Thursday, August 04, 2005

Over There Review : Episode II -Check Point Choke

I must admit, after Wednesday's news about Steven Vincent and the 21 Marines lost, I had very little enthusiasm for watching this program. It seems so trivial. On the other hand, the very reason I vowed to keep watching this program and commenting on it was brought home to me by a follow up email regarding my original review of the program from a person that took issue with my remarks.

In his/her follow up email, they remark:

If you where a smart person you would use this time to let
your soldiers know wtf is going down.


My main concern, and many others who are in the military, retired military or supporters of the military or simply even supporters of the war against Islamist terrorists, is that this program will be construed by an otherwise unknowledgable public as the definitive image of our military and the "war in Iraq". It's an image that is hard to come by even using the extended information sources like blogs, defense link or free lance journalists much less just getting the daily body count from the media in general.

I wanted to keep commenting on the subject, if possible, elicit knowledgable commentary from the sources that should know (ie, deployed or redeployed soldiers) and, just maybe, the comments will reach the writers, producers and directors so that the program will not be so off base or so driven by production short cuts and ratings, that it completely, disasterously defines our men and women for generations to come as something less than they are or even more (like heartless, trigger happy cowboys). As I later emailed to my erstwhile e-pal, the program is about entertainment, not about "telling the truth" though they may try to get there in their own way and it should be challenged when it is wrong or moved hazardously off course. I'll post the rest of my email conversation with "homeslice" in the extended portion of this post.

In the meantime, on to reviewing Episode II.

Our unit, now devoid of the two women who continue on with their convoy, but apparently have to turn around due to some obstacle (okay, I missed the first three minutes due to the telephone so I'm not sure why they were turning around), is now manning a check point. (Apparently, the episode they were showing last week with the possible war crime commiting NCO that looks like a bad pirate from the goonies is really episode three).

The scene is set first in the morning. There is a little building nearby and the unit or some other unit has built sandbag barricades across either side of the road, creating a narrow passage way through which a car could pass (and only a car, these folks must not have been anticipating any trucks, armored personnel carriers or tanks). While I'll give them a little leeway for artistic license, I was wondering where the concerntina wire was or the box shaped baricade from which to control the each side of the area. Too many sand bags to fill? Maybe the key grips and the stage hands weren't too willing to do it in 120* heat?

Whichever, it didn't take away much from the idea that it was a checkpoint and maybe it is better that all of our tactics aren't aired in public to a perfect degree? Then again, I imagine the jihadists and "insurgents" know how we operate these check points already so it would have been a non-issue, though, it does make me think about the issue of portraying certain activities on cable TV. I would like to ask these folks if they have thought about that and if they have had to get special clearance from any military censors or if they are censoring themselves?

That would be interesting to know. But, I digress.

The "smart but dim" soldier from Cornell (now I call him "Corny") whips out his trusty manual and creates a "stop sign" in Arabic for their checkpoint using spray paint and what appears to be the rusty hood of an abandoned car. This is in red. The checkpoint goes all night and I am wondering, for the sake of accuracy, if we use reflective paint for such endeavors or if we feel that it gives the position away too easily to would be snipers? Another question for the recently deployed or redeployed.

The snippy "I'm oppressed by the white power structure of the military" (OBWPSM or OB Whip Some) asks Corny what he's about and he explains. So, our Cornell graduate has the initiative and our black soldier doesn't give a damn, doesn't take initiative and doesn't want to be there. Maybe he is suffering from the DTs since his mary jane stash probably didn't make it past the pre-deployment inspection? This soldier is not turning out to be a very good role model for his fellow soldiers, much less the black community. I also wonder how he made it past basic without being involuntarily separated due to his bad attitude and lack of abilities?

Eventually, it turns dark and you are left thinking that these two young men are the only ones at the check point, in the middle of nowhere with little cover, one SAW and an M-16 between them. This sets up the scene for these two to have an intimate discussion which leads to some racial slurs being thrown back and forth between them, a fist fight and then the black soldier pulls a knife on the white soldier. Right in the middle of checkpoint duty, in the middle of nowhere. And, frankly, the set up was extremely weak particularly if you are going to have one soldier pulling a knife on the other. At least you could have one of the soldiers admitting that he screwed the other one's wife.

Oh...that's the other parallel story. I'll get to that in a minute.

