'You Do the Dying, We'll Do the Talking'

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Recently
my wife and I heard a loud noise that woke us from our sleep at
2 AM. My wife grabbed me and asked "Is that someone trying
to break in?" Since we live on the ninth floor of a doorman
building in New York City I responded that, if so, then the doorman
must have been at the very least incapacitated, or possibly even
dead. I added that the intruder might very well be making his way
up the nine floors robbing each apartment as he ascends. My wife
found little humor in my comments and rightfully so. The noise was
indeed threatening and I found myself unable to fall back asleep.
The combination of my sarcastic comments and the spooky sound not
only prevented my wife from falling back into her slumber but justifiably
enraged her. She told me that my jokes were neither funny nor appropriate,
a sentiment with which I began to agree. Looking back on it, the
only comment I could have made that might have made my wife even
madder would have been, "Gee honey, you're right, it does sound
like someone is breaking into the apartment. Why don't you go and
check while I re-fluff the pillows?" A reasonable man might
expect divorce papers to be sitting under his shaving cream the
next morning.

No
matter how ardently one might believe in equality of the sexes and
admonish me for hinting that my wife would be just as capable of
handling a potential intruder, at least in my case my wife was justified
in telling me to go investigate the noise. I am ten inches taller
than she and outweigh her by 75 pounds. She does a wonderful job
of stoically suffering through my incessant injuries from competing
in judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu thrice weekly so, naturally, the
return on investment for her would be for me to go and "practice
what I practice," to mangle a phrase. Besides, I would do whatever
it takes to protect her and consider myself more expendable in the
long run. So we will leave any feminist objections for another day
as I am only referring here to the case of my family, not that of
any now-insulted reader.

A
similar principle holds true with my friends. I will go to bat for
any of my friends when they are unjustly attacked. And in the case
of a just attack I would at the very least attempt to break up the
fight. Choosing my friends carefully, I know that they would reciprocate.
Just this past August I went to Rio de Janeiro for the Brazilian
Jiu Jitsu Masters World Championship with my judo coach, Teimoc
Johnston-Ono, a former US judo Olympian and coach at the Olympic
training center in Colorado Springs. Street crime is common in Rio
but we both knew that we would happily come to each other's aid
in the case of trouble. Likewise, my best man, college football
teammate and fellow LRC contributor John Hackney and I once ran
into a bit of trouble ourselves. John and I went up to visit Cornell
after his acceptance there for graduate school. Having received
a graduate degree there myself I insisted on chaperoning him, much
like a beaming parent proud of his child's achievement. We arrived
late on a Friday night which happened to coincide with the infamous
"last day of classes." After parking the car, we set out
for food only to be set upon by two engineering students celebrating
the end of the school year. And what a school year it must have
been for them. Weighted down with backpacks full of books, coke-bottle
glasses and calculators with more buttons than a NASA control panel,
we still outweighed our attackers by a combined 200 pounds and their
punches would have been lucky to hit our knees. While the incident
was about as threatening as a nursery school revolt, John and I
glanced at each other out of the corner of our eyes with the implicit
message of "I've got your back even though these two novice
inebriates pose no danger whatsoever." At no point did either
of us say to the other, "You take care of it, I'm going to
hammer out a white paper regarding violence on college campuses.
Good luck while I'm gone!" Our friendship would end on the
spot in any such show of egoism.

While
the "cakewalk" in Iraq continues its interminable slog,
the neocons continue to bleat when they should be over there defending
whatever it is that they believe other Americans must be
risking their lives for. I would never ask my wife or any of my
friends to risk their life for me if I was not willing to risk my
own life in defending myself. Imagine this: you are in a convenience
store and an armed robber takes you and one other person hostage.
You whisper to the other hostage to try to tackle the assailant
so that you can make a dash to safety. The net effect might be that
you now end up with 1 hostage and 2 assailants as your fellow hostage
makes a battlefield conversion.

