Thursday, July 22, 2004

Some of you know that I have been pondering for some time now whether I would continue blogging after Patti’s return.  I’ve been leaning toward the cessation of my online opining – however it is only recently that I’ve solidified the decision. 
I’ve decided to retire from the website business…and I am finally able to articulate to myself several reasons why.  Let me share some of these with you.
My mission is accomplished.  It was accomplished the day Patti returned home.  She and I began her site as she was preparing to deploy figuring it would be an easier way to keep our families informed of news of her.  That was before we learned there would be weeks with no contact, hence no news .  So I began to fill in the blanks with news items I could find on my own around the Internet.
Then COL Mike Tucker, the commander under whom the 1st Brigade originally deployed came to Friedberg and spoke with the family members.  He convinced me that the press was giving us only the bad news…and thus was born the raison d’etre under which this site has operated ever since.  Root out the positive developments in Iraq and the global war on terror and, where appropriate, offer a military perspective translated for those who don’t speak “Army”.  Oh…and on certain occasions throw in my own opinions free of charge.
It was a niche angle for a niche market.  And I don’t know all of the few hundred regular-to-daily readers but the common element among those I know is that most of you are personally invested in this war…you have a loved one who has been down range doing the dangerous heavy lifting on behalf of the nation. You have been the core of the niche market.
I know many of your loved ones are in the 1st Armored Division…and I trust they are home or en route and we can get on with the business of living our lives, cherishing our returned soldiers, and relearning, perhaps, to sleep without one eye open.
So…Patti is home – Praise the Lord – and I no longer have the essential motivation to spend hours everyday sifting through hundreds of negative headlines to find the positive nuggets.  And if I’m not going to do it well, then I’m not going to do it at all.
The site also served as my own bit of therapy.  But my darling wife is home now…I’ll take my therapy in the sunshine of that amazing smile and her uncanny ability to push back the frontier of sweetness every day.
But there are a few more reasons I feel compelled to stop.  You can agree, or not.
Back in June Sarah had an incident in which a posting on her blog caught the eye of someone who apparently sits among the blogging pantheon to those who lean (or lunge) left.  As a result of this notice, her site was deluged with comments from those who didn’t like what she had to say.  In between the occasional lucid argument were numerous scathing personal attacks and filthy epithets hurled at her simply because she stated her opinion.
I’ve not had that problem on this site…in part, I believe, because for the most part the message has been simple: here is good news from Iraq that you aren’t seeing in most news outlets.
However, since I’ve already confessed that my mission is accomplished and I no longer have the inclination to do the daily good news search…the danger exists that this would become a site dedicated to my opinion.
And I have several problems with that, not least of which is that Patti’s good name doesn’t need to be associated with my opinions as I try to sort out what is what in this world.
But larger than that it may be that I’m a product of my generation and breeding: I’m a forty-something Southerner, raised a Southern Baptist.  And back when I was growing up there in South Carolina it was a widely respected view that we don’t discuss politics or religion in what we Southerners refer to as “polite company”.
See…being polite still carries some sway with many of us who hail from Dixie.
And while reflecting on why folks would write such nasty things to Sarah on her website, I concluded that the anonymity of the Internet contributes greatly to such behavior.
But in an honest discussion with myself I found an incongruity in faulting some for such rude behavior when in fact an opinion blog is, by my standards, very likely crosses that line that separates polite company from the steely edge of politics, religion and other subjects likely to result in argument.
In short, I found that if I were speaking publicly to the same numbers of folks who visit this site daily, well, frankly, I would be more circumspect about expressing my opinion.  In short, the anonymity of the Internet has allowed me to cross the line of decorum set by years of successful tradition by my forebears.  And I’m not convinced – ultimately - that is a good thing.
I’ve titled many posts here over the last year some variation of “The Death of Civility”.  Each of those posts indicated to me that the lines of individual restraint that collectively support the smooth functioning of society are being eroded at a rate that I believe over-values the individual and undervalues the traditions and mores of civilization. 
In being honest with myself I know that by hiding behind the Internet and discussing politics, religion and societal problems I am breaking with the values I was raised with.  Especially with the steady readers whose names I know off the top of my head…for you, above all, are “polite company”.
A technological advancement should not be an excuse to forget one’s manners.  Shouldn’t be, but frequently is.  Some among us haven’t yet figured out that one’s cell phone conversation should not intrude on another’s ears anymore than routine table chatter.  And why someone’s car alarm should awaken me in the wee hours of the morning requires a logic that defies simple, common courtesy.  The failings of some to apply tried and true manners to new technology does not excuse those of us with the vision to see the old rules need to apply still.
So…I am correcting a mistake, now that I recognize it.  I’m stuffing my opinions back into my pocket and I’m renewing my efforts to enhance the daily personal exchanges I have with others along the lines of good manners and the tenets of a civility.  I’m making an attempt in my life to extricate myself from the shrill shouting back and forth, and I intend to re-center myself in a land of genteel approach.
A website I use to track links to the site indicates that its software is tracking over three million blogs today.  That number has grown by nearly a million in less than a year.  My departure will not appreciably affect the blogosphere in any way.  And my return to the practices of the values of my heritage will do little to affect the balance or direction of manners and politeness in this world.  But it will have a large affect on the world Patti and I live in.  I’m doing what I can to make it better.
Finally, I’m going to borrow a phrase from Naomi Judd and “Resign as general manager of the universe.”
Patti and I have fourteen months of stressful separation to overcome.  We have a home and a relationship to rebuild, and we have immeasurable thanks to return to Him, by whose hand Patti has returned safe and whole.  There is much on which I need to focus.  Moreover, I need to be fully present in the real world.  So…I’m pulling up the stakes in cyberspace and replanting my feet squarely in The America I Live In.
I’m grateful to those of you with whom I’ve walked the last fourteen months.  Many wrote to encourage, some wrote to praise and others wrote to politely challenge.  Some shared photos, others joy, and a few, tragedy.  You filled the vast loneliness of a tiny apartment, and some of us formed an odd little 21st century family, brought together by a common event. Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I wish you well.  I wish you joy.

Hello, everyone!  It is so incredible to be home with Tim - the sweetest MAN on the planet.  The last eleven days are best described as AMAZING!  Tim has made every minute of every day full of happiness and normality.  Believe it or not, normality ranks a close number one to happiness on the list of good feelings from coming home.  It is so lovely to see green trees, smell clean air, walk down clean streets, gaze upon cultured gardens, watch happy and prosperous families play with their children, and just open the refrigerator to reach in for a cold German beer when I want one.
My experiences in Iraq were numerous and definitely have changed me in varied ways.  Right now, the most significant change in me is a heightened and most intense feeling of how life is so precious and everything in life, especially the little things, should never be taken for granted.  I am thankful to God beyond any words that I could use for bringing me and my Gators home safe and sound.  Thank you so much to all of you for your prayers, well wishes and many words of encouragement to Tim.
God bless you all and God bless America!
CPT Patti

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


I've not had the chance to share this with you until now. Those of you who have walked this journey with us might appreciate the thoughts I had in the last hour before the reunion.

Many of you know of Sarah whose husband Russ has been deployed about 5 months with the 1st Infantry Division. On Sunday, while awaiting the time for the reunion ceremony to roll around, I sat in my office and wrote down my thoughts. I did so in a note to Sarah, for reasons I explain late in that note.

This was my reflecting just before reuniting with my darling wife.
Sarah -

its a handful of minutes after 1:00 pm on Sunday, July 11th. I am sitting in my office in Friedberg trying to immerse myself in something to let the moments tick by. Time is moving slowly right see, my darling wife is sitting in a day-room in some barracks on this post. I can't see her until we have the reunion ceremony at 2:30.

I suppose it is a sign that I've spent a lot of years around the Army that I find it not particularly bothersome that we are literally standing on ceremony by withholding our reunion for another hour and a half.

Now that I know she is safely out of that part of the world, well, all other things seem fairly secondary.

