Music, the military, and badgers

TTers weigh in on the dumbing down of war and rock, and play with five weird words.

By Salon Staff
Published May 20, 2005 4:14PM (EDT)

White House

Gulf War II - #5

Ken Erfourth - 07:29 p.m. Pacific Time - May 12, 2005 - #3377 of 3661

Thank you for your service. Thank you for doing a soldier's duty, which is to follow your legal orders. I'm sorry we civilians failed in our duty to make sure those legal orders were moral orders.

I'm not going to try and tell you to get over it and give up on Iraq and your friends who are still over there. I don't expect you to declare it was all a waste and to start sticking flowers into other soldiers' gun barrels. You've gone to hell and back, lost friends there, and probably left part of your soul there as well. I can't imagine giving what you have given and just walking away saying, "Oh well, that was quite the cockup, eh?" That just ain't gonna happen.

I won't try to convince you that it was a fool's errand, a waste of blood and treasure, and an ego trip for a spoiled boy of privilege who was handed the presidency without ever being required to grow up. After what you have gone through, I can't imagine you can bear to say it doesn't mean anything, and didn't do any good. Human beings can't rip their minds in two that way.

But, now, I'm going to say a terrible thing.

I think we need to fail in Iraq. I think we need all that money, all that blood, and all those brave, innocent and deadly young people like you to die and suffer for nothing, or for even less than nothing. We need to get the butcher's bill nailed to our doorstep, and have nothing to show for it except a festering pile of dog meat. We need to have the cost of war cut into our flesh and our souls, and to see the reward of war for what it is -- a rotten mess of hate, death, and horror.

We've played at war since Vietnam. We picked small, weak countries where we could storm in and walk out. We picked enemies who would play the game by our rules. We made war into a game, and it's a game we wouldn't quit playing. We decided we couldn't lose the game, and that we didn't even have to try hard to win. We could do it in our spare time. We got hooked on it.

Iraq is our lesson. We won't win Iraq. You know what it would take (500,000 or a million troops just to temporarily control it). You know we won't do it. The smart thing to do now would be to cut our losses and run, and beg forgiveness to all the soldiers we lied to and misused. We're not smart. We'll hold a small part of the country around Bagdhad, in the Kurdish areas (till they get pissed at us and decide to go fighting in Turkey) and marginally in the Shi'ite zones (they only tolerate us because they think we're their ticket to power). We're going to keep pissing away soldiers like you and your friends by the two's and three's and occasional five to ten's, occupying ourselves with Michael Jackass and Runaway Broad. Little George and Tony the Poodle have their egos to think of. Must stay the course, mate.

It will break down eventually. We've had close calls before, when units have nearly been overwhelmed and destroyed. We're going to run out of luck eventually. Those endless 16-hour days will catch up, and a platoon or a company is going to get wiped. Then we'll start paying attention. Then we'll figure out how to get our asses out of there and declare victory, even if it means handing things over to a rabid Sheik with shreds of American flesh stuck between his teeth. Karl will make it sound good, and the talking heads of our media will find the bright side.

But the soldiers will know. You will know. We, in a more abstract sense, will know. The military will revive the Powell doctrine and the more bloodthirsty killers will once again be drummed out of the service to join mercenary forces where they can be scrubbed from the gene pool. Another generation will be raised in a relatively peaceful, albeit impoverished period, when war is again considered a last resort. Until we let the hound trainers tempt us with the smell of easy blood again, assuming we aren't all working for the Chinese to pay the interest of our war debts.

It would have been easier if we had instead failed in our earlier adventures. If Saddam had managed to put up a better fight in Gulf War 1. If Panama or Grenada had featured a messy SNAFU that cost a couple dozen media-worthy lives. If we had actually done the necessary fighting in Afghanistan and paid the price in blood required to get Osama and Mullah Omar, reminding us of how hard it is to deliver reform from the barrel of a gun. A few war-opium skin-popping misadventures might have reminded us of the true cost of our war jones before we started mainlining the heavy smack of Iraq.

Didn't happen. Now we've got an insane gorilla on our back. With luck, he'll shove our faces into a few ripe piles of shit and we'll manage to shake him off and run for home with our internal organs bruised, but basically intact. Perhaps this wisdom, so dearly bought, will stick around for a while. Perhaps we'll emerge from this cauldron as a wiser and humbler nation. Perhaps. I share the American vice of incurable optimism.

I imagine this is all nasty cold gruel to you. You went into the fire for us, and we hand you back a bowl of congealed slop. Then we tell you it was all a waste, and feel virtuous because we saw it coming. It's a rare privilege to be an armchair quarterback, and critique while the other guy gets his brains bashed. I'm sorry about that. I'm sorry I didn't have more to give to stop this. I'm sorry it turned out our worst imaginings were feeble approximations of how stupid and evil it turned out to be.

I have no comfort to offer you. I don't think there is any way we'll win this. All I hope for is a little wisdom in return for all the hell we visited on Iraq, and on the people we've sent there. I have no idea how any of this will ever help the God-cursed people of Iraq.

I acknowledge your rage and anger. You've earned it. I just wish I had some hope or comfort to offer you. I don't. The best I hope for is that is that the reality of this cesspool of blood and violence help us avoid something even worse in the future. That's a disgusting thing to be reduced to hoping for, but here we are. I'm sorry this whole thing involves real people, and not just abstract debating points. I hope you are able to heal. I hope your buddies who survive can heal. I hope there is some reason to keep hoping...


5 words + 1 clever TTer = a truly TT sentence

Puzzled - 03:58 p.m. Pacific Time - May 13, 2005 - #1387 of 1479

breast, brunch, bicep, badger, zombie

The badger and the zombie went out for a drive
In a beautiful pea green 2-seater,
And just on a hunch they brought for their brunch
A chicken breast wrapped up in pita.
The badger looked down, thus avoiding the drool,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Zombie! O Zombie, my ghoul,
What putrescent biceps you have,
You have,
You have!
What putrescent biceps you have!'

Music and Performing Arts

Dumbing Down of Music

Paul Minot - 08:45 a.m. Pacific Time - May 16, 2005 - #59 of 71

Do you believe the MUSIC is actually dumber now -- or that there is a mainstream industry in economic contraction that is geared toward lazier consumers (which is my contention)? Do you believe that the modern equivalent of Pink Floyd or Talking Heads has no chance of a "major" recording contract nowadays? Because I think that is certainly untrue.

There have always been artists that have been commercially underappreciated. The Velvet Underground is a stellar example, despite the fact that Andy Warhol was pushing them. Weren't the Velvets significantly more worthwhile than, say, the relatively mediocre San Francisco product of Quicksilver or It's a Beautiful Day? But the Velvets weren't from the correct coast, and weren't selling psychedelic pablum for hippy wannabes. Style trumped substance, even in those allegedly anti-style days.

The subject isn't whether being an original musician is a bitch, because it certainly is. It's whether it used to be better before, and whether it's because music is more stupid. And my contention is that there is terrific music out there, but consumers have to work to get to some of it. And that some of the new artists out there on, say, modern rock or adult alternative radio, aren't better than they're being credited for by nostalgic old farts (like me sometimes, truth be known) who have become their own narrow-minded parents -- recalling how when they were stoned out on quays, and saw Hendrix playing guitar with his teeth while HE was stoned out on quays, and then proclaiming the eternal grown-up's lament: "THAT was music !!!"

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