Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Shared Sacrifice"-- a soldier's contribution to the Iraq debate and more...

I first met Gary Barkley last summer, a good friend of a good friend, whom I knew had been in correspondence with some people while still in Mosul. When Gary returned, like so many thousands of other soldiers, he enthusiastically began speaking out against the war, as well as the U.S.'s "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy of drumming open homosexuals from the military. Gary gave an informative and passionate presentation at the Wyoming Debate Cooperative (needless to say, both Iraq and activism are hotly debated topics), and through that lecture and a couple of nights at the bar, I got to know his intellect, energy, and sense of humor.

From his web site:
Former First Lieutenant Gary Barkley returned from a year-long tour in Iraq where he served as a Civil Affairs officer with the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion. Even though Gary had resigned his commission in the US Army in 2001, when he was recalled to active duty in 2005 for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he answered his Nation’s call without hesitation. During his tour, Gary served as Operations Officer of the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq.

Now Gary's book is out: Shared Sacrifice is an enthusiastic and very critical treatment of the Iraq war and what I read to be the phenomena and motiff of conservativist militarism in general: A theocratic, superstitious, and rich-white-guy militarism that excludes gays, privileges theological and ideological whiteness and heteronormativity, and has made an utter mess of the world, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even before I review this book (which I hope to do in the next few weeks), you should buy it and read it. Gary's political and military perspective is unique and may not be yours or mine. What I find most compelling is his concern for the military itself, a community he clearly loves, although he laments its colonization and consolodation by the religious right. I predict we will hear more from this type of activist and it's important to have discussions with them: Like Obama, Gary doesn't want to smash the state or capital. He wants liberalism (in the classical and contemporary senses) to live up to its promises. This is a question worth asking and a conversation to be had. We could do much worse than listen to an intelligent and articulate Iraq war vet begin that discussion. Plus, DADT is just wrong and stupid, and Gary argues that better than I do.

I also plan to publish some exerpts from my interview with Gary last year...all in good time...but read the book!

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