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May 26, 2008

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Some things aren't supposed to be easy.

I miss my friend.

RIP Major. You deserved better.

I wish you could have had the life you wanted. May you be remembered.

How is it possible to miss someone I never knew? I don't know, but I do anyway. RIP

I printed up 100 copies of Andrew’s final post to distribute to some of the older (non-Internet type) veterans I’ll see today at our local events. It’s a little thing, but I wanted to do something specific to remember Andrew today and that’s all I could think of.

May we hold them in our memories, and honor them in our lives.

Indeed.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh

Jes wrote: I wish you could have had the life you wanted. May you be remembered.

Couldn't have said it better. Hil, you're very much on my mind today.

Nothing is sufficient today. Almost finished with This Republic of Suffering. The Union Dead or the Confederate Dead could be one unit because everyone had shared grief. 4000 dead means 4000 individual or family griefs and hopefully the patriotic Iraqi Dead of the future. I began to read clammyc's list of the 684 who were killed this year and cannot be the only person who knew that Major Olmsted was coming and was able to share in a common grief.

Godspeed.

I think about the Major today and about those that he loved and that loved him. May he rest with the angels and may his loved ones be comforted.

alright, I say it: the American men and women carrying guns in Iraq are democratic soliders.

and like Achilles before them, they too had the choice to stay out of an unjust war.

I mean really, I could see privileging him to his victims were he a soldier in just war.

but this is disgusting.

The dead:

Over 1,000,000 Iraqis
4,079 Americans
176 Britons
13 Bulgarians
33 Italians
22 Poles
18 Ukrainians
11 Spaniards
7 Danes
5 Salvadorans
4 Slovaks
4 Georgians
3 Latvians
3 Romanians
2 Australians
2 Dutch
2 Estonians
2 Thailanders
and a Czech, a Fijian, a Hungarian, a Kazakh, and a Korean.

Plus 127 journalists and 50 media workers killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

redwood: three recommendations.

First, read Andy's actual explanation of why he went. Also, how he died.

Second, consider that Memorial Day is a holiday dedicated to commemorating American troops who have fallen in war. In every other post I have written on Iraq, I mention US, coalition, and Iraqi casualties.

Third, ask yourself why, exactly, you think that the best use of your time is to tell people who are mourning the death of a friend that the fact that they are doing so is disgusting. There are a lot of other things you might have done with the nanosecond it must have taken to write that. You might have made the world better in some small respect, performed some small act of kindness, picked up a piece of litter from the street, whatever. Why this?

I hadn't seen redwood's comment when I posted mine: I apologize to anyone who thought it was in agreement with it.

Andy Olmsted's death, for me, brought into sharp relief why each death matters - no matter which uniform they were wearing, or none.

I miss a person I never met: I profoundly regret the life lost. I miss Andy personally, as I cannot say I miss any of the other 1M+ people killed in Iraq, because I knew Olmsted/G'Kar. That's not privileging Andy's death above others: that's recognition that for each person killed, there exists a group of people who knew that person, suffering pain and loss.

Over a million people have been killed since March 2003. While Andy may have touched more lives than most, there are millions of people mourning their dead today. For us, on this blog, the personal face for all those dead is that soldier. To remember that the million dead are not statistics: each one is mourned today.

Jes: I didn't take your comment that way at all. And thanks for your earlier comment as well. *hugs*

Words typically just don't come for me in situations like this, so I'll just go with this evidence of my tongue-tied appreciation of Andy's service, and sadness that he lost his life.

As well as a wider appreciation of the all the others who have served their country.

I too read his posts for only a short time, but was touched. I was a peacetime Vet in the 60's but as a woman was a volentier and would do so today if I could. That dosen't
mean I approve of this War, but I still back my Serviceperson 100%.

First, I share the sentiments of those who mourn all the dead and injured today. Each life lost is a tragedy beyond remedy. As put in the Talmud, to lose a life is to lose the world. Many worlds have been destroyed and for that we ought all grieve.

As too for the suffering. Having spent time in Walter Reed with an animal therapy program, I have been humbled by what pain I have seen, and I know there is so much that I have not.

I also feel the loss of G'Kar today. He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me think, and he made me wish I knew him. He lived deeply and tried to bring decency and humanity to an indecent and inhuman thing. God bless him and the many like him on all sides.

And one last passing thought that I hope may be of some comfort to Hilzoy and all others who feel pain and loss most nearly today. Perhaps in some awful way you are the lucky ones, because the pain and loss means you shared the treasure of these wonderful people most closely when they were with us.

