Michael's Dispatches

Small Talk

23 March 2009

Gary Sinise is an incredible American.  We were swapping some emails over the past week and I saw this article about his latest support for our troops:  Commentary: We can't do enough for our veterans.

Gary mentioned to me that he will be heading back to Afghanistan this year (that’s predictable!), and I’ll try to take a quick break from slogging around the battlefields to see Gary while he’s there.  Gary Sinise and Bruce Willis are among the few true movie stars who courageously supported our troops, even when Hollywood insiders were telling me that actors could lose jobs for supporting the troops.  Laura Ingraham, during one of our live interviews, once asked about my Hollywood connections.  Laura caught me by surprise and I denied connections.  By that, I was really saying I don’t hang out in Hollywood, but technically my answer to Laura was incorrect.

I haven’t heard from Bruce lately, but am sure he’s out there and being as ornery as ever.  Gary and Bruce have both traveled into harm’s way to visit troops and I will watch all their movies simply out of principle.  (Plus they are great artists.)

On to the grit of the war, ABC has more or less shut down its Iraq coverage as eyes continue to turn to Afghanistan.  Other organizations have also dramatically scaled back or simply abandoned the Iraq saga.  Most of the experienced war correspondents seem to have essentially burned out.  Long-term front line coverage from Afghanistan likely will become increasingly rare even as the war heats up.  On the other hand, unlike in Iraq, many westerners find it easy to live in Afghanistan for years on end, and so there remains a reservoir of foreigners living mostly in the more peaceful areas who might become ersatz reporters.

A team of folks are working on my photographic archives from Iraq and Afghanistan.  They reported last week that so far I have shot about 250,000 photos in the wars.  The team is not sure what the actual total number of images will turn out to be, but a quarter-million is their estimate.  No wonder that my cameras keep breaking, and when I close my eyes, images of Iraq and Afghanistan flood in.  Only a tiny fraction of those images have been published.  Probably less than half of one percent.  In fact, I probably have not even seen 95% of the photos I shot.  Perhaps those photos will go down in history, along with those I will soon be sending back, as the largest personal archive of wartime photos.  My current cameras make full-frame, 21 megapixel photos.  The bodies are outfitted with the best glass on the market – creating extraordinarily high quality images.

From rumor control: reliable sources provided me such a chuckle that it seemed worth the laugh to pass it along. 

The rumor: In Iraq, "Brigade Combat Teams" might be renamed to "Brigade Support Teams" so that President Obama can say there are no more "combat" troops in Iraq.  This would be like calling your Rottweiler a Chihuahua because your condo does not allow Rottweilers.  Pulling this off might require a Jedi Mind Trick.  Call it what you like, Mr. President, but please don’t pull out the Rottweilers too quickly.

This WaPo article from Sunday discusses the problems of logistics to Afghanistan.  Recently, I personally asked General Petraeus about this same matter.  Logistics is a great Achilles heel in that war.  General Petraeus seemed confident we can work through the logistics issues.  Please read: General Urges Confidence in Ability to Supply Troops in Afghanistan.

The hints coming out of Washington tend to cause me to believe we will abandon Afghanistan.  I’m making no personal comment one way or the other yet, other than Iraq was worth the effort and costs all the way around – so long as we cement that success.  Afghanistan seems little more than a tar pit.  I want to hear General Petraeus say success is achievable, and to at least set some white lines by what he defines as success.  He’s one of the very few people who have both the experience and character that are required to accurately estimate the truth and then deliver the good, bad and the ugly.  If General Petraeus puts his word behind it, I’m only one man but I’ll back him.  That’s about all there is to say on Afghanistan.

In closing – last and definitely not least -- a message just came to me from retired 4-star General Barry McCaffrey.  He is very concerned about Mexico.  I would kindly suggest that radio interviewers and print journalists reach out to General McCaffrey through his website.


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