Archive for the 'War Reporting' Category

The Greatest War Correspondent

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

New York Times:

During his four years as a war correspondent, Pyle was embraced by enlisted men, officers and a huge civilian public as a voice who spoke for the common infantryman. With his trauma in France, he had become one of them. After sharing so much of their experience, he understood how gravely war can alter the people who have to see it and fight it and live it. He knew that the survivors can come home with damage that is profound, painful and long-lasting. It was a truth that he found hard or even impossible to communicate to the readers back home — and it is a truth that is still difficult and troubling now, 75 years after D-Day.

For a writer to be famous in the states is one thing.  For him to be famous and loved by the troops is quite another – loved by the troops because he told their story.

If you haven’t read his reports, you have missed out on an adventure, sometimes dark, sometimes raucous.  But always an adventure.

God Bless Jim Foley: A Man I Know Has Been Beheaded By ISIS

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

Journalist James Foley (he corresponded with me as Jim) has been beheaded by ISIS.  I choose not to remember him from the recent photographs, but as the wonderful young man he was.  As a note to ISIS, I don’t believe a word he had to say while under duress.  I knew him better than you did.  You wasted your time with his confessions, or charges, or whatever you forced him to say.

We first corresponded during my blogging on the war in Afghanistan.  I initiated the conversations with him, but he was very warm in his effusive praise and kindness towards me.  He worked primarily for the Global Post, but did a good bit of embedded independent work.  He was in Kandahar at the time, and politely recommended that I link his blog, A World Of Troubles, which redirects now to Free James Foley.

Jim was kidnapped in Libya early in 2011.  I had also made significant use of his fantastic work in The Five Hundred Meter War.  The U.S. Army later contacted me wanting the rights to use this video in training and analysis, and I directed them to Jim who (I hope) made some money from the work.  He told me that he would gladly sell the rights for a small fee.

I have since reconsidered my position on long distance warfare, and concluded that it isn’t necessarily that the 5.56 mm round is all that ineffective at long distances, but that based on subsequent conversations with various officers, no one (Army or Marine Corps) teaches their men to shoot uphill.  All of their ranges are flat.  Then again, the 5.56 mm round does tend to yaw in flight, which causes problems at long distances.  But Travis Haley has shown us that the 5.56 mm can be effective to beyond 500 yards, and my son qualified at 500 yards as a Marine.

But I digress.  Suffice it to say that Jim was an important voice in bringing this feature of the war to our attention.  Jim called me “an important voice in the war” in one e-mail exchange, but Jim’s voice was far more important.  His reporting was at the same time fact-filled and accurate, and personal and engaging. Jim was the consummate professional, but a genuinely nice person.

I have long since left analysis of the war(s), given that we failed to negotiate a reasonable SOFA in Iraq and proved that we wanted to continue the social sciences game in Afghanistan rather than prosecute a war.  I recommended that we leave without another drop of American blood spilled, and never looked back.

Sort of.  I have often thought of Jim and what might be happening to him.  There aren’t many folks from those days I know only electronically to whom I feel such a kinship.  Tim Lynch and Michael Yon are a couple, but the list is short.  People like that are the sort where if you met up with them somewhere it would be like meeting a long lost brother, and the conversation would flow without any effort at all.

It was hard to be accepted in military blogging with such parochial and hierarchical (even if unofficial) structure, and with the desire for control by a few.  Jim’s acceptance and warmness was welcome, as it is with the folks whom I engage in my current interests of gun and gun rights (like David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh).

I will miss Jim.  I give my warmest, most sincere and most heartfelt condolences to his family.  Your family gave us a good and wonderful man.  We are worse for this loss.

My brief note to ISIS is this.  You screwed up.  I’ve previously been told how good you are, how savvy, how connected to social networks you’ve been and how you’re coming for us.

I can’t speak for the folks up North since the collectivists may have disarmed my fellow countrymen by now, but I dare ISIS to come South and bring your brand of sharia to North Carolina or South Carolina.  I dare you.

You don’t scare me in the least and you didn’t impress me by harming my friend Jim.  Come to the land where the American insurgents beat up the best that Lord Cornwallis had to offer.  Come try to plant your damn ISIS flag in my front yard, or try to force my wife or daughter to wear a burqa.  The result will be swift and brutal, involving magazines full of 5.56 mm rounds and 230 grain fat boys.  I have guns too, and mine still have their buttstocks unlike your dumb ass rifles that can’t be aimed.  Mine can shoot 1 MOA, and I can do about the same.  I see your stupid videos where you waste ammunition by shooting at the air.  I’ve laughed at them.

I had previously lamented the plight of the poor Christians in Syria and Iraq, pleading with them and Christians around the world to arm themselves before it is too late.  I have ridiculed the Christian church worldwide for its sloth, arrogance and self centeredness in refusing to help fellow Christians or even pray for them.

But this isn’t just a world away.  It’s personal, for I knew Jim.  You killed a friend, and I owe you.  I pray that you end in hell, and that very soon, screaming out in agony from thirst while you suffer in the lake of fire for eternity.  My only regret is that in all likelihood I won’t be the one to send you there.  I don’t think you’ll ever get to my doorstep.  You’ll die before you make it here because my armed fellow countrymen won’t tolerate you.


I am sent an article by Daniel Greenfield, published at Front Page Magazine.  It is entitled James Foley Went Looking to Support Terrorists in Syria, Instead They Cut Off His Head.  I have learned to ignore anything published at Front Page Magazine, but in the interest of full disclosure and openness, I’ll give the link below.

Daniel’s thesis is that he was a terrorist sympathizer.  He knows this based on his Twitter feed where he retweeted the posts others made.  Certainly, based on Jim’s review of my own analysis work of OIF (communicated directly to me), he was no terrorist sympathizer.  He was an independent journalist.  In fact, Daniel’s commeters try to tell him in the comments that Jim was taken to task in his Twitter feed for NOT taking sides.  It’s too late at that point.  Daniel is committed to his thesis and can’t roll it back.  This is one of the hazards of writing.