Shantih,

Charlie

G'Kar's loss was a terrible loss for us all. Charlie Martel says what I was going to say but in a different way. The talmud says that he who saves a life, saves the world. G'Kar's life was one of giving and he saved many worlds. His loss is the loss of many worlds. That's true for all the lives lost, or truncated, or changed in this and all wars. When we commemorate this loss, today, we are grieving for ourselves because the loss is all of ours.

aimai

R.I.P., sir. I didn't know you, but you'll always be in our hearts.

For a powerful read on a great American who spent time in Iraq. Check out the AP story on Merlin. Semper Fi, Marine. Rest in Peace.

@Redwood,

Listen, you jackass. If you want to come on a Memorial Day thread and argue with someone about the morality of volunteering for Iraq, that's your perogative. I sort of volunteered for Iraq and I'm always open for discussion. But have some respect for the fallen.

My memorial to Andy, to MAJ Olmsted, and to all the dead and injured, is private, for this year, at least.

But I've particularly been aware of Memorial Day, and what it means, this past week.

To all the heartfelt comments above, and elsewhere, I'd venture that many of us would be fine with: so say us all.

Thanks for the post, hilzoy.

To change the subject just a little, this is a great post at racialicious about female veterans-- though OW readers had a connection with Andrew Olmstead, let's remember that it's not just boys who are dying, and that the fallout from this war is about more than the dead.

While we remember and honor the fallen, we should also keep the living vets in our memories as well.

When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are codetermined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends … they are all living in our hearts. When they die a part of us has to die too.

From a brief essay by Henri Nouwen.

Andy, and all those like him, took an awful lot with them when they went.

My thought, or really my experience, is that we carry our love for the ones that are gone for the rest of of our lives until we, too, pass. It will never not hurt. But we can't avoid that pain without also losing the joy of having known and loved them.

Sometimes it feels, to me, like something we do for them. But I think it is, at least as much, something we do for ourselves. It helps us keep our own humanity.

Andy was an extraordinary human being, cleverly disguised as an ordinary guy. He literally gave his life trying to save that of folks who were his nominal enemies. There is no greater love or virtue to be had.

He'll be remembered as long as anyone who knew him draws breath.

My thoughts are with the families of all who have lost loved ones in these wars, or any war.

Thanks -

"though OW readers had a connection with Andrew Olmstead"

Olmsted. His name is "Andrew Olmsted."

I believe Congress made Memorial Day an official holiday, as it were, in 1971, maybe '72.

Before then, I wonder what newsriters and newsreaders used to mark as "the unofficial start to summer."

"The unofficial start to summer."

Who started that?

And doesn't it seem to demean the holiday everytime you hear it?

Somehow, Memorial Day became "the unofficial start of summer." It became the beach and barbeques.

Here in Newark, Delaware, our annual Memorial Day Parade -- which we've been to twice in the five years we've lived here -- was rained out on the 18th. It's a good parade, very reverential, very Americana. And it's always good to see the older veterans.

Last night, Danny, Olga and I strolled down Main Street -- we live in a college town, so there's always life here -- and I made a point to stop and read the war dead from Newark on the memorial that commemorates WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

It didn't make much of an impression, I could tell, on my fidgetty 9-year-old son. He was more interested in the ice cream I had promised. But he'll remember, I hope, some day.

And in a couple hours, we'll be leaving for the Phillies game and I am sure they will have some kind of rememberance before the game. Nothing that will impress a 9-year-old perhaps, but hopefully osmosis will run its course and my 9-year-old son from Russia -- who considers himself 99.9 percent American -- will learn more about what his adopted country is about.

Not completely private.

I regret that circumstances didn't allow me to post that last night.

(Painful image alert)

This day has been about beer and BBQ for too many years for me. This one was different, for sure. Statistics and numbers became an individual, one who had an impact on hundreds of thousands, if not more.

It is sad, but this holiday has come to represent the start of summer more than a day of mourning and respect for our war dead. But in that spirit, I’ll soon hoist a cold frosty mug in your honor Andrew, and believe that a comforting memory for you would have been in your back yard with your wife and family, with a cold beer, manning the grill.

Hugs to hilzoy and Gary.

Man. I'll be writing more later tonight, but best wishes to all this Memorial Day.

"Listen, you jackass. If you want to come on a Memorial Day thread and argue with someone about the morality of volunteering for Iraq, that's your perogative. I sort of volunteered for Iraq and I'm always open for discussion. But have some respect for the fallen."

Yes. During the Gulf war I was deeply impressed by a quote from some combat officer who told his men something much like "I don't want any heroes here. Just do your jobs and don't take any unnecessary risks. There's nothing in iraq that's worth any of you dying for."

And that's still true today. Every US casualty in iraq has been a tragic waste. For nothing. For less than nothing.

Now is an important time to show our respect for our soldiers, the survivors and the dead. Some of them didn't know that they were dying for a complete hypocritical boondoggle. If they had waited to be sure whether it was worth doing, it would have been too late. And next time it might be good for America and the world. Our troops go to war with the hope that the people who send them into harms way are not utter idiots. It's not their fault when that hope fails.

