#IAVAFORUM Do Facts Even Matter?

I have a lot of respect for our organization, Iraq Afghanistan Veteran’s of America and our tireless leader, Paul Reikoff. That alone, we were able to put together this Presidential Forum together, despite the obvious flaws, was a tremendous achievement by itself. I understand Mr. Reikoff’s comment to Rachael Maddow that he saw the event as a “great success,” on her program, immediately following the candidates hour. He has learned the way of the politician well in praising what I’m certain he otherwise felt of the program.

I am not in politics, however, so let me tell you the truth, my truth at least, after 48 hours of contemplation. I’ve concluded that the American public, in general, got fed a meal of their precise choosing. A plurality of the voting public, those beyond the beltway press, the 1% elites, those who’ve so mightily sacrificed fighting this forgotten war, and those partisans advising the campaign, actually want the red meat, the bombastic irrationality of our failing foreign policy, the lies, the messiness and the celebrity of it all, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with their HBO, our ever-present holiday shopping and our $6 coffee’s. An hour is about all the time our country has to spare.

I’m convinced most American’s -like Gary Johnson and the NYT editorial staff- couldn’t give you two actual facts about the Syrian Civil War, the NATO campaign to remove Qadhafi, or the difference between ISIS and the Islamic State? Not even that there is no difference. You reading this might be well-informed, maybe not? But there’s a question more important than all these pedantic bunny trails.

It’s this: What would it matter if we all knew the difference, the correct answers? Would this empirical knowledge change the governments foreign policy position? That ISIS is the greatest threat since….Al Qaeda..since Saddam..since the NAZI’s? No! And Donald Trump, to the utter maddening of the elite has tapped into this vein of truth. Most voters don’t give two good shits as long as they don’t have to go fight, pay taxes, or give up their reality TV. See, the media, the President and the elites want us to believe we actually live in a Democracy capable of making choices. The greater population has finally realized the truth; it’s all a lie, and by supporting Trump, they are giving the middle finger to the aforementioned by doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presidential Town Hall?

Have you watched any of the documentaries exposing the media’s neglect in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq? What seems to be clear is that much of the mainstream media has difficulty in telling the American people what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. Anyone questioning the government was labeled “terrorist sympathizer” and quickly escorted off stage right. See, for example, Phil Donohue, who had MSNBC’s highest rated program, yet was promptly cancelled as he dared to entertain opposing opinions, suggesting the Iraq War would be a colloseul mistake. There’s no prize for being correct anymore when it comes to American foreign policy. More importantly, there is no punishment for being wrong, for even outright lying to your customers even.

I say all this in light of the so-called town hall held tonight on NBC featuring Trump and Clinton. To be most succinct: if the United States had an official State News such as that of the former Soviet Union, how little difference would there be between it and what we present as journalism today? Would an event like this be MC’d by a morning celebrity talk show host rather than an expert in the field of Veteran’s affairs and national security? Would the State run program limit the event to no more than 50 minutes total, despite the enormity of the issues being discussed?

It’s unnecessary for me to dig any deeper into an analysis of this production I witnessed tonight. The content speaks for itself. That is to say; the content was as shallow as it was Jingoistic. If we learned anything new after this hour I’ll never get back it’s this: the media treats us as if we’re stupid. The candidates treat us like we are stupid. How much further can we travel along this dodgy path before perception does indeed become reality and we are all lost?

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II – IN HIDING section a

This is the second part of a rough draft of work describing my time serving in the US Army and the life that has followed. For PART I Click Here THANK YOU!

PART II – IN HIDING

How are you supposed to react when a person you’ve known all your life says to you, in all seriousness, “we don’t even seem to know you any more?” My reaction to this honest statement of fact was to deflect, to isolate, to just run. It was just the thing I might not have done before, in a previous life, in a space prior to this mask I now wear. The words hit hard. The words hit home. The mask was ripped off like an infected scab. The illusion of my happy life had not only been unveiled, turns out, it was never there at all. It’s not being caught in a lie, rather, it’s that they all knew the mask was a lie all along. How am I supposed to face them? How do I tell them the mask is all that remains?

The clock strikes midnight as I sit here, alone, as far away from home as I’ll ever be. Light streams in through the bare glass of the four windows, east, north, west and south, on this still summer night. At this latitude the sun is like an unbalanced friend. The winter falls hard and the summer slight. I wont be able to see the stars again for what seems like months. Will I ever? Thoughts like this are safe in a place already so distant. This shell of a structure I like to call home, a space looking out in the four known directions, I often consider the trap.

