Last truck out


Last night about 6:55 p.m. local time I turned on the TV to watch some evening news.

Rather than what I expected, I was watching the last combat units pulling out of Iraq into neighboring Kuwait. I sat transfixed by this until near 9 p.m. my time, and (if I recall rightly) 3:53 a.m. local time in Kuwait, August 19, 2010, when the last immense and other-worldly combat vehicle went through the border gate, which then closed behind it.

I felt I was witnessing history in the making.

At this moment, 5 a.m. local time on August 19, 2010, there is little on the Internet news behind this screen I’m typing on. I’m sure this will rapidly change. NBC-MSNBC had the exclusive reporting rights on this one apparently because they possessed the technology to instantly cover the breaking story, which was secret until it actually happened.

Now the torrent of commentary and controversy will begin along all sorts of predicted trajectories. This was, after all, a withdrawal of the last specifically designated combat troops in Iraq, and 50,000 American troops remain in Iraq, and Afghanistan is the issue du jour. (Area map with Minnesota superimposed for scale is Iraq environs ca 2005001.)

But it is an historic event ranking, for me, with the time I stopped along Highway 2 in northern Minnesota to listen to the account of “the Eagle has landed” on the moon (July 20, 1969); the early afternoon when I was in a science lab in Hallock MN when the PA announcement came that President Kennedy had been shot (November 22, 1963); the evening in 1991 when the car radio brought news that the U.S. had invaded Iraq in Desert Storm (January 16, 1991) (March, 1991, note from a GI there, to me, is Soldier letter 1991001); Afghanistan Oct 7 2001, and Baghdad (March 20, 2003); the iconic last helicopter out of Saigon (April 29, 1975)….

I will especially be watching to see how (not if, but how) the very odd “coalition” of the Far Right and Far Left will position on this particular historical development.

Neither Far Left nor Far Right seem to have any time for President Obama these days, for precisely opposite reasons. They have joined forces in driving down his poll numbers – it is a perfect example (in my opinion) of the danger of drawing false conclusions from seemingly obvious data in polls. Lately “the fur has been flying” over a comment about the “professional Left” from the White House Press Secretary. Since I mostly “hang” with people over on the dark (left) side, and indeed watched last night’s development on the news program of one of these “professional Lefties,” I’ve seen commentaries ad infinitum about that supposed slight a few days ago.

A friend, a couple of days ago, caught this unholy alliance idea pretty well, in a personal comment on another issue: “The truly interesting thing is how the left and the right see Obama…One sees him as a “communist,” the other sees him in cahoots with Wall Street. Based on that alone, he must be doing something right.

Ironically (in my opinion), President Obama is the voice of moderation, seeking some stability in this almost collapsed nation of ours, and this requires navigating extraordinarily rough seas.

So, I’ll watch and see how this all plays out.

Tonight, just by happenstance, I’m moderating an inaugural and small community conversation brought together by five of us to try to get into civil conversation about issues of the day. It will be an interesting experiment, hopefully the first of many such conversations of people of differing feelings and beliefs. (We gather at Peaceful United Methodist Church on Steepleview Rd in Woodbury if you want to join us – 7 p.m.)

What I witnessed on TV last night wasn’t on our agenda for tonight.

Tonight it likely will be.

Stay tuned.