Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Courageous Courier

I must admit, I've become a little obsessed over the issue of the presently shitty G.I. Bill and the efforts of two Senators that aim to give it an overhaul fitting to the service our military has performed the past seven years. I wrote about the topic yesterday for Vet Voice before I chanced upon another piece. With a hat-tip to Blackfive, who linked to the Army Times.

The money quote:

The Bush administration has remained wary of the bill, because of its $5.4 billion cost and concerns that significant improvements in veterans’ education benefits might encourage people to get out of the military to go to college, which in turn could hurt military readiness.

So the ridiculously out of control spending of the war in Iraq aside, Bush is all of a sudden fiscally sagacious when it comes to $5.4 billion clams. You might recognize that as the amount spent in Iraq over a period of nineteen days. So if this is the best argument they have to reject a new G.I. Bill, I have a little spending advice of my own: stop paying Blackwater and other mercs a cool half million to go gun crazy in Baghdad, and leave Iraq three weeks ahead of schedule, whenever that happens (unless McCain is elected, then we'll be bomb-bomb-bombing our way into a recession as soldiers prepare for their deca-deployments).

The second half of that quote is so finely crafted by the non-serving administration that my head is still spinning twelve hours after I read it. It should be taken like a fine brandy, swirled around the brain, every syllable savored for its underlying neglect for our veterans - not only is the administration aware of how woefully inadequate the current G.I. Bill is, they aim to keep it that way. Exactly what veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan deserve for their multiple deployments and dedication to this country is being held hostage. They must be living in a world where half a trillion dollars spent in a needless war, creating more insurgents, sending back hundreds of thousands of veterans, some of them disabled for life, and telling them to fuck off when they get back from war is building military readiness.

Go to Iraq for a year. No, make that fifteen months. Shut the fuck up. Take this Humvee with plastic doors and do your patrols while KBR counts their money. Risk your life on behalf of an ungrateful nation, and when you want to finally get out and make something of yourself, too fucking bad. By the way, care to reenlist?

The military, government et. al do not have our backs. That is nothing new. But even civilians are lining up to take credence out of a reformed G.I. Bill. From the acclaimed Findlay Courier:

For many, but not for all. We need to face the fact that not all of our military veterans are college material. Just last week an analysis of Army enlistee education levels was released by the National Priorities Project, revealing that those with a high school diploma dropped to just under 71 percent in 2007. The increasing unpopularity of the Iraq War has made it an extreme challenge for recruiters to get enough quality young people to sign on. The original goal, established when the draft was replaced with an all-volunteer military, was to have no more than 10 percent of recruits lacking a high school diploma. But current desperation has eroded that plan. The report also indicated that at least 70 percent of Army recruits in FY 2007 were not high school graduates.

I imagine the guy who wrote this had his feet kicked up on his desk, tapping his loafers and imagined all the po' folks who stopped gang banging, dropped out of high school and joined the Army. I would surmise that I know a lot more people in the military than this anonymous editorial scribe, and there are a considerable amount of them already drawing their paltry G.I. Bill money two months after separating from the Army. Yes, shadowy figure of Findlay, Ohio. We want to use the G.I. Bill. A friend of mine is going to the firefighting academy so that he may continue to serve his community. Will he be able to pay for it all with the current bill? I don't know. The editorial doesn't offer any ideas besides vaguely asserting that not everyone deserves a full G.I. Bill and enlightens us that "If a new GI Bill is written, it should be one that realistically benefits all deserving troops, not just those who are suited to college." Thanks for the insight! And who deems someone "deserving" anyhow? No one is certain if they belong in school until they get there. Rising from the depression and World War II, there was a whole generation of folks who weren't properly educated but needed a new start. The G.I. Bill of 1944 educated fourteen Nobel Prize winners and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, including authors Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, and Frank McCourt. Giving everyone a shot is not as risky and expensive as this editorial alludes to. Not even a little bit.

Hey, Findlay, Ohio. Do you like the acting style of Gene Hackman, the music of Johnny Cash and the poetry of James Wright? They all used a full G.I. Bill not afforded to the hapless goons of today's military. Another generation of young volunteers waiting to become tomorrow's lawyers, doctors and firemen are being stifled by this inane reasoning.

Support The Troops, indeed.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Vet Voice Piece - Shame Of A Nation

A new piece is up at Vet Voice concerning a topic very close to my heart: education. As I move closer to fall, I'm going to join the educated masses utilizing a G.I. Bill that is everything but generous, falling far short of the benefits enjoyed by millions of veterans before me.

