Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pay It Forward

Hi everyone. Sorry I've been gone so long. Let me attempt to bring you up to speed.

First, where am I right at this moment? I'm sitting on the steps of The Wallace Library in lovely downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. The time on deck is 2115. Why here? Simple, it's close to my home and provides free wireless internet access. This is a wonderful library. My daughter and I have done many a homework project from here. Years ago it was an elementary school. Warren Buffett, the richest man in the known universe, went to school here. His older sister, Doris, just renovated a house down the street to be her primary residence. Something special must have happened for them here way back when. She's donated a couple million to start a Boys and Girls Club in town. The headquarters for one of Warren's flagship companies, Geico Insurance, is up the road in Stafford County.

Directly in front of me runs Caroline Street, and on the opposite side, although very much in the dark, is the site of the first home of Fielding Lewis. Lewis was married to Washington's only sister, Betty. Rumor has it that she bore an uncanny resemblence to her brother.

The original home on the property burned to the ground during Fredericksburg's Great Fire of 1807. In fact the blaze started in the house, which by then belonged to another family. A funeral wake was being held in the home, but mourners were called away to the local race track. The burning candles around the casket had the final say that day. What remains on the property from then (there is a home built in 1811) is a step garden and the oldest retail building in America, the Lewis Store.

Tonight is a lovely Virginia evening. From about seven blocks to left down Caroline at this very moment streams the rythmic clamping of a train accompanied by its mournful trombone like whistle. I love listening to that sound late on hot summer nights. The traffic on Caroline is light and there's a soft cool breeze drifting over the rising and falling swosh of passing cars..... there goes Phoenix, my neighbor's Black Lab, he's barking at something. Excuse me while I bark back, it usually quiets him. Ole Phoenix is a bravo male. I'm an alpha. I babysit him frequently....there he's stopped.

Other common sounds tonight are sirens (we've got a large regional hospital) and the sound of helicopters. HMX-1, the President's squadron is just north of here and does training flights in these skies. I was once a crewchief with them and the pilots always liked to fly over the town and neighboring counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania to point out newly purchased homes.

A few people, mostly couples with dogs, are strolling by. I must look ghostly with the blue laptop screen illuminating my face. They say Fredericksburg is the most haunted town in North America. Tens of thousands of soldiers died in these streets and homes over the course of our Civil War. Nearly every home in the Old Town districts boasts a resident spirit. The History Department students of The University of Mary Washington conduct, for a small fee, a very entertaining "Ghostwalk" every Halloween season. A local Episcopal church did an exorcism about a decade ago to liberate a home from the supposed spirit of a Confederate. My ghost only turns up the old style thermostat on very cold nights. He must long to be warm again. Check out this site on Civil War battlefield ghosts.

Living in this town is a constant reminder of the long and hard journey democracy has had even in this country. Each Memorial Day weekend the Boy and Girls Scouts sponsor a moving "Luminaria" display at the National Cemetary bordering the Fredericksburg Battlefield. The over 16,000 civil war graves are individually graced with a small votive candle set in a cushion of sand at the bottom of a plain brown paper bag. These simple luminarias create a scene that leaves only the soulless dry eyed. Taps, which was written and first heard here, is played every half-hour by two live musicians echoing each other. The scouts patrol the grounds keeping the candles lit and replaced when necessary.

So what's new? I've been busy writing for the New York Times Frontlines site. That's brought other attention. For instance, last week I did radio interviews with Minnesota Public Radio
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2006/04/04/midmorning2/ , and two BBC talk shows; Radio Five Live and World Have Your Say. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/s. My good friend Pat Dollard was wounded a couple times in Ramadi. You can read about his adventures at Hollywood, Interrupted http://www.hollywoodinterrupted.com/. Scroll down and you'll find a couple articles with pictures he's sent from the front lines of gonzo documentary film making. I tell you again, Pat is the real thing. He's lost some weight. I told him the picture on the Hollywood, Interrupted site is his Zoolander "Blue Steel" look. Go see. I'll wait......Hopefully his show, Young Americans, will get finished before Pat is vaporized and achieves martyrdom.

Last week I attended a Marine Corps conference for the combat camera community in New Orleans. This was the first time ever for me in the Big Easy. What a fabulous town! On the last day, Friday, I was able to spend a whole afternoon in The French Quarter. Wow. I'm smitten. I had a nice talk with a gallery owner and she echoed sentiments close to those we troops have made about MSM reporting. She lamented, especially as a business owner, how CNN has mischaracterized the condition of New Orleans. Yes, there are still widespread and unmistakable evidence of Katrina's rath, but the Quarter is open for business while the rest of the town is being radically resurrected. My day included a monster plate of steaming Jambalaya nuking the inside of my mouth, and a visit to a used bookstore where I found a book by my favorite author, Richard Brautigan, Revenge of the Lawn. Despite everything you may have heard, seen or read, the mystique of this gem at the mouth of the Mississippi is intact and palatable. Reports of the Big Easy's death, like that of Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

