Dan Froomkin’s Friday column is mostly an excerpt from the book Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families. May they all come home safely, and soon.
This bit is by Sgt. Sharon D. Allen:
The camp is under red-lens light discipline, which means we can’t use an unfiltered flashlight. It severely lessens our evening entertainment options. So, soon after we arrived, we began our strange nightly gatherings. You won’t find it on any schedule, but you can set your watch by it. As the sun nudges the horizon and the gravel cools, some of us give up our battle with the ambient light and surrender our reading until the morning. Others collect up their poker winnings or grumble about their losses. And we all drag our chairs and cigarettes and joylessly warm water out to the gravel and talk. We call it “the circle.” In the Army there is an incredibly varied cross section of society, and we are a diverse group. We have a couple kids straight out of high school, who’d either joined to get a little excitement out of life or to get a leg up on it so that they could go to college. We have older guys, who’ve already put in their time. They tend to be either jaded or genial, both in reaction to the accumulated bullshit slung at most soldiers who’ve been in the service for years. We have everyone from idealists to realists to fatalists, more than a few who began at one end of the spectrum and eventually meandered their way to the other.
I always find it amusing when people talk about “the military” vote, perspective, or whatever. My company has 170-some soldiers, and 170-some opinions. We might have more invested in foreign policy than people back home, but that doesn’t mean we all agree on exactly what those policies should be. Two of the guys, Jeff and Sam, are brothers serving together here but in different platoons. They are both slightly to the left of extremely conservative, yet also very anti-Iraq war. Their father threatened to cut off his own head and send it in to Al-jazeera if his sons aren’t returned home soon.
Be sure to read the whole excerpt. The soldiers are asking the same questions about the war that we are (or should be).
There are some on both the Left and the Right — I think the Right is worse, actually — who speak of “the troops” as if they were an army of identical clones. For example, last week rightie bloggers declared that the Gannett-owned military Times newspapers don’t speak for “the troops,” as if they and they alone were authorized to declare who speaks for whom in the military. Just after the Tuesday election, I caught a couple of rightie posts (can’t find them now, sorry) declaring that “the troops” in Iraq were upset by the results because they didn’t want to come home before “the job” was done.
What a pile of manure. “The troops” are individuals who come to their own conclusions. Some want to continue military operations in Iraq, and some don’t. Some think the invasion was necessary, and some don’t.
You know I think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But speaking of war generally, I say — if you’re going to have a war, have a war. If the situation is so dire that a war must be fought, then the strength and resources of the entire country should be marshaled to fight the war and get the bleeping thing over with as quickly as possible. Every single day, every citizen should be reminded that our soldiers are fighting for us, and should be asked to give something to the effort. If recruitment goals fall short, then crank up the draft. There should be bond drives and oil rationing. There should be cookie baking and sock knitting, and children should donate their lemonade stand money for the troops.
And if the situation isn’t dire enough to go to that amount of trouble, then maybe we shouldn’t be fighting the bleeping war to begin with.
Suggestion: Donate to the USO.
From the archives: Wilfred Owen.