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Guest Post for On Violence: “Validate” vs. “Retain”: A response to the Washington Times

Michael Cummings – one of the two writers from the blog On Violence – wrote a guest blog here last week on women in the infantry (What Does It Actually Mean to Prove Your Manhood?). Yesterday I was able to return the favor after seeing a poorly headlined article in the Washington Times. The post is a counter to that article’s claim that the Pentagon has been “hinting” that it would soon be lowering standards to allow women in combat arms.

Check it out.

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At War: R.O.T.C. Returns to New York’s City College More Than Four Decades After Removal

ROTC high crawl

I wrote a short article for the New York Times At War Blog about today’s ceremony welcoming back ROTC to City College. This has been long in the making, and I’m personally looking forward to learning how it all went down.

The team at the New York Times did a great job digging up some photos from the late 1960s showing students mocking ROTC drills on the campus. Perfect find for the piece.

I’m really proud of this article and especially proud that ROTC is returning to City College today.

contributor, iraq ten years ago, reflections

Incoming Scuds! Quick, everyone to the shower! (Mar. 2003)

We didn't have enough bunkers to hide from incoming Scud missiles, so we went to the showers. Not sure the thin sheet metal would have done much, but it was some place to go. When the alert went off, it felt like the scene from Spaceballs where everyone is scurrying to escape pods, but they're all taken. Sitting in the showers, waiting for the "all clear" signal was terrifying. Despite this, some of us tried our best to be chipper and waved when the picture was being taken. Others, not so much.

We didn’t have enough bunkers to hide from incoming Scud missiles, so we went to the showers. Not sure the thin sheet metal would have done much, but it was some place to go. When the alert went off, it felt like the scene from Spaceballs where everyone is scurrying to escape pods, but they’re all taken. Sitting in the showers, waiting for the “all clear” signal was terrifying. Despite this, some of us tried our best to be chipper and waved when the picture was being taken. Others, not so much.

I wrote about how I learned the war had started at the New York Times ‘At War’ blog. Check it out.

contributor, iraq ten years ago, reflections

Well, how was it?

Shock and Awe

I wrote a short piece for the Guardian as part of a “key bloggers look back on Iraq” idea. The prompt was “How did the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq affect you?” How has it changed your life?” I had 200-300 words to do it.

The question reminds me of people asking me “How was it?” upon hearing I had deployed, often in the most casual setting. Instantly, I have to come up with an elevator pitch summing up the totality of my experience. I don’t mind it, actually. I’d be curious to know, too. But what a strange question!

With only 200-300 words, I decided to try writing something a little more poetic for impact. I like that they anglicized it for a UK audience (color becomes colour, center becomes centre, etc.).

Iraq 10 years on – the key bloggers look back on the war

Ten years ago I invaded and occupied Iraq.

Whether I like it or not, it defines who I am. I cannot escape it.

It is the thrill of being on a road heading north as part of the grim machine, looking out at an endless convention of military hardware. Tanks, artillery, helicopters, trucks, gathered together under darkness for the end of the world.

It is the playing and replaying of scenes in my head forever. Things I could have done better and things I cannot believe I did. Glory and shame tangled together, unsolvable for eternity.

It is a row of bright ribbons I wear on my chest. Colours and stars, neatly arranged to tell a sterilized version of an awful story.

It is a heap of benefits for being there. Available and accessible with the right combination of patience, perseverance and connections.

It is the dark looks in the classroom from fellow students who were in grade school when I was in Baghdad. It is today’s lesson in hubris and failure to be dissected and discussed in an hour before grabbing lunch.

It is being called the hero and the villain simultaneously, and wondering.

It is the handshake at a party and a too-sincere ‘thank you’ from a patriotic citizen before moving on to more pressing concerns.

It is the forever-wondering of what could have been and what will be. For me, for my peers, and for Iraq.

It was the centre of the world, my world, until it was no longer interesting.

Above all, it is the terrible knowledge that Iraq is inescapable. Terrible, not because it is inescapable. Terrible because I like that I cannot get away.

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SWJ: Why Bringing Back the Draft Makes No Sense

I have an essay on the Small Wars Journal blog about why I think bringing back the draft makes no sense – for the reasons that most people want to bring it back, anyway.

I’ll concede that if people want to bring it back for the symbolic notion of reaping what you sow – a lá ‘The Chocolate War’, or ‘The Hunger Games,’ then fine. Even though the actual chances for that person to be drafted is infinitesimally small.