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  • Dispatches from Iraq

    I thought I'd ask before doing it.

    Is there any interest in reading the personal dispatches from my cousin in Iraq?

    He is a multiagency embedded reporter. He does the usual reporting on what is going on over there but his dispatches to us are more informal and about the 'average' activities he encounters from day to day.

    Let me know!
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  • #2
    Re: Dispatches from Iraq

    Yes, definitely. I much prefer the unfiltered reports where the writing hasn't been designed to cater to a specific audience or editor.

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    • #3
      Re: Dispatches from Iraq

      You could use your blog maybe ?

      DB

      «That looks like a really nice house except for that horrible bathroom.» Donrhos

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      • #4
        Re: Dispatches from Iraq

        Originally posted by Iamthefallen View Post
        Yes, definitely. I much prefer the unfiltered reports where the writing hasn't been designed to cater to a specific audience or editor.
        Absolutely. Usually by the time the general public here sees a report, it's been edited and filtered to fulfill a particular agenda. When you hear accounts straight from the soldiers themselves, its pretty infuriating to hear how much we HAVEN'T heard from the front. There are so many wonderful stories we never hear, because they don't always involve American men being blown up by IED's.
        "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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        • #5
          Re: Dispatches from Iraq

          Originally posted by Dick Blonov View Post
          You could use your blog maybe ?

          DB
          I had a ton of trouble with it when I last used it. I will probably look into it again. In the meantime, if it turns out to be OK with everyone, I'll start the first couple here.
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          • #6
            Re: Dispatches from Iraq

            I΄d really enjoy reading that.
            --
            VI VI VI - the number of the beast

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            • #7
              Re: Dispatches from Iraq

              Another vote for "yes please".

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              • #8
                Re: Dispatches from Iraq

                If you want to ready what his reporting is like, you can visit Voice of America and search 'Barry Newhouse'. He currently has 17 public reports available.

                By the way.. his brother, Brian, got his orders from the Peace Corps a little while ago and he is headed to Cape Verde, West Africa. You may recall I posted up info about his 'Bannanadog' documentary project a month or so ago. So we should get some cool stuff from him in a few weeks.
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                • #9
                  Re: Dispatches from Iraq

                  OK, here is the first dispatch of 'season 2' from my cousin in Iraq, embedded with the military and also on his own.

                  These are personal e-mail dispatches to family and friends and not intended for use from him as a news correspondent.

                  I have 6 or 8 more from 'season 1' that I will see about setting him up with as part of a blog in the near future. Some of the references about his translator and guide go back to 'season 1' but bear with me until I can get that stuff posted for public reading..

                  Originally posted by Barry Newhouse, VOA

                  Lobster Tails in Mosul

                  Hi all.

                  So Ive been back in Iraq for a month now and havent filed any email dispatches. I fiddled around with setting up a blog for a while and got bogged down in the details and the technical stuff. So Im abandoning that for the time being.

                  It's been an interesting month. A few weeks after I arrived in Irbil a massive car bomb detonated a couple of miles from my hotel one morning, killing a dozen people and destroying the Kurdish interior ministry building. I was asleep at the time and it shook me awake – the entire hotel swayed. Since then, the city has been in a sort of lockdown – long lines at the checkpoints coming into Irbil, more thorough searches when you go into government buildings, and lots of rumors about police catching more bombers.

                  When the blast happened, I could've sworn I heard a jet flying low over the city. Many other people heard the same thing and a couple Ive spoken to claimed to have seen it. This has fueled the unofficial story of the bombing – that it was in fact a Turkish jet that the Americans "allowed" to bomb the interior ministry building as a kind of warning. (Turkey and the Kurds have a very tense relationship for reasons I wont go into here). Highly implausible, but, I swear I heard a jet – and the coincidence was sort of strange. Just one example of all of the crazy rumors that fly around in this country – no vast conspiracy is too outlandish to consider with all of the instability.
                  I think some people here secretly hope that there is some plot afoot, that some power is in control, moving things toward an unknown goal, because maybe that's less scary than chaos.

