[posted by Callimachus]
It's been a while since I introduced you all to a new milblogger. Meet Teflon Don whose blog is called "Acute Politics." You'd have to really know your Robert Frost to get where his title comes from. This kid can flat-out write. Here are some recent samples:
There was the young Iraqi girl in an orange headdress that blew a kiss at me as we passed her at a checkpoint. She got embarrassed and hid her face when I smiled back.
Once, as we returned to Ramadi from Falluja, I saw an Iraqi man driving his truck through the rain. There were four women in traditional garb in the back of the truck, huddled together for warmth. On the front seat next to the man was his dog.
In one small village near the canals in Falluja was one of the cutest kids I've ever seen. She was only four or five, and looked like my sister did at that age- curly dark hair around her round, dimpled face. She smiled big and waved, asking for candy- I spread my hands and told her I didn't have any. She covered her eyes and started pouting, and then turned again to smiles within seconds. As we drove out of sight I could see she was still waving.
There was the old man out working his field- I saw him leaning up against his shovel watching us leave underneath the setting sun. He was old enough to have known life before Saddam as well as after. I can't help but wonder what he thinks of us.
Everywhere, there are children. If the streets are free of children, we start to look for the imminent attack. They love to have their picture taken, and all of them know that American troops are endless wells of candy. These kids are the future of Iraq. If they grow up to hate, I have little hope that there will ever be peace on this place.
One of the dead men had been a friend of mine as long as I'd been in the unit. We'd laughed together, drank together, and talked about the future. He'd got me started smoking at NTC at the same time that he was trying to quit. Tonight, I'm helping organize the things he left behind. His girlfriend of a year meets me at his room to give me another box. She's from another company; they met just prior to our deployment alert, and have struggled to build their relationship through the midst of war. She looks smaller than I've ever seen her, as if she's lost a physical part of herself.
Under a sky streaked blood-red and angry with sunset, I carry my friends belongings from his room. In my head I can already see another sun setting over the memorial to come; the breeze twisting dogtags around a rifle like a devils windchime, and carrying once again the plaintive notes of the bagpipe playing Amazing Grace.
Tonight we're going back up into the general area where we lost three of ours so shortly ago. And this is the first time we've been back that way. I look around at my friends and try to read their faces. They could be scared, and most of us are, a little. They could be numb; just doing their job. Again, most of us are, a little. However, I think that most of us are out for blood. It might sound horrible, inhuman, even medieval, but the fact of the matter is that someone out there killed friends of ours, and we're going back into a place where we just might get the guy that did it. We'll never know if it was him, of course, but there's always the chance that we'll even the scales unknowingly.
Killing is not natural to sane people, no matter how often it has happened over eons. There are many ways that you can reconcile yourself in some way to the idea of killing another human. You can think of it as duty -- you have a job, and that job requires violence. You can hate -- the easiest of all excuses, and the most exhausting. You can look at it as simple survival -- if you don't kill him, then he'll kill you. However you justify it, you are still in a war, and people will still die. It wears on everyone -- the American deaths, the "collateral damage" we inflict on people in the wrong place at the wrong time, the innocents killed when some faceless murderer blows himself up in a crowd. Yes, even the enemy dead take their toll.
Now wipe that tear from your eye and get back to whatever it is you're doing. But pray to whatever you pray to and thank it for folks like this who are doing the hard stuff. That's his picture up there at the top, too.