Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Memorial Day menu

May 30, 2022

Lt. Harold J. O’Grady, formerly with Brooks-Scanlon Corp. of Foley, Florida.

Occasionally the mundane overwhelms.

Too hot to sleep. Whoops, almost forgot to set out the garbage and recycling. The last avocado’s gone bad; no guacamole for the morning toast. Do we have anything Herself the Elder will eat when we bring her over this afternoon? Or do I need to go to the grocery on Memorial Day?

“Boy, you sure get offered some shitty choices,” a Marine once said to me, and I couldn’t help but feel that what he really meant was that you didn’t get offered any at all. Specifically, he was just talking about a couple of C-ration cans, “dinner,” but considering his young life you couldn’t blame him for thinking that if he knew one thing for sure, it was that there was no one anywhere who cared less about what he wanted. There wasn’t anybody he wanted to thank for his food, but he was grateful that he was still alive to eat it, that the motherfucker hadn’t scarfed him up first. He hadn’t been anything but tired and scared for six months and he’d lost a lot, mostly people, and seen far too much, but he was breathing in and breathing out, some kind of choice all by itself.

Michael Herr, author of “Dispatches,” met that particular grunt in Vietnam. But he has brothers and sisters everywhere getting offered some shitty choices, mostly by us; our scrapings from the bottom of the ballot box, a real shit sandwich, one that eats you if you’re not careful, or simply unlucky. Just another kid snatched out of a small-town sawmill and shipped off to a picnic in someone else’s woods. One thing’s for sure — he won’t be “board” there!

Sometimes I think Memorial Day should be expanded to honor lives lost to lip service as well as national service. But there aren’t enough hours in the day. It could wind up bleeding all the way over into the Fourth of July.

Red vs. white

March 6, 2022

March keeps pitching its meteorological curveballs.

It just snowed for a solid 10 seconds, so I guess the drought is over.

Whoops — on its thin white heels comes the red-flag warning. Winds of 25-25 mph, with gusts to 55? Ixnay on the inklerspray, hon’; we’d only be steaming the neighbors’ raggedy-ass cottonwood.

What a fine day to not be towing a rented travel trailer, as the neighbors will be doing directly. Even a bicycle will be too high-profile a vehicle for Your Humble Narrator.

Here in a bit I hope to squeeze in a short run. Got to keep the muscle memory alive in case Voldemort Poutaine decides he’d like to add The Duck! City to his collection.

Of course, the old spook might be having second thoughts about property acquisition given his struggles in Ukraine. And if he isn’t, he should be. To paraphrase Rick from “Casablanca,” “There are certain sections of New Mexico that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

“Boris, is this not where we parked the tank?”

“Da, Mikhail, it was right here. Central and Pennsylvania. Remember the friendly lady behind the In & Out who beckoned to us as we passed? She offered to take us around the world and you said, ‘But we just got here!'”

The dust storm we had on Friday would have reminded their fathers of the good old days in Afghanistan. It looked like one of the haboobs that periodically buggers traffic between Tucson and Phoenix. Blotted out the valley to the west and a slice of the Sandias to the east, redistributing portions of the Upper Chihuahuan Desert without need for tanks, aircraft, or artillery.

I didn’t ride or run Friday. But I got out yesterday for a 90-minute ride, and found myself dealing with another sort of Eurasian invasion — trails clogged with tumbleweeds, also known as (wait for it) the Russian thistle.

Luna. See?

February 24, 2022

Banana moon shining in the sky (h/t Tom Waits).

I arose in the dark of the morning to see a dusting of snow on the yard and the blinking lights of an aircraft as it traversed a slice of moon.

“Hell’s goin’ on around here?” I inquired of Herself, as is my practice.

“Fuckin’ Russians,” she grumbled.

“What are they doing?”

“Dominating the news cycle.”

And so they are.

I loathe the smell of fascism in the morning, whether it’s ours or theirs, and especially when it arrives before coffee. The overactive imagination screens a clip of some brass hat in the Pentagon going full George C. Scott (Buck Turgidson or George Patton, take your pick).

But as options go, our menu seems as limited as the bill of fare at a soup kitchen.

Sure, do what you can to choke off Russia’s income — Stoli sales will slump, theatrically, if only because we’ll need the money for gasoline. Africa is going to find itself short of grain. Lots of little people living in various valleys await the shit monsoon from above.

But I don’t expect the oligarchs are sweating much, unless they’re in the sauna.

Oh, they might not be able to strut their stuff on the Riviera for a while, but there’s always the Crimea. Plenty Krugerrands in the lockbox. Shop online from the dacha. Na zdorovye!

Happy Veterans Day?

November 11, 2021

Roll another one. …

Speaking as one of the “countercultural peaceniks of the 1960s and 1970s” who was fond of “illegal, mind-altering drugs,” I’d like to say, “Right on, man,” to the veterans who have been advocating their use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression stemming from their military service.