I think Greenfield otherwise does good analysis, but I think he missed the boat on this one, and badly so.  For me his thesis lands somewhere between highly unlikely and totally impossible.  It is my policy never to link to Front Page Magazine.  I’ll break that policy this one time and give you Daniel’s article in the interest of full disclosure and to show that I’m always willing to listen to all sides.


Tom Rogan:

His death won’t be broadcast many places, but take my word for his final courage. As the terrorist moves his knife downwards, Foley grimaces but does not cry out. This, after all, is the man that he was, a man who faced great danger to bring knowledge to the world. After being imprisoned by Qaddafi loyalists for 44 days during the Libyan civil war, Foley returned to the country to finish his reporting. When asked why he did so, Foley offered a simple answer. “Why wouldn’t I go back? People had done so much for me back home. I was humbled, I felt indebted to them. [We] wanted to connect the dots; we wanted to finish that story.”

Foley did finish that story (the series about his captivity is here). We should always remember his life and his accomplishments. But we must also remember his moment of passing: facing down a murderer hiding behind a black mask.

And from PBS:

… she was worried that I was being forced to say everything I was saying over the phone. And I just wanted to tell her I was strong, I was praying, I could make it. I knew it was going to be more time, but I was doing — physically, I was fine, and I wasn’t being harmed.

And she was worried that they were making me say these things, but she also said, oh, so many people have been praying for you and so many of your friends and family have come to our assistance.


Lara Logan, Attack In Benghazi, And My Readers

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

I’m sorry for the scatterbrained post title, but there are several things we need to cover.

First, note what Lara Logan says about Afghanistan (and the more sweeping issue of the state of Islamists in Asia and Africa).

Eleven years later, “they” still hate us, now more than ever, Logan told the crowd. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished, she added. They’re coming back.

“I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated . . .” Logan declared in her native South African accent.

The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban.

“There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years,” Logan said. It is driven in part by “Taliban apologists,” who claim “they are just the poor moderate, gentler, kinder Taliban,” she added sarcastically. “It’s such nonsense!”

[ … ]

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

It must come as a shock to hear a main stream reporter say these things to the Obama administration.  I’m sure those in attendance were shocked.  Lara Logan (reporting on Afghanistan) and Sharyl Attkisson (on Fast and Furious) working for CBS have done good work (although David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh were the sources for Sharyl’s work and haven’t received enough credit for it).  Jake Tapper with ABC is also a very good reporter, but there aren’t many in the MSM that have earned the respect they demand.

But I have a problem with Lara’s account.  She says, “Our enemies are writing the story,” as if the Taliban are some sort of honorable warriors who have outwitted the U.S. with all of its heralded might.

No, we have abandoned the battle space.  The Taliban are a bunch of ignorant child molesting abusers and seventh century vandals and ne’er-do-wells.  Our loss is our fault and we beat ourselves, and as long as Lara’s prose is interpreted that way, she has added to the conversation.

But of course, readers of The Captain’s Journal didn’t have to wait on Lara to give us this information.  I have been singing this song for five or more years now, calling Generals McChrystal, Rodriguez and others on the carpet for their failures and propaganda (recall where I called out Rodriguez and his stupid claim that the Taliban weren’t able to launch a spring offensive in 2008).

Speaking of things that my readers already know, it’s almost amusing to see how the administration and their detractors have done this kabuki dance over who knew what when on the Benghazi attacks.  This was all totally unnecessary and so much wasted time.

All one must do to figure out what happened is visit this web site and study the educated comments posted in reply to the articles.  For example, study the comments from Dirty Mick and Jean from one month ago (right after the attack happened) and you will learn about a complex ambush, the use of combined arms, no real QRF, enemy fighters already in position, etc.  We knew then that this was a preplanned attack whether they admitted it or not.  The only thing that wasn’t clear at this point was that the existing security team included contract employees (former SEALs), and that more security had been requested.

Again, you know it from reading it here almost as soon as the smoke clears.  You don’t have to wait on the spin.

Jake Tapper Signs Book Deal on COP Keating

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 8 months ago

In a bit of a surprise, Jake Tapper has inked a deal to author a book on the battle at Kamdesh, in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan.

Little, Brown and Company is announcing a book deal with Jake Tapper, ABC News Senior White House Correspondent.

In “Enemy In the Wire,” Tapper will tell the story of U.S. troops’ deadliest battle in Afghanistan last year. At dawn on Oct. 3, 2009, the 54 U.S. soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating in northeast Afghanistan — tucked in a vulnerable valley surrounded by three heavily forested mountains near the Pakistan border — were attacked by 300 to 400 Taliban, some of whom had managed to get inside the camp – “in the wire.”

After more than 18 hours of fighting, with eight American troops killed, the men of COP Keating managed to beat back the enemy.

Tapper, 41, will tell the story of the battle; detail the soldiers’ heroism and valiant service under fire; tell their stories and those of their loved ones; and describe the history of the camp within the context of the larger mission in Afghanistan.

The book should be out toward the end of 2011, and Tapper plans to go to Afghanistan.

“I first heard the gripping story on ABC News and just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” he told POLITICO.

“What’s it like to be under attack and so vastly out-numbered? Why was the camp there to begin with? How did the troops defeat the Taliban? Who were these men — what are their stories? The more I read and watched on the news, the more I wanted to know. On another level, as someone who has covered the Afghanistan debate from the White House North Lawn, I wanted to see it from the perspectives of those on the front lines.”

Having such little history in this line of reporting and analysis, it should be interesting to see how Tapper handles this.  But there is really no reason that he shouldn’t have the freedom and support to enter military journalism with such a interesting and storied battle.  I expect a good product from Jake.  Welcome to the community.

