When it came to our chances of making it through combat under Mycroft’s leadership, I can confidently convey, on behalf of most Tomahawks, what we all thought at the time: “we’re all going to die.”
ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT – GET TO THE “ENDANGERING HONOR” PART
Very well. There was a time when I was foolish and idealistic enough to think my profession demanded honorable conduct, even and especially during times of war.
This ideal was shattered for me when I first learned about the death of this man:
As my West Point thesis advisor, infantry mentor, and hero, Colonel Westhusing was the warrior-philosopher I aspired to be. I regret putting off my keeping in touch with him after graduation.
Because I learned of his death from a Newsweek magazine – two years after the fact – on the eve of my combat deployment.
There’s still a lot of controversy surrounding his “suicide,” but based on the many discussions he and I had on philosophy, honor, and the warrior ethos, there’s no doubt in my mind: he was murdered to protect careers and political/corporate interests at a time and place where laws and accountability count for very little.
I was devastated. I suffered a moral injury before even crossing the Iraqi border.
Over the next 15 months, I discovered an adverse culture of compromising principles and a dangerous, pervasive mindset of “doing whatever it takes to win” in Iraq and the Army’s higher echelons; how it allowed this “suicide” to happen; how General David “Peaches” Patraeus, Westhusing’s boss at the time of death, and his cronies fostered it…
…and how I ultimately had to succumb to it to protect my own.
SO THIS IS ABOUT YOU BLAMING OTHERS FOR YOUR MISTAKES, THEN? YOU PITIFUL DISGRACE?
Yes, yes, a pitiful disgrace to be sure, and make no mistake: I committed my crime. I failed to seek help when I needed it. I know nothing will ever change that, and those are probably the only things I can ever take credit for.
But there’s a difference between taking responsibility for one’s mistakes and accepting the blame for everyone else’s. I’m not in the business of the latter. It’ll never be enough to make an example out of me without context.
And the context is damning indeed.
How we conducted the war, to include massive wastes in spending, leadership failures, in-fighting between departments and “allies,” giving amnesty and money to enemies who’ve killed our soldiers and innocent civilians, turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, and cheating our traditions and honor to win will potentially be embarrassing for the Department of Defense, but this story must be told, and not because I’ve got an axe to grind by trying to snatch our “victory” away from Iraq. Mistakes were made by many and there are untold lessons to be learned here – the mark of a good leader and an adaptive organization is acknowledging those mistakes, fixing them, and becoming better for it. None of that can happen until those mistakes are identified – this is where I do my part.
If anything, you’ll at least be entertained. Consider this an amusing after action review with the world.
OMG! WASTEFUL GOVERNMENT SPENDING? HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? DUDE, I ALREADY READ THIS STUFF ON YAHOO AND MOVED ON. WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL?
Yes, I understand Yahoo News, TMZ, and their entire ilk are the definitive authority on journalism and relevance, but hear me out before you go back to finding out what happened on The Bachelor.
How I was able to gain access to obscene amounts of money wasn’t so much skill or capability on my part – it was supposed to be a punishment. The worst thing you can do to an action guy – an Airborne Ranger trained to kill our country’s enemies – is keep him from the action. They really didn’t like me.
With a smile, Mycroft took my beloved platoon away and put me in charge of Iraqi reconstruction.
Politics – it doesn’t pay to hold your incompetent commander in contempt while shouting it to the world. Not saying I was perfect or anything – I had personal problems that well preceded my joining the Tomahawks, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t in good company!
So I did what I was told and spent millions to rebuild Iraq – at one point I even thought I was doing some good. But we didn’t have enough troops to protect our hired Iraqi contractors, who instead resorted to paying “protection money” to our enemies – al-Qaeda, Jaish al-Mahdi, and fellow anti-Western d-bags – to be left alone to finish their substandard work. I learned quickly that the United States was terrorism’s largest funder in Iraq…and I helped.
Without enough security, our area steadily fell into violence and chaos. Everything that subsequently transpired in Book One – in Baghdad – created the perfect storm. It allowed me to find a creative and…unprecedented solution.
AND WHAT, EXACTLY, DOES “UNPRECEDENTED” MEAN?
Of the first deaths the battalion suffered, three were from my former platoon. Watching soldiers you once led die under someone else’s charge does something to a person – none of it good.
After so many Tomahawk deaths, the worst happened: our commander quit. We then left Baghdad for a dangerous new area with no leadership.
With a leadership vacuum and more Tomahawks dying, something snapped in me – I couldn’t tolerate the helplessness any more. So I scrounged up everything I could – Humvees, weapons, bullets, explosives, radios – and recruited whomever I could find, from leftover staff guys to Civil Affairs, Psyops, and Human Intelligence peeps, to Rangers and former Force Recon/Delta Force operators-turned-defense contractors. A rogue task force was born, and with millions of Iraqi reconstruction dollars at my disposal and almost no oversight in our new area of operations, I was going to fight the war my way.
WHERE WERE YOU? BURGER KING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN “YOUR WAY?”