So, one soldier pulls a knife on the other in the midst of a fist fight and then we are alleviated of our concerns over their lack of support or back up when the nasty Sgt Scream comes out and tells them to break it up before he shoots one of them.

You know, that's about time for another "Holy Shit!" moment. Can anyone say, "Over played and plagiarized from Platoon?" So, were all the good writers already taken or did Bochco just give some of his old buddies jobs to relieve the pension problems in Hollywood? Also, there must not be enough exciting things going on in Iraq to fill up these moments. Like, if they want to play up the human interest story, why don't they have some Iraqis coming up to the checkpoint on foot, being searched and then having conversations with Corny? If they wanted to stay "apolitical" they could have had one thanking the soldiers and spitting at Saddam's name, one complaining about the lack of electricity and/or water in the village and one that gives them the evil eye complaining about how they shot up his house and nearly killed his family while taking out the insurgents at the mosque. Simplified, but would have kept the program rolling in the right direction.

Maybe, if this gets picked up by FX, I could apply for a writing position?

Anyway, back to our "holy shit" moment. A soldier pulls a knife on another and the Sarge threatens to shoot them both and that's about it. I'm kind of thinking, at this point, that knife wielding soldier would immediately be put on report and sent back to the FOB with an escort of MPs. It's not as if they were on a secret mission or mobile. And, it's not as if they had just pushed and shoved each other or even taken a few swings. That soldier just committed aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He would be on report and confined to FOB if not stockade/brig (PS...anybody know what this unit is supposed to be? infantry? transport?) This guy would have been on report faster than spit can travel in a hurricane wind.

I'm more than positive that the military frowns on that, regardless of the unit, it's mission or the stresses in life. The NCO would know that immediately puts an inconceivable strain on the squad, will effect their performance, endanger their mission and quite possibly endanger the lives of his other men if the conflict carried over into a combat situation. Of course, this guys apparently doesn't mind putting his soldiers at risk, so, what the hey?

As I was saying, I do wonder how OBWPSM made it all the way past basic and deployed to Iraq? Since they went there, maybe they could play up the angle that "recruiting is down" so they are keeping on even the most dangerous criminal types (that may play up more in the next "war crimes" episode; not that I think they need anymore bad ideas). Nice role model for the black community, too. Brother from the hood, pulling a knife and willing to use it on his squad member.

And, I'm not sure, but the NCO pulled a gun on these guys and threatened to shoot him so is that a punishable offense? Maybe that's why he refrains from putting said knife wielding soldier on report?

Back to the program. The soldiers are saved from making such a decision by an approaching car, without headlights, in the middle of the night, speeding towards their checkpoint (which only has one spot light, one flashlight between them). They start yelling at the car to slow down and using hand signals. Nobody had their gun on the car at first until it didn't respond to said hand signals. Nobody tries to use their lone flashlight to signal the car but continue with verbal and hand communications in a pitch black locale with one measly spot light that barely allowed you to make out the shape of the soldiers or that there was a barricade and no one apparently knows how to use their flash light to alert the oncoming driver.

Is this really true or is this a rehash of the Sgrena claims?

Onward, the car didn't slow down and the men opened fire. The car slows and turns to the side, stopping a few meters from the barricade. No movement. One of the guys asks if EOD will come out to take care of it and the SGT replies something like they are too busy and won't be there for hours. That's plausible except for the part where I didn't see Screamy go in and make any radio contact so how the hell would be know when EOD would arrive?

The men discuss whether it is a VBIED (vehicle bound improvised explosive device-though I don't hear them refer to it as that; they simply talk about it as a "bomb") and whether they should check it out, but sarge tells them to stay put. The men appear shaken up. Nobody shines a light over there or does anything to check to see if the men are really dead. That seems to be a bit of a problem since VBIED guys like to try to detonate their stuff anyway if they can even move a finger. But our guys at check point "choke" don't seem to think about this at all. They also don't seem to know about the other nasty things that go on like remote detonator men stationed near by or in follow on cars so nobody takes any precautions, does any search of the area, etc.

Instead, they blithely stay in their positions behind the barricade waiting to be exploded. Yes, as I was saying to my erstwhile email pal, if soldiers are using this to "learn" anything, they will probably end up like the character from the first episode; dead or wounded back at Landstuhl waiting to get a prosthetic or skin graft for their burns on 70% of their body.