There are men I used to know that seem comfortable with it all? Are they just more at ease with the mask, or was it there all along? I wish I could walk that line between the future and the past. To live in the moment, they say it’s all that there really is. This assessment of reality, in my opinion, feels completely untrue. Like faith in a God that is cool with what comes, I shudder at the thought of such acceptable evil. What I see is the past. What I feel is the future. These are the foundations of my life in atrophy. Picture an ocean as it meets the shore; look for the present, a space between the sand and the sea. Dig deeper, let the past wash away. I came home long ago, yet never was able to touch the shore.

This loss will not be calculated into the next fools war. They’ll consider the caskets and consider the gold, but what about the suffering of those with wounds down deep? It adds up to nothing in the vaults of an immoral economy, an ignorant population marches on, slaves and truants, to the master’s of war. It’s “hooray” for the flag and hell for the children, a pattern that has persisted over millennia. Our projection of evil isn’t new or even clever. Rome would conquer new lands under the guise of relieving oppression, or, even more familiar to our modern history: as a preemption to future, imminent war. Although the truth was quite evident and clear. The Roman Empire never couched their expansion as conquerors, guided by greed and tempted by glory. The PR of the ancient world is no more fresh today. “We’re Rome, we’re only here to help.”

I ask myself, did the Legionnaires of Ceaser and Crassus’ Rome suffer from guilt and shame? I find it difficult to believe this happened in any great numbers. From history it seems clear, a striking difference from that world to this is that Roman propaganda was employed upon the masses, with the troops given the truth. Conquest today is packaged the same for all, public and plebs. This hypocrisy jumped out of the shadows as we once again marched into battle. This fight was not about liberty. This new war had little to do with freedom, for the West or the Middle East. If it was a lie, it was still for; fighting on a lie.Those in the ranks who realized this first, fought both integrity and lead. Fighting on a deliberate lie, killing in the face of dishonesty, these men, us men, have gradually succumbed to this hell, our masks melting away, the conscience proceeds.

The rest of America seems to have largely moved on to new, fresh projections of fear? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th Point of Contact

Preface: The first time I entertained the idea of documenting my experiences in the Army, to my best recollection, was soon after browsing the Afghanistan War Logs released by Wikileaks. It wasn’t because I found them inaccurate, rather, it was their sterile efficiency, their almost complete lack of context that rubbed me the wrong way, like the reaction of a cat having its fur combed against the natural lay. It wasn’t like I had anything else of value going on. Just the week before a close relative had commented to me in private: “I don’t think I even know you any more?” Words that stung, not due to there inaccuracy, but for there cold truth. Truth was, and is, I don’t even know myself any longer.

Five years later, 2500 miles away, broke, alone, fatalistic, and angry, I have “picked up the pen” so to speak, in earnest, to document my all to vivid memories and drop bread crumbs along this slow path to likely self-destruction. I don’t expect anyone to read these musings, to give a shit or empathize. This is for me. This might be my final grasp at a useful life I once took for granted?

I begin on the battlefield, downrange, as it were, not to glorify war, but to introduce a sort-of literary speed trap. This is my testimony. These are secrets, most I’ve never told. This is the cost of victory in little battles, singular wins that lose the greater war.

PART I – INTO THE BREACH

Army! Travel to exotic, distant lands; meet exciting, unusual people and kill them.”  FULL METAL JACKET

Nothing could ever prepare a man for the cacophony of sounds, the putrid, unforgettable stench, the orchestrated confusion and fear associated with infantry level combat. “Smells like victory”; a cute line from Hollywood, I assure you, is not a pleasant affect to anyone’s morning. That permeating odor, so all-consuming, overpowering, the digestive gases, piss, shit, blood and bile; no sane man who’s ever tasted that air could forget. Picture that warm sense that might wash over you while listening to an old, favorite song. Memories lifting from the deep recesses of your romantic past, seemingly out of nowhere, vanishing like a wisp of smoke. Now try to imagine a similar effect in reverse, blinding terror, soot blackened snow.

Welcome to the dark side of the Earth, as we knew it then, some 13 years ago. The cyclonic rotation of the planet slowly painted this moonless night in a witheringly opaque blackness: Perfect for our purposes. Perfect for an ambush. It added up to a sort of vacant, yet vacuous strangled paralysis which turns out, is ideal for the new, high-tech tools of war. We were laying in wait, the trap was set, hidden below an invisible melody, only the sounds of the forest singing its song. A “stand-to,” in Army nomenclature. We were a often violent and seldom patient uber predator, open in wait, not unlike the steel jaws of an old rusty trap, eager to snap shut with the ferocity of the God’s.