In fact, though, I'm glad there is going to be a brief ceremony. I'm glad that there is going to be a small punctuation mark on the end of this ordeal. I believe that life's notable moments deserve ceremony...and I know in my lifetime I've sometimes been too "busy" or, more likely, distracted to do right by the notable moments.

This is a swing moment for me. By that I mean my reality is swinging from her being gone to her being here. Right now it feels as if neither is entirely accurate. I'm not experiencing a dizzying rush of relief...the big exhale hasn't really happened yet.

These and the moments to come are when I wish I possessed the ability to step out of myself and observe my life as a spectator might. Then I might be able to see every brick in the 427 day road that winds from this day to the day a lifetime ago when we said goodbye.

I might be able to recall everytime I tuned out the rest of the world as I heard a report from the radio or television saying there were US casualties in Baghdad...I might be able to quantify both the accumulated stress and the relief as I learned more and more facts.

I might put into perspective how hugely wonderful were those
occasional and infrequent moments when upon answering my phone I heard her voice saying "Hi Baby" from so very far away...and not the voices of good friends and family calling to check up on me.

I might be able to see how every prayer I've prayed that the Lord would bring her home to me, "safe and whole", has led to this moment...and I might be adequately humbled by His goodness that I'd compose my own Psalm by which to express my unbelievable gratitude.

And I might be able to keep an eye on this blessing...and all the things it means. I would be able to view every moment of our marriage from this point on in terms of the extraordinary gift I've been given in this woman...and never again, not ONCE, become exasperated at some minor offense on her part...for such actions would serve to remind me only that the Lord blessed me with a second chance greater than I everfelt I deserved.

I am happy for these final moments alone...for they allow me to
reflect. In a few minutes I will join some friends who are coming also to welcome Patti home...and I will get caught up as a player in this wonderment...and my brain will fail to record much that I would have hoped to hold on to.

But in these final few moments alone...the last of innumerable moments alone, it occurs to me that these are moments of joyous anticipation. And that is a blessing as well.

I've heard the have too...of those whose decisions and actions during separation will bring them pain upon reunion. I praise His name that Patti and I have no such barriers impeding our rejoining one anothers' sides.

I didn't handle this separation as well as I wish I had. But the perpetually messy house is now clean...and the added pounds are mostly lost. That which has been under my control is reasonably as it was. And my trustworthiness is intact.

And because of that, I await with joy the opportunity that comes very soon to look directly into her eyes and welcome her back to my arms.

By now, Sarah, you have figured out that I'm using this forum to you as a means to record that which I need to record prior to an event this momentous. I appreciate that indulgence on your part. If I wondered for a moment "why Sarah?", I knew as quickly it is because you would understand. You are on your own journey. Here is a peek at the end.

My best for you and Russ. Will be in touch.

And just a P.S. on this. The "big exhale" came at about 2:35. A large formation of nearly 200 soldiers, all dressed exactly alike, marched into the gym. I didn't see her...I wondered if another formation were coming.

Then - on the back row of the formation, nearly the other end of the gym, believe it or not, I spied that 50,000 watt smile peeking out from under the brim of her Boonie hat.

It was a very, very brief ceremony. And upon the command of "Dismissed", the formation broke into a mass of excited people swimming through the crowd to get that first hug.

She made it across the gym by the time I stepped down from the bleachers. And there she was...brown faced, cute as ever, and - well - here.

The big exhale came...and with it, the tears...the kind of tears that gush and flow...the kind of tears one never apologizes for. The kind of tears about which mothers explain to their children "not all tears mean that you are sad."

And the hug. The kind of hug that clamps down like a bear trap, and would be just as difficult to escape from supposing one were so inclined. Which of course, we weren't.

And all of a sudden we are in the same space and time.

And blessed.

Superb succinct piece that discusses the media with attitude problems we've discussed here on numerous occasions.

Go read it all
Another the-war-is-lost report was a front-page lead on July 6: "U.S. Response to Insurgency Called a Failure." It said "some top Bush administration officials" were criticizing the Pentagon for "failing to develop a coherent, winning strategy against the insurgency." But the alleged "top Bush administration officials" were AWOL in the Times, just like the absent "U.S. commanders." Kaus wrote: "Again, there are no quotes -- even blind quotes, even blind paraphrased opinions -- from 'top Bush administration officials' backing up the story's dramatic initial assertion."

The LA Times' negativity about Iraq seems to leak out fairly frequently. A June 29 report depicted the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, as obscure and unpopular: "little-known to most Iraqis after spending more than three decades in exile ... Many Iraqis have questioned the interim government's legitimacy."

But four days earlier, The Washington Post reported that a large majority of Iraqis knew very well who Allawi was and backed him with confidence. Citing a survey commissioned by U.S. officials in Iraq and conducted by an independent pollster, the Post said 70 percent of Iraqis were familiar with their new leaders and 73 percent approved of Allawi to head the new government. Allawi had been appearing in the Iraqi media frequently, visiting sites and generating optimism. The poll was not reported in the Los Angeles Times, possibly because the poll was positive about the war and the Times is not.
(Special thanks to John for this story...he knew I'd love it!)

Patti is in her second of seven days of mandatory briefings, medical evaluations, paperwork catchup and such.

Today her briefings include discussions of the effects of separation and reunion on soldiers and their families - and the common issues associated with reunions.

Tongue in cheek I told her the Army was sending her to class today to remind her not to beat her husband.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


I am so tickled at the response to the call for pictures for the welcome home project.

You can see the finished project here (I'm linking it so it doesn't slow down the loading of the basic website).

By the way, Patti just came in the room...and said to tell you that of all the surprises and gifts she received upon her return (and there were MANY!)...the Faces Project is her favorite.

Bless you for participating.


Folks, thank you so much for the lovely outpouring of joy you have sent to us via the comments and the emails. Your goodness to us is astonishing.

Here is a pic from Sunday's reunion at the gym on Ray Barracks...

We are in front of a banner welcoming home the Gators...the company she commanded for the first 10 months of her 14 months in Iraq. In case it is too dark to read the banner says: "Gators: America called...said to tell you "Thanks".

As she looked at the words you have written, Patti's eyes misted over. See...she is very proud of what they accomplished...she just didn't know until now just how much you are too.

Monday, July 12, 2004

AFTER 427 days...she's HOME!!!

Pictures and stories to follow gang...but today my real life beats the hell out of any online life!!

Friday, July 09, 2004


Pick your...uh..."expert".
Headline:Experts: VP choices rarely tip scales
But then there is this:
Headline: Experts: Choice Could Swing Election
(via OpinionJournal)

Goes to Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online.
If the new (Michael)Moore-standard says you can be a force for good even if you argue through half-truths, guilt-by-association and innuendo, then the case against Joe McCarthy evaporates entirely. He did, after all, have the larger truths on his side.


For Victor Davis Hanson, the smartest analyst I know of.

Just go read it all here.
Last week, the carnivore Saddam Hussein faced the world in the docket. There was none of the usual Middle East barbarity. The mass murderer was not hooded and then beheaded on tape, in the manner of al Qaeda. Civilization has come to Iraq.

Nor was the destroyer of Iraqi dissidents hitched — Saudi-style — to a Humvee and dragged to pieces through the streets of Baghdad. The pillager of Kuwait did not lose a limb on the precepts of a sharia-inspired fatwa. A young Saddam-like Baathist assassin did not break in and shoot the desecrator of the Mesopotamian marshlands in the back of the head. And a West Bank-like mob did not lynch the torturer of dissidents in the public square. Even al Jazeera, an enthusiast of the usual barbarity, was wondering what the heck was going on in its own neck of the medieval woods.

Surely, the slow emergence of real civilization in Iraq is one of the seminal events in the history of an Arab and Muslim Middle East that has had no prior record of either consensual government or an independent judiciary. ...The more Washington, D.C., insiders insist that the transfer of power was a meaningless construct, the more we are beginning to see the future shape of an autonomous, free, and civilized Iraq. Don't listen to cynical American reporters and played-out professors who laugh at the idea of civilization. Watch instead how dictators and monarchs in the region recoil at it all. After all, such autocrats have lots to worry about: 70 percent of the world is democratic; excluding Israel, 0 percent of the Middle East is...

