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March 16, 2005

Time For A Gut Check

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

-Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, in the Washington Post

"A long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East.... This has so far been a year of heartening surprises--each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing."

-New York Times editorial

Somewhere in the MiddleEast, after decades of repression, dawn is breaking on a new day. But back here in the good old U. S. of A. the storm clouds are gathering. Seems that since November, some people have a bad case of buyer's remorse, which is certainly their right in a democratic society:

In the last week, I’ve had several extemporaneous conversations with Republican friends and relatives. Some of them are Born-Again Christians. Some of them are fiscal conservatives. Some of them are moderates who voted for Bush because they thought the Republicans were the best equipped to fight terrorism. One of them is a Republican blogger. To cut to the chase, they’ve all got “buyer’s remorse.” And it isn’t because of the bankruptcy bill, social security reform or the rise of the influence of the religious Right.

Perhaps ironically, they believe Iraq is FUBAR. And they started thinking that right after the elections there.

Here we go again.

Let me guess. They discovered (horror of horrors!) that even though their man won on November 2nd, the bad guys didn't throw their hands up in despair! That being, sadly, rather the nature of bad guys... You know... evil, sadistic, murdering thugs who saw people's heads off and rely on violence to get their way when they can't prevail at the polls?

Or perhaps it's those annoying bands of snake-handling Jesus freaks who've been raging over the countryside ever since November 2nd, rounding up homos and death metal lovers and 'people who look different than us' and burning 'em at the stake? I mean, I didn't really mind it too much when carted Jeff off, because he's from Oakland and probably has all kinds of strange habits, but I really can't stand it when they start quoting Scripture from that durned NSV Bible of theirs.

The ADD Nation is at it again. It's been... what? Four and a half months since the election? And we sit in our comfy leather chairs, and shop at Costco, and watch CNN, and count bodies like they were jellybeans, and fret about costs we never have to pay. Ooooohh....is it worth it?

Lcpl. Andrew Nowacki thought so. He'd be the first to tell you. But of course he isn't here. He didn't have time to sit around and debate esoteric topics like, "Is it worth it?". He was trying to change the world - to solve some of the pressing problems facing this country, and other countries. He wasn't "duped" into going. He volunteered. He wasn't a moron, or an automaton, or an idiot, or a manipulated victim, although it seems to make some people feel good to think he was.

On March 4th, 200 of his former police buddies escorted his body home along Ohio 2. He is remembered by his commanding officer:

...Marines by nature are a cocky bunch; that is one of the things that makes them run to the sound of gunfire when everyone else is running away from it. And, part of being cocky is being "macho" in your bearing. In my numerous travels about the AO, I am always asking the Marines why they never wave at each other. I mean, when we pass one of our many checkpoints, where the Marines on duty are doing deadly work, living hard and suffering great discomfort, I fail to understand why their fellow Marines fail to give them a quick wave or a thumbs up. But, you should see them. As the sentry at a checkpoint waves a patrol of vehicles through, the ritual of "I am badder than you are" begins. Each Marine stares the other one down through any number of brand names of ballistic goggles and covered in pounds of armor and high tech killing gear. As they come abreast of each other, the tolerant scorns are exchanged and no words spoken. It is as if each one is trying to communicate to the other via telepathy the same message: "you wussy, you don't have it half as bad as I do." Now, when they actually are around each other and not on some combat duty, well, then it is high fives and hugs and banter and jokes! But, on duty, the ritual seems rigid, inflexible and a violation of some unwritten code if it is broken.
So, back to the day when a piece of my heart was broken and part of my soul was crushed forever, Feb 26. The day that will always be remembered and honored in the Smith household as the day LCpl Nowacki departed gate 3 at FOB St. Michael, and later that day met St. Michael face to glorious face. On this day, we were scheduled to take the leadership of the unit that will replace us on a tour of the Mayhem AO. Now, we have our procedures down to a science, but as can be expected, when joining units unfamiliar to our ways, some confusion reigns. The confusion on this day led to some delays in our departure and a shifting of the "timeline." Any time the "timeline" shifts, Mayhem 6 becomes a not so nice person to be around. So, our vehicles were staged, our Warriors armored, locked and loaded and waiting for departure. This of course meant, the ritual of the "game face" was underway. I was standing next to my vehicle monitoring the radios and waiting for the final elements to fall in place when a second motorized patrol began to make movement passed our staged vehicles. By the combination of armored HMMWVs and 7 Ton trucks, I knew instantly it was "Heavy Roller" (the tireless Marines of Truck Platoon and Marines from H&S who move about the AO daily in support of hundreds of tasks supporting the Battalion, and who does so with their own skilled and self-provided security that has engaged many a Muj with the skill and precision of any of my infantry elements).