A theme I've found myself turning again and again to is the "I support the troops but not the war" mentality. I'm fed up hearing it. Here's my feelings and reflections on the subject. The troops are not impressed with what we see as an elitist self-serving feel good attitude. This is a statement of pity and nothing more. It's pathetic and pandering. Male intuition may be a contradiction in terms, but most GIs have highly evolved BS meters, and it pegs in the red zone on this one. It reeks of political correctness. Marines returning from Vietnam were often greeted with outright animosity. Perhaps some of those now voicing this sentiment were guilty of this 40 years ago and are now trying to placate their own guilt. Inherent in this statement is a subtext that says we, the troops, are victims and they, the anti-war folks, are going to rescue us. It also suggests that they know better than us, that our visceral field experience has little or no value. We're either just a gaggle of country bumpkins hoodwinked into serving by socio-economic pressures, or knuckledragging cretin warmongers. The actual truth is something you'll never get from a Hollywood movie. The overwhelming majority of those serving are high school graduates, of high moral character and, based on the standardized military entrance exam, fall in the upper 50 per cent percentile group intellectually. We're educated, highly trained worldly men and women from all walks of life who've chosen freely our own path into the military. In short, don't cry for me Argentina. Usually wedded to this "we're so sorry you got tricked into fighting" gestalt is an underlying belief that Iraqis, and by extension all Muslim cultures are incapable of democracy. I want to suggest that there could be a little touch of racism at work here. And all the Bush mislead us crap. Get over it. We are here. Leaving is not an option. We got this girl pregnant and we need to do the right thing, which is not an abortion. Victimization. Stereotype. Racism. I'd rather step off the plane to someone spitting at me...that, at least, takes some courage. Los Angeles Times op-ed writer Joel Stein had the hutzpah in his article "Warriors and Wusses" to not make this distinction. He doesn't support the troops and he doesn't support the war. This is a guy I can respect. But big sad puppy dog eyes I don't need. The conditionality of "I support the troops, but not the war" posits a distinction we Marines don't make. We are the war. We're not interested in the kind of self-serving intellectualizing that argues about the definition of the word "is" and butt covering legal rationalizations about what does and doesn't constitute actual sex. We live and work in a concrete world and find abstractions, the obsession with splitting hairs symptomatic of a defeatist mentality. We're in the mission accomplishment mode and by extension only interested in what supports the mission. The cry of "havoc" has been shouted and the dogs of war let loose. Talk is at an end and the doing, the mission is afoot. We don't engage in the luxury of second guessing, or the liberty of political debate. One great strength of our Republic is the freedom from fear of military coups. (For those of you who at this very moment are taking a big over-educated breath and preparing to interject into your thought process "well not yet" I caution you to examine your stereotypes-Full Metal Jacket and A Few Good Men are entertainment and not documentaries.) Our necessary philosophy in the field is real simple and can be summed up in our oft said phrase "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way". We're only interested in one statement, "WE BACK THE TROOPS". Highly footnoted, carefully nuanced and qualified statements like "we support the troops and not the war" doesn't support us, it trivalizes us at best and at worst re-enforces the will and agenda of the enemy. We don't want to cut and run. Take that as gospel. Victory is our only option, and not some hybridized academic version of victory that everyone is comfortable with. I'm talking about the species of victory that only comes from doing very bad things to very bad people until either they're dead, or demoralized into abject unconditional psyche changing surrender. We taking Unfolding of History 410 are tired of listening to the sophmoric rants of Self-fullfilling Prophesy 101 coming from down the hall. The war on terrorism is a war being fought tactically in Iraq, but strategically in the hearts and minds of America. "I support the troops, but not the war" is a little white flag being waved in another American head. The main weapons in the arsenal of the terrorists are uncertainty and fear. You might as well be loading another AK round into an insurgent's magazine. Saying "I back the troops" is the equivalent of saying you support us tactically and at the same time strategically. Anything less is self-annihilating blither which says we support you tactically, but will fight against you strategically. Or, as the great philosopher from the 1960's, Pogo, put it, "We have met the enemy and he is us." If at the end of the day this becomes the stance of the majority of fellow citizens, then we are to be pitied. Pity takes our sacrifice, freely given, and gives it back into the hands of our enemies. So next time you see a GI tell him what he needs to hear, "Kick Ass and Take Names." Or, just be honest with yourself and glare.

Want to show your gratitude, your support? Pay it forward. Go to New Orleans this year. Vacation. Volunteer. Whatever. Everything we fight for is there. Good food. Resiliency. Pretty women. Dedication to excellence. Fun. Freedom of expression. Music. The face of America shines in the streets of the Big Easy. If we weren't over in Iraq name tak'n and heart break'n that's were we'd love to be. So go! Send us a postcard.

Oh, one final thing, I'll be a panelist at the first ever milblogger conference that's going to held in DC April 22nd. This link has all the details. http://www.militarywebcom.org/MilBlogConference/11/Conference%20Panelists.html
If you come please say hi.


Anonymous said...

OK -- I seem to be on opposite sides from you with this "I back the troops" thing -- either that or I don't fully understand your position on it; as in, am misreading it. So don't take this as completely querelous, please.

Isn't it just possible that for some/many of us, we actually ARE supporting the troops, and we actually DON'T want to have an opinion on the war, because it is too big a topic. Frankly, to make that distinction becomes important if only b/c that allows us TO support the troops. As a lifelong liberal, yes, I do find myself making that distinction now, but only so I can NOT get involved in war or antiwar politics AND get about the business of supporting the troops. Not just in speech but in ACTION. If the whole concept is bogus (what I am doing), then I'm not sure what to make of that. Previously my probably anti-war sentiments would not have allowed/motivated me (whatever, I'm lost for the right word) TO support the troops. I would have lost compassion for them in the blur of my supposed moral rightness. I finally figured out, fark that, they're already THERE, and THEY need to be SUPPORTED. So now that's what I do. Daily. As much as possible. Through various means. But if you are saying you also want me to believe in Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and what THEY believe in, it's NEVER gonna happen. But I put my politics aside TO support the troops, and frankly, it ain't about how I feel here, it's about whether what I'm doing is helping them. That is ALL I care about.

So are we on the same sides of this issue or not? No amount of compassion for the troops (and it is genuine) is ever gonna make me love Bush & Co. But my being a political pinhead won't help me do the troops any good either. So I actively choose "B."

(I'm not one to even give a rip about politics anymore, but this post of yours got me actively puzzled. Why piss off the people who actually want to help? Some of us really DO, and ARE.) Argh.

Anonymous said...

(me again). Having rethought what I'm reacting to here in your post, how about this: maybe what's bugging me is the agenda aspect of this. If people want to do good to the troops (back the troops, in whatever constructive way), can't we just do that person-to-person b/c we care about what's happening to them? Does it really have to be part of a bigger political agenda, pro OR con? This is starting to bug me about as much as religion. Could people not just manage to do good because it's good, without having to cloak it in ANY other agenda, political OR religious? Just do good and shut up about it, basically. I don't want to hear that it's being done on behalf of God, Christ, Satan, elves, fairies, whatever; and I don't want to hear it's because the doer is liberal or conservative, dove or hawk (not that anyone even uses those terms anymore). Can't we just have a frickin' agenda-free society? Or at the very least be agenda-free people? That's what I'm striving towards, I know that. The rest of that stuff is just polarizing crap. I am THROUGH with it -- being it, living it, hearing it, whatever. Yuk.

And note to self: don't read things that potentially piss me off before bedtime -- I get way too riled up about it. Not even sure we're disagreeing here. Just wonder why everything has to degenerate into politics and religion these days. Ee-yuk.

mdfay said...

Dear Anonymous, Please understand that I'm not asking you to let go of your closely held personal political beliefs. Whether we were right or wrong, mislead, and massaged into this historical unfolding by untrustworthy hands matters little to us. The train has left the station. The pooch has been poked. We've already drained the swamp and find ourselves up to our necks in alligators. The Iraqis, the folks we interact with everyday, require our presence and follow through. The story of Joseph in Exodus guides my thinking. Read Exodus 50 where he reassures his brothers that now that their father is dead he's not going to kill them and instructs them on the real facts of the situation; if they had not sold him into slavery, a very bad thing, he wouldn't have been there to interpret Pharoh's dreams. Because he was the right person at the right time to interpret his dreams the Pharoh could prepare during the seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine. By extension his brothers could come to Egypt and recieve food, which without they would have perished. A greater good came from a lesser evil. The unfolding of history sounds and looks all neat and clean in the history books and lecture halls. I believe that were we all to live long enough assumptions and beliefs on both sides of the current conflict would be radically changed, if not shattered. Remember that Lincoln was a political pariah in his day. His election split the nation. Draft riots in Northern cities happened in large part because people felt the war was being mismanaged, was unnecessary and based on an agenda, freeing the slaves, which most hand not signed on to support. Many felt betrayed because the original reason for prosecuting this bloody and protracted war was "restoring the union". Would anyone today suggest that we should restore slavery, or that it could have been eliminated more effectively by less violent means? Would you? So celebrate your beliefs and at the same time find a way to send a clear message to our enemies that even in the midst of mistakes and stumblings we're united and ready, willing and able to kick there asses.

Laurie said...

An extension of something I wrote last week. Military means "of and pertaining to war". If you are anti-war then you are anti-military. You are against everything they are, and everything they do. Sure, you can take actions to support the troops, but that comes off as hypocritical if you ask me. It's sort of like this... suppose you are openly gay. Your family isn't really happy about this. They accept you at family gatherings, but every chance they get, they are making non-supportive comments and you find out that they talk even worse about you and your partner when you're not around. Would you find it hypocritical when these same people say they support your choice, but they hate gays? It's what you are, what you do. It offends and hurts you that they act this way and you can't really fully accept their "support" because that support is only a sort of backhanded lip service.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what Laurie said...

Like tanks, jets and yes, bombs, everybody in uniform is an implement to the mission.

And while the US Military is like every other group of people where you'll find disagreement, the VAST majority of troops find it to be a kick in the guts when some smarmy jerk says "I'm all for you, you just need to stop what you're doing".


We are the job. We are what make this war happen. And if you are not for letting me do my job to help find, run down or kill bad guys then you are not supporting me.

"Go sell crazy somewhere else. We're full up here"

Lisa said...

I have to agree with you, mdfay. As for Anonymous - I think you have to develop an opinion on this war. No matter what Iraq was before we went over there, it is currently a place where terrorists are gathering. These terrorists would like nothing more than to destroy America. Our military is doing a good job (in my opinion) at breaking the terrorists. However, this war is likely being protracted because of the negative coverage in the media and many high-profile individuals saying it is a quagmire, another Vietnam.