However, with the attention and thought I have given to the battle at COP Keating, Jake should make sure to send me a pre-publication version of the book for review.  And as reviewer for the book, it makes sense for me to go to Afghanistan with him.

Also, I think it’s important that Jake place this battle within the larger context of previous engagements such as at Wanat, where there was similar massing of enemy forces.

Soldiers’ Voices, War Reporting and Context

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 9 months ago

In The Five Hundred Meter War I linked a report at Global Post by James Foley, who also blogs at A World of Troubles.  Please spend the time to read my analysis as context for my criticism of another article below, and also visit Jim’s web site.  His prose is current, salient, well-informed and well written.

Citing the same report at Global Post by Jim, Pia de Solenni writing at National Review Online’s Corner weighs in quite differently from my analysis.

Two years ago today, my brother Bruno was killed while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Before going to Afghanistan, he’d done two other tours, including Iraq. I think just about every family member of a deployed soldier surveys the news with trepidation, worrying that it could be their loved one who’s the latest casualty or, worse, fatality.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my brother and, naturally, there’s a poignancy around certain dates like holidays, birthdays, and today. But last Friday, as I was watching the PBS NewsHour, I was completely unprepared for the footage of soldiers in Afghanistan. Viewers were warned that the segment would contain graphic images and graphic language. That warning didn’t begin to describe the content.

Footage included a soldier getting shot in the head; fortunately his helmet slowed down the bullet. Another soldier lost part of his arm. It was as if this were just a segment from an action film or a so-called reality show. But this is real life. The wounds are not special effects. They won’t go away when the cameras are turned off. The families of these soldiers could see them in danger and being wounded. And somehow, it’s all right to expose audiences, including families, to this very real brutality being done to U.S. soldiers; but the same audiences are too fragile to hear the f-bombs that, in such circumstances, are very understandable. Real life amputations and wounds, but no profanities.

Most soldiers are far more comfortable with people hearing them use profanity than they are with having their families caused any additional worry about their safety.

The journalists who prepared the segment would argue that they’re just reporting the facts. Ah, but these are selective facts. Did they show footage asking the soldiers whether they have any positive interactions with the Afghans? Did they ask the soldiers what they think of their mission? No, and they didn’t even allow them the expression of an f-bomb. So much for hearing the soldiers in their own voices. Instead, they were exploited by the graphic images of their activities. As the saying goes, if it bleeds, it leads. But if an audience is too fragile to hear certain words, surely it’s too fragile to see real life casualties.

Segments like this convey nothing but fear and futility. They give no context to the situation. To me it seems that they undermine the concerns of our soldiers insofar as they create greater fear and anxiety for families, precisely what the soldiers don’t want, all in the name of journalism so slanted that it looks more like propaganda aiding the enemy.

Yes, I am emotionally vested. But I’ve seen very little news coverage that represents the experiences of the soldiers I’ve known, including my brother. (Our hometown newspaper was one of the few exceptions I’ve seen. They even published a letter from Bruno, written just a few days before he died, explaining why he was serving in the Army.) I have an aunt who has organized an impressive local network of volunteers to send care packages to numerous troops. Frequently, she forwards their e-mails with their stories, which are so very different from most of what the media presents.*

Regardless of what one thinks of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, most people agree that those who serve in the military deserve our support. They’re already risking, even giving up, their lives for our country. If certain commentators and media outlets don’t agree with this, they only have that right because we have a long tradition of military men and women who have fought and died to protect that right for them. All I’m asking is that the soldiers themselves not be exploited, whether in the broadcasting of their injuries or by causing additional anxiety and suffering to their families.

Thanks to Pia de Solenni for the heavy sacrifice of a loved one.  Having deployed a son to Operation Iraqi Freedom in Fallujah at the very height of the violence in 2007, I know first hand what a heavy burden it is to bear up under the ubiquitous darkness of knowing that your flesh and blood  is under fire.  Friend and fellow Marine father Michael Ledeen signed his book The Iranian Time Bomb to me with these words: “To a fellow suffering father.”

I have suffered through having a son under fire, but not losing him in battle.  Losing a family member qualifies one, my my opinion, to have almost any view of the particular war, and seldom do I weigh in on the griefs or even views of others who have lost loved ones, even when they disagree with my own.  Andrew Bacevich is a good example.  Michael Ledeen and I have discussed Andrew, and while I am certain that he seldom writes anything with which I am in complete agreement, Andrew is qualified to speak his mind.  He lost a Marine son in the Anbar Province.

But Pia de Solenni’s opinion rings differently that mere commentary on a particular engagement or the overall campaign.  The commentary seems to be tilting towards self censorship of certain types of coverage and commentary of the war.  If something is too gruesome, too graphic, without enough prose or pictures of Soldiers and Marines walking hand in hand with indigenous peoples, then the coverage and commentary is without context.

Jim Foley is an embedded reporter who has been in theater since March.  According to his most recent communication to me, he is currently in Kandahar continuing to try to get a sense of things in that AO.  A quick survey of his blogroll and a longer survey of his prose shows him to be a well rounded reporter and analyst who is reporting with passion but also with balance.

No regular reader of my own posts over the last four years could possibly charge me with any sort of failure to provide context or lack of support for the troops.  But I have been critical when I felt that command or strategy deserved criticism, and for this I have been dropped from blogrolls, lost traffic, and received very tersely worded letters from various readers, including some military readers (usually in the NCO ranks, and usually among those who have yet to come to terms with blogs knowing anything about the detailed goings-on within the military).

If I comment on overall strategy, that should be left to the generals in the Pentagon.  If I link and comment on the rules of engagement, I am endangering the troops, regardless of the fact that they have previously been released on other web sites.  If I convey original reporting because of some contact I have within the military, I am cast into the same category as the military-hating main stream media if the reporting doesn’t have that jingoistic bent to it.

But war is violence, and so that I don’t rehearse the exploits of my son, I will refer to comments made by an Army officer in Iraq.

One thing that I think many people forget about Iraq (or maybe it wasn’t reported?) is that in 2007 and 2008 we were killing and capturing lots of people on a nightly basis. Protecting the populace was A priority. When speaking to the folks back home, in order to sell the war, perhaps we said that it was the priority. But on the ground, I do not recall a single Commander’s Update Brief spending any time at all discussing what we had done to protect anyone. We were focused on punching al-Qaeda in the nuts at every opportunity and dismantling their networks. The reconcilables got the message loud and clear that they could take money and jobs in return for cooperation, or they would die a swift death when we came knocking down their doors in the middle of the night. The rest of the populace made it clear to them that they should take the offer. The only protection that the population got from us was good fire discipline so that we did not kill non-combatants. We made it clear that the government intended to win this thing and we did not send that message by delivering governance or digging wells. We shot motherf******s in the face.  Pop-COIN blasphemers, your scripture is false teaching. Here is some truth:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; – Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (KJV)

It’s time to kill.

There are many experiences, many examples, and a huge amount of context to deal with in any analysis.  It isn’t possible to address all of it all of the time.  On the other hand, I have repeatedly addressed the lack of force projection in the Provinces of Nuristan and Kunar, the failures at Wanat and Kamdesh, and the hard work of the men who fought in the Korengal Valley, while still calling out the bravery of the men who did our fighting in Eastern Afghanistan and covering my Marines in Helmand.  Soldiers who have written me have felt the love, as well as agreed with me on many occasions as I argued for more force projection, more distributed operations, and enemy-centric tactics such as chasing the insurgents rather than just focusing on population centers.

In the case in point, I have observed that it makes little sense to send troops on patrols to be shot at, blown up, and dismembered, while the insurgents roam the hills unmolested.  The insurgents aren’t being killed and the population isn’t being protected.  More troops are required, and then a different set of tactics.  This observation doesn’t detract from the bravery of the Soldiers who went on this particular patrol.  In fact, this observation does indeed set the correct context.

Honesty and advocacy for their needs is the best context that can be given to the story.  Sometimes this involves glowing reports about giving cows to widows of the war so that their sons don’t turn to the insurgency.  At other times this involves saying that some tactic, strategy or doctrine doesn’t suit the need of the moment.  The former is routinely accepted by those who lean right of center.  The same right of center folk must learn to accept the later without calling it out as disloyalty or lack of full context.  It’s what honest reporters and good military bloggers do.

The Fifth Deployment

BY Jim Spiri
11 years, 2 months ago

The Fifth Deployment

April 27, 2009.  My son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, deployed again to the war zone.  This makes the fifth time in his 9-year career. He is an Army aviator.  As usual, he goes willingly.  It’s his job.  And, as usual, as his father, I and the rest of the family say, “Amen”.  But this time, it is not any easier than before.  It is actually harder.  One would think we would get used to it.  No one gets used to sending their son to war.

We’ve been there, in the war zone.  Both my wife and myself.  We have spent over three years there.  We are parents that actually got see our son in the war zone.  I actually got to fly with him on missions.  I’m a combat photographer. My wife and I both have worked for the military on numerous flight lines doing a variety of ground operations. I’ve seen a lot and know what happens in war.  I’ve never met anyone that actually gets used to war.

This time, I know I have at least one more tour in me.  Somewhere, somehow, I will find a way to visit my son during his tour as well as many, many other sons and daughters of America currently serving in harms way.  It is what I do.  I just cannot stay away.  Parents are depending on me to tell them that their sons and daughters are fine and strong and doing their jobs, willingly.  It is what warriors do.  It is the least I can do to stand in the gap for all the parents that cannot be there.  I never tire of wanting to be there and relay back home, “well done, soldier, marine, sailor, airman”.  Mother, father, relax! They are fine.  They are holding and carrying the torch we’ve passed to them well, very well.  I never will stop getting used to this.

I know loss.  I buried one son, a Marine, in 2001.  His name was Jesse.  From that suffering has grown a deep commitment to all the troops deployed and an even deeper commitment to the families at home awaiting their safe return.  My wife and I have been blessed to have worked with America’s finest since 2004 in the Iraq theatre of operations.  We’ve been there loading the wounded; we’ve been present during patriot details as fallen angels make their final journey home; we’ve loaded personal effects with great care and sent them home to the families; we’ve ushered in thousands of incoming troops and ushered home thousands more back stateside; we’ve seen them come on one, two, three and more tours; we’ve been there during attacks and been there on the front lines during extremely tense moments; and much, much more, too numerous to list.

The fifth time sending my son is harder than all the previous ones.  Not that the times are better or worse.  Rather, it’s the war zone and anything can happen as all who’ve been there know all too well.  It is all part of the job.  But this time, my son has triplet boys at home who will be awaiting his return.  They are 10-months old as he leaves this time, and when their father returns, they will be more than twice their current age, and they will not know their father other than email photos.  This hurts me for my son.  And my son will have another child born to him and his wife less than two months after he has deployed.  This time, this deployment is more than just a tour of duty.  It is a real life family affair with suffering already taking place just by the nature of the duration and the everyday life experiences of a young family growing as daddy goes off to war, again.

It is all part of the job.  But it does not make it any easier.  But we are all patriots who see the bigger picture.  The entire Spiri family marches in unison when duty calls, both in the war zone and on the homefront.  We are in one accord.  It is what we all must do.

