"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Iraq borders a lot of countries . . .

. . . and yesterday, I flew by the borders of three of them. None of these borders are particularly close to the other. It was a long day, especially when the iPod adapter cable for our aircraft spewed out only static. You’d think listening to Bon Jovi sounding like the Chipmunks on helium would be funny, and you’d be right. For the first thirty minutes. After that, long day.

Well, nothing nearly as exciting as my last post has happened since, well, my last post. It’s getting hotter out here; we’ve cracked 100F a few times, and that will become more and more common in the days and weeks to come. We’re alternating between moving onesies and twosies around most of the time and filling up the back of two aircraft as part of the ‘retrograde’ out of this country. Bit by bit, bases are closing and gear is getting positioned to be airlifted out of here on massive C-5s. Lock the door and turn all the lights off, indeed.

Random highlight of the last couple of weeks: I flew Billy Blanks across the AO one day. Yes, Billy Blanks, creator of Tae Bo and master of multiple forms of martial arts, several of which are known to him only. He was out here as part of a morale tour that had taken him to seven different bases in seven days. I got my picture with him in the cockpit, and then he went back to his seat and promptly fell asleep. The picture will be posted whenever I get a decent Internet connection, but be warned: he looked a lot older than I remember from his infomercials. I guess years of throwing deadly knife-hands eventually wears a man down. Anyway, it was fun having him on board, and we certainly appreciated him coming out here to visit.

Soooooo, what else have I been up to? Well, I’m repeating a little of the formula from last year, though in a diminished capacity since my copious free time is no longer so copious. The xBox hasn’t been nearly as active as it was a year ago; we don’t have the plethora of gaming platforms that we did before, so the renowned Al Asad xBox Network has not made a resurgence. No matter: I finally finished Guitar Hero: World Tour (where watching Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘avatar’ sing “La Bamba” was a truly surreal experience), and have chipped away at Half-Life 2 on an Orange Box disc I found heavily discounted at Toys R Us before deploying. I grabbed a handful of cheap, venerable older PC games (ok, and one or two newer, less cheap ones) ere I left as well, but most of those have stayed in the box since Kuwait since the time just isn’t there (though back in Kuwait, I finally achieved Augustus Caesar greatness on Civ IV, partly by wiping out a couple of other civs while still in the Stone Age, and partly by, well, nuking my remaining opponents in the Modern Age. But those Byzantines had it coming. Also, while I completed my Moorish campaign in Medieval II, I failed to achieve my objective of capturing Rome and Jerusalem, interestingly enough running into the same problems the Moors did in the time of Charlemagne: once I pushed into France, the Catholic nations took turns beating me back, and I never consolidated much farther than the Pyrenees. But I did have fun using my Camel Gunners to scare the crap out of my opponents with their matchlocks). But it looks like my chance at re-writing eighteenth century colonial history with Empire: Total War will have to wait.

And I’ve been chipping away at my portable library as well. I finally finished Bing West’s “The Strongest Tribe”, which covers the entirety of the Iraq War through late 2008, but focuses in particular on the slide into chaos of 2005-06 and then the stunning reversal of the surge and Awakening in 2007-08. This one was a long read, not because it was particularly difficult but because the sheer breadth and scope of his reporting takes awhile to digest. Much like Michael Yon, I don’t think there’s a part of the country he didn’t embed in multiple times. His tone is quite similar to Yon’s – highlighting the awesome efforts of the grunts on the ground and castigating higher leadership, from generals to the commander-in-chief, for failing to provide a strategy worthy of the grunts’ efforts – but encompasses much more information. There are pages and pages of names in the back of the book under the heading “In Gratitude”, which by its length I at first thought was a complete listing of all the fatalities from the war. It wasn’t; it was the men and women, Iraqi and American, soldiers and civilians, whom he’d interviewed for the book. Bing West gets around. I’m also wading through the complete collections of Ambrose Bierce’s short stories, which are something I revisit in bits and pieces every few years but have never owned a consolidated volume (of). The man was the best type of satirist, one who could point out the foibles of his time while weaving compelling (and very strange) tales. He’d have a ball with today’s leaders and celebrities. And, of course, I need to geek out occasionally to help escape from deployment’s dreariness, so I’m reading – in alphabetical order – the “Dune Encyclopedia”, the ONLY authorized companion piece to Frank Herbert’s universe (ignore that junk written by his son and Kevin J. Anderson; their books are the worst kind of cashing-in).

Oh, I’m also rewatching BSG. From the beginning. I suppose I can’t accept that it’s over. But I tell myself that it’s to pick up nuances I might have missed before, and find clues the creators might have left pointing to the end. I may have already found one: in an early episode of the first season, Gaius Baltar tests several people on his Cylon detector, and while he gives a particular character a clean bill of health, when his 6 Angel asks him what the test REALLY said, he smirks and says, “You’ll never know.” Foreshadowing? Perhaps. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the show’s golden age. Um, I may have acquired the BSG board game too. I know, if LOTR Risk didn’t forever cement my place as an irreconcilable geek, this does. But the reviews were quite good, and the gameplay really tries to capture the paranoia of not knowing who’s really on your side. Everyone picks a character, and one of you is a Cylon, but you don’t know who. And while the humans’ goal is to jump the Galactica far enough to reach Kobol, as a Cylon, your job is to undermine the humans every step of the way without blowing your cover (once it’s blown, though, you still get to hammer away at the humans with basestars and Raiders). Throw in various crises, Viper/Raider dogfights, and a couple of nukes, and it should be a good game (and out here may be the only place where I can find enough people to play it with me).

Oh, the trials of war. We had movie night on the quad last night; a couple of enterprising pilots hooked up a projector, laptop and some speakers, and we watched “The Kingdom” on the side of one of our cans. Good times.

1 comment:

Bree said...

2 things:

1) If you and Billy Blanks were taking a picture together in the cockpit (room enough for two), who was flying the aircraft?

2) If you happen to "forget" and leave that game in Iraq, I wouldn't cry. In fact, I think you should leave it there ON PURPOSE. You know, to enlighten the Iraqis on the *ahem* wonderful cinematic qualities of Battlegeek Galactica.