Just about then, anothe car comes, this time with its lights on and this time it slows and does as the soldiers ask, stopping a short way from the barricade. In it are two women who helpfully show their IDs to the nice soldiers who do not search the trunk and the snippy "OBWPSM" lies and tells his sergent that he did as the women are waved through the barricade. Frankly, right at that moment, I was waiting to see the car blow up as it slowly passed by because there were so many things wrong with that.

1) Two women, driving at night, alone, in the middle of nowhere wearing abayas
2) Soldier walks beside the car with a flashlight in the face of the driver and tells them to stop (why isn't that guy dead yet? he must have angels around him)
3) Nobody wonders if this seems right and nobody takes any precautionary measures before approaching the car(of course, they haven't been in country very long so I could give them a break, except the sarge has been there plently long and not knowing what is going on or what seems right can get you killed. Maybe sarge just spent too much time yelling at people and doesn't know anything himself?)

Maybe the writers aren't aware that, while women drive in Iraq, it is very unlikely two ladies in abayas (that's the full covering with open face) would be doing so in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere with no male chaperone or relative along for security.

Tell me again why OBWPSM hasn't been separated from his unit involuntarily? At this point, I was ready to shoot him myself.

Are any of these people supposed to live to complete the pilot and maybe make a real series out of this? Doesn't seem like it to me.

Next car pulls up and does not slow down, the soldiers open fire until it does and then it slowly pulls to the side of the road.

Let us stop right there for a moment. Apparently, the local Iraqis have it in for the soldiers at check point choke because they all seem ready to ram it and blow it up. I realize that the writers are trying to squeeze multiple incidents into one episode to give it angst and energy, but that's another "this is not what goes on over there" moment. Apparently, none of these Iraqis have ever seen a check point and the soldiers get to shoot Iraqi drivers multiple times like the trigger happy cowboys they are.

Then our earst while CorCorny goes over to shot up car number two, by himself, without back up, and shines the only apparent flashlight into the car (the one he couldn't seem to bother to use to flash the car on its approach) where he reports an old man in the front seat and a young girl in the back and that the girl seems to be alive. Screamy yells at him to get back while Corny proceeds to try to open the door even while Screamy is telling him not to.

Disobeying direct orders? Wow, another one that probably should be article 15'd when this episode is over for endangering his unit. Then again, based on episode one and two, sarge ought to an article 32 because he completely sucks. He has no control, he doesn't take precautions, he doesn't know how to secure anything. And he's the veteran.

Anyhoo...Corny says he thinks the girl is alive and proceeds to open the door anyway where he screams when he realizes she doesn't have the back of her head anymore. Nice image there. Got to give the make up and special effects guys their props. Now you know that our guys are killing Iraqis by the dozens at check points every day.

Day light comes and, out of nowhere, another humvee, apparently by itself and with no other security, drives up to the check point and drops off a replacement. One Tariq I believe. A Muslim american soldier which OBWPSM soldier immediately begins to show his own bigotry. Personally, I did like the soldier's retort that his "people" were from Detroit. The writer of that line gets a star for at least throwing in some humor.

After the soldiers jaw about each other and Corny tries to keep the "what's your nickname" bad meme alive by asking Tariq if he has one (what, they aren't going to call him "Ahab" or "Shiekh"? I guess they figure it's not PC and they got enough stupid nicknames going on) they are looking at the first shot up car with dead guys in it with the lovely image of a vulture already in the car eating the flesh of the dead (they show that twice; message received). Tariq, who has such a good American accent that you know he hasn't been in the ME since he was at least 5, proceeds to tell the soldiers that the guys in the car are "Syrians" and he knows this because they look rich and this just isn't something you see in Iraq since Iraq is like the "Appalachians of the ME". I'm not sure what else gives them away. Certainly not their accents.

Which reminds me, where are the Iraqi SP or NG? Where's an interpreter? These guys are just stopping people and shouting for their papers with no one to interpret? Not to mention it would have been much more realistic for an Iraqi to have said, "those guys are not from here because...". But, at least you get the idea from the program that it's foreigners coming to blow stuff up and that they can be somehow told apart from the Iraqis if you only take time to look.

Sarge comes out and they discuss what should be done since the car is just sitting there and EOD apparently has no interest in coming out to look at this car or doesn't work at night because it now looks like high noon and nobody has come (that could be because the sarge and none of the others called anyone to do it). So these guys decide to do their own EOD experiment and pop the trunk using small explosives and detonator cord. They pop the trunk and then, just as they think they may have shot these guys for nothing, the car explodes.