And, at the head of the column was a Marine standing behind his machine gun in the turret, with the largest smile on his face you had ever seen, and waving. Waving at every one of our vehicles that he passed at 5 mph as they followed their ground guide to the dismount point. I watched this and knew this was a Marine with a special heart! He was dispensing with the ritual. He had no need for pretention, no need for "badness." He was a Marine "comfortable in his own skin," as it were, and among those he loved. Something struck me as I was watching this Marine wave: he was living every day as if it might be his last, and he did not want to leave any unfinished business. You see, when we think of waving, we assume it is to say hello. But in this case, he was also waving goodbye, for the Marine who struck me on this day was Lance Corporal Andrew W. Nowacki. And hours later he would be dead...but no doubt, born again to new life.

In eulogizing their beloved brother, LCpl Nowacki's platoon mates reiterated the theme that he was ALWAYS the one that every one else clung to when they were at their worst, because he was always at his best. He was always joking, always laughing, always smiling. He was described as "the most unprofessional professional Marine" they had ever known. Far from being oxymoronic, to all Marines, that is the description of the Warrior upon whom so many have leaned on since the Corps was established. All Marines and Veteran Marines reading this will instantly know what I am talking about and will remember a Marine from their platoon who had the same quality and spirit of life as LCpl Nowacki.

What I have to say now is not nice.

It is not pretty. And if it is emotional, if it is not reasoned, not "measured", unlike my usual dispassionate tone, then I am sorry. Deal with it. Because I am pissed.

How dare you, safe in your comfortable little homes, go wobbly now, of all times, when we are so close to achieving all they have fought and bled and died for? If they can take it, how can you shrink from what needs to be done?

I can understand the people who have always opposed this war, although I don't agree with them. This, I cannot understand.

Look these people in the eye and tell them it's not worth it.

And get a fu**ing grip.

Posted by Cassandra at March 16, 2005 11:49 AM

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Comments

Go, Cass!

Posted by: cw4billt at March 16, 2005 01:19 PM

OOO-RAH!

Our "EXIT STRATEGY" hasn't changed an iota from day 1....We'll leave at the head of the parade on Iraqi Independence Day.Anything less is unthinkable.


Greg

Posted by: Greg at March 16, 2005 01:25 PM

Well said.

Posted by: Grumpy at March 16, 2005 01:53 PM

I have no buyer's remorse at all regarding Iraq. I've always been convinced that Iraq is the one thing the administration is doing *right*.


I get a little uncomfortable looking at deficit/debt numbers climbing and a crash of the dollar as a result and how that will affect energy prices, which in turn could possibly murder this economy like nobody's business; some minor tinkering in privatization as some sort of a "solution" to the Social Security issue; various legislative initiatives by bible-beating Republicans in Congress which are straight out of snake-kissing tent meetings, and not ALL of which will be getting filibusters by Dems in the Senate; an energy policy built on a foundation of denial (of the limited nature of petroleum as a resource); pharmaceutical companies going gangbusters to take "ADD America" and make it even more ADD, with no sign of regulation in sight; drug policy that has no respect for the rights of states such as California to pass their own laws; and some other general displeasure in some minor issues that rankle me.

BUT, I still haven't forgotten what John Kerry said about his fellow veterans. In that light, all these other drawbacks of a Republican win, are still worth it to this here Independant. So far.

Posted by: Ciggy at March 16, 2005 02:43 PM

You know, it's funny Ciggy, I don't even go to church. I'm one of those pusillanimus gay-loving, reluctantly pro-choice RINO twits that everyone loves to complain about having in the party but is kind of happy to have around, come election day.

So I really don't have a dog in this damned fight.

But from where I sit, religious people in this country have more to fear from the Blue staters and the ACLU than the atheists have to fear from the RNC. No one's trying to take away anyone's right NOT to believe in God. I've never seen so much fear and loathing and paranoia about religion as I've seen in this country in the past 5 years and it makes me sick to my stomach. And it's never accompanied by any specifics. What SPECIFICALLY are these people freaking out about?

