Posted from the US
I was flying home last week when I spotted an American soldier on my flight. He was either coming home for some R&R or possibly going back to Iraq. He was wearing his camouflage uniform, with its computerized patterns:
The new uniform is far removed from the idea of ceremonial military dress or leather-booted authoritarianism that once dominated military dress; rather than constricting and constraining, it gives and breathes and is somewhat shapeless and untucked. The polished, spit-shined black boots have been replaced by suede, no-polish-required tan desert boots; unlike uniforms of yore, it need not be dry-cleaned (which saves soldiers not just money, but time). The design energy applied to the ACU went mostly into making a uniform that would be invisible to foes but visible to comrades. Even a ceremonial detail like the traditional U.S. flag emblem has been khaki-ized into muted tan-and-blacks on some uniforms; no longer a symbol intended to be recognizable across the battlefield, it's an infrared feedback element visible only to those equipped to see it.
Making the ACU as invisible as possible required developing an entirely new "digital" camouflage pattern, derived from the Marine Corps' so-called "MARPAT" camo scheme, which was launched in 2001. MARPAT is pixilated—bit-mapped on a computer, and then "printed" directly onto nylon. The effect is as if one had interrupted, at less than full resolution, the downloading of a picture of a traditionally camouflaged soldier, the stripes and whorls dissipating into pointillist bits. Unlike the old camo, digital camo suggests shapes and colors without actually being shapes and colors—like visual white noise. While it may serve a hunter well to appear to be part of a tree, a contemporary soldier needs to be on the move, and so his camouflage must help him blend into the "flow of space." (from Tom Vanderbilt, Slate.com)
Seeing him brought the war home for me. Amidst the Starbucks, the fastfood, the bookstores, and the millions of Americans for whom the war is an abstract, detached media event, for some it is beyond real. These are the guys getting killed over there.
And now the question is: for what? Is our democractic experiment working? why are we there?
How many decent American soliders need to die before we change strategy? Before we understand what we're really doing there now. It is not just a Democrat question anymore - many Republicans, either in private or in public, are asking the question.
A bottom line: someone in Washington please figure this out soon - because a lot of decent men and women have been, and most likely will be killed, before they do - and I would like to see our president and his team meet with those families, look them in the eye, and explain why.
I'm not anti-war - I'm anti-stupidity. We're in a real mess. Let's admit it. Let's be honest. It's a first step in the right direction.