#WAR: WHATS ALREADY BEEN SAID?

What can I say about war that hasn’t already been said? My experiences reflect those expressed by writer’s far more talented the me.

Even the greatest writers admit their inability to fully capture the experiences of horror, the crushing fear, the fury, the odors, screams and silence one suffers in between the disturbing peace. Like making love or the taste of fine wine, words on a page only trigger imagination and illicit a dark sympathy. Empathy without experience is nothing more than fantasy.

I do not make these claims in offense. My own empathy is a rope that over time has become a noose. Random moments are capable of producing the most unpredictable triggers. A playful child’s scream might reveal the man, laid bare beneath a shattered wall, his stomach and intestines uncoiled across the huts dirt floor. A door slamming shut behind me and a memory long suppressed plays in a loop just behind my eyes: our medic bagging a severed, yet still camouflaged soldiers leg. The smell of a rabbit and a phantom smell of burning tire and human flesh lingers for days.

We forget so much of what we see. This is true for almost everyone of us. War is no different. We can’t recall, but we never really forget. These shocking visions, buried just below the conscience, erupt into our lives like films about ghosts. They are insidious magic tricks, pictures from the most evil of theaters. None of us are immune, it’s just that some of the afflicted can overcome the inflicted. Count me as not one.

It’s like my best memories have been erased. I’m like a mixtape that’s been over recorded with the voice of the devil himself.

Where do I go from here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Our Love Has No Beginning, My Hate Has No End. #loveletter #atonement

If you could send me even the smallest clue, I’d give it my all and everything to hang on and be true. Are you out there somewhere in the aether, some greater dimension? Are you a part of the universe, or have pieces of you shattered and scattered, adrift on a plane without direction or meaning? If all that is left are the tiniest of pieces, then how is it that a complete picture of you dances above, so calmly, so frantic, upon the darkest of night? Are you there, is it you, or a brutal allusion cast upon my tomorrow? I lie asleep; am I only watching nightmares that loop? Are we all endlessly waiting? 

You know, don’t you? You remember the pledge we made, that morning, under a vanishing rainbow? You claimed we could be copies of ourselves for eternity, tattoos upon the skin of our ancestors broken, bleached bones.

Funny, I can still recite so many of our ridiculous vows, even after all this time. Even after your final climb, alone, through the atmosphere. I can’t let them go, like I can’t hold on. So I stand here alone, on this stormy shore, hoping a message will wash up on the land that shakes. It is forever rolling, shaking over the undertow. 

Is this battle I’m waging worse than the wars I fought so far from here? Would you even know me still, under the skin and in spite of these scars that still bleed and ooze? Would you be the one to save me, or would I bleed out, cold and shivering in the understanding shade of your shadow?

Guess I’ll never know? Not guess, not me, my love; Not anymore.

So wherever you might be singing tonight, in sparkling pieces or whole, I pray so hard for your comfort and reduce the rest of my gratitude for a pocket to keep alive, but small.

They say atoms can entangle. Those that have combined, have collided with enough force to connect. It’s a mystery of science, so it seems, the spooky motions in perfect unison over distances equal to the age of the stars. Equal to the distance of infinity. So much we cannot comprehend my dear. My beloved.

These little morsels of atomic mystery and doubt and theory: they burn so hot within me sometimes. I could never completely let you go when so much is still misunderstood. None of us live in this place forever. They can’t keep me here.

Please don’t be angry with me or chastise me… “you fool, quit wasting your time.” Funny thing, there is no time remaining, only space offering the faintest of hopes. You’re still out there, I can really feel it; or at least synapses flash now and then, gritting my teeth, driving me on through the storm.

You’d be proud of my service to duty, of that I am certain. It’s all I ever wanted you know; to be tested and make it through the cauldron and back to you. Alas, I scrambled and toiled and killed and cried and burned and hurt and suffered the eternal longing, only to lose you at the end.

Like a commandment broken, I was atoned of that beyond my control, the ultimate sacrifice, you. That feels so self-centered, does it sound so? Nevertheless, I judge myself responsible for thus, reckoning and pain that creeps along beside me, like the bloody servant of Job.

All I ever wanted was us, and I sacrificed that for the gravest of sin. Two wrongs cannot make it right. There is no other way to live day-to-day with this smell of death upon my hands.

But am I really living? Are you really dead? Are you gone? Maybe this is all upside down and I cannot even see what I truly am? That I’m the one in hell? Are you still at home while I burn in this fire, suffering close to silently, nearer and nearer the final destination I scrape along, prolonging the destiny of ashes cemented in black back when?

