Oliver North

John’s helpful friend Oliver North

In 2008 I visited the lovely, dangerous Helmand Province in our 51st state, Afghanistan, as a guest of the 23rd Marine Expeditionary Unit and my hero, Dick Cheney, during which I was wounded by a Taliban tape worm and had dysentery for more than a month. For which I earned the marines' coveted Gomer Pyle Media Dumb-Ass Award.


Ain't been the same since, literally. But the V.A. wouldn't help me and nobody bid when I put the medal on Ebay. Probably because it doesn't exit. And if you don't know that by now then let's get together so I can sell you one slightly used record store on High Street.

But I did get to briefly meet Fox News commentator, Oliver North of Iran-Contra infamy, in a tiny grimy little marine combat outpost 50 miles from the Paki border. We exchanged Geraldo Rivera jokes. We didn't share MRE's. He had his own Humvee.

Later that night, fearful I'd step on one or more of any number of leathernecks sleeping on the gravel in the dark on the way to the latrine, that I didn't know the whereabouts of, I scooted down to the end of the 14-ton up-armored marine 'armadillo' truck and crapped in a deserted corner in what I thought was just an empty pile of dirt.

In the morning, I realized my reporters notebook had fallen out of my fatigue's back pocket and had taken the brunt of the Taliban tape worm's barrage. Gross! But hilarious, I thought. Thank goodness I was in the vehicle alone.


Funnily enough, when I recovered, having successfully stifled my early morning laughter (don't wanna wake up sleeping marine combat infantry let alone walk on them in the moonless darkness), I saw from said 'dillo truck the Right Honorable hero/traitor North knock on two giant pieces of plywood leaning against the small fort's ancient adobe wall and then move a flap and disappear between them. Voila! The location of the camp latrine!

Thank you, Ollie,.Thank you, Jesus. It was Sunday morning, after all.

And what did learn from the above? Always scout out the crapper before darkness; and remove any precious objects from one's camo prior to lowering said camo.

And maybe bring a small pen-flashlight. But then you've got to worry about snipers. That's war--difficult situations and no good options.

But yes, I am preparing for a trip, this time to northern Iraq--Kurdistan, to be exact. I don't yet have final permission from the Kurdish authorities to spend time on any part of the 650-mile front-line facing ISIS. But I've been made to understand it doesn't look difficult. I mean, you don't even need a visa to get in, they are that eager to accommodate Americans. Thanks to our saving them a couple times from the local neighborhood bullies--Saddam, ISIS, Starbucks--they are the most reliably pro-American tribe of 30 million or so folks over there in that tortured part of the world.

Why am I going? Let us count the reasons, sirs and mademoiselles:

My career selling, playing and writing about music is one side of me; writing about war is the other, hence Afghanistan. Ain't saying I'm Ernest Hemingway or George Orwell who were two of the thousands who joined up with the anti-fascist forces fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. But those horrific atrocity photos ISIS so proudly put on the Internet nearly two years ago were a major reason. I've often wondered what I would've done if prior to Pearl Harbor we'd fully known of Hitler's mass shootings of the Jews as his Einzatsgruppen murder battalions following immediately behind the Wehrmacht's advancing panzers rolled across eastern Europe during the German invasion of Russia. ISIS's accomplished roll across Syria and Iraq was a modern day version. And they documented it. I feel compelled.

Do I expect to accomplish much? The thing about the theater is that the Americans are not in charge, it is nearly entirely the Kurds' show. Thus things appear--how to put it?--looser. Less bureaucracy, maybe? Hard to tell, hard to tell. I want to see what a 650-mile front-line looks like. I want to share a trench with the Kurds, eat with them, sleep in their bunkers.

And then of course you have the second-largest Iraqi city, Mosul, with more than a million people, in the middle of said front-line, fully occupied by ISIS and utterly important--to both sides. And beyond that, curving towards Syria, where everyone is fighting everyone in a war of all versus all practically, you have Mt. Sinjar, the sacred mountain which saw the Yazedis nearly exterminated by ISIS, since retaken by the Kurds with some American help in a brilliant lightning operation.

I want to see these things. I want to write about how it feels to see these things. In stories for The Free Press and my own blog (johnnygoesiraq.org) I plan to pour out as much as humanly possible.

Perhaps my main goal or accomplishment would be to show the Kurds the recognition of their necessary fight, that despite an administration who has been less-than-enthusiastic about helping them directly (that is changing, though), there are Americans who identify with their struggle for survival and feel enough solidarity to come over on their own dime and spend time as a way of saying “you ain't alone.” If ever there was a real live historical underdog to root for it's the Kurds.

Now for some not-so-serious reasons I'm going.

I have, for the first time in my life, found myself paying to have my lawn mowed. A very nice Mexican man (of course) and his helper have been doing a marvelous job what with the dangerous, back-breaking steep incline to work with and subsequent weed-whacking/edge-trimming, something I never do. What a pain in the ass. Thus I feel freed--and free. Free to be...you and me. Free to leave this police state called Grandview Heights where every dog knows your name. Where the most dangerous thing is the occasional rabid right-wing squirrel determined to start a war with the birds over the bread you buy at Kroger for a dollar a loaf (crusty Italian--every suburban animal likes it).

Thus freed of my main civic duty, I can go off into the wild blue yonder and pretend I'm not an unemployable retired record store owner living on a fixed pension like Hyman Roth from Godfather II. Who shall I be? I might pretend I'm a rogue C.I.A. agent looking for beautiful and exotic counter-agents who are looking to score my C.I.A. deodorant for the possibility it'll contain the infamous Great Lost Bill Clinton/Huma What's-her-name's Dental Floss Adventure.

Hey, I used to be funny. Maybe getting shot at will restore my sense of humor.

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