There exists a mantra so cliché, so endlessly hollow that it practically holds little meaning in 2008, as interest in the duel wars has waned considerably since the respective invasions many years ago. I speak, of course, about "Support The Troops." Countless people throughout the country slapped yellow ribbons on their car adorned with the slogan with scarcely a thought, abstaining themselves from the guilt of being the nation that sent their soldiers to one war of reason (Afghanistan) with numbers too few, and another war (Iraq) that no one can rationally explain. Hey, don't look at me, I support the troops.

There are organizations out there who have taken an active interest in the lives of soldiers, post service. The Fund For Veteran's Education is a non-profit that awards scholarships to war veterans that are currently enrolled in college or a technical school. One of the biggest misconceptions civilians have about the military is that education is completely paid for once you leave the service. The common phrase used is "free college," and that is a myth that The Fund For Veteran's Education wants to bust wide open.

To read more, vist Vet Voice.

Previous articles:
Overlooked Heroes Of The War On Terror
Releasing Anbar...Then What?
Diyala: The Forgotten Fight


Monday, January 28, 2008

Photo Story Monday - The Reality Of War

Every Monday for a few months, I've been bringing you tales of battlefield excitement, from ducking machine gun fire to uncovering mass graves. While these stories are intense and need to be told, they really don't show for you the true realities one experiences in war: infinite, soul crushing boredom.

Behind every firefight, every raid, every huge clearing mission, lies hours and hours of downtime, plan changes, reconfiguration of plan changes, cancellations, earlier start times and later start times. After the intensity of knocking down gates and dragging away a boogeyman, we'd sit on couches - or in Strykers - for hours, waiting on 'the word,' the ubiquitous order from above, to pack up and head back. Exfiltration, a fine art it seemed, would take at least an hour if everything went perfectly.

If you've been a reader for awhile, you probably guessed that is never the case.

L-R: Dozer, Payday, Killa Kimes and The Dude With No Nickname

Gearing up for a move to our outpost in the Tahrir neighborhood of Baqubah. Notice only one man in a vest. If we were leaving at nine, we'd be out there at eight, and leave around 9:45 after getting radio problems taken care of. Most of us knew this all too well and waited for the last minute.

Payday and Matt in Mosul

A staple of mounted patrols at the beginning of our deployment: dropping down and having a nap. Standing all day in the hatch will get your head blown off, which is all the more reason to relax.

Hey kid, shouldn't you be at school?

Some moments were dull when action was happening only feet away. As members of my squad fired on an IED emplacer and a helicopter blew up his car with a missile, I was downstairs keeping an eye on the front door - and the kid who lived in the house. Along with Payday, we chuckled at the hijinks of Sylvester.

Ten seconds!.....I mean one minute. Sorry.

We spent untold hours waiting for explosive ordanance disposal teams to get to the IEDS we found. Not to take away from them, but there was a lot for them to do in Baqubah. This particular day, we waited so long that some guys took off their tops to get some relief from the heat.

From bottom to top: Bill, Cooter, and Brian Chevalier

The most common cure for boredom during a deployment: gambling! For hours we'd sit around, gathered around a cot and play Texas Hold 'Em. In Mosul we had our own poker table and played almost every night. Later on in the deployment we didn't play as much, but every gambler has fond memories of those times. My favorite: going all in with three-of-a-kind threes, only to lose my stack, and the game - to Dozer's three-of-a-kind fours.

These are among countless war stories we have but never get told. Like sitting on cots with sweat pouring down our faces, debating the war, evolution and if NASCAR really is a sport, or crowding around to see the newest Hollywood release on a bootleg DVD. Those are the moments soldiers revere the most; the stories you've never heard.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Photo Story Monday - Running Into Problems

Trudging. Walking. Strolling. No other thing was more common for our tour than the good ol' fashioned patrol. In Mosul we did it from our armored Strykers to show the world we could keep it under control without setting foot on the ground. We'd only get out if something happened (a sniper taking shots, IED, etc). In Baghdad it changed because the mission changed. We were constantly on the ground to clear houses and snoop out caches.

When we got to Baqubah and once found fifty IEDs on a stretch of road less than a mile long, we figured it might be a good idea to walk even more often.

