Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Army Tech

The US Army is the most technologically advanced army on the planet. But that doesn't stop us from constantly improving on what we have.

Here I'll discuss a few improvements to the Army's repertoire that will make a difference in conflicts present and future.


The US Army provides pricey, high-quality night vision goggles to every single combat soldier deployed in the Iraqi and Afghani theaters. The one I have is called the PVS-14, a monocular that clips onto the black metal bracket on the front of my helmet. It swings down in front of my left eye and when turned on, it makes an otherwise black night spring to life in verdant shades of green.

I've had to navigate the dark streets of Ad Dawr behind the wheel of a humvee at night with one of these things, and the parallax combined with the staggered field of view makes it hazardous at a best. I found I was better off just eating lots of carrots during the day and driving without it at night. I've never had to shoot my rifle using one, but I have gazed at the Milky Way on a starry night, and it is spectacular - the light-enhancement feature causes even the dimmest celestial orb to glisten like a Christmas light, allowing an unprecedented sense of galactic perspective.

All the PVS-14 does is enhance what little existing light is bouncing around the sky at the particular moment you turn it on (although it does include a small built-in infra-red flashlight if you have the vast misfortune of patrolling inside a dark building).

The new ENVG, on the other hand, includes thermal-imaging. When combined with the light-enhancing feature, it highlights anything with a temperature higher or lower than its surroundings, like a human body, a warm tank engine, or a cold river. Pretty cool! And a definite improvement - you can see people hiding in the shadows below.


I remember when the new Army ACU uniform came out in 2005. ACU's (the acronym stands for Advanced Combat Uniform, then changed to just Army Combat Uniform) were the first to employ a digital pattern dyed with special low-visibility inks.

At the time of their release, ACU's could be seen side-by-side with BDU's (the jungle-colored pattern) and DCU's (the old desert-colored pattern). By 2007, the Army had phased out DCU's and BDU's completely, leaving only the weird blue-and-gray-colored ACU's. Because they were "new and different", all the soldiers just couldn't wait to be issued the new ACU uniform (a typical mindset in the Army).

From left-to-right: ACU, BDU, DCU

Now, it doesn't take 20/20 vision to see that the ACU pattern...well, it doesn't actually blend in with anything. In an effort to be an all-purpose camouflage, it ended up being a no-purpose camouflage. I mean, little squares of blue and gray? Are we invading a Civil War videogame? The justification behind the strange colors was that they were practically invisible to enemies with night vision goggles. Newsflash: our current enemies don't have night vision goggles. Most of our operations occur during the day, anyway. The ACU's might have made sense in Vietnam, if the NVA used night-vision goggles.

So the scorecard reads: "Fighting the Last War": 1, Common Sense: 0.

After 5 years of complaints, the US Army will start issuing the new "Multi-Cam" pattern uniform, which makes a soldier practically indiscernible from the foliage commonly found when hunting deer in the Southern American states. Soldiers are already chomping at the bit to get the cool, "new" camouflage pattern.

The New "Multi-Cam"

Realdoll Brothels

Early on during the War on Terror, the US Army issued a memo so loathsome in nature, so vile in content, that you could hear morale drop when released.

What is the name of this infernal writ, this intolerable missive, you ask?

"General Order Number One"

Among other things, General Order Number One prohibits American soldiers from drinking alcohol, viewing adult videos, and pursuing liasons with the opposite sex. In a word, all the things that have traditionally contributed to the mental and emotional well-being of men under the duress of war. Also forbidden: war souvenirs, gambling, and use of personal firearms. If men can't be men in an Army during wartime...just what is it we are fighting for, again? One of the few stress-outlets open to the American soldier is tobacco, and last month the DOD recommended that it be banned as well!

In a final concession to the hordes of battles-stressed men deployed year after year to the Middle East, the Army has allowed Morale Trailers (which I call "Realdoll Brothels", because that's what they are) to run businesses on the larger Army bases.

Kirkuk has one, which I haven't used personally, but I know some guys who have.

The "Morale Trailer" at Camp Warrior, Kirkuk

Are you familiar with these "Realdolls"? A San Diego company (yay, San Diego!) manufactures life-size dolls of women, fabricated from high-quality plastic composites, that can be dressed up and used for...well, exactly what you think they would be used for.

