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 wouldnt 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.
Posted by: Sarah at
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Doubting only shows youre a thinking, rational person, absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wonder if the anti crowd ever stops to think if we are actually doing the right thing. Doubt it.
Posted by: tim at May 23, 2007 07:19 AM (nno0f)
As you frequently do, you expressed what I too feel about listening to people discuss the war. Some days I cannot sit idly by and listen to nonsense spewed by people who do not educate themselves about what is going on in Iraq (thus my comment at Standing By). Some days I cannot bring myself to listen to anything about the war from either side.
Thank you, Sarah, for letting me know that I am not alone in my struggle to understand this war and to understand what is or maybe right for us to do.
Posted by: Butterfly Wife at May 23, 2007 11:07 AM (/LiOe)
This is Jan, from Standing By. You said exactly what I feel. Excellent post. Thank you.
Posted by: Jan Wesner at May 23, 2007 02:20 PM (5EgLa)
Sarah - you expressed this one so well. It's exactly how I feel.
Posted by: airforcewife at May 23, 2007 04:24 PM (0dU3f)
Jan of Standing By again - I'm putting your post on my blog tomorrow (Thursday), giving you credit of course.
Posted by: Jan Wesner at May 23, 2007 06:48 PM (5EgLa)
Sarah - this is why strangers like me read your blog. Because you're human. I would say super-human in that you and your husband both of a sense of 'self' that enables you to fight for something bigger than yourselves - and sacrifice for the freedom of others. Please remember, just as in the U.S., when the news media arrives on a scene, the first jackass that sees the camera becomes 'the man on the street' and they interview him. The terrorists propaganda that all Iraqis want us to leave, are fighting against us is b.s. - if that were TRUE, even remotely, there are 25 million Iraqis that would be hunting our soldiers down every day. They are not. In fact, millions of them chose to vote instead of fight against our brave men and women. It's easy to lose sight of the amazing things our soldiers are doing and the fact that Iraqis are desperate for peace because it's a constant drumbeat of negativity in the news. Remember, if one were to judge America from a nightly newscast on the rapes, murders, gang shootings and robberies in New York 24/7 - they would think New York was worse than Baghdad. Maybe it is, it just doesn't get as much media coverage. Heck, Philadelphia had 406 murders last year and has probably less than half the population of Baghdad! What's amazing to people like me is that people like YOU and YOUR HUSBAND chose service and sacrifice. That's amazing. Amazing. And the fact that some schmucks aren't grateful isn't fair, but unfortunately, not everyone is sensible enough to understand the road ahead and what you're fighting for on their behalf. Ignorance is bliss, and in some cases, really annoying and unfair. The point of the terrorists is to manipulate the world media to make 5 guys in a car bomb seem like "the norm" of the populace. They magnify one incident like that 10 times a day, and ignore all the car bombs that didn't go off. All the Iraqis that call in tips to capture terrorists. All the law-abiding Iraqis that send their children to school because they believe that education is important. The fact that people in Iraq are still shopping, eating out, going to school under the conditions set by the terrorists is AMAZING too. Don't lose sight of it because the media doesn't show it. They are there. The silent majority. I find that if I watch the news too often I feel a sense of dread and panic - and that's what news is designed for nowadays. Not for reporting context or facts, but for reporting things through a soda straw and expecting you to figure out the whole picture. I believe most Iraqis are thankful. I believe most Americans are thankful. It's just that our news media can't find a story unless it's against America, against our soldiers or against this particular president. Chin up. You two are doing something bigger than most people your age. And I for one, appreciate it. So thank you.
Posted by: Kathleen A at May 24, 2007 01:56 AM (7qm8p)
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