Today you people are no longer maggots. Today you are Marines.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thanks to the fine people over at Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Nachos, who provided this link from Kevin Drum, I read this fantastic letter from a Marine in Iraq. It's a letter home from an Intel officer and is full of fantastic tidbits from overseas.

What I love most about it is its frankness, expressed in ways that only Marines can express: raw, uncensored, straight to the point.

Some of my favorite tidbits, with my comments in bold:

--Most Surreal Moment - Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. I had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

Midgets are always funny. Midgets and monkeys.

--Most Profound Man in Iraq - an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines (searching for Syrians) if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."

--Worst City in al-Anbar Province - Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Killed over 1,000 insurgents in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.

See that? He rarely sees Ramadi in the news. Hmmm...

--Best Piece of U.S. Gear - new, bullet-proof flak jackets. O.K., they weigh 40 lbs and aren't exactly comfortable in 120 degree heat, but they've saved countless lives out here.

--Best Piece of Bad Guy Gear - Armor Piercing ammunition that goes right through the new flak jackets and the Marines inside them.

I remember one thing they told us before we entered combat was that a bullet couldn't kill you if it went straight through you, so if you get hit, keep running and fighting. Sure, there's little truth to it, but it made us feel invincible, and that's all that mattered to us. Call me Superman, and I'll be Superman.

--Most Surprising Thing I Don't Miss - Beer. Perhaps being half-stunned by lack of sleep makes up for it.

Someone send this Marine some beer, stat.

--Biggest Hassle - High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

--Biggest Outrage - Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender - Bill O'Reilly - what a buffoon.

See that? Tell Condi and Rummy to stay away and tell O'Reilly to shut the fuck up.

Go read the whole letter. There are so many more great thoughts in this letter home, some profound, some profoundly sad, some funny. But the best part of all is that it eloquently reflects the thoughts of the people who are actually over there doing the deed. It's Hell (in his opening paragraph, he even describes it as a level of Dante's Inferno), but he's so proud of the effort the Marines put into it. The distinction is that Marines are re-enlisting because they want to be with the other Marines. It's not about a war on terror, as I read the thoughts and apply my own understanding from being a grunt; it's about being a Marine in a brotherhood. The justice behind the war is not the concern. Not leaving anyone behind is the concern.

Semper Fi, Marines. Come home. We don't want to see any more of this:

--Saddest Moment - Having the battalion commander from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. Cpl Bachar was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to the Intelligence Section. We'll carry it home with us when we leave in February.


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