Iraq Archives

"Hurt Locker" takes "Best Picture." Here's my essay

By Michael Fumento

One word kept appearing in reviews of The Hurt Locker: realism. In fact, as I observed in a Philadelphia Inquirer piece from last August, the incidents in the film are grossly unrealistic - as I know from having been a combat engineer myself and having embedded with a Navy-Marine EOD near Fallujah.

Marines and Sailors of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Camp Fallujah, with their bomb-blowing robots.

The most obvious explanation for what the reviewers perceived as realism is that they know no more about war, Iraq, or EOD than EOD technicians know about reviewing movies.

Nevertheless, if the shoot-'em-up; blow 'em up depictions were typically Hollywood, the movie did convey a sense of realism in its approach to the antagonists and in putting you into the movie. Clearly, it's the best film made about the Iraq war.

March 8, 2010 08:09 AM  ·  Permalink

"Not Quite Real," my Philly Inquirer piece about EOD in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

One word keeps appearing in reviews of The Hurt Locker, the critically acclaimed war film: realism. In fact, as I note in my Philadelphia Inquirer piece, the incidents in the film are grossly unrealistic - as I know from having been a combat engineer myself and having embedded with a Navy-Marine EOD near Fallujah.

The most obvious explanation for what the reviewers perceived as realism is that they know no more about war, Iraq, or EOD than EOD technicians know about reviewing movies.

Nevertheless, if the shoot-'em-up; blow 'em up depictions were typically Hollywood, the movie did convey a sense of realism in its approach to the antagonists and in putting you into the movie. Clearly, it's the best film made about the Iraq war.

August 2, 2009 04:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Remember when Iraq's Anbar Province was "Lost?"

By Michael Fumento

It's wonderful news that we've handed over to the Iraqi military what was formerly the vicious province in the nation. But probably few remember that two short years ago the Marines themselves, in charge of Anbar military operations, admitted in a classified report "there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation" and we were "no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency" or "counter al Qaeda's rising popularity . . ."

How could they have been so wrong? Answer: They weren't, as I report in Human Events.

"Lost Anbar" was at the least outrageously bad reporting and at worst a ruse to encourage a withdrawal from Iraq, concocted by a single reporter at the Washington Post, Thomas Ricks. He based his demoralizing articles on a single report he'd never even seen. Naturally the MSM parroted Ricks's assertion ad nauseum. But normally they skipped the middleman and simply declared: "The Marines have admitted . . ."

Yet even at the time, articles from Al Anbar itself, including a 10,000-word one from yours truly, contradicted the Post's presentation with on-the-scene observations, interviews, statistics, and a comparison to my previous visit when the area was horrifically violent and the situation indeed looked dire. I concluded that article, "I believe we are winning the Battle of Ramadi. And if the enemy can be beaten here, he can be beaten anywhere."

My Human Events piece is a powerful warning that regardless of progress in Iraq - and with Afghanistan going badly - the MSM will stop at nothing to further the agendae of promoting sensationalism and, often enough, trying to sink our war efforts.

September 15, 2008 10:45 AM  ·  Permalink

My Wkly Std tribute to Medal of Honor winner SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor (right) during a fight in the Mulaab, Ramadi

Spring 2006: The Mullab section of Ramadi, Iraq. Graffiti boast that this is "the graveyard of the Americans." Leaving your base camp virtually guarantees a fight, and I'm in one the first day of my embed. When shots ring out, I jump into the street to start snapping pictures. I look back and see a tall Navy SEAL seemingly pointing his 7.62 millimeter MK48 machine gun right at me.

In fact, he was protecting me as well as his teammates. SEALs don't wear identification -- even on dress uniforms -- and I would never have learned his name if, six months later, he hadn't sacrificed all to save those same teammates.

Last week I looked on as President Bush, tears glistening on his face, presented the parents of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Sea, Air, and Land) Michael Monsoor our nation's highest award -- the Medal of Honor. "Mr. and Mrs. Monsoor: America owes you a debt that can never be repaid," he said. "This nation will always cherish the memory of your son."

Read the rest (including photos and video of SEALs in action), by the only reporter to write about the ceremony who was in combat with Monsoor.

April 13, 2008 08:05 PM  ·  Permalink

Erratum, albeit obvious, in blog on Wkly Std piece on Lancet Iraq studies

By Michael Fumento

In my original blog, regarding my "The Casualties of War" Weekly Standard article, I wrote that the number of Iraqi dead Lancet 2006 attributed to car bombs per day was "111 times higher" than those of the antiwar group Iraqbodycount. That would be extreme, even for The Lancet. Or maybe not. As it happens, Iraqbodycount found "111 more," not 111 times more.

January 31, 2008 11:46 AM  ·  Permalink

Yes, Lancet lied about Iraq war deaths (My Wkly Std article)

By Michael Fumento

When The Lancet came out with its 2004 "pre-election surprise" study claiming a massive number of war-related Iraqi deaths since the invasion, I and others immediately poked so many holes in it that it resembled a spaghetti strainer. Undaunted, two years later the same journal published another pre-election surprise study alleging a drastically-higher 655,000 excess deaths over a longer period, with 600,000 directly from violence.

Naturally, the media cheered until hoarse, featuring Lancet's numbers on 25 news shows and in 188 articles within a single week. Likewise for the leftist blogosphere like Daily Kos and Tim Lambert at Deltoid - who began a vendetta against me over it.

But now, as I discuss in my current Weekly Standard article, "The Casualties of War," complete with a plethora of hyperlinks, a new study co-conducted by the World Health Organization (hardly an Iraq war booster) and appearing in America's most prestigious medical journal, directly compares itself with Lancet 2006. It also uses as comparison numbers kept by the antiwar group IraqBodyCount. The comparisons show the real carnage is whatever was left of the Lancet's reputation and that of its editor, who screeches about "Anglo-American imperialism" at anti-war rallies.

Perhaps most importantly, for the latest comparable reporting period, the new study found Lancet's numbers to be SEVEN TIMES its own.

The WHO's Iraq Family Health Study (IFHS) "found an estimated 151,000 excess violent deaths from the U.S-led invasion in March 2003 through June 2006, when compared to violent deaths in the prewar period," I note. "This is roughly one-fourth the war-related deaths found by Lancet in 2006."

Specifically, for the last comparable year, "the IFHS daily figure was 2.3 times higher than that of IraqBodyCount, (while) the Lancet 2006 daily figure was a stunning 7.3 times higher than that of the IFHS and 17 times higher than that of IraqBodyCount."

Nonetheless, the research leader for both the Lancet studies insists the IFHS findings are consistent with Lancet 2006! He's said the same of the only "study" to find a higher number than The Lancet, a British poll last year concluding over 1.2 million Iraqis had been "murdered." Die-never defenders like Lambert likewise assert that all three studies are consistent. In short, no study can possibly find so few or so many deaths that somehow it doesn't somehow support The Lancet.

Yet one hardly need to look at outside studies to find Lancet 2006 is B.S. Consider just this.

Lancet 2006 attributed an amazing 166 deaths on average per day to car bombings alone from June 2005-June 2006. These bombings are fastidiously reported in the U.S. media and Wikipedia keeps a list of the major ones. Yet the highest single-day car bomb total Wikipedia records (114) is 42 short of Lancet's alleged average. Lancet's daily car bomb victim average is also 111 more than Iraq Body Count figure for war-related deaths from all causes. How could IraqBodyCount miss all those bodies?

Are the MSM now admitting to having been duped - assuming "dupe" is the proper word?

Get real. "WHO Says Iraq Civilian Death Toll Higher Than Cited" screamed the title of The New York Times article.

ERRATUM: In the original blog, I wrote that the number of Iraqi dead Lancet 2006 attributed to car bomb victims per day was "111 times higher" than Iraqbodycount. That would be extreme, even for The Lancet. Or maybe not. As it happens, it's "111 more," not 111 times more.

January 28, 2008 02:25 PM  ·  Permalink

CBS's Bogus Vet Suicide Epidemic Claim

By Michael Fumento

As you know, there are two federal holidays in November. Thanksgiving is one, "Exploit the Veterans Day" is the other. Say again? Never mind that we vets excel in measurable ways such as education, employment, and pay. Activist groups and the media always have fresh reports ready in November showing how wretched our lives are.

This year the goons were CBS News and a homeless activist group. I'll deal with homeless group in a later piece; but in the New York Post I take on CBS's claim that a study they conducted all by their lonesomes (Big red flag there.) shows an "epidemic" of veterans ending their poor miserable lives. (And if you don't believe that, CBS has some documents on President Bush's National Guard service they'd like to sell you. )

The CBS suicide claim goes against lots of detailed published reports regarding both active duty service personnel and veterans. For example, the suicide rate among Vietnam vets and Gulf War vets is no higher than among comparable civilians. Why would there be such a high suicide rate among vets in general then, most of whom served during peacetime? And while naturally CBS wants to blame its "findings" on PTSD, I also discuss studies showing that vets with PTSD are less likely to kill themselves. All CBS's "study" showed us was a crass way of raising ratings.

November 19, 2007 08:22 PM  ·  Permalink

"Band of Bloggers," including Fumento footage, premiers on History Channel Friday

By Michael Fumento

Explore the impact of blogging as a new medium for immediate and raw information. In the midst of modern day combat examine the unfiltered and raw evolution of military blogs and bloggers. Listen as soldiers who during their recent Iraq deployments reflect on the important connection they had with their blogging and how the band of military bloggers has revolutionized the way we understand combat. Experience firsthand, unfiltered accounts of the pain, the hardship, and even the simple beauty found in Iraq; stories that often go unseen in the media's coverage of the war.

That's the History Channel's plug for its show, "The Band of Bloggers," which first airs Fri. Nov. 9 at 8pm. I'm told it will contain 56 seconds of my footage from Ramadi, including a near rooftop sniping of a soldier in 1/506, 101st Airborne Division and the subsequent ambush we endured. It may also include some of my firefight footage with Seal Team 3, including both Mike Monsoor and Marc Allen Lee, both later killed in action.

Subsequent air times are here.

If my 56 seconds aren't there, don't sue me.

November 7, 2007 08:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Huffington Post ups Iraqi deaths past 1 million

By Michael Fumento

As of August 14th, 1,019,627 Iraqis "have been killed due to the U.S. invasion" according to Robert Naiman in a blog at the Huffington Post. His methodology, however, as you might guess, is a bit wanting.

He starts with a 2006 Lancet study that he says calculates 600,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the war as of July, 2006. (Actually, the study said 655,000 but then you can't expect Naiman to read actual studies or even their abstracts or conclusions.) He then updates that figure to the present by taking the estimated death figure at the website of an anti-war group called Iraqi Body Count at that time, the estimated figure now, and applying the percentage increase to 600,000. Comments on his blog express disbelief that the mainstream media has ignored this ingenious work and the horrifying conclusion - but there just may be a reason:

1. The methodology in the Lancet work has been shredded, most recently by yours truly just a week ago. It was sheer propaganda, as not just the study made clear but also separate comments from the lead author and the journal's editor.

2. While Naiman is happy to use the percentage increase in Iraq Body Count's data, he rejects their actual figures. Wonder why? As of August 24, the group's website provided a range of Iraqi civilian deaths due to the invasion of "70,359 to 76,873." You probably needn't go running for your calculator to see that's just a bit below the Lancet figure from last year and somewhat more below Naiman's estimate.

3. About 420 days had elapsed since the Lancet's cut-off and the publication of Naiman's estimate. Divide those 455,000 additional alleged deaths by 420 and you get over 1,083 deaths a day! How are these multitudes being killed and who's hiding the bodies?

4. Naiman claims he's using the Lancet research for his baseline, but the original Lancet paper, published in 2004, came up with a (still ridiculous) 180 deaths a day.

5. Therefore, while the only two datasets Naiman claims to rely on are from Iraq Body Count and The Lancet, his estimate is grotesquely higher than both of theirs. In sum, Mr. Naiman has merely illustrated the power of wishful thinking.

August 24, 2007 08:38 PM  ·  Permalink

Burying the Lancet's "100,000 civilians killed" nonsense

By Michael Fumento

It was an October surprise courtesy of the Lancet medical journal. A report, rushed to the public via online publication five days before the 2004 election, claimed the American-led coalition had directly or indirectly killed about 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the invasion - most from air strikes. The media, with no great love for Bush and already turning against the war, went wild.

Oliver Northl
Tim Lambert: Lancet
defender and infamous troll
The Lancet was so delighted with the reaction (if not the "wrong" election outcome) that in 2006 it updated its figure to a stunning 655,000 deaths. Further, this time it said violence directly caused all deaths. This paper, by amazing coincidence, appeared just before the mid-term election.

There were critics, including yours truly. But now there's even more ammunition in the form of a statistical analysis by David Kane presented at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Salt Lake City. Naturally Kane's assessment is under vicious attack not by proponents of good epidemiology but rather opponents of the war, primarily a troll at the website Deltoid, Tim Lambert. Read my full article here.

August 21, 2007 10:33 PM  ·  Permalink

So much for the Lancet's "massive Iraqi civilian death" study

By Michael Fumento

Remember the Lancet study in 2004 claiming that "about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," and that "Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths?"

I wrote on this as soon as it appeared, observing that several indicators showed it was a piece of crock. But others did much more in-depth analyses, including Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz. He has now found out via Michelle Malkin and Instapundit that a forthcoming study by David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, shows just how wrong the original study was. Love notes among other things that that "if the Falluja cluster is included in the statistical calculations, the confidence interval dips below zero" meaning that it loses statistical significance. Without statistical significance, the findings mean nothing,

I claimed at the time the "100,000 death study" was pure politics (It came out right before the presidential election) and intentional deception on the part of the authors and the Lancet editor himself and there's no reason to think otherwise now.

Incidentally, as I was putting this blog together I accidentally posted it, making Love's words look like my own. Mea culpa.

July 28, 2007 06:14 PM  ·  Permalink

"Tough Americans": My article on military amputees in the Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

In the film "Home of the Brave," a soldier who lost her hand in Iraq is asked if she underwent physical rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Yeah, Walter Reed," she says. "Talk about tough Americans." Tough Americans, indeed.

When I visited that same ward the first soldier I met was Sgt. Luke Shirley, who had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) blowing off his right side appendages and spraying him with shrapnel. "It kinda sucks not having an arm or leg," he told me, "but it hasn't bothered me like you'd think it would." Just offhand, I would think it would have devastated him. I was dumbstruck. What kind of person is this?

That's why I visited Walter Reed's Orthopedic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Ward in Washington, D.C, along with the surgical inpatient ward at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (At Bethesda the men and women aren't yet ready to be sent on to Walter Reed or elsewhere for rehabilitation.) I wanted to meet these tough Americans and tell some of their stories.

Read the entire article. I admit it's rather sensitive and compassionate for a Mike Fumento piece, but you've got to let your guard down sometime. For these guys and gals, anytime.

July 22, 2007 03:18 PM  ·  Permalink

"Heroes Run" in Honor of Patriquin, McClung, Pomante

By Michael Fumento

Blackfive blogs that on July 28, 2007 there will be a 5 K Run "Heroes Run" in honor of Cpt. Travis Patriquin, Maj. Megan McClung, and Spc. Vincent Pomante, all KIA Ramadi Dec. 6 of last year. To be held in Lockport, Ill., it will benefit the Travis Patriquin Family Memorial Fund (3 girls left without a dad) and the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund. If you live near there, you can join in (real men run in body armor); if not, you can donate.

June 5, 2007 09:08 PM  ·  Permalink

A Depressing Day Visiting the Cops

By Michael Fumento

Courtesy of a small Romanian convoy, including the armored personnel carrier I traveled in, we visited four Afghan National Police (ANP) outposts along Highway One. Each had a complement of about 15-20 men and each outpost, to my mind, was pathetic.

An Afghan National Police Station with few defenses. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The first thing you notice about them is that while they have various levels of blast and anti-personnel protection, those levels are all poor. Ideally they would all be surrounded on the outside by razor concertina wire to keep the Taliban at a distance. The inside barriers would be blast protection, a combination of Hesco barriers (huge canvas bags filled with dirt) and sandbags.

In fact, I saw little wire and the Hescos and sandbags protected only part of the perimeter. Some of the buildings had sandbags on the roofs for protection against light mortars, but some didn't. The Afghans for the most part seemed blissfully unaware that they should have these defenses, although at one station they did request of the Romanians more Hescos and wire because they had virtually none.

In terms of weapons and ammunition, they were no better off. I won't give exact numbers for security reasons, but for their AK-47s they couldn't have enough ammo to sustain a decent firefight. At one station they were delighted to inform us not just how many AK magazines but that the magazines were actually completely filled! Ah, the little things in life. It doesn't help that although they have a reputation for bravery and even ferocity, Afghans, like Iraqis, have a tendency not to fire in controlled bursts but to pull the trigger and let fly with all 30 rounds in the hope that God will guide their bullets.

Afghan Police Officer. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
All the outposts were assigned an RPG and one had two of them, but again with little ammunition. (This is something the Taliban must already know, because if the police had more rounds they would shoot them.)

Each station had one 7.62 PK machine gun. These are inferior to the RBKs the Romanians use but at least they sometimes had a decent supply of ammo for them. I got the feeling that the PK was the one thing keeping the Taliban from overrunning the outposts. Yet, not being overrun seemed near the outer limits of what these outposts could do.

At one station they told us, "'We ask in the villages why are you helping the Taliban?' and then they say 'They take our sons and brothers' and there's nothing we can do.'" At another: "We see Taliban driving by on motorcycles but we don't have good weapons to shoot them." The outposts are intentionally positioned high on hilltops and while a PK might be able to hit a stationary target, it would take one heck of a lucky shot to pull off an "Easy Rider" shot from that hilltop in the day. At night it would be all the harder.

All the Romanians can say for now is, "We'll try to give you enough ammo and enough weapons." But for the time being it's a pipe dream, although it shouldn't be. Consider that an AK bullet might cost 10 cents. That's $3 a magazine. For a fifteen-man station, we could provide them each another magazine for $45. Meanwhile, we drop bombs that cost $27,000.

Obviously the ANP stations are in no position to project force, but neither are they overrun very often. The Taliban only carry light weapons, nothing heavier than a PK or RPG with a few rounds. Maybe a small mortar tube but with no base plate, so it can't be fired accurately. That's fine for harassment but not much else. If the fighting did get thick, some ANP stations have radios, some phones, and some both and can call the Romanians. But the Taliban have timed how long it takes the Romanians to arrive and are careful to be gone by then. So the potential of the Romanian firepower is what really counts.

"I'm under arrest." Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The cops themselves were a ragtag bunch, ranging in age from perhaps 14 to 70. But maybe they weren't quite that old; Afghans age at an amazing rate. It seems everybody is a kid or an old man with few in between. As to the women, well, you just don't see them in Pashtun areas. I've still only seen one. If they leave their mud homes it's only to go to the markets and they are virtually as covered as they would be under the Taliban.

A few of the police wore raggedy blue uniforms and some of the younger ones at one outpost wore winter thick gray uniforms that for all the world looked like what Johnny Reb wore. Even the caps looked like they were copied from civil war uniforms. But most of the police wore civilian clothes, which isn't good. A uniform gives a unit cohesion and it gives a man pride. Not for nothing did the British uniform used to be bright red with tall hats and all sorts of flashy trim. The fighting of that day called for marching straight into enemy muskets and the flashiness gave the soldiers courage.

But for all this, the most important deficiency is that none of the police we saw had been paid in three months. The most obvious problem with this from a tactical perspective is that it discourages recruiting and when those police do finally get paid it will encourage them to desert. Less obvious, except to anybody who knows the history of Afghanistan over the last several hundred years, is that bribes are more important than weapons.

They worked for the British, they helped the Russians greatly in winning support of many of the guerrillas to fight other guerrillas, and it certainly helped the Taliban in their near-conquest of the entire country. It was probably bribes that got Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar out of Tora Bora into Pakistan. For that matter, the conquest of the country from the Taliban began when the CIA flew in cache of $3 million (They would eventually spend many times that) to win over leaders to the Northern Alliance.

So the Taliban know that the most important weapon in their arsenal isn't that AK-47 or RPG, it's the wad of cash supplied by various Arab oil sheikhs, Islamic charity front groups, and Osama bin Laden himself.

Colorful binga truck. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
More than that, a lack of funds encourages some police to sell what weapons they do have. I asked B Company's Executive Officer Lt. Wei if it would be possible to supply the police with DShKs (pronounced "dishka"), 12.7 millimeter anti-aircraft weapons that can also be used for ground combat and would clean the Taliban's clocks. He just about fell over backwards. "Because they're receiving no salaries, there would be tremendous temptation to sell those to the Taliban" he said. And unlike PK bullets, DShK rounds can cut right through Humvee armor.

Unless we want to stay in Afghanistan forever or risk turning the population against us if they start seeing us as an occupation force, we need to give the Afghan National Army and the National Police the material they need for protection, the weapons they need, the ammunition they need, and proper uniforms, but most importantly we need to pay them.

Camel crossing. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The two-hour ride back to Lagman from the furthest ANP station was somewhat eventful. First we saw a camel caravan, although they weren't carrying anything at the time. My wife always wanted to see photos of camels and donkeys from my Iraq visits, but I never saw anything but dogs, cats, and maybe coyotes. Enjoy, my dear!

Then we had a potential SVBIED incident (Suicide Vehicle Borne IED). A couple of trucks by the side of the road simply wouldn't move and we kept our distance waiting. Suddenly one darted towards us and the turret gunner of the APC opened up with the 14.5 mm machine gun. Eight rounds, bigger than .50 cals. I don't know what Afghans wear for underwear but I'll bet that poor driver's was warm and wet.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













April 21, 2007 01:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Short film of Zach Pentek, 1/506th, rated best Combat Video of 2006!

By Michael Fumento

Zach Pentek
From left to right: Me and SSgt. Bobby Statum
checking out M-14 rifles while Sgt. Zach Pentek nervously
ponders whether they were properly cleared.

An interview from an observation post in Ramadi with Sgt. Zach Pentek by Ritterby has been voted the best Combat Video of 2006 by the military. Although I wrote two articles about my embeds with 1/506th of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of Task Force Currahee, Zach's platoon in A Co. will always have a special place in my heart because we were all together in the manic dash I dubbed "the Ramadi Run." The video is only four minutes long and the fighting is visible but off in the background, but you can see why the military liked it. Zach gives more than a grunt's eye view to Ritterby, explaining the problem of seizing Ramadi from the insurgents and terrorists but presenting an optimistic view of what needs to be done and what probably will happen. Ultimately, he says, it's up to the Iraqis but the city can be pacified. And he was right. As more Iraqi Army were brought in and as the sheiks got off the fencepost and threw in their lot with the Coalition, Ramadi steadily improved between my first visit in April 2006 and my last in October. All indications are that while it still has claws and fangs it's now far safer yet; so much so that perhaps Zach wouldn't even recognize it even though his unit and he personally helped make it so.

Kudos to Ritterby, to Zach, and Task Force Currahee at Camp Corregidor!

March 28, 2007 10:19 PM  ·  Permalink

Will the Iraqi insurgent terrorist gas campaign work?

By Michael Fumento

Insurgents launched three more chlorine truck attacks in Al Anbar province on March 17, killing two and sickening an additional 350. Is this a disturbing new trend? No. Had those trucks been filled with high explosives, each could have killed around 100 people. Instead, combined, they killed two. Probably all those sickened will recover with little or no lasting damage, as opposed to losing limbs and eyes. Chemicals have never lived up to their reputation as weapons.

That's why even though the Germans invented Sarin gas, which is vastly more deadly than chlorine, they decided not to use it. Hitler didn't forego its use because he was a nice guy. Rather, his generals convinced him that high explosives are far more effective in causing deaths, not to mention that all the poison gas in the world can't destroy material objects. That said, gas is a good terror weapon because most people have a more innate terror of being gassed than of being blown up or shot. But that's primarily or exclusively because gas is such a rare threat. The more the terrorists use chlorine, the less the terror effect will be.

March 19, 2007 01:06 PM  ·  Permalink

What I Saw at the Non-Revolution (photoset of tiny Iraq rally in DC)

By Michael Fumento

AP reported 10 to 20,000 people attended the march. But when I arrived shortly after the march ended, as this photo shows, there couldn't have been much over a thousand. Perhaps the rest were using invisibility cloaks.

According to the AP, "perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched" in Washington, D.C. to protest the war on St. Patrick's day. That's funny, because I got there just after the march ended and I'd put it at hardly more than a thousand. Indeed, I was able to photograph the whole crowd - without benefit of a wide angle lens. Okay, so they were one zero off. It seems the MSM is no more capability of telling the truth about the Iraq war domestically than they are from Iraq itself. At least the Washington Post reported "attendance at yesterday's march was noticeably smaller than one held in Washington in January, police said."

As to the participants, they were exactly what you'd expect: aging hippies, representatives of all sorts of Communist organizations, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, illegal immigration supporters, Islamist extremists, and sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Boy, were they suffering! But don't take my word for it. Check out my photoset and see for yourself that four years into the war there's still no such thing as a true Iraq protest movement.

March 17, 2007 09:29 PM  ·  Permalink

Iraq Experts who Don't Go to Iraq and the Problem of Boosterism

By Michael Fumento

A lot of people like Robert Kagan's reports on Iraq because he says what they want to hear. He's a booster. Thus, for example, the senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who resides in Belgium, writes in his latest column in the Sunday Washington Post that "NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure." Actually, I've seen that Ramadi is safer than it had been. Alas, it has no airport. It hasn't since the war began. It has landing zones for helicopters but not even a strip of runway on which C-130s can land. Brian Williams, having been to Ramadi, would know that and indeed a search of his writings turn up no mention of any Ramadi airport.

Okay, so Kagan committed a faux pas. But it doesn't enhance one's credibility to say a place that doesn't exist is "more secure." Nor does it help his overall theme as expressed in the title of his column "The 'Surge' Is Succeeding." It's way to early to make any such pronouncements. What we've seen so far is that as American forces increased, Sadr apparently just slipped across the border to a safe haven in Iran and has clearly told his men to lay low for the duration of the "surge." When the tide ebbs, he plans to reclaim the beach. It is a good plan, which isn't to say it will work. Our best hope is that his men can't take it anymore and defy Sadr, giving us the chance to kill and capture them. But that clearly hasn't happened yet and it may never.

Defeatism certainly doesn't help anything, but boosterism is just a temporary feel-good shot in the arm. It did not help that in May of 2005 Vice-President Cheney claimed the insurgency is "in its last throes." It did not help that Karl Zinsmeister, when he was editor of AEI's magazine, (and somebody who actually has been to Iraq), published an article in his own magazine a month later declaring "The War is Over, and We Won." Only realistic assessments of the war will lead to realistic actions, and only realistic actions can lead to salvaging something resembling victory out of this war.

[Apology: In the initial posting of this blog I confused Robert Kagan with AEI's FREDERICK Kagan. Actually, there is no mention of Frederick Kagan having ever visited Iraq and he's also a booster. But this does not excuse my mistake.]

March 11, 2007 06:33 PM  ·  Permalink

Time Magazine's Aparisim is lying, by Ghosh!

By Michael Fumento

In my article on the Baghdad Press Corps and its perceived need to display faux bravado because it has no real bravado, I noted one way they did this was by grossly exaggerating the "terrors" of landing at Baghdad International Airport. This included Time Magazine's Baghdad bureau chief Aparism Ghosh. I wrote:

"In an August 2006 cover story, [Ghosh] devotes five long paragraphs to the alleged horror of landing there [in a Fokker F28 from Amman, Jordan].

It's "the world's scariest landing," he insists, as if he were an expert on all the landings of all the planes at all the world's airports and military airfields. It's "a steep, corkscrewing plunge," a "spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out." Writes Ghosh, "During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming 'Oh, God! Oh, God!' I finally had to slap him on the face - on instructions from the flight attendant."

I then quoted a reporter saying it was a bunch of nonsense. "The plane just banks heavily," he said.

Recently I heard from a pilot who does the Amman-Baghdad run:

Well done for taking on Aparisim Ghosh about his report on the descent into Baghdad in the Fokker F28.

I too feel he overplayed the drama excessively. It may well be the world's scariest civilian landing, but as for him claiming he was instructed by a flight attendant to slap a hysterical passenger - no truth to this at all.

How do I know? I have done about 250 descents into Baghdad in the Fokker - I fly the thing. And I have asked all of our flight attendants if any of them have ever told a passenger to slap another passenger, and all have replied no.

During descent one of the flight attendants sits in front on the forward bulkhead with his/her back to the passengers, and the other sits right at the back next to the toilet!!

Truth is, most times into Baghdad it's pretty straightforward, we come overhead at anywhere between 9000' to 29000' and once cleared for descent we must remain within a 3 mile radius of the airport center point which requires a maximum bank of about 45 degrees. Under normal circumstances we pitch down about 10 degrees.

He adds that "sometimes it can get hectic" because of "other aircraft, military and civilian, which are also using this 3-mile radius column" but the pressure is on the pilots, not the passengers. "We try and keep it as 'normal' as possible for the passengers, they only notice very few of the dangers we see and avoid."

He concludes: "Keep up the good reporting!" I'm sure Ghosh and his Time crew will keep up their BS reporting, as well.

March 7, 2007 07:01 PM  ·  Permalink

Ollie North and Fox continue coverup of North's role in Ramadi deaths

By Michael Fumento

Oliver Northl
Oliver North: Remaining Unfaithful

On December 6, Marine Maj. Megan McClung, Army Capt. Travis Patriquin, and Army Spc. Vincent Pomante were killed instantly in Ramadi when their Humvee was ripped apart by an IED. At the time, they were accompanying Fox TV's Ollie North and his crew plus a Newsweek reporter to their embed positions. Newsweek never even mentioned their deaths. North subsequently noted McClung's death, while ignoring that of the soldiers. He also made no mention that any of them died helping him. Fox went even further, falsely claiming on February 7th that they "died while supporting combat operations." Sorry, embedding is not a combat operation. North had a chance to change this during his "War Stories" broadcast of Feb. 11, when he mentioned the deaths. But all he said was they occurred, "while War Stories was embedded with 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division."

These three people, including the top female Marine to perish in Iraq, died helping North with his mission and he refuses to acknowledge it. Obviously "Semper Fidelis," for all of his grandstanding, means nothing to him.

February 22, 2007 05:53 PM  ·  Permalink

New video from the two firefights in "The New Band of Brothers"

By Michael Fumento

I'm not sure why he took so long, but SSgt. Bobby Statum, who works for Army Public Affairs, has finally released video on YouTube he shot last April of the two firefights I wrote about in "The New Band of Brothers." The video switches back and forth between the actions. The one in Ramadi's Mulaab region features Capt. Joe "Crazy Joe" Claburn, commander of C Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne and SEAL Team Three. Posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor nominee and SEAL Michael Monsoor makes his first appearance at the 36-second mark. His machine gun is readily identifiable by the bipod. (All the SEALs are easily recognized by their sand-colored camo uniforms with no helmet covers.)

The fight the next day in the Industrial Area, including OP Hotel, involved A Co., 1/506th and what I dubbed "the Ramadi Run" through a hail of bullets as we departed relatively safe rooftops and sprinted to our rendezvous point. Yours truly makes cameo appearances (khaki uniform and black camera bag) at the 6:20 and 7:40 points.

As with me, these were Bobby's first two firefights and he handled himself bravely. Good on him for finally making this video public.

February 17, 2007 06:44 PM  ·  Permalink

Ramadi Video from 1/506th: "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

By Michael Fumento

Spc. Andy Johnson from A. Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne sent me this video montage he put together from his vacation at Camp Corregidor this past year. It includes a couple of video clips of mine and some other good action shots - though I don't understand why he left out a great clip of an F-18 ground attack. (Betcha he inserts it when he reads this.) Among the most interesting is footage of a Humvee he and two others from his platoon were in when the back end was hit by an RPG-7. It knocked the whole back off and nobody inside suffered more than a bad case of nerves. Best of all, it's not set to heavy metal music - which I cannot stand - but rather a nice tune from The Man in Black.


February 13, 2007 09:39 PM  ·  Permalink

Having a ball with the 1/506th (101st Airborne) at Ft. Campbell

By Michael Fumento

I was delighted to receive an invitation as a special guest to the annual (usually) ball of First Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I had spent two embeds with these soldiers at nasty Camp Corregidor in Ramadi and had already come to feel like I was a member of their "Band of Brothers." Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark extended the invitation to me and confirmed that, unlike at Corregidor, body armor and Kevlar helmet were not required at all times - or indeed at all.

My photoset of the ball is posted here. (Participants please feel free to offer corrections on names or providing first names where I only have last.)

I'd never been to Ft. Campbell and was delighted to find it was a far nicer place than where I spent my time, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina - but then, I'd guess virtually any base would be. We didn't refer to it as "the armpit of the south" for nothing. The town next to Campbell, Clarksville, also beat the living you-know-what out of Bragg's civilian neighbor Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Fayetteville we referred to fondly as "Fayettenam" and "Fatalburg.")

First we attended an officers' reception at Clark's house, where I got a chance to become reacquainted or acquainted with many of those men. (There was also a woman officer, 1st Lt. Jennifer Wynn, executive officer (XO) of Easy Company.) The last time I'd seen these people they were wearing ACUs and, yes, armor and helmets. It was strange seeing them in their brilliant dress blues with cascades of ribbons and awards. Almost all of them wore the paratrooper's silver wings, I'm happy to report, even though the 101st hasn't been an airborne unit for decades.

I thought it possible that Clark was a closet tee-totaler; in fact, to my delight he's quite the beer connoisseur and all attendees benefited thereby. (But I'll bet he also drinks tea.) There was a long series of unofficial awards given out to the many officers who were leaving or had already left the unit, although I couldn't see much because I was stuck behind a Navy SEAL who, like all SEALs it seems, was built rather like a redwood tree. Or to put it another way, SEALs look like you'd expect them to look. Both this ceremony and the ball weren't actually so much 1/506th but rather "Task Force Currahee, which includes anybody who served at Corregidor while Clark was in charge. That's why we there were men there from SEAL Team 3 and at least one Marine.

The ball was an absolute kick. I admit to feeling great pride as they played the "New Band of Brothers video," drawing the title from my first article about them. It included written excerpts from the piece and a few of my photos in the montage that followed.

But the choice part of the evening was seeing the guys with whom I was in combat. I introduced myself to a SEAL and asked if we'd been together on that roof in the Mulaab. Indeed, we were. He was the one of whom I wrote:

A SEAL near me has an old wooden-stock M-79 40mm grenade launcher (affectionately called a "Thumper") that was phased out late in the Vietnam war in favor of the M-203, a 40mm tube attached below an M-16 rifle. I had wondered why he'd chosen to carry this but now found out. Another vehicle is spotted, a flatbed with four jihadists bearing AKs. [Joe] Claburn and others bring it to a screeching halt with a fusillade of bullets to the engine block; then the SEAL with the Thumper smoothly extracts it from a strap around his waist as if it's just another appendage and drops the grenade dead center on the jihadists' truck. One shot; one kill. Those SEALs fight like machines.

Lots of guys were there from the next day's firefight with A Company as well, the ones I joined on "The Ramadi Run" through an ambush. We still laughed over it. They sure made us dance with their machine guns and AKs, but we made it through with nothing more than a great story to tell. Andrew Johnson was there, the guy who looked so young I asked if his mom knew where he was. Alas, Corregidor ages you. He almost looks old enough to be in the Army now. Almost.

And yes, "Crazy Joe" Claburn was in attendance. He left partway through the deployment to join an airborne pathfinder unit, first in Iraq and then back at Ft. Campbell. And yeah, he's still nutty. Where his name should have been on his dress blues he had "America" imprinted instead. Oh well, God Bless America. He said I made him famous "for five weeks" when I reported on his comments on the Mulaab rooftop as we were taking fire. "Hear them cracking over your head?" he shouted. "That'll get your peter hard, huh?"

He told me that some time later somebody stopped him a chow hall and said, "You're Crazy Joe aren't you? The guy who said being shot at makes your peter hard!" Guilty, guilty, guilty. Later anti-war and ultra-lib talk show host Al Franken commented on that while I was on his show as if show there was something seriously wrong with Claburn - and perhaps the Americans fighting in Iraq generally. But if so, it's not that comment that proves it. As CJ pointed out to me, and as I had no need to hear, in situations like that you've got to do things besides just firing back to keep your head about you. My own videos show me laughing and singing ("We gotta get outta this place . . . ") during the next day's fight. Is that crazier than dwelling on the possibility of a round taking off the top of your head off or an RPG making you go splat? I think not.

In any event, Claburn brought his girlfriend of two years who was gorgeous flesh on the outside and titanium on the inside. Her husband had been killed early in the war by an IED and she later actually took a slight demotion from Captain to Chief Warrant Officer 2 in order to become a Kiowa Scout pilot. "That's because it's one of the few combat slots open to women, right?" I said. "That's right!" she answered. It's a terribly dangerous job, as well. Maybe she's crazy too. But dating all of America will do that to you.

My wife, not incidentally, was delighted. She had come to know these men through my writings, my pictures, and my stories. But meeting them was something else entirely. Yes, Ron Clark really is that professional and yet affable. Yes, she could see why XO Matt Keller and I became buddies in a grand total of four days at Corregidor. Andrew Johnson really does look like a kid, but then so do so many of these elite warriors. I think she was perhaps most delighted to meet Rob Killion, who became the "star" of my article by virtue of popping an exceptional number of bad guys in front of my camcorder and still camera and his down-home sense of humor in a deadly situation.

One of the few somber points of the evening included unveiling a flat stone carving by a local firefighter and a plaque to the names of the 11 fallen of Task Force Currahee. It included the battalion's original XO Lt. Col. Paul Finken who was sent to Baghdad to oversee the training of Iraqi soldiers and died in an IED explosion with less than two weeks left on his tour. SSgt. Michael A. Dickinson II was providing his PSYOPS expertise to Currahee when he was killed by small arms fire. At bottom center of the plaque was Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, the SEAL who died when he threw himself on a grenade to save his three buddies. He's now up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I'd like also to mention Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee who, while not part of Task Force Currahee, fought alongside its men and became the first SEAL to die in Ramadi and Iraq. Part of the plaque's inscription, from John 15:13, reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his fellow friend." That applies to all the fallen.

But let me say this. Eleven men lost is exactly 11 too many. Especially men like these. But there were out of about 1,000 soldiers in Task Force Currahee fighting in the worst conditions in Iraq. By rights, far more should have died but for the leadership of Clark, Finken, Keller, Crazy Joe and Justin Michel and the other company commanders, Command Sgt. Major Michael Catterton, and indeed each individual member of Currahee who fought desperately to accomplish their mission and keep their buddies alive.

Alas, the 1/506th as I knew it is already passing into history. Clark and A Co. Commander Justin Michel are coming to my town, specifically the Pentagon. Matt Keller is off to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. But this unit, and what it accomplished in its tour in Ramadi, like its illustrious forebears who dropped behind the lines at Normandy, will pass into glorious history.

February 12, 2007 11:37 AM  ·  Permalink

Patriquin Police Station to Open in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin

Multi-National Corps -- Iraq has announced a Patriquin Iraqi Police Station will soon open in Ramadi. Before his death in an IED explosion on Dec. 6 of last year, Army Cpt. Travis Patriquin, a hero of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, played a vital role in getting Ramadi sheiks to send their young tribesmen into the police to provide Iraqi firepower and intelligence-gathering in the fight against insurgents and terrorists. (He was also very helpful to me in understanding the current situation in Ramadi, and I quoted him at great length.)

Patriquin left behind three small children. Donations to help his family may be made to:

Travis Patriquin Family Memorial Fund
Harris Bank
111 W. Monroe Street 111/1C
Chicago, IL 60603

If you have a PayPal account, you may email a donation to his father at: gary112251@aol.com.

January 10, 2007 11:47 AM  ·  Permalink

GI Malkin to report for duty in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

Michelle MalkinMichelle Malkin has announced she's heading for Iraq. I've known of this for a little while and have had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she's an old friend dating back about 13 years. She can seem hard-edged in her blogs and columns, but some of her worst enemies would take a liking to her if they knew her in person. Put another way, I don't want to see her butt zapped. Conversely, I have repeatedly exhorted that nobody can understand Iraq or the war who hasn't been there. The vast majority of self-styled Iraqi experts at the think tanks and in the media have not in fact been there. Some have called them chicken hawks and "Chairborne Rangers;" I will simply say they are ignorant. Michelle has blogged constantly on Iraq, but mentally I gave her a pass because she's not exactly natural embed material. She has no military background, she has two small children at home, and she's so small both in height and frame that she may constitute the lightest embed ever to go over. When I gave her my body armor and helmet on Christmas Day I honestly thought she might tip over. I wear an X-Large while she's a Super-Tiny. Hopefully once she arrives at her duty station she can swap it for something smaller and more protective (I have no side ceramic plates).

As to that duty station, those with Malkin Derangement Syndrome (her hate mail makes mine look positively quaint) are already blogging that this will be just another celebrity tour. They couldn't be more wrong. The Celebrity Tour, as exemplified recently by Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and others who aren't of Irish extraction comprises flying into Baghdad International and bedding down in comfy-cozy celebrity quarters in one of the three huge bases right next to the airport. These bases receive virtually no shelling and are literally safer than most American cities. Once there they schmooze with troops, the overwhelming majority of which have never seen combat. The result is that these people get all the celebrities; the guys doing the fighting and dying in the real Iraq just get grunt reporters like Mike Fumento.

Michelle is not taking that route. OPSEC forbids revealing her destination, but suffice to say it's a camp that's actually smaller than my Forward Operating Base of Camp Corregidor in Ramadi. That makes it likely to be shelled. It has perhaps no more than half a dozen women and she'll probably sleep in a crackerbox -- hopefully sans rats. It's not like the Anbar, but outside the wire IEDs await, and quite possibly snipers. Ambushes are possible. Yes, Michelle will be a celebrity and I've urged her to bring as many photos as she can to sign for the troops; the men will never forget her visit. But she's going as a true embedded reporter. She's got a lot of guts in that tiny frame of hers. We should all wish her Godspeed.

January 4, 2007 01:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, XO of 1/506th, RIP

By Michael Fumento

Finken
It slipped under my radar but Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, the former Executive Officer (2nd-in-command) of 1/506th, 101st Airborne, was killed by an IED in Baghdad on Nov. 2. Also killed were Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage. Finken, 40, was assigned to 506th Regimental Headquarters as the MiTT Chief (Military Transition Team, a unit devoted to training the Iraqi Army) in July 2005. He was just two weeks away from redeploying back to the States with the rest of 1/506th. He was one of the highest-ranking Americans killed in Iraq. Unfortunately I never met him, since he spent his time in Baghdad while I was with most of 1/506th in Ramadi. But you can learn much about him at a website dedicated to him posthumously.

According to Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark: "Paul's efforts as our XO contributed directly to the success of our battalion in combat and saved the lives of our Soldiers in Ramadi. Paul was an outstanding officer and an even better husband and father." Adds Clark:

He is survived by his wife Jackie and 3 young daughters who miss him dearly. Paul and I were close personal friends as well as comrades in arms. We also shared a common bond as USMA graduates (Paul graduated in the Class of 89, while I graduated in 1988 with Paul's twin brother Pete). Paul served the 506th Regimental Combat Team, our Army, and our nation with distinction. He was a tremendous leader and a warrior who took care of Soldiers and their families. His loss has been tremendously hard on the members of our battalion staff and he will be missed by all whom he touched.

He was laid to rest near his family in Earling, Iowa.

A memorial trust has been established for his three children.
Farmer's Trust & Savings Bank
c/o Paul Finken Memorial
PO Box 285
Earling, IA 51530-0285
Or Call (712) 747-2000

Currahee! Lt. Col. Finken

December 26, 2006 01:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Memorial fund for children of Capt. Travis Patriquin, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

TRAVIS PATRIQUIN FAMILY MEMORIAL FUND
HARRIS BANK
111 W. MONROE ST. 111/1C
CHICAGO, IL 60603

December 22, 2006 03:36 PM  ·  Permalink

Anti-terror group analyzes video I retrieved from Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Photo by Michael Fumento
"The Ramadi Inn" as it looks today.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has analyzed the video I brought back from Ramadi and posted (in part on my website, in full elsewhere) showing the jihadist attack on OP Hotel, now called "the Ramadi Inn." They claim it actually shows explosions from three different attacks, whereas I assumed it was all different angles from the same attack. On the other hand, they also claim the first attack was on a factory. A hotel is not a factory. That this was indeed an attack on OP Hotel has been confirmed by members of 2/69 Armor who were there. With this caveat in mind, you may find their analysis interesting.

This shows the value of anti-terror groups having employees in the field, rather than operating entirely out of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, I have yet to convince any such group or think tank of this value and hence remain unemployed.

December 20, 2006 02:11 PM  ·  Permalink

Funeral of Maj. Megan McClung, USMC

By Michael Fumento

Wreath by Maj.
McClung's grave
It's a busy time at Arlington Cemetery, not because of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan but primarily those of WWII vets. Thus while first funerals are normally at 9 am, Maj. Megan McClung's was at 8:30. This was actually quite fitting, because she was a triathlete and to go running in Iraq in summer you have to get up early even for a Marine. Unfortunately I found out only at the service that the family had requested no photos of the funeral, but I did get this shot of the wreath next to her grave. At least 200 mourners were present, mostly Marines and Navy but with a large number of civilians as well. One public affairs officer (PAO) from the Canadian military came to express the solidarity of our neighbors to the north with the PAOs of the United States. Deaths among PAOs are quite rare and remarkable, he said, and he felt obligated to attend.

You don't need photos to picture the procession of white horses drawing the open wagon carrying the flag-covered casket; the removal of the casket and placement next to the grave, the moment of silence; taps; then the three-volley salute. Then came the expert withdrawal and folding of the flag that is then handed to the parents. The parents appeared quite shaken, as you would expect after a violent and sudden death which every military parent knows may happen but can never truly be prepared for. I cannot pretend to know how they felt. But they bravely kept their composure, even as many a handkerchief dotted the crowd. They also showed their courage in what Mrs. McClung told an LA Times reporter last week. "Please don't portray this as a tragedy," she said. "It is for us, but Megan died doing what she believed in, and that's a great gift . . . . She believed in the mission there -- that the Iraqi people should have freedom."

It was strange to be greeted by two officers in my hometown whom I met in al Anbar, one on my first trip and the other -- who worked with Maj. McClung -- on my second. Strange for me to see them in Dress Blues; strange for them to see me in civilian clothes. After the ceremony I approached the casket, laid my hand on it and thanked Megan McClung for all she'd done to help me. Then I stood back and saluted.

They don't come any more Irish-looking than she was, and I had kidded her about the inherent conflict between her Celtic skin and the Iraqi sun. So I find it fitting to conclude with an Irish funeral prayer.

Maj.
McClung

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight that ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Semper Fidelis, Megan.

December 19, 2006 11:08 AM  ·  Permalink

Burial details for Maj. Megan McClung

By Michael Fumento

Maj. Megan McClung will be interred on Tues. 19 Dec. at 0830 at Arlington Cemetery. If you wish to attend, be at the Administration Building at 0800.

Directions to the cemetery

Map showing parking and Administrative Building

Broader Interactive Map

I have no new information on Capt. Patriquin, who died alongside Maj. McClung, and assume he will be interred near his family in St. Charles, Missouri.

December 17, 2006 08:08 PM  ·  Permalink

Video memorial to Maj. Megan McClung, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

The Marines have put together a lovely and fitting 5-minute video tribute to Maj. Megan McClung, who died from an IED explosion in Ramadi on Dec. 6. There are also short clips of Capt. Travis Patriquin and Spec. Vincent Pomante, both of whom died with her.

Said one Marine of the long-distance runner and triathlete, "The ability to run was a metaphor for the way she lived her life."

December 14, 2006 09:51 PM  ·  Permalink

Navy narration of circumstances surrounding the death of SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Pitman
Michael Monsoor with MK-48 medium machine gun at right

On 29 September, Monsoor was part of a sniper overwatch security position in eastern Ramadi, Iraq with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers. They were providing overwatch security while joint and combined forces were conducting missions in the area. Ramadi had been a violent and intense area for a very strong and aggressive insurgency for some time. All morning long the overwatch position received harassment fire that had become typical part of the day for the security team. Around midday, the exterior of the building was struck by a single rocket propelled grenade (RPG), but no injuries to any of the overwatch personnel were sustained. The overwatch couldn't tell where the RPG came from and didn't return fire.

A couple of hours later, an insurgency fighter closed on the overwatch position and threw a fragment grenade into the overwatch position which hit Monsoor in the chest before falling in front of him. Monsoor yelled "grenade" and dropped on top of the grenade prior to it exploding. Monsoor's body shielded the others from the brunt of the fragmentation blast and two other SEALs were only wounded by the remaining blast.

One of the key aspects of this incident was the way the overwatch position was structured. There was only one access point for entry or exit and Monsoor was the only one who could've saved himself from harm. Instead, knowing what the outcome could be, he fell on the grenade to save the others from harm. Monsoor and the two injured were evacuated to the combat outpost battalion aid station where Monsoor died approximately 30 minutes after the incident from injuries sustained by the grenade blast.

Monsoor is being submitted for an award that is appropriate for the level of his actions that has yet to be determined.

[Since then he has been submitted for the nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.]


Digg this!

December 12, 2006 06:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Maj. Megan McClung and Capt. Travis Patriquin, RIP

By Michael Fumento

Megan McClung
Megan McClung

I only heard Marine Major Megan McClung yell once, but it was righteous anger. If this were fiction, it might be considered foreshadowing. It was at Camp Ramadi headquarters outside of the city proper and away from the hostilities. The 34-year-old McClung, head Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for Al Anbar Province, was barking at a public affairs sergeant. "Ramadi is the most dangerous city in Iraq and you're going to get your men out there to cover it!"

This was in October and the previous spring I had been angry with McClung, though I'm glad I didn't tell her. She was a captain then with her headquarters at Camp Fallujah. I had made it clear I wanted to spend my entire embed in Ramadi because that's where the action was and because on my first Iraq trip a year earlier I had seen Fallujah but been denied Ramadi when I wound up "embedded" on a surgical bed in Baghdad. Yet when I returned this spring to Baghdad to renew my press credentials and expected to fly straight from there to Ramadi, I was dumbfounded that McClung had routed me right back to Fallujah and its environs. When I saw her in person, she explained that she wanted me to spend time with Military Transition Teams (MiTTs) in the area to see how well their training of the Iraqi Army was progressing.

It was a prescient move on her part, especially considering that a tremendous increase in MiTT teams embedded in indigenous units has become a major part of all plans to ultimately turn the war over to the Iraqis. In any case, the trip did end in Ramadi where during just a few short days I saw and reported on more combat, more courage, and more camaraderie than you might see elsewhere in Iraq in a year.

For my last embed, I was in Ramadi the whole time. But again McClung guided me so I saw what I needed to see rather than what I thought I needed to see. After each embed she diligently provided information that I'd been unable to gather in the field. I have two dozen emails from her on my computer, the last dated November 30. The lady I once begrudged I grew to have great respect for.

Capt. Travis Desk
Capt. Patriquin's famous desk

I also developed that respect for 32-year-old Captain Travis Patriquin of the Army's First Armored Division. (McClung was with the First Marine Division.) I photographed Patriquin's desk, which was covered with bumper stickers such as George Orwell's observation that "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm." When I published my photo set from the trip, that desk quickly became a blogosphere celebrity.

Patriquin was exactly the sort of officer we need in Iraq. He spoke at least five languages including fluent Arabic, and was a major player in getting Ramadi sheiks to start supporting Coalition operations by sending men into the Iraqi Police and urging civilians to expose al Qaeda terrorists. He fought in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war, Operation Anaconda, later receiving the Bronze Star. Patriquin also provided a terrific inbriefing, giving an overview of a city that seems slowly to be improving but is still too much like the local graffiti states: "The graveyard of the Americans." I quoted him at great length in my major article about the trip in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard.

While most journalists heading into Ramadi require no PAO escort, for some reason on December 6 both McClung and Patriquin, plus 22-year-old Army Specialist Vincent J. Pomante III decided to jump into a Humvee to accompany Oliver North and his crew from Fox plus some journalists from Newsweek downtown. A tremendous blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) ripped apart their truck, killing all three. Mercifully, it appears all died instantly. I heard about Patriquin his cousin, then left a message for McClung asking for verification and offering her my condolences. Then I found out about her. McClung has the dubious honor of being the first female Marine officer and highest-ranked female officer overall killed in the war.

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin

Why, people who have never been to war ask me, do I actually like being in a combat zone? Partly it's the feeling of being responsible for the lives of everyone else and they for you. Partly it's that you never feel more alive than when you know you're so close to death. You develop the bond that Shakespeare marvelously described as a "Band of Brothers." And when you leave the killing fields behind, that bond remains and is something that nobody who hasn't experienced it will ever appreciate. You accept that some brothers will die, but that doesn't make it easier when it happens.

Given the season, it seems appropriate to quote from Michael Marks's haunting poem, "A Soldier's Christmas:"

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."


Note: This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. "A Soldier's Christmas is copyright 2000 by Michael Marks.

December 11, 2006 01:05 PM  ·  Permalink

The real Ramadi HAS stood up

By Michael Fumento

In a Nov. 29 blog, "Will the real Ramadi please stand up?" I observed that three articles on conditions in Ramadi and al Anbar Province had appeared within a week of each other giving entirely different points of view. Mine and one in the Times of London said we're winning the war in Ramadi; a Washington Post A1 story co-authored by "Fiasco" author Thomas Ricks claimed exactly the opposite. The difference, I said, could be explained simply. I and the Times writer reported from Ramadi. Ricks and his co-author have not only never been to Ramadi, they wrote their piece from Washington. Well now the WashPost has printed another article on the city, this time an upbeat one. What gives? You guessed it.The second one was reported from Ramadi. Case closed, thank you very much. Unfortunately, it's little solace knowing how few journalists ever leave their safe little hovels in Baghdad hotels or Washington, D.C.

December 10, 2006 07:59 PM  ·  Permalink

A SEAL Team 3 dad comments on Mike Monsoor and Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Writer's son with M-79 on the left and Mike Monsoor on the right
SEAL with M-79 (not the writer's son) on left and Mike Monsoor
on right

Dear Mike,

My son was Mike Monsoor's roommate in Iraq. He was in the action where Mike died. Today, I telephoned him in Coronado [near San Diego] about the November 27th issue [of the Weekly Standard, containing my article Return to Ramadi] with Mike on the cover.

I personally appreciate seeing you honor Mike on the cover. He was a fine young man. He was humble and well mannered. A good observer might have spotted the fact that Mike was exceptionally fit, and guessed he was a professional athlete. From my daughter's comments, I know the young ladies thought Mike was exceptionally handsome, with "dreamy eyes." Whatever. Otherwise, Mikey looked like a lot of other American guys. There was a quality in Mike that could not have been guessed by his appearance.

I have a copy of the Weekly Standard in hand. I read your excellent article. I was able to spend some time with my boy after he returned from Iraq. He talked about his experience a little at first. As time goes on, he talks more. Recently, we sat down with Google Earth and brought up a satellite image of Ramadi. He briefed me on the different areas of the city and a bit about the situation in various parts of town.

I think the point you made about each soldier knowing only part of the elephant is a very good. This is where a good reporter or journalist like you can provide a great service to not only the public but the soldiers themselves. You gave facts about the progress our soldiers are making. I know my son will read it carefully. No one else has told the public as much about Ramadi as you have in this latest article. To tell the truth, if a reporter from my local New York Times owned newspaper called me up for an interview about my son, I would tell her or him to go fuck themselves. I literally despise the mainstream media because they want our soldiers to lose.

My boy was with a platoon of SEALs that spent most of their time in Mulaab. Actually, only four or five guys spent the whole deployment there. Mike Monsoor was one of them. They saw more combat action than SEALs have experienced since Vietnam. You were out with my son and took film of him a while back. [Here's the video though I blurred it at the request of the SEALs to protect their identities.] He was the guy who used the old style M-79 grenade launcher [Whom I photographed earlier this year with Monsoor during a Mulaab firefight.] He is an Alabama boy with lots of experience with guns, especially high powered rifles. He told me his instructors in the SEALs used exactly the same techniques for shooting I had taught him. So you are a good observer, when you said he was handy with a weapon.

He commented to me about the proficiency of the 1/506th. He has great respect for their commander and would serve with him anywhere any time. My boy and his platoon worked with the 1/506th quite a bit. One day a sergeant brought the SEALs some spades for their helmets. [The spade is the symbol of the 1/506th.] They will never take them off. My boy thinks the 1/506th is one group of bad dudes. He also had good things to say about other Army and Marine units, combat teams of all kinds. These are dudes who take on the bad guys eye to eye. They jump out the back of a Bradley [fighting vehicle] and go get them. My boy says they don't get the credit they deserve. He does not like the way the media sometimes glamorizes the SEALs when other American soldiers are doing the same work. I can tell you from experience that real SEALs do not talk about themselves. In civilian dress, these guys look like any other American. Most of them are very humble about their accomplishments. Like most everyone else, SEALs are in awe of good soldiers. According to my boy, some of the guys from the Pennsylvania National Guard were as good at soldiering as SEALs, Marines, or 1/506th. He said some of these National Guard guys were very bad news for the enemy. In fact, guys with families at home are very determined to get back to their wives and kids. They do not mess around with the enemy. They kill him quickly and with great determination because they are planning on going home.

You are right about our soldiers winning in Ramadi. You do a great service getting this truth out.

[Name, rank, and service omitted], retired (I have not used my son's name and would appreciate your withholding my last name from publication if you were to use any part of this email in your writing. Thanks.)

December 2, 2006 05:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Fumento interviews on Ramadi and the media - TV, radio, print

By Michael Fumento

Photo of Michael FumentoC-SPAN's Washington Journal

The Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA Denver
Part One
Part Two

John Hawkins' Right Wing News

November 30, 2006 11:30 PM  ·  Permalink

Will the real Ramadi please stand up?

By Michael Fumento

"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq [Al Anbar Province] or counter al Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report," began a front-page article in yesterday's Washington Post by Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks. It concerned the so-called "Devlin Report," a five-page document allegedly filled with gloom and doom. It contrasts completely with my article Return to Ramadi, in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard, in which I write that the largest city in the province is slowly being reclaimed from al Qaeda. By coincidence, the day my article hit the stands the Times of London published an extensive article coming to the same conclusion as mine. But for the timing, you'd practically think one of us had plagiarized the other.

Why such different conclusions between our articles and the Post's and whom to believe?

It helps to know that the Times writer and I both went to and reported from Ramadi. We didn't summarize classified documents or quote unnamed sources. Linzer and Ricks stayed home and reported from Washington, relying entirely on an unpublished document in addition to quoting a "senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity." I have recently ripped the media's "Baghdad Brigade" for pretending it can cover a country the size of California from a single Iraqi city. What does that say about those who think they can cover Al Anbar from Washington?

All of this illustrates a point I and others have desperately tried to make, that you cannot understand the Anbar if you haven't been there. That's why I went three times to the province and twice to Ramadi itself. It wasn't to attend a beerfest. It may also help explain things that Ricks has a recent book declaring the war a "Fiasco," and hence is already inclined towards a pessimistic view. Top-notch milblogger Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail declares, "Military and intelligence sources that I spoke to who have read the [Devlin] report indicate that they largely agree with [it] . . . but not as presented by the Washington Post." (Emphasis his.)

Alas, as much attention as my article has gotten it's hard to compete with a Post A1 article. Further, as Vietnam's Tet Offensive proved, guerrilla wars are as likely to be decided in the media as on the battlefield. It's looking like Iraq will prove no exception.

(Michael Fumento maintains a hybrid website at Fumento.com with blogs from his last two trips to Al Anbar, photos from all three trips, and two major articles from his trip earlier this year. Especially recommended is "The New Band of Brothers," which contains links to much combat video.)

November 29, 2006 08:00 PM  ·  Permalink

Lots more on that video of attack on OP Hotel in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

OP Hotel
OP Hotel, a.k.a., "The Ramadi Inn,"
some months after the attack

In an earlier blog post, I presented part of a video I got off a laptop in Ramadi showing the 2005 suicide vehicle attack on OP Hotel in the city's Industrial Area. Noting that it was taken from a jihadist propaganda production, I wondered aloud at their depicting it as a great victory over the infidels even though the objective remained intact and only jihadists were killed. None of which deterred a large number of jihadist websites from not just using the link to the video but rather linking to the blog entry as a whole, in which I'm basically calling them buffoons. In fact, it was so popular among terrorists that my host company was forced to take the clip down from its server. So I just gave it a new URL and reposted it, figuring the terrorists were too dumb to see if the link was broken. They were.

I also wondered about its source. Terrorism expert Adam Badder wrote in saying to the best of his knowledge the video had not previously been broadcast on jihadist websites. "Sometimes al Qaeda in Iraq sells VCD/DVDs of some attack videos in the markets of al Anbar and never puts them onto the net so the discs they are selling are exclusive," he said. "This is possibly the case with this video, but after watching it I believe it must have been captured at an al Qaeda media 'studio' by American forces. The reason I say this is even though the music is done and the al Qaeda in Iraq bug is in the top corner there are no opening credits and no ending as the last 2:32 minutes are just black screen."

Then I heard from a Capt. Chas Cannon. "I noticed you have the OP Hotel car bomb attack on your site. That attack was against our Able Company, 2-69 Armor. The initial explosion knocked the entire platoon out cold." He went on: "It was interesting the way we received the video, however. An informant of ours, whom we knew to be playing both sides, was given a copy as part of a recruiting drive by the insurgents. One night on our regularly scheduled meetings, he passed it on over to us. I don't think the insurgents knew that it failed....they just knew it was one helluva explosion." That it was!

Finally (I think finally), I heard from Spc. Scott Ray, who says he was in 3rd Platoon, A Co., 2/69 when the attack hit. "We never shot the driver or the dump truck. He ran into a Jersey barrier. There was another VBIED [vehicle-borne IED] that was suppose to exploit the breach the dump truck left but we guess the driver split. When we were exfiling [departing] after being relieved by our other two platoons we found the driver's body and the cab of the truck on the east side of the hotel, by where we would park the Humvees. We did have one critical wounded, Spc. David Morrow. He had major shrapnel wounds in his left thigh and was unconscious for seven hours. We continued to receive fire for about 20 minutes after the explosion until the first quick relief force showed up. it was a long twenty minutes.

November 27, 2006 07:18 PM  ·  Permalink

More of the Baghdad Press Corp's Egocentric View of the War

By Michael Fumento

According to CNN, "A U.S. Air Force F-16CG fighter jet crashed at 1:35 p.m. (5:35 a.m. ET) Monday outside Baghdad while making a "strafing run" - firing on targets at a low altitude - an American military official in Baghdad said." Where outside Baghdad? Turns out it was "operating near Fallujah . . . " In other words, it was "outside Baghdad" like Washington, D.C. is outside New York City.

November 27, 2006 07:07 PM  ·  Permalink

Mike on C-SPAN's Washington Journal

By Michael Fumento

And it's with Brian Lamb! It concerns my Ramadi piece in the current Weekly Standard. 9 AM EST on Friday but I think after a few days you can watch it on your computer.

November 22, 2006 12:21 PM  ·  Permalink

Cover story on Retaking Ramadi in Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

I assert that by any measurable standard, including lots of insight you couldn't possibly pick up if you hadn't been there and been there at least twice, we're are making progress in pacifying Iraq's worst city. As Frank Sinatra might have sung: "If we can beat them here, we can beat them anywhere!"

Lots of photos (including my first cover photo) and some neat video. Finally, it has a tribute to Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, KIA in Ramadi's Mulaab area when he threw himself onto a grenade. I hope it's used as part of a campaign to have him awarded the Medal of Honor.

November 19, 2006 08:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Fumento photos posted from latest Iraq trip

By Michael Fumento

I hope you'll find these photos interesting, but they aren't particularly numerous or spectacular because circumstances simply didn't lend themselves to it. Probably my would-be best shots got away from me when my camera followed me into an irrigation canal.

And this smaller set is for friends and relatives of men in A and C Companies, 1/506th. Normally these guys can go through a year-long deployment without having a single photo of them taken.

My photos from Anbar earlier this year are here, and from last year here.

November 15, 2006 07:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Sig Christenson's (failed) attempt to blame military for embed shortage

By Michael Fumento

Below is an exchange with Sig Christenson and another fellow in which I am castigated for claiming that the lack of embeds in Iraq just may be the fault of something other than the military. Apply Occam's Razor, that the simplest solution is probably the best. We don't have more embeds primarily because journalists don't want to be embedded. (Also, judging by my mail, lots of vets would like to be embeds but have no media outlet to support them.) Embedding is tough on those used to the luxurious American lifestyle and depending on where you go you it can be dangerous. Far easier to just label yourself a war correspondent and work out of the International Zone in Baghdad or a Baghdad hotel, using phones and emails and letting Iraqi stringers do the real work. It still looks great on your resume and you don't have to worry about having shrapnel dug out of your rear end. Note (as I should have in my response, that Christenson admits he was only embedded once in Iraq, back in 2003, and since then has worked out of Baghdad hotels. He is thus a member of the "Baghdad Brigade," of which I have been so critical. As to his references in his online bios about being voted "reporter of the year" by his peers, he means the small group of reporters at his own newspaper. Little wonder that he doesn't specify who his "peers" are.

Christenson:
Michael Fumento's piece on embedding is the product of sloppy research and should have been better vetted. As it stands, it contains several errors, the first of which is that I am president of Military Reporters & Editors. I was president of MRE until 5th annual conference last month in Chicago. He'd have known that if he had bothered to check the MRE website,

Mr. Fumento is correct in calling the small number of embeds in Iraq grotesque. But he wrong in saying "the MSM Baghdad press corps," as he refers to the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Cox and the major broadcast networks, among others, "bizarrely believes it can cover a country of 26 million people" by relying on stringers, e-mail and phones. I know a few of those mainstream media people and none of them has ever suggested such a thing. So just where did he come up with this notion? Did Mr. Fumento interview any of those reporters now working on their own in Baghdad?

If so, he ought to share their comments with us to support his case.

It is my belief that the media must do better than the bombing-of-the-day story if Americans are to have any idea of the dimensions of this war in Iraq. That is why MRE is working with other war correspondents and military officers to develop a better embed process. But I take exception to his suggestion that these Baghdad journalists "may as well be back in the States" is idiotic. It implies that they never get out and that they and their Iraqi employees never take risks. Anyone who has worked as a unilateral damned well knows better.

A careful look at my views on the subject of the media's problems with embedding, including a read of my blogs on www.mysanantonio.com, will reveal that I have never placed the blame for the lack of embeds in Iraq solely on the military. There are many factors, particularly the belief among some editors I know that the benefits of reporting on Iraq either as embeds or unilaterals is not worth the risk. Cost is another critical factor. If you work on your own in Baghdad, you now will need a security team and, perhaps, an armored vehicle. While Mr. Fumento underestimates the cost of flying to Kuwait and Jordan by using a Washington-to-Amman/Kuwait flight model (many reporters who might go there live far from National and Dulles), he skips right over the most expensive parts of such a tour for non-embeds.

I'm familiar with those costs because I have run up the bills.

The embed process is laborious, and could be much improved, and the Rhino Runner armored bus to the Green Zone - as the Iraqis have long called it - does indeed run only at night. It ran during the day in July 2004, but did not during my tour last summer. For more on how we got from the airport to the Green Zone because of the Rhino's odd hours, go the San Antonio Express-News' Military City blogs. There's a good story on what photographer Nicole Fruge and I had to do in order to meet the U.S. adviser to Anbar province's governor.

And as to the CPIC identification badge, it was not accepted on numerous occasions at dining halls at Balad Air Base in August and early September. The armed Ugandan guards who control entry to the dining halls consistently refused to allow us in, referring to a large white binder that included all of the badges that were accepted, and then pointing out that ours was not. They were sticklers for the rules in that regard, but in one case a specialist ordered the guard to let us in. Mr. Fumento might have known that if he had called or e-mailed me.

That's the real problem here. In sharing his opinions with us, he failed to do his homework.

His many errors are the only reason I am responding to his column at all.

I've been to Iraq four times and know something of life as both an embed, first with the 3rd Infantry Division during the invasion, and also as a unilateral working out of several hotels in Baghdad. I also know a little something about journalism and the issues there. The next time Mr. Fumento writes a column about me, he ought to do the bare minimum and read some of my work. He might also call me. That would be a good start in offering an informed opinion.
- Sig Christenson
Immediate past president and co-founder,
Military Reporters & Editors
Military writer, San Antonio Express-News

Another writer:

I wish to correct an error in the Fumento story.

"Christenson even insists that once an embed receives his press pass, 'The problem with going through hell to get that card is it won't get you into the KBR dining hall on any forward operating base in Iraq.' Wrong again. That press pass gets you into any chow hall in Iraq."

A press ID most certainly will not grant access to ANY chow hall in Iraq -- KBR or otherwise. The originators comment was about DFACs on the FOBs, and a press pass may very well gain them that access...but only if they're allowed on post. In the north, if you don't have a CAC card, (DoD ID card), then you're not getting past the front door of the main DFAC - all the contractors scurrying about have to make their own arrangements for food (KBR being the exception of course).

However, a lot of KBR "chow halls" (and the best) aren't located on the FOBs and those are the places that the press would love to gain access. The REOs. For two years I watched press personnel try and scheme their way into the main compound in the IZ [International Zone in Baghdad] only to find they had to be under watch 24/7 and even then - no chow hall or accommodation. Now I'm at another location serviced by KBR and again, Press passes aren't acceptable forms of ID to the soldiers at the entrances.

Likely because no one wants the press around. War is the business of kills - for both trooper and contractor alike. The media makes it socially unacceptable to like what you're doing out here.

Anyway, I'm off the soapbox now, but I would like to say that I do very much like the article.
- James H.


Michael Fumento replies:

Let's start with this press pass-chow hall thing, which really makes me wonder if we aren't talking about two different Iraqs. I have eaten at chow halls at six different bases and two major Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Three of the bases were in the north. On my last trip, I forgot my pass at FOB Blue Diamond in Ramadi but it was enough to have a sergeant vouch for me. I did eat at the main compound in the IZ last year by simply flashing my press card - no scheming necessary. I also ate at the Baghdad embassy compound in the IZ and stayed in a transient tent in the IZ before I got credentialed. It should go without saying that you have to be allowed on post to be allowed in the chow hall.

Nor have I heard any other embed I've met in Iraq complain about access to chow. A frequently embedded reporter in Iraq whom I met this last trip, Andrew Lubin, told me the only time he was turned away from a chow hall was because he wasn't wearing a collared shirt. As I write this, I've just received an email from Spc. Jon Hernandez at Camp Victory, near Baghdad's airport. "As a member of a convoy team here in Iraq it is my duty to transport people and equipment around Baghdad and to guard the Dining Facility (DFAC)," he writes. "Our favorite mission is the airport because [the airport road] is indeed safe, and we have never denied a member of the press access to our dining facility - to say otherwise is outright deception."

Regarding Christenson's side of this complaint, he originally wrote: "The problem with going through hell to get that [press] card is it won't get you into the KBR dining hall on any forward operating base in Iraq." (Emphasis mine.) That means nowhere, from nobody, at no time. Now he changes that to "not accepted [from him, that is] on numerous occasions at dining halls at Balad Air Base in August and early September," blaming it on the Ugandan guards. Yes, the Ugandans are a pain in the butt and they've stopped me. I grabbed an officer to vouch for me and in I went. Embeds without that much initiative don't belong in a combat zone.

Mea culpa on not catching that Christenson is no longer MRE president as of a few weeks ago. But since I quoted Christenson's statements from the MRE site, it's rather obvious I did read it.

My "notion" about the MSM Baghdad Brigade was the subject of a 5,000-word article I wrote and to which I linked in the TAS article. It speaks not well of Christenson that he either didn't click it or ignored what he read. I not only made my case separately, but offered the following: "The London Independent's Robert Fisk has written of 'hotel journalism,' while former Washington Post Bureau Chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran has called it 'journalism by remote control.' More damningly, Maggie O'Kane of the British newspaper The Guardian said: 'We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do.'" I also noted the New York Review of Books did a whole article on Baghdad hotel journalism.

Christenson says I "underestimate the cost of flying to Kuwait and Jordan" because I use D.C.-area airports as the starting point. Never mind my noting that he said it cost $2,000 to fly commercial from the States into Baghdad when there are no U.S-Iraq commercial flights. In the event, a one-stop from LAX to Jordan or a two-stop from Christenson's San Antonio are both still less than $1,500 and some fares are below $1,000.

Yes, the Rhino only runs at night. If you get in early and don't catch a helo, it's a long wait. But as with those allegedly monstrous embed applications, again if you haven't got what it takes to put up with this why go to Iraq instead of staying home and eating bon-bons? Sherman was certainly right: War is heck.

November 15, 2006 04:04 PM  ·  Permalink

Military Unfairly Blamed for Embed Problem

By Michael Fumento

All Americans, whatever their views on the Iraq war, have an interest and a right to know what's really happening there. Embeds provide a unique perspective, going in with the troops themselves rather than trying to cover a country the size of California from hotels in Baghdad. Yet Iraqi embeds have almost become extinct. Some recently have blamed the military for this, but much of the blame actually goes to the media itself. Read about it in my new American Spectator article, "Military Unfairly Blamed for Embed Problem."

November 13, 2006 11:55 PM  ·  Permalink

Did bin Laden win the election?

By Michael Fumento

In Mark Steyn's new column, "Hyperpower hiatus," he writes "What does it mean when the world's hyperpower, responsible for 40 percent of the planet's military spending, decides it cannot withstand a guerrilla war with historically low casualties against a ragbag of local insurgents and imported terrorists?" Let's be more specific. In the taking of the small island of Iwo Jima in 1945, the subject of a current film, the U.S. suffered almost 7,000 dead in a few weeks. The country had half the population it does now, therefore this was equivalent to 14,000 dead back then. In the Battle of Normandy the U.S. alone lost 29,000 men or today's equivalent of 58,000. In the Iraq conflict to date, fewer than 3,000 Americans have died over a period approaching four years. Therefore, says the new party in power in Congress, we must withdraw soon and with no chance of victory by anybody's definition except, of course, the Islamists'. Thank God we didn't have our present gutlessness during World War II, else the Germans and Japanese would have divided up the world. God help us that such gutlessness has descended upon us today. The Islamists have made it clear that they, too, would like to own the world.

November 13, 2006 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Photo tribute to fallen SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor (right) during a fight in the Mulaab, Ramadi
In my October 8 blog entry from Ramadi, Death and Mayhem Revisit Corregidor, I mentioned the heroic death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor. I had been in a firefight with Monsoor's unit last spring, taking pictures and video. In the blog, I wrote "I may have photos of him on my website; friends and relatives will inform me soon enough." Turns out I did and they did. A fellow SEAL identified the photo, writing to me:

"When you did your patrol with SEAL Team 3 a few months back I was really pleased to see some of the great pictures and accounts that you brought back with you. I even put one of your pictures (2 SEALs kneeling against a graffiti littered wall, one with a 10" M4 and one with a machine gun) on my Blackberry to have a constant reminder about my comrades in combat. A few weeks ago, I attended the memorial service for Michael Monsoor who shielded a grenade blast from hitting 3 other SEALs. His platoon put together a photo/video tribute to him and right in the middle of it flashed your photo of Mike with his MG kneeling beside that wall. I pulled my Blackberry out of my belt and showed it to my buddies sitting with me and they were astonished. That photo had really been an inspiration before Mike gave his life, but it means so much more now. Good on ya for making those embed trips to Ramadi, I'll probably be heading over sometime next year myself."

Here's a clip of Monsoor in action, though I blurred the video at the request of the SEALs to protect their identities. View the video.

And here's another photo of Monsoor, again at right.

Sometimes I really wonder why I go to Iraq. Other times, I know.

October 29, 2006 07:30 PM  ·  Permalink

They're not real war correspondents but they play them on TV

By Michael Fumento

I've posted an extended version of my article in the current National Review on "The Baghdad Brigade," reporters who pretend they can and are covering the war throughout Iraq from the IZ and hotel rooms in Baghdad. It shows the incredible lengths they go through to show that they really are rough and tough war correspondents when in fact they may as well be covering the war from New York or Washington. It shows why, political bias aside, the media CANNOT properly cover the Iraq war.

(I'm working on other Iraq articles as well, including the main one tentatively titled "Retaking Ramadi.")

