War is ugly.
I cannot stress this enough. War is cheap, and ugly, and there is not an ounce of beauty to it. Endless days of fear and loneliness, of missing one's family, one's friends. Every meal, the newspaper reflecting Truths you don't see. Every night as you go to sleep, the sound of distant gunfire. That explosion you heard this morning during PT? Car-bomb. BONGO packed with 155s. Drove into the North ECP and exploded. Killed five people.
I forget these things sometimes. I get caught up in the daily rhythms--going grocery shopping, barbecuing with friends, making love to my wife--and for a while, it's easy to forget it all happened. But then it's something--the smell of diesel fuel, the pop of a holiday firecracker. It's never a flashback, but it is a sense-memory: I know this thing, I've experienced it. Innocuous stimuli take on a weight of their own, become significant in ways that the Uninitiated can never know. And when I think about these things, I am right back there again: Hot, lonely, bored, scared. I'm back to missing my wife, and feeling like I've been abandoned by my leaders.
True story: I walked into a DFAC one morning in Iraq. FOX News was playing, showed Cheney calmly talking about first-strike military action against Iran. We haven't even finished the second war, now he wants a third, I think? Eurasia is the enemy. Eurasia has always been the enemy.
People I know are scarred for life. People I know are dead. Garrett Knoll is dead. People's marriages have crumbled, people like Oz have slipped into alcoholism and self-destruction. All around us, the toll of this ugliness, this shit, exerts itself. It goes on, even now, and you think that a parade and a four-day weekend is supposed to make it better? You are numb to war. You embrace it. We all are. People are dying as you go about your daily business, and not because they have to, but because you do nothing.
There is no room for beauty in war. There is no time alone, no inner peace. There is no Dharma that matters in that place. There is only ugliness, dull and neverending, and we make it pretty by dressing it in the flag. We dress it in the same colors we bury our fallen in, and all the while we can't even be bothered with ending this thing. No--we have to plan the next one.
You cannot honor the dead while their bodies cool in the dust across the ocean. You cannot pay homage to their sacrifice, whilst you send their brethren to their deaths tomorrow. To pretend that this is honor, that this is Memorial? No. I will tell you what it is. It is shit. It is empty promises on paper. It is defilement. It is sacrilege. I would not accept such requiem, were it I. And I will not insult my peers by helping you carry it out.
What does it mean, to memorialize the war dead, when you have no intent of ending war? When was the last time you--any of you--thought about the news not in terms of war, but of peace?
When I am out, I will turn away from all of this. I will turn that ugliness into something beautiful. I can. I have. The book was my first attempt at that, and it succeeded. When I am out, I will live a life of beauty with my wife, and whatever children we might bring forth. They will be loved, and happy, and will learn about a world that is theirs to explore. They will be taught to question, to think, and if that leads them to feel differently than I, then so be it. My job will be done. I will have lived a life of beauty, and in so doing I will have shown that this was unnecessary.
Do you understand? This war was unnecessary. The ones you memorialize, you who did not fight, their blood is on your hands--not on mine. In a month's time, I will devote my life to erasing this ugliness, and you will not be a part of that, because you have looked at the ugliness so long you no longer see it.
I will not help you glorify this. It is not yours to glorify.