This mission was unique for us to that point in the deployment. Seldom did we utilize these sorts of tactics while I served in Afghanistan. Apparently we had acquired SIGINT -Signal Intelligence- combined with human intelligence, prompting command to pay closer attention to the Pakistan border as a causeway for Tali fighters moving to and from the tribal badlands of Pakistan? Really, I mean, no shit Sherlock? Nevertheless, this was an operation Grunts like us trained for, and dreamed of tackling in those days. We wanted to be something more than chum, bait. Let’s take the fight to them, whoever “them” were? 

Positioned just below the treeline, straddling a well worn trail the continued up into the lenticular clouds, bending away from the peaks far above, our hopes were high. All we could do is wait. No cigarettes, no movement, no sound until dawn breaks, or the enemy falls. Those hours, slipping far past dusk, yet not quite dawn, awakens our ancestral brain to those instinctual fears. In this space, on a planet facing directly away from the sun, the hairs on the neck will dance, a primitive warning from eons past. The tension now gripping us all, like an endless nightmare, only we are wide awake. Those organic warnings, recorded as rings on every man’s family tree, this ubiquitous and not quite irrational fear of the dark forest lingers. Left alone with only your thoughts, the haunting hour arrives like a tempest, on the edge of panic and exhilaration, the fear of the unknown grips you, as you hope for the known, trained for something else. This is when ghosts seem the least shy, the countless children, digging, playing, screaming in this perpetually radioactive, scorching sandbox. Are they angels coming out to play, or are they daemons waiting to settle old scores? If I only knew now what I didn’t back then, could I make the necessary difference?

Proned out, contemplating the silent life happening now on the other side, a shooting-star caught my physical attention. Was it a sign, some sort of starting bell? The rock, barreling out of the eastern sky, voyaging across the gaping horizon overhead, like a flash from heavens’ gate, a super-sonic meteor crashing into the western cosmos, within a suspended instant, time measured in micro-seconds. The present briefly felt more tangential to peace than it did to war.

Just at that moment, my right eye lit-up as a green silhouette. The optics illuminated a man, moving in silence, about fifty meters uphill from our fixed position. Carefully descending, the extreme heights of the Pakistani mountain border to his back, this lead scout moved cautiously, deliberately, and much quieter than I previously assumed possible. More appeared, twenty-two in all by my imprecise count. Armed men, Taliban most likely, not knowing, perhaps even imagining, the dogs of war waiting just steps ahead in that darkness, killers suspended in a well conditioned silence, ready to violently shut the door on life.

One by one they crept passed my position, in the blackness, the predator as prey. Just five-fucking-meters from a steep, rocky, mountain trail, I laid there watching as they descended past. Were we manning some sort of hell’s gate? If there really is a God, or Allah, or whatever the fuck, I recall thinking, these men, every last fucking one of them better be prepared to have a face-to-face with the twisted mother-fucker. A criss-crossing mesh of green lit our night. This was an ambush. That was the beginning of my own time in hell.

Novel Idea – A Biography in Pieces

Secretly, I’ve spent much of the last two years grinding out, bit by bit, a semi biographical book reflecting on my experiences with the Army and life after. I’d never even considered doing such as thing. Besides the occasional letter, some technical writing at work, and an on again, off again journal, I had no credibility or experience needed to write an actually readable text. The project become more daunting upon losing my early efforts, most applicable art and several notebooks containing memories and rough quotes from my time in the Army, when last February, my cabin went up in flames along with everything inside at the time. I returned from a hike to find the place little more than a pile of smoking rubble, a particularly apt metaphor for my life.

These past months I’ve slowly restarted the process, albeit from an even further deteriorated mind and spirit. I’m considering publishing the work, an unedited chapter at a time, on this page for review and commentary? Even though I find my work entirely unreadable, like the reaction one might have to hearing ones recorded voice for the first time, possibly a little sliver of vulnerability would help me in improving, or worst case, abandoning the project altogether?

I do not expect any response to this post. Writing it down, here, was my first baby step in that direction. So if I don’t chicken out before then, I hope to release the prologue online by tomorrow night. All I ask if for genuine feedback, good or bad, helpful or not. Any sharing of the work would be greatly appreciated as well.

Until the next falling sun. L

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Morning Front

Is there anything more depressing than a rainy grey morning alone? Why is it then that this drab time alone, makes me feel safer, at peace even, in the humid monochrome? I almost feel like reaching out, breaking an extended silence, a phone to a friend. Almost, yet, I wont.