She's Fake - Really! (A Realdoll)

They have a whole line of body-types to choose from. In the Morale Trailer, a soldier can pay for time in a smallish booth with the Realdoll of his choice for some ersatz whoopie, without risk of infectious disease and without, technically, cheating on spouse or girlfriend! Ingenious!

Realdoll Body Styles

Condoms must be used, and Bangladeshi & Nepalese workers work the counter and clean the booths after visits. They forbid picture taking inside the trailer, so I can't show you more. As uptight as the American military tends to be, I was shocked when I learned of the Morale Trailer. But apparently it is extremely successful and no one seems to be complaining!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Out of the Cities"...NOT

You are being lied to.

Although overshadowed in the news by jet crashes, student shootings, and Michael Jackson, today was a big day for Iraq.

A new National Holiday in fact, a three-day feast titled "Sovereignty Day".

Sovereignty Day is a result of the June 30th deadline being met for American Combat Troops to be pulled "out of the cities" of Iraq and back onto bases in the countryside.

The poor Iraqis had parades, fireworks, and vacation time to celebrate this important milestone, not realizing that their levity is based on near-complete deception.

The Iraqis think that their own police & soldiers are in charge now, that the occupation is finally winding down.


I am not making this up - I am simply not that creative nor am I a good liar.

What happened is this: the Iraqi people were told "The Americans are leaving the cities by June 30th!" and so, they think that after June 30th, they won't see convoys of huge American MRAPs anymore, they won't see Americans patrolling the streets with rifles and body armor, they won't hear helicopters buzzing overhead at 3am in support of a nighttime raid in their neighborhood.

All reasonable assumptions to make.

What the US Army really means by "Out of the Cities", is classic semantic legerdemain, not to mention bald-faced doublespeak: the US Army means that all 130,000 American troops currently occupying the country will magically transmogrify overnight from "Combat Troops" in title to "Advise & Support" troops...and that's it! We have closed most of the small patrol bases in the urban areas that we opened during the surge of 2006/2007, and we now submit a patrol schedule to the Iraqis a week in advance...and that's it! We will still do patrols in the cities, we will still be conducting raids, harassing the local police into actually doing their jobs, and getting ourselves blown up by IED's & RKG's (roadside bombs & armor-piercing grenades, the insurgent weapons-of-choice right now).

I can imagine this whole thing blowing up in our face, quite literally. No joke - the Iraqis expect us soldiers not to be showing our faces in town anymore. Oops! Sorry, Haji. We're still here, every single day. Talk about fodder for enemy propaganda. I have 6 missions coming up in the next few weeks that will require me to be in the city of Kirkuk, out talking to people, surrounded by other armed Americans in our behemoth armored trucks, just like pre-June 30th. I'm not sure how the locals are going to take it.

I'm loading more magazines just in case...

Thursday, June 11, 2009


There are several scams going on in Iraq, which waste billions in US taxpayer dollars. Not many people appear to be aware of them, so I will list them here, in no particular order.

1) Contracting

Many of the services on Army bases (laundry, water sanitation, electrical power) are provided by American civilians, working for one of several contracting companies. KBR is the biggest company. Kellog, Brown, & Root is a subdivision of Halliburton.

Steve - KBR Laundry Dude

Meet Steve. Steve does laundry. Steve can wear what he wants, works a 12-hour shift, and goes home to Georgia on vacation every couple of months. Steve lives for free on the base and eats sumptuous meals in the dining hall every day, no charge. Steve's security and transportation are provided by Army machine gunners and Army helicopters.

Steve receives $120,000 a year tax-free.

Meet Joe. He is a Private First Class in the US Army. Joe gets told what to wear, when to sleep (6 hours a night at most), and how to shave. Joe pulls guard-duty shifts for hours at a time in guard towers around the base. Joe belongs to a platoon that does patrols in the nearby city at all hours of the day & night, braving frequent car bombs, road bombs, and grenade attacks.

Joe’s base pay is $22,400 a year.

Check out what these other contractors make.

Air conditioner technician: $140,000/yr

Office Clerk: $90,000/yr

Mechanic: $150,000/yr


2) Micro-grants

The Army doesn't like to sit still. During a long occupation, the various branches in the army often finding themselves casting about for something meaningful to do, something to justify their existence, something they can tabulate and gage and put in a PowerPoint presentation for their superiors.

Thus was born the "Micro-grant" program.

