Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Friday, January 04, 2008

And Once Again

The snare is beating slow and the pipes are wailing somewhere far away. A man I never met, but always read and respected, was killed in the Diyala province of Iraq yesterday. Major Andrew Olmsted was a member of a Military Training Team- the guys that eat and sleep in small teams among Iraqi troops as they groom them into professional soldiers. He and another member of his team, Captain Thomas Casey, were killed by small arms fire.

While in Iraq, he blogged at his own site, until the DOD found him in violation of policy. He moved to posting on the Rocky Mountain News website, which is where I found him many months ago. I looked up to him and respected him; I felt then, as I still feel, that the small training teams of which he was a part were essential to the conflict we were fighting. His last post was written months ago against his possible death, and has been posted at his old blog site and at Obsidian Wings, where he occasionally guest blogged.

I'll let his words finish out this post. From his last message to all of us and the world at large:

On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.

But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

My feelings remind me very much of the words he wrote a couple of months ago about the memorial of another soldier in his squadron:

I had never met the soldier, but I found it very difficult to keep my eyes clear as I saluted a good man who had so much more to offer the world.
We are in a dangerous business. Soldiers die in war; there's no way around it. But that knowledge does not make those losses any less bitter.

Rest in peace, Major.

MAJ Andrew Olmsted
CPT Thomas Casey


  1. Thank you for this heads up TD, I will never forget this fine young man.

  2. Anonymous5/1/08 01:39

    I just heard about it; I was in Colorado over the holidays. I pray for you guys daily...

  3. Anonymous5/1/08 14:24

    Read the letter he wrote in the event of his death early this am. Cried my eyes out. Glad you wrote about him so others can read his work.
    Cathy B

  4. Anonymous5/1/08 18:19

    I got a letter in my gmail this morning about Major Olmstead's death. His last blog is an AMAZINGLY beautiful piece of work. What a gift. What an opportunity for him to think about death, life, and to create a well thought out, well-written, profoundly moving offering to all. In what I thought was a quietly ironic message, I was unable to to post a comment to his blog without the permission of the writer. Rest in peace, indeed.

  5. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

  6. The Presidential Race, My Take

    Alexander P. De Filippi
    Monday, January 07, 2008
    Mainstream Republicans have reasons to celebrate and to worry about the news coming from the Iowa caucuses this past Thursday, January 3. In effect, Mike Huckabee, the mainstream candidate and future Republican presidential nominee easily won the election. The media calls Mitt Romney “the establishment candidate” because he has money, but the truth is, the real establishment candidate is Huckabee, who represents the George W. Bush line in all matters, from free trade, to immigration, in addition to his pro-life stance.
    The mainstream or establishment candidate in the Republican Party is not determined by the amount of money or name recognition but by the base of support within the Republican Party that he has. Governor Mike Huckabee has in his favor the two main factions of the Republican Party, the Christian right and the business community. None of the other Republicans in the race can count on those two elements of support. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Ron Paul have to divide among themselves the fiscally conservative, non-religious right, which is located mostly on the east and west coasts, and that does not surpass more than twenty percent of the Republican electorate across the country.
    The second good news for Republicans came from the Democrats’ results, especially the fact that the establishment candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton, was in third place. I call her the establishment candidate because she has the media support and the most money from that business community, located mostly in California and New York. It is very difficult to believe that Barack Obama would win a presidential contest against Mike Huckabee. Therefore, if the Democrats nominate Senator Obama, they will lose the presidential election, an election that, based on the results of the 2006 congressional election, is up to the Democrats to lose.
    The sobering or sour note for Republicans came from the Iowans’ participation in the caucus. Iowa isn’t New York. Iowa is a conservative state that went for George W. Bush in 2004 and slightly for Al Gore in 2000. Therefore, the fact that the number of people participating in the Democrats’ caucuses was two and a half times greater than those participating in the Republican caucuses is bad news for Republicans. Iowa has only seen benefits for the last seven years from the Bush administration, so they should be grateful to Republicans. Also, in that state, the grassroots Republican machine is almost as good as the one they have in the South. In fact, the Christian Republican grassroots machine runs well even in New York City. The Iowan local press isn’t liberal either, so that massive participation of people, including independents, in the Democrats’ caucuses, is impressive and should put the Republicans on notice that something as unusual as the awful results of the congressional and gubernatorial races of 2006 could happen again this year.
    The Democrats’ conundrum: they have the momentum with the American electorate this year as they had it in 2006, hence winning the presidential race should not be a problem for them. Nevertheless, in spite of the favorable winds, the Democrats find themselves unable to nominate a good candidate; any of the three main contenders, Obama, Edwards and Clinton is an easy target for Republicans. Any of those three should lose in a race against Huckabee. Any of those three will have to name a vice-president that can propel them, maybe Al Gore? Vice-president again? I do not know. I believe the Democratic establishment will be able to keep Hillary Clinton from becoming their nominee. Unfortunately for Democrats, the other candidates are just as bad. Therefore, their faith depends on two factors: the vice-president they name and a repetition of the 2006 phenomenon in which independents and moderates, nationwide, broke for the Democrats. They could make it easier for themselves to get the independent and moderate votes if they play the “minister card” against Huckabee. Independents and moderates that make up easily twenty percent of the electorate, tend to be non-religious; they tend to be moderate or independent because they do not take any position to the extreme, whether in politics, environment or religion. In addition, on this occasion, the Republicans, apparently, won’t have the Hispanic support as they did in 2000 and 2004. The media have manipulated the immigration subject in such a way that Hispanics, unfairly, perceive Republicans as anti-immigrants.