Day 368 – Thoughts on my heart, La Bahia and the Iraq War

I’ve been in Goliad for 11 days now, with my computer back in my possession for 5 of them. And while the urge to get back on the road has been strong, I’ve found it difficult to head it’s call due to how much I enjoy Patricia’s company.

She is a compelling mix of beauty, heart, tenacity, curiosity and smarts wrapped up with small town charm and big city complexity. We are from two very different upbringings with a surprising philosophical congruity and I find I learn much about myself everyday I spend with her. It’s also refreshing to be with a woman that seems to appreciate me for who I am rather than what she wants me to be. We are also on differing paths working to realize goals that don’t easily align during a point of transition in both our lives.

I’m looking for a place to set down roots on a cross country trip that I must finish, while using this adventure to see the country and develop story telling skills to the point where I can make a living in service of realizing my own ideas. Patricia is working to adopt out her pack and retake possession of her life and household so that she can restart a painting career that has been dormant for years. When we are together we simultaneously recharge and distract each other resulting in waves of emotional harmony and discord.

I’ve never experiences anything like it before and it makes a decisions like – when should I leave – change by the hour.

On to history close in place and not really too far in time as it relates to some reflections on the Iraq War…

I’m sure most of you have heard of Six Flags before – you know, that amusement park company. It was founded in Texas, a land that has been under six rulers – Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The United States of America and the Confederate States of America. Native Americans of course where here before everyone else, but they were considered more a nuisance to be assimilated, extinguished or relocated depending on who’s writing the history.

Goliad happens to be a place where all of these historical players, save the French, have overlapped and is best expressed through the existence of Presidio La Bahia (1749). This is it’s third location and part of Spain’s support infrastructure protecting a string of Catholic Missions that extended Westard in search of natives to bring into the Catholic fold. At least that was it’s original purpose. It was also won and lost by the Texians as they fought Mexico for independence. Texians are the people that lived in Texas before it became part of the US and started referring to themselves as Texans.

For as long as I can remember I have known the phrase – Remember the Alamo, but really didn’t think much of it. I had thought about visit the Alamo while I was in Austin because that is what one is supposed to do in Texas, but didn’t get around to it because I was told it was a little old building in the middle of sprawling San Antonio, so why should I care?

Well, it mattered a lot to the psyche of Texians mustering the will to get their independence from Mexico in the early 1800s. The Alamo was the Mission in San Antonio that Texians held against Mexican Gen. Santa Anna’s much larger forces for 10 days before they were are all killed. It’s understandable how fighting to the death would be seen as motivating.

I’ve learned that the battle cry was originally Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. And it helped the Texians to kick Santa Anna’s butt in the Battle of Jacinto and thus gain independence for the Republic of Texas. So what happened to the “Remember Goliad” part?

It turns out the Goliad part didn’t come from a heroic fight, but rather poor leadership on the part of Col. Fannin that led to the the slaughter of, something like, 350 Texian prisoners of war at La Bahia under the orders of Gen. Santa Anna. Sam Houston, leader of the Texas Revolution and later Gov of the Republic then State of Texas, wanted Col. Fannin to bring his troops from La Bahia to the Alamo for reinforcement, but he bailed after traveling only a mile and returned to La Bahia. After the Alamo fell, Col. Fannin was than ordered to retreat from Goliad to join up with the rest of the troops in nearby Victoria. He took his sweet time heading out and was attacked 9 miles away by Mexican troops.

After some fighting, Col. Fannin decided to surrender thinking he and his troops would be considered prisoners of war. Once back at La Bahia Gen. Santa Anna ordered their execution. The killing turned out to be an additional motivators for the Texians to win Texas Independence, but has faded from popular history. I saw an article (2010) by John Willingham that put forth a good reason for this being the case:

“…Our own age is marked by ambiguous war and tenuous peace, by messy politics and economic peril. We are often frustrated by the shadowy and inconclusive nature of modern life.

Remembering the Alamo is an antidote to that uncertainty. There is nothing unclear about victory or death. Remembering Goliad reminds us of where we are.”

The Bush Administration used the rallying cry of 9/11 to rightly go after Osam bin Laden in Afghanistan, but then extended it along with gamed intel (hello yellow cake) as justification for the Iraq war. We are now in the 13th year of this seemingly never ending conflict and I still have trouble making sense of how we got there. How did we collectively as a country allow President Bush, Jr., Cheney, et. al, lead us into such a mess and how are we going to reconcile it in our history?

I remember joining in marches against the war, one in Seattle and a much larger one when I first got to NYC. It seemed so big to me while I was in it, but so small when I saw how it was written about in the New York Times. I remember those few politicians opposed to going into Iraq being cast as Un-American by the Administration. Them selling us the lie that it would be inexpensive and quick. And most maddening of all President Bush saying we would be treated as liberators – as if democracy could be imposed on a country in a Presidential Term or two.

I have strongly associated my perception of Texas with that of President Bush, Jr. For sure wrongly, but that is the truth. I find it rewarding to learn a bit more about Texas history and it’s complexities as I work to try and understand how we got into Iraq.

I-183 leading to La Bahia

Picture 1 of 12

This bridge is over the San Antonio River, La Bahia is up the hill to the left out of view.

2 comments

  1. Penny - May 21, 2015 8:44 pm

    After great losses, the Texians were able to come together and defeat Santa Anna. The Republic joined the United States and continues to pursue the “American Dream”
    Do you think the citizens of Iraq can ever come together to create a country where everyone can live in peace? It has such a long history of outside interference and so many diverse tribes, that it hardly seems possible. It has been 12 years since the war began and after much death and some companies making lots of money, things seem worse than they were before the war began. There is no regard for human rights.

    Reply
    • adampomata - May 23, 2015 1:17 pm

      Thank for the great comment mom. One of the things that drives me crazy about US involvement in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular is the very low level of knowledge about the groups (Tribes) that are in conflict. Few elected decision makes in government seem to know or care about the history and structure of the 100+ Tribes that make up Iraq. Even the most basic understanding of Sunni vs Shia branches of Islam seem to escape their grasp. The results speak for themselves. And they won’t change until the people making the decisions learn more about the history and reasons why various groups in the region don’t like each other.

      Reply

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