Thursday, March 31, 2005

Blogging as "grief-work": A father blogs about the loss of his soldier daughter

Sminklemeyer has a post today about meeting with some old friends, the parents of Michelle Witmer. He writes:

Spc. Michelle Witmer was killed last year just five days before she would go home. She had two sisters also serving in Iraq. Michelle was the first National Guard female killed in combat and her death sprung a huge interest from the national media. I am a friend of Lori Witmer, Michelle’s mother. And I recently had dinner with the Witmer family. To my surprise, John Witmer had been keeping a blog, at which is dedicated to Michelle and to help others deal with grief of a fallen loved one.

I visited John Witmer's blog, and it is eloquent, moving and heartfelt. In describing the aims of his blog he writes:

In April of 2004, my daughter, Michelle Witmer, was killed in action while serving with the Army National Guard. I've been told, by those who know about such things, that journaling is an effective way to process grief. I intend to tell our story through my journal. The Story of our family, my children, my wife, and our Journey through this difficult time. I want to help you get to know who Michelle was and why we will never forget her.

He has only posted three times so far since beginning his blog on March 7th, but those posts alone are already an open window onto a father' and family's grief about the loss of a daughter and sister.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mujahideen Pysch-Ops Video

This was amusing. Really. The Anti-Iraqi Forces (I just learned that new term a few days ago) have a media arm now. The propaganda clip is a plea to Americans. It's not beheadings or anything. It tries to portray the resistance in the most glorious of terms. Really, watch out Michael have got competition. And the quality is not that bad...I mean, they had a graphic artist do some work on creating a logo.

It's really strange though, the guy who is speaking in the video has a strange's hard to place. I would go with Dutch.

And his script was obviously written by someone who is an English native speaker.

Basically, it tells us that we have to overthrow our corrupt government that is just using us.

The script is very interesting, and makes a lot of familiar claims: Iraq is radioactive and will remain so for millions of years...and Iraq was safer under a dictatorship...and thousands of soldiers are dying in Iraq fighting for America, but they only hold green cards, and their bodies are dumped and never reported back home and they are taking the brunt of this fight.

Fascinating stuff...not those fabrications, but the fact that they are attempting pyschological operations.

"Half My Heart is in Afghanistan" Thong?

Because my boyfriend is deployed to Afghanistan, I have the sudden desire to show my support and remind everyone I meet that my boyfriend is there. It's pathetic... seriously...I was at the supermarket buying stuff for a care-package for him, and I told one of the employees there. I go to the post office to send him a letter, I have the tell them too. If there is any possibility, I will mention it. And this is a fun game in Germany, because people get a really bewildered look on their face, and ask me, what in God's name is he doing there? Yeah, I feel really sorry for the few German NATO soldiers who are over there, because it doesn't seem like many Germans are very aware of any military involvement over there.

I digress. It gets really tiring trying to figure out ways to mention his deployment all the time, so I am very thankful for the "Half My Heart is in Afghanistan" products. Like this magnet. Or this tank top.

But I think I draw the line here. I think the point of these products is voicing your pride and support to others, and somehow I think that if anyone was seeing my underoos that would kind of mean that I wasn't a supportive girlfriend, n'est pas?

But they are kinda cute...

First Lady visits Afghanistan

Laura (yes, I wish I were on first name basis with her) visited Afghanistan today. In a speech she said:

"We must be mindful though, that democracy is more than just elections. The survival of a free society ultimately depends on the participation of all its citizens, both men and women. This is possible if institutions like this exist to give women the basic tools they need to contribute fully to society — and the most critical tool of all is an education."

Not that I am advocating wives to pipe down and not get too involved in their husbands' business, but Laura has somehow managed to stand by her man all this time, but not get covered in any of the manure he gets thrown at him. I mean, I have yet to hear someone say something bad about Laura...okay, strike that: I forgot the infamous Teresa Heinz-Kerry:

“Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job — I mean, since she's been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger — because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about.”

But that just proves my point.

Anyways, Laura rocks...and I can't wait to hear more details about her visit!

Footage of the interrogation of a Syrian Intelligence officer

So I was surfing my favorite Arab Media site, Memri TV and found this clip: it is the interrogation of a Syrian Intelligence officer captured in Iraq.

In the clip, he says everything I want to hear: that Syria was already in Iraq before the US invaded. That Syria has been funding the terrorists there. And that their goal was to unite Syria and Iraq against the US, and make Iraqis hate the US.

I almost felt sorry for the guy. I say almost, because he was guilty of terrible crimes. However, unlike most of the others I have seen interrogated in these videos, he had a certain resignation. He knew that he was in the wrong, and unlike the others, you didn't have the sense that the only thing he regretted was being caught. You could see that he was tired, it was almost like he was glad that he had finally been caught.

Anyways...I love those interrogation videos. Yes, it is propaganda, but it is fighting fire with fire.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My memory of my boyfriend: a casualty of this deployment?

It's only been five weeks since my boyfriend deployed, but somehow it seems so much longer. We have now been apart longer without seeing each other than ever before.

However, it seems that after a certain point...I would say it was between the third and fourth week, I got used to it, and I have adjusted. I know that sounds bad, me adjusting to him being gone, but it’s a good thing. Before he left, I was obsessed with him leaving, I couldn’t think of anything without also thinking of his departure. Everything was associated with it.

After he left, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that he was gone. My last thought before going to bed at night was about him being gone, and as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning the realization that he was gone would sock me awake.

It was like a really bad crush or break up. That is the closest thing I can compare it to. It was obsessive, and it was really annoying me. I hated feeling so emotionally handicapped.

Now, five weeks later I am “getting over” him being gone. It doesn’t hurt as much, and I have gotten used to not talking to him every night and seeing him every week.

This evening I was leaning out of my window, looking into the clouded night sky, and on the one hand appreciating the serenity of the moment, the luxury of being lost in one’s own thoughts. But on the other, I couldn’t help but wonder what my boyfriend’s sky was looking like right now, wondering if we were sharing a moment although thousands of miles are separating us.

I got an email from him today, and he was telling me about an event, and his actions, and it kind of brought me back to my senses. I realized that I have been daydreaming about him so often, to fill in the blanks about what he is doing, that I have been slowly drifting away from who he really is. I have made a sort of abbreviated version of my boyfriend, lacking all the subtleties. Things like his walk, the way his eyes glaze over sometimes when I am blabbing, the funny little sayings he has, or the way his whole body stiffens when he gets upset. However, I think my memory of those subtleties is slowly becoming a casualty of this deployment; details are becoming blurred. And how I miss those subtleties.

I am reminded of that Tim McGraw song (yes, I am going to quote a country song, I think I might lose my Valley Girl creds soon...*sigh*) Forget About Us, where he sings:

I know it won't be easy but I've got a plan
To just let my memory let go of your hand
I'm gonna miss your touch
But I know I must forget about us

I am not forgetting about my boyfriend, I love him to bits, don't get me wrong. But there is a kind of subconscious self-defense mechanism which has certainly supressed my memories of a lot of the subtleties. And occasionally they push through to the surface and make his being away very, very difficult.

I am so afraid that my boyfriend will just become a concept for me, just like I may become a concept for him. Yes, we write each other letters, and we talk on the phone. But those little interactions are so contained, and nothing compared to the unpredictability of live-interaction. I think there will definitely be a long re-acquaintance period when he returns. Just as it is difficult for me to get used to the condensing of our relationship now, I think it will be almost an emotional overload, albeit a very welcome one, once he gets back.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Rant from a Scottish Policeman

I just got an email from a friend of mine, who is a policeman in Scotland; he is 23 years old, and has only been a cop for less than a year. I just had to share the email (albeit, without his permission, because he doesn't know I have this blog...I bad...just read the email already) [Also, notice how he tries to translate his Scottish vocabulary for me at the beginning...]:

Totally knackered after work today, lost the plot (got angry) with a junkie woman in her house who had needles all over the place, dirty nappies (diapers in America ) and mouldy food scattered everywhere. The whole house was a tip and she had 3 lovely children who are going to grow up thinking that this is normal. I told her that the house was a f**king disgrace and that I would have her children taken off her if she didn't sort herself out.

These f**king junkies are the scum of the earth.DO NOT feel sorry for them.

Don't tell me about up-bringing, circumstances etc because nothing can excuse the way these people live and treat their kids. These people have access to all the help they want and also receive taxpayers’ money to live on. In this current climate of political correctness and blame culture, people now take no responsibility for their actions. It's always "Someone else’s fault." Where does it stop? The only person that is responsible for their actions is themselves.

I also refused to take a report from a junkie until he took a bath, He was covered in mud and sh*t and had a massive black eye however procedure wise, we should always take every complaint and report it.

Anyway now my name in work is "the right-wing fascist ". I don't really care because people should take responsibility for their actions, have manners and standards and at least take pride in their appearance. I used to talk in a more hardened Scottish accent to these scumbags. Now I just talk polite and posh to them so that I can keep my own standards and not be drawn in to their world.