If this is hell, this is where I am.  If this is life, where do I begin? If this is death, how will it end?

I can almost taste you, my love. I can almost touch you, touch me. I miss you always. I miss you already.

 

 

Quit Knee-Jerking us Around @realDonaldTrump #flagburning

Eating breakfast this morning I happened to catch a report on CNN about some University in Massachusetts where a group of students had burned an American flag in response to the election of Donald Trump. It wasn’t clear -or I missed- whether more than a single flag had been destroyed, or several. My immediate reaction was “big deal, who cares?” And then the story progressed….

The local Mayor city was interviewed. His opinion was something like, and I am paraphrasing: many veteran’s attend this college and this act was tantamount to treason. That it was totally disrespecting their sacrifice….blah-babaty-blah-blah. It wasn’t clear if the Mayor is a veteran himself though, nevertheless, as I see it, in this case, it makes zero difference.

And of course -disturbingly- our Prez-Elect Trump already tweeted about the situation. Something like: people who burn the flag should go to prison, or, lose their citizenship? Yikes! Albeit, most of what Trump says erupts from a sense complete ignorance, in my humble opinion, as it were. Tomorrow he might completely reverse this position -after speaking to some attorney he respects- similar to his about-face on torture….or not, who fucking knows? Point being, a POTUS so utterly reactionary, one prone to such knee-jerk impulse, will be -and is- unprecedented, in modern times.

Okay. many veteran’s might believe burning the flag is disrespectful, sure. That does not mean it is, or should be illegal. Especially since the very 1st amendment in the Bill of Rights, in the US Constitution, grants all men -women too, much later- the right of free speech, including the right to peacefully protest the government ones grievances.

And what could be more peaceful than burning some fabric on the sidewalk, or a college square, as it were? Disrespectful does not reach the criminal level of injurious or illegal. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this very thing, indemnifying the act as legal and protected under the 1st, 5th, & 13th amendment’s of the Constitution…the United States Constitution…to include ignorant kids that may wear pleather sandals and live in mom’s basement.

Donald Trump’s reactionary positions actually leads me to worry less about his ability to become a true tyrant. He’s not intelligent or cunning enough to cause wide-spread lasting damage. Yes, I could be wrong? So what? What should be feared more are the true lunatics out there suddenly feeling empowered to act out in destructive, truly abhorrent ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEAD SOLDIERS: WHO GIVES A SHIT

How many people out there in America realize we suffered 6 casualties yesterday in the Afghanistan War? 2 Killed in action, 4 severely injured American soldiers fighting with partner Afghan forces. How is this not newsworthy? It really is shocking that in the midst of a heated Presidential campaign neither candidate bothers mentioning these ongoing war’s, let alone the US Forces giving their lives to wage them. Why? It is a sad state of affairs and portends a serious lack of leadership and vision from both camps in finally bringing these 14+ year long wars to a close. I’m afraid it signals an acceptance to the status quo with our current policy, or lack there of, as it were?

Would the death of two American’s, in addition to 4 seriously wounded, in a school, a fire, a traffic accident or a plane crash receive less attention by the election dependent, i.e, addicted, media? It’s “sad,” as Trump might end a tweet. Or as Clinton might say: “we need to care about all Americans, in all states, of every color…bla, bla,” bullshit.

From the moment I joined my unit and deployed to Afghanistan our leaders would endlessly spout shit about how “our sacrifices would never be forgotten,” or, “your country will not forget.” Clearly this is patently false. How can the country forget these soldiers who were never even counted? I’m sure the wives, children, mother’s and father’s getting knocks on their doors by a death notification team leader. Here’s what the US Army manual has to contribute

“The Next of Kin will be notified promptly in an appropriate dignified and understanding manner by a uniformed service representative. He/she will wear the Class “A” uniform and present a soldierly appearance when making notification.”

So, they’ll be counted by the family and the Army. The POTUS will likely phone the families of the deceased. As far as the wider public who bear the greatest responsibility for the continued actions go…a comfortable silence from the ignorant majority. 

If it seems like I’m angry, not exactly. I’m complacently irate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nation of Fools: The Cults of #Trump & #Clinton.

