Anywhere Else Than Here Today

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, a large group of my friends debated the pros and cons of military action on a closed mailing list. The only one of us who supported invasion was so alienated he threatened us with legal action and has never spoken to the rest of us again. This was a painful break. At the time, it seemed unthinkable that we could be separated by – well – anything. The rest of us wondered if he were having other problems he didn’t want to talk about but it was my first hint that after September 11th, some people were so deeply frightened that calming down was years off.

That was the first night of my lifetime that the stars didn’t flash landing lights, and I still watch the planes. They seem to fly much lower now than they did before. Every so often, I discover that someone else I met somewhere was killed that day. Other than this, which is occasionally sad, September 11th does not figure into my life anymore.

The site will be rebuilt.
The dust settled into the lungs of the rescuers and will cause illnesses.
I have taken up blogging.

Life goes on.

From this particular place, there is no need to bomb villages, supplant dictators, tap phones, monitor phone records; no need to do anything but pursue one’s own dreams and ambitions. I can’t do anything for the dead. For the living, I say: listen, it’s time to calm down and recognize that life is short. There is no guarantee of safety. The guy sitting next to you on the bus could have a bomb or a cake for his granny. Either way, worrying youself sick is pointless. Go buy your granny a cake and get on with your life.

Many things are foreseeable. There will always be wars prosecuted somewhere on earth because people are foolish, violent and greedy. What we should also foresee is what that does to the human beings making war, and the people in their bloody path. I did not have to be a genius to predict for my friends that war would turn young men and women into killers who lost control of their emotions and behavior. War turns quiet kids into murderers – not all of them, to be sure. But some. We have seen it, we have stopped talking about it because it seems hurtful to the trusting kids we sent off to war, and when soldiers return we regard them with a certain reserve. We are saying: I’m glad you’re home but what have you done?

Yesterday, TBogg published a rational and terribly sad review of the Haditha incident and the radical right’s Swiftboating – again – of Jack Murtha for talking about it: Now can we compare it to Viet Nam?

Too be honest, I’ve been been waiting for something like this to come to light because I feel like I’m watching the same war movie that I watched playing out in the late sixties when I was a teen. In this case, it’s less surprising when one looks at what preceded it: the fake rationale for a war, too few troops and too many tours of duty, the frustration that comes with being unable to distinguish between the enemy and the people we are supposed to be saving, little hope of an exit in the very near future, and the same lack of leadership that gave us the aforementioned Abu Ghraib with no accountablity up the chain of command. What surprises me is the fact that it involves Marines and not a National Guard squad made up of soldiers who thought they were signing up for weekends in the boonies, not months in Iraq. In the meantime the Right, unsurprisingly, is taking after the true villain of this piece: John Murtha.

“It’s much worse than was reported in Time magazine,” Murtha, a Democrat, former Marine colonel and Vietnam war veteran, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There was no firefight. There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people,” Murtha explained, adding there were “about twice as many” Iraqis killed than Time had reported.

Frankly, this is the actions[sic] of a traitor or a sellout. He deserves to be ridiculed, excoriated and frog-marched off Capitol Hill, then remanded to jail. No bail. Doesn’t this idiot know the type of damage this inflicts on the Marines? Or is it that he’s so intoxicated with the thought of becoming the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that he’ll say anything?

Like TBogg, I’ve seen this movie, and I remember how it ends: massacres, trials and shame. Ruined lives. Suicides. Families torn apart. Children grow up without the parent who died before they were born or who ate a gun when the nightmares took a turn for the even-worse. I was a child during Viet Nam but I have clear recollections of friends’ fathers and brothers returning damaged and distant. And here it is again, and the mystery is that anyone is surprised.

And for what? For nothing, that’s what. Vanity and hubris. The panic we should address with tea and talk and never, never with the bright and brittle futures of young men and women.

This is our collective life now. Bring them home and let us begin to repair the endless damage done in our name: to ourselves, and to the world.

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