Saturday, September 16, 2006

One Way: BRC-New Orleans-Afghanistan-Iraq-BRC

Somewhere around three weeks in the Black Rock desert and I am anxious to get back to the war. My bad dreams have ceased. I still don't feel very social, and have problems with being touched. But whatever.

So I am getting this book shit together before I leave Gerlach. Also articles. I still have two from Mosul to write.

I feel sort of like I am dead and floating around to the life I left behind, except I appear to be alive and people see and hear me.

Ismist, Molly, Gringo and Headhunter rode with me in the DPW parade and we threw Fuckoffski's ashes out around the city. We also had his ashes thrown out over BRC from an air plane. Gringo even ate some of his crunchy stuff.

The DPW crew had the last two days off. I visited a bit, also hit some other bars. The people of Gerlach are being very nice to me after my tour of the war. Sometimes, it seems to go either way. Some people really like me because I do what I say I am going to do. Others, particularly certain people that do stuff like I do are not always so happy when I actually get stuff done, like I said I would.

Last year I begged and borrowed to get to Afghanistan. I landed in Kabul with $40. I feel a lot better about heading back to the war now that I know some people there. I am also thinking about the people I know there. Here is a good site for a break down of the deaths.

I dusted off my juicer and made a lot of juice yesterday. Too bad I don't have any beets or blood oranges. I have a lot of peaches. I juiced a melon this morning. And a lot of carrots I got from Exodus. I made some mint Julep mix for tonight. I've been enjoying the high speed internet. I watched this William S. Burroughs Documentary

This one is Hunter S. Thompson shooting stuffed animals with a machine gun.

And Burning Man rants are great too.

I saw Marian at the Black Rock and managed to smooth a few things out. No sense in fighting a war on every front. And Tom Price can go to hell. That poser was in the RGJ this week. And I wont be posting that link. It's amazing that relief work only gets some credibility if someone from Burning Man does it—and like Tom, makes sure that no one but him gets credit. He wasn't even in New Orleans, where the DPW were 2 days after the last hurricane. But that was last year. He even said that the 100,000 that died in Pakistan/Afghanistan in the earthquake were irrelevant. That is where he really pissed me off. That is a hell of a lot more people that died than in all Katrina shit. But he wasn't there to take credit and get his picture in the paper, so it was, according to him, irrelevant and not worth mentioning, ever.

On a less morbid note, I am listening to internet music. Post some links if you know of anything cool.

Currently I am listening to particularly Dave Navarro's station. That is pretty cool, at least he hasn't bored me in the last two hours. Except when he interviewed Storm Large. I actually watched that Supernova rockstar audition show in Mosul.

I was given a very cool cab over camper by a fellow from the Philadelphia Experiment. It's too heavy for most of the trucks I have access to, but I managed to get if off the playa with some help from Amanda and Metric. That was trip. I should have taken a picture of the Samurai when I rolled off the playa a week after the event. I got a loveseat (that had minimal fire damage) a couple bikes and other goodies. I sat in my cabover on the playa watching the dust, reading, thinking about things more esoteric than the dust clouds that made me feel as if I were in a city in the sky. The best time on the playa is the week after the event. That is where I get to see my friends and really party.

I got this link yesterday. The CIA torture/secret prison shit is hooked to Reno. Excellent.

I feel the season's change as the planet rotates. I went all the way around the world in a West ward fashion, from SF to China, UAE, Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Baltimore, SF then a quick flight to Reno. On the plane, people were talking about Burning Man, Burners without Borders and the War. Since I was in New Orleans, left there for Afghanistan and Iraq, I found it interesting that I really didn't want to talk to the people that we speaking 3rd hand about this stuff. It was kind of weird. People are not always interested in the real thing. What adventures lay ahead this year? I plan on going to Columbia to see some friends, then China. From China, take a train to Moscow and fly down to the war from there. I plan on taking the summer off from war. I'll be in Africa. I am actually a trained, certified archaeologist, but never used that card. Been keeping it up my sleeve. I think I'll be playing it. I have the poker game going.

But October is still my favorite month. Halloween, and colored trees. I should be in Seattle by October.

I've really been sort of a hermit. I can only take people in small doses. I don't want to be attached to anyone or anything. I just want to get things settled and get back into the war with a better camera and laptop. Lean and mean, ready to rubble with the Taliban and al Qaeda for another tour. My third trip to Iraq.

