May 27, 2007

WAR AND PEACE

I found a new blog today called The Shield of Achilles. He had a link to the story behind his blog's name, which comes from the design on Achilles' shield in The Illiad:

The engravings include two cities, one at peace and one at war. In the city at Peace, a man had been murdered, and an argument was ensuing over payment of blood-money. In the city at war, besiegers were divided over either sacking the city, or allowing it to pay a tribute for peace. Among other messages, one was clear: Times of War and Peace are both filled with conflict. Moreover, wartime is not always evil and peacetime is not always virtuous; while there is suffering in War, there is also courage, heroism and honor, and during times of Peace there is still murder, cowardice, and greed. Even people negotiating Peace sometimes have self-serving aims.

This is just genius. What a fabulous name for a blog.

One thing that has always frustrated me is the naive idea people have that war is the opposite of peace. All the people who want to Bring the Troops Home Now seem to think that if there's not officially a war going on, then there will be peace. But peace for whom? Before we went into Iraq in 2003, there was not peace in Iraq. There was no peace for Adnan Abdul Karim Enad, the man who tried to climb in Hans Blix's car to escape Iraq. There was no peace for the children who filled jails or the folks who went through a plastic shredder. There was no peace for the women raped by Uday or the families gassed by Saddam. Just because we weren't there, it doesn't mean everyone was flying kites and eating gumdrops.

Conversely, there's no "war" going on in North Korea or Zimbabwe, but I'm not sure I'd want to live in their "peace" either. France is at peace, but that doesn't help you if your car is set on fire during the night. And peace didn't do much for Pim Fortuyn either.

There will always be terrible, awful, inhumane, horrific things going on in the world. Most of them don't fall neatly under the bumper-sticker label of war. There is no such thing as peace; there's just calms between the storms.

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May 23, 2007

THE KNIFE CYCLE

At the Milblogs Conference, Andi decided to kill me with her first question. I was expecting softballs, and instead I got a fastball at the head. She quoted an old blog post back to me, and I swear that for the first ten seconds of her speaking, I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't recognize the writing as my own, and I completely panicked. As she read the very end of the post, I finally figured out what I had written, and then I had two seconds to react. I think I reacted poorly, so I'd like to revisit the question here.

Andi wanted to know what was going through my head when I wrote about this:

My husband's visible discomfort that he might not have another opportunity to put to use all he learned in Iraq, all he has digested and mulled over for two years, stands in stark contrast to the Iraqi quoted in this article:

“What was I going to wait for that would keep me on the force?” said Mohammed Humadi, a police captain who quit in August after one of his commanders was killed and beheaded. “Nothing was going to get any better. I have children, and if I were to sacrifice myself, it wouldn’t change anything.”

I struggle daily with the two opposing camps of the War in Iraq: those who say that the US has no business trying to set up a utopia halfway across the world, and those whose idealism bubbles over into dreams of playing Iraq in the World Cup. But the one thing I do know is that it's a knife in my heart that my husband would give his life for Iraq while this Iraqi would not.

I've had this feeling several times over the years, most notably one year after Saddam's statue came down. I wrote about the knife in my heart much more eloquently that year:

One year ago today, I was so happy for the Iraqis. I sat on the sofa at Fort Knox and cheered wildly as they tore that statue down. I wept for the Iraqis and their newfound freedom; now I weep for their newfound vengeance.

If you remember, the statue of Saddam wasn't the only thing to come down from that pedestal last year. The American flag an overzealous soldier hung up there was quickly taken down, lest the world think we came as conquerors. We were there to give Iraq to the Iraqis, and they've repaid us by burning our dead and hanging them from a bridge.

I felt the knife again when I saw protestors in Pakistan carrying a sign saying "Our religion does not allow unconditional freedom of speech."

The past five years have been a cycle of conviction and doubt.

