Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emails from Afghanistan

Every time I hear from someone who has been to the Middle East and come back to America, it seems they all have one impression in common, and that is this: the American media is not accurately describing the atmosphere or events over there.

Well, a very dear friend of mine is in Afghanistan right now, having already been in Iraq twice in the past couple years. He didn't tell me he was leaving, but has sent a couple emails to friends and family since he arrived. He has given me permission to reprint what he writes here, though of course his privacy and security needs to be protected. In fact, I'm not even sure I can say who he works for. I'll leave that up to him. As soon as he comes up with some obscure literary or historical pseudonym, we can start calling him by it.

This email, received Tuesday, is how I learned he was over there.



June 26, 2007

Subj: Pckg Arrived-Mny Thnks, and Update

Hey guys, the box with the shaver et al arrived yesterday, and now I'm cleanly-shorn of my growth. The flag and mags were also well-received, and the flag is already hanging in the workspace; it means a lot to the guys out here to have it. Hopefully I won't have to bug you guys with any more requests; I'm almost half-way through, so I should be able to get it done :)

Other than that, things remain status quo. Hot as hell (over 115 today, and humid to boot), and the haze has closed in; when I arrived you could see over 40 KM to the mountains at Tora Bora, and now the mountains have dissapeared behind the haze. Had some rain the other day, which gave us mud, but not much cooling. I'm getting a farmer's tan--arms but not full body, as it really isn't safe to just bask in the oven. I experimented with my camera's movie function last night in an effort to capture heat lightning; we'll see how it came out (if at all). I also took a shot of me in full beard-foliage, so you can see the horrible effect. Will mail those out if I can stand the grief!

See you all in a month or so; miss ya!



First of all, of course, I was pissed that I didn't know he was going. But that's as may be. Here's yesterday's email:



June 27, 2007

Subj: Witty and Pithy Email Subj Line

Hi guys, going to do this as a mass-email since there's not much to tell. Things remain the same here; hot as blazes and dusty. Trying to keep busy and cool: when it's 115 in the shade walking around base can be like being on a griddle. I was out by the runway yesterday when a big Russian transport plane was taking off; I was about 30 yards away and it was like a mountain blasting by. I have some pics, but Hotmail is being its usual persnickety self and isn't allowing me to attach any of them. Probably operator error; I'll mess with them and see if I can turn them into smaller file sizes. Beyond those, not many to send--I could send out the ones of me with a beard, but that kind of pain y'all don't need.

I wish I could take some more showing the Tora Bora mountains south of here, but the air quality has gone to hell so you can't see them any more.I wish I could find the words to give you all the feel of this place; the blasting heat during the day and the wild beauty of the mountains around us--not green, but brown and black with rocks, and the clouds of gray-tan baby-powder consistency dust that every passing humvee and helicopter kick up; the quiet as I walk back to my bed at midnight or later in the dark. Seeing the stars so clearly since the only major light source, Jalalabad City, isn't so large it can overwhelm them. Seeing heat lightning flashing yellow in the clouds, or how young so many of the soldiers here seem to be. Or seeing Afghan locals working on base and Afghan Army soldiers and finding yourself caught between admiration for their courage in fighting the enemy and wondering how far they can be trusted.

I'm looking forward to getting back, and I hope I'm making a difference out here. I appreciate all the concern and kind words I've gotten from you all, even if I'm not sure I deserve them. I'll be home before you know it; take care of yourselves.



I'm not sure why it's so important to me to be able to reprint his emails, but I'm going to keep doing it. He has said he'll write some with this in mind. If you want to pass anything along, I'll forward your words.

Labels: , ,

13 Comments:

  • At 6/28/2007 8:24 AM , Blogger pnlkotula said...

    Thanks Andrew. My niece is shipping out to Afghanistan in August for a year. She's an MP with the Army Reserves. We're understandably nervous, but she joined up as soon as she could, so I suppose this is what she has trained for. We (almost assuredly naively) are taking some relief in her assignment not being in Iraq. Best to your friend.

     
  • At 6/28/2007 9:16 AM , Anonymous Philip Hamm said...

    I don't see how that letter in any way supports the statement Every time I hear from someone who has been to the Middle East and come back to America, it seems they all have one impression in common, and that is this: the American media is not accurately describing the atmosphere or events over there.

    Am I missing something?

    BTW, Last I heard Paul LeBlanc is an armed contractor in Iraq.

     
  • At 6/28/2007 9:16 AM , Anonymous Philip Hamm said...

    Oh, and Jeff Troisi is scheduled to ship out to Iraq in October.

     
  • At 6/28/2007 5:48 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Phil,

    You're missing the last two and a half years of dialogue I've had with this person.

     
  • At 6/28/2007 6:12 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Phil,

    Don't you get it?? the media has routinely refused to report on the weather in afghanistan!! What are they afraid of?? What else are they sitting on?? God, it makes me so angry...

    I'm just playin, sparky. hope your buddy is safe & sound. Break a leg tonight!!

    peace,

    Scotto

     
  • At 6/28/2007 10:56 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    I'm thinking any information we get from the guys out on the front is better than anything we're getting from any of the media, regardless of that serviceman's political views or perceptions. Let's get the straight poop from the people wearing the uniform for our collective well being. Thanks for sharing Andrew, especially as we start thinking about what's important to us as Americans when we celebrate the Fourth of July (even though we don't always agree on what's most important, thank God we're free to disagree in peace and with love for our fellow countrymen).

