Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Or Maybe Knock Me Over With A Feather

Okay... so now we get leave again. In its deep and abiding wisdom, the Army has decided that they should stick to the original plan for us (whatever that really was) and send us at a date that I cannot disclose but does provide for leave.

I'm still being careful with my children's feelings. I'm not going to make a big deal out of it until I show up in town and I'm ready to see them.

Morale is better.

When I read my last post, I see the anger and frustration... good. That is what this is for; remembering what I went through during this time. God only knows what will be written here during the course of the year, what triumphs and calamities will be taking my emotions this way and that... it all remains to be seen, and to be written.

Today was okay. I started out the day as ate-up as can be... restless, irritable, and discontent. It got better. I rented the car that is going to carry me home next week, and we did some training that was at least more fun than the training that we did yesterday. I didn't get to do anything more technical than properly load and fire a machine gun and ride around in the back of a pickup-type humvee while we chased role-playing bad guys and got ambushed in a village replete with role-playing COBs (Civilians On the Battlefield.)

Funny, it was their village (notionally, anyway) and they are COBs. Inside, role-playing villager drinking notional chai over nan and goat; walk out of the Khalat (house compound) and >POOF< you are a COB. It doesn't even sound nice. The Army loves acronyms.

Two incidents in the past two days show the importance of being sensitive to the presence of COBs... the Marines opening fire during or after an ambush and killing civilians, and a family killed by an aerial bomb in a separate incident.

There is a lesson to be learned from all of this; "Don't be a COB." Unfortunately, they can't help it. It is to the insurgent's advantage to get people like us to lash out a little indiscriminately. It only takes a little indiscrimination to screw it up and kill someone who doesn't deserve to be killed. Then the insurgent has fresh propaganda to cast about.

"Americans don't care about you, and Hamid Karzai doesn't care about you. Only the Taliban really really cares about you and your family. See how carelessly the Americans lob bullets and bombs about? See how the government allows all of this? They don't care about you... We care about you.

Now pull your female children out of school and put your burka on, or we shall beat you like a rented mule. Or else we will get the Americans to kill you."

I can appreciate the difficulty of having a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) driven by a suicidal maniac explode near your convoy and then be faced with insurgents firing weapons at you from areas near or beyond civilians (COBs.) The thing is, when you kill civilians you make more enemies.

It's easy to second-guess.

Still, remember; Don't be a COB.

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