Writes Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times:

Researchers are still trying to understand the mechanics of psychedelic-assisted therapies but they are widely thought to promote physiological changes in the brain, sometimes after just one session. On a psychological level, the drugs can provide a fresh perspective on seemingly intractable trauma, giving patients new tools to process pain and find inner peace.

Lord knows they put me through a few changes. And while I can’t claim to have achieved inner peace, I did manage to find my path.

Jose Martinez got a later start on a much harder road. After losing both legs and his right arm to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and enduring 19 surgeries, ceaseless pain and an addiction to opioids, the former Army gunner became an evangelist for psychedelics.

“And now I understand what I’m actually here for in this world, which is to make people smile and to remind them that life can be beautiful even when it’s not so easy,” he said.

“Not so easy” doesn’t begin to describe it. They tell me Charlie don’t surf. But Jose does. That’s beautiful.

Something might be gaining on you

September 11, 2021

It’s been a long, long road.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and the dying.Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front”

I didn’t have much to say on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and a decade further on down the road I feel even less inclined to hold forth on the topic. A bunch of people got dead, maimed, or insane; another bunch got rich, famous, and powerful; and the rest of us went shopping.

Did we learn anything from the attacks and what Charlie Pierce calls “our blind, feral response?” Doubtful. We check the rear view every 10 years or so, but that’s just reflexive, like glancing at a TV as you pass.

Anything good on? Nahhhhhhh. Same ol’, same ol’. Hey, who wants to go to the mall?

Iron Man is dead*

August 15, 2021

Sometimes you do the boom, and sometimes the boom does you.

Another superhero adventure is coming to a messy ending.

The Military-Industrial Complex’s Cinematic Universe isn’t as orderly as Marvel’s, probably because the writers aren’t as good. Neither are the reviews. But hey, that’s show business for you.

It seemed like such a simple story, too. United States is attacked. United States fights back. Boffo box office!

But some nimrod thinking sequels, spinoffs, and merchandise resurrected an old character called “Mission Creep.” The story went sideways but we kept buying the tickets, taking the ride.

“Look, there’s Stan Lee!”

“No, that’s Robert McNamara.”

Remember the old joke about the driver heading up an off ramp by mistake? “What the hell, you’ve come this far. …”

Well, 20 years later, here we are, upside down in the ditch, watching Mission Creep, Captain REMF, and The Incredible Schmuck posturing for the cameras in an endgame that isn’t one. Avengers Dissemble!

* Of course he’s not dead. We’ll keep trotting him out as long as there’s a buck in it.

Donald Rumsfeld dies, goes to Hell

June 30, 2021

Donald Rumsfeld will be reunited with his old pal Dick Nixon.

You go to Hell with the Devil you have, not the Devil you might want or wish to have at a later time.

Asked for comment, a spokesdemon for the Prince of Darkness said: “We had hoped to get Dick Cheney first, but as you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways, just like Don.

“Meanwhile, we have an extensive landfill down here — it is Hell, after all — and with a little of his fabled ingenuity I’m sure Don will be able to cobble together some suitable ‘hillbilly armor’ before deploying to the Lake of Fire.”

Memorial Day v2.0

June 1, 2021

“Joey, have you ever been in an autonomous Turkish drone’s crosshairs?”

Oh, good. … Paging James Cameron … James Cameron, please come to the white courtesy target zone … er, the white courtesy phone.

Memorial Day 2021

May 31, 2021

A soldier’s things.

Some never made it home. Others did, but missing some vital part of themselves. Remember the fallen, the incomplete, and the fortunate who lost nothing more than youth and innocence.

Hustling the East

April 14, 2021

One disabled vet’s recollection of his tour in Afghanistan.

In his piece on the latest proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan, Charlie Pierce recalls a wounded veteran’s bitter assessment of his time in-country.

The disabled vet was Dr. John H. Watson, soon to be introduced to Sherlock Holmes, speaking in “A Study in Scarlet.” The tale was published in 1887.

The Holmes stories, which I first read in the 1960s, may have served as my introduction to warfare in Afghanistan. Later, there was Rudyard Kipling and his “epitaph drear.” The Soviet debacle I observed from a series of newspaper copy desks. Our own I read about courtesy of journalists like C.J. Chivers. A time or two I spoke with American vets about their own experiences.

Very little of what I read or heard inspired confidence in the ability of the American military-industrial complex to effect change — “Peace through superior firepower,” as the old joke goes — in a place where so many armies had had their asses handed to them. Nobody seemed to really want Afghanistan except the Afghans, and only a few of them wanted it badly enough to fight for it.

So here we are, nearly 20 years later, with 2,400 U.S. service members in their graves and $2 trillion pounded down various ratholes. And for what? Another epitaph drear.

Will we ever get the message that no matter how hard we sell it, “democracy” will never be America’s biggest export? When it hits the doorstep it often looks a lot more like vengeance.

God is said to have made us in His image. If so, He likewise has been compelled by circumstances to live with disappointment in His creations.