Friday, January 23, 2009

New Command: The Honeymoon Period

Well, the 105th has formally deactivated-we even had a ceremony. I'm staying in the area, and I'm in a new unit. I'd talk more about it, but I try not to put too much information out about location. It has nothing to do with people who politically disagree with me, and more to do with a crazy and violent ex-husband who I generally live in some fear of.

That's one of the many things the new unit is trying to help out with-getting some real protection from Mr. "restraining orders are just pieces of paper". They also are working really hard on taking care of the financial issues that were pretty screwed up. They are persistent, which is really nice and amazing and hopeful and encouraging.

At the moment, I love the new unit. I love the way they do PT and I love the way their NCOs interact. I haven't yet met my new first sergeant or commander yet, so there's always a possibility my opinion will change. Still, my platoon sergeant and squad leader seem great, and they did a few of the things I don't expect, but add as little pluses in my book-for example, handing me a useful card with leadership contacts my first day in the unit. Too often the recall roster makes its way in somewhere at week 2. I like their leave policy, which is generous.

My leadership does seem pretty pro-war though, which could become problematic. It depends on if they'll keep integrity or not. Or if they google their soldiers. Or if some enterprising individual thinks it's somehow their business to hunt down my unit and tell them what a dreadful danger I am. I'm sure someone will. Like the sergeant major who's been reading my blog. You know who you are. Yes, this is a major reason why I haven't been posting on AKO lately.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let the glorious news be spread, The Bush Administration now is dead!

I was going to write an entire joyous piece about how happy I am that Bush is no longer my Commander in Chief, but I'm going to let the following video say it for me.

I watched the inaugeration of the first President that has thrilled me with a speech that I can ever remember. Some choice bits that garnered applause from the folks I watched it with at the post celebratory event..

"Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed."

Or this..

" Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

And my favorite part:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

Goodnght, everyone. I'll be celebrating a commander in chief I feel safe putting the heart of America in the hands of.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Welcome New IVAW Deployed Member Blog

Alright...I promised a pimping and a pimping it is. Alright everyone, here is the newest member of the milblogging community and also the IVAW blogging community. I won't give his name, of course, but he's an IVAW member currently deployed to Iraq, and like other IVAW members who've been there, he's decided that one of the great things to do is to write about it.

Iraqi Bizzare

Go there, show him some love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Would You Like Some Perspective With That?

Something that I've come to with age is the realization that things are not black and white. That also includes things and people and positions that we align ourselves with. Too often we're encouraged not to talk about them-I'm told that for the sake of the anti-war movement, I shouldn't talk about disagreements in it.

This is nothing but blatant hypocrisy. If you're going to be telling soldiers that they should be able to feel safe speaking out against the camouflage wall of silence in the military, I think you need to be telling peace activists that it's also okay to speak out against the tie-dyed wall of silence in the peace movement.

Emerson has some interesting words about those who have become bound by communities as surely as anything else:

"Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four: so that every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean "the foolish face of praise", the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease, in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved but moved by a low usurping willfulness, grow tight around the outline of the face, with the most disagreeable sensation."

I'm going to practice this courage by speaking out not just about the problems in the military and with the war, but also the problems with individuals with blinders on.

I believe that the war in Iraq is wrong. It was unnecessary, illegal, and it hurts America. That's why I'm a member of IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War. But that does not make the insurgency right. The insurgency is not noble. They are not, as some would have you believe, just like the Americans fighting the British for their freedom. This isn't a popular opinion, because many peace activists fear that by talking about the evils of the insurgency, we'll arouse sympathy for the war. Some even call it 'racist', saying that they don't have the right to 'defend themself'.

This is morally disingenuous. The Iraqi insurgency bears little similarity to our revolutionary fighters. Our revolutionary fighters never went around cutting off people's heads, or killing women for talking to soldiers, or throwing acid in children's faces. We didn't target civilians in the revolutionary war. They weren't full of religious fundamentalists-and since when has the activist community supported religious fundamentalists?

We do not have to beatify evil men in order to say that the war is wrong, or that it hurts America, or our military, or our national defense, or even that it hurts innocents. And any peace activist that mourns and condemns the death of Iraqis while refusing to mourn and condemn the death of soldiers is a hypocrite.

I remember once holding a fellow soldier as he cried about the young kid he had to kill because the kid was aiming a weapon at the soldiers. It's a terrible thing. Is it the soldier's fault? No, it's not. It's whoever put a weapon of lethal force in the hands of a child and told them to go hunting Americans. And we have to condemn that equally as much as we have to condemn the officer who gives the order that there is a free-fire zone in effect. We cannot pick and choose.

I would like to end this post with the following:

I condemn the war in Iraq, and politician's willingness to sacrifice innocent lives.
I condemn the insurgency in Iraq, and their willingess to sacrifice innocent lives.
I condemn anyone who would try to whitewash evil for the sake of political expediency.
I condemn anyone who thinks that the United States government is so wrong they have to destroy it by force.
I condemn anyone who tries to destroy the civil rights of another by force.

And I encourage everyone else in the activist and anti-Iraq war community to take, post, and share via email the following pledge:

"My opposition to the Iraq War does not translate into support for the violent actions of the insurgency. American soldiers did not create the war, and are not my enemy. Though I disagree with the war, these soldiers deserve and have my support. I will neither encourage nor tolerate any actions against them, and will refuse to work with any individual who does."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

For a friend, a Good Times Post

Alright. A few things combined to make this post...first, a friend was a little down and I figured a decent post might help, and two, I was reminded by someone elsewhere about a guy I served with once, whose name was Braxtan. He was a wild and crazy guy, and had this obsession with film that wound up being catered to by everyone in the unit because it was just so damn funny and awesome.