The moral of the story is. Everyone can say and give an opinion on how to save the world and help these people. However FACT is that most of these people are evil knife carrying, granny robbing bastards who have no concept of right or wrong. I challenge anyone with even the most extremist liberal views to come and work in my job for a month and try and stick to those views throughout.

Nowadays there is no concept of right and wrong and these scumbags are seen as the "victims" so what is right and wrong anymore? Is there a get-out clause for everything anyone ever does or can people actually see that some things should just not be accepted and these people should be punished? Nowadays people are so worried about offending anyone or anything that they gasp in horror if anyone sticks their head above the water and speaks out about the true state of this country.

Anyway. I'm away to trim my moustache down the middle and iron my Waffen SS uniform.

(The last line was sarcastic, self-deprecating humor, just so there are no misunderstandings).

I think I need to tell him to start his own blog.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

American Heros

Okay, for those of you who haven't heard about the 10 Kentucky National Guard MPs who defeated a much larger insurgent force which attacked a truck convoy, you have got to check this out. Actually, there are reports about it everywhere.

I have spent the last 30 minutes or so watching the available footage, e.g. interviews with the soldiers involved and insurgent video footage of the attack. While they interviewed most of the soldiers involved in the attacks, the interviews with the two female soldiers really made an impression on me, because the girls just couldn't keep a smile from creeping onto their face between questions. One of them kept on cracking up, because of signs someone behind the camera was giving her (either coaching her responses or just clowning her...I don't know).

Anyways, you could tell they were really happy about their actions on March 20th. Real proud. They had these amazing 1000 Watt smiles that kept flashing out.

And I couldn't help but think: "Hey, when are they going to bring out SGT Leigh Ann Hester and a Specialist Ashley Pullen action figures? These are real role models. I mean, how kick a** are they? These women stayed calm in the face of danger, and then in the interviews they almost were like giving a post-game run-down after the Super Bowl, cracking huge smiles. It was a reminder once again, of the truth in Lt. Gen. James Mattis' comment: "it's fun to shoot some people."

Dis iz da shiznit, ya dig?

Ever wondered what Google would look like if Snoop Dogg wrote the search results? Okay, I am sure the thought never crossed your mind...but if you are curious, check out Gizoogle. (Via Mare.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

This chick rocks!

Just found a blog by a female medic who will be heading to Iraq soon, and wants to document her experiences online. In one of the first posts she explains the story behind her joining the Army:

I was a Director of Operations for a Pharmaceutical company when 9-11 happened. I made pretty good money (obviously), but I really questioned what I had done for my country in keeping it and my children safe. My husband had served in the Air Force a decade ago, and we always encouraged our two teenage sons that they needed to serve in the military for atleast one enlistment. But, although my husband had served, I felt I could not justify my opinions since I had not served when I was younger. So.... One day I sat down with my husband, told him my feelings, and that I wanted to join the Army at 33 years old. And so the journey began.

Man...she's almost giving me I can't wait to hear more from her.

Microcredit to Iraqis and Iraqi Businesses

I just found this link via Fayrouz. I love the idea of loans to small businesses, instead of just throwing money at people without asking for some kind of accountability, as the former tries to encourage an organic economic growth instead of creating a dependence on outside funds like the latter. Gassenfenster also linked to the Global Growth Org a while back.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Wife to Rejoin Husband in Afghanistan: I Believe in a Thing Called Love!

When I first met my boyfriend, he introduced me to a friend of his, a fellow pilot who was married, but hadn’t been living with his wife since they married. They had met at flight school, but gotten married too late to arrange for the same orders. So they ended up in two different units, thousands of miles apart. They were going to have to wait three years for their orders to change, before they would be stationed together.

It was almost some sick humor that dictated she was sent with her unit to Afghanistan a year ago, and my boyfriend’s unit, along with her husband, was sent to Afghanistan this year to replace them. Her husband went with the advance group and she was one of the last of her unit to leave, so they at least had almost a month together in Afghanistan before she returned to her station.

Upon returning to her unit, her orders were finally changed so she could join her husband’s unit. So she will be moving to Germany in a few weeks. Although instead of waiting for him here in Germany, she will just be dropping off her household goods and will go back to Afghanistan probably as soon as the end of April. She has volunteered to go back, because she would rather be together with him Afghanistan, than spend another year apart. Isn’t that sweet and moving? Someone should write a story about them…like I did…lol.

I hereby dedicate, one of my favorite songs to her and her husband: The Darkness’ I Believe in a Thing Called Love.

Relationships during a deployment

Tuesday, I met with my old friend that I mentioned a few posts back. Her journey to Germany was therapeutic on the one hand, because she wasn't confronted with daily reminders of her husband’s death, but on the other hand it was extremely bittersweet, as they had planned on meeting in Germany on his R&R from Iraq.

She was visibly grieving, wearing his watch which was too big for her tiny wrist, his wedding band on her right thumb, and his dog tags hidden under her shirt. Her engagement ring, designed by her husband, sparkled on her left hand and was almost taunting with a reminder of all what could have been.

We compared notes about how to deal with a deployment (which I found eerie, as all my complaints could never come close to her current sufferings), and she said that they had got into a stupid argument on their honeymoon about politics, and once he left she started to let go of the little things.

That is something I have also encountered with my boyfriend's deployment. During a deployment, your relationship becomes extremely concentrated on the one hand, and extremely superficial on the other. For example, I tend to be antagonistic, just for the sheer pleasure of having a heated discussion. (I can hear the shocked gasps…*sarcasm*) My boyfriend and I are thus perfectly matched, as, superficially, we don’t agree on much. I can actually remember having a conversation with him once on the telephone where we were ramping up over something (I am sure it had something to do with the November 2004 elections) and he got so exasperated that he said: “Can we stop talking about politics?” So, I conceded…then there were a few moments of silence, so then I launched into a new topic: “Feelings!” And I asked him to express his feelings for me. After two torturous minutes he asked me in the cutest voice: “Can we talk about politics again?”

Anyways…with 15 minute phone calls, and the occasional quick email, that whole aspect of our relationship is gone…the whole intellectual intercourse part. It’s something I miss, and it is hard to let it go. And I have come to accept that just because we don’t talk as intensely as before he left, it doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t there anymore. Like the more physical aspects of a relationship, that will just have to wait until he comes back again.

I have been fighting against windmills like Don Quixote. I can write him longer letters, but he doesn’t have the time or energy to answer them all. Yesterday he flew for over eight hours, and had a two hour stop at a FOB. That makes for an extremely long and tiring day, where I have to accept, leaves little time and brain energy for challenging discussions. I have a lot of angst about this year, because I know, that no matter we do, we are going to be different when he comes back, it won’t be how either of us expected it. We will both have expectations which will have to be adjusted to the reality of the situation. I have been stressing myself out, and probably my boyfriend (although as he so kindly puts it: he isn’t prone to the emotional swings that I so frequently fall victim too).

However, now I am beginning to accept that our relationship, although different and out of its element, isn’t going to flop and die like a fish out of water (I love metaphors). Instead, it will adapt, WE will adapt. And we are offering each other the only thing we can right now: mutual support while we watch the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter.

What the Future Holds for the Middle East according to Zinsmeister

I found a great article by Karl Zinsmeister, entitled In the Middle East, a New World at the American Entreprise Online. It's a long article, so I am just picking the cherries out for you:

I do not (as those of you who have read my books about the war know) claim that happy days are here again, that the future will bring nothing but a cheery whirl of American marshmallow roasts with the lovely people of the Middle East. For my entire lifetime, this has been the worst-governed part of the planet. Its economic policies are in a photo finish with Africa's as the globe's most counterproductive. Ignorance and illiteracy are widespread, and Middle Easterners nurse more superstitions, blood feuds, and ugly prejudices than any people I have ever traveled and worked among.

Many people think that democracy can not be built in Iraq until there is stability, but Zinsmeister claims that they are putting the carriage in front of the horse:

But that's exactly why America finally plunged in to help drain this swamp and plant seeds for a healthier future. The paralyzing error of "don't rock the boat" types like Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Pat Buchanan, Richard Clarke, and others who attacked the Iraq war as overambitious is the assumption that political and economic freedom can be brought to the Middle East only after it is already full of Rotary clubs and Wal-Marts. Note to so-called "realists": You've got your causation all backwards. It is liberty that creates peace, stability, and decency in a nation--not the reverse. If you wait until a country is serene and prosperous before introducing political and economic freedom, you will wait forever.

He also mentions something that has been worrying me lately:

Many daunting obstacles still lay ahead in the Middle East. Notice that the lead article in this issue, by Steven Vincent, warns how important it is that moderates in the Muslim world wrest control of their religion from the extremists who presently have far too much influence. In a chapter called "The Character Test" and elsewhere in Dawn Over Baghdad, I discuss some of the cultural baggage that Middle Easterners need to discard as they become self-ruling: pervasive dishonesty and graft, a shortage of altruism, destructive paranoia, widespread passivity and sloth, a weak ethic of personal responsibility, an attraction to strongmen.