Only belatedly has John Kerry grasped that his shrill supporters are often not just trivial but stark-raving mad. If he doesn't quickly jump into some Levis, shoot off a shotgun, and start hanging out in Ohio, he will lose this election and do so badly.

The war that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards once caricatured as a fiasco and amoral is now, for all its tragedies, emerging in some sort of historical perspective as a long-overdue liberation. At some point, one must choose: Saddam in chains or Saddam in power. And the former does not happen with rhetoric, but only through risk, occasional heartbreak, and the courage of the U.S. military. If Iyad Allawi and his brave government succeed — and they just may — the United States will have done more for world freedom and civilization than the fall of the Berlin Wall — and against far greater odds...

There is a great divide unfolding between the engine of history and the dumbfounded spectators who are apparently furious at what is going on before their eyes. Mr. Bush's flight suit, Abu Ghraib, claims of "no al Qaeda-Saddam ties," Joe Wilson, and still more come and go while millions a world away inch toward consensual government and civilization.
In Baghdad this week, the Post's own Matthew Gutman found both the fledgling government and the man on the street to be more confident and astute than often credited. Though security is clearly the top priority, the government rejected offers from Yemen and Jordan to send peacekeepers. Nor is the Iraqi street interested in seeing troops from any Arab or Muslim country.

"The toppling of Saddam is affecting all our neighboring countries," said Ali Rubai, relaxing in a Baghdad cafe. "The leaders of the Arab world fear such changes, and therefore will try to prevent a better future for Iraq."

Meanwhile, despite the fact that Iraqi police are being blown up by terrorists at an alarming rate, Gutman found that Iraqis are literally lining up for hours to join the police.

In some places, anti-Zarqawi vigilantes are popping up to fight the terrorists who are plaguing Iraq, and the Alawi government has just given itself emergency powers to allow widespread detentions in some areas. We can expect the next year or so to be messy, but there is little doubt that Iraqis understand they have been given the opportunity for a future they don't want to lose and are willing to fight for.
Iraq's first bond market will open this month, a move designed to ensure that the Iraqi government won't repeat Saddam Hussein's ruinous economic policies.

At the first bond auction, scheduled for July 18, Iraqi banks can bid for about 150 billion dinars (a little more than $100 million) worth of government debt, the finance ministry announced Wednesday.

Iraqi authorities for the first time are letting free market forces set interest rates in Iraq. The yield at the auction will set an unprecedented benchmark in Iraq, allowing commercial lenders to price loans more rationally.
Twenty-four-year-old Hajear and her sister Sarah, 26, are police officers in Iraq. They say they want to serve as role models for other Iraqi women who are used to working modestly in the home.

Hajear and Sarah arrived at the Al-Khadra police station in northern Baghdad just five days ago, after finishing a two-month training course. They wear blue Iraqi police uniforms and carry guns. Their faces are not covered, but they do wear Muslim head scarves. The sisters constantly smile and laugh. They are two of some 300 women serving on the Baghdad police force...

"My family encouraged me to be a police officer and to be an example of an Iraqi woman as a policewoman,” Hajear says. “They are afraid when I leave home and come back, but I was trained how to protect myself. I am not afraid."...

Sarah says she is ready to challenge a society run by men, to prove that women are equals.

"Women had pressure on them, and [men] would never let [a woman] serve in the police. Now, we have [female government] ministers. With God's help, we are police officers. Maybe in the future, I will be president," Sarah says.
U.S. Soldiers in Iraq discovered an apparent bomb-making facility and several weapons caches, senior U.S. military officials announced Tuesday at a Baghdad news briefing.

Army 1st Cavalry Division troops found the site in Baghdad recently, the official told reporters, noting the makeshift factory seemed to specialize in outfitting vehicles with explosives.

He explained that four vehicles were being outfitted as VBIEDs, shorthand for "vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices." Baghdad and other areas in Iraq have been hit recently by such car bombings.

The military official added that the Soldiers also discovered 12 million dinars in Iraqi currency at the site.

A soldier writes to his hometown newspaper.
"I'm looking forward to finally be able to hold my wife in my arms again and tell her I love her face to face instead of in e-mail and letters. After awhile, it starts to feel like it's all a dream that we are married..."

On Wednesday I noted an unusual proximity in the photo of Kerry and Edwards.

On Thursday the Drudge Report noticed it too.

Excerpts from a letter sent by an officer to his unit's family members as the 1AD units begin the redeployment from Iraq.
. Excitement abounds but we all are still a bit wary. We have had a few rocket attacks in the last three days of which one of them wounded two soldiers. What is wrong with these Iraqi insurgents? These people must be the same people that would go out of their way to poke a grizzly bear in the eye vs. letting him lumber by. I just cannot understand what goals are their aims other than trying to unhinge the Democratic process. They want power, I assume, with a religious base so they can control people and gain the prestige and riches for themselves. Sounds kind of like Saddam’s Baath Party system to me.

One of the Iraqis that work for me was threatened today that unless he paid $4000 dollars someone would kill part of his family. He says he will not pay as other Iraqis would do and is prepared to defend himself and his family by killing anyone that would take away his freedom.

This concept he grasps is foreign here but he has grasped it. He is willing to die to be free of fear and intimidation. I wish I could lie in wait with him and blast those godless bastards to hell as they come to retrieve the blackmail money. I can’t legally do that now as the Iraqis are now in charge. It is time for the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi people to set their own course for having safe and secure lives. I know the Iraqis are better prepared than the rest of the world and media give them credit for. The Iraqi people know they have to do this if they want to survive. These people are survivors and will make it. It will just take time...

My feeling of apprehension is really based on how will I and all of us re-enter the world we left behind. We all feel different and are changed. Will people we know see the change in on our faces and in our actions? Will we be expected to act a certain way? Will reactions to normal events we display be perceived as different now? I can only say it will work its way out and everyone will have to be patient.

I, like many, have a multitude of memories; all vivid but some good and some bad. How do you relay these vivid recollections without sounding over theatrical or a braggart or when we decline to discuss an event because it does not translate into the proper feeling or emotion thus paling or disrespecting the event or participants? I know from talking to other leaders and soldiers each are tired. They are not complacent or lackadaisical, but weary.

This weariness is probably attributed to all feeling a little blue and all being just tired of extended periods of heightened alertness. Just being slightly aware at all times, even while asleep, of noises and other peoples movements wears on the nerves. The extreme pressure of being out in sector compounds any mental recovery time to the point of dazing. Lastly, I think we are all proud of what First Armored Division accomplished here but was it enough. It seems so unfinished, though will it ever really be complete. We leave the lives of 135 soldiers here in Iraq. All died as fighters and all fought to the end. God bless them and their families...

The last fifteen months have seen freedom blossom here as one watches the caterpillar develop into the butterfly though we still are watching the cocoon in anticipation of that birth. I will remember extreme heat and biting, wet cold. I will remember laughing children, women wailing in their fits of sadness for loss of their loved ones and the glares of distrust. I will remember the sight of determined soldiers before battle and the dazed, crumbled looks of those survivors of other attacks.

I will remember how death comes to all people, soldiers and civilians alike. It is a surprise. We all fight till our last breath and we all never assume it is our last breath. We all really never know when death closes his hand around us as it comes without fanfare. As a light is tuned off at the switch, as a breeze ceases to blow, as a cloud changes shapes....all of these outcomes are unknown just as death greets each of us.

And finally the peace as each face shows the slackness of rest and the eternal sleep we will all enjoy eventually. I will remember being so frustrated at not being able to strike out in revenge that I thought I might explode. I remember true pride that I am in the First Armored Division. All these vivid memories will remain and I cannot wait to share with each of you.

The 425th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

That is one year, two months and three days.

I spoke to her briefly last night. Redeployment operations are in full swing. And she is tired. Very, very tired.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Got 10 quiet minutes? Read all of this.

