Veteran's Day 2011

In less than two months, we shall see the last American military forces leave Iraq.  America's mission there will be a diplomatic one from here on, although in fairness it will be a very different sort of diplomatic mission than those to which the State Department has become accustomed.  It will be interesting to see how they manage it; and I suspect that many of those who served in uniform in Iraq will find their way into the service of State as "contractors" or short-term hires of one sort or another.  That was how State managed its ePRTs in Iraq, chiefly through such contracts, and they will naturally want their security forces to be experienced men, with proven metal and knowledge of the country.

There are probably some difficult times ahead in Iraq.  Robert Stokely's convoy to visit the site of his son's death turned back, but got within two miles of the site before the mission seemed too dangerous to continue.  Yusufiyah is a dangerous part of the province -- deep within the "Triangle of Death" -- but one I have visited numerous times.  The roads off the MSR ("main supply route") are just the kind of roads you'd want to lay an ambush along:  narrow, dirt (perfect for laying IEDs), and with areas of thick, abundant tree cover pressing on the sides of the roads.  These are often palms, but also orange trees.  We used to have concertina wire strung up on the edges of many of the dirt roads we intended to use often.  The area is bitterly poor by our standards, but relatively prosperous by the standards of rural Iraq:  this is after all Mesopotamia, where the ground at least is rich, watered by the Euphrates river.

It may still be a very long time before we can visit the place the way that WWII veterans used to go back to France or Germany, to see the old sites as they shine in the glowing light of peace.  I hope to visit Iraq someday on those terms, because it is in its way a beautiful country -- a very different kind of beauty than what you would expect, and one that can be hard to see between the war and the poverty.  Still, it is, if you have eyes for it.

Charles M. Schultz, if he were alive still, would have drawn Snoopy drinking root beer at Bill Mauldin's house today.  He once did a movie about the Peanuts kids going to France.  Mostly it was a movie for kids, although it included some clever references to French history.  The place that Charlie Brown is sent to visit is called "Le Chateau de Malvoisin," the Castle of the Bad Neighbor -- but Malvoisin, "the Bad Neighbor," was the name of the massive trebuchet built by Philip II's army during his joint crusade with Richard the Lionheart.

There was one scene in that Mr. Schultz included in memory of those from World War I, as well as his own war.  He served as an NCO and a .50 cal gunner in the 20th Armored Division during WWII.

The question is one that remains relevant.  I suspect it always will.


Dad29 said...

By the way, the Armistice date was not picked by accident. See:

Grim said...

I had never heard that. Is there a reason to believe the date was selected for that cause?

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing that Peanuts special only once. At the time it struck me as being very different from all the others and to this day I've wondered if the networks decided that it was too much for children. This would have been in the, oh, late 1970s or very early 1980s. It was also the first time I'd ever heard "In Flanders Fields."


douglas said...

"What have we learned?"

After reading Robert Stokely's notes on his journey (maybe quest is a better word) at Blackfive, I was angry, and asking myself the same question- What have we learned? I thought we learned, painfully, from the Vietnam experience and from leaving Afghanistan in the 80's that if you walk away on an unfinished project, thinking someone else can finish it because I'm tired, you'll be sending your sons to clean it up later. I'm still angry as I think about it now. The Mike Stokelys and their families are owed a better more solid outcome. We are failing them, and our children.

GregGS said...

What have we learned? We've learned that When you edit a poem it gives it a completely different meaning then the poet was trying to convey about a solders sacrifice.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

John McCrae: In Flanders Fields (1915) 

GregGS said...

Soldier I mean duh.

douglas said...

Greg, you'll be happy to know then that the keynote speaker at the Veteran's Day event I went to recited the complete poem. He was a good speaker, and currently a recruiter. I could see why.

He was much better than L.A. MAyor Villaraigosa, who was terrible (as usual) and was parroting the Obama 'Victim Vets' programs.