I've been very inspired to do some art on my return. I doubt I will have time. But I want to get back into music and visual art. Beyond my little youtube crap. Hopefully I will be back from the war by October 2007 and can get things going for my band, and other sordid indulgences. I want a grease bus, and just want to wander the land playing music like so many of my friends do already.

I have a vision for my cabover. I want to turn it into a giant black window that sprays fire. I think it may be derivative of that WILD WILD WEST movie with Will Smith, but I haven't seen to many flame throwing, giant black widow spiders with a deck on the roof of the cab over. I just need to make the legs so they can fit in the smaller streets of BRC.

I moved to Gerlach in 2003, and started working for the Black Rock City LLC, who runs Bartertown, I mean, burning man. I lasted as a full time worker 9 months, then, I was sick of it. I loaded up my Samurai and rolled South to Bisbee then over to Florida. After a few months in the mid-West I got a job in Iraq as contractor. And I haven't stopped since. It's not so bad. Even couch surfing the war has its pluses. I am used to bombs and gun fire. And Black helicopters in the night with no lights.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

For the War or Against the War

I am nearing the end of the line for Mosul. This has been a very productive and enjoyable visit. Being a fan of Ernie Pyle, I am very honored to have worked with the Indiana National Guard. I spent a lot of time in Northern Indiana growing up. My mother was from central Indiana.

I should have lots of articles online in the next two weeks from this job. Next stop, triangle of death. I saved the worst for last. It's what I wanted to see. I came here to get in the shit. And I have it.

I am approaching 10 months in the middle East and I feel it. I thought I would want to stay here. I think the thing that drives me to leave here the most is the need for women. Women I know, or want to know. Afghanistan was filled with whores, gold diggers and very attractive Afghan women locked behind burkas and an oppressive culture.

So I am heading back to the states. I plan on hitting Burning Man, mostly because I can visit the most of my friends in that one spot and save me self running around the US to track then all down.

I try not to forget that my goal is to work in art. I really don't like journalism and do not plan on doing it for a career. I will be writing my book this fall and hopefully selling it. But I really don't want to be stuck in a hole as a writer. I hope I can sell some books and pay back everyone I know and have a little money left over, then maybe get a movie deal.

I made this slide show of some of the paintings I did. I also made the music in the background. The first is all me, the second, Andrea and I, and the third, a Mindless Thuggs Demo.

Lately I have been inspired by my good luck here. I sort of feel like I can do anything. I just can't die while I am over here. So I thing in October 2007, I will come back from the war, and do some work in music. I want to get a tour bus, and band, and tour around. I've had enough friends do it. That is what I want to do. But I am not going come back from the war until my buddies in the Nevada National Guard come back. I mean, I'll be back for a month or so this fall, but I will return this October for another year.

Interviewed the General in charge of all the Iraqi Police in the Mosul area. He is at the top of this blog. Here is a little video clip of him.

I also attended an Iraqi Police Graduation. The video is not that great. I put a song I did with a Creamy Goodness, a band I had in Seattle. The song is drunken Tai Chi Master.

I think I am getting a cold. Or at least a sinus infection. . .
A friend of mine I met here, another journalist, has a saying I like. There are people for the war. There are people against the war. Then there are the people in the war. That is what I feel like. I am in it. I want to get out of it and come back to the states and try and a perspective on it all.

Walking around here I am aware that I probably will be back in the US in three weeks. No more blast walls, 120 degree weather—No need for kevlar, a helmet or any of the things that are normal to me now.

This is something I wrote that will be out. I removed the name. The Army is still reviewing it for release.

“Feeling the Heat in Iraq”

