Military Archives

"The Karzai Conundrum," my Forbes Online piece

By Michael Fumento

"If I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban," Afghan President Hamid Karzai allegedly told several members of his nation's parliament Monday. The U.S. reaction should be: "Don't let a camel bite you on the butt on the way out."

Hey, Hamid! We've got your address!

As I write in my Forbes Online article, "The Karzai Conundrum," including knowledge I gleaned while embedded in Afghanistan, Karzai is displeased because we're displeased with him.

But it's not a standoff. We have excellent reasons. Even by Afghan standards he's crooked. Worse, he's become arrogant - "King Karzai" in his own mind. If we are to win the war he either needs to undergo a character transformation on the order of Ebenezer Scrooge's, or we need him gone.

April 10, 2010 12:00 PM  ·  Permalink

"Hurt Locker" takes "Best Picture." Here's my essay

By Michael Fumento

One word kept appearing in reviews of The Hurt Locker: realism. In fact, as I observed in a Philadelphia Inquirer piece from last August, the incidents in the film are grossly unrealistic - as I know from having been a combat engineer myself and having embedded with a Navy-Marine EOD near Fallujah.

Marines and Sailors of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Camp Fallujah, with their bomb-blowing robots.

The most obvious explanation for what the reviewers perceived as realism is that they know no more about war, Iraq, or EOD than EOD technicians know about reviewing movies.

Nevertheless, if the shoot-'em-up; blow 'em up depictions were typically Hollywood, the movie did convey a sense of realism in its approach to the antagonists and in putting you into the movie. Clearly, it's the best film made about the Iraq war.

March 8, 2010 08:09 AM  ·  Permalink

No, the Pakistani Taliban aren't finished off. But it's the time to do it.

By Michael Fumento

There is talk that the reported death of Hakimullah Mehsud, courtesy of a drone-fired Hellfire missile, may prove devastating to the Taliban in Pakistan. That's especially so in combination with low public opinion of the group, successful Pakistani army attacks in South Waziristan, and the killing of Mehsud's predecessor courtesy of another one of those fine Hellfires.

Roach bomb!

"If he's gone, it's a fatal blow," said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. "At one point, the Taliban had a lot of momentum and a charismatic leader. Now they've been uprooted and lost all credibility."

Yeah, well don't write that obit just yet.

Since my first article written from Afghanistan where I embedded in 2007, I've been saying that the conflict needs to be seen as the Afghan-Pakistan war. Pres. Obama, to his credit, clearly sees it that way. But the massive Pakistani army, one of the largest in the world, continues to allow the Taliban to have a base of operations in North Waziristan.

It's an old cliche but a fitting one, that if you leave part of a cancerous tumor it will eventually grow back to its original size. The Pakistanis claim to be exhausted from their struggle in the south. Tough. They owe us big time for all the aid we've given them and continue to give them, for having supported the Taliban in the first place, and even for giving nuclear technology to rogue nations like North Korea.

Obama needs to crack the whip and get the Pakistanis to root out the roaches from their last nest.

February 2, 2010 11:47 AM  ·  Permalink

Flu Watch Nov. 14 - What Swine Flu ISN'T Doing This Week

By Michael Fumento

Yes, even as the media twist and turn the numbers in the new CDC estimate (about which I'll be publishing an article) the evidence continues to come in that swine flu in the U.S. has peaked and is sliding down the right side of the epidemic slope.

Swine flu infections have plummeted
Swine flu infections have plummeted

Here we see a sharp decline in both new deaths and hospitalizations.

Last week there was a massive decline in samples submitted to the CDC surveillance labs and a small decline in those testing positive. This week the bottom fell out. Samples submitted have gone from about 26,000 to 21,000 to just 13,000. Almost 39% of those samples were positive two weeks ago; now it's just 30%. Put another way, the CDC labs received 10,076 positive samples two weeks ago, 7,557 last week, and just 3,834 this week. That's a plunge of over 60% in just two weeks!

Even hysteria seems to have peaked - if only ever so slightly. Last week just under 8% of all emergency room visits were for those ubiquitous "flu-like symptoms." This week, it's just under 7%. Not exactly a 60% drop in the last three weeks, but then the media are laboring mightily to prop up those figures.

College infections have are still essentially flat.

In other countries, at least, it seems people are starting to catch on. London's Independent newspaper asks: "Pandemic? What Pandemic?" It gives the following figures:

Number of deaths in worst-case scenario for Britain published in July

19,000 Revised worst-case scenario outlined in September

1,000 Revised worst-case scenario last month

154 Number of deaths in Britain so far

4-8,000 Average annual death toll in Britain from seasonal winter flu

But in America we remain with wool firmly pulled over eyes. Still, some are having fun with all this. Check out this neat swine flu music video, "The Swine Flu Blues!"

November 13, 2009 06:08 PM  ·  Permalink

What haunts combat vets? Read my Forbes piece: "Veterans' Ghosts"

By Michael Fumento

Many of my feelings about what combat was like were difficult to describe but one was impossible until I read this quote from a Vietnam vet:

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Sea, Air, and Land) Michael Monsoor in combat in Ramadi, 2006.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Sea, Air, and Land) Michael Monsoor in combat in Ramadi, 2006

There's a love relationship that is nurtured in combat because the man next you - you're depending on him for the most important thing you have, your life, and if he lets you down you're either maimed or killed. If you make a mistake the same thing happens to him, so the bond of trust has to be extremely close; and I'd say this bond is stronger than almost anything, with the exception of parent and child. It's a hell of a lot stronger than man and wife - your life is in his hands, you trust that person with the most valuable thing you have.

And what happens when that person dies, whether in your presence or later on? You may end up believing in ghosts, like the ghost of Michael Monsoor. Here's my story of the first Navy SEAL to win the Medal of Honor in Iraq.

November 11, 2009 09:55 PM  ·  Permalink

The government forgot about hiring the vet

By Michael Fumento

With unemployment up yet again, it must be reassuring to Americans that job-seeking veterans are being helped so much by the government, and by all those Web-based organizations with such names as,,,, and Military Job Zone.

Except that they're not. Remember the expression "Don't forget; hire the vet"? We've forgotten.

Read my Philadelphia Inquirer piece, "No Medals for Hiring Vets," and be enraged.

November 11, 2009 08:48 PM  ·  Permalink

"Not Quite Real," my Philly Inquirer piece about EOD in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

One word keeps appearing in reviews of The Hurt Locker, the critically acclaimed war film: realism. In fact, as I note in my Philadelphia Inquirer piece, the incidents in the film are grossly unrealistic - as I know from having been a combat engineer myself and having embedded with a Navy-Marine EOD near Fallujah.

The most obvious explanation for what the reviewers perceived as realism is that they know no more about war, Iraq, or EOD than EOD technicians know about reviewing movies.

Nevertheless, if the shoot-'em-up; blow 'em up depictions were typically Hollywood, the movie did convey a sense of realism in its approach to the antagonists and in putting you into the movie. Clearly, it's the best film made about the Iraq war.

August 2, 2009 04:43 PM  ·  Permalink

"Keep F-22 Program Flying," my piece in Defense News

By Michael Fumento

Pres. Obama this week must decide whether to order the building of more F-22 Raptor fighters or let the production lines close. Yet as I write in Defense News, only 203 of the aircraft described by the think tank Air Power Australia as "the most capable multi-role combat aircraft in production today" have been built or ordered. That from the original request for 762.

The F-22 Raptor performs as impressively as it looks.

Why the hack job? Because we always plan the next war by the last or current one. F-22s are overkill for insurgents. But what folly to think we can simply abandon conventional fighting capabilities.

The Russians, Chinese, and many other nations already have many different fighters that fly circles around the 33-year-old F-15 Eagle that Raptor detractors insist we keep flying for decades more. Dogfighting aside, the latest Russian missile defense system - which will be exported everywhere including Iran - can even down ballistic missiles. The F-22 is the only fighter we have or will have, including the forthcoming F-35 Lightning II, that can effectively penetrate the Russian system. We need vastly more Raptors. Shut down the production lines and watch the U.S. become a second-rate air power.

February 22, 2009 07:40 PM  ·  Permalink

Remember when Iraq's Anbar Province was "Lost?"

By Michael Fumento

It's wonderful news that we've handed over to the Iraqi military what was formerly the vicious province in the nation. But probably few remember that two short years ago the Marines themselves, in charge of Anbar military operations, admitted in a classified report "there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation" and we were "no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency" or "counter al Qaeda's rising popularity . . ."

How could they have been so wrong? Answer: They weren't, as I report in Human Events.

"Lost Anbar" was at the least outrageously bad reporting and at worst a ruse to encourage a withdrawal from Iraq, concocted by a single reporter at the Washington Post, Thomas Ricks. He based his demoralizing articles on a single report he'd never even seen. Naturally the MSM parroted Ricks's assertion ad nauseum. But normally they skipped the middleman and simply declared: "The Marines have admitted . . ."

Yet even at the time, articles from Al Anbar itself, including a 10,000-word one from yours truly, contradicted the Post's presentation with on-the-scene observations, interviews, statistics, and a comparison to my previous visit when the area was horrifically violent and the situation indeed looked dire. I concluded that article, "I believe we are winning the Battle of Ramadi. And if the enemy can be beaten here, he can be beaten anywhere."

My Human Events piece is a powerful warning that regardless of progress in Iraq - and with Afghanistan going badly - the MSM will stop at nothing to further the agendae of promoting sensationalism and, often enough, trying to sink our war efforts.

September 15, 2008 10:45 AM  ·  Permalink

Cpt. Travis Patriquin, KIA Ramadi, honored in USA Today

By Michael Fumento

USA Today in its Memorial Day issue put Army Cpt. Travis Patriquin's photo on the front page and had a nice write-up of him. The website version relates that Marine Lt. Col. John Church lost two friends in Iraq just days before his wife gave birth to a baby boy: Patriquin and Marine Lt. Col. Joseph Trane McCloud. So they named the child Travis Joseph Church.

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin
The newspaper notes that, "Patriquin, 32, was a staff officer in Ramadi who spoke fluent Arabic and helped develop a successful strategy to build an alliance with tribal sheiks."

I met Patriquin during my second trip to Ramadi in October, 2006. I was immediately struck by his brilliance. I didn't even know at the time he was also hero, having won a Bronze Star for action in Operation Anaconda - the fiercest fight of the Afghanistan war.

The bad guys could not have known how lucky they were when his Humvee, in which he was accompanied by Marine PAO officer Megan McClung and an enlisted man, was destroyed by an IED six weeks later.

I wrote about Patriquin and McClung here., whom I'd gotten to know much better.

I wrote to Patriquin's dad, Gary today. "I guess there is really no way to tell people how we really feel," he told me. "Some days are great and then others it's a burden just to get out of bed."

Capt. Travis Desk
Capt. Patriquin's famous desk
He continued, "I have had people ask me if I think we should leave Iraq because I lost a son, To me, that is a slap in the face. It's all I can do to keep from biting their head off. But I take a big breath and ask them if they like their way of life. In most cases, they say 'Yes.' Then I tell them, the next time you see a soldier THANK HIM."

He concluded, "Travis said to me, 'Dad I would rather fight on another country's soil than fight here at home.' He had a love for protecting his family and friends."

I conclude with a photo I took of Patriquin's desk, which was made world famous when blogger Michelle Malkin picked up on it.

May 23, 2008 07:30 PM  ·  Permalink

My Wkly Std tribute to Medal of Honor winner SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor (right) during a fight in the Mulaab, Ramadi

Spring 2006: The Mullab section of Ramadi, Iraq. Graffiti boast that this is "the graveyard of the Americans." Leaving your base camp virtually guarantees a fight, and I'm in one the first day of my embed. When shots ring out, I jump into the street to start snapping pictures. I look back and see a tall Navy SEAL seemingly pointing his 7.62 millimeter MK48 machine gun right at me.

In fact, he was protecting me as well as his teammates. SEALs don't wear identification -- even on dress uniforms -- and I would never have learned his name if, six months later, he hadn't sacrificed all to save those same teammates.

Last week I looked on as President Bush, tears glistening on his face, presented the parents of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Sea, Air, and Land) Michael Monsoor our nation's highest award -- the Medal of Honor. "Mr. and Mrs. Monsoor: America owes you a debt that can never be repaid," he said. "This nation will always cherish the memory of your son."

Read the rest (including photos and video of SEALs in action), by the only reporter to write about the ceremony who was in combat with Monsoor.

April 13, 2008 08:05 PM  ·  Permalink

Navy SEAL Mike Monsoor to Receive Medal of Honor

By Michael Fumento

SEAL and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Monsoor will posthumously receive the nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor. It will be given to his parents in a White House ceremony April 8. The next day there will be a Hall of Heroes Dedication followed by a Navy Memorial Dedication. He died in Sept. 2006 after throwing himself on a hand grenade and thereby probably saving the lives of three of his comrades.

I first wrote about being in combat with Monsoor's unit in Ramadi, Iraq in April of 2006 in my Weekly Standard "New Band of Brothers" article, though he wasn't mentioned by name. He was killed just as I was returning to Ramadi later in the year, and one of the photos I took of him during that first fight graced the cover of the issue containing my subsequent article. I plan to attend and to write about the Medal of Honor Ceremony.

March 15, 2008 07:50 PM  ·  Permalink

Should literacy be required for bloggers?

By Michael Fumento

I can't speak for the blogosphere generally; it's rather large for that. I can say there are some excellent, careful, thoughtful bloggers. But all too often I see something like this at "No More Mister Nice Blog," slugged: "I GUESS THE ARMY IS NOW PART OF THE LIE-BERAL MEDIA."

"In November, a study by CBS News found a high rate of suicides among veterans," wrote blogger Steve M. "In response, Michael Fumento of the New York Post promptly rose to shoot the messenger" he wrote, linking to my article. It went on that, "Fumento cited a lot of statistics that, he claimed, proved CBS's "nefariousness." But two months later, we now have some new statistics: "Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post."

Never mind that I'm not "of" the Post; I just occasionally contribute. Instead, let's count. "Veteran" comprises seven letters, whereas "active-duty soldiers" comprises 18 letters plus a hyphen. It thus appears Steve M. not only cannot read, he cannot do the simplest math. Since that would also preclude writing, it appears he has prevailed upon mommy to do his typing.

Finally, he knows nothing of logic. Even were we comparing apples to apples or oranges to oranges, an Army study showing an increase would not necessarily support a CBS study showing an increase. If the CBS said flu deaths doubled last year and the CDC said they went up 10 percent, would the CDC have established the CBS figures and methodology as correct?

Don't ask No More Mister Nice Blog - or at least not in writing!

February 6, 2008 11:39 AM  ·  Permalink

Erratum, albeit obvious, in blog on Wkly Std piece on Lancet Iraq studies

By Michael Fumento

In my original blog, regarding my "The Casualties of War" Weekly Standard article, I wrote that the number of Iraqi dead Lancet 2006 attributed to car bombs per day was "111 times higher" than those of the antiwar group Iraqbodycount. That would be extreme, even for The Lancet. Or maybe not. As it happens, Iraqbodycount found "111 more," not 111 times more.

January 31, 2008 11:46 AM  ·  Permalink

Yes, Lancet lied about Iraq war deaths (My Wkly Std article)

By Michael Fumento

When The Lancet came out with its 2004 "pre-election surprise" study claiming a massive number of war-related Iraqi deaths since the invasion, I and others immediately poked so many holes in it that it resembled a spaghetti strainer. Undaunted, two years later the same journal published another pre-election surprise study alleging a drastically-higher 655,000 excess deaths over a longer period, with 600,000 directly from violence.

Naturally, the media cheered until hoarse, featuring Lancet's numbers on 25 news shows and in 188 articles within a single week. Likewise for the leftist blogosphere like Daily Kos and Tim Lambert at Deltoid - who began a vendetta against me over it.

But now, as I discuss in my current Weekly Standard article, "The Casualties of War," complete with a plethora of hyperlinks, a new study co-conducted by the World Health Organization (hardly an Iraq war booster) and appearing in America's most prestigious medical journal, directly compares itself with Lancet 2006. It also uses as comparison numbers kept by the antiwar group IraqBodyCount. The comparisons show the real carnage is whatever was left of the Lancet's reputation and that of its editor, who screeches about "Anglo-American imperialism" at anti-war rallies.

Perhaps most importantly, for the latest comparable reporting period, the new study found Lancet's numbers to be SEVEN TIMES its own.

The WHO's Iraq Family Health Study (IFHS) "found an estimated 151,000 excess violent deaths from the U.S-led invasion in March 2003 through June 2006, when compared to violent deaths in the prewar period," I note. "This is roughly one-fourth the war-related deaths found by Lancet in 2006."

Specifically, for the last comparable year, "the IFHS daily figure was 2.3 times higher than that of IraqBodyCount, (while) the Lancet 2006 daily figure was a stunning 7.3 times higher than that of the IFHS and 17 times higher than that of IraqBodyCount."

Nonetheless, the research leader for both the Lancet studies insists the IFHS findings are consistent with Lancet 2006! He's said the same of the only "study" to find a higher number than The Lancet, a British poll last year concluding over 1.2 million Iraqis had been "murdered." Die-never defenders like Lambert likewise assert that all three studies are consistent. In short, no study can possibly find so few or so many deaths that somehow it doesn't somehow support The Lancet.

Yet one hardly need to look at outside studies to find Lancet 2006 is B.S. Consider just this.

Lancet 2006 attributed an amazing 166 deaths on average per day to car bombings alone from June 2005-June 2006. These bombings are fastidiously reported in the U.S. media and Wikipedia keeps a list of the major ones. Yet the highest single-day car bomb total Wikipedia records (114) is 42 short of Lancet's alleged average. Lancet's daily car bomb victim average is also 111 more than Iraq Body Count figure for war-related deaths from all causes. How could IraqBodyCount miss all those bodies?

Are the MSM now admitting to having been duped - assuming "dupe" is the proper word?

Get real. "WHO Says Iraq Civilian Death Toll Higher Than Cited" screamed the title of The New York Times article.

ERRATUM: In the original blog, I wrote that the number of Iraqi dead Lancet 2006 attributed to car bomb victims per day was "111 times higher" than Iraqbodycount. That would be extreme, even for The Lancet. Or maybe not. As it happens, it's "111 more," not 111 times more.

January 28, 2008 02:25 PM  ·  Permalink

More exploitation of vets - homelessness now

By Michael Fumento

A self-styled "homeless advocacy" group is the latest to exploit vets to achieve ends that would do nothing to help former service personnel. The National Alliance to End Homelessness released a "study" prompting great media fanfare making two points, both false. 1) Vets are greatly overrepresented among the homeless in shelters, and 2) the root cause of homelessness is inability to afford a home.

In fact, as I write in the New York Post, vets are only overrepresented because of sheer demographics. Shelter denizens are overwhelmingly male and males comprise 93 percent of all vets. As to housing, it bears noting that despite the efforts of myriad "advocacy" groups to present vets as losers, they have more education, higher rates of employment, and higher salaries than comparable non-vets. The data on why people are in shelters confirms what anybody (including me) who lives near a shelter already knows. These people aren't just like you and me but without a home; their rates of alcohol and drug abuse and mental illness are astronomical.

Claims such as these, and all the journalists who simply repeat them, do the homeless - vets or otherwise - a tremendous disservice in taking attention away from the real causes of their problems. Yeah, it's wicked. What's new?

December 24, 2007 12:12 PM  ·  Permalink

CBS lies again on veteran suicide data

By Michael Fumento

"Contrary to Fumento's statement, the data, as well as the methodology used to collect and analyze it, have been available online for anyone to access." So writes Armen Keteyian, CBS's Chief Investigative Correspondent and the man behind the story that vets are killing themselves at twice the rate of non-vets.

