Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rambo and Commando Backing McCain

Now there are two guys who don’t have a clue about what it’s really like to be a solider: Stallone and The Terminator. I don’t know what it’s like to be a solider because I’ve only played one on TV.

Here’s the problem as I see it. McCain’s alright, but he’s not my first choice. And, why not? Because I’ve followed what he’s done and what he’s said about the war. I’ve known about his Congressional Delegation (CONDEL) visits here to Iraq. And, every time I’ve read his words I’ve gotten a kind of sick feeling in my stomach. He’s a bit too gung-ho for me, and yet he’s NOT good-to-go when it comes to interrogation of terrorists. I’ve written blogs about that. It’s no surprise that charlatan Special Forces actors would want to back him.

I’m ready for some change. …But, of course, not something as radical as Ted Kennedy for VP.

In the end, though, whatever happens…happens, and I’ll support my new Commander and Chief whether it’s Obama, McCain or Romney. They seem to be the frontrunners. Huckleberry has freed (pardoned) too many felons for my comfort.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The World’s Police

A hop, skip and a very large jump (over Iran) from here, a few of my buddies are operating in the bitter cold and ultra-high climate of Afghanistan.

Here’s the news from that country:

A 16-year-old Afghan girl was severely beaten by her 40-year-old husband on Christmas Day. They were married three months and now he is on the lam. This abuser broke 16 of his wife’s teeth, shaved her head, cut off her nose and ears and poured scalding water on her hands and feet. (Source: Stars and Stripes, Mideast Ed. “Government, U.S. troops rally to help Afghan girl,” January 30, 2008, 7.)

A large majority of my friends are or have been in law enforcement as well as in the military. Many of those are in private security, operating under the umbrella of some government entity. The others are in special ops—some of which ‘hate’ the police and have never been in law enforcement, subsequently.

A buddy of mine who’s now the team leader for a Special Forces Operational Detachment operating in Africa (AFRICOM) and battling the threats there told me before I came here to Iraq that I need to basically run operations like a cop with attitude—and bigger guns. As a former SWAT team leader, that comes rather naturally. Basically, we’re a conglomeration of the world’s police, hunting down bad guys who do harm to others—terrorists and criminals alike.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rumors and Open-Source Media Research

In December General Petraeus reported that there was a 60% decrease in violence overall in Iraq. American military deaths since October are less than a third of the figure a year ago (See, e.g. The Economist, “Can a lull be turned into real peace?” December 15, 2007, 29.).

Great things are happening here. A Shi’ite tribal sheikh and his Sunni counterpart from Little Barwana and Big Barwana, respectively, have signed peace deals ending two years of bloodshed. That deal was brokered by U.S. soldiers. (Stars and Stripes, Mideast Ed., cover story, January 27, 2008.)

The radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al Sadr called a cease fire of his Mahdi Army militia (a.k.a. Jaish al Mahdi) in August. Now he even wants a dialogue with the U.S. military here in Iraq. Again, overall, good – no, great – things are happening in Iraq. Yet there are still some very bad areas, particularly north of Baghdad, where my buddy Johnny died a few months ago by a roadside bomb. That area is called Multi-National Forces-North (simply MNF-N).

Five soldiers just died in a complex attack in Mosul. (Note: the complex attack involved an explosion followed by small arms fire.) Mosul, which is north of Baghdad and Ramadi, is the last al Qaeda bastion in Iraq apparently. Not long ago 40 people were killed when an entire house blew up there. (Hamid Ahmed, AP Report: “Iraq sends troops to Mosul for mission” Jan 28, 2008.) There are assassinations against Iraqi police leaders there and elsewhere, of course. Tikrit, which is near Mosul, has had several big attacks lately too.

Baghdad still has its share of problems. Two U.S. military soldiers were killed in separate bombings over the past few days. Yet, about 75% of Baghdad’s neighborhoods are secure, a dramatic increase from 8% a year ago. (Jim Michaels, USA Today, “75% of areas in Baghdad secure,” Jan 18-20, 2008.)

Now, let’s take a look at Anbar, here in the Euphrates river valley (or, MNF-W for West). Aside from a couple attacks aimed against assassinating some pro-American, anti-al Qaeda Sunni sheikhs over the last several days (and I’d blame those attacks on bin Laden’s recent urging to kill sheikhs of the Anbar Awakening), the area is still pretty docile. Most of the terrorists have been driven from here and have moved up north. (e.g. Kim Gamel, AP Report: “5 U.S. soldiers killed in northern Iraq,”, retrieved January 28, 2008.)

Many of Iraq’s foreign fighters (Saudis, Libyans and terrorists from the Maghrib, or north Africa) entered into the Anbar province from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria in the past, but since we’ve been here, the bulk of the foreign fighters have tended to enter more north via Syria and in towards Tall Afar. (See, e.g. Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post, “Papers offer insight into foreign fighters,” c. January 22, 2008.)

So, the rumors are we’re moving out of Anbar and possibly (an additional rumor) the length of our tour will get extended a month or two. And, where do you think we’d go? Hummm….not hard to guess that: from the frying pan into the fire!

SHOT Show in Las Vegas

Anyone who likes guns or who uses them for a living should be interested in attending the 2008 SHOT Show. ' Wish I could go. The annual giant trade show, owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, will be held on February 2-5 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year there’s something new—something incredible coming—called the SureFire Graham Combat Grip Set.

Having had a peek at the product to be unveiled, I can hardly wait to buy one. For now, I’ll forgo anything about it until the debut. But, if you happen to go, check it out. You can also go to to learn just a bit more about the inventor, Mr. Graham.

Note: I’ve also shot the Graham’s 3-Dimensional Combat Training Targets and cannot say enough good about them. Everyone from On Killing and On Combat author, Dave Grossman (, to legendary firearms instructor John Farnam ( is on-board. Mr. Graham, the inventor, is a new generation tactical thinker and trainer. His techniques, training and inventions will help save numerous lives in law enforcement, private security and the military.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Political Endorsements

From Chuck Norris to Sly Stallone to Oprah political candidates are getting big-name endorsements. Colossal fiscal donations the size of Tiger Woods’ endorsements is likewise pouring in. The biggest upset seems to be the Kennedy’s deliberately backing someone other than Hillary Clinton – a person of their own far-leaning liberal ilk.

In all this hoopla and brouhaha and malarkey, I’d like to predict another endorsement: Jerry Springer will endorse Brittney Spears…that is, if it hasn’t already transpired.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy to never hear or read anything about ‘entertainment news’ figures ever again. As a matter of fact, this U.S. Presidential campaign is getting a little old too. Will it ever end?

Church Leader Dies

President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died Sunday night at the age of 97.

When I was home on leave, we went to Utah for a quick visit. In my wife's uncle's office in Salt Lake was a personally signed picture of Larry King with President Hinckley. Uncle Bruce, the Director for Public Relations for the Church, arranged those meetings. I asked him if any more Larry King interviews were afoot. He told me that President Hinckley had ailing health and that he would not.

Several years ago, I was asked to help out with the close protection security for President Hinckley. I was able to meet with him and his wife. Like everyone, they looked taller than on TV. The first and only words that came to my mind when I met them was 'beautiful.' They were a beautiful couple and beautiful people from the inside and it radiated out. Sister Marjorie Hinckley passed away in 2004.

Perhaps the most memorable of all the words I've read of Gordon B. Hinckley -- or have heard him speak -- are these. It sums up his life as a man of integrity who will be dearly missed. Said he,

It has been my privilege on various occasions to converse with presidents of the United States and important leaders in other governments. At the close of each visit, I have reflected on the rewarding experience of standing with confidence in the presence of an acknowledged leader. And then I have thought, what a wonderful thing, what a marvelous thing it would be to stand with confidence—unafraid and unashamed and unembarrassed—in the presence of God. This is the promise held out to every virtuous man and woman.

