That ol’ ‘power of positive thinking’. . .at war
While engaging with friends last night in the debate of the week — whether the Wikileaks Afghan Reports release is the digital-age version of The Pentagon Papers (it is) — we came upon a site called The War Project: Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Tell Their Stories.
The main page last night featured a statement by Sgt. George Zubaty, a native of Kentucky, Army infantryman, and son of a Vietnam War veteran, who said, in part:
The second deployment, the writing was on the wall from within a month or two of us coming back [from Afghanistan], that we were going to go to war in Iraq. The talk of deadlines and all that stuff, that’s just complete bullshit. It was obvious that we were going to go to Iraq.
I was told in 2003, on the tarmac, waiting in the hangar to get on the airplane to go to Iraq, to go to Kuwait. There was the number two guy of the 101st Airborne. Dave Petraeus was the division commander at the time, but he, I guess, was already gone. I mean, he had other things to do than to see off a battalion.
So this guy, he comes in and gives this rah-rah speech of, “Oh, we’re gonna be over here, and we’re gonna go and do this, that, and the other, and we’re gonna take down the government, and we’re gonna bring democracy.” It was like a talking point memo that you would see from the Cheney-Wolfowitz crowd. It was a ridiculous statement.
I was told, “You’ll be there for about six months, it’s all reconstruction after that, that’s all it’s gonna take.” They had written up a plan that said that. It was the most blatantly full of shit, starry-eyed crap that I’ve ever heard. It’s this power of positive thinking crap you get, where it’s like, “Well, this is what we’re gonna do.”
As if nobody else has any say in this. And reality can’t intervene. Because we’re gonna express our will in Iraq however we please. And it’s all going to happen according to plan because the plan is good. Because the people who made the plan are people I like. Or whatever. I don’t understand.
I realize it’s arguable whether or not you can project force in a place like Iraq and do what the ideal was: to take apart the government, to overthrow the regime, to rebuild the country. I don’t even necessarily think it was a terrible idea. I think the manner in which it was done was so hideously incompetent. It was based on people’s beliefs, rather than rational thought, and they’re two different things.
Zubaty’s words in that fourth paragraph above, “It was the most blatantly full of shit, starry-eyed crap that I’ve ever heard. It’s this power of positive thinking crap,” really struck me. I was glad, in a grim way, to hear someone who really ought to know say something about that horrid rah-rah power-of-positive-thinking crap that led to the debacle in Iraq, and which has led to other debacles (it leads to debacles high and low, whether at the municipal level or federal).
We don’t hear much about the War in Iraq these days, do we? Some days I wonder to myself if we pulled out months ago, the dearth of news is so significant compared to the coverage of the Bush/Cheney years.
Afghanistan has now become the theater of positive-thinking crap. What has eight years of fighting brought us?
As my friends and I read more on The War Project, I was glad to note that fellow T/S’er Susannah Breslin is the creator of this site, something that reminds me of a classic book called Nam, in which Vietnam veterans tell their own individual stories in their own words.
The fact that Zubaty’s father was a LRRP (“lurp”) in Vietnam, and that the son now gets to tell part of his story in The War Project, in digital media, brings the veteran’s tale into a new age, through a new generation of American fighter.
Maybe theirs is “not to question why” while in uniform, but veterans should be given every venue possible to tell us what worked, and what hasn’t, with no power-of-positive-thinking whitewash/hogwash painted over it.