Saturday, July 17, 2004

Area Man Confused By Obscure "Mullis" References

Area man, CSM Blackwood, has been reported interrogating the port-o-john guards with questions about the Mullis enigma. SPC Clark told reporters, "Yeah, this guy keeps asking me about Mullis: "Who is this Mullis guy, anyways?" "What's with the cock? Why does he love it so much?" "Does he know something I don't know?". I mean, I just don't know. I watch the graffiti, I don't make it." Other sources indicated that CSM Blackwood could be seen pacing back and forth along the many rows of port-o-potties at Camp Duke, frustrated and agitated. Local nationals reported confusion as they were repeatedly approached by the area man and asked, "Where is Mullis?" Although the answers are unclear, the potential for the future looks bright, says Blackwood, "I will find this man, this aberration, and I will verbally counsel him like no other soldier has ever seen."

--New York Times

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Baal is Dead; I Killed Him

Babylon approaches slowly. Endless wasteland precedes barren desert and opens into more nothing than can be bottled and sold at next year’s federal auctions for the blind. Following that, water appears. With water comes green in every shade that life embraces.

For those of you that have never enjoyed the luxury of riding in a military convoy through the deserts of Iraq, I will spare you most of the petty details. Imagine an oven strapped to a skateboard, which is propelled by the steam engine fueled by the your sweat. Traveling at an unknown, inconstant speed, it takes 2 hours to drive from An Najaf to Al Hilla (Babylon).

The desire to fumble with phrases like “Nothing can describe” or “there is no way to convey the…” overwhelms. I suppose there’s nothing special about the ruins of that ancient city, nothing that can't be seen elsewhere on the globe in other, less formidable climates; but few other places offer one the same chance to walk on ancient ground, through the birthplace of man—and it’s that feeling that crawls up the back of the spine and washes over you like fire as you stand on top of the ruins of a temple for a god that no longer answers his phone. I barbequed, but no one opened the door. Dead cow, dead pig, dead sheep and a light glaze of honey and spices, but no one spoke. It’s a pity, because I brought my camera.

Saddam, it seems, aspired to defy all prophecies and had begun to rebuild the city before his early resignation. Most of what has been rebuilt resembles an early toddler’s discovery of Legos. Haphazard masonry meets a myriad number of incompatible bricks, which threaten to crumble should the wind increase in force. Still, the ruins impress. Through an endless labyrinth, which was once one of the seven wonders of the world, you walk through the memory of the hanging gardens. Walls tower above you, and I pictured little boys playing hide and seek in the world’s greatest playground.

I could describe the rubble for days; but I’ll share the pictures instead, once they’ve been developed. After touring the city, I walked to the market, an experience, for which I was completely unprepared.

Guidelines for surviving a real, Arabic marketplace:
  1. Hit the first merchant that greets you as hard as you can. Hopefully, you can bring him to his knees. Should another merchant greet you, repeat the process until no one speaks to you.
  2. Young boys who speak Arabic and English linger about to sell their services. They will rob you blind. Hire one. The alternative is not pretty.
  3. Remember that both “no” and “yes” mean, “yes” in Arabic. There is no word for “no” that Arabs understand in any language, so your best bet it to resort to physical violence.
  4. Carry your wallet in your hand and keep a firm grip on it. Wear clothing with as few pockets as possible. Vendors will put jewelry into your pockets and demand money from you later.
  5. Remember that no matter how low you barter the price, you are still being robbed.
  6. No matter what you do, you have been robbed.
I followed the standard military directions to the market, “Down that aways a bit, can’t miss it;” and I almost passed by this odd series of hovels, the walls of which were decked like patchwork with blankets and clothes. If a young lad had not attached himself to me, I would not have recognized the place for what it was.  
Stepping low through the doorway, you step through a portal into another dimension of another universe. A thousand merchants with their wares attempt to rob you simultaneously. I have nightmares about this place. I spent $50, and I’m not even sure what I bought. The little boy assured me that it was quality. So, I have an unquantifiable amount of quality somewhere on my person. That’s reassuring.

Finally, I ate lunch on the bank of the river that passes through Babylon. Someone, somewhere in the military has taste, for they built the chow hall in the best possible place. Quite a day.

