Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Moonstruck Marines with Attitude lost in desert storm

Moonstruck Marines with Attitude lost in desert storm

Moonstruck Marines with Attitude lost in desert storm

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

March 26.

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

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 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."

"Yes

lad."

Carr was incredulous, scoffed disbelievingly, and sulked all over

Miss August.

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

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 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

will."

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

struck.

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.

The

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

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 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

events.

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.

ïPS: Dear

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.

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