Posts Tagged ‘troops’

On Veteran’s Day

This was published in my dad’s hometown paper, The Milwaukee Sentinel,  on January 30, 1945.  My poetry-loving father kept it in a box  along with  his army cap and my mother’s wedding photo. The “new arrivals” being addressed are fresh troops being quizzed by the long-time soldiers away from home:

 To Recent Arrivals

Is our land still the same
As we dimly recall
With plenty of room
For the great and the small?
Has there been any change
From the old, well-loved scenes
In the Bronx, or in Brooklyn,
Long Island or Queens?

Does the water still sing
‘Mid the rocks and the rills
Of the tiny trout streams in the clean Berkshire hills?
Does the draftee’s step drag
With a touch of the blues
As each juke box in Natchez
Blares forth “Born to Lose”?

Do the geese flying south
Rend the dawn with their call?
Did they crown a new “Ice King”
Up there in St. Paul?
Do the trains whistle yet,
Clear and sweet as a flute
As they speed thru the darkness
Towards Billings and Butte?

Do the stockmen still stroll
In a tight little clan
With their boots striking sparks
In the streets of Cheyenne?
Do the gay lights of Frisco
Make sport of the dark
As you gaze over town
From the “top of the Mark”?

Is our land just the same
As it was long ago?
Please tell us, compadres,
We’re wanting to know.


 image: wlodi via Flickr


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From a friend of mine who publishes a popular political blog in D.C. comes proof positive of a badly kept secret: the operations in Iraq are being rebranded. Operation Iraqi Freedom will, as of September 2010, be known as “New Dawn.” 

This is not the first time the activities in Iraq have undergone a name change. The original title for the war (or, if you prefer, “incursion” or “invasion”) was Operation Iraqi Liberation. No sooner did the White House issue a press release  in 2003 than an astute observer noted the acronym spelled “OIL.”  Everyone quickly moved on to “OIF”.

Rebranding a war effort, particularly when the mission changes, is certainly one way to recalibrate public perception. Incidentally, the term “perception management” originated with the Department of Defense; the original meaning was to be a synonym for persuasion. However, as noted military author and military affairs specialist Emily Goldman has written, “falsehood and deception [are] important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be.”

The truth is that military operations in Iraq are entering a new phase, one in which the American military presence is fading (or rather is moving over to Afghanistan). Perhaps a new title for this group of actions is needed.  But if I were asked, I might suggest a less poetic-sounding name, at least until we are truly certain a new dawn is coming to that part of the world.

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“I am not opposed to all wars; I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
then-candidate Barack Obama, March 26, 2008
ObamaAfghanistan is a war which we didn’t start but which we will end. We have twenty months (more or less) to do so. Before we end it, we will provide a surge to counter the insurgency. This will be done in full view of absolutely everybody. This is not done lightly but with the security of the United States in mind. We will secure key areas (not deeply rural areas because we can’t; no one can) against the Taliban as we  train and grow the Afghan Army. Yes, we are forced to count on support from a deeply corrupt government, but we will hold that government accountable. We will not send them money directly but instead will fund local leaders, build up local miltia and convert former insurgents. We cannot send troops uninvited into Pakistan, where we know Al Qaeda is most active and where the nuclear arsenal is less than secure, but we will be close by. We will try to cut off any nascent partnership between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and prevent new alliances from growing. Most importantly, we will convince ordinary Afghans that we are there to help them take their country back and then move it forward. This is at the heart of any lasting success.
War is hell. It’s also either strategic, unavoidable, inevitable, unwinnable, manageable, practical, essential — or dumb. What have we here?

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