Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Reflecting on a Year in Iraq: Hawkish "Christian" Leaders, Democratic Bolshevism, and How it Feels to be Genuinely Stuck in Iraq

See original video never seen before or learn more about the book at www.American-Interrupted.com.

11 May, 2004 2300 Camp Golf

It’s been a year ago today that I left home and everything dear to me for the Middle East, having put aside my skepticism of the war in the genuine hope of doing something good for these people and building friendships. There was the mission of the U.S. Army, and then my personal mission, and these two missions were often in disagreement. The Army’s mission is yet to be accomplished, but my mission has been successful, and although most of this deployment has been exceedingly stressful, morally draining, and violent…the ties I made with this country have deepened my understanding of the world and confirmed many of my hypotheses.
This has been a year of loss and sorrow, of death and paranoia, of dark days you before thought only existed far away, to other people, or Hollywood plots. A year spent with disappointing men, with only a few exceptions, and serving under a disappointing president during a disappointing time in American history. It was a year the mask of excellence was lifted from Washington D.C., from Capitol Hill, from the White House to reveal our extraordinary leaders are anything but. It was a year that saw the CIA and the FBI and U.S. Army and U.S. Marines lose its prestige and reputation to armed gangs and cheap explosive devices and Islamic murderers hiding in hills. It was a year the world lost faith in our policies, not exactly at difference over why the U.S. was doing what it was doing – but how.
This was a year of realizing exactly how precious life is, of dodging bullets and corruption, and egos and flaws, of good people dying. It was a year that proved principles and doing the right thing does matter, because it’s the few that do the right thing and strive for human excellence that quietly carry the burden of hope in a world of chaos, ensuring our fragile world doesn’t slip into total chaos.
It was a year when I saw the worst come out in people on both sides of the conflict. I also saw a lot of good from the soldiers too. I saw soldiers scared, but confront that fear and go into Baghdad when it all fell apart in April, knowing they would face certain contact. They made it back home to base. It was a year of playing Russian roulette every time I left the base. It was a year of placing my life in the hands of others, and often times having no faith in those hands. It’s a year I learned that it’s time to trust my judgment and intuition, because it’s proved to be a trusted friend, proven, and reliable friend in Iraq.
It was a year that I realized officers really aren’t intelligent as I thought they were. I learned the military and the defense folks need to be constantly scrutinized and controlled, because the very characteristics of real military culture promote pride, self-congratulation, righteousness through strength, excess, and exaggeration. It empowers many people of the lowest quality and protects them. When afforded too much or absolute protection or shelter, people misbehave. The military must be controlled strictly and independently. Currently, it is afforded too much space for mischief.
It was a year of stepping into the blackest night, not knowing what to expect and not being able to see. It was a year of trusting God, of believing He’s protecting your life, of feeling guilty for not thanking God enough for my life, or feeling distant from Him because of the senseless violence all around. I’ve never lost faith though, and I never will. I just grew sad over this year, because I realized evil is as real as God, and sometimes evil can prey on good and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. But, God is peace, and even though we may lose some good people in this world, we should be happy they are resting in peace.
It’s true, what life has taught me, you are either a human beast, or a human being. We’re capable of learning from our human past, and we should be moving forward. Every time we enter into warfare, greed, exploitation, and other evils, we stain our collective human soul, poison it, and become sick. Improving quality of life should be our main concern, building relationships and dialog. Inclusiveness. We live in a world of haves and have-nots and something must be done before they turn our world into a hell where populations suffer each other’s sins. In any case, war is not the answer, it’s only a quick fix and rejection of diplomacy. We should be ashamed of war, and shun those to engage in it. Perhaps the U.S. is experiencing that now.
I wonder sometimes if the industrial military complex, not just in the U.S., but around the world, is meeting legitimate defense requirements, or using its influence in government to create a demand. These hawkish forces can be found in any country. Dick Chaney, Berlusconi, Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, Sharon, Bush, Chavez, Arafat, Kim Jung Ill, and others…they all share several characteristics, foremost being hawkishness and a lack of respect for subtle diplomacy and diplomatic strategy. If you think about it, the world isn’t at war, it’s individuals, it’s the hawks of the world at war with each other. They control armies because they are hawks, they are aggressive, they are calculating, they intimidate others, they accumulate wealth through exploitation and use that wealth to attain deeper influence. Good people don’t behave this way, in any part of the world. Sensible people with a rich understanding of a wide variety of people and classes aren’t aggressive or arrogant, intimidators, con-men, greedy, or dubious. Unfortunately, every society has hawks in it, and it is no mystery why, they arrogantly push and shove their way to positions of authority and good people yield to them rather than be like them. These same hawks have always been around. They made their fortunes using slave labor, exporting missile technology, oil, supplying war machines and services, stealing land. Good people don’t behave like that. A hawk sees opportunity everywhere a good person does not. The money earned through exploiting these immoral opportunities translates into power which secures hawks and future generations of hawks. The world still has many warlords, and some wear suits and ties.
Common people around the world and those interested in improving their quality of life are caught between the battles of the hawks or sent to fight in wars for them in exchange for money to improve their quality of life. Common people yield to hawks, generally. They work for low wages, or none at all.
