July 31, 2004

ST. AVOLD

VDH writes about our military cemeteries in St. Avold, France:

The inscriptions at American graveyards admonish the visitor to remember sacrifice, courage, and freedom; they assume somebody bad once started a war to hurt the weak, only to fail when somebody better stopped them.

I've been to St. Avold, on Veteran's Day, led by two old men who understood Joe and Tommy's sacrifice. My distant relatives from Lorraine, who lost a brother in WWII, took me to see the greatest generation that slumbers beneath French soil, at a time when that unfortunately didn't mean as much to me as it does now. That rainy day in November 1998 I was more amused than anything as these two septuagenarians insisted that we talk to every cemetery director and guard so that they could introduce me as their cousine américaine. They were so proud to be sharing Armistice Day with an American, and I was a dumb kid who didn't appreciate their enthusiasm.

One of those grateful old men passed away last fall, and I was too stubborn to go see him. Only today did I realize that I let my hatred of France prevent me from paying respect to a good and decent man. I let things like this get in the way of family and honor. I realize that I have been so angry at our former allies that I refused to go say goodbye to a dear old man, and all of a sudden I feel ashamed.

The men of St. Avold would've wanted me to behave better.

avold.jpg

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July 27, 2004

COMEDY

My friend's husband bought a bootleg copy of Fahrencrap 9/11 in Iraq. He said he watched it three times and laughed his ass off the whole time. When I heard that, I managed a bemused smile: I'm amazed with this guy's confidence to laugh in Michael Moore's face. I've spent so much time getting angry about this movie that it was refreshing to hear that one soldier thought Fahrencrap 9/11 was a comedy.

Too bad not all soldiers are reacting the same way...

Michael Moore has never claimed to support the troops, but a lot of Americans who have gone to see this movie are the same ones who "support the troops but think the war was wrong". To those viewers, I say congratulations: you've now put $100 million in Moore's pocket and doubt and pessimism in our servicemembers' minds. Well done.

(via LGF)

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July 23, 2004

BOMB

I can't find anything in the news yet, but we had some excitement here yesterday. As they were doing construction work, they came upon a bomb...a WWII-era undetonated bomb. They had to evacuate the whole area and try to diffuse and move this enormous bomb. Apparently these finds are not that rare here in Germany, but it seemed exciting to me.

So I was thinking as I drove to class last night: That bomb stayed hidden for a good 60 years and no one ever knew it was there. But we're supposed to find WMDs within a year in Iraq...

MORE TO GROK:

My German co-worker found an article in the German news, complete with a photo of the bomb.

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July 22, 2004

BATTLE

Red 6, the husband's best friend, was involved in this battle. That's where this photo was taken. My boys are doing serious and dangerous work, yet they continue to stay upbeat and optimistic.

Soldier safe, boys...

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July 12, 2004

YAY

Yay for the Iraqi Army! Thanks, John.

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July 07, 2004

MORALE

There's an article in the Stars and Stripes today humorously called Morale in Iraq ranges from low to gung-ho. The article seems to capture what I imagine is a true sense of morale in Iraq.

In many places, the emotional and physical rebuilding of Iraq is well under way and troops feel appreciated. But almost daily, far from the ribbon-cuttings and candy giveaways, an improvised bomb or missile kills another American servicemember.

I had an email exchange recently with Randy, a deployed Guardsman. He apologized for sounding frustrated, but I said his complaints sounded valid to me. Maybe it's because I hear my husband make many of the same observations, so the problems must be real. I know that Randy and I have "common ground" -- he respects the Army, he doesn't shirk his duty -- so I appreciate hearing his valid criticisms. It doesn't sound any different than the stuff I hear from my husband; I just don't post it because that's his business. I admit my blog might make it sound like everything is peaches and candy for my family, but staying optimistic is the way I cope with the deployment. It's a way of dealing with the fact that my husband is still sleeping outside, doesn't get enough food, and is only getting four hours of sleep each night. If I dwelled on how bad that sucks, I'd worry myself sick. Instead I try to focus on the Big Picture aspect of the deployment and remind myself that my husband's suffering (and my breaking heart) have to be worth a democratic Iraq.

General Kimmitt went on to make an astute observation:

But he added that having good morale and being happy aren’t the same things.

“Do we have a right to be happy? No,” Kimmitt said. “It gets real hot around here. There are people shooting at you.

“In my case, there are people who will give $15 million if somebody cuts off my head and gives it to them. Does that make me happy? No. Do I have high morale? Yes.

“They [soldiers] are 19 years old,” Kimmitt said. “They’d rather be back home bird-dogging chicks and fixing their car but they’re not.

“They’re in a country that’s going through a hell of a transition and they are here to do what they’ve got to do to help.

“And they’re putting their lives on the line to do it and that’s not fun and that’s not easy.”