Through reading various soldier blogs among others I have been picking up on the sense of disgust they have for the Iraqi Police and other people with a certain amount of power and comparably little sense of restraint. Not all, but there are enought bad apples for the Iraqi Police to have a brutal and corrupt reputation.

He goes on to express what he feels should be our role in helping Iraq create a democracy:

Introducing democracy does not mean that other people must remake themselves in our image. Beyond respecting basic human dignities, Iraqis should have the right to shape their society as they see best--including basing it on traditional Islamic precepts if they choose. We in the West must not anathematize Islamic law; our goal should instead be to housebreak Islamic fundamentalism, to link it to democratic due process so that the potential for tyrannizing and bellicosity is tamed out of it.

The Wrath of the Mothers and other clips from Arab TV

I was just checking out MEMRI TV. They are an organization that takes clips from Arab media, and digitalizes them for viewing on the Internet after putting subtitles in. This is where the clip of the terrorist interrogation came from a few weeks back.

I just found a clip where the mothers of those killed come and yell at the is some pretty moving footage, and it then aired on TV for all to see. One of the mothers drove her son's killer to tears. I think this is doing a lot to dispel the myth of the resistance being a jihad.

There is a whole box of goodies on that site. You can search accoring to country, subject, date, etc. This clip about wife beating made my skin crawl. It's pretty enlightening (and scary) stuff.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

This is appalling

In reference to my previous post about people not caring about the victim, but just seeing Shiavo as a poster-child for their cause:

DeLay told a conservative Christian group that the Schiavo case was a gift from God for their cause, drawing fresh complaints from Democrats that he was trying to score political points.

Why can't they see her as a person, and not a cause?

My $0.02 about Terri Shiavo

Like Elian Gonzales before her, Terri Shiavo has become the poster child for opposing interest groups. But no one really know what Ms. Shiavo would have thought about all this, instead of really thinking about the “victim” both parties are making this battle bigger than Ms. Shaivo’s life. I googled “Terri Shiavo” and came up with more that a quarter of a million references.
What would she think about that?

Nobody really seems to care about her. Just like nobody really cared about the welfare of Elian Gonzales. This issue is not about the individual, it’s about the honor of a whole group. I find that distasteful.

A few weeks ago, there was a report on TV about an Afghani girl who was brought to Germany in 1998 for an operation after being wounded by a landmine. Because the treatment would take over a year, through a bureaucratic bungle up, she was forgotten by the German humanitarian organization, and unofficially adopted by a German nurse. And now her parents want her back. Bear in mind this child was 7 when she left her parents, and is now in her teens. She calls her adoptive parents mother and father, and has absolutely no desire to go back to Afghanistan. Her biological parents are hysterical, and have made threats on television that if their daughter isn’t given back to them, they will kidnap a German child if they ever get their hands on one. The Afghani consul here in Berlin also hopes that the German government will force her to return to her family in Afghanistan, saying “The honor of the family is more important than the wish of the individual.” I remember watching that and being thankful that I came from a country where the individual’s rights are more respected than in most countries.

The issue here is about what is a worthwhile life. Everyone has an opinion about it. Some people say: If I couldn’t play basketball, I would want to die; if I couldn’t walk, I would want to kill myself; if I couldn’t see…etc. But some people consider that no one can make judgment about what should be considered worthy of living. Only you, yourself, can decide what is best for you. Some make this decision based on their moral and religious beliefs, others with consideration to their families and loved ones. But these should be personal decisions, and not forced upon others. Although I am pro-choice, I can understand pro-lifers, because they are fighting for those who have no voice. However, I have less understanding for those who are against voluntary euthanasia, they are basically saying that you shouldn’t be trusted to make your own decisions.

If I were Terri, I would surely want to be let go. I would want my parents to be able to say goodbye to me, and hold me in their memory as I once was, and not have to visit me everyday and be pained with the vision of what I have become. I would want my loved ones to be able to go on with their lives. And I really would not want to spend the rest of my life in a hospital bed, with no chances of ever regaining motor skills and my previous mental capacity.

However, I can completely understand the parents. They are clinging to the only hope they have, and they don’t believe that she would have wanted to give up. They are hoping for a miracle, and will never give up. They will spend the rest of their lives caring for Terri. I can understand not wanting to let someone starve to death, which is what removing the feeding tube would in effect do. Terri would slowly after a few days die from thirst. It seems like a cruel way to let someone die.

It angered me when Jeb Bush ordered the feeding tube re-inserted a few weeks back, and it angers me that people are involving Terri in a tug-of-war she never would have wanted.
I find it distasteful that her feeding tube was now ordered to be removed. If the tube isn’t reinserted over the next few days, many will consider it murder.

This was supposed to be a very private decision, where her family would have been able to say goodbye to her, and now it is taking on a life of its own, becoming more traumatic than it otherwise would have been.

I hope that the only result of this case is that everyone will become more aware of their responsibilities to themselves and their families, to leave instructions for how they would like to be treated, if they have a similar fate. No one else should have to make that decision for you, and no one else should be allowed to.

Two years later an Iraqi answers the question: Was it all worth it?

I read this post and got a lump in my throat:

Since then, we now have hope. Hope is not a tangible thing, but it is something, it is more than being blinded by darkness, by being stuck in a mental pit without any future.

Hope has been the greatest product of the last two years. No doubt, many have died, many have died by accident or due to crimes. But their sacrifices are not, and will not be for nothing. I refuse to let it be, and my countrymen stand with me.

Our cities are smoking, our graveyards full, and terrorists in our midst. But we are not defeated. We are not down, we are not regretful. We are not going to surrender. For all that the two years have brought, the greatest thign they have given us is a future, and a view of the finish line. Iraqis see the finish line, the finish line of freedom and democracy and a functioning nation.

We can smell it, taste it, and like a sprinter, one who has broken his legs, but who has a heart full of passion, we will crawl there no matter what the cost. No matter what we must endure, we have realized what we can become, and that is the biggest result of the last two years.Noone can take that from us. Not the terrorists, not those who want to question the good of the removal of Saddam, not those who want to reduce our glory for politics, none.

Pictures from the boyfriend

Yesterday I got pictures from my boyfriend. Actually, I got them from his brother. We have kind of worked out a system, where we try to piece together all the info we get from my boyfriend through emails and phone calls, through the commander's emails, and info gathered from other spouses (this is potentially to create a bigger picture. His brother also makes an email newsletter which is forwarded to family and friends interested in what is happening in Afghanistan and what my boyfriend is up to.

Anyways, yesterday I saw my boyfriend for the first time since he left 4 weeks ago. It was just a snapshot that he took of himself. How I analyzed that picture: Has he gained weight? Wow, his eyes look bluer than ever! Look at the excitement in those eyes! And boy, is he pale!

There was also a shot of his room in a hut (yes, he has his OWN room...this is a definite improvement over the tents they lived in while in Iraq). Before leaving he sent over a mattress and a desk and chair. One of those integrated loft bed, with table underneath it set-ups. If I didn't know better, I would think that he was off at university and that was his dorm room!

Then there was also a picture of the mountains taken from the air. It's amazing how different things look, than you imagine. I mean, that could be the Rocky Mountains. It looks beautiful and I can understand why my boyfriend wrote me a few weeks back: "Have I told you yet, how much I love flying here?" Made my day! It makes my situation a little easier, when I know that he is enjoying doing his job.

A year ago last night

This morning I received an email from the 1LT whom I mentioned a few months back. Today is his 25th birthday. Last year we were chatting online, him in the Green Zone, me in Germany, and when the clock struck 10pm here, I wished him a happy birthday.

It's so strange to look back now and think, okay, that was one WHOLE year ago. Time does fly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

This made me snort with derision

I was just reading this post at the Iraqi Patriot. Ahmed criticizes those who would like to see Iraq fail, just to spite Bush.

But this was the thing that made me laugh, a comment by a BBC reader that Ahmed referenced:

I hate to say this to Iraqis, but I pray for chaos and civil war: it's the only way to stop Bush's policies and show that peace can never come through force. If Iraq gets peace, Bush wins credibility. It cannot be allowed to happen.
Nina, Toronto Canada

It's like she doesn't understand, if things work out in Iraq, it means that peace CAN come through force, so why is she clinging on to her theory that peace can NEVER come through force? I mean, it is a theory that has been disproved time and time again. She can prefer another theory, but she can't just discredit peace through force, because she doesn't like it.

Iraqi victories against terrorists

Ahmed at Iraqi Expat has a great round-up of recent Iraqi victories (either civilian or military) against insurgents.

