Wednesday, December 10, 2003

War news for December 10, 2003 Bring 'em on: US soldier and Kurdish official killed, one US soldier wounded in Mosul drive-by shooting. Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed, three wounded in bomb ambush near Mosul. Bring 'em on: US C-17 hit by SAM at Baghdad airport. Troop rotations: "By promising troops they could go home after a specific time, the Pentagon may have boxed itself in to a particularly arduous rotation schedule, some military analysts said." "'They're driven by the fact that though they claim this was a war of necessity, it's really a war of choice,' said Lawrence Korb, who was assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. 'Because it's a war of choice, if they don't get those troops out of there, they are going to cause long-term problems for the U.S. military because they will have horrible re-enlistment rates.'" Major electrical power failures in northern Iraq. US helicoper makes "emergency landing" near Mosul after reported onboard fire. Bremer's CPA tells Iraqi Health Ministry to stop counting civilian dead. Bremer's CPA-controlled Iraqi Oil Ministry imposes gasoline rationing. Bushies exclude non-"coalition" countries from Iraqi reconstruction contracts. Let's be clear about the intent of this decision. Germany, Canada and France are American allies by treaty. These are our friends. The purpose of this exclusion isn't to reward those countries that support the United States, but to punish those that don't support George W. Bush. Job fair in Baghdad, but no jobs. Casualty Reports Local story: Texas soldier killed in Iraq. Personal Story: Senator Paul Simon. Last night I heard that Senator Simon died. Today the media is full of stories eulogizing his integrity, honesty and decency in a life dedicated to public service. Those folks write much better than I and they can tell you about his entire life. I can tell you about the one time I met him. It’s a long story so if you’re sick of Senator Simon stories, just skip it. Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1990, Senator Simon came to visit my artillery brigade deployed in Saudi Arabia at a miserable little firebase in the Saudi desert. On the battle maps, the place was designated as “Dragonfire Forward” because of the emblem on the XVIII Airborne Corps shoulder patch, but the troops called it Dragon Farts, Draggin’ Ass, and a lot of other nit-wit names that made us officers wish we had called the place something else. We already knew there would be a war. We had been in Saudi Arabia since late August, first as speed bumps with no ammunition if the Iraqi Army should head down the coastal highway from Kuwait City to the Saudi oilfields, but after a lot of reinforcement, training and supply we were ready to liberate Kuwait. Suddenly, five Senators turned up on the doorstep. I think we had maybe 12 hours notice. There was Simon from Illinois, McCain from Arizona, DeConcini from New Mexico, Cranston from California (our brigade sergeant-major alerted the medics when he got a gander at that geezer climbing out of the chopper) and somebody else whose name escapes me. But in the Army you learn how to deal with visiting politicians and their lookie-louies and react to unexpected fire from the rear. Our crusty-assed NCOs got the entire political entourage safely herded from the helipad to the brigade tactical operations center. In the TOC we officers strutted our stuff. The general gave the command briefing. Brigade commanders explained the details. Staff officers got up crunched the numbers. We baffled them with bullshit. “Good to see you. Here’s the mission; we’ve got it in the bag. There’s the exit, don’t catch your asshole on the tent-peg, and have a nice day Senator. The chopper’s over there. Just follow the nice sergeant.” So here’s where I met Senator Simon. I was his escort officer for two hours. I met him at the chopper. After the command briefing I saluted and introduced myself, “I’m Warrant Officer W... I’m from Chicago. I’m your escort officer. If there’s anything you want to know, I’ll find an answer. If there’s anything you want to see around here, I’ll show you.” He asked to see my tent. I hadn’t anticipated that or I would have cleaned it up to save me the embarrassment. I was embarrassed, because I live like a bum while I’m in the field. I shared a tent with two neat freaks, a major from Corps Artillery and our brigade chaplain. In contrast, my corner looked like shit on a holiday. I was especially embarrassed because I had decorated my corner of the tent with a Christmas wreath I’d fashioned from an MRE box and a green Army sock that said, “Bah, Humbug” in red letters just to piss off the chaplain who was always reminding me that God’s last name is not Dammit. We went to my tent with a couple of his lookie-louies, and on the way met a few soldiers. When they saluted, Senator Simon smiled, shook hands and asked. “How are you doing, soldier? Where you from?” Standard shit for a politician. No big deal, as far as I was concerned. I just wanted to get the Senator’s ass back to the TOC and out of my hair. On the way back to the TOC he asked me where the troops ate so I ran him past the MKT. It was lunch time so there were a bunch of soldiers sitting around on ration boxes chowing down on MREs Again, we stopped so the Senator could bullshit with the troops: “How are you doing, soldier? Where are you from?” At the time, the only things that impressed me about Senator Simon were that he actually left the TOC - something none of the other four senators did - and he knew how to return a salute by the numbers. I’d never seen a politician do that before. A week or so after those politicians got back on the choppers and unassed Dragonfire Forward, we got mail from home. I got a letter from my parents. They told me got a personal telephone call from Senator Simon: “I met your son. He’s OK. He said to say ‘hello.’” They were very proud. And the families of every soldier that Senator Simon met that morning in the middle of the Saudi desert at a place called Dragon Farts Forward got a similar call, personally from Senator Simon: “I met your son. He’s OK. He said to say ‘hello.’” Those were soldiers from California. Soldiers from Georgia, Texas, New York, Idaho, South Carolina, North Dakota, Arizona and Puerto Rico. Senator Simon didn’t have to make all those phone calls. Many of those soldiers told me they were very proud of the Senator from Illinois. Until this morning I didn’t know he was an Army veteran. I rarely drink, but tonight I’ll drink to another absent comrade. I’m gonna miss you, Senator, because you made politicians respectable. Airborne, Senator!


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