Friday, December 24, 2004


Epitaph for the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae

Go tell the Spartans,
That here, obedient to their laws,
We lie.

-- Simonides

If you haven't heard of the Battle of Thermopylae, you don't know near enough history--it's only one of the most famous battles in history. King Leonidas of Sparta and 300 Spartan Soldiers (along with perhaps 2,000 assorted other Greeks) held the pass of Thermopolye against the invading Persian Army under Xerxes of (according to some estimates) as many as 1 Million for 3 days.

Another Poem

Arithmetic on the Frontier

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe --
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: "All flesh is grass."

Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in "villanous saltpetre!"
And after -- ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our 'ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station --
A canter down some dark defile --
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail --
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow
Strike hard who cares -- shoot straight who can --
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troopships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The "captives of our bow and spear"
Are cheap, alas! as we are dear.

-- Rudyard Kipling

For any who don't understand the context of this poem, Kipling was writing about the British involvement in Afghanistan--the Pass he refers in the first stanza is the Khyber Pass. Iraq seems to be getting all the attention, but believe me, we're still filling the body bags with American kids in Afghanistan. So much for learning from History--the last person to conquer and hold Afghanistan was Alexander the Great, and he didn't hold it long, or conquer it easy.


The Veteran
May 1916

We came upon him sitting in the sun,
Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence
There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,
Asking advice of his experience.

And he said this, and that, and told them tales,
And all the nightmares of each empty head
Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,
"Poor chaps, how'd they know what it's like?"
he said.

And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,
Turning his sockets where they went away,
Until it came to one of us to ask
"And you're -- how old?"
"Nineteen, the third of May."

-- Margaret Postgate Cole

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Various Wars of the US Government

OK folks, you'll hear it from me time and time again, but here it is, be it for the first time or the million-something time: The various wars (yes, that's plural) the US Government is involved in are wrong, stupid, self-defeating, evil, etc.

Now keep in mind, I am a 10 year veteran of the Army. I have travelled to exotic places, met new and interesting people from strange societies, and killed them. I'm past the draft age, even if they did draft prior service; I have no children to be drafted; and even if they did start calling back prior service, I'm fat and wouldn't pass the physical anymore, so I'm pretty far down on the list. So the draft holds no fears for my own hide, nor that of my nonexistent children.

But the US Government currently has combat operations under way in something like 150 countries. Iraq is the only one really in the news these days, but keep in mind we're still taking casualties in Afghanistan, we're taking them in Columbia, we're taking them in Korea (about 30 - 40 per year) and so on. Columbia has been going on (this latest time, anyway) since the 1980s, Korea since 1953, etc.

The US Government is running short of manpower for all these wars. Even with stop-loss, they have been unable to make the numbers they need. And they don't seem to be interested in cutting off any of these many wars--even to focus more on the others. And they damn sure haven't stopped making enemies.

So, as I've been saying for two or three years now, the Draft is coming. And it won't be long now.

Talk all you want to about foreign policy, non-proliferation, terrorism, oil prices, etc. Complain all you like about idealism and isolationism and so forth.

I've got one thing to say to you:


That's what it's all about, people. Kids are coming home in body-bags. And for what? How many of your kids will you kill to arrest Sadam Hussein? How many for Chemical Ali? How many for Osama bin Laden? How many for those nameless "insurgents" in Iraq? How many for those nameless militia members in Afghanistan? How many of your children are you willing to kill so that poor Columbian farmers have a slightly tougher time growing coca plants? How many teenagers are you willing to blow up? How many college-aged kids are you willing to gut with a bayonet? How many newly-graduated high school seniors are you willing to shoot in the head? How many childrens' throats are you willing to slit?

I know your teenager frustrates you, and you say you'd like to strangle them sometimes--how would you like to do it for real? You can dress them and their friends up in camoflage after they graduate high school, and take them camping. Then you set up camp at night, and put a few of them on watch, while the rest sleep. Then, at about 2AM, you and the rest of the kids parents can sneak up behind the ones on guard duty, and kill them as quietly as possible--so that you can catch the others in their sleeping bags. Some wire, a few knives, and your bare hands. Stab them in the kidneys, slash their throats, garrot them, snap their necks, etc.

Better yet--tell 'em all you're gonna do it. Tell 'em they all have to go, but you're only gonna kill some of them. They won't know who; they won't know how; they won't know when. And tell 'em that some of them, you're gonna just maim. Maybe you'll blow the high school quarterback's leg off with a mine. You'll leave the chearleader's face scarred for life with an explosion. You'll shoot the baseball player's arm off with a .50 cal, you'll paralyze the soccer player, and you'll give the chess team massive head wounds and brain damage.
Tell Billy he'd better get laid before he goes--because you're gonna shoot his balls off, and he'll never get a chance again. Tell Susie she'd better freeze those eggs and set up a surrogate mother, because you're gonna shoot her low in the abdomen, and she'll never be able to carry a child of her own. Tell the guitarist you're gonna shoot his hand, and he'll never have full use of his fingers again. Tell the painter you're going to blind her. Tell the composer that an explosion is gonna leave him deaf--and hey, what is he cryin' about? Beethoven was deaf too, damnit--quit bein' a pussy!

But wait--it gets better! Tell 'em you'll give some of them weapons. Of course, the weapons they will get are made by the lowest bidder, and aren't that reliable, and only some of them will get them, and even those who do won't necessarily get ammunition. And tell 'em your gonna turn 'em into killers, whether they want to be or not. Hey kid, either you kill that foreign kid, or he's gonna kill you!
And when they come back, just think how great it will be! The ones who actually come back, anyway. And so long as they can still live on their own, and won't have to spend the rest of their lives in a hospital, and having someone else wipe their ass and give them sponge-baths. They'll be killers--some of them. And they won't take little shit like walking through doors, and going out to the store, and going out to eat for granted anymore. Because they'll be looking for ambushes, even if only unconsciously. They'll damn sure not walk on your grass anymore--there could be mines under it.

They might not sleep much, because of the dreams, and because they don't have someone they can trust to stand watch. They might have to get up and walk the perimeter several times a night. They might get confused from time to time about when and where they are. They might not be much on hanging out with the group anymore. They might have little nervous tics and habits, like never sitting with their back to a door, being a bit jumpy around sudden and/or loud noises, and just generally not liking surprises anymore.

They won't have an easy time finding a job--not too many places want to hire someone who doesn't have any experience or skills from the last few years but killing, tank-gunning, mine-sweeping, and so forth. And with all those skills, they'll just fit right in at college, trying to get a piece of paper that'll get them hired, won't they? And when they show up to the interview, and are seated with their back to the door, and they keep looking back over their shoulder, doesn't that make a good impression?

And of course, they won't be much fun at parties. They'll either be wound too tight to drink, or they'll drink too much and get mean. Of course, it'll take 'em a few times to catch on that when they go to these parties, and folks ask them what it was like, that they should just say something non-comittal and move on. Because no one wants to hear what it was really like to stab the sentry and ease them quietly to the ground only to find they were a teenage girl. No one wants to hear what it's like trying to push your friends intestines back into his gut while you scream for a medic. And no one wants to hear about the time you were so strung out from going without sleep and food and being afraid all the time and were clearing some buildings, and ended up shooting a child who just came around the corner too fast with a stick in his hand.

Yep. Hope that's how you want your (surviving) children to be--'cause that's how they will be. If you don't want them to turn out that way, what are you gonna do to stop it?