Mosul, Iraq—This summer is hotter than ever for ______ City resident _____ _____. Based at Forward Operating Base Diamondback, _______ serves with the Indiana National Guard as a Sergeant.
______, 32, volunteered to go to Iraq. He arrived with the 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery Regiment of the Indiana National Guard in January. His unit is know as the “Raiders” and trains the Iraqi police in the Mosul area.
The weather in Mosul hovers over 110 degrees most days. The insurgents have also cranked up the heat across the nation of Iraq with daily attacks on the Iraqi people. On 3 July, Staff Sgt. Paul Pabla was killed by sniper fire in Mosul. Pabla, 23, was from Fort Wayne.
“I felt that I could be a real help to the younger troops,” he said. “I can help them and the people of Iraq.”
Iraq would be in “big chaos” without US help, said Brigadier General Wathiq Mohammad, through an interpretor. Wathiq, 48, is a Commander of Iraqi Police in Mosul. He added that he is pleased with the help he receives from the Indiana National Guard.
_______ is an assistant squad leader in the 3rd platoon and truck commander of his Humvee. He helps train the Iraqi Police in weapons cleaning, tactical check points (TCP), vehicle searches, person searches and muzzle awareness.
Traveling to various Iraqi police stations and training centers is all part of the job.
“I am outside the wire 40 hours a week for work,” he said. His missions may be day or night. Like all the other soldiers he is deployed with, _______ works almost everyday.
_______ signed up for the Army Reserve 15 years ago. Eight years ago he switched to the National Guard.
“I signed up was for a better future for my family and to serve my country,” he said.
Originally from Pontiac, Michigan, _______ moved to ______ City four years ago with his wife, ________ and their four children.
_______ works for the Indiana State Prison as a supervisor for license plate manufacture.
“I had a lot of experience in metal work,” he said. “I beat out a whole bunch of guys to get that job.”


The barracks occupied by the Raiders are former Iraqi military buildings. Many of the soldiers have spent their spare time fixing up the place. Decks, shade structures and painting have been added over the last six months and construction continues. Rooms have the Armed Forces Network for television and internet access is available for an additional fee.
While settling into his barracks this spring, _______ witnessed something that he said defines his tour of duty here.
Around noon, his company was in formation. An explosion occurred about one mile away in the city of Mosul.
“We had heard explosions before, but something was different.” he said. “Later, we heard over 40 people were killed.”
_______ put on his ballistic gear and went to the roof of his building. He saw a small mushroom cloud over the city.
Volunteering for this deployment put him in with a number of other soldiers that did not know each other. Although the unit activated is the 2nd Battalion, 150 Field Artillery Regiment, soldiers were selected from the National Guard across the state of Indiana.
“There are a lot of different changes here for the guys,” said _______.
Being a squad leader, _______ deals with soldiers that are upset, even crying. He said that at those times, he has to be at his strongest and keep them focused on the mission.


The day started like every other one, a briefing before the departure from FOB Diamondback. _______'s convoy assumed the lead position. Another was to follow shortly after.
The driver of _______'s Humvee had to use the bathroom. It was an emergency and took 20 minutes. By the time _______'s convoy departed, the other convoy had assumed the lead position.
They were hit by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED.)
_______'s convoy stopped short of the destruction.
“This was our first IED experience,” he said. “It scared us all.”
No one was hurt, fortunately. Improvements on armor and personal safety equipment are on going. The incident sticks with _______ because he knows it could have been his Humvee.
“This mission showed me never to be in a hurry,” he said. “You know what an IED can to do to you. It can be deadly.”

Reflections After Taking Leave

_______ recently returned to ______ City on leave. He arrived in Atlanta with 200 troops. He was impressed by the reception. The crowds of traveling people at the Atlanta airport clapped in unison for the troops as they departed the plane.
Back in Mosul, _______ is thankful for all the people that support the soldiers. He also expressed his thanks to God.
“The younger troops here are growing,” he said. “To me this mission is more than helping the Iraqi police.”
_______ wants to make sure that all the soldiers know that if they can make it through this, they can make it through anything.
Besides missing his family, _______ is an avid fisherman, and looks forward to leaving the desert so he can fish for steelhead and coho salmon.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I have Playboy's August 2006 blog of the month

I was amazed to find out that my blog is listed as Playboy's blog of the month. I run three blogs, but they are pretty much the same. The blog they listed in my blog under the name Shooter.

I am waiting to fly to Kuwait/Iraq. They just lost my bags, but I found out they went to Kandahar. . . I need to be in Tallil Iraq, tomorrow.

Fucking great!

The Playboy blog reprint is on page 22, August 2006.