Iraq and the Right to Bear Arms

Baghdad Shopkeepers Kill Three Militants

Wanna bet that Iraq's new consistution is going to include something similar to the US' Second Amendment and guarantee the rights that Iraqis currently have with regards to personal fire arms?

Parents' Responsibility with Regards to Higher Education in Germany

A few weeks ago, I got a kick out of reading a post from Sarah at Trying to Grok about the fact that her husband and her did not plan on paying for their future progeny’s eventual university education:

When my husband and I met with a financial advisor, he asked us how much money we wanted to set aside for our children's college funds. We slowly looked at each other, looked back at the advisor, and sheepishly asked if "nothing" was an acceptable answer. We both paid for our own college educations -- he through ROTC, I through academic scholarships -- and we expect our children to do the same. I don't plan to pay for my own child's college; there's no way I would want to pay taxes to make it free for everyone. I don't even like thinking about the tax dollars that fund the Pell grant.

Well, it’s funny that it didn’t occur to me then, but I thought I would write about it now: What would be the absolute worse case scenario for people like Sarah and her husband, who want their children to learn individual responsibility? How about this: a law which forces parents to pay for their children’s education post high-school. Yep…that exists in Germany.

Here’s a little run down of the law that I found on a online law forum:

Under German law the parents are liable for the support of the child until it becomes an adult (that is 18 years of age) or until the child finishes the first vocational or academic education, but no longer than up to the 27th birthday.

Example: Child A finishes German high school with 16 and becomes an apprentice. Finishes apprenticeship when he is 18. The parents do not have to pay after the 18th birthday, even if he does not find a job right away. The "first vocational education" was finished.

Child B finishes prep school with 19 and then goes to university to become a lawyer. She graduates only when she is 28. The parents have to pay for all costs of living including the education (as long as it is reasonable) up to the 27th birthday.

Child C also finishes prep school with 19, then does an apprenticeship as a bank manager, finishes this when she is 22. Then she wants to become a biologist and starts university. The parents only have to pay until she finished the apprenticeship, because the biology studies are not the "first" education. If she would want to make an MBA, though, they would have to pay, because that would be seen as a natural extension of the bank education.

Fascinating stuff, this socialism is, huh?

I have actually heard of a few cases where children have sued their parents, because the parents refused to pay. I also have a friend, whose parents refused to pay for his university education. So he did an apprenticeship as an accountant, which his parents supported, and he lived at home during that time. And afterwards he funded his own way through university while working part-time as an accountant.

Most often children don't resort to suing their parents, but just the fact that the law is behind them and not the parents right to relinquish financial support beyond the 18th birthday of their child, is a little whacky.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Aljazeera's Non-Objective Reporting

This Aljazeera article takes itself a little too is pretty laughable. I mean, it is written with big words and powerful statements, but it's almost as if someone were to make a speech about Fahrenheit 9/11 being a work of art:

Taysir Alluni could never have suspected that the 9/11 attacks and the US war against Afghanistan in its hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban leaders would dramatically change his life.
Alluni, who began his career as an Arabic translator for a news agency in Granada, Spain, is credited as being the only journalist based in Afghanistan in October 2001 to show the world what the US war machine was doing to one of the world's poorest countries.

Was he covering what the Taliban war machine was doing to one of the world’s poorest countries before the evil US war machine arrived? Seems like that might have been more interesting…you know, with them destroying the Buddha statues and all and letting the infrastructure fall into disrepair and all that jazz?

By then working for Aljazeera, Alluni was able to capture images of civilian victims in the destitute villages of Afghanistan and the miserable streets of Kabul. His coverage triggered international outrage over the US action in Afghanistan.

Oh there is so much wrong with this paragraph I don’t even know where to start. Yes, there are destitute villages in Afghanistan, but that is not the “US war machine”’s fault, in fact that has more of a chance of changing now. And I think the international outrage over the Taliban's stronghold over Afghanistan and it harboring al-Qaeda was a little larger.

Alluni's work in that war-torn country came to an end when US forces bombed Aljazeera's Kabul office just hours before the Northern Alliance entered the Afghan capital. While many say the office was deliberately targeted, Aljazeera keeps an open mind, while still asking for an official investigation.

Aljazeera….keeping an open mind…who wrote this article?

Alluni left Kabul shortly before his office was bombed, following the Taliban retreat and reporting on it. Much of what he witnessed was too distressing to show and he was himself assaulted. "Scenes that, I'm sorry, I could not describe to anybody," he said.

Were they scenes worse that stoning women to death? Or the "Minister of Morals" making sure no one was breaking any moral laws?

Beaten and mugged, Alluni has not said who attacked him but described the incident as leaving him "in deep psychological shock".

And he was beaten and mugged? But not by an American soldier, surely? Once again, because the evil Americans couldn't implement a better invasion plan, in the vacuum left by the fleeing Taliban chaos erupted...and the poor kind Aljazeera reporter was beaten and mugged. Could it be that someone beat him, because it was seen that he was collaborating with their oppressors? Could it be that it was an act of random violence that could of just as well happened in Paris (I know someone who was mugged two times in one night in that city...City of Lovers, my a**'s the City of Muggers) or Miami?

Okay, I can’t waste my time commenting on the rest of the article, but if you feel a little masochistic, go check it out yourself. Basically another story about someone crying a river about their rights being infringed upon, while glorifying those whose aim it is to take those rights away from everyone.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Since studying here in Cologne, I have always enjoyed going to a park, which up until last summer didn’t really have a name. We just called it Aachener Weiher, but since last summer it has an official name: Hiroshima-Nagasaki-Park.

Why? Well, in my opinion, just because. Just because naming a park after the victims of American bombings, might detract from the fact that Germany wasn’t all that guiltless either. I mean, it would have made sense to name the park Coventry Park, or after some victims of German aggression…but I guess it’s cooler to name them after victims of American aggression, right?

I think it's kind of ironic that the two former aggressors in WWII got together for a pity party for their victims, and that a lot of those present in the crowds resembled your typical anti-American protestors.

I digress. What is interesting about this park, is that it is a little hill in the middle of a pretty flat city. And I had never really asked myself why there was this huge mound in this park. Well, the answer is pretty simple: the hill is actually rubble from Cologne after WWII. When they started rebuilding the city, they had to take their rubble somewhere, and started a heap in the city…soon the heap got so big, they decided to leave it there, and make a park out of it. I think it's kind of cool that we BBQ on this hill now, and kids run around and slide down slides. It's really a great contrast, building a very pleasant park on this mound of former devastation.

Strange things about Germany

I haven’t been blogging much lately. I guess it’s a lack of inspiration, or when I have inspiration I figure that someone has already said it better and don’t need to go ranting on top of that.

But I thought I would blog a little about Germany today.

Last week, Sminklemeyer wrote a post about the strange things about Iraq…and I thought: hmmm…I could write a post about weird things here. Okay here goes:

Public Nudity Vs. Being Friendly to Strangers: Germans aren’t prude…but there is no way in hell they are going to start a conversation with a perfect stranger. In the States, it’s normal to go the post-office, and while you are in line you might talk with the person in front of or behind you about anything…it doesn’t matter…you are just passing time in the post office. That just doesn’t happen in Germany. If you start talking to someone you don’t know, they get uncomfortable…if you want to make someone nervous, smile at them.

On the other hand, these people will think nothing of getting naked in front of perfect strangers. Like this weekend, after running a 10K, my friends and I were in the foyer of a theater/opera, which was being used as a changing area. And men thought nothing of it to drop their drawers in front of everyone present.

Also, if you go to a lake in summer, there will be quite a few people totally naked…even in the city park, women are topless. And I don’t even have to mention the public saunas and spas where men and women sauna and swim together, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

I have to admit that I like it, that nakedness isn’t associated with sexuality here. I think it’s cute when a mom, dad and two kids go to the sauna together and it’s not weird, like it would be in the States. But I just wish that they could also start up spontaneous conversations with perfect strangers, and not act like you have the plague if you attempt such a thing.

Oh and apparently, the worse kind of friendliness is when a salesperson is nice to you. It is so distasteful and superficial to them. Everyone complains that they are only nice, because they want you to buy something. Yeah…okay, that’s true…but why is that so bad? If I am going to buy something, the least the salesperson can do is be nice to me.

Cleanliness Vs. Dog Poop: This is one of the cleanest countries I have ever been to, maybe with the exception of Singapore, where you can practically eat off the sidewalk. Every morning you see people outside sweeping in front of their shops, scrubbing doorsteps, etc.
However…for some reason, dogs are allowed to sh*t everywhere. You seriously have to walk with your eyes to the ground, when walking in the city here…it’s not as bad as Paris, but still. And apparently, there is a law against it, with a fine to pay. But it is obviously not enforced. In America, if you see someone letting their dog crap on the sidewalk and not pick it up, you can practically make a citizen’s arrest…I mean, you certainly get the evil eye. But here, people just kind of shrug and look away…Obviously they don’t know that it is possible to exist in a city where you don’t have to play Dog Poop Hopscotch.