It goes something like this: Army units rotate in and out of Iraq too quickly to actually follow up on any long-term construction projects (This is why we haven't been able to improve the infrastructure here in 6 years. No joke - nowhere in Iraq do the people have water, electricity, and sewage at a level comparable to before the invasion). Plus we're warriors, not project managers.

So in lieu of actually managing projects to make sure they get completed, the Army gives out cold hard cash to any Iraqi who can sign their name on a piece of paper.

Iraqi Receiving a Ton of Cash for Nothing

This is called a "micro-grant" and is supposed to help locals start small businesses.

But there is no follow-up on micro-grant recipients, no gage or measure of effectiveness, no chamber of commerce to help them along. It is essentially a big cash give-away of US dollars to private Iraqi citizens.

The typical micro-grant totals anywhere from $2000-$10,000, and my current battalion processes a couple of dozen micro-grants a month. It takes an Iraqi about 2 weeks to get their micro-grant money after filling out the required paperwork.

It took my soldier PFC McGarry 8 months of repeatedly lost paperwork, bureaucratic red-tape, and stonewalling to finally get awarded his enlistment bonus of $3500.


3) MRAP's

MRAP by International, Called the "MaxPro-Plus"

When we go on patrols, we drive around in armored vehicles, naturally. The army developed a couple of armored versions of the Humvee (designated the M1114 & the M1151) to protect occupants from roadside bombs and thrown grenades and such.

Up-Armored M1151 Humvee

These armored Humvees cost under $200,000 and protect their occupants from all but the biggest roadside bombs. They also do not provide protection from armor-piercing bombs, known as EFP's (Explosively Formed Projectiles, Iranian-made super-bombs that can pierce just about any armor we have).

Since roadside bombs have caused most of the casualties in Iraq, the Army wanted to improve the protection afforded these soldiers. Thus, the army has slowly replaced the armored humvees with MRAP's, Mine Resistant Armored Personnel vehicles.

MRAP Called the "RG-33"

MRAP's are designed with a V-shaped hull and lots of armor to deflect blasts from underneath. They work really well, and conventional roadside bombs haven't really killed anyone in an MRAP. An EFP, however, will still punch right through an MRAP and kill whoever is inside. This happened frequently in Sadr City when I was there last autumn.

A typical MRAP costs $1.2 to 1.8 million dollars EACH. So you might say "hey, it's worth the extra cost to protect our soldiers" which is undoubtedly true, but check this out: Iraqis are not a terribly dogmatic bunch - they will basically do whatever their sheikh or immediate supervisor tells them to do. It was proven during the "Surge" of 2006/2007 that the terrorists can be bought off en masse, and violence will drop. Iraqis just want a paycheck, whether it comes from the government, a terrorist organization, or a factory where they work (too bad there are so few factories in Iraq).

General Petraeus started the Awakening Program to essentially give all those unemployed Sunni Arab males who were taking money from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, a paycheck for keeping the peace instead. And Voila! Violence dropped precipitously.

So what does this have to do with MRAP's?

This: if we had understood the Iraqi mindset back in 2003, the obvious solution to the country's troubles would have been a handful of massive, shovel-ready infrastructure projects that would have employed all those disgruntled villagers and improved the country at the same time.

But the US Army doesn't get "nation building". The US Army is designed to destroy other armies, and thinks of everything in terms of armor, weapons, enemies, and PowerPoint. So the whole MRAP program spends billions of dollars on these behemoth trucks, when for the price of one of them, would-be insurgents could be put to peaceful work that would benefit their country.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Hesco Garden Dyeth

Everything I planted has died.

Too much heat & poor drainage in my starter pots, I'm guessing.

They were doing so well for a while there.

The funny thing is, they all died within a 3-day span of one another. First, one pot would start wilting and shriveling. The next day, two more pots. By the third day, all pots, both tomatoes and peppers, were dead. Certainly not for lack of water. I hope I don't have a black thumb. I welcome any experienced gardeners who can help me diagnose the problem.

Other things that have died recently:

1) My youthful idealism
2) Any hopes I had of coming home from Iraq early
3) Plans for an early retirement
4) Dreams of rockstardom

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Kooky Monotheistic Religions of Northern Iraq

When Americans think of the Middle East, they generally think "muslims". As in Islam, with its mosques and Mecca and oppression of women.

Look closely, however, and you will see more. Much more.

