The mercenary outfit Blackwater was in the news, accused of killing 17 Iraqi
civilians in a single incident, but they've been linked to many more murders,
just like the regular US Army. Our boys are just doing their jobs, you'all. We
have to fight them over there, so we won't have to fight them over here. We
have to fight them over here, so we won't have to fight them over there. We
have to fight them where we can find them, yesterday, today and tomorrow, even
if they're not, especially if they're not, fighting back.
In truth, the only difference between a defense contractor and an
American GI in Iraq is the size of their paychecks, since both are hired guns,
willing to kill for money. What else are they fighting for? Oh yes, for our
SUVs, NASCAR, exurban way of life, which is non-negotiable. It's the petroleum,
Gomer. Is there no higher purpose? Some American grunts are convinced they're
soldiering for God.
Thirty-year-old US Army paratrooper Tony Erskine has been in Iraq since
October 24, 2006, where he's lost several buddies, got hit by a sniper and injured his knee. About to be
discharged, he and his wife, home in Alaska with their two daughters and
pregnant with a third, are "having some second thoughts about getting out
of the military. We feel that there is more good for us to do here, and perhaps
getting out would just be us taking the easy way out. Right now, we both think
that the Army is the direction that God is leading us; but it's still up in the
air. Please pray for us. Pray that God would give us both great wisdom in
making this choice and that we would follow His will."
On his earnest blog,
Erskine explains his mission: "My point is this: The War on Terror is
really just a new battle in a war that has been raging since the Garden of
Eden. Satan attacks on many fronts. Sometimes he uses an Islamic extremist with
a bomb, and sometimes he uses an inattentive husband. It is, however, the same
war; and that war is fought in three dimensions: physical, emotional, and
spiritual. To fight physically, you may be called to fire an automatic weapon
at evil men; or you may be called to hug your daughter. Emotionally, you might
need to encourage a soldier in battle, or you may need to encourage a friend to
repent. Spiritually, you may need to pray for safety from bullets, or you may
need to pray for safety from the fiery darts of the Evil One."
Being in Iraq has given him clarity:
"I have been seeing things a little differently since I've been here. One
thing that really struck me when I was in a chapel service recently was that
Jesus was deployed, too. It's really hard to be deployed. You live in
substandard housing. You're isolated from the home and family you love. You
have no freedom -- at all. No privacy, etc. Jesus suffered all of those things.
I really look up to the WWII Vets, The Greatest Generation. They were away from
home for four years or more. Well, Jesus was deployed for 33 years. He was
isolated from his home and family. He lived in a hovel compared to his heavenly
mansion. He suffered far more that any modern soldier. He fought Satan everyday
of his life, so that He could adopt me into his family. When you think about
it, we are deployed, too. Our citizenship is in heaven, if we have accepted
Jesus as the Lord of our life. This world is a hardship duty station. It is
temporary. Live today know that your true life and future is in heaven, and do
all you can to help other gain their 'citizenship' as well."
Erskine is referring to the Kingdom of God, but no citizenship should be
taken for granted, and a person can become the ultimate American by fighting in
"What does [citizenship] mean to you? What did it cost someone else so
that you could have it? What did it cost you? I have so much respect for
immigrants that join our Army and receive their citizenship after serving for
several years. They embrace a country that they love even though she is not
their own. In fact, I think that they usually love our country more than we do.
In reality, I would argue that she is more their country than she is ours
because they love America, appreciate her, and take advantage of the
opportunities that she offers. That, my friend, is true citizenship. What did
your citizenship cost you? Nothing? Maybe, but it certainly cost someone. The
bleeding soldier on the beach at Normandy didn�t pay for his citizenship
either; he paid for yours. What will you do with that gift? Will you take it,
squeeze the life out of it, and suck it dry? Or will you sacrifice it? Freedom
cannot exist without the men and women who sacrifice that very freedom to
secure it for posterity. Who will pay for your grandson�s citizenship? I will,
young man; but will you pay for my grandson?"
Erskine's father and grandfathers have also paid for everyone's
citizenship. Commenting on an Erskine blog entry, his father recounts that when
Erskine's grandfather came back from Vietnam, in his dress greens, "some
puke spat upon him in the airport. They arrested Jim after they got him off the
guy, but they didn't charge him. When I was in Monterey at the language school
I was kicked out of a bar before I could even order. 'We don't serve soldiers
here!' I was but a REMF," a Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. Erskine's dad's
anger flares up here and there, "I find myself getting mad much more these
days," to which he reflects:
"Son, Anger is a learned trait. It is a weakness that is used as a defense
against dealing with things which we would rather avoid. DO NOT LEARN ANGER.
When you feel anger, pray with your whole heart for the source of that anger. It
is the only escape. There are only two things which can change this world, they
are forgiveness and love. This is a hard lesson. Remember Christ was angry only
once. Remember you get to choose how you feel."
