Black Walls, Barricades and Tombs

Nations are possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave. What if equal pains were taken to smooth and polish their manners? One piece of good sense would be more memorable than a monument as high as the moon. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Vietnam Veterans MemorialYoung soldiers are the blunt instruments of sinister, fraudulent or failed government policy. Simply put--if the policies were honorable, no soldiers would be needed. The universal soldier, too young and dumb to realize the depth of his misfortune and misuse, blunders onward, increasingly embittered but slowly enlightened to his purpose. Semper Fi becomes atrocity too damn soon, a bloodied boot splattered with brains, ideals awash in the sewage of reality and the chaos of realpolitik, broken hearts and broken bodies adrift in the avoidable fog of war, all shrouded in silent regrets or determined resolve.

Most soldiers withdraw into a quiet, secret place when asked to shoulder the heavy lifting, a personal stronghold where a shred of decency is not altogether discarded for vengeance or sadism. Others slip into a clever disguise as a good soldier while serving a code of self-preservation. The worst of the lot--the happy maggots of war--those who glory in the first-hand death and stench of decay share far less blame than the architects of war who send soldiers out to plunder and seize control from a position of safety and comfort.

Young soldiers, far from home and caught in the crossfire between brutality and empty words, blindly follow the blueprints of empire building, designed by distant architects whose only monuments are black walls, barricades and tombs. The monuments that young soldiers leave behind are wives and children who remember them at their purest and finest forever, without the scarring and cynicism of war. They leave behind other poignant reminders--indictments to be more exact---hundreds of heartfelt objects that were torn from their grasp by those who sent them out to lay the foundation stones of their graves.

The living might learn from the dead; they only need look at their memorials. But that would require wisdom on the part of architects and war planners, plus a little foresight from citizen soldiers fresh from the aisles of Home Depot suddenly dumped among resentful Iraqis. "As an ex-soldier," said Canadian journalist Scott Taylor, "I can say that their lack of knowledge of the local culture was shocking. These guys are young, scared, frustrated, and clearly weren't briefed to cope with the "post-war" challenges of dealing with the locals. The heat is getting to them, they don't go out, and there are anti-American slogans on all the walls. The Iraqis are proving to be a tough crowd."

We teach neither war nor peace in American schools, but if we did, a little-known book would be required reading. A Time To Love and a Time to Die is the story of a German soldier in World War II who returns home to find his house bombed and his family missing. From the soldier's perspective, the book allows the reader to identify with the "enemy." Terrorism is then revealed by a quick glance in the mirror, an over-used term to goad us to war, employed by those adept in designing black walls, barricades and tombs.

Lately we take our nation-building skills from those who rejected the wisdom of their own prophets. Who remembers that saying about blind guides? How many fences, barricades, stockades, prisons, enclosures, revetments and enduring bases in Iraq will we need until the country of Iraq is pacified and finally looks like this?

Is this a fence, a fortress or a wall? No, it's a Separation Barrier, the latest, crazy idea in creative nation-building from our ally, Israel. Paid for partially with American taxpayer dollars, the monolith pictured here rises 25 feet high and stretches over 400 miles, and is dubbed the "Apartheid Wall" or "Berlin Wall" by Palestinians. Barricaded within these so-called security fences--actually open air prisons and stockades--built by the same blind guides who serve as our mentors in Iraq, the dispossessed are "contained," as we shall contain the Iraqis. (This US-subsidized Palestinian wall is twice as high and four times longer than the odious Berlin wall, which President Reagan considered an affront to freedom when he bellowed to the Russian communists, "Tear down this wall!")gunther55.JPG (38102 bytes)

Our luckless US soldiers--as bricklayers in the architecture of empire--will rue the day they ever got suckered into the role of overseers in the Judean plantation formerly known as the cradle of civilization but now mostly a poisoned mockery of Eden. Truly the legacy we leave behind will also be one many of our soldiers--ironically--carry home with them: be it a black scar across the reputation of America or a deformed baby of their own--like the sad little child picture here--a testimony of their own genetic miasma.

Already many US veterans report deformed offspring, sadly twisted little sons and daughters, deformed at birth due to exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq. The legacy of a poisoned empire should settle squarely onto the cowardly shoulders of those who drew up the blueprints: self-righteous Christians, Clintonite apologists and Bush Judeocons responsible for these monstrous sins against God and Nature.

And so this then is their legacy: to share not in a Resurrection (unless it be of the damned) nor credit for any rebirth of the American Republic, but of a fate resembling that found in Ozymandias' Tomb, where "the lone and level sands stretch far away."

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @