I have met the enemy, and he is us

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The pictures that zozie linked to in the diary “Photos from Iraq” brought back memories of Desert Storm. One memory, in particular, still haunts me. I’d like to share it with you…

I served on the ground there, flown in with one of the first units to deploy to Saudi Arabia. When we got off the plane, we didn’t know what to expect. We thought we would be shot at immediately. We soon discovered that our worst enemies were going to be the insane heat, dehydration, and boredom.

When the ground war finally began, my unit was in a task force that breached through a belt of landmines. The day was black as night, thick with smoke from burning oil rigs.

The next day, when the smoke had cleared and we could take a look around, we saw destruction everywhere. Blown up tanks and trucks. Body parts. Metal shards from exploded bombs.

And everywhere, deserted bunkers.

During one of the breaks in our convoy we got out to stretch our legs. I saw an empty bunker, a large one, and walked over to check it out. I hopped down into it to see what remained. What I saw there changed my outlook forever.

I saw me.

It was as if I had entered one of our own bunkers or tents back in the rear. The Iraqi soldiers had left in a hurry, leaving behind everything they owned: toothbrushes, small mirrors, sleeping bags, all the things they used to survive their daily routine. All the junk that we had, only scattered because they left in a rush.

I walked over to the back wall and saw the photos they had put up of their families. Pictures of wives, girlfriends, children, mothers and fathers, family gatherings, smiling faces, a whole world they longed to return to after the war was over. Pictures like the ones I carried in my wallet.

At that moment I realized they were just like me. They didn’t want to be there any more than I did. They just wanted to go home. These were real people with real lives that had been shattered. They had no more control over their destiny than I had at that point.

And I felt shame for being a part of what had happened to them. I was afraid of what it had done to me.

I have met the enemy, and he is us.  

24 comments

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  1. now, for everybody’s sake.

    • pfiore8 on April 14, 2008 at 2:18 am

    { { { b3citizen } } }

  2. I’m ashamed to say I was all gung ho for that stupid war.  I bought into all the hype about America saving our “friends” the Kuwaitis and Saudis from those evil Iraqis.

    Saddam was a thug, but the Iraqi conscripts he stuck out in the desert to be cannon fodder were victims just as much as the Kuwaitis who were brutalized during the occupation of Kuwait.

    More effective diplomacy would have gotten Iraq out of Kuwait, but Bush 41 wanted his war.

    Thank you for posting this essay, b3citizen, the harsh and ugly truth about war resonates in every line of it.

  3. out of you to post this… Thank you for showing us the horror

    up close and personal.  Would love to find a way to post this

    everywhere.  Every American needs to see the truth behind all

    the rah rah bullshit!

  4. And I’m having trouble putting my thoughts into words.  Your essay reminded me of the The Christmas Truce of 1914.

    “…Nobody knows where the Christmas Truce of 1914 began. Nor is it certain, even today, whether the truce began in one spot and spread, or broke out simultaneously in many places, the convergent evolution of numberless human hearts…”

    “…What  is known is that 90 years ago today — four months into what would eventually be called World War I — thousands of British, French and Belgian soldiers spent a cold, clear, beautiful Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western Front…”

    “…It began in most places with nighttime singing from the trenches, was followed by shouted overtures and then forays between the lines by a few brave men. There followed, in daylight, a burying of the dead that had lain for weeks on the denuded ground called no man’s land. After that, large numbers of soldiers poured over the front lip of the trench…”

    “…Throughout the day they exchanged food, tobacco and, in a few places, alcohol. Some chatted, usually in English, a language enough German enlistees spoke to make small talk possible. In several places, they kicked around a soccer ball…Mostly, the soldiers survived, which is what they wanted from the day. They did not shoot each other…”

    “…War did resume, though. It was a truce, not a peace. What followed was misery, waste, loss and degradation on a scale that is difficult to imagine…”

    “…the events that occurred 90 years ago this week were a spontaneous, unled cry for sanity before the advent of industrialized war…”As the war goes on, the enemy becomes increasingly abstract. You don’t exchange courtesies with an abstraction…”  

    IMHO, the enemy is often less of an “abstraction” to those fighting a war than they are to the leaders who send those soldiers into war.  

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