Monday, July 17, 2006


We took the long the way out of Kabul to Bagram, cutting through dirt alleyways with wrecked armored vehicles. The main roads were cluttered with donkeys, bicycles, jingle trucks and assorted Toyotas.
One of my friends drove me. He is a former Special Forces soldier that does sort of odd jobs I can’t talk about. He has a big beard and looks sort of like a really buff bearded Jim Morrison.
I’ve run across a strange and deadly mix of people in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t have expected anything less. I never found a single decent woman here. But so it goes. Everyone is in it for the money, or some other more bizarre crusade.
Where do I fit in? Well, I came here as an embedded journalist, then bartended, consulted, and did other odd jobs. And then went back to the war, my fickle mistress that bleeds more than once a month. I never made any money, that’s for sure.
Last week, I was smoking hash with a member of the Afghan Parliament. Then I tried to pick up his girlfriend. Whoops. I was subtle, so I didn’t have a big scene about it. Plus we had some work related things to discuss. He is a pretty cool man, educated in the US. I’ve had my eye on his lady friend for a while. I call her Dove’s doppelganger, cause she looks like Dove, a friend of mine from Burning Man. We were at Area 51 last year. I sure know how to take the ladies out and show them a good time.
Someone told me that Playboy magazine listed my blog as something to read. I confirmed this today. “Shooter, Gonzo journalist in Iraq.” Well, I promise to keep you entertained at least twice a week with blogs.
I also was found by an agent, so I have get a book together. I am writing this from Bagram Air Field, yet another area conquered by Alexander the Great. My flight to Iraq leaves in the morning, INSHALLAH. From there, I proceed to Tallil, where the ancient city of UR is on the US Base, as is the great Ziggurat and Abraham’s tomb. I was stationed in Tallil in 2004 when I was temporarily employed by the DOD.
Next week, chopper up to Baghdad, then take a fixed wing to Mosul in the Northwest of Iraq. I will be writing about Indiana National Guard there. And after a few days there, I head back to Baghdad and chopper down to FOB Iskan in the triangle of death for 2 weeks in August.
I like hanging out at Bagram. I am at the Tilman USO
Pat Tilman was the football player that enlisted and was shot by friendly fire here in Afghanistan. They have wi-fi and free coffee, so I am all over it. Also, they have two guitars you can play and lots of books and movies, and very comfortable chairs and couches. It’s just across from the PAX terminal. Too.
I find staying here at Bagram to be relaxing. Kabul, for me, can be a non-stop party. Booze and whoring. The Chinese run brothels, which I have mentioned in previous blogs. Many have been raided and shut down, but there are a few that pay the right people and stay in business. It’s not like my state of Nevada, where they have lot of brothels, and they are legal.
I am so used to war that the problems in Israel and Lebanon don’t seem that bad. The Israeli’s seem to get away with some shit. When they grabbed 2 US soldiers last month in Baghdad, we didn’t blow up Iraq. We already blew it up. I guess it would be counter productive to blow up a country we are building up. I found this candid transcript of Bush at the G 8 to be worthy of THE ONION, but sadly, it is true.

I have an article coming out in Southern Indiana this week and another in Seattle. I still have a bunch more to write about. I should do that tonight. If only I get paid. I can get published, but the check is another story.
I am down to my last $20, if anyone can contribute to the ghetto journalist’s funds. That is the best part of being an embedded journalist. I get to live and eat for free. I just have to stay out of the way of the bullets.
By the way, my laptop is on its last leg, if anyone has a dusty old one laying around. I need USB, at least, and all the keys working. I’ve spilled so much booze on my keyboard, I lost the “N” and the “G” but I did remap the keyboard. The screen is broke, and the DVD doesn’t work. But I still recommend Toshiba. It’s been around the world 3 times in 2 years and had the shit kicked out of it more than 5 times.
The soldiers in Iraq get better food, for sure. Although this Tilman USO is probably the coolest thing next to the Canadian journalists office/barracks in Kandahar. They even get beer. Probably the best embed I did was with the Italian Air Force in Herat. Pizza and beer on Saturday nights. The guys I was with got blown up by a car bomb the day after I left. They lived, but that sure as hell was a party foul.
Afghanistan is like a lot of developing nations, herds of sheep in the street, farm animals and SUVs sharing a lane with an armored convoy . . . but the death thing is always there. That donkey might be loaded with explosives. That handcart might kill everyone around it. This is the kind of stuff that happened while I was here. It’s worse than when the Taliban were shooting RPGs at us. Well, at night, it sucks.
I probably will not return to Afghanistan until this fall. I need to find a place with better women, beer and red wine. I haven’t had a good woman, or red wine in a long time.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This is me on an Abrams tank about a week ago. This is the article I wrote about the tank and the driver.