Fortunately for these soldiers, the arhabi (terrorists) were not as competent as our current day foes and did not use enough plastic explosives because the car did not blow into tiny bits and cause a giant whole in the area, throwing debris for over 50 meters, leaving nothing but body parts and the engine block intact. A good thing since these guys were nowhere near a safe distance away. But, at least our soldiers are relieved to find that they only shot one car by mistake and not two.

Night fall comes again and another car approaches. This time it stops without trying to ram the barricade and the soldiers proceed to ask for ID and actually pop the trunk to look inside. They pop the trunk while they are just standing there. Waiting to be blown up I guess. There is a young man in a dishdash (long dress like shirt) in the trunk and the soldiers take him out which sets up the next "war crimes" episode.

FYI to the writers. If you're going to have somebody pop the trunk, first you might want to make sure the soldiers make the driver and passenger get out before they approach the car since this would be an invitation to blow them up if they didn't. Then you have the driver pop the trunk while the soldiers stand back at a semi safe distance before approaching. That way, they might live for a few more episodes.

Now for the parallel stories.

Early on, they show Corny's wife still in bed with her lover though trying to get rid of him since her kid is coming home from school. She's a real winner having picked the guy up in the bar the night before. Which leaves a big hole in the story. Where was the kid the night before? How did he go to school in the morning? Mom didn't get up and do it and she wasn't worried about kid coming in that morning to disturb them?

Then, we almost get the "GI spouse/girlfriend abuser" moment when she is asking the guy to leave and he keeps grabbing her arm and trying to keep her from leaving. It's a near miss since she yells "ow", but he does let go.

Then there is our football hero who has had his leg amputated and is at a "hospital in Germany". He's been there for several days. Now we get the real interesting part of the story. This guy is married. Who does the military contact and fly over to Germany to be with the soldier? His dad that he says he hasn't seen since he was 14. So, either this soldier was a dumbass and put his estranged dad down as his emergency contact person or he never told the military that he was married (which is odd because his wife is apparently living on base in base housing and chatting with another base wife on the phone). But, the military does eventually contact her several days down the road (apparently the units commander could not be bothered to contact her either during the five days between injury and some paper pusher calling her). Wife flips out and yells at the hapless stupid military admin person on the phone to get her a flight and help her get someone to watch her kid since she apparently knows no one, has no family and has never seen fit to participate in any of the deployed support group activities.

Yes, now you know, the military is incredibly FUBAR and can't get a damn thing right, particularly now when information flies around the world in less than a minute and reporters would have been calling the wife by now asking for information assuming that she had been contacted.

Back to human interest part of the story. Soldier's dad is a drunk and has been flown all the way to Germany to meet with his son, but never makes it in, instead goes off to NCO club for a drink or two or three. He and his father have an interesting conversation. I am waiting for the rest of the story to work out, but I am going to put by money on dad being an ex-soldier, Desert Storm, Somalia or other recent conflict veteran, who is all messed up from that experience. Any takers?

Oh, nice touch sending the MPs to collect his dad from the NCO club. Right.

Amazingly, the wife gets flown to Germany in record time (is the concord flying from Ft. Hood or whereever these days?) Big hugging scene. That about wraps it up.

Oh, I did want to say kudos though for showing the nice friendly nurse at the Military Hospital who was trying to be helpful. One decent character and she only had a couple of sentences.

To summarize, the characters are still bad stereo types, though Sgt Scream has apparently chilled out a little. At least for this episode. The soldiers do not know much about practicing safety (if the military operated this way, we'd have many more casualties) and the military apparently doesn't concern themselves with their safety either, leaving them with one humvee and having another one running around without an accompanying security detail. The program is trying too hard still to squeeze too many incidents and days into one episode thus making the program choppy, disjointed and moves it even farther from reality.

And, what was up with that screw up with the guys dad? The fact that he was an amputee and was going to have to struggle wasn't enough "angst" to make that story line work?

And the cheating wife?

I am really starting to wonder if the writers weren't rejects from "Dallas" or "Knots Landing" or "Dynasty". Maybe Joan Collins and Linda Evans would be willing to do cameos in cammo?

