Email from Afghanistan

I arrived in Bagram Air Force Base (BAF), Afghanistan on Sept. 27th, 2008, and over the course of two days, turned in my ammunition and sat through briefings about vehicle safety, family discord, suicide awareness, and mental health. Collectively, soldiers call them the “don’t-beat-your-wife classes.”

BAF is a sprawling military base full of shipping containers, new construction, gravel fields, military vehicles, hangars, fast food restaurants, Port-A-Johns and strangers in Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, French, Polish, and Egyptian uniforms, or with Lockheed Martin t-shirts, or Slavic accents and Kellog Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Haliburton) ID tags hanging from their necks. People would salute me and wear reflective belts at night, which, having newly arrived from the highly kinetic Kunar Province, felt ridiculous. (Read more of my essay on atlantic.com)

Iran is NOT coming to get me

This brief (300-word) letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Iowa, October 16th 2007.

     In last week’s Republican presidential debate, all the candidates except for Ron Paul went on ad nauseam about the Islamo-fascist regime bent on destroying all of Western civilization.
     This would be quite an accomplishment for a nation whose national GDP is comparable to the state of Alabama’s.
     The sentiments are echoed by many prominent figures in the press who have propagated an inexcusable misquotation with frightening efficiency. Ahmadinejad never threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.”
     The war cheerleading smacks of the same duplicity that led to the invasion of Iraq. Even the supposedly liberal New York Times subsequently apologized for deliberately suppressing stories that questioned the invasion of Iraq.
     The Iranian threat is not nearly as dire as depicted. We have faced a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear North Korea. I agree with former CENTCOM commander General Abizaid: we can live with a nuclear Iran. Their regime is not suicidal.
     Military action against Iran, no matter how precise and limited, would certainly escalate, erase our modest gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, instantly jeopardize our soldiers overseas, destabilize Pakistan (who already has nukes), and cause terrorism against us to skyrocket.
     I doubt the sincerity of those making a hysterical case for war. James Madison warned us “the means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
     If we are supposed to be so scared of terrorists that we start a third war in six years, that we accept concessions already made to our constitutional liberties, it seems like a no-brainer to do something about our completely porous borders.
     The fear-mongering is completely hypocritical so long as our borders are ignored. It’s analogous to a child on a playground, sticking out his chin. “Hit me, so I can have my war.”
     Enough is enough.

See it in the Daily Iowan. (I didn’t choose their title.)
250-word version published in Fayetteville Observer, Nov 5th, 2007.

On the Day of Calamity

This story appears in The Steel City Review, Fall 07 issue.

UDPATE (Nov 7): It has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

On the Day of Calamity
the Sons of Light Shall Battle with the Company of Darkness

    It was a warm November second or first. The clouds spent the day gathering and breaking apart and gathering again.
    The Democrats were poised to take back Congress, and even though we didn’t know too much about politics, my friends and I were all jazzed . . . (read more)

A Brief Tour of the Holy Land

Three bums touring the Holy Land

Well, almost a year after my tour of the Holy Land, I published the essay about my trip. It’s long – almost 8,000 words. Two fairly well-known magazines expressed interest, then said no. Finally, the great travel-writing website, GoNomad.com published it. I’m very proud of this essay.

A Brief Tour of the Holy Land

     Last summer, my friend Steffen and I decided to follow through on plans to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and went despite the war between Israel and Lebanon that had just begun.
     We happened to be Iraq veterans – in addition to fishing partners, drinking partners, each other’s wingmen, concerned citizens of the world, and students of the Arabic language, which was how we met at the University of Iowa. Officially, I was an M.F.A. student in the Writers’ Workshop. Steffen was moving to Jordan to continue studying Arabic, so it seemed a natural detour for him, and I still had deployment money left from my time in Iraq. I promised my mother to not get hurt, and to stay away from the actual fighting in Lebanon, Northern Israel, and Gaza. (more)

The Wall in Bethlehem

Something Worth Fighting For

Hurray! I published a story. “Something Worth Fighting For” has appeared in the summer 2007 issue of Front Porch Journal.

This is the first story I put up for workshop at Iowa. I returned to it very slowly. Advice can be difficult.

Something Worth Fighting For

     “Did you ever kill anyone?” she asked. Then reconsidered. “I’m sorry, never mind.” She bit her glossy lip. “It’s just, I’m really interested, because it’s really interesting.” Her eyebrows arced high, and her dainty earrings dangled as she spoke.
     The young man twisted on his stool, as if working out a kink in his spine. It was dark, inside and out. The bar was nearly empty. The happy couples had long since left. Only a few desperate patrons still lingered.
     She said something else. And then something else.
     The young man nodded. She prattled on about the virtues of dissent, hooking and jabbing at him like a boxer, all the while keeping her dukes up, leaving no opening to exploit. He sat with polo shirt tucked into constricting wrinkle-free slacks.
     When he’d returned from the war a couple months ago, he learned two things: That his girlfriend whom he told not to wait for him, in fact, didn’t, and that life was very easy – mostly. The important things were easy. Going for a walk, for example. Eating. Sleeping.(more)