Hawk is home again, from recent wanderings. He has some thoughts, in his usual form. I've met a few milbloggers, but I suspect that he and I have one thing in common: we are, in person, the least like you'd suspect us to be. We're both country boys, the kind of folks Barack Obama would have you believe 'cling' to guns and religion because we can't understand our real frustrations; and he isn't joking to say that we spent a part of our time together in Baghdad talking horses. Another thing we talked about was this piece, the day he wrote it:
I'm walking to the gym. Under my feet: four inches of gravel pave the way. Concrete t-wall sections form unbroken fortress walls on either side of my path. It's early in the morning, so the shadow of the wall on my left is shading that half of the road. A breeze is blowing, and in the shade in the moments just after dawn that breeze hits me in my shorts and t-shirt and chills me just enough that I take a few steps sideways and into the sun."I didn't intend anything symbolic in that," he said. Yet it was a perfect symbol for the time, the moment we were in there in Iraq: where enemies had broken and fled before us, and no soldier of our Division had fired his rifle in anger in some time.
And then it hit me - I'd been walking in the shade because that's what I - and everyone else here - had done throughut the 120 degree summer and on into the merely 90 degree days of early fall. And while the change has been gradual, it was only today that I noticed it, as I broke a time-worn habit and passed from the too-cool shadows into the glowing warmth of the morning desert sun.
What is coming in Iraq is going to be a tense period of negotiation -- and "negotiation" in Iraq can mean some serious violence. Yet this moment couldn't have come without that one: and better moments to come need that we pass through this. The people of Iraq are worth it. I don't know quite how to say that except to say it: at least the ones I met, who were self-selecting in that they they were engaged vigorously in trying to make Iraq a better place. One of them, a kind hearted, round-faced man, took a bullet to the head trying to win a new life for his country. He survived the ambush -- his bodyguard, an American, did not -- and was back to work as soon as he could move from his bed.
Whatever we've "sacrificed" or "spent" or "lost" in Iraq, they have done that, and more. If we are men, we ought to support them.
Hawk is, anyhow. I feel about him like Alfred felt about Mark, the man of Rome, when he sought his aid against the invader:
Long looked the Roman on the land;But, as I've warned you before, I'm no Alfred. Chesterton would have made me Colan of Caerleon: "His harp was carved and cunning, his sword prompt and sharp, and he was gay when he held the sword, sad when he held the harp."
The trees as golden crowns
Blazed, drenched with dawn and dew-empearled
While faintlier coloured, freshlier curled,
The clouds from underneath the world
Stood up over the downs.
"These vines be ropes that drag me hard,"
He said. "I go not far;
Where would you meet? For you must hold
Half Wiltshire and the White Horse wold,
And the Thames bank to Owsenfold,
If Wessex goes to war.
"Guthrum sits strong on either bank
And you must press his lines
Inwards, and eastward drive him down;
I doubt if you shall take the crown
Till you have taken London town.
For me, I have the vines."
"If each man on the Judgment Day
Meet God on a plain alone,"
Said Alfred, "I will speak for you
As for myself, and call it true
That you brought all fighting folk you knew
Lined under Egbert's Stone.
"Though I be in the dust ere then,
I know where you will be."
And shouldering suddenly his spear
He faded like some elfin fear,
Where the tall pines ran up, tier on tier
Tree overtoppling tree.
But when is a man ever happier, than when in song and ale and love and wrath the tears run down his cheeks? If there is a fitter tribute for a world such as this, for friends made and friends lost, I have not met it.