The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


April 10, 2007

Name: Teflon Don
Posting date: 4/10/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url:

I am a shameless romantic, a slightly better than average student of history, and there is a current of idealism under my skin that has not yet been dulled by reality. Sometimes these qualities come together and leave me thinking to myself of times long gone, and stories all but forgotten. Lately I've been thinking of the paradoxical enormity and insignificance of my presence here.

Here I stand, in modern-day Iraq. I have come further to fight here than any soldier of any nation before me, and I fight with weapons and equipment that lay pale the panoply of earlier armies. I represent the pinnacle of force projection and decisive battle, and yet I fight here, where unnumbered young warriors have fought and died through time stretching out of memory. It was on this land that the Babylonian Empire arose out of those first Sumerian agrarians, only to be conquered by the Assyrians, and still later throw off the foreign chains. It was here that Alexander's phalanxes swept through, trailing Hellenism in their wake. The Romans, and later the Byzantines, drew their border with Persia at the Euphrates River. At that river was where the Sassanids made their stand against the spread of Arabian Islam. The Khans of the Mongols laid this land waste, sometimes killing only to build their towers of bones higher.

This region is steeped in history. We walk on it; we breath it in. Eons of history surround us, infiltrate us, and turn to dust beneath our feet. The ashes of countless cultures, civilizations, and rulers' dreams are in this earth. With each breath, I inhale a few molecules of the dying gasp of Cyrus II, the Persian "Constantine of the East". In the howling wind I can almost hear the cries of a multitude, dying on killing grounds across the ages. The same wind carries the red dust that might yet hold a few drops of blood from the battle at Carrhae -- the first, crushing defeat for Rome's red-blooded legions. Under my heel, a speck grinds into dust: the last grain of sand that remains of the Hanging Gardens at Babylon that are now known only in legend. Some of the world's oldest religions tell us that somewhere in this ancient Cradle of Life, God himself breathed on this dust, and it became man, the father of us all. Whatever path we take here, we walk on history.

I walk softly, for I tread on the ghosts of years.


Dear Don:

Have you read Bruce Feiler's Best Seller, Where God Was Born? I would be happy to send you a copy though it sounds like you know a LOT about the area already : )


My favorite Roman emperor, Julian II, died in what is now Iraq,fighting Persians in a probably pointless campaign.

He neglected to put his body armor on.

Sometimes after all the fuss over up-armored Humvees and the rest, I wonder if patterns repeat themselves.

Very nice summary! Yes the Romans really did come a cropper in Mesopotamia. Even Alexander of Macedon, though he swept through victorious, came back and died at Babylon. As the French say, "The more things change..."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This blog contains the best writing about the war on the internet. Fantastic little essay. It radiates like a well-polished diamond.

...... And one of our 25 year old volunteer soldiers, from Sonoma County California, just died on top of all that crap! What for?

Read "Into the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan (Hellenistic Culture and Society) by Frank Holt

to get a good look at this history. If we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. I know it's about Afghanistan but it also discusses the campaigns in Iraq as well

List Price: $14.95
Price: $11.21 & eligible

52 used & new available from $9.49

Beautiful little meditation on history & how we're still feeling the effects of it thousands of years later.

Great writing as always TD. I had read this on your blog but reading it again was worth it. Your writing is fantastic and I always look forward to new posts.

Maureen - because it's America you are certainly entitled to your opinion "answer" your question - if you really need to ask "What for?" I can only guess your main source of information is NOT blogs such as Teflon Don's but, rather, the MSM. Hate it for you.

Truth be known, the ground trod in the ancient battles of early civilization many thousands of years ago, is some twenty or so feet below the present soil surface. Dust does tend to accumulate.

In time, the scars of this war will fade and blend in with those of countless other wars fought in that land of recycled animosity.

Much has been written of the costly art of War, yet so little is known of highly valued, but ephemeral Peace.

It is an interesting time to be alive, is it not? The youngest generations will witness a first: the attainment of human population equilibrium in this next fifty years. I wonder if the cost of war will finally be deemed too much to be borne.

Like Julian of olde, do we forget our armor and lay down our swords, tired of pointless battle?

i'm also a student of history, and no matter how much dust (20 feet or whatever) is over the ground. the echoes of soldiers from the past are still there etched deeper than any canyon. i only wish others were as well versed in history as you are. it would definetly change things for the better.

I understand that now Babylon has been turned over to the locals. We had control of it while I was there and I got a chance to take a few tours. A local tour guide took us through it and explained what we were looking at. The original site of the Hanging Gardens was uncovered and full of bats. The most impressive parts were the statue of the Lion of Babel and the bricks with Nebuchadnezzar's stamp underneath the bricks with Saddams stamp. Saddam was doing a wonderful job of restoring this area, probably for reasons of vanity.
I couldn't help but notice, it seems that every nation that conquered this sacred land was doomed to fail, after. Are we the next Roman Empire? Looking at the the room where Alexander's life ended, I was engulfed in the feeling that America will come and go, but this land will endure yet another occupation and survive to the next.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference WALKING ON HISTORY :

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »

Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog



My Photo