The soldier is from Idaho so to say it's local is quite a stretch, but there was a part of the Associated Press article that really got me going this morning.
The Geneva Conventions, which regulate the conduct of war between regular armies, bar the use of detainees for propaganda purposes and prohibit signatories from putting captured military personnel on display. As an insurgent organization, the Taliban are not party to the treaty.
The statement isn't inaccurate at all, but that's what irks me the most. I did not and still do not believe the Bush administration was wrong in sending detainees to Guantanimo Bay precisely for this reason. Guerrilla organizations are not afforded the same protections as soldiers in uniform.
Another thing "grinding my gears" (for all of the Family Guy fans out there) this Christmas is the shooting death of a Salvation Army major in front of his three young children.
This is what people are supposed to do. This is why - when society functions the way it's supposed to - you don't need "encouragement" from an outside entity.
Here's the link.
On Sunday, 49 students from low-income families became the first four-year Sidney E. Frank Scholars to graduate from Brown, owing virtually nothing except gratitude to the late liquor magnate.
"The world of difference that he made for each and every one of us is unbelievable, incredible," one of the Frank Scholars, 22-year-old Shane Reil, said Sunday.
Most recipients are the first in their families to go to college, Miller said.
That was the case for Eliana Reyes Castro, who was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States when she was 6. She said she attended a Massachusetts high school that had regained its accreditation only months before she graduated.
Like Reil, she was one of the Frank Scholars who graduated Sunday. She received a degree in education with a concentration in human development and will pursue a master's in secondary social studies and history at Brown.
Wealth - concentrated, even - can do a lot of good. Philanthropy can, and does, work.
A story on CNN out of Auburn about the Veterans Conservation Corps.
I've expressed before - and a number of people seemed to agree - that some form of the Civilian Conservation Corps should be brought back on a large scale. I don't know how many young people today would be interested - the pay would be low and the living conditions similar to a summer camp - but in exchange for manual labor during the day, the government would provide vocational training and/or classes up to an Associate's Degree.
For the veterans doing this, such a transition (from the military to a quasi-military structure) isn't going to be a big deal. Other people might have more difficulty swallowing their new conditions.
On a recent project, the vets took axes and chainsaws to about half a dozen felled Douglas Fir trees. In two hours, they transformed the huge downed trees into firewood, which their school, Green River Community College, can sell to fund programs for students.
In between the hard labor, they share Iraq stories and jokes. For John Shore, who served two tours in Iraq as a sniper, the company of other veterans is a reassurance.
This is a far better option than simply throwing money at people in the hope that they'll find a job. There is absolutely nothing wrong with exchanging raw labor for training.
I remember in a lecture a few years ago, a professor stated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was rarely, if ever, invoked today.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Flash forward to 2009 and Texas Governor Rick Perry has supported a resolution "in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
Perry is quoted as saying, "I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union."
It's curious this resolution comes at the same time as the Department of Homeland Security is now targeting...well...people like me.
Most notable is the report's focus on the impact of returning war veterans.
"Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right-wing extremists," it says. "DHS/I&A is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize veterans in order to boost their violent capacities."
The report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for third-party political candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin.
The president was in Baghdad yesterday, in the same complex as my camp (President Obama was at Camp Victory).
I'm kind of disappointed I didn't see Air Force One come in, but I sleep during the day.
As the articles continue to mention, security is improving but the car bombings the other day are definitely a reminder that the young Iraqi government is going to face a lot of challenges in the future.
I'll say this about the downside to President Obama's visit, though. Most - if any - of the soldiers in the crowd were not likely "grunts," especially on Victory. I think those are the guys - the ones out on patrol everyday - who should be able to interact with the president. This isn't to say staff jobs aren't important, I just tend to think that the guys at line units should be the first to meet with the leader sending them out.
It's been a while since I've posted - before the provincial elections back in January - and I think now would be an appropriate time to update everyone on what's going on in Baghdad.
The biggest news from the election was Muqtada Al-Sadr announcing he would work with the State of Law Coalition, backed by Prime Minister Maliki. With the exception of the north, violence is down across the country (although this week there have been two suicide bombings).
The latter bombing - aimed at police recruits - is especially disheartening. Occasionally I'll see an Iraqi police or army convoy drive through my camp and I make sure to wave. You can see how excited they get. It's a bit sad because that's probably the best security many of them will have. We've written about working for your community on these boards, but a lot of these people put it to practice and end up paying for it. A number have been killed while off-duty in the past, too. Actually, being the target of terrorists - and at this point, that's what they are. Terrorists - is common for almost anyone who works for the government.
