Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Homage to Herodotus and Farris Hassan
Yesterday I read comments that author Robert Kaplan made while being interviewed about his new book Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground. Here's a particular quote that caught my eye. He's speaking of a Greek historian who wrote about the military and war in his day.
"... but you know, of all the classical writers, the one I admire the most is Herodotus, because Herodotus doesn't write about one subject. He describes landscapes. He describes personalities. He gives stories. He recreates a world of what people believe."
I found this interesting in light of both my endeavors, and the mainstream media attention focused this past week on a Florida high school junior who skipped school to travel here to Iraq. Farris Hassan, inspired by the idea of immersion journalism, trekked to Iraq to see for himself the reality on the street in his parent's homeland. I think I'm a combination of both of them; the curious archetypical sage with a bad case of adolescent omnipotence.
The drawings I include today show Marines who've been waiting hours for a helicopter ride out of a forward operating base. These guys are what's referred to as "assorted cats and dogs". Marines with specialized skills, such as photojournalists, dog handlers with their bomb sniffing canine cohorts, satellite communications specialists and of course, yours truly, who've been attached to operational combat units for the duration of a specific fight. After the operation is over they're detached and left to their own devices to retrograde back to home commands for further assignments. This means signing up for space "A" (A for available) flights and then waiting for hours in the sun on some rough graveled landing strip hoping that a sortie of helos shows up that's eventually going your way and has enough room for you and all your stuff. Hurry up and wait is the order of the day. These guys, though they make small talk with each other, mostly sit exhausted among their piles of gear lost in sleep or thought. These particular groups wait at Al Qaim, an abandoned railroad maintenance yard in the farthest reaches of the western Iraqi desert.