LTC Bateman is back again today -- but if you need an Alterman fix, you can see him here, debating Real News Network's Pepe Escobar about Barack Obama's pragmatism versus his progressivism.
"Hey, Bates, so when're you gettin' out and getting' a real job?"
For the first decade after I donned this uniform, this was a common question from my old high school buddies in Bainbridge, Ohio. In truth, I suspect that this says something about American values as they have developed over the past 40 years. None of my buddies, staunch Republicans (when we were kids) even realized the ingrained insult. This is understandable. It is an integral element of all of American thought. Consider. How often have you seen the following semi-phrases embedded in an account of a soldier's life:
"...get out of the military and restart their life..."
"...retire and start a professional career as..."
There are dozens of permutations, of course.
Eventually my civilian friends realized that I was not "getting out." Until that point, my response had been a simple non-answer. "Well, as long as it's interesting..." That, sadly, was a lie. Necessary, for cultural harmony, but a lie nonetheless. There are permutations.
"Attention to orders," the speaker gravely intones.
At these words, the uniformed members of the audience stiffened into the position we call "Attention." About half of those in civilian clothes, conditioned to a near-Pavlovian level by their own decades of service, did the same.
There is no simple way to describe what follows.
Friday last I watched Colonel Chris King retire. I watched a man I know well choke up with tears. I watched him struggle with his words. His efforts are not unique. I have seen several friends wrestle with the same. Consider this: Why do grown men cry when they are honorably relived of the burden of putting their very lives on the line? Mull.
You can write to LTC Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com
On the Validity of the Destruction of the State which is North of Ohio: Here.
British Punk gets it about right. Anybody who can combine "wankers" and "Michigan" works for me.
Ummm, did I just admit that I act?
Name: Ken G
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ
As always, it is a pleasure to hear from LTC Bateman, and get his perspective as a military man on what is happening in Iraq. I have personally used the comparison between Iraq and the Philippine campaign many times myself. However, I think an important point is being glossed over here.
During the Philippine insurrection, one of Aguinaldo's officers (and later President of the Philippines), Manual Quezon, was quoted as saying in a fit of frustration and sarcasm: "Damn the Americans. Why don't they tyrannize us more?" I think that statement, from a rebel leader, speaks volumes about American efforts to pacify the Philippines and why it worked so well. I think it also speaks volumes about Iraq and why our efforts there have not been nearly so successful. While the average Filipino quickly found that they liked the Americans and appreciated their humanity, I don't think the same can be said for the Iraqis. I may be wrong, but I don't think any of the various groups who are (or have been) in rebellion against the U.S. in Iraq has ever said anything remotely like that about American actions in Iraq, nor have they had any reason to. That, in my mind, is the difference between Iraq today and the Philippines 100 years ago and that is why I get nauseous each time I hear of another American and/or Iraqi death.
LTC Bob responds: Actually, we were horrific. Between 200,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos died because of us. We succeeded, yes, but at what cost? From my seat I am not sure about this.
Col. Bob wants to compare Iraq to the Philippine insurgency after the Spanish-American war at the beginning of the 20th century. Sounds believable, at first. Four thousand US troops killed, guerilla warfare, in a far off land. But was overthrowing Saddam's government the same as ending Spanish colonial rule? Did the Philippines harbor WMD? Had the US recently sustained a terrorist attack organized by those in or near the Philippines? Did the Philippines have vast reserves of oil? Not to mention the demographics there, mostly Catholic, some Muslim. But the majority Catholics had some status, even under Spanish rule. The Shia in Iraq, not so much.
I feel for Col. Bob on this point, his affection for those Iraqis he knows and worked with, which I assume parallels the "Compounding the sentiment was the feeling that we should not leave things half done, stemming in no small part from a sense of obligation towards the people of the Philippines..." And it is awful that many huge mistakes were made, mostly by the civilian leadership of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, et al.
My questions to Col. Bob, and all the others that want to continue this war/occupation/surge, call it whatever you will -- how will we know when things are finally done? And more importantly, how do we get there? At what cost, in terms of lives, time, and dollars? And on a more personal level, Col. Bob, why do you and others like you feel obligated to try to fix this situation, a situation you were thrown into based on lies and god-awful planning? I know it's hard to turn your back when you have so much invested in something, but sometimes I think this is more about Vietnam than Iraq or the Philippines, or any other conflict, as in, if we had just stayed and been more dedicated in Vietnam, it would have turned out so much better. I look forward to hearing your opinion, especially on the issues of how to best resolve this from now into the near future.
LTC Bob responds: "The End" is a false premise. Morality should (though does not always) determine your answer. This is, sadly, not often the basis of our decision making.
The decision to keep the Philippines after the Spanish American War not only led to the Filipino Insurrections but also played a part in the US involvement in WWII. The Japanese wanted the oil in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and in order to get the oil, they had to conquer the Philippines. In order the conquer the Philippines, it was necessary to attack Pearl Harbor and destroy the US fleet.
Since WW I, oil and war have gone together.
LTC Bob replies: I disagree. We can do this via email, though. Write me.
Not only did Lt. G's superiors make him quit posting but they also had him delete the prior postings. His wife to be (know as City Girl) has registered the Kaboom blog in her name and has posted an update on the site.
As an old air farce bomb painter from the Vietnam Era, who guarded the southern border at Juarez and spent time in Southwest Asia, I don't have the wartime experience but I think LT G is a damn fine soldier and an excellent writer. It is a shame that this wonderful blog was pulled, I had recommended it to my twenty four year old son who is graduating from college and thinking of taking up the challenge of being a warrior. If he goes, I want men like LT G by his side.
To Lefty From Burque, who was unconvinced but open-minded on Radiohead:
The best argument for Radiohead (and any truly great music) is the music itself. I recommend you listen without distraction (no magazine, no driving) and turn your stereo LOUD. This is more about getting the richness and depth of their sound. Put on "Kid A" track one, "Everything in its Right Place." Sit back, think about what you're hearing. If you're musically inclined, try to figure out how they break up the 10/4 time signature.
Also, I recommend seeking out some bootlegs. Your wife will dig it, and you'll likely prefer the live versions of many songs, particularly those from "Hail to the Thief." Take "There There" where the tumbling overdubbed percussion becomes a conversation between the three different band members playing drums.
Bateman & Pierce will be interested to know that many of us in the State of Michigan have been agitating for years to leave the US of A and join the Canadians. Better beer and better hockey -- how can we resist, eh?