Said Keteyian in his New York Post letter about my article, not my "statement." "Our investigative unit collected official suicide data for veterans from all branches of the military from 45 states" and had it independently analyzed by a University of Georgia biostatistics expert. Very basic data were online and I said so and my website links to it.

But "45 states sent us numbers" is not a proper explanation of methodology. It's also not changed by their having an outside bio-statistician look at their final numbers, insofar as he had no way of knowing what went into making those numbers - something CBS completely glossed over for obvious reasons.

Further, the methodology from each state would vary. What did CBS do to make this a proper meta-analysis?

Insofar as they used amateurs, even if they tried to be honest they couldn't be. And rarely does anybody ever accuse CBS of trying to be honest. Epidemiology is horribly complex. I've said it many times: After 20 years of writing about epidemiology, I can poke a hole in a bad epi study in five minutes. I can also detect that a ship is sinking in five minutes. But never would I deign to either design or build a ship. CBS took that step and was undeterred by the reality that nobody else out there came who has studied this issue got results indicating any increased suicide risk for veterans anywhere.

CBS's final word: "After the reports aired, Congressional [sic] hearings were requested," wrote Keteyian. Yes, because only Congress still believes anything aired on CBS. But gee, what if those hearings had been called by a Wisconsin Senator named Joe McCarthy . . .

December 2, 2007 12:09 PM  ·  Permalink

CBS's Bogus Vet Suicide Epidemic Claim

By Michael Fumento

As you know, there are two federal holidays in November. Thanksgiving is one, "Exploit the Veterans Day" is the other. Say again? Never mind that we vets excel in measurable ways such as education, employment, and pay. Activist groups and the media always have fresh reports ready in November showing how wretched our lives are.

This year the goons were CBS News and a homeless activist group. I'll deal with homeless group in a later piece; but in the New York Post I take on CBS's claim that a study they conducted all by their lonesomes (Big red flag there.) shows an "epidemic" of veterans ending their poor miserable lives. (And if you don't believe that, CBS has some documents on President Bush's National Guard service they'd like to sell you. )

The CBS suicide claim goes against lots of detailed published reports regarding both active duty service personnel and veterans. For example, the suicide rate among Vietnam vets and Gulf War vets is no higher than among comparable civilians. Why would there be such a high suicide rate among vets in general then, most of whom served during peacetime? And while naturally CBS wants to blame its "findings" on PTSD, I also discuss studies showing that vets with PTSD are less likely to kill themselves. All CBS's "study" showed us was a crass way of raising ratings.

November 19, 2007 08:22 PM  ·  Permalink

"Band of Bloggers," including Fumento footage, premiers on History Channel Friday

By Michael Fumento

Explore the impact of blogging as a new medium for immediate and raw information. In the midst of modern day combat examine the unfiltered and raw evolution of military blogs and bloggers. Listen as soldiers who during their recent Iraq deployments reflect on the important connection they had with their blogging and how the band of military bloggers has revolutionized the way we understand combat. Experience firsthand, unfiltered accounts of the pain, the hardship, and even the simple beauty found in Iraq; stories that often go unseen in the media's coverage of the war.

That's the History Channel's plug for its show, "The Band of Bloggers," which first airs Fri. Nov. 9 at 8pm. I'm told it will contain 56 seconds of my footage from Ramadi, including a near rooftop sniping of a soldier in 1/506, 101st Airborne Division and the subsequent ambush we endured. It may also include some of my firefight footage with Seal Team 3, including both Mike Monsoor and Marc Allen Lee, both later killed in action.

Subsequent air times are here.

If my 56 seconds aren't there, don't sue me.

November 7, 2007 08:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Hollywood's War on War on Terror, my piece in the NYSun

By Michael Fumento

Critics have labeled the new movie "Rendition" a "political thriller." Thriller? Maybe. "Political?" Absolutely.

As I write in the NYSun, it's merely the latest in an unbroken series of major films about the war on terror that range from those seeking to assure us that Islamist terrorism isn't the threat we might think, to those depicting the terrorists as no worse than those who fight them.


Tom Clancy's "The Sum of all Fears," when made into a film, converted Islamist terrorists into an Austrian neo-Nazi. How's that for realism? The reason for the change was an explicit kowtow to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a supporter of Islamist terror activities.

In "Babel," the accidental shooting of an American tourist is treated as a terrorist act; but in the end the only "terrorist" killed is a cute little boy.

"Live Free or Die Hard" makes you think at first that Islamist terrorists are the threats. Turns out it's an evil cyber-villain with a beautiful Kung Fu sidekick who once worked for . . . the DHS!

In "The Kingdom," we find out in the final seconds of the film that FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia to track down the killer of 200 American civilians are on the same moral footing as the terrorists they tracked.

In "Rendition," a clearly innocent American "family man" born is Egypt is snatched from U.S. soil and shipped to a country where torture is allowed. And torture they do!

The predictable excuses don't wash.

1. "Hollywood just wants to make money. If we want to send a message, we use Western Union." Right. "Babel" lost money and so will "The Kingdom." "Rendition" is already a flop.

2. "Islamic terrorists are unsellable villains." Right. They routinely explode bombs in markets and launch chlorine gas attacks. They build torture chambers and make and display videos of beheadings in which the victim screams in agony as his head is sawed off with a dull knife. Even their foiled plots are often bizarre, such as Richard Reid's "shoe bomber" attempt. These guys are a scriptwriter's dream. Quentin Tarantino couldn't think this stuff up.

3. "We don't want to stereotype Muslims or Arabs." Right. Nobody suffers more from Islamic terror than Muslims themselves. Islamist terrorists everyday kill and maim Iraqis and Afghans. Now they've blown up at least 136 Pakistanis greeting former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. All were Muslims.

Truly, Hollywood has declared war on the War on Terror.

Some of Michael Fumento's combat footage from Iraq can be viewed on the History Channel over the Veterans' Day weekend.

October 25, 2007 11:31 AM  ·  Permalink

Agent Orange and New Zealanders who fought in 'Nam

By Michael Fumento

In an e-mail from New Zealand with the subject line: "At last," Rex Barron wrote:

It's nice to see and hear commonsense at last. I'm referring to your AO [Agent Orange] articles, of course. I'm a New Zealand soldier (infantry) who served in Vietnam 68-69. It may interest you to know that the NZ soldiers and families are a close knit family and therefore we know exactly how many went and how many have died since. I have been banging my head against a brick wall trying to convince my fellow veterans that they are not about to keel over with some dreaded lurgy brought on by TCDD. [TCDD is the trace dioxin that's present in AO as part of the manufacturing process. "Lurgy" or "lurgi" is British English slang for an unspecified or mythical disease.]

By using the population mortality graphs I have proved, successfully, that of the 3300 who went the 575 dead of various causes is quite normal.

At first glance it seems high but the percentage of Maori [The tribe native to New Zealand] soldiers serving was 20% higher than than the general population and tragically Maori die two and a half times faster than Caucasian. So unlike the scaremongers I used both population tables. Both Australia and the US used conscription and consequently have found it hard to come up with measurable numbers. In our case we were all volunteers and coming from a small country everybody is accounted for.

We were attached to the Australians so where they went we went.

There are too many fingers in the pie dish now with all the money that has been thrown around. It was your Mark Twain who said, "A man will not understand if his salary depends on him not understanding."

Cordially yours,
Rex Barron

Dear Rex,

Thanks for the info and thanks for having fought alongside our troops in a nasty war.

BTW, in future writings to people you suspect get a lot of e-mail you need to have a more detailed subject line. Something like "at last" sounds like it's for "At last, there's a penile enlargement pill that really works!"

All the best,

October 19, 2007 12:08 PM  ·  Permalink

Huffington Post ups Iraqi deaths past 1 million

By Michael Fumento

As of August 14th, 1,019,627 Iraqis "have been killed due to the U.S. invasion" according to Robert Naiman in a blog at the Huffington Post. His methodology, however, as you might guess, is a bit wanting.

He starts with a 2006 Lancet study that he says calculates 600,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the war as of July, 2006. (Actually, the study said 655,000 but then you can't expect Naiman to read actual studies or even their abstracts or conclusions.) He then updates that figure to the present by taking the estimated death figure at the website of an anti-war group called Iraqi Body Count at that time, the estimated figure now, and applying the percentage increase to 600,000. Comments on his blog express disbelief that the mainstream media has ignored this ingenious work and the horrifying conclusion - but there just may be a reason:

1. The methodology in the Lancet work has been shredded, most recently by yours truly just a week ago. It was sheer propaganda, as not just the study made clear but also separate comments from the lead author and the journal's editor.

2. While Naiman is happy to use the percentage increase in Iraq Body Count's data, he rejects their actual figures. Wonder why? As of August 24, the group's website provided a range of Iraqi civilian deaths due to the invasion of "70,359 to 76,873." You probably needn't go running for your calculator to see that's just a bit below the Lancet figure from last year and somewhat more below Naiman's estimate.

3. About 420 days had elapsed since the Lancet's cut-off and the publication of Naiman's estimate. Divide those 455,000 additional alleged deaths by 420 and you get over 1,083 deaths a day! How are these multitudes being killed and who's hiding the bodies?

4. Naiman claims he's using the Lancet research for his baseline, but the original Lancet paper, published in 2004, came up with a (still ridiculous) 180 deaths a day.

5. Therefore, while the only two datasets Naiman claims to rely on are from Iraq Body Count and The Lancet, his estimate is grotesquely higher than both of theirs. In sum, Mr. Naiman has merely illustrated the power of wishful thinking.

August 24, 2007 08:38 PM  ·  Permalink

Burying the Lancet's "100,000 civilians killed" nonsense

By Michael Fumento

It was an October surprise courtesy of the Lancet medical journal. A report, rushed to the public via online publication five days before the 2004 election, claimed the American-led coalition had directly or indirectly killed about 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the invasion - most from air strikes. The media, with no great love for Bush and already turning against the war, went wild.

Oliver Northl
Tim Lambert: Lancet
defender and infamous troll
The Lancet was so delighted with the reaction (if not the "wrong" election outcome) that in 2006 it updated its figure to a stunning 655,000 deaths. Further, this time it said violence directly caused all deaths. This paper, by amazing coincidence, appeared just before the mid-term election.

There were critics, including yours truly. But now there's even more ammunition in the form of a statistical analysis by David Kane presented at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Salt Lake City. Naturally Kane's assessment is under vicious attack not by proponents of good epidemiology but rather opponents of the war, primarily a troll at the website Deltoid, Tim Lambert. Read my full article here.

August 21, 2007 10:33 PM  ·  Permalink

One cheer for Obama's call for attacking Pakistan

By Michael Fumento

Barack Obama is taking heat from the right over his comments that if elected president he wouldn't hesitate to attack al Qaeda in Pakistan to disrupt its safe havens.

But give Obama this, he is the first candidate (that I know of) who has called the Pakistanis to task for allowing al Qaeda and other international Islamist terror groups to operate there with impunity. Western Pakistan today is what Afghanistan was on September 10th. Terrorists currently operate in Afghanistan but there's little evidence they operate out of it. SOMEBODY in some way needs to clear out the Pakistani rat's nest and if Obama stirs debate as to how, all power to him.

I'm also tired of the black-white fallacy of "Musharraf or an Islamist" as Pakistani president. Musharraf overthrew a democratically-elected prime minister who has shown no inclination that I know of towards Islamism. There's no reason to believe Islamists would win in a free election. What's clear is we need somebody with the balls (or ovaries, perhaps) to clear out western Pakistan and Musharraf does not.

August 3, 2007 11:37 AM  ·  Permalink

So much for the Lancet's "massive Iraqi civilian death" study

By Michael Fumento

Remember the Lancet study in 2004 claiming that "about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," and that "Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths?"

I wrote on this as soon as it appeared, observing that several indicators showed it was a piece of crock. But others did much more in-depth analyses, including Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz. He has now found out via Michelle Malkin and Instapundit that a forthcoming study by David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, shows just how wrong the original study was. Love notes among other things that that "if the Falluja cluster is included in the statistical calculations, the confidence interval dips below zero" meaning that it loses statistical significance. Without statistical significance, the findings mean nothing,

I claimed at the time the "100,000 death study" was pure politics (It came out right before the presidential election) and intentional deception on the part of the authors and the Lancet editor himself and there's no reason to think otherwise now.

Incidentally, as I was putting this blog together I accidentally posted it, making Love's words look like my own. Mea culpa.

July 28, 2007 06:14 PM  ·  Permalink

"Tough Americans": My article on military amputees in the Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

In the film "Home of the Brave," a soldier who lost her hand in Iraq is asked if she underwent physical rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Yeah, Walter Reed," she says. "Talk about tough Americans." Tough Americans, indeed.

When I visited that same ward the first soldier I met was Sgt. Luke Shirley, who had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) blowing off his right side appendages and spraying him with shrapnel. "It kinda sucks not having an arm or leg," he told me, "but it hasn't bothered me like you'd think it would." Just offhand, I would think it would have devastated him. I was dumbstruck. What kind of person is this?

That's why I visited Walter Reed's Orthopedic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Ward in Washington, D.C, along with the surgical inpatient ward at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (At Bethesda the men and women aren't yet ready to be sent on to Walter Reed or elsewhere for rehabilitation.) I wanted to meet these tough Americans and tell some of their stories.

Read the entire article. I admit it's rather sensitive and compassionate for a Mike Fumento piece, but you've got to let your guard down sometime. For these guys and gals, anytime.

July 22, 2007 03:18 PM  ·  Permalink

Dictator Musharraf can no longer dictate to us

By Michael Fumento

Back in May, Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf, as one paper put it, "insisted that Pakistan was the only country that had a military, political, developmental and administrative strategy to defeat extremism."

"I would tell everyone: Come and learn from us," he said. "We are sitting here knowing exactly what is happening on ground," he said. "You sitting in the West don't know anything. So, don't teach me, come and learn from us. Come and understand the environment. And then decide on what has to be done and what doesn’t have to be done. We are doing more than any other country in the world."

My! How things have changed! First there was that nasty incident concerning the Taliban Red Mosque right in the capital of Islamabad. Now Musharraf's deal with the Taliban and other militants in western Pakistan has fallen completely apart, with the tribesmen saying they were declaring war on Pakistan. Mind you, for the most part the Taliban simply ignored the deal anyway. Musharraf promised to leave them alone so long as they didn't use the territory as an entry point into Afghanistan and so long as they were peaceful towards the Pakistanis as well. Naturally, the deal didn't stop a single Taliban from going to Afghanistan. Some people just might call that a deal breaker, but not Musharraf. But now they're attacking the Pakistanis as well.

Meanwhile a new National Intelligence Estimate report and another report from the National Counterterrorism Center states that al Queda has practically rebuilt itself in northwest Pakistan because we're stupid enough to honor a border Musharraf can't control.

Musharraf is a malevolent buffoon. He helped build up and sustain the Taliban in Afghanistan (though he now denies it) but cannot now control them in any way. The only lessons we have to learn from him are negative ones. As to western Pakistan, we have to be quite clear that since he cannot control the area, that it's basically not part of his country, it's happy hunting grounds for us. We will enter it whenever it suits our purpose and we will kill and capture any enemy of the United States. If Musharraf doesn't like it, he can vent by selling more nuclear technology to rogue states.

July 18, 2007 10:32 AM  ·  Permalink

Hollywood goes to war against anti-terrorism

By Michael Fumento

In 1942, Hollywood went to war. It began pumping out countless movies designed to be both entertaining and instructive as to the nature of our enemies. A lot of them were done on the cheap and others were pretty hokey, but they kept drilling home the message that we must persevere no matter the costs or how long it would take. Fast forward that reel to the post-9/11 era. Just how many movies can you count in which Islamist terrorists are the bad guys and that do not specifically concern the Sept. 11 attacks? Meanwhile - and this may be considered a spoiler, so if you haven't seen the movie look out - the just-released fourth installment of the Die Hard series, Live Free or Die Hard, teaches us that just because there are some bad guys out to destroy America doesn't mean they have to be bin Laden's buddies.

In fact, it was the Department of Homeland Security that turns out to have been more or less responsible for the attack in the first place. Meanwhile one of the few good guys in the movie, the head of the FBI team that aids our hero John McClane, looks decidedly Arabic. Indeed, he played an Arab in an earlier movie.

One of last year's most critically-acclaimed films was the severely disjointed Babel in which what is treated as a terrorist shooting of an American woman in Morocco turns out to have been an accident. Heck, it wasn't even an AK-47 involved but rather a Japanese hunter's rifle.

If I'm mistaken and there have been movies in which Islamists where the bad guys, please let me know. (If so, I'll bet they went straight to video.) Likewise for more movies in which Islamists are exonerated.

In any event, where once Hollywood shored up a resolute but war-weary public (Everyone knew somebody who had been killed or maimed and they thought the war would last well into 1946 or beyond), Hollywood now feels its job is to assure us that with terrorism we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Even while traveling in countries with strong Islamist movements. Never mind that the week the new Die Hard came out there were two aborted terrorist attacks in Great Britain perpetrated by middle class Islamist physicians living as normal Britons - a truly scary scenario that's right out of a movie like The Manchurian Candidate.

One of the ironies is that you don't even need to create fictitious Islamist villains; the real ones are so classically evil. They order massive car bombings that kill hundreds of people; they launch chlorine gas attacks; they build torture chambers; they make videos of beheadings in which the victim screams in agony as his head is sawed off with a dull knife. These guys are a scriptwriters' dream. Quentin Tarantino couldn't think this stuff up.

Look, you can't live on the edge of your seat all the time in a war that could last a generation or far longer. If we think we see a bomb in every backpack, the terrorists are winning. But there's got to be a happy medium. Hollywood doesn't see it that way. A lot of people have suggested that, pathetically, it's going to take another terrorist attack to wake us from our slumber. Wouldn't it be fitting if it were in a movie theater?

July 6, 2007 12:02 AM  ·  Permalink

My Afghanistan videos are posted

By Michael Fumento

Okay, it took me awhile considering my embed in Afghanistan's Zabul Province, documented in my article "The Other War" in The Weekly Standard, was in April.

Ever wonder what a massive 120 millimeter mortar looks like in action? I've been on the wrong side of these bad boys on occasion; it was nice to be on the shooting side, courtesy of the men of 1/4 Infantry at FOB Mizan. It looks pretty neat at night, too. My ears rang for hours because I forgot my earplugs.

So you like pyrotechnics, huh? Here's one Romanian livefire exercise, including an RPG. Forgot my earplugs on that one, too. And here's another, from a different angle. That's a Romanian armored personnel carrier at the beginning. I fired both the main gun, with massive 14.5 mm rounds, and the secondary 7.62 gun.

I got some excellent helo footage on this trip, because in Iraq they virtually all fly at night. In Afghanistan, all my flights were during the day allowing me to get this footage and this that includes a Russian-made Mi-28 Hip. You don't see those too often.

If you're into flowers or narcotics, this footage of a poppy field I stumbled onto is for you.

Most instructive, perhaps, is this film of my visit to an Afghan National Police station. It's pretty pathetic, with virtually no defenses from the Taliban or al Qaeda attackers. We need to shore up our allies or they may not stay our allies forever.

Hey, and I know this is the video age and all that but I think my still photos are actually a lot neater. Check them out here.

July 5, 2007 11:49 PM  ·  Permalink

Update on FOB Mizan - it's heated up since I left

By Michael Fumento

From 1st Lt. Kevin Stofan, commander, FOB Mizan, Zabul Province, Afghanistan

I have not been able to contact you since I have been away. I was up at FOB Baylough with some of my platoon to help reinforce our brothers up there. It is real rough up there. Daily rocket, mortar, recoilless rifle, and small arms attacks. We did some great missions up there and really took a toll on the Taliban up there. Cpt. Edwards the B Co company commander has definitely been presented with a serious challenge up there given the lack of forces needed to properly do the job, but he is doing a great job with what he has. I had to come back to Mizan prematurely however due to the fact that we started to get attacked (twice while I was away). It looks like the Spring offensive is actually the summer offensive here in Zabul. Most likely due to the ending of the poppy season and availability of funds for weapons and fighters.