Missions became longer and started earlier so we could walk in from miles away. It was the tail end of May and we had begun to feel the summer heat creeping in from a mild winter. Everyone had a distinct memory of the Mosul summer, and we were preparing for another one further south.

In the darkness of May 18 we began to clear and search scattered houses and lots. Without electricity and the sun to help, we covered the walls, ditches and trunks of cars with the beams of our flashlights. You could see us coming from a mile away.

We chanced upon a big hulk of machinery in an otherwise empty house. With a single flashlight on it, it was difficult to take in exactly what it was. Several dudes gathered around with beams dancing around it. We quickly recognized the importance of our find. It was a Dishka anti-aircraft gun, the same type used by the insurgent-turned concerned local citizen group 1920 Revolution Brigade to shoot at us from a rise in Baghdad after downing a Blackwater helicopter. It was bad news to see it in those parts, even if it was a little unkempt and rusty. We sat on the floor waiting for a decision to be made about what to do with it. We left without it being resolved, and another platoon came in to take care of it. I'm not sure what the fate of the disheveled weapon was...


Soon it was daylight and we had already been clearing for hours. Crossing a small stream, we walked into a huge field with isolated houses a hundred feet or more apart. The first stretch of open area was the worst. It looked to be more than a quarter of a mile away until we reached cover and concealment from enemy fire. In between, it was tilled, flat land with not even long grass to hide ourselves. A suicide run.

I was nearly at the end of my platoon in the long chain of men cutting across the field. The three line squads would hold two houses while our machine gun teams came up behind us. To our distant left was a road running parallel with our movement, clustered with houses stretching endlessly out of view, reaching an area where we'd find a mass grave in a little more than a week. I was alert and my eyes open, but not in the direction of the road. I was watching for huge dirt clots that would bring a man tumbling down if he wasn't careful. I was about fifty yards from the guy in front of me, and he was nearing the gate to our house.

Suddenly, shots rang out. Being a common noise to hear, no one changed their speed and kept walking along. Then some more crackled. Shit, they were close. We began to pick up a light jog. Crack-crack-crack. Fuck! As one of the last guys, I sprinted all the way into the gate. I ran cross country when I was younger and learned long ago how to control my breathing. Running was never a problem for me, and I was glad as hell to be able to use that when my own two legs meant the safety of a concrete wall or a bullet to the brain. I slid into the courtyard, where everyone was panting and trying to figure out what the hell. It was determined the shooting was coming from the other side of the road. The insurgents weren't original, but they were smart.

My squad leader quickly closed the gate as firing from our side started over the wall. No one knew exactly where the machine guns were, but we were determined to show them we'd fire back anyway. We were trying to buy time for our weapons squad as they labored with their own machine guns across the field. Our forward observer was trying to figure out coordinates to the road when a heavy amount of firing was coming from across the road. Loud cracking noises that tell you the bullets were close, closer than usual. This guy wasn't bad. Then we heard voices.

"Open the fucking gate!"

The gate! It was locked and our guys were naked out there. The closest guy grabbed the switch to the gate and swung it open as the squad scrambled into safety. Bryan was last and still running for his life when the firing became even more intense. Pieces of concrete were flying off the edge of the wall right above his head as he came flying in, his head hunched down low screaming "fuck fuck fuck!"

At this point, we were kind of screwed.

We put a machine gun down in between the gate's doors to provide some sort of response. Some guys hauled a dresser from inside the house to stand on to shoot over the wall. There was no cover on the roof. Guns were firing at all the rooftops in hopes of drawing out the machine gunner. He soon quieted down.

Bill quickly earned the nickname Snack Master from me. No matter where we were, he'd always have candy, Pop Tarts or a soda handy. This was the part of war no movie will ever show: sitting around after the action, waiting for someone to tell us the next step. In these moments, Bill would kick back and enjoy a Sugar Daddy or two.

Snack Attack!

How he carried so many Jolly Ranchers, we'll never know

After a near death experience, it's always good to have a laugh. I suggested that we hold a helmet up on a stick to see if they were still paying attention. It didn't draw any fire, much to our dismay.

Shoot me!

After communicating our difficult situation, we were told to get out of there. There no was no back door, so we could either jump over the wall or go through the gate and make a break for the next house, where another platoon was at. With urgency in our step, we filtered out and made our way to the back of the house for another suicide run.

