Today I remarked to one of my fellow service members, “I wonder if the Iraqis will shoot off fireworks for us.” He said, “I hope they don’t shoot fireworks for us.” I retorted, “Oh, did I say ‘for’? I meant ‘at’.”
This is what passes for humor in a war zone.
There were no fireworks today, save for a very large controlled detonation by our Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. Generally EOD sends out a notification before they have a controlled det, but if I happen to be in my trailer (read: asleep) when they make the announcement, I don’t generally catch it. Today was one of those days, and I stopped for a second when I heard it, then kept walking. The crusty old Master Sergeant, who was in the Army a long time back, didn’t even flinch or break his stride. I’m sure he laughs at all of us “newcomers” (I’ve “only” been in the service for seven years) who still jump at every little explosion.
No fireworks, but there were festivities. The KBR-operated DFAC served BBQed chicken, ribs, and some other summer grill staples. There was a “fun run” in the morning and a few other things I didn’t participate in. The main thing I saw was the “pie in the face” contest. Everybody laughs at the pie in the face contest for the obvious reasons, but I find it amusing for its poetic irony. It’s a rather apt metaphor for what the people who run this country are doing to us on a daily basis.
An old Vietnam veteran I worked with back at home station died. He and I had several conversations about war, the Air Force, the Army, how the squadron was run, and how I felt about going to Iraq. We talked about the Iraq War itself and how it only served to line the pockets of the powers that be. He was one of the few people around me who shared my point of view on these things, and I feel like the latent wisdom that he possessed was lost on the people he worked with. He was at a point in his life where such things no longer bothered him, however. He had accepted it as the way of things, and he had accepted that people will generally not listen to people whose world view clashes with their own, especially when they say things that trouble them or force them to think. Somehow, I feel like he knew his time was coming after all these years. When one’s mortality is shoved in one’s face like it is in a war zone, you begin to become much more in tune with your life line.
Do I feel like I learned anything from the time that I knew him? I learned that wise old birds are not heeded by the people who could benefit most from their experience. They are mocked, ignored, shunned. Pretty much the way young people with differing world views are treated. Things never change, and people don’t take you more seriously with age. They believe what they want to believe no matter what anybody else has to say.
War no longer makes any sense to me. The tripe about “defending freedom” and such are complete nonsense. We are defending no such thing out here. We’re not defending anything. We’re invading and conquering another sovereign nation. The use of military force in the past usually bore at least a pretense of a genuine threat to our country. With the initial line about weapons of mass destruction in ashes, they fall back to a sort of reverse domino theory about democracy in Iraq spreading to other Muslim nations. It’s an even weaker case than the one presented to the American people during the Vietnam War. It’s all built on lies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the case with every war. The people who make the decision to go to war bear no cost, offer no sacrifice; that is left to those they can convince to fight for them. For a powerful nation like America, the decision to go to war comes easily for leaders with no conscience. Victory is assured and they will be hailed as brave heroes by the people at home. The soldiers who bear the actual cost are, and always will be, anonymous faces to the power brokers who push this on us.
I understand why politicians in this country so readily go to war. What I don’t understand is why the people put up with it anymore. Why are people incapable of saying no to war? Do people even believe that they have a say in the matter, or do they simply accept war as the inherent way of things? Do they just not think about it, with it being “over there” rather than in their own back yards? Do they care? About their lives, the lives of their children, the type of world their children and grandchildren are destined to grow up in, without any say as to the gigantic mess that’s been created in all of our names, the hundreds of thousands of corpses and martyrs and family members swearing revenge against the Americans for killing loved ones who, to us, are nameless and faceless unpersons, completely disposable when held against the discomfort and inconvenience of actually fucking doing something about it?
And what of us on the ground? Why do we continue to agree to perform these tasks? Are we incapable of seeing that which is plain when we look at it honestly rather than through the rose-colored propaganda glasses provided to us by our dearly beloved leaders in Washington? Are these glasses glued to our eyes such that we’re incapable of seeing the giant fucking pie in our face that they tell us is our reward for a job well done when it’s really just for their amusement?
Is this the land of the free? The home of the brave? Is it really?
As I was walking back to my trailer at the end of the night, the band that was playing as part of the Independence Day festivities called their area to attention and proceeded to play the Star Spangled Banner. Normally when it begins to play, I snap to attention and salute the flag until it’s done playing. But instead, I kept walking away from the street lights and into the shadows. As I took a few steps, I could no longer hear the National Anthem playing. All I could hear were attack helicopters and gun fire….