Monday, November 12, 2007

I was the pawn, he was the knight

in the 1990/1991 dress rehearsal for the biggest global crime ever to take place just 12 years later. That is me with the loaded M-60/E-3 machine gun standing next to my squad leader and friend from Lizard Lick, near Frog Pond Terry Sean Radford. This photograph was taken roughly mid day on Feb, 24, 1991 less than 6hrs into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia via the west breach. Our entire unit making up the reinforced infantry battalion of 2nd BN/4th Marines had just finished taking off our charcoal lined chemical suites, rubber boots, gloves and gas masks when I am almost positive it was my desert buddy John Varchminn snapped this photo. I do not think that is actually a mustache on my upper lip just below my nose, it is black soot from sweating inside a gas mask and having charcoal dust everywhere. The sun was filtered by the thick layers of oil smoke that had clogged the lower atmosphere making the next two and a half days the same constant night/day. Behind us is an Amphibious tractor painted sand, from a Texas USMC reserve unit activated to come be our transport. Up until that operation our company had been training on Rigid Raider crafts which were small grey boats designed to leave the backs of big Navy LPD ships and come ashore or insert troops up river, which made no sense during this desert war.

If you would have asked me that day what was I doing with the big gun and enough lot stock ammo melt ten gun barrels, I would have told you what we were told and what I truly believed, "We are here to liberate Kuwait from the occupation of the Iraqi Army."

I pretty much hung on to the reasoning for such waisted human life and resources until October of 2005 when I worked for the American Red Cross for 14 straight days in south eastern Texas and the bordering parishes of Louisiana. I was on the ground as a disaster assessment field person within 24 hours of hurricane Rita hitting Sabine Pass at the Texas/Louisiana border. On day 3 of that operation I was driving alone across the Sabine pass on my way back to the FEMA POD when at the apex of the bridge some unusual feeling came over me. I pulled over thinking that I would regain myself in a minute, there had been so much going on since I arrived that I attributed this weird feeling of shock to sensory overload and sleep deprivation. As I sat in the Red Cross car looking into Texas from a top this huge bridge I stared at oil refinery after oil refinery, from the coast down towards Galveston to well inland and all along the Sabine river headed north towards Beaumont. There were oil barges sitting low in the water lined up in the gulf waiting their turn to follow the others up river for the processing of their cargo in the refineries that loomed dark with huge flames burning into the sky.

It was at that minute that I had the realization that the present war was not only about oil(which I already knew) but that it has been planned since around the time that I joined the military in 1987. Something came over me that day while on a mission to do my part and help those in need. It was an awareness not misguided but one that was seeing the truth of a nation. There were many UN resolutions passed sanctioning Iraq between Aug of 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait and February 1991 at the end of the Gulf War. Starting with the wording in line 2 of Resolution 661 which was passed the day Saddam invaded Kuwait on Aug, 2, 1990, no natural resource could be exported from either Iraq or Kuwait under the control of the Iraqi government. The final resolution after the war was over allowed for Iraq to sell 2% of it's production capacity to fund the welfare of children and the elderly. At that time conservatively Iraq could produce 3.1 million barrels a day, roughly 1.08 billion barrels a year. Those sanctions went on through the end of the 90's and into the new millennium leaving somewhere around a billion barrels and tens of billions of dollars worth of the black fossil fuel on the ground in reserve in Iraq by the time this war started in early 2003.
I know, I know it is a lot easier not to think about this or excuse our behaviour with the ole stand by that war has been happening forever but I cannot not think about it. Every day since this latest one started I have thought about it, I look around and I see. I think about the innocent civilians killed and wounded, from the babies to the elderly, I think about the hunger, cold and heat the surviving citizens feel, I think how could they possibly be handling what is going on there mentally and emotionally, I picture a burning infrastructure where people can get no rest or find no happiness.
I think about the Americans killed, wounded physically, wounded mentally and coming home not whole. I think about how their families and friends must be affected by the change in their love ones. I think about what these troops will do to get back to a great life here in the USA, when they have dealt with what I have been thinking about first hand. I think about what all of these things mean collectively for the future of our own happiness here in America.
It is Veterans day for me every day.


Selvasol said...

The juxaposition of your image and your memory - of oil barges and refineries; of the Gulf wars is powerful. Thank you for posting your thoughts and experiences. Stan Goff, also a veteran & former Special Ops, has written two great books that you may find quite interesting and thought provoking -1) Hideous Dreams and 2) Full Spectrum Disorder. Hope you like them
- Laura

Billy said...

I have read Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder and will look for the other. I appreciate you noticing something in my words.