It’s been a challenge sharing my struggles with grief, anger, fear and all the other shit that hitches up to many a good soul post military combat, or, many other traumatic life events, for that matter. Questions rise and cycle through my brain like: am I a terrible person; is my life planted forever with a lie like a mountaineer would a mountain peak; does anyone even give a fuck about my feelings or what I’ve done; will I ever feel free again; will the nightmares cease and let me sleep in peace; does anything ever matter or make a difference? I feel alone beyond the shore of a churning sea.

My anger stems from the unaccountable and those seemingly comfortable living within their hypocrisy and blatant contradictions.I’m furious with myself. Anger is a byproduct of my fear, or an extension of it, balancing, like the opposing sides of a simple mathematical equation. To watch them, so at ease with their atrocities, leaves me paralyzed with fright. The possibility that I am the hypocrite, that comes and goes. It’s all one big bag of shit that I’m scared to leave behind, stubbornly holding on, no matter the stench, or the ugly weight of it.

There was a time that I felt patriotic for my country, warts and all. “The proud American,” my German girlfriend would say. Not arrogant, not pretentious, just patriotic. We were far from perfect, I knew, but we weren’t animals or criminals. Mistakes were made, yes, but we tried to do better. Was it a false belief, a product of ignorance, immaturity or simply naive to believe my country would ultimately live up to these ideals in the shadow of September 11th? We could survive a corrupt Congress or a President sick with power, from time to time. I tended to believe our system of government would sort things out eventually.

The current state of things seem grim. Is this assessment pollution of my own inevitable corruption? I see and hear a wider public completely devoid of curiosity and fact. If so, and the government is of the people, will the Republic change course? Can we survive a nation of fools who appear willing to follow and elect proven liars as leaders? How does that get fixed? Or is it really broken at all?

Is this what I sacrificed for? Is it what other brave, patriotic men and women sacrificed for, often with their lives? 9/11 was the most significant event to occur in my lifetime. A fulcrum point emerged out of the rubble, smoke and skeletons that offered paths in two separate, opposing directions. One path stretched ahead towards our ideals, our “better angels,” as it were. Another would slowly transform us into the evil we sought to destroy. Sadly, we burst blindly ahead on that path of misfortune, towards an eventual ignominious fate. Not only has that fact left me sorrowful and lost, it also makes me culpable.

This upheaval and chaos rocking the Middle East isn’t to be chalked up to most American’s go to theory regarding the region: “They’ve been at war for centuries over there. We just tried to bring them freedom.” That’s the simplistic sort of bullshit that corrodes our dialogue and erodes our standing throughout the world. I admit, in my early 20’s, this analysis wasn’t too much simpler than my own. I certainly didn’t believe our military could, or should, be deployed anywhere as peacekeeper’s or proponents of Democracy. I signed up in October 2001 to defeat the forces behind the 9/11 attacks, no more, no less.

What I’m trying to say is this: The mission in Afghanistan as I participated in was just and appropriate, knowing what I know now and then. The invasion of Iraq was inappropriate by any measure knowing what I know now and then. Our ongoing missions to rebuild governments in Afghanistan and Iraq was, and is, an error in judgement and impossible to complete, as the past 15 years have revealed, not to mention past failures in Vietnam, Somalia etc.

The only entity capable of extricating ourselves from this chaos is Congress. Congress is an extension of the American people. Do the American people seem concerned about these policies? Are the American people working with all the facts? If the American people just shrug at the mention of these wars, or support them on the basis of incorrect information, or willful ignorance, like say they did the Vietnam War in the early 1970’s, what would motivate Congress to modify the course? Wars are easy to start, difficult to end, especially without the visual of an enemy capitulating, e.g., the Empire of Japan face to face with Douglas MacArthur aboard an US Navy battleship in late 1945.

We cannot kill our way to victory in a war versus an ideology, as much as it is geography. Likewise, we cannot go on fighting indefinitely without sustaining wounds to our Republic that are permanent. I’ve been there, seen it up close and bloody. Fighting a war against an ideology is analogous to fighting a war verses dandruff. What is victory? Is it a world where no person has violent political disagreement with the United States government? I’m sure that bombing their uncle’s house or droning a family wedding party will shift perceptions. It’s just that the shift continues in the wrong direction.

I keep wondering off the message. Betrayed. That’s the sense I feel the most viscerally. It’s a feeling that leaks into my personal affairs, like a trigger, or a premonition.

