Saturday, September 18, 2021

Prefabricated Metal Railings and Stairs: Why Your Commercial Establishment Demands to Step Up in Safety

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When it concerns metal staircases and metal stair railing systems, there are several options of services offered in order for you to obtain precisely what finest matches your needs.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Stories Of Our Time

New article in the July 2009 issue of Esquire magazine.

Down & Out In Fresno And San Francisco
page 66


"My War by Colby Buzzell is nothing less than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war on our behalf in Iraq."
- Kurt Vonnegut

“I remember reading Colby's journal entries on the internet when he was filing them from Iraq. I was amazed at how heavy the material was but what really knocked me out was how sharp and vividly intense his writing was. My War is the real deal reportage from the ground. There's no way any reporter could have brought this back. If you care about our brave soldiers in the fray and want to get an insight into what it's really like out there, My War is essential reading.”
- Henry Rollins

"Endlessly surprising…delightfully profane… an unfiltered, often ferocious expression of his boots-on-the-ground point-of-view of the Iraq war."
- Arianna Huffington

"If, in 20 years time, people want to know what it was like to fight in Iraq, they can pick up ‘My War’ and find out. It tells what it's like to be a grunt fighting in the Sunni Triangle – with more power and authority than the best ‘embedded reporter’ could manage. It is something of a triumph for blogs over traditional media."
- Nick Cohen

"My War is breathtaking. His self-awareness is total and unromantic, his instinct for what matters unrelenting, his writing lyrical, heartbreaking, hilarious, and essential. We can read a thousand dispatches from Iraq, but we will never know the war-or ourselves-like we will after reading My War."
-Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers

"Incredible accounts of combat from a grunt's-eye-view."
-Rolling Stone Magazine

"The most extraordinary writing yet produced by a soldier of the Iraq war"
-Esquire Magazine

"My War is perhaps the finest and most genuine writing to come so far out of the war in Iraq, uncompromising in both its criticism and its praise, willing to admit the ugliness of violence and the exhilaration that it breeds."
-War, Literature & the Arts Journal

"Buzzell's account of military life as a grunt in Mosul, My War: Killing Time In Iraq, is like no war diary written before. Blunt, brutal, foul-mouthed, and immediate.
-The Times UK

"In gutsy, sometimes profane prose, he takes you on a soldier's-eye view of the front lines of the war."

"Remarkably blunt, honest and often hilarious."
-Chicago Sun-Times

"Striking....Buzzell tells the story of his year in Iraq with a steeliness that's both sincere and chilling."
-People Magazine

"Profound, profane....told with irresistible gallows humor and anger devoid of self-consciousness. Give[s] us a much deeper understanding of the war."
-Atlanta Journal Constitution

"My War" is the story of a young grunt trying to survive boredom and death in a war zone...What you soon realize about this stranger at the bar, Colby Buzzell, is that he can knock you off your barstool at a moment's notice with soul-jarring observations and darkly comedic insights into what it really means to be fighting and idling in this war."
-L.A. Times Magazine

"Funny, often surreal "What the @!%# am I doing here?" account of military life...(Grade: A-)"
-Entertainment Weekly

"Raw, sardonic, and thrashingly honest, My War is a stellar grunt's-eye view of the Iraq war."
-Mens Journal

"Buzzell’s My War, written in a style reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson and Allen Ginsberg, is fueled by an antiauthority, punk-rock attitude.”
-Poets and Writers magazine

"Military recruiters won't be handing My War to prospective soldiers, who would do well to read one grunt's account of what they could be getting into."
-USA Today

“Several other books have come out during the war… What makes "My War" stand out is the author. The way in which a punk-rock skateboarder navigated the Army gives him a compelling voice and take on the Iraq war.”
-Denver Post

"My War: Killing Time in Iraq... the most charming and funny of the memoirists"
-New York Magazine

“The war in Iraq may be far from over, but it has already produced a small crop of books by soldiers who fought in it… Colby Buzzell is perhaps the best storyteller, and without a doubt the funniest.”
-BBC News

“My War is all about immediacy, and it's an invaluable reference to the current war”
-Seattle Weekly

"Sensational book... Buzzell is in the habit of telling it like it is, a skill he uses to great effect in this tragi-comic account of 'Joe' (Infantrymen) life in Iraq... In My War, he records his experiences with a mixture of irreverence and awe, like a latter day Holden Caufield who suddenly finds himself behind enemey lines"
-The Big Issue (U.K.)

“Provid[es] more truth than CNN or the army could or would."
-Library Journal

"Captivating memoir about the year [Buzzell] spent serving as an army ‘trigger puller’ in Iraq….though the combat scenes are exciting, this book is actually more engrossing as a portrait of the day-to-day life of a young American soldier."
-Publishers Weekly

"Reminiscent of Michael Herr’s Dispatches."
-Wall Street Journal

"[A] book that stands quite tall in the literature of that conflict to date."

“This is a book you NEED to read."
-AMP Magazine

“A brilliant read."
-Business Standard

"Gripping memoir... My War proves that the best blogs really can become the best books."
E! online

"If military recruitment is down now, wait till the kids read this book."
-Kirkus Reviews
Wednesday, October 01, 2008


New article in the September issue of Esquire magazine.

Welcome Back
page 172

San Francisco Chronicle

Since the Army was kind enough to send me an invitation to go back to Operation Iraqi Freedom, I decided to R.S.V.P. by writing a little Op-Ed piece about it for the San Francisco Chronicle.

click here to read

Return to Sender - Iraq Veteran Gets the Call Again

The article appeared on page B - 7 of the May 8, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle.

Guide To Minor Transgressions

April 2009 Esquire
Why Drunk Scootering Is (Sorta) Worth It
page 116
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

RED, WHITE, AND BEIGE: The State Of The Union 2008

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CNN - Soldier finds his voice blogging from Iraq

By Brandon Griggs

(CNN) -- Bullets were pinging off our armor, all over our vehicle, and you could hear multiple RPGs being fired, soaring through the air every which way and impacting all around us. All sorts of crazy insane Hollywood explosions were going off. I've never felt fear like this. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die.

When U.S. Army machine gunner Colby Buzzell began blogging about his combat experiences from a military base in Mosul, Iraq, he wasn't looking for attention or trouble. Buzzell just wanted a way to chronicle what he saw and did and felt during the Iraq war.

But his visceral, first-hand accounts were a bracing antidote to dry news reports and bloodless Pentagon news releases. In the first major war of the Internet age, Buzzell and other soldier bloggers in Iraq offered readers around the world unfiltered, real-time glimpses of an ongoing conflict.

"Here's a soldier in a combat zone ... writing about it and posting it on the Internet. I don't think that's ever been done in previous wars," Buzzell said.

"It just provides another perspective that no embedded journalist can ever do," said the veteran, now a freelance writer in San Francisco, California, and the author of "My War: Killing Time in Iraq." "An embedded journalist is just there observing. But a soldier writing about it -- you can't get more embedded than that." See an interview with Buzzell »

A suburban skateboarder with punk-rock sensibilities, Buzzell had no background in creative writing before he joined the Army in 2002. Inspired by a Marine buddy and burned out by a string of dead-end jobs, he signed up after a smooth-talking recruiter offered a signing bonus and sold him on the Army "like it was some [expletive] Club Med vacation."

When Buzzell arrived in Iraq in November 2003, he didn't know what a blog was. But after he read an article about a blogger in Time magazine in June 2004, he began posting anonymous journal entries on the Web under the nickname CBFTW (Colby Buzzell F--- The War).

"The only writing I knew how to do was ... like I was telling a story to the person next to me," he said. "I'd go to the Internet cafe [at the Army base], and my ears would still be ringing from whatever the experience [was] that day. There were times when I couldn't type fast enough."

Over the next six weeks, Buzzell wrote brutally frank, profanity-laced posts about the terror, tedium and misadventures of an infantryman's life in Iraq. At first, few people seemed to notice. But word spread, and before long he was getting hundreds of e-mails a day from readers.

Parents of troops in Iraq wrote to thank him for helping them understand their children's wartime perspective. One reader said they found Buzzell's blog more informative than the war coverage in The New York Times. Buzzell even heard from a sympathetic Iraqi in Baghdad who prayed for his safe return to America.

But almost nobody -- not even Buzzell's wife -- knew that he was the blogger.

Then came August 4, 2004. Mosul erupted in gunfire, and Buzzell's platoon survived an ambush by swarms of black-clad insurgents wielding rocket-propelled grenades. Buzzell witnessed his platoon sergeant survive a bullet through his helmet and narrowly missed being killed himself.