I read a lot of milblogs and other non-MSM news sources, and things are not as bad as the MSM makes them out to be. Opinion of the war is going south because of this flood of negative coverage. I was talking to a friend last night. Her sister is going through a divorce, and her parents never really liked her husband, who actually happens to be a good man, because all the parents ever heard was their daughter saying things that put the son-in-law in the worst possible light. I see the analogy between that and the war. Most of the American public gets their news from the MSM. All they ever hear is the bad news, so is it any wonder that a growing number of people are developing a negative view of it?

The enemy monitors our media. They like what they see, and hearing about all these people who "support the troops, but not the war" is the kind of thing I imagine they like to hear, especially those who want to support the troops by bringing them home before they complete their mission.

It seems to me that many of the people who are vocally against the war just don't get it. Do they think that if we pull our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, that the terrorists will just leave us alone? That is a very wrong-headed attitude. Do these people think they would be spared, because they were against the war? I think not. The anti-war movement, in my opinion, is giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. The left, who are anti-Bush, also claim to support things that are anathema to the people we are fighting. If the Islamofascists win, forget about "gay rights" or "freedom of (or "from" in some cases) religion". Forget about music, movies and art. Forget about drinking beer or eating BBQ pork ribs. I'm sure I could go on if I gave it enough thought.

Anyway, my point is that you shouldn't be neutral about the war with the Islamofascist, and I would hope you would find yourself on the side of the United States winning, because the consequences of us losing are unthinkable.....

Dan Vukmanich said...

I just found this blog this morning via Mudville Gazette. Just by "coincidence", a couple of days ago I started a thread on the Rennlist Porsche enthusiasts "Off Topic" forum on this exact subject. I have copied part of your post and linked to your blog. I hope you don't mind that I copy/pasted part of your writing, which I did credit you with.

BTW I was a Marine 1982 - 1988.
I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog, and seeing your art!


P.S. every time I enjoy dinner, travel, or drive my Porsche, I'm think of you Warriors and grateful for what you're doing!

Anonymous said...

All I'm saying is, and this is rhetorical so no need to answer, are you_dismissing_the constructive actions of well-meaning citizens (some liberal, some conservative, some undecided) if they don't happen to agree with your opinion? Because that would seem to be a waste. I, for one, don't "not" have an opinion about the war, I have one; not the one you want to hear; but I have chosen to blow it off in favor of caring about those who fight it, themselves. Seems like a better choice to be making. And many others I know are doing the same thing. See "BooksForSoldiers.com" if you have any doubts about that. Well-meaning, regular citizens, apolitical or otherwise, doing what good they can, and NOT getting into with people (the deployed) about politics, religion, whatever. I'm for that kind of action and forget talking about the rest. It seems to lift people's spirits and that is great.

Personally, I think a lot of people just give "supporting the troops" total lip service, and do NOTHING to actually "do" that. Bumper stickers and little ribbons aren't exactly impressive to me, sorry to say.

I don't actually want to argue with you about this, especially since I don't totally get your POV completely. I'm just asking you to consider, is it possible some of us do truly give a krap AND are doing something about it, apolitically or otherwise? And it seems like you're dismissing that as bogus, though perhaps you're not.

[To distinguish, I'm the "anonymous" who sent comments 1 and 2 but not the others. The perils of anonymity - too many of us ;-)]

mdfay said...

Dear Anonymous, Good on ya mate. I have my opinions about how this all got started. They make for conversation and little else. History has moved on. I will make my feelings known at the ballot box, as I'm sure you will. Having been there I know that despite how all this has come into being the paradox is that is a noble cause, even with questionable and perhaps ignoble origins. I have enough experiences in my own life where the worst of times translated into the best of time. As someone who was a devoted married guy and endured a nasty divorce, I'm well aware of how facts are subject to the most surprising interpretations. I thank you for your open mindedness and lack of mean spiritedness in this little discourse.

Lisa said...

I have done my share of actual supporting of the troops, not just paying lip service. I am the daughter of a career Army soldier (retired for 15 years after 27 active duty). I have been actively supporting soldiers, sailors, Marines and maybe some airmen, too for years, with email, snail mail, and packages. My favorite way to support them has been through AnySoldier.com

I guess I don't see how you can support them, but not their mission, which they have volunteered for, since no one is forced to join the military. Not supporting their mission, to me, means we will eventually lose the larger war against Islamofascists, not because our military isn't winning, but because an American public that wants what it wants, and wants it now, isn't willing to do what it takes to defeat our enemies, and that will lead to everyone losing all of their freedoms.

Anonymous said...

I too am one of those people who DO support the troops, but don't support the war. There I've said it!

