Live from Baghdad

My adventures in Iraq.

Monday, April 24, 2006

We're okay

We returned from a short R&R in Dahab, Egypt last week. Now it is the site of the most recent tragic terrorist attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our many friends in Dahab and to all the people of Egypt. Dahab is truly magical and we cherished the hospitality of the Bedouin locals. They do not deserve this.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Reconstruction Failure

The NY Times reports today that former USAID officials believe that reconstruction of major infrastructure in Iraq was destined to fail:

In Iraq, "We set it up to fail," said Andrew S. Natsios, who was director of the United States Agency for International Development until January. He and some White House and State Department officials say they argued early on that a large-scale reconstruction program could never succeed in a hostile environment.

NY Times, Joel Brinkley, April 8, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Too busy to get in trouble

My boss and my fellow technical expert are both on short R&Rs so I am currently running the Infrastructure office single-handedly. And for those of you who know my troubles with home electrical projects, yes I'm in charge of our power sector again.

Turn out the lights, the party's over!

PS to Sarge: I'll post a comment when I have time to breathe again.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Looks like my two former rugby teams, the Santa Monica Dolphins and the New Haven All-Blacks, are making a run for the USA Rugby National Playoffs. Santa Monica is the defending Division I national champion, while New Haven is a former Div II champion and an up-and-coming Div I contender.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about being over here is being painfully aware of the march of time. While this has been a once in a lifetime experience (okay, I guess twice in a lifetime), I realize that I have missed so much. From a national championship, to watching my nephews grow up, to helping my wife through graduate school - these experiences and others are the real sacrifices of being over here.

As usual, my apologies for the lack of posts but you can always check out for Susan's regular reports and great pictures.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Circus

Apologies to my small but loyal readership for the lack of posts. As I'm sure some of you were wondering, I got my wrist slapped (yes Tommy, just my wrist) for posting on the reconstruction efforts. It was probably justified given my current role over here.

So, for now at least, I'll give in to the Man and focus my posts on the mundane absurdities of life in Iraq. For instance, in the midst of a unprecedented civil unrest and violence due to the bombing of the Shi'a holy site last week, we had not one but two parties this weekend. The first one was an "Arabian Nights" theme held outside under tents with Iraqi food, shisha (water pipe), belly-dancing and libations (okay, not everything was in theme!). The following night, we hosted the "Bag-Daddies" - the International Zone's very own cover band. They put on a great 2-hour set in the courtyard in front of Susan & my house. We even had a bonfire, built inside an old Humvee tire rim.

Susan and I watched the movie "Jarhead" last night about a Marine in the first Gulf War. At the end of the movie, the main character narrates "we turn the inside of our hootch into a circus, and inside of this circus we cannot be injured, inside of our circus we cannot be touched."

"But we are insane to believe this."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


The contents of this blog represent the opinions and views of the author and do not in any way reflect the policies of the US Government or USAID.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Post deleted.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scope of the Problem

Post deleted.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

We Made It

As you've probably read on Susan's blog (, we made it safely into Baghdad on Wednesday, January 31. It took us about 72 hours to shake off the travel-induced cobwebs, but we are now slowly getting up to speed.

A lot has changed in Iraq in the past 8 months, yet much has stayed the same. A new Army division, the 4th Infantry Division, has occupied the IZ and the Baghdad area and brought with them their own quirks. When I first arrived in Baghdad in November 2004, the 1st Cavalry Division was in charge and then it was the 3rd Infantry Division. The 4th ID will transfer out sometime during our 1-year tenure which will mean I've been here for four different commands.

Despite the change-over in the military, I've run into or expect to see several familiar faces. Apparently, a special unit of Civil Affairs troops is spinning up led by General Chiarelli who was in charge of the 1st Cav. I worked with several of his staff members on my first tour. Likewise, I've also run into some old friends from the Corps of Engineers, who like me, couldn't stay away. And, of course, coming back to USAID was like a homecoming. I was surprised by how happy I was to see some of our Iraqi staff who are still braving the IZ gates to help our mission.

Other changes are more tangible. My office is no longer in a trailer, but is now a cubicle in an ultra-secure office building. I remember watching the new office building (or "NOB" in three-letter acronymese) be constructed. There is enough steel rebar in this building to reinforce Fort Knox. If they had used any more rebar, they wouldn't have needed to add bricks to keep the wind out.

They also finished the Liberty Pool complex next door, which is owned by the Army and operated by KBR as a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facility. The huge pool was actually constructed by Saddam but needed patching and work on the chlorination system prior to opening. There's also a good gym next door, a common room/library, and a multi-purpose room where Susan and I went to a spinning class last night. When the weather warms up, we'll be using the lap pool as well.

In terms of what stayed the same, Baghdad is still brown, the air still smells like smoke, most people still carry a gun, and there's still armored vehicles racing around. And, in case you're thinking it's all fun around here, we spent all day Friday listening to a running gun battle just across the Tigris.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

On our way

We're enroute and I'll start posting here regularly after we arrive in Iraq later this week. In the meantime, you can check out Susan's blog at