The next day, Buzzell went online and found a few brief news reports of the firefight that killed at least 22 Iraqi insurgents and civilians. In his mind, the stories didn't begin to capture what happened. So he wrote a long blog post, titled "Men in Black," about the ambush.

I observed a man, dressed all in black with a terrorist beard, jump out all of sudden from the side of a building, he pointed his AK-47 barrel right at my f------ pupils, I froze and then a split second later, I saw the fire from his muzzle flash leaving the end of his barrel and brass shell casings exiting the side of his AK as he was shooting directly at me. I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head.

The "Men in Black" post attracted media attention, and Buzzell was flooded with e-mails and interview requests from around the world. Based on his descriptions of the Mosul attacks, his commanding officers soon figured out that he was the blog's author.

The Army confined Buzzell to the base and began monitoring his posts. Then, after he posted an anti-Iraq war rant by Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, they ordered him to stop blogging.

Buzzell's Iraq blog lasted just 10 weeks, but it helped pave the way for others to follow. Today, according to the Army, thousands of active-duty soldiers write some form of online journal, often known as a military blog or "milblog."

Pentagon security policy forbids soldiers to publish sensitive information, such as unit locations or the timing of military operations, that might put troops in harm's way. But beyond that, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are encouraged to blog about military life, said Army Public Affairs Spc. Lindy Kyzer.

"We're actually entering an era of transparency, where we need to have our soldiers talk. It does open up risks. Once you post something, you can't get it back. But we trust our soldiers with a lot," she said. "They are our best spokespersons. They know what the life of a soldier is like, and it's important to convey that to the American people."

Blogging also helps soldiers process traumatic combat experiences that can be hard for them to talk about, Kyzer said.

Since leaving Iraq, Buzzell collected his wartime blog posts and journal entries into "My War," which was published in 2005. Excerpts from his Iraq blog also appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience."

The war cost Buzzell his marriage and left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that helped him avoid being redeployed to Iraq last spring. Now 32, he contributes regular features to Esquire magazine and hopes to write another book, the contents of which he's not ready to discuss.

Buzzell is no fan of the Iraq conflict, although he's heartened that active-duty soldiers are still reading "My War."

"The book is being passed around over there, which is kind of surreal," he said. "I do get e-mails from soldiers over there. Guys will say, 'Thanks for getting our story out,' or 'Things haven't really changed that much since you were here.'

"Looking back now, I don't think we had any business [in Iraq]," said Buzzell, who wants to see President-elect Barack Obama end the war. "Hopefully, he gets us out of Iraq in a way that's not a disaster or that gets a lot of soldiers killed."

Best and Brightest issue

new article in Esquire magazine
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Life After Wartime

Can medical marijuana help returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan war deal with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Essay on page 158
Monday, August 06, 2007

PRI: To The Best Of Our Knowledge

Boots On the Ground - Stories From Iraq
Part Five: Coming Home

"Anne Strainchamps talked with Colby Buzzell over 4 years ago after he returned from his first tour of duty in Iraq... He and Anne talked again."

091122A Coming Home


President Obama says our combat mission in Iraq will end by August 31, 2010. This leaves many unanswered questions. What was our mission in Iraq? Did we succeed? What will become of the country we invaded? Whatever the answers, our troops are coming home. But what are they coming home to? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, we'll talk with Iraq War veterans about the challenges of coming home. And, what about us? Are WE ready for THEM?

Digging A Hole All The Way To America

New article on page 108 about Shenzhen, China in the August 2007 issue of Esquire magazine.

Inside Capitalist China: A Tour de Force Travelogue
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 7, 2007; C01

So Colby Buzzell is standing in the underwear aisle in a Wal-Mart in Shenzhen, China, one of the nine Wal-Marts in the city, minding his own business and shopping for socks, when suddenly this guy with rotting teeth taps him on the arm and shows him a cellphone picture of a cute, smiling Chinese girl.

"You like?" he says. Then he types into the cellphone the price of a night of bliss with this woman -- 1,200 yuan, or about $150.

Buzzell shoos the pimp away and chooses a five-pack of white socks, but the pimp returns with a special sale price -- 800 yuan.

"I looked around for security or maybe somebody else who thought it was a bit odd that some stranger was approaching me inside a Wal-Mart trying to pimp out this Chinese girl," Buzzell writes in his weird and hilarious article on Shenzhen in the August Esquire.

But nobody else in the packed store seemed to think pimping in Wal-Mart is the least bit odd. Perhaps that's because nearly everything in Shenzhen is completely bizarre, as Buzzell demonstrates in this deadpan comic travelogue.

Buzzell is not a China correspondent. He's not really even a reporter. He's a 31-year-old Californian, a former stoner and skate punk who joined the Army and served as a combat infantryman in Iraq in 2003. He started blogging about his experiences in Iraq. The blog attracted a lot of attention and became the basis of Buzzell's widely praised book, "My War: Killing Time in Iraq." Now, Esquire periodically sends Buzzell out to some interesting part of the world to wander around and report what he sees in a style that could be described as "chatty, with attitude."

Shenzhen is a perfect topic for Buzzell. In 1979, it was a tiny fishing village near Hong Kong. Then the Chinese Communist government decided to make Shenzhen an experiment in its new policy of no-holds-barred capitalism. Now, the place has 11 million people, many of them working in foreign-owned factories for a couple of dollars a day, and others working as hookers, dope dealers, pickpockets, beggars, McDonald's fry cooks, Starbucks baristas and the "second wives" of rich Hong Kong businessmen who still have first wives back home.

It's also "the world capital of faux merchandise," Buzzell writes, a place where "everything is bootlegged" -- clothes, sneakers, iPods, PlayStations, movies and millions of T-shirts. Many of the T-shirts bear slogans in English, sort of. Buzzell saw shirts that read, "Who The Wish Are Blackwire" and "Bizarre Must Awesome Want."

He also saw boxes of tea inexplicably decorated with a John Deere logo.

"Those Che T-shirts are made here, too," Buzzell writes. "Shirts made in a communist country by workers who make $1.50 a day, shipped to slackers in a rich country who'll pay twenty bucks they got from Dad for a T-shirt. I'll bet that's just the way Che wanted to be remembered."

Buzzell doesn't act like a reporter, interviewing officials and experts. He just sort of wanders around until he runs into people who speak a bit of English and then he asks them to show him their world. Through this method, he ends up singing a karaoke version of a Celine Dion song in the tiny high-rise apartment of a Chinese Starbucks barista, then climbing up to the roof of the building and gazing out at the Shenzhen skyline "with its hundreds of construction cranes staking the landscape like dinosaurs."

At one point, Buzzell ends up drinking beer with young businessmen, two Brits and one American, who explain the brave new world of globalization.

"Back home, there's this place that used to make these tile bricks," one of the Brits tells Buzzell. "The problem was, they lasted for 80 years. The Chinese make their bricks for cheap, and theirs last only 18 months, which means in 18 months you have to buy more bricks, thus it's good for the economy because it keeps everybody with a job."

"Is that why everything I buy from China falls apart so fast?" Buzzell asks.

"Exactly!" the Brit says. "It keeps everybody with a job."

"It's the finish of one historical cycle," adds another businessman as he chomps into some ribs, "and the start of another."

San Francisco Chronicle Magazine

Getting By in the Tenderloin
by Colby Buzzell

This article appeared Sunday, August 5, 2007 on page CM - 19

2008 Oscar Nominees

A complete list of nominees for the 80th Academy Awards, announced Jan. 22:

Best Documentary Feature: "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," "No End in Sight," "Sicko," "Taxi to the Dark Side," "War/Dance."

"Former military blogger Colby Buzzell's high-octane tale of a street shootout is accompanied by still-frame, comic-book-style animation, while Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl's simple story about escorting a dead Marine's remains back to his Wyoming hometown is set against peaceful, unpopulated footage of the locations, ending with the dead soldier's grave. On the evidence, I'd guess that Buzzell is a war critic and Strobl is a gung-ho patriot, but I can't be quite sure and it doesn't much matter. Hearing their stories in their own words -- something few of us, pro- or antiwar, bother to do -- is the entire point. (The material is read aloud by various actors, including Beau Bridges, Robert Duvall, Aaron Eckhart and Blair Underwood.)"

"Several cinematic techniques are employed to realize these tales beyond straight-ahead re-creations. The most distinctive is “Men in Black” by Colby Buzzell, which utilizes a kind of animatic process to present a harrowing street fight, with animated bullets and spent cartridges flying out of the weapons of still illustrations. It's the most vulgar of the lot, with plenty of profanity to heighten the intensity. Most distressing, though, is that after he returned home, he stopped telling people he was in Iraq, because they didn't seem all that interested."
-the Trade, OR

"One of the best segments, a stark comic-style animation that accompanies Colby Buzzell's piece, "Men in Black," actually adds to the experience of the reading. Actually, an entire documentary about Buzzell, who wrote a popular anonymous blog from the frontlines before his commanding officers found out about it, would have been interesting. "

"Some passages are more effective than others, and none is better than the one from army specialist Colby Buzzell, who discusses manning a Bradley vehicle through an ambush in Mosul; Robbins tells his tale through a series of comic-book-like graphic sketches."

