Blogger has some kind of glitch that won't allow me to upload the eighteen pictures I had resized to post on the page today, so I'll just ramble for a minute.
Being home is both wonderful and weird. It's absolutely wonderful to see my kids. They are all doing well, and it's almost as if I never left in some ways. It's nice to know that the bond is just never broken. I don't know about them, but I have a newfound appreciation for them. It's a good thing.
Seeing my friends has been great, too; especially my old friends. It's a strange phenomena that most of you have probably felt... almost like time was suspended and you just saw them last week. You just kind of pick up where you left off. Neat. I feel like I owe many of my friends to see them while I'm here. Everyone has been so supportive while I've been in the year 1386 (that's what year it is on the Afghan calendar.)
It's also strange to walk among the people of 2007 and they have no idea of where I've been. There are no signs above my head, and so it's like being in stealth mode. It's strange because practically no one is really conscious of the war, especially the war in Afghanistan. There are no visible signs of the war here; other than on the news, I suppose. That which is reported is, to me, suspect and inaccurate. I will finish the topic of the mild feeling that I actually belong in Afghanistan more than I belong here right now before I get started on the other subject.
You will probably regret that I couldn't post the pictures instead.
My children (the older two, anyway) are acutely conscious of the war in Afghanistan, but most people are not. While the Afghan conflict is much more palatable to the average American, the level of consciousness is low. I do have to say that when people do know, for one reason or another, that I am currently serving over there, they are very supportive.
Yesterday I did a little picture show for the kids at my elder son's school and so I was in uniform. I was on the street later, still in uniform, when I was approached by a young man with a ponytail, a thin beard, and a guitar. He proclaimed himself a hippy and announced that while he did not support the war, he did support troops. He thanked me for my service.
That's a little different from the experience that my brother had returning from Viet Nam. His encounters with hippies involved dog feces and spittle.
So it feels weird to be in the society that I serve. At least for the moment. Not like Afghanistan isn't strange; I feel like I've seen all the characters in the bar scene in Star Wars in that country at one time or another.
Now the other topic... a topic of war just as serious as rockets and machine guns. We call them "non-kinetic" effects. In a manner of speaking, we are shooting ourselves in the heads. Our mainstream media, which is a funhouse mirror reflection of our national consciousness, is the hand holding the non-kinetic gun and blowing our collective brains out of our national skull in slow motion. The little bits and individual cells of gray matter are spinning in bizarre frame by frame motion out of our shattered national cranium, destroying our ability to think.
The media is a funhouse mirror because it consists of people. Any human organization is affected by the personalities and values of those people who influence, or manage, that organization. (Thank you, Mr. Obvious!) Remember who runs the mainstream media. These were the reporters who made their names reporting on My Lai, the Cambodian incursion, and all of the events of the Viet Nam war. To them, their greatest moments were moments that affected the national consciousness to change the course of that war. Beating the tar out of the military and especially a Republican president is actually romantic to them. It's like having their old mistress back.
I know from first-hand experience that the media doesn't report the news. I know from first-hand experience that there was not a single American reporter in The Valley during a very significant event in the history of the Afghan conflict and Afghan history. The media in Afghanistan sits in Kabul and reports reports. They look at the blotter at the headquarters and make up stories as if they know what they are talking about, as if they were there. It is insane.
The people of the United States are being treated like mushrooms... they are being kept in the dark and fed manure. The government bears responsibility for this as much as the media. I have come to the conclusion that we, as a nation, are afraid of the truth.
But the truth shall set us free... if we only accept it and embrace it.
We should always tell the truth. The Army should always tell the truth; good, bad, or ugly. Period. Instead, we occasionally lie. Once caught in one lie, we are always suspect.
Remember Pat Tillman? Why lie about a thing like that? Just tell the truth, accept responsibility for your mistakes, and move on. The loss of credibility has not been worth the few moments of thinking that no one would ever know that we screwed something up.
We had embedded reporters with us in The Valley. One problem; they were military reporters. No mainstream media outlet will publish what they have to say, because it is suspected of being merely propaganda. In short, we could be lying. Why would anyone think we are lying? Ummmm... could it be that we are known to have lied before?
Hmmmmm... could be! (Bugs Bunny moment.)
We should be the champions of truth, and we are not. We have become a nation of spinmeisters, liars par extraordinaire, and we like it! We value our ability to lie. We have come to treasure and reward those who do it well.
My father always told me to be very very careful of those who speak of themselves in the third person. Our media does that. "The United States today...," "In response, the United States said...,"
WE ARE THE UNITED STATES, NIMROD! I want to scream at them at the top of my lungs that pretending that you are an outsider is ridiculous. It is speaking of yourself in the third person collectively, and it has even crept into our speech with each other.
Hell, the very letters tell us the truth... U.S.
We are who we are. Pretending that we are outsiders so that we can pontificate judiciously about ourselves is delusional. Our media does that.
Do you realize that the rest of the world tends to give more credibility to Al Jazeera than to what our own people say? Why do they do that? Because we are delusional and we have been known to lie. We have an inflated sense of our own importance but we have forgotten what is really important. We are de facto leaders of the free world who are so self-absorbed and busy pondering our own navels that we fail to really lead and castigate those in our society who dare to.