This is not now nor never has been a time to debate the right or wrong of the mission those in authority over us have tasked us all with.  My son taught me long ago, early in his military career that I, as his father am always on a need to know basis.  And most of the time, I just don’t need to know.  However, I also taught my son early on from his youth that I have been in war zones since the time he was very, very young and that I am the one that told him daddy would come to the war zone should he ever get the call.  He now knows this by our joint experiences that this has come to pass and will come to pass once again.  Like I said earlier, this deployment is a family affair for the Spiris.

Our other children along with their children, (our grandchildren) support their uncle by writing letters, sending care packages from their school classrooms and adopting whole units who are my sons’ comrades in arms serving in harms way.  And as such, it stretches not just from a family affair, but all the way to a nation’s affair.  This is the reality of how a nation supports its warriors at war.  It starts at home and grows to the neighborhood and to the schools and eventually all across the nation support gains for those young warriors defending freedom a half a world away in very dangerous situations.  This is not just a theory, rather, it has been and will continue to be our experience.  It is the part we’ve all recited since our youth, “One nation, under God…”  It is real to the Spiri family.

My son’s young wife, Pamela, will be delivering our next grandchild in mid June.  She already is missing the love of her life, my son.  And he’s only been gone two days as of this writing.  But she is a strong young woman who knows the phrase, “When duty calls.”  She is the daughter of an Army aviator and now the wife of one.  She knew what she was up against before she married.  But it does not make it any easier.  She will be fine.  There is a strong family network of support on both sides.  My son can rest assured that the support network is up and running and in full active mode, already.  It is what our families do.

The reason I’m writing this to all who will take the time to read it is this: Our nation is at war.  It is never time to let up on supporting the troops.  I can surely testify to this as one who is now in the current experience of sending my son to war, again.  But I know from past experiences that relaying the current experience as a fellow citizen to the rest of the citizens of our nation will in fact strengthen us all in a positive fashion.  This in turn will strengthen our troops abroad.  And even more importantly, it will result in comforting me as I know the rest of you will be on your knees praying throughout this deployment for ALL of America’s sons and daughters currently in harms way, of which, my son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, is one.  He just happens to be my son.


Jim Spiri

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Concerning Iranian Weapons in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 1 month ago

Kazakhstani Soldiers received 14 Iranian 107 mm rockets and fuses at Forward Operating Base Delta, Dec. 4, from the Iraqi civil defense corps. The rockets, manufactured in 2006, were the first Iranian rockets to be turned over to coalition forces at FOB Delta (courtesy of DVIDS).

Michael Rubin’s Bad Neighbor is required reading for anyone presuming to speak intelligently on the issue of Iranian weapons in Iraq.  He gives a first hand account of Iranian meddling in Iraq in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  This is well known to those who have studied Iraq, and contrary to the latecomers to the Iraq news cycle, the burden of proof should be on those who claim that Iran is not sponsoring fighters inside Iraq.

But some of the latecomers to the issue of Iranian meddling (mostly the main stream media) are in a dustup over some recent reporting concerning the same.  We’ll give a very quick synopsis and link the sources so that the reader can assess the whole narrative for himself.  Tina Susman reporting and blogging for the LA Times made some comments on a press briefing by Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner to the effect that it was odd that speaking of seizing a significant weapons cache in Karbala, he didn’t mention any of the weapons as being Iranian.

A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.  When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.

Caught red handed, they were, assuming that all weapons must certainly be Iranian, ready to trot out more “evidence” until it was correctly examined.  A little later, MSNBC (Keith Olbermann) used this post as a source to level a number of charges at the Multinational Force (this was the big day … none of these weapons were Iranian … “you do realize, they are making all of this up about Iran” … and so on).

Well, Tina didn’t like this very much, and responded with a few slaps of her own at Olbermann.

This should set the record straight for those who have no plans to read the blog item or view the MSNBC report: the Los Angeles Times did not report that Bergner’s May 7 briefing was supposed to be “the big day” that the American military showed off the Iranian weapons it has long said are being smuggled into Iraq. The Times did not report that Bergner had told us this briefing was going to be a “dog and pony show” offering conclusive evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s unrest.

As reported by us, this was just another of the regular briefings that Bergner and other U.S. military and Iraqi officials hold for the Iraqi and international media.  

The Times also did not report that U.S. officials had re-examined the caches listed by Bergner and found none of them to contain Iranian-made or Iranian-supplied items. We stated that one group of munitions — not necessarily among those cited by Bergner — had been scheduled for viewing by some media during an event in Karbala arranged by the Iraqi military. But U.S. explosives experts, taking a closer look at the items, concluded they did not include Iranian items.

This event had nothing to do with Bergner’s briefing. In fact, that Karbala cache detonation occurred May 3, four days before Bergner’s briefing, so the items he cited could not have been the same ones scheduled to be shown to the media since they already had been destroyed …

As for the alleged Iranian weapons themselves, there’s still no plan to show them off, even though both U.S. and Iraqi officials insist they have not backed off their allegations. The Iraqi government, though, has clearly decided it is better to tread softly when confronting its powerful eastern neighbor on such an inflammatory issue. As Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s advisor, Sadiq Rikabi, said recently, Iraq is the weakest member in the Iran-U.S.-Iraq party. Even if Tehran and Washington want to level accusations at one another, Iraq needs to get along with each of them and prefers quiet talks to public feuding.

Maj. Gen. Bergner’s most recent comments should also be noted, lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the sole job of the Multinational Force is to make either Tina Susman or Keith Olbermann happy, responding to their every whim.