-the Onion A.V. Club

Movie synopsis:

OPERATION HOMECOMING is a unique documentary that explores the firsthand accounts of American soldiers through their own words. The film is built upon a project created by the National Endowment for the Arts to gather the writing of soldiers and their families who have participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through interviews and dramatic readings, the film transforms selections from this collection of writing into a deep examination of the experiences of the men and women who are serving in America's armed forces. At the same time it provides depth and context to these experiences through a broader look at the universal themes of war literature.

The writing in OPERATION HOMECOMING covers the full spectrum — poetry, fiction, memoir, letters, journals and essays. The stories recounted here are sad, funny, violent and uplifting. Yet each one displays an honesty and intensity that is rarely seen in explorations of the war. Through an extraordinary group of men and women it presents a profound window into the human side of America's current conflicts.

At the core of the writing in OPERATION HOMECOMING is a deep desire by all those who have served in war to come to terms with their experiences. Throughout the film the soldiers, young and old, express a profound hope that people will listen to their stories and try to understand what they have seen.

Gloom dominates tight Oscar documentary race
By Mary Milliken
Monday, February 18, 2008

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Viewers may think some of the nominees for best picture at next week's Academy Awards are dark, but they pale in comparison with the movies competing for the coveted Oscar for best documentary.

War, torture and sickness are some of the topics explored by the nominees. The winner will be announced on Sunday.

Unlike last year, when "An Inconvenient Truth" about Al Gore's slide show on global warming was the favorite and duly won, industry watchers say this year's contest is wide open.

Just as Oscar voters chose the Gore film to signal defense of the environment, this year they may decide the time is right to draw attention to the Iraq war.

"From the short-list to the nominees, the Academy voters were very interested in films that were about Iraq," said documentary filmmaker A.J. Schnack, who writes the film blog "All these wonderful things."

"No End in Sight" documents how the military strategy of a few powerful men led to a deepening conflict, while "Operation Homecoming" puts soldiers' poignant writings about combat and loss on film.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" laments America's use of torture in prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo Bay prison camp and in Iraq and Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore's "Sicko" looks at the failure of the United States to provide health care to millions, including one man who must decide which of two severed fingers he can afford to have reattached.

"War/Dance" follows war-weary children in northern Uganda, describing how they rebuild their lives through music and dance. This film, a favorite with audiences, may be the most upbeat of the nominees.


Schnack said that "each of the topics could be something that the Academy wants to rally behind." Health care reform, for example, is a top issue in the U.S. presidential race.

"Sicko" is by far the most successful of the nominated documentaries at U.S. box offices, grossing $25 million, the third largest ever for a documentary of its kind.

But the Academy may overlook Moore since he won the Oscar for 2002's "Bowling for Columbine" about a tragic mass shooting in a Colorado high school.

"No End in Sight," directed by Charles Ferguson, is second at the box office among nominees, grossing $1.4 million.

Alex Gibney's timing with "Taxi," which has just been released, could not have been better with public debate raging over "waterboarding" -- a simulated drowning technique the CIA admits to having used during interrogations after the September 11 attacks.

Gibney persuaded several high-ranking officials to talk in his film about the use of torture in U.S. detention centers.

"I think they were motivated to speak out because they felt their voices weren't being heard in the corridors of power," said Gibney, also executive producer of "No End in Sight."

As is often the case in documentaries, normal people -- not stars -- get a platform to make themselves heard, like the soldiers in Richard Robbins' "Operation Homecoming," based on a writing project by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Colby Buzzell wrote his vignette, "Men in Black," after living through an horrific Iraqi street battle. "We watch the news and hear talking points like 'We shouldn't be there,' and people are sick of that," he said. "Richard's movie with soldiers telling stories hits home hard."
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Soldier-reporters rewrite the rules

August 11, 2007

In August 2004, one of former U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell's superiors scolded a reporter for "endangering operational security."

In a vivid dispatch from Mosul the correspondent had described the confusion and horror of a fierce Iraq firefight between black-clad insurgents and Buzzell's besieged battalion. To the commander's dismay, he had mentioned that the Americans ran low on water during the fight and detailed the steps soldiers took to find new ammunition.

Now, in his base office, the commander held a printout of the story – heavily marked with red pen – and demanded an explanation from the offending journalist.

U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell.

Embedded reporter? Try combatant-reporter. To national acclaim and his superior's fury, Buzzell had chronicled the battle on his blog, CBFTW.

That is: Colby Buzzell F--- The World.

"I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch making a `Ping' `Ping' `Ping' sound," Buzzell wrote. "All of the (sic) sudden all hell came down around us, all these guys, wearing all black, a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere, and started unloading on us..."

The pen is mightier than the sword. But if you want to frighten the mightiest military in the world, try wielding both at the same time.

Using the Internet-enabled laptops that are now as common on their bases as cigarettes, dozens of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq have become war correspondents themselves. Few Canadians have done the same (see sidebar). In the sleepy on-base hours between missions, they share their stories directly with the world, unfiltered by the biases of the "mainstream media" many of them distrust.

In turn, the Pentagon appears to have developed a distrust of its own – subjecting soldier-writers to strict new regulations and unwanted scrutiny that will get worse, some of them complained, after the Army concluded this week that a private writing for The New Republic had invented three stories of soldier misbehaviour.

Buzzell, 30, was one of the first soldier-correspondents to face the military's wrath. In the world of military blogs, he is both typical and atypical.

He joined the Army in 2002, served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, and left the Army in 2005.

Typical: He started his blog, in part, because he was bored when he wasn't out fighting; he started his blog, in part, because he was unhappy with the way professional journalists were covering the war.

Atypical: He thought those journalists were being too friendly to the not-always-honest military.

"I saw that a lot of times they would just cut and paste what the Army press releases would say," he says from his home in San Francisco. "And sometimes the Army press releases aren't accurate – and from what I saw, the media wasn't too interested in finding out whether they were true or not."

Buzzell is a rare military-blogging brid, though.

Only a "really, really, really, really small" percentage of military blogs are anti-war, prominent "Blackfive" blogger Matthew Currier Burden says.

Burden, a veteran of the first Gulf War and the editor of The Blog of War, a book of blog posts from Iraq and Afghanistan, says blogging soldiers don't necessarily support the Bush administration. But the 39-year-old, who left the Army Reserve in 2001, says "they're proud of what they do" – and they're dismayed when they don't see their accomplishments noted in the mainstream press.

"I was in Ramadi in 2005, which was clearly pretty violent, but typically when we went out it was totally not violent at all," says former Sgt. Steve Bogucki, 23, who served in Iraq in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and blogs as "Educated Soldier." "We just went around and talked to the people. And that's really what you didn't see in the media."

"We were in northern Iraq, and you would think from watching the news that the entire war was going on in Baghdad, and it was a complete disaster, there were dead bodies everywhere, that it was a slaughter," says current Army medic Sgt. Ernesto Haibi, 40, who served in Iraq in 2004 and who blogs at "A Candle In the Dark." "But a lot of people didn't realize there were things going on in other places – there were worse things going on in other places, and there were better things going on. Regardless, there were things going on all over the country, and they weren't being reported."

Michael Hedges, a long-time war correspondent who made four trips to Iraq for the Houston Chronicle, says most media outlets have essentially abandoned the country. In recent months, he says, the number of U.S. reporters there has sometimes dwindled "into single digits."

"The consequences of too few voices spread too thin: There's an imposition of too few views on what the American public is seeing," says Hedges, now the managing editor of the Washington, D.C., Examiner. "You've got a few organizations driving the perception of the war. That's never been healthy."

The U.S. military, he says, is itself frustrated that so few reporters are reporting from Iraq. "I've had top commanders say to me, `We want you over here. We want other reporters over here.' I've had them say to me, `There are only 11 American reporters here right now. What's the problem?' I think the Pentagon would be delighted if 100 reporters landed in Baghdad tomorrow."

But the Pentagon hasn't appeared delighted with the appearance of more than 100 soldier-reporters from its own ranks.

New Army "operational security" rules, issued in April, say no blog entry can be posted before it is checked for sensitive information by soldiers' superiors.

One thing on which pro-war Burden and skeptical Buzzell can agree: The rules are ridiculous.

"If I want to say, `Hey Mom, I had a great meatball sandwich today,' my commander's going to read it? That's not going to happen," Burden says.

