Murry on “the days of their lives.”

As the wise old adage has it: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." As this applies to America’s current military debacle in Iraq (if not Afghanstan, too): "You never get a second, third, and/or fourth chance to squander thousands of your own casualites, hundreds of billions of your own dollars (borrowed at that) all to cause tens of thousands of deaths and raging chaos among the target population of your alleged benevolence." Something like that. How many chances to demonstrate abject ignornance and rank incompetence does America think the world — or even its own cowed and bullied electorate — will grant?

Short answer: no more.

President George W. Bush has shot America’s wad. That became evident shortly after the American military jumped headfirst into the Iraqi sand trap, leaving General Tommy Franks and his entourage barely enough time to "declare victory and get out" while they personally still had retirements to enjoy, careers to pursue, or books to sell about something worth reading — all before the chickens came home to loot (which they did almost immediately.)

Everyone else who came afterwards got to sit in the shit storm.

As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-1972) I can say on the basis of much bitter experience that our marooned and abused military in Iraq now fights and dies for only one transparent thing: namely, to buy time for George W. Bush and the Republican Party to somehow find a way to spin "retreat" into "victory" in time to save their own sorry asses and cushy, corrupt sinecures. All this talk about what "we" want for the Iraqi people and their "army" will evaporate instantly the minute we get the last of our guys and girls out of that sand trap. We never cared a single additional tax dollar for the Iraqi people before this shameful attack on them and we won’t care a thing about them after we’ve come to our senses and left. George W. Bush has shot our wad. We’ve already done more than we should have and far more than we can afford.

When I came "home" from Vietnam in January of 1972 I wanted so much to tell everyone about what I had seen and done. No one wanted to hear about it. No one wanted me and my friends around. Some puss-gut chickenhawk "conservative" would always come to the airport to call us "losers" as we tried to sneak back into our own country as unobtrusively as possible. Everyone thought the war had ended in 1968 when Richard Nixon said he had a plan to end it. Only those who knew it hadn’t really ended cared enough to keep on protesting till first Nixon and then the war finally went away — seven years later. The American people as a whole, though, just wanted the unpleasantness, inflation, and wage-and-price controls to go away quietly without requiring that they get involved. They just wanted to forget. So they did. They want to do that same forgetting now. They will.

Iraq will have an "army" if (1) any "Iraq" remains as an actual national entity, and/or (2) if any "Iraqi" people want or can afford one. These issues, though, involve the people who live in that sad place. They don’t involve us. We’ve already proven conclusively that we don’t know our asses from a hole in the desert. Who on earth any longer thinks that "we" have anything worthwhile to contribute in Iraq? We’ve done enough harm. We need to stop.

The surviving members of the New Fig Leaf Contingent will start coming home next year — as Pat says. They will have purchased with their lives and limbs a few more months for America’s "leadership" to dither, "Vietnamize," or "Iraqify" a few thousand more dead and maimed Iraqis. Our traumatized soldiers will want so much to tell us what they have seen and done. We won’t want to hear it, though. We will not want any visible and wounded reminders of "losing." We will not want them.

I know all this because it happened to me. It happened to many of my friends. I know what our New Fig Leaf Contingent will suffer and remember all the remaining days of their lives. I hold George W. Bush and his crony cabal of clueless cretins responsible. Damn their eyes.

This entry was posted in Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Murry on “the days of their lives.”

  1. David Bennett says:

    Thanks for bringing back something We’ve edited out. I turned 14 in 1970, I lived in Monterey and for the next few years a lot of vets drifted through. I encountered quite a few elsewhere in the coming decade.
    One thing I recall was a frequent desperation to talk, often not war stories, but just the psychic results of the experience. I was a bit torn myself, from things independant of sciety and the masive angst. But I remember how these partial expressions from vets would tear through me, also the need and in some cases the gratitude that someone could hear a bit.
    We as a nation tended to close them off in the time they most desperately needed it. Not just the left, but the right as much and the silent majority wanting silence. A lot of vets half hid the fact of their service.
    Then somehow Rambo “won” the war though it’s my understanding the great patriotic hero spent his time teaching at a girl’s school in Switzerland and suddenly 20 year old kids were talking about their time in “Nam.” It was suddenly cool.
    But one of our big shames is that we as a people turned away from these vets. And I expect we will do the same for Iraq. People don’t want to know the consequences even of a “good war.” I’ve encountered a few WWII vets who couldn’t let go and of course grew up around a lot more who remained silent.

  2. Alibubba says:

    After 40 years, Vietnam is still on my mind. I was there in 1966-67, although I really didn’t understand the “big picture” until much later.
    Recently, I’ve read debates over the similarity between Vietnam and Iraq. While there are obvious differences, the debacle in Iraq is uncomfortably familiar. Although the scale of Vietnam was greater, Iraq may be even more tragic.
    Our involvement in Vietnam was, at least, based on the perceptions of the Cold War. The invasion of Iraq was based on nothing more than Neocon fantasy and George Bush’s political and oedipal fixations.
    Murray’s observations about the general attitude of the American people towards the Vietnam war are accurate and perceptive. Still, because more troops were involved in Vietnam, and because there was a draft, the war was very personal to countless families.
    Regarding Iraq, I believe both support and opposition to the war is tepid. With fewer troops and no draft, most American’s lives are not directly touched by the war. The Iraq war seems like a TV show with declining ratings.
    I have the cynical opinion that the reason the war is losing support has less to do with its cost, geopolitical consequences, and casualties than it does with the fact that Americans don’t see us winning. There is no real prospect of victory, nor even a definition of victory.
    I think the Iraq war resembles, in a way, the Spanish-American War. The initial enthusiasm for the invasion was based on the simple desire to see our powerful military kick some butt — without our participation and sacrifice.
    Hazy rationales like “bringing freedom and democracy” to Iraq were just high-sounding excuses. Americans are concluding that the only good news is that Saddam was toppled and that the bad news is that Saddam was toppled.
    The show is a disappointment. It hasn’t turned out as we’d expected. Do we spend more lives, limbs, treasure and prestige to keep the show going. Or will we leave the theatre.
    Unfortunately the whole enterprise was so defectively concocted that, short the Neocon hallucination of being welcomed with open arms,we are left with no respectable exit.
    In the end, the returning vets will be treated like those of most of our wars. They will be forgotten. But not before they are quietly avoided as reminders of percieved defeat. A show that bombed.

  3. J i O says:

    What do you guys think of this article in the NYT? It details a coverup of errors at the NSA led directly to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
    The article begins, “The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian’s work say.”

  4. No Mike,
    We’re not gonna forget these kids. We’ll feel guilty about letting them die and be maimed because we didn’t learn your lesson. But we won’t be able to forget again.
    As for me, I have always been grateful that, somehow Viet Nam began to end before I turned 18 (3 months, in fact). I had nightmares of body bags, crutches and bullets.
    I know that you were there for different reasons than we were told. I tried to explain to my friends that you guys were not to blame for Viet Nam. You didn’t start the war; it was a job and you obeyed your employer so you could keep it.
    But what twenty-something listens to a 17 year old, no matter how tall and large he is?
    Now, I hear more vets telling the young ones to keep in mind their duty to themselves. I believe the problems the military is having with recruitment stem from this backlash.
    As usual, all of my military brethren, active, retired and passed on, are in my prayers.

Comments are closed.