I read this comments section today at Standing By, and I don't know what to say. I don't want to argue for or against the war anymore; it's just my job to help my husband as he fights it. The fact that he still wants to fight it speaks volumes to me. He's the one who's worked with Iraqis. He's the one who's been to Najaf. He's the one who has to work on cultural cross-breeding. I will defer to his opinion on this matter in nearly every case.

But the knife in the heart comes in the cold sweat of realizing that his convictions could someday take his life. The perspective comes when I realize that it's better to lose his life to convictions than to cancer, car crashes, or crap.

I struggle. I think that's jarring for some people because they want me to remain this caricature of a warmonger. The times when I express doubt about the war are the times I get the most comments from anti-war types, chipping away at my armor or jeering me for setting down my flag when my arms get tired of waving. But I'm a normal human being who thinks about issues, not just some automaton who does whatever Karl Rove says. I actually think about this war, and some days I feel stronger than others.

I assume the Iraqis do too, which is why it's not always fair to cherry-pick things to doubt.

I figure I may never know the lasting effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I could be long gone before we really know the legacy of the War on Terror. But I can hope, hope my husband's work will bear fruit.

And doubt some days too.

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May 19, 2007

NOT GROKKING

I don't understand the illegal immigrant issue.

Who is it who's arguing for illegals to stay here and get citizenship? And why do they matter? What does amnesty do for the US? Does it improve our relationship with Mexico? If so, why do we care? Does it improve our relationship with legal Hispanics? I thought many of them poll against amnesty.

What is the reason we haven't built that fence yet and that we've got an amnesty bill in Congress right now?

I'm serious here; I really don't grok.

Neal Boortz says it's the votes, stupid. He thinks that both parties are racing to be the one who helps illegals so that when they can vote, they'll vote for the party that got them in. Boortz is an awful cynical guy, but is that right? Is that the reason our elected officials are acting like fools?

I don't think the American public as a whole supports amnesty. John Hawkins found out that a mayor in Pennsylvania who's running on a strict anti-illegal platform won both the Republican nomination and the Democrat write-in! He got 94% of the Republican vote. I think the American people want that fence built and they want our existing laws to be upheld.

So what's the deal with our politicians then?

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May 13, 2007

TRAFFIC

I arrived in L.A. on Friday and after a lovely lunch with CaliValleyGirl's family, we were off to San Diego. The Garmin said it was 110 miles. "Cool, we'll be there plenty early," I thought.

I never used to understand Crazy Aunt Purl's blog posts about traffic. Now I do. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Where I come from, miles and minutes are easily linked; here there is no such connection, save the fact that miles equal a boatload of minutes.

110 miles took us four hours. Seriously.
I now can crack up at all these posts about L.A. traffic.

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May 08, 2007

ANGELS

When I arrived at the hotel on Friday, I had to wait because our room was in CaliValleyGirl's name and she wasn't in DC yet. I sat in the lobby and soon became surrounded by folks I learned were also there for the conference. Turns out they were all Soldiers' Angels.

Over the course of the weekend, I learned more about this organization than I'd known before. Sure, I'd participated in some healthy inter-service rivalry for Valour-IT, but I really didn't know a whole lot about the people involved. Holy cow, are these people amazing.

I have one soldier to take care of; these people take care of all of the rest of them. The extent of their service to others is just staggering. I have to take care of my husband, but these people take care of hundreds of troops they've never met. Unreal.

I was so excited to see a Soldiers' Angels pin in my goody bag for the weekend. And today I went and signed up to be on the Cards Plus Team. Writing cards, now that seems like something I'd be pretty good at (see previous post)!

Also, I was terribly excited to hear that Soldiers' Angels and Sew Much Comfort will soon be available on the Combined Federal Campaign list. I can't wait to make donating to these guys a monthly no-brainer.

A lot of you might be like I was: naturally I had heard of Soldiers' Angels and knew they were doing great work, but until I saw them in action, heard Chuck Z talk about how they changed his life, and shook hands with these selfless folks, I didn't fully grok what they do. Maybe I can transfer some of my enlightenment to you. Please, please at least hit 'em up with five bucks. They truly deserve it.

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