combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 05 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2007

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a thousand meanings.
George Santayana (1920, 1956)

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn't confront the Ba'ath party, the Taliban, or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!), or even a creeping suspicion of America's intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow "humanists" and I would relish [sic: revel] content[ed]ly in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday. Others would point to America's historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America's initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America's moral crusade. And maybe it is. Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent[s] people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by [literally] placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are. So that is why I joined [the military mission in the Middle East]. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction. Some have allowed their resentment of the president to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere. I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined. In digesting this posting, please remember that America's commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration, and would exist into our future children's lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago, and were, up until now, held back by the most cruel of cages. Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another, and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don't overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war, but don't cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural[istic], democratic one is [a] dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction. So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include "Good Luck".
2LT Mark J. Daily [ROTC Outstanding Cadet (2005), Distinguished Military Graduate (2006); KIA in Mosul Iraq on 15 January 2007]

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analyzed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
W.H. Auden ["September 1, 1939" (1939)]

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.
Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed their grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.
Wendell Berry ["We Who Prayed and Wept"]

The U.S. is in the process of building the world's first 21st century model economy. The only other countries doing this are U.K. and Australia. The model is fast, flexible, highly productive and unstable in that it is always fracturing and re-fracturing. This will increase the economic gap between the U.S. and everybody else, especially Europe and Japan. At the same time, the military gap is increasing. Other than China, we are the only country that is continuing to put money into their military. Plus, we are the only military getting on-the-ground military experience through our war in Iraq. We know which high-tech weapons are working and which ones aren't. There is almost no one who can take us on economically or militarily. There has never been a superpower in this position before. On the one hand, this makes the U.S. a magnet for bright and ambitious people. It also makes us a target. We are becoming one of the last holdouts of the traditional Judeo-Christian culture. There is no better place in the world to be in business and raise children. The U.S. is by far the best place to have an idea, form a business and put it into the marketplace. We take it for granted, but it isn't as available in other countries of the world. Ultimately, it's an issue of culture. The only people who can hurt us are ourselves, by losing our culture. If we give up our Judeo-Christian culture, we become just like the Europeans. The culture war is the whole ballgame. If we lose it, there isn't another America to pull us out.
Herbert Meyer ["What in the World is Going On?" (Feb 2007)]
[nb: America is ranked sixteenth internationally, behind Sweden and Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Syria, on per capita military spending; and except for consumerism, does not rank in the top ten percentile on the global index of ANYTHING, from educational attainment to public health!/s/Ed]

Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence.
Joseph Story (1833)

Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us.
Thomas Jefferson

Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.
Samuel Adams

It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.
Thomas Jefferson

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
Thomas Paine

The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it.
James Madison

Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep for ever.
Thomas Jefferson

Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness.
James Wilson

It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.
George Washington

The real purpose of those [little yellow] ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices .... I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful. After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood. But blaming the president is a little too easy.
Joel Stein [Warriors and Wusses Los Angeles Times (24 Jan 2006)]

Vietnam wasn't a real war – not like the world wars that were main events that took center stage in dramatizing our lives! It was just a little side show on amphetamines! All those other little skirmishes since Vietnam don't even deserve to be dignified by the term war – they're not even interesting enough to make a movie about them.
unknown political commentator

This is Jane Fonda. During my two week visit in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, I've had the opportunity to visit a great many places and speak to a large number of people from all walks of life – workers, peasants, students, artists and dancers, historians, journalists, film actresses, soldiers, militia girls, members of the women's union, writers. I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural co-op, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well. In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me – the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country. I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam – these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters. I cherish the way a farmer evacuated from Hanoi, without hesitation, offered me, an American, their best individual bomb shelter while US bombs fell near by. The daughter and I, in fact, shared the shelter wrapped in each others arms, cheek against cheek. It was on the road back from Nam Dinh, where I had witnessed the systematic destruction of civilian targets-schools, hospitals, pagodas, the factories, houses, and the dike system. As I left the United States two weeks ago, Nixon was again telling the American people that he was winding down the war, but in the rubble-strewn streets of Nam Dinh, his words echoed with sinister [words indistinct] of a true killer. And like the young Vietnamese woman I held in my arms clinging to me tightly – and I pressed my cheek against hers – I thought, this is a war against Vietnam perhaps, but the tragedy is America's. One thing that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt since I've been in this country is that Nixon will never be able to break the spirit of these people; he'll never be able to turn Vietnam, north and south, into a neo-colony of the United States by bombing, by invading, by attacking in any way. One has only to go into the countryside and listen to the peasants describe the lives they led before the revolution to understand why every bomb that is dropped only strengthens their determination to resist. I've spoken to many peasants who talked about the days when their parents had to sell themselves to landlords as virtually [sic] slaves, when there were very few schools and much illiteracy, inadequate medical care, when they were not masters of their own lives. But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being created – being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools – the children learning, literacy – illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives. And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders – and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism – I don't think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh.
Jane Fonda [22 August 1972 Radio Speech from Hanoi, transcript (page 7671) Travel to Hostile Areas, HR 16742, 19-25 September 1972, US Congress House Committee on Internal Security]

