Saturday, May 17, 2008

What if they gave a war......

....and nobody came?

This is a pretty interesting piece written by a guy named Colby Buzzell. He wrote a book based on his experiences in Iraq and he also blogs (his blog link is at the end of the link below). I confess, I have never read his book or his blog. I picked it up in the library and looked at it though. The point of the piece is that now he is being "invited" by the Army to go back to Iraq for a second time.

I'm convinced in reading this, that he is using this forum to do some pretty serious soul searching. You can tell that he obviously doesn't really want to go back (and possibly end up being a newspaper cliche - "he died on his second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) tour in Iraq), but grudgingly says that he probably will. Who would want to go back? Especially after starting to try to "normalize" your life again.

He also spends a lot of time saying he was glad that he did it the first time, and he'd tell others to do it (so they could go in his place).

But then he gets into the crux of the matter. That the US is making him go because they have access to him, and not any "fresh meat" (those who won't enlist).

This points up the ridiculous assertion the government keeps making that we still have "the worlds finest all volunteer military". Stop loss is on the rise, and they are doing this kind of recall of those who've done their time (and some more than their time) all the time.

What we have is a weird rickety hybrid military draft, held together with bailing wire and duct tape.

But why wouldn't kids want to join to be sent to Iraq for the glory of it? Why wouldn't they want to expose themselves to death or possible permanent dismemberment? Why wouldn't they, IF they were lucky to get home in one piece want to live through the horrors of PTSD? Who wouldn't want to do that for the glory of "fighting for ones country"?

I feel bad that this guy is having to go back to war again. I don't share his assessment that it is the fault of those who are NOT enlisting. It is the fault of those who sent us to war without an accurate understanding of the country they were invading and subsequently occupying. It is the fault of those who sent too few troops into Iraq, despite being told by the likes of General Shinseki that it would take several hundred thousand troops to pacify Iraq (comments which the delusional Paul Wolfowitz called "wildly off the mark").

It is the fault of those who keep this country at perpetual war despite the massive costs to our economy and the day to day, month to month grinding down of our military - spouting the mindless platitudes of "we must win" and "we must not cut and run" and "we are fighting them there so we don't fight them here" - without ever giving any idea of what "winning" in Iraq REALLY means.

Very few ask the questions - what does "winning" mean - they probably don't do it because they get more mindless platitudes and Republican "talking points" (and for a great example of that see Chris Matthews versus radio moron Kevin James). And they also get told that they are traitors, and "appeasers" and un-American. Pretty soon, they just grow despondent, clam up, and go along to get along.

They rationalize it away by saying "well, those guys in Washington and on TV are a lot smarter than me". What can one person do?

They cannot MAKE anyone go to war. THAT is a fact. That is not to say that there won't be consequences (prison, being ostracized, etc), but no one can be MADE to go to war.

From Mr. Buzzell's piece: "What if there were a war and none of the veterans who were called up showed up?" Indeed. What if?

We say that we are a peace loving country and only fight when we have to. Our actions say differently. How many more of these guys are going to have to keep going back? The more times you are in harms way, the more chances there are for something bad to happen.

Like Bob Dylan says "how many deaths will it take till we see, that too many people have died". The answer, according the the administration is not "Blowin' in the wind". The answer is, we'll be at war till we say we're damned good and ready to not be at war (which won't ever happen), and not a moment sooner. And if you don't like it, "So?"

Good luck and God Bless Colby.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Picture

I was having a discussion with someone close to me the other day. That particular individual said, why do you talk about the war all the time, why are you so disgusted by it, you know there is nothing you can do about it, so why do you talk about it?


So, maybe I am wasting my time here. Maybe I have wasted a few minutes every ten or fifteen days writing this blog for the past year or so to send to four or five people who may or may not even read it.

In this blog, I've written about the war, the plight of our veterans, a possible new war with Iran, economic and ecological issues and some other things. When I go back and look, a lot of the predictions I've made and the things I've said have held up pretty well. This blog certainly has helped me to flesh out my positions and ideas.

Over the past few days I've been looking at a picture that has deeply troubled me. It is a picture of a young boy, killed in Iraq, when US bombs leveled his house.

Helen Thomas wrote a piece about the picture ( that said generally we Americans can handle the truth about war (I'm not so sure about that - war is ugly, horrible, putrid, sick, demented, twisted - but a lot of the people in the US keep trying to portray it as glorious).

I'm reminded of an episode of MASH, where a shot down pilot wanders into the 4077th. He is talking about how great the war is for him - leaves his wife in the morning, drops his bombs, and is home at night for cocktails at the officers club with his wife. Hawkeye makes him help hauling around bodies. The pilot then sees a little girl of eight or nine who has been hurt by bombs.

He asks, whose were they, ours or theirs? They tell him it doesn't matter. He says it does matter, they say, "not to her".

Later in the episode, Hawkeye is telling the guy that he did what he did on purpose (exposing him to the reality of the war) because he seemed like too decent of a guy to pretend that it was all OK.

Do we believe this little guy's life matters? Or is he just the cost of "keeping us safe here in America" - to use the euphemism "collateral damage"? Are the people in his family likely to support the Iraqi government after this? Are the people in his family likely to look with favor on their occupiers? Are we likely to have won the hearts and minds of his family? Their neighbors? Other Iraqi's who see this picture?

It is amazing that we are so insulated. The Pentagon and the government in general learned their lessons VERY well from Vietnam, all the while telling the lie that we would have won THAT war if the media and others at home would have just minded their own business and let the Pentagon and Washington fight the war the way it should have been fought.

We don't get to see the coffins coming back from the war zone. We don't get to see a lot of the harsh realities of the war on the news. Casualty numbers and Iraq war coverage is downplayed.

They've borrowed most all of the money so we haven't had to feel the pain financially (although we are going to feel it, and feel it hard at some point). There is no military draft, the military is "all volunteer" (unless of course you've been "stop-lossed"). The people performing a lot of the logistics are not drafted either. They are in essence mercenaries - but, hey, they're getting paid for it and paid well.

All of that helps to insulate us from the war. UNTIL we see the picture of this young man. He was not a militia man, nor was he a terrorist. He was a two year old boy killed, in the middle of what is in essence, two groups of Shiites fighting like vultures over control of the carcass of Iraq. A fight which we chose sides in, and a fight which we are now heavily involved in.

In this fight, we are backing what we call the "legitimate government" of Iraq. They are fighting against "criminal militias", "militants" and "terrorists". Is the "government" we are backing and supporting with air strikes and troops viewed as the legitimate government throughout Iraq? The middle east? The world? Chances are, since it's backed by the US, the answer would be no.

Never mind that the government, still after 5+ years cannot provide the most basic services for her citizens.

But, we press on. American soldiers and Iraqi citizens continue to die. No one, including the President or the crop of Presidential candidates can articulate a clear picture of what it means to "win" in Iraq - although they keep saying that's what needs to happen.

Congress, the media, and others don't ask the question - why are we still there? Who gets to decide when we've "won"? What are we really doing in Iraq?

How many more are going to have to die? Unfortunately, probably a lot.