This will be short, but needs to get on out of the way so I can finish preparing to bring you the real stories from this visit. These things need to be laid to rest so we all can move on to what's really important, in terms of both people and events.
I have no idea where Paul McLeary may be. My challenge to him:
...Since there are some profound and troubling issues that remain, let me make an offer. This fat ol' crip is willing to take a leave of absence, or quit my day job if necessary, to take a trip to embed with the troops. As part of that journey, let's you and I go visit the unit in question, and let the people there tell you the problem with the message. Let's visit a few other milbloggers while we are at it, maybe a few other bloggers period, and see if they can help. I'm willing to put it all on the line right now, especially if the money could be raised to cover the process via PMI, and to ensure I still had a lair to which to return. How about it, are you and CJR willing to put your money where your mouth is? I'm willing to put my body and what meager funds I have on the line for this. How about you?...
And the response:
A few days ago, I issued a challenge to Paul McLeary and CJR, and Paul has accepted that challenge...
He isn't here, and I haven't heard from him in some time. I e-mailed him in the last couple of weeks before I came over, and never heard back. No one over here I've talked to has heard of him or if he is coming to Iraq to cover any story any time soon.
It is true that I am out with the 1/18 and am at the COP where Scott was/is stationed. I haven't seen him, and to be very frank, he has been peripheral to this long before I came over. He was the spark and Paul the catalyst for my coming over here.
Was there a grain of truth around some of Scott's postings? Yes. In talking with various sergeants and others, there were some bones found. Some were apparently cow bones, and what may be/is a gravesite (not mass) was not disturbed once it was found. The people who control/own this area were not aware of any grave here, so the First Sergeant decided just to leave it be in an abundance of caution. There are a number of feral dogs here, and some have been indeed been shot. If an obviously sick dog, foaming at the mouth, is agressive, then it should be shot. So should anything that poses a threat to the troops.
From what I am seeing and otherwise finding out, there are a lot of feral dogs around here and in Iraq in general. It also appears that distemper, rabies, and a number of other diseases are a problem with wild animals including feral dogs, and it is not unusual to see obviously sick animals, and those that have died from various diseases.
Yet, these are largely side issues. There was concern with some that I was coming to do a hatchet job on Scott, but that isn't why I came. I came to report on the reality of day-to-day life here, for Scott has been irrelevant to that story and the larger stories for some time now. As for what happens to him within the Army, what I do know is that he is under a first sergeant who, according to quite a few people, has a reputation for taking problems and making them good.
To be honest, were I to see Scott I would have to thank him, for without what he did, I wouldn't be here. The same is true of Paul, for without his mistaken posting, my challenge to him to come out and report the reality would never have been issued or accepted. Right now, I also have to thank Paul, because by not showing up he has given me some very good exclusives.
Despite some technical glitches, the real stories will be coming out in the days ahead. If I can get some of them fixed in time, there will be photos, video, and audio with them as they post; if not, I will post the photos, video, and audio later. West Rashid is tipping, and the implications are profound.
There is a Captain you should know, because the tip is largely his doing -- and if the Stars have a brain at all, they will be grooming him for higher command. There is a First Sergeant who epitomizes what a good NCO should be, and if I can catch him for the interview you will indeed get to know him. There are a lot of people you should meet, and I hope to introduce you to some of them as well. Not as many as I would like, for my time here is far too short to do even a fraction of them as well as they deserve. There are some bigger picture items that will be headed to PMI for posting, and the small stuff/personal stuff will be over at my place.
Meantime, I'm going to go out and try to get some more interviews done, experience all I can, and try to share some of it with you. There are some very good stories here, and now that this is out of the way, I and the people here can concentrate on bringing them to you.
LW (In Iraq)