I hate to be "the girl who compares everything to Band of Brothers", but watching that series has personally given me enormous perspective. Easy Company was deployed for two years; they fought on D-Day, parachuted again as part of Operation Market Garden, held the front line at Bastogne, liberated a concentration camp, and made it to Eagle's Nest for the end of the war in Europe. They then started training to head to the Pacific, though the war actually ended before they were deployed. Easy Company, a company that suffered 150% casualties, has been my own personal source of morale. My husband doesn't have as much food as I'd like, but he doesn't have trenchfoot and he doesn't have to be gone for two years. Looking backwards in time at how our elders went to war has made me grateful for the hand we've been dealt today.

I'm sure Easy Company would've rather been bird-dogging chicks too. But instead they cowboyed up and became one of the most heroic stories of all time.

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July 03, 2004

FIRSTHAND

My husband just called and told me about his new job: working with the Iraqi police in Najaf. It sounds like this job is much more rewarding than guard duty, though it can be frustrating for both the Iraqis and the Americans at times. He said a lot of what he's doing is motivation, speaking encouragingly to both Iraqi teens and the police. He said the police chief has really taken to him and they talk often. The police chief is frustrated about the situation in Najaf; he said that civilians sometimes come up to him and hit him with their slippers. He said (not a direct quote), "Back in Saddam's days, if you hit the police with your slipper, your whole family would be dead. But here I am, getting hit with slippers." Sometimes the police chief speaks a little too fondly of the law and order under Hussein, at which point my husband reminds him that Saddam killed many people. "Yeah, I guess he did kill my uncle..." the police chief admits. My husband said that they receive lots of praise from Iraqis in Najaf. The Iraqis are always telling them how brave they are and saying they're happy that the US came. They also say the Americans are good people for trying to avoid hitting their monuments and holy sites. Sometimes the Iraqis get frustrated and beg the Americans to just go in and kill all of the insurgents and get it over with, but my husband patiently explains why they can't do that. My husband said that the people he works with are very supportive, but that they all, Americans and Iraqis, spend a lot of time being frustrated.

I told him it was great to hear these stories because we here can lose sight of how regular Iraqis are feeling. We get so much gloom and doom. I'm glad I got to hear firsthand from him that the Iraqi men he works with are supportive and honorable.

MORE TO GROK:

Good analogy. Incidentally, all of fad's posts that I love are the ones he wants to delete...

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July 02, 2004

ATTRITION

As I finished the Band of Brothers series the other day, it was hard not to view the end of WWII through the lens of the war in Iraq. Germans were forced to bury the dead bodies in the concentration camp. Civilians were threatened at gunpoint; some were shot. The soldiers made it to Eagle's Nest and looted Hitler's stuff. There were so many images that I knew we could never get away with today.

Does Dick Winters feel bad about taking Nazi silverware or Lewis Nixon for drinking Hitler's booze? Does Ronald Speirs regret making a souvenir of the Nazi flag? I hope not. Did David Webster feel guilty about taking his anger out on a raving shopkeeper after liberating a concentration camp? He shouldn't have to. Should Easy Company have forced regular German citizens to clean up the concentration camp and bury the emaciated bodies? Perhaps. That's what a war of attrition requires.

Some have written lately that this war won't be won with our accommodating nature. The only way to win a war, they argue, is to kill. Or crush the enemy's spirit. We don't do that today. We drop food rations with bombs, and we apologize for Abu Ghraib while one by one our contractor's heads are being ripped off. We're too damn nice.

The fact is, we Americans do not like staring into the face of evil. It is in our progressive and optimistic nature to believe that human beings are basically good, or at least rational. When we stare into a cave of horrors, whether it is in Somalia, Beirut or Tikrit, we see a tangled morass we don't understand. Our instinct is to get out as quickly as possible.

Amritas has a wonderful post up asking many questions that don't have clean answers: Will we get our investment back? Is it worth it? If the US isn't going to take advantage of their forces in Iraq soon, why bother? Is it really 'noble' for American Soldiers to sacrifice themselves to rebuild and police another nation when they could be doing their real job: defeating the enemy? How do we win the War of Ideas?

I add another: Can the war be won while being nice?

The Germans were done. They surrendered, turned over their weapons, marched dutifully to POW camps, and accepted defeat. The war was over. Iraq is not the same game. There will be no surrender, no dutiful march, no end short of death. I don't think our society (or our media) will let us do what we need to do in order to win. We've won several battles -- al Sadr is done, sovereignty is transfered -- but we have a long way to go to win the War of Ideas, to defeat the fantasy ideology.

I have no more answers than Amritas does. I hope history shows that our blood was worth it, that Iraq, despite her many flaws, can develop into an ally and friend. I don't want to find that we should have just taken the silverware and left.

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