are great when non-lethal force is needed. Like when they start throwing rocks and bricks at you. Tons of stray dogs out here with all kinds of crazy diseases, and they all love to chase and bark at American soldiers and give away your position. Slingshots are a good way to get them to move out and shut the fuck up.


HAND SANITIZER: All sorts of Koodies out here. Lots of soldiers come down with dysentery (chronic diarrhea) You get dysentery from not washing your hands after you take a shit. Its good to always use hand sanitizer before you eat, that way you don’t get the shits.
CAFFINE/SLEEPING PILLS: Caffeine Pills are good to take if you’re pulling an all night OP and you have to stay awake. When you need something stronger then caffeine pills, try a couple Ripped Fuels (You can get Ripped Fuel at GNC) Ripped Fuels will make your heart explode though. Not recommended. Sleeping Pills are good to take when you need to get some sleep, but you cant. Your sleep pattern gets all fucked up out here because you’re always doing something at all hours of the day, so you sleep when you can. I myself have developed a slight case of insomnia out here.

And the only time I caught him trying to be funny, it was chilling–for a civie, anyway: ‘A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK: Because youre going to need it here.’

He (he’s anonymous; goes by the handle ‘CBFTW’) seems to write at least one post a day, sometimes two, and they all slice directly into the heart of what the troops are up against and, to a degree, how they’re coping. He doesn’t make judgments and he doesn’t talk poilitics; if he has opinions he mostly keeps them to himself. What you will read is raw, frontline reporting, practically in real-time. In other words, everything we don’t get–or only rarely–from our Bush-addled media.

This is one of the best combat soldier’s diaries I’ve ever read. It has the immediacy and authenticity of an eye-witness account under extreme stress, and the power of a Hemingway novel to punch you in the gut when you’re not expecting it. Consider it a Must-Read and check it every day. If he can live it, we can read it.

Note: Wondering what you can do to make our soldiers’ lives a little easier? Here’s one way: He says at one point that he spends a lot of money at amazon buying books. Apparently that led to some emails from people offering to send some to him, which he thinks would be great (he wants a little note included telling him why you picked the book you sent). If you would like to do likewise, write to his email address ( westcoast11b@hotmail.com) and tell him, and he’ll mail back his Army surface address. It seems like a small enough thing to do, and–count on it–whatever you send will get spread around. I’m sending a paperback copy of James Bamford’s The Puzzle Palace about the origins and operations of the NSA–the National Security Agency. If he ever decides he wants to be a spy, he should know what he’s getting into. What are you sending?

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10 responses

16 07 2004
Dan

This is a great blog. Terrific find.

16 07 2004
Mick

Thanks. Yeah, it blew my mind when I stumbled across it. Sheer luck–well, luck and the fact I’m looking for stuff to write about. ‘Lost some guys on that one.’ Talk about the power of understatement. This SOB’s got something.

16 07 2004
~Jen~

Well said. You’re absolutely right. He’s an extraordinary young man.

16 07 2004
nygal

This young soldier has a gift for telling it like it is, and he keeps you wanting more! We will see him win the Pulitzer some day for sure…or writing for National Geographic, and we can say “we knew him when…”

17 07 2004
Kayz

This is a great blog – but there are a number of others! Check out http://www.missick.com/warblog.htm (A Line in the Sand). Also, here’s a roll of first person accounts with excellent writings by both soldiers and Iraqis at http://bloggers4freedom.com

19 07 2004
justrose

I sent him One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez . . . great review! Rose

20 07 2004
Mick

Thanks, justrose!

1 08 2004
Sara

Hey, I also “stumbled” upon CB’s blog a few weeks after starting my own. My younger brother is an Army Ranger, and as such, we aren’t allowed too much more information than: “Yeah, so I’m being shipped out tomorrow. I can’t tell you where–at all. Or for how long. I will only be able to write one-line emails once a week.” Needless to say, this blog gives me a peek into what this whole Iraq deployment is about–a lot of other folks say the same thing. When I first started reading, my first thought was of author Tim O’Brien, who has written FANTASTIC novels about his time in Vietnam: The Things They Carried (non-fic
), and Going After Cacciato (fict.). Wanted to send these to CB before I knew he wanted books, so I guess now I must.

18 08 2004
Anonymous

A soldier who can write? What a bold statement. So you’re going to make him your posterboy and ride on his coattails? Starfucker.

29 08 2004
Anonymous

I just wanted to let you know, if you don’t know already, that MY WAR has stopped posting. I was a solder for 10 years and loved his posts as did everyone I let in on it. He will be sadly missed. I hope he resumes writing when he gets back and/or publishes his work.

Maybe you could write a commentary on what happens to bloggers who are discovered. I think the article by NPR that listed his name and unit finally did him in. What a freaking shame that NPR could not keep any journalistic integrity and wrote it like a hit piece.

Tricky

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