Meanwhile, Jonas Dovydenas met Pfc. Aaron Murray (below right) and Spc.Marcel Green at Landstuhl Medical Center receiving out-patient treatment. You'll recall from the "Firefight in Mizan" sidebar to my "The Other War" piece in The Weekly Standard that both were injured by RPGs in combat against the Taliban.

Finally, below are a couple of my video clips from the 120 mm blasting away at FOB Mizan, one during the day and the other at night.

I'll be posting my entire set from the trip soon.

June 23, 2007 06:20 PM  ·  Permalink

Europe's big wimps protest too much

By Michael Fumento

I just came across a letter to the National Post from the ambassadors of France, Spain, and Germany protesting an article of mine from March 22, 2007, but it repeats a theme I've re-emphasized quite recently. With the sole exception of the UK none of the major NATO nations will fight in Afghanistan.

Among the more interesting droppings:

"Following the NATO Riga Summit, France, Germany and Spain decided to make additional means available (including aircraft and helicopters). They have not turned a blind eye to NATO's call for help in Afghanistan."

What part of "refuse to fight" doesn't translate into your languages?

"The European Union is one of the biggest contributors to reconstruction efforts ($1.5-billion Canadian earmarked for 2002-2006)."

They easily could have said what portion of that came from their three countries. They did not. There's a reason.

"Also, about 50% of all International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops deployed in Afghanistan come from European NATO members."

See previous response. France has a grand total of 1,000 members there whom it is now threatening to withdraw. Good riddance. They're just a mass surrender waiting to happen.

To quote my recent Weekly Standard piece:

"[NATO nations refuse to pull their weight] – in total personnel contributed, combat soldiers, or defense expenditures. Only six members spend as much as 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Last year the then-supreme NATO commander said of the alliance's efforts in Afghanistan, "We have about 102 national restrictions [the "caveats"], 50 of which I judge to be operationally significant." Even as they refer to America as a bellicose "cowboy" nation, they sit back and let us and a handful of other countries expend the money and blood.
June 19, 2007 09:31 PM  ·  Permalink

"The Other War," my cover article in The Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

Weekly Standard Afghan CoverAs I relate in my piece "The Other War" in the new issue of The Weekly Standard, wherever I was in Afghanistan I heard the same refrain: "This war is winnable." Implicit is that it's also losable; but what they really mean is winnable in comparison to Iraq. It's strange but true that Afghanistan -- with four major ethnic groups, two official languages, and almost countless lesser languages -- is far more of a proud, united nation than Iraq. Despite increasing calls for negotiating with the Taliban, who cannot be negotiated with, we've actually done an admirable job of killing them and keeping them from taking hold of any part of Afghanistan. But as I saw and as statistics bear out, progress is threatened by our fighting the war on a shoestring in terms of both men and material. We're especially making a grave mistake in not ensuring that the Afghan army and police - who really fight and who really are loyal to the government - are paid. Part of this is Washington's fault, but much of the fault goes to NATO where few countries pull their weight economically and merely six of 37 member nations actually allow their men to fight. I'm proud to have spent much of my time with personnel from one of those exceptions, Romania.

While the article contains 15 of my photos, my entire Afghan photoset is also now posted.

June 3, 2007 06:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Negotiating with the Taliban Is Nuts (My NY Post Commentary)

By Michael Fumento

Is it time to negotiate with the Taliban? Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf cut a deal with the Afghan extremists last fall, allowing them to flourish safely in his nation's Waziristan province. Then-Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist said in October that we must "assimilate" them into the Afghan government. Now, in apparent reaction to civilian deaths caused by the Taliban strategy of hiding among regular Afghanis, Afghanistan's upper house of legislature has voted for an immediate cease-fire and talks followed by withdrawal of NATO forces.

But as I write in my NY Post commentary, the futility of talks is obvious from Taliban beliefs and history, with the latest example being Musharraf's deal. They got action from him; he got a broken promise from them. To put it bluntly, anybody who calls for such negotiations is an idiot - or is named Mullah Omar.

May 21, 2007 07:28 PM  ·  Permalink

Awesome tattoo tribute to deceased SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

As a rule I find tattoos and body-piercing (ears on women aside) to be ugly. But this is pretty darned impressive.

Click image for larger view.
Incidentally "This was the guy that Michael saved - the one he received a medal for, I think it was about a year ago," Mike's aunt and godmother Patty wrote me. "Anyway, he said when Michael picked him up after he was shot and lying in the middle of gun fire this is the vision he saw and looked to find a tattoo artist to copy his vision and get the wings perfect. He had this tattoo on his body as a tribute to Michael saving his life and the guarding angel he felt was there with them."

This had nothing to do with the incident that took Monsoor's life and made him a candidate for the Medal of Honor, when he threw himself on a grenade to save three more lives.

May 2, 2007 09:51 AM  ·  Permalink

Exhausted but Home

By Michael Fumento

My route back was tortuous to say the least. I grabbed a helo from FOB Mizan to FOB Lagman, whereupon a few hours later the same helo comes back and takes me south to Kandahar Air Force Base. For some reason it seems you can fly into Kandahar from Kuwait's Ali Al Salem Air Base but you can't go in the reverse direction.

Heading home! Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
So I take a flight up north to Bagram. This turns out to be quite a surprise because nobody -- not the PAO officer at Kandahar or the people you sign up for flights with at Kandahar told me it wasn't non-stop to Bagram.

The C-130 flew a few hours then as it was landing banked as hard as I've ever felt a C-130 do so, first right then left. Then it sort of just plopped down like a flipped egg on a grill, in the hardest landing I've ever had. The other passengers, all military, expressed surprise.

This is the kind of landing wimp reporters like Time Magazine Bureau Chief Aparisim Ghosh complain they undergo at Baghdad International but don't. We all piled off, along with the cargo of two Toyota flatbeds. It was pitch dark so naturally I didn't recognize anything. Only when I got to a building where I could call my Bagram PAO contacts did I find out they couldn't pick me up for the night because -- surprise! -- I was far away at FOB Salarno, which hugs the Pakistani border.

I'll never know if the plane really continued on to Bagram, but if so I would have been the only passenger. As to Salarno, it regularly takes rocket fire and hence the pilot's combat landing.

The door gunner. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I then find out that while those great big C-130s with lots of seats will land at Salarno, they don't seem to fly out. I think they stack them up somewhere. What does fly out is tiny six-seater short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, and you're damned lucky if you can be one of those six passengers to Bagram.

So I spend the night in the transient tent listening to one gunship after another zipping just overhead, get up at 0500, and actually manage to catch the second of the three mosquito planes to Bagram. There I got a jet C-17 to Ali Al Salem, spend the night there, grab the hour-long shuttle to the commercial airport, and fly out at 0130 the next morning.

Tough, but I'm homeward bound now right? Wrong.

The five-hour flight into Frankfurt is uneventful and I left myself plenty of time for the incredible shaking down you get at security when you take a flight from that airport to the U.S. But the flight leaves on time and I'm only eight hours from home -- or so I think. Three and a half hours out, somewhere over the Atlantic, they announce they're turning the plane around "for safety reasons."

There's a problem with the hydraulic system. But if it had been for safety reasons, they would have been required to land at the nearest airport and many were nearer than Frankfurt. We land uneventfully and it turns out the "safety" problem is merely that after landing the wheels won't allow proper steering into the gate and we have to be towed in. In other words, we could readily have gone onto to Washington Dulles except that Lufthansa's repair facility is at Frankfurt and didn't want to pay somebody else to fix their planes elsewhere no matter how much it inconveniences their passengers and how much fuel they needlessly burn. Gotta love Big Airline.

"Take that, Lufthansa!" Click image for larger view.
So we switch planes and head back out and what is supposed to be an eight-hour flight is now 14. Add the flight from Kuwait City and it's 20. Add the layover and it's 23 hours. Add the time from when I left FOB Mizan and it takes three days to get back home.

I've said it before; transportation is the worst part of any embed for a citizen embed. If you're with the MSM, they pay for you to just fly in and out of Kabul via Bahrain or Delhi. But I had to rely on my chief PAO for Afghanistan, Capt. Peter Katzfey, the one who wrongly told me my embed was in Kandahar when I later discovered on my own it was in Zabul. He also wrongly told me I needed an Afghan visa that cost $70 and two trips to the embassy.

In the final insult, he told me he would plot my route out of the country when my embed was complete. Although I e-mailed him twice while I was in-country about doing so, he did not.

The more I get to know Army PAOs, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, the less respect I have for them. They always seem to have something better to do than their jobs. I'm told the Marines take this business much more seriously and in fact the best PAO I had was Marine Maj. Megan McClung. But she's dead.

I strongly suspect (actually I know), that if I worked for the MSM -- the folks the soldiers are always complaining about to me, including on this trip -- I wouldn't receive such shabby treatment. But you have to have priorities. If you're dealing with a reporter whose organization makes a point of portraying the troops as a bunch of thugs and the Iraq war as hopeless, you give him first class treatment. Thank goodness the government of Iraq banned Al Jazeera, else the Army's PAO staff would be absorbed in kissing their feet.

If you're dealing with somebody paying out of his own pocket because of his conviction that the American people deserve the truth and aren't getting it and that the soldiers deserve an even break and aren't getting it -- you dump on him. You give him crummy assignments, such as when Lt. Col. Garver and his Combined Press Information Center tried to foist 12 days of ho-hum Tikrit on me, and then when he needs to go home you make plot his own way out of a country he's never been in that's on the wrong side of the planet.

One of many men I photographed, along with his wife. Click image for larger view.
It helps explain why there are so few citizen embeds still going to the two wars. We thought the bad guys comprised insurgents and terrorists and those in the MSM who provide them aid and comfort. We did not think it would be our own military public affairs.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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May 1, 2007 07:30 PM  ·  Permalink

More on FOB Mizan

By Michael Fumento

Looking inside this compound is like looking at stop action photography -- you know, like when they make the flower appear to bloom right before your eyes. In the few days I've been here I've seen both sides of the "safe house" (the soldiers' quarters) reinforced extending the roof on both sides and building two new walls of sandbags. The dining facility (DFAC) has been sandbagged about half way up but only because they keep running out of filled bags.

An Apache gunship flies above FOB Mizan's "sandbag palace."Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The Internet connection, which because of a lightning strike had been knocked out for a month, has been restored. The wiring has been buried to keep it from being pulled out or cut. A TV was installed just today -- though curiously it only seems to receive sports channels. (I did watch an episode of "The Simpsons," which was a nice reminder of home and civilization.) An open booth was installed inside the DFAC so a telephone could be set up. I used it to call home for the first time in over a week. (By comparison, on my last Iraq visit I wasn't able to call my wife at all.) There were one or two tables in the DFAC when I arrived; now it's filled with enough freshly-built tables to accommodate everyone, although the tiny cloth-and-metal fold-up chairs were obviously built for munchkin butts.

I jokingly told the commander that he must be an engineer. Turns out he is. But like me, he was trained mostly in blowing things up and is in fact a graduate of the sapper school at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. That's where I had my basic and advanced training. Yet Stofan insisted the credit for most of the building goes to his platoon sergeant and "A lot of the structures have been built by the carpenters, guys who've had odd jobs and such. There's no real architect; they wing it."

Firing the M-120 120 mm mortar at night. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
It's good ol' American ingenuity -- combined with good ol' Romanian ingenuity provided by the five of them at the FOB, who are whizzes at sandbagging. "I wish you could see pictures of the FOB from before," Stofan said, "but the improvements have been unbelievable. I think they filled over 25,000 sandbags." Indeed, I overheard one soldier on the phone say they call the place "The Sandbag Palace."

Stofan, an Officer Candidate School graduate, is rather on the old side for a 1st Lt. at 28. But he only joined the Army in March of 2005. The reason? "I got tired of sitting on the sidelines."
Says the Miami Springs, Florida native whose wife is back in Germany, "Pretty much the reason I joined was to go to war. I was happy to deploy to Afghanistan."

B Co., 1-4 Infantry arrived at FOB Mizan from its base in Hohenfels, Germany (near Nuremburg) on January 15, inheriting the site from the 10th Mountain Division, which in turn took over from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. As discussed in an earlier blog the Mizan district, with a population of about 25,000, is a way station for enemy fighters heading for Helmund and Kandahar Provinces. FOB Mizan was plopped down here not to keep the Taliban entirely out, which is utterly beyond its ability, but to inhibit the movement of the Taliban and improve security in Mizan district.

Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
FOB Mizan's very presence inhibits the Taliban within a 7-10 kilometer range from the FOB. The camp's M-120 120 millimeter mortar, with a maximum range of 7.2 kilometers, which from what I saw can hit the Taliban anywhere on their side of the mountain range that surrounds the camp, has got to be a bit scary to the bad guys as well. I watched a nighttime drill in which within about five minutes they had the huge tube was blasting away. It was so quick I didn't have time to put in my earplugs before I had to have my camera snapping away. Ouch.

But patrols are the main tool for keeping the Taliban on the run. "With the random patrols their movement is completely inhibited because they never know when we’ll be there," says Stofan, "and they do not want to fight us. They don't have the numbers, they don't have the discipline and skill (much of their training is religious), and they don't have the weapons. "Their most feared weapon is the RPG," says Stofan. "They may also have 82 millimeter mortars but no base plates so they can't really aim them."

Unfortunately, patrols are not the answer to restoring security in the villages. "You have to be there on a permanent basis," says Stofan, and given current resources in manpower that's a pipe dream for now.

"You could take a picture of one of these villages and it would look like something out of a nativity scene." Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
"They're worried about the Taliban because they strong-arm people for shelter or food and then move on to next town," he continues. "When they pass through in large numbers they leave behind nuisance guys to close schools and clinics by kidnapping teachers and doctors and scaring off road crews.

"The last school in the Mizan district closed two years ago," he says, "yet about 50-60 percent of population is under 14 years old. There's a rapidly growing younger generation not getting educated. There is some Koran teaching going on and I asked the instructor if he'd expand teachings to grammar and math if we provided the books. He said he would, but the process of getting these things is long."

Except, perhaps, for additions to the FOB, everything moves slowly out here and the people are quite used to it. Sometimes "slowly" is not at all -- or at least not in 2,000 years. "You could take a picture of one of these villages and it would look like something out of a nativity scene," says Stofan. I have, and it does.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 30, 2007 04:08 PM  ·  Permalink

February Firefight at Mizan

By Michael Fumento

February 7, 2006. Approximately 40 Taliban are detected during daylight about 10 kilometers northwest of FOB Mizan. A jet could be called in on their position, dropping bombs and firing missiles and almost certainly killing some of them. But some of them isn't good enough out here. When you get the chance to kill or capture some, you try to kill or capture every last one of them. No airstrike can promise that on a group of men spread out precisely to avoid heavy casualties from the air or artillery. You have to go in and get them.

Practice on the Mizan FOB's 120 mm mortar, the largest mortar in the U.S. inventory. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
A task force is quickly put together. It comprises Army Special Forces, a unit of the 10th Mountain Division, and B Co. 1-4 Infantry.

Approaching from three directions, the idea is to catch them in a pincer so that the only Taliban options will be death or surrender. B Co.'s contribution, headed up by unit commander 1st Lt. Kevin Stofan, is to stealthily set up a blocking position with five Humvees carrying a variety of weaponry inside the trucks and in the truck turrets.

"I pinpointed them in a saddle [a depression, literally shaped like a horse saddle]," said Stofan later. But the enemy quickly realizes their position is detected "and acted like the desperate men they were." If Stofan saw them first, they see him first among the Americans.

In quick succession they fire 5 RPG rounds at his vehicle. These are the most feared Taliban weapons on the battlefield. Humvee armor can stop machine gun fire from anything the Taliban can carry, but an RPG will rip right through it.

"Hang!" Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The doors are open and a blast blows the driver, Pfc. Jonathan Zaehringer, six meters out of the vehicle. The M240 medium machine gun turret gunner, Spc. Marcel Green, nevertheless holds his position.

"He knew that an RPG round was coming and he just kept firing," said Stofan. The explosion ripped away three of his fingers. "An RPG round knocked me unconscious and I was pretty banged up," said Stofan. The medic in the vehicle, Pfc. Aaron Murray, suffered a concussion and shrapnel wounds to his hand.

Humvees are darned heavy (the Afghans call them "tanks") but the force of one of the RPG rounds causes this one to roll down a crest, separating those inside from an unconscious Zaehringer. The only unhurt and conscious man in the truck is Pvt. Stephen Wright, who just joined the unit two months earlier. He runs back up the hill, firing suppressive rounds from his M-4 carbine before grabbing Zaehringer -- who for all he knows is dead -- by the handle on his body armor and pulling him back to the Humvee.

"Wright was practically fresh out of basic training," Stofan said with a bit of awe in his voice, "and he did everything automatically."

. . . and . . . Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Meanwhile B Co., SF, and the 10th Mountain blast back with M240s, M-203 grenade launchers, Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns, and a 60 millimeter mortar that B Co. brought along.

"We put a bad hurt on the Taliban," said Stofan. "Probably upwards of 30 were killed, although they were able to drag away most of the bodies."

After an agonizing wait, a Blackhawk drops out of the sky and evacuates the worst of the wounded. Later a jet destroys the Humvee, which is far beyond salvage.

"Fire!" Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
For his action, Wright was later awarded the bronze star with V device as was Green. Green, Zaehringer, and Murray all received purple hearts.

Wright is still with the unit, but doesn't like to talk about the night's events. Murray is also with the unit.

Pfc. Stephen Wright Click image for larger view.

Green is still recovering at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany while Zaehringer was treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital before being transferred to another hospital in Michigan. He's now recovering at his family's home in a small town just outside Chicago.

It's already an almost forgotten episode in America's forgotten war.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 25, 2007 09:41 AM  ·  Permalink

A Blog on Warblogging

By Michael Fumento

When you make a decision to go to a war zone and leave behind the comforts of home, you do just that. There are true pleasures to being out there with guys defending our country and there are true deprivations. Of course, there are war zones and there are war zones. In Iraq's International Zone (Green Zone) or in Baghdad hotels or even a major base like Camp Fallujah and Camp Ramadi, you have a real degree of comfort and ease in going about your work. Likewise for Bagram Air Base or Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan. But join the troops at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and comfort and ease of work plummets. Those are the places I go to and I only have two real concerns when I get there.

UN grain donation (note the light blue bags). Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
First, I want every chance to see combat, and hence be in a dangerous area and go on every patrol. We need reporters who work out of safe areas; I'm just not one of them. That's why I refused to go to Tikrit in Iraq when the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) tried to send me there. There was virtually no chance of combat and, as it happens, during the time I would have been there was none. Now CPIC is mad at me for not shelling out my own money for airfare and war insurance to spend 12 days where I knew nothing would happen and where nothing did happen.

Second, since while I do write articles when I get back but blog while here I need a degree of internet access. And a degree is all you to get. Connections are almost always mind-numbingly slow. You can wait literally 10 minutes or more just for a website to come up. Some will never come up because they're too loaded with graphics.

As a general rule, you're limited to only 30 minutes online and unfortunately there are no rules on what you can do in that time. For example, at Camp Corregidor in Ramadi I saw a guy using his time to play solitaire which, so I'm told, can be played on an unconnected laptop. In fact, and again I'm just going by what I was told, it can even be played with no computer at all using something called "a deck of cards."

