Have we won their hearts and minds yet?

Over two years ago, the topic of U.S. soldiers’ immunity to prosecution in Iraq was hot. The May 2004 issue of the New Yorker had published Seymour Hersch’s story on Abu Graib, and people were outraged. Now the question of immunity comes up again, this time because of last March’s cold-blooded murder and brutal rape of a 14 year-old girl, just one of many atrocities being reported recently (not to mention the stories that apparently aren’t atrocious enough to count).

We are supposed to be at war in Iraq, but not against Iraq. And certainly not against the Iraqi civilians. But I wonder if part of the problem is that we don’t know who we’re fighting.

In World War II, when U.S. forces fought in France, it was clear that we were fighting against German Nazis. The French were happy to have us there. When U.S. troops entered Afghanistan, the war was (and is) against Afghanistan under the Taliban government, who provided refuge to Al Quaeda.

When soldiers entered Iraq, the war was with Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. You may have noticed that Hussein is no longer in charge there. But we are still fighting. No one there has weapons of mass destruction. Who is the enemy? With no Hussein, can we still call this thing in Iraq a war?

By now, some foreign America-haters have taken the opportunity to join the fray. Mostly, though, we’re fighting Iraqis who don’t want us there. Maybe instead of calling it a war, we should call it “helping the Iraqi government restore and maintain peace.” But helping would imply that if the Iraqi government said “Thanks, we’ll be fine now. Bye-bye,” the U.S. troops would come home, that if the Iraqis elected not to host foreign bases, we’d quietly move on. And nobody believes that.

It’s been called a “war on terror.” That doesn’t actually name an enemy, but we’re not supposed to notice that. I do notice, though, and I also notice that terrorism seems to be what you call the acts of war committed by the weak side. When the strong side terrorizes civilians in order to gain compliance, we call that “winning the hearts and minds.”

What we’re fighting is rebellion. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Terrorism is simply a method for rebellion. It’s what small forces use to fight large ones. It’s horrible, but no more horrible than war.

If you can’t really be at war against terrorism, an idea, maybe we’re at war against terrorists, the people. Let’s see. There’s Al Quaeda. That’s a given. Then there are the Sunnis and Shias that kill each other in Iraq. Then there’s the Iraqi military, and you never know who they’re going to kill. (Same for the U.S. Military, apparently.)

Here’s the point. If “the war” were against Al Quaeda, then when Al Quaeda’s leaders are brought down, it will be over. If “the war” were against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, it’d be over now. After all, Americans are not fighting the Republican Guard. That war is done.

But this war is not going to be over anytime soon. The reason we don’t have a named enemy is that the American government is fighting a war against rebellion, against anyone who doesn’t follow its plan.

It’s been called “the long war.” And it will be long. Rebellion isn’t going to be eradicated any time soon.

Meanwhile, Iraq is a prison, with our soldiers the guards, trapped right along with the rioting inmates. Rebellious or just potentially rebellious, all prisoners are suspect, and presumed guilty of something.

Laziness is another word for Fibromyalgia

So I promised myself I wouldn’t miss any classes because I was “too sore” or “too exhausted” or “dizzy” or any of those other Fibromyalgia things. I decided I did not need to take a “break” sometimes, that I would just do it. And that’s worked pretty well…

…until last week.

The dojo was closed on Monday and Tuesday for Independence Day. And Wednesday I got sick. It was clear that I was really ill, and couldn’t do class, but psychology, it was still a battle.

When you have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or another chronic, invisible illness, healthy people — even if they’re too nice to say so — wonder if you could try a little harder, if you’re drinking enough water, if you would do better if you’d get out more. But what many people don’t realize is that we have those same doubts. Most of us, anyway. And no matter how clear it is that no, I really couldn’t try any harder, the doubts come up.

When today came around and I wasn’t sick anymore, it was time to go back to the dojo. Scary! I have this nagging devil in my mind that says that I only missed class because I’m lazy. (Laziness is another word for Fibromyalgia, don’t you know.) That same devil was saying that I shouldn’t go back, it will be too hard, I may not be completely better, it will be too much.

But, as always, in the end I could say “I did it!” I can still, hours later, feel it. And I’m a little woozy, looking forward to bed.

But I’m also looking forward to class tomorrow. Life is good.