Note to Mom: I'm betting you will just love this.

(Thanks to Sarah for the link.)
The Iraqi government announced plans Wednesday to conduct a national census in October, a politically sensitive and potentially dangerous undertaking.

His mother is a reporter...and he's not happy with her colleagues.
"You aren't reading about the positive things we see every day. They aren't telling you about the Iraqis who talk to us and tell us how much better their country is now that Saddam is gone. Or how they bring us little treats and try to get us to eat their food...

"They bring their kids over here to talk to us and play ball. One of my guys wrote home and had his parents send baseballs and bats and we're teaching the kids how to play baseball...

"One woman told me her daughter is going to school. This is the first time she's been able to go. The woman said she never went because Saddam didn't believe in educating women. The girl (she's about 8) wants to be a nurse when she grows up.

"There's a school not far from us that has about 10 girls (all ages) and 40 boys (all ages). One of the teachers told me that nobody comes to class late and nobody skips classes and everybody does their homework.

"A lot of things have changed since the Gulf War... Nobody here trusted us then - it was hard to get anyone to talk to you unless they were prisoners. People talk to us now all the time. You can walk down a street and people come up and talk. If you wear your uniform when you go shopping, just about everybody in the store comes up to you and wants to talk about America. They might not all figure that we're their best friends, but they want to talk.

"Please tell people not to believe everything they're hearing and reading. Things are getting better and we're doing the right thing by being here.

"Love to everybody,


Up close with the guys in deepest, darkest Baghdad. Good read...however, it contains some strong (though, I'm certain, accurate) language.
"How'd you end up with us, is this an embed?" the ridiculously young looking soldier asked me as we crouched on the roof of a power transformer station, surveying downtown Baghdad...

The roof is hot. Baghdad's high temperature on Wednesday is 118 degrees and the men of squad two, second platoon of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1-9 Regiment have already lost three men to the heat and it's only about half past noon.

When told that I had just happened to hook up with their unit after being caught in the middle of a running gun battle in central Baghdad, one of the men laughs.

" just hooked up with the most dangerous squad in Baghdad," he says without looking up from his weapon, which is now trained on a small group of men several blocks away who are certainly not ING. Just what might be ordinary bravado from a young soldier echoes across the cement rooftop, his squad-mate clarifies.

"No really we are," he says. "Out of the 11 of us, only two haven't won the Purple Heart in the last four months. It sucks to be us."


Consider this headline and story in USA Today:
Stability coming back to streets of Baghdad

Inspector Adnan Kadhum of the Baghdad traffic police says he noticed the change about 10 days ago: The city's notoriously unruly drivers suddenly started obeying his commands. They stopped when he signaled for them to stop; they went when he signaled for them to go.

"Before, you found hardly anyone listening to you," the 27-year police force veteran says. Kadhum, 48, spent his days flailing around in 105-degree heat, sometimes waving his pistol in a futile attempt to make motorists follow his commands. "Now, by barely moving my hand, I get respect."

Iraq's interim government, which began exerting influence even before it officially took political power last week, seems to be restoring a semblance of order to Baghdad's lawless streets. It's unclear how much the new respect for authority reflects Iraqi pride in getting their government back from U.S. occupation forces and how much it reflects fear of the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, and his beefed-up security forces.

Either way, the difference is visible. Iraqi police patrols are roaming the city in brand-new Toyota Land Cruisers. Baghdad's streets are still chaotic by any reasonable standard. But there are noticeably fewer cars moving at high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic or careening the wrong way down city boulevards. Most of all, more than a week went by without a major insurgent attack in the city — until a gunbattle broke out Wednesday in central Baghdad.
Of course, they don't give our troops any credit...but folks smarter than me have long contended that amazing things are possible so long as one doesn't care about who gets the credit.
NATO officials today met with top Iraqi officials in Baghdad to discuss the alliance's offer to help train Iraqi security forces.

U.S. Admiral Gregory Johnson headed the delegation, which met with Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Shalan al-Khuza'i.

The UN attempts to tell the USA what's what with nuclear materials inside Iraq.

Yes...the same UN that closed its short-lived offices in Iraq because the US couldn't guarantee its security.
Did the United States have the proper authority to take some materials out of Iraq last month?

There's a dispute over that question.

United Nations nuclear officials apparently disagree with America's claims that it had the authority to transfer highly radioactive material from Iraq.

Officials believe the nearly two tons of uranium and other radioactive items could be used in bombs to spread radiation. The material had been placed under seal by the U-N's nuclear agency at a Baghdad-area nuclear complex.

The U-S revealed recently that the material has been airlifted to an Energy Department lab for more analysis. U-N officials say the U-S never asked them for permission first.

But American officials say they believe they had the legal authority to remove the materials -- and that they had the Iraqi government's permission.

O wise man, wash your hands of that friend who associates with your enemies. - Saadi (1184 - 1291)
Another member of the legal team is Washington, D.C. lawyer Curtis Doebbler, whose track record shows this isn't the first time he has advised opponents of the United States.

Doebbler is currently one of about 20 lawyers appointed by Saddam's wife, Sajida, to represent the deposed Iraqi dictator...

According to biographies posted on the Internet, Doebbler served as an adviser to the Taliban on the laws of war and consulted with detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Biographies also state that he advised the Palestinian Authority, but Israel has prohibited him from returning to the occupied territories.

Doebbler has advised the government of Sudan on human rights, according to his website. Sudan is on the State Department's list of state-sponsors of terrorism. And he has written that the United States illegally occupied Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I believe that all people have a right and a duty to take all necessary measures to end the United States' inhumane dominance of the lives of billions of people," wrote Doebbler in a statement on his political views.

Doebbler has also published several poems online, including one that begins with the line "I am at war with America."
And while we're at would appear that being Saddam's lawyer might be one tough gig.
Brandishing assault rifles and grenade launchers, masked Islamists have threatened in a taped message to behead any lawyers defending deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Saif al-Allah (The Sword of God) group, belonging to the Islamic Jihad, warns all those who defend the criminal file of the cowardly criminal Saddam ... that we will sever your necks before you arrive," one gunman read from a piece of paper.

The gunman, from a previously unknown group, said in the tape given to Reuters that the warning was for "the Iraqi, Arab and foreign lawyers who have taken on the case of the criminal Saddam"...

Saddam's trial is not expected to begin for months but a more than 21-strong team of mainly Arab lawyers with power of attorney granted by Saddam's wife Sajida Khairallah have voiced fears about their personal safety in Iraq.

"We are getting one threat after the other," team coordinator Mohammed Rashdan said on Wednesday...

The seven gunmen, faces hidden by chequered head-dresses, said they would bring God's justice down on the heads of anyone who sought to defend the former president, accused of gassing Iraq's Kurds, crushing a Shi'ite uprising, and condemning countless Iraqis to death in his dreaded torture chambers.

"We will sentence you with cutting off your heads," one of the gunmen said, as they all drew out long glistening blades.
Look, guys...I know that Allah has apparently appointed you chief jurist and executioner (seemingly along with about every other Arab who can get his hands on a sword, grenade, car bomb, bomb vest, etc)...for whatever cause moves you to hide your face and spout really brave threats before the camera...but I'm thinking you haven't quite been paying attention to the changes happening in Iraq. Quick...get a calendar...LOOK! The year is no longer 437. Things have changed.

There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. However, since you guys got that whole "jihad" thing in your group's name, I'm keeping my distance. OK?

Oh...and just for the guys are beginning to sound a bit like the Queen of Hearts.

A really nice gesture by Drew Olanoff and actor Wil Wheaton (Cadet Wesley Crusher to trekkies) to give the hard to get Gmail accounts for deployed soldiers and their families.
There appears to be such a thing as a free lunch for deployed troops and their families.

Now it’s a matter of feeding them, so to speak.

Some self-professed computer geeks have joined to give deployed troops access to invitations for Google’s free e-mail service, Gmail, which offers an unprecedented one gigabyte of storage that will let them share photographs and videos across the Internet.