Well I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head, that didn't hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad
So I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day
♫ I've been drinking pretty heavy since I got back from Iraq. I have a beer before I roll out of bed, usually, then another one for dessert. I went out last night to LE ATMOSPHERE, a stylish French restaurant and bar. They had on the world cup. A lot of people were there. I ran into some Uzbek friends. I had already drank almost a 5th of WKD shit blue vodka when I left. The world cup started at 10:30 p.m. here.

I'd smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and the songs I'd been pickin'
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playin' with a can that he was kicking
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone's fryin' chicken
And it took me back to somethin'
That I'd lost somewhere, somehow along the way


♫ I am hurting this morning. I had plans, but I am just laying around, guts on fire. I don't think I drank more than one glass of water the last week. The rest was beer and vodka. I puked all over the fancy French restaurant. My Uzbek friends and I smoked a fatty and they gave me some salty nut thing and I just lost it and puked. People didn't seem to care, except those I puked toward. Why is it that people run away from me when I start projectile puking in their direction?

On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I'm wishing Lord that I was stoned
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there's nothin' short of dyin'
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of a sleepin' city sidewalk
And Sunday mornin' comin' down

♫ The only fun thing I have been doing besides downloading porn is looking for fights on tribe. Burning Man is the best, but once I start laying into people the thread usually stops. I think I ended three or four threads. I deleted on I started on Burning Burning Burka. But that one was just me ranting about some one I don't like in the Burning Organization.

We couldn't take our AK-47s and pistols into the French restaurant. When I woke up this morning I had some Afghan house worker messing around. I slept with my pistol at near my pillow, loaded. The Afghan saw it and left. Then he came back, unplugged me computer and plugged in a long extension cord that went to a weed whacker outside my window.

I sometimes sleep naked. It's hot and no AC here. I don't mind. It is 20 or 30 degrees cooler than Baghdad.

My first night here I was really ripped—vodka, beer and Absinthe. I slept naked and my friend John walked in without knocking. I was supposed to visit a local warlord with him. He said I was naked with a big hard on when he walked in. So he walked out, closed the door and left me here. That was Tuesday. Why can't people knock? Otherwise, you get an eyeful of my Longfellow. Ha ha ha. At least I wasn't jerking it.

In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singin'
Then I headed down the street
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'
And it echoed thru the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

♫ I realize I am the one that poisoned my body. This sickness in me. The burning stomach. Beer shits. My hands are not shaking too much. I am sure I would feel better if I just slammed a beer. I did that yesterday morning—and puked all over. I kept half of it down. After the third time I puked, I felt better.

I think the war is getting at me—hum, I just heard an explosion outside. Well, maybe some one just fell while they were banging a Chinese whore. This war is depressing. Really. Can you believe that? A depressing war. I had hope for Afghanistan, but all signs indicated they really fucked up here and we are leaving and it will be just like it was with the Taliban in the next three years. Let's hope not. But they are doing a lot fighting and killing. For stupid shit, like cutting a teachers head off because he allows females to attend school. What can you do with people like that? I guess send them to Mississippi, where they ain't for sure bout them words, and learning.

I am doing on more tour of Iraq. Each time I go I say this is the most dangerous thing I will ever do in the war. This next month of so is no exception. Tallil and Mosul are relatively safe, but South Baghdad—the triangle of death, is a shit hole, and Babylon is right between the ass cheeks of this global bunghole as well.

I don't like being some where that fucks with my head so much I can't drink it away when I have booze. But this is what I wanted to do, what I wanted to experience. And I did it. I still am broke. Whatever money I made I owe a gazillon people. So I have a new plan to raise cash. I am coming back to the states after this last mission and for a month or two, I want to sent up lecture/slide shows about the war and whores of the war, like me, holding opium poppies in my tattooed hands. That will be much easier to beg for money than standing on the street corner with a cup. Can you spare this drunk artist a dime? People don't get it that I tell them I am an artist working as a war correspondent. I am starting to not to get it, either. I want to paint, make crazy art, write books about women I have loved and my adventures, which at this point are actually pretty fucking grand, especially if I embellish a little.


