Getting Ready for Winter
by James Glaser
It is late fall in northern Minnesota. All the leaves are gone, the ducks are coming down from Canada, and we have had that first hard frost. Every year it is like a ritual – you put away all the yard tools, move anything that the snow plow might hit, and check out the furnace. You also have to make sure you have plenty of fire wood in case you need a backup heat.
For veterans, it is not a time we are fond of: “firearm deer season.” Thousands and thousands of city dwellers will invade the northland looking for that trophy whitail buck. The thought of thousands of men with no real experience with firearms keeps a lot of veterans inside for the season, and for many the report of a distant rifle can bring back combat in a second.
This year I think of the veterans in Afghanistan. I'm sure at one time they too had their fall ritual, but now with years of war, first with Russia, then ten years of civil war, and now with we Americans attacking, everything must be set aside again in defense of their homeland. There is no doubt in my mind that these guys must have post-traumatic stress big time. Probably the whole country has it.
I am sad, as I look out on the lake and think that like a broken record, that we are once again attacking a country and the veterans of that country are defending their families and homeland. The hate we are building up in those people overwhelms me. I think of how I feel every time I see a Vietnamese. Even after thirty years that hate is still there. Oh, I can stop it, but for those first few seconds of recognition, everything is brought to the forefront and I really have to calm down. I think about the fact that I was the aggressor in their country, and how much hate I still carry. I have to wonder what a Vietnamese vet thinks about me.
Here we are lead into a war by a leader who has never been to war, and that scares me, too. Men who have been to war know that there is nothing good or just about war. Those who have never been, can think of all sorts of “noble” things about their war.
Sending someone to combat is a life sentence. That is why old vets can describe their combat like yesterday, because they have had to relive it in their minds hundreds of times. The people who live in a war zone have that same monkey on their back. Only now it isn't just the war vet, but every man, women, and child. If you make children hate you by killing their parents, sibling, or best friend down the street, you have a lifetime of hate to deal with.
It bothers me also that we are the most powerful country on earth, and we are taking on maybe the most pitiful country. It cheapens what we are doing, and makes the defense of Afghanistan seem kind of noble. This backward country is taking us on, Wow! Crud as it seems, this vet can say that those people have “Balls.”
Now I love America and our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our foundation is what is good about America, and if other countries saw us living by these documents, more of them would want to be like us.
But we don't live by our own set of rules. We have become the warriors of the world. We fight in Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Panama, Granada, and now Afghanistan. We have become the world’s aggressor and that doesn't make friends. Countries are not our friends. Countries fear us and do our bidding out of that fear. To tell you the truth. I don't like us being the bully. I have to ask myself why we can't lead by example rather than by bomber.
Every country that we have attacked with all of our “noble” reasons has been subjected to terror. War is terror on a grand scale. Just introducing troops in full military gear is a form of terror. We terrorize other countries because that is what our leaders think is best for us. Oh, they don't see it as terror because they haven't been to war. George senior was, and maybe that is why he stopped us from going to Baghdad. I think you have to go back to Dwight before you can see a real combat vet. Combat doesn't make the man; it just sort of tempers him.
When our leaders are sworn in, they put their hand on the Bible and swear to defend the Constitution. In that Bible is a commandment of God, “Thou shalt not kill.” That seems pretty clear to me. I don't see how you can interpret that in too many ways, but we do, and that is why we are in the fix we are.
Jim Glaser [send him mail] is a Vietnam vet and a volunteer in veterans hospitals.
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