In comments to the media – after a "big stink" raised by Burden, whose site receives more than 10,000 visits a day, and other military bloggers – Army public affairs officials have since backed away from the new rules. But they continue to be formal policy, and they continue to be mocked by current and former blogging members of the military.

"We write, `We went on a raid last night,'" Haibi says. "That's what we write: `We went on a raid last night.' We don't say who `we' is, we don't say where it is. It's not like we say, `Yesterday we hid in Echo Tango 12345 on the second floor looking for Abdul bin-Hassan, but we didn't find him.' If what we write is op-sec, then we all need to stop breathing."

The Army did not respond to a request for comment on its policy – but its detractors are happy to explain it. Buzzell thinks the Pentagon believes no Iraq news is good Iraq news. If it can stifle military blogs, it can better control the flow of information to the public. Haibi says military commanders fear a negative public reaction to the harsh men-at-war truths that military blogs depict.

Plus, if you don't let soldiers write anything without your approval, you don't let them write about the cruelties they claim to have witnessed or perpetrated. Last month – and continuing into this week – military bloggers raised another big stink when Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an Army private writing as a "Baghdad Diarist" for The New Republic, a liberal magazine, claimed to have seen fellow troops deliberately running over dogs in their fighting vehicles, wearing the skull of a child for laughs, and mocking an Iraqi woman whose face was disfigured by an explosive device

Nonsense, military bloggers responded. Soldiers in Iraq would never laugh at a woman wounded by the same bombs that have wounded so many of them; the child's bones could not have had "rotting flesh" on them; those vehicles aren't manoeuvrable enough to do what Beauchamp said they did.

The Army investigated. While The New Republic still stands by the article, the Army said Wednesday that each of the three stories is false.

And so it was: Active-duty soldiers defended the honour of the military, in writing, while refuting the writings of another active-duty soldier – while they were all violating military rules for writing anything in the first place.

It was a distinctly 21st century internecine battle. But, like many old-style firefights, this episode came at a cost to its (apparent) victors: even more critical scrutiny, from the Pentagon, the public, and from the mainstream media.

"It's that guy, Beauchamp, that makes my life difficult trying to tell truth," says Haibi. "It's that guy, a shameless media whore trying to get himself a $25,000 $30,000 advance on a book deal, telling lies, that makes our lives even harder."

As if that were possible.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Winner of the 2007 Lulu Blooker Prize

Overall Winner and Non-Fiction Winner
My War: Killing Time In Iraq by Colby Buzzell

Iraq veteran wins blog prize as US military cuts web access

Ed Pilkington in New York
Tuesday May 15, 2007


· Literary award for former soldier's online dispatches
· Critics brand Pentagon's new rules 'self-defeating'

The timing of the award is almost as striking as the writing which it honours. A former American machine gunner's memoir of a year's tour of duty in Iraq based on his blog has just won a major accolade at precisely the moment when the US military high command is clamping down on blogs among the rank and file.
Colby Buzzell was awarded the £5,000 Lulu Blooker prize for My War: Killing Time in Iraq, which was voted the best book of the year based on a blog. It triumphed over 110 entries from 15 countries.

The memoir was drawn from a blog he kept while in Mosul, in northern Iraq, in 2004, in which he portrayed the texture of daily life there, from listening to Metallica on his iPod to watching his fellow "grunts" surf the web for pornography.

The paradox of Buzzell's victory is that it quickly follows the revelation that the Pentagon has introduced new rules restricting blogs among soldiers, fuelling speculation that live and unadorned combat writing from the field such as Buzzell's may be the last of its kind.

The new rules require all would-be "milbloggers", as soldier-publishers are called, to submit blog entries to supervising officers before posting them. That turns on its head the existing rules which allowed soldiers to post freely, with the onus on them to register their blogs and to alert officers to any material that might compromise security.

Yesterday the defence department went further and announced it was blocking access "worldwide" to 13 communal websites, including YouTube and MySpace from military computers and networks. General BB Bell said the move was to protect operations from the drain on computer capacity caused by soldiers downloading videos on these sites.

But prominent military bloggers said this was another move by commanders to try and regain control over ue of the internet. Matthew Burden, a former major in the US army who runs the most popular milblog, Blackfive, with 3 million unique users a year, said he had been contacted by several serving soldiers who said they were going to stop posting. "They are all putting their hands in the air and saying, 'That's it, I've had enough.'"

He said the rules were self-defeating and would deter blogs such as, which is written by a specialist who defuses roadside bombs. "Take that down and you are removing one of the most positive messages for what the army is doing in Iraq," Mr Burden said.

Mr Buzzell, now 30, was sent to Iraq in November 2003. He had joined the army at a time, he said, when "I was living off Top Ramen [pot noodles] in a suburb of San Francisco and my life was going nowhere". He discovered blogging by reading a Time article while in Iraq, and started posting eight months into his tour.

He rapidly built up a huge following and was profiled in the media. After six weeks an order came down that his blog should be stopped, without any explanation; but by then he already had 10 different publishers clamouring after him.

Buzzell said the new restrictions would hurt combat soldiers and their families. "It's hard for them out there, and this will make it harder. It will lower soldier morale for troops who are on their second or even third tour." He also regrets the tightening grip over blogging on a personal level because without it, he said, he would now be "washing dishes in a restaurant somewhere, back to eating Top Ramen".

As it is, his book has been translated into seven languages, and he has embarked on a freelance writing career for Esquire magazine, among others. "This is a totally screwed up policy," he said. "The commanders are just really nervous because they can't keep control any more."

· Biography: Colby Buzzell

Age: 30

From: now lives in San Francisco

Hobbies: skateboarding and hard rock

Job: machine gunner turned author

Started blogging because: 'It sounded like a good way for me to kill some time out here in Iraq, post a little diary stuff, maybe some rants, links to some cool shit, thoughts, experiences, garbage, crap, whatever.'

Literary idols: Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S Thompson

Favourite sounds before a mission: the Cure, the Smiths "and a little bit of the old school U2",,2079899,00.html
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

U.S. soldier's blog offers firsthand look at war in Iraq from the

BYLINE: John Jerney, Special to The Daily Yomiuri, Yomiuri
The Daily Yomiuri(Tokyo)

On Aug. 4, 2004, downtown Mosul, Iraq, exploded with violence. U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell, an M240 Bravo machine gunner in the Stryker Brigade, was among the men called to respond.

Buzzell and his fellow soldiers were aware of the risks as they rolled out of Forward Operating Base Marez. By mid-2004, the Iraqi insurgency was already well under way.

Sniper and mortar attacks were commonplace and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had transformed one-time routine patrols into life-and-death missions.

But with the entire battalion called to roll out, Buzzell sensed that something was up.

For the next several hours, Buzzell found himself in the crosshairs of a massive, all-day firefight combating masked men-in-black equipped with a plethora of weapons ranging from AK-47s and mortars, to IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Recounting the event later, Buzzell would write that he had never experienced fear as he did that day. The next morning, searching for news about the event on the Web, Buzzell found a scant few paragraphs on the CNN Web site under the heading "Mosul Clashes Leave 12 Dead."

Buzzell instinctively logged into his blog, cut-and-paste the CNN article, and began recounting his own version of the events of that day, starting with the sentence "Now here's what really happened?"

In posting to his blog, Buzzell was just doing something that millions of others had already been engaged in for years: telling his personal story to the online world.

But Buzzell's blog, one of the first and most popular run by a soldier in active combat, raised at least three significant issues. First, who should report the news during a war when the reporters have all gone home? Second, how are we to judge the veracity and accuracy of news reports prepared by individuals not formally bound to a code of ethics?

And third, what free speech rights are guaranteed to nonprofessional journalists, especially those that may have a conflict of interest in the subject about which they are reporting?

Buzzell is a good-natured person, conscientious and quick to laugh. Sitting across the table from me as we chatted over lunch at a Thai restaurant in San Francisco's Tenderloin district not far from his apartment, Buzzell simultaneously projected shyness and incredible intensity, even through his dark sunglasses.

Talking to Buzzell, you learn several things quickly. He's extremely bright and uncommonly well read--quotes and literal references are within easy reach for him. But when it comes to talking about the war, his feelings
sometimes overrun his thoughts. His best form of expression is undoubtedly the written word.

Which is why his 2004 blog from the front lines in Iraq drew so much attention. Written without an overt political point of view, Buzzell started the blog, entitled simply enough My War, during his eighth month of deployment in Iraq to share his experiences and get his story recorded.

Buzzell recounted, "When I first got to Iraq, I kept a journal and I would write about what I was seeing and experiencing. Then, I saw a brief article in Time magazine about blogs. At that time, I had never heard the word blog before. And I was like, what the heck is this? So I read the article and it described how everyday people with no real journalism experience were
writing about their experiences on the Internet."