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More














October 25, 2006 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Navy close air support in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

A Navy F-18 Hornet provides close air support to A Company, 1/506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at ECP-8 in eastern Ramadi. It fires two missiles, comes around, and fires two more. Video is courtesy of Sgt. Steve Campbell of A Company.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 25, 2006 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Video of Attack on "The Ramadi Inn" or OP Hotel

By Michael Fumento

In my "New Band of Brothers" article in the Weekly Standard I wrote of the attack on OP Hotel, now jokingly called "The Ramadi Inn," in the Industrial Area, one of the sectors for which 1/506th is responsible. "In a video a soldier showed me on his laptop, enemy soldiers attacked observation posts on the building. They poured in fire as a diversion, while a dump truck packed with explosives sped towards the structure. The tactic failed. The GIs (from 2-69th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division) shot up the truck, which exploded in a massive ball of orange flame. Concussions all around, but no Americans were seriously hurt. To look at the hotel now, though, it seems like one good hard breath would knock it over."

Photo by Michael Fumento
"The Ramadi Inn" as it looks today.
Well, this trip I uploaded a copy. I'd forgotten it was actually a jihadist video, recovered from the enemy. I've clipped off the part propaganda section before the actual video (.wmv, 40 MB), but it's presented as if it's depicting a great victory over the infidels rather than a failed attack in which only jihadists were killed. This turning of defeat into victory is an interesting phenomenon. I saw the same in a video of a failed attack on Abu Ghraib. In this case, the video is ambiguous as to whether the attack succeeded. You have to know that the target is the sand-colored building to the far left, which obviously survives the tremendous blast. But the Abu Ghraib video showed a clear failure. I'm no expert on Arab culture or jihadist thinking. Maybe they're giving themselves an "A" for effort. If you have a better idea, let me know.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 18, 2006 11:12 PM  ·  Permalink

Back from Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

It seemed like a very short time that I was there, namely because it was. But I learned and gathered material as much as I could. My conclusion on the situation in Ramadi overall is that while I had been led to believe it was getting worse, it's probably actually getting somewhat better and there's every reason to believe this trend will continue as more and more Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, and Combat Operation Posts are introduced. Moreover, the lesson to be learned here is that if the insurgents and terrorists can be defeated in Ramadi they can be defeated anywhere. The guerilla war is definitely winnable. The two greatest threats are lack of patience and the possibility that the sectarian fighting elsewhere (there's none in Ramadi because it's almost purely Sunni) will render the counterinsurgency effort moot. Yet even if that happens, the connections and friends we've made in Al Anbar province will serve us in a post-Iraq world. Al Qaeda wants the Sunni area of Iraq as a permanent base. No matter what happens, we've already put a dent in that ambition and we've laid the groundwork for denying them that base.

In coming days I will continue to post blogs on Ramadi, including some interesting video clips I obtained. (My own camcorder was destroyed in an irrigation ditch plunge.) I will also be posting a photo set. Watch this space.


Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More












October 17, 2006 11:22 AM  ·  Permalink

Chuck Norris was here?

By Michael Fumento

Beginning with my first embed, I studied the graffiti inside latrines for signs of a decay in morale. I figured soldiers and Marines would be a lot more honest when scribbling from the can than when interviewed by a reporter -- although in fact on my second trip I did encounter some disgruntled reservists who had no inhibitions. This time, though, I found no political graffiti at all. I did find two racist scribblings, but only two. Mostly, it seems, I found references to Chuck Norris. I saw those last time, too. The Norris references have nothing to do with WWII's "Kilroy was here." They're just silly ditties from guys with a black felt-tip pen and perhaps not enough fiber in their diets. Ahem! Among them:

* Most hand cleaners kill 99.9% of bacteria; Chuck Norris kills 100% of whatever he wants.
* Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter.
* There is no such thing as global warming; Chuck Norris got cold and turned up the sun.
* Chuck Norris has a beard because razors are scared of his face.
* Chuck Norris died December 18, 1979. Death is too afraid to tell him.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 15, 2006 10:34 PM  ·  Permalink

The newly fallen in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

I now have further information on the Marines from 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division whose deaths I reported in an earlier blog, plus the circumstances surrounding the death of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class and SEAL Michael Monsoor. All were killed in Ramadi and Monsoor, along with Marc Allan Lee, became only the second SEAL to die in Iraq.

The Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice were Sgt. Julian Arechaga, 23, of Oceanside, N.Y.; Lance Cpl. Jon Bowman, 21, of Dubach, La.; and Pfc. Shelby Feniello, 25, of Connellsville, Pa.

Members of the SEAL platoon to which Michael Monsoor and Marc Alan Lee belonged. I took this photo last April in the Mullab section of Ramadi, just before a firefight.
Feniello's family said the men were speeding to the aid of Marines in firefight when the enemy detonated the 160 millimeter howitzer shell that blew apart their Humvee. Their son joined the Marines shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Bowman went straight to the Marine Corps after graduating high school, according to his mother. He'd only been in Iraq a month when he died.

Arechaga re-enlisted just last month, starting his second tour in Iraq after serving a previous one in Afghanistan.

According to the Associated Press, Monsoor was in a sniper position with several other SEALs when an enemy hand grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor. Showing yet again the bravery and selflessness that we've come to associate with these amazing men, Monsoor tossed himself onto the grenade. "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," a lieutenant who received shrapnel wounds to his legs said. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him." So do we all. In Vietnam, similar actions resulted in the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Moonsoor deserves the recognition of the nation's highest honor, as do the SEALs as a whole.


Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 14, 2006 08:45 PM  ·  Permalink

COP-ing Out in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

COP Anvil, Ramadi

Okay, first my bad. I'm not with 1/6 Marines. I'm with 1/6 2nd Brigade, First Armored Division. It's not my fault they put two units with the same name in the same city. In the event, I don't think being with 1/6 Marines would be fun time right now.

They did find the missing man from the IED explosion. He had not been captured. Rather the force of the blast apparently tore him apart and tossed the pieces so far as to make it difficult to locate them in the night. This is gruesome, to be sure, but far better than being tortured to death and clearly the Marine never knew what hit him. The IED was a 160 millimeter Soviet-block artillery shell, which is extremely large. The largest howitzers we have in theater are 155.

As to the Delta company soldier who stepped on the IED, it looks like he might be able to hold onto his foot. Too early to say. In any case, he was certainly lucky it was such a small IED.

Photo by Michael Fumento
An M2 Bradley protects the COP from suicide vehicles
A COP is a combat operation post, and such posts are starting to play a crucial role in pacifying Al Anbar. In the Ramadi area, at least, COPs comprise an undersized company of four companies and about 80 soldiers. (Although Anvil has considerably more than that.) Anvil also has four M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles attached to it, each of which has a 25 millimeter automatic cannon and lesser guns along with an anti-armor capability. Anvil has three American platoons and one Iraqi Army one, but one of the American ones and the IA one are being loaned elsewhere right now. No matter, a COP can operate at half strength for awhile.

COPs are tiny compared to FOBs like Corregidor, which had a full battalion plus numerous support elements or about 800 men in all. In fact, this place comprises just two houses leases from Iraqi civilians. First Armored Division has put in 11 COPs so far, I believe, and is building a 12th. There will probably be many more to come.

In any counterinsurgency effort, a key to pacifying an area is to plop fortifications with interlocking communications into enemy territory and sending out patrols. For example, King Edward I of England (the guy who had Braveheart drawn and quartered) used castles to subdue Wales. Nowadays we call this "grab and hold." Originally we started doing that in Vietnam but gave it up in favor of search and destroy missions from large base camps, which helped contribute to losing the war.

One value of a COP versus the much larger FOBs and the huge camps such as Camp Ramadi is that this is an enemy that inflicts most casualties and damage with IEDS, greatly restricting movement. But missions from COPs are inherently short-range; you're already almost there. That's less road to be on and fewer IEDs to worry about.

Photo by Michael Fumento
An excellent clear-kill zone surrounds the COP
At Anvil basically all the missions are on foot and off the trails. It's almost impossible to hit such patrols with an IED. You can place pressure plate IEDs anywhere you want, but with those you risk injuring or killing civilians and driving them into the arms of the coalition forces. To secure the roads, Anvil CO Capt. Sapp puts his Bradleys along them. He's got an observation post atop one of his two buildings that keeps the entire area under surveillance and he's cut back a huge kill zone so it's virtually impossible for anybody to sneak up within firing range of an RPG.

Another advantage of a COP is a shorter reaction time for one unit to support another, although that's rarely necessary because the enemy just doesn't mass in large units. They don't have the men to do that like they used to. This inability to mass also makes COPs possible. In Vietnam, the enemy had lots of soldiers and highly-trained and motivated sappers that could cut through concertina wire barriers, throw satchel charges, and wreak havoc while the VC infantry came up behind them. This allowed them to inflict heavy casualties on small units, such as those manning howitzers. On a few occasions, they completely overran those positions. But the chance of a COP being overrun is essentially nil.

Photo by Michael Fumento
The mascot Juggernaut leads the way for the squad from COP Anvil.
The impact of the FOB system was shown to me on a map. The foreigners who come into this area do so along a mini-Ho Chi Minh trail from the west, namely Jordan and Syria. And the foreigners tend to be better trained. Certainly any good sniper will come from that route, because Iraqis are terrible shots and hence crummy snipers.

From this road the terrorists would then literally fan out in the area where the COPs have been inserted. That is, their area of operation was shaped like a fan. But the troops from the COPs have rolled them up in a counter-clockwise pattern such that the only major activity left now is in a slice near the Tigris. Areas that Capt. Sapp would originally only send full platoons into, sometimes even with armor, he will now allow a squad of perhaps 12 men to enter. At some point, the bad guys will be pushed out of this last piece of the fan. Where they'll go, who knows. The point is that they'll have been denied their first choice of an operating area. It's like knocking off the head of a terrorist cell. Yes, he'll just be replaced. But the man originally chosen for the job is now dead and the cell weakened to that extent.

I'll be writing more about COPs when I get back.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More














October 11, 2006 04:47 PM  ·  Permalink

Quick Update

By Michael Fumento

Just a quick update. I'm being transferred tonight back to Camp Ramadi and then first thing in the morning back into Ramadi's Camp Blue Diamond to embed with 1/6 Marines. They just recently arrived and the enemy is still testing them, so they're catching a lot of hell. Just tonight one of their Humvees hit an IED. Two dead . . .and one missing.

There is nothing, repeat nothing, worse than going missing. The body was recovered later but no word yet as to indications of torture.

Let's see what I'm in for.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 9, 2006 02:49 PM  ·  Permalink

In and Out of the Mulaab

By Michael Fumento

Well, my big exciting mission just kept getting shorter and less purposeful all the way up until it began. Originally it was supposed to be two days with Charlie Company going from OP to OP within the Mulaab. Ultimately it turned out to be a mounted excursion to a single spot in the Mulaab to guard a psyops truck with a loudspeaker attempting to recruit for the Iraq Army.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Charlie Company mural
Yes, we took fire. You almost always get hit when you go outside the wire here during the day (I'm three for three) and it's almost always 45 minutes on-the-dot after you take up positions. But this comprised nothing more than two guys popping out with AKs and shooting wildly at our Humvee, while the Humvee returned fire with 30 rounds of .50 caliber. Not exactly a fair fight and the bad guys knew it.

Of course, major firefights often begin just this way and Charlie Co. Cpt. Nathan Guthrie, whom I sat behind, checked to see if we had CAS (close air support) available if needed. But it wasn't. Since our job wasn't to engage the enemy but to recruit, we left pretty quickly after that. Certainly nothing to write home about -- although that's exactly what I'm doing.

I assume that in the hands of an MSM reporter this account would have been much more exciting. We would have been attacked by a dozen or so men, a few would be shouldering rocket-propelled-grenades, and the ensuing firefight would be "proof again that Ramadi is far from a pacified city" -- as if anybody had ever claimed otherwise.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Military shotgun, with a soldier who means business
Still, I did get some good insights on the way to taking up our position and while we were sitting there. Guthrie wasn't exactly the shy, retiring type. He barked orders and opinions on about an equal basis and did so often. Before we left he told the man in the turret behind the .50 caliber Browning, "When we're going down Easy Street if you see that sniper you smoke his fucking ass! I'm not dealing with his ass anymore." Nor the rest of him, I presumed.

I was confused. If you know where a sniper is, you always "smoke his ass." Guthrie explained that, "It's like the D.C. area snipers," meaning Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. Snipers in the area like Malvo and Mohammed were cutting holes in the trunks of cars and shooting out of them. Guthrie was saying that if we saw a car with a hole in the back, we were going to fire it up.

Guthrie also offered, "This place has gotten a lot better but it's still a shit hole." (Hmm... Is that one word or two?)

Guthrie kept uttering things that anywhere else would have made him a certified paranoid, but not here. We saw two men on a moped carrying a shovel. There are many uses for a shovel around here. From the awful smell of the place we'd just driven through, I'd say tossing the excrement off your front lawn would be one of them. But my first thought was they were off to bury IEDs. Sure enough, Guthrie commented, "They probably going to bury IEDs."

We also saw an empty dump truck twice. If it's not hauling something, it's suspect. If it has special windows over the regular ones, it's an S-VBIED: a suicide vehicle-borne IED . "If that dump truck turns down this way and has welded plates on the window, you shoot that motherfucker you hear me!" Guthrie barked to his gunner. But no motherfuckers died that day; at least not there.

It appears my next trip outside the wire will be same thing. This isn't looking good for combat or combat photos.

You can't really shoot pictures from inside a Humvee and anyway the Mooj don't usually mount a concerted attack unless you're on foot. I was told the violence would probably really ramp up for Ramadan, but if we don't do foot patrols I won't see real combat.

Unfortunately, people are still getting hurt around here. An unconfirmed but probably correct report is that last night a soldier from 1/506th saw an opening in some concertina wire so he got out of his Humvee to fix it. It was a trap. He detonated an IED and may lose his foot.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Sunrise over Corregidor
Well, I've just decided. I'm going to try to spend the time I have left with another unit.

I knew 1/506th would be winding down soon for redeployment back to the States but I didn't know it would be this soon. Perhaps I can find a Marine unit or one of the many First Armored Division units to link up with.

Unfortunately, it's not entirely my decision and does involve some hassle but that's going to be my only chance to see a fight or two before I redeploy back to the States myself. It was certainly great to revisit this place and I talked with a bunch of great guys from A Company whom I saw combat near OP Hotel.

It was good to go over old times. But I need to try to make some new times.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 9, 2006 12:18 PM  ·  Permalink

Death and Mayhem Revisit Corregidor

By Michael Fumento

You never have to wait too long around here for another casualty report. A few days before I arrived, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Monsoor, one of the 19 SEALs I linked up with on my first firefight out here, was killed by small arms fire in the same district (the Mulaab) where I first saw him. I may have photos of him on my website; friends and relatives will inform me soon enough.

Monsoor's death came not long after that of his teammate, Marc Lee. Lee became the first SEAL to die in Iraq; Monsoor is now the second. I've made the point repeatedly in blogs and my New Band of Brothers article that while Americans can theoretically be killed anywhere in this country, when it comes to being up close and personal this is the place to be.

Three members of Delta Company, 1/506th found that out last night, too. They were driving through the Mulaab last night when somebody with amazing aim tossed a hand grenade apparently from a house that dropped right down the vehicle's open turret. Fortunately, it landed between the radio and another hard piece of metal or there would have been fatalities. As is, two of the men were slightly wounded while one took a fairly serious leg wound that I've been asked not to describe. Suffice to say, it sounds nasty but there's good reason to believe he'll keep the limb. He also lost a pinkie finger. Sadly, he and the other two were scheduled to go home soon anyway. 1/506th is rotating back home during November.

I first heard of the attack when I was uploading Blog Three, Back to Ramadi, and suddenly all the computers and phones went dead. Having waited a long time to get a computer only to find the connection is as slow as frozen molasses, I was ticked. The soldier in charge of the section announced casualties in the Mulaab and told everybody to go home. I didn't see the point until somebody informed me that this is a precaution to make sure word of attacks doesn't get out before next of kin are notified.

Although I was in my fiercest firefight in what's called the Industrial District, which includes OP (outpost) Hotel, it seems the Mulaab is by far the best area of operation covered by the troops in Corregidor to meet up with the Grim Reaper. (Marc Lee was also killed there.)

The soldiers and SEALs never really make peace with the deaths and serious injuries of their comrades. They will be haunted for a long time, maybe forever.

Interestingly, however, they seem to make peace with the possibility of their own deaths. Minutes ago, I was walking near the edge of the camp and suddenly "Pop!" (You have no idea how much time I spend trying to come up with the right words to describe sounds around here. I even once got an email explaining to me that outgoing howitzer rounds go "Thump" while incoming ones go "Whump," or perhaps it was the other way around.)

Photo by Michael Fumento
Guarding the rooftop during a successful raid to grab suspects
Much too quiet to be a mortar round, it also didn't quite sound like a rifle or pistol. I quickly spied the source. Somebody was burning trash and apparently didn't go through it too well, leaving rounds to cook off. I approached two soldiers who were calling in a water truck by walkie-talkie? "Aren't those rounds cooking off?" I asked. "Sure sounds that way," one said. "Then why are you standing so close that the smallest round in there could hit you?"

Said the soldier, "If it does, it does."

There's no arguing that this was not a good explanation and that neither soldier should have been anywhere near that close. I only approached it to talk to them and quickly left. But it's an interesting example of fatalism in action. This might make you question if it hurts their ability to conduct operations, but not from what I've seen.

Apparently even as they readily accept the possibility of their own deaths, on operations their professionalism and determination to keep their buddies in one piece is what drives them. These are very special men, indeed.

Photo by Michael Fumento
State of the art rifle . . . circa 1880
As to my night operation, from my perspective it was quite boring. The squad I accompanied found nothing more than one toy gun and two rifles with long bayonets that I would judge date back to the late 19th century. No effort had been to restore them; both were heavily rusted and one was missing its wooden stock. In the United States, they would be nice and shiny and mounted on a wall.

Here they were just lying around the house, valued obviously for some reason but definitely not for protection unless you're into bayonet thrusts. And yes, they were allowed to keep them. Each house is allowed one AK-47 automatic rifle for self-defense. Anything beyond that is confiscated.

Other squads had more luck. Of the list of nine suspects, five were nabbed but only one kept. Meanwhile, though, three other men were grabbed and upon interrogation appeared to be "dirty," as the GIs put it. So in all, four men were taken into custody.

I earned another Purple Heart when I slipped on one of the many little sand mounds that surround brush and cut my hand. As I said previously, the sand here is really dust. That makes it quite slippery.

One GI joked that I still needed to acquire my sea legs, but I corrected him that I need to acquire my sand legs.

Photo by Michael Fumento
"My weapon is my camera!" says Fumento.
Another nasty aspect of the dust is that all you have to do is add a bit of water from a shower and suddenly it's mud with the consistency of peanut butter. I found that out earlier this year at "Camp Ramuddy."

Fortunately, I should be out of here before we get our first heavy rainshower.

I still can't talk about my next patrol but I've just learned of the one I'll go on after. The Mulaab.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 8, 2006 01:44 PM  ·  Permalink

Back to Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Camp Corregidor, Ramadi, Iraq

My luck has improved. I got out of the IZ by Black Hawk at about midnight, which is by far the earliest I've ever flown. Usually you leave at about 2:30 a.m. and get in perhaps at 5:00 a.m. because of all the stops along the way. This time there was only a refueling stop. At one point shortly after leaving the ground there were two blinding yellow-green streaks coming from the helo, then a third. My vision didn't clear up for ten minutes. I had no idea what they were. Turns out they were flares shot from the bird to distract potential ground fire.

My luck continued at Camp Ramadi where I was able to catch a truck into the city of Ramadi that very evening. Usually you need to wait for a whole convoy called "The Dagger," but this was a huge vehicle used by engineers who destroy IEDs called a Cougar. I first saw them on my first trip, when I was embedded with an explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) near Fallujah but the transmissions were out of order so we used weakly-armored Humvees. That proved a great misfortune, as that EOD team rotated out a few months later and within days the new unit ran over a pressure-plate IED that ripped it apart, killing both men inside.

M2 Bradleys at Camp Ramadi
So faster than I had dared to think, I was back at Corregidor. Good old nasty Corregidor. Endless clouds of fine dust that get into everything, especially your lungs. The order to wear body armor everywhere because of the frequent mortar attacks. But lots of earnest, hard-fighting men who continue to keep the enemy on its toes and not only keep the city from being overrun -- as the MSM would have you think it already has been -- but to actually try to squeeze the "AIF" (Anti-Iraqi Forces) into smaller and smaller areas where they can move around with relative freedom.

Actually, the camp has improved in one way in that it now has a small post exchange and a "Haji mart" operated by locals with a small selection of items but items that are in great demand like batteries.

The men seem genuinely glad to see me. I knew they would kid me about my "drop and roll" during my last firefight. "Well excuuuuse me!" I said. "But I was taught that when you're taking direct fire, that's what you do!" Came the retort, "Not in the middle of the street, though!" "Hey, trust me, I didn't choose for them to open up on me in the middle of the street!" View the drop and roll video (.wmv file, Fumento Hits the Dirt, 2,844kb)

A few asked: Why the hell did you come back here? "Still figuring that one out," I said.

I sleep in a little cracker box of a room, with my current roommate a public affairs soldier who works exclusively for the 506th Infantry Regiment. That brings him down here a few times a year. One of the other forward operating bases he goes to is next to Sadr City in Iraq. He says people always have an awed look on their faces when he says he goes there but that in terms of sheer brutal violence nothing matches his stays and romps with the troops here in Corregidor.

Terrorists are everywhere at Camp Ramadi
It's Ramadan now and nobody bothered to tell me before I started making plans to come here that orders were for no patrols during Islam's holy month. But the bad guys wouldn't accept the offer of a truce so as it happens I was briefed today for two patrols. One is tonight. Usually night patrols are safe and boring, but this will be a long one and with it being Ramadan we may see action. We have a list of nine specific targeted individuals, all insurgents rather than Al Qaida. My guess is we won't nab a single one, but these patrols are always multi-purpose.

The secondary purposes here will just be to show the flag (or the flags, as it were, of both the US and Iraq) in areas Al Qaida likes to say belong to it, and to draw out the bad guys and kill them. It's an interesting twist on counterinsurgency here in that while in most such wars such as Vietnam you mainly use ambushes with the occasional counter-ambush, here it's always counter-ambush. We present a tempting target, an offer they can't refuse, and we kill them.

The second patrol will be considerably longer. This blog will probably be posted before then so I can't really comment on its objectives. It looks like a good chance to see action, though. And yes, I did get my loaner body armor. It's considerably heavier than what I brought in, no doubt about that. But I trained with the appropriate amount of weight and I'm reassured by the ceramic plates covering my sides.

Unfortunately, there's been another death in the SEAL family. Just a few days ago after I was already in-country. That makes two deaths in the platoon of only 19. The remainder will be with us on the patrol tonight, but apparently they've taken the death pretty hard. They seemed untouchable when they first deployed here but between deaths and injuries they've had a recent spate of really bad luck.

I'm still hoping to get a chance to interview some of them but have been told to give them a chance to recover a bit more psychologically before doing so. On the other hand, I know they want to honor their fallen and if they don't do it through me it probably won't get done. Not a whole lot of other civilian reporters out here.

I've been taking a billion notes and have much more to write, but I need to wrap this and start getting my gear ready. Actually, what I really need to do unfortunately is stand in line for one of Corregidor's nine Internet-connected computer terminals to open up. I went over there earlier today to check email and was very irritated to find at least one soldier hogging a terminal to play solitaire! Apparently nobody ever told him that you can actually play that game with a deck of cards and shouldn't be using Internet-connected terminals to do things that can be done offline.

Nine computers for 500 men checking for email from loved ones and sending it back, not to mention those who like to keep up on the news, and not to mention the occasional milblogger who needs to upload his latest dispatch, aren't very much.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 8, 2006 12:25 PM  ·  Permalink

Incredible Incompetence Slashes My Mission Time

By Michael Fumento

Baghdad, Iraq

During my last trip to Iraq, I blogged that the worst part of being an embed isn't what you'd think. It's not bullets, or bombs, or even diarrhea. It's the decrepit system of transportation in which the machines work fine but the people in charge don't. Last time it cost me a third of my stay in Ramadi. Then once I was back in the military airport outside Kuwait City, the shuttle to the commercial airport never came. Because I had a non-refundable ticket and had to spend time in a hotel, this added an awful $1,000 to my trip and forced a seven-hour layover at the airport. But this time it looked like I wasn't even going to get into Iraq, and then once into Iraq not into Baghdad's International Zone to get credentialed. The rules for embeds are constantly changing, usually for the worse, and having been through the grinder once before actually puts you at a disadvantage because you think you know the rules but don't.

This tethered aerostat above Baghdad's airport (Don't call it a blimp, the makers will get mad at you), along with another, is armed with a huge array of cameras and sensors that can be used to call in rapid deployment forces or indirect fire to protect the entire airport area including the road to Baghdad once called "The Highway of Death."
My first inkling that things wouldn't be easy was when my luggage was essentially hijacked by a jump-suited airport employee who loaded my bags onto a cart and started rolling away at a good clip while I tried to ask him where we were going. Eventually he handed me over to KBR contractors just feet away from where I was to meet my point of contacts (POCs) from the public affairs office. My offense? Wearing a uniform. "Were you aware that you're not suppose to be in uniform in Kuwait International, sir?" a KBR contractor asked me. "No, I was unaware of it to the point that this is the third time I've flown in here, including earlier this year, and on both previous occasions I wore a uniform." Came the retort, "Just answer the question, sir." Gee, I thought that was an answer. I was told the Kuwaitis decided to suddenly object to uniforms in the airport other than their own. Somebody should remind them that if it wasn't for Americans in uniform, the uniforms they would be wearing would be those of Saddam's army. But after I cooled my heels awhile, KBR finally sent somebody over to grab my POC, SSgt. Buckley, who had been patiently waiting.

