Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pride of Oregon

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The National Guardsman peering through the long-range scope of his rifle was startled by what he saw unfolding in the walled compound below.

From his post several stories above ground level, he watched as men in plainclothes beat blindfolded and bound prisoners in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
He immediately radioed for help. Soon after, a team of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers swept into the yard and found dozens of Iraqi detainees who said they had been beaten, starved and deprived of water for three days.

In a nearby building, the soldiers counted dozens more prisoners and what appeared to be torture devices: metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. Many of the Iraqis, including one identified as a 14-year-old boy, had fresh welts and bruises across their backs and legs.

The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest-ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions.
--The Oregonian, August 8, 2004 
Some old stories bear repeating.  Back in the early days of Junior Bush's most egregious crime, the sons and daughters of Oregon intervened to protect defenseless people.  Sadly, the Iraq enterprise was so corrupt and malignant that this act of heroism and virtue was quickly nullified, but I won't go into that.

Rather, I note how Oregonians, in a moment of terrible decision, chose compassion and decency, even when it was difficult.

I'm not trying to whitewash Oregon's history, mind you.  The Modoc Indian tribe and Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce provide stark testimony to our capacity for cruelty and ignorance.  But we're learning.  And we're way ahead of the tea-baggers and neo-Confederates corrupting the national Republican party.

But, speaking as a native Oregonian, born and raised, and damn proud of it, I assert that living here in this largely peaceful, mostly temperate, mellow, green paradise, we do our best.  We give what we can to help others.  We do our best to be good citizens.  And we exercise compassion toward those who suffer.  Even those whom we have known as enemies.

Here's another story from Oregon's past.  This is a recounting of a campaign in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish American War.  I have a feeling that, had Private Joseph DeBurgh lived to see how the Oregon National Guard comported itself in the Iraq War, he would have been proud.

In the town of Cavite, Aguinaldo's headquarters, the churches and other large buildings were crowded with Spanish prisoners.  These poor fellows who were apparently humanely treated by their captors, were suffering greatly from beri-beri, due to lack of proper food.  Although they were our enemy as well as of the Filipinos, many it [sic] can of corned beef and salmon found their way to them through the bars of their prison, and we went on light rations, for some days.  --from the memoirs of Joseph DeBurgh, volunteer with the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry Division, serving in the Spanish American War
Be proud, Oregonians.  I am.

1 comment:

Oregon Military Department said...

Thank you for these stories, and for pointing out the great accomplishments of Oregon's Soldiers, past and present.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Social Media Manager, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs