Thursday, August 19, 2010


Last night, the Iraq War ended with nothing to celebrate. Seven years and five months later, as the last combat brigade crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait, the war ended with a whimper although 50,000 advisory personnel will remain behind for another year. After 4,415 American fatalities, 32,000 American wounded, millions of Iraqi casualties, the countless broken lives and wasted treasure … Mission Unaccomplished has been one long, tortuous saga of arrogance, incompetence, and stupidity bordering on criminal.

When our Vietnam veterans returned from war, they were vilified as proxies for the villains who sent them there. This time, we avoided the injustice. This time, we hurled our contempt at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bremer but honored our troops.

Awarded a second Bronze Star
I have good reason to honor our troops. My oldest daughter is an Iraq War veteran. She served in 3 deployments, each ranging from 15 to 22 months. War is a daily hell for the folks back home, a palpable anxiety that never goes away, dreading every knock at the door or telephone call in the middle of the night, the empty place at the holiday table, the person missing from every birth and funeral - seven years and five months of Family Life Interrupted.

Christmas 2006
I consider myself lucky. My daughter came home alive and intact. Tens of thousands of families were unlucky. Later I learned of the near misses - her barracks destroyed by a rocket while working overtime, nightly mortar fire, the roadside bomb that blew apart her colleagues and almost claimed my daughter, who scarcely recovered from flashbacks and nightmares before she was deployed yet again.

Christmas 2007
What has this mission accomplished? Iraq is a nation in ruins. The criminals who prosecuted this war will never be held accountable.  Ashes mingle with pollen. A police state has risen in the east. Again, our public square fills with indignant desert birds clamoring for new blood. There is nothing to rejoice, and the wine is too bitter.

Dawn over Baghdad


  1. I'm glad your daughter is okay. Yes this has been one of the worse atrocity's ever. We invaded a Country over lies. There is a secondary atrocity, those responsible are free.
    The only Court they faced was that of public opinion. I won't carry on about the Obama administration although I should. For his Part he now is copable. I wrote a little something on it. I was celebrating not a victory but the saving of lives.

  2. I am relieved and happy for your family, (O)CT(O), and admire your daughter. A happy ending for you, but as you note, not for the thousands of families who were not as fortunate.

    I just wateched for the second time "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train," a brief bio of the life of Howard Zinn--a peace activist, union supporter, and a hero of mine.

    I highly recommend seeing it.

    It is our family's time to hunker down and get through the next months of anxiety. My nephew was recently deployed to Afghanistan.

    His father, a bird colonel, served in Operation Desert Storm.

    I hope Matt returns to us as safely as did your daughter.

  3. Glad for you that she's home. It must be a huge relief.

    Just about every military action we've engaged in in the last 65 years has ended with a whimper. We're still in Korea, after all and we're likely to be in Iraq for a long time or until we learn the cost of empire the hard way.

    Maybe that's why we're obsessed with "Victory" when even real ones are elusive and ephemeral.

    I'm curious though, about the oft cited vilification of returning Vietnam GI's. I never saw or heard any of it. My own ire was reserved for Nixon and Johnson and their crew of inglorious bastards. Perhaps I have to add Lieutenant Calley and certain others, but I never was part of or was aware of any significant number of people trashing the troops.

  4. Shaw, having gone through these deployments with my daughter Jennifer, your nephew Matthew will be in my thoughts. If you have his APO address (hint: Private Beach), I would like to send a holiday care package to him and his cohorts as I did so many times before.

    Captain, the Vietnam vets were mistreated in countless ways, according to my recollection. They were called ‘collaborators’ and ‘warmongers” by campus radicals. Those vets who joined the anti-war movement were scorned by hardhats who called them ‘traitors’ with chants of “America, love it or leave it.” Both sides vilified them.

    The system abused the vets in other ways. This story surfaced recently: Honor Restored, Vietnam General Exonerated and Regains Rank.:

    John D. Lavelle was forced to retire in April 1972 at the rank of major general — two stars below the rank he held as commander of air operations in Vietnam — after being relieved of duty for ordering unauthorized airstrikes against North Vietnamese military targets (…) The story took a new twist in 2007 with the publication in Air Force Magazine of an article by a retired Air Force general, Aloysius Casey, and his son, Patrick Casey. They used declassified documents and transcripts of President Richard Nixon's Oval Office audio tapes to show that Nixon had secretly authorized more aggressive bombing in North Vietnam in February 1972.”

    Too bad the general did not live long enough to see his honor and rank restored. He died in 1979. The general served as fall guy for Nixon, arch slime bucket of all time.

    Returning soldiers (with missing legs, navigating college campuses in wheel chairs) were denied VA benefits because, when asked by the VA where they were injured, the VA responded that there were no soldiers in Cambodia and Laos (the official cover up) and denied their claims.

    An inordinately high number of Vietnam vets (amputees suffering from depression and PTSD) were homeless and lived on the streets.

    This movie, Born on the Fourth of July (1989), tells the true story of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed war vet, who felt betrayed by the country he fought for.

  5. Octo,

    I'm glad to hear that your daughter is well and home. Best wishes for Shaw's nephew.

    It seems to me that the Iraq War has failed in the sense that the reasons given for it, and the objectives attached to those alleged reasons, haven't been met and couldn't have been: Iraq wasn't the huge threat it was made out to be, so there was no need to bomb it into submission and then get caught up trying to police and govern a badly damaged country. Neither has going over there made us safer in "post 9/11" terms -- a good case for the reverse result could be made due to the bloodiness and complexity of our occupation period.

    So much suffering and misery, and that's the best we can say about the whole thing?

    What I remember most about the Vietnam War's aftermath is the negative, demoralized portrayal of both the war and its veterans in popular culture. I don't know about all the claims of personal vilification (being spat upon, and so forth), but certainly the period's films and general public attitude were dismissive and negative.

  6. Octo, please convey my humble thanks to your daughter for her work and for her sacrifice.

    And to you, for yours, Dad.

    I watched the Howard Zinn documentary recently. Like this post, powerful stuff.

  7. Fox News Covered Iraq Withdrawal For Under TEN MINUTES:

    Nowhere was the difference between the cable news networks on starker display than in prime-time coverage on the night the last American combat brigade left Iraq following a war that started seven years and five months ago.

    MSNBC devoted its entire prime-time footprint to the story …

    Fox News Channel devoted just under 10 minutes to the story …

    CNN, meanwhile, spent an hour on each story

    (No need to guess which cable news station is turning the country into a mindless rabble).

  8. My thoughts to you and your daughter.

    I didn't support my (then) government's commitment to join the coalition of the credulous. I was convinced the threat was overstated, that the war would be short, and that the occupation would be a catastrophe.

    No... the wine is indeed bitter.

  9. Octo - Disagreements aside, I am happy your daughter is home and now safe out of harms way. And I honor her service to our nation.

    It may come as a surprize, but on the substance of your post I cannot disagree.

    Shaw - Best wishes to your nephew and hopes for a safe return.

  10. I'm aware of the official mistreatment, which still ocurs of course. It's just that on campus and in the streets, I saw nothing of what seems now to be part of our accepted history. Nothing at all.

    And if there were those on campus doing these things, what percentage of the country would that represent? I can't get rid of the suspicion that this is a "truth" grafted onto the body of fact by people who desperately wanted it to be true for reasons of distraction.

    Who is there at my age who didn't have friends in Vietnam? Some came home as heroes some didn't come home. Some volunteered, some went involuntarily, but I didn't hate any of them.

  11. (O)CT(O):

    Here's Matt's address. I'll be sending a box of goodies to him this week:

    Peterson, Matthew
    PRG 6-3
    APO AE 09354

  12. Having watched my father go to Vietnam TWICE....and thankfully return TWICE I have to admit that I have watched the return of these soldiers with true empathy.

    Back then there were no big ceremonies and no sharing...

    But I will never ever forget running home from school on the day my father came home....and then running and jumping into his arms...

    After all these years I can still remember the moment as if it was yesterday...

  13. Octo: I’m so happy for you. As a parent, and a mom of a son who has recently joined the Army, I can only imagine what you’ve endured the last few years. My heart joins yours in overwhelming relief that your daughter is safe within your loving arms. Please send your courageous daughter my gratitude for her loyal dedication and duty to our country.


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