"At least they told us now and not in June."
Those were my words when I found out about the extension policy that was implemented on April 12. Minutes before, I read about the death of Kurt Vonnegut at an internet terminal at the Frankfurt International Airport. He died on April 11. I'm glad to say I'm new to his writings, because after finishing three of his books, I still have a lot of his work to look forward to. Vonnegut has the reputation of being anti war, anti imperialism and against any absurdities committed in the name of America. I came to the conclusion that the administration waited patiently for Kurt Vonnegut to die before rolling out this Iraq wide extension. They didn't want to be embarassed by what he would have to say.
And I can't imagine what that would be. But here is what he said about me and my friends in his column in the magazine In These Times:
By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of
wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
He speaks, of course, of the hawkish writers that suggest speaking out against the administration, Bush and of the Iraq War was unpatriotic, and gasp! Would seriously undermine the morale of the military. Like a congregation of Tipper Gore clones they loudly bombasted, "Oh, would someone please think of the soldiers!" At the same time, those same people in the Senate, as well as Bush, reject a timetable for troop pullout, saying it would put us in serious danger and give the insurgents a plan for attack.
Now let that settle in. A pullout date would put us in serious danger and give the insurgents a plan for attack. What are we in now, relative safety, and the insurgency in its last throes? Last throes? Oh sh*t, where have I heard that before?
This of course comes back to the extension. Secretary Gates issued at least a three month extension to everyone in Iraq, on top of the twelve months they already have. Their plan was to have units home for a full year before deploying again, but some units were coming back to Iraq and Afghanistan in ten months. It wasn't adequate time they decided. And since the military is stretched, especially during the surge, some units would have to spend more time in Iraq than promised. A problem arose from this. They couldn't pick and choose which units to extend to relieve the pressure, so with an effortless gesture of a pen stroke, 160,000 troops are being held for fifteen months (except us, we're staying for sixteen months! Hooboy!). Secretary Gates also mentioned that every soldier spending more than a year deployed will get an extra $1000 per month, and a guarantee of twelve months home between deployments and you're f**king lucky to get that much.
If I've learned anything thus far, a guarantee from the Army and three dollars will get you a coffee at Starbucks.
Let me give you a little backround if I haven't already. I joined the Army out of half patriotism, half desperation in 2004. I was still angry about September 11 and I totally f**ked up school. I barely made it out of there with a diploma, and I knew it was because I had no discipline or direction. I thought the Army would be a magic bullet for all of those problems. The war was going on for a year when I joined, and I thought it was just and right at the time. Flash forward to 2007, and please, let's be grownups now. There were no weapons of mass destruction found, reason one. Reason two, the connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, which is largely unfounded. So why did we attack Iraq in response to September 11? It was like getting stung by a bee in your house and responding by going outside and kicking over an anthill.
I promise you all, there's no method to the madness. I put my life on hold for another four months for nothing. Can you imagine? I know soldiers fighting in previous wars had it a lot tougher. Kurt Vonnegut had it tougher in World War II. But at the very least, they had a goal, a promise of a bright new world free of Nazism. Brave men literally fought for freedom, because if they didn't, the world was going to be in the hands of Germany and Japan. That was the light at the end of their tunnel. Do you know what the light at the end of the tunnel is for us?
Yeah, food. When we're on patrols and house clearing missions, what's keeping us going is not the promise of freedom and democracy in Iraq. It's the vision of hamburgers, fries and ice cream. I can live without a market based economy in the Middle East, but I can't live without a toasted ham sandwich. Several times we have raced back to the base to get to the dining hall as it closed. Something to eat is the high point of the day. Imagine the low points.
As Kurt Vonnegut suggested, our morale is shot to pieces. The few tattered remains left were eviscerated when they extended us four months. The most devious trick the media and the government has pulled in the last ten years is suggesting to the public that the soldiers believe in the mission and the war itself. In my unit that is definitely not the case. We just fight for food and friends, and the hope of getting home. I know a few people who still believe in the cause. I would know one more, but he died when I was on leave.
Remember that naive 19 year old kid I described earlier? The one unsure about his future that wound up in the Army? Those kinds of kids are the most succulent prey in the system. Kids that age and a little older are slammed with guilt trips to reenlist to stay in for several more years. In Iraq they are given $15,000 bonuses, tax free. That's a lot to a kid, very irresistable. At the same time, they are browbeaten by their superiors into reenlisting, saying it's for their own good. You'll fail on the outside. Stay where you're loved. What else are you going to do? All common phrases thrown around in the countless reenlistment briefs I've attended. But it's 2007, not 2004, and I'm not falling for it a second time.
Earlier editions of this blog have mentioned the date in which I seperate from the military, November 24, 2007.