Maybe hawks, these enemies of good and peace, these sadists and self-styled warriors, champions of master causes…maybe it’s all just a fact of life that they exist. It probably is just a fact of life. Good people exist too though, and they are many and possess power and influence in government as a reward given by the people for their service to improving the lives of people. Hawks attract support from people who imagine themselves as soldiers of the hawk’s army, of contributing force to a conflict, in being raised in social status through association with the hawks. Hawks promise grand rewards and conquests, and their support base follows along, never realizing the reward will only go to a few, and these few hawks at the top take the largest portions of the reward, leaving a small residual bit to the support base (middle America) in an act of mock generosity. Good people don’t behave like this.
Since this will probably always be the case, it is so important good uses its authority to exert control on the hawkish elements in government and society, and draw hawks into the open for scrutiny and debate, for in this respect, good people are better suited to handle hawks because good has little to hide, while hawks must craft deceptions. Good can exert moral authority.
Hawks and sincere elements must coexist. As an imperfect society, we can only hope to exercise moral authority in the face of hawks by showing an absolute reluctance to use force. Blanket support for war is not acceptable for wars such as Iraq. The hawks needed to make their case to the people in America, Congress should have scrutinized it and the plans for postwar Iraq. Congress failed America, and even Americans failed themselves.
This Friday, over 150,000 protesters will peacefully march from An-Najaf to Al-Kufa, right past our camp, to exercise their moral authority and right to demand Moktadr Al-Sadr and the Mahdi Militia leave Najaf and Kufa. Common people will stand up to the hawk and tell him to fight elsewhere. Should they succeed, it would be a great milestone in a “new” Iraqi history.
[1] This is a time in world history when men of violence, hatred, religion, ideals, have intimidated everyone from rural Pennsylvania to An-Najaf to Bejing to Bali. Good, common, working people are not found only on one continent. They are found all around the world. They are an authority, and should face these men and let them know their violence and deception is not wanted. The world’s psychological balance is disrupted in these times, negative psychology prevails, and leading nations seem more adversarial in their approach to each other. We need to heal as a world, and key world leaders will need to be voted out of office to facilitate a shift in focus.
The war alone is a horrible thing for many, but despite all the violence and frustration, one of the greatest sorrows was being away from you. You step into such uncharted territory, such uncertainty, where no matter how much you wish to be in another place, in another time with you, you realize this isn’t “The Wizard of Oz” and you can’t simply click your heals and go home. Never before has faith been so vital to survival and death so close.
Sometimes this does feel like a bad dream, and it only makes it worse that it’s a nightmare orchestrated by Bush – although inadvertently – through sloppy planning and wishful thinking. I would never have imagined I would be in such a situation, where I would be part of an organization I fundamentally disagree with.
This year I’ve spent away from you, my best friend and soul mate, and being gone for a year was unimaginable before I came here. I never want to do it again. There’s nights when you just can’t suppress the feelings of loneliness, when you lay in your cot and tears suddenly fill your eyes and you’re reminded that you are nothing without love. I’ve laid in the night, sometimes in a pool of my own sweat, dying inside, feeling I would fade away or dry up like a flower without water, because I missed you so. As time went on, I realized at any given time, I was holding back a flood of emotion back, behind a gate wired shut, where the mere thought of being gone from you would break that thin wire, and I would break down wherever I happened to be. To be away from you and your wonderful love was to be cast into an abyss, and no amount of socializing among other soldiers could compensate for that. Usually, they only troubled my mind further with their shallow and vulgar minds. No one understands our love the way we do, and nothing could replace it.
Your heart is broken when you are away like this. It’s a physical pain you can feel in you chest, in your heart. I long so much to be relieved of that feeling and love you once again. I live for you completely.
Despite all of this heartache, we stay strong, and we keep each other strong. We’ve deepened our love, our faith, and our trust. Those three elements can pull love through any challenge, and any length of time. It’s amazing how we care for each other though – countless letters, countless hours on the phone, so many packages you’ve sent. You’re always there for me, I can always count on you.
I look up at the now familiar Arabian night sky and gaze at the stars, my close friends over this past year. Those same stars will ever hang in the sky and endure – like our love. Under those same points of light we’ll lay not too long from now, and those stars will smile just for us, because they know how long we’ve wished upon them to be together again. I love you, I’m so thankful for you, and I can’t wait to spend forever with you.

Sometimes I wondered if we were not unintentionally promoting anarchy because of this war on terror. I mean, we were encouraging and supporting rebellious elements of the population in their struggle against Saddam Hussein – thinking their struggle was one to free themselves of his rule. Sometimes I wondered if the struggle was to free themselves of all rules so they could establish a Shia theocracy. That would explain why Americans were in the crosshairs of Shia rebels. Many of them comprised the poorest and worst educated parts of Iraq, but it was these very people who we were making the masters of Iraq in the period of a year. This belief in empowering the weak and oppressed is noble, but it has to be done carefully. Sometimes it seemed the transfer of power bordered on a form of Bolshevism.

[1] The march was later canceled and never took place.


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