“Are you a strict non-combatant?” Second Lieutenant Mike Barefoot said to me as we stepped out of the joint security station in Jolan, Northern Fallujah, and began a patrol.
“What do you mean?” I said. Of course I am a non-combatant. Was he asking if I’m a pacifist?
“Do you fight?” he said.
I narrowed my eyes at him slightly, still not quite sure what he was getting at.
“If we get in a fire fight,” he said, “and I give you my pistol, will you take it?”
He put his hand on his sidearm and fingered the thumb break. He wasn't kidding. All I had to do was say so and he would hand me that pistol.
“I'm not allowed to carry a weapon,” I said.
He rolled his eyes, not at me but at the policy.
“No embedded journalists are allowed to pick up a weapon,” I continued. “They’ll throw me out of Iraq if I do. It’s a good policy. Most of us aren’t trained to fight in a war. If reporters were armed, eventually one of us would shoot a kid or an old woman.”
It is a sound policy. He nodded and seemed to understand that. Still, he repeated the question. “If I give you my pistol, will you take it?”
“If it gets bad enough out here that either I shoot it or die, then yes,” I said. “I’d rather be thrown of Iraq then be killed. But that is not going to happen, so I can't take your pistol.”
We walked a few steps.
“Thanks, though,” I said, and I meant it.
Several Marines were shocked that I was willing to walk around the streets of Fallujah without a gun, but I didn’t feel the slightest bit nervous. Complacency kills, and I get that. But I had Marines as bodyguards and I wasn’t allowed to defend myself anyway. So I figured I might as well relax.
“Anyway,” I always said to Marines who thought I should carry a weapon, “if it gets bad enough out here that you’re relying on me in a fight, you’re really screwed.”
Like with Michael Yon, I've become a real fan of Totten. Exchanges like that are real world, funny and really do give a sense of the scene in which he finds himself. You need to read the whole thing, and if you're so inclined, hit the tip jar at the end of the article. He supports himself through donations to bring us the first-hand news of what's going on in Iraq.
I think this exchange nicely demonstrates, at a number of levels, how this excursion into Social Engineering has reduced America’s power. 1) America’s reporters are rapidly falling behind other nations reporters, had Bilal Hussein been given this choice, by the AQI/Sunni Insurgents, he would gladly have said, "Yes, with pleasure" or Ernie Pyle, 60 years ago, now the US can’t even arm its reporters. Further, that America’s reporters so no need to be armed, a clear sign that the US reporter population is no longer backing the "Strong Horse" of the US, but is instead turning more towards a UN or EU orientation. Now this makes sense, and I have blogged about it extensively, it is still painful to observe. Fundamentally this whole Iraq thing has been a disaster of the first magnitude, in fact it is been so disastrous and quagmirery that I can not longer even type I***q but instead find myself typing, "Chimpy McShruburtons Ill-Starred Neocon Social Engineering Adventure for Soft-Minded Right Wing Death Beasts, Whose Horror Now Encompasses Us All, Whether or No We’re From Maine (CMcISNSEASMRWDBWHNEUAWNWFMn). It’s not as short as *raq, but I think boosts my word count and increases both my clarity and chances for tenure.
My apologies in advance to Michael Yon. I cannot find the link.
Michael Yon had a run in last Summer when the unit in which he was embedded was ambushed in an urban area. Things got ugly fast, and the senior NCO went down in a doorway across the street, exposed to enemy fire. Some new soldiers were nearby but, as has happened to many of us, were afraid to move. When he could not get them to engage, Yon, a former marine, took an M4 from one of them and crashed into the room where the NCO was wrestling with a tango in a room full of propane tanks. Help arrived before Yon shot anyone.
Afterwards, unit commander asked Mike if he picked up a weapon. Yes. Would he have used it? Yes. The wounded NCO, as they do so often and so well, deftly intervened on Yon’s behalf, saying that Yon’s life was in danger. The commander, however, made it clear that if Yon repeated that behavior, he would be gone. Serious rules of a engagement.