It's strange being in a country knowing we're leaving in the next year. I know I can more than likely look forward to a turn in Afghanistan, so that will be different. This is certainly a strange way to interact with the world, but it's interesting.
I was finally able to leave my Forward Operating Base (FOB) recently. I wasn't able to take pictures while "outside the wire," but I did take one before I left (it seems to be semi-common for people to snap a picture of their first time going outside).
I honestly can't remember if I've posted an update since New Year's, but there really hasn't been too much to write about.
I'm on the Victory Base Complex, which is an enormous post surrounding the Baghdad International Airport. It was weird coming in the first day and realizing, "Hey, I'm at the Baghdad International Airport."
Just after Christmas a solider from our brigade was killed by an IED. It was pretty sad, because with it being in the middle of the holidays, it will probably take a while for his family to have a normal Christmas and New Year's season, if ever. He was only 20. Stars & Stripes, the military's publication, always lists the names and ages of the soldiers, sailors, Marines or airmen who have be been recently. Most of them are young - in their early 20s - so you always take a minute to think about their family, whether they had kids, etc.
On the whole the country is improving. There are a lot of infrastructure projects going on around the country and a lot of people are excited about the election later this month.
I did see that one major suicide bombing made the U.S. papers. These are rare and - hopefully - will continue to be so. There are a lot of Iraqis who just want a stable country. They didn't like Saddam Hussein and - this may come as a surprise - are holding out some hope that maybe everything will finally work out. I would definitely label it "cautious optimism," but there's at least some light at the end of the tunnel.
This is just going to be a quick Christmas update.
I just read a small brief about Iraqi Christians talking about the security gains that have been made in Baghdad and across the country.
From the blurb:
"From a security point of view, we live - without a doubt - in an improved security situation compared to previous years, when we witnessed violence and attacks against various sectors of Iraqi society. This new situation helps all of us, including us, Iraqi Christians."
That was from the leader of the Iraqi Christian Parliamentary group.
Attacks are down across Iraq. The AP reports that "attacks are down from 180 a day last year to about 10 a day this year."
To a degree it's kind of the calm before the storm, though. Elections are coming up at the beginning of the new year (here's a link to McClatchy about the elections), so a lot of groups are putting candidates forward.
Nobody is sure how the losers will react. I suppose the level of violence after the elections will be the real measure of where Iraq is headed.
Um - most people here expect to be in Afghanistan for the next deployment. I saw one headline that described the coming increase of U.S. troops in Afghanistan as "Obama's War."
I can't think of much else that would be of interest. If anyone has a question about what's going on over here I'll try and answer it, if possible.
I can't post pictures yet, because I'm using a public computer. Once my internet situation is more stable, I hope to add those.
Every unit has a "packing list." Usually it's a recommendation of what you should bring and - usually - it's unrealistic. You'll have a million things to pack into an "A" and "B" bag (the long, green bags. Your "A" bag is military stuff, the "B" bag is extra), a ruck and an assault back (basically a big backpack).
A lot of people just decide what they won't need (or what they likely won't need) and put it into storage. The downside to this is that if you actually need it - well, you're SOL.
I'm not sure what it says about my generation and warfare, but the image of soldiers packing their XBox next to their body armor says a lot. The only explanation I can come up with is that it's the modern day deck of cards, except people still play cards. Playstation Portables and iPods are also very, very popular to bring "downrange".
Leaving Germany for Kuwait was different and familiar at the same time. We took a C5 down, which was different. The size of the plane is ridiculous. The passenger seats also face backward, meaning your back is to the cockpit. There are also no windows and your wear earplugs because it's so loud.
As some of you may know, I recently finished a tour in South Korea and am now stationed in Germany.
I recently found out that I'll be heading to Iraq. I can't give the specific date, but I will be leaving before the holiday season.
I think this will be an interesting experience, especially since so few people from Western culture have been able to travel to Iraq. Although we see images from the region all the time and think we know what is going on, the number of people from the industrialized world who have set foot in Iraq and smelled the air is very small.
I'll more than likely spend most of my time at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and don't know how often I'll be able to update, but I'll try to "leave the wire" and post about Iraqi life from what I am able to see.
I may create a Flickr account and post pictures, but I'm really bad with that kind of stuff so we'll see if I can learn how to do it before leaving Germany.
A lot will also depend on what the Department of Defense restricts. Right now I can't access Facebook from the computer at the library, so I'm not sure if sites that share pictures will be blocked or not.