Well ladies, gentlemen, and all others who might possibly tune back into this fallow blog, I have returned to the Homeland, and left the dust, grime, carnage, and blood of Babylon once more behind me. Yet another bit of service to my firm is done, and I can look forward now to…
Well, the third Babylonian Exile. Not immediate of course, but I have no illusions that my service to the South Canadian Empire will not lead me to again breathe the acrid stench of burning garbage, fecal matter, and high explosive that is Babylon. It is only my hope that I cannot in a few years coyly write a blog entry called “Babylon 5.” That will suck.
So why have I been so quiet? Well, my firm has decided to keep an eye on those who would blogify their experiences in Babylon. Ostensibly, this is to prevent Faux News style gaps in operational security (while here I watched a Faux News reporter describe on national television the inner workings of a system so secret I don’t even want to mention it here because I am sure it is a keyword search for the No Such Agency). However, I am somehow loathe to want to register my free thoughts with the modern equivalent of a political officer. So, I have bottled up all kinds of stuff, mentally relieving myself once on leave (last entry) and now with my triumphant return to the Homeland. Oh what a difference months can make.
If you will look below, you will see I made comment that my firm can be taught. I now know that my firm can also forget everything it learned. Somehow, as if a switch was flipped, or I slid through a strange gap in the Space/Time Continuum, my return form leave to Babylon brought me to a unit operating as if it were the halcyon days of 2004. Precise targeting for apprehension gave way to hearsay, and we again put a huge wall between the left hand and the right hand. My hope has been pretty well beaten out of me as I watch us not understand who our enemy is, not understand how to keep friends, and not understand why people want to blow us up. Oy. At least the explosions keeping me up all night this time were outgoing, and I can say it rained metal on me and my comrades much less than before.
Why the hell aren’t we running out of Babylonians to blow up? Because, when you blow one up, it ticks off his fellow tribe members. “Tribe? Well that’s a silly reason to want to kill someone! Why aren’t they acting like South Canadians and just sucking it up?” Because, Einstein, they are BABYLONIANS AND THEY THINK AND ACT LIKE BABYLONIANS!!!! In this culture, if you kill a tribe or family member, regardless of how friendly your two tribes are, there’s a debt of honor that must be paid. Usually with something explosive.
Another little factor is what I call the “I want your goat” factor. Joe the Babylonian wants Frank the Babylonian’s goat. It is a very simple matter to find a member of my firm and say, “Frank is a terrorist!” Early in this tour, we would wait for a few guys to say Frank was a terrorist. By the end, Joe didn’t even have to write it down and we would storm into Joe’s house in the middle of the night and whisk him away to talk to Imperial Inquisitors. Time passes, Joe comes home to find his goat gone, along with most of his worldly possessions, and possibly his daughters or wife, Joe gets angry. Poof! Instant terrorist. It is also amusing to watch the tribal leaders swear the rival tribes’ males are all terrorists, and likely harboring Usamah bin Laden himself. After all, they are the same sect, and everyone knows you can’t trust a (insert opposite sect here).
So, what progress has five years in Babylon made? Well… I really didn’t see any. There are pockets of normalcy, but the simple fact is these people are killing each other in droves and we are basically a single finger in a very large, very creaky dike. I hope, I hope, I hope. I wish, I wish, I wish. But I don’t see it getting better anytime soon, and for every step forward we sponsor, we then take a couple in reverse.
“WHY DAN? WHY IS BABYLON SO FRACKED UP?” as Starbuck would ask. I have a very short succinct answer that will get me in trouble with a lot of people for whom I care deeply:
Oh wait, allow me to elucidate. It’s not Islam I have an issue with, though primarily it is not my bag. The issue is fundamentalism. A belief system of any sort so close-minded, so intractable, so self-righteous it cannot allow for even the possibility that it might have some things wrong and someone else might have some things right. See, if I can’t be wrong, you can’t be right unless you believe exactly what I do. If that’s my base assumption, I start going from there. I can never allow anyone to change what I think, and anyone who offers a counter-opinion is not only wrong, but a problem. And even if I am firm in my faith, what if some infidel decides to talk to my children when I am not around? Then, someone who believes differently is not just wrong, they become…
A threat. The very existence of a different way of thinking is a threat to my family, my tribe, my culture. I have to stop them, I must keep my faith pure. Besides, if they don’t believe like I do, they aren’t in God’s favor anyway, He won’t mind if I discriminate to keep them away for my kids. Or shun. Or banish. Or murder. Heck, I bet God WANTS me to kill people who don’t believe like I do! That means more opportunity for people on the right path to succeed, so long as there are less infidels.