It amazes me that I still get letters about you [Jane Fonda] ... what has it been since Vietnam? ... forty years? ... the anger. "Traitor to her country." "Honoring her would be traitorous, stupid," and so on. It goes on and on and on.
Barbara Walters

It's sad, and in a way, it's pathetic, that lo, these many years later, these people have not made sense of the [Vietnam] War. They're off base in terms of where the anger needs to be placed. And I'm made a lightning rod, and the right wing has been very assiduous in fanning the flame of the "myth of Hanoi Jane". You know, they've spread lies on the Internet about things I supposedly did that aren't true.
Jane Fonda

The human mind's ability to rationalize its own shortcomings into virtues is unlimited.
Robert A. Heinlein

I departed from legality only to return to justice.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte [1851 speech explaining coup d'état]

Though the command of superior officers be very absolute, yet no command against the laws of nature is binding; so that a soldier, retaining his commission, ought to refuse to execute any barbarity, as if a soldier should be commanded to shoot a man passing by inoffensively, upon the street, no such command would exempt him from the punishment of murder.
inquiry commission on the Glencoe Massacre (1692)

Tolerance has been one of the virtues of western civilization. But virtues can be carried to extremes that turn them into vices. Toleration of intolerance is a particularly dangerous vice to which western nations are succumbing, both within their own countries and internationally. Double standards are being wrapped in the mantle of morality.
Thomas Sowell [The Week's Revelations (26 Sept 2006)]

If someone denies their behavior, like a frightened child too afraid to admit the truth and accept the consequences of their misconduct, then that person is either a coward or hysteric or both. If they benefit from telling lies, like actors and politicians, then such cowardice or hysteria is an asset. If "good citizens", who have paid their taxes, who have sometimes paid their dues with blood, do not believe the outrageous claims of people shown to be duplicitous and irresponsible, then these plaints, even when reinforced by sympathizers, are just noise, static, interference in our commonplace lives ... that normal routine which is so uninteresting to those lost in illusions. It is only by the kindness of "good people" that tolerance is shown these defectives, when true justice would warrant their utter extermination. Good men and women have died protecting everyone's rights and privileges, and these societal parasites have no appreciation for our forbearance, but complain even louder that we are not as stupid and blind as they. No, we are not like you, nor you like us, and we thank God, while you curse our charity. Your synthetic realm is tawdry, your revisionism is transparent, and your persistence is annoying, so don't be surprised when we run out of patience.
anonymous combat veteran

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Treason and betrayal is possible only among those who are trusted.
Russian adage

Thirty five years ago, after the Vietnam veterans fulfilled our civic responsibilities at a terrible cost, the American people allowed Congress to weasel out of their promises to our allies at a far more terrible cost. You then relegated us, the veterans who served and died for your freedom, to second class citizenship. You honored the tiny minority among us like John Kerry who attacked our honor. To assuage your guilt, you funded programs that destroyed the resilience of many of our brothers. You kept our point of view out of the history texts. You lionized our peers that refused to serve. You allowed them to keep us out of academia, the media, politics and in many areas of employment, unless we masked or denied the truths which we had bitterly learned. You stereotyped us in books, television, movies and the news. You destroyed the values and the beliefs of the society in which the tenets of our lives had been shaped. Now you do the same to another generation, many of whom are our sons and daughters, nephews and nieces. You write off our allies and laud our enemies again. You honor those who despise their betters, precisely because they fear to do what their betters do for them. You leave the song unsung, unheard, and allow the noblest deeds to die, suffocated. It has proven otherwise. America should beware.
Steve Sherman [op-ed, The Wall Street Journal]

Governments don't live together ... men live together. Nobody can get either a fair word or a fair fight from governments. But men, between themselves, can give either one to each other without denying manhood to each other for the transaction.
paraphrase of Forrest Carter [Asa Earl Carter]

The [American] government keeps getting us into war, so the [peace-loving] people must keep getting us back out, and solving the problems [made by war] directly ... people to people, not government to government.
T. Jefferson Parker

No sensible person seeks conflict, especially with governments, but if we don't pursue the truth, we are lost as individuals and as a society.
Timothy Ball (2007)

We have arrived at the present unhappy situation not so much because we challenged those with a different worldview, but because we ceased to assert our own values and advance our world view.
Michael Ledeen