I know of no greater promise made by God to man than this promise made to those who let virtue garnish their thoughts unceasingly.
(source: here.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fun Toys for Adults and Tots Alike

A buddy here bought a mini-indoor remote control helicopter. If I were home, I'd buy one for my sons and me to play with. Eventually I'll get one. They are surprisingly inexpensive and durable.

The one I've seen:


Kill bin Laden

A few months ago I heard about the forthcoming book Kill bin Laden from a former Delta Force operator and personal friend of mine. St. Martin’s Press picked it up. It should be out in the Fall of this year. Perhaps a movie could accompany it.

Here’s a quick description of the book:

In late November 2001 forty members of the U.S. Army’s super secret counterterrorist unit known as Delta Force were sent to the Tora Bora Mountains in eastern Afghanistan to kill terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden.

The author, Dalton Fury, is a retired troop commander. (Delta Force is divided into troops instead of battalion-like elements.) Of course, I know more about “Dalton” (which isn’t his real name) and his unit, but those kinds of things are just not talked about. Speaking of taboo, I’ve heard it straight from the mouths of other Delta Force operators how much they loathe Eric Haney, a former Delta operator who went public and wrote Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorism Unit. The TV series The Unit is based on Eric’s book and he serves as its tactical consultant.

With all the personal struggles Dalton must have faced and with some of his personal contacts who have blacklisted him (or who will), I’d rather take a kinder approach and say, “Good for you, brother.” Your decision took A LOT of courage.

A while back I faced a similar struggle. After extensive consideration and pondering, I felt I should write a book. I would talk about things that weren’t made public—secret things. To say that decision was a struggle would be an understatement.

Back then I called a trusted advisor and personal friend—my special operations mentor. He has seen more action, done more and knows more secrets than anyone I know. He’s the kind of guy that movies are made about and who should have been awarded the highest honorary medals for combat action in times of ‘peace’, but he wasn’t because he acted as a true Quiet Professional. He’s a deeply religious Christian and I trust his opinion.

We talked at length. In the end, he suggested I should not write a book.

I took my thoughts, feelings and decisions to fervent prayer. My answer: Yes, and don’t ask again.

I’ve done and have seen some pretty interesting things. I’ve been to some interesting places and have learned a few things about life. With deep respect to my friend’s advice, I still plan to write. There are still stories yet to be told. And stories, like Kill bin Laden, that are yet to be read.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jihad and the Presidential Candidates: Analysis

George Akkelquist, a friend of a friend and FBI consultant on Middle Eastern terrorism, says Islamic terrorists divide the world outside Islam into two divisions: Infidels and Kafirs. Often those two terms are used interchangeably. Nevertheless, Mr. Akkelquist says Infidels include Jews and Christians and all others who believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

(Note: The notes I took at a Federal Air Marshal lecture based on Mr. Akkelquist’s teachings are in my home office in America and I haven’t seen them for over a year, but I believe my memory serves me correctly.)

According to the most radical Islamists, Infidels can live peaceably with Muslims as long as they are subordinate to Islamic rule, and in some cases I suppose, like in the days of old, they pay a poll tax, or jizya.

Kafirs are a bit worse in the eyes of 'radical Islamic fundamentalists,' as is the wording the U.S. government has used to describe Islamic terrorists. Kafirs include Buddhists, Hindus and ‘pagan religions’ (i.e. consider the Thailand Islamic insurgency). Sitting in the federal law enforcement counterterrorism briefing, I was also told that kafirs would also include Mormons. Being the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ in the room, I promptly raised my hand to ask a question, stopping the lecture.

We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost (Article of Faith, No. 1); but we aren’t considered main-stream Christian.

I wanted to know why I was considered a kafir.

"I’m Mormon," most of the guys knew that, but I said it anyway. Continuing, I said, " obviously I’m curious. What is it about the Mormon faith…?"

The lecturer replied, "They believe in modern prophets." Ahh… He didn’t have to explain anything further. We sustain the President of our Church, as well as his two counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators.

