The 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
AN-NASARIYAH, Southern Iraq: Machine-Gunner Lance-Corporal
Robert Carr likes his guns, wears a tattoo that says "Attitude problem", carries
his pornography in his flak vest where his armor plates should be, and despite
some interest he doesn't really know that 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
"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 moon shines
various amounts of light on any 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."
Carr was incredulous, scoffed disbelievingly, and sulked all over
With his navigational skills to the fore, Carr and crew then
had us lost for six hours on that first 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
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 of his military chat
with the civilized press: "I'm a dead romantic and I make no apologies for it.
We, the Marines, have the tools to go inside Iraq and impose our
That will was supposed to put us within 200 kilometers of Baghdad
within three days. By Day Three his beloved moon-struck 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
The Iraqis held off for three days and two bloody nights,
inflicting the worst casualties of the war, which made Dowdy's romantic notions
appear shamefully insane. Those Iraqi chaps actually enjoy a good fight.
Al-Fdihr will play to the death and definitely don't like invaders.
American enemy halted the entire show at night, using the moonlight to spot and
pin down the advance ... but it cost the Iraqis dearly. I counted more 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
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 clichés like "tactical
shifts" which are being thrown around by senior brass like the 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, but this is
expected in this kind of invasion. No big deal." Not quite my interpretation of
Which reminds me of Lance-Corporal Carr, whose magazines were
rather tasteful. Later that first night the moon eventually came into sight. He
pointed at it, looked at me, and said with an I-told-you-so grin spread wide
across his face: "See, the moon is always in the sky at night. See it over
there, it's always over there."
I must have been wrong.
Readers, it seems that Waqil and my camel, Spit, were lost during the first
night of confusion. Last I remember, Waqil was clinging to my boot while
bouncing out of the back of our 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 and Spit will follow. S.Y.