That is merely symbolic now. After coming home, you must stay for three months so they determine you're not crazy and all that. Our return home date is October 15. So that means I'll be held against my will again, until January 2008 it seems.
So Lauren, my sweetheart, I won't get to go on summer walks and picnics with you. I hope Pike's Market is nice in the winter. Mom, I won't be there for your birthday. Yours either Dad. Can't forget Andrew's. And Albert's. Won't be making your wedding either, Albert. To the students of my high school, I won't get to thank you in person for the letters and packages you sent until November at least. Readers, fear not! Despite the caustic undertone of this entry, I am glimmering with hope. The dining hall opens in ten minutes for breakfast, and they make some killer omelettes.
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you
different. -Kurt Vonnegut
The above, noted by Eddie, is from Alex's "Man, I'm Hungry" (Army of Dude) and it's one of two Iraq blogs that Veterans for Peace has noted. Turning now to an AP story (which may sound familiar), Penny F. Johnson (39-years-old) was court-martialed April 15 and found guilty of "being disrespectful during a conversation with a captain at Camp Arifijan, Kuwait, on Nov. 14, 2006 and of failing to report to Ali Al-Saleem Airport on Jan. 29, 2007 for a flight to Iraq." If it seems familiar, you may be remembering Sean J. Maxwell whom we noted on Sunday.
Today the US military announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and two were wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad today." And Dems are saying they won't cave on non-binding measures (interview airs on Democracy Now! which also features Joan Baez today). We'll play wait and see.
Doug notes the following appears at Dennis Kucinich's website:
SITE DOWN TEMPORARILY FOR UPGRADE
Thank you for your interest in Dennis Kucinich. Due to enormous response, our website is undergoing a necessary technical upgrade and is temporarily down. Please check back again.
That was true last night. Which is why we posted the response to Hillary Clinton's proposed bill here last night (also because Trina had asked it to be noted):
In response to reports that Senator Hillary Clinton plans to support a bill deauthorizing the Iraq War on October 11th, Congressman Dennis Kucinich said:
"Now that Senator Clinton supports deauthorization, will she support defunding the war? When someone votes to fund the war 100 percent of the time and then says she supports deauthorization, it looks like a gimmick. Last week she voted to fund the war again. Every time she votes to fund the war she reauthorizes it. The true test of her commitment to ending the war is whether she'll vote to stop funding it. Congress will soon be faced with yet another decision on whether or not to fund the war. Let's see how Senator Clinton votes, to see if she is to be believed."
Congressman Dennis Kucinich opposed the war from the start and has voted 100 percent of the time against funding it. When President Bush vetoed the recent funding bill, Kucinich was the only member of the House to vote Present. He did so because he objected to the Congressional Democrats' position and to Bush's position. Kucinich has a plan to end the war: HR 1234.
On the issue of Kucinich, Carl notes Glen Ford's "Big Media Censor the Kucinich-Gravel Tag Team" (Black Agenda Report)
For those who bother to watch, the debates provide a brief glimpse of reality through an otherwise solid corporate media wall of distortions. The most grotesque distortion is that Senator Barack Obama is an "anti-war" candidate. Corporate media are only able to pull this trick off by pretending that the top two "tiers" of candidates are the only ones that count. Tier One is Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Tier Two is Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson. For all corporate media intents and purposes, Tier Three does not exist. Until recently, it consisted of just one man: Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the only genuine anti-war candidate - in fact, the only real progressive in the race, period.
Kucinich was joined in Tier Three invisibility by former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who hasn't held office since 1981. He was an early and fierce opponent of the Vietnam War. Gravel is not really a candidate; he is there to raise hell, on camera, with Tiers One and Two, all of whom are war mongers to one degree or another. As a non-officeholder, Gravel doesn't have to worry about the getting along with fellow party members after the elections. As an elder statesman, he must be accorded a modicum of respect when the cameras are rolling. He is perfectly suited to denounce and berate the phony progressives, the false peace candidates, as he did in South Carolina.
The Pentagon says 300 Iraqi soldiers died in Iraq (WP article noted by a visitor). Martha notes Ann Scott Tyson's "Projectile Bomb Attacks Hit Record High in Iraq" (Washington Post):
Attacks in Iraq involving lethal weapons that U.S. officials say are made in Iran hit a record high last month, despite efforts to crack down on networks supplying the armor-piercing weapons known as explosively formed projectiles, according to a senior U.S. commander.
The number of attacks with the projectiles rose to 65 in April, said Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who oversees day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq. "The overwhelming majority" were in predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad, Odierno said in an interview this week. Officials have said the projectiles are used almost exclusively by Shiite fighters against U.S. military targets.
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