Monday, November 20, 2006

Carrying Coals to Contratimes

Bill Gnade is a blogger who ably presides over at Contratimes. As a writer Bill has demonstrated to his readers great versatility, wide curiosities, and unexpected profundities. One of his self-disclosed traits is that he is a fast typist. I think he may not agree with me when I say that can be a problem for him (and his readers) in that his writing may occasionally outpace his mind.

In any event, he is given to making rather long comments on The Vigil. Long comments can be objectionable as they are conversation stoppers, kind of like any one you can recall monopolizing a conversation at a cocktail party. In Bill's case I'm always - usually - willing to make an exception because he always has something to say.

He did so on Sunday. But in this instance I felt the major thrust of his comment not as responsive - entirely - as it could have been had he broken up his overlong essay and parsed portions out to a number of different threads.

So, in order to discourage him in this verbose pattern and yet to encourage his continued participation, I have decided to dedicate a post to his last comment. I trust he will find this agreeable.

The balance of Gnade's comment is flowery and no doubt purposive in his own mind; in my mind a portion of it wanders off on a tangent I cannot endeavor to follow with the limited time I can spare. I'm sure what I have neglected to comment on does not constitute the mutterings of an idiot, of course, because Bill is a smart enough fellow. Bill Gnade is, above all - an accomplished artist in photography and poetry. He is just giving us the pleasure of reading through some incomplete thoughts of his, works-in-progress. (Isn't that what blogging is all about?) Curious readers can find his complete statement here.

Bill Gnade, of Contratimes, begins with:
It is good to grieve over the loss of life, for any reason. It is even good to be reminded -- daily -- of the human costs of war. This is a sad war, as are all wars.

I am disappointed, however, by several things here. First, I am disappointed that you should refer to these dead -- all of them volunteer enlistees -- as casualties of Bush's war, which you've dubbed, reductionistically, the UULUIUOI.
When Bill points out that these are volunteers, is his point that they asked for it? In fact many - not all - post 911 enlistees thought they were volunteering to fight the people who bombed us on September 11th, 2001. Of those who have been in service prior, I would submit that many of them never would have guessed they would be sent to fight and die in an elective war - a war of choice - not one unnecessary to our national security.
How can you possibly believe that the Iraq conflict is solely George Bush's doing?
It was the Bush administration that sought the "Iraq Resolution" or the "Iraq War Resolution" which were popular names for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public law 107-243, 116 Stat. 1497-1502). This was passed by the United States Congress authorizing what was soon to become the un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI). If Bill wants to argue that Congress has complicity in this UULUIUOI, he should go right ahead. He should point out that, in the Senate, all but 22 Democrats and one Republican were gullible and culpable; in the House all but 126 Democrats and 6 Republicans were gullible and culpable.
We have, sort of, had this conversation before. But I ask again: At what point between 1991 and 2006 was the US NOT IN CONFLICT with Iraq? At what point was there a moment's peace between Iraq and, let's just say, the Clinton administration? Wikipedia's (among many other sources) entry for the Gulf War I (scroll down to "Consequences"), says that Iraq was nearly bombed EVERY OTHER DAY during the Clinton administration: the two major Iraq conflicts, in 1996 and 1998, brought more bombs to fall on Iraq than Gulf War I (or something to that effect). So why pretend that this war began in 2003? It did not.
Obviously, during this period of bombing sortees to which Bill alludes, there was never any authorization to invade or occupy Iraq. Otherwise, Bush would not have gone to the effort to get his above-mentioned UULUIUOI authorized on 10-Oct-02, would he have?
I have no problem decrying war. But I want to decry it for the right reasons; I want to decry it for reasons based in truth, in reality, and without the rewriting or denying of history.

What also bothers me here is the inference, almost laden with surprise, that this war is uniquely damaging to our soldiers. There has not been a moment when any war, even those fought for the noblest of reasons, has not damaged soldiers' bodies or psyches. While some soldiers DO return damaged from Iraq (my best friend and college roommate is one of them), how do we explain that soldiers are REENLISTING at rates above the Army's target goals (especially when the Army has seen the most deaths)?
That the employment rates for Iraqi vets are reportedly high I attribute to unprecedented large re-upping bonuses, and the comradery of fighting young men and women for whom the salient code is no one gets left behind. But even 'the solidarity of the foxhole' doesn't affect the way they feel about the occupation.
Why is it that the vast majority of soldiers appear to disagree with the critics of the conflict?
Bill's rhetorical question raises a cluster of other questions:
  • Do the vast majority of soldiers disagree with the critics of the occupation?
  • Why are our troops in Iraq and Kuwait bombarded with radio druggy Rush Limbaugh but not allowed access to Air America?
  • Why is Internet access for troops in Iraq and Kuwait restricted to Rumsfeld-approved sites?
I could go on. Obviously, in the Pentagon there is a concern about the volatility of troop opinion about the occupation; otherwise there wouldn't be such a concerted effort to control access to information.
I believe you (unintentionally) sully the meaning of the deaths of thousands of Americans by your reductionistic acronym, and by blaming this all on Bush.
It is Bush. Bush is the president. The Buck stops on his desk.
But these are just my opinions, I know. I don't think you mean to "sully" the sufferings of others; perhaps I have overstated it. But I think one could be given that impression. In fact, one has been given that impression - me. Not that you are cold or crass or unfeeling or even reckless. I am sure you've thought about this all rather seriously. But I am wondering if you've thought long enough about how your acronym might make those folks feel who have lost a limb, or a loved one, for a cause they deem just, noble, and for the good of the common man.
My acronym does not sully our Armed Services which are exemplary, honorable, notable, patriotic, and courageous; it's the mission of the UULUIUOI which has betrayed their trust. Those to my left may call it reductionist of me to say this, but prior to Bush, it was not our American custom for our presidents to direct, nor for Congress to authorize, the sending of our armed forces abroad to invade and occupy nations which had not attacked us or our allies. (Even in the case of Vietnam, there was an effort to make a case for fighting international aggression.)

It is Bush's invasion
and subsequent occupation of Iraq that is demeaning to our honorable military service men and women and to our military traditions which all Americans hold in the highest esteem.