Bill, always up front, poked his head out to scan the area. In response a volley of rounds passed by his head close enough to damage his ear and kick up dirt right next to him. He fell back screaming a line of obscenities, and we all thought, well, Bill's dead.

Bill was convinced he was in a movie, so he was one for theatrics. When he got up and we all realized he wasn't dead, he stuck his M-4 around the corner and began shooting wildly. Unshaken, the persistent machine gunner kept up his fire. The next house was about a hundred yards from us. So we tried the way we came. The guy at the other end of the house peeked and also got an earful of rounds. It was another machine gunner. We were trapped.

So so fucked

100 yards to death

We called in to ask for helicopter support so they could make quick work of the dueling machine guns that kept our whole platoon at bay. The request was rejected: helicopters would scare them off, and we wanted to get them dead or alive. We were to turn the corner and charge toward the road, which was several hundred yards away. I thought of the final scene from Gallipoli, where the dude charges across no man's land only to get gunned down after a few steps. Christ. I turned to look at the other building one of our squads took, which couldn't pinpoint the fire but was receiving it from somewhere else. The squad leader was standing in the window when I saw dust and concrete falling from just above him.
"They're firing at you!" I yelled. He held his hand up to his ear, the universal sight of "what?"
"They're fucking firing at you!" I screamed as loud as I could, pointing above him. He poked his head out, looked up, and quickly hid himself behind the wall.

Cooler heads prevailed on the decision to charge and we decided to go back the way we came and flank around to the neighborhood from the left. The first run was the most dangerous, so a few smoke grenades were tossed to hide our movement. Like mad we ran to the next house, going as fast as we could under our equipment. We sprinted through hues of yellow and green to reach momentary safety. I looked back to see action star Bill, running with one hand on his rifle shooting through the smoke. He tripped up and came crashing down onto his face, in between the houses. Fuck, now he's really dead this time. He got up and finished the stretch.

We had a few stretches to go before being out of sight. Once we all gathered up, we'd start another run. In between breaths, Josh shouted in a southern accent, "These colors don't run!"

Exhausted under the May sun, we were almost at a walking pace by the time we reached a defilade from the guns half a mile away. Swinging into the neighborhood, we found one machine gun position. They abandoned the gun and fled. That day, he would make it home.

For the rest of the day we'd walk the neighborhoods looking for any more trouble, but with a more serious step. Those shots could start at any time and end you just as quick. And you wouldn't die bravely on a French battlefield or on the Rhine. You'd pass away spent, covered in sweat among the dirt and the trash of a forgotten Iraqi street, wondering where all the glory from war went.


Monday, January 14, 2008

A New Gig

In lieu of a Photo Story Monday, I'll use this time to announce that I've started to write at Vet Voice,'s premier blogging site for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining me will be author and blogger Brandon Friedman, LT Nixon and Richard Smith. You can read our bios here.

An excerpt from my first post:

May 6th began for us like so many days before it, in the pre-dawn shadows of Baqubah. I had just returned from leave and was not too anxious to start patrolling again, with ten months of combat behind me and five left to push through. We searched houses, courtyards, roofs, trash piles and warm bodies throughout the morning. Our squad was designated to take a roof to overwatch other squads maneuvering. On the way to the trucks to grab cases of water, we heard the first reports of Alpha Company having hit an IED way down on Trash Alley, the road so dangerous we were usually barred from driving on it at all. We heard at least one man was dead and they were trying to get to any survivors.

To read more, visit Vet Voice. Don't forget to check out the front page for other great columns and diaries.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Photo Story Monday - Let It Rain!

It was just past the new year - in 2007. President Bush outlined Iraqi government benchmarks, and the newfangled "surge" was being rolled out in Baghdad. The units weren't going to be arriving for another month, but in preparation we had much larger areas to clear so the units coming in wouldn't be stuck with tangled messes of sectors. When they'd arrive, we'd show them everything we learned, from the hot spots to tips on the back roads to avoid traffic and VBIED threats.

One of the things I remember most vividly about Baghdad in the winter was the weather. It seemed to always be raining, and in the few moments it wasn't, there were standing puddles everywhere we went. Big lots, trash piles, city streets. You couldn't walk anywhere without tracking several pounds of mud, shit and trash on your boots. You can imagine the modern drainage and sewage system a third world country has.

