Sunday, September 18, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005

Taking it out of context......

It's not often that anything I read keeps me up at night. But last night was different.

Let me tell you why........I had what was a very disturbing thought process for me about Iraq yesterday. Okay, that's a gross understatement. It ate at me all day. It ate at my very insides. Because I had to face a truth. And that truth hurt me. Yet it is etched so deep that I had to accept though it seemed to defy everything that makes me who I am.

And when I read this last night, as I had been meaning to do for over a week, it couldn't have been more perfect timing. Because it gave me the tools to be able to make it into something I could put my head around. Here is the necessary part of the post to understand:

We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

He continues:

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog that intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

Okay, now that that's over. You noted the parts I put in bold, yes? I'm going to take Bill Whittle's fantastic post, and I'm going to take this theory, by the admirable Lt. Col. Grossman, and I'm going to take it out of context....purposefully. Because this part begs it to be: " The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog that intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours."

Ready? In this equation sheep are your average Iraqis, wolves are terrorists and ba'athists, and very, very important, sheepdogs are to be Iraq Security Forces members, IP, ING, and IA. (NOTE: Coalition forces are NOT sheepdogs in this equation yet, you'll see why.)

What happens in a place where the wolves have been allowed to assume the roles of sheepdogs for 40 years? And where now, today, nobody knows which sheepdogs are truly sheepdogs, and which are simply wolves in sheepdog skins?

A complete breakdown of trust. No trust, no law and order. No law and order, hence, parts of Iraq as you see them today. The reality for me to accept was that most people are sheep. While this is good and necessary, I just had never really faced it. And the second reality is that what I, what we, HAVE to deal with in Iraq is a place where there are wolves running amongst the sheepdogs. The sheep are so scared, they won't challenge a sheepdog that is nipping at their lamb, just in case it might be a wolf. Thus, the real sheepdogs aren't alerted to the wolves when they sneak into their midst.

Now, the flock is such a disaster, that we send in a new batch of sheepdogs. Let's say the ISF are Shepherd Dogs. And let's say that now we are going to introduce a new kind of sheepdog to the sheep. These sheepdogs are Border Collies (US forces and coalition). The sheep can recoginze them by their distinctive look and their intentions loudly declared by their actions. While the wolves can not hope to pass themselves off as Border Collies, they can still pass themselves off as Shepherd dogs. So why won't the sheep let the Border Collies know what the hell is going on with the wolves sneaking in amongst the Shepherd Dogs? Because the sheep's greatest fear is seeing their lambs hurt. And the wolves still hurt some lambs every once in awhile to be certain that the sheep remember what they are capable of.

The sheep trust the Border Collies. They know exactly what they will and will not do. The sheep won't trust Shephard Dogs again until they see them working with the Border Collies for some time. Only then will they believe that all of the Shepherd Dogs are fully committed to keeping the wolves from amongst them.

I, for one, am convinced that the number of wolves still in disguise as sheepdogs is vastly overexaggerated from so many years of people seeing the government, and in particular the military elements of it allowing this. The wolves keep up just enough to remind them. But try telling that to someone that's only alive because they've kept their head down and their nose out of others business for years. Iraqis do know each other, their friends, and their enemies. But they are very, very uncertain as to the identity of those who are supposed to be their guardians.

That's why we'll be there awhile. That's why the people won't talk when they know damn well that their neighbor is acting criminally. That's why they won't stand up. A very dear friend said to me in my frustration...."dear, you bring the kids here with you and then you report on one of these terrorists and return home here to wait after, can you do that?" I thought hard for a moment, I pictured my boys with me there, I, for a moment, pictured every parents' worst nightmare, and I felt the fear and adrenaline that comes with the idea of somone brutally hurting them, I forced myself to consider it honestly, and said, "yes, I could." "Because I would rather my children grew up knowing that I died for their freedom than to consign them to live like that." But you see, I'm an American. I've known the taste of freedom. And while I do believe that every human heart longs for it, I know that every human heart doesn't have the courage to pursue it. Especially after years and years of stress and violence. The reality is that every Iraqi needs to value freedom more than not just their lives, but their families. There are many, many brave Iraqis that are still trying, still struggling. All of our hopes are pinned on them, the true sheepdogs of Iraq.