Children Vs. Dogs: If you bring a child into a restaurant, you may get the evil eye. But dogs are welcome in all establishments. I often go to bars at night, and people will have brought their dogs with them, and they are sitting obediently under the table. Most often the dogs are way better behaved than children, too.

This list is far from complete, and I will occasionally add a few more.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The chaos in Iraq is actually promoting a real democracy

How’s that for an argument?

Yes, you read right: Because the Americans "had no real plan" for the occupation, or everything went hay-wire and not according to plan, there is a better chance for real democracy to take hold.

Regime change only happens after a fight. Governments outside of democracies usually won’t give up power without violence or a threat of violence. And if someone is willing to die for a change of government, it means they really want it and will fight for its existence: Freedom isn’t free.

It is an accepted truism that “revolution must come from within.” And democracy is a very finicky system. It needs to be constantly kept in check and to be constantly protected from falling apart. And it will usually only be protected, if people have fought very hard to build that democracy.

Although I supported the US war against Iraq, I wasn’t so sure about turning Iraq into a democracy. To me it seemed too simplistic, and it goes against all the principles of what a democracy is.

However, I thought it would be criminal for the US to go into Iraq, screw up their system of government, however corrupt and horrific it was, just to turn around and say: “okay, guys, here’s your country back…good luck putting it all together.” It was clear that the US was going to have to help in some way.

The important factor in creating a democratic Iraq is the Iraqi citizens taking responsibility. They have to want it and work for it. They have to stand up against those who threaten the creation of a democracy. The US can not be in Iraq forever. The US military presence in Iraq, should be seen as a crutch. It is helping Iraq get back on its feet again, but Iraq needs to flex its political muscles and get strong enough to stand on its own. Otherwise, as soon as the US pulls out of Iraq, the democracy would just crumble.

As an example: the success of the German occupation and resulting Federal Republic of Germany was actually partly credited to the chronic understaffing of capable civil affairs officers. If one looks at the actual “plans” the US had for post-war Germany, they failed miserably in many areas, but succeeded in their final goal of turning Germany into a peaceful and democratic country. However, this was despite many American efforts, and not because of them. America actually wanted to “Americanize” Germany in many ways. Because of the lack of enough officers and US personnel to govern, a lot of responsibility was given to Germans town committees. These committees really became the backbone of the democracy which then flourished in the war torn country, which was thus truly a German homegrown democracy and not an American implanted democracy. The American occupation in Germany was a completely different situation than what is now occurring in Iraq, however one can be encouraged by its success, despite very different American plans.

Most Iraqis have been excluded from the political process for the last 30 years or so, so there is a complete lack of politicians. [Okay, no jokes here about that being a good thing.] Now Iraqis are learning to and getting to take part in the political process again.

The Iraqi Expat has a good post explaining his view of the effects of 45 years of history on the Iraqi mentality:

Now think about all that, the turbulence of 60s, the elimination of the politicians from the 60s onward, the uneducated low-class that became the masters, the low life criminals that became common, the immorality that were taught and the imprisonment that made the people unaware of how people live outside Iraq's borders; all that takes time to repair, it is damaging and it is slowing the realization of freedom and democracy, but it will not stop it. [...]

The security in Iraq is not that good, to say the least. There are daily kidnappings, shootings, bombings, etc. Some people call it the Wild West. The US and other coalition forces are doing their part in trying to establish peace. Some say they are not doing enough, there has to be more American soldiers there. But I disagree. I think that if the US provides too much security, what reason do the Iraqis have to fight? And how are the Iraqi security forces going to learn? This is a trial by fire situation.

A year ago, the Iraqi police and National Guard were notorious for their disorganization and fear in the face of danger, but gradually we are seeing more progress. They are standing up to criminals, instead of running away. They are becoming more disciplined; they are becoming more like their American counterparts. The January elections were also a turning point, where Iraqis proved to themselves and the world that they were willing to fight for their political freedom, and they weren’t going to be terrorized into submission anymore.

There are many maxims to military life, and here are two: “There is no such thing as a perfect plan”, and “Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.” And I think they both apply very well to the situation in Iraq. There can’t be a perfect plan for the US mission in Iraq, and the Iraqis can’t gather experience in a democracy until that democracy is actually created through a democratic process.

It is violent in Iraq right now, but most revolutions are. And for the US to help too much in providing security and guidelines would be detrimental to Iraq’s future. Once Iraq has established democracy and security, the rest of the world can have confidence in the Iraqis, because it will have also been their efforts that created the democracy, and not just the US’.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Good Riddence!

Italy will start removing troops from Iraq:

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, facing rising opposition to the war in Iraq and public outcry over the deadly U.S. shooting of an Italian agent in Baghdad, announced Tuesday that Italy will start withdrawing its 3,000 troops from Iraq beginning in September.

I am sure that Italian soldiers have worked hard and sacrificed a lot in Iraq...however, sadly it seems like the Italian government has been contributing a little too much to the terrorists' war coffers. First the two humanitarian aid workers, and now this journalist.

I doesn't make sense to me to disarm the terrorists on one side, and then give them money on the other to buy more weapons. It seems self-defeating. I think it is the kind of help we don't need in Iraq. So this might be a case of everyone being happy...except the terrorists, because they might not be able to extort the Italian government anymore.

15 minute phone calls

My interpretation of Einstein's theory of relativity: if this year's deployment were made up of units of 15 minute phone calls, the time would whizz by.

My boyfriend called me this morning, and woke me up...a completely welcomed wake-up call. I was so happy that he called that I wasted the first 30 seconds to a minute expressing that...then we had a few minutes gossiping back and forth (his drama and my drama), then I was filled with a sense of dreading...and yep, there it came: the recorded operator's voice, who warns that there are only 2 more minutes remaining in the phone call.

After that, it's almost as if Nurse Ratched herself came on the line to wrap it up...

You can continue talking until the phone disconnects, but we usually hang up before, just to have a sense of control. We then say our I love you's and goodbye's, and then hang up, as if it were our own choice to keep the call under 15 minutes.

For a few minutes we were in a reverie, and could have almost pretended that he was at work and I was going to see him tonight. We were transported into the normalcy of our lives before he left. But after that interruption, we are shocked back into reality. And we both realize how very far away he is.

Monday, March 14, 2005

JibJab-esque Hillary cartoon

Bluesman sent me this link to a Hillary cartoon clip.

Blogging from or about Afghanistan

Because of my boyfriend's deployment there, I have an increased interest in blogs from Afghanistan. I have found these either through Technorati, or from other bloggers' websites, like Shar's. A few of them also have photo pages up.

Jean-Paul Borda is a national guardsman and blogs about his experiences during his current deployment.

Xavier, a US soldier from Texas, stationed in Mannheim, just recently deployed to Afghanistan.

AfghanAndy: soldier from Texas

Waheed: an Afghani interpreter for the US Army, who recently started his own blog.

SGT Ricardo Cortez, who numbers his post according to how may days he has been there: he's at post 83-86 now.

B, a US soldier stationed in Kaiserslautern, but on his way to Afghanistan.

Josh, an American contracter blogging from Afghanistan.

Special Forces Alpha Geek started his blog upon returning from a year in Afganistan, and continues to blog about his experiences there.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Art as Reflection of Life: Afghan War Rugs

Similar to Persian carpets, Afghanistan has its own genre of hand-woven rugs. Forbes published an article about the war rugs:

At first glance they look like the rugs woven for hundreds of years by the tribal peoples of Afghanistan. But instead of traditional abstract motifs such as water jugs, chickens, blossoms and horses, these rugs depict tanks, paisley-shaped helicopters, jets, hand grenades and Kalashnikov rifles.

Swordsmen on horseback had been the most martial images found on tribal rugs, up until the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. But the invasion gave Afghans an abrupt introduction to modern warfare. As Afghan men rose up to fight, women (for nearly all rugs are woven by women) began weaving these new sights into their rugs.

Kevin Sudeith is a Afghan rug distributor and owns the website War Rug.

For nearly two years after the terrorist attacks he couldn't get any rugs at all from Afghanistan. After trade resumed, he found a whole new genre of war rugs had arisen. On woolen fields where Soviet weapons used to appear now stood U.S. armaments. A $400 rug shows an F-16, an Abrams tank and the slogan "Heat to War." Others, clearly made for sale to Americans, proclaim death to terrorists and "Long live U.S. soldiers."

The most disturbing pieces commemorate the World Trade Center attack. One has planes labeled American and United crashing into the towers, but also features a white dove carrying an olive sprig in is beak ($600). When Ronald O'Callaghan, another dealer, first saw a WTC attack rug, he says, "I told my suppliers I never wanted to see another one of those again." (He's since changed his mind and is selling them.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Story that never really happened aka : The alleged looting of the Iraq National Museum in April 2003

Via Davids MedienKritik: Jeffrey Schuster has produced a detailed account of the reporting on the alleged looting of the Iraq National Museum in April 2003, which was one of the first attempts by the media to discredit the U.S. army during the Iraq invasion. It's a good read.