On November 8th the people are going to elect a serial liar to the Presidency. One side will claim the other will finally ruin America, or conversely, make it great again. I truly cannot say who’s correct? What I do think is the candidates we have are a perfect reflection of our collective ignorance and willful resistance to the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#AFGHANISTAN #IRAQ & #ISIS or #ISIL

In 2011, 10 years after we invaded Afghanistan in search of al Qeada, there were more than 110,000 US troops deployed in country, in addition to several thousand NATO coillition troops. The build up of troop levels following the election of Barrack Obama signaled to me the continued hold of influence the Pentagon had over the Executive. This surge in troop level seemed, and still seems out of character with the Obama Administration’s more intillectual based foreign policy? This was a strategy familiar to the National Security State: Leak information selectivly to the public via a cooperative media intended to put political pressure on a President to move policy in their direction.

“Like a bandaid over a bullet hole” is how military leaders on the ground, to this day, describe the NATO mission in that country. Let me make this clear for anyone not fully up to speed with Afghanistan or our 15 year current history there: No matter what we do in the short term, when we eventually pull out -as we most certainly will eventually- the country will quickly fall completely back into the hands of the Taliban or some other closely related Islamic group. 90% of the country, that which is beyond Kabul, are not, and will never be, in favor of Democracy as we understand it. I’ve been there, seen it first hand, and am telling you a truth our government seems incapable of admitting.

I try not to use the Vietnam War as an example of related cause, but the similarities are striking. After WWII the French decided to take back ownership of Vietnam only to find a nation with a new sense of independence, leaders, and purpose. Eventually France was humbled despite much assistance by the United States. In the wake of the French defeat, the United States decided to take a crack at installing our own, “suitable” political structure. No matter what we did or wanted to do, Vietnam would have eventually won its autonomy. What happened to finally end our struggle against the unstoppable force of a native people fighting for their independence? Congress turned off the tap, denying Ford’s request for an additional billion dollars to continue the fight.

Eventually Congress will shut off the tap in regards to Afghanistan. Either that, or other matters will force our hand. Afghanistan is not Korea. It’s not West Germany. It’s little more than a burning hole in the ground that we throw our cash into for incineration. We go there to die for a people who’d rather kill us. It’s the definition of a quagmire.

More on Iraq and ISIS later.

 

 

 

 

#WAR, #ECONOMICS & #AMERICA

There are few things that anger the disenfranchised, dispossessed or the marginalized more than those who hold great power, fail to exercise it, yet reap massive rewards. It’s been said that the people will tolerate a despot, fight for a king, crush a parasite. This proven fact of human nature goes against most of what we, as Americans, are taught and believe to be true. How else can we explain the reverence of a Napoleon, a Hitler or the brutal 50 year reign of a murderous Joseph Stalin? Not one of these characters ruled their states with the interest of the ordinary citizen a priority, to the contrary, yet they ruled, long after their true nature was exposed. The final Tzar of the Russian Romanov dynasty, Nicholas, was cloaked in immense generational power, yet in the dark hours of World War I, was largely coupe up in his great palaces, steeped in mystical ritual, his great wealth flaunted in the face of a people gripped in fear and increasing poverty. In theory, his power was far beyond anything Lenin or Stalin could ever attain, yet within a year his entire family was exterminated after several hundred years of rule. Erased.

I’ve seen war from the perch of a proud American. I’ve seen war through the eyes of a related witness. And I’ve seen war up close, the smell, the exhaustion, confusion and taste of it. I use the word “war” in each instance, yet in neither is the word applied the same. If you’ve encountered it in the form of a verb, it continues, forever, to remain so. War as entertainment has a purpose in culture, albeit it a nefarious one. Those in the business of making war must promote the fiction of it or face the elimination of it as business. Marching off for Boeing or Lockheed Martin doesn’t have the same patriotic ring as marching off to save democracy or vanquish evil. How many young men would sign up voluntarily to fight a war the Politicians and Generals have secretly come to realize is unwinnable? Who’s gonna volunteer for combat against an enemy that is only fighting you because you’re trespassing on their property?

I watched a decent documentary on YouTube last night called “The Fall of Mosul.” It does tend to oversimplify some of the relevant facts, however, in broad strokes, the filmmaker does a good job historically documenting the City of Mosul from ancient times to roughly six months ago. So much of human history is a part of the region, revealing, I think, much of the folly our current policies never seem to acknowledge, learn from or even truly comprehend?

For now I must leave it at that. My next column I hope to explain my assessment of our current state of undeclared war and how our current politics seems to either dismiss any discussion that’s “out-of-bounds,” so to speak, or betray a shockingly little breadth of historical truth.

Any and all comments are welcome and appreciated. Thanks