Friday, December 30, 2005

In Memory of PFC John Steenge

I never wanted to salute a friend's boots, but I did so tonight. I don't have much to say about it right now. Things have been crazy since I touched ground on civilized soil and they may just start slowing down soon. Crazy when your friend dies. Been a hell of a year.

Bullets nor bombs can kill a Gladiator.

Dorman - Evans - Steenge

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

First, I want to just state that the frequency of my blog updates will be a bit erratic for a little while as I go through "re-integration" with the Army and "dis-integration" in my personal life. My primary task right now, personally, is the division of my old married life from the newly born "my life". Cathartic, stressful, necessary. Anyway, let me begin....

GOOD: I knew I had no family to greet me when I returned, but I had plenty of time to deal with that notion. I hoped that my neighbors, the Richards, would b able to show up since I didn't even know if I had a ride home. They marched us into a big tent, behind a curtain. We could hear the crowd getting excited as they played some video of us downrange. Then the curtain opened and the crowd went wild. No one there that I knew. Drink water, drive on. Found a ride home thankfully. When I entered my building, I was greeted with a wonderful sign on my door. Someone Cares ;) Frau Richard did a wonderful job of welcoming me home and making it easy for me the first few days. I was set up with food and (good German) beer in my refridgerator, TP for the throne, and my key. She did this all on top of helping me with my residual bills while I was downrange. They both have been wonderful friends to me and I can't thank them enough for being there to help me during my tough times.

BAD: On Christmas Day, my friend whom I spent time with downrange, was found dead in his barracks room from alcohol poisoning. He was young, too young. I won't release any details at this time, but it has hit our whole company hard. This is the second friend of mine that has died after a movement. The first was McKaig who was killed in a car accident right after AIT, before he even reached his duty station.

UGLY: Here are a few pics of the trip home.
Dorman and James on the C-17

Inside the belly of the beast

Me in our tent at Anaconda

A picture that says it all. My friend Darius longingly looking at a photo of his wonderful girlfriend as we sat waiting for take-off.

Friday, December 23, 2005

50 Weeks

I am home :) Will write more tomorrow when I sober up.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Not Just My Imagination

21 Nov 05, US News & World Report, cover story.

Also, days away from Deutschland. Jesse James cancelled an appearance at Anaconda, where I waited in line for 90 minutes to take a picture. Living in a tent and out of 2 bags for more trhan a week. Had a night terror the first night to which I awoke when my head smacked the cement floor, knocking me almost out. Hurt for days. Looking for advice on a next duty station, please help me with that one.

All Elements on this Net...This is Gladiator 2. Be advised that 2 with be off net for several days. 2 will broadcast when back on Net. Gladiator 2....out.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE. a three part series

So you children of the world, listen to what I say
If you want a better place to live in spread the word today
Show the world that love is still alive you must be brave
Or you children of today are children of the grave.

- Children of the Grave, Black Sabbath

Part 3: Opposition Symantics

In this final installment, I will try to present another aspect of the war, how it is assumed by Americans, some analogs for consideration, and then hopefully a cohesive explanation for my stance on Islam. I forewarn that the material is a bit dense so I will leave this entry open for an extended period of time.

I had alluded to the nebulous nature of our enemy in most areas of Iraq in the previous post. This began a new train of thinking on my part about the existence, focus, and driving force behind the "isurgents". It is my assessment from watching American news networks that we maintain troop levels here to secure the country against "insurgents". Sure there is that inexplicably slow process of electing a government, which we did last January, and are doing again in 11 days, but the reason fed to the populace is to defeat the insurgent movement.

Maybe I am overstepping with that last statement. I can't remember hearing the term 'movement' associated with insurgents; implies too much organization and purpose. What is the purpose of the insurgents? To disrupt? That is not a purpose. If it were a legitimate purpose then the insurgents would have been disrupting Hussein's secular government, also. They weren't. So what is the purpose of the insurgents? That is the dangerous question because once accurately answered, will unravel a much larger scale war. A war that only one side is truly willing to fight and die for.

It all began with a documentary about the rise of Castro in Cuba. Wednesday I walked into the shop and it was on TV, so I watched it. Fascinated by how much I was finally being told about the rise and work of the Cuban dictator, I started to realize how programmed we are to believe things in the name of Patriotism. I believe true patriotism comes from the honest integrity of the nation's society and not some pablum propaganda fed to us through the media. So, the documentary came to the point in which castro betrayed Che Guevara to protect himself. Che, though Communist, was a revolutionary and an icon in the realm of guerilla warfare. By definition, he was also an insurgent.

That is when the symantical game being played became more obvious to me. Insurgent has been presented and infused with a negative connotation. From the Wikipedia: When used by a state or an authority under threat, "insurgency" implies an illegitimacy of cause upon those rising up. In South America in the 1980's I remember them being called guerillas and our government funding specific (terrorist) rebellions. Even earlier in history, we Americans called them heroes.