I’m sure there are a hundred other details that I’ve forgotten, but then, I haven’t really slept in some time.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Area Man Blows Second Chance at Life, Hopes for Third

Area man, Donald Thisbit, appeared shaken Wednesday afternoon after his close encounter with death. "I feel like I've been given a second chance at life," Thisbit told reporters. "I mean, if my friends hadn't pointed out the cholesterol content of that Burger King Whopper (tm) to me, I might not be here right now. I was moments away from biting into certain death, when heaven smiled upon me. I know now that I have to give back some of what's been given to me."

Thisbit's wife expressed concern; however, as days passed and Donald exhibited no behavioral changes. "He just lays on the couch and watches 'Japan-an-amation', mumbling about designing softer couches and bigger bags of potato chips--all for the good of mankind, he says. In fact, I think he's gained about 10 pounds since his little "close encounter" with death."

Thisbit defended his choices since the near-accident, suggesting that he was mentally harnessing his energies to do something big, something really big for mankind. "It's a difficult change to go through, from being a chartered accountant one minute to a death-defying miracle-man the next. It may take me awhile to adjust to my new responsibilities."

  Thisbit did confess that he was finding it difficult to focus on his new tasks, "People just don't understand. They expect you to pick up and carry on the way you did before. But you can't. Cleaning dishes, going to work, waking up before noon--these are things for the man without a global mission." Thisbit's wife commented, "If he needs inspiration, I can give him another close encounter with death that he won't walk away from."

--Sun Times

Friday, May 28, 2004

Public Concern Rises as Treatment of Prisoners Declines

Despite increased attention and criticism from the Press and the United Nations, conditions are worsening for Iraqi detainees. Sources on the ground have indicated that conditions vary from camp to camp; and, while most U.S. military forces fully comply with Geneva Convention regulations and the Law of Land Warfare, certain groups continue to ignore the policies and regulations of the U.S. government. Camp Duke, in particular, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of complaints from detainees. 

An overhead view of the camp reveals with startling clarity the dark underbelly of the military. Crude tents, supplied with air conditioning, shower trailers and toilets sit surrounded by menacing concertina wire and tireless military police guards. Detainees must sometimes travel over 15 feet through the brutal Iraqi heat to use the supplied latrines, but the brutality does not end there.

POW Mahmoud Al Modesto Al Shakir Al Fonzo offered his tragic story to reporters early this morning. Through tears and repeated breaks for cigarettes, Mahmoud revealed the gruesome details; "Praise Allah," he began, "for this will only strengthen the will of the resistance, and soon the American infidels will die like pigs." Mahmoud was well dressed, freshly shaved and shivering as he spoke, "You must understand the horror, the terror. They forced me to do things, terrible things. Unspeakable things. The first day I was here, they made me shower." He paused to pull his robe down over his right arm, "Do you see this arm? I had not bathed this arm since I was five years old when I accidentally fell in a swimming pool. Allah blessed my unwashed body, and now it's broken." The showering lasted weeks, according to Mahmoud. "Every day, they forced me into the trailer. At first, I tried to maintain some dignity. I didn't touch the soap or shampoo; but the American bastards wouldn't even allow me spiritual right to bathe only in the grace of Allah."

SPC Donald Thisbit offered his unique perspective on the continuing abuse. "As an interrogator, I knew I needed to up the ante if I wanted to get results. If I get a tough cookie, some Muqtada militia member that wants to play games, I go straight for the toothpaste. After a few consecutive brushings, I'll pull out the floss. I once broke a man in three and a half minutes, a Camp record." SPC Thisbit is not alone in his approach to interrogation; others take his techniques and add their own sadistic variations, like the mandatory use of toilet paper, manicures, pedicures, weekly laundry runs and other tactics. "It's about pushing them into that zone of weakness, which forces them to confront their inner demons. We assert our positive control, and they start spilling the names, phone numbers and addresses. And, to be honest, I like the feeling of power," Thisbit told reporters.

