06 July 2006

NEWS: Prez Bush given Reach-Around by Larry King Live!

Wrote this drivel last week. Started to edit. Started obsessing over edits as usual. Remembered that the point of a blog is spontenaeity. Gave up. Now posting a week late. Probably should skip the compulsive editing next time. bleeah

I should know better than to watch TV that I know will cause either nausea or violent thoughts. But, like a good nerd, I just have to know what's going to be said by key people in public discussions. So the tractor beam that was "Bush does Larry King" was too stong for my mortal, masochist self to ignore.

Predictably, the softball love-in was a bit grating:
LK: So, have your recent polls gotten you down?
PB: Why no, Larry, heh, see, I just focus on making the right decisions and let the polls fall where they will. (Could you focus harder or something? because a few great soldiers creating some "good byproducts" in the colossal train wreck of our Iraq "policy" is, well, not so good, and definitely not a DECISION)
LK: President Truman said that: "I'd rather be right than be popular"
PB: Did he? Well gosh, he was a good but unpopular President too. And now I can sit at a baseball game with Mr. Ko-Koi-Koizumi because Truman had the foresight to stay and rebuild Japan. (NOOOOOOOOOOO! Not cool! You can't take one of my boy Truman and twist him into some sort of pre-you! For one thing, he wasn't boneheaded enough to invade on the cheap... sort of nuked two cities and firebombed the rest... then he had the good sense to leave a forceful "get it done" type general in charge of rebuilding, and NOT trying to rebuild while simultaneously fighting off every regional punk streaming in through spongy borders to kick some US ass... especially when the regional, self-explosive punks happen to look similar to the nice villagers, to gaijin at least... grrr)
LK: So, you don't worry about the numbers, you just do what you think is right? (c'mon Larry, Laura's sitting right there)
PB: Well Larry, I'd rather be popular too, but when it comes down to it, I'll lead. That's what leaders do, they lead. (unh..............ohh........ohyeah... almost... THERE)

god help us

I'd expected the typical talking points, maybe a little of Larry, I don't know, calling him on something an itsy bitsy bit... or even just a question that hadn't been asked and deflected, you know, twice a month for the last 36 months. I hadn't expected to get so viscerally twitchy -- still! -- all but dumbfounded at the gulf.. no, OCEAN... between the "deep concern" expressed for troops and their families, and the reality of what's come down the pipe.

God damnit, like it's not enough to simply throw us in the shitter for 3 years straight, pretty much forget about us, cut our funding, cut VA/medical funding, and make life hell for military families (while exhorting dutiful civilians who want to help to just "go shopping" or "play with tiddly-winks" or something. "here's some playdoh")
No, this guy has to go on national TV with crocodile tears and make us lick it up.
"Oh, yeah, Larry, of course I care about the troops, didn't I just say I think about them every day? What's that? Well I don't know why their equipment sucks, why half of them don't even know what their kids look like, why they have to protect the Halliburton buy making 10 times their salary to do the "safe" jobs, why the only ones who actually get the medical care they deserve have to be Jessica Lynch or cuter... I mean, they're tough, fuck em. What could I do about it anyway, I'm just a President in a suit."

Hey if anyone actually reads this: do Americans really buy this? I know the guy is "polarizing", closely split votes and all, but does your average "moderate" understand that it is physically, literally impossible for the President of the Secretary of Defense to NOT have control over "the troops"' location, mission, conditions, supply, medical care, and overall aggreeability?

In general:
1. DOD/SECDEF/POTUS "decides" (go, Decider!), the military only gets to figure out how to make that decision work
2. The highest ranking military officer still has no say whatsoever regarding what missions the military is given--or more importantly, how well it is supplied and how long it lasts; the highest-ranking military officer in the country can only voice concerns/frustrations/gripes behind closed doors, then put on the happy face, step outside, and yell CHAAARGE!
3. Some soldiers know enough about the Middle East, modern history, and geopolitics to know that playing "whack-a-mole" with a country we don't understand isn't the optimal way to build an, um, organic, legitimate, lasting democracy. Other soldiers don't have much time for the news, and are honestly excited to go over and kick some ass, with a factually incorrect but very sweet/heroic belief that fighting "them" in Iraq will affect the actions of the different "them" who attacked us on 9/11. (I envy them... really... all this bullshit would be so much easier to take if I thought it were for a greater good... not just that blotch in the history book that the old farts later shake their heads at, "oh, so tragic that they were blinded back then by such a limited paradigm" or similar) But really -- most just don't have time to think about it. They can't explain it to their wives/husbands/g.f.s/b.f.s/kids (I love you more than anything baby, but I've still gotta go), they don't want to be cowards or let their buddies down, and above everything else, they're tired as hell and just want to muscle on through it all so it's over faster.
Any way it's sliced, the important thing is that it doesn't matter what we think. It won't get us through any safer or home any faster. It matters what "Americans" think, it matters what people will pressure their leaders into, and it matters how much that leadership can focus whatever opinions and spats and pissing contests into a policy that tells us what the hell to do, hopefully without breaking ourselves.

