Category Archives: War

He Said That? 5/23/17

From Nam Vet 0331 Marine Grunt, on a comment on “My War, by Fleabaggs”:

Thanks Mike…Here are some edgy poems written in the early 70’s when the wounds were open and the memories still bleeding. I don’t know if Robert will allow the first one it has some profanity…I don’t talk like that anymore, but I did then, its a blunt raw poem about war. These have been locked away a long time.

Got to Pray…Got to Kill

Crossing stagnant marshes
leeches take turns with the mosquitoes
sucking our blood
flies are swarming
over spots of flesh
festering with jungle rot

a 155 booby trap blew Thomas apart
we just found his boot
with his foot still in it

monsoon season is here
patrols every day
ambushes every night
we hump in the rain
and sleep in the mud

sniper got the lieutenant
right through the forehead

got mortared again
lost three men

we fought all day
torched a vill
found an old mama-san
who was setting a bobby trap for us
it blew her hands off
we just stared as she bled to death
she just glared back

stepped over ole Luke the gook
burnt, charred and gooey by napalm
we call ’em crispy critters

watched the funeral of an eight year old boy
in the vill at hill 65
the V.C. had slit his throat
because his father had helped us

I’ve got the screaming shits again
Had to slit my cammies always squatting
Doc gave me some tiny white pills
told me to eat C-rat cheese
begged, borrowed and stole C-rat toilet paper
my asshole is a faucet…

dry season is here
it was 114 degrees yesterday
humped fourteen hours
seven dudes passed out

platoon got ambushed
purple hearts for everybody
lost half my gun team
and most of the squad
was hit tee tee
by a B-40
but greased their ass
payback is a motherfucker

second platoon was overrun
on no-name hill
gooks in the wire!
Most of the platoon
was K.I.A.
N.V.A. took Tex alive
cut off his balls
and sliced him open
Fuck the Geneva Convention

what’s left of the company
got three days R&R in China Beach
beer and steak
boom, boom and dope
more nicky new guys
back in the bush

on a patrol
lost one man
had a million dollar wound
but he died of shock!
he only had two weeks in country
can’t remember his name

big operation
buck, buck two solid weeks
105s, 155s, phantoms and Puff the Magic Dragon
saved our asses
played some heavy rock and roll
with my lady M-60

in country five months
out of the six I came with
I’m the only one left…

Hear back in the world
Jody has been busy
And the long hairs are rioting.
If I make it back
gonna kick some ass and take some names

Doors got a new jam
“It’s all over for the unknown soldier”
Blood Sweat and Tears got a new jam
“And When I Die”
It’s a rock and roll war

fuck it, it don’t mean nothing

on a four man killer team
we did the J.O.B.
get some Mac Marine
payback is still a motherfucker

Drew a bulls eye on the back
of my flak jacket
Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke
on my helmet I wrote
Kill First, Die Last, Burn and Destroy
so much for their hearts and minds

the company assaulted on line
swept through a V.C. vill
it was a “Search and Destroy”
but we got it reversed again…

the odds are crazy
don’t think I’ll make my twelve and twenty

company got hit
sweeping through Dodge City
Beacou Med-Vacs
more nicky new guys

I’m in my seventh month
getting close to being short

nothing to eat but C-rats
nothing to drink but river water
haven’t washed in weeks
got use to the smell
but my skin is crawling
dream of frosty vanilla milkshakes
and women with round eyes and big tits

on a patrol
it rained grenades
I got hit again
two weeks on Hill 327
14 nights in a hospital bed!
but they sent me back

during a “Search and Destroy”
all we found were booby traps
lost four men
my old buddies are gone
dead, wounded or crazy
got to saddle up
got to hump
got to dig in
got to stay alive
got to pray
got to kill

it don’t mean nothing.

The Casualty

I laid between the crisp white sheets
trapped in the folds
of the hospital corners
bleeding from wounds
no one could see
dreaming
sweating
floundering
in the surreal nightmare
of my fears, trauma and remarkable survival…
a scarred statistic
unconsciously mourning
his dead youth (Killed In Action)
and not really sure of anything
especially all
once held to be noble
staring up at the ceiling
hour after day after week
counting the cracks
in my mind

Who Was I … What Had I Become?

5 a.m. in Kennedy airport
sitting alone sipping coffee
in an almost empty terminal
staring blankly
trembling slightly
a few silent travelers hurry past
ignoring the slumped teenager
who stared at nothing
but felt everything

In a glass wall reflection
I saw a stranger
stiff in the uniform of his country
owning the heart of a frightened child
and the eyes of a ruthless survivor
a man-boy
caught in a whirlpool of emotions
drowning in a sea of blood
spinning…spinning…lost

The past overwhelmed the present
death and hate battled relief and gratitude
blood lust and gore haunted the survivor
nightmares smothered reality
(reality…what the hell is reality?)
pain mingled with confused fear
who was I…what had I become?

It was time to leave
a moment I had prayed to see for so long
and yet
an empty numbness ached
it was so hard to rise
a weight crushing, grinding me down
hailing a taxi
I headed home
nervous and worried
I had survived the war, but
who was I…what had I become?

All That I Wanted … All That I Found

I wanted to experience life
instead I destroyed it
I wanted to become a man
but became a guerrilla
I wanted to be brave
but became crazy
I wanted to be strong
but turned cold and hard
I wanted to follow my conscience and convictions
but lived by raw animal instincts
I wanted to help defeat my country’s enemies
but found my country didn’t care
I wanted to do what was right
and almost drowned in the wrongs
I wanted to be a hero
but returned a haunted casualty

from the rose colored glasses
of a teenaged idealist
to the sunken glazed stare
of a shell shocked veteran
all that I wanted
and all that I found
are questions screamed in my mind
that never make a sound

My Rage is Blind and So Is My Country

I am sorry
the grinning boy who left
returned such an angry young man
trapped in a gun barrel
impaled on the flag
dreaming with ghosts
and covered with scars
you could never see
never touch
never comprehend

My stolen youth
shattered ideals
broken dreams
and dead eyes
don’t belong anymore
to your pampered Pepsi generation
with their fists in the air
and their heads in the sand

It’s no one’s fault
your love couldn’t kiss
the blood off my hands
or calm the horrors
that scream in my sleep
or soothe the torment
of my betrayed patriotism
or hide your revulsion
from my private hell

I am sorry
your pained doe eyes
wept and pleaded
for the cold hard man
to put down his drink and leave
and for the grinning boy to return
but their innocence couldn’t see
he was killed in action
sent home
and buried alive
by his country’s hostile indifference

I am sorry
my back is to the wall
as my angry pen
spits out these words
but…
the war has stolen my tears
turned my heart into a rock
marooned me with my own blood lust
and left your eyes
reflecting a violent stranger
that scares us both

I’m sorry
your hidden romance
and rebound marriage
to my secret understudy
made it all seem
like a poorly written soap opera
but the show must go on!

Now I am where I need to be
alone
and a thousand miles away
from yesterday
fighting a war in my head
and healing slowly
so very, very slowly
there’s no other way
there’s no one to blame
my country is blind
and so is my rage.

The Unwritten Poem, By the Forgotten Man

Remember the night we first met
and I kept staring
you thought I liked your girlfriend
instead of you
but I didn’t

remember our first date
the picnic at the park
you pushed me in the pond
and laughed while I almost drowned
but I didn’t

remember the first time we made love
it just happened by itself
you were afraid
and thought I was using you
but I didn’t

remember that summer night
we held each other and cried
because we were so happy
and you thought we were being silly
but I didn’t

remember that big fight
and the things we said we didn’t mean
I drove away cursing
and you thought we’d break up
but I didn’t

remember our wedding day
and the joy we shared
we held one another all night
and kissed for hours
you said I fell asleep first
but I didn’t

remember when I answered the call
how brave you were
we talked about our plans
the children we would have
and the life we would live
when I came home from Vietnam
but I didn’t

 

 

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The Fallacy of Demonizing Russia, by Natylie Baldwin

Americans have never had to live through the kind of hell Russians endured in World War II. That is perhaps why Americans so often seem utterly clueless about Russia and the Russians. From Natylie Baldwin at consortiumnews.com:

Today’s demonization of Russia is especially offensive when viewed against the suffering of the Russian people that Natylie Baldwin recalled in a visit to the monument honoring the defense of Leningrad against a brutal Nazi siege.

We entered the monument to the siege of Leningrad from the back. There is a large semi-circle with eternal flame torches at intervals and embedded sculptures of Lenin’s face, and other symbols of the Soviet era. The monument was built in the post-war period so the Soviet iconography is understandable. In the middle is a sculpture of a soldier, a half-naked woman looking forlorn into the distance, and another woman collapsed on the ground with a dead boy in her arms.

There are several concentric steps that follow the semi-circle and I sat down on one of them and took in the feel of the area. Classical style music played in the background with a woman’s haunting voice singing in Russian. It was explained to me that it was a semi-circle instead of a full-circle to represent the fact the city was not completely surrounded and ultimately not defeated.

I finally got up and went through the opening in the semi-circle and came out to the front where a tall column with 1941 and 1945 on it stood with a large statue of two soldiers in front of it.

There are several statues on either side of the front part of the monument of figures, from soldiers to civilians, who labored to assist in alleviating the suffering of the siege and defending the city. Soldiers and civilians helped to put out fires, retrieve un-exploded ordnance from buildings, repair damage, and built the road of life over a frozen body of water to evacuate civilians and transport supplies.

The siege lasted 872 days (Sept. 8, 1941, to Jan. 27, 1944), resulting in an estimated 1.2 million deaths, mostly from starvation and freezing, and some from bombing and illness. Most were buried in mass graves, the largest of which was Piskarevskoye Cemetery, which received around 500,000 bodies. An accurate accounting of deaths is complicated by the fact that many unregistered refugees had fled to Leningrad before the siege to escape the advancing Nazi army.

To continue reading: The Fallacy of Demonizing Russia

 

Why is Trump rewarding Saudi war crimes with more weapons? by Kristine Beckerle

The US is helping Saudi Arabia fight a war against its much neighbor, Yemen, that may amount to genocide. From Kristine Beckerle at thehill.com:

Why is Trump rewarding Saudi war crimes with more weapons?
© Getty Images

Last October, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed a funeral hall in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing and wounding hundreds of people.

“The scene was catastrophic,” one survivor told me.  “Beyond what I can explain to you or describe … There were burned bodies and dead bodies all over the hall.”

Soon after that unlawful bombing, the Obama administration suspended the sale of nearly $400 million in weapons to Saudi Arabia.

It was a recognition, a long time in coming, that the coalition’s military campaign in Yemen had devastated the country, killed thousands of civilians and brought it to the brink of famine.

After the funeral bombing, unlawful airstrikes continued, but the decision to suspend arms sales sent an important message to the Saudis. President Trump, in his first trip abroad as president, is going to send an alternative, deeply troublesome message.

While in Riyadh this weekend, Trumpreportedly plans to announce more than $100 billion in arms deals to Saudi Arabia — nearly as much as President Obama authorized during his eight years in office.

The deals include Raytheon bombs, Lockheed Martin missile defense systems and BAE combat vehicles, and some of the weapons whose sales had been suspended.

The scars of unlawful airstrikes can be found across Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition has carried out scores of attacks that hit homes, schools, markets, and hospitals since March 2015, when it began its military campaign against the Houthi armed group and forces loyal to the former longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh. 

Human Rights Watch has documented 81 apparently unlawful coalition attacks over the last two years, many possible war crimes. In almost two dozen of these cases, including the attack on the funeral hall, we were able to identify the US weapons that were used.

To continue reading: Why is Trump rewarding Saudi war crimes with more weapons?

The Real Danger From Trump Is Ignored, by Sheldon Richman

Trump’s evolving polices in the Middle East pose more danger than anything he might have done with the Russians. From Sheldon Richman at antiwar.com:

While the chattering classes spend all their time rehashing Donald Trump’s alleged – there’s a word you don’t much see in the media anymore – coordination with Russians over their alleged – there it is again – hacking of the Democrats’ email, a story with far more ominous implications is being ignored. I refer to Trump’s trip, beginning today, to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Whatever Trump might have done with the Russians, if he did anything at all, it has none of the potential for death and destruction that his meddling in the Middle East has. He is doing far more than doubling down on what his predecessor, Barack Obama, did. For a guy who promised to concentrate on domestic matters, he’s sure engaging in a lot of empire preservation. But, then, some of us are not surprised. His words were never to be trusted.

The two most destabilizing countries in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want to reduce Iran to insignificance, and that starts with getting rid of Iran’s ally, Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad. Trump says he wants to concentrate on ISIS and not Assad, but his actions belie his words. Witness his launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase after unproved and seriously challenged assertions that Assad used chemical weapons against Syrians. U.S. forces have also hit pro-Assad forces twice in recent months, including on Thursday.

The “radical Islamic” Saudi antipathy to Assad and its sympathy for the various stripes of bin Ladenites are well-known. So is that fact that Israeli leaders have more than once said they prefer militant Sunni Muslims (like al-Qaeda) to Shiites, that is, Iran. For nearly three years the Saudis have been committing genocide against the people of Yemen – indispensably facilitated by the US government – in the name of fighting al-Qaeda’s adversary, the Houthis, who practice a form of Shia Islam but who are not Iranian proxies. Obama signed on to the Saudis’ war to ease their discomfort over the Iran nuclear deal.

All this is apparently fine with Trump. After all, he demonizes Iran every chance he gets. He would agree with Barack Obama, who told an interviewer some years ago that removing Assad would have the benefit of harming Iran. Hillary Clinton agreed.

To continue reading: The Real Danger From Trump Is Ignored

 

US Thinking on Arming the Kurds: Complex, Intricate, Nuanced, or Just Plain Stupid? by Michael Scheuer

Not to spoil it, but because this is SLL, and SLL is generally anti-interventionist you can probably guess that the correct answer is the last choice: just plain stupid. From Michael Scheuer at theburningplatform.com:

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We are halfway through May, 2017, and it seems to be a month that again highlights the dearth of commonsense in the minds of most of those who are responsible for conducting the republic’s foreign and domestic affairs. On this score, one event merits special notice, namely, the arming of the Kurds.
This decision will eventually have such a widespread and disastrous impact on the Middle East region that the interventionist diplomats, media, generals, and academics who advised President Trump to arm the Kurds will have to fall back on a paraphrase of that old Iraq-War, Bush lie, “We did our best and the calamity that resulted from our decision to arm the Kurds is a case of unintended consequences.” When the worst occurs, anyone with a bit of commonsense will recognize that the failure, destabilization, and additional war that has resulted from arming the Kurds was something that (a) was perfectly and easily predictable and (b) another long step into a fatal swamp in which America has nothing at stake save the feelings, sensitivities, and ardor for lucre of the already rich American governing elite. But first, take a quick look at these two maps.

As can be seen, there are substantial Kurdish populations in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, and, at least in Iraq, Kurdish territories sit upon enormous oil and natural gas reserves. Each of those four nations has long feared the Kurds’ strident demands for an independent Kurdish state, their fighting abilities, and their fiery nationalism. As fear always does, the nations’ fear of the Kurds has led to their economic, social, linguistic, and – at times — military oppression by each government. In short, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran have long seen their Kurdish populations as malcontents bent on independence and so a threat to their territorial integrity.

To continue reading: US Thinking on Arming the Kurds: Complex, Intricate, Nuanced, or Just Plain Stupid?

Whistleblowers, Moral Injury, and Endless War, by Peter Van Buren

Yesterday, SLL readers got a powerful story on what the Vietnam War did to one man who fought in it. Here is another examination of what war does to psyches and consciences, from Peter Van Buren at tomdispatch.com:

Was Chelsea Manning Motivated By Moral Injury?

My guilt will never go away,” former Marine Matthew Hoh explained to me. “There is a significant portion of me that doesn’t believe it should be allowed to go away, that this pain is fair.”

If America accepts the idea of fighting endless wars, it will have to accept something else as well: that the costs of war are similarly endless. I’m thinking about the trillions of dollars, the million or more “enemy” dead (a striking percentage of them civilians), the tens of thousands of American combat casualties, those 20 veteran suicides each day, and the diminished lives of those who survive all of that. There’s that pain, carried by an unknown number of women and men, that won’t disappear, ever, and that goes by the label “moral injury.”

The Lasting Pain of War

When I started Hooper’s War, a novel about the end of World War II in the Pacific, I had in mind just that pain. I was thinking — couldn’t stop thinking, in fact — about what really happens to people in war, combatants and civilians alike. The need to tell that story grew in large part out of my own experiences in Iraq, where I spent a year embedded with a combat unit as a U.S. State Department employee, and where I witnessed, among so many other horrors, two soldier suicides.

The new book began one day when Facebook retrieved photos of Iraqi children I had posted years ago, with a cheery “See Your Memories” caption on them. Oh yes, I remembered. Then, on the news, I began seeing places in Iraq familiar to me, but this time being overrun by Islamic State militants or later being re-retaken with the help of another generation of young Americans. And I kept running into people who’d been involved in my war and were all too ready to share too many drinks and tell me too much about what I was already up all too many nights thinking about.

To continue reading; Whistleblowers, Moral Injury, and Endless War

He Said That? 5/18/17

From “My War,” by Fleabaggs:

One of my closest buddies from school got drafted and found himself in Bumdeal Vietnam where nothing ever happened. He’s standing in a wet trench in the Monsoon for hours every day waiting for nothing to happen. Then he gets to go back to a smelly sandbag hooch to rest and his buddy is escaping to La La Land with some pot and a squeeze tube of morphine from a kit. 3 months later he’s sharpening his needle on a nail file and cooking smack over a Zippo, wondering how this happened. He’ll be able to quit pretty easy when he gets home he thought. But I just can’t go back out there tonight without it. Just 8 more months. On the flight home he gathered up what little dignity and self-respect he had left, thinking that he was still a hero for sticking it out. A month later that little shred of hope was gone.

He had no idea how he killed that many old women and babies without remembering at least some of the details. So much for the quitting. 2 years later he died with a needle in his arm. I’m not excusing our bad decisions after we saw the farce that it was. I’m saying that was what happened and that we had lots of help getting to that point. We were not going to disgrace our families by deserting or going to Leavenworth and getting a BCD. So we put on our best pair of man pants, sucked it up and muddled through.