Death, the Constitution and Salsa

So, the infamous Al-Zarqawi was killed the other day. I found out after my boss read it on CNN.

“Hey, we got Al-Zarqawi.” I said to a few people as they walked in and out of the office (being put in the personnel section meant an ample sample of peeps to throw jokes and news at).

“Who?”

“Zarqawi, one of the terrorist guys.”

“Oh…so?”

“I dunno, just was saying.”

Not that we’ll get to come home any sooner, and we’ll have to see if any of the bombs stop. My guess is “no” since all of the mess in Iraq is hardly the doing of one guy. But, I guess it’s better than another day with nothing going on. Oh, and don’t hate on the soldiers for not knowing who he was. We can be just as vacuous as folks at home.

***

I see that the Senate has stopped “President Bush: The Legacy (Plan B).” I had planned a big, long post about the matter, but felt enough had been said.

In short, bravo to the Senate for putting an end to this thing. I mean, really, did we need to amend the frikkin’ Constitution over this thing? Are denying tax breaks and hospital visitation rights to homosexuals the front-burner issues of the day? I mean, we can’t pass a Civil Rights Amendment, but we were going to pass this thing? Okay, I’m done.

***

Military journalists take crap from soldiers all year. Most of the time, we’re labeled as one of “the media” by the insecure conservatives in the ranks, which is tantamount to all other icons of evil.

No biggie, but it does make our jobs a little tricky, especially when seniors and leadership share the same view.

Some notable quotes:
“You know what I want to do to all the media? Shoot ’em…every…last…one of them,” as per our company NBC NCO.

“The media is responsible for a lot of the deaths in Iraq,” as per our brigade safety officer.

“You’re one of thoes ‘media’ types aren’t you? Who did you vote for last time, Kerry or Bush? If it’s something I just can’t stand it’s another ‘liberal media’ person,” as per one of our seemingly endless supply of “battle captains” (i.e. PowerPoint gurus).

One of the aspects of being a military journalist is working to get actual journalists to come and cover the unit where you are assigned. Normally there isn’t much trouble garnering interest — “embedded media” is the trend, and news stations are all too eager to send their daring reporters to the ends of the earth to cover the “war” (and earn Pulitzers).

Yet, when a unit leadership has little love for the media, such efforts are frustrated. Time after time, embed requests would be sent out to division units from NBC, CBS, print sources, radio sources, television sources — heck! even National Geographic. All flatly denied by the command.

Jesse James even wanted to film an episode of “Monster Garage” with our mechanics. Denied. So, it went to our higher headquarters. I was able to hitch a flight and watch the filming (check out the December archives).

And so, I was very surprised when my colonel announced that we were getting a reporter from the Army Times to come visit for a few days. Apparently, she was a friend of his that he had ran into during a previous deployment. They were scheduled to visit in April, right before I went on leave.

I was told on several occasions to let her and her photographer go and write about whatever. Talk about a change of heart! Sure, okay, fine.

The visit went pretty well. My boss and I had to fight with the our subordinate units, who, when smelling exposure, tried sweeping in to take the journalists from us and for themselves. One unit even wrote out the reporters’ daily schedule, down to the half hour, filled only with their own shops and people.

“Where are they?” one of the majors called up, in a panic, the first morning we didn’t abide by his calendar.

“Sorry sir, they didn’t want to come,” I said back.

“Well, they’re going to miss the 1030 briefing.”

“The colonel wanted them to decide for themselves what to write about.”

“Harrumph!” (He didn’t actually say “harrumph” but made the sound…you get the idea.)

After bouncing around several story ideas, the Army Times pair decided on our brigade’s Consolidated Shipping and Receiving Point — a sort of FedEx “hub” where supplies are pooled and pushed out. Wow, right?

No worries, the reporter seemed like it would be fine. On one of the down nights, she wanted to see some of the Taji nightlife (as advertised all over by posters and calendars).

One of the sights she wanted to see was “Salsa Night,” which incidentally was a constant source of ire for the commanders here on Taji. Anything that took away from family thinking we all were taking beaches and enduring months of artillery barrages was frowned upon — it made the book deals harder to sell. Salsa Night was entirely too jovial. They had been looking for a way to cancel the thing for months.

Lo’ and behold, our reporter wrote this blog about her night dancing. A blog, mind you, not a printed article.

I didn’t see it at first, but nevertheless, murmurs began about the “Army Times Salsa article” and how the “f***in journalists f***** up our fun.” Soon after the article, Salsa Night was cancelled.

As an aside: actually there was an alleged rape after one of the nights. That’s officially what cancelled it. But, turns out the girl who cried rape actually just forgot her weapon at the MWR center and, instead of fessing up and getting an Article 15 for leaving her weapon, she made up a story about being assaulted. It was bogus, but the idea that someone could be raped, and the blog, made the cancellation final.

Yes friends, for all of the work and effort my boss and I have striven to achieve, it turns out that all the “you’re worthless” comments made by our fellow soldiers have come true. Were we to continue to write stories lauding the tears and fears of our noble brethren, our legacy would be naught but that blog. I’ve been stopped thrice coming and going by people I don’t know, “You’re that camera guy, aren’t you? The one who stopped Salsa night?”

I liked the blog, actually. Everything in it was true. Salsa Night at war was a very interesting juxtaposition. It’s just too bad a lot of people over here are so hateful toward the occupation that I’ve devoted myself to, that they’re ready to write off the whole enterprise of those involved.

I’m off on a mission south for a few days. With any luck, I can end the fun there too. Death to fun! It’s like I’m back at Cedarville, my Alma matter. Dancing was forbidden there too, as was swearing, non-Christian music, concerts, movies, and holding hands; but that was more religious oppression than media exposure. And a tale for another time.