Another aspect of fundamentalism is the idea that you hold no responsibility because anything that happens is God’s will. In Arabic, this is “Insha’ Allah-” as God wills it. This answer is handed out whenever you ask someone why they don’t make things better, why they don’t actually stop the bad guys? Insha’ Allah. C’est La Vie. Que Sara Sara. Predestination. Fate. There is nothing I can do, because it is all up to God, He has removed all responsibility and culpability from me. I have actually seen Babylonian soldiers puzzled that we want them to practice marksmanship- if God wants them to hit the target, they will. Practice is futile. Making a decision is futile. Taking hold of your future is futile.
Sound familiar? Willing to kill those who don’t think like me, and denying all responsibility for your actions? That’s what leads to people crashing airplanes into sky scrapers. That’s what leads honest citizens to feed other citizens into ovens. That’s what leads to people burning down Black churches or Synagogues. That’s what leads to Jihads/Crusades, which are the same thing in a different language; killing in the name of God. I am sorry. It’s wrong to kill I the name of God, and that is what I am intractable about. If God wanted us killing each other, the Israelites wouldn’t have a commandment saying “You will not Murder.” Jesus would not have gotten nailed to a tree for telling people to love each other. Muhammad wouldn’t have tried to pull warring Arab tribes together under the banner of a religion whose very name means “of Peace.” I could go into Karma, and Nirvana, and a myriad of other religions that all agree on one thing- God wants us working together not whacking one another. When does it go wrong? How does “Love one another as I have loved you” become the Spanish Inquisition?
Intractability. Intolerance. Fundamentalism. Nearly every conflict on Earth right now can somehow be traced to Fundamentalist belief in something- Wahabbist Islam, Fanatical Zionism, (insert ethnicity here) Supremacy, dogmatic Christian intolerance, the Almighty Dollar.
And several of those fundamentalist beliefs come together in Babylon. And that my dear Starbuck, is why Babylon is so fracked up. And no one believes we can really do anything about it, because Insha’ Allah.
Don’t misunderstand me -- I am all about protecting MY way of life. I am all about defending MY family, and nation, and people. Unlike most people who like to bitch about such things*, I actually took an oath and put my life on the line to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” When I see though how my Firm is being crushed by the intractable fundamentalism of the Babylonians as it slams up against the intractable fundamentalism of my nation’s decision makers, I can’t help but think this sick, tired, over spent, frustrated, angry force is going to have a hell of a time defending MY way of life, MY family, MY nation, and MY people when a serious threat crops up.
So, as my Second Babylonian Exile ends, I look forward to the third one, whenever that may be. It is my earnest hope that Babylon is the worst fight my Firm ever has to deal with again.
History tells me it won’t be. So make your choice my South Canadian Empire, my beloved fellow citizens of my United States of America. Do we keep fumbling around in Babylon, rubbing our fundamentalism on theirs? Or do we regroup, reassess, and redirect toward where a real threat may actually be? Where Al-Qa’ida has regrouped in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan? Where China waits for us to blink with the ability to raise an Army equal to our entire population? Where fundamentalists in the former Soviet Bloc are passing nuclear materials like they are cards in a bridge tournament? Where the actual source of most of our oil is under an arrogant twit like Hugo Chavez? To be fair, you should know what happens to Babylon when we leave.
Blood. Blood on a scale that makes what we spill now look like something we can slap a band-aid on. But it is a decision too important to leave to fate, too important to not let out nation’s decision makers (who I will remind you WORK FOR YOU) know what you think. Don’t give me any Insha’ Allah crap, get up, make a decision, make your voice heard, whichever track you follow. Choose America, choose what you want. But for Gods’ sake, actually make a choice, don’t just sit there waiting for someone to make the decision for you, for someone else to take responsibility.
Your protectors are tired. And we’d really like to do something right.
*as I read over the above, I would like to add a small caveat. As you choose, as you research, check facts, and make an informed decision I ask one more thing. If you choose war, and that’s fine if you honestly believe it, if you choose war put your ass behind your decision. Five million people make up your complete armed forces. All of it. There are 300 million Americans. Yeah, I know that includes children and the elderly, and those who have already served and paid their way as citizens. However, if one percent- just three million more Americans, put their lives on hold for five years and served in the military the burden would be immeasurably lessened on those here now. And I say, particularly if you think the occupation of Babylon is a good idea (and I am not arguing either way right now) it seems to me you have an obligation.
However, it is very possible right now I am just tired and disgruntled, and after all misery loves company.