"How can you spend time with those murderers and then actually write nice things about them?" someone e-mailed me today, referring to American soldiers.
"As far as I can tell after actually being here," I replied, "the situation now just isn't like that. But that's why I'm over here -- to find out what it's really like in Iraq. And what I have discovered so far is that most Army guys have honor, have character, are idealists like us. Honest. They really are." But the US military is being used and abused by the corporatists in Washington -- just like most of the rest of America is. But. The big test lies ahead for the US military (and of course for the American people as well.) If the Bush/McCain/corporatists once again send our "cavalry" off to fight in yet another unjust war -- one of a long series of unjust wars that are being stirred up by those who have discovered that their profits sky-rocket in time of war -- and then the "cavalry" goes along with the plan....
The main test of our soldiers' idealism, character and honor will be whether or not our military once again blindly follows the corporatists' orders without doing their research. If Bush or Cheney or McCain orders our military to attack Iran...or Venezuela...or Russia...or San Francisco, where will these honorable men and women draw the line?
Then we arrived at the COP, constructed out of three or four former McMansions that used to belong to mid-level bureaucrats in Saddam's government. It is the usual combination of Army kitch and Iraqi-ness. And the person in charge of first aid here checked out my bug bite and gave me some hydrocortizone cream. "Come back if it starts abscessing," he said.
"Do you think it was a spider bite?" I asked. A tarantula? A scorpion? A three-horned alien? Hey, this is Iraq. Anything's possible.
While we were waiting around the COP for the patrol to begin, I checked my e-mail. "Mom, I'm having a mini-breakdown," wrote my daughter Ashley. "I miss you! Plus I have a bug." What kind of a bug? A scorpion? A tarantula?
Now it's time to hurry up and wait. We're supposed to go out to the markets but today nobody seems to be in any hurry. Me neither -- except that I need to catch a helicopter to the Green Zone at 3:00 pm. So we sat around and talked about the Olympic games -- they are on every TV screen all of the time over here -- and where soldiers would go during their leave. Mostly they would be doing family stuff like taking the kids to Disneyland. A lot of these guys are family men. Rats. I can't find any recruits to come home and marry my daughter.
Then we popped into an MRAP. "Hi. I'm Alex. I'll be your gunner for today."
Alex used to be a punk with a Mohawk. Now he is a family man. He showed me a photo of his daughter. Total cuteness! "She'll be one year old pretty soon. I've only seen her for a total of 25 days." Again and again I keep hearing about how hard it is to be separated from family for at least six months at a time. Another guy I talked with had five children. Another one had three. Someone else told me that his divorce papers had just come through.
"You hungry?" asked the gunner. I'm always hungry. So the MRAP went over to the drive-through at Camp Falcon and we got chicken, french fries and Gatorade.
Then we rolled over to Abu D'Shir -- Shia territory. "How can you tell?"