Thursday, June 01, 2006

this war makes me tired

The WP is now reportering, in their reportery way, that we no longer have anything to worry about, here in America. Those of us turned into despairing head-shakers of the behavior of our soliders in the middle east can finally relax our neck muscles, go take in a movie or something. The problems of behavior -- which is to say, the massacres like Haditha, the prison tortures like Abu Ghraib, the shootings of pregnant civilian women racing to hospitals, as just happened yesterday -- NONE OF THAT will remain to make us uncomfortable, after the marines watch a slideshow about "ethics" and "morals."

Oh no, you say. (You skeptic.) A slideshow? Are you SURE that's going to do the trick?

Ah, but this is not just any slideshow. Not like the sexual harrassment awareness luncheons at your office where everyone rolls their eyes, searches through the free sandwiches for the one they really like, and waits til it's over. No: this is a slideshow that will emphasize "'core values' training in how to operate professionally and humanely."

If soldiers in active duty don't understand DON'T KILL CIVILIANS, what on earth are you going to put in a slideshow to get through to them?

Okay, I feel a little better. Jesus god, this war is exhausting. Sarcasm falls in the face of it.

The truth is, I feel for the soldiers -- they're in an impossible position, embedded in an increasingly hostile community, facing an invisible enemy that never weakens, knowing that the government that sent them there has no plan for how to get them out and knowing that support for their mission back home has dwindled. That must suck. But you know who I feel worse for? The increasingly hostile community that's stuck in the middle of what may turn into a civil war, patrolled by soliders growing ever more trigger-happy and stressed out.

I just finished reading Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell and I'm currently reading Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. Both women take their frustration at the president, specifically at his drawing us into this unwinable war, and mold interesting books out of it: in Vowell's case, she takes the reader on a guided tour through the three successful presidential assassinations in American history (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley). Lamott struggles to love Bush the way Jesus loves him or, failing that, to be funny.

If you're as tired and cynical at this point as I am, I recommend both books. They may have been written as coping mechanisms, but reading them works as one too.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Oh, you don’t know the half of it Bloom. An unbelievable amount of my time in the service was wasted in front of videos that had all the inspiration of a PowerPoint template. An ineffectual training video is, and I mean this quite literally, the military’s solution for every sort of problem. The saddest thing is, I never had to watch a “don’t kill civilians” video, but I have a pretty good idea exactly how it will play: Those “core values” will be graphically illustrated on the corners of a triangle, and each point will be further broken down (with bullets!) into further virtues.
It is The. Worst. Waste. Of Your Tax Dollars. Ever.
I don’t blame any individual. Such a large organization is destined to shoehorn every intractable problem into something that can be mass produced and distributed to all commands, so each soldier/sailor can sign off on an attendance sheet after viewing the material, and everyone up the chain of command can say that something was done.
It is the clearest example of leadership covering their asses and ignoring results. No one’s really rolling up their sleeves and addressing the problems, but if some shit does go down, they can wave that clipboard around and point to all the signatures on it.

But your overall point about war weariness is well stated. It’s like we’re stuck in a f***ing Joseph Heller novel.