Dynamite and Doublespeak

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One
of my favorite pastimes is planting things to grow in my small yard.
Our lot is not huge by rural American standards, but it is not the
postage stamp size currently preferred by local builders. I suppose
I will reach critical mass soon, however, because there is not much
space left untouched by my green thumb. A good friend of mine asked
recently how I managed to get my annuals to grow so big and healthy
and colorful. I told her it had to be the farmer in me, as though
having grown up in Upstate New York dairy farm country where cows
outnumber people by more than five to one had anything to do with
it. Her husband looked at me with his "Look, I grew up in Iowa
where all they grow is corn and hogs and I can tell when you are
feeding corny answers" expression and restated the question.
I was forced to confess that I used Dynamite™. Now there is
a strong word to throw into a conversation about horticulture especially
in these days of terrorism and bombings. It gets the attention of
anyone who does not know that Dynamite™ is available at nurseries
and home centers and is a terrific time-released fertilizer that
makes new plants grow like crazy and makes the neighbors go ga-ga
at your beautiful yard. Obviously, there are two kinds of dynamite
and at least two ways you can use that word.

I
was contemplating this occurrence of double meanings recently while
following the recent charges our military is bringing against the
soldiers who abused the Iraqi prisoners. One of the spin doctors
(does that word come from head spin?) was explaining to an interviewer
that even if the troops who committed the abuse were following orders
to humiliate the prisoners, they were following illegal orders.
So the interviewer asked for an explanation of the difference between
legal and illegal orders. An illegal order, it turns out is one
that is immoral, goes against good common sense (as though that
was common), or against international or military law. The explanation
further included the statement that all soldiers are trained to
know when an order is legal or illegal and when to and when not
to follow an order. I have to say that statement is a load of Dynamite™
of the stinky variety. In my military experience, we were instructed
to follow orders from anyone of higher rank without question. Maybe
things were different with my experience in that little Southeast
Asian skirmish where America took second place and where the legality
of the war was always in question. I suspect that most soldiers
whose feet are firmly planted on terra firma would agree that their
strongest memory regarding orders was to follow them.

Then
the important folks, like Bush and Rumsfeld get in front of the
microphone and say how appalled and shocked and disgusted they are
that the prisoner abuse could have happened and that this behavior
does not reflect mainstream America nor does it reflect how American
soldiers are expected to behave in combat. Sorry for the pause there;
I just had to clear my throat. Yes, I am sure the administration
was shocked by our combat soldiers' behavior especially since with
the exception of Colin Powell, the entire group of top-level decision
makers has zero minutes of combat experience. It may not be old
news to some that George W, Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald
Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice, I. Lewis "Scooter"
Libby, Karl Rove, and even cheerleader Rush Limbaugh have no combat
experience. I have to assume that these non-combatants do not understand
that war changes even the best American soldier. I saw good men
who came from good families do things in war that would have been
unthinkable were they not faced with the unusual circumstance of
the war machine that rewards killing.

The
American military justice system is on the job, however, and the
first courts-martial are under way. The efficient military justice
system has already convicted Army Specialist Jeremy Sivits for mistreatment
of prisoners and sentenced him to a year in prison and will give
him a bad conduct discharge. The message is clear: if you follow
illegal orders you will get the big boot. Two days after the Sivits
conviction, the same efficient military justice system convicted
Florida National Guardsman Camilo Mejia of desertion. So if you
follow your orders as did Sivits, that is wrong and you get punished.
But if you don't follow your orders as did Mejia, who states that
he could not stand to see Iraqis mistreated and could not stomach
seeing civilians killed, that is wrong and you get punished. Sounds
like doublespeak of the greatest magnitude to me.

Doublespeak
seems to be the order of the day for the war in Iraq. We are there
to fight terrorism supposedly, but if we back the clock up a bit
we can find some history that contraindicates our motives. As memory
serves, America started a sorry involvement in the Middle East with
the Iran-Contra incident where Ronnie (I don't recall.) Raygun's
pals got caught selling arms to Iran to raise money to support a
war the Contras were engaging in Nicaragua. Then another genius
decision was made by the Bush I administration to sell chemicals
to a Saddam Hussein to use in a biological war against Iran. Then
the dark side of Saddam took over and he used those chemicals to
rub out a bunch of Kurds in his own country. Then Saddam really
got too big for his britches and decided to invade Kuwait. America
to the rescue! America is always ready to rescue and to protect
the civil rights of populations who have oil. (Sorry about that
small requirement Rwanda, Haiti, Cuba…) The Saudis let America use
their land for staging their war to remove the invading Iraqis from
Kuwait, which America did in Gulf I. In the process of setting foot
on Saudi soil, American “infidels” defiled the land enough to piss
off one Osama Binladen. So Osama decides to terrorize America, which
he eventually does with tremendous success. With the history clock
winding forward, we find America with a new president though full
of old ideas. The best way to pay those terrorists back and to stop
further acts of terrorism is to invade Iraq. The goals appear to
have been to eradicate Saddam, free Iraqi citizens so they can enjoy
the high life, impress George I, maybe fill up an oil tanker or
two, and perhaps pocket a few billion dollars through the war industry.
And along the way we might stumble across Osama Binforgotten.

So
much for the Dubya Dubya II great plan. America has accomplished
the deaths of more than ten thousand Iraqis, though we are not sure
of that death count since there is no official tally being taken
and we have to rely on what is left is left of the embedded (or
was that inbedded?) reporters for civilian body counts. We are,
however, carefully counting the nearly one thousand American soldiers
who got the CMH (casket with metal handles) award. And as for stopping
terrorism by blowing the country to pieces? Well, it looks like
someone heard Dynamite™ when the order went out for dynamite.
And true to its claim, Dynamite™ is going to make terrorism
and hatred for America grow like never before. How many Osamas we
are pissing off right now will only be determined when this time-released
fertilizer takes hold and the bright-colored blossoms bloom (or
boom).

May
26, 2004

Miles
Woolley [send him mail]
is a disabled Vietnam veteran living in Miami, Florida. He served
with the 9th Infantry Division in The Mekong Delta in
a Ranger unit doing reconnaissance 1968–69 where he received
a gunshot wound to the head leaving one side severely paralyzed.
He is a father of four grown children and grandfather of seven,
including a set of triplets.

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