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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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To great Americans at home and abroad

I've been delaying the publication of this post because I rarely post anything regarding the War in Iraq or other political hot-button topics. I wanted to publish it last Friday, but couldn't seem to press the "publish post" button. However, since this regards books and writers it fits this blog's niche.


Part of my cousin's Iraq story is in a book I just read. To be honest, I didn't read the entire book. I hopped from chapter to chapter searching for an account of my cousin's Iraq experience. I haven't actually seen him since I was we were children and living in the Upper Midwest, and now we're adults living in strange, different days.

The book is Crosshairs on the Kill Zone. It is a collection of military stories of snipers who participated in Vietnam as well as Iraq.
[A] new generation of true tales... including the feat of Sergeants Joshua Hamblin and Owen Mulder, who took down thirty-two enemy soldiers in a single day outside Baghdad in 2003.

I read Owen's story in Kill Zone and didn't know what to think. I had just finished reading Umberto Eco's essay "Reflections on War" from his book Five Morals in which he concludes that war is an economic and social waste. However, it is a reality that needs to be understood. He also made a resounding point by stating that intellectuals should not play the pied piper to government leaders. It is the role of the intellectual to disseminate the unglamorous truth and deliver it to decision-makers without the intellectual's personal agenda.

Owen's account, from Sergeant Hamblin's perspective, was a clinical report of what happened. I know there must be more to the story than what is in print, but I am amazed by his heroic efforts.

My position on the war itself... I did not support the invasion of Iraq. However, I know faces of men who serve on the forefront of this war. I know a boy who entered the Marines earlier this year and by late summer said it wasn't exactly what he expected. First-hand stories of what is really going on in Iraq have changed my criticism of the invasion. I agree with Senator Joe Lieberman that...
"The war (in Iraq), which arguably began as a "war of choice" has become a "war of necessity" we cannot afford to lose. The costs of victory in Iraq will be large for the U.S. But the costs of defeat would be disastrous for the U.S., Iraq, the Middle East, and most of the world.

I believe Senator Lieberman is a great American statesman for taking that stand regardless of our party's general tone on this topic.

After reading my cousin's battle story, I realize there are certain realities in this world that never change. I remember, when I was in grade school, I had to face several playground bullies. I remember one guy (and his gang) had it in for me simply because of my father's occupation--a local minister. On the last day of the school year, he and some of friends chased my brothers and me across a vacant lot and cornered us. Pushing, tripping, hurling dirt clods and rocks led to a deteriorating situation. Things looked badly for us brothers. To our relief, the older son of the apartment community manager (where we lived at the time) came to our rescue and the bullies' tucked tail and headed back through the vacant lot.

When kids fight on playgrounds there is often a more manageable response to those conflicts. When nations fight the response is devastating. Yet the reality of playground bullies and national tyrants still exists.

The U.S. Constitution took roughly a year to write and ratify and a new government, free from tyranny, was born on March 4, 1789. Many Americans look back at the founding of this nation with romantic patriotism but forget the tremendous cost involved.

Sergeants Joshua Hamblin and Owen Mulder are great Americans. Not because of their sniper skills and recorded kills, but because their job was to protect the men and women they served alongside and to liberate the people of Iraq. In a small way, they embody the apartment manager's older son. In a large way, they helped Iraqis vote last week.

I read Matt Pottinger's column "Mightier Than The Pen" published last Thursday in the Wall Street Journal on why he left the Journal for the U.S. Marines.
[L]iving in China ... shows ... what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.

When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule.

Why does a writer go to war? In a nutshell, Pottinger said he was weary of writing about other people being an exception to the rule. He desires to be an exception to the rule in an intimate first hand way.

This country isn't perfect. As I write this, it is, December 16th. It was on this date in 1773 that the Boston Tea Party took place. American colonists, protesting taxes on tea, boarded a British ship in Boston Harbor and dumped more than 300 chests of tea overboard. What's the House-Senate working on today? Ironically, on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the USA Patriot Act. This country isn't perfect, but it beats the nondemocratic alternative.

Thank you, to great Americans at home and abroad.

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