For my email exchange with "Home Slice", go to the inner sanctum

From Homeslice:

I read your blog post. I was looking up the show and I read what you
wrote. Obviously you have no idea what you are talking about. When you
said they pulled over for no reason WRONG. If you remember correctly
or if you where too busy eating the driver of the truck and the
passanger where talking, "You see that kid over there?" "Over where?"
"Right there! He dropped something beside the road!" "Are you sure"
and thats when the lieutenant behind them in the Hummer tells them to
pull over. Yeah your right even I saw that comming where they where
gonna get hit with the IED but they where more worried with the kid
dropping something on the side of the road so they where forced to
pull over. Oh yeah and the SGT. yelling at the soldier steriotypical
shit. The soldier ran off on his own to a place where he THOUGHT a
friendly souldier was without orders and brought someone with him. The
battle field is not the place to tell someone they fucked up. Right
afterwards when he has time to think is. Next time put your head on
your shoulders and acually WATCH and pay attention. GL and I hope to
never see your HORRIBLE reviews on movies every again.


Well, I'm not sure who GL is, but here was my reply.

> homeslice....do you have a personal stake in the validity of this show? You seem very insulted.
>
> For the record, I did miss them yelling about the kid, but, as you note, I
> was writing while I was watching. My apologies to the writers for saying
> there was no good reason to pull over. Then again, there was no good reason
> to pull over. The guys over there would never have pulled on the side of
> the road into the dirt. As the program showed, there are too many bad
> things buried there that go "boom". Convoys tend to stay in the middle of
> the road away from both the median and the shoulder because of this. If you
> don't believe me, check some soldiers blogs and some Iraqi blogs. Iraqis
> complain continuously about the roads being blocked off in just such a
> manner.
>
> Also, the major flaw with that section was the little white flags sticking
> out to mark the IED. Never happens. These things are buried, inside bags,
> inside cans or any other objects that will hide it. No jihadist would ever
> do such a silly thing. The director would have been better off just showing
> the truck pull over and an explosion happening. Everyone would have known
> what happened.
>
> And, how would you know what is typical for a Sgt to do in the middle of
> combat? You really think a squad leader would be telling his squad in the
> middle of a fire fight that he didn't want to be there and that he should be
> home or he would be happy if somebody shot his officer? That is artistic
> license, pure and simple.
>
> My error about the "reason" for the pull over does not change my review of
> the program. Bad characters, bad dialogue and unrealistic story line for
> the episode. No offense, but if you don't want to read my reviews then I
> kindly suggest that you avoid the website as I intend to watch every episode
> and indicate any problems or positives that it showed.
>
> I thank you for your input. Have a nice evening.


And Homey replies...

Acually it was pretty much a 1 way fire fight. They where not
returning fire. He was pissed off and he wanted to the soldiers who he
just met get a feel on what kind of SGT he is and that he doesn't play
around. If you where a smart person you would use this time to let
your soldiers know wtf is going down. I have many friends in the
military. All of them would do it this way and thats why the yare in
the position they are in. If you do your research you will notice that
they pull over to the side of the road in far out country roads. On
city roads or really close to city roads they stay in the middle.


Kat's return...

First, you did not answer my question. Do you have some personal stake in this program (ie, a cast member, producer, staff, director, family of, etc)? Motivation is an important factor in determining the approach to questions and answers. (Please note my own comment later about my personal motivations on providing reviews for this program).

Secondly, I am wondering why you continue to insult my intelligence or make other personal observations (ie, that I was too busy eating during the show to pay attention) over the matter of a television program. How old are you?

Third, you have given yourself away on several points of your email as having an agenda aside from being a "fan" of this program as well as not being very familiar with how the military or its members operate.

"Acually it was pretty much a 1 way fire fight. They where not
>returning fire."

I'm sorry to tell you this, if you are confused on the subject, but, regardless of which way the fire is going, it is combat when you are taking fire from the enemy, whether the unit is in a position to return fire or not.

"He was pissed off and he wanted to the soldiers who he
>just met get a feel on what kind of SGT he is and that he doesn't play
>around."