I am still doing another year here, but I need a break from the war. Even Ernie Pyle took R & R. Before he got shot in the head, writing about the war in the pacific. Now it is IEDs. People wonder what the Islamic terrorists would do if they capture me and see my tattoo. Would they follow the directions and CUT HERE? Would they be so over run with cognitive dissonance that they would let me go? Or, would they fuck me is the ass a few days (these Arabs and Afghans are really into Pulp Fiction Zed and the Gimp back room discipline. . .)

Well, I doubt they will ever take me alive. I just have to make it through another month in Iraq.

The picture is me burning some shit a week after the Burning Man event, 2001.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I'm wishing Lord that I was stoned
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there's nothin' short of dyin'
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of a sleepin' city sidewalk
And Sunday mornin' comin' down

I have been on the move since 2004 when I broke up with Squirrel. I still write to her. She probably thinks I am crazy. Well, she dated me for nine months. She knows I am crazy. After her, I moved around for six months, then returned to Michigan to visit my family, where I helped my father two knee surgeries. I hooked up with Andrea. I had dated her older sister years before. That was a little strange. It probably was on reason she ended our relationship. That and she was married. Her husband didn't like the smell of our sex. She divorced him, I went to France, then Bisbee. She was a little pissed at me because in the middle of our relationship I got my job in Iraq. We had plans, you know, and then I was like, “Andrea, I am going to Iraq Monday.” She didn't think I would come back alive. But I did. I was only there a few weeks but made a lot of money and didn't have to do the entire year because they fucked up the contract. The base at Tallil, my first stop next week, is where I was 2 years ago.
I had a sat phone. Calling Andrea and my family seemed so distant and unreal on that phone. I didn't call anyone while I was in Iraq this time, with the exception of the newspapers I sold stories too.

I wonder if or when I am going to fall for someone again, preferably some one that likes me. I can only hope. Well, I have another year in the war. Where my head is going to be when I land from that will be anyone's guess. When I leave here I am driving a motorcycle East through India and down to Vietnam. Then up to Siberia. They get to Alaska and drive down. I'll need some time to think.

I started putting stuff on YOUTUBE.COM This is a music video with Andrea.

Friday, July 07, 2006


And there I was, in the Middle East. While some similarities exist from Iraq to Afghanistan, they are distinct cultures and societies. The Iraqi people had more modern infrastructure, while the Afghans live in the Stone Age and are more comfortable with it than someone in Iraq. For some strange reason the women work the fields around North Baghdad and the men just sit around and drink chai.

Explosions in my sleep are not new sounds, just like the taste of blood from a sucker punch is as familiar as a Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch. I’ve been very lucky in my travels and reckless endeavors. I arrived in Kabul with $40 and a vindictive will to survive. My exit from this country comes and goes, in plans within plans, missions, drunken death wishes and sordid affairs of an extreme nature.

I am tired of talking to people for the moment. I had so many lives pass through my ears and out my fingers in June. More than usual. I haven’t been out much since the 4th of July. Well, I haven’t been out at all. I got out my Salwar Kamish I purchased in Kandahar and since I haven’t shaved, look reasonably Afghan. I haven’t lost the little bit of Dari I know.

I’ve been into and got one of my videos up there. I want to put up some stuff from the Middle East and New Orleans. It’s just a pain in the ass to upload from here.

That is all I have up for now. Some Burning Man stuff and I made a new video about the Romanians based on this article I wrote.

I am still toying with the TRIANGLE OF DEATH. I am talking to some people there and seeing if it really is THE triangle, or just some other part of sand covered in blood and body parts.

I am staying with some friends. They have wireless and beer, so I like it. I have all my stuff here, consolidated. I didn’t loose stuff during the riots, when I moved. We got a lot of guns here. Ha ha ha and an empty swimming pool. I have a nice room, bigger even than my place at Taji in the Tomahawk village, with a private bathroom.

They have drains on the floor and showers right out of the wall. No shower enclosure or bathtub, in my bathroom.

Karzai is in the New York Times today

Violence in Afghanistan is the worst it has been since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, and hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks.

``I am concerned about the rise of violence in Afghanistan, the Afghan people are concerned about the rise of violence in Afghanistan, and the international community is concerned about the rise of violence in Afghanistan,'' Karzai told a news conference in Tokyo on the last day of a four-day visit.