I couldn’t just take my team around and shoot people in the face at will for revenge’s sake – we’d have to prove they were bad guys first.
Patraeus enacted the shortcut strategy of bribing our enemies to not shoot at us (the so-called “Awakening/Sons of Iraq” program). Considering how many Tomahawks we lost to these newly-converted “concerned local citizens,” it sickened me, but I realized that with the money I had, I held the power to buy intelligence and leverage cash and reconstruction contracts into bounties and hits. Why not fix Iraq and clean house at the same time?
So I went everywhere with my “civil military ops” team to recon, gather intel, promote governance, assess projects, make “friends,” and get shot at or IED’d. Behind everyone’s backs and using money for more than it was meant for, I ran an unauthorized secret intelligence network comprised of key political, tribal, and business leaders as well as snitches, warlords, police, and other assets. I found out who in the “Sons of Iraq – Pay for no Spray” program were once al-Qaeda or Jaish al-Mahdi fighters – bad guys.
Then I let cash-starved Iraqis kill the bad guys for us and paid out monies to maintain the peace – all to keep the Tomahawks out of harm’s way. You wouldn’t believe what some men would do for a little money.
Money can do wonderful, terrible things.
As life got better in our area, things started unraveling for me mentally. I thought, fought, and cheated like the enemy – compromised my values to win.
Patraeus would’ve been proud.
Westhusing would’ve been ashamed.
Combined with my personal problems, this all took its toll. Then came the moral despair and the fall – the damage had been done; it just needed to run its course. *SPOILER ALERT* Everything falls apart in the end for me. Tragedies follow. Oh yeah, and that Bin Ladin guy gets whacked at some point. *END SPOILERS*
Despite all the catastrophes, the soldiers of the Tomahawk battalion did not once falter in their duty and conviction to honor. When all was lost, they found faith in each other and fought on as a team – a family; any other unit would’ve lost hope and fallen apart.
They knew what it meant to be Tomahawks.
So as much as this story is about what others and I did wrong, this is also about how the Tomahawks as a whole did things right – and became unsung legends for it.
But we’ll save all that for the rest of the trilogy.
WHOA, WAIT – WHY 3 BOOKS? YOU TRYIN’ TO HUSTLE US MR. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?
No, I is not trying to hustle you. Player.
Each book is a different battle and evolution for the Tomahawks and me. Book One focuses on the Battle for Baghdad while Books Two and Three focus on the Iraq War endgame and the battle at home respectively. With so many themes to address – themes our public must be exposed to – I need to make sure they don’t become diluted or eclipse one another within a massive volume.
There’s the other reason: Book One is already large enough. Putting all three together would make War and Peace look like a novella.
More than just one antihero’s journey through life and war, Tomahawk Five Nine is filled with memorable characters and incredible settings that are very much a part of our American history and consciousness now, for better or worse. I will immerse you in that world and give you an American experience that you would’ve otherwise had to take up arms for and risked your life to have. You’re welcome.
And for those of you who were there, I’m hoping you’ll laugh, be outraged, or maybe even shed a tear. But in the end, I hope you nod and say, “Yep – that’s Iraq, alright.”
I can’t do all of that justice in one book, anymore than you could capture the entire Twilightsaga in less than four.
Hmm…maybe not the best of examples.
HOW CAN YOU WRITE A BOOK? YOU’VE NEVER WRITTEN ONE BEFORE!
Yes, I’ve heard that catch-22 many times. Stupider things have been said.
These are my first books, I’ll admit – I’ve been playing war and in prison for the last decade plus – but I’ve been writing extensively all those years and paid attention in class at the Academy (when it counted). I’ve been mentored by published authors and professors, so when my writing doesn’t make them cringe (too much), I know I’m on the right track.
Tell you what: here’s a sample chapter. If you don’t like what you see, don’t support the book. Simple as that.
If you do like what you see, understand that the entire series will be written in a similar style, with the tone maturing as the story moves along. If you’re okay with that, please donate/pre-order then tell, like, 300 of your friends about this.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE MONEY? RUN OFF TO THAILAND?
Tempting, but no. The money will go towards numerous objectives, to include:
Hiring a professional editor so we can fight over my choice of words and content
Conducting a legal review to ensure I’m not revealing classified material or techniques…that hasn’t already been published in other books or shown in movies or video games
Publishing this little guy for military history/entertainment/posterity purposes
Printing softcover/hardcover copies for initial distribution (especially for you heroes helping me out)
Distributing this little guy to the masses where it can inspire (or mortify) generations of Americans
Marketing this little guy so the public affairs champions at the Pentagon can go into crisis mode and start calling me names in public
Last but not least: establishing a merchandising and warrior brand for Tomahawk Five Nine and the Tomahawks in order to use the proceeds to aid combat veterans
That last bullet is near and dear to me, as my secondary objective is to set up a source of income for a future nonprofit organization designed to help Tomahawk soldiers – former and current – in a wide array of needs, from financial to personal, to include mental health.