Once a modest detention facility filled with quiet prisoners, the prison at Camp Duke has become a veritable concentration camp, filled with grown men, crying like babies as soldiers trim their fingernails and wash behind their ears. The sound of wailing can be heard over the roar of the helicopter rotors, which signal the arrival of more detainees. Camp authorities had no comment on their policies, though the soldiers directly involved in the holocaust-like activities often exhibited pride and zeal for their work.
--Los Angeles Times

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Local News

HEADLINES: Mullis Sightings in Hong-Kong Continue (page 7)

HEADLINES: Canadian Mounties Make Progress in Securing Baghdad (page 9)

Canadian officials announced early this morning that the first mission of their recent deployed Mounties was a complete success. Arnold Phlankaster told Press this morning, "Our Mounties arrived, secured their objective, and are now in positive control of Baghdad proper." Surprisingly, with no casualties on either side...

HEADLINES: Area Man Declares World Peace (page 1)

ENTERTAINMENT: Die Hard--With a Mullis.

COVER STORY: Army Introduces Revolutionary "Train-As-We-Fight" Program

Unveiled during a recent raid conducted by 2ACR troops in the An Najaf area of Iraq, Regimental Commander Harold Zimms announced, "Prior to this event, we have trained as we fight; but henceforth, we will train AS we fight." SPC Donald Thisbit commented, "It sounded a little complicated at first, but after the first few minutes it becomes second nature. During last night's raid, I completed two correspondance courses and my yearly Equal Opportunity training. To top it off, we captured a key Sadr leiutenant." Zimms revealed a complex program to Press members detailing a variety of options for soldiers, including advanced computer-based training, basic soldier training, benefits and legal advice, as well as numerous other courses. "We must maximize our time on the ground. We should not only kill the enemy but edify our soldiers' minds as we do it."

SGT Rudolph Humphrey told a different story; however, as he described his experience in last night's raid. "Yeah, they say you get to choose; but I got stuck with Trigonometry during the heat of the battle. Between solving for "x" and trying to hog tie our captive, I forgot to take the absolute value of "y"...and let's just say I don't think the results are entirely my fault. I'd like a retest on our next raid, but I just know they'll give me ancient chinese history instead."

--Associated Press

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Local News

HEADLINES (Politics): Bush pledges to change the way things is. (Page 3)
“We have a duty to reform. In fact, I promise to reform the process of reform. More than that, if re-elected, I promise to change the way things were happening. Furthermore…”

HEADLINES (Science): BREAKING: Chicken confesses, “I came first.” (Page 7)

HEADLINES (Law): BREAKING: Egg sues chicken for slander. (Page 9)

COVER STORY: Canadian Mounties Affirm: “We Always Get Our Enemy (AKA Those Who Have Been Liberated).”

In response to the rising tolls on American soldiers, Canada stepped forward this morning to pledge support for the war effort. State spokesman, Donald Thisbit announced to the Press, “We are committed to providing support for the liberation of Iraq. While we have no real army or assets to send, we have organized over 1,000 Canadian Mounties to send into the heat of battle.” While Thisbit declined to reveal the specifics of the operation, he did suggest that the Mounties would have a unique advantage against Improvised Explosive Devices.

Career Mountie, Harold Zimm told Press members, “Once the little vermin see the might and glory of the Canadian empire, riding across the rolling plains, through the trees and across the mountain tops in pursuit of victory, they'll crumble.” After being told that Iraq was mostly desert wasteland, void of trees and mountains, Zimm continued, “We'll fill up the dirty glass of Justice from the Udders of Victory and serve it warm.”

Sunday, April 25, 2004



In one sense, I have been training for today my entire Army career. Recline in your comfortable chairs and allow Uncle Fro to weave a little tale for your evening pleasure: Imagine an empty parking lot. You are calm and relaxed; the sound of the wind is soothing as you wait in your vehicle of choice. Looking about, you realize that the lot is not paved but is dirt and that it stretches as far as the eye can see. You're waiting for something to happen--you're not sure what or when this 'something' should occur or even what to do once you finally apprehend this thing; but you know that your inactivity is a direct result of the absence of 'it' happening.

You wait. After an acceptable amount of time has passed, you decide that this thing will have to happen later; and you pack up your things and move along.

