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.


October 26, 2008

Name: Rocinante
Posting date: 10/27/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Virginia
Milblog: Rocinante's Burdens

Well, we are finished with the first third of our tour here. Four months into it and still not a sight nor sound of combat. Still think we are in a quagmire? In case you were wondering, this is what winning looks like. It is what we have always wanted here. A peaceful Iraq that is no threat to its neighbors.


A busy market street.

Framed Roci THIRD 4

The area in the background is a crowded market area. It is like that every day.

Framed Roci THIRD 2
A car load of children on their way somewhere. Note that seatbelt use is not encouraged here. This being the modern age, and no cars being manufactured anywhere in the Arab world (except Detroit, and not many there), every car manufactured in the past 30 years has seat belts included. They just don't know why anyone would use them.

 Framed Roci THIRD socball

Street urchins sell boxes of tissues. Arab drivers must use a lot of tissues for some reason. Older kids move up the product chain to selling fruit, canned soda and other objects that I can't identify.

The boy in front is demonstrating the international symbol for "give me a soccer ball" --  hands in front facing each other, while doing a kicking motion.The Americans who were here before these kids were old enough to walk must have given away soccer balls like candy. We never have, but they make the motions every day when we pass them.

Another gesture they use -- hands holding an invisible bottled beverage to the lips as if drinking from it -- is the symbol for, "I am dying of thirst because my parents make me work in the hot sun all day and don't give me any water. Please give me your Gatorade."

Of course, we wouldn't dare give them anything. We know the system too well. If you give one something, the bigger kids will beat him up and take it away.Then the smaller kid will expect you to make it better by giving him another one. We also don't throw candy at them from our vehicles because we don't want them darting out into traffic to get it. It may seem selfish on our part, but the Third World is not a place of rainbows and unicorns for children. As one of my interpreters once told me, "Did you know that we actually have soccer balls in Iraqi stores? If their parents wanted them to have a ball, they would have bought them one."

Framed Rock THIRD guns

Captured guns, taken away from assorted bad guys. In Iraq, every house is permitted to have one AK-47 rifle and some ammunition. Any more than that and they are up to no good. The penalty for having too many is having all of them confiscated. We also captured some brand spanking new RPG-9 rockets. They were still in the factory wrappings from Iran, with production labels less than three months old. Anyone out there think Iran is not at war with us? (Clue: They have been for thirty years).

Framed Roci THIRD Penguins

Ending on a light note: More Penguins.


Thank you for the photos! The Iraq I'll be returning to shortly looks a lot better than the Iraq I left in April 04. Despite what the MSM always reports, I've always felt we made(make) a difference there.

Thanks for sharing. It's always nice to know we are making a should be reported more on the news.

It would be interesting to compare these photos with pre-war Iraq. Thanks for sharing.

How many of the ak47s where chicom and if they were does that mean that we are at war with China as well?

how much of the amunition found in Iraq is produced by US companies, and if they where does that mean america is at war with itself?

Thanks for the update...seems like the situation is normalizing.

@swede & tangoalpha12
wtf????? apples & oranges!!

And it only took a trillion dollars!

Thank you all for your comments. Let me tell you how arms sales work.

When a country like Iran gets into the Arms business, they sell to customers all over the world. They do so with government sponsored agreements. THe factories are government owned. The goods produced from those factories are strictly controlled by the government of Iran. Over time some of those arms and munitions get into the black market and lots of unsavory characters get ahold of them.

The RPG-9s are significant because their date of manufacture and source clearly indicate that the government of Iran is directly supplying insurgents in Iraq with arms. At the very least, that is an act of war against Iraq. The fact that such weapons are also used against us is also an act of war. This could not have happened without the deliberate assistance of the government of Iran.

All of the AK-47s are very old and can be traced back to national purchases made before the current hostilities. So there is no implication of war-making intentions.

I don't mind explaining this because my original post was deficient in not pointing it out. most of my regular readers keep abreast of current events and did not require the additional explanation.

And Iran has been at war with the USA since 1979. The fact that we mostly ignore them, and their activity level is very low, doesn't mean it isn't true.

is so peaceful you think?

then leave and see how peaceful

The 'war' with Iran has probably been going on since Operation Ajax in 1953.

Compared to the invasion of a country on the other side of the world, spending billion upon billion, using aircraft carriers, satellites, predator aircraft etc, Iran's supply of RPGs seems like the apogee of self-restraint.

Were Canada invaded, what would we supply?

what mike said.