And in any case, inane soft-ball questions like tonight (might as well have been "boxers or briefs"?, or tired cliche arguments like every damn clip from congress/campaigning, or politicians grandstanding about their great values and decisiveness--none of it does a damn thing to help us all digest this shit sandwich that we've got to eat.

Here's what I wrote in as my suggestions for questions. A few of them are purely venting, ok, but I swear, an answer to even just the first one might really help -- you know, give us, like, a mission, or a strategy or something besides "patrol rinse repeat".

They didn't use my questions. But in my dream-interview:
I served with the 101st Airborne Division in the Iraq invasion force in 2003. I am proud to be a soldier. But it kills me to see my brothers and sisters in arms continue to bleed and die, when there has not once been a clear answer from our Commander in Chief: 1) What is this "mission" that even SHOULD be "accomplished?" What "course" are we "staying", except for capturing some bad guys while making even more bad guys every time? After what glorious endstate of civil harmony or miraculous civil engineering can we call our duty done? And as we hit the breaking point, when do we get some help?

As a soldier, I am not able to express my thoughts openly, because it's structurally wrong to criticize my own Commander In Chief.

But as a private citizen also, I cannot simply hear some of these words n tonight's show without reacting!!

1. If the soldiers are so important, why did key supplies only trickle in? The body armor issue is talked to death; what about clotting bandages that could have kept my friend from bleeding to death? If we are so important to you, why did it take so much public pressure to even admit we had a problem? Shouldn't the leadership have been proactive about vital needs?

2. Why are soldiers used as "props"? Photo ops will always happen, sure, but many of us were deeply concerned by the "videoconference" starring troops in uniform. We are not political. We are not to be politicized. Just as I am not allowed by UCMJ to appear at a partisan rally or protest in uniform, it seems especially dishonest to publicly flaunt us in that manner. It is never "just a conference with troops" when we are legally unable to refute you. Or do you disagree, does it *not* compromise us as a professional military?

3. If you grieve for wounded soldiers, WHY IN GOD'S NAME DID YOU SLASH VETERANS BENEFITS AND FAIL TO ACCOUNT FOR US WOUNDED IN THE ARMY MEDICAL BUDGET? Do you know why it took me 3 years to get a badly needed back surgery? Why are increasing costs for veterans' medical treatment supposed to come out of our pocket? Is it because we're the only ones who can't complain or lobby enough?

4. Most important: when you visited Fort Campbell, you visited with "spouses of the fallen." Why were we who were responsible for coordinating those visits only given 2 days' notice, having to tell grieving widows (often out of state and trying to get on with their lives) that they were supposed to get themselves here, on their own dime, for the honor of meeting you? I would like to believe that you truly mean what you say about honoring the fallen -- but the fact that 101st Airborne widows weren't even worth a heads' up or a plane fare is a little insulting. Perhaps that's why all the ones that showed up were happy to see you? The unhappy ones couldn't pay?

Just some thoughts from Fort Campbell.

If nothing else, I'd really just love to know what the strategic mission is -- more specific than "a stable Iraq" that can never be 100% feasible (in any country) but higher level than the random onsie-twosie same old missions we get every day.

Very Respectfully,
Me
Veteran/US Army/101st Airborne/Ft Campbell, KY

01 July 2006

Disclaimers are LAME. Here's mine anyway.

As a member of our fine armed forces, I realize that a hell of a lot of pop culture has passed me by. It was embarrassing last year to have to ask a friend what a "blog" was. Sure, I could blame the hellish hours we work, the dominance of military "subculture" in my socialization blah blah, or the fact that the last 10 years have been spent cloistered (like just about every other soldier) on an Army base a gazillion miles away from civilization, or training "in the field" (which is basically camping Amish-style but without the pacifism), or in Korea where the only "TV station" plays ancient Friends re-runs with public service or motivational announcements instead of red-blooded American commercials, or in a nice foreign country learning a different pop-culture, OR in a shitty foreign country trying to fulfill duties and avoid violent death.

I won't blame those factors entirely though. Mostly, I'm just a frustrated nerd. A complete history/politics/current-events junkie with no control whatsoever over said events. I think there's some "dork" thrown in there too; a true nerd would have a better memory and more ambition. I only enjoy the learning/pondering/debating part or making little song/hauku about random facts. Definitely marks of dorkiness. Unfortunately though, I'm not a geek. I STILL can't program the VCR, the ancient computers at work kick my ass, and I'd be useless in any techie showdown against today's average 5th grader. (unless the contest involved Excel or PowerPoint -- the foundations of my bureaucratic existence.)