What's a yellow ribbon for?

A popular song in the 70s was called Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Ole Oak Tree) (YouTube, opens in a new window).

The song, in turn, was based on a traditional story about a fellow who, when he was to be released from prison, wrote a letter to his sweetie asking her to let him know if he would be welcome by tying a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in the yard.

The connection between the story (made popular by the song) and the current yellow ribbon craze is a bit strange. But don’t worry; the history lesson will be brief.

In October of 1979, the deposed leader of Iran, the Shah, was admitted to the U.S. for medical treatment, angering many Iranians. In November the American Embasy was attacked, and 66 Americans were taken hostage. Some were released, but most were kept for the next 14 months.

It was a very difficult time in America. Anger against Iranian-Americans was strong, prices were high, and people were afraid. Yellow ribbons sprouted on trees and cars and houses saying “We haven’t forgotten you, we are working to get you home, and we will welcome you.”

It’s a lovely message, and it’s a darn shame that it’s been lost in the current hysteria. I’d be proud to wear a yellow ribbon that means “We’re sorry you’re trapped in a horrible place. We haven’t forgotten you, we are working to get you home, and we will welcome you.”

Now I'm sore.

Today I went to help Sensei remodel one of the dojos. He had put up a sign asking for volunteers. I was surprised at how few had signed up to help.

Our culture says “I’ve hired you as a teacher, so it’s your job to provide me with a facility (dojo), and to provide me with training.” I’m told that traditional Japanese culture, and our dojo’s culture, says “thank you for being willing to share your wisdom with me. How can I ever repay you?” I like the latter approach. It feels right.

That said, I wasn’t planning to sign up. I didn’t think I could do anything helpful, because of my illness. By now, though, I’m beginning to feel much less weak, much more capable.

So today I climbed the stairs several times, climbed a ladder even more times, and used a heavy drill to screw in drywall screws.

I’m sore, but very happy.

Hey! Now I finally have that athletic soreness. Wonder if that means I’m getting better?

Karate graduation!

Today was the end of my one-month beginners’ class, and now I am ready to join the regular class.

The regular class starts right after the beginners’ class ends, and, after a few minutes’ rest, I decided I wanted to do it, today. What was I thinking?!

Of course it was “too much.” This time I wasn’t so scared, though, and I wasn’t so red. I rested for a long time before I got a shower. All in all it took me another hour to get out of there. But I felt good.

The day after

The Tuesday/Thursday class is in the evening, and it’s a good thing. I had plenty of time to decide whether to go to class tonight.

I went, and it wasn’t bad at all. Well, it was hard, but that’s good. I got to find out that I could still get through a hard class.

Have to remember to pace myself, kick low and slow when I need to.

Uh oh.

Last week I did five classes, and all was fine. But today wasn’t so fine.

I want to say it was the hardest class yet, but I’ve said that too many times. It was really scary, though. I kept thinking, “maybe this is where I’m supposed to quit.” I wondered if I’d pass out. I wondered if I’d start a serious flare.

But of course, I got through. Instead of exhilaration, though, I cried a little in the locker room. It was overwhelming, emotionally and physically. My face was red for an hour afterward.

I think that means I overdid it. :)

What now? Should I go on Wednesday? Should I take a break?

I’ll decide tomorrow.

Eight days a week!

My son wanted to do the Tuesday/Thursday class instead of M/W/F, so I drove him. Then, when I got there, I decided to do the class too.

Nothing to report. Same “it was hard.” Same “I sweat a lot.” Same “I did it!”

Can I do five days a week? I wonder!

I’ve started taping my arches. Seems to help. They get really sore from the positions we stand in, and you can’t wear orthotics, obviously, because you’re barefoot.

Ho hum. I do Karate.

This is starting to feel pretty routine. Wake up sore, do class, feel exhausted and exhilarated.

I don’t seem to be heading for a flare. (Yay!) Fibromyalgia and CFS are still there, but things are better, overall. Plenty of naps seems to balance plenty of Karate.


Today started out well. I have been moving well, for instance, and doing basic household things, like picking something up off the floor, moving a box, etc.

But now I’m sore.

Not so worried about Karate. That seems to make me feel better, instead of worse. But I still wish my legs didn’t hurt so much. And arms.