I came to this attitude through soul searching, reaching out and reading everything I could about the war in Iraq, including many soldiers' blogs. (thanks for your blog MDfay, you are great)

I've never been in favor of killing anybody, and the critics who say I can't support the war and still support our troops keep reminding me that is what war is. So from that standpoint, I don't support war/killing equation. In the course of my quest for information, I discovered the Soldiers Angels web site. Soldiers Angels is a group that provides support for our troops through letters, care packages and donations. On that web site I read letters from soldiers in Iraq. I was so touched by what I read I joined the group and have now "adopted" three soldiers in Iraq and sent many individual packages to combat support hospitals in Iraq. No one was more surprised by my action than me. I'm a hard core liberal. Through the soldiers I support and through my research (and this blog) I've learned that the war in Iraq is so much more than just about killing. Its about rebuilding a country, giving freedom and dignity back to an entire culture and its about the dedicated work of our troops. Here are some current news headlines about the war:

"U.S. Troops Rebuild Iraqi Schools"
"411th CA Bn Rebuilds Iraqi Hospital"
"Troops Collect Thousands of Shoes for Iraqi Children"
"Military to ship 280 more wheelchairs to Tal Afar"

I don't feel hypocritical about my feelings. I genuinely support our troops, but I don't endorse killing.

If you are a parent you can understand its entirely possible to love your kids, but not approve of what they do sometimes

I must go and finish making Easter baskets for the Veteran's Hospital.

This is a great discussion and I love our troops.


Lisa said...

Just a couple of quotes I think apply to this discussion:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
~John Stuart Mill

"Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'"
~George Orwell

Anonymous said...

You can love the troops all you want. If you don't support what they do, you don't support them.

I had actually worked up a bunch of virulent rant against pacifism, but Lisa found the words that sum it up much more eloquently.

I have three deployments under my belt now. There will most likely be a fourth. Not once in the whole time I was there did the "I support the troops, but not the war" make me feel anything but contempt for the person who said it. All it makes me think about is interviews from retired NVA and Viet Cong officers who woke up thinking there was no way they could beat the United States, but then they turned on the news from America and decided to keep fighting.

I wonder how many of my collogues have been killed or maimed because the news made a bad guy think the terror was working.

P.S. I wouldn't tell those guys at the VA you supported them, but not their war. They probably won't like it. I know I don't

Samantha West said...

Every time your exercise your rights as an American you do so because someone "killed" during one of the wars that secured our sovereignty. Thus you support killing in some manner. You cannot escape it just because you want to be guilt free.

There is not now, nor will there ever be, an agenda-free society. There will always be someone out there trying to impose their will on you. In fact, Anonymous "agenda-free", you are trying to impose your will on everyone who reads this. By expressing your opinion you are trying to convince MD Fay's readers to see your point. If we see your point, you have persuaded us to agree with you and thus, in a non-threatening way, imposed your will upon us. It is still your agenda even if it is non-threatening.

The price of freedom is high, the price to maintain it is just as high. If you take no action to secure freedom then you might as well be on the side of those who would suppress it.

Grow a backbone and take a stand.


Beth* A. said...

Very civil debate here of a touchy subject. That being said:
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Let's just suppose that 'supporting the troops but not the War' merely distracts the attention of the government some, forcing a small part of their attention away to focus on the dissenters. That's still precious time they could better spend working on the war effort. And that is still encouragement you are now affording the terrorists.

You don't tell your sister that you support her marriage, but not her husband. Major rift alert! He is part of that marriage now; they are in it together. The troops are at war. We need to deal with the reality that IS. Debate can (and will) go on long after, about who should have done what to or with whom, or didn't, but the here and now means that every distraction aids our troops' enemy. The enemy. Our enemy.

God bless our troops, over and over, in Iraq and in the 'Stan.

Oh, and looking forward to shaking your hand in thanks at the Milblog Conf., M.D. Fay! Very Much!

Anonymous said...

In my mind, the only people that truly support the troops are those who "have grown a backbone" and stand up against this illegal war and the leaders who took us into it. You want to read something to quote? Read the Constitution. Read the Nurenberg Principles. Speak out against the leaders who spent our precious young men and women as fodder for the mills of false gods. You want to support the troops? Visit the nearest VA hospital every week. Pour coffee for the freshfaced amputee trying to get his disability percentage raised and the Vietnam vet living in his Chevy van. Buy $13 worth of stainess screw to fix the wheelchairs the VA can't fix because of the tax cuts for the rich. Hold our lying leaders acountable. You want to pity someone-?pity the general who sold his soul for another star.

mdfay said...

I always find it an interesting trend, not only here, but on other blogs I frequent, that those with predictable and stereotypical anti-war sentiments are almost always anonymous. Hey, it's even within the realm of possiblity that they work for moonbat think tanks and actually get paid to surf the blogosphere cutting and pasting this dribble. But please keep coming by. I'm getting way too serious and we need the entertainment. Maybe I'll even start a contest where we can compete to identify the exact origin of these ideas, because Lord knows they're not original, or from personal experience. General's selling their souls for another star...now that's a hoot. Obviously the quoter has no remote idea of what generals do or how they get to be generals. Wait a second, I think I'll google the quote and see where I comes from. Hope everyone has a nice Easter. Except, of course, for those of you with the inside track who know that it's just another big capitalist plot concocted by Christians after they subjugated the Celts and stole one of their holidays......etc, etc, etc. But I'll leave the anonymous comment choice there for you, I'd hate for you to loose your job.

mdfay said...

Oh, another thing, are you folks on the far left upset with the universe about gravity? I mean just about everywhere else in the universe stuff gets to float around, yet we have to worry about tripping over our own shoelaces. If you guys are even half right about half the stuff you're half sure about then I suspect somebody, probably Haliburton, has a switch somewhere where they could turn sticky old gravity off and put an end to all this fear of heights stuff. Do you realize how rich some folks are getting because of gravity? It boggles the mind. I have my own theory that the American Dental Association is in cohoots with the Sugar industry...ever notice there's no cavity warning on a Mars bar....makes you think doesn't it.