Many other family members drop in on Erskine's blog. Strangers, most with
loved ones in the US military in Iraq, also write to support his mission, pray
for his safe return and thank him, "america is proud of you men and women
whom have made the sacrifice to fight for our freedom." Some resent those
who don't share their vision, "I also have a huge challenge when I hear
people bad mouth all of our Military. I too would just like to choke them and
kick their butts just like a schoolgirl LOL. When people tell me I�m nuts for
being so involved I want to just slap them and say wake up. Stop it do you
understand." Patriotic and pious, they believe that US soldiers are
bringing freedom, democracy and even Christianity to the people of Iraq.
"Laina in Florida" writes:
"Tony, I have been following your blog since April and have been
fascinated by all the work the Lord is doing in your life. I have passed your
blog along to other Christian friends and asked they pray for you and your family.
Your post this month just confirms that your purpose for serving is two-fold:
not only are you a soldier for our country, you are a soldier for Christ and he
is using you to expand His Kingdom millions of miles away. And in a land full
of death, He brings new LIFE as he calls His own unto Him. My husband has
always said the war on terror is also spiritual and the way you summed it up in
3 parts (physical, emotional, and spiritual) is right on target. I pray the
Iraqi people see the example of Christ in so many US soldiers that they also
are drawn in to the only love that saves. Thank you for all you do and keep up
the good work!!"
"Pastor Bob: God's servant" concurs:
"[people] need to be aware of the good work of the Gospel -- in the midst
of the battle. We are all so grateful for you and the other military personel
who serve our country -- and we praise God that those like you (Tony) have the
Good News implanted so deeply in your heart that it simply spills out because
of who you are in Christ. May the light of Christ shine even more -- through us
all -- Christ's beloved Church. The Church is in the streets of Iraq!!!"
What are Erskine and his buddies doing in the streets of Iraq? He can't
give us all the details, for security reasons, at least, but here's one entry:
"We raided a bunch of houses, and the funnest part of that mission was
that I got to breech several doors and a car window with my shotgun. (By
breech, I mean that I shot the lock with the shotgun to weaken it. Then I
kicked it open.) Believe or not it's even more fun than it looks like on TV.
Guys just like to break and blow things up. Especially when those things belong
to a bad person."
Then: "Funny story: we needed to search a car outside of the bad
guys' house, but it was locked. My buddy called over the radio, that we were
breeching (shooting) the window with the shotgun so that no one would get
startled. The PL (my boss) called back and said, 'See if you can find a car
key.' We really didn't have time to go searching for a key, No problem! So all
they heard around the front of the house was: BANG! Then me on the radio,
'Looks like I found the key.' Maybe I didn't follow orders exactly, but we all
got a good laugh out of it later. We pick on our PL a lot, but he's a pretty
good sport about it."
Erskine captions a photo of a soldier kicking a door: "I wish this
was a picture of me, but it's not. It's SSG Amsden, but he didn't budge this
metal door. I said, 'Let me give it a shot,' and kicked it right open. I also
kicked open the metal door next to it that was pad locked. I love kicking in
doors. It's my favorite! Boys never do grow out of that destructive
phase." Violence is hilarious, starting in training:
"Tony pounds a fellow student in the combatives level 3 course. Tony
finished this fight by choking out his opponent. FUN!!!"
For Erskine's 30th birthday, his Army pals duct taped him to a cot,
crowned his head with a red traffic cone, to which he responded by headbutting
and biting them: "Pure Joy. Look at the looks of glee on their faces. Also
note that I'm covered in duct tape from my knees to my chest. At this point
they THOUGHT they had completely submitted," but they were wrong. "I
wasn't going down without a fight. It took ten minutes and eight infantrymen
trained in Ju Jitsu (most of whom I taught) to get me handcuffed, my feet
taped, and onto a cot outside my room; but that wasn't the end of the fight.
They used two rolls of duct tape to tape me to the cot and then undid the
handcuffs because my wrists were starting to bleed. It took a few tries, but I
broke all the duct tape. It took everyone by surprise (even me) because we�ve
never seen anyone bust the duct tape before. Unfortunately, one of the guys had
handcuffed my right hand to the cot. They piled back on me, about a six guys
this time; and there wasn't much I could do cuffed to a cot." Boys will be
boys, I suppose, especially if you dress them in shorts and put them all in a
sweltering tent. It's just recreational sadism, the same point Rush Limbaugh
made about Abu Ghraib: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these
people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow
some steam off?"
Erskine hints at one dark incident: "One of the most negative things
that happened to me this month is something that I can't really describe
detail. I can say this. I was placed in a very dangerous situation by some
local nationals that were being defiant and negligent rather than malicious. I
had to make a split second decision to preserve the safety of myself and one of
my soldiers. I made the right choice, but innocent people still got hurt. I
hate having to choose between bad and worse."
