Jim Rice took this picture. Almost every day, until he died at the age of 89, Mr. Rice visited my bar at noon for his customary 12-ounce glass of Michelob. A staff sergeant during WWII, who participated in the occupation of Japan, Mr. Rice afterwards ran logging companies, lumber mills, sang and played big band music -- even wrote several songs performed nationally by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra -- raised prize-winning flowers, and was president of the Portland, Oregon Dahlia Society.
There is a copy of a 1952 Oregonian newspaper on the wall featuring him as “Last of the Burnside Loggers” -- Burnside being the boulevard that dissects Portland east and west across the Willamette River -- the old Skid Road of Stumptown. One day, Mr. Rice came in with an envelope of family photos, and I asked if I could make a copy of this picture of Japanese surrendering that he said he shot on a beach in the Philippines during WWII.
As seen in the photo, after defeating an enemy, all it takes to surrender is a white flag, if combatants believe they will be treated humanely. From their faces, it is obvious that they are not interested in fighting any more; their body language signals a resigned relief, and they look like decent fellows, although the kid approaching from the right looks worried. Maybe he was too young to know that American troops would treat him fairly, not waterboard him, or debase him, or strip him naked. “He looked like he was about sixteen years old!” Jim remarked while showing the photo.
For the US, World War II lasted only four years. What is the problem with the Bush-Cheney War(s)? We won in Iraq and Afghanistan, right? Kicked the Al Qaeda and Taliban asses. In this day of instant communication, it should be easy for enemy commanders to tell troops to raise the white flag and surrender.
Whoops! Maybe there are no commanders -- or maybe they think it would be insane to surrender to a nation that tortures human beings -- like the United States -- and treats them like drowning rats. Or maybe we are fighting ghosts. Who is this enemy? Who is the General in charge of the enemy Iraqi troops, or the enemy Afghan troops?
Whoops, again! There is no General, and the enemies are Iraqis and Afghans -- the people who live there. They are not invaders. Then there is the matter of Pakistan, a nation of 173 million. Who is the enemy we are fighting there? Oh, they are Pakistanis -- tribal folks who live on their own land, in a mountainous region where, for centuries, they have traded guns and goods. And we are bombing them because...guns kill, and good troops do not? Well, if we kill enough of them, at least we will have accomplished something. It is not every day we can test market Predators. Those Arabs, they do respect force, right? Part of the Bush/Cheney Doctrine.
Unfortunately, with no clear enemy, at least from a command perspective, the war could go on forever, which is only good if you are a career soldier -- the one job we can outsource and keep citizens employed. Or maybe soon, we will have Indie soldiers over there, fighting the war for us, instead of working for Quest or AT&T. We know they are technologically literate. Our soldiers are shuttled around like some shuttlecock video game, anyway.
With no good reason to surrender, unless you are some kind of masochistic mercenary who likes water abuse or doggy dominance, there will probably be few white flags raised. It is not like there are no flags available -- half of those guys wear turbans -- so what is it? Something personal? They just don’t trust the modern GI? Or maybe the image has changed, with that war-coward Cheney, caught up to his neck in quicksand, who could not get a helmet strap over his double chin, anyway.
I miss you, Mr. Rice. you were a decent man, and although you came back from a horrific war, with things you could not talk about, I never heard you say a bad word about anybody. Well, except me, once, when I moved the doorway you had used for fifty years, something about -- “someone should box his ears.”