A Sunni Mosque in Central Kirkuk

There are Jews in Iraq. And Christians. And Yezidis, Yursan, and Zoroastrians. Granted they are in the minority, but they all boast a culture as rich and varied as the muslims.

Don't forget that ancient Mesopotamia, aka the Fertile Crescent, is where civilization began. It is where father Abraham was born, and where Imam Ali made his last stand. It is the birthplace of monotheism, in all its wacky incarnations. That is why I would like to take you, gentle reader, on a tour of what I like to call...

The Kooky Monotheistic Religions of Northern Iraq


Yes there are still Jews who live in Iraq. Like, seven of them. And I'm not sure they realize they are Jewish. Baghdad, Iraq's capital, used to be known as a multi-cultural melting pot of sectarian tolerance. It boasted a 2600-year old Jewish community ("By the Rivers Of Babylon", anyone?) that had contributed for years to every aspect of Iraqi culture.

The inside of the Baghdad Synagogue

But then the 20th century, with its oil, anti-zionism, and Saddam happened, and most of the Jews fled for their lives. Estimates put the total Jewish community at a dozen or so, most too old and infirm to move out, despite offers of free travel to Israel.


Heck YEAH there are Christians in Iraq. Two kinds: "Chaldeans" and "Assyrians". They both speak a modern form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, as well as Arabic. They have communities in northern Iraq but also Baghdad. Like the Jews, most of them have fled the country over the past 20 years in the face of rising Islamic Fundamentalism.

Ever-jubilant Lehib "The Flame" Merogi,
Iraqi ex-patriate, Chaldean Christian,
and current interpreter for my PSYOP team
in Kirkuk City

I'll never forget what one of the Iraqi role-players told me during my army training right before my first deployment to Iraq in 2005. A Chaldean Christian, he pulled me aside after our exercises and told me in accented English "Good luck out there and thank you for trying to help my homeland. And most of all, remember: Never trust an Arab."

Alrighty then.


Also known as "Ahl-ee Haq" or "Kayaki", followers of this religion are all Kurds. It's basically a Kurdish sub-religion. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim, you see, but some didn't take to Islam so well, and retained their earlier religion. My first exposure to the Ahl-e Haq, or "Kayaki" guys, was in Mandali in 2005. My interpreter at the time was a local nicknamed "Bill", a half-Kurd half-Arabic Shi'a. We were watching Iraqi policemen do a shift change, and up walked a man with a huge nose and the most glorious, full, walrus-looking mustache I had ever seen. I mean this lip-caterpillar was hanging down to his chin practically. I'm pretty sure he had to tie the ends to his ears in order to eat. I asked Bill what the deal was with Mr. Mustache Nose, and Bill explained "Oh, you see he is a Kayaki guy. They have a religion much older than Islam. Everyone loves the Kayaki guys."

The Majestic Kayaki Moustache

So what do they believe, exactly? They acknowledge one God, along with angels, avatars, and reincarnation. Wikipedia it if you'd like to know more. For whatever reason, they don't seem to get persecuted specifically for their religion - maybe because the Arabic hatred for Kurds in general overshadows it.


All right I admit it: the sole reason for this particular blog entry is to enlighten you, gentle reader, about Taus Melek, the Peacock Angel of the Kurdish Yezidi tribes.

Taus Melek, blue Peacock Angel and
Lord of the Earth to the Kurdish Yezidis

That's a frickin' cool depiction, isn't it? The Yezidi are all Kurds as well, and they live near Mosul in Northern Iraq. They acknowledge the one God, along with seven archangels, the most prominent of which is Taus Melek, the Peacock Angel. Yazidi believe that God first created Taus Melek from his own illumination and that six other archangels were created later. God ordered Taus Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust from the Earth and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Taus Melek. In answer to God, Taus Melek replied, "How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust." Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth.

This is why Arab muslims believe that the Yezidi are devil worshipers: they believe Taus Melek is a shaitan and a face of the devil. Arabs would kill all the Yezidis if they could.


Let's face it: if Islam were a grade-school child, his report card would say "Does not play well with others".

Israel after the Religion of Peace gets The Bomb

Every armed conflict in the world right now has Muslims on one or both sides of the battlefield (drug wars don't count). Never thought about it like that before, have you? The Koran exhorts Muslims to fight disbelievers. Other religions are tolerated only if their adherents agree to live as second-class citizens and pay a special "I'm Not A Muslim" tax. No kidding, it says so in the Koran.