So, it was off to my hotel to get some sleep before meeting Buckley at the commercial airport and heading off to the military airport, Ali Al Salem (pronounced "Saleem") over an hour away. Buckley had originally told me it would have been smarter to just skip the hotel and go directly to the transit area of "Ali Al," making it easier to catch a flight within the next two days. Here, again, I detected another major change in the rules. When I came over in April I specifically asked if I could go straight to Ali Al, but was told they'd never let me on base until my papers were processed. Now I was being told quite the opposite. Turns out the old rule was still in force -- but with a vengeance.

To fly to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP, you need a Baghdad visa which they give you when your PAO POC (Buckley, in this case) turns your passport in to the right people at Ali Al. Buckley had done so and now we were going on base to get the passport, try to book me a flight for the next day, and get me a bunk in the transient tent. But now we were stopped at the gate by soldiers who said they needed to see my stamped passport. Buckley patiently explained I couldn't show it to them as I needed to go onto the base to get it. The soldiers were properly following orders; somebody on the inside had forced me into a Catch 22 position. I needed to go in to get my papers; but I needed my papers to go in. After some time, Buckley went in on his own and literally sat down with the base commander himself to try to figure out what the heck was going on. What Buckley was told and relayed to me was stunning. I would be allowed on base only so long as he and a contractor that worked with him stayed with me, as if I were a criminal in transit. Fortunately, he wasn't required to cuff himself to me.

By now, hours had passed and the time to reserve a seat (get on the manifest) had expired. But if I didn't catch the next day's flight Buckley and company would be forced to spend two days with me and they really have better things to do than baby-sit journalists. So we tried to get me on a space available (Space A) list. That means if there's extra room on the flight, you can get on. That's where things went from somewhat unbelievable to absolutely incredible. Buckley was then told I couldn't get a seat without orders from my unit. Of course, I have no unit. I'm a journalist. Since the dawn of history, when that big black monolith appeared and one group of apes began clubbing another group while music from 2001: A Space Odyssey played in the background, journalists have never been told they need orders from their embed units. As I later found out, you can get something like orders from the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC), the people who credential you, in Baghdad's International Zone (IZ). But apparently Buckley's predecessor had been told to pack his bags quite suddenly just a few days earlier and nobody told Buckley about this.

The commander also said that after me each person from the media would have to be accompanied by somebody from the Kuwait PAO office! The next week, Buckley was expecting a group of 13 radio personalities on a single day. (Don't worry; they stay within the safe confines of the airport area and the IZ.) Buckley's entire office only has 16 personnel. Obviously this was really, really screwy. But I don't think the rule actually went into effect.

For my case, Buckley suggested all we could do was get orders, from my embed unit in Ramadi. There's a first for everything, right? So I contacted my POC in at Camp Ramadi outside the city and she did draw up what she thought orders for journalists might look like and sent them to Buckley. No good. So Buckley said my best chance was to avoid the Ali Al bedlam entirely and fly out with the Royal Air Force (RAF) from the military side of Kuwait International. I did this in the spring and found the RAF more organized than the Air Force, so I was quite happy with this option. Happy, that is, until just minutes before boarding when British troops unexpectedly arrived and knocked all of the civilians off the flight.

Is this beginning to sound like Gilligan's Island, in which the castaways have a chance of escape dangled in front of them each show only to have it bashed at the last minute? I had arrived in Kuwait on Thursday and by now it was Sunday and I was absolutely bouncing off the walls. Not even a Ginger or Mary Ann to comfort me. But by now Buckley thought it was time to give the airbase another shot. He couldn't get us there until late at night after all flights had departed to BIAP but I did sign up for a Space A with a roll call of 0400. To those of you who don't know military time, that means: "Extremely early." So up at 3:15 to pack and drag my stuff to the proper building fully expecting to be sent back to vie for the few Space A seats available at 1400. Lo! I had a seat. Some hours later (the only thing fast about the Air Force are its fighter jets) I was on a C-130 bound for BIAP. We had two guests of honor, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist and apparently a congressman from Florida. Frist said, "We love you all." I wanted to tell him I loved him, too, but I was overcome with emotion. He then proceeded to have photo-ops with about half the GIs on board, which were designed to make him look good but I'm sure made some of the soldiers feel good too so I've decided not to be overly cynical about the whole thing.

It's only fitting that Camp Stryker near the airport is home to a unit of Striker armored vehicles. These machines, with their .50 caliber main gun, stealthy wheels instead of tracks, and RPG-blocking grates, have proved tremendously valuable in urban warfare. Only problem: There aren't nearly enough to go around.
About one and a half hours' flying time later, we were touching down in Baghdad. What a weird world when you're actually happy to be in Iraq! Fear not, it didn't last long. At the Space-A desk I was asked to turn in my passport. Repeatedly the military, as with Buckley, asks to take your passport and in the past they've always gotten it back to me before I needed it. I assumed I would get it when I arrived at BIAP. Wrong. My passport was still in Kuwait. No passport, no getting any closer to the IZ and CPIC than Camp Stryker at the airport. Yet another wasted day.

Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately -- it's impossible to break your skull by banging it against the side of a tent. So I did the next best thing and found somebody to call Ali Al and find my passport, then arrange to have it sent on the next plane which was scheduled to show up at 2000. It didn't; the plane had been rerouted to Mosul instead. But there was supposed to be another plane in from Ali Al a few hours later and I was told it would have my passport. It didn't. Then I was told that CPIC had gotten my passport on a helicopter coming in early the next morning. There was no helo. Then it was supposed to be on another Air Force plane, but the hours given for its departure and arrival didn't match any flights. Finally, late the next day, I heard it was coming on an RAF plane. I like the RAF and trust them more than the Air Force and truly believed this time it would come. It did. I'm not ashamed to say I kissed my passport harder than I usually kiss either my cat or my wife.

Ultimately, while I would love to solidly place blame for all of this exactly where it's due, I'm not sure exactly where it's due. I did get an awful lot of "Wha? Duh? Huh?" responses from CPIC, which is irritating as heck but I'm not sure whether they made up the "vapor aircraft" or were simply relaying information from contractors at BIAP or from the Air Force. I will say this. Anybody who can make military transport planes and helicopters just disappear can be a valuable asset. I suggest that the parties responsible be found and parceled out to vehicle check points so that they can make suicide vehicles vanish in the same way those aircraft did.

Some months ago milblogger/photographer Mike Yon and a reporter with the Columbia Journalism Review who had also been an embed asked me if I thought DoD was intentionally trying to dissuade embeds from coming. Yon was acting on his own experience; the CJR journalist on what other reporters had told him. I said I would find out soon enough. But actually, I haven't. Yet I'm not so paranoid as to believe that what happened to me has only happened to me -- though perhaps I caught it the worst. On my previous two embeds, I slid right into the country as if I were naked and covered with grease. It was transportation within the country that drove me nuts -- and may yet again this time. Moreover, these delays fall hardest on freelance embeds who pay their own way and can't just sit around the $400-per-night Kuwait Sheraton cooling their heels until they finally get a plane. (I got the cheapest hotel in the city at about $75 per night.)

Further, I assume it helps to have a major organization behind you that can make calls and perhaps pull strings for you. But for the little guys who go places the big boys generally won't and provide an alternative to the "everything is going to hell" stories the MSM churn out daily, there's no recourse. I wonder how many potential embeds and especially freelance ones reading this will throw their hands up in the air and say, "No way!" to the idea of coming to Iraq and perhaps even to Afghanistan.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













October 5, 2006 12:32 PM  ·  Permalink

Back to Iraq

By Michael Fumento

I'm b-a-a-a-ck! I'm in Kuwait waiting -- and waiting and waiting -- for transportation into Iraq. First by C-130 to the International Zone in Baghdad, then Chinook or Blackhawk to Camp Ramadi, then by the "dagger run" in Ramadi proper and First Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Camp Corregidor. That's the delightful place where I ended up my last Iraq trip.

You may have heard that things have not gone well in the area since my last visit, including the report saying essentially that Anbar Province is lost politically if not militarily, whatever that means exactly. I can say that Ramadi specifically has apparently worsened since my last visit in April. Last month, one of the 19 SEALs I first saw combat with received the dubious honor of becoming the first SEAL to die in the war. His team leader was shot shortly thereafter, but went back to work three days later with a bullet still in his shoulder. Last week 13 police recruits were blown up there. The next day's papers quoted John Abizaid saying "It's very, very clear that Anbar province is a problem that will have to be dealt with over time. It's a violent area; it's a tribal area; it's a tough area." But he then added that "over time" means no new troops in the foreseeable future. Not that that always helps.

Shortly after I left, First Brigade of the First Armored Division was brought in from Kuwait as an emergency measure to help stabilize the situation. They set up five forward operating bases and they've taken a steady stream of casualties since then. I'm not entirely sure why, but the readiest explanation is that since they are a whole brigade (seemingly an oversized one at that), they have far more people to kill than a battalion-plus unit like that at Corregidor. I've also heard some of their FOBS are -- or at least originally were -- so small that George Washington could throw a silver grenade across them. Another guess, though, might be that that armor has a limited role in guerrilla war and the infantry in an armored unit is trained to work with armor. Guerrilla wars are best fought with light infantry and special counterinsurgency forces. Be that as it may, First Brigade had the only spare troops so the job became theirs by default.

More ominously, the enemy has also obviously brought in crack snipers from other countries. The last death in 1/506th was from sniper fire. Closer to home (in a personal sense), last month an embed with 1/506th took what was presumably a sniper round in the ribcage that tumbled a bit and popped out his chest. I think he got out of the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany just last week. The photographer embedded with 1/506th who was shot right before I got there in April was definitely sniped, suffering two broken legs. Incidentals like machine gun fire, rifle fire, IEDs and mortar barrages just add a bit of spice. My efforts in returning, therefore, have revolved around snipers.

First, since the snipers like journalist meat because killing a journalist brings a better chance of media attention, I've bought the new ACU uniform so I won't stand out. In a quick scan of the field, the difference between a camera bag and a carbine may not be readily noticeable. (And no, I'm not allowed to carry a weapon -- even to throw off snipers.)

The newest Army combat uniforms
ACU, which stands for "Army Camouflage Universal," or "Army Combat Uniform" comprises tiny green and khaki squares in a "digital" pattern. Currently it's only issued to overseas soldiers but will eventually become the standard uniform for all soldiers. The Marines also have a digital pattern, but with brown and khaki squares. The only thing I don't like about the new uniforms is that they are a 50/50 cotton-nylon blend as opposed to the cotton uniforms our soldiers have worn probably going back to before World War II. This makes them "breathe" less well and thus they are less comfortable when it's hot. Also, if you get set on fire the nylon can melt to the skin causing terrible burns. It is plastic, after all. Other than that, the ACUs are vastly superior. They get rid of the lower jacket pockets, since they're useless with body armor. Velcro has replaced all the buttons except those for the fly. They have two sets of pockets on the trousers to make up for the ones no longer on the jacket. Plus, and here's my favorite, one arm has slits for three pens. The designers definitely had journalists in mind. Another nifty feature is a sheath that holds a thin Styrofoam pad that protects the knees and shins if you have to suddenly drop onto them, whether to aim a weapon or a camera. You'll still see guys wearing outside knee guards like rollerbladers do, but I find them somewhat restrictive when you have to sprint and in any case don't be fooled into thinking they provide ballistic protection. They're not Kevlar; just plain old hard plastic.

My second line of defense against snipers is the loan of improved armor with side ceramic plate protection. It's probably no coincidence that last reporter was hit where he was.

Third, my physical training this time comprised jogging with full armor and all the gear I'll be wearing on patrol plus a bit extra. Contrary to Hollywood portrayals, a sniper cannot put a scope on a rapidly-moving target. The men of the 101st know that and whenever they aren't under cover, they jog or go at a dead run. Nothing can provide perfect protection; sometimes you have to expose yourself to get a good shot whether with a rifle or a camera. But I can cut the odds. Perhaps my best defense is that I am most certainly spooked, just not quite spooked enough to stay home. With the bad guys usually going overboard to impress Allah and collect on those 72 virgins during Ramadan, which just started and will continue past when I leave, I expect to see combat and probably lots of it.

Finally, my reasons are the same as before -- and as confirmed by the literally hundreds of letters I have received since my last trip. Almost nobody has both the guts and the ability to do this sort of thing, so it falls to those of us who can to do so. Earlier this year when I was in Ramadi, there were only three other embeds in all of Al Anbar. Another vet who just set out on his own odyssey to both Afghanistan and Iraq, John Newberry, put it thus:


Why again am I going? Short answer. Because the media do a lousy job of reporting the stories of U.S. service members and what they do. For the most part, the wars being fought by OUR people in Afghanistan and Iraq -- their successes, heroism, and valor -- is reported by some overpaid, makeup-wearing talking heads, sitting on their fat rear-ends in an air-conditioned hotel. They rely on Iraqi stringers to bring the stuff to them and then call it reporting. And what we end up with is a short scroll across the bottom of the TV screen. What we get is crap. And it seems that as a consequence Americans don't get it.

Myself, I'm not entirely sure how many Americans want to get it. We have become fat, lazy, and decadent and willing to let a tiny handful of our people like those brave and battered souls in Ramadi make all the sacrifices in what should be a national struggle against those who insist we convert or die. Whatever it was in the beginning, Iraq is now part of the war on terror. My own job has become victim to a populace that would rather be entertained than informed, rather be immobile than mobilized, rather be told what they'd like to hear than what they need to know. For lack of funding to my account my 7-year tenure with Hudson Institute ends the day I'm scheduled to come home. My life as a journalist may be ending. Here's to what promises to be a hell of a last fling!


Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Give
Learn More













September 29, 2006 12:07 PM  ·  Permalink

Another journalist shot in Ramadi (And why are you reading it here first?)

By Michael Fumento

Shortly before I arrived in Ramadi in April, photographer Toby Morris was shot by a sniper in both legs as he stood in the middle of the street to take a photo. Now Joe Talley of TA Productions has been shot through the ribcage with the round popping out his chest. Fortunately, medics were able to save his life and he's now recuperating at Landstuhl, Germany. Since neither journalist worked for a major network or newsmagazine, their injuries don't count to the MSM. In any case, they went unreported. The non-coverage reflects the arrogance of the Baghdad press corps of which I've complained, which pretends that the most dangerous place in all of Iraq is a hotel and the second most dangerous place is "Route Irish" from the airport into the city. Never mind that no American reporter has ever been killed in a Baghdad hotel or on Route Irish, nor that Route Irish despite still being called "The Highway of Death" is far safer than it used to be, or that taking a helo or the armored "Rhino" bus drops your odds of being killed or hurt to virtually zero. If you're going to cover a war from a hotel, as indeed Time Magazine's entire cover-story "investigation" on Haditha was conducted by emails from Baghdad, you've got to be able to pour on the BS nice and thick.

September 14, 2006 07:32 PM  ·  Permalink

Marc Lee, Navy SEAL, RIP (And then there were 18)

By Michael Fumento

In my Weekly Standard article The New Band of Brothers, I wrote of the courage and professionalism of 19 Navy SEALs in Ramadi whom I tagged along with and photographed and filmed during a firefight. Now there are 18. Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marc Alan Lee has died a true hero's death, laying down his life for his fellow men. He is the first SEAL killed in Iraq.

According to an embedded reporter with the Stars and Stripes newspaper, an enemy sniper shot and wounded one of Lee's SEAL comrades at the start of a firefight that lasted over an hour. Another SEAL was wounded in the battle that proved to be one of the largest in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency. Lee was posthumously awarded the the Silver Star, one of the highest awards in the military, along with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Firefight in Ramadi's Mulaab District. Marc Lee is at the extreme right.
"During the operation, one element member was wounded by enemy fire. The element completed the casualty evacuation, regrouped and returned onto the battlefield to continue the fight," the citation reads. "Petty Officer Lee and his SEAL element maneuvered to assault an unidentified enemy position. He, his teammates, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams tanks engaged enemy positions with suppressive fire from an adjacent building to the north.

"To protect the lives of his teammates, he fearlessly exposed himself to direct enemy fire by engaging the enemy with his machine gun and was mortally wounded in the engagement. His brave actions in the line of fire saved the lives of many of his teammates."

After watching them in action from a rooftop I shared with them, I wrote of Lee and his comrades, "Those SEALs fight like machines." But they're not, of course. This SEAL left behind his parents and young wife, who says they were planning a family. He also truly cared more about the people of Ramadi. "He said they were begging for the military to release them from this tyranny and were appalled at the things that were going on," his mother Debbie Lee told a reporter.

God bless our troops in Iraq; God bless the men fighting to liberate Ramadi; God bless the SEALs.

August 10, 2006 06:51 PM  ·  Permalink

Peaceniks make fasting easier all the time

By Michael Fumento

Was a time when fasting at the very least meant eating less. But while our soldiers are sacrificing their lives for freedom, their detractors don't seem to be too keen on sacrificing anything at all. Thus we have the Cindy Sheehan "hunger strike," which allows smoothies, coffee with vanilla ice cream, and Jamba Juice. Michelle Malkin has a terrific video send-up of the Sheehan Pigout Hunger Strike at Hotair.com.

Now the peacenik group CodePink, according to the Washington Post, "has issued a nationwide call for people to go on at least a partial hunger strike, if only for a few hours, to show their opposition to the war in Iraq." Partial? For a few hours? Does that mean if you were planning on having two Twinkies and a bag of chips between lunch and dinner you should cut out one of the Twinkies? The life of a war protestor is a harsh one indeed!

July 31, 2006 05:57 PM  ·  Permalink

Letter from a 1st Armored Brigade (Ramadi) mom

By Michael Fumento

Hello friend,

It has been a great comfort to me to find your website. My son is serving in Iraq at Camp Ramadi with the 1st Armored Division. We never hear of them in the news. He does not write and rarely phones. His wife is at his home base in Friedberg Germany and she does have phone contact with him. Her phone contact has been very sparse lately. All the TV news is full of the rape/murder charges of some GIs. It is very discouraging to us families. War is an ugly business and it is hard to be proud when all around us are voices telling of every indignity the enemy suffers. No one seems to care about what our soldiers are suffering. Hardly anyone seems to care that because of their sacrifice, airplanes are not getting hijacked any more, embassies around the world aren't getting blown up and Americans are not hostages in the hands of cruel and ignorant men. I don't have an education or a pedigree. I'm just a mom who loves her son. I appreciate your work in Iraq and I thank God for your safe return and the news you brought with you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Lynne

Dear Mrs. [omitted]:

I wish I could argue with what you say (and as a lawyer I'm a very good arguer) but most of your letter rings quite true. In WWII, FDR was always doing everything he could to integrate Americans into at least the deprivations of war. Most of his rationing programs were bunk; the idea was that rationing meant sacrifice and sacrifice was good. In Vietnam that all changed, as LBJ sought to insulate the public from the war in order to not distract from his incredible expansion of the welfare state called "The Great Society."

I liked the movie The War Tapes because it brings the war home. The soldiers in it actually have it much better in terms of comfort and safety than your son does but the point is made.

Yours Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

July 25, 2006 10:15 PM  ·  Permalink

The Media vs. the US in Iraq, pt. 287

By Michael Fumento

According to an article in today's Washington Times, "One retired officer attendee [at a closed-door conference last spring at Fort Carson, Colo.] made notes and e-mailed his minutes of the session to other officers. The notes say there was general agreement on one issue: the 'mainstream media'largely ignore progress. A commander said an embedded reporter filed a generally positive story on the operation in Tal Afar, only to see his stateside editors gut it and apply a negative spin."

In fact, editors have grown increasingly resistant to embedding reporters with combat units, something they demanded be done before the invasion in March 2003. The purported reason: They think contact with U.S. service members hurts the reporters' objectivity. They come to see the world through the eyes of the troops," said the retired officer's e-mail. Now, newspapers and magazines rely heavily on Iraqi stringers who telephone in reports from various combat scenes.

"We are clearly winning the fight against the insurgents, but we are losing the public relations battle, both in the war zone and in the States," said the e-mail.

July 17, 2006 05:55 PM  ·  Permalink

Update on the Band of Brothers and Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Despite MSM-fed rumors to the contrary, there obviously was no Fallujah-style sweep into Ramadi. What did happen was that First Brigade, First Armored Division came to town from Kuwait. They quickly established no fewer than five Forward Operating Bases, which greatly bolsters coalition firepower in the city. Add to this that Iraqi Police are now operating in town and the pressure on the bad guys has definitely increased. The plan is to squeeze the enemy out of town like toothpaste from a tube and despite the tremendous violence I saw there, I believe it will work.

Regarding the 1/506th of the 101st Airborne, they still operate in the Mullaab and OP hotel areas and have enlarged the size of one of them. Attacks on 1/506th patrols are down right now but IED activity is up. Meanwhile, the unit has suffered no new fatalities since I was there. Allah Akbar! I asked if the downturn in fighting perhaps reflected an unwillingness to come out and fight during the dog days of summer (Don't think that because they were raised in it the Iraqis like the heat any more than the Americans; they don't)I was told that was quite possibly the case. So as temperatures begin to cool in September, we may expect hostilities to heat up. As it now stands, I'm planning to return in late September. Inshalla. (God willing.) Meanwhile, here are links to the next-to-last and last "Gunfighter Newsletters" from Cpt. "Crazy" Joe Claburn of C Company. Anyone wishing to send cards, letters, batteries (probably AA and AAA are best), or wet wipes to members of the battalion may do so via Cpt. Claburn. As you can see from his photos, there is no need to send him a comb.

ATTN: CPT JOE CLABURN
1st Battalion, 506th Infantry
Unit #73700
APO AE 09381

July 13, 2006 09:09 PM  ·  Permalink

My Wkly Std cover story on "New Band of Brothers" posted

By Michael Fumento

Want the real deal on what's happening in Ramadi, the most terror-infested city in Iraq and "the graveyard of the Americans," as graffiti around town declare? It's in my new article "The New Band of Brothers: With the 101st Airborne in Ramadi." It includes lots of my photos and (in a first for me) streaming video. There's footage of two firefights, a near-sniping, and the horrific "Ramadi Run." If you hate me, it's all the more reason to read it since you'll enjoy watching me be shot at. Here's a sample.

If you're not donning body armor and a helmet halfway through the piece, I'll double your money back!

June 14, 2006 03:55 PM  ·  Permalink

My photos from Fallujah and Ramadi now posted

By Michael Fumento

Yes Virginia, there is an Iraq outside of Baghdad. And there are lots of neat things to photograph besides the latest victims of a Baghdad bombing. Here's a slideshow presentation of 250 of them, from darling tykes to fierce fighting, to one of the strangest war injuries you'll ever see. (Is that a good teaser, or what?)

May 25, 2006 12:50 PM  ·  Permalink

Believe it or not, Cindy Sheehan is still at it.

By Michael Fumento

Cindy Sheehan, who eats her young (or in any case exploits their dead bodies) got 30 minutes of fame instead of 15 and keeps trying to go for 45. It would be nice to think that she's getting a lot less attention because the media have finally figured out that her only real cause is Cindy Sheehan. But actually, it's probably just burnout. In the event, her antics could be worth following just for entertainment value -- especially if you like groaning. For example, I just learned from www.cindysheehanwatch.com that Sheehan went on a spending spree with her soldier son's $250,000 life insurance policy but somehow couldn't find loose change to give his body a headstone. We know because Vanity Fair had a two-page photo spread of her lying on the grave in a black catsuit. (Myself, I like to wear my Speedos when I visit loved ones in cemeteries.) It's not every day that Vanity Fair features trailer trash, but then Cindy Sheehan is by nobody's account an ordinary woman.

May 17, 2006 12:02 PM  ·  Permalink

Letters from relatives of soldiers I wrote of in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

I incorporated some letters reacting to my Ramadi blogs in my latest article, "The Band of Brothers (and their Mothers)." I was touched. Perhaps you will be, too.

May 12, 2006 07:29 PM  ·  Permalink

My article "Back to Falluja" in current Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

The first article to come out of my trip to Al Anbar, Iraq is the cover story in the current Weekly Standard. You can read it there or online on my website. I've also posted more photos.

May 3, 2006 07:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Iraq Attack Spin Job

By Michael Fumento

In an article in the print edition of the April 30 Washington Post, there's a line graph based on information from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It's entitled "Insurgent Strikes," and declares: "Insurgents continue to launch a high number of attacks on Iraqi police and army troops." Two problems. The first requires a bit of background knowledge. There are far more Iraqi police and soldiers than just six months ago much less a year or more. Further, they are more and more being used in vulnerable positions rather than being allowed to hide behind fortifications and never come out. You'd expect a lot more attacks in these circumstances. BUT then there's problem number two. While the graph naturally shows peaks and valleys, it shows a clear DECLINE in attacks from the height in January, 2005 of 160 per month to only 120 per month in March of this year. This is like the activist groups who say, "People continue to die from AIDS," but never acknowledge they're dying at a fraction of the rate as formerly. Recently I blogged on how the Washington Post reported that the media have turned against the war, assuming they were ever for it. Thanks for driving the point home.

April 30, 2006 08:36 PM  ·  Permalink

Goin' Home, with a Parting Shot at Military Contractors

By Michael Fumento

As I noted in my fifth Iraq blog, for all the talk of IEDs, snipers, and ambushes the really scary thing around here is the nightmare of being in transit from anywhere to anywhere else. Michael Yon, who more or less does this sort of thing for a living and has just begun blogging from Afghanistan, read Blog Five and commiserated with me by e-mail. So there would be another nightmare on the way out -- and then some. The small landing zone at Corregidor was easily reached, my Marine Chinook came in well before midnight for a change, and it was off to a major airbase at Al Taqaddum airbase. This allowed me to skip flying back into the Green Zone. Yeah!