I don't want to take away anyone's right to worship. I just want to be left the hell alone. Why can't these people just grow up?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 16, 2005 02:58 PM

And that wasn't aimed at you, by the way, Ciggy. I've just read some really disturbing things over the past few months and I'm getting tired of it.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 16, 2005 03:00 PM

And I'm being crabby. I apologize. I need to shut up.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 16, 2005 03:03 PM

Cassandra,

Thank you for saying exactly what I've been thinking.

Posted by: Mob at March 16, 2005 03:11 PM

Ciggy - We remember what he said about us, too. Thank you, sir.

Posted by: cw4billt at March 16, 2005 03:26 PM

Ditto.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 16, 2005 03:28 PM

Well, Cass, I suppose I could be lumped into the "Religious Right" category, except I part ways with them on keeping a big, intrusive govt to push forward a moral agenda. Public morality will not change without a change in the hearts of the people themselves.

A Christian revival sweeping through the USA will carry a change of public morality with it. This will work because the power of God in those peoples hearts will cause them to turn to the moral, and away from the sinful. Attempting the reverse will not work because you can't "force" someone to be righteous, and you are, in effect, attempting to change hearts WITHOUT the transforming power of God. This is prideful and wrong.

That having been said, I am not a church-going Christian, nor do I belong to any Christian organizations. I have found every such man-made structure or group to be modern day Pharisees (or "white-washed tombs" as it says in Scripture; i.e., a pretty facade, but rotten on the inside). I don't need to attend groups who spend all their time patting themselves on the back re how holy they are in a big mutual-admiration society.

I rocked the boat in way too many churches, since I despise hypocrisy. If you want to serve God and help your fellow man, then DO it. You don't need to announce it to the world or make a big production out of it.

I agree with them, though, that the anti-religious nutjobs should be opposed. The power of the state should never be used to quash or suppress religion or religious expression, whether in a public or private forum.

Since the ACLU is hellbent (pun intended) on eliminating all vestiges of Christianity from our nation, they should be vigorously opposed.

Posted by: a former european at March 16, 2005 03:30 PM

All we need to do (sigh...) is follow what's already in the Constitution. If people would just read the darned thing instead of trying to read all sorts of nonsense into it, life would be so much simpler.

But then we'd have to think these things through for ourselves, wouldn't we?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 16, 2005 04:18 PM

The religious initiatives are mostly regulatory (e.g., regular adult porn being prosecuted as criminal in L.A.; FCC's badgering of Howard Stern; and the enormous flap over Janet Jackson's PASTY-COVERED breast). I do remember seeing the other day something about a law that will make it illegal for companies like Benneton and Abercrombie and Fitch to hire models under 18, unless they're in a burqa or something.

But those are minor nits for me to pick. My gut sense of gathering doom is really on the economic scene. That just freaks me the hell out, and I see the economy completely going over a cliff once the bottom drops out from under the dollar. Energy, energy, energy. It's all about energy, after all.

Posted by: Ciggy at March 17, 2005 11:36 AM

Ciggy, you know what the Howard Stern, Janet Jackson, and modeling thing all have in common?

A desire to protect children.

While I have absolutely no desire to regulate adult enjoyment of risque material, as someone who just finished raising two children and who will soon have grandchildren, I have to say it does bother me a bit knowing it's no longer safe to flip through the radio or TV channels with a child in the room without having them exposed to things that the vast majority of parents just don't believe is appropriate for kids to view or hear.

I think Stern is offensive, but he's just plain dumb (IMO). If his broadcasts were limited to some sort of pay-per-view world where kids wouldn't be inadvertently exposed to them, I'd have no real problem with him. But even as someone who is not easily or lightly offended I don't want that stuff rammed down my (or my kids') throats ... so to speak :D

I think it should be a choice - I don't want to take it away from consenting adults, but neither do I want it forced on children or families or people who find it deeply offensive. I don't want my 5-year old asking me in the car, "Grandma, do you like 'anal'?" because I was flipping channels and couldn't cut Howard off fast enough.

I know people disagree with me on this, and that's why we live in America. But I think that if there's any doubt as to whether something is harmful, an adult society exercises a modicum of restraint and protects its young. With the easy availability of cable, movies, etc, I just don't think that's asking a lot.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2005 11:50 AM

And I think there are a lot of people who share your other concerns, Ciggy.

I have a bee in my bonnet about public decency standards, but I'm definitely in the minority around here (in fact, I seem to be the ONLY one who thinks there should be any sort of restraints). I guess I just didn't think it was so awful when I was growing up when some things were public and some things were private.