One of my assigned tasks was the collection of sensitive information on our missions. I'd help to interrogate detainees and later would biometrically log the 1920s guys into our system. I would also take pictures of detainees, caches, local sheiks, anything of value that we could use. The upside to this was being able to take pictures of just about anything and having an excuse for keeping it.

On a very wet and cold January dawn, we began our house to house search for caches and boogeymen. Shortly after we started, we came to a house that was largely empty except for scattered trash in the corners and scrap metal in the living room. What was interesting was the graffiti adorning the wall closest to the door. The human intelligence guy with us suggested it was insurgent-related and had me take a picture. Eager to get the day over with, my squad was moving out of the house and down the street to another block. I stood in the room as they left, cursing that the flash button was left on, drowning out the images on the wall. I retook the picture and hastily shoved the camera into the pocket on my upper arm. Running out of the room and into the street, I looked both ways for my squad. Nothing.

Yes, those are devil horns coming out of 'USA'

With Americans on either side of me, it wasn't clear which way they went. I decided to go right, and after several steps, saw members of another platoon standing in a window. Well, fuck. I'm in trouble now. I turned around and headed back the other way, my boots plop-plop-plopping in the mud. Past the graffiti house, I spotted some Iraqi Army guys standing around a humvee outside of a mosque. As I grew nearer, I looked to my left up a staircase to a house that was more or less destroyed. At the top I saw Payday, from my squad. Saved.
"What's up dude?" I asked, hoping not to have caused a scene with my absence.
"Shit," he replied, with his helmet by his side, massaging his scalp.

Matt and my squad leader were on the roof to provide security for the IA downstairs as they prepared to go into the mosque. We were barred from going into them unless we received fire directly from them, because upsetting people in a war is at the top of the list of things to be concerned about. Word came over the radio that there was a lock and chain around the gate of the mosque, and of course the IA didn't bring their own bolt cutters or crowbars. Matt yelled down to me to bring them our bolt cutters, which I was carrying.

What a beautiful view! It's almost worth it

I walked down the flight of stairs with the cutters in tow, ready to hand them off. What I saw when I turned the corner made my heart stop: an Iraqi soldier was holding his AK-47 point-blank to the lock on the door. As soon as I covered my face and turned away, he pulled the trigger. As the lock fell to the ground and the other IA looked at me, I held the bolt cutters above my head and shouted, "WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!"

The next morning we gathered around a cluster of apartments. Intelligence suggested that there was a cache buried somewhere in the area, and that we'd be using a metal detector to try and find it. Being the lowest ranking person with a rifle in the squad, guess who got to wield it?

GPS units can now fit in the palm of your hand, but metal detection seems to have been untouched by the progress of technology. It was still the bulky piece of shit you'd imagine and didn't fit into its bag. After detecting a bunch of...metal, we decided to can the idea and continue clearing. One of the first doors we encountered became one of the most challenging of the whole tour:

We got word (we're always getting that, it seems) that bad guys were using a nicer looking SUV to ride around in. My squad was dropped off on a highway in the pouring rain to take a building to watch the road for any suspicious looking Escalades. What we ran into was a bread shop. For more than an hour we sat and awkwardly communicated with the two guys and boy as they rolled bread. We offered to pay for a bag full of rolls, but in true Iraqi fashion, they gave it to us with a blessing.

Day after day, it's not too easy to remember something that happened a year ago when everything ran together. Later in the week on the same clearing operation, everything was still drenched. Walking from one neighborhood to the next became a challenge, as the standing ponds of septic water grew with the rain. We did our best to skirt buildings but some puddles were too deep and long. Iraqis have adapted to this by laying bricks in the water to form stepping stones. To keep our feet from contracting hepatitis, we followed in the wise footsteps of the locals.

Trip across Poop River 1 of 3

Candid photo, or subtle metaphor? You decide.


Friday, January 04, 2008

100% of the Caucuses Reporting: McCain is Batshit Crazy

I once thought that John McCain would make the best candidate out of the Republican front-runners. It was rational to think that a former POW in Vietnam would be shrewd enough to follow through with a just war, if the need ever arose. Dwight Eisenhower said, "I hate war as only a soldier who lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."

Those are the words of a politician of yesteryear. Today we have the sagacious words of John McCain, Vietnam veteran and Republican presidential candidate, speaking to a crowd in New Hampshire yesterday:

Transcript as follows:

Q: "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --"

McCAIN: "Make it a hundred."

Q: "Is that. . . ."

McCAIN: "We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans ..."