Cynthia said...

"You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing is worth dying for, when did this begin? Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots of Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard round the world?" —Ronald Reagan (1964)

Saying you support the troops, but not the mission they believe in should pose a qundry to you. For those of you who are "actively supporting the troops" while opposing the war - do you really believe that this does not seep into what you write to them and dishearten them? They don't want your compassion or your pity - they want your support for their mission, your gratitude for their willingness to do what the rest of us can't or won't - they want you to believe in them and to be proud of them for what they are doing. How can you be proud of someone who is doing something you find so very dispicable?

As long as the soldiers believe in their mission, who are you not to? What base of knowledge (not opinion) do you use to come to that conclusion?

I've never posted a comment on a blog before, but this topic really upsets me - the ease with which you patronize those willing to fight for your rights.

As for you, Michael, finding your blog in its early days was a gift! I looked forward to each and every post, worried when a lot of time went between posts, rejoiced in your art and your words! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us!

"Don't sell the farm, Ray!"


Lisa said...

I don't recall ever hearing that quote from Reagan before - I like it. I'm right there with you, Cythnia. It will be time for me to get more pen pals, since the ones I have been sending stuff to over the last year are back home, safe & sound - a Marine and an NM Army NG.

Michael, I too, enjoy seeing your artwork...

Anonymous said...

Mike- I'm sad to have touched a nerve that set off your personal attack on me. You're right, I do wish to remain anonymous. However, let me set some of your musings straight. I don't work for any think tank, moonbat or otherwise, nor did I ever. The last time I was in D.C. was May 5, l955, the day I graduated from hhospital corps school in BainbridgeMD. (REGULAR Navy by the way.) As to religion, I am a baptized Christian, a methodist (maybe Unitarianism is a little too "liberal for my taste (just kidding). The teachings of Jesus Christ are at the root of my beliefs, so if you are looking for my foundation, no need to google, try Matthew 23.

As for not experiencing what I write about. I was volunteering at the VA hospital yesterday and every Wednesday for several years
As a matter of fact I met another volunteer, a women, who was giving the veterans her 44 quilt present. She said she was inspired by the Marine Corps artis Miochael Reagan (I hope the spelling is correct.) I do wish you well

Laurie said...

LOL! Gravity....

I'll see you at the conference.

Samantha West said...


Well done!


Samantha West said...

One other thing, "Generals selling their soul for another star."

You know, back when the Iraqi's had their election in October 2005 I recall that an Iraqi man asked General Huck, 2nd Marine Division, who they should vote for. His reply was something like you are free to vote for whoever you want, that's what freedom is about. Now that's not the exact words he said but it is the essence of his remark. I remember being so impressed with the whole idea that this Iraqi now had the power to do what we take for granted, and how powerful it must have seemed to him for a Marine General from the United States to personally tell him to vote for whoever he wanted.

General's who sell their soul for another star reside in Hollywood fabrications.

You should know the people you slander before you do so.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Lordy, now it_impossible_to keep me and the other anoymouses straight :-) I'm only doing it because I quasi-know you, and don't want this discussion to interrupt my appreciation for you. That is all. I'm not military and never have been. But now that I see this discussion progress a bit, AND have seen another friend of mind have the SAME opinion about "can't say you support the troops without saying you support why they're there," maybe it's me who's misunderstanding this whole equation. I still will never like, love, or appreciate the "evil triumvirate" of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney -- BUT, I'm totally down with, if the guys who serve have volunteered for their missions, as they have, I'm supportive of why they're there as well. I agree with what you say, Michael, that once the bell is rung, so to speak, it's not going to be un-rung. Time to support them fully AND their mission for being there. Okay, I'm still fine with that. I'm not so fine with how we got hooked into this particular war, nor with the characters of those who are leading. Not that I know them personally, naturally, but I do not trust them; nor do I care to be convinced that I should.

So maybe I will just edit myself in the future, and never appear to be on the side of hairsplitting this one. My support for the troops IS paramount; so I do support their mission. I guess I will just learn from this not to say it differently than that. And keep my feelings about Bush et al. to myself. Fine.

I had to laugh about the "grow a backbone" comment from one of your readers. Sigh. If she only knew. Most who've known me wish I'd had LESS of one. So that's not an issue here. Just trying to mature as life goes on, and figure out what truly supportive looks like (and acts like).

All the best...

Anon Y. Mouse (I'lll clarify ;-)

Though I saw someone the other day calling himself Pez D. Spencer, and found that much MORE hilarious :-)

I'm only responsible for comments 1, 2 and 8. Being a chick, I would never responsibly pick a fight with a decorated Marine anyway. Seriously :-)

Anonymous said...

(Anon Y. Mouse here).

One more thing, as a postscript, I suppose.