Trepidation about seeing an old friend

When I first started at university here in Germany in 1997, I had to take a German class to improve my language skills, before being able to attend lectures and courses. We were a veritable mix of nationalities: many Europeans, some Russians, some Africans, and a few Asians. On the first day of class I noticed a girl writing notes into a Day Runner, and immediately knew she was an American. So after the class I went up to her, and introduced myself.

Living in a foreign country, you have a tendency to appreciate meeting fellow Americans. She and I became fast friends. Not the thick-as-thieves type of friends, but we spent a lot of time together. For the two years she was here, we partied a lot, were jogging partners, and even went on a bike tour in southern France together.

When she went back to the US, we fell out of touch. Not that we didn’t like each other, but we just weren’t really a part of each other’s lives anymore. She came back to visit a few years later, and we met up for a coffee. And that was the last time I had personal contact with her.

We have a mutual friend, who has more contact with her. Through this friend I found out that my old American friend was getting married to her National Guardsman fiancé in February, 2004. He was due to deploy to Iraq in early March, 2004.

A few months later I was reading an article online, about an IED attack in Baghdad, and suddenly my heart dropped to my stomach. My friend’s husband was one of those killed. It’s hard to express what kind of emotions go through your mind, when you read something like that. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing someone, someone you had so many shared dreams and hopes with. Suddenly a whole part of her future was erased. After three months of wifedom, she was a widow.

That was over a half a year ago now. Their first wedding anniversary has passed, and I can’t imagine the bitter sorrow of that day.

And now she is coming to Germany again to visit, in an effort to concentrate on herself, and get her life back together. Today she will be arriving, and I will surely see her in the next few days.

If the events of last year had never happened, this would have been a really exciting event. But somehow I can’t help but have a sense of apprehension, when I think about seeing her again. Firstly, I really don’t know what to say to her about her loss. Secondly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about my boyfriend. It would seem too weird. Usually I would want to gush about him, but now it seems that if I mentioned him and his deployment, somehow I would be silently mentioning her husband and his death during his deployment. I don’t want to do anything that distresses her, and would like to offer the most comfort possible.

And I can't help but feel so self-centered to be worrying about this, when she has gone through so much.

I am quite nervous, but am also very much looking forward to seeing an old friend.

Celebrating my Boyfriend's Birthday

What do you do usually when it’s someone’s birthday? Well, usually you would make the day special for that person: bake a cake, wrap some presents, and spoil them. (Provided you really like this person.)

What do you do when it’s your boyfriend’s birthday and he is deployed? Well, you hope that the present you ordered online has reached him, you hope that his day was somehow made special, and you hope that he calls so you can personally wish him happy birthday.

How dumb is that? The birthday boy having to call you, so that you can wish him a happy birthday?

I wasn’t sure, if he would call, because we had just talked two days before. But sure enough the phone rang around 3pm. I could tell it was him from the caller ID, and answered: Happy Birthday!

He’s not that big on birthdays, so it wasn’t a big deal for him. He said he hadn’t called me, because it was his birthday. He would have called anyway.

But for me, it was really important. Like Sarah’s post on wifeing, I miss “girlfriend-ing” my boyfriend. And just to be able to say "Happy Birthday" to him, made my day!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Televised interrogations of captured terrorists in Iraq

Oh, this video is just priceless. (via Dcat)

It is an interrogation of two Iraqi terrorists, who killed 36 Iraqis: policemen, national guardsmen, and 10 Christian girls, three of which they raped. Pray tell, how is raping women helping free Iraq from the oppression of the evil American occupiers?

Some criticize the televised interrogations…I applaud them.

This is what Omar at Iraq the Model had to say about watching the broadcast, which is apparently a daily broadcast on Al Iraqiya TV:

Regardless of what might be said about the inappropriateness of showing these interrogations and regardless of all the discussions about human rights and Geneva conventions...etc, I believe that it was necessary to bring these confessions and interrogations to the public because this is something that touches the lives of the people in many places and in many occasions, therefore the people deserve to know everything about it.

Here in Iraq, it DID make a difference as it helped more people who had uncertain thoughts about the "insurgency" get the right picture of the nature of the "insurgents" motivations, goals and ideology. And I think it will also have a positive effect on the performance of the security forces. The progress may be happening slowly but the situation is promising; the people and the security forces are actively building a united front to face terrorism and this is what we really need to secure our country.

The Pajama Brigade is going to bring down Giuliana Sgrena like they brought down Dan Rather

I found this post via Dcat about a Dutch journalist's encounter with Giuliana Sgrena enroute to Iraq. And he doesn't have many nice things to say about her:

'Be careful not to get kidnapped,' I told the female Italian journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed for Baghdad. 'Oh no,' she said. 'That won't happen. We are siding with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.'

It doesn't sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But Sgrena's attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn't she tell me back in the plane that 'common journalists such as yourself' simply do not support the Iraqi people? 'The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind,' the three women behind me had told me, for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated the Americans as well.'

If you liked that, check out the whole post.

And for more about her car and her lies.

It just gets better and better.

Update: Chrenkoff has a translation of the whole (scathing) article by the Dutch journalist.

Questions about French History

This is an interesting post by a French guy living in the US, entitled: Ten Questions which would instill terror in a French history teacher. Here are my favorites:

1) Why do we find the bloodiest and most corrupted regimes in the former French colonies? (Cambodge, French Indo-China, Central African Republic, Niger, Togo, Haiti etc…)


9) Why is it that in France, we always talk about Americans and oil, and NEVER of France and Oil?? After all, wasn’t it France, through Elf [The major French oil company, partly owned by the French government] which had juicy oil deals with Saddam’s Iraq?


10) Why is it that when the French discuss the Viet Nam war in history class, the REAL causes of the war linked to the French colonization of that country are not mentioned ? Tell me about the bloody repression of the communists there by the French army on June 17, 1930, tell me about Admiral Jean Decoux , named at the helm of Viet Nam by the Vichy government?

The same blogger has a previous post about France's difficulty about dealing with the skeletons it's own closet. They have a tendency to point out the splinter in other countries' eyes, despite the log in theirs. This is something I can attest to after having lived in France, and only meeting people whose forefathers were in the resistance during was like all of those who had collaborated with the Nazis just died after the war.

Oh, here's another funny French, they spell it la Résistance (capitalized). Anything else is just some other resistance...but capitalized it refers to the resistance movement during the Nazi occupation of France. No one does pride better than the French!

How to create an anti-American conspiracy theory

The Chicago Sun Times has an article about Giuliana Sgrena's charge that American forces deliberately fired on her car last week shortly after her release from her captors, resulting in an Italian secret service agent being killed.

According to the Sun Times there is a big market in anti-American conspiracy theories:

In Indonesia, the word is out: the United States knew of the coming December tsunami, but did nothing, so that as many Muslim lives as possible might be lost in the storm. In France, a book titled L'Effroyable imposture, or "The Appalling Fraud'' presented the Sept. 11 attacks as a CIA plot to justify America's later invasions. It was parked on France's best-seller list and sold briskly around the globe.

And the newspaper offers a template of making conspiracy theories:

First, ignore the obvious, rational explanation: In this case, American soldiers, in an area where suicide car-bombing attacks are a regular event, shot at a car that did not stop. Replace it with pure fantasy based only on loathing of the United States. The more absurd the better, and this is a pip: Why would the U.S. dream of alienating a good ally such as Italy in this fashion, and over what? An obscure reporter from a fringe publication?

Yeah....but obscure no longer... What is the better story: "Journalist kidnapped while interviewing Fallujah refugees, released after a ransom was paid, which would fund further acts of terror"...OR "American ambush after release from peace loving religious captors"? Sgrena obviously saw this story, and ran with it.

Update: Shannon Love has a counter conspiracy theory:

What if the entire episode was just a scam to force the Italian government to financially support the terrorists in Iraq?

I don't think the Italian government was involved but I do think it likely that Giuliana Sgrena was. She is a communist with a long track-record of anti-American hatred. She was in Iraq in the first place to provide propaganda support for the "insurgency." Perhaps she simply thought she could help the "insurgency" more by becoming a high-profile hostage than she could as a "journalist." The "insurgents" are reportedly running out of money. Maybe they convinced her to cooperate with funding their operations.

Oh, no...there goes his reputation

I had to smirk when I read this article about Fred Durst suing websites for distributing a home-made sex video that was stolen from his computer.

First Paris Hilton, now him. What is happening to all our role models?

He's suing for damages to the tune of $70 million, but the question begs: damage to what?

However, all jokes aside, I was extremely impressed with his lawsuit: he immediately secured the copyrights to the video, and sued them for copyright infringement, and would thus be entitled to the profits the websites have made....lemonade out of lemons!