Dear Roci,

Thanks for telling me how arms sales work.

I guess the reason that I'm a little skeptical about things is that I have a fair amount of experience with accounting problems within governments and their militaries. My favorite being 3 Abrams tanks which lay on a siding for 5 months in Lethbridge, Alberta because the National Guard unit "forgot" them and no one noticed except the Canadian Army which was nice enough to phone them up and ask them about what they wanted to do with them or else they would probably be there to this day. The movie "Buffalo Soldiers" is a funny example of what I'm talking about.

This is one of the reasons that I was never convinced of the WMD argument in Iraq because it seemed to be based on accounting discrepancies.

So when people tell me about the fell intent of governments because some small arms shows up in another country at war, I get a little skeptical because if the greatest military can lose 3 tanks and not notice them missing it says a lot about a bunch of small arms from a 5th rate military power showing up in a near by country at war.

I could give you another scenario as to what happened. An RPG plant manager or even shift manager decides to alter the manifests and then sells the extra shift worth of RPGs to some smuggler who them ships them into Iraq.

I'm not saying that that is the case but from where I stand seems equally likely if not more likely given the relative levels of corruption and lax reporting standards in a 3rd world country like Iran.

I know you gung ho types are assuming the worst and shouting, "On to Tehran!" and hoping the rest will follow but no matter how much you try and gin up some kind of outrage I feel that I must throw some water on this dangerous line of agitprop before we are fighting the 2018 war of Tibet.

PS. Swede, the US doesn't make compatible small arms ammunition for Iraqi/Iranian small arms. So no, We are not at war with ourselves. Nice try though.

having shipped tanks by rail, i can explain that. The Railroad company lost the merchandise, not the Army. The Army knew the tanks were lost and knew who had them: the rail road company.

Your example of how things get lost and stolen in shipping is certainly a likely explanation except we are not finding just one or two items. Large qualities don't disappear from government controlled factories and magically appear in the hands of Iranian government sponsored groups without the intentional involvement of the Iranian government.

Nor do all roads lead to war. As long as Iran is simply a nuisance, there is little harm in letting them continue their war against us without any retaliation by us. Nor does every retaliation need to be military. Our nation has a lot of resources it can focus on that problem.

My main point there was the recognition that they are at war with us and have been for a long time. They just aren't very good at it.


The national guard unit had "written them off" when they were contacted by the Canadian Army. I was astounded, but there it is. An inconvenient accounting problem that was swept under the rug because everyone wanted the next promotion and didn't know how to reconcile an accounting discrepancy that could have been hidden through silence if it weren't for some conscientious people. I've spent some time in Logistics, I have others but this was the funniest one.

I find your in-erring belief in inventory systems to be kind of endearing. Blaming it on the railroad is kind of missing the point. My point is that accounting errors are numerous even in this age of computers and sometimes resolving them is not cost effective and sometimes they are done on purpose and sometimes people just miss count.

When money is on the table and greed and corruption in the air, I can assure you that large quantities can and do disappear from 3rd world arms manufacturing plants.

Probably it was sent from the Iranian government, who knows? It's not like their national interests weren't at stake some how.

And as to your main point about being at war with Iran, I would probably respond as Mike did, in that the war didn't start in 1979 but in 1953.

Has the US been a net force for good in the world? A resounding YES!

Has it done some short sighted, bone headed things in the past that it is paying for now, unfortunately yes as well.

And with that, I have to come back to saying that it isn't in anyones interest to start ginning up war with Iran regardless how good they are at it. This is a country with 70 million people with a land area 2.5 times that of Iraq.

I'm reminded that pilots in Korea were told to never tell anyone that North Korean pilots were actually Russians and Chinese or Americans would demand to go to war with Russia and China to satisfy our honor. Maybe there is a lesson there.

Stay safe.

The population and area of a country is not really relevant in the ability to win or lose a war. And war is just one way to get a country to do what you want them to.

I would be satisfied if the Govt of Iran stopped trying to kill Americans though their proxies in Iraq.

In addition to the RPG-9s we have also found new manufactured EFP mines, hundreds of them, and Iranian military and intelligence personnel, carrying Iranian ID cards, and being captured with insurgent groups.

Iran is at war with us. What we do about it is a political decision. I also have an endearing faith in the American people to make good choices and an unrestrained contempt for anyone who would craft the flow of information to intentionally mislead us into or out of something as serious as a war.

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 WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »

Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog



My Photo