5-1: Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic

Vacation Haven

Today the Dominican Republic is another one of those places that used to house communists and we had to stay away from them. Boy, things do change.

In the Army I served in a light infantry brigade. In short that means the outfit’s missions would be short term–hit and keep moving–as opposed to hit and occupy. Unlike soldiers drafted into the normal routine of spending eight weeks in basic training and then moving on to some sort of specialty, i.e., advanced individual training, e.g., medic, military police, communications, or even infantry, we trained together through every stage. Thus, my platoon leader and company commander in all stages of training were my leaders overseas.

My squad mates and I trained together at every level: rifle team, squad, platoon, company, battalion, and brigade. We were trained and certified with pistols, rifles, hand grenades, grenade launchers, machine guns, bayonets, and bazookas. There was a war going on in Vietnam and we were convinced that there is where we were going. Heck, we even “attacked” a Vietcong village in the snows of Camp Drum, New York. Continue reading 5-1: Dominican Republic

4-30: Unjust War Theory

Just War Theory

Two Doctors of the Catholic Church, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, lived in violent times, as do we. War waging played such a big part of their lives that they felt it necessary to write about when it was justified to engage in combat. After all, there is also that pesky “Thou shall not kill” thing they had to del with.

Being dubbed “The Church” at the time (before the Reformation) carried the burden of preaching peace in confrontational times. Their words on the subject are now traditionally referred to as Just War Theory, whose tenets are:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

Russ Wellen reports in Foreign Policy in Focus that “the Vatican just held a conference titled ‘Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence.’” Pope Francis keeps proving that he cares deeply for the downtrodden of the world, which includes innocents whose lives are ruined by war. Continue reading 4-30: Unjust War Theory

4-29: Close Guantanamo

Rebecca Gordon wrote a lengthy article for The Nation magazine. It’s title and subtitle read:

The CIA Waterboarded the Wrong Man 83 Times in 1 Month

None of the allegations against Abu Zubaydeh turned out to be true. That didn’t stop the CIA from torturing him for years.

The entire piece can be found at: http://www.thenation.com/article/the-cia-waterboarded-the-wrong-man-83-times-in-1-month/.

Mostly Gordon focuses on the horrific case of Abu Zubaydeh, but she also has plenty to say about President George W. Bush, his administration, and agencies, particularly the CIA, who carried out the war crimes.

As stated previously in this space, I am 100% in favor of closing the torture hole at Guantanamo Bay. I would go even further and add that we should close the camp, leave the island, and cede the entire territory to Cuba. Any tactical measures that the Navy is performing there now can be done just as easily and proficiently from Florida.

Instead, by its very existence Guantanamo symbolizes America’s hubristic belief that international law does not apply to a superpower. We now have stockpiles of evidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld at least knew about the torture and at worst one or all of them approved and maybe even ordered “enhanced techniques” be applied to prisoners.

I can’t even think of torture without getting goosebumps. It is the thing I feared most when I was in Vietnam. I know now that I was wrong, but I couldn’t imagine that the US would perpetrate such atrocities. That’s what made us better than them. Right? Wrong. I guess when it comes to acts of war we are no different than our foes. Think about it. Despite all the nastiness of tyrants and dictators and such over the centuries, the United States is the only country to ever drop an atomic bomb. We are culpable and we are capable. Continue reading 4-29: Close Guantanamo

4-28: Afghanistan under Siege

The Accident of Birth

I am an American by birth, a proud American I must add. My youth included walking to school, playing Little League baseball, and doing pretty much anything that was within the lines of my parents’ boundaries. Children born anywhere should feel proud of their heritage, they should have cherished memories of growing up. And they should love their country.

Not caring as a child, but quite aware now, every four years our government has the opportunity to change leadership. When that happens, the transition is peaceful and relatively seamless.

Life is not idyllic in America, but for the most part it ain’t bad. This particular campaign season has had its quirks, for sure. In January 2017, however, a new president will pledge to defend and uphold the Constitution and that will be that. Millions of people will be ecstatic and nearly the same number will be disappointed. But the swearing in of the new president will happen and it will not provoke bloodshed or revolution.

