Sunday, August 08, 2004

Baseball bats and terrorists

Normally I don’t care about politics except to throw out the occasional cynical comment or two. I’ve been cynical since 1973, when they replaced a whole summer’s worth of Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo with the Watergate hearings. There’s nothing like listening to endless testimony from Ehrlichman and Mitchell-- when you were expecting Mr. Green Jeans and Mr. Moose-- to make a kid cynical.

However, a post by Evilwhiteguy, pointing out Kerry’s asinine statement about running a ‘more sensitive war on terror’ brought up some suppressed memories of my time in the Army. I had intentionally blanked out those memories-- from the time I got off the bus at Basic Training to that glorious last day four years later when, during the exit process, some scumbag stole the clothes out of my suitcase-- but this ‘sensitive war’ thing brought back memories of my tour in West Germany.

I was in Germany, West Germany then, for 3 years-- around the time when the Red Brigade and other terrorist cells were sporadically car bombing US bases in Europe. I don’t really care why they were targeting us; it’s all the same isn’t it? Some little guy feels powerless so he lashes out any way he can. Ultimately, the little guy wants to be a big guy and have some kind of power, some kind of control. Never, it seems, is any terrorist fighting for the freedom of individuals to make their own choices.

Anyway, I worked at a network control station, relaying information to a network of mobile Pershing missile units. Our site was not mobile, it was fixed, occupying of about 10 acres in a German forest, with plenty of little deer and wild boar wandering around the RLP antenna field.

Now, our leaders knew these people were out there targeting us. Every month or so, someone would drive a car up to the gate of a military base and blow it up (literally the gate and maybe a few guards). They had even bombed some radio installations, knocking down an antenna at another site. So our leaders put as on alert. They had us patrol the perimeter of our 10 acre site night and day…carrying baseball bats. I’m not kidding…BASEBALL BATS.

The thinking was that since tensions were high, if we had real guns and real bullets a dumb soldier might get jumpy and accidentally kill some poor German out hiking through the woods. I’m not saying that wouldn’t have happened; there are some dumbasses in the military, no doubt. But we were in Germany to do a job, our radio site and our lives were in danger, and we kept our weapons and ammunition locked in a safe while we walked around the fence…with baseball bats. I don’t know about you, but I doubt terrorists would have respected our commands to “Stop! Or I’ll…sswingg batter-batter sswiingg.”

If (and that’s a big capital ‘IF’ that depends on many factors and should be weighed very carefully), but IF you’re going to commit to fighting a war, even a war on terrorism, then fight likes it’s a war. Don’t make it more sensitive-- war is not sensitive. Don’t make it safe for the enemy-- make it as safe for your troops as you can.

(Ah, if only there were blogs back then. Now back to my real pastime, commenting on how the proliferation of Half-Baked technology will soon lead to an 8 hour work week.)