Sadly, the current American mindset says "Islam is peaceful, it's the extremists who have twisted it around".

But that is just not the case. Islam itself is violent at its core, calling for war and separation. Muslims who don't follow Jihad simply don't have the balls or the will to do what the Koran asks. They prefer to live in peace, despite what their religion tells them, and let's all praise Allah for that small mercy.

Another major bummer is Islam's lack of centralized authority. At least in Catholicism, you have a pope who can announce "Let's stop this whole 'Inquisition' thing", and the whole Inquisition thing would stop. No such luck in Islam. Any petty tyrant in a turban can announce himself an Imam and start issuing fatwas against this or that political issue. I once thought that Islam needed a wholesale reformation, but that implies there is something pure and holy there to begin with, which has just grown out of control. I no longer believe that is the case with Islam. The Tree of Islam is a dark, blasted thing, that should be torn up by the roots and thrown in the fire. Islam went wrong at its earliest turn. It got the One God thing right, and that's about it. No denying the Koran contains wisdom, but even the holiest Muslims will tell you the Koran needs to be read in Arabic to be fully appreciated. This means that context trumps content for this particular holy book, which is not a good sign.

To summarize!

Jews: all the ones who can, have left Iraq already
Christians: getting hounded and assassinated as I write this. Five Chaldeans gunned down in Kirkuk in the last two weeks.
Yarsan: glorious mustaches
Yezidis: compelling blue Peacock Angel
Muslims: to be watched very, very closely

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Hesco Garden Groweth

BOO-yah! One month to the day after seeding the starter-pots, and my tomato & pepper sprouts in the Hesco Garden are Yay-big*!

(One "Yay" = 1.5 inches)

I am having trouble finding a large enough quantity of good soil for the larger bed into which I shall transplant the seedlings. All of the soil on base is clay. Very fine, silty clay, totally inappropriate for growing vegetables. I may grab a couple big buckets and transplant them there, and feed them with a Miracle-Gro mixture.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Combat Dickie

The Army has regulations and manuals for just about every aspect of a soldier's life. Especially uniforms and appearance.

Your hair can't fall over your ears, your mustache must be trimmed to the edges of your lips, no rolling up your sleeves, your trousers must be bloused no further than three eyelets below the top edge of your boots, etc., etc.

It's all rather inflexible and ruthlessly enforced.

Which brings me to the weather.

Do you know what the standard Army uniform is for cold weather?

Camouflage tops and bottoms, heavy boots.

Moderate weather?

Camouflage tops and bottoms, heavy boots.

Screamingly hot, 140F-in-the-shade Iraqi weather?

Camouflage tops and bottoms, heavy boots.

You get the picture. As I write this in early-May, the temperature outside is steadily climbing. These warm, spring-like days will soon turn into lethally-hot pizza ovens that strangle the life out of anything not cowering in front of an air conditioner.

The innovative soldier, however, can find relief from the Army's oppressive regulations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you now, for the first time ever, Layer-1 of the Crandall Mark 69 Thermal Management System (no catchy acronym - take THAT, Big Brother!):

The Combat Dickie!

The Combat Dickie offers enhanced airflow and cooling underneath the standard ACU blouse, while still presenting an appearance in line with the regulations laid out in AR670-1.

Best of all, ANY soldier can turn a standard-issue desert-tan T-shirt into a Combat Dickie with a pair of scissors.

Roger that, Sergeant Major!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fun With AK-47's

"Dig up the sand in Iraq, and you will find weapons or hit oil" a crusty Arab villager confided to me once.

This is certainly true for the "weapons" part. You are not considered a man in these parts unless you have artillery rounds buried in your backyard and a couple AK-47's hidden in your living room.

The Americans confiscate a lot of these weapons, and not all of them end up in the armory, if you know what I'm saying.

So what, exactly, are some fun things you can do with your extra AK-47's?

AK-47 Back-scratcher!

AK-47 Fencing! (en garde)

AK-47 Toothbrush!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Hesco Garden

Modern war, like ancient war, requires cover and concealment. The Romans used elaborate earthen-works around their camps to help keep the enemy out. World War I saw a proliferation of trenches and bunkers. Even today, there is no quicker way to gain a measure of safety than to use a bulldozer to push a big pile of dirt up around your position.