                  I just returned from about a week in Mosul, embedded with the Army. I flew out of the Korean base here in Irbil. The first time I tried to fly out, I spent two hours arguing with the Koreans about my credentials and U.S.-military-issued travel orders and in the middle of the back and forth, i heard my helicopter land and then take off without me. We all got on the same page when I tried again a few days later. As a side note – this is the only place in Iraq where the Koreans are stationed – about 3500 troops from what Ive been told. I have no idea what they do – Korean companies have made generous donations here in Irbil – computers for the government, Hyundai buses for public transport – they even introduced the first Kurdish language cell phone. But the troops mainly stay on their base, running logistics and doing other things (don't know what) for the American bases in the north. One Kurdish government official told me they have 1000 Kurdish soldiers guarding the Korean base, so it's a bit unclear who is protecting whom.

                  I was the only passenger on the flight to Mosul – a quick, thrilling Blackhawk ride at low altitude over farms and villages in mostly peaceful areas of Kurdistan. When we got near Mosul, we ascended, then pretty much dropped right onto the airstrip. After signing some paperwork, I was off interviewing various American commanders who had lots of happy talk about how well things are going in Mosul – but they're also quick to point out that Mosul – Iraq's third largest city
                  -- now usually has more ieds each day than Baghdad.

                  The day before I arrived in Mosul, an insurgent group launched a coordinated attack on a few police outposts and a prison using 7 massive car bombs and an estimated 150 fighters. It was a pretty intense battle – but according to most people I talked to -- a failure for the "bad guys." They did blow up one of Mosul's six bridges across the Tigris, but they killed less than 10 people -- all police, never breached the prison and the Iraqi police and Army successfully fought them off. The police are rebuilding the stations and say no one has walked off the force.

                  Reading about all these bombs in the U.S., most of them probably look the same – but the insurgents have really made a lot of progress in the whole bomb making business. A lot of the big bombs now covered on television are "vehicle borne improvised explosive devices" or vbids for short. They're much bigger than a typical car bomb. Recently, they've been using dump trucks, fire trucks and other big flatbed trucks to load thousands of pounds of explosives – many of them are the same fertilizer-bomb construction used in the Oklahoma City bombing. When they detonate, you can hear it for miles. I heard about a dozen during my six days in Mosul.

                  Before leaving the base on a mission – even a short supply run to nearby outposts - troops receive a briefing that includes details on suspicious cars they believe have been rigged with bombs – pictures of fuel tankers and cement trucks with elaborate explosive rigs – people who are wanted, etc. After the briefing, you leave the base and immediately start driving around next to all of these big trucks that look an awful lot like the ones you just saw in the photos. It's unnerving.

                  After a night at the main base, I went to a combat outpost on the outskirts of the city where a few different army units are involved in training the Iraqi Army. I spent two nights at the outpost, interviewed some of the Iraqi officers and waited for the base to be attacked. The military had intelligence indicating an attack was imminent on the base – it wouldn't be the first time – but it never came.

                  One thing I should say is that the military eats pretty well in Mosul.
                  Soldiers say you get tired of it after months and months of the same cafeteria food – but KBR really puts on a spread. The cafeteria (called the DFac – for Dining Facility) at the main base in Mosul was blown up by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest a couple of years ago. The word is when they rebuilt it, they made it the best one in Iraq. Salad bar, taco bar, sandwich bar – huge dessert selection with Baskin Robbins ice cream, burgers, stir fry – the works. Out at the combat outpost – the food isn't nearly as good. But we did have lobster tails and steak one night, which was impressive. The first time Ive eaten lobster with a plastic fork.

                  One night it was a guy's birthday who is on the "EOD" team – explosive ordinance disposal – these are the guys who go out in the city when someone has found an unexploded ied and they either disarm it or blow it up. For his birthday, some of us walked into a patch of scrubland behind the base, and waited as one of his friends rigged up a confiscated Iraqi rocket engine. We smoked cigars and watched it blow up. It was pretty cool.

