combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2006

Hearts and Minds with Feet of Clay

The cordoned village was being scrutinized by a clutch of bellicose gasconaders, denoted by their vainglorious fanion. Spooks and advisors, interlarded with commanders and aides, flanked some pristine White Mice sporting polished-bamboo warders, whose conative conclave was deliberating tactical methodologies. The Occidentals were either professionally torpid or mortifyingly enthusiastic about their prospects. The Orientals projected a contempt for the onus of karmic repetition obtruding into their diversions. The community had been sealed since dawn, and the families were hostage to our moral rectitude; so hygiene and work became criminally suspect to our martial purpose. There was an informant, captured during curfew, who was willing to identify communist sympathizers, as long as his identity could remain secret; so a blind had been established, and every inhabitant would be paraded for review. The ruse would probably fail, by a process of elimination and inference, but that was probably incidental to his ulterior vendetta. The hamlet was regulated by the national government but the officials did not bother to learn about the villagers culture, nor could the province officials recognize legitimate denizens. They only had to administer the peasants ... not associate with them. Once the parade had resulted in several selections, the true business of impressed authority took effect. Immaterial of our mission to protect these people and to preserve their way of life, a concept only valid among true-blue and red-blooded compatriots, every inscrutable Asian was suspicious, but providence had delivered some guilty suspects into our prejudiced custody ... so we only needed to generate some evidence or extract a confession to prove our perspicacity. The village sat baking in the sun, a spectacle for the gawking tourists toting guns instead of cameras, and we lost an opportunity for building trust with civic action. Having nothing better to do, and interested in the sophisticated professional techniques we were allegedly teaching this hopelessly underdeveloped country, I abandoned my post to follow the cluster of brass-hats as they separated and sequestered their charges. The whole affair lacked urgency, and the operation was not subsequent to battle, so I never discerned the purpose of perimeter interrogations, when transport to a nearby office or detention center might have spared reactions. Perhaps it was symptomatic of the pervasive contempt, or maybe it was just indolence. My commander was pleased to be made privy to the initial torture, and delighted to be able to extend the invitation to his coterie of sycophants, who finally assumed the chore from the enervated core. The methods were conventionally brutal, and typical of dastardly bullies playing to mob satisfaction, rather than some detached professionalism aimed at capitulation and information. As the screams and wails carried across the pensive village, the only lessons I learned were that cowards don't like to get their uniforms dirty, and obesity lacks endurance in the tropics. Following a recent sweep operation, all the enemy and civilian bodies were gathered into a net slung under a chopper, and the gruesome load was unceremoniously dumped from several hundred feet over a suspected sanctuary. This psywar operation resolved any ambiguity on the future disposition of their sympathies. Likewise, the next Med-Cap, trailing its vexillum to charity, will meet hostility and resistance in this pacified village. With our countless injuries and our innumerable insults, we alienated our allies and deprived them of the chance for liberty. We co-opted our enemies, and struck our own ensign for ethics, rent our own flag for independence, furled our own courageous standard. We bled our fading colors into unprestige, and rued our bannered fate. We have spawned an unheroic milieu, because nobility is disrespected and dedication is onerous; so our new role models have feet of clay, and our tenuous tenets are eschewed dubieties.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.

Table of

C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones