"As far as their overall importance goes, they are no more worthy of our consideration than a box of nails. Ribbons and banners in ostensible "support" of the troops miss the whole point of the invasion, which is to gain a strategic hold over that volatile and lucrative geopolitical region."
My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.
On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.
More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.
To all of the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you.
That trust is well placed.
The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.
In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women, and children as shields for his own military; a final atrocity against his people.
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable, and free country will require our sustained commitment.
We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization, and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.
I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon.
Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent.
For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people and you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.
We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.
My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others. And we will prevail.
May God bless our country and all who defend her.
Bonus! The President's speech in just three (famous, last) words - "Hey, watch this!"
I remember changing the diaper of this young man, a newly commissioned 2nd lieutenant. He had been out on the town, celebrating his commission, when he got in a car wreck that left him with an inoperable brain injury. He couldn't feed himself. He spoke only gibberish. He had no control of his bowel or bladder. I was told he'd be that way the rest of his life.
I remember washing down the colonel in the showers. He had shit the color of yellow mustard over the lower half of his body. Today he'd be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
I remember talking with another colonel who had been admitted to the psychiatric ward for depression. He was quiet, soft spoken. Neither of us could ever quite get a handle on the reason for his chronic depression. I remember feeling intimidated due to the man's rank, although he never gave me cause to feel that way. (I later experienced depression at the age of 40. I too, never got a handle on it. Best way to describe it is to ask you to picture that brief scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman is at the bottom of the swimming pool, totally disconnected from the guests chatting poolside.)
I remember the day I turned 19. That night I hoisted a few at a bar across the street from Walter Reed. The place was dimly lit and smoky. I remember the beers were very good.
I remember the lady, a captain, who'd been committed to the psychiatric unit. She scared me. I hated working that ward, dreaded going there, because she always scared me. Her right leg had been amputated because of cancer. The operation saved her life, but she lost her soul. She was verbally abusive to everyone she came in contact with, patients and staff alike. She was the only patient who ever truly frightened me during my three years in the Army. It was like she was dead inside. She still scares me.
I remember being taught how to properly change bedsheets. The Army way. I remember being taught the proper procedure to administer an enema. We practiced on a pliable plastic dummy. (I remember hoping the day would never come when I was called upon to give an enema, unless it was to a pliable plastic dummy.) I remember learning how to give three different types of injections. Learning the time-saving method of checking a ward full of patients' pulses. (15 seconds, then multiply by 4.) How to take blood pressure. (Blood pressure was always one of my favorites. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I got to use a stethoscope so I could listen to the woosh-woosh of blood.)
I remember the young catatonic soldier back from Vietnam. I remember goofing on him as a way to shock him out of his catatonia. I remember him telling me, after he had recovered sufficiently to speak to me, that he was aware that I was goofing on him and that he thought it funny. But that wasn't enough to shock him out of his frozen state, and so he could only observe me, but not react in any way.
I remember Private Borkowski, a patient on the psychiatric ward. He could have been the model for Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
I remember the soldier on the orthopedic ward. He was a big, muscular man. A sergeant. His right femur had been shattered by a bullet. He was always complaining about the pain. The white bone stood in marked contrast against his black skin. He could have been a linebacker, once.
I remember the triple amputee on the other side of the same ward. A mine had blown off both legs and an arm. Shrapnel pocked his face. The explosion left him partially deaf and partially blind. His mother visited him every day. He hoped to eventually go to college.
I remember the nurse I should have dated.
I remember the soldier, recently deemed fit for psychiatric outpatient status, who one day grabbed an MP's pistol, fired one shot into the wall, and, with the second shot, blew out his brains. We washed down the walls.
I remember the sergeant, Sergeant Glen McCabe, taking me on my first coon hunt with some other wardmasters. I remember their look of astonishment when my first shot brought down a coon treed high up a tall pine. The spotlight caused the coon's eyes to glow as I took a deep breath, let out half, and squeezed off a round. I thought I'd missed. Seconds later we heard a rustling where the coon's eyes had been. Small limbs floated to the ground. The coon followed, crashing to the forest floor. It landed with a thud, missing one of the sergeants by a few feet. Lucky shot.
I remember Lieutenant Swain, a blonde nurse with whom I spent some quality recreational time.
