Friday, April 20, 2007

War from All Sides

April 20, 2007
My first post's title "Time to Write" turns out to have a nice double-entendresque relevance. Not only can it be the time to write, but you must also find time to write. In workaholic America, writing on the side can be a spotty affiar unless one doesn't need sleep. That's one of those "used to's" that just "ain't" any more.

It's also frustrating as there has been no lack of material to write. Most of this week, as I get home and grab a late dinner, I've been watching the "America at the Crossroads" series on PBS. It's certainly a riveting series that's really examined the biology of the war on terrorism (especially Iraq) from numerous perspectives. Watching how this war was conceived, birthed and is being schooled schizophrenically in its adolescence is no surprise, but still compelling to see the hindsightful tying together of the various loose ends.

But even beyond that are even more surprising elements in other segments dealing with subjects as wide as Richard Perle's defense of the war in Iraq, to hopeful Muslims -- American and Iraqi -- trying to plot a future away from the radical fundamentalists of Islam, and the military's and Americans' concerns with our own government's direction. But what should be required viewing was a segment of Iraq viewed from the rank-and-file's own eyes and in their own words. The soldiers' views aren't monolithic but rather varied. Yet when candid and given the forum, these men and women who appear superficially to be simply "fighting machines" are quite adept in expressing their sentiments.

They are also very ccanny in their ability to recognize all that transpires around them, describe it in professional detachment, and yet still manage to simultaneously place themselves firmly in the midst of this harrowing warscape they describe. Perhaps it's always been this way through wars immemorial, and that what we're seeing is only now evident due to the computerized information age.

While some of the views run toward the "Hadji hating" that some might pigeonhole troop mentality into, most of those expressed actually took that stereotype and unceremoniously tossed it in a dumpster. A number of the soldiers quite solidly recognized the humanity of the Iraqis they protected and even fought at times. They noted the commonality of their desires, hopes, fears and dreams ... and yet still had to pick up their rifle and battle them at times, human contemporary or no. How they keep themselves centered in the midst of such madness and chaos and yet still manage to not only report, but artistically describe their viewpoint, is like watching Michael Jordan make one of his patented jaw-dropping moves and improbable baskets. It leaves you standing agape in amazement with only one thought: "I couldn't do that on a bet!"

In contrast to those in the war trenches with their sensibility and humanitarian concern, we share a lesser degree of that Christian grace here at home. It's far too easy to remain fixed on "enemy as object" here at the homefront. There's still folks who feel that bombing the whole landscape and "turning it into glass" -- after we pull out our own troops -- would be the best option. The folks in Bubba-ville, with can of beer in hand and propped up in a recliner, are still going to stick to their views ... and will be more than happy to cheer the war from the sidelines while imploring the troops to surge and to win. U-S-A! U-S-A! Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!

Yet I can't help thinking that if more of the soldiers' views were prime-time, talk show views spilled out of the TV sets -- more shows like the soldiers' writing segment on PBS' Crossroad series, instead of the platitudes of the talking heads who've never seen a day in combat -- that we'd be in a far better place in America today. Unfortunately, we've got the neophytes talking down to the experienced and the uninformed directing the battle-schooled.

Until we recognize that all sides in this war are human, indeed the war is lost.

More on this in the next post....

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