"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."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Short timer

Well, we’re coming down the home stretch of this deployment, and I was almost tempted to run out the clock before my last blog post prior to coming home. However, I’ve been screamed at on Facebook and various other forums to provide some kind of update to prove I haven’t been swept away in a sandstorm, so here it is folks, drink deep!

First of all, we’re in the middle of another sandstorm. They aren’t supposed to happen this time of year, but no one told this swirling cloud of doom which has engulfed the country for the last 24 hours. Yesterday wasn’t so bad, mostly gusty winds and dust hanging in the air, but not so bad I couldn’t go for a run at the end of the day (the power died in our cans just before I went to bed, which was a separate and more frustrating issue because I was showering at the time and the water died in mid-stream. Fortunately I was done, but the curses of Marines in the other stalls told me a few people weren’t. But Marines, being Marines, adapt and overcome, so a few enterprising corporals grabbed the cases of drinking water positioned everywhere around the base – which spend the daytime heating up to just below the boiling point – and used them to provide hasty warm showers. The worst part, though, is trying to sleep in the mid-day heat when all the air conditioners are inoperative thanks to the black-out and it’s 100 degrees outside. So I did what I did the last time the power died, which was drag some bedding down to the floor and let the heat rise above me. Sadly, it works: sleeping in 80 heat on the carpet is much better). I woke up, went outside to the head to shave, and it was still hazy. I got back to my can, put on my flight suit, and ten minutes later stepped outside into darkness. In the last ten minutes, a dust cloud thick enough to blot out the sun had rolled through. Sunset came about two hours early today. That was a fun walk to work.

Anyway, the reason I haven’t posted for awhile is simple: I have little to post about (about which to post?). The mission continues here, interrupted only occasionally by dusty harbingers of Armageddon. I’m still on nights, and haven’t flown anywhere more exciting than Baghdad on my latest missions (though on the last one I flew to Balad for the first time, thus getting one more check in the box for new and exciting zones. There’s nothing terribly unique about Balad: it’s a massive Army air base where aircraft used to get shot at frequently but is now simply a massive Army air base. One interesting tidbit of information is that it’s where high-value individuals were housed and interrogated, and where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s inner circle was slowly worn down until we knew enough to put a couple of JDAMs through the man’s window). Stories of additional excitement can wait until I come home, which will be soon enough. Our OEF brethren returned to us about a week ago to augment our numbers, and were quite excited to have good chow and living quarters located separately from the sewage processing plant (evidently there’s a ripe body of water next to the officers’ quarters in Kandahar called Shit Pond). I’m pretty jealous those guys will get two medals out this deployment to my one extra star on the OIF Campaign Medal; on the other hand, I got more flight hours and didn’t sleep next to a bog, so I guess it works out.

I suppose I could bore you with stories of what I’m reading, what games I’m playing, etc, but I’ll forgo that this time ‘round. Suffice it to say that I’m still re-watching – and loving – BSG, and after watching the pilot episode of the prequel series (“Caprica”) am sufficiently impressed that I’ll give the show a chance when it comes out. There won’t be any cool space battles or hot Cylons in this new effort by R & D, but I think we’d all enjoy watching the Capricans wallowing in hubris before the Fall and seeing how the Cylons came to be. It also promises liberal dashes of political intrigue, scientific ethics, religious conflict, and shadowy underworld dealings, all great staples of BSG itself. And hey, maybe we’ll get to see young Adama at the stick of a Viper. Also, during yesterday’s snow day we watched “Weird Science” at the insistence of another pilot who swears that I’m the reincarnation of the character Wyatt. For the record: I’m not and I reject all insinuations to the contrary. For the same record: boy, they sure don’t make movies now like they did in the 80s. No way could you have a modern teen sex comedy that managed to incorporate motorcycle-riding mutants and a large rubber blob voiced by Bill Paxton and be taken seriously. But somehow that all made sense in the 80s. Ah, those were simpler times.

Finally, it’s been a long time since I’ve played the politics/foreign affairs game, and it’s probably going to stay that way until I come home. Out here I don’t have the time or energy to devote to it, and most of it is too depressing to bear sustained contemplation. However (of course there’s a however), I don’t think anyone expected what we’re seeing in Iran right now, and it could turn out to be a significant turning point in that nation’s history (for good or ill). For the longest time, Iranians had the façade of democracy: they could vote for any one of several candidates vetted by their unelected and all-controlling theocrats. It was always a sham, but provided sufficient ammunition for the clerics and their apologists to argue that theirs was a true republic. Well, the sham was exposed for all to see when the votes were counted (ten of millions, by hand, only two hours after polls closed) and Nuclear Mahmoud won by a landslide across every demographic and in every part of the country, even his opponent’s home territory. Despite this incongruity - only slightly more believable than Rush Limbaugh winning Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat – Ahmadinejad claimed victory and his clerical backers quickly supported him. The only problem was, hundreds of thousands of Iranians who were willing to play along with the lie that their vote counted didn’t appreciate it when the theocracy clumsily demonstrated just how pervasive the lie was. These Iranians are now taking to the streets, demanding a recount and getting their skulls beaten in by the Revolutionary Guard and basij for their troubles. This is the kind of confrontation that can bring down the most flagrant of tyrants, and I can only hope that this is the beginning of the end for Iran’s radical clerics and their thugocracy. But I’m not about to break out the bubbly just yet, because there are several ways this could go. One: these protests develop into a true democratic movement which installs a truly representative government and ends three decades of brutal internal repression and international terrorism. That would be great. Or, the clerics could offer a recount or new election as a sop to public opinion, rig it more cleverly, and still end up with the outcome they want while bragging about Iran’s ‘progressive’ democratic process. Nothing changes. Then there’s the most dangerous possibility, which is that the theocrats spare no savagery in cracking down on the protestors, and while this would cost their ‘republic’ its last vestiges of credibility, they would be free to pursue nuclear weapons and renewed support for their proxies in Lebanon and Gaza without any domestic interference. This alternative is truly frightening, and the Western world should offer any support it can to these brave dissidents – even if it’s only rhetoric – to avoid it. Such encouraging comments are already coming, some from very unlikely places like French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who unequivocally called the elections an “atrocity” and the government crackdown on protestors “brutal”. Good for him. Still waiting for a similar response from the American side of the Atlantic in support of democratic principles, since the violence perpetrated by the theocracy’s street fighters goes beyond “robust debate”. Here’s praying Iranians soon come to enjoy the rights and freedoms denied them for so long.

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