Like murderous religious cult members, there are a few things Islamic extremists will kill for. In the case of terrorists against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are modern prophets in lieu of - or that have come after - the Prophet Muhammad. To announce any prophetic position, or apparently subsequent revelation, past the sepulcher of the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death, according to them.

Other ‘crimes’ punishable by death include things like:

  • Denying or leaving Islam/converting to another faith. (Such a murder occurred in New Jersey a few years ago.) They’ll also murder those who convert anyone away from Islam.
  • Any apostate or traitor will be killed (e.g. those who fight against an establishment of a Sharia-led government or who coalesce with Western governments/philosophies. Targets have included the Saudi Royal Family, Sunni Sheikh Sattar and the Anbar Awakening sheikhs, Bhutto, even Musharraf himself, diplomats in Lebanon , Egyptian Presidents past and present, et al.).
  • Those who go against the strict religious protocols and way of humble living, like those who cut their hair or remove their beards will also be targeted. Many barbers and barber shops have been targeted here in Iraq .
  • Any woman guilty of an interpretation of Islamic moral turpitude; ‘Honor killings’ have happened for years and will continue. (Interestingly, male homosexuality seems ignored, allowable or excusable.)
  • Speaking ill of the Prophet Muhammad or Islam in general (think of the Dutch filmmakers Theo Van Gogh and/or Geert Wilders, or Satanic Verses author Salam Rushdie).

(Note: "We [in my church] claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Article of Faith, No. 11. Therefore why should we badmouth anyone’s religion? Besides, Mormons have been bad-mouthed like none other. Like fundamental break-off sects of our religion, who espouse illegal practices such as polygamy or in one case made famous by a book, murder, that’s another story. Obviously any good or honorable person will stand up and decry crime and terror; Islam, nor any other religion, is not a cloak for murderers and tyrants to hide behind. See also Article of Faith 12.)

Okay, now there’s the link to the Presidential candidates and the jihad analysis.

In the past I mentioned Usama bin Laden’s likely assessment of having a woman - the lowest creature on earth, according to him and his ilk - as the U.S. President. "General Hillary Clinton," the Commander and Chief, as Romney recently said of her in the Florida GOP debates, just has a nauseating ring, doesn’t it? I hate to say I have anything in common with a terrorist, but if UBL isn't for it, I don’t want to see a woman named Hillary (or a ‘First Husband’ named Bill) in the White House either.

What about a kafir Mormon? What does the terror magnate think of that? Certainly, bin Laden and his kind have studied more about the Mormons lately. Interestingly, there are many similarities between Muslims and Mormons. Although we don’t espouse polygamy today, the Church of Jesus Christ did in the late 1800’s. A friend and Arab-Israeli once told me his Islamic grandfather had multiple wives. Me too. The others who overheard our conversation wanted to join for such a fringe benefit as they saw it. I won’t go into the other similarities as it's out of the scope of this blog.

Suffice it to say, I can foresee a greater threat posed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to its leaders, particularly outside the United States as the church grows 'out of obscurity and darkness.' Should Mitt Romney get elected, that threat would only increase. For the most part, things would be calm and tranquil…just call me macabre for always thinking of the moribund.

What about the threat posed to a Christian Baptist preacher? Consider what bin Laden and his legions want. Would Huckabee’s lack of foreign policy experience, and preacher background, meshed with a 'theocratic' warfare image stir up terrorist's angst toward the Western 'Crusaders?'

Does Huckabee’s foreign policy stance reflect that of President Bush when after 9/11 he ignorantly used the word ‘crusade’ reflecting the awful Christian Crusades, or when it comes to foreign policy is the governor really pretty clueless? I won't answer that.

Lastly, what are the correlations to jihad and a potential black/African-America President? Many rumors have gone around. Some say Obama is a Muslim and attended an Islamic school. He's a Christian. But whatever the case may be about is early childhood he definitely has a Muslim name and hence by name alone (or by rumors of him being Islamic which terrorists probably won’t care to vet) he is potentially one of the worst ‘traitors/apostates’ who may, in fact, be a higher target of a terrorist assassination than the other candidates.

