The town of Dickens, Texas is located in a vast swath of openness between Lubbock, Wichita Falls and Abilene. At the 2000 census it reported a population of 332. This town might not make the evening news too often, but it's standing by one of its native sons, Blackwater contractor Paul Slough.
Last September, while part of a Blackwater diplomatic security convoy, Slough and his companions came under fire at Nisoor Square in Baghdad. Some in the liberal media have called the Blackwater guards murderers for returning the enemy fire. But the folks of Dickens would never make such a claim.
"Most of Dickens considers Slough a patriot and a hero," writes Lubbock Online. "We are all very proud of him," said Dickens County Sheriff Ken Brendle. "That boy was always a leader. He's not a murderer."
"We're proud of PJ," said Andy Zarate, whose son Michael was good friends with Slough during high school. "We stand behind him 100 percent."
Slough played football, was active in Future Farmers of America and served on the student council while at Patton Springs High. After graduating from high school he joined the Army, participated in several deployments - including to Boznia - and was honorably discharged. He then served in Iraq with the Texas National Guard. Having completed his military service, Slough joined Blackwater's security operations.
Paul Slough is the only member of the Blackwater convoy to have his name released to the public. All the documents released by the FBI, other government entities and Blackwater have referred to the participants in the events by anonymous numbers. But the New York Times felt the need to leak Turret Gunner Number 3's identity. So now Slough, having come under the physical fire of insurgents, is now coming under the metaphorical fire of anti-war elements.
Tookie Cash, who recently retired as Dickens County clerk and knew Slough when he was growing up, said, "It's a shame. Our boys are putting their lives on the line and this is what they get in return."