This would not be occuring in the field and certainly not under fire. These soldiers would have gotten to know the SGT in barracks and/or during a team/squad meeting prior to leaving the base for operations (that would include multiple interactions and that's if the SGT was a replacement for the unit instead of some one that came over with them as would be the usual case). Once in the field, "getting a feel" for the SGT would come from issued orders and responding as a team, not listening to this guy complain, under fire, that he has to lead "virgins" or has been stop lossed. This guy was simply using up too much oxygen on unnecessary oratory. If the writers wanted to flesh this SGT out as having the "I am angry because I am leading "virgins" into battle and stop lossed" attitude (a terrible stereo type) they would have been better served to show this while the SGT was in barracks speaking to his peers (ie, other SGTs or NCOs) or writing a letter to a family member or friend. Any NCO worth his salt knows that his job is to inspire confidence and show leadership to men (and women) who are under their command and will have enough on their plate without worrying about what motivates his orders in the field and possibly endangering his squad. I don't doubt that soldiers or sergents complain, but I do doubt that these are the people or the context under which such complaints would be voiced.

:If you where a smart person you would use this time to let
>your soldiers know wtf is going down."

And here you give yourself away as someone that a) knows not what you speak and b) has an agenda outside of having an interest in this program as a viewer. Do you really believe that this show is designed to tell soldiers "what is going down"? Or should have any such effect or desired effect? It is a television program that is meant to entertain. I criticize it for the very reason that you make this comment and that is that people like you will believe that it is a good source of information on the military, it's operations or it's soldiers, much less how the war is prosecuted. Thus, I feel it is in the interest of all those who do support the military or have friends or family in the military, to talk about what the program does or does not represent accurately and hopefully motivate the writers, directors and producers to improve the program.

I might add, if any soldier is getting their "what is going down" from this program then they will be sorely misled and quite possibly in danger.

As for your agenda, you first make the comment "your soldiers" and then you claim, "I have many friends in the military". Which is it? My soldiers or "our" soldiers? Because this shows a distinct desire to disown something that you claim to know something about. Do you hold anti-war or anti-military views? I believe this is a necessary disclosure in order to understand your motivation and respond appropriately

"All of them would do it this way and thats why the yare in
>the position they are in."

All of them? And what positions are they in? Would that be coffins or hospital beds from their repeated encounters with IEDs? Or would that be people you know who have never deployed?

"If you do your research you will notice that
>they pull over to the side of the road in far out country roads. On
>city roads or really close to city roads they stay in the middle."

Where do you suggest I get such "research" from? I can name three sites from the top of my head that have soldiers who participate in convoys, security patrols and other mobile operations and I do not recall any such information being listed. I also have read military manuals and none of them address this issue. Please provide any such links or other materials that support your claim. Also, if you believe your claim to be accurate, why do you believe they would adhere to different rule sets on country roads as opposed to city or suburban roads? I'm interested because this seems not only highly improbable based on known information, but seriously illogical.

Again, thank you for your input. I will be posting on tonights episode shortly and you can find it at http://themiddleground.blogspot.com. I am also contemplating posting this conversation as an interesting vignette on opposing views of the program. Under normal circumstances, I would not take the time to inform anyone that I will be posting emails regarding another post on my website, however, based on our two conversations so far, I feel compelled to inform you at least that this will occur. At which point, I hope that you will feel free to comment at the website and have open discussion with other viewers and military personnel.

Regards,
Kat


Please excuse the text markings on the side. I admit to being too lazy to remove them.

3 comments:

Sgt. B. said...

Kat, you are right...

The show, in a word, blows...

I hearby challenge ANYONE who thinks that this thing emulates anything even close to reality to step up and speak out...

But you'd better be able to quote your unit, theater, the years you served, your military occupational specialty, and, if you are defending this show, the name of the primary CID, NIS, or other "internal affairs" agent who investigated your unit, because with all of the crap that the writers of this POS are trying to cram down our throats, any unit THAT screwed up had to be the subject of a rather intensive investigation...

I'm going back to the MilBlogs. where the real stories are...

Good job, Kat.

Kat said...

Sgt B...that's last pard about the CID or NIS was the funniest. That's what I was thinking as I watched this program.

These guys are trying to cover too much ground in every episode. That is the problem and it is creating a bad show without well thought lines.

Anonymous said...

Why even watch a TV drama about Iraq? I mean, we have blogs now--you can read exactly what soldiers are going through.
And, if you want a 3rd party observer, you can read people like http://www.michaelyon.blogspot.com/ who just reported the accidental shooting of an innocent taxi driver, and the very intentional pursuit and killing of two terrorists fleeing in a car (including live-action photos of same).