"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The seat of the caliphate

Since my last post, I really, really hoped something interesting would happen during my night shift, because I doubt any of you could take much more of who won the BSG board game (no one, can't get a group together to play yet) or the scientific and chronological inconsistencies of the new Star Trek movie. Well, lo and behold, the last couple of flights have delivered. I suppose in one sense they weren't awe-inspiring or heart-stopping, since we're still flying ass and trash around, but we've stopped at some new zones we were never allowed to fly into last year. So, two nights ago, for the first time (for me, anyway) I flew into Baghdad and landed at Baghdad International. On the one hand, it was hard to savor the moment because at the time, my aircraft had attempted to land on the wrong runway and we were desperately circling trying to find the right runway with tower all the while asking just what the hell we were up to. Highly unprofessional, I know, but it's not like we fly into Baghdad every day. We don't. This flight was only the second which had tasked our squadron to go there this deployment, and to my knowledge, prior to this deployment CH-53s hadn't been to Baghdad since, oh, the invasion. So even the most experienced among us were rookies. No matter, we found where we were supposed to go, finished our mission, and went home.

Then, this last night, we got to fly there again - and up to Taji, a little to north and another zone 53s virtually never go to - and this time, we landed in the right place; and this time, I could appreciate it a little more. Oh, it looked like virtually any other city through the goggles (green and very bright), but there was the Tigris winding its way down from the north, through the city that was once the wonder of the medieval world under the old Caliphs, in a land whose ancients brought forth the notions of civilization and empire. The simple fact that we could land in this city now is a sign that a new Iraq is emerging from the bloody chaos that followed the collapse of the old; that in the cradle of civilization, a new civil order was taking hold, if Iraqis can keep it. There wasn't much free time getting into and out of the city, but should we go there again, I will try to get at least one picture of the old girl.

These last two flights also reminded us of the cold hard fact that there are still some brutal killers out there who would love to plunge Iraq back into the chaos from which she is now recovering. As we flew into a couple of other zones on the outskirts of the city, some of the lights below us would suddenly go out as we passed over. And I'm not talking about someone turning off their porch light; entire blocks went dark, like a giant switch had been flipped. This is a known technique insurgents use to help their shooters target aircraft at night. Nothing came of it but increased vigilance on our part; still, we need to remember that it's Indian country out there, and it only takes a handful of determined bad guys to ruin our day. It will still take time to hunt the last of these bad guys down.

4 comments:

Winefred said...

I keep trying to leave a comment but your site isn't having it --
once more, with feeling:

Sometimes life actually is more interesting than Star Trek.

Coooool

Pictures would be even cooler.

CJHC said...

I'm presently reviewing Islamic Empire with the 6th graders, teaching Crusades, and earlier this year the 7th grade did Ottoman Empire... how cool to see Bagdad!
Just remember to CYA.
Cheers

The Sweeney's said...

Dear Ian,
Apparently my husband is supporting your squadron, from Afghanistan. Please make his life difficult. JK (Or am I?) :)

Love,

JSwee

Cincinnatus said...

Pictures will be forthcoming the next time we get sent there, should there be a next time. They will consist of my 2 megapixel iPhone camera wedged up against night vision goggles, but you'll still see something.

It was pretty awesome seeing Baghdad, even if only from a few thousand feet and at night. I've probably said this before elsewhere on these pages, but my hope is that one day, American veterans will be able to go back and walk the streets they fought over in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, etc (or flew over, in my case) as common tourists, able to enjoy the culture of the country they spent so much time and blood rebuilding.

Don't worry about my A, it's Ced. We have plenty of gear on the aircraft to counter whatever bad guys might throw at us, plus several motivated crew chiefs who would just love to wreak some hate and discontent with their 50 cals.

JSwee, good to hear from you and I trust all is well with you and the little (is he still little?) one on the home front. Due to our geographic separation, I have no direct means with which to make your husband's life difficult; however, I have a small det of friends out in the Stan right now who would happily act as my proxy. I'll tell them to get on it.