Q: (Tries to say something)

McCAIN: "As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day."

--End demented blathering--

I can't for the life of me recall North Koreans kidnapping and beheading American soldiers in Seoul or Tokyo jihadists planting roadside bombs outside a U.S. base. It's a totally different dynamic there, silly! We're willing to keep a small amount of soldiers on foreign soil, but how many men would it take to stabilize the country? Obviously more than 150,000. Recruiting goals would have to be bolstered to meet the new demand for the next century. How they plan on making those numbers, I'm not sure. Thanks to the pocket veto by Bush, the most powerful government of all time can't pony up the dough for re-enlistment bonuses because the Iraqi government objected to the bill.

Think retention is hard with soldiers deploying two or three times and wanting to get out? Try a tour every other year for the rest of your life, if McCain gets elected. Try to imagine it: every other time a new edition of Madden comes out, you're whisked away for yet another fifteen month tour.

Sometime, in the future...

Dude 1: Hey, remember Baghdad in the summer of '18? It wasn't as hot as this.
Dude 2: Yeah, but the hover-craft IED threat wasn't that bad then. I'd do anything for the fair weather of Mosul in 2010.
Dude 1: Good call! Remember when President McCain sent us a video greeting on Thanksgiving?
Dude 2: Yeah, yeah.
Dude 1: What's the matter? You voted for him didn't you?
Dude 2: Shut the fuck up.

Likely scenario? I hope not.


(Thanks to Brandon Friedman of Vetvoice for the video and transcript.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Step 1: Surge. Step 2: ?? Step 3: Pullout!

Emerging from the deadliest year yet in Iraq: a grab at political progress. After all, the point of the surge was a military strategy to overflow the country with soldiers to create breathing room for diplomatic and political solutions. That seems difficult with the Iraqi government on another month break (I imagine something like a Crawford ranch, with just a little bit more shooting into the air).

Some liken the surge to the recent decrease in violence toward both coalition forces and Iraqi civilians. Something a bit interesting is the six month ceasefire from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr at the end of August, coming straight from the deadliest summer since the invasion. Suddenly, the flow of EFPs, the rarest of roadside bombs but also the most deadly, began to decline after Sadr's Mahdi army laid down their arms. Sectarian issues began to cool in Baghdad. What do you know? The ceasefire is set to end next month. With the hole the ceasefire and surge created in the tangled web of Iraqi politics, they probably should have landed on the moon by now. Sadly, the amount of electricity in Baghdad per day is lower than it was before Saddam, and the electricity minister hopes to have it at about Saddam-era levels in 2011. Next week marks the one year announcement of the infamous benchmarks for the Iraqi government to reach by last November. Whatever happened to those?

Rumblings from my old stomping grounds: a female suicide bomber killed ten in Baqubah. Female bombers are rare but that was the third in a month in Diyala. At least insurgents are equal opportunity now.

I also spotted a story about an 'oh shit' killing of insurgents turned neighborhood watch. Still without proper uniforms (and the stupidity to neglect their reflective belt), they're beginning to feel the burn of Americans killing them on accident. We got off on a rough start, you could say. With Osama stepping up efforts to go after them, it'll be a bad day when they had enough and go back to fighting both of us, like they said they would.

Remember Iraq? The Democratic candidates don't, but the Republican candidates do, as the word 'success' is being tossed around D.C. like it's been there since mission accomplished. I suppose the only thing both sides have in common is using the war and our soldiers as a Kleenex issue, ready to dispose of when they're no longer useful.

What you likely have forgotten is Afghanistan, slipping deeper into chaos with a Taliban resurgence, coupled with what is going to a be record crop of opium, used to finance insurgent fighters. Per capita, it's more deadly than Iraq, with only 50,000 troops there to hold against the Taliban influx. A war almost the whole world can agree on, and there's a little being done, save Secretary Gates asking allies to contribute. Be sure to read this article on what happens when there are too few troops in an area crawling with Taliban. Policy that directs assets and soldiers to Iraq to fight in that war is what gets men killed in Afghanistan, simply put. They don't have enough manpower and equipment to fight their fight. With the supposed success in Iraq, it's high time we have another surge, this time in Afghanistan.

This has been on my mind all new year. It was left anonymously in a comment section of an earlier entry:

Sometime this year, an eighteen year old soldier will die in a war that started when he was thirteen.

Hold onto that. Let it linger.