Friday, December 24, 2004

THEY MISSED ME

My apologies for those of you who may have wondered if I was all right after hearing the news of the bombing at the mess hall in Mosul (fade to Sally Fields accepting the Oscar : “You love me! You really love me!”. I probably should have posted something sooner to let you know I was OK, but it somehow seemed kind of pretentious to assume I rated that high in your thoughts. Darned glad to know that I do!

Mosul is well north of us, and has always been a mortar magnet. All of the mess halls I’ve seen over here are pretty similar, so I can imagine only too well how much damage an explosion in one would do. The first assumptions were that some raghead just got lucky with a rocket or mortar, as all of the bases get IDF’ed (Indirect fire – mortars and rockets) pretty regular, despite our best efforts to reason sweetly with the disgruntled few.

Early on I started hearing a buzz that it was a suicide bomber, probably an Iraqi National Guardsman (ING), and it appears that this is indeed the case. So far, the Iraqi security forces have been a pathetic joke, and unless they develop the motivation and skills to police themselves and ruthlessly seek out and engage the insurgents our efforts here will have been in vain. I’m not optimistic that will happen.

Had an interesting conversation with an MP Captain who supports the Iraqi Police Stations in Baghdad. The U.S. was so concerned about abuses by the Iraqi police that when we dismantled them and put them back together again, the only thing we would arm them with was second-hand AK47’s and Glocks, plus a light machine gun or two. Plus they have no armored vehicles, half as many sets of body armor as they need, and radios that don’t work half the time.

Bad deal, right? It gets worse. The Iraqi police system is composed of at least three separate and unrelated divisions – the major crimes unit, that does investigations, the patrol division who do what we would generally think of as police work, and a third division that sits around the station, drinks tea, takes the occasional walk-in report, and are charged with abandoning the station and their weapons if someone looks at them in a threatening manner. Guess which Division most of the cops think they belong to? And the Divisions don’t talk to each other, of course. My MP Captain was telling me that he finally got one station to actually put patrols on the street, and the third day of patrolling they had a van pull out in front of their Land Cruiser and riddle it with AK47 fire, killing one officer and wounding another. American cops would have beaten the ground flat to find and…uh, arrest…those guys, but the Iraqis took this to mean they were taking too many chances with too little protection. Gee, imagine that. So now they sit around their station and drink tea, while murderers walk the street with rifles slung over their shoulders.

And there’s one more twist. Since this is an American/British show, there is a lot of tension over which model of policing the Iraqis should use. The Brits naturally prefer their system, and we want to make them into San Francisco PD East. We should probably contract out the police training program to the Italian Carbinerri; their model seems to me to be the most appropriate. But whichever model is used, it won’t succeed unless politicians are willing to defend the police and army from CNN and the host of critics who seem to think you can reason with armed zealots.

Well, you can - as long as you have superior firepower and lots of high explosives on your side.

As long as I’m ranting, might as well sound off on the media coverage of the Mosul bombing. Did anyone else besides me get the impression from watching the breathless, concerned faces on TV that we have just sustained the greatest and most devastating loss of life since the D-Day? What this country needs is not a good five cent cigar, but a better understanding of the definition of war. I am in no way minimizing the tragedy of those soldiers and civilians killed at Mosul, but it was just another day in a war. I can’t imagine the media in WWII, Korea, or even Vietnam going as completely bonkers over what is really just another battle, and I’m afraid we’re conditioning the public to believe that wars can be won without casualties. Iraq is the opening round in a war against Muslim extremists, and we had darned well better recognize it as a war and quit whimpering when we get an occasional bloody nose. If you want to use it as a goad to get mad and destroy the enemy any way possible, good on ya, mate – but please don’t bring out the crying towels and try to second-guess everything.

I know, I’m not being very direct about my feelings. I’ll work on that.

But on to more cheerful subjects. Today is about my favorite day of the year – Christmas eve, and not even Iraq can dampen that enthusiasm. Now, being away from my wife on Christmas eve can, but that’s a whole ‘nuther web page. The day got off to a good start when I grabbed up a MRE and Dr. Pepper and headed over to the artillery pad to watch the 155mm self-propelled guns ring in this day of peace and love. With my usual impeccable timing, I got there just as everyone was leaving. They really should publish a program or something.

All the agents are getting together about 7 tonight to swap some gag gifts and give some recognition to the Christmas Holiday. I’ll probably get a lot of shampoo and hair conditioner as usual. Sigh. Then after that I’ll come back to the trailer and hope desperately that we don’t get a duty call so I’ll have the time to drown my sorrows in a DP and meditate on the flashing lights of my little Christmas tree and recall all the pleasures of Christmas past with family members no longer here. And celebrate the joy of the wonderful friends and family in my life now.

Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

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