Marine authors like Nate Fick, author of "One Bullet Away," mention within that the issue of, it's okay to know we (as Marines) are the currency being paid to keep the war going, we just want to make sure that when we're spent, it was for something that was worth it; or maybe, just in a WAY that was worth it. I would totally agree with his POV, having no other reference on warfare than that he was there, and he felt that way about it. He was okay with feeling like he might be asked to pay the ultimate price (with his life), but he wanted to be sure, to the extent that anyone could be, that it whatever he died for, was worth it; and wasn't just some incompetent moment in the war.

That was a strangely resonant, poignant and cool POV to me. I can understand why he'd say that exactly. Once you volunteer, you essentially do give up your right to influence where the train is going, so to speak, but it must not change the fact, that if you're contemplating paying with your life, you'd really, really, REALLY like to make that a worthwile sacrifice. I don't have his exact quote, but that's a paraphrase. I suppose what I want for the guys over there is there same thing. It's a helluva price to pay, literally the ultimate one. Let's hope that it was worth it, because they totally gave it.

If we ever move away from that as a metric in the national discourse, and just get accustomed to the body count, that would be truly sad. These guys are doing something inestimably mighty; I want what they give, and us, to be worthy of that sacrifice.

Over and out, on that note!

Anon :-)

mdfay said...

I'm not quite sure how many anonymous commentarians we have. That's the problem with anonymity.

My favorite poet, Walt Whitman, was an avowed pacifist. He also spent years with the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War as a bandage changer, an odious task. Please read, or re-read the "Drum Taps" section of "Leaves of Grass". Some of these poems are as close as verse comes to being photographic. No where does Walt impune the war, or any war. His focus is the common soldier. He allows the reader to form their own opinions. There is no hollow rhetoric present, just the facts, just his own pure response to the facts. He celebrates and mourns without editorializing. I call this muscular pacifism. For our anonymous who's helping at the VA, good on ya! Just take it as gospel that those kids probably don't want a lecture about conspiracy theories or rants about an evil trio in the White House. Please keep coming back.

Sammy said...

Don't sell the farm indeed, Ray!!

I try to imagine how I'd feel if an elected president I didn't like or trust (no need to name names, Bill, Al, Hill) sent our troops to war - a war I wasn't sure I supported.

WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. No matter what I thought BEFORE war was declared, once our Commander-In-Chief declared war, I'd move heaven and earth to make sure we accomplished our mission quickly with as few deaths and wounded as possible, including civilians. We CANNNOT as a nation give the edge to our enemies - which I believe is happening - because we do not stand strongly together. Disagree and protest all you want BEFORE war is declared. Anguish in the privacy of your home for the duration if you must, but when our nation is at war, let's get it done and bring 'em home. Stop the self-defeating "I support this, but not that" and stop giving our enemy hope that if they just hang on long enough, we'll defeat ourselves with our own blah blah.

Finally finally, Michael, I have found someone who eloquently and persuasively explains the harm - not to mention the absurdity - of supporting troops but not the mission. Thank you so much for your amazing words.

It will be a privilege to meet you at the Milblog.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- "muscular pacificism" -- very cool turn of a phrase. I will investigate :-) Walt Whitman was a cool poet, but his omni-sexuality kind of a turnoff (but I digress/rhetorical). I prefer to think of my current compassionate war relief stuff to be in the grand American tradition of Lousia May Alcott's heroines in "Little Women." Making bandages, etc. to send to the Civil War soldiers, even though their politics might have been (originally, at least) somewhat anti-war. Eventually compassion carried the day instead.

(Omnisexual is an allusion to "quadrisexual," first read about in the back pages of a New York magazine competition [jokes]. That's someone who'll do anything with anyone, for a quarter. I always found that funny.)

Anon Y. Mouse

Sammy said...

Well PS - Walt Whitman is my favorite poet too!! In fact while I'm in DC I plan to look at some of his work at the Library of Congress.

No wonder you're such an eloquent speaker !! Hanging out with a few good men like Walt...

dicentra said...

How about this?

"I support the war whole-heartedly, but I don't support the troops."

Make sense?

I didn't think so.

CarolynVB said...

Is it not possible that while supporting the troops and not the war, and by doing things, like speaking out against the premise for this war or calling our government representatives to publicly disagree with our involvement in Iraq and the handling of our entry and exit from that mission, that we, as citizens, are actually engaging one our civic duties, that is, to freely speak out against a wrong when we witness it?

Would you have us be silent to all our governments ill-wrought decisions for the sake of a unified, albeit false, front? Who would that serve exactly? I recall other dreadful periods in history where many were harmed because many more did not speak out.

Is it not my right and duty to register, be informed about my government’s policies at home and abroad, give my opinion to my representatives so they might more accurately represent the will of their constituents and vote to affirm my belief in or rejection of my representative’s actions? Is this not the democratic form of government you fight so willingly for? Would you rather me know the names of American Idol participants and not my own Congressman? Should I care less about you?

I do not pity you or your brethren. I respect your efforts and commitment to the mission you’ve been assigned. Kick many asses, take many names.

I won’t argue that a greater good for many there will come from the lesser evils committed by the few here. I simply do not agree with the few. I say it. I'm not good at standing idly by.

In my eyes, this does not diminish the efforts of those who must, by their oath, administer the ill-wrought mission. I want your efforts applied with just and well-validated cause. I want the government to have your back with resources and strategy and well-defined, and widely supported, policy. I want them to tell me, “We don’t have a choice but to put them in harm’s way.” I would think you would want that of us.