###

About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

19 responses to “Death, the Constitution and Salsa”

  1. finch says :

    so i take it that the blog/article got salsa night canceled?

  2. brogonzo says :

    It’s pretty amazing to read through most military and right-leaning blogs… the media (the despised “MSM”) are currently taking more of a beating these days than the insurgency. One prominent site has official t-shirts emblazoned with the motto, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

    It’s a fun world.

  3. salmons says :

    Yeah, I rewrote the entry, making it a bit more clear. Sorry el Finch. Thanks for the spot. It was early when I wrote it :p

  4. salmons says :

    Ya, nice eh? You know, I’m starting to see the philosophy smokers espouse. For every thousand persons who rail against the MSM, it almost makes me want to be a full-fledged journalist just to spite them.

  5. BWJones says :

    I’d be curious as to your opinion on why it is that the “media” seems to be held in such disregard among many mil circles and the right wing. Is it a holdover from the Clinton years when many on the right seemed to revile the media? If so, it would seem that they are a bit behind the times as the right has gone to great lengths to embrace the media and spread their word. Just look at Fox news as a paragon of…….. well, I’ll leave it there. 🙂

  6. Radio Free Babylon says :

    So, as a graduate of Cedarville, Josh, why couldn’t you have gone to OCS? From your writings, it appears you have far more brains than these Powerpoint gurus (great line).

    I would think it rare to find an NCO who has a degree. Right or wrong?

    I’m thinking about putting in a request to the SecDef for you to get a battlefield promotion to 2nd LT. They did that all the time in the old wars – battlefield promotions where guys skipped all kinds of grades and you had 30-year-old full birds running things.

    Maybe not. Keep it up, though. Love this blog.

  7. beka says :

    Cedarville has the ability to suck all the joy out of structured living, which raises the question how on earth Salmons ended up in the Army? As a recovering Alum myself, who is having her last shock treatment this very week which they say will truly make me all better, I still think he was kidnapped and did not go willingly in to the military. (Please note: I too and a former military brat understand the call to serve, all cynical statements about the military are made for entertainment purposes only. Therapy to recover from Cedarville, now that my friends, is a serious and grave matter.)

  8. Radio Free Babylon says :

    As a brat myself – and a recovering fundamentalist who ALMOST went through an EVEN WORSE religious educational experience (spared by a divorce – which branded me unqualified to serve God in the eyes of the Assemblies of God and their various universities) – I am on the record here – right now – as being a patriotic lover of all things military, provided they make sense – and highly suspect of anyone who confuses their God with their flag or their political party.

  9. beka says :

    Ah yes…gets a wee bit creepy when strong faith melds in to fanatic religious based patriotism.

  10. finch says :

    check it bro – kirk franklin – “looking for you”…great song bro…hoook it up… put a smile on your face…!

  11. salmons says :

    BW: I dunno. I think it’s just been a gradual cultural shift. Things are becoming more and more polarized. Either it’s left or right, blue- or red-stater, yadda yadda. I think it’s just easy to demonize “the media.” Yeah, Fox…yikes.

    Radiofree: Well, that’s an interesting story 😉 I’ll just say: recruiter and high-pressure sale. I went in gunning for officer, but bought the guy’s sales pitch that I should fill his quota. How was I supposed to know all the stuff he promised wasn’t true. Yeesh, he was a solider, the epitome of truth and honor…more later :p

    Sweet action, battlefield promo. Me likes 😉

    Sorry about the bad fundamentalist vibes Radiofree. I’m with you there, brother. Good thing God isn’t as hard to please as the damn fundies.

    Beka: We’re all here for you 😉

  12. Beth* A. says :

    “, it almost makes me want to be a full-fledged journalist just to spite them.”

    Don’t do it JUST to spite them, however. (Ya gotta make a career decision on something you WANT to do! ;-)) But if you did decide you wanted to stay in journalism, do it to prove it can be done with the impartiality and even-handedness that is lacking right now in the media.
    Bring back to the profession some of the integrity and therefore, trust, that we should be able to have in journalists.

  13. beka says :

    Josh, some day I’ll be able to pass a skirt in a department store and not break in to a cold sweat and have a horrible flash back, I swear!! And shortly after that, I’ll stop being such a drama queen.

  14. Dr. William Brown says :

    Josh, Beka:

    I’m sorry that your time at Cedarville is not remembered fondly, but I can assure you that only a small minority of alumni feel this way, and in my experience, those who share your views of Cedarville were rebellious to begin with and had a hard time coming under the authority and leadership of their elders in Christ.

    And they were probably drinking, listening to rock music (or worse – rap) and possibly even engaging in sexual relations.

    God will forgive you if you turn from your wicked ways, but I’m not sure I can.

    Blessings,

    Dr. William Brown
    President
    Cedarville University

    PS: Please don’t attend any reunions on campus. Campus Security has been notifed of your blog postings and extreme action will be taken if you are seen on the property. Your site has also been banned from university computers.

  15. Beka says :

    Ok…who ever did this is WRONG!! Sick and WRONG!!! My heart stopped beating and I nearly choked on my diet coke!!! (Oh, but that was huckinfilarious!!)

  16. Radio Free Babylon says :

    Sorry to scare you – but it was fun and I couldn’t resist.

    (And I do believe that Diet Coke is the Devil’s drink.)

  17. Beka says :

    I went to Cedarville, I’m in a state of rebellion, what do you want from me?

  18. Beka says :

    By that I mean with the drinking diet coke and all…

  19. salmons says :

    Holy cow! That was nuts 😉

    Good one Radio, you got me good 😉 Thanks for fessing up!

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