That peaceful transition of government does not happen everywhere. Case in point: Afghanistan, a nation of coups d’etats. Continue reading 4-28: Afghanistan under Siege

4-27: Saint Patrick Battalion

[David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, Chapter 2, “Wars Are Not Launched in Defense” inspired this blog. It involves the participation of Irish soldiers in the Mexican-American War. His book is available at http://justworldbooks.com.]

Manufactured Catastrophes

The Mexican-American War (1846-48) occurred right smack dab in the middle of the potato famine in Ireland (1845-52) which led to massive migration of Irish Catholics to America. I would argue that neither debacle needed to happen. The so-called famine was a ploy by England to keep the poor subservient to the crown. The Mexican-American War was a ploy by the United States to acquire more land. Imperialism and acts of aggression in both cases.

Irish immigrants found the streets of New York were not paved with gold. They faced irrational prejudices not unlike those faced by immigrants from other places over the years in this land of the free and home of the brave. Religion was a factor (Islam today), as was their willingness to work for lower wages than incumbents (Mexican day laborers). And so, many young Irish men enlisted in the American Army. Imagine that: willing to go to war just to survive. In its time of need, at least, the US government did not post signs saying,

“Irish need not apply”

Because tyranny forced them to leave their beloved homeland, Irish soldiers in the American Army soon recognized that, like their own situation with the British, the Mexicans had done nothing to provoke American aggression.

Enter activist/poet/songwriter David Rovics, an American born in 1967. A non-partisan peacenik, he is both anti-conservative and anti-liberal whenever he believes war hawkishness dominates debate. He is also interested in history and the history of war, in particular. He found, for example, much similarity between the plight of mid-19th century Irish farmers and Mexicans forced to fight for their own land during the same period. He wrote about this brotherhood. The following lyrics provide the gist of Rovics’ message. The song’s title is Continue reading 4-27: Saint Patrick Battalion

4-26: No More Nukes

[Two of the country’s leading newspapers reported on Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent trip to Hiroshima. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post also took the liberty to suggest that President Obama do the same. They also took on the elephant in the room, nuclear weapons. I have quoted heavily from both editorials in this blog, leaving them to present their own arguments with little filter. Can’t say that I disagree with them.]

State Visits Matter

Secretary of State John Kerry made a recent trip to Hiroshima, the first ever official state visit from an American administration official to that living memorial to human failure. Seventy years have passed since that horrific day when scores of thousands of mostly civilians were incinerated. Due to the significance and the success of Kerry’s visit, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have urged President Barack Obama to do the same. Visit Hiroshima.

Honduras Newspapers - La Prensa, La Tribuna, El Heraldo ...

As background, the Post stated:

“After the Soviet Union obtained nuclear weapons, the era of mutually assured destruction — MAD — began. Deterrence worked during a long, tense Cold War, but not without many errors and false alarms, frighteningly overstocked arsenals, proliferation to other nations and the threat of nuclear materials falling into terrorists’ hands.”

In its editorial, the Times stated:

“Mr. Obama created big expectations in his first term when he endorsed the ambitious goal of a world without nuclear weapons…. He has achieved some important measures, most notably the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has significantly curbed Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the 2010 New Start treaty mandating cuts in the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads each.” Continue reading 4-26: No More Nukes

4-25: More on Military Spending

As reported in my 4-24 blog, the top annual military materiel buyers in the world are as follows:

  • United States … $596 billion
  • China ……….…. $215 billion
  • Saudi Arabia …… $87 billion
  • Russia …………….. $66 billion

And, to repeat, a child born in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia in the last 10 years has no concept of what living in peace means. Our bombs teach them more about their way of life than any textbook ever could, assuming they even attend some semblance of a school.

School bombed

The U.S spends $12 Billion per year operating and maintaining its 15 battalions of Patriot missiles. That is just one weapon system, and its necessity and effectiveness in today’s battle zones are as questionable as the sheer amount of them. How much is too much? It is like asking the same question to the 1%ers. There is never too much. One can just never have enough missiles and yachts, tanks and vacation homes, debt at home and dollars offshore. Continue reading 4-25: More on Military Spending

4-24: Military Spending Keeps Wars Alive

Consult www.sipri.org to access the most comprehensive database I am aware of concerning worldwide military expenditures by nation. It will come as no surprise that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as always, shows how much more superpower U.S.A. spends per year than any other country on earth. Here are 2015’s biggest spenders. Note that numbers 2, 3, and 4 combined do not equal the U.S. total.