Buzzell continued, "There was also a brief mention in the article about soldiers in Iraq doing these things. I said, whoa, no way, that can't be possible. There's no way that the military would allow soldiers to write about what's going on and to post these entries on the World Wide Web for anybody to read."

Buzzell rushed to the Internet cafe on base, and searched for blogs by soldiers. He found that some did exist, as the Time article had mentioned, but as Buzzell explained, "I didn't see any blogs that were written by soldiers in combat arms, soldiers that went out actively on combat missions on a daily basis."

Buzzell noticed that most of the blogs seemed to be written by soldiers who stayed on base all day. "That's fine," noted Buzzell, "but a person that leaves the base might have a different perspective on what's going on out there. So I don't know why, I just said the hell with it, I'm going to do it."

Buzzell set about to write down exactly what he saw, to capture the kind of experiences that used to be recorded during previous wars, such as Vietnam, when reporters stayed with the troops throughout their deployment and

"At the beginning of the war," Buzzell explained, "there were embedded reporters. But I was there during the second year of the war and all these embeds and reporters were gone, they were back home."

Buzzell continued, "So I just decided to write about what I was seeing. And then, I don't know, it just sort of took on a life of its own."

At first, only a few emails arrived each day. That quickly turned into a dozen, then two and three dozen, and then hundreds of emails per day.

"And the comments just kept coming," recalled Buzzell. "It felt good because honestly I never once got anything negative in an email. Most of it was thanks, none of us really know what's going on over there and you're telling
your story. Thank you."

Posting under the anonymous name CBFTW, Buzzell kept writing his reports in between missions, giving his growing number of readers a behind-the-scenes look at the war in a way that many weren't used to seeing.

Buzzell soon attracted the attention of Esquire, and subsequently turned some of his experiences into articles for the magazine. More importantly, Buzzell used his blog entries as the foundation for perhaps the most highly
acclaimed book about the Iraq war written by a soldier, "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," winner of the 2007 Lulu Blooker Prize.

In the next edition of my column, I'll describe the military's reaction to Buzzell's blog, and comment on the relevance of soldiers' blogs and the role that non-journalists can play in disseminating information otherwise bypassed by conventional sources.
Saturday, April 14, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle

Punk. Soldier. Blogger. And now author. A young veteran shares his war stories.
Saturday, May 19, 2007

Colby Buzzell had little time to hunt for an apartment in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, what with appearances scheduled for both NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and CNN's "Paula Zahn Now."

It was a surreal week for the 28-year-old soldier-turned-author. On Sunday he learned he was the second recipient of the $10,000 LuLu Blooker Prize for his "blook" (book based on a blog), "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," and on Monday, the Defense Department announced that it would cut off access to file-sharing sites such as YouTube and MySpace on 5 million Pentagon-issued computers -- an apparent reaction to bloggers reporting from the front lines. (Soldiers still have access to the sites on their personal computers and can log on to them at privately owned Internet cafes on their bases.)

Buzzell, who still posts at, has been out of the Army for two years, and his book was published more than a year ago, but suddenly -- and despite his current dread of talking about war and blogs -- he's fielding dozens of interview requests for his thoughts on both. Still, he's glad to take the ride.

"Every time I think my 15 minutes is up," Buzzell said, "someone else calls me."

Before his NPR appointment, Buzzell sat outside a Starbucks cafe, chain-smoking and working on his third cup of coffee. With his mesh cap, tattooed arms and loose wallet chain, he looked more like a Mission District hipster than a war veteran.
"I don't know what people expect me to be," he said. "Because I ride skateboards and wear Vans, I'm not supposed to join the Army? Maybe I'm supposed to be from Alabama, because people seem to think you have to be from the South to sign up."
Buzzell grew up in San Ramon, the son of a housewife and a Silicon Valley software engineer. As a teenager he took BART to Berkeley to catch punk shows at 924 Gilman; on his iPod in Iraq he kept an East Bay playlist that included local acts such as Rancid, Swinging Utters, Screw 32 and A.F.I.

"Whenever I'd want to really make myself feel homesick and slit my wrists," Buzzell recalled, "I'd listen to that playlist."

In his book, Buzzell describes a familiar tale of war: soldiers bored to tears, upset with commanders' hypocrisies and terrified to death when in battle.

But in this war, unlike all those that came before, the Army specialist also observes that his fellow soldiers are strangely tech savvy, constantly noodling on their laptops, making personal "war videos" for kicks ("I saw guys shooting their rifle with one hand and clicking their digital camera with the other") and surfing the Web for a window to the outside world.

Buzzell often bristles at the notion that American troops are nothing more than country hicks; when his radio interviewer joked that Buzzell must have been the only soldier carrying a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" in his back pocket, Buzzell responded tersely: "There's a lot of literate people in the Army."

Buzzell joined after a string of temp jobs left him feeling unfulfilled. "I figured I'd join, see if I could make something of myself."

He started his blog in 2003 after he read about the trend in Time magazine, as a measure to fight boredom. Since he was a pioneer in the soldier-blog genre, he was also one of the first to run afoul of superiors wary of his online comments. After Buzzell e-mailed Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, the singer posted a message on the blog that called out "the unelected gangsters and scam artists who started this war." Buzzell was confined to the base and forced to submit his entries to a platoon sergeant for review. His blog lasted only 10 weeks during the 2004 summer while stationed in Mosul. The writing and the ensuing fallout caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal and Esquire magazine. Buzzell, while still serving in Iraq, began entertaining offers from New York publishers for a book.

"They say Vietnam was the first televised war, brought into the homes of Americans," Buzzell said. "Maybe Iraq is the first war that's online, shown by the soldiers.

"It'd be a shame if guys stopped using it," he added, referring to the Defense Department's recent restrictions on Web use. "One of the few escapes of the war is the Internet cafes. They gave you a sense of normalcy, what's going on away from it. ... If you take that away, morale can only go lower."

After he completed his NPR interview, Buzzell returned to the details of his civilian life. His four-year marriage had recently ended. He'd moved out of his Los Angeles home and back in with his parents in San Ramon. Earlier that morning, his father had driven him to the BART station so he could get to San Francisco. "It's kind of come full circle," he noted.
He still needed to find an apartment, but the LuLu prize money would make it easier to make the security deposit. He needed to find an Internet cafe so he could log on and check out Craigslist.

"I'm just going to walk toward the Mission," he said.

The Red-Hot, Pork-Stuffed, Corn-Wrapped, Blues-Flavored Enigma

New article on page 68 in the May 2007 issue of Esquire Magazine.

A trip down Mississippi's tamale trail.
Monday, March 19, 2007

Commonwealth Club


CAMILLE EVANS, Army Sergeant
BRETT MILLER, National Guard Sergeant; Resident, Traumatic Brain Injury Center, VA Palo Alto Hospital
COLBY BUZZELL, Army Specialist; Author, My War
JOHN KOOPMAN, Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle – Moderator


After four years at war in Iraq, more than 150,000 troops have been deployed and more than 3,000 American men and women have lost their lives. But the fallout of the war goes beyond casualties, touching returning soldiers, their families and fellow Americans. Hear young veterans share their experiences on the ground in Iraq and coming home. No news program or article can offer this amount of insight into the reality of being a soldier.

6:00 p.m., Check-in | 6:30 p.m., Program | 7:30 p.m., Reception | Club office, 595 Market St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco | $12 for Members, $20 for Non-Members, $7 for Students (with valid ID; to reserve student tickets )

About The Commonwealth Club:

The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, bringing together its 16,000 members for over 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy.

Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club has played host to a diverse and distinctive array of speakers, from Teddy Roosevelt in 1911 to Erin Brockovich in 2001. Along the way, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have all given landmark speeches at The Club.

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, The Commonwealth Club relies on the support of its membership, the Business Council and foundation grants to continue its role in fostering open public discussion in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the nation via radio, Internet and television.

The Club has offices in San Francisco and San Jose, with regular events in both cities, as well as programs in the East and North Bay.

For members outside the Bay Area, The Club's weekly radio broadcast - the oldest in the U.S., dating back to 1924 - is carried across the nation on public radio stations. Our web site archive features audio of our recent programs, as well as selected speeches from our long and distinguished history.

The mission of The Commonwealth Club of California is to be the leading national forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation.

more info:

Penthouse Magazine

New article on page 138 of the April 2007 Penthouse Magazine.

by Colby Buzzell

The 2007 Blooker Prize Short-List

Fifteen blooks, from a total of five different countries, have made this year's shortlist - six each in the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories and three in Comics. They cover topics ranging from a Zombie invasion of New York to the Iraq war, life in the South of France, the intimate secrets of teenagers and the doorbells of Florence. See the official contest blog for the list in full. The winners of each category and the overall prize will be announced on Monday, May 14.