Before discussing the latest events in Iraq, I would like to briefly address a misinterpretation of comments made last week about a large weapons cache that was found in Karbala by Iraqi security forces. Because of the great quantity of weapons in that particular weapons cache, some speculated that the find was connected to collections of Iranian weapons which we have found num-…and shown numerous times over the past 12 months. The story of the Karbala weapons cache and the previous reports of collections of Iranian-made weapons are not linked. They were not linked in our remarks last week and that was…we were very clear in our comments last week that specifically said that in our remarks. However, over the course of the last several months, we have publicly discussed numerous times and shown numerous times the evidence – on four separate occasions – of what we have found and continue to find: Iranian-made weapons in the hands of criminals in Iraq. We have also discussed what we have…we have also discussed the evidence that we have found that Iraqi militants are being trained in Iran and receiving funding through [the] Iranian Quds Force to conduct violent attacks in Iraq. We have highlighted these finds in public because they are an issue of influence and sovereignty related to how a neighboring country can support or undermine security and stability. With this evidence, the Government of Iraq has recently engaged its neighbor and again sought fulfillment of Iranian commitments previously made to stop the flow of weapons, training, and funding. Prime Minister Maliki has established a committee to collect and analyze the reports of Iranian activity and to develop a unified approach. We will continue to provide information and evidence we have collected to the Government of Iraq to be considered along with their own evidence from the Iraqi security forces.

Or in other words, “do you honestly expect us to trot out proof every day of assertions we have previously made, as if without enough evidence to convince you of these facts, we aren’t doing our jobs?  We do have day jobs.”  Keith Olbermann is obviously just a court jester and cannot be taken seriously.  Tina Susman is a reporter, but this is why all of this “reporting” and exchange of meaningless banter is so disappointing.  There is a real story which underlies what is happening.  It comes to us from the Gulf News.

Conflicting statements between the Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman and the ruling Shiite coalition led by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim have raised concerns.

While the spokesperson for Baghdad operations, Qasem Atta, confirmed that Iranian-made rockets and mortars were found in Baghdad and are used by the Mahdi Army, coalition leaders denied any existence of real evidence of Iran’s involvement in supporting Shiite armed groups.

Al Maliki’s position also contradicts with the Shiite coalition led by Al Hakim.

Munder Al Khuza’ai, a strategic researcher, told Gulf News: “I believe there is a division within the Shiite coalition bloc.

“[One] is led by Al Hakim and [former premier] Ebrahim Al Ja’afari who oppose the US and the Iraqi Defence Ministry.

“The [other] is represented by Al Maliki and the national security advisor Muwafaq Al Rubaie who support using pressure on Iran for backing Iraqi militias.”

“I am confident that forming a governmental investigating commission about Iranian interference in Iraq’s security is supported by Al Hakim because it was expected that the Iraqi government would take strict actions against Iran especially after finding Iranian weapons in Basra and the Sadr City,” Al Khuza’ai said in reference to Al Hakim’s opposition to form the commission to gain more time to hold talks with the Iranians.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry, which is controlled by militias affiliated to Shiite coalition parties, refused to show evidence convicting Iran of supporting the Mahdi Army with weapons, unlike the Iraqi Ministry of Defence which condemned Iran and displayed evidences gathered from Basra.

There are many reasons for the ruling Shiite coalition’s denial to all evidence provided against Iran, said political analysts.

“Firstly, recognising Iran’s intervention means condemning the Shiite coalition leaders who have close … ties with Iran for two decades,” Imad Jabara, a political analyst, told Gulf News.

“Secondly, it would justify the US policy of striking Iranian influence inside Iraq, and thirdly, it would send a positive message to Sunni armed groups that had long talked about an Iranian interference” in Iraq, Jabara said.

Iraqi journalists in Baghdad said most Shiite political forces were proud of Iranian support to the political process and that Iran was among the first countries which recognised the new situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussain’s regime, yet now there is a feeling of embarrassment because Iran is accused of destroying the whole Iraqi political process.

There is posturing and positioning within the Shi’ite political blocs in Iraq.  They know full well the role of Iranian funds, weapons and personnel.  Everyone in Iraq knows it.  Trotting out the evidence means some very significant things, including the Sunni bloc forcing their hand to rid Iraq of Iranian influence, something they have wanted from the beginning.  It also means termination of some very deep seated and long lasting ties with Iran (including not just the IRG but Quds, and with every single Shi’ite political bloc, not just the Sadrists).  Iraq is going through the equivalent of political convulsions right now, and in response reporters are counting numbers and second guessing statements in press briefings.  And of course, Keith Olbermann is entertaining us, wishing that he was a real reporter.

There is more, as there always is.  Army Colonel H. R. McMaster, advisor to General David Patraeus, has recently set out a certain course for understanding the role of Iran inside Iraq.

Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who has served multiple tours in Iraq, yesterday described Iran’s activities as part of an unofficial talk on the evolution of the Iraq war he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute here. Although he emphasized that “Iraq’s communities have largely stopped shooting at each other” and that the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq “is on its way to defeat,” he said Iraq remains a “weak state,” and that Iranian involvement was intended to keep it so.

Iran’s activities are “obvious to anyone who bothers to look into it,” and should no longer be “alleged,” he said in response to a question. Senior American military officials said last month that the U.S. military in Iraq has compiled a briefing with detailed evidence of Iran’s involvement in Iraq violence, but the briefing has yet to be made public.

McMaster, who led a successful campaign in the northern Iraqi city of Tall Afar in 2005, said Iran has trained Iraqi militia members as snipers and organized them in “assassination cells” to kill certain people opposed to Iranian influence.

There is also the little thing of twenty Katyusha rockets (you know, the same kind that Hezbollah has) recently hurled at the British base at the Basra airport.  But so that The Captain’s Journal doesn’t also get hung up on trotting out evidence, we’ll summarize by saying that the real story lies waiting for Tina Susman and people like her to draw out.  Sitting in the Green Zone (or in Los Angeles) and dissecting press briefings is below the true reporter and analyst.

