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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Posthumous Post of A U.S. Soldier In Iraq

Here's a post from Andrew Olmstead (posting as G'Kar) on a blog I regularly read, called Obsidian Wings.  The post is dated Sept. 22, 2007:

Let me begin with the standard disclaimers, despite which I am certain that at least one commenter will complain that I am in some way attempting to justify the Iraq War, the surge, the presidency of George Bush, tooth decay, world hunger, dogs and cats living together or worse. In fact, I think the war was a mistake, I suspect that the surge is going to be insufficient to turn the tide in Iraq, and I have precisely zero brief for George W. Bush, let alone tooth decay, or worse. [Update: I will confess to being agnostic about dogs and cats living together.] I don't intend to support any of those things.

***

I don't expect that we will make any big differences in Iraq. The government doesn't appear to be interested in doing anything but preserve its power base, and I don't know if that will change even if the U.S. does decide to actually pull out, which seems implausible in any case. I can't make the Iraqi government work any better. I may not even be able to do much to make the Iraqi Army work any better. But I can try to help those Iraqis who want to make their country better succeed in their own small ways, and I can take advantage of my own position to directly aid Iraqis it is in my power to help. It doesn't sound like much. It probably isn't much. But few of us are destined to make a big difference in life; if I can make a little difference, that has to count for something.

Shortly after Christmas, in one of his last posts, he wrote:

Senator Clinton is still the odds-on favorite to be the next President of the United States. But I've seen little to suggest she or any other 'serious' contender will make any major improvement over the current occupant of the Oval Office. Nor is this a fault particular to Senator Clinton or any of the other candidates. It is a symptom of how Americans view their right to act in the world. Until such time as the voters of the United States realize that they have no particular right to bomb anyone simply because they think it's for the best, we will be saddled with presidential candidates who work to become 'comfortable' with the use of military power.

Olmstead was killed in Iraq yesterday.  He provided Obsidian Wings with a post, only to published in the event he became a war casualty.  You can read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt:

As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

***

I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED [Note:  Apparently, it was the former - Ken]. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?

I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

***

Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.

UPDATE:  An article he wrote (with picture of him) last week for the Rocky Mountain News (Colo).

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Olmsted. Not "Olmstead."

For more on Andrew, see here, and here.

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