The 2007 Short-List


Crashing The Gate
by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas

My Secret: A PostSecret Book
by Frank Warren

My War: Killing Time In Iraq
by Colby Buzzell

Small Is the New Big: and 183 other riffs, rants, and remarkable business ideas
by Seth Godin

So Close: Infertile and Addicted To Hope
by Tertia Albertyn

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language From the South of France
by Kristin Espinasse

The Lulu Blooker Prize is the world's first literary prize devoted to "blooks"-books based on blogs or other websites, including webcomics
Saturday, February 10, 2007

PENTHOUSE Magazine - Warrior Wire

New article on page 100 of the March 2007 Penthouse Magazine "Pet Of The Year" Issue.


by Colby Buzzell


"Former military blogger Colby Buzzell's high-octane tale of a street shootout is accompanied by still-frame, comic-book-style animation, while Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl's simple story about escorting a dead Marine's remains back to his Wyoming hometown is set against peaceful, unpopulated footage of the locations, ending with the dead soldier's grave. On the evidence, I'd guess that Buzzell is a war critic and Strobl is a gung-ho patriot, but I can't be quite sure and it doesn't much matter. Hearing their stories in their own words -- something few of us, pro- or antiwar, bother to do -- is the entire point. (The material is read aloud by various actors, including Beau Bridges, Robert Duvall, Aaron Eckhart and Blair Underwood.)"

"Several cinematic techniques are employed to realize these tales beyond straight-ahead re-creations. The most distinctive is “Men in Black” by Colby Buzzell, which utilizes a kind of animatic process to present a harrowing street fight, with animated bullets and spent cartridges flying out of the weapons of still illustrations. It's the most vulgar of the lot, with plenty of profanity to heighten the intensity. Most distressing, though, is that after he returned home, he stopped telling people he was in Iraq, because they didn't seem all that interested."
-the Trade, OR

"One of the best segments, a stark comic-style animation that accompanies Colby Buzzell's piece, "Men in Black," actually adds to the experience of the reading. Actually, an entire documentary about Buzzell, who wrote a popular anonymous blog from the frontlines before his commanding officers found out about it, would have been interesting. "

from The Onion - A.V. Club Review:

The stories and poems comprising the simple, artful documentary Operation Homecoming were assembled as part of a National Endowment Of The Arts program to collect the writings of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just hearing their words read aloud has a bracing effect, mainly because those voices are rarely heard over the din of political stump speeches or the gasbags on talk radio or cable news networks. The question is, what makes this a movie? Wouldn't a well-edited anthology of these pieces paint all the necessarily vivid pictures on their own? Remarkably, director Richard E. Robbins appears to have taken such doubts to heart, because each of the 11 passages featured in the film attempts a different stylistic approach, and not one could be labeled a typical staged reenactment. Though it doesn't quite stretch to the artistic lengths of Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Operation Homecoming provides enough visual support to bring these writings to life.

Pushed through by a voice cast of celebrity narrators—Robert Duvall, Beau Bridges, Josh Lucas, Aaron Eckhart, and Blair Underwood, among others—the featured selections cover a range of styles (short stories, poems, letters, et al.) and experiences, from ground-level skirmishes to MedEvac airlifts to escorting bodies back home. There's even a bleakly comic sequence about the excruciating grind of life in the tents, with the same bad breakfast every day, the desert sand embedded in every pore, and latrines so foul that the author felt like immolating himself to get the filth off his body. Offering support for the soldiers' testimonials are author-veterans from other wars, such as Tobias Wolff, Tim O'Brien, Anthony Swofford, and John Salter; no matter the specific conflict and no matter their political persuasion, their feelings about warfare are harmonious.

Some passages are more effective than others, and none is better than the one from army specialist Colby Buzzell, who discusses manning a Bradley vehicle through an ambush in Mosul; Robbins tells his tale through a series of comic-book-like graphic sketches. Another beautiful sequence follows a Marine officer who accompanies the body of a fallen private back to his Montana hometown for burial. Robbins' cameras follow in his footsteps, but rather than recreating the event, they move through the empty spaces of the town, the soldiers' school, and the cemetery like ghosts, with no living thing entering the frame. There are a couple of duds, like a hummingbird-fast photo montage to honor the dead, but the cumulative effect of Operation Homecoming is to bring to light the soldiers' collective experiences and the enduring nightmares they suffer in our place.

A.V. Club Rating: B+

Movie synopsis:

OPERATION HOMECOMING is a unique documentary that explores the firsthand accounts of American soldiers through their own words. The film is built upon a project created by the National Endowment for the Arts to gather the writing of soldiers and their families who have participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through interviews and dramatic readings, the film transforms selections from this collection of writing into a deep examination of the experiences of the men and women who are serving in America's armed forces. At the same time it provides depth and context to these experiences through a broader look at the universal themes of war literature.

The writing in OPERATION HOMECOMING covers the full spectrum — poetry, fiction, memoir, letters, journals and essays. The stories recounted here are sad, funny, violent and uplifting. Yet each one displays an honesty and intensity that is rarely seen in explorations of the war. Through an extraordinary group of men and women it presents a profound window into the human side of America's current conflicts.

At the core of the writing in OPERATION HOMECOMING is a deep desire by all those who have served in war to come to terms with their experiences. Throughout the film the soldiers, young and old, express a profound hope that people will listen to their stories and try to understand what they have seen.

More info about "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" :

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Drink, Joke, Woman

New article in Esquire Magazine on page 216.

The Best and Brightest 2006
December 2006, Volume 146, Issue 6
Sunday, October 29, 2006

The New York Review Of Books

Volume 55, Number 5 · April 3, 2008
The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?
By Michael Massing


In 2003, Colby Buzzell, then twenty-six, was living in a small room in a renovated Victorian house in the Richmond district of San Francisco, doing data entry for financial companies. Raised in the suburbs of the Bay Area, Buzzell had hated high school and, deciding against college, ended up in a series of low-paying jobs—flower deliverer, valet parker, bike messenger, busboy, carpet cutter, car washer. Data entry paid somewhat better—about $12 an hour—but even so he was barely able to get by. At one point, he ran into an old friend who had joined the Marines, and, in his telling, military life sounded like one big frat party, but with weapons and paychecks. After nearly a year of feeling stuck, Buzzell decided to visit an Army recruiter. He describes his state of mind in My War: Killing Time in Iraq,[1] an uproarious account of his life in the military:

"I was sick of living my life in oblivion where every fucking day was the same fucking thing as the day before, and the same fucking routine day in and day out. Eat, shit, work, sleep, repeat.

At the time, I saw no escape from this. I was in my mid-twenties and I still had no fucking idea what the hell I wanted to do with myself....

I figured if I joined the military it might be a quick-fix solution to my problems, it would add some excitement to my life, and at the same time give me the sense that I had finally done something with myself. And who knows? A trip to the Middle East could be one hell of an adventure."

Buzzell had a long rap sheet and a history of drug use, but, with his recruiter's help, he made it through the application process, and before long he was off to boot camp.

Many of the other recent books written by soldiers about their experiences in Iraq offer similarly frank accounts of their paths into the military. In Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army,[2] Kayla Williams, who joined the punk scene when she was thirteen and loved to drop acid, writes that she joined in part to get away from one boyfriend who turned out to have been married and to prove wrong another who had taunted her about her lack of toughness. The promise of a regular paycheck did not hurt. "There are many reasons to join the Army," she writes. "But without a doubt it's a great way—leaving aside the whole prospect of getting maimed or killed—to better your career prospects."

Joshua Key, in The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq,[3] describes growing up in rural Oklahoma in a two-bedroom trailer with his mother and alcoholic stepfather and working at a series of minimum-wage jobs. At eighteen he got married and quickly had two sons but few prospects of providing for them. "I had no money, I had dreams of getting formal training as a welder, I needed to get my teeth fixed, and I wanted to have my kidney stone removed," he writes. In the recruiting office, the posters suggested that if he joined the military,

I would be on easy street. The armed forces were offering money for college tuition, health insurance, and even a cash bonus for signing up. To top it all off, military service would give me a chance to travel and discover a new way of life.

In these books, the idea of joining the military to defend America or uphold its values is largely absent. Rather, these soldiers signed up to escape dead-end jobs, failed relationships, broken families, bills, toothaches, and boredom. The armed forces offered a haven from the struggles and strains of life in modern-day America, a place to gain security and skills, discipline and self-esteem.