Humanitarian side of the military

Compassion is not a word often used by the MSM in association with the military, but Ryan at Cigars in the Sand has a post about an article published in the New York Times, which starts with this header: The global war on terrorism has made the military far more effective at performing humanitarian deeds.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Acknowledging sacrifices

Public opinion is very important. The way people perceive something has long term effects on how it will turn out. It’s called the power of positive thinking…or alternately negative thinking.

This is especially true during a war, or times of social unrest.

All aspects are discussed, either in a positive light or a negative light depending on whose doing the talking.

And both sides tend to talk in black and white.

Many only want one picture to emerge about the American Soldier: that out of a sense of duty, he is patriotically defending his country. It seems they to want to leave out a lot of the negative aspects of war, like fear, homesickness, pain, etc.

Now while I can understand their position, just like the US Army recruiters aren’t going to include in their recruitment spiel: “By the way, there is chance you will get killed,” I think they should acknowledge the “warts and all” picture.

If they don’t acknowledge it, they are downplaying the sacrifice soldiers make. They are also dehumanizing soldiers, not into killer-bots, like some extreme left groups like to portray them, but as one dimensional.

If we don’t acknowledge the difficulties, how can we really understand how hard they worked to succeed in their missions despite the adversity? How can we truly give them the respect and acknowledgement, if we gloss over the sacrifices and disappointments?

Things in Iraq aren’t so cheery. It’s bad bongos there. But war is generally bad bongos. (And no, the war isn’t over. When there are soldiers dying everyday from enemy contact, the war isn’t over.) There is this tendency to want to gloss over the bad sides, and focus on the good. However, this discredits those who are working hard there everyday, the Iraqi security forces, and contractors and coalition forces.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Iraq. It is going to take years and years of hard work there if lasting improvement is to root.

I found a few accounts that I think portray the mental and physical challenges of security forces in Iraq, but how they don’t give up in the face of these different forms of adversity: TJ, a security contractor in Iraq in a post about Iraqi police, Sminklemeyer, Buffbabe220, Red2Alpha, all US soldiers.

First Call!

Yay! Yay! I was sitting at work today, proofreading a horribly boring disseratation, when I got a welcome distraction: my cell phone rang! I picked it up, said hello, heard myself echo back hello, and then I heard the voice of my wonderful boyfriend!

Although I wanted him to call, I was sure that when he finally did I would just start sniffling and sobbing...but I didn't. It was the most normal call ever. We joked and teased like always, got each other caught up on gossip, and were able to enjoy ourselves like there wasn't a care in the world.

And my cell phone, which has a habit of dying at the most inopportune of times, remained steady and clear. It was like everything was going our way. And when we heard an automatic voice announcing that we only had two more minutes left, it wasn't so terrible, as we had talked almost 15 minutes!

Oh, thank you, sweet technology: phones on military installations and cell phones!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Thanks, Sarah

Sarah at Trying to Grok is welcoming her husband back home today, after 387 days of deployment to Iraq. I have been following Sarah's journey over the last few months, and she has been a great comfort in the past few weeks as I have been adjusting to my boyfriend's deployment.

Despite the excitement she most obviously is feeling, she took the time to write a sweet (and tear-jerking) post, explaining what she is feeling now and her wishes for me over the next year.

Thank you so much, Sarah!


Okay, I have now missed 3 of my boyfriend's calls...two on my home phone, and the other one on my cell, because I didn't take it with me for a 1 hour outing, because I thought nothing could be that important in that wrong I was. I am never going to leave that thing behind now.

But he left a message...and I heard his voice again. The first time in 2 weeks. *sigh*

I am feeling utterly gutted, especially since I have been whining to him about not hearing much. And I can only imagine how frustrating it is for him to wait in line, only to get no answer. Hopefully, he was able to call someone else.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Okay, I know I might be committing blasphemy here but...

I think that red2alpha is better than CB.

Yep, there, I said it. I have now been reading his archives...and whoa, I am blown away. His observations are just so astute, and he has the dry humor, but he's more secure about it. And he is unashamed about his opinions regarding anyone and anything. This is a warts and all weblog.

I just hope that his style of writing doesn't change now that he know thousands are going to start reading him.

How long is a year?

When it chimed midnight on New Years Eve this year, I really didn't even think about any new years resolutions or reflect on the year ahead of me, because I really didn't feel like that was my new year. Western countries measure a year as the time between January through December, starting January 1st. My "new" year started the day my boyfriend left, and will last until he comes back.

Now that my boyfriend is gone, the inevitable countdown has started. It's not a really an accurate countdown, but everything has sort of become pivotal upon his return. It is kind of like I have an imaginary dating system along the lines of B.R. (Before Return) and A.R. (After Return).

I can't help but think about things in relation to him coming back. It's kind of bizarre. For example, when I think of the World Soccer Cup, which takes place in Germany(!) in June 2006, I instantly think: "oh, he's going to be back for that!" Conversely, when I think of the Confederation Cup, which takes place this summer also in Germany, I think: "oh, too bad, he won't be here for that." Not like he would really care which way or the other about soccer. It's just that I have this wacky tendency to associate every future date in reference to whether or not he will be back by that date.

It's almost like one of those pathetic scenes where someone has just been dumped, and will associate EVERYTHING with that person: Oh, strawberries. Beth LOVED strawberries...oh, TV, Beth watched TV...oh, a car, Beth had a car, too.

Another little mental twitch I have developed is to try and figure out how long a year is. And I don't mean, mathematically in hours, days, weeks and months. I mean, relatively.

I will constantly try to guage how long ago something was, and get a sense for how long that felt like, and then in reference to that event, how long this deployment will be. Like the other day while washing my hands I realized that I had purchased the soap dish almost exactly a year ago. And so I tried to think about how long ago that was. Did it feel like it was that long? Etc. I do this with a lot of things: trips I took, things I bought, photos that were made, classes that were taken, papers that were written, etc.

After admitting all this crazy mental behavior, I would have to say it doesn't bother me that much. It is just my way of mentally grasping this huge lump of time, which currently (two weeks into the deployment) is still a very long time. But two weeks...well, that means, I only have approximately 25 times the current length of his absence, until he comes back. And that's not that bad!

"Do newspapers give the news?"

The title of this post comes from the rhetorical question asked by the author of what was probably the first quantitative newspaper analysis ever, published in 1893.

Its author showed how, between 1881 and 1893, New York newspapers had dropped their coverage of religious, scientific, and literary matters in favor of gossip, sports, and scandals.

In a similar but far more simplistic study published in 1910, Mathews attempted to reveal the overwhelming space that one New York daily newspaper devoted to "demoralizing," "unwholesome," and "trivial" matters as opposed to "worthwhile" news items. By simply measuring the column inches that newspapers devoted to particular subject matters, journalists in the early 20th century attempted to reveal "the truth about newspapers." (Street, 1909). Some believed that they had found a way of showing that the profit motive was the cause of "cheap yellow journalism" (Wilcox, 1900); others became convinced that they had established "the influence of newspaper presentations on the growth of crime and other antisocial activity" (Fenton, 1910).

-Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (2004), p.5

Just another historical tidbit to ponder and mull over, brought to you by CaliValleyGirl.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

This is another reason why I wouldn't want to be a Democrat

I was reading this article and found myself shaking my head in disbelief. It's almost like she's really a Republican out to make sure the Democrats look stupid. I mean who says stuff like this in public?:

"[A]s a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don't want them to have progress."

And bless his heart, Jon Stewart was trying to guide her to redemption, but she just couldn't grasp at it:

[...]Mr. Stewart replied, "Do you think that the people of Lebanon would have had the courage of their conviction, having not seen -- not only the invasion but the election which followed [in Iraq]? It's almost as though that the Iraqi election has emboldened this crazy -- something's going on over there. I'm smelling something."[...]

Mrs. Soderberg, however, couldn't be deterred from her rank partisanship. Here's one of her more odious comments: "Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's still hope for the rest of us ... There's always hope that this might not work."

Okay, I am sure she was trying to be funny...except the only problem is, you know she actually means it. It's one thing to think like that...but a whole different thing to admit it on television. How, oh how, are the Democrats going to get anywhere with people like that being their mouthpieces?

I almost forgot to breathe when I read this...

I was just reading this post from another great mil-blogger. It is reminiscent of CB's post about a raid, but also completely different. Red2alpha also let's you inside his train of thought. Through his description you can really begin to sense the sheer fear and adrenalin and constant edginess of being on patrol or on a raid.

Here is an excerpt from another post of his:

I kept trying to look away from the fear but it's nearly impossible. It's like staring at the sun or a bright light, even after you look some where else or close your eyes the after image is there. Burned into you. For me it comes in waves, I'll be calm then nearly frantic with fear the entire time hoping none of it is showing on my face or in my actions. I know I'm not alone though. It comes out in the others in tight bursts of laughter, like being punched in the stomach, the way some will figet or refuse to make eye contact, or the false bravado that Soldiers use as a defense against everything. It's still there though.

