Jarrod Chlapowski

Never Forgetting Means Remembering Where You Started

Filed By Jarrod Chlapowski | May 02, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: 9/11, military, osama bin laden

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in the chow hall eating egg whites and bacon.

clear white house.jpgWe had TVs set up around the dining area which usually played Armed Forces Network (AFN) broadcasts. Usually it was innocuous news or some state of the day, and went relatively ignored by the janes and joes rushing to eat and make formation on time.

I had glanced at one of the TVs and saw a plane crashing into a tower. The sound was off, and I didn't think anything of it, assuming it was some war movie or another. Why would I suspect anything different? We were a peace-time military. My mind pre-occupied with keeping Korean vocabulary words in my short-term memory for a test that day, I dashed out the chow hall and towards company formation between A and C company buildings.

Formation started late with whispers of what happened starting to grow. I immediately connected the image I saw on TV with what was happening. The 1SG confirmed the rumors, allowed anyone with family in NYC to leave formation to call home, and told us that our training at the moment was to be unchanged.

Chatter immediately shifted to the implications of the attack, the day's schoolwork quickly forgotten. Would we be taken out of training and sent to fight? Would our language change to match the needs of the military? We were young and barely in the Army, so anything seemed possible at that time.

It was not until I ran into a lieutenant colonel taking the course with us that the emotional impact of 9/11 became real. Disoriented and dismissive, Kip had lost a number of friends in the Pentagon collision. His face was still wet. Peace time was over.

In hindsight, there were signs that something was amiss. In May or June an order came down from DOD to close all military posts, which included the Defense Language Institute (DLI). Not equipped with enough MPs, the post was forced to fish troops for guard duty at each gate from the various training companies. We didn't receive much training other than a quick five minute instruction from the previous guards on how to use a mirror to inspect vehicles coming in. What we were looking for was very vague, and what we were supposed to do if we did find anything was even more vague. Our role was mostly to function as a deterrent when we weren't pissing off the local population who had until that point used the post as a shortcut to get to the other side of the foggy hill that was the Presidio.

The shift from peace time to war time military at DLI was abrupt and awkward. Our leaders had been trained under a Cold War mindset, casually conducting "Sergeant's Time" every Tuesday to remind us we were still indeed in the military. Post-9/11, the training became much more serious, but we still didn't get how it would help us. Why learn about a Forward Line of Troops (FLOT) if operations were to be urban? Was depleted uranium a strong concern when we didn't even know if we were going to be in tanks? And why weren't we going to the range, considering most of us had not qualified since basic?

Of course the military quickly adapted to a more modern mindset, and today's DLI recruits have a much different experience than the collegiate environment I shared with my peers. Some of those peers went overseas, some were injured. Some were killed. Many are permanently scarred.

9/11 was a loss of innocence for many who had joined the military for college, for money, or for more diplomatic intentions. I don't know if we'll ever have that innocence again.

Among the crowd in front of the White House last night at last events came full circle, and I was overtaken by a naive belief in a sustainable peacetime. I know that's not likely.

But the flag I waved last night is still dancing in my head, and I am jubilant.

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Among the crowd in front of the White House last night at last events came full circle, and I was overtaken by a naive belief in a sustainable peacetime.

Why? What about Osama's death suggested that a sustainable peacetime was possible?

You're making this about the death itself, when it's about much more, man. Which is exactly what this article was about - though I prefer subtlety to obvious bleating.

It might do you good to get out of the anti-military industrial complex mindset and try to understand where folks with different experiences than you are coming from.

I asked a question, which means that I was trying to see where you were coming from. You threw out a statement that I found interesting and unexpected with no explanation, so I asked for you to expand on it.

No need to get defensive.

"What on earth about Hitler's death suggested that sustainable peacetime was possible between Nazi Germany and the Allied nations?"

I mean, we all know that Hitler's death didn't suggest any kind of peace in the years that followed, let alone contribute to any. Nazi Germany just kept on rolling, strong as ever and to this day, Germany remains the combative nation it was in WWII.

Politically, death does the same thing as exile or life imprisonment. That you can't abide by a political murder doesn't mean that you suddenly can't to grasp that concept.

And likewise, has ANYTHING truly resulted in sustainable peacetime? As long as tribes, groups, clans, and nations have existed, conflict between them has existed. Does any non-violent settlement ensure that war will never occur between "allied" nations? Even if killing bin Laden brought about a peacetime, it could never be guaranteed to be sustainable. And neither can our peaceful treaties.

The atrocities in Hiroshima are credited with ending the war between the Allied nations and Japan. And look, peace resulted. The First Emperor of China brought unity and peace to the territories by devastating and crushing them all with his military until they surrendered to becoming one nation. And a flawed peace--peace nonetheless--exists in some form or another to keep them from suddenly all trying to secede in the modern era.

Again, it's fine to debate whether or not the death of a political leader will or will not ultimately result in sustained peace. it's fine to debate if the ethics of violent conflicts do more harm than good to those nations embroiled in them. But it's wholly offensive to behave as though resolution through violent political conflict never has, never could, and never will result in some kind of peace. It presumes that either you are naive or that you take us for idiots.

I think democracy, fighting dogmatism and group-think, and making it people's individual responsibility to understand what's going on in the world and to respond to it are good ways to prevent wars. When the people have good information, the power to manage themselves, and and the impetus to think for themselves, they rarely decide in favor of war.

But that won't be possible, at least in the near future. There's too much working against that.

