Sunday, January 27, 2008

You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.
Senator John F(ing) Kerry, October 2006

No bright young individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment.
Senator Charles Rangel, November 2006

How one such ignorant loser of my acquaintance spends some of his down-time at Al Asad air base:
I've also plowed through several books, since they're a great way to burn hours during duty or on a slow work day. On the way over here, I read Steven Pressfield's The Afghan Campaign (actually I blew through that one on the plane ride over, since it was a very very long plane ride), a fictional account of an infantryman in Alexander the Great's army during his marches through modern-day Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and back through Iraq (interesting historical footnote: Kandahar in Afghanistan, which you may of heard about on the news as an American base, was actually founded by Alexander and named after himself. Originally it was called Iskandahar, with the "Isk" being the local language bastardizing "Alex". There is another city with a similar name - Iskandariya - in southern Iraq near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates).

I also finished Thieves of Baghdad, an account of the looting of the Baghdad National Museum after the initial invasion and the efforts of a Marine colonel to recover the stolen artifacts while dispelling the many falsehoods about the looting perpetrated by a lazy media. Great book: it's part Indiana Jones, part CSI, and part Black Hawk Down all in one. Once my wife sent me a small selection from my library, I went through Bernard Lewis' The Muslim Discovery of Europe, an Arab-eye's-view from primary sources about the contact and conflict of the Muslim world from its creation to its decline with its European, Christian adversaries.

I've started the first volume of Plutarch's Lives (as part of a trip through ancient history I've assigned myself, beginning with Herodotus and working its way through the Persian Wars, Peloponnesian War, and now the decline of Greece combined with the ascension of Rome), as well as Triumph Foresaken, the first of a new two-volume history of the Vietnam War written by a current professor at the Marine Corps University who seeks to correct much of the "conventional wisdom" about that conflict that is, based on a review of recently released primary sources, quite often factually wrong. I'm almost done Victor Davis Hanson's The Soul of Battle, a review of three generals from different eras - Epaminondas from ancient Greece, Sherman from the Civil War, and Patton from WWII - and how they imbued the ideologies they personally held into their troops, thereby giving them victory in three different wars of liberation.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I educated myself on global warming - its myths, its facts, its actual effects, and the most efficient way of combating those effects - with Cool It. I'm also keeping up my science fiction fetish: I read A.E. van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher, a story sort of about a 2nd Amendment society with an all-powerful empress whose might can be checked by ordinary citizens who can purchase highly-advanced firearms from private gun shops. And, I'm re-reading an oldie I went through long ago, Frank Herbert's The Dosadi Experiment, a tale about a twisted social engineering experiment on a planet whose inhabitants are not allowed to escape...until now. And I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention The Real Festivus, sent me by my parents, written by the Seinfeld screen-writer whose real-life family tradition inspired that famous episode.

It's amazing what you find when you take the lid off the jarhead and have a peek inside.

Also amazing how much a warrior can get done ONCE THE WAR IS PRETTY MUCH WON.