By Robert Ross

Historic Crossroads and Fateful Encounters



“Colonel” an aide had quipped.  “It looks like there’s going to be a fight ahead,” he said, excitedly. The Colonel was heading north with his troops. The day was long and hot. A certain weariness had set in, enveloping his mind, his body and his spirit. His thoughts had drifted. They had drifted to his home in Maine; drifted to his wife and family; drifted to the treatise he had written some time back, about the nature of man. Angels and killers he thought to himself. He was pleased with that concept, angels and killers. So he wrote his paper about the dichotomy of man and titled it The Killer Angels*. As the Colonel reflected, there was a far off look in his
eyes . . . his home, his family, the land  . . . Maine.

“Colonel!” the aide said again. The Colonel was startled. The aide repeated himself. “It looks like there’s going to be a fight ahead.” As the Colonel looked around, the present moment came clearly into focus. “Yes” he said, in a quiet voice. There would be a fight ahead, he thought. The Colonel knew instinctively that a fateful encounter lay ahead, something of great significance.

The colonel reflected again on the nature of man. His men . . . his men would once again become killer angels. The year: 1863. The Colonel: Colonel Chamberlain, Union army, 20th Maine. The battle ahead: Gettysburg.

The Year, 2003
General Tommy Franks stood before the media in Kuwait City, Kuwait. He was taking questions from reporters. “General, why so few briefings?” a reporter yelled out. The General hesitated for a moment, and for a brief second, looked beyond the reporters. “This morning I received an e-mail from my wife, wishing me a happy anniversary . . . I’ve even been too busy to respond to her”  The general stated. “But I will” he assured the reporters. The reporters asked about morale, how the  troops were performing and about various unexpected events. The general described the situation and what he saw ahead. “The road to Baghdad will not be easy. We have a fight ahead” he asserted. Like Gettysburg, Baghdad had become an intersection, a determining point in history, in which fate would play a role.

The General projected an air of determination, knowing that his angels, his killer angels, would, in the days and weeks ahead, be put to the task. This engagement would change the world in ways that only history will ultimately determine.

Fate and Conflict
To study the battle of Gettysburg (or most armed conflict) is to study fate, under the domain of military strategy. Gettysburg was three days of fighting, three days of timing, three days of decisions, good and bad. It was three days of events and circumstances which would determine the course of the Civil War and the destiny of the nation. Both sides claimed the spiritual and moral high ground. The confederate army was, by all accounts, unified, motivated, and a stronger fighting force, and yet circumstances or fate leaned in one direction.

March 27, 2003
It is 3:00 a.m., unable to sleep,  I get up, as I have done for the past week, and turn on T.V., flipping from one news channel to another. I worry. “There will be a fight ahead for Baghdad,” I hear from a commentator.

Baghdad . . . Gettysburg . . . D-Day . . . Pearl Harbor . . . crossroads . . . determining points in history. I worry.

I flip to another news channel and hear a journalist embedded with our forces in Iraq. The journalist is attempting to interview some soldiers who are repairing a vehicle engine somewhere on the road to Baghdad. A dust storm has been blowing for the past twenty-four hours. The dust storm has subsided, and now with only a few hours before darkness sets in, the soldiers are working feverishly to repair the engine. Interrupting their concentration,  “What’s your name, where ya from,” the reporter blurts out at the soldiers.  The reporter then pushes a microphone toward a soldier’s face. “Would you just let them work!” I yell out toward the T.V.

Another attempt at sleep. Thoughts churn like a whirlpool in an untamed river. Emotionally gripped by the conflict, worry has become my companion. Catastrophic thoughts drift through my mind...chemical weapons, dirty bombs...what if this happens? What if that happens? What if . . . What if...what if . . . are the last thoughts remembered as I drift off.

The Roads of History
The roads of history have intersected at Baghdad. Like Gettysburg, Baghdad is up the road apiece . . . out of reach, as of this writing. And like Chamberlain of the Union Army, we know  that “there’s going to be a fight ahead”...up in Baghdad, the outcome of which, will change the world. Fate will show its face at this intersection in ways that can only be known by historians and those who are involved in this fight. The outcome is certain though, fate will lean in one direction  . . . fate will lean, and we will prevail.

*The title The Killer Angels was taken from the book The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

© Copyright 2003  by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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