That's what sheepdogs are for. I'm a sheepdog. And it shames me so much that there are wolves in my flock that I want to get on the first flight back there and hunt them down and get every one of them. Or die trying.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


A day to reflect.

A day to give thanks.

A day for resolve.

A day that reminds me every tell everyone I love how much I love them, because life can be fleeting.

How to honor death? LIVE....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina relief response....

I'm working on a rather large IT project in relation to Katrina. Jeff Jarvis calls this response Recovery 2.0.

This is why blogging has been so light. I spent most of my days since Thursday pulling 12-17 hour work days, though I did take a bit of time this weekend to spend with the kids.

Iraq Traveling Series next post is just about finished and should be up in the next two days.

Visit all the sites Jeff mentions in his post if you can, and offer whatever your expertise is. It's not just "techs" that are needed. It's also people that can do copy, can be volunteer coordinators, or just have the right contact for the situation to help.

Friday, September 02, 2005


With all that's gone on, there's talk all over the web about being prepared. The timing is unusual, as just the weekend before Katrina hit, my two boys got to go to a Scout sponsored weekend hike in Rangeley, Maine with the Instructors from the Navy's SERE program (that's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape).

If you ever have the chance to do something like this, do it. Actually, I take that back. Seek out the chances to do something like this. Petty Officer Hoag seemed to have 15 different ways to start a fire, and my kids learned that they can eat "rock tripe", crickets, and other assorted delectables from Mother Nature when in a bind. They learned how to filter water, mark a trail, and countless other things. The nice Marine that was there (heads up the, er, "resistance" part of the course), also explained the evasion/resistance side of things, to the extent allowed to non military members.

I'm really grateful that my kids got this opportunity. If there's one thing in life that can make you more confident (which in itself can help save you in many situations) it is being prepared and practiced for a situation. When I go to Iraq, there are some basic things I do before I go. Aside from a first aid kit, I am always sure to have a bottle of cipro, or some other wide range antibiotic, and prescription med anti emetics. Disease, food poisoning, or another number of things can cause severe and quick dehydration in hot climates, so having an anti emetic in that situation, especially if you are a smaller person and will dehydrate more quickly, is a must. On that note, powdered gatorade is great as well to carry for quick replacing of electrolytes.

The other thing I suggest is to go out and learn to shoot a gun. I hated guns, was terrified of them for the first 21 years of my life, even though I grew up around them. Eventually I was convinced that I ought to rethink that position. Once I handled a gun, could take it apart, load it, shoot it, and not think while doing it, I lost all fear of them. Like anything else, they are a tool. Not to be taken lightly, for certain, but it's true what they say, guns don't kill people, people kill people. Or save them.

There's the eternal optimist in me coming out again. But not so optimistic as to not be prepared. Go read, then go do.

New Orleans-The Chaos Theory

Everywhere you go, the talk is all about Katrina, and specifically about New Orleans. Some of what we've seen is disgusting, people acting as their worst. But most importantly we must remember that again, this is not the majority. The majority evacuated. And then the majority of the minority left acted rationally considering the terrible plight they were in. And then the news will cover the most sensational of what's left.

Death, and life, are chaos. And chaos breeds both creativity and anarchy. A good friend of mine was once talking with me about the chaos theory. We were actually talking about it in regard to when two parties meet that are just the right combination in chaos, they drive the chaos in a way that is more powerful than the chaos, in other words, controlled chaos, in a sense. I've always remembered the conversation in these situations because it becomes such a fitting metaphor.

Then there is the butterfly effect: The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

So, why am I talking about this? Because I think it is most important to remember the changes that this will bring, the changes for the better. It is, after all, when we are challenged, that we can rise to our worth. Or, as I stated here, one of my favorite proverbs is: "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it."

That is what we are seeing now. We are seeing the character of New Orleans, of the people surrounding it, of the people in Texas that are taking in many of the survivors, of our country. And some of the character revealed is ugly. But most of it is strong and beautiful.

On that note, I'm off to New York tomorrow to meet with some people that are trying to help streamline the effort of cleaning up after Katrina. Of putting peoples' lives back together. Of doing what we do best at these times, showing our character.