Moonstruck Marines with Attitude Lost in Desert

The Phnom Penh Post’s indefatigable Sheikh Ya’erbuti, now senior Iraq correspondent has left Kuwait and is with the marines in southern Iraq. He filed this piece on March 26.

AL-NASARIYAH, Southern Iraq: Machine Gunner Lance Corporal Robert Carr likes his guns, wears a tattoo that says “attitude problem” carries pornography in his flak where his armor plates should be and despite some interest doesn’t really know much about astronomy.

He was my escort across the border into Iraq, and as dusk fell while heading north he asked me: “Why did we go tonight sir?”

“Because lad, it’s a little darker, there’s not much light and that provides us with some cover.”

“How does that work,” the 20-year-old asked with some surprise while meticulously breaking down his M16, loading a 50 caliber machine gun and keeping an eye on Miss July.

“Well, the moon rotates around the earth and the earth rotates around the sun and with different alignments the shines various amounts of light on given position, so the moon’s spin had a hand in timing the invasion.”

He looked extremely puzzled, forgot his weapon and asked: “Do you mean that sometimes the moon doesn’t shine at night?”

“Yes lad.”

Carr was incredulous, scoffed disbelievingly, and sulked all over Miss August.

With his navigation skills to the fore, Carr and crew then has us lost for six hours that night. Separated from the main convoy we crisscrossed the back-blocks of Southern Iraq gulping sand in zero visibility with our dear but annoyed Lance Corporal looking for someone to kill.

Carr told me he had a girlfriend which I said was good for a man of his condition.

Eventually the main convoy was found. We were told it had splintered after taking fire. It took another day-and-a-half to find the missing. Almost all were accounted for.

Just before crossing into Iraq we were briefed by Colonel Joe Dowdy, who bears a strong resemblance to Marlon Brando’s Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He declared at the start the start of his military chat with the civilized press: “I’m a dead romantic and I make no apologies for it. We have the tools to go inside Iraq and impose our will.”

That will was supposed to put us within 200 kilometers of of Baghdad within three days. By Day Three his beloved moonstruck marines were nowhere in sight of that target and still getting lost, so I ditched Carr and hitched a ride with an ambulance straight into Nasariyah, where disaster struck.

The Iraqis held off for three days and two bloody nights, inflicting the worst casualties of the war to date.which made Dowdy’s romantice notions appear shamefully insane. Those Iraqi chaps actually enjoy and good fight. Al-Fdihr will play to the death and definitely don’t like invaders. The American enemy halted the entire show at night after the Iraqis used the moonlight to spot and pin down the advance but it cost the Iraqis dearly. I counted morew than 100 dead on the roadside. Their flesh was still burning. One civilian car had taken a missile straight through its roof. Odd thing though its headlights were still on.

Despite what Washington says, its coalition war does not go that well Four-and-a-half days were lost in the first six by 5,000 marines. Baghdad is not in sight and in its defense Washington offers cleches like “tactical shifts” which are being thrown around by senior brass like grog from Waqil’s still in a dry country.

The lines that followed our first night of confusion included: “Some bullets were heard and people strayed. This is expected in this kind of invasion. No big deal.” Not quite my interpretation of events.

Which reminds me of Lance Corporal Carr whose magazines were rather tasteful. Later that night the moon eventually came into sight. He pointed at it, looked at me and said with an I-told-you-so gr5in spread wide across his face: “See the moon is always in the sky at night. See it over there, it’s always over there.”

:PS: Dear readers it seems that Waqil and my came, Spit, were lost during the first night of confusion. Last I remember was Waqil clinging to my boot while bouncing out of the back of a testosterone-soaked Humvee. I kicked him free and onto one of Saddam’s minefields, clouded by something called anthrax. He was leaving damaging scuff marks on my heels. But I look forward to seeing him and his illicit still in Baghdad. I am fine, Spit will follow. S.Y.

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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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