If I were the broken character in some morose film about the human paradox, I’d be the first one in the theater to think; just pick up the phone and make the call. Thus the paradoxical nature of our tragic behavior: even with the medicine within reach, my self-destructive stubborn shame overcomes all preventive antidote. And so it goes, the invisible scars upon my arms, each one marking another day I’ll suffer alone and drift further apart.

How far has this water traveled to rain down, melting my faith, soaking my skin? If I could wish for a power, I’d take some common sense. If I could crawl into their minds to see what they think, what would I see? Be rational, they say, stop blaming yourself, have faith.

 

Introspection: #Veteran

I’ve been thinking about atonement and absolution, alone, in the darkest hours of my night. How can you be forgiven if you are unable, or unwilling, as it were, to absolve yourself of those cloudy shadings of corrupted immorality? Does writing about this guilt and shame, shared with few, yet available to many, chip away at the past? In public I hide the flames destroying my future, therefor, I am nothing but a forgery, a future skeleton of a once polished soul. I care. I think I care, at least?

A great friend and passing lover of mine had a favorite idiom she quoted to me from time to time: “the people you see on the way up, are the same people you’ll see on the way down.” Of course it’s not entirely meant to be literal, however, I have experienced just that very thing a few times; on the way down, that is.

Beyond my minuscule self and as a matter of the macro world, this piece of advice could apply to our Nation’s foreign policy, not as it is propagandized, but rather, how it is carried out in fact. The way our government as policy has walked over the 3rd World post-WWII -of course there is prior examples, e.g, Spanish American War- will eventually reap what we’ve sown. No better example is that of our deference to Israel and its relationship to the Palestinian people and their legitimate fight for living space. More specifically, our support of Christian Nation’s and autocratic regimes on our way up, will undoubtedly cause great harm, as our dominance eventually wanes. 

I feel it in my bones. I understand that my opinions are of no tangible consequence. It simply feels important for me to be on record in regards to the many mistakes, stretching from the macro state to the micro self. I’m ashamed for the role I played in prosecuting these unjust policy goals. I try to get into the minds of Veteran’s from the distant past, hoping to understand some of their struggles. It seems Smedley Butler, a career Marine of the early 20th Century and 2 time Medal of Honor recipient, expressed a similar disillusionment with US foreign policy post military when he said, I will paraphrase: “that Al Capone had nothing on me. Our job was to protect the corporate interests of politically connected businesses operating throughout the 3rd world. We promoted Democracy at end of a gun, making sure those elected were amicable to the monied interest of Wall Street banker’s.” For that torrent of honesty, the one time hero was systematically destroyed through the use of propaganda, missing his deserved appointment as Marine Commandant, eventually silenced and marginalized by a public unwilling to hear the truth. I’m far from Mr. Butler in all meaningful accomplishment, yet I feel a kindred spirit and understand his truth.

I have so much love for my fellow brother’s and sister’s suffering in silent with the battlefields of mortality and immorality burning within. We should all strive for a better world and the ability to forgive. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WWJD

On Christmas Eve, age 11, my mom stopped me in the stairwell and said, “you know Santa isn’t real, right?” There’s so much insight to be analyzed within that proclamation, no doubt, especially since I stopped believing in Chris Kringle somewhere closer to age 5, alas, I mention it for other reasons more specific to faith and spirituality. My answer was a quick “yea yea,” the sort of answer a kid might give to questions of sex, or girlfriends and the like, when broached by otherwise well meaning parents. The question I never got around to asking her though seemed logical, possibly rude, was: “you know Jesus, the son of God at least, isn’t real either?” In my 10 year old mind, the idea of Jesus walking on water, Noah building an Archy-Archy, or Moses coming down with the Ten Commandments, were all as equally ridiculous. So yea, it’s obvious I don’t believe in religion. That doesn’t mean I can’t imagine a God, or “higher power,” if you’d like, out there in a different dimension, or in some way we haven’t yet discovered or understand. It would be simple minded to simply write the unknown off just because I {we} are as of yet ignorant. I find it highly unlikely that a possible greater power or entity gives two shits about us though.

Anyway, I said all that to say this: In general, I find many Christians to be cut from the most hypocritical of cloths. Being Christian, or Jewish, or Catholic, practicing those faiths should reveal a people heavy on empathy and forgiveness and light on violence and greed, right? Why is it then that so many of these heavily professed believers so antithetical in actual behavior to the good works and beliefs of the Jesus in their Bible? Quick to go to war, put folks to death, hoard wealth in massive quantities, favor stiff prison sentences, anti gay, anti just about anything that smells, looks, walks or talks different than their immediate clan?