"Peace" movements don't bring peace but war.
Thomas Sowell

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
Albert Einstein

People say talk is cheap but it can be enormously costly when it becomes just a way to forestall action while an enemy nation builds up its military threat.
Thomas Sowell [The Week's Revelations (26 Sept 2006)]

People with big mouths keep getting people with big backs into war, leaving it to people with big feet to flee while people with big hearts finish it; and then people with big butts tell others what people with big shoulders did wrong. If people with big heads can't stop wars then people with big hands ought to shut the big mouths that start them!
anonymous juvenilia

Once and for all the idea of glorious victories won by the glorious army must be wiped out. Niether side is glorious. On either side they're just frightened men messing their pants and they all want the same thing – not to lie under the earth, but to walk upon it – without crutches.
Peter Weiss

A sudden, mirthless, ugly violence is the great leveler. Men revert to childhood, where the night is full of spooks and ghosties, when they are reminded of death. A man whipped in a fair fight retains stubborn remnants of pride and honor; but a man rendered helpless without warning is much more susceptible, tractable, even amenable. Such rapid and raw cruelty exposes his true nature, reveals his underlying character, displays his essential being ... a fearful thing anxious to survive. All that is pretty and brave lies abandoned beside the bloody corpse, the reeking offal, the nasty inexorable truth.
paraphrase of John D. MacDonald (1964)

In the entire history of the human race there is not a single instance in which cruelty effected a genuine reformation. It can crush, but it cannot improve. It can restrain, but, as soon as the restraint is removed, the subject is worse than before. The human mind is so constituted that it must be led toward the good, and be driven only in one direction, and that is toward ruin.
John Peter Altgeld

We have been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence, so many benefits brought by us to populations in need of our assistance and our civilization. We were able to verify that all this was true, and, because it was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but whereas we over here are inspired by this frame of mind, I am told that in Rome, factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment and vilify our action. I cannot believe that all this is true and yet recent wars have shown how pernicious such a state of mind could be and to where it could lead. Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we ourselves are protecting the glory of the Empire. If it should be otherwise, if we should have to leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain, then beware of the anger of the legions!
Marcus Flavinius (a centurion in the 2nd Cohort of the Augusta Legion writing to his cousin Tertulus in Rome about 20BC)

But the fact that you cannot stop something does not mean that you have to become an accomplice.
Thomas Sowell

Records of old wars mean nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition.
Henry Ford [Chicago Tribune (25 May 1916)]

The more individuals capable of watching the world theater calmly and critically, the less danger of monumental mass stupidities – first of all, wars.
Hermann Hesse

You must know a great many unimportant things in order to know a very few important things.

Call if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. His children are far from safety, crushed in court without a defender. The hungry consume his harvest, taking it even from among thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
Job 5:1-7 NIV Bible

Did you know that for everyone who dies in war there are others who are born, and re-born? That is why veterans will never make the peace. And why, in denying the nobility of battle, pacifists cultivate war. To stop something so powerful, you must at least tell the truth about it, and they don't. What I'm trying to say is: don't feel bad about us. There is a balance to everything ... symmetry, compensation. A soul buried in the ground rises in the air. When you go home and make a new life, thrive in peace ... but don't pity those of us still in war.
Mark Helprin (1977)

Being a soldier [in wartime] was like being on a team in a sport that drew no crowds, except for the players' own parents and friends.
Dan Wakefield

If you haven't been to war then you can't have any war stories to tell! Lying about war won't make you a warrior any more than lying about sex makes you a lover, or about fishing makes a fisher! ... besides, the important part of any story is not what's said, but what's felt.

We pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society? ... [It] is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary – oops sorry, volunteer – force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.
William Arkin

I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.
Sheikh Ayman Muhammad al-Zawahiri [an authenticated communications intercept used as a declassified example in a "Media as Terrain" military briefing; excerpted from a message by Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant sent to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before Zarqawi's termination in June 2006]

The torrents of [complaints] represent the worst of polarized and hate-filled America. [I am not] apologizing for being critical of the military. Instead, I'm trying to make sense of the worldview of those who have responded. For the critics, I have become the enemy and have been demonized ... I am part of the all powerful, self-congratulatory, far-left, Bush-bashing, fifth-column mainstream. It isn't so much what I say ... it is more that I sit in my safe little cubicle in front of a keyboard sipping lattes, giving aid and comfort to the enemy while our boys and girls die. In other words, I'm comfortable while others suffer.
William Arkin

Democratic politicians rarely feel they can afford the luxury of telling the whole truth to the people. And since not telling it, though prudent, is uncomfortable, they find it easier if they themselves do not have to hear too often too much of the sour truth. The men under them who report and collect the news come to realize in their turn that it is safer to be wrong before it has become fashionable to be right.
Walter Lippmann [p26 Essays in the Public Philosophy (1935)]

