I've been home from Iraq for more than a year, long enough for my time there to become a memory best forgotten for those who worried every day that I was gone. I could see their relief when I returned. Life could continue, with futures not so uncertain. But in quiet moments, their relief brought me guilt. Maybe they assume I was as overjoyed to be home as they were to have me home. Maybe they assume if I could do it over, I never would have gone. And maybe I wouldn't have. But I miss Iraq. I miss the war. I miss war. And I have a very hard time understanding why.
I'm glad to be home, to have put away my uniforms, to wake up next to my wife each morning. I worry about my friends who are in Iraq now, and I wish they weren't. Often I hated being there, when the frustrations and lack of control over my life were complete and mind-bending. I questioned my role in the occupation and whether good could come of it. I wondered if it was worth dying or killing for. The suffering and ugliness I saw disgusted me. But war twists and shifts the landmarks by which we navigate our lives, casting light on darkened areas that for many people remain forever unexplored. And once those darkened spaces are lit, they become part of us. At a party several years ago, long before the Army, I listened to a friend who had served several years in the Marines tell a woman that if she carried a pistol for a day, just tucked in her waistband and out of sight, she would feel different. She would see the world differently, for better or worse. Guns empower. She disagreed and he shrugged. No use arguing the point; he was just offering a little piece of truth. He was right, of course. And that's just the beginning.
Which got me thinking as I read it about my own thoughts on the war and how often I think about it. How much it consumes me even when I try to do "other things". I wrote a comment at Ala's:
You know, about "I miss war", it was really strange but I almost couldn't read it at the same time I HAD to read it.
Kind of like how he misses war. It's crazy like that. I actually feel like I am just on the edge of that "junkie" feeling because I have to spend hours looking at the war and trying to analyze where we are and what is going on. even to the point of sleep deprevation sometimes.
I think I need a psychiatrist.
On the other hand, I know I am looking for that "tipping point" that says "its all over but the shouting". I don't know if I'll actually recognize it, but I can't seem to stop looking for it, even when I tell myself that could be years away.
A part of this is 9/11. I know that people are right about the effects of the images. I haven't looked since the last anniversary, even then I was more looking at people's stories, not the images. because it keeps cutting the wound over and over. Still, I feel like that isn't over until everything else is over. I think that is how people feel when their loved one dies from violent crime and, even when they bury them, there is no "closure". Even when they catch the bad guy, there is no "closure", just that big empty hole that will need something else to fill it up once this alleged culturaly denoted "closure" occurs because you have spent so much time being angry and searching for that closure, you have nothing else.
I wasn't there. I just watched it on my TV and it is still a big empty hole, not just in the ground, but in my mind and in my soul.
And it is worse because I think I should be doing something. Me. I am supposed to do something about it and I am not, or not enough or can't do what I think I should be doing.
Somedays, I wish the war would just fade away to nothing and we would all go back to our "normal" lives. LIke that "9/10" world everyone talks about. In the 9/10 world, I thought I knew where I was, who I was and where I was going. The 9/11 world is much more confusing and angry. I am lost somedays and depressed because it doesn't appear to be clearing. Where I thought I wanted to "go" with my life no longer holds the same appeal. I think I should be doing something else, but I don't know what.
Other days, I am so angry, I wish I could fly to where ever bin Laden or Zawahiri or any of those other assholes were and shoot them dead. Probably stomp and kick their dead and dying bodies. then I would toss them from a helicopter into the center of the biggest center of Salafist followers I could find so they would know my anger and how I feel about them.
Does that sound terrible?
Even wanting that, then I sit back and stew knowing that I could kill bin Laden and Zawahiri and it would still not be over. I know that their ideology will go on and on until we either attrit it to zero in a very long war (G_d, how did people live with the threat of Nukes from the USSR for so long or with the uncertainty of WWII?) or, in a fit of sincere madness, we just go Nagasaki on the entire region.
Still, I think, however it ends, when it ends, if I am still alive, I will have that empty place. I hate them. I hate this fucking war and I love it all the same because I want it to give me what I don't think I will ever get: closure.
And now I consider deleting this message in a purely open thread because it is too raw, maybe even crazy. But, like this guy in "I miss my war", I don't think I'm alone. At least, I hope not because, if I am, I am lost.
So, it stays.
I think it came on me, not just from reading that story, though it made me think about my own view of the war (not rather it is right or wrong or whether we are winning or losing, but how I react to it on a personal level and how it has changed me), but because every day, not only do I hear about this war, it's good and bad, it's ups and down like Schindler's List, but because I feel constantly assailed by hypocritic, condescending, smarmy mouth assholes who think that the only way you can support the war is to be some chest pounding, reich-wing, warmongering, viking that purely loves to pillage and rape. Because, of course, if you do not believe as they do, if you do not denounce this war on the some simplistic idealism of a clear "conscience", you are no more complicated or intelligent than a snail.
You're supposed to pretend nothing happened. You're supposed to pretend it doesn't matter. You're supposed to pretend that tomorrow will be a better day where no Wahabi, Salafist asshole wants to kill you, yours and those around you.
I'd like to say that I don't "pretend" to anything, but that is a lie, because I wrote something more on this post and then I took it down because I belong to an organization that I support through a related website and I would not have my raw thoughts on Republicans, Democrats or the great disinterested masses that only want the world to be quiet again, to reflect upon the organization or the people that we support. So I will pretend that I am not angry and that I will quietly go about what I have been doing, supporting our men and women in uniform until they all come home, however that goes.
But, deep down, I want to scream obscenities and kick people's asses.
Today, al Qaida announced impending victory in Iraq.
Today, Nancy Pelosi learned what it was like to be hated by everyone.
Today, thousands of Iraqis and Afghans will be cared for and protected by our men and women.
Today, the Taliban related al Qaida leader, Dadullah, announced that there will be no negotiating with the United States.
Today, the Democrats supplant the Republicans at the trough and continue to swill at the expense of our men and women.
Today, the war goes on.