                  I later went on a house search with a different army unit back in town. I was one of nine guys stuffed into the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle – the Bradley is designed to hold six people in the back, so it was a bit tight with everyone's gear and weapons. It took almost two hours for us to reach the neighborhood we were going to search. It was excruciating – and I had a decent seat and only one guy on my lap. When you're rolling, it's dark and insanely loud. Everyone just sits -- some of the guys appeared to actually fall asleep. There are only a few small windows in the back of the Bradleys, so you cant really see out – but a few of the guys claimed they could tell where we were in the city by the smell of rotting garbage and sewage that would make its way into our hot, loud metal box. These guys drive the same routes many days, and say some neighborhoods have distinctive smells. It's a strange way to get to know a city.

                  The house search went pretty smoothly. Residents had been through it before and knew the drill. Id interview people with our masked Iraqi interpreter as the soldiers searched the house. All of the people I interviewed were Sunni Arabs – many of them had been given the houses by Saddam, and remained nostalgic for him. Most of them are struggling to get by – no jobs, too dangerous to travel, too old for the military. A few families were living in bombed-out homes in various states of reconstruction – but not much more than a few carpets and a stove in bare cinderblock rooms. The unit I was with searched maybe a dozen homes, found a single AK-47 which was returned to the owner when we left (families are allowed to have one) and had tea with one family after the soldiers searched their house.

                  I also visited some police stations with an MP national guard unit that is in charge of training some of the Iraqi police units in Mosul.
                  There isn't much trust between the two sides – most meetings were tense – it's widely believed that some police work with the insurgents – some of them sympathize with the insurgents, some feel they aren't strong enough to oppose them, others just look for the additional cash that comes with providing information or helping the insurgents out.
                  It's an awkward situation, but the MPs I was with had a sharp wit for cracking jokes about the situation. Of the last three police commanders in one station I visited, one had been killed by insurgents, one was in prison for supplying insurgents with explosives, and the third was recuperating in a hospital after he had been shot by unknown attackers – but the MPs said that once he was well enough to leave the hospital, he too would be arrested for collaborating with the enemy.

                  Back at the hotel is Irbil, things are the same. The nightclub has been holding some exclusive VIP parties that are a bit out of my price range. Azad says you can expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars to drink and watch women dance. I met some of the new foreign women on the elevator -- they seemed pretty hard. I told them everyone is very excited they are here, but they seemed a bit bored with my attempts at conversation. Danni, their "manager" says business isnt very good, but I think he's a pessimist by nature.

                  Ive also learned more about Azad, my translator. To be honest, some of his stories are so fantastic I have trouble believing them, but then Ill confirm some detail about them, so I think they're legit. Plus, it would be tough to make some of this stuff up.

                  So, back in the early 90s, when Saddam had banned satellite dishes and they were still quite expensive to obtain, Azad used his military training in satellite communications to become a black market pornography distributor. He set up an illegal dish at his home -- spent weeks hand tuning it to find 24hr porn channels, then set up five VCRs in tandem to tape porn all day long. He'd later sell the officially banned tapes to military officers.

                  But the story that in my mind really sealed his status as legendary
                  -- he is a professional dressmaker. The way he tells it, he had a tough-as-nails home ec teacher in middle and high school who forced all of the boys to learn to sew. Azad seemed to have a knack for it.

                  Later, when he was an officer and had extra time and extra cash, he opened two dress shops and employed several women -- taught them how to sew to patterns, the works. He said he preferred making women's clothes because they're easier (no pockets or pant legs), have better margins and have the added benefit of having a female clientele. When he would go abroad on military training trips as an officer to Europe, he'd bring back french and italian dress pattern books, then modify the designs for the arab women's bodies. He says arab women are bigger in the hips and prefer a slightly different fit. Through his military job, he also met assistants for Saddam's wife (his "main" wife) and through them began making dresses for her. He had her import expensive fabric for him -- italian and french prints, chinese silk.

                  Then, in the mid to late 80s, when hip hop and rap tunes were getting popular in the dance clubs in Baghdad, Azad spent hours trying to figure out how to make parachute pants and those mc hammer baggy pants. He finally succeeded by modifying a design for traditional kurdish men's pants. He'd then wear his hand crafted michael jackson gear to the Baghdad discos, would get accosted by the fashionistas who demanded to know where he got such killer pants. That's when he'd hand out his business card. He's a true entrepreneur.

                  Hope you're all well.
                  -Barry
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