Tag Archives: marines

A fellow Tumblr blogger, Logically Positive, suggested that I write my recollection of Iraq. I suggested that I would begin by republishing some of my firsthand accounts while I was deployed there. Below is one of the emails I sent to my stepfather while stationed at Combat Outpost Rawah in the Al Anbar province in Iraq. And yes, I am aware it is filled with various typographical errors.

Musings from the Desert

October 4, 2006

I am not really sure what the date is today. I think it is the 4th of October and Wednesday, but I could be wrong.

You might have questions what is it I am currently doing in Iraq. Well, my unit is in charge of this base’s security. We man the defensive positions around the base’s perimeter as well as go on frequent patrols to make sure that the enemy is not setting up positions amid the many sand dunes and hills that surround this miniscule base. Dangers to this base is limited, but of course not exclusive, to infrequent mortar and RPG attacks. Infrequent, because patrols done by previous units in charge of security have done a successful job of neutralizing enemy positions that do crop up around the base. It is now up to my unit to keep that up.

Now, for the area itself. The base is located a few miles south of a city of 30,000 people near the Euphrates river. This is a true desert if I ever seen one. I thought the Mojave Desert is a desert, but they are nothing compared to this. The Mojave Desert at least is teeming with life. Joshua trees, bushes, cactuses, and wildlife of all kinds. This desert seems to be a barren wasteland, devoid of life. Just sand and bare rock as far as the eyes can see…

But I was wrong. While it is not as blatantly obvious as it is in the Mojave Desert, life does survive in spite of the harshness of this clime. When we went on patrol yesterday, we were to familiarize ourselves to the terrain. That means I have to observe everything, to take in the details, to learn what is “normal” in this terrain. That is when I discovered that this desert was not in fact a barren wasteland that I thought and heard it was, but rather the opposite of that. Everywhere I looked where signs of life succeeding amid the shifting sands. The most inspiring of which was a bird with a plume of shocking red feathers. I will admit, it was a bit unnerving to see such a defiant display of color in the middle of this apparent wasteland. It was the opposite of what I was doing. Me, in my desert digital, my tactical tan gear. I was trying to be part of the desert, to blend, to disappear into the endless desert background. But here is a native to this land who, instead of going with its life quietly, invisibly, chose to shatter the eerie silence of the desert with its song; and with its bright red plume, defy the overwhelming conformity the desert seems to demand (and got from me).

I do not yet hate this place. The conditions we are living under, while not desperate (we do have three meals a day, a place to sleep under, a cot to sleep on, things to entertain us, showers, Internet, free laundry service, 80-dollar Army whore…), have made a great many to despise the desert and everything and everyone in it. I do not know if it is possible for me to hate a place where the stars are allowed to shine.

Statist worship of military veterans by the Occupy Movement

The Occupy Wall Street movement opens itself up to the possibility that in their statist worship of the military that one of their celebrated veterans might not be whom they claim to be. And indeed, it has happened with the military record of an occupier in question in Buffalo, N.Y.:

The claims of a dedicated member of the Occupy Buffalo movement that he saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are not supported by Army records.

Christopher M. Simmance has told several media outlets, including The Buffalo News, that he served as many as three tours of duty in those war zones and that he was severely injured in Afghanistan.

Service records obtained from the Army, however, show he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., for three years and he left the active-duty Army in January 2001 — before the 9/11 terror attacks.

I understand the incentive for the occupiers and the veterans among them to broadcast current or former military affiliation. Whether occupiers would like it or not, America has a strong love affair with its military stretches that all the way back to its very beginnings when it chose as its first president a military general. Somehow, the fact that the “1 percent” of us that served in the military took up arms for the benefit of the state apparatus and its interests is noteworthy to the general public.

Why else, for example, would Ron Paul supporters boast about the good doctor’s popularity with active-duty personnel? Why else did Sgt. Shamar Thomas’s rant go viral? What else made Sgt. Scott Olsen’s injuries at the hands of the Oakland Police Department more offensive than Brandon Watts’ equally horrific injuries?

But really, why are we treating veterans differently?

Others have pointed out, most notably Glenn Greenwald, the corporate media’s fixation on power and its reverence for the powerful within the military establishment. Most of America is guilty of glorifying people for doing what is arguably inherently immoral: participating in an unnecessary war that caused the deaths of over a million people. One only has to look at Veterans Day, which had transformed from a somber remembrance of cessation of hostilities into a sickening celebration of endless warfare, to see this glorification in full display. It is my hope that in occupations all over the country, occupiers resist this mindless adulation of veterans and the horrific violence the American military represents.

That is not to say that veterans do not belong in the movement; in fact, they have been disproportionately affected by the failed policies of this country’s elites. They are that bottom “1 percent” sent to die in wars started by the top “1 percent.” They are that bottom “1 percent” that make up 20 percent of suicides in this country. They are also disproportionately affected by the recession, making up 15 percent of the homeless population. Additionally, they suffer 24 percent unemployment rate or more than double the national average. Given these troubling and utterly depressing statistics, veterans have more than a right to be a part of these protests; they have an obligation to agitate.

However, leaderless movements do not remain leaderless when their members willingly allow others to represent them and there is a great risk of that in occupiers’ elevation of veterans. Injuries sustained by Sgt. Olsen are abhorrent not because he was a Marine, but because he was a person exercising his inalienable rights to peacefully assemble and to free speech. Sgt. Thomas’ agitation was admirable, not because he was a Marine, but because he was a person righteous in his indignation and anger at the violence displayed by the police against his brothers and sisters.

Occupiers everywhere need to understand that no one group of people can legitimately speak on the behalf of the 99 percent. Elevating one group at the expense of others is detrimental to the inclusive message OWS purports to have and will inherently lead to same class stratification that the movement is protesting against.

It is very admirable that many occupations have adopted the principles of non-violence and have strongly adhered to it. But why is it that they take the easy road and celebrate the past violence of some of its members? This might sound harsh, but that is the reality of elevating any of us veterans above others in the OWS movement. Our contributions to the dialog is valuable, but not the only dialog. Much in the same way that in the peace movement it is not just Veterans for Peace or IAVA that can speak legitimately against the wars, but every conscientious person who can articulate an ethical reason against the war machine and agitate on the behalf of this country’s powerless foreign victims.

The OWS movement presents an opportunity for occupiers and veterans alike to wean this country from the blind military worship that cripples our national discussion. All that must be done is to dissent from partaking in it.

Blessed are the war makers? For the sake of every occupier, I should hope not.


In 2009 and 2010 alone, there were more U.S. troops who committed suicide then troops killed in combat during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

And after they get discharged and cast out like used gum by Uncle Sam, almost half them have suicidal thoughts and nearly a fifth of veterans have planned to kill themselves.

Whether it be inside or outside the theater of combat, war kills.