Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Sunday, October 08, 2006

War Birds

Life in the sandbox is a melange of extreme danger and threats with bouts of endless boredom. For most troups, Playstations, VIOP conversations with those back home, dvd releases of the latest films or episodes of favorite tv shows like Smaillville or 24, and blogging, provide much needed distractions, but as Christopher Griffin reveals in a piece titled "War Birds" that appeared in American Enterprise Institute

...some soldiers have chosen to pass their time in the most traditional way imaginable--through the appreciation of the natural environment that surrounds them. Fortunately, a few of them have been generous enough to maintain blogs as well several soldiers have spent time exploring the natural environment that surrounds.

During his deployment at Balad's Camp Anaconda from 2004-2005, Sgt Trouern-Trend, of the Connecticut Army National Guard, kept a blog of his birding experiences in Iraq.
Birding Babylon was edited and published under the same title earlier this year by the Sierra Club.

The most powerful theme in Trouern-Trend's writing is how indifferent the Iraqi fauna usually is to the war. While pulling guard duty for a halted convoy across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, he is stunned when "I'm lying on the ground with my eye on some guy racing around in a pickup truck, wondering if he's going to take a potshot at us (which would have been suicidal), while a pair of crested larks were not even 10 feet from me, the male displaying and dancing around."

(...)His journal is a welcome reminder that despite the sturm und drang of war, men and their worries are not the only protagonists in the world's dramas.

Another bird lover Griffin spotlights is a former Special Forces Green Beret

Milblogosphere superstar and confessed birdwatcher Michael Yon describes one occasion when he inquired about a bird's nest in the antenna patch on a battalion tactical operations command post in Mosul:

"Doesn't that nest interfere with comm[unication]s?" I asked the soldier.

"No, Sergeant Major Prosser disconnected that antenna so the birds could nest."

Yon, who alternately named the house sparrows at his base "French Fry Catchers" and "Saddam's Sparrows," recounts that his first serious Iraq bird encounters happened during helicopter trips over rivers and marshes along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers: "As the helicopters approach the marshes, undulated blankets of birds rise into the air, so that by the time the helicopters are over the water, the pilots are forcing hard right or left turns, or pulling up fast to avoid flocks." Most observers at home might imagine that rocket-propelled grenades are the primary obstacle for pilots in Iraq to dodge.

A 3rd Milbirdwatcher is Air Force Capt. F. John Duresky who
describes his birding experiences on his blog, The Fourth, and has also created the (also modest) Yahoo Member Group "Operation Iraqi Birds," where soldiers and civilians in the Operation Iraqi Freedom area of operations can discuss the birds that they have seen in Iraq.

Capt Duresky wrote a moving thought provoking piece titled "Forgotton Sacrifice" that appeared in The Washington Post on July 5th.

Christopher elaborates on why these experiences in Iraq are yet another indication of the great accomplishment of deposing Saddam. His insight should prove of interest to Democrats, especially Al Gore, and to those in Hollywood that profess a deep concern for the environment.

After all, in addition to the human rights crimes for which he is being tried, Saddam was one of the past century's most effective environmental terrorists.

The fruit of Saddam's environmental terrorism was the destruction of all but 7 percent of Iraq's southern marshes by 2003, with the area's native inhabitants having fled from their burned villages. Today, almost 40 percent of the Iraqi marshes have been restored, and they are expected to continue replenishing at a rate of about 800 square miles (13 percent of the original size) per year. This progress means that both an ecosystem and the society that it supports have been saved--no mean accomplishment.

Now that most reporting focuses on the burgeoning civil war in Iraq, this environmental victory provides a small glimpse of the country that U.S. policy aims to help create and that many Iraqis want.

Birding Babylon
The Fourth
Michael Yon