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).
“Zarqawi, one of the terrorist guys.”
“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.