Reading these accounts, I wondered how representative they were. Had the all-volunteer force become a giant holding tank for slackers and misfits, for working stiffs and small-town Charlies who felt stifled and stymied? What about the surge in patriotism that had occurred after September 11? Did today's soldiers tend more to resemble Pat Tillman, the NFL star who gave up a lucrative career to fight terrorists, or Lynndie England, the Appalachian hellraiser who helped bring us Abu Ghraib? In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed military recruiters prowling the boarded-up streets of Flint, Michigan, urging hard-up African-Americans to enlist. Yet as recruitment figures show, the numbers of blacks joining the Army has declined sharply, from 23.5 percent of all enlistees in 2000 to just 13 percent in 2006—a result of the deep unpopularity of the Iraq war in the black community.

Full article go to:
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Oklahoma Gazette

Broadband of Brothers
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 - Rob Collins

"Combat is nothing like television. What is seen with the eye may appear the same. An explosion in a movie is no different than an explosion seen by the naked eye, but it’s the other four senses that truly define combat. The smells of gunfire. The loud ping of bullets bouncing off of metal. The vibrations of grenades exploding nearby. The taste of your own fear climbing up into your throat. This is combat. And no matter how many times you experience it, you learn one more thing about yourself and you’re always happy to be walking away."

—Sminklemeyer, a.k.a. former Staff Sergeant Fred Minnick, on his blog “In Iraq for 365”

Combat photographer Fred Minnick tried to count how many car bombs he’d documented in the past two months. He honestly couldn’t say. The Oklahoma native arrived at the scene with three or four Humvees to seal off an area of Mosul, Iraq.

En route, Minnick snapped the terror casualties.

“Debris everywhere,” Minnick wrote. “Puddles of blood. It was an image I had become all too familiar with.”

Located 150 yards from the fighting, Minnick needed to photograph enemy fire “to avoid an international incident of attacking a mosque,” he wrote. Coalition forces sought definitive proof that insurgents had fired at them from the mosque since that hadn’t happened before in northern Iraq, Minnick said.

“It was hard to keep my camera in focus—you’ve got bullets literally pinging off feet away from you and you’re trying to cover it,” Minnick said.

“After that fighting kind of subsided, there was a white van that pulled up real quickly. The side doors opened up and a couple of guys got out and one guy was holding an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] and pointing it right toward me and my buddy. And he shot it right at me.”

The RPG, which aurally resembled a really lame techno song, dangled overhead like a baseball bat with a tail of fire. Minnick thought he was going to die as the grenade bounced off the cement 10 feet in front of him.

“I just stood there watching it, and was fascinated by how non-ominous the RPG was now,” Minnick wrote. “It was a dud.”

What happened to the attackers?

“Each one of them died by American soldier bullets,” Minnick wrote. “Their deaths were dramatic. The first man to fall must have died instantly. Even from 75 meters away, we could see volumes of blood leaving his body. The others tried to run, but they all fell. Just in case their car was a bomb, we lit it up, too. And after 100 spent rounds, into five men, we left.”

Minnick, then a staff sergeant with the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, wrote about the events of June 24, 2004, with the pseudonym Sminklemeyer on his blog, “In Iraq for 365” ( This article’s account of his near-death experience comes from his blog postings, interviews and a provided excerpt from his unpublished book, Camera Boy: How I Sold the Truth (And the Lies) About Iraq. Minnick’s literary agent is currently shopping his book around to publishers.

Minnick’s blog is a new combat-reporting phenomenon making waves in publishing circles. Historically, war correspondents have filed news reports directly from the field while the Department of Defense issued approved press releases. But soldiers’ written accounts, subjected to military censorship, wouldn’t surface until the letters arrived home much later, according to Matthew Currier Burden, a former US Army major and author of The Blog of War.

“Today, with digital cameras, Web cams, cell phones and Internet access readily available, the letter home has taken on an entirely new form, with a new honesty and urgency,” Burden wrote. “The soldiers are telling their stories through blogging, instantly publishing expert on-the-ground accounts from the war zones.”

Engaging a mosque

"Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I’m actually shooting at a holy place of worship."

—former Army Specialist Colby Buzzell of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from his book My War: Killing Time in Iraq

Colby Buzzell of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team didn’t know the US Army was allowed to fire on a mosque. In the fog of war, he also didn’t realize Minnick was photographing him taking fire from the mosque while his group was providing security. Both Buzzell and Minnick would live to blog about the intense events that occurred in Mosul on June 24, 2004. Their unique, firsthand accounts differ greatly from a military press release issued about the incident.

Here is Buzzell’s version: Earlier that day, the machine gunner had heard car bombs detonate. He now sat locked and loaded behind an M240 as his military vehicle rolled out of the operating base onto the main route in Mosul and arrived at the Sheikh Fatih police station. It was under siege.

The 1st Platoon sat to the right of Buzzell’s Stryker, joined by the 3rd Platoon and fortified by a missile guidance set and mortars. “They were all engaging the police station and the huge mosque that was located right next door to it with .50-cals and small-arms fire as soon as we got there,” Buzzell wrote.

“While this was going on I was in total disbelief that we were actually engaging a mosque. Like isn’t this against some kind of Geneva Convention thing?”

Locked and loaded

"The day following the ambush, I went directly over to the Internet café to check my e-mail and to search the Internet for any information and/or press about what happened. I found little to no press about the firefight, just a couple paragraphs here and there, just stuff along the lines of what CNN wrote on their Web site. It kinda made me wonder what else goes on here in Iraq that never gets reported to the people back home."

—Colby Buzzell, My War: Killing Time in Iraq

Buzzell had no plans to author a book when he started writing in his journal about his Iraq experiences. He learned about blogs in a Time magazine article and viewed them as an alternative form of media reminiscent of the ’zines he read in the 1990s. He discovered an Internet café located nearby to surf for blogs emanating from Iraq.

“But I didn’t end up spending too much time reading these soldier-written blogs, because some of them had been shut down and most of the ones that weren’t shut down were just saying a bunch of brainwashed rhetoric, like, ‘Oh, the Iraqi people love us, we’re doing the right thing. I love the Army, I love my job, I love my country, I love our president.’ That gets old after a while, and if I wanted to read stuff like that I’d go to the official US Army recruiting Web site,” Buzzell wrote.

“I looked around and I couldn’t find a single blog out there that was written by somebody who locked and loaded their weapon every day, went out on missions, and saw for themselves up close and personal what it was really like out there.”

Buzzell, a skateboarder turned soldier, started posting under the name of CBFTW—a reference to his initials and the “Fuck the World” tattoo on his arm—in June 2004 during his eighth months of deployment.

As icing on the cake, Buzzell said he added a disclaimer to his “My War” military blog ( that he copied and pasted without permission from an officer’s blog. It said, in part, that the opinions on the site belonged to him and not the US military. Buzzell thought it would protect him, but it didn’t.

Soldiers don’t have freedom of speech

"If it weren’t for Colby Buzzell and “My War,” milblogs may have never taken off. People can say what they want about who was…the first milblogger, but “My War” was so raw and real that it made New York gay Democrats and Montana goat farmers care about Iraq."

—Sminklemeyer, “In Iraq for 365” blog

Buzzell’s blog attracted more eyes. One reader e-mailed the soldier to announce cancellation of a New York Times subscription because his free blog was more informative. The blogger also was contacted by an Iraqi reader living in Baghdad.

“I think many countries are willing to put Iraq in this situation so they can go on with their plans and this is all part of a big game in which you and me are just players,” the Iraqi wrote.

The war games continued. An insurgent firefight in August 2004 received scant media coverage. However, a newspaper report from Washington state covering Buzzell’s Fort Lewis, Washington-based detachment later noted the disconnect between the “My War” blog and the Pentagon’s claim that Buzzell’s brigade wasn’t involved in the fighting, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Buzzell had an idea.

“I noticed there were some media reports and the Army was saying, ‘We’re not trying to censor soldiers and they have freedom of speech,’” Buzzell said. “And I was like, ‘No, they don’t. That’s full of crap. Soldiers don’t have freedom of speech.’

“I wanted to test what the Army was saying. [Punk musician] Jello Biafra is someone I always highly respected and he’s a strong freedom of speech advocate. So I contacted him and told him what I was going through and asked him if he could do a guest post on my blog, and he did, and the Army totally blew a head gasket after that. At that time, the Army was saying soldiers could say whatever they wanted unless it jeopardized the mission, and I knew that was a lie.”

Although Buzzell was never demoted, he said Army officials were breathing down his neck because they couldn’t control soldiers sending unfiltered digital dispatches from the front lines. Eventually, he pulled the plug on his blog when his chain of command started previewing his comments for operational security concerns before posting.

