Sunday, August 26, 2007

Go Back to Sleep

Outside the Wire, factions of every stripe are making the rounds.

In the last year, all over Iraq, they've begun to systematically target the very elements of infrastructure my unit was put in place to maintain. This is not the work of some rabble, mind you--these are coordinated attacks, often occurring within minutes or hours of each other, at locations at opposite ends of the country.

The results are felt everywhere--missions disrupted, supply-lines crippled. At my level, the result has been a number of 40-plus hour workdays, scrambling to prepare for missions that have to be executed with a minimum of planning, support, or sleep. As another result, the role of my section--Site Reconnaissance--has been waylaid, thus preventing us from gathering critical information on said structures. Instead, I'm at another location--arguably, granted, a mortar-free vacation--trying to scare up equipment so we can actually KEEP doing our job. Resources grow scarcer by the day.

Nobody talks about it. In the barracks, in the DFAC, or on the news. The Surge Is Going Just Fine. Nothing To Worry About, People. Nobody realizes the bind we're in. Nobody realizes that we are potentially a few coordinated attacks away from Non-Mission Capability.

I found myself thinking about this recently, of all places, in the House of Pain Gym. It was a weekday, and I was busy with my core workout. Midway through a set of diamond pushups, I had to pause. Music was playing over the speakers, of course, but what surprised me was the CD in the player--"Thirteenth Step" by A Perfect Circle, a personal favorite. In a place where the dominant forms of music entertainment are either Country or Hip-Hop, such a decidedly art-rock selection surprised me.

A line from one of my favorite songs from that album, "The Outsider": "Disconnect and self-destruct, one bullet at a time." Eerily appropriate. Nobody else noticed, it seemed. All around me, girls moved between the water coolers and the cardio machines, while muscleheads grunted and grappled with weights as big as myself. It struck me as strange, like the AFN public-service ad I saw while on R&R; it talked about a legendary Confederate Civil War hero for whom a major Army post is named. The song playing over the ad was Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," a major Vietnam-era protest song.

"Who picks these songs?" I wondered at the time, as I did again at the gym? Is someone actually aware of the irony? Is it a small pocket of resistance? Or are we just that numb to it?

It got worse this evening. I've spent my time over the years listening to friend's copies of "Thirteenth Step," having been unable to find one for myself. However, another pleasant surprise today, this time at the PX. A fresh copy; the only one on the shelves. I lunged upon it, and immediately took it home for a listen. As much as I hate AAFES, they do sometimes surprise me, as they did recently with carrying Tori Amos' "American Doll Posse."
Having not visited the CD in a few years, it had slipped my mind just exactly WHAT tracks were on the disc. Track ten, "Pet," however, jarred me back to memories of the gym, and of the concerted effort by my comrades back in Balad to ignore the difficulties we face.

The lyrics, too angry to be anyone but Maynard's, set haunting and melodic and perfect against Jeordie(aka Twiggy Ramirez)'s bass and Billy Howerdel's guitar:

"Lay your head down child
I won't let the boogeymen come
Count their bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble
Pay no mind to the rabble
Head down, go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums "


"I'll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and all your demons
I'll be the one to protect you from
A will to survive and a voice of reason
I'll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and your choices son
They're one and the same
I must isolate you
Isolate and save you from yourself."

We are addicted to war. Its entrenchment in our view of foreign policy is so deep it astounds me. We think nothing of the death or suffering of others; only of our own interests. It's a message that it blared at us a thousand times a day in the news, and on the Internet, and even in our own History classes. And yet everywhere I turn, it seems like none of my comrades notice.

Until finally, you can play a protest song in a warzone, in a gym full of soldiers, and not one will even react.

"Stay with me
Safe and ignorant
Just stay with me
I'll hold you and protect you from the other ones,
The evil ones don't love you son,
Go back to sleep."

The irony makes me shiver.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It IS fascinating that no one in the gym appeared to notice. However, you are unusually astute and perceptive. Sad but true ;) I am your pain when you can't feel it, sad but true?

Who sings that?

Keep your chin up.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Lurch said...

To me it seems like a rather sad commentary on my nation's slow, arthritic death. Sorry to sound so negative, but such good writing deserves honesty in reply.

3:18 AM  
Blogger Wren said...

A lot of Americans are shivering with you, Milo. Thank you for an excellent post and astute observation.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

Dunno who sings that April. Perhaps you can fill me in?

Lurch, Wren, good to see you again. Sorry I don't post more. I know I spend a lot of time bitching about our countrymen, but I'm glad you both understand and support me anyway.

I should be posting a few more things this next couple of days. Meanwhile, I'll be dropping in on your blogs as usual. I really should leave more comments, huh?

p.s. Aprillini, why don't you have a blog, or at least an email?

1:01 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

A Perfect Circle did a remake of "Pet"...a revisitation, really, and they (re)titled it "Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm of the War Drums". Creepy. One of my neocon proBush friends (the only one, actually) loves it. I can't tell if she's aware of the critique, or if she thinks it's *about* war.

Anyway. Glad to see you post again. Stay safe, yeah?

6:30 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

a lot of people don't realize anymore that they are protest songs. I'm surprised they've not used Eve of Destruction more often.

The TB

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Metallica. And I always leave my email when I leave a comment. I wonder why you don't see it? it's

3:16 AM  
Blogger Lurch said...

I wasn't aware you can access my blog from there, Milo. That's good news, to me. You're always welcome, of course/

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hope you don't mind, but I absolutely MUST copy this onto my blog for my readers to see. I try to give them a small perspective on the war from time to time, but to hear it directly from someone there right now would be chilling for them. I will make absolutely sure they know that you are the one who wrote it and I'll direct them here.

Stay safe.

8:02 PM  
Blogger alosha said...

thank you for writing. (and thanks to pookie for showing you to us)

11:50 PM  
Blogger iamcoyote said...

Good to see you again, Milo! I love A Perfect Circle and especially Maynard as well. He gets to the ugly heart of things so beautifully...

5:36 PM  
Blogger Army Sergeant said...

And the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it.

Glad to know someone else can recognize Alice's Restaurant!

4:32 AM  

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