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