Sunday, October 07, 2007

A one, a two, a three... a what?

Via TBogg

David Freddoso:

But what about ordinary people of good faith, who love their country, simply expressing an opinion that a particular war is not worth the loss of life? I thought that the soldiers were fighting precisely for our freedom to express that opinion.

As as a quipster, I’m tempted to say that I thought or soldiers were fighting to rid the world of Saddam Hussein’s apocalyptical weapons of mass destruction that were going to have us spending our last precious moments of life squatting under a mushroom cloud waiting for our skin to melt.

No? Scratch that. Our blessed troops were heroically giving their lives to bring to justice the monster who unleashed 9/11 on us by crashing thousands of airplanes into thousands of twin towers.

No? Wrong guy? Well then, our patriotic warriors are selflessly fighting to bring Democracy to the middle east, giving their own lives so that Muslims of all sects can live and vote in paragons of participatory good government from West Africa all the way to Islamabad and beyond, a cause so noble it brings tears of gratitude to the eyes of anyone with an ounce of humanity.

The Democracy project not working out either? Damn.

At least they are nobly sacrificing all they have to give to secure our access to cheap middle eastern oil. Fill up the ol’ SUV? That’ll be $75 bub.

Any other ideas?

Ok, let’s try a new one! Freddoso suggests that our brave and sacred troops are fighting precisely for the right of ordinary people of good faith to criticize the war they are fighting in, precisely so that good people can criticize them. With great precision, the troops realize that if they were not fighting in this war, good people of good faith would have no war to criticize, thus there would be nothing to fight about and good people of faith would lose their constitutional right to free speech.

I admit that makes sense on a certain intellectual level, but my own experience suggests that the troops, many of them at least, are fighting for a variety of reasons.

Here I must confessed that I am a bit embarassed. I say my experience “suggests” because I don’t actually know the motivations of hundreds of thousands of individuals and, given my sad lack of all-knowingness, hesitate to speculate that they all fight for the same reason, even if it would conveniently support whatever point I’m trying to make. I'm so weak on mind reading that I can’t even say for certain why even one single person is fighting.

But I do actually know one person who joined the army and got sent to Iraq, and I can at least make an educated guess about why he is fighting. And I'm pretty sure he's not unique. His reasons are no doubt representative of a lot of the troops.

A friend of my family, we’ll call him Joe Bob for the purposes of the internets, recently enlisted in the army and after several weeks of basic training was sent to Iraq. I can’t say that I’ve known the kid his whole life, but I’ve known of him. My mother, I’m pretty sure, thinks of him as the good son she never had. When he came home for a few days leave between basic training and Iraq, he bought mom a fancy new tv. Me? Not in a million years would it cross my mind to buy her a television. It’s not that I’m evil. Just thoughtless. A television means nothing to me. It surprises me when I realize that it can mean so much to someone else. Point is, Joe Bob's a great kid.

Anyway, Joe Bob, like many young recruits, is from a small town. For you, reader, to best comprehend this story, it is crucial to understand that we cannot believe a word that anybody in a small town says. All of the characters lie. They lie to each other. They lie to themselves. And they certainly lie to poor chuckling, intentionally and otherwise. So we will never know for sure about college scholarships and the like, but still, the stories tell a tale that illuminates some larger truths.

Joe Bob’s mother is one of my sister’s best friends. She’s been hanging around our house for just about as long as I remember. According to her, Joe Bob was offered a scholarship to play football at a small, division III college somewhere south of Bumfuck, Tennessee. He lettered in high school but his prospective college coach warned him that he’d spend a couple years on the bench. Next thing anyone knew was that he had joined the army. He didn't want to sit on no bench for two years. The recruiter had promised him an exiting career in electronics! But when the papers arrived he had been assigned to the infantry. Damn the bad luck! But he would get some training in electronics. He would be a radio operator for a convoy in Iraq. The technical term for that assignment is, I believe, “I.E.D. fodder”.

What were Joe Bob’s motives for joining the glorious war against whatchamacallit? According to his mother, he did it solely for that career in electronics. That and because he is a total idiot. Understand reader, please, it is not me, chuckling, calling this fine young man an idiot for joining the army and getting sent off to Iraq. His immediate family and wide circle of friends are the ones calling him an idiot, usually prefixed with something along the lines of "stupid fucking." To a person they were mortified and repeatedly call both him and his decision stupid and every synonym they know that conveys the same concept. They hold no belief that he will be risking his life for anything the least bit noble. More than one person made the comment about the high price of gas.

Understand also that these people are not upper west side liberals. They are small town folk, the heart and soul of middle America. They have no college education, no trust fund. They work hard at low-skilled jobs that may or may not be low-paying. They are the Joe Sixpacks, the Reagan revolutionaries, the people who fought to be first in line to by the 9/11 commemorative magnets for their automobiles, the people who cursed Osama bin Laden and said “fuck yea” when George W. Bush said “bring em on.” The fact that these people think that a good kid is a total moron for joining the army is all the evidence anyone should need to know this stupid war is lost.

But back to speculating about Joe Bob’s motives, or in the bigger picture--what the fuck are we fighting for?-- I can say with near certainty that it never crossed his mind to join the army and risk his life precisely so Americans could criticize the war and his own participation in it. And this is just me speculating, but knowing the state of education where he’s from, I’d be shocked if he gave any thought whatsoever to protecting any constitutional rights. Fuck, I’d be surprised if he can name three, and that's giving one free cause I'm sure he's heard of the second amendment.

And it would be less shocking, but I’d still be very surprised if he gave much, if any, thought to the idea of defending America from our enemies. I’d bet the farm his thought processes had more to do with getting out of that soul-sucking small town in which decent job opportunities are few and dwindling, making some money, seeing the world, and having a few adventures. Defending the constitution? The American way of life? Oh, right, yea, that too.

Is Joe Bob representative of all the troops? No, of course not, but odds are good that he is representative of a hell of a lot of them.

On the flip side, is there a single soldier out there who is fighting precisely for our right to criticize the Iraq war? My guess would be no. The only thing Freddoso's opinion is representative of is the ridiculous extremes that pro-war morons who have been catastrophically wrong about everything will go to justify the continuation of the damage they are doing to our national security, economy, and the lives of millions.