Donkey cart in Qalat. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Anyway, whatever the soldiers do with their time, as a blogger you can spend as much as half yours just connecting to the site where you upload your blog text and photos.

I'm a bit perplexed at complaints I've heard from citizen embeds about their computer connections being so slow that they don't even have time for proper spelling or -- far more importantly -- uploading photos. That's because there's no way you would ever write a blog or format a photo on their computers; you do it on your own laptop. First you write your blog and save it as a file. As for the photos, they must be resized or they won't just be a pig in a python; rather your connection will time out and the photos won't be sent at all. In my case I shoot at 5 megapixels, which is enough for a magazine cover, but I use free software to reduce them to 640,000 pixels. On a computer screen, anything more than that many pixels is wasted.

At this point, your actions are dictated by whether the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) center has either computers or just a hookup for your laptop. (Even if you hook up your own, the 30-minute rule still generally applies.) If you can't hook up your own computer (and here at FOB Mizan it's the only way), then you use theirs. If you use theirs, before you get on and start burning your 30 minutes you'll have transferred everything to a USB drive.

Your intrepid reporter firing a laser-sited M-4 carbine (I killed 31 Taliban with a 30-round magazine). Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I've never seen a computer in either war theater that was so old it didn't have USB ports, but I bring a portable floppy drive with me just in case. At this point, you need only connect to your upload site and begin uploading. Without photos the text upload on even the slowest lines should still take only seconds. If you're attaching photos, at 640,000 pixels you could be adding 15 - 20 seconds per image.

Easier yet, you can simply send your photos and blog file with photo captions to a third party, in my case my wife, and have him or her do the posting to your blog.

Alternatively, the Big Boys with the MSM completely avoid the Internet by using an R-BGAN, a satellite hookup direct from the laptop to a box placed outside facing the right direction. They aren't cheap and I don't feel I can afford one myself, but you can also rent them -- although I don't feel I can afford that either! If I could I'd invest the money in other areas such as improving my body armor.

But I know Bill Roggio has an R-BGAN and Mike Yon had one at one time. I'm sure some other citizen embeds have them as well. Then you actually have time to check the sports scores, see if your stock portfolio has plummeted, or even -- gasp -- send an e-mail to your wife and cat.

I hope we can give them a free country in which to grow up. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
One way or another, you take what you can get out here. (In a previous blog I said the showers here are hot; today I found out that isn't always the case. I hate cold showers!) Otherwise, put your blogging skills to work in your comfy home or office. That's what 99.999999999 percent of American bloggers do and nobody will think the worse of you if you fall into that percentage. But if you're going to be a warblogger, you'll work under war conditions. And the most exciting places to report from, the places where you'll be reporting on the servicemen and women who are truly putting their lives at risk, are the most grueling. Unlike the soldiers, nobody ordered you here. You chose it; now suck it up.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 24, 2007 10:17 AM  ·  Permalink

A Stick in the Mud

By Michael Fumento

Today we were supposed to go out on a mechanized patrol of the area, including the riverbed. And then, I thought, we were to go into town to meet with officials. The patrols go out four days out of five to check for Taliban and possibly draw a fight (In fact, a patrol was ambushed recently where we went today), but there's just not the manpower here to get really aggressive with them.

Thatched roof over a mud hut. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
First we stopped by an Afghan National Police station inside our wire, a series of mud huts. Mud huts are actually a lot more resilient than you might think, because they're not just mud. They mix in lots of straw and gravel and twigs, with larger pieces of wood going sideways across the top and thatch on top of that with or without another layer of mud. Far from washing away with a good rain, they'll probably last longer than some of the condo units being slapped together in my town.

The Afghan police were all neatly in uniform, seemed to have relatively new weaponry, were neither particularly old nor particularly young, and just gave the air of being more professional than the ones I saw along Highway One. When one barked out an order they piled into the back of a shiny green pickup truck, which looked fairly new.

Afghan National Police, loading up. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Then we drove into an area that separates the tough stomachs from the Dramamine reliant ones. It was like being caught in a force six hurricane. (Yes, I know there's no such thing.) I don't know how anybody could find any amusement park ride fun after that. Actually, having been a paratrooper forever destroyed the fun of carnival rides for me anyway. As we approached the river that essentially divides our side of the area from the part the Taliban like play in the path got muddier and muddier.

By the time we realized we were going to get stuck in just a few more feet, well, we got stuck right there. We called upon another Humvee to try to pull us out with winch but nothing doing. All four wheels just got stuck deeper. The soldiers tried putting rocks under the wheels, but to no avail.

Our Humvee, stuck in the mud. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Now the afternoon sun was coming up and for the first time in Afghanistan I felt quite hot. But fortunately where we stopped there were plenty of photo-ops, including kids, animals, and poppies. Poppies are among the loveliest flowers; it's too bad they do such damage. These will end up supplying junkies in Europe -- the U.S. gets its illegal opiates from South America.

Poppy eradication is a very tough political issue. No other crop can begin to bring in the type of revenue these flowers do. The only other crop I saw that day was boring old leaf cabbage, although Zabul province is one of the richest agricultural areas of the country. If you're going to destroy a farmer's poppies without compensating him, you threaten to make him a Taliban sympathizer. But if there's no money for bullets, there's no money for such compensation.

Spc. Jonathan Lackovic protects the stricken convoy from killer donkeys. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I was on the river side of the vehicles when the CO (1st Lt. Kevin Stofan) called me back to the other side. There was a report that woman and children had hurriedly abandoned a compound in the wood line behind the river as six men entered. Were they Taliban? We'll never know, but there was a good chance.

Eventually a third Humvee from our patrol came along with a reinforced bumper made for pushing. So we did a push-me-pull-you. With one pulling from the front and the other pushing from the back, out we popped. We headed very carefully back to the FOB, with the Lt. often getting out to check for mud.

Two hours later we "headed into town" to see the district chief. Actually, his headquarters are about 100 meters from where I sleep. The town is fairly safe, apparently, but not so much that it isn't smarter for him to live in a building with us. It was interesting seeing how our guys do business with the locals. The first order of business was compensation for a man whose house we accidentally dropped a bomb on. Eight people were wounded, but none killed.

He was to receive about $4,000 and Lt. Stefan's main concern was that this was an old man who would be walking from town and $4,000 was a heck of an incentive for a mugging. The district chief agreed, but seemed more interested in money to support his operations. You can't really blame him, I guess. His police haven't been paid in apparently five months. "We can fight better if we are paid," he insisted while fingering his prayer beads. Makes a certain amount of sense. But he also said he believed the money, which would be coming not straight from Kabul but rather via the administrator in Qalat, would be arriving in 20 days or so. The Lt. promised he would ask "my boss," meaning the C Co. commander, to intercede and that past such efforts appear to have met with some success.

Pretty but deadly poppies. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
It was interesting watching how the conversation played out, always mixing friendly conversation with business as opposed to in the States where we usually start out with the pleasantries and end up with the business. So then Lt. Stefan would ask about the district chief's recent visit to Qalat and somehow the district chief saw fit to bring up Lt. Stefan's predecessor, whom apparently he frowned upon somewhat because he was too skinny. Not that I've seen a non-skinny Afghan yet, but apparently it's okay for them to be quite thin but it just doesn't wear well on us. (None of the soldiers I've seen since Kandahar, by the way, have had anything more than a slight pot belly.)

Apparently Military Intelligence was of the belief that a mortar round had recently flown over the camp and that the tube was in town somewhere, because Lt. Stefan asked the chief about that too. "Who can we pay to tell us?" he asked. But the boss man said he wanted to discuss that privately. Perhaps he didn't trust his own men. I don't know. The district chief also informed us without being asked that the townspeople liked us very much and that when American or Afghan soldiers disrupted their lives with raids "They blame on Taliban" for prompting them. Is it true, or did he say it to make us feel good? Who knows?

Mizan district chief (right) next to police commander with bird’s nest hair. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Still, I sense much more friendship and trust between us and the locals here than I did back in Iraq. Certainly the ones who work on the camp like us and we like them. Tonight during chow one showed up a bit late and a server announced in a booming voice: "Sorry, but all that's left is pork! Even the noodles are pork!" The Afghan laughed, as did we all.

Today, or really tonight as it were, is the first time this trip I really felt homesick. I looked up at the mountain range that surrounds the FOB and it just made me feel all the more isolated. There's one world in here and another world, the one I know and love, past those peaks. I miss my wife and cat terribly, and if I had kids I'd miss them too. Still, I'll be home soon enough. Not so for the men.

There still seems to be some confusion over whether tours here have been extended from 12 to 15 months as they have in Iraq, but I was uploading a blog the other day and couldn't help but hear a heart-wrenching conversation between a GI and his wife. Clearly the extensions are going to hurt morale, and I must say that both in Iraq and here morale has been quite good where I've been stationed. Strange to think that when those Twin Towers fell in 2001 not a single one of us imagined we'd be here at any point in time, much less all these years later. And, dare I say it, all these years from now.

My cat Aspen, hiding from the camera. Even she knows freedom isn't free. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
But they have to fight and build. And I have to do what little I can to get the truth out about what's going on here. I mentioned in an earlier blog from Lagman that I was sharing a tiny room with two AP reporters. What I didn't say was that one believed 9/11 was a hoax and presumably the other one, who never took off his Che Guevera t-shirt, felt likewise. That's my opposition. Do you really trust what these guys are going to tell you and the people of other nations that will run their stories and show their video?

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 23, 2007 10:12 AM  ·  Permalink

Welcome to Mizan!

By Michael Fumento

FOB Lagman administers four other, smaller FOBs. Mizan is one of them. I wanted to come to this one because so far this year it's the only one that's gotten in a fight with the Taliban -- although that will change as more of the bad guys start coming over the mountain passes. It's about a 20-minute helo ride from Lagman; isolated in a sense but not really.

NATO-operated Russian Mi-8 transport helo over. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
It's not as Spartan here as I was originally led to believe. I was told in Kandahar they may not even have electricity and to juice up everything electronic I have before coming. Did but they have 120 here to spare. (Volts, that is.)

It's true that for a month they had no internet connection because lightning fried an antenna, but a techie came on the same helo I did and got it back up. Now he's my roommate until he can catch a flight out.

They have showers from water pumped in from a well dug two months ago, although it may dry up in a few months as the dry season continues and the water table drops. And -- woohoo! -- the water is heated. Foodwise, I was expecting little more than MREs but they usually have hot chow. It was pretty bad tonight, but I'm told that's by no means always the case.

My quarters are somewhat lacking in that they're a room that's really part of a hallway. So men tromp through constantly during the day and evening but when it's time for beddy bye they've pretty much stopped. Bathroom facilities are crude, as would be expected, but no big deal. You urinate into tubes dug into the ground and you do Number Two in an outhouse. The feces is then burned daily by some Afghans that were recently brought in.

Zabul mountains viewed from back of a Chinook helo. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
What's truly impressive is how well protected this place is. I had no idea. Hesco barriers, sandbags, and concertina wire everywhere. Lots of Humvees with .50 cals and Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers and several mortar tubes of various sizes and ranges -- but range enough to be sure. We're in a valley here, which would be a real disadvantage if the enemy had artillery.

That's the mistake the French made when fighting the Viet Minh. They built Dien Bien Phu in a valley, thinking the enemy couldn't bring artillery tubes up the sides of the mountain. Wrong! War over.

But the Taliban have nothing heavier than small mortars and RPGs that theoretically might reach the camp but are far beyond aiming range and in any case this place is well protected against incoming fire. I'm told the camp, which was begun by the 173rd Airborne, is far better than just a few months ago and I believe it. They're building here all day long.

View of mountain range surround FOB Mizan with Blackhawk in background. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
From the description I received at Lagman I got the idea this place might be susceptible to a sustained Taliban attack. Not a chance. The Taliban wouldn't even try. They keep to their hidden or semi-hidden paths and to the nearby town, and patrols from Mizan have to go out to try to nab them because they just aren't coming here.

I spent some time with the Afghans here, beginning when I was watching them burn the feces. That's always a great way to meet people. They invited me to their very nice quarters for some Chai tea. One spoke English passably well but another was an interpreter who came here from his home in California. He was, however, born in Afghanistan. They taught me some words in Pashtun and we discussed the war.

This RPG at Mizan exploded on firing, killing the operator. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Like the Americans I've talked to here, they're upbeat on winning but realize victory is far off. You hear the same basic line from everybody, American or Afghan. We need to keep killing Taliban and keep building up the economy.

Pakistan will almost certainly continue to provide safe haven for the foreign Taliban. (By the way, one Taliban is a "Talib;" "Taliban" is the plural form.)

But to the extent the economy provides good-paying jobs to the locals they will be able to resist being paid to fight the coalition forces. The Taliban will probably always be able to offer tempting payments to fire at Coalition forces, but not necessarily enough to make it worth a Pashtun's life.

Chinook over Mizan. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
You get the idea that the local Pashtun are not particularly ideologically motivated to support the Taliban but I'll learn more about this soon. One way or another, they're going to enforce strict Islamic law or what they believe to be Islamic law. But that doesn't mean whipping men who don't grow beards or necessarily covering women with burkas -- although some of the women actually prefer to dress that way.

This is a truncated blog and I'll have more to write about Mizan; but I've got a computer ace now and am going to take advantage of it.

Later today I go into town and meet the locals. Should get some good stuff and pics.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 22, 2007 11:01 AM  ·  Permalink

"Carpathian's Hawks," the Romanian 182nd Infantry Battalion

By Michael Fumento

There are an amazing 37 nations taking part in the war in Afghanistan. Want to hear something even more amazing? Out of all those countries, a grand total of six are willing to send their troops into combat: The United States, Britain, Canada, Estonia (which is smaller than several American cities), the Netherlands and Romania. Italy keeps its troops far from combat, yet their very presence here almost toppled the Italian government. Turkish soldiers have an excellent reputation for fighting and it would help that they are Muslim. But no go.

Surrounded by Romanians. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The same for such large nations as France and Spain, although the French did boast recently -- I'm not making this up -- that they dropped a single 25-pound bomb in support of Canadian fighters. I'll bet it missed. Spain, of course, suffered a major al Qaeda attack on its subway system. Given a chance to hit back, they say: "No queremos." Germany, which once held almost all of continental Europe and part of Africa and Russia under its jackboot, wants to be nowhere near Taliban or al Qaeda bullets.

Here at Lagman FOB we have soldiers from the U.S., a few from the Afghan National Army, four technicians from the Netherlands about to be replaced by Brits, and there's an Arab nation that has a medical team here but their government is very sensitive about their presence and I've been asked not to identify them. And finally, we have the guys who run the show here: the 500-member Romanian 182nd Infantry Battalion, labeled "Carpathian's Hawks." The reference is to the mountain range, which virtually encircles the country.

Commanding the 812th is Maj. Ovidiu Liviu Uifaleanu. His troops launch more than 50 missions a week, most supporting the Afghan National Police who protect the vital route of Highway 1, which didn't use to be so important until it was converted from secondary road to a fine piece of asphalt highway. It goes directly from Qalat to Kandahar but also tremendously cuts the time needed to get to Kabul.

An array of Romanian small arms, with a Dragunov 7.62 sniper rifle in foreground. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The Taliban (which here is a generalized term for the enemy, be they Afghan, Pakistani, Chechen, or Arab) know they don't have the strength to hold on to a piece of it for any length of time, but they make regular efforts to overcome Afghan police posts either with weapons or with bribes. They can then exact bribes from travelers or, far worse, kidnap them. The 812th goes from post to post finding out what they need (pretty much everything) and with an armored quick reaction force. Actual combat is rare because the Romanians firepower is overwhelming, but they did have a good shoot-'em-up with the Taliban a few weeks ago.

The Romanians travel in new American Humvees (they just took possession of six more) or in Russian-style but Romanian-made armored personnel carriers (APCs). (All of their weapons are also made in Romania, including the interestingly-named antitank guided missile system, the FAGOT.) During a live fire exercise they allowed me to fire both the mounted guns on the APCs, the 14.5 millimeter, which is similar to our M-2 .50 caliber and a 7.62 machine gun which is similar to the M-240s we sometimes mount on our Humvees.

The Romanians believe far more in comfort than do the Americans. They either wear rolled-up sleeves on their uniform jackets or simply a t-shirt that has the same camouflage pattern as the uniform. They also often wear shorts. Americans wear their sleeves down at all times and the only shorts they have are boxers and briefs. During their live-fire exercise, the Romanians didn't wear body armor. During the American live-fire exercise I went on the next day we did wear body armor because that's what you're going to be wearing in combat.

APCs and a Humvee. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Carpathian's Hawks was constituted in 1995, not long after the country's anti-communist revolution. It has seen service in Angola, southern Iraq and in Afghanistan from 202-2003. It's currently in the middle of a six-month mission here, and will be replaced by another Romanian unit when it leaves.

(Other Romanian units have served in southern Iraq, including at a base camp called "Dracula." While Dracula or Vlad Tepes is seen as a figurative or literal monster in much of the West, he's a hero in Romania because the rather unorthodox methods of Vlad the Impaler did keep the advancing Turkish empire at bay. Say what you will about old Dracula, but without him Romania would probably be Muslim today instead of being overwhelming Christian Orthodox.)

When I asked the Major (and that's what I call him, for fear of the 100 percent probability of mispronouncing his name) why Romania is fighting here when nations with vastly larger militaries refuse to fire a shot in anger, he gives a soldier's answer. "At higher echelons they make those decisions," he says. But "We are keeping our promise as a member of NATO." Aha! But Romania didn't join NATO until 2004. "Then," he explains, "we were keeping our promise as a membership of the Partnership for Peace." That organization, he says, is (and these are my words), sort of a prep school for NATO.

On the firing range (the closest soldier has an empty RPG). Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I've got a different answer, though. Aside from Great Britain, the major nations of Europe have grown decadent. Even though several of them face a far greater threat from radical Islam than the U.S. or Romania, they're quite happy to let others do the fighting and dying. Romania, after years of involuntary servitude in the Soviet empire, wants very much to be a part of the world community. Countries like France and Germany want to lead the world community but won't spend a drop of blood in doing so.

In any case, God bless the Romanians. I'm going on patrol with them tomorrow and will blog on it.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 19, 2007 09:48 AM  ·  Permalink

Forgotten War, Shoestring War

By Michael Fumento

First an update on kinetics, to use the euphemism for violence. Just before I left the States, a unit of the Afghan National Army (ANA) got zapped in what may be the opening of the Taliban spring offensive. Seventeen casualties were evacuated here to FOB Lagman. The aid station was overwhelmed and regular soldiers pitched in. "I was stuffing gauze into bullet holes," 1st. Lt. and Company Executive Officer Keith Wei told me, wincing as he said it. Although one was dead on arrival, the remainder survived. Here, as in Iraq, if you make it to a medic you're chances of survival are excellent.

Romanian convoy back from vital mission (bringing me to Lagman). Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Within days, the Taliban tried a similar ambush but far different results. The Americans accompanying the Afghans called in close air support, killing about 35 Taliban. Then the Taliban scored blood, killing Spc. Conor Masterson of B Company, a medic, and wounding two others when an IED hit their Humvee. It was B Company's first death since it deployed here in January.

Also, apparently they have cobras here -- by which I do not mean Marine gunship helicopters but the kind that slither, hiss, and if you're unfortunate bite. It's not exactly kinetics, but it's something most Americans would find unsettling, especially since the doctor across the way from me, Capt. Slusher, assures me we have no anti-venom. In any case, it's good incentive to keep the place clean because trash brings rodents and rodents bring snakes. They also have the ugliest beetles here I've ever seen. The little monsters fly and they bite. I think they work for al Qaeda.

