Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Date: 2009-09-01.

I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I don't have any way to describe my feelings when I read this story:
Iuliano, now a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 84th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron and air liaison officer for Multi-National Division - South, said he was upset when he didn't get to see Iraqi planes shot down that night. It was a feeling that would stay with him for 18 years.

"I arrived in Iraq about four months ago," said Iuliano, a native of Boise, Idaho. "I took an interest in helping strengthen the Iraqi Air Force any way I could, and it was through that effort that I met Col. Sami [Saeed]."

Saeed, who commands the 70th Iraqi Air Force Squadron stationed at Contingency Operating Base Basrah, made fast friends with Iuliano. They have worked together and enjoyed each other's company for three months now, but only knew each other about a month when Saeed told Iuliano a story that shook him.

"He told me about being on a mission back during Desert Storm," Iuliano said. "When he told me the moon was full on the night he was talking about, I put two and two together and realized he was talking about that same night. He was piloting one of the planes we engaged that night."

Read the rest of this amazing story at the link. My own missile story is here.

I thought of Saeed and Iuliano, and of my own experiences, when I read Michael Totten's observation:
When our wars are over, they’re over whether we win or lose.

No one in the United States wants to reignite conflicts with Germany, Japan, Vietnam, or any other country we’re no longer at war with. While we argue among ourselves about whether it’s a good idea to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, no one in the U.S. prefers war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else if peace and normal relations are viable options.

Americans from one end of the political spectrum to the other would be thrilled to see Iraq and Afghanistan as stable, prosperous countries at peace with themselves, their neighbors, and us. We don’t even have a marginalized fringe group unhappy with the fact that Germany and Japan emerged as they did from World War II. The U.S. lost the war in Vietnam in the 1970s, as Egypt lost its last war with Israel in the 1970s, but no one among us wants to fight it all over again or wishes that we were still slugging it out.

We Westerners aren’t unique in our ability to forgive, forget, and move on. I have never visited Vietnam, but everyone I know who has says even Vietnamese who supported the Communist side seem to hold no grudges against Americans.

Totten is telling this in the context of a post on Egyptian playwright Ali Salim, who visited Israel and wrote a book about his experiences. Michael's post (you can read the rest at Commentary) goes on to raise questions about that side of the human psyche which, in the words of Rebecca West,
is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set life back to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

I believe that it is the rule, and not the exception, for people to behave as Saeed and Iuliano did in the Iraq story. Humanity could not have survived this long if it were otherwise. To bring forward the side that thrives on hate and suffering, and to live (and induce others to live) according to its atavistic dictates, takes conscious effort. What was thus done, can be undone.