Gmail is currently available to the public only through the much-coveted invitations, which let users test it out as Google experiments with the software. Demand for the invitations is so high that they are being auctioned on eBay, and Internet sites have popped up where people barter deeds — mostly good deeds — in exchange for an invitation.

Now, invitations for the free e-mail accounts are available for troops overseas, particularly those serving in combat zones, said Anne Mitchell, president and CEO of the California-based consulting firm Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy.

To register, troops need to log on to and select “request an invite.”

Day 424 of CPT Patti's deployment.

Fourteen months and two days. In less numerical terms that translates to oh, about, forever.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I almost missed this.
"Just as we mourn for the victims of Saddam's regime, we also grieve for the Americans and Iraqis who were killed or injured during the liberation or by terrorists determined to hold us back. We will honor those who have sacrificed for our freedom by building a new Iraq that lives in peace with the nations of the world, without fear of war, torture chambers or terrorism."...

"As Iraqis assume full sovereignty over our nation, we extend our hands in friendship and gratitude to the American people. The sacrifices your sons and daughters made for our liberation will never be forgotten. Without those brave young men and women, this day might never have come."

The open letter was organized by the Iraq-America Friendship Alliance (IAFA), a new coalition of Iraqi and American organizations and individuals committed to fostering goodwill between the two nations, supporting Iraq's reconstruction and movement toward democracy and telling the untold story from Iraq.
(via Iraq the Model)
Its only three days now and the Iraqi TV stations are reporting about the heroic activities of the IPs...These are IPs arresting Iraqi criminals whom we (Iraqis) know just when we look at them. That’s what would make the difference from now on...

Iraqis now know that the Arab media are the enemy and we don’t believe what they say, but knowing the bright side of the story is another important matter which is the duty of all Iraqis who know it, starting with the government ending with all educated wise people who can take role in rebuilding the mentality of the Iraqi people to start rebuilding Iraq.

We will need help from all our friends and allies to overtake the critical time we are living, and we can’t forget the help and support we obtained from them till now.

But as I knew that we would be free about a year ago I know at this moment that we would be a safe advanced peaceful democratic country heading to prosperity, and model for all countries in the ME region……………..God Bless Iraq.

That freedom is breaking up that old gang of mine (with my apologies to The Four Aces)

Consider this something like the consumer confidence index...except this one includes men prancing with feathered poles...
But despite the unrest - or perhaps partly because of it - the number of marriages has nearly doubled since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003.

"The people I see are not affected by insecurity - I've had a 75-percent increase," says Muhammad Jawad Talikh, a marriage judge in the neighborhood of Kerrada for the past 32 years. "Young people are wishing for a better life, so they come to me and get married."

Karim Haider, deputy clerk at the Kerrada marriage court, registered 1,460 marriages in all of 2002. From May 1 to the end of 2003 - just seven months - he clocked 1,468. "And it's still increasing, every day," he says, stamping a flutter of engagement papers with an official seal.

"This year, we've been having weddings here almost every day," says Thamer Salim, the manager of Mashriq, a wedding hall that caters primarily to Iraqi Christians. Mashriq's accountant, Raed Khalil, estimates that the hall has twice as many weddings as before the war, mostly couples in their twenties.

I spend several hours most days searching out stories about what is going on in Iraq.

I don't recall seeing more than the occasional passing article on this effort...which is too bad. This is much more worthy of attention than much of the junk the media fixates on.
I spent six months in Baghdad in 2003 working with Iraqis to devise a strategy for bringing Saddam Hussein and his cronies to account. Mr. Hussein's appearance before an Iraqi judge last week was the culmination of a remarkable collaboration between the American-led coalition and Iraqi jurists. It also marked an important new stage in the evolution of international justice.

For probably the first time in history a country will put its former leaders on trial under international criminal law in a locally constituted court. Unlike its United Nations-sponsored cousins in The Hague and Sierra Leone, the Iraqi Special Tribunal empowers local officials to bring the perpetrators of atrocity crimes to trial. International financing will go where it will do the most good — toward rebuilding Iraq's judiciary and ensuring that the victims of Mr. Hussein's regime are finally heard.

The coalition authority spent almost six months formulating tribunal plans with Iraqis. It organized working groups and conferences on subjects as diverse as truth and reconciliation commissions and forensic anthropology. Throughout these sessions, which were open to the public, one message came across loud and clear: Iraqis wanted to see Mr. Hussein tried by Iraqis.

Coalition advisers worked closely with Iraqi lawyers to ensure that the tribunal statute we created was in harmony with the latest developments in international criminal law. Much thought was also given to developing an investigative strategy that would help Iraqis make sense of a seemingly endless catalog of crimes — approximately 300,000 dead, and thousands more tortured, raped and otherwise abused over a period of more than 30 years...

It is vital that the cases heard by the tribunal address the full spectrum of the regime's atrocities. People all across Iraq experienced human rights abuses under Saddam Hussein. In a fragmented country, this is a rare unifying factor. The tribunal's defendants have been selected with an eye toward providing a thorough and representative accounting of these crimes.

Equally significant: defendants will face penalties under Iraqi law — not penalties deemed appropriate by the international community. There is little likelihood, then, that Mr. Hussein will live out his days in a comfortable Dutch prison. Nor will Iraqis have to suffer the absurdity of the so-called Rwandan paradox, where the worst that can befall mass murderers brought before the United Nations tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, is life imprisonment while low-level offenders, brought before local courts in Rwanda, face the death penalty.

The best part of this website running experience has been connecting with folks whose own stories inspire me.

This week I received a note from a Police Captain back home in the USA...he included a photo of his children standing before the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Captain had this to say:
We work very hard at making sure that our children know that freedom is not free and that many make sacrifices (including the ultimate sacrifice) to ensure that we are able to carry on with the finest American traditions.
And I'm thinking to myself that I can quantify the number of days CPT Patti has been in the war zone...more to the point I can point to a date on the calendar with an idea, however evanescent, that after that date CPT Patti is out of the war zone.

And then I think of the Police Captain's family, whose wife and children don't really have that luxury - haven't had for a couple of decades, since at any time during his day a policeman's world can erupt into a war-like zone of its own.

And then I read that he and his wife work hard to teach their children that some make sacrifices for America.

Seems to me he teaches them that lesson every day he puts on his uniform and heads out to work.

Anyway...wanted you to see a photo of some really good looking kids before the Korean War who are being raised by folks you can respect, deep in the heart of the America I Live In.

And thanks to you and the Mrs...for all the good that you contribute.


- Bonnie Raitt, Let's Give Em Something To Talk About

Is it just me?

And the theme is continued here.

Unfortunate headline reported by the AP:
Bush backs war in West Virginia
(via the OpinionJournal Best of the Web Today.)

If you haven't yet subscribed, you are missing what could be the best 10 minutes of your day.

Personally, I'm glad to see the Iraqis demonstrating anger over this thug and his attempts to hijack their religion, country and very young Democracy. One doesn't have to be a patsy to be on the side of the good guys.

As to their methods...well...when in Baghdad...
A group of armed, masked Iraqi men threatened Tuesday to kill Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi if he did not immediately leave the country, accusing him of murdering innocent Iraqis and defiling the Muslim religion.

The threats revealed the deep anger many Iraqis, including insurgent groups, feel toward foreign fighters, whom many consider as illegitimate a presence here as the 160,000 U.S. and other coalition troops.

In a videotape sent to the al-Arabiya television station, a group calling itself the "Salvation Movement," questioned how al-Zarqawi could use Islam to justify the killing of innocent civilians, the targeting of government officials and the kidnapping and beheading of foreigners.

"He must leave Iraq immediately, he and his followers and everyone who gives shelter to him and his criminal actions," said a man on the video.

The video marked the first time that an Iraqi group made such a public threat against al-Zarqawi.

It was issued a day after U.S.-led coalition forces, who have been targeting al-Zarqawi, launched an air strike in the restive city of Fallujah on a suspected safe house used by his followers. The attack killed 15 people, witnesses said.

