Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Friday, January 28, 2005

To Iraq

Last night, I found out that my best friend from high school is about to be deployed to Iraq. He's in the National Guard, and his unit's been called.

He just returned from a year-long hitch in the Sinai. Now he's going out again.

He and his wife were about to buy a house and start a family.

The worst part is that he’s a sergeant in the infantry. There's a good chance he won't be "in the rear with the gear," but getting his dumb ass shot at.

He enlisted during our senior year of high school. During that same year, the first Iraq war broke out. Whoops. We celebrated hard when the war ended before his induction. Ducked a bullet, he did.

Now the second Iraq war has claimed him.

All I can think is what a mess this is. How did this man, who I’ve known since our early teens, end up in such a position?

The stock answer why he enlisted is that he wanted “to serve his country.”

But that’s not the whole truth. Anyone who tells you that’s the reason why he’s enlisting is either lying or not thinking real hard. Like most folks’ reasons for doing anything, a lot of reasons were involved.

Yes, he wanted to serve America. But he also enlisted because he was drawn to the romance of military service. He loved the stories of heroism and glory, and he wanted to be a part of it, even if part of him knew that the truth of war was much more hideous than folks let on.

He enlisted because he didn’t know what else to do with his life. He enlisted to get in on the GI Bill. He enlisted because he liked to shoot guns, and the infantry meant tons o’ guns. He enlisted for the sense of belonging and community the army provides. He enlisted because it meant bragging rights once he got out.

The possibility of a true shooting war seemed so remote when he went into Basic. Now there’s a damn good chance that the next time I see him, my old friend will be scarred by unimaginable horror or crammed into a box with Christmas tree decorations stuck to his chest, lying in a room next to a hysterically weeping woman who's trying to figure out how she can survive with her man about to be planted in the dirt.

His deployment scares the hell out of him. He’s not an eighteen year old boy with visions of glory anymore; he’s a thirty-one year old man who wants nothing more than to live in peace with his wife and raise a few children.

But he is a soldier, and he must do his duty. As stupid and pointless as it is.

God, I’m so angry. Angry at the neo-con idiots who started the war, wrapped in their visions of recreating the world through their force of will and force of arms. Angry at the Qu’ran-abusing zealots who slaughter innocents with glee, providing a pretext for this half-assed conquest. Angry at the treacherous clowns who tell lies of martial glory to young men, hoping to lure them to their deaths. Angry at my friend for believing in their tales. I’m angry at myself for not going with him, if only to keep him company in the deserts of Iraq.

Do not write to me about the nobility of his enterprise or the valiant sacrifice he is making. I am not writing about provinces or abstract principles, but people. His adherence to duty may indeed be noble. It is also tragic and unnecessary, the product of vain men who do not know what they demand of others.

I wish I could end this with a perfect quotation, a passage that encapsulates the insanity and hubris of war, the loss and despair that is the common man’s lot in such disasters, the bottomless rage that fuels it all. But I cannot find one of sufficient eloquence.

Therefore, I end with only this:

Stay safe, bro.