Saturday, March 20, 2010

Leftover Thought

Yesterday I wrote about democracy not coming on the point of a bayonet. It struck me as I wrote that you never see or hear about bayonets in the current wars. That's probably good from a soldier's point of view. I mean, you have to be up close and personal to use a bayonet. Not only does that put you within range of your adversary's bayonet but it may even make you aware that your adversary is also a human being. That moment of doubt could cost your life if your adversary doesn't experience the same epiphany.

I guess the bayonet is too Old School for our modern wars. After all, when you can kill someone remotely from a computer screen in Las Vegas why would you want to get close enough to rip his guts open with an edged weapon before smashing his skull with the but end of your rifle?

Of course, war is still close combat. Firefights, IED's, artillery and ambushes offer plenty of opportunity to see The Other close at hand. It's just that these days you don't charge forward screaming, "kill, Kill, KILL!"


Friday, March 19, 2010

After Seven Years

On this date in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. How fitting that I heard today for the first time this song by John Flynn on Whole Wheat Radio.


Elijah was a sergeant, 42 years old
from Mesa Arizona, Elijah won't grow old
Patrick was with C Troop, Second Armored Cav
His buddies all remember how Patrick loved to laugh
Seth was from East Brunswick, just a newly wed
Somewhere in New Jersey a young widow bows her head
Daniel was from Boston shipped out from Fort Bragg
His mother got back Daniel with a folded flag

Oh big airplane bring’em down easy
Out of the Delaware skies
Oh big airplane Dover is waiting
to welcome the heroes you fly… home

William was in Anbar, combat engineer
1st Marine Division, William isn't here
Alan rebuilt bridges for Battalion B
Next to cause of death they wrote the letters I E D
Gussie was a scrub nurse hailing from Fort Bliss
Gussie had a spirit this world's gonna miss
Jeremiah's son cries on his mamma's knee
There was no armor plating on his dad's humvee


Scrubbed wooden pallets with white straps cinched over
Long boxes of flag draped aluminum
The C-5 is crowded when it lands in Dover
The honor guard boards and makes room again

Making straight for Nineveh, just like Jonah’s whale
Holy truth you swallow, overseas you sail
Precious is the cargo sacred was the gift
offered in the sandstorm from which your wings lift
Those who would pay homage can’t watch you set down
Behind barbed wire sentries miles from their town
No one breathes to question this silent parade
Except for the anguished loved ones left to say

Oh big airplane bring’em down easy
Out of the Delaware skies
Oh big airplane Dover is waiting
to welcome the heroes you fly… home

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The Nut of the Matter

The military lobby's utlimate weapon:
But the concerns of U.S. Central Command and other defense officials prevailed. "Once DoD went to the extent of saying, 'Soldiers are dying,' because that's ultimately what the command in Iraq, what Centcom did, it's hard for anyone to push back," one former official said.

Politicians and generals have used this old saw for generations to continue dubious wars. It's easier for them to continue than to admit a mistake. And waving the bloody shirt is a good way to stop any questions or discussions.

Certainly, at the tactical level, I am less inclined to question the assertion. In the midst of combat, where soldiers ARE dying, something must be done and done fucking NOW. But that's a pretty basic level of operation. At the command and policy levels, "soldiers are dying" becomes a convenient cover.

At that point I want to know why soldiers are dying. There had better be a damn good reason, something like self-defense against aggressive, hostile action that threatens life and liberty. Otherwise,it's a waste. Energy, economic advantage, profit--typical reasons for war--require the sacrifice of many for the few. A waste. Unless maybe you're on the receiving end of the profit.

Even building democracy and protecting women's rights--oft claimed as reasons for the current wars--are a waste of soldiers' lives. Democracy and the individual rights evolve from the community, not at the point of our bayonets. Sending our soldiers to fight in other nations on behalf of people who either: (a) don't want us there or (b) will use us to their own advantage is a waste.

Looking back on the past eight years of war, my generous assessment is that all but part of the first year have been a waste. A tragic waste. For Americans, Afghanis and Iraqis alike. America's war has done little to disrupt or diminish terrorist violence. What counter-terrorism success that has been achieved has come through good intelligence and police work, not from American military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I ask again, why are our soldiers dying?


Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Life Worth Noting

Betty Villemarette