But bad and worse are the only options you have when you invade and
occupy another country. Just imagine, for a few seconds, the sight of foreign
troops, Iraqi, Vietnamese, Canadian, whoever, patrolling American streets,
setting up road blocks, kicking down doors, torturing prisoners, killing and
raping civilians. Even polls conducted by Western organizations show that the
majority of Iraqis want American troops to withdraw immediately. What
part of "Get out" don't you understand? But the plan has always been
to stay the course, to maintain a permanent military presence in this oil-rich
region. The survival of the petrodollar, the US economy and way of life,
America as we know it, is dependent on the success of this operation. That's
why the US is building in occupied Iraq four massive "enduring" bases
and the largest embassy in the history of mankind. It's the endgame for the
end-time, not so much the terrifying sight of Jesus coming back, are you ready?
Hallelujah! But our oil supplies are peaking and eventually running out.
Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of American troops in Iraq still think that this
resource, geopolitical, thoroughly corrupt war is retaliation for Saddam�s role
in 9/11. Don't these people ever read a newspaper?
Tony Erskine's father does read blogs, at the very least, and not just
his son's, since he has also found time to drop by my mostly literary Detainees. After I posted
a photo by Tony and his comments
about loving to kick down doors, the senior Erskine wrote on my blog as �Oz�:
The pictures you posted here are copyrighted. You are violating that copyright.
I am Tony's father. His brother married a Viet Namese girl and my grandson is
half Viet Namese.
Your post denigrates my son's service to this country and I ask you to remove
the copyrighted materials immediately.
To which he quickly
Also to be found on Ton's Blog . . .
�It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man
stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit
belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust
and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and
again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does
actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great
devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the
end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at
least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those
cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.� Teddy Roosevelt;
CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC; Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France; April 23,
I had posted only
one of Tony Erskine's photos, so "pictures" is incorrect. There is no
mention of copyrights in his blog and, further, reposting images is a common
practice in the blogosphere. Many people have reposted my photos. In any case,
Oz's beef is not really about copyrights but the fact that I have, in his
words, "denigrates [his] son's service to this country." Since I was
out of the country and away from my computer when his comments arrived, I did
nothing. Irritated by this, perhaps, and seeing the other contents on my blog,
Oz wrote this after an entry I've posted on the abuses of Blackwater:
Are you an American? Duh, no, you are a Viet Namese. Why
did you come to America? If it sucks so badly, why aren't you in Viet Nam?
You know my father died in Viet Nam, yep, that's right. He died there but he
did not know it for another twenty years. He died because he had been exposed
to Agent Orange.
I talked to a Viet Namese fellow on line shortly after 9/11. We understood each
other, expecially when I explained that my father believed in what he was
What do you believe? What do you know? Why are you such an idiot?
As you can see, his initial civility has waned considerably.
What's most curious to me is that someone who has lost his father to Agent
Orange does not point his finger at a military-industrial complex that
considers his dad, as well as millions of other victims, collateral damages? As
long as they make their cash, everything's fine. Oz also appears unaware of
depleted uranium. Instead of cheerleading his son's murderous and suicidal
quest, he should beg door-kicking Tony to come home NOW. With his anger
unleashed, he wrote two mock poems on my blog:
to the tune of morons.
I die and hate
at the same time.
Morons, why do I suffer them?
Why not kill the fools?
Is this poetry?
Go fuck yourself.
Oh, Hero . . .
Oh! Fucking hero . . .
Oh! Gawd, my Vietnamese Hero.
Your poetry is non-existant.
You delude your self . . .
You think yourself a poet . . .
but you are only a fool.
You pray to accept the hospitality
of a place not your home..
You accept that hospitality and
insult it in the same moment?
Are you ah hypocrite
or are you a hero?
The poet wants to know . . .
Eat shit and bark at the moon.
So there you see it . . .
Any idiot can write this shit and the shit you write is not poetry.
Get over yourself dude.
I'm far from a perfect American, I may not even be a decent American, but
I do not abuse its "hospitality" the way Tony Erskine is abusing
"a place not his home," Iraq. As a tool of American imperialism, the
Bush crime family, Halliburton and The Carlyle Group, etc., Tony Erskine is
actually staining every American ideal worth fighting for. Bloodied beyond
recognition, even "freedom" and "democracy" are now
meaningless coming from an American mouth. Anger is a learned trait, Oz, a
weakness that's used as a defense against dealing with things which we would
rather avoid. I am not your enemy.
Linh Dinh is the author of four books of poems and
two collections of stories, including Blood and Soap, which was one of The Village Voice�s Best Books of 2004. A novel, Love Like Hate, will be
released in the Spring of 2008. He maintains a regularly updated blog, Detainees.