Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Second Chances


July 9, 2007

Photo-2General David Petraeus visits Baqubah.

When distinguished visitors come to almost-where the action is, it can be disruptive to the point of wasteful. I’ve heard commanders grumble all over Iraq about the steady streams of VIPs who, while intending to be seen observing operations, instead seize the mechanics with their clumsy footprint. These are called “dog and pony shows.”

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Be Not Afraid


 Published: 18 June 2007

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always;
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

[From a prayer card I found on a base in Anbar Province, Iraq.]

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The Last Device

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Chapter 39: The Last Device 


A COUPLE OF years before the manslaughter charge, after a temporary retirement from the creation of bigger and better bombs, we pushed our luck one more time.

We decided to combine our skills to build a monster explosive device, and set the date for it’s unveiling to coincide with a Saturday night high school party that would take place on a ranch owned by the wealthy parents of a friend. There was a lake on the ranch that was large enough for us to detonate a major device on without the chance of someone being injured.

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Desolate Roads Part 2 of 2


January 28, 2007

I once knew an old man who saved everything that might have an eventual use, especially old lumber and nails. He’d tear down old fences or sheds, and rip out the nails with a claw hammer. The nails squeaked as he pried them from the dry, gray wood, weathered by years of sun and rain. The man would work steadily through the heat, sweating but never slowing, dropping each nail into an old coffee can. When he’d finished sorting and stacking the wood, he’d turn to each nail, and hammer it straight as it would go.

Read more: Desolate Roads Part 2 of 2

Desolate Roads Part 1 of 2


I pulled off the helmet and went to work. After settling on a tattered weight bench, Cavalry soldiers who did not recognize me politely challenged with a few direct questions, watching closely for the answers. Apparently I passed, and the soldiers relaxed while my fingers kept fumbling with a new dummy-cord. Just then, a Specialist wearing a uniform and clear ballistic glasses walked up and asked: “Need help with that?”

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There Be Dragons


Afghanistan in the News

01 lgDeep in the Desert: Camp Bastion being swallowed.


If the fire is not completely out, it’s completely burning.

The population of Afghanistan is significantly larger than that of Iraq: about 26 million in Iraq, 31 million in Afghanistan. Yet the roughly 21,000 troops in Afghanistan (according to Combined Forces Command—Afghanistan) are exceeded by the number of troops in Iraq by a factor of about seven. The Coalition and NATO have so few troops in Afghanistan that wide swaths are left totally ungoverned and uncontrolled.

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