Saturday, April 21, 2007

Man, I'm Hungry

"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 shit, 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 fucking 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 fucked 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?


Food.


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




AH

14 comments:

Jeff said...

I never read any Vonnegut as a student lo, those many years ago. Maybe I should find a tattered copy and start turning the pages.

Love,

Dad

Lisa said...

I just found out about this amazing site. I have more reading to do here. There are other active duty speaking out but mostly here in the US. My brother is Sgt Ronn Cantu. He is in Iraq on his second tour. He runs his website soldiervoices.net from Baghdad. He posts under the name of shockandawe but he is public with his identity.
I will tell others about this site. You are part of something bigger.

Jeri said...

Hi,

We are passing your blog around here, thanks for writing it. I was so sad to hear about the extensions and hope you are keeping your spirits up any way you can. Keep writing and we will keep reading, and trying to get you home. My son is an Iraq vet, was there from the beginning for the first year.

Pamela said...

Hi AH,

Vonnegut was one of my heroes, too. I'm so sorry you are caught up in this clusterf*$%. You and many other Americans deserve much better. I worked in a defense think tank here in DC for a while, trying to make a difference, but I was so disgusted by the mentality and blindness of the place (and the disdainful way they spoke of soldiers, as if they were pawns to be bribed or whipped into continued service in a war that everyone in the Department of Defense concedes is a total failure but won't admit it in public) that I work now trying to promote equal rights for Arabs.

Kicking in doors and knocking down towns clearly isn't making us safer. People are people, all of whom just want to fart around with their friends and families -- even Arabs. And if we don't figure that out soon, we're in terrible trouble.

chris said...

hey this is chris capps. I was a camp victory fobbit last year from germany. I am a deserter now. I am supposed to be geting out of the army soon. Are you from germany also? I'm going to be living there after I get kicked out I'd like to meet you. Email me at blanccakount@hotmail.com.

Carla said...

Dude: This was harsh, but honest. It IS possible to support the troops as a whole and individual soldiers without agreeing with administration policy. We acknowledge the difficult nature of your work, and the ambiguity of your position. Above all we respect you and your comrades.

Carla

Blue man said...

Great posts Alex! I love your blog and your views on the clusterfuck in Iraq. As a former 2ID Lewis and Korea Master Gunner myself, I feel for what you endure in Iraq.

I hope you can keep blogging! If you run into a Captain Schourek over there, tell him his MG said whatup!

Keep it up!

A former 23rd Infantry Tomahawk!

deadissue.com said...

It makes me woozy reading some of this, as it takes me back...a lot of the beat-down, eager for things taken for granted by civilians, the "you'll fail on the outside"...I've been writing about these themes for a while now, and what I've come to find out is that unless someone has actually lived it, they either don't believe such stories or are inclined to doubt and assume that the writer is simply 'ate-up'.

I'll admit, I became an insurgent within my unit at some point. Nothing serious, just having to do with thoughts and ideas. Here's an example...I too discovered Vonnegut while wearing BDUs...found a copy of Cat's Cradle while wandering around after an appointment in Landsthul. Then I found Player Piano, and here is a chapter from that I KNOW you'll appreciate:

Player Piano - Chapter 7

One day in the middle of the week, copies of this chapter showed up all over the place, in the dining hall, several HQ buildings, etc...I had gotten up real real early and made the rounds. Nobody ever knew it was me. Little things like that seemed to keep my insides alive during the last year I was in.

Keep it up dude! Your writing is excellent, wide open...you'll be so glad to have this work to refer back to once you're out. I hope to read your stuff for years to come. Peace - DI

PS - Blue Man paid tribute to your stuff over at his blog, and on a really tough day, if you're feeling lost, take a trip on over and it will cheer you up. Here's the link to that post:

Blue Man: Army of Dude

Anonymous said...

Please keep blogging. It's an awesome form of resistance and those back in the world need to read your words and dig your emotions & intellect.

peace,

Hal Muskat
Vets For Peace
"Sir, No Sir!"

forgivenfoundone said...

Love your open and honest style of writing my fellow chow haller, lol. I'm in the National Guard, and we were extended from our origianl 12 month stent here to an additional 4 back in feb, so I feel your pain and angst on that one. Keep it coming, and let's get the fuck outta here alive huh?
Love & Peace,
SGT Raymond Camper, MN INTERnational Guard@ Camp TQ, Iraq:/

LaurenceTopliffe said...

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Invites the World to Witness the Imminent Success
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At the same time, Maharishi invited the world to witness the imminent success of the programs of the Global Financial Capital of New York to raise 55 nations to invincibility through the science and technology of the Unified Field, and thereby transform the world within a few months from poverty and conflict to affluence and peace.

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“God has made man in his own image to live long in immortality”

Until now, Maharishi said, military power has been measured by the number of young people ready to sacrifice their lives for the nation as an act of bravery and patriotism. “This is a very wrong, very pitiable understanding about life, about man, about God,” Maharishi said. “Every religion declares that God has made man in His own image. But God has made man in His own image to live long in immortality, not to die young on the battlefield.”

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Maharishi said dates are now being set when each of the 55 nations will achieve invincibility.

Blossoming of coherent collective consciousness
will bring victory before war

With the rise of coherence in collective consciousness, Maharishi said, the military will assume an exalted new role in the country: creating coherence in national consciousness. “The blossoming of coherent national consciousness will eliminate the enmity within the enemy and bring victory before war,” Maharishi said. “It is time for the military to live long in the will of God—and to let others live long in the will of God, too.”

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Laurence Topliffe said...

www.invincibleamerica.org, www.permanentpeace.org, www.victorybeforewar.org, www.mou.org, www.globalcountry.org

Stuart said...

A wonderful, intelligent, anti-stupidity blog site. I think of it as a spur for enlightenment, a continuation from Viet Nam? War need not, and should not be the means for distilling out intelligent voice.

A successful anti-war strategy, I must agree, would engage simply the newest technology - as referred to by Topkiffe in Conference On Invincible Defense - which upon making a country invincible, the irrational basis of war and thus the war itself simply evaporates. This is the only direction that can be regarded as progress. To bring about national invincibility would be to fulfill ones military obligation. Investigate. There is no "they" to do it, and no more time. Maybe to bring forth this, I survived Viet Nam.

"I'm not anti-war, just anti-stupidity." - Arlo Guthrie

themorethingschange... said...

"You'll fail on the outside. Stay where you're loved. What else are you going to do?"

OMG.

Am I the only one who heard the voice of an abusive man in those words?

~P~