  • United States … $596 billion
  • China ……….…. $215 billion
  • Saudi Arabia .… $87 billion
  • Russia ………….. $66 billion

Even my rusty math skills bring that total to nearly $1 trillion. In one year. Four countries. Why is all that spending necessary? Russia appears to want to keep some of its former territories in line, by fear of bombardment and/or invasion. Saudi Arabia has lately been bombing Yemen into a rock pile, perhaps to inflict fear in Iran. China has Taiwan and Japan to keep in check. And of course the United States needs to keep world markets open and free flowing, no matter the cost of human life, no matter the level of severity of the threat; and regimes, we have to monitor regimes and decide which we ill support and which we will support the overthrow of.

Because particular governmental entities ebb and flow between friend and foe—see Egypt and Iraq as easy examples—both sides of most conflicts around the globe are armed with American made weapons. [We were pleased to arm Saddam Hussein in his 10-year, no decision against Iran; we were just as happy to arm Afghani Taliban also for a decade against those pesky Russians.] Miscellaneous countries also buy our airplanes, helicopters, and ammunition.

A MIM-104 Patriot anti-aircraft missile is fired during a training exercise. - Stock ImagePatriot missile battery on display at the White Sands Missile Range Museum, New Mexico. - Stock ImageOil rigs and wells in the Midway-Sunset shale oil fields the largest in California - Stock Image

We buy their oil and lease their land to build bases of all kinds and sizes. Thus, in too many parts of today’s world, the culture of war is more natural than no war. A child born in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia in the last 10 years has no concept of what living without war means. Our bombs teach them more about their way of life than any textbook ever could, assuming they even go to some semblance of a school. Continue reading 4-24: Military Spending Keeps Wars Alive

4-23: Rupert Brooke, Romanticized Patriot

[Rupert Brooke was a renowned British poet and scholar at the onset of WWI. Although he was offered a “safe” position in England during the war, he chose to remain with his naval combat unit. He contracted blood poisoning on his ship which was preparing to take part in the Allied invasion of Gallipoli. He died on April 23, 1915–Winston Churchill wrote his obituary. There is an idealism to these poems below: that sense of “glorious” war.  The use of gas as a weapon and as one example changed the face of war, however. This was trench warfare, not gallant knights clashing swords with knights errant on the opposing side. My fear, based on knowledge not intuition, is that politicians who send our people to war have not experienced physically nor embraced philosophically the realism of war. Men do not die of a saber wound to the chest. Starting in WWI they got their heads blown off when they popped them out of the trench.]

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

[“If I should die …” the poem begins. The soldier is prepared to die for his beloved country. It is a lovely thought, indeed, but only that. For me, The Soldier’s blissful England is a place that never existed, but yet he was led to believe that it did and that it was therefore worth dying for–notice there is no reference to fighting or how The Soldier might die.]


Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour, 
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping, 
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power, 
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping, 
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary, 
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move, 
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary, 
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath; 
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there 
But only agony, and that has ending; 
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

[“And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.” What  a sad, sad thought, that it is death that brings peace to the soldier. In Vietnam a “million dollar wound” was one that was severe enough to remove one’s buddy from the country. “You’re going home.” And then we never heard of him again.]



4-22 Pat Tillman, Hero

Life and Death

The facts of Pat Tillman’s life are pretty well known. After a stellar football career at Arizona State University, the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in 1998. During the 2000-01 season he broke the team’s record for tackles and played through the 2001-02 season. In May, 2002, however, Tillman shocked the football world and, along with his brother, joined the U.S. Army. Both Pat and Kevin Tillman were inspired to enlist because of the events of 9/11/01. They became Rangers and completed tours in Iraq in 2003, followed by a deployment to Afghanistan the next year. Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire while on patrol April 22, 2004. He was 27.


Heroism of Two Men

Kevin was trying to make it in Major League Baseball–he was a minor leaguer. Pat was a bonified star in the NFL on the verge of signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. While so many of us floundered around wondering what we could do after the attacks, the Tillman brothers left everything to become privates–privates–in the Army. That spells hero to me. Continue reading 4-22 Pat Tillman, Hero