It's not so much (for me at least) a matter of morality (which you can't legislate, and shouldn't try to) as a matter of consideration for others in a pluralistic society. When you have people with many different standards of right and wrong, it seems to me that it makes sense to have a public standard that's somewhere in the middle (that will offend the least number of people - it gravitates to an "average").

That idea seems to be outmoded now - it seems to be now that everything must be allowed, no matter how offensive, even though, in a plurastic society, this is sure to offend the maximum number of people to accomodate what is ultimately only a fringe who take advantage of it to push the envelope. And the envelope keeps getting pushed farther and farther out, because people get bored and like to make trouble.

This just seems instinctively wrongheaded to me, but I know no one agrees with me so I'll just shut up now :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2005 12:02 PM

Well Cass, you're not the only one. Stern can do whatever he wants (and the market will tolerate) on XM or Sirius. The equipment is privately owned and operated, and the consumer is explicitly paying for it. But broadcast is a public good (for right or wrong) not a private one. Therefore the public (majority) gets to decide the type of content it will allow. Owner decides. As an owner I get a say in content. I can't vote with my checkbook like I can with XM since not paying taxes is not an option, so we vote through our legislators.

I thought Ace had a good take on the recent kerfluffle about a senator who wanted to extend the FCC decency regs to cable. There is a big difference between public and private. What you do in private is none of my business, but when you do it in public you've made it my business.

Posted by: Mildly Annoyed Terrier at March 17, 2005 12:50 PM

I guess I can see your concern, Cass, but it has no impact on me since I don't let my son watch TV. I rarely watch it, except for some sports and an occasional show I like.

I am far too busy to sit in front of the ultimate time-waster. I prefer to read, and have passed this on to my son who is a voracious reader. On a nice day, and Arizona has LOTS of nice days, my son and I will go outside and do things together. This is far more productive and useful than sitting in front of a TV. The "TV as babysitter" approach used by so many parents disturbs me.

Posted by: a former european at March 17, 2005 12:51 PM

Ah, but afe, your son is not with you most of the time, is he?

And I didn't let my kids watch TV either, and I got rid of cable (all but basic) when my oldest turned 5 so I put my money where my mouth was and my poor husband did without. But I love radio - should I not be allowed to listen to it on a long car trip for fear that, when flipping channels, I'll hit Stern?

He's forcing me to avoid the radio in my own fricking car. I resent that. Bitterly. And this is something I faced when my kids where younger with DC101, a station I listened to when alone.

And when your son is at a friend's house you have no control over what he sees and hears. There is a public climate that is controlled by what is on the public airwaves and what is allowed on during the 'family hour'. And what you can logically expect to be allowed on during those hours when you call other parents. As a non-custodial parent, you very likely may not have to worry about that, much.

I did, all the time. My sons' friends knew what I allowed, and more importantly my sons knew what was allowed. But it's a problem.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2005 01:03 PM

Cass: You're right to a point, but even before the divorce, when my son was always at home, he was restricted from the TV. I have helped him to cultivate his creative and imaginative side instead. While he loves to be active and play sports like most boys his age, he never gets bored during downtime because he loves to draw, read, or just play with Dad.

I buy little science experiment kits that we do together. Last year, I bought about 50 of those cheap styrofoam gliders you can get at the party store for a dime apiece (made in China, and have a crude picture of a historical warbird on it). We refought the Battle of Britain in the great room by flinging these gliders into the air for dogfight purposes. His Royal Air Force Spitfires soundly defeated my Luftwaffe Messerschmitts, BTW.

This is the kind of fun that TV simply can't compete with. While you are correct that I can't control what he sees at his friends' houses, he is so used to NOT watching TV that it bores him now. If they start watching he usually comes home to see if I want to do something fun instead (and I do).

Posted by: a former european at March 17, 2005 05:31 PM

Sir,

I never got to meet LCpl Nowacki. I did meet you, and was with you and Thunder 6 on a few patrols. My section continued to serve in what became the Thunderbolt AO for the next five months, before moving to our next mission further north. I also know the pain of loosing a special fighter. PFC Wyatt Dale Eisenhauer was killed on 19 May 2005 south of Yusifiyah. He was a damn fine Trooper, and most is surely serving God in other ways now.

I also agree that all of the whining about this war should be silenced. I have served two separate 12 month tours over there. If we were to give up now, all of that time, and all of our dead, would be for nothing.

Posted by: Jeremy at January 5, 2007 01:51 AM

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