11/12/12

Dishonorable Discharge

Way to ring in Veterans’ Day, Patraeus.

I suffer this weird bipolarity with our military. I have had the luxury of becoming mostly pacifist. But, I also have this great guilt and reverence for their service. Much of my family has served honorably, even through the conflict in Iraq. And, as trite as it is true: we are free for their sacrifice.

And, so I’m rabidly in favor of veterans’ benefits. Precisely because we live in a time where some serve the interests of all, our indebtedness to them is incalcuable.

If I’m president for the day (and if roughly 64,023 federal employees die it could happen), then I would propose the following. If someone serves in our military, for even a minute, they would get everything. House, car, healthcare, food. Now it’ll be something like a 3 bedroom, Kia Zoom, and Hungary Jack. But, if you so choose, you wouldn’t ever have to lift a finger again.

Because, whether or not a soldier ever sees conflict in an actual theater of war, and whether or not he/she personally had any volitional “choice” in joining the military in the first instance, they were subjected to the potentiality of the highest risk of all:
their life lost.

They accepted that risk, in some sense or another, and went in my stead. Which is the critical point because there was no way in the world I was going. I have asthma and small capillaries. Any military base above about the 38° latitude, and I would have required especially designed glove wear. And, nobody wanted that.

So all the while, I’ve just been playing baseball and going to school and buying video games and starting a family and writing news raps and generally just loafing around. You know. The whole “rising and sleeping under the blanket of security” thing.

The Patraeus scandal is not a good lens through which to reflect on the contributions of our military. (Hopefully, he won’t commit the counterpart gesture to what this guy did, to win back his wife.)

But, long before this weekend, some dissident voices had already begun to call into question his presumed heroism and choice of tactical strategies in the middle east and the ultimate effectiveness of the surges he requested and/or oversaw in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those people are typically viewed as either communists or “bastards” or Oliver Stone.

Maybe this isn’t the day to say it. But we have to be able to criticize and scrutinize our military without fear for our own reputations in loyalty and patriotism. Our politicians can be mercilessly satirized scapegoats but our military personnel are somehow sacred cow. For the same reasons government must be subject to public critique, all the more so our military.

Although it most certainly is for his wife and family, the Patraeus scandal is not about sex. For the rest of us it’s mostly about transparency. Transparency in our bureaucracies and in the White House. National Security interests obviously make only so much transparency realistic.

But our heros are flawed and our most altruistic stratagem failed. And, to me, there is nothing more patriotic than to be able to say so.

To hold our military to account is precisely to honor our veterans.

By the way, I have a personal source on the Patraeus scandal and Paula Broadwell, specifically. I feel almost like a journalist. Except with a velour Starbury tracksuit on. I assume those are strongly discouraged in the presidential press junket, right?

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced dave santos.

Today’s blong here:

Digital Camouflage