    Lightning pulled down the show tonight Scotto, we didn't go on! Oh well. Hope your final dress went well, I know you guys will KILL this weekend. Enjoy amigo, I know you're gonna make a lot of people happy when you and your cast and crew step before your first audiences this weekend. God bless my friend.

     
  • At 6/29/2007 11:05 AM , Anonymous Philip Hamm said...

    You're missing the last two and a half years of dialogue I've had with this person.

    Well whatever the case, the excerpts you've included in this blog entry do absolutely nothing to support the statement you make at the top of it.

    I'm thinking any information we get from the guys out on the front is better than anything we're getting from any of the media, regardless of that serviceman's political views or perceptions. Let's get the straight poop from the people wearing the uniform for our collective well being.

    Virtually every piece of news on military adventures since the first gulf war comes straight from the military. IMO it's a scandal.

    I'm not that educated about Afghanistan, but the best coverage of Iraq over the last few years has been from PBS's Frontline. Their recent report Engame being an easily digestible summary of the efforts thus far.

     
  • At 6/30/2007 8:12 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Phil,

    I'm not sure what information you're demanding I produce here. I didn't claim to be posting information that massively contradicted every piece of information CNN gives, I just said that I've heard some very different stories from the boots on the ground so I asked my friend if I could publish his letters. Hopefully there will be more letters coming with this purpose in mind, but he's kind of busy and doesn't have easy internet access.

    I've spoken with a number of people, as I imagine you have in your line of work, who have been over to Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, and even Iran in the past few years. Many of them have come back with stories of activity and culture that go significantly deeper than "three American soldiers killed by a roadside bomb." Stories like, "American soldiers bring electricity back to neighborhood for the first time since 1993," "American soldiers and contractors build region's first new school building in decades," and "American soldier has dialogue with Iraqi civilian that goes like this." I'm looking to maybe hear some of those stories. That's it. That's the whole point.

     
  • At 6/30/2007 9:19 AM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    "Virtually every piece of news on military adventures since the first gulf war comes straight from the military"? Uh...NO. It comes straight from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN...and PBS, which is by NO means an impartial and unfiltered view, nor are any of the others, which present their own producer's perspective on the events as presented by their organization's reporters. You've GOT to be kidding. Really.

     
  • At 7/02/2007 12:43 PM , Anonymous Philip Hamm said...

    I'm not sure what information you're demanding I produce here.

    I'm not "demanding" anything here, just pointing out that you start your post with

    Every time I hear from someone who has been to the Middle East and come back to America, it seems they all have one impression in common, and that is this: the American media is not accurately describing the atmosphere or events over there.

    and follow it up with interesting letter excerpts which in no way have any bearing at all whatsoever to how the "American media" is describing the events.

     
  • At 7/03/2007 12:02 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Talk about your tiny minutiae...

    This person whose letters I've posted has complained to me about the American TV and newspaper coverage in contrast to his experience. Several soldiers and intelligence agents I know have expressed similar sentiments. Therefore, after he sent these two emails, I offered him the opportunity to publish his observations here. He has expressed interest in doing so, but has not yet sent anything specifically dealing with this.

    Jeez, man, if you hate what I write so much, as you seem to do, maybe you should read something else.

     
  • At 7/03/2007 12:04 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Oh! And I saw a piece on CNN yesterday totally contradicting my above statements about media coverage. It was a really nice piece about Haifa Street, which was a shooting gallery before the troop surge but which is now safe to walk and having power, water, and buildings restored by U.S. efforts.

    In this case, I'm delighted to be proven wrong.

     
  • At 7/05/2007 1:49 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    I posted a blog about this topic with video clips taken by soldiers in Iraq. I think you're right, Andrew, that there is WAY more to the story than we're being told. Although I'm not just talking about the stories we hear from the troops themselves, but but the real cost of the wars we've initiated. There is no reason to censor footage coming out of either war zone.

    If the American public is to ever understand exactly what is going on, thye have to see firsthand what is being done in their name. One of the smartest things the US Military brass has ever done is stage manage the war coverage. ($200 grand for a hollywood set designer to create a Star trek 'press conference set' for daily briefings in Iraq-- yeah, NOW they need hollywood) they don't want a return to the days of the Vietnam embeds who showed the true face of war on the nightly news and caused Americans to re-think our involvement there.

    The entire 'Shock & Awe' campaign was crafted in the 1970's, the strategy paper dealt with hitting civilian populations in an effort to break the social will of the opposition. Used in 2003, this strategy's implementation was cheerleaded by Tom Brokaw ("The images are just breathtaking!") and other media lapdogs even as the bombs were falling on women and children. They create a disconnect between the 'fireworks' aesthetic spectacle of the bombings and the actual devastation they cause. Show a soldier fire a bullet, but nevermind where the bullet goes.

    I agree, we need to be told the TRUTH. But, can the american public deal with that truth?? I think we're all old enough to face it, whatever it is.

     

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home