Edward Udel: Foul birds of a feather


DALTON — I am a welcoming host to a wide variety of birds that nest in the trees and tall bushes in my backyard. They perform early morning concerts, keep the insects under control and make pleasant company as I sip my morning coffee on the deck. But there is one feathered exception to this otherwise tranquil and harmonious scene, one medium-sized bird that causes me consternation, frustration and even anger. This interloper is a grackle.

For the past few days, this grackle has swooped down to my modest above-ground swimming pool and repeatedly deposited bird poop collected and transported in his beak. He (not positive) gathers and removes this poop from his nest as newly hatched baby grackles digest their food. Apparently, adult grackles have no tolerance for messy homes and no reluctance to convert my pool into a toilet bowl.

Once grackles select a body of water for this imprinted ritual, they will not alter their choice for any reason. Even a life-like menacing plastic hawk floating in unpredictable patterns on the pool surface does not the interrupt their visits. If I cover the pool, the grackles simply drop their load on the cover. Either way, I am forced to remove the distinctive black and white poop several times a day.

As I watched the most recent dive-bombing of my pool and later that same evening, viewed the televised coverage of the horrific truck attack in Nice, I was reminded of the fragility of human life, the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness that surface after each of these violent and inhuman attacks and my personal vexation after each visit from my neighborhood grackle. Within hours after the attack on Nice, the war hawks appeared on television to condemn President Barack Obama, blaming him for the carnage in France by suggesting that we have not been serious about defeating ISIS.

They argue that American boots on the ground are needed to defeat ISIS and that nothing short of full all-out war will rid the world of this threat. Donald Trump takes it one step further by suggesting that the use of torture will make us even safer. To all of them, the thousands of air attacks the US has launched against ISIS are inconsequential.

Tired, failed strategies

Since the end of World War II, our war hawks have been in hyper-drive but we have been no more successful in securing peace through military intervention in various trouble spots than the plastic hawk that guards my pool. Their belief that superior military power will always turn the tide did not lead to a clear victory in Korea, fell well short of a military victory in Vietnam and failed to secure and stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet, we continue to go back to the same tired and failing strategies, a habit made even more attractive by the fact that our military is now composed of paid volunteers rather than draftees. Those volunteers only compose about 2 percent of the population.

Our military has always performed with courage, tenacity and skill but they have often been asked to do the impossible. We may indeed have the best and strongest military in the world, but we often place them in hopeless situations like Iraq and Afghanistan where they are caught in the crossfire of violent confrontations that go back hundreds of years.

To defeat ISIS, where exactly should we deploy our soldiers? These terrorists operate in several countries and numerous continents. Will we send our troops into the civil war in Syria? Will we send thousands back into Iraq, a country we have already invaded twice and occupied and advised for the better part of two eight-year presidencies? Should we fight a multi-front war or deploy our forces in one location? And if we did succeed in wiping most of them out, how would we prevent the surviving terrorists from morphing into another group as they have done in the past? How do we stop the use of the internet for recruitment of lone wolves?

Our war hawks suffer from amnesia. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have won many battles at great human and financial cost, but we have also managed to de-stabilize the region. Why would an all-out war against ISIS accomplish what previous massive military build-ups have failed to do? Some of our soldiers have been rotated into Iraq and Afghanistan more often than Trump, our presumptive torturer-in-chief, has declared bankruptcy.

Fear and uncertainty often lead us to embrace violence. As we see innocent bystanders massacred with powerful weapons of war or plowed down by heavy trucks, we want to strike back and lash out at the enemy. That is an understandable emotion, one that I have felt myself.

But the enemy we are dealing with cannot be destroyed by warfare alone. I fear we are in this for the long haul because there are people throughout the world that are vulnerable to radicalization. These are not grackles acting out of imprinted behavior but people who choose death over life both for themselves and their victims.

Edward Udel is a regular Eagle contributor.


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