years after it was dropped on Salzburg, a U.S.
bomb explodes, killing the two men who tried to defuse it.
kids keep losing fingers, toes, arms, and legs to a conflict
they're too young to have even forgotten. Hostages of last year's
Chechen theater siege are still
collapsing from the elixir that set them free. The spatial
and temporal boundaries historians place on any war are convenient
fictions; weapons aren't rendered harmless by declarations of
victory, and neither are people.
the CIA term for intervention's unintended consequences, is
a recurrent theme on this site. But despite its growing currency,
it remains widely misunderstood. For ease of rebuttal, blowback
debunkers construe the idea as narrowly as possible. Months
have passed since the invasion of Iraq, we sometimes hear, without
even a whimper from al Qaeda ergo, blowback is a myth. But terror
attacks by foreigners are only one shape the phenomenon can
take. Right now, what should worry us sleepless is the reimportation
of cruelty and disillusionment from battlefields abroad.
begin with, Rumsfeld & Co. have shown an indifference
bordering on sadism to U.S. troops in Iraq. As the dead
and maimed accumulate in the 51st state, euphoria
and esprit de corps ripen into something else. Soldiers,
reservists, and guardsmen ask when they can go home, only to
be told, "Shut
up!" Meanwhile, their spouses
fret and obsess, their children pass more milestones without
them, and the civilian world moves on. An American
sergeant in Kuwait describes family life for the empire's
initial thoughts are of my son. He is six weeks old now and
getting huge! Is the bump on his head the doctors said would
go away going away? God I miss him! I only knew him for four
days before I left to come back to the desert, but leaving him
broke my heart unlike any breaking it has had to endure to this
point. Is he letting my wife sleep through the night? She says
the last few days he has slept like six hours straight. That
is a vast improvement over the two hours he was giving her before.
Now my thoughts shift to her. I know she is holding up alright
as I have some form of communication with her every night, but
she is deteriorating. I think back to the morning that I left
her standing in the parking lot of Battalion at three in the
morning. She was crying and seven months pregnant. I tried to
console her by telling her I would be back in time for the baby,
but would I? They told me I would and ultimately I was. I am
lucky (relatively speaking again). As I left her I couldn't
help but think about the ordeal she had coming her way. We had
decided at the last moment that she was going to move back home
with her mom. All of our friends were deployed and both of our
families live in California (over a thousand miles away). She
would have her mom to help her out especially if I didn't make
it back. My thoughts shift to being back home myself. When would
I be able to walk the streets of my home town again? I re-enlisted
in March for the opportunity to be a recruiter, but with all
that has happened and is happening that plan may never come
to fruition. My stomach turns at the possible things I may have
gotten myself into by re-enlisting."
didn't return to ticker-tape parades and domestic bliss, now
did he? (Or so I imagine Victor
Davis Hanson's response.) Long separations kill marriages,
but even a serious spike in the number of military divorces
would not be recognized by most as blowback. For instance, the
murders and suicides last summer at Ft.
Bragg made the evening news, but mainly as spectacular coincidence.
As many as seven U.S. soldiers in Iraq have killed
themselves so far how many would still be living had they
never left home? That's a counterfactual question, of course,
and cannot be answered. But you had better believe that families
are asking it, just as the
amputees at Walter Reed must imagine the alternate trajectories
their lives might have taken.
after sprinkling a little sympathy on wounded vets, after wading
through the gore of Ft. Bragg and tut-tutting our "culture
of violence," most Americans will go right on denying
the fundamental problem. Pattern? What pattern? Robert
poorly in school. John
Allen Muhammad? Muslim. Timothy McVeigh? Just
an excitable boy who read The
honest public discussion of the salient factor these
men had in common would be unthinkable. Better to just let Barbara
Walters interpret them for us, how tough luck and chance occurrences
activated sinister genes. Citizens of the empire nod their heads
solemnly, somehow comforted by the randomness of it all.
maybe John Allen Muhammad did select his victims randomly, if
that makes you feel any better, but there was nothing random
about Oklahoma City. It was Pentagon morality turned back upon
itself by a former pupil. As McVeigh
wrote in 1998,
another example of this nation's blatant hypocrisy is revealed
by the polls which suggest that this nation is greatly in favor
of bombing Iraq.
this instance, the people of the nation approve of bombing government
employees because they are 'guilty by association' they are
Iraqi government employees. In regard to the bombing in Oklahoma
City, however, such logic is condemned."
saw the U.S. government murder civilians abroad for a dubious
"Greater Good," then
turn its guns on civilians at home. His method of response
bore the seal of his schooling.
now, after another, costlier war on Iraq, with more casualties
and longer deployments, we wonder how soldiers will handle the
peace. How many will return to broken marriages and other personal
disasters? How many will feel bitterness as the war's phony
pretexts fall apart? And of these, how many have internalized
of the state?
the answer to this question is even "one," we are
in serious trouble.