Blogger Andrew Olmsted dies in Iraq
January 4, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

"I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.)" Blogger Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq yesterday. He had been guest-posting at Obsidian Wings as G'Kar. hilzoy of ObWi has cross-posted his final message there as well.

From the last ObWi political post submitted by his own hand on December 26:"Will the next president get the U.S. out of Iraq? The signs aren't encouraging. ... Please raise your hand if you think that what we need in the White House is a president who is very comfortable with using military power. ... Until such time as the voters of the United States realize that they have no particular right to bomb anyone simply because they think it's for the best, we will be saddled with presidential candidates who work to become 'comfortable' with the use of military power."

From his posthumous message posted today: "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?

But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.

This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it."
posted by maudlin (55 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
At the bottom of the page, you'll find the standard blog comments box, with the usual options regarding whether you want to remain logged in or not. An accident of phrasing brings a never-intended poignancy to the standard wording.

Remember me? Yes ( ) No ( )
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:31 AM on January 4, 2008 [9 favorites]

Damn. Damn. Damn.

Whether or not I agreed with him, I always took the time to read Andrew's writing. He will be missed.
posted by tdismukes at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2008


posted by secret about box at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2008

It is, I suspect, exactly what a lot of people will be thinking once they click through on that.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2008

posted by nasreddin at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2008

Mikey-San, I thought the same thing but I didn't want to say it.
posted by Target Practice at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2008

If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision.

How heartbreaking. Exactly what my dad and other Viet Nam vets were saying as the Iraq War entry was being debated.

Sadly for soldiers, American memories are short.
posted by Miko at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's cool, Mikey-San. I get the impression he was kind of a young guy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2008

Yeah, it's a little corny Mikey-San. But it makes it all the more poignant because we're getting a snapshot of a guy in the middle of living his life. What moves us at one point in life may not be what moves us at other points. It shows us how Andrew Olmstead was unfinished and a life cut short.

Would he write things exactly this way in 10 or 20 years? Of course not. Which is the tragedy; he didn't get a chance to live the years that would change him.
posted by Justinian at 11:46 AM on January 4, 2008

posted by bassjump at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2008

I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

I will.

posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, he really loved Babylon 5.
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I cut a lot for length when I originally posted (believe it or not), but these backgrounder links got cut along with the cruft:

Olmsted's blog at The Rocky Mountain News.

RMN profile from June 2007.

And I'm not a Babylon 5 viewer, so I found this comment from ObWi useful: Gary Farber on the significance of G'Kar.
posted by maudlin at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2008

Remember me? Yes ( •)
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2008

I've never seen someone meditate on the nature of death using so many sci-fi quotes. But I guess it makes sense if you're a sci-fi fan. I hesitate to think what such a post like this would look like were I to write it, because Russ Meyer movies have little to say on the subject of death that is worth quoting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

He said: It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED.

Of the three U.S. Army deaths reported since January 2 (no names released yet), one was by IED, and two by small arms fire.

I hadn't known about his writing before now. Guess I've got some catching up to do.

posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2008

That's pretty annoying when the mods delete a comment but not the references to it. It's basically still there, and we can even figure out what it said.
posted by smackfu at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have to say, this is the best "last words" I've seen since Robert Anton Wilson died.

As a sci-fi fan, I loved the quotes. Particularly G'Kar's and the one from Greg the Bunny.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2008

I think it was Tim Russert (?) who asked Giuliani if he was "comfortable"with the use of military force. And of course he proudly smiles and says "of course... very!" Or something like that. And now it's a macho candidate meme. Most of our presidential hopefuls can't WAIT to be asked. So they can pose all tough. I'm waiting for one to say "Not only an I comfortable with it. The idea makes me achieve orgasm faster!"

I remember thinking" What the fuck?"

