I routinely read many soldier's journals over in Iraq, and lately, I have seen numerous posts about my LJ friends losing their close friends over there. I've seen them in photos with their dead friends. I've seen pictures of what happens to an Iraqi who drives too fast late at night, only to see the US checkpoint up ahead too late. I've seen people turned into gaping red florets of flesh, burst open by bullets, ripped into chunks by bombs. Pieces of brain and gore scattered about. I've seen soldiers say fuck the war, fuck Iraq, fuck the president... numerous times. I've seen several brave, cocky young soldiers leave Fallujah frightened, horrified, and fragile, death real to them for the first time. I've seen them detest their fellow soldiers when it was all they could do not to scream or break down in tears, only to see others who seem unmoved or inhuman. I've seen them have their hopes shredded, kicked in the gut, watching their relationships fall apart 7,000 miles away. I've seen them try to be oblivious to mortars and rockets, only to return home jumpy, depressed, drunk... ghosts of themselves. I've seen them fight for some sanity or meaning after all they've gone through, only to return to mediocre and sometimes desperate circumstances in a land suddenly so foriegn, a home they cannot fully return to. I've seen them want to go back to Iraq, because there was no other home for them anymore, and because their friends were still dying. I've seen them threaten to kill themselves should they get sent back to Iraq again.
I look at this rant and I think "What do I mean, "I saw"? Who do I think I am? Ginsburg?" No. Ginsburg was a spoiled, intellectual drug-addled beat poet, and I am most definitely not *some* of those things.
I'll be home for Thanksgiving, having turkey with my family. Hell, I think I will have some turkey now, just because I can. Because I'm not in another country halfway around the world, held against my will by a people who sign up their sons and daughters by appealing to their best intentions, most noble aspirations, and basic human needs... and then send them off for a 15-month vacation to the land of shit and death, where they get to play Russian Roulette... and watch all their friends play too. Oh... and they also get to try to kill people... hear them scream in pain... watch them die.
Let's admit that many of our "volunteers" would rather not be in Iraq. Infact, let's insist they be given the choice of going home, where they can happily defend their country instead. Seriously. If they don't want to be there, they aren't doing any good, either for the war effort or for themselves. They can't come out to play -- they're too well to do so. Let's not make them sick by holding them hostage, a victim of the old bait-and-switch. But don't call them pawns.
Support the soldiers, not the war. The contradictions for my interactions with them are laid out before me like a fucking field of emotional landmines. The whole thing has catch-22 written all over it... and there is no winning move. Fortunately, I'm not there facing that far greater catch-22. I'm *definitely* too well to play that game. Give me a gun and let me fight to defend my homeland? Sure... any day. But not that.
I've seen all of this... and somehow I can handle it for the time being. It's changing me, though. I want to scream, and yet I can't stop looking. I wish I could make all of you see too, but I can't show you everything. I have friends, but they're distant. Thousands of miles away. Ones I have never met. And perhaps neither I nor they really trust each other. But we're friends nevertheless.
And yet, all I've seen are pictures and words. Electrons conveniently displayed and hyperlinked. I haven't really *seen* a thing. I'm just a war tourist, just passing through...
And yet the horror is still out there.
I feel sorry for those who lose friends, families, loved ones... or that noble bastard on your lefthand side. I feel sorry for those left behind, both at home and abroad. That said, as horrible as life can be at home, compared to those in Iraq, we're incredibly spoiled and fortunate.
For all of us, these are the dead years. But for them? Moreso.