Tribute to Readers

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 6 months ago

Reader and thinker Dominique Poirier, a long time friend of The Captain’s Journal and contributor to learned comments, has released a tribute to us via YouTube.  I am not only flattered by this video, but also struck at his American patriotism.  I recall one specific e-mail to me in which this citizen of France recited the pledge of allegiance – the U.S. pledge of allegiance – while making glowing observations about American culture and heritage.  But I am also struck at what a good video this is.  It is good to the extent that it shows our fighting man and his surroundings, his toil, and his emotions.  I have been deeply rooted in thinking and praying over our warriors for quite a long time now. I thank Dominique for this video, and it shows how committed he is to the campaign, to freedom around the globe, and to living in peace with fellow man.  It is well worth the three minutes it took to view it.

Carry On!

BY Jim Spiri
12 years, 6 months ago

Word on the local news here in Albuquerque today is that another New Mexico soldier has been killed in combat.  Captain Thomas Casey, 32, was killed in Sadiyah, Iraq in the past 72-hours.  Not many details have been released, however he was a member of a Military Transition Team and was one of two soldiers killed when insurgents attacked his team with small arms fire.  The flag in my back yard will fly at half staff in remembrance of Captain Casey.  I did not know him, but nonetheless he will be missed by all in New Mexico.

This week I had a visitor to my home.  His name is Sgt. “Drew” Miller.  Sgt. Miller is a member of 2/7 Cav with whom I was able to spend many a combat mission during my stay in Mosul, Iraq.  I had always extended an open invitation to all the soldiers I met on my journey to visit should they find themselves passing through Albuquerque.  Sgt. Miller was the first to take me up on my offer.  My wife and I are glad he did, as we extended our brand of Southwestern hospitality to him.  We found ourselves discussing a whole range of topics including Mosul and Iraq in general.  The time seemed to go by too fast and his brief overnight stay was over before I knew it.  After he left, I found myself thinking deeply about the recent past and the upcoming future.  I will try to explain as best I can.

As most know, the transition period from combat deployment to “normal life back in the world” is a challenge for anyone.  There are ranges of emotions and experiences that transpire no matter who has to pass through this path.  It just happens.  I am relieved to say that so far, those I’ve been in contact with are making the transition in good order.  But we all have times that bother us and being able to go through it with other comrades is a blessing.  Sgt. Miller is fine, and so are my wife and I.  Yet, when we come in contact with those that have been there, we each find ourselves speaking about the things that matter and the things in our daily life that seem more on the not so important side of it all, tend to not rile us as much as they used to.  In any event, what I am trying to convey is simply this….being in the company of a comrade whose been in harms way, is a reassuring experience to help us to “carry on.”

And carry on we must.

In recent events that I follow via various news sources it is apparent that the north part of Iraq is still a very hot locale and war continues.  All must admit that a substantial amount of progress has been accomplished thanks to the superb efforts General David Petraeus and all those who have been under his command. Even those in the current political hooplah, vying for a position on the Presidential ticket, have to admit this obvious result.  Although the “spin factor” is nearly always present in everyone’s rhetoric, no one can argue that when the military is called upon to pull the politicians out of a jam, the warriors always step up to the plate and perform the tasks at hand.

And they just carry on.

I’ve been spending much time these days going back over photos, audios and writings that I gathered in 2007 from the journey I took in Iraq.  Looking back on the photos and listening to the audios and re-reading the posts that I reported, I’m understanding the events as fresh history and looking forward to what paths to take for the good of all concerned.  At the same time, I find myself bombarded with the noise of the current political atmosphere called, “The 2008 Presidential Campaign” and spending a bit of time sorting out who is saying what and why.  This is a monumental challenge.  But in the end, I realize that it is not so important to become bogged down in the process, but more important to look forward to whatever the outcome is determined to be.  I find much solace in the realization that the best thing I can do is to say, “Amen,” and carry on.

The world events of this day and age are enormous and carry a weight upon us all that cause each and everyone of us to recognize that we are indeed living in a time that is unprecedented. However I remember at times traveling through places in Iraq and having the distinct realization that I was walking over terrain that had been traversed by many before me thousands of years earlier.  They too had been a part of historical battles that many of us have read about beginning in Sunday school classes as little children.  Today, we are no different, we are just present in 2008.  I know in the depths of my being there is a plan that is much bigger than I am.  What exactly that plan is, may not be fully realized by me alone.  But my experience as of late has shown me that my comrades in arms are a part of it and together what I currently see in part, may be made known in full as I take each day forward, one step at a time.  Never before have I been so clear as I am at this moment to just….
“Carry On.”

Perhaps in the days and weeks ahead, more of my friends will visit.  Everyone who knows me is aware that when someone knocks on my door, it shall be opened.  It is not so much what I have to offer someone, rather, my experience tells me that I have received much more than I have ever been able to impart.  For this one reason alone, I press on for one more journey to report among those I come in contact with for all to enjoy.  It is why I am diligently seeking to return and follow the steps once again of those in harms way.  They have so much to share with us all in the midst of such a complicated situation.  This is the enjoyable part of “supporting the troops”.  I am glad Sgt. “Drew” Miller stopped by my home.  I am encouraged and strengthened to “carry on.”

In the mean time, I will continue to find things to write about and relate it to what I see as the burden at hand.  The war in Iraq is still very much a day to day process.  Although I am half a world away from it at the moment, I need to look no further than the flag in my back yard and realize that many thousands are still carrying on for the many millions still at home.

I look forward to all your comments and replies and will respond to each of them personally.  For more information how to become a part of my next journey, feel free to contact me at: or phone me at home at: 505-898-1680.

“Carry On…!”

Jim Spiri

And They Came Home

BY Jim Spiri
12 years, 6 months ago

It’s been a while but now is the time to write.

The troops I covered in both Mosul, Fallujah, and other places in Iraq, including my own son in Taji, have returned home now.  For many, the reunion was glorious and very long awaited. I was able to be present on one particular homecoming on December 8, 2007, at Biggs Army Airfield, in Ft. Bliss, Texas, near El Paso.  Members of 2/7 Cav came home via commercial airliner and arrived to a multitude of family and friends all quite excited.  It was a sight to see and a lasting image in my mind shall remain forever.  I felt that it was the culmination to a long journey that had to be witnessed.