In the video, three men, their faces covered with Arab headscarves, were flanked by rocket propelled grenades and an Iraqi flag. The man speaking had a clear Iraqi accent.

"We swear to Allah that we have started preparing ... to capture him and his allies or kill them and present them as gift to our people." the man said. "This is the last warning. If you don't stop, we will do to you what the coalition forces have failed to do."

Day 423 of CPT Patti's deployment.

One year, eight weeks, one day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

U.S. Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who was captured in Iraq, has been freed and is well, members of his family in Lebanon told the Associated Press today, saying they received ``reliable information'' about him.

``We received a sign from my brother reassuring us,'' Hassoun's brother, Sami, told AP without specifying the nature of the information.
Of course, this is the sort of good news that can only exist by the prior creation of really bad this case, the kidnapping.

Not only that, but reports on some redneck-Islamist website claimed this Marine had been the captors have put this family through hell.
Edward Chaplin arrived in Baghdad today to begin work as Britain's ambassador to Iraq, the first to head a British embassy in the country since the U.K. ended diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein's regime before the 1991 Gulf War, the Foreign Office in London said.

MG Dempsey's remarks from the Casing of the Colors ceremony on the 4th of July.
LTG Metz, CSM Gainey, Iron Soldiers, Family Members linked to us by VTC from Germany.

Fifteen months ago, the group of Soldiers before you — Soldiers of the First Armored Division and Dragoons of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment — formed a task force and set out to make the world safer for their fellow Americans and provide an opportunity for the Iraqi people to be free. They did.

Three months ago, this same group of Soldiers was asked to remain in Iraq to defeat a militia uprising and to preserve the path toward Iraqi sovereignty. They did that too.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are Iron Soldiers, and I’m proud to be their commander.

Now we’re going home.

I hope you are all as proud of what you have accomplished as i am of you.

The colors we just cased are part of what defines us. In an Army of hundreds of thousands, they are uniquely ours.

For generations, they have been carried into battle by men and women like you against the enemies of freedom. If those previous generations of Iron Soldiers were with us today, they would say to you “well done. You have made us proud.”

Sometime soon, we will add another battle streamer to those colors. That simple strip of silk will represent many things.

It will represent more than a year of your lives.

It will represent your 135 fellow soldiers who gave their lives for this mission and who made the journey home ahead of us.

It will represent your great courage in battle.

It will represent your remarkable stamina over the past 15 months.

It will represent your unshakable honor, tested in the most complex environment imaginable.

It will represent your immeasurable sacrifice and the sacrifice of your families.

Forever more, it will represent you.

From this point on in your careers, and long into your retirements, you should never look upon these colors the same again. These are truly your colors now. You have earned the right to stand tall behind them.

Today we also celebrate our Independence Day. It seems fitting that we end our mission on this great American holiday that celebrates our freedom.

We have learned a lot about the price of freedom.

We have learned that people experiencing freedom for the first time may not understand how fragile it can be and how much sacrifice may be required to earn it and preserve it.
I am confident that our actions have shown the Iraqi people how much we value our freedom. It is a shining example that cannot be ignored.

And we have learned that even people who have lived in freedom may not fully comprehend the profound care it requires. It was, after all, Thomas Jefferson who said “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

You will never feel the same about Independence Day again. At least I hope you don’t.

We know what we’ve accomplished here in Iraq. First in Baghdad and then in the southern provinces.

But, if you’ve forgotten, I will summarize it for you: We did our duty. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

As the history of this military campaign is written, it will be said of task force First Armored Division: they did their best for their country, for their unit, for each other, and for the people of Iraq. That is our legacy.

Well done, Iron Soldiers—thank you for your service to our nation.

May God continue to protect us as we begin our journey to rejoin our families in Germany and at Fort Polk.

And may God bless America.

Continue mission.

Iron soldiers.

How do you handle it when your neighbor offers to house sit, but you don't trust your neighbor?
Baghdad has already rejected offers from several neighbors to send peacekeepers to Iraq, saying such a move could add to the country's unrest...

Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati spoke to RFE/RL about the issue of Arab troops. He said while Iraq is eager for help from its neighbors, it does not want their troops deployed on its territory.

"Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, and Morocco [are offering help]," al-Bayati said. "However, as regards sending troops, we have our reservations about neighboring countries sending troops. But I think we [would welcome] any kind of assistance, such as training and providing equipment and even exchanging information about terrorists and criminals."

Jordan is the only one of those countries, which directly borders Iraq. Al-Bayati said the deployment of Jordanian troops would make it difficult for Baghdad to refuse troops from other direct neighbors, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Iran.
In other words, keep your rotten troops from collosal failure governments off our freshly earned Democracy, as we see in the next part of the same story.
The Foreign Ministry in Baghdad has accused outside countries of supporting Islamic extremists operating in Iraq. While it has not named specific countries, Baghdad is believed to suspect Tehran and Damascus of aiding the insurgency. the way...did you know this? I didn't!
Iraq is a full-fledged member of the United Nations but it still has no voting rights because the country is unable to pay its debts to the organization. Al-Bayati expressed a wish the UN would forgive or reduce Baghdad's debt.
I'm pretty amazed the UN hasn't rectified this already.

My nomination for school song for every journalism school in the USA.

Note this little story which focuses on the growing pains of the brand new Iraqi national guard.
On tiptoes, the child handed the poster to the Iraqi soldier manning a machine gun, as U.S. soldiers watched in dismay. The Iraqi soldier, part of a nascent security force trained and funded by the United States, held Sadr's picture aloft for a gathering, cheering mob...

Unable to shoulder Iraq's security responsibilities on their own, the Iraqi forces are nonetheless testing the limits of their new relationship with U.S. troops, including openly expressing sympathies for the most resolute enemies of the United States.
Are you sufficiently demoralized yet? Well don't be. Because, as seems to be more and more common these days with our media, the good news doesn't show up until paragraph 5 (if it shows up at all).

Here is what paragraph 5 says:
The Iraqi National Guardsmen who displayed the Sadr poster said they did so under threat of attack, and as a group they provided a useful security perimeter for the U.S. soldiers. In other regions of Iraq, more seasoned guard units have been given high marks by U.S. soldiers with the important task of training the new Iraqi security forces. On Sunday, in the city of Baqubah, 35 northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi National Guardsmen discovered a car bomb and two passengers fitted with suicide vests. In the ensuing gunfight, the car caught fire but did not explode. Both of the alleged attackers were killed.
I suppose it must sell papers or something.

Me...I'd like to see it where the postive steps forward are not treated as an aside, an "also-ran".
But for the Army's 1st Armored Division, which has seen 15 months of continuous duty in Iraq, longer than any other military unit, this Independence Day took on special meaning.

These 20,000 soldiers were getting ready for a ride home that was three months overdue.

The morning began with a "casing of the colors" ceremony overseen by division commander Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey. The lowering of his task force's flags marked the official end of its mission to provide security in and around Baghdad — and recently, to lead the battle against Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia in Karbala and Najaf.

The tank division, which was formed a year before the U.S. entry into World War II and known as "Old Ironsides," was packing up to return to its base in Germany in April. But the outbreak of parallel uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf created an emergency for the already stretched forces here, and the Pentagon delayed the exit.

At the departure ceremony, held in the shadow of a vast Iraqi hangar, Dempsey recalled the 136 troops from his division who died in Iraq — about 16 percent of the U.S. death toll of 858 — and the more than 1,000 who suffered serious wounds.

"We have learned a lot about the price of freedom," he said. "We learned that people experiencing freedom for the first time may not understand how fragile it can be and how much sacrifice may be required to earn it and preserve it."

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, he reminded the troops that the "tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and of tyrants."

"We did our duty, nothing more, and certainly nothing less," he concluded. "Well done, Iron soldiers."

One of the tank officers going home, Lt. Col. Randy Lane, originally from a suburb of Cincinnati, was watching his troops make final checks of Abrams tanks loaded onto the back of flatbed trucks for the 24-hour drive to Kuwait.