If Russert or who ever asked somebody who knew what the fuck they were talking about in terms of war the answer would be more like:

"COMFORTABLE!? Fuck no. I'm not comfortable sending young people to their deaths. Nor am I comfortable dropping bombs on people who very well may include innocent women and children. Only a PSYCHOPATH is comfortable contemplating such a horrific thing. A psycho or a coward who doesn't know shit about war. That shit keeps me up nights. You should ask me if I would do it if I HAD to? Then yes. But it wouldn't feel like wrapping myself in snuggly jammies and a down comforter.
posted by tkchrist at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2008 [25 favorites]

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2008

"When some people die, it's time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it's time to celebrate."

we don't celebrate! A wake is a way of letting loose the emotion, just cos in a lot of cases laughter and tears are mixed does NOT mean we celebrate!

Ouch! How very, very sad. I hope he's waked properly.
posted by Wilder at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2008

DAMN. A good man. I am glad that he had the foresight to write his own "eulogy" (so to speak).

Just damn.
posted by davidmsc at 1:11 PM on January 4, 2008

he's got my tears. thanks maudlin, this really is the best of the web.
posted by localhuman at 1:25 PM on January 4, 2008

tkchrist for President! This post is eponydistressing.
posted by sfts2 at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2008

He used to good Battlestar Galactica reviews on his blog too. Damn shame.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2008

tkchrist for President!

Like sober sex with a dwarf you would nearly immediately regret that. There are no phrases in English for the abuses of authority I would likely commit. Yes. I would use military force to immediately seize control of all Guinness Breweries and our entire diplomatic corp would be replaced by porn stars so we would get away with it.
posted by tkchrist at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2008

posted by moonbiter at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2008

Wow, he really loved Babylon 5.

As do I, so I have to admit I enjoyed all the quotes. Sure, it was a little corny, but it was honest and moving; I'm sorry he's dead and glad I got to read his writing. Thanks for the post.

posted by languagehat at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2008

Such a waste.

A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves

And no matter how justified or necessary it’s never good. Only people who’ve never fought - and perhaps more importantly - would never fight, would do anything to avoid fighting themselves, think it is good.

The hell of it is what’s being fought for in Iraq isn’t even something truly vital like food, it’s stuff to help make more war (petroleum).

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.  Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” - Eisenhower
posted by Smedleyman at 2:14 PM on January 4, 2008 [15 favorites]

It's distasteful to claim connection with the dead when you were really just a reader and an admirer; I'd like to have been closer to Andrew than I was, given my respect for him. Even still, the news hit way, way harder than I ever would've expected. It's really gratifying to come here with the intention of posting about the news to find that Andrew's memory's already being honored.

Anyhow. Just rambling -- sorry for the digression. Words really don't do much right now.

posted by verb at 2:25 PM on January 4, 2008

As a regular reader at Obsidian Wings for the last year I know I will miss seeing posts from G'Kar.

posted by meditative_zebra at 2:51 PM on January 4, 2008

As usual, an early comment is deleted and the early part of the thread makes no sense whatsoever. I'd take this to metatalk but it's been discussed over and over again with no resolution or consideration from Matt.


Oh, "."
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:44 PM on January 4, 2008

(The poster who made the original comment posted again almost immediately asking that it be flagged as noise, and both these comments were deleted shortly after. It's odd to see the references to it elsewhere in the thread, but this is not a case of censorship from above or a knee-jerk response to a pile-on from other commenters.)
posted by maudlin at 3:57 PM on January 4, 2008


2007 was the deadliest year for our soldiers.
posted by amberglow at 4:19 PM on January 4, 2008

..and so the war ended with many forgotten. The world spins, history fades, wars repeat like tides.
posted by Mblue at 4:29 PM on January 4, 2008

Reading this hurts more than any of the other reports of casualties during this interminable war. Peace to you tonight, MeFites.

posted by greekphilosophy at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2008

The title of that blog, Obsidian Wings, reminds me of the Aztec death goddess, Itzpaplot,l -- a butterfly with obsidian wings and jaguar claws, who dances sensually to frog-like chirps while asking, "Do you remember me?"

I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

What a moving, bluntly alive, bold and powerful post death blog statement. I feel thankful about what he wrote. An extraordinary writer, considering what he was writing about, his own death. I can so relate to a number of things he said, including this, Blogging put me in touch with an inordinate number of smart people, an exhilarating if humbling experience. When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people. But, to my credit, I think, I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the people with real brains and even occasionally learn something from them. It has been joy and a pleasure having the opportunity to do this.