Tomorrow I am heading out for some errands. I’ll shot some video on the street if I get a chance and put it up on YOUTUBE.COM

I have tried to make some compressed videos but my power supply and battery are shot. I can get on the internet, but anything that requires a lot of power causes a crash in computer. It starts as the screen flashes back and forth from battery to power cord. My original cord took a shit before I left and I still haven’t been able to find a 15 volt 6 amp power cord. They just don’t have them around here. Will have to order some when I have money, some day. . .ha ha ha. The ghetto journalist. . . with my bag of hand-me-down technological artifacts. . .




Wednesday, July 05, 2006

85 People Kidnapped

Mass Kidnapping in Iraq

Camp Taji, Iraq: 30 km North of Baghdad

"It seems cooler today," the Sgt. 1st Class says as we walk from the DEFAC to the office.

"Yeah, it feels about 110 today," I tell him as we walk through the gravel and the dust between a couple 10 foot concrete blast walls.

We continue walking through the shade structures that the Iraqi Republican Guard built under Saddam Hussein for tank shade. It's similar to the shade I build as a construction manager at Burning Man, except the squares of shade are concrete and attached in a diagonal diamond shape along rows. Some of the concrete blast walls are stenciled DPW here. That takes my mind back to Black Rock desert.

I've interviewed about 20 soldiers from Nevada here at Camp Taji. They are excited that someone from Nevada has come to write about them. Most of them are pretty happy with there job. Many have been to Iraq in OIF 1. Winnemucca Dave's son told me, "As soon as I stepped off the plane, it was like being out in the Black Rock." Of course there aren't a lot of raves, or black rocks, here. Burning Man is held in the Black Rock Desert and Winnemucca Dave was one of my co-workers.

For the past three days I have been working with the 414 Civil Affairs (CA), a New York State Reserve Unit. Yesterday I drove to the Ministry of Oil and they talked about problems with propane, and propane accessories. The "insurgents" blew up the pipeline two months ago. So trucks are used to transport propane, and it doesn't seem to get to its proper location. Most of it seems to hit the black market. There is a shortage of gasoline and propane here. Isn't that funny in an oil producing country? Gas was about 45 cents a gallon three months ago here. Now it is about $2.75 gallon. (They buy it in liters and I have converted it.) Skilled labor pays about $25 a day and unskilled is $10. Afghanistan: $2 a day unskilled, $6 skilled, with an average wage of $35 a month. I am not sure what the average monthly pay in Iraq is, yet. Or what the soldiers make. In Afghanistan, a soldier makes $70 a month and the family gets a little over $500 if they get killed.

They do not have reliable electricity here, either. Just like Afghanistan. All they have in Afghanistan is poppies. It must be frustrating to have oil but no electricity.
Most problems seem to come from insurgents. Really! They killed the workers sent to fix the propane pipeline.

The two US Soldiers that were kidnapped the other day were 40 miles South of Taji. 85 people were kidnapped yesterday about 10 clicks North of here on MSR Tampa. I drove by there today. We visited the Mushada Medical Clinic. The electricity was not on when we came in to meet with the head doctor. It was fucking hot and smelled like a county jail, with BO.

There was a Nahia scheduled. That is sort of like a city council meeting. But the streets were empty, which is a really bad sign if you are moving around on a gun truck. No one showed up for the meeting. So, as I mentioned, 85 people were kidnapped.

85 Iraqi's that were getting on buses after work to go back to their homes in Baghdad city. Gone. I heard, unofficially, that the factory made hammers and stuff, including bombs for insurgents, which offered them some degree of protection. But that protection seems to have expired since they bombed Zarqawi.

We went to the local Iraqi Police Station, next. This was interesting, as it was a recruiting day. Each room of the station had men in it, testing to become a cop. One guy took a picture of our interpretor, a cute little Jordanian woman. We made him erase that picture. One room had the recruits doing sit-ups. Another they checked the backgrounds of the recruits. I am not sure how they did this. But I do know they are starting to use fingerprinting here on the Iraqi's in our own database.

The upstairs of the cop shop was being refinished. The CA did not fund the operation, but were asked to look over it as it was in there Area of Operations (AO.)

There were two US Tanks parked at the cop shop entrance. They recently put up 12 foot concrete blast walls around the entire compound. One contractor was already killed for working there. Killed on the job by gun fire.