I do not doubt that Iraqis will benefit from a Democratic form of government. But please tell me, would you tell the New Iraqi citizens to not disagree with their leaders when they see their resources, human and otherwise, misused and mismanaged? How far off would that be from what they had before you got there?

I know that we can’t leave Iraq any time soon. The pooch analogy does indeed apply. But I want to know what the plan is to get out. Just last week, a third retired general, your brethren, publicly expressed regret “that he did not more energetically question those who had ordered the nation to war. He also urged active-duty officers to speak out now if they had doubts about the war.” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/10/world/middleeast/10military.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

He said that there were not enough troops to initially engage this mission. We went anyway. They sent you anyway. How can I be sure they have a plan to get out without asking, demanding, that they explain themselves? Why wouldn’t you want that of me? Of all of us? I am not fighting alongside you but can you not see that I am fighting for you? I don't want them to be casual when it comes to your life.

I don’t believe we should’ve been there to begin with. I say so.

Click my name for my blog address should you care to visit the non-political scenes from my neck of the woods.

I enjoy your blog entries here and on FrontLines. Your writing is illuminating. I’ve been to New Orleans and dined on spicy jambalaya (yes, I said it outloud, thanks for waiting) with free-roaming pigeons in breezy cafes. It was as lovely as you described it. I’m glad it still is. I'll pay it forward when I get some cash.

Your power of observation and artwork is impressive. Thanks for taking the time to show us your side of things.

GunnNutt said...

Oh, another thing, are you folks on the far left upset with the universe about gravity? I mean just about everywhere else in the universe stuff gets to float around, yet we have to worry about tripping over our own shoelaces.

Oh yeah! "tinfoil hat" time!! That would be a great contest, too.

Thanks for the awesome post about the Old Dominion, Mike. I miss it alot and your descriptions from the porch brought back many happy memories. See you at the Milblog Conference!

Semper Gratus!

Anonymous said...

I have never been in the military. I am 28 years old. I do not support the executive decision that was made to invade Iraq. It was a foolhardy move by the commander in chief that I said was stupid then and stupid now.

Every troop who is out there, for whatever reason they are there, is doing his job. He is putting life and limb at risk to what they believe is right for the country. I support that. I am thankful for the commitment even if I disagree with the executive plan.
I don't think that we should pull all our troops out either. The analogy of “Pregnant girl, Gotta do her right” is a good one. However, we do need a massive shift in thinking by top brass as how to pull this one off, cause what they are doing, wont work. It’s the basics, even Machiavelli warns against how they have proceeded with this invasion.

I didn't support the Invasion, but we HAVE to rebuild the country. To do that, we actually would need MORE troops, not less. That’s not happening and not going to happen in the climate of this country. The only way it could happen at this point is to turn our coalition of the willing into a coalition of the many. Bringing in UN peacekeepers is the only thing that will stop the civil war. The US troops aren’t seen with most gracious eyes by the Iraqi people at this point. Bringing in the UN peacekeepers would no only make the situation a situation of protecting people. But also allow the U.S. troops to send the forces to other regions where they could have the most beneficial impact in the war on terror. President Bush lacks the ability (and perhaps the will) to accomplish that. The democrats wont do it either, they will just high tail it home. What is left is a mess that nobody wants to claim as their baby.

Caleb said...

Same anonymous as last post but different from rest of thread.

If I cannot dissent when the executive branch has made a situation sooooo FUBAR as it today then there is no freedom. It is the debate of ideas that can produce the idea that wins the peace.

The Invasion was stupid, too bad we are there. Lets deal with it. But don't tell me not to use my voice to say "Hey stop doing it that way. Do this instead." Because when you say that, then what the HELL are those boys fighting for over there anyway? If we can't have that freedom to dissent from the (lack of) executive plan, then every drop of blood is wasted.

Anonymous said...

Well said,and thank you for saying what has needed to stated for a long time. Your thoughts strongly reflect my own, and it gauls me when the liberal mouths say they speak for "all" americans, when fortunatly they only speak for themselves.

EdoRiver said...

The Commander in Chief is a civilian, not a military general. This is one of the checks on the mentality of "war is just another form of diplomacy". secondly the Commander in Chief is subject to the oversight of the Congress. This is one of the checks on a President who wants to be war hero without being actually shot at himself. The Congress has the right to a full debate on the issue of whether to commit the US to a war or not and to put it to a vote. But there are various ways to get around the full debate and vote. As Fire and Ice eloquently speaks of the issue once the troops are committed. But the problem goes back to the lack of an honest debate on whether to unleash the dogs of war or not.
The truth of the matteris:

But I also agree with mdfay's first part. Despite the lies and deceptions, something good will eventually come of it. Just like the loss of the South in the Civil War. The Southerners were on the losing side of the arguement, once the troops entered the battlefield. All arguement was finished. So the question is when will this be over?

I would say about 10 to 15 years judging by nearest historical precedences. So we should get used to it. As Fire and Ice says, quit belly-aching and complaining and serve. IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG HAUL!

21stCenturyShea said...

All this talk about poets and war made me think of my favorite war poet, the decorated officer Siegfried Sassoon. During WWI he published poems which tried to convey to the civilian population the horror of war--poems which savaged uncritical patriotism.


I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go