Bookman: For their sakes and ours, don’t avert your eyes from Iraq
By Jay Bookman
Article Last Updated: 05/25/2008 11:17:44 PM MDT
ATLANTA – The experience of returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan is often disorienting for our Marines and soldiers. Some feel as though the experience of combat has changed them forever; others believe that it hadn’t changed them at all, only to be told otherwise by the loved ones who know them best.
But one reaction is common: Most returning veterans are startled that the wars that absorbed every minute of their lives and every bit of their attention have been all but forgotten by their fellow Americans. Life here at home goes on as if nothing has changed, with news of the war relegated to the back pages of the newspaper and a few fleeting minutes on the evening news shows.
It’s as if the American people have become bored by the wars that others fight on their behalf, and in their name. But for those Americans who do still care and want a sense of the sacrifices, difficulties, patriotism and professionalism of our men and women in uniform, the Internet offers a valuable, real-time window into war, as told from many different perspectives.
At http://kaboomwar journal.blogspot.com, for example, an Army lieutenant commanding a front-line platoon in Iraq posts about the humdrum of patrol punctuated by moments of terror, about the absurdity of a callow American kid like himself telling Iraqi tribal chieftains how to run their community, and about the return of the Iraqi summer and its heat:
”You remember that your 140 pounds of raw American fury carries 70 additional pounds of raw American gear. The lightest glide becomes the heaviest step…. Stay vigilant, you’re here to kill. Remember? And then you feel the sweat and it’s not coolly bracing anymore…. It might as well be another layer of skin, lacquered up underneath cloth.”
At www.spousebuzz.com, the spouses of those deployed overseas gather to commiserate with each other about the challenges of being left alone for 15 months at a time. Some of the posts are personal and touching.
”One bad thing about a deployed husband and having no kids? I have eaten the same chicken casserole for the past eight meals in a row. I love the stuff, but dang. It’s hard enough to cook for two, but it’s ridiculous to cook for one.
”And my husband thinks his life is ‘Groundhog Day.’ You know, we hear this all the time, that our spouses are living ‘Groundhog Day’ while deployed. But sometimes our side of the coin runs pretty similarly. Every evening so far since my husband left, I have eaten dinner (the same casserole), taken the dog for a walk, put the dog in the house, watered the flowers, watched a little TV, read a chapter of my book, and gone to bed. Every night. Our deployed loved ones don’t have a monopoly on monotony!”
At www.bouhammer.com, an Army first sergeant home from service in Aghanistan continues to monitor the situation there, adding what he knows from first-hand experience. In a recent post, he passed along more than 50 gems of GI wisdom that veterans of any war would likely appreciate. For example:
1. "If the enemy is in range, so are you."
2. "Incoming fire has the right of way."
3. "Don’t look conspicuous, it draws fire."
4. "There is always a way, and it usually doesn’t work."
5. "The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined."
One of the most important roles in Iraq is that of the interpreter, hired by the Americans to help them communicate with the Iraqi people and to help the two sides understand each other better. Interpreters often find themselves torn between loyalties, a predicament captured well by one anonymous Iraqi interpreter, a 20-year-old who is trying to make sense of himself and the world in a place and time that stopped making sense a long time ago.
At http://interps-life.blogspot.com, he puts together a list of questions that American soldiers always ask him, and then tries to answer them. Question 17 is, "R.U. proud to be an Iraqi and a Muslim?"
"Frankly? sometimes I feel I’m not proud to be a Muslim or Iraqi for all the wrong things I see during this job from ppl calling themselves Muslims. so I don’t feel proud to be a Muslim and there are ppl like these bastards Muslims too. honestly I hate Muslims but I don’t hate Islam, cuz Muslims nowadays don’t follow the real Islam. yea sometimes I don’t feel proud to be Iraqi either and a Muslim, I’m sorry for myself."
Finally, there are the Iraqis themselves. At http://washingtonbureau.typepad .com/iraq/, Iraqi employees of the McClatchy newspaper bureau in Baghdad post regularly about their lives and those of their families and friends, and about the day-to-day horror they experience. But even in the midst of war, they recognize that there’s a bigger world beyond their borders that they ought to care about as well.
"Yesterday I heard a strange opinion from my friend, he was comparing between what happened in China with what has been going on in Iraq ‘The car bomb and roadside bomb are nothing if we compare it with these catastrophes.’ my friend said.
"When I was telling my young sister about this opinion, she replied ‘yes, but you should consider that the natural catastrophe doesn’t happen every day.’
"Iraqis are praying to God to protect all people in the whole world from natural and human catastrophes. May God help people in China, Myanmar Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq."
War is sometimes necessary, but always evil. Or, as Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman put it in a letter to Atlanta’s mayor before burning the city, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."
If we send our men and women off to war, we should not avert our faces from what we ask of them.
Hat Tip to JP here:www.milblogging.com