We step out towards the roof.
"You may not want to come out here," the Sgt. Tells me. "We take sniper fire from West."
"Are you going out?" I ask.
"Well, so am I," I say and step out. I had on my kevlar, so I was willing to take the chance for a few photos. I didn't come here to hide from the money shot.

We made it back to Taji without incident, which was fine with me. I have another week here. I am working with CA, as mentioned. They called a most of the guys out of Individual Readiness Reserve (IRR), which means you get paid $5000 a year to be on a roster for duty, in case of war. One fellow told me that only 1/3 of the IRR showed up for duty out of the Washington, D.C. area, where he is from.

So the 414 CA have a number of grey haired gentlemen that were re-trained to come fight in this war. Most of them did not have CA as there MOS. One fellow from Texas was in Vietnam, where he got his combat 4ID patch in 1968. I am doing a story on him. Will be riding out into the wilds with him on Sunday and Monday.

Bombs regularly go off on and around the base. From what I gather, most of them are mortars shot at us. They run a lot of UAVs, particularly the Shadow, 24/7 so they usually catch the insurgents after they fire the first one.

Three days ago an Iraqi soldier had both of his arms blown off by an IED on MSR Tampa (Iraqi HWY 1). They covered that in our briefing when we drove off the base. Apparently there is a new bomb maker in town that likes to use pressure plates covered in gravel. These plates may also be used on walls, say, for a anti-American poster. When someone goes up to grab the poster, boom!

The morale of the troops here is pretty good, much better than I would expect. No one likes it here, and why should they? It is a war. It is an unpleasant environment. But the soldiers do there jobs.

This place is a lot worse off than Afghanistan, although I read everyday that the Taliban are up to their old tricks in force there, too, since I was shot at by them in May and they wacked Captain Goddard ( ) and looted Kabul. Still, the US has lost less than 300 troops in five years in Afghanistan. That war isn't over, but NATO committed to ten years there and on 31 July they take over Regional Area Command South (RAC) and the US footprint there will be pretty reduced to nothing. Operation Enduring Freedom will be pretty much over for us. The Canadians and the British have a big bite of shit sandwich on their plates, now.

This War on Terror has lasted longer than WWII. That is something for perspective. This global war on terror rages on. I think that the Iraqi Army might be able to take care of business for us. I have seen them, talked to the Maj. Gen. Bashar Mahmoud Ayoub, who is in charge of the 9th Iraqi Mechanized Division. We just gave him 615 sq. km of battle space. He and his Iraqi soldiers handle everything there except helicopter medivacs, which the US still assists on. He reports directly to Maj. Gen. James Thurman, Multi-National DivisionBaghdad, commander.

Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, had an Army and some what modern infrastructure. It is a misnomer to say the reconstruction of Afghanistan. They are largely in the stone age, or just past it. No water, electricity or anything that would have surprised Alexander the Great or Genghis Kahn, with the exception of a moped or Chinese made tractor.
Maj. Gen. Bashar Mahmoud Ayoub signed up for the Iraqi Army in 1967 at the age of 20. He seems pretty tenacious to survive in the Iraqi Army to the last 39 years. Some of the Afghan Generals served the Red Army. It's fun to study how these people get recycled into duty. Afghanistan even has one female General. I wonder how many the US has.

One more week here and I catching a hop back to Kabul. I flew through Qatar to get here. Not sure which way I go back. Maybe Kuwait. I have two weeks, well, a little less, in Afghanistan, then I fly back to Iraq. I will be South of Baghdad for my next mission. It is some what safer there. I'll be at Tallil, where the Ziggurat is, and Abraham, of the Bible, Torah and Koran was born, lived and is buried, right on the US Air Base. There is also a pizza parlor and espresso shop there, courtesy of the Italian soldiers.

I've been a tourist of death and destruction for eight months now. Watching four Apache helicopters kill the Taliban was one of my more memorable sites, along with watching a JDAM "Bunker Buster" smite insurgents. Maybe they should do that to the Burning Man. . . After all, the bombs are laser guided and government approved.

Well, that is all for now. I am running out of cash, as usual. If anyone has some extra cash, you can paypal me at
I am going to have a lot of articles out. Some might even pay. Others, like this one, do not.,_carmel_in