"I feel pretty good about it," Lane said. He said he is looking forward to joining his wife and children in Germany. "It's Independence Day for the country and independence day for us — that's a double blessing in one day."


Some excerpts of stories about how the soldiers observed our own Freedom Day.

A story set at Camp Victory.
Like many military operations in Iraq, July 4th celebrations began at dawn.

To beat the brutal summer heat, soldiers wanting to participate in a 10-kilometer fun run at Camp Victory, on the outskirts of Baghdad, gathered at 5:30 a.m., when the temperature dropped to 80 degrees.

The run was the first in a series of events giving soldiers, those not on guard duty or combat patrol, a chance to enjoy the most American of holidays.

The only beer soldiers in Iraq are allowed to drink is nonalcoholic, but at the mess halls, cooks set up outdoor grills to barbecue T-bone steaks, burgers, hot dogs and chicken. Cakes and pies were decorated in red, white and blue icing at the mess hall, where James Brown played over the speakers.

For the combat soldiers on duty, there was no letup. U.S. commanders did not want to slow their operations on July 4 for fear insurgents would use the day for a symbolic attack.
And that story continued in another news source...
"We're going to maintain offensive operations," Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade. "We're going to continue to push the enemy."

But he said that there would be other celebrations later in the month to make up for the busy schedule.

The one thing missing was fireworks.

"At least not from our side," one officer wisecracked.

But in Saddam Hussein's former stronghold of Tikrit, soldiers watched fireworks light the night sky as they held a joint celebration with Iraqi National Guard soldiers on a bank overlooking the Tigris. Thousands of troops celebrated at one of Saddam's old palaces with a buffet featuring burgers and hot dogs and traditional Iraqi dishes.
Consider, please, the impression that must have been made on the Iraqis, for most of whom freedom is a new and untested concept. Consider how remarkable it must be to see 20 somethings from the US Army throw a party in the miserable summer heat in Baghdad to celebrate our own independence 228 years ago.

They must imagine that one could get used to this whole idea of freedom.

1st AD takes a giant step toward home

...“It’s Fourth of July — Independence Day,” said Staff Sgt. Renaldo Valentin-Rivera of San Sebastian, Puerto Rico. “They chose a nice day for us to close out this deployment.”...

Sunday’s casing of colors, a ceremony in which the division’s flags are put away to signal its departure from the battlefield, was another step in the trip home. The colors will be uncased when the troops are back in Germany.

Day 422 of CPT Patti's deployment.

One year, two months. Fourteen months...aka...long time.

Bear with me here please...the website seems to be having some difficulties in accepting new postings today. I'll do my best!

Friday, July 02, 2004


For setting the European precedent.
The group that claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombings warned European nations that they have only two weeks to withdraw troops from Iraq or face the consequences, a pan-Arab newspaper reported Friday.

The statement run by the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper referred to a 90-day cease-fire for attacks in Europe that the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, declared on April 15.

"To the European people: only few days remain for you to accept the truce offered by bin Laden. Otherwise you will have nobody but yourself to blame," the paper quoted the statement as saying.

The paper said it had received a statement from the "Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (al-Qaida)," the group which claimed responsibility for the March 11 train bombings in Madrid that killed about 200 people.

In the April 15 audio tape, bin Laden gave Europeans three months to withdraw their troops from what he called the countries of the Muslim nation. Bin Laden warned against any "aggression" against countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


One of them, anyway.
The rise of a secular, democratic Iraq could pose a threat to Iran's Shi'ite clerical establishment, which fears it would serve as a powerful model for moderate Iranians who seek change, clerics said.

Many senior clerics are particularly concerned about any shift in the center of gravity within Shi'ite Islam away from Iran's holy city of Qom, from which clerics wield immense political authority, toward Najaf in neighboring Iraq.

And it only took two days since I asked the question.
Baghdad's decision to re-establish the death penalty ahead of the war-crimes trial of Saddam Hussein evoked a mixed reaction in Europe, recalling the split across the continent over the war that toppled the Iraqi leader.

Germany and France, two of the most vocal anti-war opponents, strongly stated their opposition - without exception - to the death penalty and called on Iraqi authorities to ensure Saddam a fair trial.

In Berlin, the government's top human-rights official, Claudia Roth, criticized Baghdad's move to reinstate capital punishment, which was suspended during the U.S. occupation.

"To start out this way does not send a good signal," Roth told The Associated Press. "I think it would have been a signal of democratic strength had they not reinstated the death penalty in Iraq."

Leave it to Reuters to be first on the street with this headline.
Some Iraqis want Saddam freed
At a local coffee shop in downtown Baghdad, 50-year-old el-Hajj Hassan said his heart raced when he saw Saddam on television.

Saddam Hussein sits inside courtroom, Thursday
Mr. Hassan says this is a "historic" day for all the people of Iraq, and he says he feels very happy to see Saddam in what he called, "the cage" - meaning the defendant's chair. Mr. Hassan says Saddam crossed all the lines of humanity in his harsh treatment of the Iraqi people, and he should be punished for it.

(S)ince the handover of power, U.S. soldiers have seen improvements and enthusiasm among their Iraqi counterparts -- the security forces intended to take over so U.S. forces can go home.

They say that the Iraqis are showing greater pride and initiative under a sovereign government than under the U.S.-led occupation, even though the U.S. military remains in charge of security.

Lt. Col. Mohammed Faiq Raoof, commander of the 303rd Battalion of the Iraqi national guard, is increasing the number of patrols his men conduct.

"I want to show people that we are in power now," he told his U.S. commander during their weekly lunch, the first since Monday's transfer of power.

Raoof said Iraqi civilians seem to be taking pride in their security forces.

"Today, while on patrol, I saw people on the street clapping for them and smiling," he said. "The people are happy to see the Iraqi national guard."

When some Iraqi troops balked at carrying out combat operations in April against insurgents in Fallujah, questions arose about the reliability of Iraqi forces. Since then, however, Iraqi troops in the Baghdad area have repeatedly fought insurgents.

The Baghdad Diet is all the rage.

She is optimistic. She pokes a finger in the UN's eye. She is a she.
Iraq's ambassador-designate to the United States, Rend al-Rahim, says Iraqis have high hopes after the United States turned over formal sovereignty this week to a new government in Baghdad.

Al-Rahim says that for nearly a decade and a half, the UN Security Council passed one resolution after another about Iraq. During this period, she says Iraq lacked an authentic face or voice to present to the international community for the simple reason that the government of Saddam Hussein was discredited.

Now that sovereignty has been returned, she says Iraqis can begin to feel that their government has a real commitment to them.

Al-Rahim refers to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's priority of combating terrorism and promoting security: "In a way, Iraq has become terrorism's last stand. I'm sorry it has had to be Iraq, but I think this is where terrorism is going to be defeated, and this is why we must devote all our resources to confronting it."
Decked out with hand grenades, daggers, a walkie-talkie, binoculars and an AK-47, and with a chubby plastic head topped by a beret with a skull badge, the doll dances to the Hippy Hippy Shake when turned on.

"It's funny, isn't it?" Mustapha al-Kadamy, a young father,said as he browsed through a toy store in the wealthy Mansoor district and prepared to buy one of the dancing dolls.

"Tomorrow Saddam will go before an Iraqi judge, and so today is a good day to make fun of him: We need to be able to smile after all the horrible things he's done to us."
A large Iraqi flag flapping on his Soviet-era jeep, 1st Lt. Shehab Abdul-Jabbar led an Iraqi National Guard patrol down Baghdad's heavily commercial Karrada Street. As he passed, merchants and shoppers smiled and waved their greetings. "Way to go," one man shouted from behind the small charcoal stove where he was grilling a splayed fish for lunch.

"People are comfortable with this," said Abdul-Jabbar, 38, an officer freshly minted from a U.S.-provided training course for the 35,000-man paramilitary force designed to bring internal security to Iraq.

