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Just Another PCS* (Bateman's Back...) | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Just Another PCS* (Bateman's Back...)

Hello Altercators, old and new. LTC Bob here, just checking in to thenew place.

All this Altercation moving around these past few years really has notbugged me too much. The reason is fairly obvious if you know who I am,or perhaps more specifically, what I am. Among other things (writer,father, historian, husband, singer-of-bad-songs, university professor),I am a professional US Army infantry officer, and I have been for almosttwenty years now. That's what that little "LTC" in front of my namemeans. Iam a Lieutenant Colonel, and that is the way that the Army abbreviatesthat rank.** This matters, you see, because be it peace or war, wesoldiers are America's gypsies. Indeed, by the time my oldest daughterwas nine years old she had lived in Hawaii, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, NewYork, and was in the midst of moving to her sixth state, Virginia. Thatis just the way it is for Soldiers and their families. Packing up andmoving is so much a part of the experience that it ceases to be uniquein any way. So one more Altercation jump really does not make too muchof a difference on this end, my motivation remains the same.

I write for Eric's page because, well, I think that it is important thatpeople should have some knowledge of, and connection to, their ownmilitary. To that end I figured it just made sense to write for theaudience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personaldirect connections to the military in general and the Army inparticular. At the same time I hope to demystify where needed, explainsome things, and express outrage when appropriate...mostly on issuesrelating either to the US military or some of my other afflictions,notably journalism and history. All of which brought me to Eric's pagevia my buddy (and former running mate) Pierce.

Now since these are new digs, that means that some healthy proportion ofall of you out there reading this have never heard of me. That's cool.I'm not exactly famous by any stretch of the imagination, so don'tworry. You are in a majority consisting of 5.999999 Billion. But withthat being said I suppose I ought to start out with some disclaimers,just so that we can get them out of the way.

1. No, I am not a Public Relations person (or as we callthem in the Army, Public Affairs Officers). Nor am I a virtual avatarcreated by some consortium of PR and Intel people working deep in thebowels of the Pentagon, intent on twisting your malleable minds. Ireally do exist. I live on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for now andseveral Altercation readers have actually met me, as have Eric, Pierceand others.

2. Nothing I write is vetted by any higher authority. At thesame time, you will not see me violating "OPSEC" (Operational Security,meaning that I won't tell you any secret stuff), and you will not see memaking any disparaging comments about any currently seated politicalleader of either political party. That is the small trade off, the bitof my First Amendment rights that I give up in return for the power given to me by Congress.

3. Yes, I am a historian. I was once a professor at West Point, thenfor alittle bit at George Mason, and currently I teach grad students in theSecurity Studies program at Georgetown University in my spare time afterwork. It is fun. I really like being a professor. As we used to say atUSMA, "I teach for free, but I get paid to grade."

4. Yes, I write a lot of other stuff inotherplaces, all of which meets the same criteria as you see in #1. I've gota hint for you though: When I am really pissed about a current eventwhich I am not allowed to talk about directly, I am not above writing anarticle using historical foundations. Readers can then decide forthemselves if there are parallels.

5. I am, by nature, combative. Gee, who would think that ofan infantry officer? It also means that I am more than happy to, well,'altercate.' That's why I include my e-mail address. If something Iwrote really pisses you off, tell me about it. You might convince me Iwas wrong, or I might change your mind. Either way I am a devoutbeliever in the Hegelian dialectic.

6. Relevant due to #1, nothing I ever write here is approvedby the US Government. These are all solely my opinions, observations,and thoughts, and do not reflect the official positions of the USG, theDepartment of Defense, the United States Army, any unit I have ever beenin, or even my own mom and dad. Got that?

OK, well, enough about me. On to important things.

Sri Lanka

A few months ago I was in Sri Lanka, visiting my wife. (She was thenposted at the US Embassy, Colombo.) It gave me a new appreciation forthe situation there. It is a physically beautiful country which is beingtorn apart by some of the ugliest human beings extant. In my opinionthere is no 'up' side to this conflict at all. Both sides are so deeplymired in feces that it is nearly impossible to extract them. TheSinhalese-Buddhist majority has demonstrated that they are willing toslaughter, massacre, and commit atrocities, and the Tamil-Hindu minorityliterally invented the modern use of the indiscriminate suicide bomber.And then, on the other side of the planet, this happened today.

But you know what? It did not happen before thisappeared. He knew it was coming, and he kept writing anyway. That,friends, is courage. Writing his own beyond-the-grave final editorialjust validates that fact. Ashort extract here, though I recommend following the link:

And Then They Came For Me

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their livesfor their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. Inthe course of the past few years, the independent media haveincreasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutionshave been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists havebeen harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honor to belong toall those categories and now especially the last.

So long as Sri Lanka can continue to generate men and womenwith the courage of Lasantha Wickrematunge, men who manifest theunbelievable courage needed to wield the power of the pen even whendirectly faced with the power of the sword, then they might, possibly,have a chance. RIP Mr. Wickremantunge. I did not know you. I wish I had.Your country will miss you.

Department of Pissing Me Off

This kind of thing just pisses us off, and it should get you mad tooIhope. It does not matter Left or Right, gender or religion, region ornationality, this kind of moronic behavior is dysfunctional. Indeed, itpisses me off so much that I once wrote a book about it. And believe me,you really have to be pissed to write a whole book about something.

The Surgeon General

President-elect Obama's choice for Surgeon General Dr. Sanjay Gupta getshit for being a "lightweight" in some corners. People wonder if he isthe right man for the job, and I cede that he looked like a rube when hescrewed up his facts in a debate with Michael Moore. But you know what?The guy is a brain surgeon, and he is a masterful communicator, and hedoes have the cojones to accept an assignment from CNN to follow ourtroops into combat back in 2003. Then, while he was there, he had tostop reporting and go back to being a surgeon...in combat. You knowwhat? That strikes me as a not-bad set of credentials when you want toconvince people of something, particularly people who might nototherwise be willing to listen to somebody from the President-elect'sside of the aisle.

You can write to LTC Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com

*"PCS" is "Permanent Change of Station" In the acronym crazy world inwhich I live, this is what we call "moving." Where a civilian might saysomething like, "Ah hell, corporate headquarters wants me to move toManhattan." We would say, "Ah hell, PERSCOM just sent orders for me toPCS to Camp Swampy."
** In yet another picture-perfect example of how the different servicesreally are different, we cannot even agree on how to abbreviate thisrank. The Army goes with LTC (all caps, three letters), the Marines useLtCol (all together), while the USAF goes with Lt Col (note the gap?). Ibelieve the Navy equivalent rank is, "Ye Grand High Poo-bah, Acolyte toPoseidon" or something squiddy like that, but I'm not too sure on thatso don't quote me.***
*** Obviously I am still possibly a little bitter about the sixth,consecutive, disgustingly lopsided, crushing victory of Navy over Armyin our annual football match.

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