The thousands of americans who have died for nothing in iraq -- the thousands more who will die for nothing if McCain is elected -- they deserve our most profound respect. Many of them saw how hopeless it was, and they re-enlisted anyway.

Maintaining our forces is a bigger matter than any one individual stupid war. The longer we have utter idiots running US foreign policy, the more we depend on the strength and courage of our armed forces to shield us from the consequences of our actions.

The idea that our soldiers would -- like Achilles -- sit back and watch their comrades get slaughtered because they personally disapprove of the conduct of the war ... that doesn't fit our traditions at all. Our soldiers have always given their undivided loyalty to their civilian planners, no matter how stupid or evil. They would have given undivided loyalty to President Quayle, if his number had come up. They gave their undivided loyalty to Clinton and to Carter, never ever refusing any order no matter how unpalatable.

So they return to iraq year after year, with no hope, continuing to kill iraqis as needed. Doing their duty. Doing what they can to palliate the damage, doing the best they can in an impossible situation.

We owe them more than we can ever repay. The absolute minimum we owe them is to get them out of there as quickly as we can.

Before heading off to the Phillies game with my son, I join OCSteve (3:44 pm) --

On this Memorial Day:

Hugs to hilzoy and gary.

And here's hoping more Americans remember Memorial Day isn't just beer, barbecues and the beach -- and its those who have made the ultimate sacrifice who've allowed us to enjoy those freedoms.

Jesus. Hold a memorial and an asshole or two will show up. Hilzoy, your restraint is, well, "remarkable" seems like such a small word…

Obviously not directed at you bedtimeforbonzo…

Hold a memorial and an asshole or two will show up.

What OCSteve said.

"Hugs to hilzoy and Gary."

Same, and a hand over heart salute, to you, Steve, and to all the vets and those serving, including you, LT Nixon.

SSeeing Andy's pic, words really fail. I'd just note this

A member of Andy Olmsted's family has just written me to say that if people want to do something in honor of him, they can send donations to a fund that has been set up for the four children of CPT Thomas Casey, who served under Andy and was killed while trying to help him. The address is here:

Capt. Thomas Casey Children'™s fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020

I assume that this is still correct, but if it has changed, please let us know.

Jesus. Hold a memorial and an asshole or two will show up. Hilzoy, your restraint is, well, "remarkable" seems like such a small word.

Said asshole was banned last September for slandering Andrew. Hopefully management shows J Thomas the exit again.

Matttbastard, the entity being referred to is redwood, at 12:01 PM, not J. Thomas.

mattt: thanks for reminding me. ;)

Whoops. My mistake and apologies to J Thomas for the misunderstanding (although s/he was banned).

Matttbastard, looking at that thread reminded me of this exchange I had with Andrew, in which I touched on some of the daily worry I had about him:

"Missed an IED by maybe an hour today; if we hadn't been delayed by a meeting, I could have gotten my CAB. But maybe next time."

Worth at least an oy vey.

The comparative risk aspects of conversing with you are unnerving. There's some dissonance in doing anything other than worrying like crazy about your safety, and then knowing that does no good whatever, and wanting to help things be normal for you, and knowing that's not possible either, and so on.

It's a very modern issue. Nearly-realtime communications with soldiers living in an environment with no clear front is new.

I imagine I'm not the only one torn between impulses towards over-emotionalism, caution, and otherwise, when saying hi, and no you're wrong.

The disparity in mutual safety, and living conditions, is grotesque.

Posted by: Gary Farber | September 18, 2007 at 02:03 PM

It comes with the job. I volunteered to do this. If anything, people ought to be questioning my judgment. ;)

Posted by: Andrew | September 18, 2007 at 02:07 PM

Thanks -- sincerely -- for reminding me that I managed to get that out, at the time, as well as some other stuff in email between us.

I found envelopes from snail mail from Andy while packing.

Stuff always turns up when you're not expecting it.

As a 15-year-old just told me when I showed him Andy's picture on the funeral service handout, which I have out today: it sucks.

I think about Andy every day, because I knew him (however distantly). I think about the ones I didn't know hardly less often.

Andy was the kind of person we can ill afford to lose: courageous, compassionate, witty, wise, and very much his own person. There are an astonishing number of Andys in US uniform, in country and not.

Each one gone is a rip in the universe. I honor our fallen, and miss Andy more than I can say, but I mostly want the ones still living to come home. Soon.

hilzoy, I want to make a suggestion:

Close the comments and put the address of the children's fund at the bottom of the post.

This way the people who knew Andrew can quietly commemorate his death and contribute to a good cause, while the community isn't torn apart by the seemingly insurmountable paradox of trying to reconcile individual and collective responsibility, suffering and guilt.

