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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 23rd, 2007 - 16:58:35

Onward, Christian Soldiers!
By Linh Dinh
Online Journal Guest Writer

Oct 23, 2007, 00:33

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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 Iraq: "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.

Thank you.

To which he quickly appended:

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, 1910

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 doing.

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:

My dick bleeds
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?
or arrogance?

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.

Concluding with:

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.

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