This was my day. From the fragments that I have been able to piece together (and here I have truly excelled in all things Army), we were due today to set a course south and that our best laid plans killed a few mice and not a lot of men seemed to know anything about it. I do not know when we next plan to attempt our great push south, but I know that if and when we do succeed, I will have no access to the Internet or any of the other communication mediums I have come to enjoy every once in awhile these last few weeks. And, given that I am on the world's slowest connection, I do not have time to respond to the many emails that I have received; and, hoping to break with convention and dive into necessity, will here attempt to say everything all at once. So, from this point on, you may feel free to scan for your names and read the appropriate message.

+Jonathan Froehlich: Keep kicking ass and say hello to that fiance of yours. Whatever you do, don't get deployed. Iraq makes beasts of men.

+Kirk Habel: Want a car? It's not much, but The Indignant Barney has fared me well, and I'd like to leave 'er in good hands. I figure you could use one as a wedding present or such. Let me know. We'll do Army paperwork together. It'll be fun and tedious and ridiculously complicated.

Mom and Dad: Stay safe. New York is a war zone. Temperatures are rising, make sure you drink plenty of water. Love you guys.

+Tim Farrar: Don't get deployed. Iraq makes beasts of men. Keep a beer cold for me, man. And check out this tv show, "Firefly"--It's brilliant.

+David Freeman: I had a dream that you got back together with...What's the scoop? Send me some obscure music.

Daniel Zeke Balan: Don't get deployed. Say hello to the wife. Here's my belated 2003 top 5 lists: 
        1. Lost in Translation, 
        2. Once Upon a Time in the West, 
        3. Ishtar, 
        4. Two Towers (Extended Version), 
        5. 21 Grams. 
        1. Hot Water Music (can't remember album name), 
        2. Modest Mouse, Moon and Antarctica (it's been on the list for years now.. can't take it off), 
        3. Rolling Stones -- Exile on Main Street, 
        4. Blind Melon -- Blind Melon, 
        5. The Shins -- Chutes Too Narrow. 
        1. Ecclesiastes (of the Old Testament), 
        2. Life of Pi (because I absolutely hated it, and 5 people have sent me copies of it since I deployed), 
        3. My Life and Hard Times -- James Thurber, 
        4. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Russian -- Me, 
        5. The Republic -- Plato (because I hated it more than the Life of Pi).

+Craig Amundson: How's the rebel rousing going? I've lost your address--the few letters I sent you bounced back. I should still get mail, so send me another letter and I'll reply with as much promptness as I can muster.

+Cranberry Thunderfunk: Miss you, man. Enjoy your summer vacation. Soon enough, they disappear; and all the king's horses and men can't fit them into their training calendars and you'll end up in a parking lot in the middle of the desert. Don't join the Army. It makes beasts of men.

Carson Chittom: What are you up to these days? ...that's all I've got.

+Jay Loftin: What's the next scheme? Are you finally headed out to teach English to the needy Russians or slavs of this world? Perhaps running for president of Russia? Do tell.

Lisa: Are you married yet? If so, awesome. Tell me all. If not, tell me all. Still in Oxford? What are your plans? WHat are his plans?

Mollie: Has he proposed yet? If not, just give me an address--I'll make a few phone calls.

Vero: How's the research coming? Has summer arrived yet? Is Germany lush and beautiful? Have the wine fests begun? Say hello to Lulu for me. I miss her so.

Donovan: How's Ohio? Did the job pan out? You sounded happy the last time we talked, I hope that things are still working out for you. Any more plans on extending that family of yours? Boys, girls, both?

Stephan Boutwell : What's the scoop, brother? I'm still planning the MOART (Mother of All Road Trips) when I head to San Antonio. We will drink beer and grill steaks together.

And for everyone else whom I've abused by not mentioning, I apologize for not being able to think of anything to say. I will try to fix this gross shortcoming as soon as possible. Thank you all for your letters and packages and support.

My address remains the same:
D CO 501 MI Bn
UNit 90324
APO, AE 09324-3024

Much love,

P.S. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Russian is now available at every major bookstore. I encourage mass purchasing.