The Iraqi guardsmen -- venturing out for the last several days in their own vehicles and flying the Iraqi flag conspicuously -- have found a warm welcome from most residents, some of whom have showered them with chocolates. Judging by their comments on seeing Abdul-Jabbar's patrol come by Thursday, Baghdadis seem relieved to see their own soldiers taking over from U.S. occupation troops after nearly 15 months of foreign domination and violent disorder.

"It's the best thing that could happen," said Bilal Ismail, 34, a taxi driver who had just been stopped at a checkpoint and patted down by Abdul-Jabbar's men.

The eagerness to see Iraqis back in charge of the streets of Baghdad suggested that replacing U.S. soldiers with Iraqis could go a long way toward reducing popular resentment directed at the U.S. military presence here.
According to Post, when he spoke about the criminal being President Bush, Saddam emphasized, "I am an actor on the world stage. I am talking to the world. And I am going to persuade the world forcibly. I am in charge of Iraq. This is illegitimate, and my radical Arab followers should applaud my courage in still defying the West."
(Dream sequence...imagining this rant going on unchecked...)

I am in charge.
I am the Tooth Fairy.
I am the Easter Bunny.
I am the Beta and the Ypsilon.
I am the walrus.
I am your worst nightmare.
I am Sam, Sam I am.
I am one poor correspondent.
I am my own wife.
I am all out of love, I'm so lost without you.
I am better than you.
I am hungry.
I am not only the founder of Hairclub for men, I am also a client.
I am thoroughly modern Millie.
I am the very model of a modern major general.
I am I said, to no one there.
I am the cheese.
I am the morning DJ on WOLD.
I am not an animal!
I am woman, hear me roar.
I am a rock.
I am not a crook.
I am Weasel!
I am he and you are me and we are all together.
I am considering bankruptcy.
I am not a witch, I am NOT a witch.
I am opposed to mandatory helmet laws.
I am curious - Yellow.
I am a little teapot, short and stout.
I am expecting.
I am what I am.
I am totally devoted to you.
I am a proud friend of Israel.
I am stuck on 12 across, a seven letter word beginning with d meaning "no longer in charge".
I am so not kidding about this.
I am just a shadow of my former self.
I am an alcoholic.
I am not yours.
I am a Boxer.
I am not a multi-level marketing scheme.
I am not going to pay a lot for a desktop computer.
I am a fugitive from a chain gang.
I am concerned about the long term effects of Creatine.
I am the Central Park Jogger.
I am fit to be tied.
I am da BOMB.
I am currently accepting applications for first officer.
I am ready to be my own boss.
I am a Frank Zappa fan.
I am just a poor boy though my story's seldom told.
I am unable to answer the phone at the moment.
I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.
I am SO screwed.
I am a babbling idiot.
I am a nut job.

Perhaps its because of a lingering fear of THE POWER I haven't mentioned much about the preparations going on around here to be ready for the return of the 1st Brigade.

About 150 Soldiers have already returned...they are the so-called Advance Party...sent back to do things to ease the arrival of the main body.

I work on Ray Barracks in Friedberg...(Army home to Elvis back in '59-'60.) It is a fairly small piece of real estate, fenced off from the rest of Germany...our own little part of the world that is part German, part American in flavor. Some of the buildings that serve as barracks or headquarters actually date back to the 2d World War.

Being the home of this brigade, a part of the 1st Armor Division, this post is decorated with at least five different US Tanks (also WWII era) plus an Iraqi tank captured during the Desert Storm. We have lots of fencing here, because the tank units and the mechanized infantry units require pretty good space to park their tanks and their infantry fighting vehicles (when they are here!). These fences surround these parking areas...and have proven to be handy for the zillions of welcome home banners and yellow ribbons and flags that are springing up every day.

This morning I noted that the workers who normally look after the physical plant of the installation were hanging US and German flags from lamp posts all over the installation. The flags are mounted vertically, attached to a rod across the top (short) edge of the flag.

Perhaps it is just me but that way of displaying the flag strikes me as rather German or European or something. Nonetheless, all these flags add a certain continuity of special dressing-up to the whole place.

And then there are the banners. Hundreds of them, so far. Hung along the fences at each unit's motor pool. Some are store bought...some were designed by spouses but professionally printed, and some are hand painted or spray paint on bedsheets. Each to one's own level of artistic ability for sure.

OH...and I don't want to forget the "plastic cup art". I'd never seen this before but now we have American flags and yellow riboons, even a 1st Armor Division patch on the fences, made entirely from plastic cups. (See here if you've no idea what in the blue heck I'm talking about. Our are made from the Solo plastic cups one can buy at the grocery...not these special ones from this company.)

The parade field has been recently mowed. And every curb, parking lot stipe, even rocks serving as markers for this or that, all of these are newly painted courtesy of the rear-detachment soldiers who for whatever reason did not deploy to Iraq.

Out the back gate is the largest yellow ribbon bow I've ever seen. It is easily 15 feet across, at least 12 feet tall.

Small American flags seemingly have been attached to nearly every fence post, plus nearly any other stationary object on post. Where do these come from? In most cases they come from a couple of motivated spouses who have invested their time and money to make it look as it ought to look for Soldiers returning after 14 months.

We're getting close.

I won't mention the specific date I'm expecting my darling wife home...I'm still too superstitious.

I'll just say "soon". Not soon enough. But soon.

Everybody...this is Holly. Holly, this is everybody.

Holly is my friend and neighbor (note: don't get confused...her husband's name is Tim...)

I talk to Holly frequently in the little green space that serves as the common front yard to our little apartment complex. Talking to Holly helps me to keep my situation in perspective.

See...her Tim is also downrange. She is here, with her four children...whom she home schools...

Anyway...brave woman, who has just started her own blog (where DOES she get the time???)

She calls it "Household 6". You can read why at her place.

You might enjoy her relating the business of awaiting the soldiers' return to being 9 months pregnant
I would also like to venture that it is a lot like being pregnant. Stick with me here a second guys...

I have told my husband many times that the L-d knew women had to be preggers for a full nine months because before that you aren't totally willing to go through labor but by the end... That last month is soooooooooo long! It seems like you will never have that baby. Everyone keeps inquiring after your health and due date, and as you get closer the looks and words of sympathy start. You haven't had that baby yet???

And while the pregnant mum appreciates the thought she also is just as likely to strangle you for asking again!! She of all people knows shes STILL pregnant and wants it done.
How about drop by and encourage the new gal on the blog.

Day 418 of CPT Patti's deployment.

One year, one month, three weeks, three days.

She told me on the phone the other night about this daydream she had...that she returned home, we went down town to the Last Minute Vacation Travel Agency, and booked a series of vacations...each 2 days long. Spanish beaches, French chateau country, Tuscany...

She said "I was thinking of this because I think we have a lot of catching up to do...we've missed an awful lot of weekends..."

Yes, darling...we have. A lot of weekends...a lot of life.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A nervous and thinner Saddam Hussein appeared before an Iraqi judge yesterday — insisting he's still president even though he was facing genocide charges that could result in his execution.

Dressed in a gray Arab gown, the deposed dictator and 11 of his lieutenants held their first meeting with Salem Chalabi, head of the tribunal that will try them for war crimes, as Iraq formally took legal custody over their case.

At the high-security U.S. jail cell at Baghdad International Airport where he will be held until trial, Saddam greeted Chalabi and aides with a "cold 'good morning,' " Chalabi said.

Then summoning his infamous pride, Saddam proclaimed, "I am Saddam Hussein al-Majid, president of the Republic of Iraq," The Times of London reported.

During the five-minute meeting, Saddam remained seated while everyone else stood, in a display of disdain.
Despite Saddam's haughty and defiant demeanor, Chalabi told ABC News that the man in the jail cell was a shadow of the fearsome Butcher of Baghdad that Iraqis were accustomed to seeing.

"He had lost weight. He was not the towering figure that we used to see on TV before. He was nervous — physically nervous — because he did not know what was happening," Chalabi told ABC.

Saddam tried to ask questions but was told more information would be forthcoming today at his formal arraignment.

Video of today's dramatic court session will be televised to demonstrate that the days of Saddam are truly over.