I understand that the term kafir has also been used in the past as racial slur in Africa.

When considering Obama's part-African heritage, I think about how fickle Islamic terrorists are. The Islamic janjaweed (devils on horseback) are killing Muslims in Sudan; hundreds of black Muslims died in the 1998 East Africa U.S. embassy bombings. Are black Muslims, then, somehow expendable or held in less regard to Arab, Chechen/Anglo, or Southeast Asian Muslims by al Qaeda? I won't attempt to answer that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Those in the Middle East are culturally much more cognizant of their ancestry than those in the West, especially in the United States. When you delve into it, family history is pretty fascinating stuff—it’s who we are.

The Denning name is Welch. That’s where my roots hail from. There is royalty in my heritage…or some I’m told. And, General Uylsses S. Grant is a distant cousin, along with some other wonderful statesmen and religious leaders. For the most part, though, my Denning ancestors (circa early 1800’s) were coal miners in Somerset, England.

A few summers ago, during the London Bomb Plot days, I traveled to England, rented a car and drove to the home of my father’s fathers as well as my mother’s fathers, ironically. Aside from nearly crashing at every corner observing the south-pawed driving protocols of the U.K., I thoroughly enjoyed the lush countryside and rolling hills.

The clergyman of the old Church of England in the tiny village near Bath (c. 1300), did some illegal things (hard to fathom, I know) and fled the area taking with him all the data and records (births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, etc.) preceding that date. I felt a part of me return, though, as I strolled through the graveside cemetery near the ancient church on the hill and searched for familiar names.

My father’s mother was a Pratt. Her grandfather (my great-great-great grandfather) is one of my heroes. Parley P. Pratt converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1800s after discovering The Book of Mormon. An avid reader and follower of the Holy Bible, he felt the companion volume to the Holy Scriptures was true. He wrote: “I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.” (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 1985, 20.) Such is the power of that “book of books.”

Later, on a mission to England, as he was eager to share his new discovery, he served as founding editor of a newspaper, the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, which continued publication until 1970. (Ensign, “The Extraordinary Life of Parley P. Pratt,” April 2007, 59.) He published many books; he was articulate, eloquent, and was blessed with a brilliant mind and a good heart. Oh, that I could have just a small percentage of his nobleness…

During the days of persecution against the leaders of the newly organized church—for which I’ve already addressed how the states of Missouri and Illinois have in the past few years officially apologized to the said church—Grandpa Pratt was imprisoned with the founder Joseph Smith prior to a transfer. He wrote to his second wife (‘the wife of [his] bosom’ had died), something reminiscent of my own situation. It captures the loneliness most men feel when separated from their loved ones.

“Locks and bars, rivers and distance separate us, and still I love you, but I am doomed to languish out long months and perhaps years deprived of your society while my little ones grow, and change their size and appearance without one sweet kiss or fond embrace from a father who loves them dearer than life.” (Ibid.)

…It sure was nice to go home for two weeks. Yes, the little ones, especially, have changed in appearance and mannerisms. Hopefully, I’ll never have to be torn from them ever again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Divers Down

What do you call one hundred rabbits walking backwards?
…Give up? A receding hare line.

My wife—the most beautiful woman in the sea.
No one we met believed that she's the mother of our four kids; most thought we were newlyweds. What can I say? I married 'Miss. Right.' (She reminds me that it's 'Miss. Always Right.')

Caribbean Cruise with my Sweetheart

The Land of Desolation

Back in the Box

I just got back to the 'sand box' after spending two wonderful weeks at home with my wife and kids. I was amazed at how much the kids have grown, especially the two little ones. I guess that's what happens when you're away at war.

I also recognized after returning here how high-strung and tense I was prior to my R&R. Oh, it was a much needed bliss.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Home Sweet Home

When the very full chartered jumbo jet landed in America, the flight attendant said to all of us going home for two weeks mid-tour leave, “Welcome to the ‘Land of the Free’ thanks to you.” A surge of overwhelming gratitude came over me, not because of the compliment only, but because of the history and the beauty of America and the millions of men and women who’ve sacrificed so much.

