The slogans wear thin when wars go inconclusively on and on and the only winners are the defense contractors and other recipients, by fair means or foul, of US government largesse. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
Americans, and their soldiers, were led to believe they fought for democracy and freedom these past 17 years; the truth was far murkier.
“War is just a racket… I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service…during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
~ Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps, 2 time Medal of Honor recipient (1935)
I grew up in blue-collar Staten Island, New York City. My mother was a waitress, my father an overqualified civil servant who also painted houses and delivered Chinese food in Brooklyn. I come from a world where it seems you’re either a cop, a fireman, or a junkie. My mother had four brothers; two, along with my grandfather, were FDNY to the core; the others fell deep into the drug and alcohol game; it killed them both. But not me; no, I was the family’s golden child, always the pleaser, always high achieving, and I’d do something special. I thought it was my destiny.
In July 2001, while my high school friends partied during the summer before college, I found myself at Cadet Basic Training – “Beast Barracks,” as we called – a new officer candidate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Hating it from the start, I wanted out, but, well, quitting wasn’t an option. Four years later, I was one of 911 cadets who graduated – Time magazineprofiled us as the “Class of 9/11” – and commissioned in the US Army on May 28, 2005. Some 18 months later, I arrived in Baghdad.
For me, a high school senior in the year before the world changed, the army seemed glamorous, and, surprisingly safe. Back then there were no long, or “real,” wars. American soldiers almost never fired a shot in anger, let alone got killed. I guess I imagined overseas travel, at worst a tour peacekeeping in Kosovo or something, which, I figured, would provide cool photo ops and interesting stories.
Two months after beginning basic training, in September, while sparring in plebe (freshman) boxing class, the towers fell, and everything changed. I’m embarrassed to admit that, for the next four years at West Point, my biggest fear was that the wars would end before I could ship over and do my part. Truth is, I don’t recognize that kid anymore.
To continue reading: Unbridgeable Gap: Who We Were and Who We Thought We Were