After a few hours our C-130 arrived and we watched it being unloaded. It was actually rather fascinating, as bundled equipment would slide down the back "door" which also acts as a ramp and into the waiting arms of an incredibly dexterous receiving machine which grabbed it and immediately took off at high speed to deliver it. After a short period, we were able to board for about a two-hour flight to the huge Kuwaiti air base, Ali al Salem. Once again, by the time I got in it was past four and I was exhausted. Naturally my temporary tent was the farthest away, and while the officers I came with had a golf cart waiting to carry their equipment I had to lug my considerable stuff while taking several breaks along the way. But joy of joys, the next morning I was to fly out of the commercial airport and go home.

Not.

I awoke at four and showered and went to get my ticket for the earliest shuttle of the day, the 5:30 one. I was tempted to leave half of my ponderous equipment right there in the Kuwaiti desert but I managed to get it all to the shuttle stop by 5:15. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. Few things in the military are on time, so I wasn't particularly alarmed. But finally when a shuttle came at 6:30 and it wasn't mine I hit the worry button. I went back to where the tickets are issued (And what's with this ticket stuff anyway?) only to have them radio the shuttle driver who claimed he came by at 5:29. In short, he lied. Either he came and left way early or he never came at all. One way or another, I was screwed. The next shuttle for the airport wouldn't leave until 9:30 and arrive at the airport right about when my plane would be taking off. Taxis aren't allowed at Ali al Salem for security reasons and there was simply no way to get a ride with somebody.

There was nothing to do but catch that later shuttle and go to the American Airlines office at the airport to get a reissue. There is no American Airlines office at the airport. But I was able to call them from there. I was prepared to pay a fee but was shocked to find my ticket had become worthless. They wanted to sell me a whole new ticket, one way, at the same price as the round-trip ticket I had been issued. Did it say anywhere on my ticket restrictions that this would be the case? No, it simply said the ticket was non-transferable. Well, I wasn't trying to transfer it; I was trying to get a reissue. I've never heard of any such thing.

AA told me "Everybody does it that way." Wrong. But they did hold out that if I came all the way down to the downtown office that perhaps something could be worked out. So I grabbed what turned out to be the dumbest taxi driver in all of Kuwait. No, it wasn't just a language barrier. I had English instructions to the AA office that showed it was about a block from a major hotel and he repeatedly showed it to bilingual Arabic-English speakers along the way but he never did get it. Finally I spied the office and got out, whereupon he demanded extra payment for driving me around for an hour on a 20-minute trip! I don't think so. Then I walked into the AA office and was simply told what I was told on the phone. The trip was for nothing.

Note to self: Next time I'm trying to buy a ticket, pretend American Airlines doesn't exist. It shouldn't.

Thence another cab to the hotel where I had stayed during my way into Iraq and a walk to the nearest travel agency, which was able to get me a trip back for about $1,000. This brought the entire cost of my trip -- all out of pocket -- up to $4,000. I hope my wife enjoyed our summer vacation, because that was it.

But let's go back to The Shuttle that Never Came. I can be really paranoid and assume that this is the first time the shuttle driver ever did this. But I doubt it. I suspect he does it a lot and that a lot of soldiers miss their planes out of Kuwait International; they just don't have a forum to tell anybody about it. In their case, the military picks up the cost of a flight but they still have to stay a day later than they're supposed to -- which I can attest really hurts. Or they miss a day of leave -- perhaps emergency leave. "Oh, Sergeant Jones, if you'd only come a day earlier! Your poor mother was calling for you right before she died!"

In short, our troops are being screwed and while I complained most forcefully to my contact in Kuwait, I'm sure nothing will be done. Fact is, the only people we can say are clearly winning in this war are the contractors. I wish I had made a point of writing down comments about them, but troops constantly complained to me about huge amounts of money handed to contractors who don't deliver or who insist the amount they originally agreed upon wasn't enough and instead of being told to fulfill their contracts anyway, the Defense Department simply throws more money at them. I've read a number of such stories in the papers; but now I've seen them in person.

Yes, I know all conflicts have war profiteers -- unscrupulous individuals and companies that take advantage of the "fog of war" to rip off their own countries and incidentally hurt the war effort. But we are vastly more dependent on contractors in this war than any previous one, when we had soldiers doing these jobs. Nor does a long history of war profiteering mean we should continence it. I think too often we allow contractors to not do their jobs because they claim they had to spend extra money on security. I think they're just keeping it. Instead of the money going to schools and hospitals and providing proper services to the troops, it goes right into bigwig pockets.

Nor is it just a matter of morale or some such. In a guerrilla war, building a school or hospital or laying electrical lines or providing flowing potable water can be far more important than killing bad guys. To the extent these projects are not completed -- and vast numbers are not -- it's threatening the war effort. These people are scum and may as well be working for bin Laden. If they violate their contracts, force them to comply -- don't reward them. If they can't comply, jail them. They're traitors. From what I've seen, this war can still go either way depending on the willingness of the American public to stick it out. From what I saw can still go either way. Everybody likes to target Cindy Sheehan -- as indeed I have -- but really she's just an idiot voice crying in the wilderness trying to cling to 15 minutes of fame that expired long ago. It's contractors and those who refuse to hold them accountable who have the ability to make or break this war.

View Iraq 2006 photos.

April 26, 2006 08:56 PM  ·  Permalink

Camp Corregidor in Central Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

I knew that on the basis of size, Ramadi is the most Mooj-laden and violent city in Iraq. That's why I tried to get here last year and finally succeeded in making it here this year. Still, even within Ramadi there are places that are more or less violent. So when the public affairs officer at Camp Ramadi asked where I wanted to go, I told him: "The redder, the better." Red refers to a hostile areas, as opposed to Baghdad's Green Zone. And to his credit, he delivered, sending me to the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne in central Ramadi.

During my entire trip, this was the only time I arrived at a new area before 4 am. So there was time for a debriefing with the commander, Lt. Col. Clark. He told me and a fellow reporter, one with Army Public Affairs, that if it was action we wanted we were going to get it. IEDs were the worst problem, even though firefights and other forms of conflict were frequent. A few weeks earlier they encountered a mini-"Blackhawk Down" situation. A Humvee was hit by an IED and two soldiers died. Then an M-1 Abrams tank was sent in to retriever the Humvee. They keep a large number of tanks and other armored vehicles at Corregidor -- for good reason. Unfortunately, an IED made a lucky strike on the tank, cutting the fuel line and setting it on fire. Fortunately, the men inside scrambled to safety but now things were really getting messy.

You just can't leave a tank, because it has equipment and armor available to nobody else. If the Mooj got hold of pieces they could determine ways of defeating these otherwise almost invincible behemoths. Further, they could sell their information to the Chinese or somebody else with a vested interest in blowing up M-1s. Had it been a chopper, it could have been destroyed with an airstrike. But not so a tank. Further, these tanks carry a powerful 120 millimeter main gun and three lesser guns. The rounds for these weapons were "cooking off" in the fire, keeping both Mooj and Americans at a distance.

So the 506th had to set a perimeter around the tank all night long. As in "Blackhawk Down," the burning tank attracted bad guys from throughout the city. They kept pouring into the area to kill the infidels. But with their night-vision equipment and laser pointers, Americans own the darkness in Iraq. The Mooj came and they died. By the time the tank had stopped cooking off rounds and been recovered, 30 Mooj had been confirmed dead and one additional American. In a sense, disaster had been turned to victory. But even for the 506th, three men dead was an exceptionally high toll in only 24 hours.

The colonel also told us that body armor and helmet were required any time we left a building, even I it was just a few feet to the next building. This was quite an inconvenience until you got used to it and the Army reporter with me said he'd been to forward operating bases (FOBs) throughout Iraq during the last nine months but had never been to one with such a requirement. But there proved to be a good reason. Civilian buildings that the Mooj could temporarily take over were so close to the camp they could practically heave mortars at us by hand. On average, the camp gets shelled every other day although I went four days before we were hit. Radar that detect incoming shells supposedly allow you 10 seconds to take cover, but I'm told it's usually closer to three. Plenty of places in the camp aren't even 10 seconds from cover. The body armor rule went into effect when the first round of a barrage crashed down about 10 meters from the entrance to the headquarters and exactly where two men had been standing. I took a picture of the depression in the thick sidewalk where it landed. Reddish flower blossoms covered it, almost as if it were still filled with blood.

I also got my first look at what an intact 122 millimeter mortar looks like. Yes, I know how big 122 millimeters is, but it was still a lot bigger than I had thought. By way of comparison, the largest mortars normally used by the U.S military are only 81 mm, which probably have less than half the explosive power. Those are the ones you usually see in movies.

An added "attraction" is that snipers also occasionally fire a round into the camp. There are at least two minarets within firing distance, and they use them knowing of our unwillingness to attack "religious" buildings even when they're clearly being used for military activity. They take shots at the raised observation posts on a regular basis, though hitting anybody walking in the camp would take an extraordinary shot. That said, one night I was using a tiny LED flashlight to guide myself across the camp, having wrenched my knee in a hole during daylight earlier. A shot rang out nearby and off went the light! I preferred the chance of another minor injury to a prospect of a bullet that almost certainly would be powerful enough to penetrate my body armor.

Unfortunately, Corregidor is also short on amenities. Just a couple of months earlier they received their first portable toilets. Before that, everybody peed into tubes planted into the ground and used an open latrine that regularly had to be emptied and the contents burned. Chow had also been awful, but by the time I arrived it was terrific. But on the whole, compared to places like Camp Fallujah -- much less the Green Zone -- it was something of a rat hole. The reporter who came in with me and took part in the same two firefights as me wanted out quickly not out of fear -- he could have abstained from further day patrols -- but because he had grown a bit too used to comfort and he wasn't going to get it there.

Myself, I could have stayed considerably longer knowing that I was practically guaranteed a firefight every time I went on a day patrol and knowing that I was grossly deficient in collecting interviews. That's what happens when you volunteer for every patrol. But my flight home was set. Still, the Mooj gave me a nice going-away present. Just an hour before my helo flight from the tiny LZ at Corregidor, they hit us with three 122 millimeter mortars that apparently landed fairly close. I was in an internet area at the time with insufficient roof protection, so everybody scrambled to put on body armor and get to a safer area. This time we did get our full ten seconds. I didn't even feel put upon. After all, you haven't really been to Camp Corregidor until you've been shelled.

View Iraq 2006 photos.

April 26, 2006 08:29 PM  ·  Permalink

Another Firefight (One that Came Close to Never Being Blogged)

By Michael Fumento

I sure learned the hard way about the veracity of the Chinese expression that begins: "Be careful what you wish for . . ." We were told we might encounter the bad guys because you always "might," but by noon yesterday I would be a seasoned combat photojournalist.

We joined up at 7 am with Alpha Company, with whom we'd been laughing and joking the night before so we'd already gotten to know many of them and they'd gotten to know us. It's nice to go outside the wire with people you've already bonded with bit, not that I would not trust anybody in the 506th to be there for me if I needed them. We three reporters loaded into an M113 armored troop carrier that carries a .50 cal machine gun and can much better withstand both an IED and an RPG round, especially because it has a sort of grill (commonly called a "cheese grater") that will make an RPG round explode a foot away from the armor.

After perhaps a 5-minute ride we were dropped off in a different section of the city from the day before, near a former hotel that was so bombed out it looked like a good hard breath would knock it over. I think it was about 60% Iraqi and 40% us. The Iraqis were supposed to do the main patrolling while we entered the taller houses in the area and went up to the roof to cover them with light machine guns and M203 grenade launchers. Those are tubes that attach to the bottom of M-16s.

We did always knock or even ring the doorbell first -- honest -- but if there was no quick response the gates got kicked in. One just wouldn't budge but a large soldier gave it an almighty kick and while the lock and chain held, the side pulled right out of the concrete to which it was attached. Thirty seconds later a guy from next door shows up and offers us the keys . . .

Inside they kicked a few doors and were trying to knock in a really beautiful one when -- lo! -- a woman pops out of nowhere with the key. We don't like messing up people's places but we also don't like Mooj popping out from nowhere and spraying us. So once you enter a house each room must be checked.

It was at the next house where we started hearing gunfire. I asked somebody how long it had been since we dismounted. Forty-two minutes! These bad guys can't shoot for a darn, but they certainly are punctual.

We took up positions on the roof but the walls were very high, which is good protection from snipers but not good for observation. I think we took rounds directly on our position, but it's a funny thing; you often can't tell. But we weren't in position to fire back. So we'd listen to the shooting, joke around a bit, listen to the shooting, and joke around some more. One soldier was teased because his smoke grenade had gone off while hooked to his load-bearing equipment on his vest. Somehow this had managed to burn his uniform just below his crotch. The other soldiers made him open his fly to check his skin for burns, saying his resistance was because he was afraid he'd find his genitals baked. Tension relief under fire is muy importante.

Finally we "exfilled" (exfiltrated) to another house when it seemed the shooting had ended. This would be a feature of the firefight to come. Just when things got peaceful and you thought it was all over, suddenly the Mooj would start firing again and with more weapons than the round before. We occupied the top of another building, which had a roof on the left side and an excellent observation position on the right with little more than glass windows to hide any part of your body behind. I hid a bit of myself behind a pillar but most of me had to remain exposed. Here we heard bursts of fire every few minutes but most of it was from the M240 light machine gun manned by Pfc. Robert Killion from the roof position on the left side of the building. Out of four confirmed enemy KIA that day, Killion would get two.

So I gave up on our machine gunner and went over to Killian's position, also manned by Sgt. Jonathan Falk. I'd been shooting most video and still needed some good combat stills and I jokingly ordered the two men to just pick out some inanimate target and fire at it while I snapped away. It didn't prove necessary. Soon enough they were banging away and I got my first good shot with Killion's spent brass casings bouncing of the chest plate of my body armor. I also got good footage of an enemy round missing Killion's head by a matter of inches. He wasn't too happy about that.

It became like a bizarre joke; enemy firing would stop for awhile and we'd be ordered to head downstairs but just as soon as the men pulled back from the wall the firing would start up again and it was back to the wall to fire back. Meanwhile, the machine gunner where I had been standing on the other side of the building was letting loose. So I went back over there and watched a soldier lay a couple of grenade rounds on the enemy. One struck home, making it three dead Mooj killed from the house we occupied.

But the Mooj had been firing back. About where my head had been there was a large pock mark in the opposite wall. It might have drilled me had I remained there; I can't say. But the window I'd been standing next to had a nice clean bullet hole that clearly would have gone right through my side where I have absolutely no protection and continued until it reached my heart. It put me in a pensive mood, but I didn't have long to contemplate it before we were told it was time to exfil and start trekking back to the pickup point. The shooting had stopped and once again it seemed like the fighting was over. Actually it was about to get a whole lot worse.

As soon as everybody was out of the houses the bad guys hit us big time. Machine gun and rifle fire seemed to come from every direction. In part, perhaps, this was because of sound reverberations off the walls and possibly it was because it was coming from every direction. Americans tossed several smoke canisters to conceal us as we crossed the first wide street, but since the Mooj tend to fire wildly anyway I'm not sure how much it helped. All they do is point their weapons in our general direction and squeeze off as many rounds as they can. But a haphazardly-fired bullet when it hits you has the same impact as an expertly aimed one.

We could have pulled back into the houses and simply shot it out with the Mooj but we would have ended up there all day, and given the Mooj a chance to call in more and more of their buddies. We also would have endangered the civilians inside. So we took option number two: run like crazy. It was just like the scene towards the end of "Blackhawk Down," when they ran the so-called "Mogadishu Mile" to the stadium. I don't think they ran a mile and I know we didn't, but it seemed like several at the time.

The tactic: One machine gunner darts across the street or alley to provide cover from that side. He's wearing a ton of body armor, pounds of ammo, and a weapon considerably heavier than an M-16 rifle. But if somebody had clocked him he would have qualified for the Olympics. Then a second machine gunner guards the street or alley from the first side. Both machine-gunners lay down suppressive fire to keep the Mooj heads down. Now the rest of us would fly across the intersection. It doesn't matter how much gear you're carrying, or whether you wrenched a knee or ankle. It doesn't matter how much junk is lying in your path. You will fly. I saw a few guys fire their rifles sideways as the crossed particularly wide areas.

At one point I was crossing the street at a non-intersection to join up with the main body of men when a machine gun began spraying from behind me in what sounded like exactly my direction. Maybe it was; maybe it wasn't. But the shielding walls on the sides of the street looked a million miles away from me at that moment and all I could think of was dropping flat like a pancake onto the middle of the road, then rolling to the other side. I kept my camera up at all times (the footage makes you dizzy), but probably two dozen GIs saw me go down and were sure I was hit.

One brave soul, who turned out to be Sgt. Falk, risked his hide by jumping from his relatively safe position along the wall to pull me in. I yelled: "I'm okay! Go back!" But darned if he wasn't determined to rescue me! My lack of injury doesn't make him any less a hero in my book. As soon as I got to the wall I stood up all the way so everybody could see I was alright, but then another fellow apparently slipped and all eyes turned to him. But he was okay, too. He just needed water so I gave him my Camelbak water bladder to drink from, assuring him I didn't have cooties. The non-injured helping the non-injured!

Speaking for myself and probably every man there, I was far too busy trying to stay alive to be scared. At one point on my tape you can hear me singing "We've got to get out of this place . . . " from the Rolling Stones song. I don't even like the Stones; but it seemed appropriate at the time. And so we went from protective wall to protective wall, across alleys, streets, and open spaces that looked like they were forever long. As we sat under one wall, machine gun bullets tattooed it above us dropping plaster on some guys' heads.

As we approached our pickup area and relative safety, I came across an Iraqi soldier with blood streaming from his face onto his body armor and yelled for a medic. To the first American soldiers who looked at him it appeared it was just a bad nick. But -- and if you think I'm making this up I have pictures to prove otherwise -- he'd apparently taken a ricochet round sideways through the nose! Unreal. For all intents and purposes he now had four nostrils.

Finally we approached the protected position whence we had begun, with concrete on top and one side. Safe at home, right? Not in this firefight. "Incoming!" somebody yelled, and we dived that few extra feet for cover. There was an explosion in the distance and we saw a plume of smoke, but it turns out to have been a Mooj firing an RPG at a tank coming to support us. The rocket pretty much just bounced off.

The tank was too late, but we did have support from some M113's. Nothing came from the air until we reached the safe point, when a jet swooped over and flew off. The rules of engagement are very tough for Ramadi for two reasons. First, it's heavily populated and it's all too easy to accidentally kill civilians. Second, with more and more joint American-Iraqi patrols it's also all too easy to kill friendly soldiers. Even 500 lb. bombs can't be dropped in the city. But the Iraqi soldiers don't necessarily understand this. Knowing I was a reporter, they pointed to the fellow with four nostrils and then to the jet and told me "Ameriki (Americans) no good!"

Well excuse me! The Iraqis did perform admirably by Iraqi standards. They held their positions and suppressed enemy fire. But without our guns, they'd have taken terrible casualties. As is, other than the nose shot only one of them was injured, in the calf, and he was removed from the battle zone immediately and presumably under heavy fire. No Americans were injured, but two video cameras caught me hitting the dirt so you could say I wasn't a casualty but I played one on TV.

In the M113 on the way back you might have expected a sort of stunned silence, yet it was anything but. The sounds were of excited chatter and outright laughter. Even later, as we reporters looked at each other's video footage we laughed all over again. It's hard to explain. The original laughter was surely part in relief. And keep in mind that we knew nobody had even been badly hurt on our side. But it was also like the best amusement park ride you've ever been on. Whatever else it may have been, it was thrilling. All three of us reporters immediately inquired as to whether there would be another patrol that afternoon or the next day, but found patrols had been halted because of some upcoming activities that will remain unmentioned here.

And yes, it was thrilling for the soldiers as well. "I don't think we've been under heavy fire like that before," Pfc. Tony Wickline of A Company told me. "I mean, we've been shot at a lot but today . . . " Then he just started shaking his head and muttering: "Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh."

View additional photos.

April 23, 2006 11:51 AM  ·  Permalink

Firefight at Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

A Humvee guards the alley. Photo by Michael Fumento
A Humvee guards the alley. Photo by Michael Fumento
Downtown Ramadi is the meanest piece of real estate in all Iraq, and you get a hint of that pretty quickly when you get here. I heard machine gun fire as soon as I opened the door of the Humvee I drove in that was part of the nighttime convoy from Camp Ramadi.

Small arms fire here is so common that after awhile you stop hearing it, unless it's the crack of a sniper rifle from some Mooj trying to get lucky. During our in-briefing I also learned that an imbed journalist was shot twice, albeit both times in the legs and because he acted stupidly and left his protective cover to try to try to take a group photo. I might get shot, but not for some idiot reason like that.

Taking enemy fire. SEALs assume fighting positions. I get the hell out
of their line of fire. Photo by Michael Fumento
Taking enemy fire. SEALs assume fighting positions. I get the hell out of their line of fire. Photo by Michael Fumento
I'll write more on the real estate here, called Camp Corregidor, but while it's fresh in my mind I'll describe today's activity.

I'm embedded with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Its official moniker and symbol remains the Screaming Eagle, but in a case of life imitating art they now call themselves "The Band of Brothers," after the book and highly-acclaimed HBO series of the same name. They aren't actually paratroopers anymore, but they're still a tough bunch.

Today's patrol would be with Charlie Company, out here less than four months but already badly bloodied. Out of 132 men who arrived in January, 32 or so had been injured enough to be sent back to the rear or had been killed. For this patrol, we were joined by another tough bunch, 19 Navy Seals. Those guys "do war" like a French chef does cooking, as I would soon see.

We started out in a convoy of Humvees and M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles but only traveled a short distance before we were invited to jump out and join the Iraqi Army patrols.

These weren't like near Fallujah, where they were split about 50/50 between "jundi" and Americans, but rather had two Americans attached to each patrol with the Iraqis in charge. This was the toughest bunch of jundi I'd been with, which turned out to be a happy thing.

The purpose of the mission was basically knocking on -- and if need be -- knocking down doors to look for Mooj or Mooj caches. But I think they're also meant to draw out the bad guys into fights and we were told we had a good chance of getting one. They say that it takes the Mooj about 45 minutes to arrange an attack, so we spent our 45 minutes entering houses and poking around.

A jundi with a PKC light machine gun. Photo by Michael Fumento
A jundi with a PKC light machine gun. Photo by Michael Fumento
I feel bad when we do this, but mostly the people seem to understand. Today one woman scolded me like an angry squirrel for violating her home so I just let her vent without telling her "Ma barif Aribi," or "I don't understand Arabic." Anyway, the kids loved us.

Sure enough, right at the three-quarters of an hour mark, a white van with a .51 caliber machine gun engaged an Iraqi patrol. Those guns will put a whole through most any wall you might try to take cover behind, but the jundi were lucky. Or maybe not.

The Mooj never hit anything they aim at. At that very moment my camcorder ran out of tape because I'd forgotten to check how much was left and hadn't thought to bring a spare. Aaaaargh! Fortunately the Armed Forces photographer embedded with me advised me to just back up the tape some because whatever I would lose would surely be less important than what was to come.

We broke into a house to observe from the roof and provide covering fire for the Iraqis, then we went back down and all hell broke loose so we went storming back up. The enemy was using four vehicles, one for shooting and three VBIEDs -- vehicle-borne IEDs driven by Mooj wanting looking for their 72 virgins. The VBIEDs posed the greatest threat but our guys quickly dropped 40 millimeter propelled grenades on them.

SEALs have already begun defensive fire, as can be seen from casings
littering the roof. Within seconds of this photo they will take the fight to the enemy with deadly efficiency. Photo by Michael Fumento
SEALs have already begund defensive fire, as can be seen from casings littering the roof. Within seconds of this photo they will take the fight to the enemy with deadly efficiency. Photo by Michael Fumento
A SEAL near me had an old M-79 grenade launcher that I think was phased out shortly after Vietnam in favor of the M-203, a tube slung below an M-16. I wondered why he'd chosen to carry it but quickly found out. He fired it like it was just another appendage, taking out a VBIED with a single round. The SEALs fought like machines. T-1 Terminators have nothing on them. In fairly short order, all four vehicles were destroyed.

More bad guys were on the way and we called in air support, which arrived in the form of an old Army Huey and a newer Marine Cobra. But as they came in, all of us were extracted us. I was ticked. Why? Unfortunately, in all the excitement I kept using the camcorder and got terrific video but forgot to take still photos. But when I get back I'll try to make stills from my tape. Also, the Army combat photographer whom I bunked with says he can make some good stills from his video camera and will email me them.

Meanwhile I've got at least one more daylight raid before I have to leave on the tortuous route back to the States. Let's see if I can't get some good shots. View more images from this blog.

April 22, 2006 01:21 PM  ·  Permalink

Ramadi and Miserable Military Down Time

By Michael Fumento

The primary enemy of the freelance embedded reporer in Iraq is the incredible amount of lost time caused by military transportion procedures.

First, it take takes a full day to fly from the United States to Kuwait. Okay, that's not the military's fault. But then you have to stay one or two days to catch your C-130 transport into Baghdad International. I lucked out and got a Royal Air Force seat on standby. Once you've arrived, now matter how early you get there, you have to wait until 2 or later in the morning to catch the armored Rhino into the International Zone. I can understand only traveling the route at night, but night is falling at about 8 now.

Once there, you get picked up by Public Affairs and brought back to the temp quarters and in-process. That takes about five minutes. Then you wait some more. If you're lucky you catch a chopper to your final destination that night. Twice now I have not been lucky. The first time a Marine general kicked us all out of two choppers (choppers almost always travel in pairs.) This time I was told they were surprised I had arrived that day even though I told them I would probably arrive that day. So another day wasted.

Finally, you actually get to the landing zone of your major camp at about 4 a.m., whereupon you are supposed to be met by somebody who knows why you're there and takes you to the media quarters. It never happens that way. So last night they just drove me around for over an hour before dumping me in temp billeting. Mind you, the major camp may not be your final destination and for both Fallujah and Ramadi it was not for me. So then you have to wait and wait and wait to get transportation out to your real final destination. It's utterly maddening.

Here at Camp Ramadi, I wasn't even on the list of people who arrived last night so they didn't even know I was on base. The result is that I missed the mandatory press briefing you get before being sent to your embed unit. In my case, that's going to be central Ramadi, because that's where most of the fighting is, including the umpteenth attack from a mosque last night that got a lot of news attention. So since I missed the briefing this morning, I can't convoy out tonight. I convoy out tomorrow night. Two more days wasted.

Ultimately I'll have only a few days at my Ramadi embed, yet that's the one I was most looking forward to. Bottom line: During my three week trip I will practically be able to count the hours I was doing something exciting or benefiting what I'm writing. Ramadi is really hopping now, it's just a couple of miles away, and I can't get there from here. Aaargh!

Yes, I learned in my four years in the Army that "military efficiency" is an oxymoron and time is something best thrown away. It drove me nuts then and it's driving me nuts now.

View Iraq 2006 photos.

April 18, 2006 11:37 AM  ·  Permalink

Easter Report from Iraq

By Michael Fumento

We went on yet another patrol yesterday, but each is different than the one before. For one, while we always go on foot, this time the Humvees came along for fire support. A number of Marines had been killed in the area. But there would be no action this time. What was most distinctive, though, was that this was a relatively long patrol of four hours and the temperate reached 99 and stayed there. I wasn't going to say anything, but when the Marines half my age started complaining I felt free to chime in.

It's incredible how much water you consume in such conditions. I emptied my three-liter Camelbak bladder in a couple of hours, but fortunately apparently the purpose of the Humvees was to resupply us. At the same time, the other bladder rarely needed emptying. Almost all your water exits via your pores. Just as well; I hate scouting out positions where no civilian will see me and get offended and no sniper will have a good shot. I can see the headline: "Embedded Reporter Killed while Peeing." The best defensive against possible snipers -- as opposed to probable or definite ones in which case you take more dramatic covering and concealing actions -- is just to keep moving. A moving target is hard to line up in cross-hairs.

The Marine nodded. I later found out he'd killed three, including one who was prone on the ground -- an amazing shot. "The round went into his neck and tore a path right into his lungs." I thanked him for the forensics report.

The main avenue is called Market Street, and that it is. The fruits and vegetables looked truly wonderful -- as good as anything in the States. Then there were a few stands with cheesy toys and t-shirts and what-not, some with various snacks, and some drink vendors. A jundi politely offered me an orange drink of sorts but "La, la shukran" (No, no thank you.) I have no idea what little microbes are swimming around in that glass but I can't afford to find out. My stay here is all too short to be spending part in a clinic and much of the rest in the john.

We got the usual greetings from both kids and adults, and a couple of the children spoke a bit of English and practiced it on us. For my part, I'm extremely glad I spent time learning basic Arabic expressions. Mostly they are a way of bonding with civilians and Iraqi soldiers, but sometimes they really come in handy. I've learned more since coming, of course.

Towards the end of the patrol we saw Abu Ghraib prison, which I thought was many miles away but, no, there was the wall and the watch towers. It's been in the news so much you expect to see something special but, well, its walls and towers. Nothing more. We also walked through another Shiite slum and for the first time I saw barriers placed across streets. They might be rocks, large concrete pipes, or even just piles of trash. Plenty of that laying around. I asked why they were there and was told the people were terrified of the insurgents. The Mooj don't like to walk, so usually stopping their cars stops them. In any case, it prevents drive-by shootings.

I should have explained earlier that I was embedded with three units in First Division, Fourth Brigade. It's commanded by an Iraqi and comprises mostly Iraqis with American MITT advisors. That stands for Military Transition Teams. Their purpose is to transition the Iraqis into an independent fighting force. It's actually an Army Special Forces job, but the Green Berets are essentially being used in what's supposed to be their secondary job as commandoes.

So MITTs are pulled together from conventional units. In this case, most were from an Army Reserve unit based in Richmond, Virginia. That was actually rather nice for me because it meant a lot of these guys were essentially neighbors of mine. One lived one city over in Alexandria, a couple lived in nearby Fairfax where my German classes are, and one had a condo in my own town of Arlington. One of the Fairfax guys knew about a bar called "Dr. Dreamo's" that's about a block from my townhouse, so he knew exactly where I lived. But we also had Marines mixed in, so your typical patrol would be about half Iraqi, one-fourth Army, and one-fourth Marine.

Yes, the Army guys badmouthed the Marine Corp sometimes. The usual complaint is that the USMC is too big on brawn, to little on brains and finesse. In this case, there was some definite bad blood. Marines were given orders to come through the area and shoot stray dogs and ended up plugging the cute little camp mascot. The soldiers said they knew it was a pet but killed it out of spite. I don't know. But certainly the soldiers completely respected and got along with the Marines who served alongside them.

As I type this, I'm now at Camp Fallujah waiting for the "bird" that will fly me to Ramadi tomorrow night. I still remember it quite well from last year and had no trouble finding the laundry and the Post Exchange, along with the Iraqi products outlet store next to it. That's actually something of a joke, since the Iraqis like most Arabs don't produce much in the way of finished goods -- although Iraqis at least have farms. Most of the stuff in the store is from Turkey. But I bought a few overpriced souvenirs anyway. Now when people say, "Why the heck did you go back to Iraq after what happened to you last time?" I'll be able to say it was a shopping trip.

Speaking of which, I also passed the medic station that I reported to last May before being medevacked to Baghdad and ignobly disemboweled. It was a strange feeling, especially since a Marine Chinook helicopter landed right while I was there to medevack somebody else. Far more pleasant to be an observer than a participant.

They've gotten rid of the media tent and replaced it with trailers. In theory, that's nice but my trailer had no electricity when I arrived. I was told contractors would come by to fix things but they took the day off. I'm typing by the light of a flashlight that fits on your head (I call it my coal miner's light) and while I have plenty of laptop batteries, I'm wondering how long the headlamp will hold out. Moreover, the problem with trailers is that the metal makes them great heat collectors without have the AC on. Still, the first time I came out here I was surprised they had AC at all.

It's also Easter Sunday today and the anniversary of the accident in which my wife was almost killed in a car accident, which we usually celebrate in some small way. (No, not her being killed but her not dying.) If I'm counting right, it was 14 years ago that I almost lost her and it was right here 11 months ago that she almost lost me. I shall endeavor to ensure that this time I not only come home but with all of my body parts intact.

View Iraq 2006 photos.

April 17, 2006 08:03 AM  ·  Permalink

A four-hour foot patrol on the outskirts of Fallujah

By Michael Fumento

Photo by Michael Fumento
An Iraqi soldier keeps his back to the wall. One less direction to be shot from. Photo by Michael Fumento
Photo by Michael Fumento
We take up positions opposite a row of buildings frequented by snipers. Photo by Michael Fumento
Photo by Michael Fumento
The dual patches are a strong symbol of US-Iraqi cooperation. Photo by Michael Fumento
April 15, 2006 03:11 PM  ·  Permalink

Patrolling an Outhouse and a Visit to OP3

By Michael Fumento

Photo by Michael Fumento
A Marine takes cover while on an ostensible raid in Nasser Wa'Salaam near Fallujah. Photo by Michael Fumento
Went on a patrol last night that was uneventful to the soldiers but I learned a lot. As we dismounted the Humvees we heard heavy machine gun fire close by but that would be the only shooting of the evening. The area we walked through was a shanty town called Nasser Wa'Salaam, a name which rolls off the tongue beautifully but it's a wretched, wretched area. In the U.S.we call an area a slum if people have fewer than 2 TVs per household. No, THIS is a slum. There's nothing like it in the U.S. It was basically an open sewer, with some running water but mostly pools. Most of the time you felt like you were in an outhouse on a hot August day. I wish my camera or camcorder could pick up smells -- but then nobody would want to look at the pictures or watch the video.

Street urchins followed us around in packs, begging for "Choccolata" and money. "U.S. number one! George Bush number one! Choccolata?" On safer patrols we do carry and hand out candy, but not on this one. We couldn't afford distractions. So we'd reply "Mokoo choccolata!" No chocolate! Still, you'd stop at a protected point, usually at the edge of a house or wall, and there they'd be wrapping you up like a street urchin burrito. At one point more than a dozen surrounded me and a Marine and I had to tell them to back off, as they were endangering both us and themselves. But you'd see them again. In fairness, a lot didn't want anything but to be friendly. Nasser Wa'Salaam is like the Sadr City of Fallujah, the ghetto into which Saddam herded the Shiites. But after decades of intermarriage it's now about 60/40 Shiite/Sunni. And while the Sunni wanted nothing to do with us, the Shiite -- kids and adults -- were delighted to see us. Often they were simply trying to make conversation and giving us high fives. One insisted on feeling my biceps. He squeezed and gave me a thumbs up. When I told them I was a journalist -- "Izmi sahafi" -- they kept demanding I take their photos.

So I'd pretend and they'd be delighted. But I already have about 40 urchin shots; that's enough.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Machine gun position attacked at OP3. Photo by Michael Fumento
The ostensible purpose of the patrol was to try to nab two IED layers in their home. Intelligence had identified them as layers but we wanted to find a cache, rather than simply grab them on the street. Alas, the Jundi seemed to have other ideas. Put bluntly, they didn't want to fight. So they made us simply walk in circles around the relatively safe Shiite area until finally the exasperated American advisors said to hell with it and we made our way back to the drop-off point. On the way back, we kept really low and quickly moved from cover to cover as we came within rifle range of a building infamous for housing a relatively good Mooj sniper. He's zapped a couple of people, but our guys haven't been able to get him because he quickly slips out. They can't even tell where he's firing from usually, so even a counter-sniper is no good. And, of course, we're not allowed to blast the building. Kinder, gentler war and all that.

Avoiding action is an intractable problem with the Jundi. As it's been put to me repeatedly, "They tend to be reactive; not proactive." They wait for the Mooj to make contact. When they do, they see their job as breaking off that contact with a mass of rifle and machine gun fire. They don't fire controlled bursts, which is how you kill somebody rather than just keep his head down. And they rarely go on the pursuit. I sat in the office of some vaunted "special forces" soldiers from Saddam's army that have joined the new Iraqi Army and listened to the U.S. commander of 2nd battalion tell them over and over, "It's not enough to defend your position, you must kill them! Do you understand that; you must go after them and kill them!" I don't think they quite understood. Likewise when I interviewed the commander of OP3, the site of the major action I described earlier, I asked him if he saw his job as not just sitting pat but sending out patrols to kill the bad guys. He evaded the question. I asked again. Then he emphasized taking prisoners for information. Yeah, that's all well and good but ultimately you have to kill people. With important exceptions, and perhaps more exceptions all the time, this just isn't in the Jundi way of thinking.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Spent shells at an insurgent position that attacked OP3. Photo by Michael Fumento
I learned a lot by visiting OP3. Apparently it was pretty much surrounded and the Mooj launched a layered attack. Some were at a relative distance; some practically across the street. We crossed that street and went up to the roof of the building and found spent shells practically lay in piles.

There was also a large blood stain where it appears one Mooj went to meet his 72 virgins.

I saw that OP3 wasn't attacked because it was weak. From the inside it looks rather like a medieval fortress and it had several look-out positions, all of which but one had a light machine gun and all were protected by glass windshields pulled off heavy Army trucks. All were badly smashed but had done their job. Basically, OP3 was hit because it was an intrusion into an area more or less under Mooj control. It will be hit again. And again.

Speaking of which, it was quite around Camp India and everywhere I went but Marines building an OP in a close-by town I can't spell (near Camp Hit) got hit with a mortar barrage. They had no cover at all. Fifteen wounded; two dead. Sad.

April 14, 2006 04:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Back to Fallujah

By Michael Fumento

It doesn't take very long out here to realize that you're not in Kansas anymore. After arriving at Camp Fallujah at 4 in the morning by Blackhawk from Baghdad's Green Zone, I had barely settled into my bunk in the transient tent when I heard the thump, thump, thump of outgoing artillery fire. Last year during my entire Fallujah embed I never heard a single round.

The military being the military, they arbitrarily decided my first embed would not be Ramadi as I requested but Fallujah again. But my tame little pussycat of a city from last May has sprouted long nails and teeth. Lots of people have returned to the city and tucked among them have been insurgents, along with terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. All want a crack at the infidels and their Iraqi lackeys. Further, U.S. troop strength is down from around 3,000 to 300 with Iraqi Army (IA) troops filling the vacuum. To the bad guys -- known by several names but I'll stick with "Mooj" for Mujahadeen -- that's an invitation to a party.

I later learned the artillery wasn't high explosive but rather illumination rounds called in to help fend off the largest Mooj attack this year in Fallujah. An Iraqi Army (IA) position called Operating Post 3 comprising about 80 IA and three Marines was stealthily enveloped on three sides by about 50 Mooj. The "Jundi," as the Iraqi soldiers like to be called, held off the attack with their AK-47 rifles and a couple of light machine guns. They only had to hold on for about 15 minutes for a Marine Quick Reaction Team to arrive, but in a war in which firefights often last a minute or two that was an eternity.

When the Marines did arrive they and the Jundi quickly switched to the offensive. For 17 hours they pursued the Mooj through the city, ultimately killing 18 and taking prisoners. One Jundi died with five Jundi wounded. What could have been an absolute disaster became, in this war of small actions and small arms, a stunning success. The Mooj will be licking their wounds for months to come.

On my second night in the area, in Karbala just northeast of the city, I was standing outside enjoying a beautiful moonlit night and watching the Jundi excitedly prepare for the arrival of a captured suspect terrorist. Suddenly I heard the brat-brat-brat of machine gun fire perhaps two miles away. Then all hell broke loose out there. I listened for awhile, then went inside to find out what was happening. It wasn't good.

Seven insurgents had attacked a checkpoint at a vital bridge over the Euphrates that I would later visit. The Jundi were already jumpy from having three rocket propelled grenades fired at them earlier in the day, two of which hit the bridge. They were now perhaps overeager now in returning fire from both the bridge position and an upper floor of a building near the bridge where they had more soldiers stationed. At some point the Mooj slipped out but in the meantime a Marine quick reaction force had arrived. The Marines, unfortunately, were unaware that it was Jundi on the bridge and took them under fire even as the Jundi started firing at the Marines.

The commander of the unit I was embedded with worked his walkie-talkie furiously to get both sides to cease fire. He succeeded just in time. The Marines were about to call in a helicopter gunship to fire up the "Mooj" on the bridge and in the building. Ultimately, although about 2,000 rounds had been fired off (300 Marine, 1700 Iraqi), nobody was hurt. No, it's definitely *not* like in the movies where it usually only takes one or two rounds to bring down a soldier. Unless a sniper is at work, it takes a lot of bullets to kill a man.

The next day on a two-hour foot patrol we heard another firefight and saw flares go up and smoke rising, though building blocked our view. I caught some of it on videotape and camera. Yet another firefight broke out fairly close to us but not close enough to hear. We moved towards it in case any escaping Mooj might come our way. None did. Now, even as I type this I'm told there's more shooting going on outside.

[Later entry.]

When I went back to Camp Fallujah to be handed over to another embed our Humvee broke down and while we were waiting for it to be fixed again there was the thumping of outgoing artillery. Finally we got to Camp India east of the city at 2 am, a medium-sized outpost. Exhausted, I quickly fell asleep only to be awakened by a number of loud explosions that sounded awfully close. They were. The Mooj had hit us with large (122 millimeter) mortars that flew over the camp and landed just outside. Very rude Mooj they were, but I got the better of them. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

View photos from Fallujah.



April 13, 2006 12:17 PM  ·  Permalink

Fighting in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Due to webmaster error, a news item was published here instead of Michael Fumento's blog. The news item has been removed.

April 9, 2006 03:39 PM  ·  Permalink

Arrival in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

Got to the Green Zone, now known as the "International Zone," at 4:30 a.m. The armored Rhino bus still only leaves once a night at staggered times, and this time it decided to leave really late. Until then I had been lucky, having caught a space available seat on a Royal Air Force C-130. But since that got me in a day early, apparently the Marines are not ready for me at Ramadi even though I told them I might be able to catch a space-A. I'm told I'll find out soon, which actually means right at the last minute.

The area around the airport has changed since last year. The first thing I noticed was blimps overhead. I'd heard that they were going to start using them, since they are much cheaper to use than UAVs and can stay up for long periods of time. An officer told me that the blimps are good at catching terrorists emplacing IEDs and setting up ambushes and have been used to call in fire if an ambush does occur. It's too bad we couldn't blanket the red parts of Iraq with them, but the cost would be horrendous.

Ugandans have also taken over security from the Iraqis and Georgians I saw last year. Judging by their smiles, they seem to be happy to be here. Of course, if you were from Uganda, why wouldn't you be? The area as a whole, comprising the airport and three camps, looks much more "relaxed" as it were in terms of wearing body armor and other hard-to-describe features. Shortly after the last time I was here a suicide bomber blew up a checkpoint relatively close to the airport. I don't think that's happening anymore.

Alas, inside the IZ my beloved Gurkhas are gone. Too expensive. They've essentially been replaced by Central and South Americans -- Peruvians, Hondurans, and the like. But again, this is a positive reflection in that the State Department no longer feels it needs to pay top dollar to the world's best mercenaries. It's too safe here for that. Even the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) appear to have been pushed out so they can fight, leaving guard duties to lesser soldiers.

There are about 45 embeds in Iraq right now, primarily the U.S. and U.K. From a chart I'm looking at now, there will be two other reporters at Ramadi when I'm there; one from CBS (though I assume he has a camera crew) and one from the AP. The great plurality, of course, are in Baghdad. As I blogged previously, it's a bit more comfy and safe staying right here. Besides, this is where almost all of the crowd-killing suicide bombing goes on.

To most reporters, the war comprises nothing BUT such attacks so why bother going with the troops and being where the fighting is? Never mind that Ramadi is probably supplying and training most of those suicide bombers. Such is the American journalist mentality.

View photos.

April 8, 2006 06:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Mike goes back to the sandbox

By Michael Fumento

On Wednesday, April 5, I depart for Iraq to become an embedded reporter with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, returning April 26. My sponsoring publication will be the Weekly Standard, but I will be paying all expenses. My station will be Ramadi, in the largest Sunni province called Al Anbar. It will be just down the block, so to speak, from my last duty station of Fallujah.

I will initially be with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division (Army). After that I will be sent to "the Military Transitions Teams who live with, train and mentor the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)." Generally they are led on patrols by two Americans.

I have chosen Ramadi because, while Baghdad gets all the attention since it's large and reporters congregate there because they can safely retreat to their Green Zone bars and hotels in the evening, Ramadi is actually the "hottest" spot in the country. It's the headquarters of Al Queda in Iraq and a way-station for foreign terrorists coming in from Syria. After the Battle of Fallujah, many of the survivors fled to Ramadi. I was scheduled to be embedded there part of the time on my last trip but got bumped by Ollie North and his crew.

If it sounds perverse to go to the most dangerous part of the country, that's the whole idea. That's where I'm most likely to see action or, conversely, at least be working with soldiers who have seen and will see action. That's where the news is; not behind walls and wire in Baghdad or in Shiite or Kurdish areas.

As to working with the ISF, again that's the most dangerous duty an embed can have not only because even the best ISF don't fight as well as Americans but because - to a great extent for that very reason - they're most likely to be attacked. It's what Bob Woodruff was doing when he suffered his misfortune. But while his luck was bad, his thinking was good. The future of this war is in the hands of the ISF.

It is an unfortunate fact that safety and getting the story are inversely related. Even the cliched advice I constantly get to "Keep your head down" can hardly apply when you're going as not just a journalist but a photographer. You can even fire weapons with your face in the dirt, but you cannot take photos.

All that said, I have been in physical training for this since January and am in the best shape I've been since my last foray. The part of my colon that ruptured last time and ended my trip has been removed and what's left is healthier than most people my age.

As to my reasons, it's not a mid-life crisis or I would've stayed home and bought a Corvette. In life, perception is often more important than reality. That is all the more true for war and especially for guerrilla wars. No success on the battlefield can overcome a negative perception conveyed by the media. Recently, the Washington Post's media critic asked: "Have the media declared war on the war?" The answer he provided was yes. The most serious dissent he got was from a Newsweek columnist who insisted the media had been against the war all along.

Regardless of whether it was right to invade, I believe we must win or be dealt a terrible setback in the war on terror. I also don't believe the media have the right to decide who wins and loses our wars. I have the training and the writing ability to make my little contribution to getting the truth out about our success (or failure) over there and I will use it.

April 3, 2006 05:34 PM  ·  Permalink

Woe is us in Iraq? Not hardly.

By Michael Fumento

The MSM, sitting on their fat butts in comfy offices in the U.S., would have us think Iraq is a tumbling house of cards. Oddly enough, journalists who go over there seem to have a different opinion. Among them is Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whose March 17 column is "Fighting Smarter In Iraq." He agrees that for a long time we fought dumb in Iraq but, "Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq."

"I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week," he wrote. "U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role."

Writes Ignatius, "A brutal stress test came on Feb. 22, when Sunni insurgents destroyed a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra. For a moment, Iraq seemed to be slipping toward civil war, but the Iraqi army performed surprisingly well. In many areas Iraqi forces -- backed up by overwhelming U.S. firepower -- helped restore order."

Ignatius concludes with the obvious, that he's only able to see so much of the war himself and "wouldn't pretend" it's "an accurate representation of the whole of Iraq. If that were so, the country wouldn't be in such a mess. But this is the way this war is supposed to be going. It's a few years late, but the new U.S. strategy is moving in the right direction."

I'll be going back to Iraq myself in early April with my primary mission being to observe the efficiency of the handoff to the Iraqi Security Forces. Unlike Ignatius, I'll actually be patrolling with the troops, both U.S. and Iraqi. I, too, will only be able to provide snapshots of what I see and hear; but my snapshots should prove interesting indeed.

March 17, 2006 01:32 PM  ·  Permalink

Headline: "Hussein Says US Beat Him"

By Michael Fumento

Well yes, we did as a matter of fact. Took a mere three weeks.

December 21, 2005 03:15 PM  ·  Permalink

Who says the MSM always ignores good news from Iraq?

By Michael Fumento

Two items in two days from the Washington Post. In "Military Cites Drawdown in Parts of Iraq" (Dec. 17), we're told "The U.S. military is scaling back combat forces in regions of Iraq's Sunni Triangle that were once fiercely contested, freeing thousands of troops to shift to other trouble spots or to go home without being replaced, according to senior military officials." It further notes, "Since February, U.S. forces have moved out of 30 of their 110 bases in Iraq, transferring 17 of them to Iraqi security forces." Do you see the word "quaqmire" in there? The article describes a shopkeeper in Baqubah who "used to shut his shop early, but now, under newly repaired streetlights, he keeps it open until the 10 p.m. curfew, tripling his earnings." It concludes by quoting a Baqubah off-duty police officer. "Of course everything is getting better concerning the security. There's a crucial difference between last year and this year."

In "GIs in Iraq Choosing to Re-Up," a day later, the Post noted that, "Since 2001, the Army has surpassed its retention targets by wider margins each year, showing an unexpectedly robust ability to retain soldiers in a time of war." It focused on a GI who re-enlisted the same day he became eligible to receive the Purple Heart after IED shrapnel ripped through his shoulder. He even saw a bright side in being wounded. As a Purple Heart recipient, "I'll get free license plates for life." Um, yeah. But the point is made and it's not Rep. John "Cut and Run" Murtha's claim that "the Army is broken." The terrorists have broken Murtha's will; our military is just fine, thank you.

December 18, 2005 01:27 PM  ·  Permalink

Nomination for Cover Fib of the Year

By Michael Fumento

There it is in big, bold red letters on the cover of the December Atlantic Monthly: "Why Iraq Has No Army." The article itself carries the same title. And the contents of the article? Fourteen pages all about Iraq's army.

December 6, 2005 06:58 PM  ·  Permalink

The "40 dead civilians" mystery solved

By Michael Fumento

In my recent NRO piece on the latest propaganda efforts to portray U.S. troops as the bad guys, regarding the use of white phosphorus, I wrote: "It's not enough that whenever we bomb a terrorist safe house we're accused of killing 40 civilians and no terrorists. (Why always 40?)"

Howard Hayden wrote to tell me:

"Forty occurs with monotonous regularity throughout the Bible and all early writings from the Middle East, but there's a reason for it. The word for 40 and the word for scads (zillions, thousands...) were the same (or very similar) word throughout the region (such as Arabic, Farsi, ancient Greek). Even in Russian, where the word for a huge number is (my spelling) soric soricov (40 40's). So when you read that Moses spent forty years in the wilderness, or it rained for forty days and forty nights, it was most likely not 40. Ali Baba and the forty thieves, ditto."

Interesting! Now, Howard, explain to me why the civilians we kill are always women and children attending a wedding. Nah! I can figure that out for myself.

December 3, 2005 04:58 PM  ·  Permalink

Just what does "withdrawing" from Iraq mean?

By Michael Fumento

Everybody's talking about it, but nobody in public at least seems to realize how exquisite a maneuver drawing down U.S forces in Iraq is unless you just want to cut and run and let the country collapse as Pennsylvania Dem. John Murtha does. It isn't a simple mathematical formula of being able to withdraw X number of Americans as soon as Y number of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reach a certain fighting ability.