Also because I'm scared out of my mind about blogging in the first place, since the words seem so... permanent. You can say what you mean, which is nice, and completely unlike my day-job. But you can't ever retract or soften a statement that didn't come out right. It's just there -- like a senior picture in a yearbook, only nobody's school mug ever got them fired. I think.

But -- having admitted to being culturally stunted, a techno-neanderthal, and waaaay too private to generally fit the blogging profile, here I am typing for the first time to the "dear diary" in the cyber-sky. Why? Because I realize that I'm in the documented 35% (which means, probably, actually 75-95% thanks to the stigma) of combat veterans who return home from Iraq with severe anger issues requiring a little trip to the head doctor. Kicking the dog is a bad option, and kicking one's bloated taskmaster boss is, in military parlance, a "no-go". So I tried for the "misery loves company" method: surfing the internet to try to guage the country's attitude towards everything going on, maybe find similarly disgruntled types, and especially to see what American "civilians" have to say about everything we in the military are going through.

The results scared the living shit out of me.

Here I was, surfing for any great ideas to hold onto, but it always seems like:

  • Righties are too busy justifying the mess, jabbering on trying to sound all moral and tough-guy, and/or blaming Dems for being yellow-bellied-hippie-cowards. (yes, ironic considering the ass-whup they opened up on Pres Clinton for similar humanitarian or nation-Democracy-building missions)
  • Lefties are too busy blaming the GOP for decisions made too long ago to be changed, taking a little bit too high-and-mighty "enlightened" tone to ever get through to a true fence-sitter or curious surfer, and/or restating obvious large-scale problems (I'll admit, reading "preaching to the choir" rants is satisfying in that Twinkies sort of way)
  • The many "soldier blogs" from those actually IN Iraq/Afghanistan/god-knows-where are important and impressive, but the daily requirements of staying alive (and sane) make it impractical to follow the political catfights, soldier-screwing policies, and strategic trainwreck that constitute a national security threat almost as scary as homicidal fanatics.
  • The "smart blogs" actually do have a sense of the big picture with decent attempts at translating that understanding into specific action, but since Ivy League types don't join the military anymore (with admirable exceptions), the smart analysis doesn't come within a million miles of helping the poor schmuck in desert, his wife back home, or his buddy who just got shafted by the VA.
  • And the rest of the net chatter barely seems conscious that there's even a war on. Yeah, the kids on MySpace are excused (I think all I knew as a kid was that Soviets flew MiGs/bogeys, F-14s could do some sweet tricks, and Tom Cruise was a hottie back in the day, you know, before going completely berserk) -----But seriously: any citizen of voting age has a say in the most powerful military in human history. That military is pretty busy these days, making an irreversible mark on the world around us, and also developing scars and debts that will seriously affect everyone here in the US. Forever.
    And I don't know how to get people to care.

Um, so that's it. Bottom line on the disclaimers:

1. Yeah, I know the internet needs another blog like Axl Rose needs another drink.
2. But tough shit. I'm sick of yelling at the computer screen alone! sick of all these mofos who claim to speak for "the troops" when they've never even served as a summer camp counselor! (...yeah pass the bug spray, Asswipe)
3. And I'm bored out of my skull and desperately in need of a challenge/project/hobby. Or therapy. So woohoo -- a blog!
4. I will offer any bored i-net surfer my perspective as an "OIF" vet who once looked forward to a career in the army, diligently studied Middle East issues (including a thesis on Iraq and a summer as a "civilian" in Israel/Palestine), and am now exhausted from a bloody 3-year fight with the the corrupt medical "outprocessing" system.
5. I'll try to be fair, but am honest enough not to claim objectivity. I think that for legal reasons (the first rule of military survival: CYA, Cover Your Ass): anything written on this blog is my opinion only, as a private citizen with unique experiences, and in no way represents the opinion of the US Army, military, soldiers/vets in general, yadda yadda. Not responsible for anything I link to. (In case you were wondering, the 1st Amendment doesn't completely apply to service members. A little thing called UCMJ limits it. More on that later)
6. As stated from the start, I am a complete nerd, with a good deal of dorkiness thrown in. I suspect most bloggers are. At least I admit it :-) Also am halfway clueless about pop culture, except quality acts like System of a Down. If you reference some pop star or blogger/hipster jive in a comment, don't expect me to have a clue what you're talking about.
7. But I am NOT a geek, and am 95% lost in the sauce whenever modern technology is involved. Also am not too sure yet about blog etiquette. I hope you'll be patient as I figure this stuff out. (and if not... well, doens't affect me anyway)
8. I sincerely welcome any question about military stuff. If I don't know maybe a buddy does, or maybe I should figure it out.

So now, let's see if the Pentium-III genius here can figure out how to post her lame-ass disclaimer babble --

30 June 2006

Hello My Name Is

testing -- virgin post