“Once Colby kind of got in trouble, it was a very sad deal,” said Minnick, who considers Buzzell the Rosa Parks of military blogging. “Nobody wanted to see that happen—everybody even within the ranks. I was there, I heard the meetings and things that were said about him. Everybody thought what he was doing was good for the Army and was especially good for people back home. He brought a side of war that people didn’t get to see. The way he wrote was so present tense and it was so free from editing or censorship.

“The only thing that kept him from being able to continue was the Army’s fear. The Army feared that he would say too much, say inappropriate things. They didn’t know how to contain him, so they just stopped him. It was a sad day for the Army.”

Sometimes the facts get skewed

"A car bomb went off in Iraq, 30 dead, 100 injured, two soldiers killed, three wounded. That’s it. A little small blurb, you know, AP-style journalism. We become desensitized to that over a period of time. We just look at it as numbers or sentences and words on paper. It doesn’t hit close to home. But when you read a soldier’s blog that’s over there and he’s writing about his fears, his concerns, his hopes and what he’s going through, then it’s like the war becomes way real to the reader."

—Colby Buzzell

When Minnick wasn’t working at his desk, the combat photographer would join infantry, special forces or support units in the field. Officially, he would take photos and provide coverage with military approval but couldn’t always tell the full story through press releases. Minnick said he continued to blog surreptitiously by avoiding red flags and censoring himself to stay in touch with his family in eastern Oklahoma County.

“I learned now that I was [censored],” said Minnick, who was honorably discharged after nine years in the military. “I was being read, but no one came to me. Even when I thought it was [incognito], I was being read. People have come back and told me. I’ve had captains come back and tell me. Centcom [United States Central Command] kind of like goes through all the blogs.

“They’re trying to figure out a way to use them to their advantage. I’ve had people from Centcom tell me they’re trying to figure out a way to use them. They went as far as thinking about having people do that as their job: to blog.”

Minnick said blogging is important because the human side of the story is lost in a time when events are reported and debated literally minutes after they occur.

“Sometimes the facts get skewed,” said Minnick, who now lives in Louisville, Kentucky and works as managing editor for two food service trade publications. “Nearly most of the time, someone doesn’t hear all the story.

“I’m a journalist; I work my ass off to try to be objective. But it’s hard to say that CNN is objective, the New York Times is objective, when I have been there and observed the same thing come out as a totally different story. It’s hard to say the national media is always objective.”

Minnick said one news agency hired an English-speaking Middle Eastern resident as a reporter to get “in quick with the insurgents” in Iraq.

“We’ll be driving through on a convoy,” Minnick said. “We’ll see two photographers up here and suddenly, boom, one of our Humvees or Strykers gets blown up. And that happened a lot. They would get the information from the insurgents of when they were going to plan the attack. They were waiting in advance.”

Minnick also blogged about a Fox News cameraman making him drive slowly in a dangerous area—twice—to get the perfect pan of a building.

And don’t mention Geraldo Rivera.

“If you ask me, Geraldo is a piece of crap not worthy of a roll of toilet paper when he’s taking a number 2,” Minnick wrote. “That’s a horrible feeling and by the way, we have to place our paper in the trash can because Iraqi toilets can’t handle toilet paper in their sewage lines.”

Most embedded journalists cut and paste Army press releases without checking facts, Buzzell said. Instead of slumming with the grunts for a lengthy time like war correspondent Ernie Pyle, current embeds want a quick Iraq tour so they can write a little report and then hawk a book.

“We were looking for weapons,” Buzzell said about a routine checkpoint covered by an embedded journalist. “And this reporter wrote about it like it was World War III. I remembered that day and we were all bored out of our minds. Nothing happened that day.”

“There is so much rage in me”

"In my mind, I’m still in Iraq, looking for the cowards behind the black masks…I feel like I’m in a dream where I tell myself everything is fine and nobody here wants to kill me, but I can’t stop myself as if I am simply programmed to be suspicious and alert. My eyes automatically look at everybody as if they’re touting an AK-47. I scan for cover at every turn and am nervous when I see objects on the roadsides."

—Sminklemeyer, “In Iraq for 365” blog

Two weeks after Minnick returned home from Iraq, he camped out in the backyard of his parents’ home in Jones, Oklahoma. The Iraq war veteran blogged about loving the Oklahoma country, where the bullfrogs were boisterous and the moon was bright.

“As a kid, I slept outside all the time,” wrote Minnick, who is one-sixteenth Cherokee. “This time I fell asleep in the back yard within a matter of minutes.

“My little bro said he was looking for me in the back yard when I started yelling ‘Get down, mother-f-----! Get down, or I’ll shoot!’ I was chasing him with my arms at the ready. I chased him to the house and I was yelling for my friend ‘Sammy,’ telling him to get his weapon and that Haji is everywhere. I then proceeded into the house at 3 a.m., pounding on doors, telling everybody that Haji is everywhere and that we need to go. At first, they thought I was playing a joke until they looked into my eyes…they knew I was dreaming.”

Minnick awoke crying, yelling and hugging a defoliated crape myrtle in the front yard, according to his blog.

“I was relieved I was just dreaming… as the experience felt real,” Minnick wrote. “In the dream, I manned a guard tower at my parent’s house. We had a strong perimeter set up and somehow black man dresses surrounded the area.”

As he returns to civilian life, Minnick said blogging is helping him readjust to American society.

“It is so hard coming back,” said Minnick, age 28. “Even though people are supportive, there is so much rage in me.”

Buzzell, who is now hanging out in Los Angeles after being honorably discharged two years ago, said he drinks heavily since returning from Iraq.

“I don’t know, it seems nobody here really gives a shit about what’s going on over there, about the guys over there,” said Buzzell, now 30. “We keep on hearing all this rah-rah about ‘support the troops.’ But that rah-rah all dies once the troops come home. We kind of forget about our veterans…"

“No one really gives a fuck about you and no one’s out to really help you. A yellow magnet on the back of the car, a handshake, a pat on the back. It’s bullshit, you know? But then again, I don’t really know what people can do.”
Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blogs & Stories

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Best Bars In America
21 Club
Saturday, September 02, 2006

Radio Allegro

RA206-Life After War: Colby Buzzell, Killing Time in Iraq

Survival. It's a natural instinct and sometimes it's not always about life or death situations.

There are as many ways to survive as there are ways to live -- but it takes a special kind of person to show a whole nation how to survive. On today's episode of Radio Allegro we meet Colby Buzzell, blogger, soldier, and American Hero. He plays his favourite music and discusse blogging in a war zone and coming home to a America. His new book is My War: Killing Time in Iraq and it's available on Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

Produced, hosted, written, and edited by Ashley Foot
original music by Geoff Smith

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*Please note there is profanity on this episode so parental discretion is advised
Monday, July 17, 2006


Book TV Programs
A Weekly Look at Selected Book TV Programs
On Sunday, July 16 at 10:00 pm

On the Ground in Iraq
Colby Buzzell and Yasmine El-Shamayleh

Description: Discussion of the Iraq War featuring Iraq War veteran Colby Buzzell (author of "My War: Killing Time in Iraq") and activist Yasmine El-Shamayleh (who is there to present Iraqi blogger Riverbend's book "Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq"). Mr. Buzzell, who started a blog while serving in Iraq, and Ms. El-Shamayleh, a graduate student at New York University, read selections from "My War" and "Baghdad Burning," respectively, and then answer questions from the audience. Peter Lems, American Friends Service Committee national representative for Iraq, moderates the discussion. Portions of this program contain language that viewers may find offensive.

Author Bio: Colby Buzzell, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq for one year (1st Battalion, 23rd Regiment), is the author of a blog titled "My War," which he started in 2004. For more information, visit Riverbend, the pseudonym of a Baghdad-based computer programmer in her twenties, began reporting on the war in August 2003. Her blog, "Baghdad Burning," can be found at

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Thursday, November 17, 2005


302: Strangers in a Strange Land

Show synopsis:
Someone once said, "if you're not willing to be changed by a place, there's no point in going." This week, stories about what happens when you land in a whole new world. We hear from including Colby Buzzell, reading from his war memoir, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, and Trueman Muhrer-Irwin who blogged under the name "Rebel Coyote." Broadcast the weekend of November 18-20 in most places.

Act Two. Johnny Get Your Mouse.

Lots of soldiers in Iraq are writing about their experiences online. Producer Amy O'Leary has read through dozens of them and talks about what the soldiers are writing. Then, we hear from three bloggers, reading their own journals, telling their stories from Iraq about the fighting, the locals, and why you subscribe to Details magazine. We hear from Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss, Trueman Muhrer-Irwin, and Colby Buzzell, who has recently compiled a book of his war writing called My War: Killing Time in Iraq. (32 minutes)