It might seem at first glance that the left wing of the Democrat Party should be in the forefront to fight radical Islam. Islamic radicals despise women's rights and gay rights. I think we all know what they would do with Hillary Clinton or Barney Frank. [Their] reluctance to support the war on terror ... has nothing to do with cultural relativism or multiculturalism. It has everything to do with domestic politics. Basically the Left hates Bush more than it hates Bin Laden .... Consider the war in Iraq. This war is tough going in Iraq. But it is even tougher going in America. The war is being lost not on the streets of Baghdad but right here in America .... There is no way that Bin Laden could persuade America to give up on the war on terror and get out of Iraq and the Middle East. Fortunately for Bin Laden he has a whole political movement in the United States that is dedicated to exactly this objective.
Dinesh D'Souza [The Enemy At Home (2007)]

Islamic organizations are carefully orchestrating lawsuits, marches, large propaganda campaigns all across the nation. Islamic schools and mosques are being built in record numbers across the nation with Saudi oil money being funneled into the US legally. Islam is on the march. The submission of the great country of the United States to Islam has begun, just as planned. Just as we were warned by Osama bin Laden, Islam is using Americas own laws and freedoms to destroy us.
Randy Taylor (19 March 2007)

History is made, wars are won and lost, cultures and nations and civilizations come and go, rise and fall, as much by blunders as by victories. The failure of many Americans, including many of the leading Democrats in Congress, and some Republicans, to fully appreciate the persistent, long-term threat posed to America's liberties and survival, and to the future of Liberal Democracies everywhere, by an Islamic Resistance Movement that envisions a world dominated and defined by an Islamic Caliphate of religious totalitarianism, and which will fight any war, make any sacrifice, suffer any hardship, and pay any price to achieve it, may prove to be the kind of blunder upon which the fate of America turns, and falls.
Raymond S. Kraft [Terrorism (24 Oct 2006)]

[The troops here in Iraq] all told me it's time to end this war .... [T]he soldiers also asked why it seems from here there are no plans to end the war, just discussions of battle tactics?
Richard Engel

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war.
Barack Obama

Having lost in Vietnam, many Americans cannot bear the thought of another defeat. That's why the stakeholders in the current conflict – the president and his party, principally – cannot bring themselves to accept the fact that the Iraq war is lost.
Eleanor Clift

Nothing is easier than to second-guess decisions made in wartime. Anyone who has bothered to read the history of wars knows that very few wars have been without disastrous surprises, often on both sides. It is not that the people in charge are stupid. Too many things are unpredictable in war, despite politicians who demand timetables, as if running a war is like running a train. ... We have learned the hard way, notably in the Vietnam war, that military victories are not enough. American troops scored a big victory on the battlefield in 1968 that was presented in the American media as a big defeat – and that began the political unravelling of the Vietnam war. Many in the media seem to think that they did something noble, to get us out of an "unwinnable" war. But the war was unwinnable only because they made it so politically. Even after American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, South Vietnam was able to hold off the invaders from North Vietnam. Only after Congress cut off financial support for South Vietnam, while the North Vietnamese continued to get support from the Communist bloc, did South Vietnam fall. Since then, even the Communist conquerors have admitted that they did not win on the battlefield, but in the American media and in the American political arena, surrounded by an atmosphere created by a defeatist media.
Thomas Sowell ["Another Vietnam?" (16 Jan 2007)]

It is very hard for us to understand the American attitudes about the war in my homeland – about their role and our role and the results. Although we have sought independence for centuries, our first encounter with America was as an oppressed people who were offered assistance by a great and noble power, and when things were not as quick or as easy, as simple or as satisfactory as our allies would've preferred, they abandoned us to a worse fate ... where thousands were exploited and murdered as refugees, and a million innocent people were starved and tortured to death in slave labor camps that were politely called "re-education centers" by the ruling regime. We have lost everything that we cherished – our ancestral homes, our families, our livelihoods and fortunes, our culture and homeland – and despite our greater commitment and greater losses, we are blamed for "not trying hard enough"! Facts about the Vietnam war are being distorted by the lies of our enemies and the myths of our allies, and scholars are not even recording the truth, much less refuting the misinformation. Being responsible for the loss of our heritage is very difficult, but it's almost impossible to endure the blame for causing America's only ever wartime defeat! Because America does not want to accept the results of her own mismanagement, she has blamed the victim for being victimized! America is doing to us after the war what she did to us during the war – finding us guilty for her sins. Nobody seems to care about the truth anymore, but this is more than anyone should be expected to bear.
comment in a review of an academic book about the Vietnamese military by an unknown émigré, a former ARVN officer

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry ["The Peace of Wild Things"]

compiled by Ed Staff

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