What Do I Miss About the Time Before Fear? #IAVA #Iraq

This isn’t going to be an essay on the possible horrors, or successes of the coming Trump administration. Speculating on such matters is pointless and worn out. My writing here is focused on love and war, or war and love, as it were. These pages are like my practice court, shooting free throws. A safe place to improve my sophomoric writing skills, develop my critical thought, and disseminate onto paper, my inner conflicts and personal demons. More about feelings than thoughts, emotion rather than analysis.

This is how I feel tonight…

The generation that survived World War II grows smaller each year. It seems fair to say that these American’s were the last to experience and suffer through an era that truly represented an existential crisis for the US, that could have radically altered our freedom and liberty. When FDR spoke of fear -“the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself-” at the height of the Great Depression, his message was true…and almost antithetical to the messages we hear today from many of our political leaders and elite. Their message is closer to: “we should be afraid.” Of what exactly? Terrorism? China? Putin? Trump? Socialism? All of the above? If my Grandparents were alive today, they would scoff at such things.

We should be aware of those spreading fear, not to shut them up, but not to follow them either. And understand their motivations.

After 9/11 I enlisted in the Army to be a grunt, to do my small part for a country that I believed in. It wasn’t out of fear that I offered myself up, to the contrary, it was a sense of duty that one should feel living such a privileged life on the shoulders of the selfless that stood before. Did I believe Osama bin Laden was an existential threat to America? No. Did I believe we had a collective duty to apply justice and do our best to prevent further damage? Yes, of course.

Sadly, for the country and the world, our leaders and government quickly lost sight of our ideals and their own duty, eventually and slowly, modifying our ethos, our “American myth of exceptionalism,” for reasons such as greed, pride and fear. The shift was profound and pervasive to degrees increasing today.

As we surged into south into Iraq in 2003, there was excitement, trepidation, fear and uncertainty among the professional soldiers within my small unit. There are always a few of the “hoorah, freedom and America is the best-est” soldiers who believed the United States could do no wrong, but more so, we privately questioned our mission and morality. We weren’t ruthless killers or immovably immoral and robotic. It was fucked up from the start, and all the way through to Mosul, our final stop before shipping back stateside 11 months later.

Unlike Afghanistan at the time, where we had relatively clear rules of engagement and substantive missions, in Iraq the mission shifted from day-to-day, with new directives from time to time that seemed intentionally sadistic. Like the folks running the war actually wanted chaos and strife to erupt? To this day you cannot tell me there wasn’t some of this intentional rub taking place for whatever reason. Period.

There is no bottom to my sorrow when it comes to my feelings about Iraq and that war I participated in. Even though I knew it wasn’t right, almost from the beginning, I was too cowardly to make a stand and refuse my orders. Of the 30 or so soldiers I worked with daily and trusted, there is at least 8 others who today feel the same. Sadly, 2 others took their own lives following their military service. Undoubtedly, they were haunted by the same ghosts I meet each day.

It just hits me like a lightening bolt, bringing this shit to the surface. I’m not ready. It feels still, smells somehow? The stench of a battlefield, the human smells mixed with the earth and fuel and steel and gunpowder, is a sense that permeates the memory and stains my devilish hands. There is no washing it away, this mark of evil, like the devils piss.

Is Trump our best hope to rescind these wars of fear and misplaced, misunderstood anger? Not likely, in fact, his nature portends escalation and compounded misery, holding no empathy close, a position somehow greater in disdain than Obama and Bush. Bomb the hell out of them. “I’ll bring back waterboarding, and a whole lot worse.”

Chart a return to that course Mister President Elect and our people, our culture, our society and any mythical exceptionalism left is lost for good…if not already gone. There is the blurry vision of our dispassionate citizenry still believing in our character, but it is largely delusional? I will reserve final judgement for now, lest I be the hypocrite for today.

I’m afraid of the devil. Is there a hell? Something tells me in the end we simply return to the dirt, but I cannot be sure. I’ve punished myself for the sins of war. There has to be a greater atonement?

My eyes are brimming with so many tears. Not for that idealized vision of America I was taught, even believed, as a young man, but for all the souls sacrificed so senselessly. Was it ever really true? At least the question was rhetorical once, unlike our possible future and the answers to come.

A rapid descent into the flames of human nature. Who will stand up to the monster if not us; we’ve met him, he looks just like a reflection.

Does any of this matter? I’ll still wake up alone tomorrow, wishing I could forget you until the moment passes and I open my eyes.

I’m crying from my eyes, but the body is dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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