Also, I don't think your reading of history is, erm, profound enough to make the statements you're making (it wasn't drop some bombs on hiroshima and peace popped out). But then you don't seem to understand what I wrote in the comments here, so I shouldn't expect much more.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 3, 2011 1:48 AM

Enlisting in the US military is agreeing in practice to commit or aid the commission of acts of mass murder, genocide in the case of Iraq, to steal the oil and other resources of any nation not strong enough to defend itself.

The world in englobed by over 750 US military bases all dedicated to building an empire for the wealthy at an annual cost of over one trillion dollars.

There are no excuses for enlistment. The US military and spy agencies are not defensive organizations: their sole objective is resource piracy no matter the cost in blood.

There are some heroes in the US military - the men and women like Bradley Manning who try to end the wars that take the lives of GIs and civilians in such huge numbers.

As the mother of an American soldier, Bill, I find that comment represensible. My son and his men save lives by dismantling IED's intact to acquire forensic evidence to trace the indiscriminate murderers who assemble them

Socialist or Anarchist brother you may be, but I've never heard an instance where you put your life on the line for the Cause. I have.

My son and his men put their lives on the line for soldiers and civilians in a deadly set of wars where the stated object of the opponent is to inflict civilian casualties, not as collateral damage, but as a shock and awe as well as a demoralisation technique.

When my son's unit came home, the sergeants had a group picture taken, a match to the one they had taken before they deployed. They left empty the spaces occupied by sappers who never returned in the earlier photo. There were far too many empty spaces representing men who lost their lives saving others.

I enlisted, btw....because the forces of the Spanish military could only be democratised if people from all points of view were represented within, that was our best protection against the February coup ever happening again,..

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 3, 2011 10:46 PM

I've had this same conversation before at Bilerico and many other forums and my principles remain firm.

I oppose the role of the US military and of soldiers, whither they translate, clean up mines, or torture and maim civilians for sport, as these photos make perfectly clear. http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTHuxp04E-http://govtslaves.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/afghan-civilian-killteam1.jpg

I oppose enlistment in wars to steal resources.

There is no justification for these wars and the soldiers who fight them are as much victims of empire builders as the civilians killed by American invasions and occupations. Your son was lucky. More than 5,000 GI's are dead, over 30,000 wounded, half with life changing wounds and thousands have taken their own lives.

We should mourn their suffering at the hands of the officer class and oil barons and the vastly greater suffering of innocent civilians in the six large scale wars the US is currently engaged in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogFZlRiTHuwBeyond mourning we should do all we can to fight for an end to these wars and actively advise against enlistment.

I am sorry that you don't understand that the policies that "inflict civilian casualties, not as collateral damage, but as a shock and awe as well as a demoralisation technique" have been the openly admitted policies of the American, Spanish and English barbarians who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. That was true then and it is now. There wouldn't be any IED's in play, or communal violence or the mind numbing causality figures were it not for the invasion and occupation of a weak nation by the world's most contemptible rouge state, the United States. Those wars are supported by both parties in Congress and orchestrated by the Bushes, Clinton and Obama.

Just who do you imagine is responsible for the casualties arising from communal war in Iraq if not the US colonial administration and the US military?

The soldiers I respect are those who oppose the war and try to end it like Bradley Manning and the many other courageous men and women like him. I regard participation in the American military as wrongheaded and lethal for the civilians they are sent to kill.

Personal questions are not relevant but since you raise them I've been arrested and endangered on more than one occasion. I am not an anarchist. Military decisions in the US and Spanish military are made, not on the basis of naive enlistees, but solely on the requirements of empire building corporations and the politicians and generals who serve them.

This is all very old news: I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. USMC Commandant Major General Smedly Butler, 1935

It looks like we had very similar feelings on May 1, Jarrod. I think its important to be honest about your reaction to something so personal and so emotional. I think that other feelings are very valid too. I think its valid to be sad about any death, I think its valid to be angry about how this went down. 9-11 didn't happen yesterday. 9-11 happened 10 years ago, but its been happening ever since. Its become a very personal thing for each of us.

It has become tedious, however, to have to defend my character just because I didn't have the same emotional reaction others did. To prescribe to others what they should feel about something so incredibly complicated is absurd, but sadly typical of some folks.

I would say that there are definitely some behaviors May 1 that were inappropriate on the fact that they were dangerous or irresponsible--don't hurt yourself or others over it. However I think the spectrum of what should be considered acceptable emotional expression was broader for one night. If Bin Laden had been killed the next month, I think I'd probably feel different. However, this man wasn't killed in the next month after 9-11, nor the next year, nor the next 5 years.

This man continued to push for attacks on innocents. This man continued to embolden and coordinate terrorists in Denmark, England, Spain and Indonesia and more places to kill many thousands more than were killed on 9-11. America wasn't his only enemy--he seemed to truly want to terrify everyone everywhere in the world. He's not all that kept the rest of us from being safe, but he definitely continued to play a role. The world, not just the USA, really deserved some respite from this man's constant onslaught of rage and hate and violence and death.

So for me, it was't about 'vengeance' for 9-11--though there are those who lost loved ones on 9-11 who very legitimately have those feelings--for me, I was so incredibly relieved that at least one long-time major threat, someone who would order my death without blinking an eye, is gone. The relief felt very good. And I'm not afraid to say it made me quite satisfied.

And its a very nuanced thing. Folks aren't allowing it to be nuanced, and that's the problem. Everyone wants it to be black and white, "killing is always bad, so therefore this is bad, and shame on those who don't think so," and with someone THIS evil and awful, who represented--not a one time aggressor--but a constant threat, it just isn't black and white. Its too wrapped up, too personal, and too much a part of what makes each of us who we are to really be a situation where others can prescribe for us the appropriate reaction.