The rest of the world takes Al Jazeera with a note of seriousness because at least Al Jazeera has their priorities straight.
Our national persona is that of a drug-addled teenager who is busily ignoring the real world.
Perhaps that is what gives milblogging the impetus that it has. Many do realize that the truth is out here. Just because we are collectively insane does not necessarily make us individually insane.
Don't get me wrong; I don't believe that this war is necessarily one of national survival at this point. Our nation will endure. What may not endure is our way of life. There will be a United States of America, but we may be either a secure country or an embattled society. Having been an operative in an embattled society, I am filled with gratitude that my children live in a secure society. The national fervor for ingratitude is another subject. Everyone should be grateful to be living here. We fill our minds with inconsequential problems of NO import. We have the luxury of having enough time on our hands and idle enough minds that we can actually make a big deal out of such inane things.
We are also quite self-important; so self-important and busy with things that are so ridiculously unimportant that we can do things like leave a year and a half old child in a car seat for the entire day to die of the heat. Why? Donuts for a meeting. How wrapped up in inanity can we be? The individual who performed that feat of fatal child endangerment and neglect is but a symptom of our national fascination with our own self-importance and what we set on a pedestal as important.
Seeing people who struggle mightily for their daily bread and have no bandwidth for such insanity brings me to view such events with different eyes.
They do have their own insanity, mind you. But pointing at the other mentally ill patient in the ward isn't going to help you get well.
The point is that we are engaged in a struggle that will not just go away if we leave. The Vietnamese were perfectly content to busy themselves with their own country after our withdrawal. These guys are not. It is more than a political struggle. It is a religious and economic struggle as well as a political struggle and it is the single greatest threat to our national security that can even be imagined. It is a threat to our way of life, and to our children's future.
These guys will not quit.
We can either fight as a nation, using all of our resources, or we can risk a slow protracted bleeding to death of our way of life and our values. While many of our values are screwed-up, many of them are what allow my children to live so safely and peacefully.
I've seen children who never knew if a firefight was about to break out in their hometown. In one recent ambush, the kids were dropping their bikes and scattering as the RPG's screamed in. I don't want my kids to live like that.
What are our strengths as a nation? Well, we have a very powerful military... we all know that. Our military is so awesome that nutcases here in the states ascribe it such tremendous capability that they wear aluminum foil under their hats to protect their brains from the Pentagon's mind probes.
We also have a powerful economy. We need economic warriors.
Who will go to Afghanistan and destroy their hopelessness with the might of our economic prowess? This war is not just military and political. We can warp Afghanistan from 1386 into the 21st century more quickly with private investment than with twelve divisions of soldiers. Afghanistan has tremendous mineral wealth and high unemployment. Anyone getting the hint?
Alas, we have no warriors in business. Not really. They are like weekend warriors... warriors in name only who pull hammies playing softball while sucking down beers. Where is the great American road warrior? He does not exist. The military tries to fight the economic struggle, but we are warriors, not economists and business leaders. We do the best that we can, but we never made millionaires out of ourselves. Oh, wait; I know of at least one millionaire fighting in Afghanistan. He is fighting the Taliban, not poverty. That's fine, because he is a warrior, too. What about those among you who claim patriotism but abhor weapons? Can you fight for your country economically? Can you employ the weapons that you are adept with? Can you defeat primitive resistance to change with economic opportunity?
Can you help a brother earn a paycheck and show a guy how to mine iron ore for fun and profit?
No? Too comfy behind the wheel of your Lexus to risk your butt in Afghanistan? We risk defeat on that battlefield, then. Oh, and take that American flag off your desk and quit talking like a sidewalk hero.
What's another strength of our country? Our information infrastructure. We are using that strength to strangle ourselves. Our own media uses its perverse bias to abuse our own country on the world stage. We are not just losing the information war, we are fighting for the other side. It's like boxing an opponent while insulting yourself in the third person and constantly slapping yourself in the face with your left hand.
It's pathetic, really.
We, as a nation, will be taught a terrible lesson, just as Osama promised. We are winning the war in Afghanistan, believe it or not. We are winning because the Afghans are actually helping; not all of them, but a committed few. Our nation was built by a committed few. The uncommitted many always benefit from the committed few. Have you ever noticed that we revere Thomas Jefferson, but we never built a monument to Alvin Thomas? Why? Because Alvin Thomas didn't do anything. He sat at home while Thomas Jefferson helped build a new country. Alvin did, however, write a letter to the editor of the local paper complaining about paying a toll to pay for the bridge that the new government built. He was a busy man who waved the flag on the fourth of July every year.
I have no room to speak about Iraq. My knowledge of the situation there is anecdotal at best. What I have had a glimpse into is the mind of the Islamic extremist and the mulch upon which it feeds... hopelessness, ignorance, and malleable minds filled with religious fervor.
Osama and his boys are like a virus. They are tiny and primitive, but highly adaptive and self-replicating. They are the HIV of human society on a planetary scale. Perhaps the bird flu... we seem to take that more seriously now. He's actually more like polio; he will not kill our country, but he may leave us crippled.
As a nation, we have the weapons to defeat such a challenge, but we are a schizophrenic culture who speaks of itself in the third person while enjoying endless delusions behind our welder's goggles.
Where we are winning, we are winning in spite of ourselves.
Wouldn't you rather have looked at pictures?