“Fuck War”

I don’t read Wonkette much, but this sign-off post by 23 year-old Riley Waggaman announcing the ending of his tenure as an author there is one of the most principled pieces of writing I’ve read in just about any corner of the internet. Here are some excerpts:

  • I’m twenty-three. Can anyone even begin to count how many countries we’ve flattened, for Freedom, since 1987? I’m twenty-three, and for my entire life, all I’ve known is war.
  • The fact that the headline of every major newspaper on May 2 wasn’t “Alright. Time For Us To Go The Fuck Home!” is the only reason you need to distrust American Journalism.

Also, I apologize for everything I’ve ever said or written. Except for this:

Fuck War.

I’m twenty-three, and I’m pretty dumb, all things considered. But also:

Fuck War.

I’m a crappy friend, a terrible son and a lousy brother.

The least I can do is say Fuck War.

Anyway, getting back to that revolution, in your head. The revolution has already happened for me. It was nonviolent, and didn’t involve the CIA. My new country is called the Democratic Republic of Rileyland. We’ve got a lot of problems, here in Rileyland. It’s not a very wealthy place, for starters. We have a very large deficit: We owe Sallie Mae a shit-ton of money. But the Democratic Republic of Rileyland does not tolerate endless war. We don’t travel around the world, curb-stomping brown people. Our citizens know better than that. The Democratic Republic of Rileyland has many, many problems — but it is, thankfully, a nation of Peace. And Hope. And Change. (You need Peace if you want those two other things, “Hope” and “Change,” by the way.)

There’s an election coming up in Rileyland. The pundits say I’ll be reelected, and not because I shot some guy in the face.

Atrios responds:

I’m not sure exactly when I started seeing myself as a pacifist. It’s one of those words which to Very Serious People means “you like it when the bully punches you in the face don’t you dirty fucking hippie!” But what I’ve learned over the increasingly many years of my life is that the existence of just about any war in which the US is involved means that the Very Serious People, with all the power they have, fucked up completely. Even if that war is, in some sense, “necessary,” it still means that the people who run this place screwed up and at the very least should resign in shame before sending people off to kill and be killed. But they don’t. They go on Meet the Press to talk about how awesome they are.

I’m probably fairly close to where Duncan is when push comes to shove though I don’t see myself as a pacifist;  I’m right there with him when it comes to recognizing that something has really gone wrong. And it’s incredibly satisfying to see a young author have such moral clarity, in spite of spending his entire teenage and adult years living in a country that was and is at war.

Out of Iraq

Raven Brooks is asking why there isn’t more hoopla and celebration on progressive blogs about the announcement that all US combat troops are out of Iraq.

I’ve been writing in opposition to the Iraq War for coming on six years (I started blogging in late 2004). When I went to work for Chris Dodd on his presidential campaign, it was spring 2007. A supplemental war funding vote was coming up and Dodd was introducing a resolution to have all US combat troops out of Iraq by March 2008. Dodd was to the left of the entire caucus, save Russ Feingold, and the more consensus liberal Democratic position in the Senate was to have all troops out by the end of 2008. At that time, with the insurgency in full swing and a burgeoning civil war taking place between Sunni and Shia, nine months meant a lot. Of course Dodd’s provision was defeated and Congress was never able to put funding on the war continuing conditional on an exit plan.

That happened three years ago. And the fairly moderate position would have had US troops out of Iraq almost two years ago.  In the interim, while things in Iraq are better than 2007, there is still strife, violence and discord. Yes, President Obama kept his campaign pledge to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year. But as time as past, Afghanistan, our forgotten war during the days of fighting in Iraq, has become a total disaster. The President has escalated the war in Afghanistan and our commitment there has only grown deeper, despite it being almost nine full years old.

What’s worse, as has always been said to be the case by DFHs online, combat troops is something of a euphemism. We still have over 50,000 American troops in Iraq. There are tens of thousands of “contractors” doing the jobs that US troops ostensibly should be doing, like protecting US diplomats and civilian officials. It’s hard to imagine a world wherein the exit of combat troops from Iraq means no more American troops will die in Iraq, nor will American troops no longer be reasonable for killing Iraqi civilians.  In short, today will likely look just like yesterday for over 50,000 American troops and millions of Iraqis.

Am I glad that the administration has brought many US troops out of Iraq? Yes, absolutely. But I guess I still don’t know, after more than seven  years, why we went to Iraq and what our presence accomplished for the people of Iraq, besides toppling a tin cup dictator. I don’t know what President Obama will say to the parents of the next US soldier, airman, or marine who is killed in Baghdad. And I don’t know that how this war ending is indicative of a larger vision for foreign policy and military policy from the Obama administration, specifically vis a vis Afghanistan. Pulling troops out of Iraq now was the right thing to do and it is reassuring to see the administration do the right thing. But this is something that I really wish had happened years ago.

Making Sense

Alan Grayson is probably the freshman Congressman who has most impressed me. The man works his ass off and takes his position seriously. He’s conducted some of the most grueling examinations of the administrators bailouts at Treasury and recipients of bailout money. Now, in an interview in Vanity Fair, Grayson is making sense on Iraq. He had previously made a statement to the New York Times about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that raised eyebrows:

“There is no need in the 21st century to do this, to make us safe. This is a 19th-century strategy being played out at great expense in both money and blood in the 21st century, in the wrong time at the wrong place.”

Vanity Fair started their interview on this subject.

Alan Grayson: The reason why I said what I said is because the fundamental goal of our endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan is supposed to be to protect us. That’s why we call the Defense Department the Defense Department, because it’s supposed to defend America. And whatever the perceived threat may be, whether it’s al-Qaeda or the Taliban or otherwise, only by the most incredibly convoluted Bushian logic could you possibly get to the point where you conclude that as a result of that threat we should spend $100 billion a year and send over 100,000 of our young men and women abroad, 8,000 miles away, and that that is an effective way to accomplish that goal. It doesn’t make any sense.

Life does not consist of a Risk board game, where you try to occupy every space on the planet. There’s no other country that does this, there’s no other country that seeks to occupy foreign countries 8,000 miles from their own border, and believe that that somehow accomplishes anything useful. It doesn’t. If in fact it’s important to our national security to keep al-Qaeda or the Taliban under control, there are far more effective ways of accomplishing that goal, if that is in fact the goal, than to extend this kind of money and this kind of blood.

This is something that Democrats said when they were in the opposition repeatedly, and that truth hasn’t changed at all just because we elected a president. You can always find some kind of excuse to do what you want to do anyway, but I have to wonder why a new Democratic president wants to do something like this. This is a president who has recognized the immorality of torture, and I’m waiting for him to recognize the immorality of war and foreign occupation.

It’s clear that two things Grayson possess in spades is moral clarity and the courage of his convictions. These are bold words for a Congressman who’s part of a caucus that has consistently voted to continue to fund both wars. Grayson is seriously trying to move the Overton Window on both Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in this interview, though, you can see the journalist from Vanity Fair, Christopher Bateman, taking a confrontational position against Grayson, lobbying repeated pieces of the Beltway’s ever-evolving Conventional Wisdom on the whys and hows of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grayson’s rebuttals to Bateman’s premises are truly powerful and worthy of a detailed reading.

Our American Way of Life

Richard Smith at VetVoice has an incredibly poignant push-back on Dick Cheney’s recent pro-torture, image rehabilitation tour. Richard writes:

[O]ur American way of life includes concepts of freedom from tyranny and a certain American personal independence that has been passed down through the many generations of this nation. If we are to believe that torturing human beings made us safe, that denying habeas corpus has made us more secure, that warrantless wiretapping impeded the evildoers, then what did I and we volunteer to lay our lives down for? In short, if we violate the very ideals that hold together our American way of life in the pursuit of security, what exactly are we secure from? What does that tell us about the success of the “evildoers” in attempting to “destroy our American way of life”?

Smith poses these thoughts as questions, but I think we can all see that they are rhetorical. That a patriotic young veteran even has to ask them shows how profoundly the Bush-Cheney administration failed our citizens and our Constitution.


Alex Horton of Army of Dude is, in my opinion, one of the best writers in the blogosphere. He’s a veteran of the Iraq war and a contributor at VetVoice. His posts on his time in Iraq, often filled with photos and videos, have been one of my most important windows into the war, free of media filter. Alex has a post up today about the Individual Ready Reserve, which he and two of his best friends moved to when they left active duty. He describes the decision as playing Russian Roulette, which seems to be tragically accurate. His post today points out that his two friends have both been called up to active duty. Alex writes:

I was at work when my pocket sent out a cheerful tone alerting me of a new text message. I pulled out my phone to see a new message from Steve. I figured it was some trivia question. I could tell he carried his debating persona back home from the messages he sent me. He asked about actors in movies and lesser known points of history that must have come up in discussions with his friends. I opened it to see that it had nothing to do with trivia.

“I just got official orders to go back dude.”

My knees almost gave way after reading and rereading the message. I called him right away to offer any kind of help I could. As the phone rang, I looked down at my silver KIA bracelet and ran my fingers over the etched lettering – CPL BRIAN L. CHEVALIER 14 MARCH 2007 BAQUBAH, IRAQ.

A thousand miles away, Steve was wearing the same bracelet.

I relayed to Steve all the information I had gathered on the IRR. I spent countless hours hunched over my computer researching IRR callups, a challenge considering the intentionally scant information put out by the DoD and Army Human Resources Command. I told him to sign up for any classes, get a doctor’s note for any condition, anything that could delay or exempt him from mobilization. There is no shame in it. Steve volunteered during a war, knowing that he would be sent into combat. Not only combat ensued, but the bloodiest fight in Iraq since Fallujah. Steve did his time, and more. His place is at home, not on the battlefield anymore.

By way of Lt. Nixon, Thomas Ricks notes a Pentagon study that reveals troop levels have remained relatively the same since 9/11. A more alarming statistic: 6% of active duty troops have served more than 25 months in a combat zone while 74% have less than twelve months in. The study concludes that the lower to mid enlisted and company grade officers are carrying the most burden. Senior officers and NCOs are hiding like cockroaches in the cracks of TRADOC posts and non-deployable slots while lower level soldiers march to the steady drumbeat of repeated deployments, failed marriages and ever-mounting cases of suicide. On top of that, the IRR continues to mobilize soldiers that have moved on, going to school or beginning careers and families. The only way to lessen the burden is to grow the size of the force. One idea: take the database of the newly minted Red State Strike Force members and dump them into mobilization slots. Those pathetic goons want to wear patches styled after special forces to fight on a battlefield of snark. They want to organize. I can think of no better way to organize than a shout of, “Dress right, dress!” The slack has to be picked up somewhere, lest our forces remain so broken that we must rely on involuntary callups to get bodies to the fight.

Steve’s future hangs in the balance. School has been put on hold until a review board decides if he is fit to go back to Iraq. I have described the looming threat of recall as an ubiquitous afterthought, constantly degrading the sense of normalcy and safety as the days pile on. Now that recall has manifested itself as a clumsy destroyer of futures, the feeling has changed. Not only mental, the dread has become physical, hanging in my stomach like a sharply cornered anvil. My old infantry sore spots – back, knees and ankles – throb in a dull ache. The burden is back squarely on my shoulders, but I cannot imagine what Steve is feeling right now. I just know that as his best friend, a thousand miles away, I must carry some for him.

VetVoice has a list of resources on IRR. I’m reprinting them below for anyone looking for more information.

IRR Information