And I feel happy for him he felt that way. Reading his words have certainly had a good impact on me. Lots of food for thought in his last statement:

As passionate as I am about personal freedom, I don't buy the claims of anarchists that humanity would be just fine without any government at all. There are too many people in the world who believe that they know best how people should live their lives, and many of them are more than willing to use force to impose those beliefs on others. A world without government simply wouldn't last very long; as soon as it was established, strongmen would immediately spring up to establish their fiefdoms. So there is a need for government to protect the people's rights. And one of the fundamental tools to do that is an army that can prevent outside agencies from imposing their rules on a society.

Quite amazing it's punctuated with Babylon 5 quotations. His writing had me crying by the end and also feeling quite inspired by his forthrightness, honesty, sharing his thoughts. wow.

How strange to feel like I knew him through what he wrote about, with such vitality, his own death. A strange intimacy.

I've always thought of peace as such a simple concept and realize now that living in peace is complex.
posted by nickyskye at 5:22 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by digaman at 6:17 PM on January 4, 2008

Just got back from my sister's wake, so, while I've still my good clothes on...

posted by Kinbote at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2008

More blogging from the beyond.
posted by Rumple at 6:33 PM on January 4, 2008

"I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side."

2007 was the deadliest year for our soldiers.
posted by amberglow

Even the dead are not guaranteed to have their last wishes respected.

posted by Dennis Murphy at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2008

posted by Quietgal at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2008

Sometimes from the embers of a dying campfire,
there will be a distinct *POP!*
as a brilliant spark shoots out
to dramatically extinguish.

To be stirred to imagine what that is all about, how at a loss I am.
posted by humannaire at 7:33 PM on January 4, 2008

posted by Martin E. at 7:43 PM on January 4, 2008

So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.

Wow. Punning your own future demise in the past tense. That's just awesome.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:28 PM on January 4, 2008

De Oppresso Liber

posted by dawson at 8:52 PM on January 4, 2008

I've been reading Obsidian Wings since publius migrated there from Legal Fiction. Andrew's words will be missed. He always got me to think about the Iraq War more clearly. What a fine blogger. I will miss him.

And what a fine self-eulogy (is there a term for these?)

It's also the first time I've wanted to give Babylon 5 a second chance.
posted by Kattullus at 8:57 PM on January 4, 2008

I found this after putting together a similar post just now...

I've sent my nonpoliticized condolences to the blogger entrusted with his final post. I hope they make it to his family.

Maj. Olmsted's blogging has been a source of great information and inspiration from someone who walked a fine line between the "OMG I'm in Iraq and war sux" and "OMG it's awesome to shoot people for freedom n' stuff" warblogging I've seen a lot of.

I didn't know him outside of his writing. I mourn his loss and his input, but I feel strangely comforted by his final words. I'm very glad he wrote them, and I hope they are of solace to those who knew him better than I.

posted by rollbiz at 9:53 PM on January 4, 2008

posted by Cyrano at 9:55 PM on January 4, 2008

posted by VulcanMike at 11:37 PM on January 4, 2008

RIP Andrew. He was a good writer. Various of his family members have been leaving comments on this post, which I guess was his last for that outlet.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:06 AM on January 5, 2008

posted by EarBucket at 10:44 AM on January 5, 2008

Ave atque vale. Deepest sympathies and condolences to his loved ones.

Off-topic: Can someone shed some light on what the deal is with the "." stuff? Seriously out of the loop on that one.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2008

Even the dead are not guaranteed to have their last wishes respected.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 6:45 PM on January 4 [+] [!] No other comments.

I don't really see how amberglow was pushing a political agenda by saying that 2007 was a deadly year for our troops in a post about someone who died as a US soldier in Iraq. You using his death to throw a 'zinger' at him seems kind of off though.

littlelebowskiurbanachiever, here, in the FAQ is your answer.

posted by KingoftheWhales at 4:44 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't really see how amberglow was pushing a political agenda by saying that 2007 was a deadly year for our troops in a post about someone who died as a US soldier in Iraq.

Agreed. It was a respectful reminder.
posted by jonmc at 5:35 PM on January 5, 2008

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