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January 05, 2005

MY SECRETARY, a Marine Combat Engineer reservist, sends this report from Iraq. It's a bit long, so I'm putting it in the "extended entry" area. Click "read more" to read it.

The email follows:

One of the more interesting things about the operations over here is how connected we still are to the world. Yesterday, conducting offensive operations along the Euphrates, today browsing Amazon and managing finances. You know that you are a little spoiled when one of your biggest complaints is low bandwidth connections and no place to dock your camera. Its like the Humanities building with more danger.

The Euphrates was one of the "prettier" places that I have seen in Iraq. It looked like Central Florida; a lot of orange groves. Actually ran into a farmer who gave the squad that I was with some oranges fresh off of his tree. (I hope that it was not his poisoned orange/give only to Americans tree). The oranges were probably the best thing that I have eaten since fish tacos in San Diego. Amazing.

The farmer highlights one of the most difficult aspects of fighting what the Marine Corps refers to as a "three block war." One block is humanitarian aid, the next is show of force operations (patrolling) and the third block is full scale conflict. It is emotionally draining to go from the friendly orange grower to dealing with insurgents who have buried arms within a matter of half an hour. It is amazing to watch young men of nineteen or twenty years old move between these two situations with such deftness. Keep in mind that some of these same young men have been in bar fights over spilled beer not six months ago. (Not me, I promise).

We have been in the rainy season for about two months now. It seems that the closer you are to the equator, the more apparent the two season system is. When it is not raining and cold, it can get up to the sixties. It really feels like winter in Louisiana.

I have developed a new hobby. Frequently, we will raid a house and be on site for several hours as we process intel, detainees, etc. Once my part of these operations has ceased, I engage in some gardening. It amazes me that every portion of the world I have been in is home to the dandelion. It stands to reason that if you are spending all of your time being an insurgent, you probably do not have much time to get rid of weeds. This is where I come in. It least it passes the time and I am pretty sure it in no way violates any detainees' human rights.

Well, have been called off to count nails or something. Life is weird, everything gets inventoried.

Except, I hope, the dandelions or there's going to be a lot of explaining to do.