The most important complicating factor is that the ISF are almost entirely light infantry. They have little armor or artillery, no close air support, virtually no air reconaissance, a couple of dozen small boats for a navy, and not even the proper bureaucracy to make sure men are supplied or paid. Without all of these, they have absolutely no hope of prevailing.

Some of the assets can continue to be operated from Kuwait or offshore, such as fighter/bomber support. But even air support from slower, shorter-range helicopter gunships, the awesome AC-130 fixed-wing gunships, and A-10 "Warthogs" must be based in-country. Why Iraqis are not being trained with and given these weapons is a good question, one they are asking, and the answer seems to be that if a civil war breaks out we'd rather they have access to nothing bigger than a RPG or mortar. Be that as it may, until they have this equipment and are proficient with it, we'll have to provide on-site support. This is one reason setting timetables is as dumb as the Bush Administration and military strategists say. A timetable for what?

That said, a modest draw-down of the right units in the short term and a more substantial one in the longer term could make a lot of sense. With few exceptions, the enemy wages war not with the rifle but the improvised bomb. Fewer Americans mean fewer American targets. It could also help deflate terrorist claims that America plans to be a permanent occupying force. Iraqi leaders are also claiming the U.S. is holding them back from fighting the sort of war necessary to defeat savage terrorists, according to a Sunday Washington Post story. This echoes the only complaint I heard from Marines and soldiers when I was in Iraq, that we were trying to win with a "kindler, gentler military."

But a complete pullout should no more be considered than was withdrawing from South Korea in 1953 or Germany in 1945. Nor will the world, especially the Islamist enemy, be oblivious that the country that sacrificed 58,000 lives over nine years in Vietnam couldn't stomach much more than 2,000 deaths and three years fighting in Iraq. Further, the chief "insurgent" is a Jordanian and about 10% of the enemy hail from outside countries. Whatever the merits of invading Iraq, it is now the focal point of the war on terror. It is neither just nor reasonable to expect the Iraqis to carry the burden of this fight alone.

November 27, 2005 06:25 PM  ·  Permalink

White phosphorus has no place in a kinder, gentler war

By Michael Fumento

Here we go again. It's not enough that every time we bomb a terrorist safe house we're accused of killing 40 civilians but missing the terrorists. (Why is it always 40?) Then we're told we must turn both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo into facilities fit for Martha Stewart. Now the defeat-niks are screaming about our use of white phosphorus shells during the bloody battle for Fallujah last year. Known to U.S. troops as "Willy Peter" or "Willy Pete," and capable of being packed into a huge array of munitions, WP is a burning agent that can be used as a smokescreen, a smoke marker, or an anti-personnel weapon. It's hardly new, having been first used in the 19th Century while becoming a fixture in World War I. Nor should it be news that it was used at Fallujah. "The Fight for Fallujah," in the March-April 2005 issue of "Field Artillery gives explicit detail on how WP was used in the battle, for screening, marking, and killing.

Yet it's being treated as a major new revelation because of an Italian video made available on the Internet titled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" -- as if the use of WP necessarily involves a massacre or as if there haven't been awful massacres in recent years using nothing but knives, machetes, and clubs.

The accusations against WP are two-fold. First, it's allegedly outlawed by the Geneva Convention because it's a chemical weapon. And, being a chemical weapon, our using it puts us in the same category as Saddam, or so says the popular leftist blogsite Daily Kos. But according to the authoritative website globalsecurity.org, "White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory." Is it a chemical? Sure! So is something else you may have heard of. It's called "gunpowder." And those chemicals used in high explosives? Yup, they're chemicals too.

Second, supposedly WP is allegedly quite horrific in that when it makes contact with a soldier, even just his clothing, it can burn his flesh all the way down to bone. Nasty, yes. But remember this was being used against men who were sawing off civilians' heads with dull knives. Which is a more terrible weapon?

Fact is, the American weapon of choice remains high explosives. WP's best use against personnel is to flush them out of foxholes and trenches where they can either surrender or be shot or blown up.

Finally, it's claimed that some civilians were hit by WP. Unfortunately, when you have an enemy that not only hides among civilians but hides as civilians (in total violation of the Geneva Convention, you Daily Kosers), any weapon is a potential threat to non-combatants. As we see on a daily basis, the terrorists' primary enemy is Iraqi civilians. If you want to save civilians, kill terrorists.

November 16, 2005 03:40 PM  ·  Permalink

Another Reason to Keep the Troops in Iraq (Cindy Sheehan)

By Michael Fumento

Cindy Sheehan, who may be the only American more desparate for attention than Jesse Jackson and recently compared Hillary Clinton to Rush Limbaugh, says she plans to tie herself to the White House fence to protest the 2,000th death of an American serviceman in Iraq.

"I'm going to tie myself to the fence and refuse to leave until they agree to bring our troops home," Sheehan said in a telephone interview last week. "And I'll probably get arrested, and when I get out, I'll go back and do the same thing."

Arrest her? Goodness, no! That's her exit plan from the fence. Leave her there and maybe the crows will do the world a favor and eat her tongue out.

October 25, 2005 01:41 PM  ·  Permalink

Encouraging on-the-scene look at "The Emerging Iraqi Army"

By Michael Fumento

The emerging Iraqi army

By Robert H. Scales

Published October 14, 2005

I traveled to Iraq this week with a group of military analysts. From my visit I concluded that the greatest change in the military balance over since last summer has been achieved by the Iraqis Security forces. Their story is only partially told by the recent spike in numbers of Iraqi army battalions from only a few a year ago to 117 today. But soldiers know that the effectiveness of a fighting force is better measured by intangibles such as courage, will to win, skill at arms, leadership, cohesion and allegiance to a higher cause. These are factors that media amateurs and Washington insiders have difficulty comprehending.

We visited the Iraqi 9th Mechanized Division located in Taji a few miles north of Baghdad in one of the hottest and most contested regions of Iraq. The unit was activated last October and has yet to form completely. It is commanded by Gen. Bashar, a thirty-year veteran and, like many patriotic, innovative and self-reliant officers, a victim of Saddam Hussein's brutality. The general created the division by calling up many of his old regular-army comrades. Three quarters are veterans who have been recruited from every province and ethnicity in Iraq. The division's motto is, appropriately, "Iraq first." Gen. Bashar built his division from a junkyard. In less than a year his soldiers picked through acres of destroyed Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers to patch together a fleet of over 200 operational fighting vehicles.

Read on.

October 14, 2005 06:30 PM  ·  Permalink

If you don't think Iraq is integral to the war on terror . . .

By Michael Fumento

. . . Al Qaeda's Number Two man Ayman al-Zawahiri disagrees with you. From his letter of July 9, 2005 to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to the head (and headsman, as in "decapitator") of Al Qaeda in Iraq:

"I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam's history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era . . . "

Further:

"Al Qaeda's ambitions do not stop at Iraq's borders. Establishing the political dominance of Sunni militants in Iraq is only a first step -- a means to an end -- in realizing Al Qaeda's ambitions of imposing its control over the broader Middle East. Under Al Qaeda, Iraq will serve as a terrorist haven and staging ground for attacks against Iraq's neighbors and quite possibly Western nations."

Oh, and by the way, no he did not sign his letter "Just kidding."

October 12, 2005 10:01 PM  ·  Permalink

Shouting Sheehan Bawls over Losing Media Eye to Rita

By Michael Fumento

She left a message on the leftist blogsite dailykos.com sniffing, "I am watching CNN and it is 100 percent Rita .... even though it is a little wind and a little rain ... it is bad, but there are other things going on in the country today ... and in the world." Yes, that tiny little "me, me, me" world inside Cindy's mind. This apparently was too much even for some Kos readers, causing Sheehan to claim she posted this early on before the full extent of the storm became known. Actually, early on authorities thought it was going to be much worse. Further, she lied. Wrote a later poster on Kos: "Before today I would have just believed you, but..

Cindy, these posts have time stamps."

Even the left may be realizing that this yapping little dog balancing herself on her hindlegs atop the corpse of her brave soldier son stands for absolutely nothing but Cindy Sheehan. I don't know that we can even trust her when she praises the 9/11 terrorists -- but I'm willing to accept the possibility . . .

September 28, 2005 11:01 AM  ·  Permalink

Casualties of War

By Michael Fumento

My colleague Chris Brown has a good piece at FrontPage Magazine comparing casualties in the Iraq war versus those of other American wars as well as putting terrorist casualties in proper perspective. We can all agree that in a very real sense, one American death is too many. But compared to previous military actions casualties from this war are incredibly(and thankfully)light. What would earlier generations of Americans think of suggestions that we cut and run from Iraq because we've incurred as many deaths over the last two years as we had during mere hours of Civil War battles?

September 20, 2005 02:49 PM  ·  Permalink

Bochco DID add a Klingon! (sorta)

By Michael Fumento

In response to my column saying that "In Steven Bochco's Reality is sacrificed to the God of Diversity. Why didn't Bochco also include a Klingon?" somebody did just that. What? No Vulcans?

September 12, 2005 08:10 PM  ·  Permalink

How did they kill and capture so many non-existent bad guys?

By Michael Fumento

"U.S. Troops Sweep Into Empty Insurgent Haven in Iraq," declares the headline of a Washington Post piece of Sept. 11. Yet in the piece itself we read "at least 550 suspected insurgents have been killed or captured" in the operation (as opposed to five Iraqi troops and one American.) How do you kill or capture 550 insurgents in an "empty insurgent haven"? Only the Washington Post and its hairdresser knows for sure.

September 11, 2005 08:26 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Apparently there's Really No Such Thing as "Self-Evident"

By Michael Fumento

In response to your Fallujah article, here is an excerpt from Kevin Drum's blog in the Atlantic Monthly.

[313 words omitted regarding reporting by Knight Ridder's Tom Lasseter.]

If Lasseter is right, and he obviously has the street credentials to be taken seriously on this, Anbar is about as bad now as it was before last November's offensive; no one has much hope that it can be pacified; and the troops themselves now routinely think of Iraq as another Vietnam. If this is the way the military feels, is it any wonder that reporting from Iraq has taken on a distinctly defeatist tone?

Cat In The Hat

Dear Cat:

Lasseter has told us nothing about Iraq and everything about Knight-Ridder, that it deserves its reputation as the American Al Jazeera. If "Anbar is about as bad now as it was before last November's offensive" then when I walked down its streets I would have been kidnapped, had my head sawed off with a dull knife, and been available as a video download for ghouls. Insofar as I'm typing this to you, you may presume that did not happen and that therefore Lasseter was not telling the truth. For my part, I have little trouble believing my own eyes and experiences rather than the agit-prop of a pathetic "news" agency that went absolutely bonkers after one of its own columnists, Mark Yost, dared claim that K-R was deliberately obscuring progress in Iraq.

Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

September 5, 2005 09:42 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Bochco Bites Back (with Gums)

By Michael Fumento

The following pathetic responses (with my replies) are from the PR stooge for Steven Bochco's anti-war, anti-reality FX series Over There concerning my critique.

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I'm writing in response to your column in the New York Post this morning.

In the future, feel free to call me if you have any questions about any programs on FX or need production notes on any of our programs. I would be happy to provide you with materials you need to write a more informed column.

It's obvious to me that you have no knowledge about the background of the military technical advisor for Over There. I think if you would have asked, you would know that he is, to use your word, a "true" military technical advisor. He is a former U.S.M.C. Staff Sergeant and his ten years of service included an 11-month tour in Iraq where he was a Fire Power Control Team leader with an ANGLICO unit.

While there have been some complaints with regard to the authenticity of the pilot (first) episode, the majority response from soldiers and military personnel was much more positive/favorable with regard to episodes two and three. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of reviews written about Over There were good to outstanding. The only negative reviews the show received were written by critics who believed that the series should have taken a political position but did not.

To buttress your opinion of Over There based on one posting from an antiwar blog is pretty weak. Yes, I know, you could have found plenty more postings to support that antiwar premise. That said, I assure you that I can provide you with as many, if not more, emails/blog postings/letters/etc. from soldiers/veterans of OIF that have a favorable opinion of Over There.

I respect the fact that you were an embed and have personal knowledge of what it is like in Iraq. I know other journalists who were embedded in Iraq who have seen the show and happen to believe it is an accurate depiction of what soldiers face in Iraq. They recognize that the series takes dramatic license at times but they clearly understand it is not a documentary. I screened the first three episodes individually for several soldiers who had served in Iraq and they had a few criticisms, but overall they believed the show got it right. Tony Perry, the military staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who was also embedded in Iraq, screened it for a dozen Marines who had served at least one tour in Iraq, most of them had served two tours. You should read his article published in the Los Angeles Times (July 27) to see those soldiers' comments.

Finally, I respect the fact that you're entitled to your opinion and it's fine if you don't like the show. However, for you to write that the military technical advisor on Over There deserves the firing squad is reprehensible. He has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in Iraq. If you had bothered to pick up the phone and ask a question, I can only assume that you probably would not have written such an insulting and irresponsible comment.

Please feel free to call because I really would like to discuss this with you.

Sincerely,
John Solberg
Senior Vice President, Public Relations
FX Networks
[phone number omitted]

Dear Mr. Solberg:

Right. That's why a unit couldn't get air support for 36 hours, instead of the usual less-than-30 minutes. That's why the squad had no reinforcements, no artillery, no armor, and even the heavy machine guns on the two Humvees present weren't used. That's why the enemy marks its IEDs with white flags, to make sure to warn off Americans. That's why the Humvee gunners (yes including episodes two and three, the "more accurate" ones) have no shielding? It's why a missile or bomb would be used to take out 20 Stingers in episode three, making it virtually impossible for forensics to determine all could be accounted for. (Yes, I know that was necessary to the plotline to make the intelligence officer a liar and make the Americans ruthless killers of civilians.) It's why even though some members of the squad carry grenade launchers only one grenade was fired during episode one with none during those oh-so-accurate episodes two and three.

In episode three, the GIs question why an airstrike would be used against two terrorists, without wondering why they won't fire grenades or a mortar and wipe them out within minutes. Oh, but wait, even though they're an infantry unit they have no mortar! It's why EOD simply fails to show up to disarm or detonate a car bomb in episode two, even though the incredibly-professional EOD makes it a point to be on-scene in 30 minutes if possible. And sure, legs can keep moving forward even everything above the waist has been blown clean off with that one fired grenade. After all, Washington Irving's horseman rode without a head! Does a former Marine who served in Iraq really not know all this? Even the water bottles are wrong! Evian in Iraq? No, Mr. Solberg; Iraq is not LA. Americans in Iraq get their water from a Kuwaiti company, not the French. I could go on and on, but to what avail. You either haven't got a clue or you do have a clue and don't care. All you care about is making money and slamming the military and the war effort generally.

Nor do I care about the favorable reviews you've gotten; that's just the blind and biased following the Bochco. I would recommend to you the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article of July 26, 2005. I believe the title speaks for itself: "These soldiers say 'Over There' is 'bogus.'"

If your military advisor does give accurate advice, then you're overriding him at every turn and he should have resigned in disgust. Since apparently he hasn't, he sold out the uniform I and so many others have proudly worn. But maybe a firing squad would be too harsh; he should just suit up and have a real soldier rip every patch off his uniform.

Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I did read the Seattle P-I story but evidently you didn't read the LA Times story or have no desire to read anything from anyone who said positive things about the show because it doesn't fall in line with your opinion.

I will stand by what I said about our technical advisor. For you to claim that he isn't a "real" soldier is offensive. You know nothing about him because you don't care to know anything about him.

Also, you shouldn't make any assumptions about my political position just because I live in LA. My father spent 26 years in the Air Force and I have always supported our military and will continue to do so.

Sincerely,
John Solberg

Dear Mr. Solberg:

I briefly listed 14 errors in the first three episodes, some small and some stunningly huge. Your response is that of the consummate politician: "I will stand by what I said." You didn't respond because you COULDN'T respond. You've got a rotten little show and you know it.

To repeat: We have three alternatives concerning your carefully-selected "military advisor." He's totally incompetent, he's a liar, or he's willing to see his advice constantly ignored for the 200 pieces of silver you tossed him. I suggest putting him in a locked room with a real Marine for 15 minutes and let's see what "conversation" ensues.

Finally, if you call portraying our troops fighting each other with knives, beating and torturing prisoners, not being able to show up to disarm a bomb or even fire a grenade, and bombing civilians for the sake of it when even for military reasons it would have been much smarter to launch a raid as supporting the military then I guess we should say the same of Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War. When will we be treated to footage of you or Mr. Bochco getting behind an anti-aircraft gun and pretending to shoot down American planes?

Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

August 21, 2005 07:20 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Beautifully said (from a soldier's wife)

By Michael Fumento

Dear Mr. Fumento,

Thank you for your column in the August 8, 2005 edition of the Press Journal (Vero Beach, FL). As my husband makes his way to Afghanistan, we have two very close friends and a nephew that have returned from Iraq.

It pains me to read the paper and see the negativity imposed by the media (and now the TV show "Over There"). I thought being a journalist meant reporting the news in an unbiased forum. All I can see is Bush bashing and disrespect to all of the families who have loved ones over there or loved ones who have died. There is no better way to make a family feel worse then they already do when their loved has died then to tell them and the public, over and over again, what a waste, through a medium such as the media. I actually do not read/watch anything to do with Iraq or Afghanistan on purpose because I know better. I know why we are over there. I, along with my four children, support my husband and respect the reason(s) he is there. Do we like it? No. Are we concerned for his safety? Absolutely, everyday. But I would never tell him I do not believe in what he is doing or what this country is doing. That is un-American. Can you imagine if they were journalist for those countries? How many do you think would be causalities for speaking out against their government? It is amazing, when in the comfort of our home, behind our high speed internets, cell phones, blackberries, etc, that we forget why we can have such a strong opinion and print it in a newspaper for all to see. You know better than anyone, the deplorable conditions the soldiers are faced with on a daily basis. Do they actually think that spewing negativity is going to make them come home faster? All it will do is show terrorists that America does not back up its President or the men and women serving or those who have died. In the mind of a terrorist that may mean there are "Americans who do not believe in their government, lets attack again and make them hate their government more to put pressure on the President to pull out". Am I the only who sees that? Clearly not and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Trish Walsh

August 17, 2005 09:54 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (1)

Cindy Sheehan Watch II

By Michael Fumento

Saint Cindy Sheehan, martyr by proxy, is still trying to stretch her 15 minutes of fame and she is up to 4,200 hits on Google News. Problem is, as sympathetic as the MSM is to her cause they're just plumb running out of new things to say about her. Maybe they're also getting the idea that readers are getting tired of the nonsense. In any event, the more we hear the less sympathetic she becomes.

Here are some excerpts of a speech she gave to Veterans for Peace at Any Price just before setting off for those 15 minutes:

  • Then we have this lying bastard, George Bush, taking a 5-week vacation in a time of war.
  • So anyway that filth-spewer and warmonger, George Bush . . .
  • You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East.
  • The Iraqi people aren't freer, they're much worse off than before you meddled in their country.
  • You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine
  • And if you think I won't say bullshit to the President, I say move on, cuz I'll say what's on my mind.
  • Another thing that I'm doing is -- my son was killed in 2004, so I'm not paying my taxes for 2004. (Um, I wouldn't try that Cindy.)
  • When I was growing up, it was Communists. Now it's terrorists. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything.
  • I got an e-mail the other day and it said, "Cindy, if you didn't use so much profanity there's people on the fence' that get offended" And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god-damn-it? How, in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence'?"

And then there was this:

  • I don't want him to exploit the honor of my son . . .

No, that's your job; right Cindy?

August 15, 2005 10:01 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (2)

Cindy Sheehan Watch

By Michael Fumento

Cindy Sheehan, riding to fame over her patriotic son's body but claiming she's being ignored by the MSM is now cited in over 3,000 mentions recorded by Google News. That includes an above-the-fold story in Saturday's Washington Post. Maybe she has a target, like 10,000 media pickups, and then she'll stop lying about how Bush treated her and go home. Speaking of which, my friend Michelle Malkin nicely documents the "Will the real Cindy Sheehan please stand up" phenomenom.

August 13, 2005 05:43 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Hollywood's Hatchet Job

By Michael Fumento

Mike:

Are you surprised [regarding the TV show "Over There"] that Hollywood would do a hatchet job on the Iraq war? I was in Vietnam and the hatchet job done on it and us should have been a indication of things to come. Perhaps during a lull in the War On Terror, we can have a war on stupid and declare war on Hollywood.

Richard Jansen

Dear Richard:

1. No.
2. Nice idea! I'd like Steven Bochco to put a bomb in his Rolls Royce and drive it into Alec Baldwin's house.

Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

August 12, 2005 12:04 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Poor Cindy Sheehan!

By Michael Fumento

Poor Cindy Sheehan, the mother seeking to embarrass the president and gain fame over the body of her son killed in Iraq. Shortly after her son died, she got her wish to meet with Bush and said he was very sympathetic. Now the story has changed slightly, as she claims he seemed almost gleeful at the time. Really? Her latest complaint, as reported in the Washington Post, is that "the mainstream media have not paid enough attention to her cause." Hmm... I just checked "Google News" and found almost 1,800 items referring to her. That same mainstream media normally greets the completion of a major construction project in Iraq with zero items. Sheehan may be vicious or highly disturbed, but she knows how to play the mainstream media like a fine musical instrument -- not that the MSM don't want to be played.

August 11, 2005 09:32 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (3)

My Iraq Photos Now Posted

By Michael Fumento

It took a few months for my gear to follow me back from Iraq, but it and my camera are now here. I've posted my photos here. Some interesting stuff in there, if I may say so myself.

August 11, 2005 03:21 PM  ·  Permalink

Peaceniks go nuts over the anti-war fakery of "Over There"

By Michael Fumento

Peaceniks are going gaga over the new FX series on the Iraq war "Over There." "Wow! Anybody else watch "Over There" last night?" asked a writer for the most-viewed liberal blogsite and most-viewed blogsite period, Daily Kos. " Within a few minutes, the Sarge calls their position in Iraq a 'shithole' and it was obvious that Iraq was Vietnam all over again. A war troops are not allowed to really fight, and so a war we can never win." Naturally, the shows also touts its realism with a TV Guide blurb to "prove it." Unfortunately, it's about as realistic as the Lord of the Rings.

In the episode an infantry unit is pinned down while trying to seize a mosque from the bad guys. Two women from a transportation unit are also there, a bow to the God of Diversity. Next the unit remains there for days with absolutely no air support. We're told it's being used elsewhere. Gimme a break! Air support is virtually always available anywhere in Iraq within 15 to 30 minutes. Indirect fire support (howitzers and mortars) can come thumping in within two minutes of the beginning of a fire support. But these poor saps also get no direct fire support until the end of the battle. The only mortar is with the bad guys. Meanwhile, there's the cliche medal-hungry off-scene commander ordering the troops to move forward from a relatively safe ridgeline to a completely open area.

Towards the end of the show we're treated to a horrific scene that begins when a troop-transport rolls over an IED marked with little white flags. Sorry, but the bad guys don't mark their mines. As for us, we generally station troops by them until they can be disarmed or if that's not possible put up warning signs that three blind mice couldn't miss. Nobody uses cute little white flags.

There have got to be a thousand true inspiring stories of courage and kindness by coalition troops during the war, but don't expect to see them on "Over There."

August 4, 2005 08:44 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

The MSM Roast of Mark Yost

By Michael Fumento

St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial page associate editor Mark Yost penned a provocative column on media coverage of the Iraq war, noting his contacts there told him, with apologies to Johnny Mercer, the MSM are accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive. He couldn't have imagined he was covering himself with blood and throwing himself into the shark pen. His media colleagues were merciless. "With your column, you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions," a reporter at the same Knight-Ridder newspaper charged in an open letter. "You have insulted them and demeaned them," he wrote. "I am embarrassed to call you my colleague."

The D.C. Bureau chief for Knight-Ridder, Clark Hoyt, spent a column ripping off a chunk of Yost and chewing it. Hoyt said Yost "asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid [but] maybe it's because there is no progress." At the Romenesko open blog for journalists, this charge from Hoyt was repeated time and again: "It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq." It's an interesting double standard for columnists that you can rip U.S. war efforts all you want from the comfort of a U.S. office (since Hoyt didn't mention going, we know he didn't), but if you're going to write something positive you had better have spent time in Iraq, notwithstanding that so often for reporters "time in Iraq" means a hotel behind layers of concrete barriers and concertina wire.

OF COURSE the war coverage is slanted: Why should the adage "If it bleeds it leads" stop at the Iraqi border? But as it happens, I did go to Iraq and somehow didn't feel the wetness of Yost's spit. I stayed in no hotels, got out of the safety of the Green Zone as soon as I had my press credentials, and went to the hostile Anbar province. I walked the streets, rode in the Humvees, and had my trip cut short by a colostomy that saved my life. But I was there long enough to see and report that Yost was right. If Hoyt thinks no progress is being made, he's either flat-out lying or wearing those blinders the MSM are so famous for. In any case, it's astonishing that Clark Hoyt, from the distance and safety of Washington, D.C., presumes to know what's going on in Iraq.

July 17, 2005 08:34 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Telling it like it is from Iraq

By Michael Fumento

In May I returned from an embed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah, having gone over with the idea that the MSM wasn't telling it like it is. Guess what; they weren't. I've filed a couple of pieces on it, here and here, of which versions appeared on Townhall. But I just discovered the blogsite of Michael Yon, who in his June 28 entry gave an excellent description of detonating IEDs. Since I'd had the same experience, I can tell you that on at least this one aspect he was extremely accurate in describing the professionalism of our soldiers and the major difficulty of blowing an IED which is not being killed by A) suicide bombers, B) secondary IEDs, C) snipers, and D) ambush while you're doing the job. Actually, he may have overstated the risks a bit as on-the-scene reporters are wont to do. Still, his facts are detailed and well-told. Check him out.

June 28, 2005 08:06 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)