September 19, 2007
This summer, 19-year-old Princeton sophomore Wesley Morgan became one of the youngest American civilians to have spent time in war-torn Iraq. The ROTC cadet owes his five-week trip to a profile of Princeton alum Gen. David Petraeus he wrote last fall as a reporter for the Daily Princetonian. The two spoke several more times and Petraeus, whose Ivy League credentials were touted for months before his congressional testimony last week, invited Morgan to Iraq as a journalist and aspiring lieutenant.
The result was a blog, “Notes on Downrange,” where Morgan documented his experiences with American troops slogging through the 120-degree Iraqi summer. The majority of his writing was generally pro-war, and Morgan’s trip was funded by an organization founded by sometime-Weekly Standard writer Bill Roggio. But Morgan’s online diary mostly sticks to hard description, providing a fascinating grunt’s-eye view of the war.
An early post, for example, sampled latrine graffiti at an American base in Kuwait, ranging from “exhortations to Join the Resistance – Iraq Veterans Against the War! to scrawled memorials to fallen comrades, unit mottoes, classic Kilroy-was-here‘s, hawkish rap lyrics, and the ubiquitous Chuck Norris facts – i.e., Chuck Norris killed Zarqawi or Chuck Norris has a 120mm Abrams cannon for a dick.” Elsewhere Morgan discovered that rank-and-file soldiers have more important things to worry about than their commanding officers. One soldier’s response to Morgan’s inquiry about his opinion of Gen. Petraeus was, “Who the fuck is that? Some Greek?”
Newly back at Princeton last week, Morgan took a few minutes away from preparing for classes to speak by phone with Campus Progress about his time in Iraq.
CP: Can you explain how your time was structured in Iraq?
WM: I moved around a lot. I spent part of the time in Gen. Petraeus’s headquarters, kind of talking to his commanders and talking to him a little bit. I went to a battlefield circulation with him. The remainder of the time I split between four different Army units in different parts of Iraq, a few days with each. Of the four units, two were in Baghdad. One was just north of Baghdad in what’s called the Baghdad belts, which are the approaches to the city, and the other was south of the city in the southern belts.