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty that walk the walk, so to speak. Yet, without question, the overwhelming majority either confuse ideology with action, or, practice their faith in complete hypocrisy. Normally I wouldn’t give the phenomenon much thought, considering it a waste of time and oxygen. The experiences I recently faced cause me, force me, to reckon with these peoples sanctimonious bullshit.

When I lost my place to fire, I stumbled upon a program through the VA offering temporary housing and some minor case management. Long story very short: The program was highly religious, to the point that I was suspicious for not being willing to play along, pretending to be open minded…to that at least. It was clear after only a few months that the facility and the staff had many secrets. There was, and is, some shady shit going on that continues, affecting men and women that in many cases have nowhere else to turn. Because of this pickle, the program ultimately has control over them, leading to sick situations where folks are too afraid to speak out. I got the fuck out of there as quickly as possible. And if you think I am exaggerating, think again. Just as an example, the Vet case manager is literally not trusted by a single client! Not one. Years ago I worked in a similar job. During my 3 years I can think of only 3 or 4 clients who would feel negatively. You cannot please everyone, no. But to have people so dirty, so corrupt, in positions of authority is just reprehensible. How many people, let alone Veteran’s, have been worse off because of the place?

My point being; these people are so proud of their faiths. Praying circles every morning, guest pastor’s, the works, and in my entire life I’ve never known a more corrupt, to the bone corrupt, organization or program. Period. Christianity is but a convenient shield to hide the truth behind. And many know it, but wont say it. Their image is pure, an obvious sign of trouble for anyone with experienced in such matters.

Okay, I feel a little better getting that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nothing Between

Are there wounds that cut just a little too deep, therefore irreparable? Where can I find the line separating the acute from the chronic, and how did trauma such as this become the ultimate American cliche? On one side you confront the fear with isolation, on the other it’s anger masquerading as courage. On your own you realize that line was but an illusion, like an ocean’s coast meeting the high tide. Alive. Dead. Light. Black. What’s the point of all this pain if the only one that heals is me? There’s no difference between fear of death and fear of life. At least that’s what I tell myself at the waking hour, confusing my brain just enough to proceed towards the light with my heart.

I never blame anyone else out loud. Those feelings I keep sewn deep within. Whenever they begin to roil I shake, shed a tear and hold back the rest. If I find myself touching that place in conversation, I cram it back in, all of it, heavy feet and a cheery song. The paradox is sealed, the matter no longer matters, and off I go with these broken clocks and miniature parts of a life I never wanted, yet, somehow bought. Nobody gets me, right? They don’t get me, not because I’m unique, rather, because somewhere back there, I broke apart, separated, now here incomplete. Picture a completed jigsaw puzzle with additional pieces left in the box. It’s all there, it looks complete.

Maybe the future holds a surprise I still cannot see? Maybe someday it’ll all be okay? I don’t pray, but we can hope, right? There’s something left to offer if I find another chance. At least that’s all I can tell myself in between these days of numbness, of anguish, recalling misery and dancing in the dusk, along that space between the elements, in a dream more like a movie I’m watching in my sleep.

It was so long ago. The smell of it all drifts closer.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Not Kid Yourself

The self-righteous indignation spewing from the lips of Democratic Party loyalists over the Donald’s comments regarding the Khan family makes me laugh. Of course Trump is a disgrace to the country, to Vets and their families, but let’s not confuse political showmanship with actual empathy. You do not need to travel far back in time -2005-06 in fact- to dredge up a similarly offensive position espoused by the so-called liberals. I’ll get to that public shaming in a second. First let’s consider the chanting battles at this years convention in Philadelphia. While some in the crowd chanted “no more war” during some speakers time on stage, -a pretty standard liberal position going back 100 years at least- an even larger, louder group of democrats drowned the chant out with “USA, USA, USA!” Not exactly the sort of chant that brings the idea of peace to the world, a position most effective in preventing even more combat veteran’s joining the community henceforth.

Have we already forgotten the Cindy Sheehan story? For the brave, yet simple act of protest in the wake of her son losing his life serving in Iraq, she was roundly flogged by heavy hitters in both parties. So this idea that George Bush treated her with respect, while letting the hounds loose behind the scenes, is utter and complete bullshit. For her troubles, standing vigil outside of the Bush compound in Texas, she was dismissed in politics, as well as in the media, as a nut-job, narcissistic wife and follower of Bin Laden. Sure, some Democrat’s used her for political purposes, -i.e., to get elected- yet she was never treated with empathy. Sounds familiar?

Just a thought on a hot Sunday night.