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April 2, 2008


Noodling on the news — Over the waives

On the third planet from the sun, Roger Runningen wrote in Bloomberg.com,

The U.S. wants to start construction next year of a missile site in Poland for 10 interceptors and a fixed radar site in the Czech Republic to counter a potential long-range missile threat from Iran.

And Randal C. Archibold wrote in the New York Times,

In a sweeping use of its authority, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it would bypass environmental reviews to speed construction of fencing along the Mexican border.

Elsewhere, in a parallel universe, Pfc. Sven Larsson emailed his mother in Minneapolis:

Hey Mom,

I’m on duty in a few minutes but I wanted to let you know that everything is OK here and I’m doing fine. I can’t tell you exactly there “here” is, but you already know it’s way south of where you are.

I can tell you that it’s beautiful. Nobody told me there were flowers in the desert. I thought it was all cactus and sand. Maybe it’s because it’s spring and we’ve had a little rain — my buddy who grew up around here says this is the rainy season — anyway, there are wildflowers everywhere. Red ones and yellow ones and purple ones and white ones. John tried to teach me what they’re called, I think he said something about monkey flowers and ocotillo, but my brain refused to fasten on them.

And more animals than I’ve even seen just wandering around in the wild. No, no camels. But in the few days I’ve been here, I’ve seen foxes and deer. Nearly stepped on a rattlesnake taking a sunbath. And Mom, the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen. A golden eagle. Must have had a wing span of over six feet.

Most of what we’re doing is classified, but everybody knows that Fort Chertoff is part of a missile chain. Remember the article you cut out of the Star Tribune just before I left home? The photographs didn’t capture the size of the place — it’s enormous, with every imaginable kind of missile and technological doodad, just waiting for somebody to try to sneak across the border or send a long-range weapon our way. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen, just watching not much of anything happening. Pretty cool army service, no?

Big excitement yesterday. The Sink — that’s military talk for the C-in-C, the Commander-in-Chief — The Sink stopped by unannounced. I guess he thought our morale needed boosting, because he told us what a good job we were doing and how vital our position was to the safety of the homeland blah blah blah.

But he told me something I didn’t know, how many years ago somebody suggested building a wall across the southern border of the U.S. to keep out terrorists and illegals, and people got all fired up because the project was going to take away their property and do all sorts of damage to the environment.

That was when Michael Chertoff just beginning to get the Department of Homeland Security into shape. And he said no way, we’re not going to copy the Chinese and build a wall. We’re going to use our heads and our scientific know-how and do it better. He said instead of building missile bases all over the world, why not just put a few good ones around the country here at home?

You’ve seen those pictures taken from outer space that show the U.S. ringed with lights. That’s us. I’m one of those lights.

And then the Sink gave us a plaque with a quotation on it, to put over the main entrance to the fort. He said it was by an old poet named Robert Frost.

It says, Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Right on.

Gotta run, S.

       — Copyright Betsey Culp 2008