I started my research on terrorism, insurgency, guerilla warfare, and government overthrow. There seemed to be nothing new in the existence of the current insurgency in Iraq, many conflicts in the 20th century were either based on insurgency, or insurgency was a factor. The difference apparently was the lack of an admitted unifying purpose for their actions. How could this be? Are these insurgents nothing more than disgruntled citizens showing their displeasure in copycat fashion? The level of insurgency here is amaturish in comparison to any other. Giving them the title 'guerillas' would imply too much legitimacy. The term 'terrorists' is not close to being appropriate since it is not terror they are promoting to disrupt a foreign government or society, it is their own. And also, most of the targets selected are military or political. A few are chosen to outrage as in the case of the Iraqi school children blown up near an American HMMWV. The 9/11 attackers were terrorists, the London bombers also. These folks in Iraq are guerilla by definition.

Guerillas, insurgencies, rebellions, conventional military operations all need a unifying ideology through which to communicate and base mission goals. It is no coincidence that the insurgent attacks in Iraq are all within the same realm. It is also no coincidence that events such as this happen. I have been blowing the horn of awareness since I started this blog and much longer before that in person. The common thread is too obvious for us to accept. It isn't an accident that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the President responded by reassuring the American people and the world that this is not a war on Islam. But it is.

How much reactionary opposition I have taken by people for years when I point this out. Amazing to me that the most vehement opponents to this idea are people that have the least interest in islam, the Middle East, military, or foreign policy. The hardest critics have been whitebread suburbanite caucasions christians surrounded by white suburbanite friends and family. Astonishing that mostly they parrot some news piece touting tolerance towards islam. Why so much attention to something that is not the poblem? Imagine as a parent, walking in to the kitchen and seeing your 4 year old son standing by the cookie jar. You say, "Hello", he says "I am not hungry for a cookie" and stands there smiling. Hmmmm.

But it isn't simple. We are not trying to defeat islam much in the same way we were not trying to defeat Nazism in WWII. Along these lines of political thinking, we supported Nazism for many years, but we opposed the annexing of Europe to Hitler's Germany. Analogously, we gain nothing essential by trying to defeat Islam, while we must make it a factor in our fight. Why? Because that is the anthem that the uprising proclaims. They proclaim after every act that they did it in the name of Islam for Islam. We ignore those statements.

Obviously the insurgents desire some result from their actions. That result has never ever been revealed in the American media in a truthful manner. It is my summation that the insurgents want to install a sovereign islamic government, autonomous and self-derived. Arabic peoples are proud to a fault by western standards. The presence of Americans is an insult to their cultural sensitivity and the hand holding we provide in the development of the new government is seen as a thin veneer for American Imperialism. Right or wrong, it is hard to deny, especially looking back on our own history. We would have accepted no outside intervention. We westerners see a need for security and support to facilitate the democratic process. This language and conceptual set is as foreign to them as is being shown the bottom a sandal would be insulting to us. And they don't trust us because of Israel.

The reason we as a nation cannot admit that it is a war against Islam is simple. The answer is 1.2 billion. Even a decent percentage of these muslims being sparked to any action would be disasterous for the US military and western culture. The world system would very possibly implode.

The insurgency in Iraq specifically started out with the intent to reinstate the Ba'athists' control over the region. Orchestrated by Hussein before his demise, the insurgency was political in purpose. Once that was dealt harsh blows, Al-Qaida in Iraq was formed and mobilized to aid in the resistance. al-Zarqawi formed this sister organization to Al-Qaeda for two simple reasons; self-glorification and islamic beliefs. Hussein's troubles gave al-Zarqawi the opportunity he needed to gain infamy on the world stage. After the Ba'athist-fueled insurgency waned, the islam-charged rebellion began. Islam became the tool for recruitment, the justification for the deeds. But Al-Qaida in Iraq is not a terrorist group, it is a guerilla movement.

The symantics influences how we view al-Zarqawi as well as the insurgents themselves. Calling him a Leader of the resistance is too Romantic to keep public opinion neutralized. After all, we don't want to see t-shirts with the glorified image of al-Zarqawi being sold at Spencer Gifts at the mall, do we? The western masses must not be sparked into thinking for themselves on foreign policy matters. Luke Skywalker was the Rebel Leader...leader of The Rebel Alliance. How popluar would Star Wars be if Luke was referred to as the Terrorist Mastermind....leader of the Insurgency? We root for the underdog many times, and many times it is because the underdog is right or has some qualities we can identify in ourselves. I do not find anything honorable in the insurgency, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. I wanted to point out how we all need to be careful of symantics and how powerful labels can be.

This post was inspired by a Freedom Fighter that I respect and admire for his conviction to his cause and his resolve in effecting his deed. Jan Palach brought attention to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1969 by means of public self-immolation. An everyday man can stand up and make change in the world.

Suggested Disillusionment tool: Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen