April 12, 2007

WAR

I started watching War in Europe tonight, and I realized I had never before heard Roosevelt's Washington's Birthday Speech as the US entered WWII. Boy, how I wish I could hear this speech today. The whole thing is awesome, but this was the part I heard on the movie:

We know now that if we lose this war it will be generations or even centuries before our conception of democracy can live again. And we can lose this war only if use slow up our effort or if we waste our ammunition sniping at each other.

Here are three high purposes for every American:

1. We shall not stop work for a single day. If any dispute arises we shall keep on working while the dispute is solved by mediation, or conciliation or arbitration -- until the war is won.

2. We shall not demand special gains or special privileges or special advantages for any one group or occupation.

3. We shall give up conveniences and modify the routine of our lives if our country asks us to do so. We will do it cheerfully, remembering that the common enemy seeks to destroy every home and every freedom in every part of our land.

This generation of Americans has come to realize, with a present and personal realization, that there is something larger and more important than the life of any individual or of any individual group -- something for which a man will sacrifice, and gladly sacrifice, not only his pleasures, not only his goods, not only his associations with those he loves, but his life itself. In time of crisis when the future is in the balance, we come to understand, with full recognition and devotion, what this nation is and what we owe to it.

And Roosevelt discussed the flypaper strategy long before Andrew Sullivan:

Those Americans who believed that we could live under the illusion of isolationism wanted the American eagle to imitate the tactics of the ostrich. Now, many of those same people, afraid that we may be sticking our necks out, want our national bird to be turned into a turtle. But we prefer to retain the eagle as it is -- flying high and striking hard.

I know I speak for the mass of the American people when I say that we reject the turtle policy and will continue increasingly the policy of carrying the war to the enemy in distant lands and distant waters -- as far away as possible from our own home grounds.

But imagine anyone accepting this from today's president:

Your Government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst, without flinching or losing heart. You must, in turn, have complete confidence that your Government is keeping nothing from you except information that will help the enemy in his attempt to destroy us. In a democracy there is always a solemn pact of truth between government and the people, but there must also always be a full use of discretion, and that word "discretion" applies to the critics of government as well.

This is war. The American people want to know, and will be told, the general trend of how the war is going. But they do not wish to help the enemy any more than our fighting forces do, and they will pay little attention to the rumor-mongers and the poison peddlers in our midst.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:09 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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EXTENSION

Deployments have been extended to 15 months. I understand this. I know why it has to be done and why it makes sense. I consider us lucky that we even have deployment "ends", unlike in WWII when they fought until they were dead or the war ended, whichever came first. I know all of these things logically, and I accept them as a consequence of war. But. I know what my husband was like after 13 months of non-stop work. I heard his voice around the ninth month, right before R&R, when he sounded robotic and detached. I felt his monotony and f*ck-it attitude in every conversation we had. That's a long time to be at war. I feel sorry for these soldiers who will have to ball up and tough it out.

Posted by: Sarah at 08:39 AM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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April 07, 2007

THE BODY ARMOR ISSUE

See, here's an example of what I wrote about yesterday. Yes, there are some drawbacks to the current body armor. But it takes time to pinpoint the problems and come up with solutions, to test out the solutions, and to implement them. For pete's sake, we didn't know what the shortcomings of the original IBA would be until they were actually used in theater! But now they've improved upon it, namely to make it lighter, change weight distribution, and even supply a quick release to instantly remove the armor in case of drowning or fire. That's brilliant and applicable, but the only way we knew we needed it was to let the original design run for a while. Nothing is perfect the first time around, but that Time article acted like the Army has given up on trying to improve the situation. Army's broken, guess that's it. That's absurd: they're constantly working to make life better for our warriors. Remember...Civil War soldiers had $175 worth of gear, OIF's have $17,000. But people act like our government is shortchanging our troops or throwing them to the wolves. They're working on it, dangit. It took seven years to design and build the LM, right?, a lunar module that had never been seen before. Well, IBA is a new concept too, and it will take time and effort to get it right.

Grr, I get so worked up over this stuff. Deep breaths.

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April 06, 2007

BROKEN

"America's Broken Down Army" is a completely disheartening article. I could fisk just about every paragraph in the thing, but the fact that it was even written makes me want to cry. I will say a couple of things.

"For us, it's just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out," wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

If Time had asked my husband for his opinion, they'd've gotten the exact opposite answer. He's looking for the door in, trying to figure out how he can be more useful to the Army.

"Their wives are saying, I know you're proud of what you're doing, but we've got to get out of here," says Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general.

If McCaffrey had asked me, he would've gotten the exact opposite answer again. I am so proud of what my husband is doing, and I am doing everything I can to help him get closer to the fight.

After training to fire the artillery's big guns at foes 15 miles away, his unit is pulling infantry duty. "I love the Army," the 12-year veteran, a native of Columbus, Ohio, says, "but I hate this war."

No one in the Army is doing what they trained to do in AIT or OBC, save 11Bs and 19Ws. And everyone hates this war. My husband hates this war. But he still thinks we have to fight it.

Three weeks before his enlistment was up last year, the Army ordered him to Iraq for a second tour. He had been planning to live with his wife in Chicago and attend film school by now. Instead, Santopoalo stalks Sunni insurgents through the palm groves. "You start to think about what life could be—sitting on a beach drinking a Corona," he says. "That's when it affects you."

My husband and I had two very different reactions to this quote. My husband said that this is the most normal feeling in the world. All soldiers wish they were relaxing and drinking beer, all the time. He's leaving for the field this weekend, and he says he knows all week he will wish he were at home in his recliner. That's what soldiers do: dream of relaxing. My reaction is the same reaction I have whenever I think of my own husband deploying: our life is not worth more than anyone else's. If my husband doesn't deploy, someone else will. Someone has to do the job, and we have never once thought that we've already done our time and now it's time for someone else to do it. Until this war is over, it is ours to fight.

I could go on and on about this article, about how they mischaracterize the Blue to Green program as the Army "cannibalizing" the Air Force, or how they beat that eternal dead horse that is uparmored HMMWVs. Their own figures make the argument that the Army is doing everything a lumbering bureaucracy can do to make this better:

A World War II G.I. wore gear worth $175, in today's dollars. By Vietnam, it cost about $1,500. Today it's about $17,000. [...] The Army said at the start of the war it would need 235 armored humvees; the number is 18,000 today—and each time the Army improves the armor on the truck, the insurgents improve their IEDs. The Army has packed on all the armor a humvee's transmission and axles can carry, so the military is rushing to buy 7,774 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for an estimated $8.4 billion—more than $1 million each. Their V-shaped undercarriage is designed to deflect blasts from the soldiers on board.

Yes, the Army thought OIF, this one stage of the Global War on Terrorism (oops, can't say that), wouldn't last so long. So freaking sue them. Whiny microwave, drive-thru culture...you can't have everything you want as fast as you want it. This is a war. War sucks. People have to fight in it and they have to die in it. Forgive my lack of empathy, but I just finished reading a book on Sherman's march in the Civil War, and I have a hard time shedding tears that we've got to let more folks with GEDs in the Army to meet recruiting goals. Union men in the Civil War fought for years on end with no employer benefits waiting for them back home, fought to end the slavery of other men; they were in no danger of becoming slaves themselves. Today we fight an enemy who wishes all of us to submit, to become slaves to shariah. Forgive me if I don't care if you have a marijuana bust on your record or a low ASVAB, so long as you want to help us fight this long and awful war.

Is the Army broken? Maybe it wouldn't seem that way if we didn't constantly harp on it. Men in WWII parachuted all over kingdom come and were lucky to have a weapon and a cricket when they landed. Patton didn't have enough gas to advance his Third Army. But Americans didn't sit around and harp about how broken-down we were. They didn't gripe about how soldiers on the beaches of Normandy didn't have kevlar and uparmored landing crafts. They fought with the Army they had and didn't write four-page articles on how doomed they were.

Anyone with an ounce of perspective knows that war sucks and nothing is ever perfect. There's nothing wrong with striving to do better, but this constant naysaying and tearing down of our military is a bunch of baloney. I'm tired of hearing how crappy our Army is and how awful life is for everyone involved. We don't even know the meaning of the word crappy.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:56 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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