I remember assisting in the administration of ECT to a young woman patient, the wife of an Army captain. I remember my embarrassment as the nurse unbuttoned her blue pajama top, briefly exposing her breasts. I remember the instructions to hold her left wrist loosely when the electric current was applied. I remember how she appeared to be quite sane for an hour or two after each treatment, only to later descend into a depth of madness I could not begin to fathom.
I remember Captain Dinoff, a psychiatrist from New York City. He appeared competent but somewhat detached, as if he'd rather be at some party in New York City instead of doing a tour of duty in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I remember him ignoring complaints voiced by a young patient of pain in the knee. Captain Dinoff dismissed the soldier's complaint, contending it part of the soldier's psychological disorder. The soldier kept complaining of the pain until, weeks later, Captain Dinoff finally relented and sent him off to be looked at by a medical doctor. The boy's leg had to be amputated just above the knee due to cancer. The rest of the patients soon came to believe this was Captain Dinoff's fault. Some of the staff felt the same way.
I remember Private Borkowski loudly belittling Dr. Dinoff whenever he walked on the ward. The young man whose leg was amputated was Borkowski's friend. Borkowski publicly (and quite loudly) declared Dr. Dinoff unfit to be a doctor. Borkowski rallied the rest of the patients, turning them against Dr. Dinoff.
I remember the running joke on the psychiatric wards at Valley Forge General Hospital. That the only way to tell the patients from the aides was that the patients wore blue and the aides wore white. To some extent this was true.
I remember so much. That's why it hurts me to learn of the mess at Walter Reed, and it angers me when the incompetencies of our nation's leaders are exposed for Americans to see, and yet they continue to sit on their hands and do nothing.
Sometimes I read, or I hear, that the American people are not stupid. I strongly disagree. The great majority of this country's citizens are either incredibly, pathetically stupid, or they are simply out to lunch. If this were not so, the American people would have long ago demanded impeachment of those responsible for the ever lengthening list of moral tragedies following September 11, 2001.
America, you are like the lady captain who gained her life but lost her soul. You're beginning to scare me.
About 8:30 this morning I began feeling a bit off... cold feet and hands, slight stomach upset. I lay down with a magazine on the big couch. I fell asleep about 9 or so. I'm not sure what time it started, but I had an out-of-body experience (OBE) like none other in the past.
It began when I had the sensation of my arms and legs waving about. Twice I opened my eyes and observed my body at rest on the couch. I knew right away what was happening, so, with eyes closed, I slowly pushed myself off the couch and into a crawling position on the floor. I opened my eyes. I slowly stood up. I heard someone talking in the kitchen - my kitchen. I walked in to find a young man and a young woman having a conversation. But it wasn't my kitchen anymore. It was a kitchen that two young people still in college might have sported, rather bare and basic. The color of the few appliances was sort of a yellow mustard.
I spoke with the man and woman and learned that they didn't exactly live here. They used the place to meet and be together when they could.
About this time Lovepie (my cat) jumped up on the couch. I opened my eyes to the familiar surroundings, then closed them again and quickly found myself back in the alternate kitchen with the two young people. I told them I was going outside. They appeared to take my appearance in their world with a peaceful resignation.
Upon walking outside, I bent down and looked intently at the ground. The sun was shining. Normally my vision would be a blur without my glasses. This time, I could focus quite well, but I couldn't hold it but a second or two before things got blurry. Then they got sharp again. Besides that, my surroundings seemed quite ordinary.
I decided to walk into town along a two-lane highway. Very briefly I considered stepping into the path of an oncoming car to see what would happen, but rejected the idea, thinking it would simply wake me from this extraordinary experience.
Whenever I approached people I was defintely seen and noticed. (Or, perhaps I should say, there was a presence about me that was noticed.) I watched some youngsters playing in the street. When I got a bit closer, they moved away from me. A girl, about 14, looked directly at me with a bit of apprehension in her eyes, as if I might assault her. (Did she see all of me, part of me, did I appear as some sort of phantasm?)
I found myself in the center of Athens, Alabama, where I lived for almost 30 years. It was night. I came upon two groups of people organized into some sort of march. They stood opposite each other, separated by what appeared to be an alley or side street. One group was singing a very rhythmic piece of music that I didn't quite recognize.
My right foot cramped a bit, pulling me back from the OBE. It was 1:30 p.m.