We did a thing, you and I. A thing that can never be undone and we will carry with us to the grave. It is hard to put into context for those who didn’t serve and yet, still difficult to summarize for an entire generation of veterans whose experience may have vastly differed depending on when, during the 20 year Global War on Terror you served. For me, I was already in the Marines on 9/11 and as such, there was no doubt what was coming. I marched off to Iraq in 2003 with visions of sugar plums, the recent fall of the Taliban, and fairies from Desert Storm dancing in my head. Perhaps the most challenging thing about truth is that we often avoid it at all costs if we believe the outcome will be emotionally unsatisfying. Yet, as in war, one can declare it over all we want, but the enemy gets a say in the matter. Truth has a way of establishing itself as self-evident no matter how hard we close our eyes or drink away the night, hoping that tomorrow it will have tired of making its point. The emotionally unsatisfying truth that we have all been avoiding was made self-evident the moment the last chopper left the American embassy in Kabul.
We Did A Thing That Can Never Be Undone
The experience of going to war against legitimately bad human beings and doing so with your brothers in arms can’t be undone. The Taliban are bad people. Saddam was a bad person, though he was perhaps just extra credit in the post 9/11 era. Along the way, lots of bad people were gifted their final dirt naps. We don’t chose the time and season in history that we were born and while it might not have been morally satisfying like WW2, as the great General Patton said, at least when our grandkids ask us what we did during the GWOT years, “we won’t have to tell them that we spent those years shoveling shit in Louisiana.” Apologies to the manure workers of Louisiana, I’m sure you are all very fine people.
Look, I didn’t ask to come of age prior to 9/11. Yet, when our number was called, we answered. I’ve always said if a movie was made about my platoon, it would be a comedy long before it would be an action movie. However, when we heard the snap and crack of a bullet fly overhead in our direction, we marched forward rather than retreated. Something the men of Afghanistan shedding their uniforms cannot say and they will live with that for the rest of their miserable lives. We did a thing, you and I, and that can’t be undone.
You cannot let the end political result of our wars get you down, because you know damn well that we were never fighting for that. We were fighting for the Marine to our left and to our right, and little else. I would rather watch Kabul fall a thousand times over than to watch any one of you break over this end result. We, more than most, have deserved to live a life not defined by this war and that’s the marching orders of the day now that the flag is down at the embassy. You can’t say that it was all for nothing, because that very real something you and I did is a very real part of us. It can’t be undone. Granted, that’s partially because that’s what the doctors told me about my lower lumbar arthritis the Marines gave me, but also because I don’t know life not defined in some part by these wars. We did a thing you and I, and who rules the streets of Iraq or the valleys of Afghanistan don’t change that.
Monday Morning Human Rights Activists Can Suck It
Perhaps one of the more infuriating aspects of the fall of Afghanistan has been all the journalist, human rights activists, and twitter humanists of the day lamenting the future plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. No one has to tell a GWOT veteran about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, because we can still see their faces. We played with the kids in the streets, kicked around any dudes that looked like woman beaters, and I can remember two particular young Iraqi girls who were playing hide and seek with us across from our rooftop post that faced the roof of their house.
The women and girls of Afghanistan have lost any ounce of liberty, dignity, and honor for the sum of their lives. That will likely be the case for generations to come and it crushes us GWOT vets more than most. So spare me the Monday morning human rights quarterback talk that you are now somehow deeply concerned. They are done for and there is no one that knows that better than us. I sort of feel like Hawkeye felt when they returned from the End Game time heist and The Black Widow was dead. Thor is like, it’s not over and Hawkeye is fed up the outcome, because he was there and he knows what the red floaty man said. Here, you just watch it now.
Yes, I know the plight of women in Afghanistan now, but don’t spit that out now that it’s over. It’s not coming back. Maybe you wanna go talk to the Mujahedeen about it. Right, go get your hammer, you go fly, and you go talk to them about the rights of women. Because we were there and took pleasure in kicking around worthless men who couldn’t care less about little girls. I can remember throwing candy to the kids and when one cute little girl picked up some and then some young teen boy slapped her to the ground while the men around laughed at the scene, a squad of Marines was about to kill every male in sight. So you go get your hammer, and you go talk to the men in that region about women’s rights. You go do that, go grab your hammer and your tweet, is about all I can say and feel about that.
As One War Ends a New One Begins At Home
The past 20 years of GWOT may have shaped many of our lives, but we have a new mission that should consume the next 20 years. Namely, that is to declare in a unified voice as a generation of veterans that we will no longer send our sons and daughters to a war of folly. Righteous retribution was warranted after 9/11 and it was dealt. What think tank or military industrial complex agent conceived of all the extra is beyond me. But we have to say never again. My son is just 6 and I have two older daughters that should be the beneficiary of our lessons here. Your kids should not go to a war that you and I both know shouldn’t happen. That’s our mission.
Listen, I served and you served with good men and women of every political stripe. We don’t have to agree on much, but we should agree on this. We cannot send our sons and daughters to war in order to enforce and gift a way of life that people don’t understand and seem to not care very much about. We’re a young nation and we have to learn. So Vietnam, that was one. Fine, in the post 9/11 era, you got us trying it again. But what’s that quote that George W screwed up? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me… you cant’ get fooled again? We should not go to War unless the ROE is 100% shock and awe, or nothing at all. Never again and that’s a tall order considering the depth of the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. Then again, Marine Legend Smedley Butler warned us even earlier.
Welcome to the Emotionally Unsatisfying Truth
I think we all knew it at the time, but part of us didn’t care. About half of us were just happy to do something patriotic in the post 9/11 era and the other half were just thinking about what all the girls would think when we got him. We all did it for a variety of reasons, but most of all, once we put boots on the ground, we did it for each other. We can’t be forever bothered by the outcome, because we have a life that no longer depends on the outcome. Today, my son asked me for Micky Mouse pancakes and below is what he got.
Granted, it was sort of Micky Mouse meets Silence of the Lambs, but after he was done crying in fear, he really seemed to enjoy the taste. I’ve got two daughters who I’m looking to raise into strong independent women. I’ve got a life, family, and country that needs me here. This is my life now and your life is here now as well. Our country needs you and me for many reasons, but chief of which is to fight for the principle of never again. We had our war, it was a blast, but our season to fight is over.
Again, I would rather watch Kabul fall every morning for the rest of my life than to see any of you hurt or falling on this side of the uniform. Our life is now and personally, I don’t give a damn who rules Kabul so long as each and every one of you are ok today. We did a thing, you and I. It was what our generation asked of us and it can never be undone. We owe it to those who never came back from our war and though the fall of Kabul is the emotionally unsatisfying answer we didn’t want, it might very well be the answer some of us needed to close this chapter and move on. We did a thing, you and I, and that will never, ever, be undone.