Those
who most zealously support this latest American military action
should practice what they preach. The hypocrisy has become mind
numbing at this point. If the threat is imminent, take action to
defend yourself, your family, your friends and ultimately your country.
The usual excuses no longer apply. Sex is no longer an excuse as
many patriotic American women have died in Iraq. Age is also an
invalid excuse as one soldier who was 65 years old died and numerous
soldiers approaching that age have paid the ultimate price. Only
a despicable coward would ask others to make the ultimate sacrifice
in a time of supposed imminent danger without reciprocating, despite
the fact that he might be busy pumping out position papers on military
tactics and otherwise pounding the drums of (other people's) war.
Claiming that "they volunteered" or "I have a family
to take care of" does not absolve one of his duty to defend
his patrimony. But duty in the minds of the writers at the Weekly
Standard apparently means something else — something that Taki
hit squarely on the head — "You do the dying; we'll do the
talking."

As
if the shirking of one's obligations is not bad enough, one writer,
Kathleen Parker (whose war-time experience includes writing "a
syndicated column for Tribune News Services") appearing
in the October 31, 2005 issue of the Standard does not condone
the verbiage in a book written by one of the soldiers recently returned
from Iraq. In her review of Love
My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

by the "Arabic-speaking Army intelligence soldier" Kayla
Williams, the duty-shirking Parker takes Williams' book to task
for its coarse language. Let me get this straight. The editors of
the Weekly Standard cry incessantly that we invade and occupy
Iraq, and that other Americans put their lives on the line everyday
in a place that they would never choose to visit let alone live
for extended and repeated tours of duty. Then, once the editors
get their panties in such a twist they print an article complaining
that "an almost 300-page book surely deserves more editing
than the stall doors of public restrooms." In feebly attempting
to empathize with Williams' experience, Parker adds that "while
I understand that war imposes certain hardships…I found myself longing
for a Baptist editor around page 42." I don't know Parker's
personal military experience but I do know that she didn't learn
of the hardships of the Iraq war from any firsthand accounts by
the likes of Max Boot or Bill Kristol. And it hardly matters. This
waving of the white flag is typical of the "you go fight while
I watch from back here" sentiment that suffuses all neocon
scribblings on war.

If
in fact Ms. Williams' book is too filthy for you then don't buy
it. Ms. Parker's review copy most likely arrived free of charge
sent by a publisher who might have reasoned that it would receive
a positive review in a magazine that has supported virtually every
aspect of this war. What a shock it must have been for the publisher
to find that the book fell into unsympathetic (and most likely,
uncalloused) hands. Less shocking is the fact that the editors of
a magazine who demand that others do the "dangerous work"
of fighting in combat while they do the "dirty work" of
cleaning ink off their hands and keeping the undersides of their
desks free of dirt so they can hide there in moments of sheer panic,
would print an article condemning language reflecting the horrors
and experience of war, experiences that the editors implored other
Americans to enjoy firsthand. First the editors hysterically demand
that Americans risk their lives, then those same editors complain
when a war veteran phrases her experience in language unheard of
at Beltway cocktail parties (though something similar may be heard
when a printer runs out of toner at the Standard's headquarters
and no one volunteers to replace it for all I know).

For
those who oppose the war, perhaps the market can correct this attack
from the duty-shirkers whose "attack" arsenal consists
of complex chess strategies and mean-spirited press releases. Maybe
you should buy Williams' book and use it to illustrate the ugly
side of war and how soldiers really speak when confronted with an
impossibly precarious, life-threatening, daily struggle. Parker
and her fellow-travelers will keep demanding that Williams and others
like her keep dying. Imagine if in fact my wife had gone to inspect
that noise of a few nights ago and confronted an intruder who not
only knocked out several of her teeth but also broke a few ribs
while I kept the bed warm and dreamily thought about what LOTTO
numbers to pick. And further imagine how despicable and cowardly
of me it would be to reprimand my wife for cursing at her predicament
after she stumbled back to the bedroom looking for help. Maybe that
is the kind of behavior that transpires among those who manipulate
others like puppets for their own evil ends but it is certainly
not the kind of behavior that sustains a family, friendship, country
or society.

October
29, 2005

Mark
G. Brennan [send him email]
writes from New York City.

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