An Al Qaeda beetle. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
B Company has about 160 men, divided into three platoons plus a squad for headquarters. Back in Germany, where 1-4 is based, the unit usually acts as adversaries during war games. In recent years, they've played guerrillas. So that gives them special expertise in thinking like the enemy. In addition to running patrols out of here in Qalat they operate four other tiny FOBs spread throughout the province, plus a firebase with howitzers.Those little FOBs and the firebase are the heart of B Company's operation.

These little FOBs are about the size of combat operation posts (COPs) I wrote about in Ramadi and that are a major part of Gen. David Petraeus's plan to pacify Baghdad, but one of the most important aspects of COPs is that they are close enough to each other or the mother FOB that they can quickly receive support. These are way too far apart to for that. If they're attacked in force -- and it wouldn't be all that hard for the Taliban and al Qaeda to hit them with superior numbers -- by the time reinforcement could arrive it would be much too late. Close air support is all they can rely on.

The only one of these FOBs that's seen combat since the unit deployed is FOB Mizan; so I asked to be sent there. Unfortunately, the helo that was to bring me out there was supposed to be carrying a general in here. The general decided not to come so there went my ride. I'll get to another outlying FOB, but not for at least two more days.

This hearkens to a subject I teased at in the first blog. I commented in my previous blog about what a nasty FOB Lagman is. In Iraq, if you ask for a helo you get one. Actually, you get two since they usually fly in pairs for safety reasons. Here, theoretically, getting a helo should be easier because they're allowed to fly during the day. There just aren't that many birds in the Afghan theater. So why so few helos and why is this place so crummy?

An Army Apache gunship over Lagman's LZ. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Part of Lagman's problem might be mismanagement. I've really gotten to like the Romanians; they're exceedingly friendly. But they might be poor administrators. But mostly the helo problem and the Lagman problem is representative of the war effort here. We're trying to win this war on a shoestring; there simply aren't enough men here and there isn't enough money.
FOB Lagman HQ, flying the Romanian, Afghan, and American flags. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
But there's no money. "We know how to win here," says Wei. "But we're so shorthanded. Every platoon we have is covering what used to be a company-sized sector." But they no longer have those men.

"You can see victory on the horizon but we don't have the means to get there."

He says the ANA can fight but they're demoralized because "Some haven't been paid in months." A report from the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that I wrote about states that even when they are paid, "Income for those in the lower ranks remains insufficient to meet more than the most basic needs. ANA soldiers now receive $100 month as a new recruit for a three-year commitment, up from $70 month." However, "In some reported cases, the Taliban are paying up to $12 a day, three times as much as the ANA field soldiers, and there is evidence of defection from the national security forces to the Taliban ranks."

The Taliban and al Qaeda know the value of money and they have plenty of it. They didn't conquer most of Afghanistan through fighting ability, but rather through wheeling and dealing with various warlords, backstabbing of others, and throwing around copious amounts of bribe money.

A lack of money is also strapping the hearts and minds aspect of the war. "It takes four weeks here just to get cement," Wei says. "We need to help build and to provide security, but we just don't have the funds. Everybody here understands what needs to be done but their hands are tied by a lack of resources in both funds and people. We could pacify Zabul in probably a year if they pumped money into here like they do Iraq."

Aye and there's the rub. Even before 9/11 military strategists warned that we no longer had the ability to fight two wars at once, that at best we could fight one and keep the other in a holding pattern. That's what it appears we're doing here. But what if the holding pattern doesn't hold?

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 18, 2007 10:53 AM  ·  Permalink

Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan

By Michael Fumento

After three embeds in Al Anbar, what was once the forgotten part of Iraq, it was time to visit the "Forgotten War." Afghanistan. A commercial flight brings me to Kuwait International Airport, then a short ride to Ali Al Salem Air Force Base (AFB), and the very next day a relatively comfortable C-17 cargo jet brings me to Bagram AFB in Afghanistan.

The sun rises over the Romanian convoy. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I'm waiting at the Pat Tillman USO center (named after the football star who gave up almost everything after 9/11 to become a Ranger and then did give up everything when he lost his life in Afghanistan. I shouldn't have been surprised but was when I ran into my friend and fellow citizen embed Andrew Lubin, a Marine vet and fellow citizen embed. I met him last October in Baghdad and then we crossed paths again in Ramadi. So suddenly we're in the same building in Afghanistan. Yeah, it is a small world after all.

Andrew gets me signed up for the C-130 prop transport to Kandahar AFB, then we head over to the public affairs office (PAO) that all embeds need to report to, grab a quick breakfast, and within hours I'm in Kandahar with Andrew heading back to Kuwait to grab a plane for al Anbar. I'll probably run into him again in a few weeks.

Originally I was told my assignment was in Kandahar province, but it isn't. Rather it's in Zabul Province, a Taliban gateway between Pakistan and Kandahar. The name of the base camp is FOF Lagman, just outside Qalat. Here's an overview of Lagman. Zabul is on the Pakistani border and relatively small so all of it is near the mountain passes that the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be coming through. "With its sparse population, insecure border with Pakistan and little central authority, Zabul is a fertile ground for insurgents fighting against the current Afghan government," according to Wikipedia.

The Humvee turret gunner, manning a 7.62 millimeter RBK machine gun. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view. Click image for larger view.
Like Kandahar, Zabul is Pashtun, the tribe from which the Taliban derive support. At Kandahar AFB, the PAO says I have two choices to get to FOB Lagman and my assignment with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, a unit based out of Germany. I can wait two days and take a 20-minute helicopter ride or go by convoy the next day with Romanian soldiers. I opt for the convoy, only to later be informed it leaves at 0400, which means I have to get up at 0300; a.k.a., way too early for me. What the heck is wrong with these Romanian people anyway? They're yawning as much as I am. Still, at some point on Route 1 to Qalat sun finally pops up and I can finally get to work, snapping photos of the Afghan countryside through a window that I fastidiously cleaned.

The Romanians are a professional bunch, and Romania is one of only five countries conducting combat operations here besides the Americans. Romanian is a romance language, but it's nonetheless alien to a speaker of French or Spanish. After awhile, though, I started picking out Italian words here and there. When I also slowly started to learn that all three men in the Humvee with me spoke some English they told me that Italian is indeed the closest language to their language. Inevitably they took the opportunity to inform me Romania is where the Romans fled when the western empire finally collapsed. I think that's mostly mythological, that most Romans probably stayed right in Italy. Still, Romania is a closer place to flee to than, say, Sweden, and the country's name does lend itself to the story.

Colorful Afghan tents dot the countryside. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Turns out Romanians run the show at Lagman, with the 1-4 and others providing a supporting role. In brief, this place is a defecation-hole. It's worse than where I spent my last two embeds, Camp Corregidor in Ramadi, which itself had a notorious reputation. The one way this place is better is that it doesn't take mortar rounds and hence you don't need to wear body armor within the wire. I'm squeezed like a sardine with two AP reporters in a room meant for one very small person. There is a PX, but it goes out of business today. Corregidor acquired a PX between my two embeds there, plus a market run by locals. There are all of four male showers, two with curtains missing. There are only two computers with Internet connections, a serious problem for me. Part of the place is literally made of mud. Yeah, I knew not to expect the Ritz-Carleton but I'm rather shocked that after five years this place is so crude. But it's a reason that concerns the entire war effort and you'll hear about it in future installments.

And now a word from our sponsor. That's me. This trip and these blogs to help readers like you remember the forgotten war is paid for entirely out of my own pocket. To name just the three largest expenses, airfare to Kuwait was $1,200. War insurance to cover injuries by hostile action was $775, and there's not even any life insurance in that. A video camera replacement for the one destroyed in an irrigation canal in Ramadi, Iraq was $275. Hitting that PayPal or button at the bottom of this blog will help pay part of that plane ticket, perhaps a day's worth of war insurance, or piece of that video camera.

Graves covered with stones and marked by colorful cloths are frequently seen by the road. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
The number of citizen embeds who because they pay their own way, are beholden to no one, and can report and photograph the truth exactly as they see it has shrunk to a mere handful. As hard as we might try we cannot hope to broadly counter the mis- and disinformation spouted by the MSM. It is with humility, and not hubris, that I say we need many times the citizen embeds we have and yet we can expect the number to keep shrinking. For my part, I should like to remain within that number and keep my reputation for going to not the most comfortable or safest places but the least comfortable and most dangerous. That's where the real news about our soldiers is being made.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

Amazon Honor System

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April 17, 2007 11:20 AM  ·  Permalink

Short film of Zach Pentek, 1/506th, rated best Combat Video of 2006!

By Michael Fumento

Zach Pentek
From left to right: Me and SSgt. Bobby Statum
checking out M-14 rifles while Sgt. Zach Pentek nervously
ponders whether they were properly cleared.

An interview from an observation post in Ramadi with Sgt. Zach Pentek by Ritterby has been voted the best Combat Video of 2006 by the military. Although I wrote two articles about my embeds with 1/506th of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of Task Force Currahee, Zach's platoon in A Co. will always have a special place in my heart because we were all together in the manic dash I dubbed "the Ramadi Run." The video is only four minutes long and the fighting is visible but off in the background, but you can see why the military liked it. Zach gives more than a grunt's eye view to Ritterby, explaining the problem of seizing Ramadi from the insurgents and terrorists but presenting an optimistic view of what needs to be done and what probably will happen. Ultimately, he says, it's up to the Iraqis but the city can be pacified. And he was right. As more Iraqi Army were brought in and as the sheiks got off the fencepost and threw in their lot with the Coalition, Ramadi steadily improved between my first visit in April 2006 and my last in October. All indications are that while it still has claws and fangs it's now far safer yet; so much so that perhaps Zach wouldn't even recognize it even though his unit and he personally helped make it so.

Kudos to Ritterby, to Zach, and Task Force Currahee at Camp Corregidor!

March 28, 2007 10:19 PM  ·  Permalink

Are We Losing in Afghanistan?

By Michael Fumento

Afghanistan may be called "The Forgotten War" but we'd better hurry up and remember it, for time is short. That's increasingly the word from experts both military and non-military, including an exhaustive survey based on 1,000 interviews with Afghans released by the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Put another way, the peak year for progress appears to have been 2005. It's been downhill since then and if it isn't arrested soon the nation will be lost. "2007 is a critical year," the study's co-director Frederick Barton said at an event releasing the survey. Read all about it in my TCS Daily article, "Survey of Afghans Says Time Running Out."

March 13, 2007 06:14 PM  ·  Permalink

The Fighting Killions

By Michael Fumento

My latest article, "The Fighting Killions," concerns a remarkable military family. I met one of them, Rob, on a rooftop during a firefight in Ramadi. Of four confirmed enemy killed that day, Rob pegged three of them with his M-249 light machine gun. He also almost had the dubious distinction of having his head shot off by a sniper while I filmed him. Only much later did I find out that his brother and dad were serving in Iraq, his wife had served in Iraq, and his mother had served in the Air Force. Most remarkable, perhaps, is his father Rick. Rick served on active duty with the Air Force, got out, joined the Army Reserve, got out, and figured his military days over forever when Rob joined the active Army and his brother Doug the Reserves. Rick knew both were headed for Iraq so he once again put on a uniform, joined Doug's unit, and shipped out with his boy to Mosul. And to think, I felt lucky when my dad accompanied me to the park!

I'm delighted to have stumbled upon such patriotic and selfless people - from a long line of patriotic and selfless people - and to have had this chance to present their story.

March 8, 2007 10:17 PM  ·  Permalink

My Wkly Std cover story: "The Democrats' Special Forces Fetish"

By Michael Fumento

Weekly Standard Spec Ops CoverIt was one bullet point in the plan for the Pelosi Congress's "first 100 hours," two sentences in the Democrats' 31-page "New Direction for America" document released last June: In order to "Defeat terrorists and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we will . . . . Double the size of our Special Forces" (emphasis added)

Sounds nifty, doesn't it, like a bumper sticker reading "Outlaw War Now!"? And, indeed, top-notch warriors play an invaluable role in any war but are most useful in the sorts of guerrilla actions and anti-terrorist activity that will probably dominate the military's missions for the next generation. There are just two problems.

First, doubling can only be accomplished by going a disastrous route - making special ops no longer special. Second, false solutions crowd out real ones. Much can be done to improve the quality of our armed forces, but this Democratic proposal doesn't make the grade. Read the rest here.

(Incidentally, the magazine would seem to have made the same error the Democrats did in calling Special Operations Forces "Special Forces," but that was for lack of space. The Weekly Standard didn't have 31 pages to play with.)

February 24, 2007 05:50 PM  ·  Permalink

New video from the two firefights in "The New Band of Brothers"

By Michael Fumento

I'm not sure why he took so long, but SSgt. Bobby Statum, who works for Army Public Affairs, has finally released video on YouTube he shot last April of the two firefights I wrote about in "The New Band of Brothers." The video switches back and forth between the actions. The one in Ramadi's Mulaab region features Capt. Joe "Crazy Joe" Claburn, commander of C Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne and SEAL Team Three. Posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor nominee and SEAL Michael Monsoor makes his first appearance at the 36-second mark. His machine gun is readily identifiable by the bipod. (All the SEALs are easily recognized by their sand-colored camo uniforms with no helmet covers.)

The fight the next day in the Industrial Area, including OP Hotel, involved A Co., 1/506th and what I dubbed "the Ramadi Run" through a hail of bullets as we departed relatively safe rooftops and sprinted to our rendezvous point. Yours truly makes cameo appearances (khaki uniform and black camera bag) at the 6:20 and 7:40 points.

As with me, these were Bobby's first two firefights and he handled himself bravely. Good on him for finally making this video public.

February 17, 2007 06:44 PM  ·  Permalink

Ramadi Video from 1/506th: "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

By Michael Fumento

Spc. Andy Johnson from A. Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne sent me this video montage he put together from his vacation at Camp Corregidor this past year. It includes a couple of video clips of mine and some other good action shots - though I don't understand why he left out a great clip of an F-18 ground attack. (Betcha he inserts it when he reads this.) Among the most interesting is footage of a Humvee he and two others from his platoon were in when the back end was hit by an RPG-7. It knocked the whole back off and nobody inside suffered more than a bad case of nerves. Best of all, it's not set to heavy metal music - which I cannot stand - but rather a nice tune from The Man in Black.

February 13, 2007 09:39 PM  ·  Permalink

Having a ball with the 1/506th (101st Airborne) at Ft. Campbell

By Michael Fumento

I was delighted to receive an invitation as a special guest to the annual (usually) ball of First Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I had spent two embeds with these soldiers at nasty Camp Corregidor in Ramadi and had already come to feel like I was a member of their "Band of Brothers." Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark extended the invitation to me and confirmed that, unlike at Corregidor, body armor and Kevlar helmet were not required at all times - or indeed at all.

My photoset of the ball is posted here. (Participants please feel free to offer corrections on names or providing first names where I only have last.)

I'd never been to Ft. Campbell and was delighted to find it was a far nicer place than where I spent my time, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina - but then, I'd guess virtually any base would be. We didn't refer to it as "the armpit of the south" for nothing. The town next to Campbell, Clarksville, also beat the living you-know-what out of Bragg's civilian neighbor Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Fayetteville we referred to fondly as "Fayettenam" and "Fatalburg.")

First we attended an officers' reception at Clark's house, where I got a chance to become reacquainted or acquainted with many of those men. (There was also a woman officer, 1st Lt. Jennifer Wynn, executive officer (XO) of Easy Company.) The last time I'd seen these people they were wearing ACUs and, yes, armor and helmets. It was strange seeing them in their brilliant dress blues with cascades of ribbons and awards. Almost all of them wore the paratrooper's silver wings, I'm happy to report, even though the 101st hasn't been an airborne unit for decades.

I thought it possible that Clark was a closet tee-totaler; in fact, to my delight he's quite the beer connoisseur and all attendees benefited thereby. (But I'll bet he also drinks tea.) There was a long series of unofficial awards given out to the many officers who were leaving or had already left the unit, although I couldn't see much because I was stuck behind a Navy SEAL who, like all SEALs it seems, was built rather like a redwood tree. Or to put it another way, SEALs look like you'd expect them to look. Both this ceremony and the ball weren't actually so much 1/506th but rather "Task Force Currahee, which includes anybody who served at Corregidor while Clark was in charge. That's why we there were men there from SEAL Team 3 and at least one Marine.

The ball was an absolute kick. I admit to feeling great pride as they played the "New Band of Brothers video," drawing the title from my first article about them. It included written excerpts from the piece and a few of my photos in the montage that followed.

But the choice part of the evening was seeing the guys with whom I was in combat. I introduced myself to a SEAL and asked if we'd been together on that roof in the Mulaab. Indeed, we were. He was the one of whom I wrote:

A SEAL near me has an old wooden-stock M-79 40mm grenade launcher (affectionately called a "Thumper") that was phased out late in the Vietnam war in favor of the M-203, a 40mm tube attached below an M-16 rifle. I had wondered why he'd chosen to carry this but now found out. Another vehicle is spotted, a flatbed with four jihadists bearing AKs. [Joe] Claburn and others bring it to a screeching halt with a fusillade of bullets to the engine block; then the SEAL with the Thumper smoothly extracts it from a strap around his waist as if it's just another appendage and drops the grenade dead center on the jihadists' truck. One shot; one kill. Those SEALs fight like machines.

Lots of guys were there from the next day's firefight with A Company as well, the ones I joined on "The Ramadi Run" through an ambush. We still laughed over it. They sure made us dance with their machine guns and AKs, but we made it through with nothing more than a great story to tell. Andrew Johnson was there, the guy who looked so young I asked if his mom knew where he was. Alas, Corregidor ages you. He almost looks old enough to be in the Army now. Almost.

And yes, "Crazy Joe" Claburn was in attendance. He left partway through the deployment to join an airborne pathfinder unit, first in Iraq and then back at Ft. Campbell. And yeah, he's still nutty. Where his name should have been on his dress blues he had "America" imprinted instead. Oh well, God Bless America. He said I made him famous "for five weeks" when I reported on his comments on the Mulaab rooftop as we were taking fire. "Hear them cracking over your head?" he shouted. "That'll get your peter hard, huh?"

He told me that some time later somebody stopped him a chow hall and said, "You're Crazy Joe aren't you? The guy who said being shot at makes your peter hard!" Guilty, guilty, guilty. Later anti-war and ultra-lib talk show host Al Franken commented on that while I was on his show as if show there was something seriously wrong with Claburn - and perhaps the Americans fighting in Iraq generally. But if so, it's not that comment that proves it. As CJ pointed out to me, and as I had no need to hear, in situations like that you've got to do things besides just firing back to keep your head about you. My own videos show me laughing and singing ("We gotta get outta this place . . . ") during the next day's fight. Is that crazier than dwelling on the possibility of a round taking off the top of your head off or an RPG making you go splat? I think not.

In any event, Claburn brought his girlfriend of two years who was gorgeous flesh on the outside and titanium on the inside. Her husband had been killed early in the war by an IED and she later actually took a slight demotion from Captain to Chief Warrant Officer 2 in order to become a Kiowa Scout pilot. "That's because it's one of the few combat slots open to women, right?" I said. "That's right!" she answered. It's a terribly dangerous job, as well. Maybe she's crazy too. But dating all of America will do that to you.

My wife, not incidentally, was delighted. She had come to know these men through my writings, my pictures, and my stories. But meeting them was something else entirely. Yes, Ron Clark really is that professional and yet affable. Yes, she could see why XO Matt Keller and I became buddies in a grand total of four days at Corregidor. Andrew Johnson really does look like a kid, but then so do so many of these elite warriors. I think she was perhaps most delighted to meet Rob Killion, who became the "star" of my article by virtue of popping an exceptional number of bad guys in front of my camcorder and still camera and his down-home sense of humor in a deadly situation.

