Preston’s Desert Storm Letters – 11 May 91

Sat, 11 May 91
Chameju, Iraq

Dear Donna,

I got my first Turkish letters (25 & 26 Apr) from you much sooner than I expected to. I thought it would still be another week to ten days before any of your letters made it my little corner of northern Iraq, so I’m glad my mom gave you my new address (instead of you having to wait for my change of address letter).

More boredom. There’s been more Kurds coming by here the last two days. I just hope it means they’ll start flooding by soon, because the sooner we move them down the valley, the sooner we can get the hell out of here.

No mail for me today. Everyone on the team, but me drove back to Zakho two days ago. They were supposed to be back yesterday. I don’t mind having the captain out of my hair — speaking of the devil, they just drove up. Hope they brought mail 

No mail, but plenty of news. Apparently our well-planned camp in Zakho has turned into just another Kurdish mountain ghetto: people crapping on the ground even though there are latrines; mob rushes on supply trucks; etc. There is another CA company (the 431st, which also did diddly in Kuwait City) and a CA battalion in the Zakho area. They aren’t doing anything except taking away our vehicles. The UN is sitting on its ass (which is all they do even in the best of times). Our people there are overworked (maybe I don’t have it so bad afterall) and at each other’s throats.

Oh, speaking of fucked up things on the border/at Zakho: the Kurds won’t move en masse until Dohuk is clear, which it 3/4s is, but now the Iraqis are threatening to move combat troops into the town. I’m not in danger — I’m faraway from there — but it’s just another prime reason for us not to be involved in this mess. Hell, these people have lived like dogs for thousands of years, and they’ve been at each other’s throats for thousands of years, and there’s nothing we can do to change that because they’ll go right back to acting that way the second we leave.

If I’m still here in July, I’m going to vote Communist (or Libertarian, or something other than Republican & Democrat) in the next election!

They need to have a rock concert or something — “Hands Across Kurdistan” — to pay for all this crap, bribe the UN, whatever, and get us the hell out of here.

I hope I haven’t dumped on you too much. I suppose I should go; I’d drown my sorrow in a beer — if I had any :-)

McMurry’s Notes

  • Mail was slow in the Gulf; I was still getting letters several months after I returned. But it was not nearly as bad as it would be in Bosnia five years later — some of those letters were never delivered or returned.
  • The valley west of our base camp was where we bathed the first two weeks we were in Chameju. After that the resupply choppers started bringing in enough 5-gallon water containers that the SF company surgeon was able to jerry-rig us a field ‘shower’. The water in the river wasn’t the cleanest in the world. God knows what the Kurds used it for — laundry or latrine — upstream; or, worse, what had died in it. Still, it beat swilling in our our own sweat for two weeks.
    I’ve had to do that before. Your underwear just turns black. Forget washing it — you just peel it off and throw it away. You can live like that when you know that the PX is on the other side of post waiting for you to return from the field, but not when you are 150 klicks away and with no hope of seeing a PX in the forseeable future.Besides, it was a good way to work on the tan.

    From base camp, looking west, down into swimming hole valley.
    From base camp, looking west, down into swimming hole valley.

23 Apr 91 11 May 91 14 May 91