I could elaborate further on that, but feel that even simply trying to describe the underlying problem here would probably ignite a heated discussion, which would be inappropriate. Yet I find it equally inappropriate to chastise or ban dissenting voices in a public forum like this, especially on a topic which many here feel very strongly about.

Thus my suggestion.

fwiw, a good friend returned safe and sound from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. I saw him for lunch on Friday. In this forgotten war, the coalition forces have a chance to make an enormous difference in the lives of some of the most oppressed people on the planet.

According to Major Brad (Air Force Reserves), an important statistic tracked by coalition forces is the number of young women who commit suicide every year rather than marry the designated village elder. The number has dropped from over 650 in the area he was tracking to under 20.

As a good American liberal, I try to respect foreign cultures. But when that culture leads young women to kill themselves, I don't have a big problem with US AID, backed by US firepower, working very hard to persuade the persuadable (and kill the hardcore) that there's a better way.

DARPA in recent years has run competitions to develop autonomous vehicles. The success has been incredible. (Google redteamracing.) If I had ten seconds of the next president's time, I would ask him to tell DARPA to run a contest to develop autonomous demining vehicles. Abandoned and lost mines probably do more (after foul drinking water and lousy sanitation) to keep the Third World destitute.

In honor of our fallen friends,

Francis

Gary: you're sincerely welcome.

Also from the aforementioned thread, this post should again be noted.

If Andrew could comment on this thread, I think he'd have disarmed and charmed Redwood through sheer force of personality.

My interaction with Andrew mostly took place here, but I had the privilege of sharing a lunch with him several months before he shipped to Iraq.

A lovely, amusing, articulate guy. Also a formidable listener. The thought struck me half way through our lunch that Andrew actually taking me seriously, by which I mean he really heard what I was saying, and keenly, even though my style is not unlike my commenting here; mouth shooting off, diversionary, etc.

But he was taking it in.

I went home to cut the lawn, have a beer, and make dinner.

He went to Iraq.

I coulda been a contenda.

He was a champ.

I'll make a suggestion: don't close the comments, and let us who know how to write appropriately write what we like, rather than closing down our ability to do so.

Then do whatever you like, Hilzoy, that strikes you as fair, as regards ukases as to what is and isn't appropriate on a given thread, since this is a blog, you guy's blog, and you can do whatever you want with it, and there's no "public" obligation whatever to do otherwise.

And anyone who doesn't like it is equally free to do what they want about it.

And if you want to, or another blog-owner wants to, open another thread about the morality of the war in Iraq, or American foreign policy, or what the duties of soldiers are in a volunteer Army, or whatever set of subjects you want to talk about, open such another thread, or threads, as you like, or not.

And everyone else is free to start their own blog:

Francis: In this forgotten war, the coalition forces have a chance to make an enormous difference in the lives of some of the most oppressed people on the planet.

Yes indeed.

If Andrew could comment on this thread, I think he'd have disarmed and charmed Redwood through sheer force of personality.

Very first smile of a very long day. And as always, who can always make me smile – Thullen. Thank you John.

I have no adequate words to offer -- I just want to pay my respects here.

Andrew was an all around good guy. Not the only one, but he was our guy.

I'm pretty sure that the various concepts of immortality come into play at the point at which individuals organize their consciousnesses more in regard to principles rather than appetites; living on in principle, as it were. I could see this type of character in A.J. Olmsted...

Broke out the good scotch, now that this is a day for drinking for me, but there just isn't scotch good enough.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
-Patrick Henry

We are losing some of the best among us. Olmsted was one of them. All I can say is thanks. There is nothing else to say.

ask yourself why, exactly, you think that the best use of your time is to tell people who are mourning the death of a friend that the fact that they are doing so is disgusting. There are a lot of other things you might have done with the nanosecond it must have taken to write that. You might have made the world better in some small respect, performed some small act of kindness, picked up a piece of litter from the street, whatever.

This sums up, in a sad way, why I read this blog regularly. There is a decency and a thoughtfulness in this community that is lacking in many others. Thank you, Hilzoy. I am sorry for your loss.

I, too, miss Andrew Olmsted.

Just to add to Jurgulesic's list: two Christian Peacemakers, Tom Fox and George Webber.

To all the fallen, all those who have lost someone: absent friends.

[tearful sigh]

I do actually have a question about the ethicality of volunteering in the Iraq War, but this clearly isn't the forum for it. Once the grief of Memorial Day has subsided, would the kitten mind providing an opportunity for me to ask it?

[Open thread would suffice, natch. Like I said, although it's germane, it's not appropriate here.]

to Jimmy Summers... Iraq, KIA, road side bomb while on a rescue mission, Memorial Day 2007.

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