One of the few somber points of the evening included unveiling a flat stone carving by a local firefighter and a plaque to the names of the 11 fallen of Task Force Currahee. It included the battalion's original XO Lt. Col. Paul Finken who was sent to Baghdad to oversee the training of Iraqi soldiers and died in an IED explosion with less than two weeks left on his tour. SSgt. Michael A. Dickinson II was providing his PSYOPS expertise to Currahee when he was killed by small arms fire. At bottom center of the plaque was Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, the SEAL who died when he threw himself on a grenade to save his three buddies. He's now up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I'd like also to mention Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee who, while not part of Task Force Currahee, fought alongside its men and became the first SEAL to die in Ramadi and Iraq. Part of the plaque's inscription, from John 15:13, reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his fellow friend." That applies to all the fallen.

But let me say this. Eleven men lost is exactly 11 too many. Especially men like these. But there were out of about 1,000 soldiers in Task Force Currahee fighting in the worst conditions in Iraq. By rights, far more should have died but for the leadership of Clark, Finken, Keller, Crazy Joe and Justin Michel and the other company commanders, Command Sgt. Major Michael Catterton, and indeed each individual member of Currahee who fought desperately to accomplish their mission and keep their buddies alive.

Alas, the 1/506th as I knew it is already passing into history. Clark and A Co. Commander Justin Michel are coming to my town, specifically the Pentagon. Matt Keller is off to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. But this unit, and what it accomplished in its tour in Ramadi, like its illustrious forebears who dropped behind the lines at Normandy, will pass into glorious history.

February 12, 2007 11:37 AM  ·  Permalink

Patriquin Police Station to Open in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin

Multi-National Corps -- Iraq has announced a Patriquin Iraqi Police Station will soon open in Ramadi. Before his death in an IED explosion on Dec. 6 of last year, Army Cpt. Travis Patriquin, a hero of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, played a vital role in getting Ramadi sheiks to send their young tribesmen into the police to provide Iraqi firepower and intelligence-gathering in the fight against insurgents and terrorists. (He was also very helpful to me in understanding the current situation in Ramadi, and I quoted him at great length.)

Patriquin left behind three small children. Donations to help his family may be made to:

Travis Patriquin Family Memorial Fund
Harris Bank
111 W. Monroe Street 111/1C
Chicago, IL 60603

If you have a PayPal account, you may email a donation to his father at:

January 10, 2007 11:47 AM  ·  Permalink

GI Malkin to report for duty in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

Michelle MalkinMichelle Malkin has announced she's heading for Iraq. I've known of this for a little while and have had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she's an old friend dating back about 13 years. She can seem hard-edged in her blogs and columns, but some of her worst enemies would take a liking to her if they knew her in person. Put another way, I don't want to see her butt zapped. Conversely, I have repeatedly exhorted that nobody can understand Iraq or the war who hasn't been there. The vast majority of self-styled Iraqi experts at the think tanks and in the media have not in fact been there. Some have called them chicken hawks and "Chairborne Rangers;" I will simply say they are ignorant. Michelle has blogged constantly on Iraq, but mentally I gave her a pass because she's not exactly natural embed material. She has no military background, she has two small children at home, and she's so small both in height and frame that she may constitute the lightest embed ever to go over. When I gave her my body armor and helmet on Christmas Day I honestly thought she might tip over. I wear an X-Large while she's a Super-Tiny. Hopefully once she arrives at her duty station she can swap it for something smaller and more protective (I have no side ceramic plates).

As to that duty station, those with Malkin Derangement Syndrome (her hate mail makes mine look positively quaint) are already blogging that this will be just another celebrity tour. They couldn't be more wrong. The Celebrity Tour, as exemplified recently by Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and others who aren't of Irish extraction comprises flying into Baghdad International and bedding down in comfy-cozy celebrity quarters in one of the three huge bases right next to the airport. These bases receive virtually no shelling and are literally safer than most American cities. Once there they schmooze with troops, the overwhelming majority of which have never seen combat. The result is that these people get all the celebrities; the guys doing the fighting and dying in the real Iraq just get grunt reporters like Mike Fumento.

Michelle is not taking that route. OPSEC forbids revealing her destination, but suffice to say it's a camp that's actually smaller than my Forward Operating Base of Camp Corregidor in Ramadi. That makes it likely to be shelled. It has perhaps no more than half a dozen women and she'll probably sleep in a crackerbox -- hopefully sans rats. It's not like the Anbar, but outside the wire IEDs await, and quite possibly snipers. Ambushes are possible. Yes, Michelle will be a celebrity and I've urged her to bring as many photos as she can to sign for the troops; the men will never forget her visit. But she's going as a true embedded reporter. She's got a lot of guts in that tiny frame of hers. We should all wish her Godspeed.

January 4, 2007 01:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, XO of 1/506th, RIP

By Michael Fumento

It slipped under my radar but Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, the former Executive Officer (2nd-in-command) of 1/506th, 101st Airborne, was killed by an IED in Baghdad on Nov. 2. Also killed were Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage. Finken, 40, was assigned to 506th Regimental Headquarters as the MiTT Chief (Military Transition Team, a unit devoted to training the Iraqi Army) in July 2005. He was just two weeks away from redeploying back to the States with the rest of 1/506th. He was one of the highest-ranking Americans killed in Iraq. Unfortunately I never met him, since he spent his time in Baghdad while I was with most of 1/506th in Ramadi. But you can learn much about him at a website dedicated to him posthumously.

According to Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark: "Paul's efforts as our XO contributed directly to the success of our battalion in combat and saved the lives of our Soldiers in Ramadi. Paul was an outstanding officer and an even better husband and father." Adds Clark:

He is survived by his wife Jackie and 3 young daughters who miss him dearly. Paul and I were close personal friends as well as comrades in arms. We also shared a common bond as USMA graduates (Paul graduated in the Class of 89, while I graduated in 1988 with Paul's twin brother Pete). Paul served the 506th Regimental Combat Team, our Army, and our nation with distinction. He was a tremendous leader and a warrior who took care of Soldiers and their families. His loss has been tremendously hard on the members of our battalion staff and he will be missed by all whom he touched.

He was laid to rest near his family in Earling, Iowa.

A memorial trust has been established for his three children.
Farmer's Trust & Savings Bank
c/o Paul Finken Memorial
PO Box 285
Earling, IA 51530-0285
Or Call (712) 747-2000

Currahee! Lt. Col. Finken

December 26, 2006 01:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Memorial fund for children of Capt. Travis Patriquin, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

111 W. MONROE ST. 111/1C

December 22, 2006 03:36 PM  ·  Permalink

Update on Oliver North and McClung et al.

By Michael Fumento

Oliver North
Oliver North

As it happens, in a syndicated column Oliver North did mention Maj. McClung although he couldn't use her name yet pending notification of kin. Remarkably, there is no mention that she was killed accompanying he and his crew.

"A proffered hot cup of coffee was gratefully accepted as the Major helped us load our backpacks, camera gear and satellite broadcast equipment aboard a dust-encrusted Humvee," he wrote in a Dec. 8 column. "Just hours later, this widely respected and much admired Marine officer and two brave U.S. Army soldiers were dead, killed by an IED -- an improvised explosive device -- the insidious weapon of choice for terrorists in Iraq."

She helped load his gear and later died. That's it.

In my case, when somebody risked his life because he thought I was hurt even though I had just hit the ground to avoid machine fire, I gave him full credit.

One brave soul, who proved to be Sgt. Falk, risks his hide by jumping from his relatively safe position along the wall to pull me in. "I'm just taking cover!" I yell. But he's determined to rescue me, even as my rolling [to a protective wall] and the lack of a handle on my body armor makes it impossible for him to grab me. That I wasn't actually hurt makes him no less a hero in my book.

That's the way it should be done. In this case, somebody did die trying to help North. Three somebodies. Oliver North should acknowledge that. So should Newsweek.

December 18, 2006 04:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Video memorial to Maj. Megan McClung, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

The Marines have put together a lovely and fitting 5-minute video tribute to Maj. Megan McClung, who died from an IED explosion in Ramadi on Dec. 6. There are also short clips of Capt. Travis Patriquin and Spec. Vincent Pomante, both of whom died with her.

Said one Marine of the long-distance runner and triathlete, "The ability to run was a metaphor for the way she lived her life."

December 14, 2006 09:51 PM  ·  Permalink

Details on burials of McClung, Patriquin and Pomante

By Michael Fumento

Maj. McClung at her last promotion ceremony

Maj. Megan McClung, killed in action in Ramadi on December 6, will be interred in Arlington Cemetery December 19th at 8:30 AM. I will publish the location when it becomes available.

Donations in lieu of flowers to Wounded Marines Fund Marine Corps League Foundation P.O. Box 3070 Merrifield, VA. 22116-3070 Please be sure to designate "Marines Helping Marines" in memory of Major Megan McClung on the "memo" line of your check. All donations will be gratefully

Killed with her was Capt. Travis Patriquin, whose funeral details are pending, and Spec. Vincent Pomante III who will be laid to rest on December 16th in his hometown of Westerville, Ohio.

Spec. Pomante
Spec. Vincent Pomante III

December 13, 2006 06:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Navy narration of circumstances surrounding the death of SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Michael Monsoor with MK-48 medium machine gun at right

On 29 September, Monsoor was part of a sniper overwatch security position in eastern Ramadi, Iraq with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers. They were providing overwatch security while joint and combined forces were conducting missions in the area. Ramadi had been a violent and intense area for a very strong and aggressive insurgency for some time. All morning long the overwatch position received harassment fire that had become typical part of the day for the security team. Around midday, the exterior of the building was struck by a single rocket propelled grenade (RPG), but no injuries to any of the overwatch personnel were sustained. The overwatch couldn't tell where the RPG came from and didn't return fire.

A couple of hours later, an insurgency fighter closed on the overwatch position and threw a fragment grenade into the overwatch position which hit Monsoor in the chest before falling in front of him. Monsoor yelled "grenade" and dropped on top of the grenade prior to it exploding. Monsoor's body shielded the others from the brunt of the fragmentation blast and two other SEALs were only wounded by the remaining blast.

One of the key aspects of this incident was the way the overwatch position was structured. There was only one access point for entry or exit and Monsoor was the only one who could've saved himself from harm. Instead, knowing what the outcome could be, he fell on the grenade to save the others from harm. Monsoor and the two injured were evacuated to the combat outpost battalion aid station where Monsoor died approximately 30 minutes after the incident from injuries sustained by the grenade blast.

Monsoor is being submitted for an award that is appropriate for the level of his actions that has yet to be determined.

[Since then he has been submitted for the nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.]

Digg this!

December 12, 2006 06:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Maj. Megan McClung and Capt. Travis Patriquin, RIP

By Michael Fumento

Megan McClung
Megan McClung

I only heard Marine Major Megan McClung yell once, but it was righteous anger. If this were fiction, it might be considered foreshadowing. It was at Camp Ramadi headquarters outside of the city proper and away from the hostilities. The 34-year-old McClung, head Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for Al Anbar Province, was barking at a public affairs sergeant. "Ramadi is the most dangerous city in Iraq and you're going to get your men out there to cover it!"

This was in October and the previous spring I had been angry with McClung, though I'm glad I didn't tell her. She was a captain then with her headquarters at Camp Fallujah. I had made it clear I wanted to spend my entire embed in Ramadi because that's where the action was and because on my first Iraq trip a year earlier I had seen Fallujah but been denied Ramadi when I wound up "embedded" on a surgical bed in Baghdad. Yet when I returned this spring to Baghdad to renew my press credentials and expected to fly straight from there to Ramadi, I was dumbfounded that McClung had routed me right back to Fallujah and its environs. When I saw her in person, she explained that she wanted me to spend time with Military Transition Teams (MiTTs) in the area to see how well their training of the Iraqi Army was progressing.

It was a prescient move on her part, especially considering that a tremendous increase in MiTT teams embedded in indigenous units has become a major part of all plans to ultimately turn the war over to the Iraqis. In any case, the trip did end in Ramadi where during just a few short days I saw and reported on more combat, more courage, and more camaraderie than you might see elsewhere in Iraq in a year.

For my last embed, I was in Ramadi the whole time. But again McClung guided me so I saw what I needed to see rather than what I thought I needed to see. After each embed she diligently provided information that I'd been unable to gather in the field. I have two dozen emails from her on my computer, the last dated November 30. The lady I once begrudged I grew to have great respect for.

Capt. Travis Desk
Capt. Patriquin's famous desk

I also developed that respect for 32-year-old Captain Travis Patriquin of the Army's First Armored Division. (McClung was with the First Marine Division.) I photographed Patriquin's desk, which was covered with bumper stickers such as George Orwell's observation that "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm." When I published my photo set from the trip, that desk quickly became a blogosphere celebrity.

Patriquin was exactly the sort of officer we need in Iraq. He spoke at least five languages including fluent Arabic, and was a major player in getting Ramadi sheiks to start supporting Coalition operations by sending men into the Iraqi Police and urging civilians to expose al Qaeda terrorists. He fought in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war, Operation Anaconda, later receiving the Bronze Star. Patriquin also provided a terrific inbriefing, giving an overview of a city that seems slowly to be improving but is still too much like the local graffiti states: "The graveyard of the Americans." I quoted him at great length in my major article about the trip in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard.

While most journalists heading into Ramadi require no PAO escort, for some reason on December 6 both McClung and Patriquin, plus 22-year-old Army Specialist Vincent J. Pomante III decided to jump into a Humvee to accompany Oliver North and his crew from Fox plus some journalists from Newsweek downtown. A tremendous blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) ripped apart their truck, killing all three. Mercifully, it appears all died instantly. I heard about Patriquin his cousin, then left a message for McClung asking for verification and offering her my condolences. Then I found out about her. McClung has the dubious honor of being the first female Marine officer and highest-ranked female officer overall killed in the war.

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin

Why, people who have never been to war ask me, do I actually like being in a combat zone? Partly it's the feeling of being responsible for the lives of everyone else and they for you. Partly it's that you never feel more alive than when you know you're so close to death. You develop the bond that Shakespeare marvelously described as a "Band of Brothers." And when you leave the killing fields behind, that bond remains and is something that nobody who hasn't experienced it will ever appreciate. You accept that some brothers will die, but that doesn't make it easier when it happens.

Given the season, it seems appropriate to quote from Michael Marks's haunting poem, "A Soldier's Christmas:"

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Note: This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. "A Soldier's Christmas is copyright 2000 by Michael Marks.

December 11, 2006 01:05 PM  ·  Permalink

A SEAL Team 3 dad comments on Mike Monsoor and Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Writer's son with M-79 on the left and Mike Monsoor on the right
SEAL with M-79 (not the writer's son) on left and Mike Monsoor
on right

Dear Mike,

My son was Mike Monsoor's roommate in Iraq. He was in the action where Mike died. Today, I telephoned him in Coronado [near San Diego] about the November 27th issue [of the Weekly Standard, containing my article Return to Ramadi] with Mike on the cover.

I personally appreciate seeing you honor Mike on the cover. He was a fine young man. He was humble and well mannered. A good observer might have spotted the fact that Mike was exceptionally fit, and guessed he was a professional athlete. From my daughter's comments, I know the young ladies thought Mike was exceptionally handsome, with "dreamy eyes." Whatever. Otherwise, Mikey looked like a lot of other American guys. There was a quality in Mike that could not have been guessed by his appearance.

I have a copy of the Weekly Standard in hand. I read your excellent article. I was able to spend some time with my boy after he returned from Iraq. He talked about his experience a little at first. As time goes on, he talks more. Recently, we sat down with Google Earth and brought up a satellite image of Ramadi. He briefed me on the different areas of the city and a bit about the situation in various parts of town.

I think the point you made about each soldier knowing only part of the elephant is a very good. This is where a good reporter or journalist like you can provide a great service to not only the public but the soldiers themselves. You gave facts about the progress our soldiers are making. I know my son will read it carefully. No one else has told the public as much about Ramadi as you have in this latest article. To tell the truth, if a reporter from my local New York Times owned newspaper called me up for an interview about my son, I would tell her or him to go fuck themselves. I literally despise the mainstream media because they want our soldiers to lose.

My boy was with a platoon of SEALs that spent most of their time in Mulaab. Actually, only four or five guys spent the whole deployment there. Mike Monsoor was one of them. They saw more combat action than SEALs have experienced since Vietnam. You were out with my son and took film of him a while back. [Here's the video though I blurred it at the request of the SEALs to protect their identities.] He was the guy who used the old style M-79 grenade launcher [Whom I photographed earlier this year with Monsoor during a Mulaab firefight.] He is an Alabama boy with lots of experience with guns, especially high powered rifles. He told me his instructors in the SEALs used exactly the same techniques for shooting I had taught him. So you are a good observer, when you said he was handy with a weapon.

He commented to me about the proficiency of the 1/506th. He has great respect for their commander and would serve with him anywhere any time. My boy and his platoon worked with the 1/506th quite a bit. One day a sergeant brought the SEALs some spades for their helmets. [The spade is the symbol of the 1/506th.] They will never take them off. My boy thinks the 1/506th is one group of bad dudes. He also had good things to say about other Army and Marine units, combat teams of all kinds. These are dudes who take on the bad guys eye to eye. They jump out the back of a Bradley [fighting vehicle] and go get them. My boy says they don't get the credit they deserve. He does not like the way the media sometimes glamorizes the SEALs when other American soldiers are doing the same work. I can tell you from experience that real SEALs do not talk about themselves. In civilian dress, these guys look like any other American. Most of them are very humble about their accomplishments. Like most everyone else, SEALs are in awe of good soldiers. According to my boy, some of the guys from the Pennsylvania National Guard were as good at soldiering as SEALs, Marines, or 1/506th. He said some of these National Guard guys were very bad news for the enemy. In fact, guys with families at home are very determined to get back to their wives and kids. They do not mess around with the enemy. They kill him quickly and with great determination because they are planning on going home.

You are right about our soldiers winning in Ramadi. You do a great service getting this truth out.

[Name, rank, and service omitted], retired (I have not used my son's name and would appreciate your withholding my last name from publication if you were to use any part of this email in your writing. Thanks.)

December 2, 2006 05:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Fumento interviews on Ramadi and the media - TV, radio, print

By Michael Fumento

Photo of Michael FumentoC-SPAN's Washington Journal

The Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA Denver
Part One
Part Two

John Hawkins' Right Wing News

November 30, 2006 11:30 PM  ·  Permalink

Will the real Ramadi please stand up?

By Michael Fumento

"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq [Al Anbar Province] or counter al Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report," began a front-page article in yesterday's Washington Post by Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks. It concerned the so-called "Devlin Report," a five-page document allegedly filled with gloom and doom. It contrasts completely with my article Return to Ramadi, in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard, in which I write that the largest city in the province is slowly being reclaimed from al Qaeda. By coincidence, the day my article hit the stands the Times of London published an extensive article coming to the same conclusion as mine. But for the timing, you'd practically think one of us had plagiarized the other.

Why such different conclusions between our articles and the Post's and whom to believe?

It helps to know that the Times writer and I both went to and reported from Ramadi. We didn't summarize classified documents or quote unnamed sources. Linzer and Ricks stayed home and reported from Washington, relying entirely on an unpublished document in addition to quoting a "senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity." I have recently ripped the media's "Baghdad Brigade" for pretending it can cover a country the size of California from a single Iraqi city. What does that say about those who think they can cover Al Anbar from Washington?

All of this illustrates a point I and others have desperately tried to make, that you cannot understand the Anbar if you haven't been there. That's why I went three times to the province and twice to Ramadi itself. It wasn't to attend a beerfest. It may also help explain things that Ricks has a recent book declaring the war a "Fiasco," and hence is already inclined towards a pessimistic view. Top-notch milblogger Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail declares, "Military and intelligence sources that I spoke to who have read the [Devlin] report indicate that they largely agree with [it] . . . but not as presented by the Washington Post." (Emphasis his.)

