November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

I would have written "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my American readers, but I have been embedded in joint Marine-Iraqi security stations in Fallujah very far from Internet access. So my holiday greeting is late.

The Marines are keeping me busy. I have tons of material, and little time to write yet. But I should, theoretically, have a proper full-length article for you on Monday (he says as he crosses fingers.) Thank you for being patient.

JSS Jbail Fallujah.jpg
Here is a picture of one of the joint security stations in southern Fallujah. It's a large rented house where Marines live and work. Iraqi Police officers live and work in the house next door.

JSS Jbail Sleeping Room Fallujah.jpg
Here is a picture of my “bedroom.” The station is spartan, and it is known as the nicest in the city. They do not have Internet access. Nor do they have plumbing, indoor or outdoor. This is no Hilton. Camp Fallujah is a five star spa and resort by comparison. This is where I and a Marine unit spent Thanksgiving.

I'm not complaining, though. Just showing you how it is.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2007 12:37 PM

Well, at least you aren't sharing the room with a dozen moron backpackers.

Consider yourself lucky in that sense.

Posted by: Edgar at November 23, 2007 01:05 PM

A belated "Happy Thanksgiving" to you too Michael!

From the NY Times today:

[An American official said that each brigade commander would be allowed to decide how many soldiers to assign to expanded training and advising efforts, when American forces should carry out military operations and when they should stand back and let Iraqi forces take the lead.

The approach is already being tried in some areas like Falluja, where Marine squads have taken up positions in police stations while other combat forces have been removed from the city.

“You enable brigade commanders and then decentralize authority to him to take account of conditions on the ground,” the official said. “He can set the dials on how much the U.S. is in the lead, how much you teach the Iraqis to do and how much you can simply back up the Iraqis.”

In some areas, the commanders might allocate an entire battalion to augment training efforts. In others, one company in the battalion might focus on training while the remaining companies carry out combat operations with the Iraqis.

The type of training could vary. General Mixon, for example, said that a brigade might concentrate on collective training: teaching Iraq platoons and companies to fight effectively as units. The brigade commanders, officials say, are in the best position to evaluate the threats in their areas, the abilities of the Iraqi forces they work with and the local political situation. Previous efforts to shift responsibility to the Iraqis faltered in part because the efforts were influenced by American officials too removed from the battlefield, officials say.

“We had too-centralized this process a couple of years ago when we were in the transition business,” the senior official added. “We got it wrong in too many local places like Diyala and segments of Baghdad.”]

Have you seen a NY Times reporter in your area recently? The above comment suggests that one was embedded with a Marine unit in Fallujah. Perhaps you were assigned to this post to help keep the NY Times reports from there honest.;-)

Posted by: Cordell at November 23, 2007 01:56 PM

The NYTimes has not been here lately. This I know for certain. But what the author wrote about Fallujah accurate.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2007 02:35 PM

Happy Thanksgiving to you and the troops.

Remember coming in from my first extended op in the mountain jungles in Nam. Sat on my bunk and wondered what the hell the strange feeling was. Turned out to be all the straight lines and rectangular angles... If your accommodations keep the bugs and environment off you and give you a place to relax and think a little, that's about all you need - a toilet and shower are nice though...

Take care

Posted by: H. Short at November 23, 2007 03:39 PM


How's the temperature there in Fallujah? I know I'm freezing my butt off here in W. Texas, just wondered if winter had come to your neck of the woods in Iraq yet. The sky is a beautiful and clear blue in the photo you referenced.

And, good hunting, my friend!

Posted by: templar knight at November 23, 2007 05:12 PM

So, just curious, is that bottle of yellow liquid actually your field expedient toilet? Hope room service can keep you well provided for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Kevin China at November 23, 2007 05:44 PM

I'm getting the impression that the worst possible scenario is coming to pass in Lebanon right now.

Either Iran/Syria's proxies will take over the government immediately, or there will be two governments and a civil war.

Take your pick.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 23, 2007 06:27 PM

Templar Knight, the weather is PERFECT.

Kevin, that's red liquid. (Gatorade, fruit punch) Check your monitor settings.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2007 08:34 PM

Glad to hear that events are going good, all things considered. Also good to hear that the battalion commanders are being given more free reign to deal with the training of Iraqi units. We marvel at the technology and what it allows us to do, but the down side is that it has lead to micro-managing from the top. Glad to see someone woke up. Hopefully it'll stay that way. Keep your head and butt down, and for God's sake, no "gyrine" jokes.;)

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at November 23, 2007 08:40 PM

On the lighter side of your accommodations Michael, beats a fart-sack and canvas.:)

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at November 23, 2007 08:52 PM

Michael, don't worry, the Marines will treat you well and keep you safe.

Matt Sanchez

Posted by: Matt Sanchez at November 24, 2007 10:08 AM

dear michael,
i just spoke with my son, samuel, today and he told me he had the honor of meeting you. thank you for your kindness. it's nice for a mom to know her son has friends when he is so far away from home.
congratulations on your recent award!
p.s. i'd love to know about the necklace in the top right of your webpage.

Posted by: linda mcculloch at November 24, 2007 04:48 PM


Posted by: a troll named abraham at November 24, 2007 07:21 PM


Posted by: a troll named abraham at November 24, 2007 07:26 PM

I see a troll of the worst variety has infiltrated your blog, Michael. For some reason, and I frankly don't know what it is, some people get a type of perverse pleasure from acting like juvenile delinquents. They are sick and need help.

Posted by: templar knight at November 24, 2007 08:12 PM

Wow! Someone is a MORON. Just let me say on behalf of Mike that whoever posted the last two spoofs is a MORON!

I am not sure what motivates a person to do something like that except a REALLY juevenille mindset.

Actually, Linda, the necklace in the banner of Michael's masthead is indeed from Lebanon. They were popular among members of the March 14th, anti-Syria, pro-democracy set. It symbolized, of course, a dropping of the hostility between the (Sunni) Muslim and Christian clans.

I cant recall right now, after a bottle of red wine, if it was a gift or a purchase, but Michael is quite proud or supportive of the necklace and its symbolism. He worries sincerely about the future of Lebanon for all concerned parties - Muslim, Christian, or otherwise.

Mike, Have a Happy T-day wherever you are. I will treat you and Shelley to red wine and turkey when you make it back home.


Posted by: Sean at November 24, 2007 08:16 PM


I'm not sure if the one in the picture is a gift or one of several Michael purchased. The purpose of the symbol is to show that the people of Lebanon are not going to let sectarianism be the mechanism for their destruction.

Hezbollah found another mechanism, so far it is just annoying the hell out of the Lebanese and hasn't caused the destruction that excuses other kinds of failure.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 24, 2007 10:35 PM

Happy Thanksgiving Mike and the Devil Dogs operating in Fallujah! You are all in our prayers.

BTW- A buddy of mine is deploying to Fallujah by Christmas. He's a Navy corpsman and chaplain's assistant- wonderful guy, outstanding father and a dedicated Marine. Hope you get a chance to meet him.

Posted by: Steve Ellis at November 25, 2007 11:02 AM
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