There are very few things that can bring America together like national pride in sports and national pride in war. Regardless of which we are conducting, the pride felt is fleeting. Every day, every year, every generation removed from the time of the event subdues the pride. Sure as Americans we can take immense pride in the Revolutionary War, but if we think that we know the elation, the pride felt by those Continental soldiers in Yorktown, when General Charles O’Hara surrendered the British Army to American General Benjamin Lincoln, we are sorely mistaken.
Talk about pride! The famed General Cornwallis refused to meet formally with General Washington and to even formally surrender to him! Instead he sent Brigadier General O’Hara to present his sword of surrender. General O’Hara first tried to surrender to French General Rochambeau, who refused and pointed him to General Washington, who refused and pointed him to General Lincoln, who accepted the sword and the surrender.
This doesn’t mean that pride isn’t passed down from one generation to the next. It’s just that, like the little things in weddings that brides fret about, which nobody ever notices, the little points of pride that today we fret about will be forgotten tomorrow.
I’m in the process of planning a wedding…. rather my fiancée is in the process of planning a wedding and like a good NCO with an officer, I am there to confirm her decisions when they don’t matter and put her back on track when she goes too far astray.
If you’re like me, you have been glued to the television while Team USA has battled against its rivals during the World Cup. Americans, and those who love America, gather around screens in homes, bars, and open city fields, to watch our champions fight for a win, for American pride. Sure, every football fan knows that logically America doesn’t have a great chance of winning the World Cup. But only weeks ago, the world was saying that we wouldn’t make it out of the Group of Death… and yet today, we are holding the second place spot in the group, a spot which if we hold would make us one of the two teams to move on to the next level of the competition!
Maybe that’s something that U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a German, doesn’t understand about the American psyche, it’s the American belief that we can succeed that keeps us going.
There is something equally beautifully and deadly about American optimism and resolve. In the World Cup, it fortifies us, makes us fight harder, pushes our team to chase the ball, play physical, and believe that they have a chance at beating teams who have better players and pedigrees. Our optimism and resolve has given the team strength. However the other side of America’s sword of optimism and resolve is when America fails to face reality.
As I watch Iraq unfold
Or is it unwinds?
I once again am glued to the news, something that ever since having left Iraq, I have tried to avoid. At a certain point it’s no longer a question of if the little engine could, but if the little engine should? At what point is Iraq no longer America’s responsibility to fix? I must admit, having lost brothers and knowing that others in our community have lost brothers and sisters in Iraq, I kept quiet. I don’t have an answer to the problems plaguing Iraq, so why be just one more voice in the noise?
Yet, I felt compelled to speak up when I read this morning in the Washington Post, “Shiite ‘peace brigades’ send signal of aggression with major rally in Baghdad”.
And it wasn’t because “peace brigades sending signals of aggression" is an oxymoron.
You see, back in 2004, my unit, 1/37 Armor, fought against these very ‘peace brigades’: they called themselves the Mahdi Army. They still call themselves that. The fighting against them was fierce. The news called them street gangs, irregular forces in Karbala, but the reality was, they were as regular of an opposition as we could have fought.
After fighting them, I find it hard to believe that now, a mere 10 years later, they would be our ally in keeping the Iraq government from toppling and Iraq whole. Yet, now we have sent 300 American advisers to help the Iraq’s security forces and military.
Kind of sounds like Vietnam in reverse.
With the disintegration of Iraq's military and the rise of Shiite militias to take the military's place, it is hard to believe that the leadership and advice provided by America will not directly or indirectly filter down to the very men and groups who I and other Iraq veterans fought. This isn't a mere case of enemies make bad bedfellows, this is a question of do U.S. national gains we receive by propping up the current Iraqi government outweigh the risks?
Remember the story about the turtle who helped the scorpion cross the river: The scorpion promised the turtle that he would not sting him if the turtle helped him across the river. In the middle of the river, the scorpion stung the turtle. The turtle yelped, and yelled at the scorpion, "Why did you sting me? Now we are both going to die!" The scorpion meekly replied, "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."
In many ways, what is occurring right now is what needs to occur right now.
This is different than "what needed to occur". Back in 2003, Iraqis genuinely believed in the idea of being Iraqis. There were intermixed muslim neighborhoods. When I went back in 2006, DMZs had formed and neighborhoods had split in half between Sunnis and Shiites. The Kurds had left for Kurdistan.
All throughout Iraq, a Civil War is taking place: The Kurds are taking and solidifying the northern territories, sunnis are taking positions in the east, and shiites are preparing themselves for attack in the west. Besides the Kurds, America doesn't have an ally who believes in our version of secular democracy. Hell, neither Sunnis nor these "new" Shiite "peace brigades" believe in religious freedom. Some of the very basic core American beliefs that we hold dear, that we try to spread throughout the world aren't held by the side that we are supporting or fighting against. All this leaves me with the basic question, are we now fighting only for American pride in Iraq?