Alas, as much attention as my article has gotten it's hard to compete with a Post A1 article. Further, as Vietnam's Tet Offensive proved, guerrilla wars are as likely to be decided in the media as on the battlefield. It's looking like Iraq will prove no exception.

(Michael Fumento maintains a hybrid website at with blogs from his last two trips to Al Anbar, photos from all three trips, and two major articles from his trip earlier this year. Especially recommended is "The New Band of Brothers," which contains links to much combat video.)

November 29, 2006 08:00 PM  ·  Permalink

Lots more on that video of attack on OP Hotel in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

OP Hotel
OP Hotel, a.k.a., "The Ramadi Inn,"
some months after the attack

In an earlier blog post, I presented part of a video I got off a laptop in Ramadi showing the 2005 suicide vehicle attack on OP Hotel in the city's Industrial Area. Noting that it was taken from a jihadist propaganda production, I wondered aloud at their depicting it as a great victory over the infidels even though the objective remained intact and only jihadists were killed. None of which deterred a large number of jihadist websites from not just using the link to the video but rather linking to the blog entry as a whole, in which I'm basically calling them buffoons. In fact, it was so popular among terrorists that my host company was forced to take the clip down from its server. So I just gave it a new URL and reposted it, figuring the terrorists were too dumb to see if the link was broken. They were.

I also wondered about its source. Terrorism expert Adam Badder wrote in saying to the best of his knowledge the video had not previously been broadcast on jihadist websites. "Sometimes al Qaeda in Iraq sells VCD/DVDs of some attack videos in the markets of al Anbar and never puts them onto the net so the discs they are selling are exclusive," he said. "This is possibly the case with this video, but after watching it I believe it must have been captured at an al Qaeda media 'studio' by American forces. The reason I say this is even though the music is done and the al Qaeda in Iraq bug is in the top corner there are no opening credits and no ending as the last 2:32 minutes are just black screen."

Then I heard from a Capt. Chas Cannon. "I noticed you have the OP Hotel car bomb attack on your site. That attack was against our Able Company, 2-69 Armor. The initial explosion knocked the entire platoon out cold." He went on: "It was interesting the way we received the video, however. An informant of ours, whom we knew to be playing both sides, was given a copy as part of a recruiting drive by the insurgents. One night on our regularly scheduled meetings, he passed it on over to us. I don't think the insurgents knew that it failed....they just knew it was one helluva explosion." That it was!

Finally (I think finally), I heard from Spc. Scott Ray, who says he was in 3rd Platoon, A Co., 2/69 when the attack hit. "We never shot the driver or the dump truck. He ran into a Jersey barrier. There was another VBIED [vehicle-borne IED] that was suppose to exploit the breach the dump truck left but we guess the driver split. When we were exfiling [departing] after being relieved by our other two platoons we found the driver's body and the cab of the truck on the east side of the hotel, by where we would park the Humvees. We did have one critical wounded, Spc. David Morrow. He had major shrapnel wounds in his left thigh and was unconscious for seven hours. We continued to receive fire for about 20 minutes after the explosion until the first quick relief force showed up. it was a long twenty minutes.

November 27, 2006 07:18 PM  ·  Permalink

More of the Baghdad Press Corp's Egocentric View of the War

By Michael Fumento

According to CNN, "A U.S. Air Force F-16CG fighter jet crashed at 1:35 p.m. (5:35 a.m. ET) Monday outside Baghdad while making a "strafing run" - firing on targets at a low altitude - an American military official in Baghdad said." Where outside Baghdad? Turns out it was "operating near Fallujah . . . " In other words, it was "outside Baghdad" like Washington, D.C. is outside New York City.

November 27, 2006 07:07 PM  ·  Permalink

Excessive veneration of the AK-47

By Michael Fumento

In his Washington Post op-ed about the historical impact of the AK-47 automatic rifle, "Weapon of Mass Destruction," (Nov, 26, 2006), Larry Kahaner is overzealous and flatly wrong. He claims that in "several videotapes warning the West about reprisals" Osama bin Laden "is seen with an AK either next to him or propped up in the background. The typical stock footage shows a white-robed bin Laden firing an AK, a symbol to the world that he is a true anti-imperialist fighter." In fact, bin Laden's weapon is an AK-74, which is not the subject of Kahaner's piece and indeed is nowhere mentioned. The AK-74 played absolutely no role in many of the conflicts he describes, including Vietnam, insofar as it didn't go into mass production until 1976. While the AK-47 fires a 7.62 millimeter round, the AK-74 fires a 5.45 millimeter round. Thus while it may look much like the AK-47, it's actually essentially copying not just the round size of the M-16 (5.56) but the characteristics of that round. It could be argued the lineage is closer to that of the American M-16, the value of which Kahaner downplays. The new models of the AK-74 even eschew the AK-47's wooden stock and handguard in favor of black plastic - just like the M-16. Kahaner quotes somebody claiming the AK-47 is "The very best there is," but actually it's so notoriously inaccurate that -- as I've repeatedly witnessed in Iraq -- it's almost universally used in what's called "spray and pray" mode. In other words, depress the trigger until all 30 rounds are fired and hope you hit something. As the Federation of American Scientists notes on its website, "The M16A2 semiautomatic rifle is the standard by which all military rifles of the future will be judged."

[Note: In the original posting I said the AK-47 didn't fire full metal jacket rounds. It normally does. But what's more important is that it was designed to imitate the tumbling effect the M-16 round has when it hits flesh. It's no coincidence that many NATO countries have now adopted the M-16 round.]

November 27, 2006 12:17 PM  ·  Permalink

Cover story on Retaking Ramadi in Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

I assert that by any measurable standard, including lots of insight you couldn't possibly pick up if you hadn't been there and been there at least twice, we're are making progress in pacifying Iraq's worst city. As Frank Sinatra might have sung: "If we can beat them here, we can beat them anywhere!"

Lots of photos (including my first cover photo) and some neat video. Finally, it has a tribute to Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, KIA in Ramadi's Mulaab area when he threw himself onto a grenade. I hope it's used as part of a campaign to have him awarded the Medal of Honor.

November 19, 2006 08:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Fumento photos posted from latest Iraq trip

By Michael Fumento

I hope you'll find these photos interesting, but they aren't particularly numerous or spectacular because circumstances simply didn't lend themselves to it. Probably my would-be best shots got away from me when my camera followed me into an irrigation canal.

And this smaller set is for friends and relatives of men in A and C Companies, 1/506th. Normally these guys can go through a year-long deployment without having a single photo of them taken.

My photos from Anbar earlier this year are here, and from last year here.

November 15, 2006 07:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Sig Christenson's (failed) attempt to blame military for embed shortage

By Michael Fumento

Below is an exchange with Sig Christenson and another fellow in which I am castigated for claiming that the lack of embeds in Iraq just may be the fault of something other than the military. Apply Occam's Razor, that the simplest solution is probably the best. We don't have more embeds primarily because journalists don't want to be embedded. (Also, judging by my mail, lots of vets would like to be embeds but have no media outlet to support them.) Embedding is tough on those used to the luxurious American lifestyle and depending on where you go you it can be dangerous. Far easier to just label yourself a war correspondent and work out of the International Zone in Baghdad or a Baghdad hotel, using phones and emails and letting Iraqi stringers do the real work. It still looks great on your resume and you don't have to worry about having shrapnel dug out of your rear end. Note (as I should have in my response, that Christenson admits he was only embedded once in Iraq, back in 2003, and since then has worked out of Baghdad hotels. He is thus a member of the "Baghdad Brigade," of which I have been so critical. As to his references in his online bios about being voted "reporter of the year" by his peers, he means the small group of reporters at his own newspaper. Little wonder that he doesn't specify who his "peers" are.

Michael Fumento's piece on embedding is the product of sloppy research and should have been better vetted. As it stands, it contains several errors, the first of which is that I am president of Military Reporters & Editors. I was president of MRE until 5th annual conference last month in Chicago. He'd have known that if he had bothered to check the MRE website,

Mr. Fumento is correct in calling the small number of embeds in Iraq grotesque. But he wrong in saying "the MSM Baghdad press corps," as he refers to the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Cox and the major broadcast networks, among others, "bizarrely believes it can cover a country of 26 million people" by relying on stringers, e-mail and phones. I know a few of those mainstream media people and none of them has ever suggested such a thing. So just where did he come up with this notion? Did Mr. Fumento interview any of those reporters now working on their own in Baghdad?

If so, he ought to share their comments with us to support his case.

It is my belief that the media must do better than the bombing-of-the-day story if Americans are to have any idea of the dimensions of this war in Iraq. That is why MRE is working with other war correspondents and military officers to develop a better embed process. But I take exception to his suggestion that these Baghdad journalists "may as well be back in the States" is idiotic. It implies that they never get out and that they and their Iraqi employees never take risks. Anyone who has worked as a unilateral damned well knows better.

A careful look at my views on the subject of the media's problems with embedding, including a read of my blogs on, will reveal that I have never placed the blame for the lack of embeds in Iraq solely on the military. There are many factors, particularly the belief among some editors I know that the benefits of reporting on Iraq either as embeds or unilaterals is not worth the risk. Cost is another critical factor. If you work on your own in Baghdad, you now will need a security team and, perhaps, an armored vehicle. While Mr. Fumento underestimates the cost of flying to Kuwait and Jordan by using a Washington-to-Amman/Kuwait flight model (many reporters who might go there live far from National and Dulles), he skips right over the most expensive parts of such a tour for non-embeds.

I'm familiar with those costs because I have run up the bills.

The embed process is laborious, and could be much improved, and the Rhino Runner armored bus to the Green Zone - as the Iraqis have long called it - does indeed run only at night. It ran during the day in July 2004, but did not during my tour last summer. For more on how we got from the airport to the Green Zone because of the Rhino's odd hours, go the San Antonio Express-News' Military City blogs. There's a good story on what photographer Nicole Fruge and I had to do in order to meet the U.S. adviser to Anbar province's governor.

And as to the CPIC identification badge, it was not accepted on numerous occasions at dining halls at Balad Air Base in August and early September. The armed Ugandan guards who control entry to the dining halls consistently refused to allow us in, referring to a large white binder that included all of the badges that were accepted, and then pointing out that ours was not. They were sticklers for the rules in that regard, but in one case a specialist ordered the guard to let us in. Mr. Fumento might have known that if he had called or e-mailed me.

That's the real problem here. In sharing his opinions with us, he failed to do his homework.

His many errors are the only reason I am responding to his column at all.

I've been to Iraq four times and know something of life as both an embed, first with the 3rd Infantry Division during the invasion, and also as a unilateral working out of several hotels in Baghdad. I also know a little something about journalism and the issues there. The next time Mr. Fumento writes a column about me, he ought to do the bare minimum and read some of my work. He might also call me. That would be a good start in offering an informed opinion.
- Sig Christenson
Immediate past president and co-founder,
Military Reporters & Editors
Military writer, San Antonio Express-News

Another writer:

I wish to correct an error in the Fumento story.

"Christenson even insists that once an embed receives his press pass, 'The problem with going through hell to get that card is it won't get you into the KBR dining hall on any forward operating base in Iraq.' Wrong again. That press pass gets you into any chow hall in Iraq."

A press ID most certainly will not grant access to ANY chow hall in Iraq -- KBR or otherwise. The originators comment was about DFACs on the FOBs, and a press pass may very well gain them that access...but only if they're allowed on post. In the north, if you don't have a CAC card, (DoD ID card), then you're not getting past the front door of the main DFAC - all the contractors scurrying about have to make their own arrangements for food (KBR being the exception of course).

However, a lot of KBR "chow halls" (and the best) aren't located on the FOBs and those are the places that the press would love to gain access. The REOs. For two years I watched press personnel try and scheme their way into the main compound in the IZ [International Zone in Baghdad] only to find they had to be under watch 24/7 and even then - no chow hall or accommodation. Now I'm at another location serviced by KBR and again, Press passes aren't acceptable forms of ID to the soldiers at the entrances.

Likely because no one wants the press around. War is the business of kills - for both trooper and contractor alike. The media makes it socially unacceptable to like what you're doing out here.

Anyway, I'm off the soapbox now, but I would like to say that I do very much like the article.
- James H.

Michael Fumento replies:

Let's start with this press pass-chow hall thing, which really makes me wonder if we aren't talking about two different Iraqs. I have eaten at chow halls at six different bases and two major Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Three of the bases were in the north. On my last trip, I forgot my pass at FOB Blue Diamond in Ramadi but it was enough to have a sergeant vouch for me. I did eat at the main compound in the IZ last year by simply flashing my press card - no scheming necessary. I also ate at the Baghdad embassy compound in the IZ and stayed in a transient tent in the IZ before I got credentialed. It should go without saying that you have to be allowed on post to be allowed in the chow hall.

Nor have I heard any other embed I've met in Iraq complain about access to chow. A frequently embedded reporter in Iraq whom I met this last trip, Andrew Lubin, told me the only time he was turned away from a chow hall was because he wasn't wearing a collared shirt. As I write this, I've just received an email from Spc. Jon Hernandez at Camp Victory, near Baghdad's airport. "As a member of a convoy team here in Iraq it is my duty to transport people and equipment around Baghdad and to guard the Dining Facility (DFAC)," he writes. "Our favorite mission is the airport because [the airport road] is indeed safe, and we have never denied a member of the press access to our dining facility - to say otherwise is outright deception."

Regarding Christenson's side of this complaint, he originally wrote: "The problem with going through hell to get that [press] card is it won't get you into the KBR dining hall on any forward operating base in Iraq." (Emphasis mine.) That means nowhere, from nobody, at no time. Now he changes that to "not accepted [from him, that is] on numerous occasions at dining halls at Balad Air Base in August and early September," blaming it on the Ugandan guards. Yes, the Ugandans are a pain in the butt and they've stopped me. I grabbed an officer to vouch for me and in I went. Embeds without that much initiative don't belong in a combat zone.

Mea culpa on not catching that Christenson is no longer MRE president as of a few weeks ago. But since I quoted Christenson's statements from the MRE site, it's rather obvious I did read it.

My "notion" about the MSM Baghdad Brigade was the subject of a 5,000-word article I wrote and to which I linked in the TAS article. It speaks not well of Christenson that he either didn't click it or ignored what he read. I not only made my case separately, but offered the following: "The London Independent's Robert Fisk has written of 'hotel journalism,' while former Washington Post Bureau Chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran has called it 'journalism by remote control.' More damningly, Maggie O'Kane of the British newspaper The Guardian said: 'We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do.'" I also noted the New York Review of Books did a whole article on Baghdad hotel journalism.

Christenson says I "underestimate the cost of flying to Kuwait and Jordan" because I use D.C.-area airports as the starting point. Never mind my noting that he said it cost $2,000 to fly commercial from the States into Baghdad when there are no U.S-Iraq commercial flights. In the event, a one-stop from LAX to Jordan or a two-stop from Christenson's San Antonio are both still less than $1,500 and some fares are below $1,000.

Yes, the Rhino only runs at night. If you get in early and don't catch a helo, it's a long wait. But as with those allegedly monstrous embed applications, again if you haven't got what it takes to put up with this why go to Iraq instead of staying home and eating bon-bons? Sherman was certainly right: War is heck.

November 15, 2006 04:04 PM  ·  Permalink

Military Unfairly Blamed for Embed Problem

By Michael Fumento

All Americans, whatever their views on the Iraq war, have an interest and a right to know what's really happening there. Embeds provide a unique perspective, going in with the troops themselves rather than trying to cover a country the size of California from hotels in Baghdad. Yet Iraqi embeds have almost become extinct. Some recently have blamed the military for this, but much of the blame actually goes to the media itself. Read about it in my new American Spectator article, "Military Unfairly Blamed for Embed Problem."

November 13, 2006 11:55 PM  ·  Permalink

Did bin Laden win the election?

By Michael Fumento

In Mark Steyn's new column, "Hyperpower hiatus," he writes "What does it mean when the world's hyperpower, responsible for 40 percent of the planet's military spending, decides it cannot withstand a guerrilla war with historically low casualties against a ragbag of local insurgents and imported terrorists?" Let's be more specific. In the taking of the small island of Iwo Jima in 1945, the subject of a current film, the U.S. suffered almost 7,000 dead in a few weeks. The country had half the population it does now, therefore this was equivalent to 14,000 dead back then. In the Battle of Normandy the U.S. alone lost 29,000 men or today's equivalent of 58,000. In the Iraq conflict to date, fewer than 3,000 Americans have died over a period approaching four years. Therefore, says the new party in power in Congress, we must withdraw soon and with no chance of victory by anybody's definition except, of course, the Islamists'. Thank God we didn't have our present gutlessness during World War II, else the Germans and Japanese would have divided up the world. God help us that such gutlessness has descended upon us today. The Islamists have made it clear that they, too, would like to own the world.

November 13, 2006 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Navy close air support in Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

A Navy F-18 Hornet provides close air support to A Company, 1/506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at ECP-8 in eastern Ramadi. It fires two missiles, comes around, and fires two more. Video is courtesy of Sgt. Steve Campbell of A Company.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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October 25, 2006 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink

COPs and Criminals

By Michael Fumento

Combat Operation Post (COP) Anvil

Last night we went on a terrorist-grabbing raid. Terror suspects fall into two categories, single source and double source. That means: Did one person rat on them or two? The idea behind the distinction is that any vindictive neighbor can accuse somebody of something he didn't do. But with two sources of information, especially if both give specifics rather than just saying the suspect is an insurgent or terrorist, then there's a much higher probability he really is "dirty."

Photo by Michael Fumento
A .50 caliber sniper rifle on the roof of COP Anvil
Mind you, COP Anvil Capt. Sapp told me, "Ninety percent of the time a single source suspect is also a bad guy." But those are the rules. A double source suspect goes straight to military intelligence. A single source one must be released with 72 hours unless he confesses, but he's interrogated and put into the system in case they are identified in the future as dirty.

Originally, such raids were directed solely against the house where the suspect normally presided. But Iraqis, unlike Americans today, are generally quite chummy with their neighbors. It's something of a "Mi casa es su casa" arrangement. They always keep vast numbers of cushioned rugs piled up which they use as beds when friends or relatives come calling.

Suddenly a house with five people can have 25. What this means regarding nabbing bad guys is that you don't want to just hit the house that's his main domicile but those next to it that may be his secondary domiciles.

Photo by Michael Fumento
These are NOT pleasant to fall into ...
In this case, the houses were about 400 meters away from the COP and the best avenue of approach would be through a series of irrigation canals and the offshoot ditches that carry water directly to crops. Not that there are many crops there now, but they're planting them. This canal system would prove my undoing. Jumping from little strips of land to other little strips is an art form and something they don't exactly teach in classrooms. You learn the hard way.

It was quite dark and I fell twice, negotiated a number of obstacles, and then came to what was either something of a trench or a canal. The soldier in front of me tossed his pack across and leaped, with his basketball-length legs.

Well, I have short baseball-length legs. As hard as I tried, I couldn't make it. I fell into what proved to be a canal and got soaked up to my chest. I wasn't a happy camper even then but my chief worry was my cameras and my voice recorder, all inside a dustproof but not waterproof bag. Sure enough, the water knocked them all out. Which proved a real shame since this was the best raid I'd been on in my three trips to Anbar. The still camera is back in operation but will require a good cleaning when I get home. The camcorder appears to have been destroyed. I don't know about the voice recorder.

I did feel a bit better when I discovered the next day that three of the soldiers had also fallen in. It was interesting going out the next day and seeing how truly treacherous the terrain was. "I hate that night shit," a soldier told me.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Internment Area where suspects are kept
The raid couldn't have gone better. We hit one house and before anybody in the second house knew about it we hit that, too. We struck the jackpot in the form of an intelligence officer for the JTJ (Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad) terrorist group, which is either a sub-section of Al Qaeda in Iraq or a sister organization. I'm having trouble figuring it out, but both were started by the late Al Zarqawi. The first terrorist was perhaps 22 years old. As soon as the plastic cuffs were on him he first faked heart problems and then breathing problems. I guess he thought we'd just let him go. Tough luck, bad boy. I wish I could have said how sorry I felt for his poor health relative to the health of the three Delta Company soldiers hit by the grenade dropped down their Humvee turret or the lack of life of the three dead Marines.

We also grabbed an additional double source suspect and a single source suspect, but hit pay dirt with them as well. One kept insisting he was an Iraqi police officer but it proved his job was to actually assassinate Iraqi police. Slight difference there. The third suspect turned out to be the cousin of the intelligence officer and also a JTJ member. Three terrorists in one night is quite a haul.

We also heard one IED go off, which thankfully was a controlled destination. After I went to bed four more were exploded -- all controlled.

Photo by Michael Fumento
A couple of these are probably triggermen.
Today we went out on what's called a "meet and greet" patrol, partly just to show our presence and partly to try to collect information from willing locals about IEDs. Unfortunately, they're rarely willing. They'll even deny IED explosions that occurred the night before right practically in their front yards. Some are afraid of being seen as suspects; others may be taking money from the bad guys. I took some pictures of a large family we interrogated on the road.

Our translator said I was probably looking at some trigger men. "They are poor," he said. "And they are offered money just to push a trigger." But actually by area standards they aren't that poor. I saw cows, goats, and sheep everywhere. Corn is already growing (though not quite as high as an elephant's eye) and the other crops will start springing up when the rainy season begins shortly.

I don't know if they really consider the ramifications of pushing those triggers, that they could be killing or maiming other human beings. Maybe they know that the average IED explosion doesn't cause any human damage. Just remember: Don't judge other people's cultures. Yeah, right.

People always ask me when I get back how the Iraqis feel and I always give the same answer: They just tell you what they think you want to hear. Sure enough, I asked one through the translator if he thinks Ramadi is getting safer. He starts out with a few complaints, such as lack of water rationed from the Tigris to the fields, then tells me: "But safety is 100% safer now that the Americans have come along." BS. Things got a lot more dangerous when we first came along. They may or may not be safer now than a year ago, but this guy isn't going to tell me. None of them will tell me. So that was my last effort at playing the Vox Populi game.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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October 12, 2006 10:54 AM  ·  Permalink

Body Armor Blather

By Michael Fumento

Kudos to Michelle Malkin for handing Hillary Clinton's head to her over the issue of body armor for our troops. Having spent just a little more time in the stuff than the New York senator and having done so in Iraq on some very hot days, I can say that there are real limits to simply piling armor on even if it does provide more protection. And that's the inherent problem. Ingenious fixes aside, more armor generally means more weight and less mobility. It's not so much the Kevlar layers but the ceramic plates inserted into them. When soldiers get too hot or tired, they remove not what is least important but what is most heavy and simply most accessible. As to mobility, I found out about that before I even left for Iraq when I tried firing a rifle from the prone position and found my thick Kevlar neck guard pushed my helmet forward making seeing--much less firing--essentially impossible. (Some of the newer helmets take care of this problem.)

To some extent, training can overcome the weight factor. I trained so hard in armor and heavy ruck I could have done ballet in them--were I able to do ballet. But no amount of training compensates for the added heat. It was that extra heat that contributed to my colon rupturing and practically killed me. Insofar as nobody shot at me or blew up an IED near me, in my case body armor was not a life saver but almost a life taker.

So take heed. This is a complex issue, as 140,000 troops in Iraq understand but as Hillary appears not to.

January 11, 2006 11:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Remember the Incredible Shrinking Military?

By Michael Fumento

Just months ago we were being told that because of the Iraq war, the military (especially the Army and Marines) couldn't recruit soldiers for love (of country) or money. In other words, it was yet another reason to insert tail firmly between legs and pull out. Well, last I heard the war is still going on but according to Reuter's, "The U.S. Army posted its best recruiting month in four years in August . . ." Nevertheless, right after those elipses I inserted into the quote Reuter's goes on to say, the Army will still miss its annual goal for the first time since 1999 "as the Iraq war makes it difficult to attract new soldiers." Excuse me, but did the war go on vacation in August or might there have been something more to the slowness of recruiting earlier on in the year that was unnrelated to Iraq such as a steadily improving economy and dropping jobless rate? But then, that's not fodder for abandoning Iraq to terrorism, is it?

September 13, 2005 06:20 PM  ·  Permalink

Bochco Bites Back (with Gums)

By Michael Fumento

The following pathetic responses (with my replies) are from the PR stooge for Steven Bochco's anti-war, anti-reality FX series Over There concerning my critique.

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I'm writing in response to your column in the New York Post this morning.

In the future, feel free to call me if you have any questions about any programs on FX or need production notes on any of our programs. I would be happy to provide you with materials you need to write a more informed column.

It's obvious to me that you have no knowledge about the background of the military technical advisor for Over There. I think if you would have asked, you would know that he is, to use your word, a "true" military technical advisor. He is a former U.S.M.C. Staff Sergeant and his ten years of service included an 11-month tour in Iraq where he was a Fire Power Control Team leader with an ANGLICO unit.

While there have been some complaints with regard to the authenticity of the pilot (first) episode, the majority response from soldiers and military personnel was much more positive/favorable with regard to episodes two and three. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of reviews written about Over There were good to outstanding. The only negative reviews the show received were written by critics who believed that the series should have taken a political position but did not.

To buttress your opinion of Over There based on one posting from an antiwar blog is pretty weak. Yes, I know, you could have found plenty more postings to support that antiwar premise. That said, I assure you that I can provide you with as many, if not more, emails/blog postings/letters/etc. from soldiers/veterans of OIF that have a favorable opinion of Over There.

I respect the fact that you were an embed and have personal knowledge of what it is like in Iraq. I know other journalists who were embedded in Iraq who have seen the show and happen to believe it is an accurate depiction of what soldiers face in Iraq. They recognize that the series takes dramatic license at times but they clearly understand it is not a documentary. I screened the first three episodes individually for several soldiers who had served in Iraq and they had a few criticisms, but overall they believed the show got it right. Tony Perry, the military staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who was also embedded in Iraq, screened it for a dozen Marines who had served at least one tour in Iraq, most of them had served two tours. You should read his article published in the Los Angeles Times (July 27) to see those soldiers' comments.

Finally, I respect the fact that you're entitled to your opinion and it's fine if you don't like the show. However, for you to write that the military technical advisor on Over There deserves the firing squad is reprehensible. He has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in Iraq. If you had bothered to pick up the phone and ask a question, I can only assume that you probably would not have written such an insulting and irresponsible comment.

Please feel free to call because I really would like to discuss this with you.

John Solberg
Senior Vice President, Public Relations
FX Networks
[phone number omitted]

Dear Mr. Solberg:

Right. That's why a unit couldn't get air support for 36 hours, instead of the usual less-than-30 minutes. That's why the squad had no reinforcements, no artillery, no armor, and even the heavy machine guns on the two Humvees present weren't used. That's why the enemy marks its IEDs with white flags, to make sure to warn off Americans. That's why the Humvee gunners (yes including episodes two and three, the "more accurate" ones) have no shielding? It's why a missile or bomb would be used to take out 20 Stingers in episode three, making it virtually impossible for forensics to determine all could be accounted for. (Yes, I know that was necessary to the plotline to make the intelligence officer a liar and make the Americans ruthless killers of civilians.) It's why even though some members of the squad carry grenade launchers only one grenade was fired during episode one with none during those oh-so-accurate episodes two and three.

In episode three, the GIs question why an airstrike would be used against two terrorists, without wondering why they won't fire grenades or a mortar and wipe them out within minutes. Oh, but wait, even though they're an infantry unit they have no mortar! It's why EOD simply fails to show up to disarm or detonate a car bomb in episode two, even though the incredibly-professional EOD makes it a point to be on-scene in 30 minutes if possible. And sure, legs can keep moving forward even everything above the waist has been blown clean off with that one fired grenade. After all, Washington Irving's horseman rode without a head! Does a former Marine who served in Iraq really not know all this? Even the water bottles are wrong! Evian in Iraq? No, Mr. Solberg; Iraq is not LA. Americans in Iraq get their water from a Kuwaiti company, not the French. I could go on and on, but to what avail. You either haven't got a clue or you do have a clue and don't care. All you care about is making money and slamming the military and the war effort generally.

Nor do I care about the favorable reviews you've gotten; that's just the blind and biased following the Bochco. I would recommend to you the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article of July 26, 2005. I believe the title speaks for itself: "These soldiers say 'Over There' is 'bogus.'"

If your military advisor does give accurate advice, then you're overriding him at every turn and he should have resigned in disgust. Since apparently he hasn't, he sold out the uniform I and so many others have proudly worn. But maybe a firing squad would be too harsh; he should just suit up and have a real soldier rip every patch off his uniform.

Michael Fumento

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I did read the Seattle P-I story but evidently you didn't read the LA Times story or have no desire to read anything from anyone who said positive things about the show because it doesn't fall in line with your opinion.

I will stand by what I said about our technical advisor. For you to claim that he isn't a "real" soldier is offensive. You know nothing about him because you don't care to know anything about him.

Also, you shouldn't make any assumptions about my political position just because I live in LA. My father spent 26 years in the Air Force and I have always supported our military and will continue to do so.

John Solberg

Dear Mr. Solberg:

I briefly listed 14 errors in the first three episodes, some small and some stunningly huge. Your response is that of the consummate politician: "I will stand by what I said." You didn't respond because you COULDN'T respond. You've got a rotten little show and you know it.

To repeat: We have three alternatives concerning your carefully-selected "military advisor." He's totally incompetent, he's a liar, or he's willing to see his advice constantly ignored for the 200 pieces of silver you tossed him. I suggest putting him in a locked room with a real Marine for 15 minutes and let's see what "conversation" ensues.

Finally, if you call portraying our troops fighting each other with knives, beating and torturing prisoners, not being able to show up to disarm a bomb or even fire a grenade, and bombing civilians for the sake of it when even for military reasons it would have been much smarter to launch a raid as supporting the military then I guess we should say the same of Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War. When will we be treated to footage of you or Mr. Bochco getting behind an anti-aircraft gun and pretending to shoot down American planes?

Michael Fumento

August 21, 2005 07:20 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Sorry Vanity Fair, Gulf vets aren't keeling over like tenpins.

By Michael Fumento


I'm an army officer currently serving in Iraq. I also have a blog where I spend most of my time countering false or misleading information regarding our actions and mission in Iraq. I've started getting spammed by a leftist who is quoting a Vanity Fair article on depleted uranium and Gulf War Syndrome, which claims that more than half of Gulf War vets are on disability. This sounds like an absurd number and I know from my own experience that the vast majority of disabilities are for things like back and knee problems that come with an older force, but I don't have the stats to prove it.

Any research that you could point me to would be greatly appreciated.


That number is being thrown around by nutcases like Joyce Riley and Vanity Fair just reprints them. VA used to have a webpage with these data which was very handy but they took it for some reasons. On the other hand, check out this medical journal article from June:

It concludes, "Ten years after the Gulf War, the physical health of deployed and nondeployed veterans is similar."

And you'll find Gulf vets are no sicker than non-deployed controls. In the few areas that it seems like they might me, note that fibromyalgia is a quasi-real disease (it basically means self-reported but non-palpable muscle aches), chronic fatigue syndrome is generally a scam, and dyspepsia means self-reported but non-palpable stomach problems.

Michael Fumento

August 21, 2005 06:56 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Cindy Sheehan Watch II

By Michael Fumento

Saint Cindy Sheehan, martyr by proxy, is still trying to stretch her 15 minutes of fame and she is up to 4,200 hits on Google News. Problem is, as sympathetic as the MSM is to her cause they're just plumb running out of new things to say about her. Maybe they're also getting the idea that readers are getting tired of the nonsense. In any event, the more we hear the less sympathetic she becomes.

Here are some excerpts of a speech she gave to Veterans for Peace at Any Price just before setting off for those 15 minutes:

  • Then we have this lying bastard, George Bush, taking a 5-week vacation in a time of war.
  • So anyway that filth-spewer and warmonger, George Bush . . .
  • You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East.
  • The Iraqi people aren't freer, they're much worse off than before you meddled in their country.
  • You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine
  • And if you think I won't say bullshit to the President, I say move on, cuz I'll say what's on my mind.
  • Another thing that I'm doing is -- my son was killed in 2004, so I'm not paying my taxes for 2004. (Um, I wouldn't try that Cindy.)
  • When I was growing up, it was Communists. Now it's terrorists. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything.
  • I got an e-mail the other day and it said, "Cindy, if you didn't use so much profanity there's people on the fence' that get offended" And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god-damn-it? How, in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence'?"

And then there was this:

  • I don't want him to exploit the honor of my son . . .

No, that's your job; right Cindy?

August 15, 2005 10:01 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (2)

Cindy Sheehan Watch

By Michael Fumento

Cindy Sheehan, riding to fame over her patriotic son's body but claiming she's being ignored by the MSM is now cited in over 3,000 mentions recorded by Google News. That includes an above-the-fold story in Saturday's Washington Post. Maybe she has a target, like 10,000 media pickups, and then she'll stop lying about how Bush treated her and go home. Speaking of which, my friend Michelle Malkin nicely documents the "Will the real Cindy Sheehan please stand up" phenomenom.

August 13, 2005 05:43 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Hollywood's Hatchet Job

By Michael Fumento


Are you surprised [regarding the TV show "Over There"] that Hollywood would do a hatchet job on the Iraq war? I was in Vietnam and the hatchet job done on it and us should have been a indication of things to come. Perhaps during a lull in the War On Terror, we can have a war on stupid and declare war on Hollywood.

Richard Jansen

Dear Richard:

1. No.
2. Nice idea! I'd like Steven Bochco to put a bomb in his Rolls Royce and drive it into Alec Baldwin's house.

Michael Fumento

August 12, 2005 12:04 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Poor Cindy Sheehan!

By Michael Fumento

Poor Cindy Sheehan, the mother seeking to embarrass the president and gain fame over the body of her son killed in Iraq. Shortly after her son died, she got her wish to meet with Bush and said he was very sympathetic. Now the story has changed slightly, as she claims he seemed almost gleeful at the time. Really? Her latest complaint, as reported in the Washington Post, is that "the mainstream media have not paid enough attention to her cause." Hmm... I just checked "Google News" and found almost 1,800 items referring to her. That same mainstream media normally greets the completion of a major construction project in Iraq with zero items. Sheehan may be vicious or highly disturbed, but she knows how to play the mainstream media like a fine musical instrument -- not that the MSM don't want to be played.

August 11, 2005 09:32 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (3)

Peaceniks go nuts over the anti-war fakery of "Over There"

By Michael Fumento

Peaceniks are going gaga over the new FX series on the Iraq war "Over There." "Wow! Anybody else watch "Over There" last night?" asked a writer for the most-viewed liberal blogsite and most-viewed blogsite period, Daily Kos. " Within a few minutes, the Sarge calls their position in Iraq a 'shithole' and it was obvious that Iraq was Vietnam all over again. A war troops are not allowed to really fight, and so a war we can never win." Naturally, the shows also touts its realism with a TV Guide blurb to "prove it." Unfortunately, it's about as realistic as the Lord of the Rings.

In the episode an infantry unit is pinned down while trying to seize a mosque from the bad guys. Two women from a transportation unit are also there, a bow to the God of Diversity. Next the unit remains there for days with absolutely no air support. We're told it's being used elsewhere. Gimme a break! Air support is virtually always available anywhere in Iraq within 15 to 30 minutes. Indirect fire support (howitzers and mortars) can come thumping in within two minutes of the beginning of a fire support. But these poor saps also get no direct fire support until the end of the battle. The only mortar is with the bad guys. Meanwhile, there's the cliche medal-hungry off-scene commander ordering the troops to move forward from a relatively safe ridgeline to a completely open area.

Towards the end of the show we're treated to a horrific scene that begins when a troop-transport rolls over an IED marked with little white flags. Sorry, but the bad guys don't mark their mines. As for us, we generally station troops by them until they can be disarmed or if that's not possible put up warning signs that three blind mice couldn't miss. Nobody uses cute little white flags.

There have got to be a thousand true inspiring stories of courage and kindness by coalition troops during the war, but don't expect to see them on "Over There."

August 4, 2005 08:44 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

The MSM Roast of Mark Yost

By Michael Fumento

St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial page associate editor Mark Yost penned a provocative column on media coverage of the Iraq war, noting his contacts there told him, with apologies to Johnny Mercer, the MSM are accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive. He couldn't have imagined he was covering himself with blood and throwing himself into the shark pen. His media colleagues were merciless. "With your column, you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions," a reporter at the same Knight-Ridder newspaper charged in an open letter. "You have insulted them and demeaned them," he wrote. "I am embarrassed to call you my colleague."

The D.C. Bureau chief for Knight-Ridder, Clark Hoyt, spent a column ripping off a chunk of Yost and chewing it. Hoyt said Yost "asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid [but] maybe it's because there is no progress." At the Romenesko open blog for journalists, this charge from Hoyt was repeated time and again: "It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq." It's an interesting double standard for columnists that you can rip U.S. war efforts all you want from the comfort of a U.S. office (since Hoyt didn't mention going, we know he didn't), but if you're going to write something positive you had better have spent time in Iraq, notwithstanding that so often for reporters "time in Iraq" means a hotel behind layers of concrete barriers and concertina wire.

OF COURSE the war coverage is slanted: Why should the adage "If it bleeds it leads" stop at the Iraqi border? But as it happens, I did go to Iraq and somehow didn't feel the wetness of Yost's spit. I stayed in no hotels, got out of the safety of the Green Zone as soon as I had my press credentials, and went to the hostile Anbar province. I walked the streets, rode in the Humvees, and had my trip cut short by a colostomy that saved my life. But I was there long enough to see and report that Yost was right. If Hoyt thinks no progress is being made, he's either flat-out lying or wearing those blinders the MSM are so famous for. In any case, it's astonishing that Clark Hoyt, from the distance and safety of Washington, D.C., presumes to know what's going on in Iraq.

July 17, 2005 08:34 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Fat threatens national defense

By Michael Fumento

For those who still believe the nation's girth growth is strictly a personal matter, this article shows it's not just the war in Iraq that's hurting military recruiting. Nearly 20 percent of men and 40 percent of women of recruiting age are too fat even to be considered. Add to that thousands of experience service members discharged because they ballooned up and can't drop the pounds. "This is quickly becoming a national security issue for us," according to an Army nutrition expert.

July 5, 2005 08:14 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)

Telling it like it is from Iraq

By Michael Fumento

In May I returned from an embed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah, having gone over with the idea that the MSM wasn't telling it like it is. Guess what; they weren't. I've filed a couple of pieces on it, here and here, of which versions appeared on Townhall. But I just discovered the blogsite of Michael Yon, who in his June 28 entry gave an excellent description of detonating IEDs. Since I'd had the same experience, I can tell you that on at least this one aspect he was extremely accurate in describing the professionalism of our soldiers and the major difficulty of blowing an IED which is not being killed by A) suicide bombers, B) secondary IEDs, C) snipers, and D) ambush while you're doing the job. Actually, he may have overstated the risks a bit as on-the-scene reporters are wont to do. Still, his facts are detailed and well-told. Check him out.

June 28, 2005 08:06 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)