As many of you know, I’ve been  home since October.  I knew that the others would follow by early December.  My wife and I made the trip from Albuquerque to El Paso one day in early Devcember and coordinated with the ones in charge to be present.  It was good once again to be among the warriors who “have been there and done that” as the daily life routine of adjusting to the “normal” life presses on. And it will continue.

As I watched the plane taxi to its designated parking spot, I found myself once again with my camera awaiting the opportunity to snap the steps of warriors, this time returning home.  In years past, I’ve been among parents who awaited their own sons and I surely knew the feelings inside.  This time, I would be a comrade with a camera and feel just as close as any other family member.  For these ones had taken care of me as I was able to record for history their journey and experiences in the war zone a half a world away.  Now, we would all be on familiar ground together.

I would meet family members who knew of me but I did not know them.  Many came up to me prior to the arrival of their warrior and embraced me as one of their own.  Through the blog I had managed to touch and connect the soldier to the family from afar. It was all good.

To describe the entire scene and convey all the emotions is a challenge.  But, everyone can imagine that it was just right and realize that words alone cannot completely explain it all.  There were children awaiting their dads, wives awaiting their husbands, parents awaiting their sons and daughters, husbands awaiting their wives, grandparents awaiting their grandchildren and so on and so forth.  In short, it was America awaiting their sons and daughters home from war.  It was the heartbeat of America at full pulse, and it was good.

In the time since I’ve returned from Iraq, and the homecoming as well, I’ve pondered all that I’ve experienced in the past year or so.  I can only say that I have been most blessed to be a part of the “mission”.  It is true that adjusting to the life at home is full of challenges.  The most complicated part of being home is trying to find ones way without a mission at hand.  But in time, it comes to pass.  But it is a challenge.

As I greeted each soldier that I recognized as they walked off the plane and stepped onto American soil, I saw smiles and excitement and the awareness of a familiar face to greet them.  As each one was directed to the processing area, I followed them and was present as they waited to see their families.  Each are taken to a warehouse type area where a brief process is done and a coordinating of the group takes place prior to the march into the waiting area where families are.  I had the opportunity to see them one by one and speak briefly to many of them.  Their trip had been long but everyone was wide awake.  In a half hour or so, they would march into the area where the hundreds and hundreds of family and friends were waiting.

As the time came for the march to the waiting area, I made my way back to where the families were.  The crowd was electric.  The time had come.  The automatic door was raised and the entire group marched in unison and perfect step.  The crowd all cheered with screams and yells of joy that could drown out any sports stadium gathering.  Then, the announcer said, “welcome home, dismissed…!”  And the crowd all met the soldiers.

It was a beautiful and glorious sight.

Soon, the crowd would diminish and the flow of folks would disperse.  I managed to snap some photos and observe families with tears of joy embracing one another with soldiers encompassed by loved ones.  One by one they would leave for their homes.  As I was leaving I found one family whose son I had covered.  The father recognized me and came up to me and hugged me and simply said, “Thank you Jim”.  He knew I had found his son in Mosul and relayed a story of his son’s courage and experiences.  This one father had made the trip for me all the worth while.  I could hardly speak but as fathers we both knew what the sons had done.  We said good bye as the crowds were now almost gone.

Upon leaving the facility, we made our way down one hallway that I had seen earlier.  It was here that I knew I had to pass through once more before I left.  For in this particular hallway there are the photos of members of the unit that did not return home from Iraq alive.  As I passed by the photos of the fallen, I stared intently at one in particular.  His name was Captain McGovern, of Echo Company.  I had done a mission with his men at one point in time and wrote about it on the blog.  I recalled Capt. McGovern and  thought of the last time I saw him.  This face I had known.  He was killed less than a month after I left Iraq.  I followed the story over the Internet from my home in Albuquerque, NM.  As I stared at his photograph, I realized that other families were suffering in the midst of others rejoicing.

Candi and I left Biggs Army Airfield at Ft. Bliss, Texas that night. We drove back the five hours late at night to Albuquerque.

I realize now more than ever that this journey never ends.  I will go back to Iraq once again, soon, hopefully by March 1, 2008 and continue following the stories of more of America’s sons and daughters in harms way in what we call “The War in Iraq.”

To find out more how you can help and be a part of the next journey, contact me via email or phone at the address below.


Jim Spiri
phone:  505-898-1680

Click pictures to enlarge.


Sgt. Moreno of the 27th BSB, from Ft. Bliss, TX is seen greeted by his daughter upon return from Iraq on 12/8/07.  Photo by Jim Spiri


An unknown soldier is seen with his family after returning home from Mosul, Iraq, on 12/8/07 at Ft. Bliss, TX. Photo by Jim Spiri



Photos by Jim Spiri, 12/8/07, Ft. Bliss, TX.  Family and friends of members of 2/7 Cav, await the homecoming of their soldiers at Biggs Army Airfield, Ft. Bliss, TX.


Photos by Jim Spiri, 12/8/07, Ft. Bliss, TX.  Spc. Doyle, Sgt. Miller and Sgt. DeCarlo, of 2/7 Cav, are seen arriving home from Mosul, Iraq into Biggs Army Airfield at Ft. Bliss, TX on December 8, 2007.


A mother and father await the return of their son from Iraq.


Photos by Jim Spiri, 12/8/07.  An unidentified soldier is seen holding his son for the first time upon his return from duty in Iraq.


Spc. Simon Valdez, of Albuquerque, NM is seen greeted by a relative upon his return from Mosul, Iraq.  Valdez and I traveled extensively on combat patrols in the summer through the streets of Mosul.

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