There are occasions in life when your dreams and wishes meet the here and now—when you are where you want to be and you’re doing what you want to do. There are terms like nirvana, Shangri-La and utopia that perhaps describe in some small way this feeling and this grand part of life. That’s the way I feel now being here at home with my wife and my children.

I find myself having spurts of sheer and utter gratitude. It’s a euphoric and emotional sensation. I can finally relax. Aside from the joy of being with my family, I can take a bath, walk barefoot on carpet and feel all the comforts of hearth and home.

Being in Iraq is like being forced to be roommates with someone who annoys you and who you’ll never see yourself becoming friends with.

Home-cooked meals are incredibly delicious. When I ate the first time, though, I got an odd sensation in my stomach. I felt some pain. I was reminded of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She got sick the first time she ate after going without for so long. I’ve gone without real food for so long. Either that or it was changing the raunchy diaper of our youngest child right before dinner that made me sick. I actually gagged. I never was really good at changing diapers, but really, has it been that long?

Finally, why in the world would I blog right now instead of be with my family? Well, I’ve kept a faithful journal for over 20 years. There are great benefits to record keeping. And, secondly, I’m quitting for at least a couple weeks…and ignoring email, phone calls, and everyone and everything else but family: the most important thing in life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mountain Vision -- A Book Review

I thought I'd save reading Jeff Evan's book Mountain Vision: Lessons Beyond the Summit, till the perfect day—a day where I could have enough time to devour it all at once. Today I did that.

After getting on the U.S. Marine Corps' equivalent of an Army's CH-47 Chinook helicopter on a flight from Ramadi to al Asad, I had plenty of time waiting for the C-130 transport plane.

The irony of the Chinook became evident while reading Jeff's adventures amid the high mountains to include his ascent up Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. A Chinook is a name for a helicopter with two giant propellers, but it certainly got its name from the powerful gusts of wind that swoop downward off the tops of the mountain peaks.

As I read I found myself totally engrossed. It was captivating, full of suspense and adventure. In each wonderful chapter Jeff intertwined a lesson on leadership. The likes of Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking), Zig Ziglar and Andrew Carnegie popped into mind. I've read self-help and motivational messages from them all. But Jeff Evans' words were uniquely different. They captured me. Not just because he is a friend, but he's cleaver, witty and entertaining. His messages were genuine. I have even a greater respect for this man now. I knew many of the stories, but...WOW!

Jeff didn't ask me to write this. In fact, I wasn't going to write anything for a few weeks; I needed a rest from blogging. But as I read and laughed out loud many times, and even cried while reading Chapter 27, I found myself wishing my son was old enough to read Mountain Vision. I found myself thinking, during the short breaks when I was forced to stop reading, that I would want to share this book with every one of my family members and friends.

There are millions of books in the world, but of the many hundreds or thousands of books I've read, this book is one of the very best. I don't mean to embarrass my friend or sound like a sycophant or in any way sound other than totally sincere when I say that this book should be mandatory reading for every student, every teacher, every sports team, every business group, congregation, military unit, police department, and in short, every parent and every child.

I've started off my New Year right by reading Mountain Vision: Lessons Beyond the Summit.

Reading Jeff's messages made me want to improve my life, be a better person, be kinder, work harder, etc. He eloquently explained through his larger than life triumphs and conversely his devastating troubles on the mountains how failure can actually help us improve if we let it. His generosity, humility, selfless service and his life are—and will be—an example to me and countless others for many years to come.

It's my hope that many thousands more will be able to hear him speak as well as learn about his life and example by reading—devouring—his written words.

It's not just that he did the unimaginable by leading a blind man to the top of Mount Everest, it's that he has made his life a successful journey. As I said before, there are still true heroes in the world and Jeff Evans is one of them. I'm honored to know him and call him my friend.

P.S. This makes me want to go climbing with my son and teach him Lessons Beyond the Summit.

P.S.S. You can visit Jeff's website at or order his book from