He's good...real good.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Uday Hussein and Peter Arnett: both nutters

When I read the headline "Saddam's son was poised to topple dad: Arnett," I expected an article supporting my opinion that if we didn't deal with Saddam now, his sons would have become a great problem for us one day.

I personally think that Saddam was getting old, and only wanted to keep the status quo on his situation. I don't think he had major ambitions. However, once he was out of power, there was going to be a problem, because if his sons rose up to fill his place, Saddam's antics were going to look sane in comparison.

However, I was wrong about the article. And I can't quite figure out what Arnett is trying to say here:

According to Mr Arnett, the oldest son of the former Iraqi president had long been chafing under his father's iron fisted rule and blamed his father for the punishing international sanctions on the country.

"Though it has not been reported until now, Uday Hussein was the biggest proponent of regime change inside Iraq," Arnett wrote. "During the previous 10 years, he had slowly assembled the elements of power - military, military and political management - designed to overthrow his tyrannical father," said the reporter who was in Baghdad as US troops approached following the launch of the March 19, 2003 US-led attack.

But, according to the journalist, Uday's coup plan came too late as US-led forces were just days away from the Iraqi capital. He and his younger brother, Qusay, were forced to flee Baghdad along with their father as the Baath party military machine collapsed ahead of the US seizure of the city in early April. Uday and Qusay were killed in a blistering battle in the northern city of Mosul on July 22, 2003.

Um, is it just me, or does it seem like Arnett is painting Uday as some kind of political hero who was going to topple his oppressive father and install democracy, before the evil Americans came and screwed it all up? Come on...what about this? Oh, wait this is even better:

In October 1988, at a party thrown in the honor of the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Uday beat and stabbed to death one of his father's favorite servants, Kemal Hana Gegeo. Gegeo had recently introduced Saddam to a beautiful, younger woman who later became Saddam's second wife. Uday took this as an insult to his mother, Saddam's cousin and first wife. Uday carried out the murder coolly and coldly, bludgeoning Gegeo repeatedly in front of horrified guests before finishing him off with a steak knife. President Mubarak later called Uday a "psychopath."

As punishment for the murder, Saddam briefly imprisoned Uday. As a result of personal intervention from King Hussein I of Jordan, Saddam released Uday, banishing him to Switzerland. Saddam made him the assistant to the Iraqi ambassador to Switzerland, hardly an auspicious posting. The Swiss expelled him after he threatened to stab someone in a restaurant.

On December 12, 1996 Uday was seriously injured in an assassination attempt, allegedly organised by Qusay. Hit by eight bullets while driving, he was at first thought to be paralyzed. Instead, he recovered his ability to walk, albeit with a limp. Despite surgeries, a bullet remained lodged in his spine. As a result of the attempted assassination and Uday's subsequent disabilities, Saddam gave Uday's younger brother, Qusay Hussein, more powers. In 2000, Saddam designated Qusay as his heir.

I can understand why CNN fired Arnett and why Playboy is the only outlet willing to publish his musings. It must be true then: it's not the nude photos that makes the magazine so popular, it's the great fiction.

Update: Vodkapundit says it way better than I did.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

My Boyfriend's Commander

The hardest part about my boyfriend’s deployment is the lack of communication. I don’t have my boyfriend on tap anymore: I can’t just pick up the phone and call him. Communicating with him has become a game of luck and time: i.e. being online when he’s online, or emails when he has the chance.

Now we are still in the infancy of the deployment. My boyfriend hasn’t been gone two weeks yet, but I can honestly say that things aren’t that bad. You know why? Because my boyfriend’s commander writes an email to the FRG (Family Readiness Group) every day, which gets forwarded to the soldiers’ family members.

That’s right. Every. Single. Day.

I’ll be the first to admit that hearing what they had for lunch and breakfast each and every day, and how the weather was, gets a little boring fast. But it’s a daily sign of life. He also writes 2-3 short paragraphs about what the unit is up to within limits (if it doesn’t breech operational security). And he will mention the name of one person in the unit, and what they did that day; I guess over the course of the deployment he will eventually cycle through everyone.

So, even if I wish I could hear more often from my boyfriend, there is immense comfort in the routine of the commander’s daily message. It’s so smart, because if the families are more relaxed, there is going to be less pressure on the soldiers, because they know that their families are hearing from someone, even if it isn’t from them.

When I do have the occasion to chat with him, I already kind of know what his daily regimen is, I know what his surroundings are like, and I know that they had pot roast and cookies for lunch. So, at least that is covered, and we can focus on more important things, i.e. ME and how much he misses ME. Okay, that’s wishful thinking, we usually end up talking about nothing and everything…well, like our everyday conversations. And that is just fine with me!

So, I would like to thank my boyfriend's commander, and his contribution to helping retain some semblance of routine and everyday life, even though a deployment is neither.

Liberal Patriots error of judgement

I was just checking out Technocrati and realized that the Liberal Patriots had linked to me. So, I checked out their site, and there was no post linking to me. I was a little curious, about what they could possibly be linking to me about, as this is a site that purports Bush lied, etc. Then I found it: they had added me to their "Patriot" list, of fellow, supposedly like-minded bloggers.

How could they possibly think this? And then I figured it out: they have Buy Blue logos all over their site. I guess they just did a search, found my Buy Blue post, and somehow came to the conclusion that I was a brother-in-arms...I wonder how long it will take them to realize their error and remove my link from their list.

Cold Fury's rants

Cold Fury never fails to put a smile on my face, while also stimulating my thought. He ended today's rant about what he calls the loony left with this little nugget:

"I swear, mocking them is beginning to seem like laughing at retarded kids at this point."

Condi is one sexy Secretary of State

I found this photo today, and couldn't believe it...she just kicks ass. I mean, look at those boots. You have to have some guts to walk around at a public function in those boots.

"Withholding the truth is the same as lying!"

-Julia Robert's character in Flatliners

I can't really remember much about that movie, all I can remember is that my brother used to screech that line, making fun of Julia Robert's dramatics in the movie. And it stuck in my mind.

After reading AC Blue Eagle’s comment about media ownership of the war in Vietnam and their desired ownership of the current situation in Iraq, I came across this post about differing reports of a protest in Hilla, Iraq, outside a medical clinic where a suicide car bomber killed 125 people a day earlier.

And I thought, how right AC is.

The BBC stills seems to be fighting for and holding onto its vision of Iraq, reporting a completely different version of events than the AP article. For the BBC it was a protest against the lack of security and directed against those who didn’t provide security, whereas the AP presented it as a protest against those who created the violence, emphasized by them chanting: "No to terrorism!"

But just the fact that the AP is reporting the whole story, and not editing to its liking, is encouraging. Pretty soon, BBC and its cohorts will have to tow the line too, otherwise they will be held with the same regard as the National Enquirer…wait, strike that, I LOVE the National Enquirer. Um, well, whatever…you get my point.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Seditious Acts Thwarted By Scottish Accent

I thought this was hysterical; not the fact that he’s sick…but the last three paragraphs:

RON Brown, one of the UK’s most colourful and controversial politicians, is fighting for his life in hospital after a reported organ failure.[...]

The former Labour MP for Leith, 67 - who gained notoriety for visiting Colonel Gaddafi, his interest in the 1980s Afghanistan regime and for battling the poll tax - was rushed to Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.[...]

Brown took a close interest in Afghan politics during the 1980s and acted as an adviser to former Afghan president Babrak Karmal, who wanted more rights for women and was in favour of unions, but was eventually toppled by CIA-backed forces. He went on to become head of the British-Afghan Friendship Society.

Brown was even a target of the Soviet spy service, the KGB, who wanted to turn him into a mouthpiece for Kremlin propaganda. The high-profile Russian defector, Oleg Gordievsky, who was head of the KGB London station in the early 1980s, said that Brown had been one of the promising targets for the Russians, but that they had to give up on him because they could not understand his broad Leith accent.

During an interview with Scotland on Sunday last year, Gordievsky said: "Ron Brown seemed very promising. He was very willing to meet us. He didn’t know that we were KGB and that we were spies, he thought he was just meeting with contacts from the embassy to promote peace and understanding and socialist brotherhood.

"The only problem was that we couldn’t understand him at all because of the accent. We tried and we tried and we tried to figure out what on earth he was saying. We listened to tapes. We just couldn’t understand him. We had to give up because there was no point in talking to someone if we didn't know what he was saying."

I can totally commiserate with Oleg Gordievsky: I used to date a Scotsman. Sometimes after having him repeat something 3 times, I would just smile and hope for the best. And if it was really important, he would assume an American accent…which although condescending was rather good, and highly amusing.

Well, I guess the UK can be thankful that those Scotsmen have such incomprehensible accents.