A clever British company called "Hesco" designed a simple product that makes it even easier to throw up huge, thick walls of earth wherever you can find dirt and a bulldozer. Take a frame work of mesh wire walls open at the top and bottom, line it with a durable cloth, and voila, you have the "Hesco Barrier" (or "Hesco Bastion"). The Hesco Barrier is ubiquitous in Iraq, and along with the cement T-wall, provides all the blast protection that the military relies upon for its safety.

Rows of Hesco barriers surround the tents, headquarter buildings, and porta-johns that comprise the Army bases dotting Iraq. Using a Hesco bastion is 10 times faster than filling sandbags.

Several rings of Hesco barriers surround the old Iraqi-army barracks where I live in Kirkuk Air Base.

Now for some backstory:

- It gets really hot during the Iraqi summer, like 120F-for-60-days-straight hot
- I like tomatoes.

One day I thought to myself, "What better way to take a positive attitude towards the lethal heat than to plant some tomatoes? Tomatoes love heat. I love tomatoes. My loathing of the summer weather will be tempered by the joy of watching my seedlings flourish."

Thus was born the Hesco garden.

Tomatoes like full sun, good drainage, and a raised bed. The Hesco barriers around our barracks provide all that in spades!

So I had Joan mail me some seeds (corn, peppers, & tomatoes). I created some starter-pots out of used water bottles and found some good soil down by the drainage ditch that runs behind the airstrip.

Today marks the 13th day since I put the seeds in the ground, and the first day I saw two little sprouts come up from one of my starter pots. Yay!

Viva La Hesco Garden!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Like the Kurds

When the US & Britain carved up the Middle East after World War I, every ethnic group got their own country, except for two peoples: the Jews and the Kurds.

We all know what happened to the Jews.

The Kurds, on the other hand, have since patiently consolidated their own cultural and linguistic boundaries across 3 different countries: Turkey, Iran, and northern Iraq.

If you look closely, you will notice: Kurds look different. They don't dress like Arabs. They are more likely to have blue and green eyes. And big heads. They smile a lot and like to dance. They drink beer once in a while. They sympathize with the state of Israel, instead of demonizing it.

And most importantly, they LOVE the United States (unlike the Arabs, who secretly hate us).

The Kurds are of an Indo- European ethnic group, distinct from Arabs. American planes enforced a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq since 1991, allowing the Kurds to form their own de-facto government, centered in Irbil.

This government, the "Kurdish Regional Government" or KRG, has turned northern Iraq into one of the most peaceful, prosperous places in the Middle East.

The Kurds have their own Army, the "Peshmerga", who keep the peace. And I mean *really* keep the peace. You can count the successful terrorist attacks in Kurdistan on one hand.

I don't even wear my body armor when I visit Kurdish villages. The worst thing that could happen? Someone might throw flowers at me. The worst argument I've been in with a Kurd is over why the Americans can't stay longer.

So let's summarize...

Arabs: always fighting, secretly hate us, innate corruption, support Jihad

Kurds: fierce but keep the peace, love the US, embrace democracy, support Israel

Now here's the part I don't understand: the US is about to throw the Kurds under the bus.

The Shi'a government in Baghdad will soon be sending the Iraqi Army into Kurdish Kirkuk to wrest control from the KRG.

Why? Because of the oil refineries here.

Is there plenty of oil in the rest of Iraq? You bet!

In fact, there is a sea of oil under virtually every province.

Each ethnic group and sub-group could have their own oil refinery and live fat off petro-dollars for the next 100 years.

But people here aren't so big on the whole "looking ahead" thing.

They prefer to marinate in the perceived injustices of the past.

And a scared and skittish American administration wants to turn the page on this particular chapter of Mesopotamian adventurism.

So the Kurds will get screwed out of their territory once again, and our tax dollars will go to "rebuilding" the infrastructure of those who would chop off our heads just as soon as shake our hands.

Can I come home yet?

(Shown above: a poster, published by a Kurdish political party, commemorating the anniversary of "Anfal", Saddam's campaign to relocate the Kurds away from oil-rich areas in northern Iraq. This happened from 1979-2002. Saddam would then move his Sunni Arab tribesmen in. The bulldozer is a symbol of the destruction of dozens of villages and towns by Saddam's army. None of the houses in the Kurdish villages in my sector are over 7 years old - they were all rebuilt when Kurds started moving back in after 2003.)