Here's one of his films, about a captain everyone knew, kind of a parody of the commercial going around, but pretty awesome.

(A disclaimer: No, this guy is not in the IVAW, last time I checked, and to my knowledge, doesn't even know I am, since we haven't talked in over five years. Please don't hassle him.)

There's also one about Bush and Darth Vader, which I think is funny, if of course very old. However, I didn't find out about it until yesterday. The funniest ones are the Army ones, like "How CPT Z Stole Christmas" and the one about the Curse of the Army Ball. However, Braxtan didn't upload them to youtube, so you have to settle for this.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Sometimes I envy the people who have the luxury of black and white ideals.

I used to have that once. I used to think things, people, ideals, nations were either all good or all bad. And of course, mine were all good. The things I loved, the people I trusted, the ideals I believed in, the nation that I had a deep and abiding pride in. They could do no wrong. They could be no wrong.

I grew up on military history. I learned about sacrifice. About men who gave their lives, their bodies, their hope of family in order to protect others. I devoured books of bravery and honor, of people making the right choices even when it meant their deaths.

And then I joined the Army.

Like every other enlistedman in the Army, I mock West Pointers. It's what you do, as an enlisted troop, as an NCO. You save stories about them, about their utter inability to face reality, about how all they know comes from books, about the way they cradle and cherish regulations that have no meaning to anyone else. The phrase "West Pointer" are two of the easiest words to condemn an officer to a special place in an NCO's heart, and it's not a good one.

But in many ways, I am just like them. Just like the West Pointers I try to separate myself from. No, I didn't finish college in a military academy, but I was well-read in military history and tactics before I even entered high school. I could sing every patriotic song and recite half of the patriotic speeches and believe them with all of my heart. Like an officer. Like a West Pointer. Like someone who hasn't yet figured out how dirty, how ugly, how unashamedly awful conflict is, and how many terrible things we do in order to win.

I joined the intelligence field because I was quick witted and smart and wanted to give the best gift I had to my country. The thing that pleased me the most, the thing that shone above all else, I wanted to give it to the ideals I believed in. I didn't realize, then, that the intelligence field is no place for idealists.

And I, like so many of those officers once the shine has worn off, saw too much. I saw my country betray its ideals, and it hurt worse than any lover's betrayal ever had. I saw the Army itself betray the concept I had had of it. You see, though I grew up, again, on the St. Crispins Day speech, among others, I never really understood 'be he never so vile, this day will gentle his condition'. I didn't understand then what I do now-that I could both hate and love. That some of my fellow soldiers truly would be vile-racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted in every possible way, with no ideals and no desires past earning a paycheck. That I could hate them for their tiny minds and love them because they were my brothers. That I could love them for their loyalty to me, even as they waded through every whore in a fifty mile radius. That the same men who would say that no meant yes and they would kill 'any faggot who dared touch them' would treat me like their little or big sister, depending on the age, and I would love them like my big or little brother no matter how many people they broke or destroyed or how awful their words were.

It is in that same feeling that lets me both be a member of the military and a member of IVAW. That lets me cry when I watch old war movies about honor and sacrifice and also feel nauseous when I look at the newspaper and see the terrible things my country has done in its name.

I love the military but I love more the military I thought it would be. A military of honor. A military where you never did the wrong thing, and you were never asked to. A military where you fought your enemy because you had to but you didn't have to despise them.

I wonder if that military exists. I wonder if it ever did. I wonder if it ever could. I wonder if I was just deluding myself.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And a New Story for a New Year

Another car bit the dust yesterday in an accident which was both nasty and nice all at the same time. No one was seriously injured, so that was fantastic, but my car was totalled to the point where I'm not even sure it's worth repairing. It would have been a really terrible day, but I heard the most fantastic story from one of the MPs on the scene, and it was so great, I thought I'd share it with you.

The MP and I were chatting while we waited, and he mentioned something about being an NCO. Well, my eyes were fairly sharp when corrected, and I noted the specialist rank he was wearing on his uniform. We'd been talking for long enough that I felt it would be okay to ask, "So what'd you get busted down for?"

He gave a bit of a sheepish grin, then laughed a bitter laugh. "My dog bit someone he wasn't supposed to."

Maybe it's my ignorance about how precisely canine units work that made me ask, "A prisoner?" We'd already talked about his four deployments, and I could see something like that. A situation with intense emotions, a dog picking up on them and doing something he shouldn't. A dog that lives and loves as his handler lives and loves.

But no. He said, "My dog bit someone nobody but the President's allowed to touch."

Of course I questioned him. That was way too good an opening to let go. "Someone you didn't like?"

Another bitter smile. "My dog bit Donald Rumsfeld pretty good." Another pause, another beat. "In front of the sergeant major of the Army and four generals."

Obviously, I don't know the truth of the story. I won't swear to it, only that I heard it from a man who claimed it was his, and I doubt he'd a reason to lie, to me of all people. He had no idea what my views on the war or Rumsfeld were. I hadn't mentioned him. The only hint he had was my tattoo with the helmet and rifle and the Ishtar Gate-but it's a little subtle on first glance to really tell the story of all of my thoughts and ideas. He didn't know who I was. And it has the ring of the unlikely truth.

I believe the soldier. I believe in a soldier, full of resentment for a man he felt was responsible, whose dog picked up on it and did something it shouldn't. I believe in a man busted down because he couldn't control his emotions, with a dog that he was utterly responsible for every move of.

And I feel for him.

So there's the story. Was it worth the thousands of dollars to my car? Maybe not. But did it make things better than they would have been otherwise? Definitely.