Thursday, June 04, 2009

AoD: The True Hollywood Story

Question: What does, Craigslist and this blog have in common? Besides being read by degenerates and fecal maniacs (please don't Google that), those sites comprise the list of's The Web's Most Controversial Web Sites feature. So in spirit of raising a good ol' fashioned ruckus, I dug up some old pictures from my deployment that relate a bit to the topic. For longtime readers of the blog, it'll be a stroll down memory lane. For you new cats, I hope you enjoy and take a look around.

Mistaken Identity

Much has been said about the effectiveness of flipping insurgent loyalties to the home team, but in the beginning things were very tense indeed. The 1920 Revolution Brigade was our enemy for the better part of the year, but in a surreal twist, they broke with Al-Qaeda and began to work with us against their former partners. From the start we shared a mutual distrust but followed through with our orders. That didn't curtail the complications and confusion of urban warfare; we often killed members of the new militia force because they looked just like the other bad guys. The car pictured above was the aftermath after one such instance, torn to pieces by a gunship. Look closely and you can see the blood among the grass.

Enemies with Benefits

Things weren't always so tense with the 1920s folks. After working with them for a few weeks, it was common to see their checkpoints all around Baqubah. After a rash of accidental killings, they adopted a simple uniform: brown army t-shirts and orange reflective belts. That would help discriminating American soldiers with discerning quasi-foe and foe. But their power and influence grew by the day, and soon they were operating with little supervision from us and likely no guidance from legitimate Iraqi security forces. The image above comes from a checkpoint run exclusively by the 1920s - checking the ID papers of anyone that ventured past.

Blackwater Down

I've detailed the events of the downing of a Blackwater Security helicopter in downdown Baghdad before, but I haven't shown the angle of the crash that you see above. You can see where the bodies of the operators were dragged out of the chopper and onto the ground, nearly taken away by vicious insurgents before we chased them off. The mission quickly turned from a rescue to the recovery of five dead Americans, climaxing into an hour long shootout among high rise buildings. Fortunately we recovered the remains but arrived too late to save lives.

Above: James after the firefight. Spent shell casings litter the ground.

PR Stunt

One of the more puzzling moments of the deployment came in our fifteen and final month. Our undermanned unit held the city of Baqubah months before reinforcements arrived to help us overtake and pacify the city completely. Diyala Province, as a result, was kicked firmly out of the "enemy stronghold" column into "troubled region" status. To witness the dramatic change, the deputy prime minister of Iraq came to visit our neck of the woods to show what kind of progress was being made. In tow were members of the media - the LA Times, New York Times and Associated Press. What they didn't cover in their reports was the complete lockdown of the sector once the deputy prime minister arrived. Photographers were snapping images of crowded markets and cafes. People were trying to leave out of concern there would be an attempt on the deputy's life, but the cordon was sealed. No one in our out. The result? "Salih told reporters he was encouraged by what he saw in Baqubah, the provincial capital: streets full of shoppers, produce and sodas for sale in the market, and men with graying beards smoking cigarettes and sipping tea at a cafe."

And who could forget: mooning Apache helicopters after a long, hard day on patrol:


HMS said...

It is said that for every American died in action, 5-10 Iraqi civilians were killed as a result of collateral damage. War is, simply, senseless.

Anonymous said...

as always, love ya dude. I think I've learned more about the whole Iraq thing in the time I spend reading your blog than just about anything else.

13 Stoploss said...

I can only dream of the shady scenario's I wish I had a digital with me, in 2003, to share. Unfortunately, they were not readily available, or priced for the common enlisted, not that we had room anyway.

Good stuff, dude.

Teddy Wilson said...

I think it says something about our society when someone writing about the truth is considered controversial.

NUGHT said...

great point teddy....

you have some ready good photos dude.... i do the best i can but with the new " no camera's execpt government camera's in sector" rule... its hard... i take pictures of everything though... like you im sure, half of what i get in my viewfinder would shut my blog down if published..... i have the bombs and IED's on camera, i have the bullet riddled cars and trucks and the body parts from suicide bombers.... but if those were posted im sure id be talking to my Bat. commander....

all pictures have been taken on a "government camera" (wink), on mine.... that would be against the rules... keep up the good work man...

Alex Horton said...


I was lucky to be the intel collection guy for my squad and platoon. I had the opportunity to take pictures of a lot of things when other guys were pulling security.

themorethingschange.... said...

Even your photos are thought-provoking Alex. Such good work. Your photos have always added so much to your writing.

Recently came across a book of photos of Iraq called "Iraq; The Space Between", by a German photographer named Christoph Bangert.

Have you seen it? Pretty amazing. The first photo could be a local pueblo (I live in AZ) - except for the soldier at the portal. Portraits that are by turns familiar, comical, disturbing, stark, haunted, heart wrenching, solemn, artsy, shocking, sweeping, and nauseating.

You know as well as anyone that a picture can be worth a thousand words. You're a natural born photo journalist Alex.

plenty of room for more........


BostonMaggie said...

Ha! My cousin emailed me.

"There's some list of controversial websites and one is a MilBlog."

You and the rest of my imaginary friends are a mystery to my family.

"There is one called "Army of Dude". Have you ever heard of him?"

LOL! Heard of him! I've had to kick that bastid outta my seat in DC!

All I could hear while reading it was Matt, during your intro, recounting the guy at the WH - "Did you say 'Dude?'"

Alex Horton said...


I still have nightmares of you charging the speaker's table. My lord.

SK said...

Great pics Alex! Does this mean I was hanging at the bar with some controversial blogger? lol

BTW..Hearing Matt recount that story at the conference was hilarious ;)