6-01: Same Guy, Different War

I have finished David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, 2nd ed. and have excerpted it in previous blogs. All I can say is that I highly recommend this book to all thinking Americans. The blurb below constitutes the entire marketing push from http://amazon student.

War Is A Lie is a thorough refutation of every major argument used to justify wars, drawing on evidence from numerous past wars, with a focus on those that have been most widely defended as just and good. This is a handbook of sorts, an engaging, always informative manual that can be used to debunk future lies before the wars they’re deployed to justify have any chance to begin. Veteran antiwar activist Daniel Ellsberg calls War Is A Lie “a terrific tool for recognizing and resisting war lies before it’s too late.” This updated and expanded edition outlines lessons from America’s most recent wars, what can be done to end war making, and an epilogue that analyzes new trends in war lying and in resistance to it. No one to whom you give this book can claim they haven’t been warned!

Some years ago I attended a lecture given by an artist who had just published a work that included many of his sketches from the Vietnam War, including soldiers on both sides as well as civilians. He had been a sketch artist for the Navy ever since WWII.

I asked him how his view of the American soldier had changed from war to war. His response: “I keep drawing the same guy in a different uniform.”

That works for me as I assimilate the lessons of War Is a Lie: “same men and women, different war.

5-31: Ken Starr’s Sliding Scale of Sex Abuse

Under this headline at the Daily Kos

Kenneth Starr, Who Investigated Bill Clinton, To Be Fired from Baylor over Sex-Abuse Scandals

staff writer Walter Einenkel wrote this amazing paragraph. I chose to include it in this blog because it is so well written and it is yet another example of government run amok.

Kenneth Starr made his early career as a judgeship nominee of conservative Saint, and all-around-awful politician, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He was dragged out of the Bush/Reagan/Nixon/Cheney dungeon as an attack dog for the conservative party in the 1990s, as they hoped that scandal would sink then-President, Bill Clinton.

Starr was named special prosecutor to investigate a real estate matter–they called it a scandal–known as “Whitewater.” To explain succinctly what Whitewater was all about I turned to Investopedia” (http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/08/whitewater-scandal). It says:

The Whitewater scandal refers to a real estate controversy involving former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. In 1978, when Bill Clinton was attorney general of Arkansas, he and his wife partnered with James and Susan McDougal to purchase 220 acres of land that would become the Whitewater Development Corporation. The real estate venture failed, costing the Clintons a reported $40,000 in losses….

Questions surrounding the Clintons’ involvement in the Whitewater deal grew during President Clinton’s first term in office and an investigation into the legality of the Whitewater transactions was launched.

The investigation continued, with Kenneth Starr at the helm … [The] Starr investigation went on to include the Lewinsky scandal and several other controversies involving the Clintons. All … inquiries into the Whitewater land deal yielded insufficient evidence to charge the Clintons with criminal conduct.

Just following the string, we go from investigation of a failed real estate deal all the way to Lewinsky and then the impeachment of the President of the United States. It is not my concern to defend Clinton’s actions while in the White House or at any other time in his life. Although he and Hillary are public figures, most of the actions we find reprehensible should mainly be left with the couple to resolve in their private lives.

Enter Starr. Finding nothing indictable regarding Whitewater, the reason he was appointed to sit in judgement in the first place, he just kept digging and following press reports and wallowing in the slimelight. When the mess was over, taxpayers spent $44 million to have “The Starr Report” published. It is mostly salacious–I read it–and has very little to do with Whitewater.

And Now This

Righteous, pompous, peep show poster boy Kenneth Starr is fired from the presidency of Baylor University for “looking the other way” when the university’s football players were charged with sex abuse, including rape. My, my, how times have changed. Football players may not be high government officials, but No means No. Why doesn’t Starr get that?

My Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines “hypocrisy” as the “pretense of having a virtuous character.” Methinks the bard could have stuffed such stuff into a tragedy. Continue reading 5-31: Ken Starr’s Sliding Scale of Sex Abuse

5-30: Every Day Is Memorial Day

Prior to Vietnam, in times of war U.S. soldiers went with their specific unit to the war zone, remained together, and came home together all as part of the same unit ,e.g., 1st Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne, etc. My outfit, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, followed this pattern half-way. We trained for nearly a year together in the United States and ultimately ordered to travel to Tay Ninh via Vung Tao. We sailed from Boston to Vietnam on two troop ships.

The comparison ends there. Once we started needing replacements for casualties, the new guys came from training centers and assimilated into the 196th. Half way into our tour the Army split us up: half the guys, me included, stayed with the 196th and the other half went to the 25 Mechanized Division. That is a long introduction to a story I would like to share for Memorial Day.

Ambush

When the first hostile bullets came at my platoon, everyone hit the ground, everyone except (I will call him) Joe. Joe got hit in the forehead. He was far enough behind me in the serpentine formation that I didn’t see him. We had to fight out of the ambush and were ordered to keep moving toward our initial objective.

In Vietnam casualties were mostly evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter and, if their injuries were severe enough to take them to a hospital somewhere, e.g., Japan, we never saw nor heard from them again. The same, obviously, for those who died. When a replacement was available, he was assimilated and the war went on.

The same scenario applied to soldiers completing their tour. We were sent to Ton Son Nhut Airbase and flown, for me, to Oakland, California to be mustered out of the Army. This extraction and going home aloneness was new to American warriors. We didn’t return with our buddies, the one’s we went to war with, we returned one-by-one, alone. For many, this brought on the onset of survivor’s guilt. Continue reading 5-30: Every Day Is Memorial Day

5-27: Who Is Commander-in-Chief Matters

I will try to parse a paragraph I found at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/goldwater-suggests-using-atomic-weapons? The year is 1964 and Barry Goldwater is running for President of the United State. The headline reads:

Goldwater Suggests Using Atomic Weapons

Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona), running for the Republican Party nomination in the upcoming presidential election, gives an interview in which he discusses the use of low-yield atomic bombs in North Vietnam to defoliate forests and destroy bridges, roads, and railroad lines bringing supplies from communist China. Remember, this is 1964. Goldwater was a rigid anti-communist, I know, but what was happening in Vietnam at that time can best be described as civil war. The Vietnamese themselves were struggling to unify their country. I guess Goldwater thought it an act of moderation to use “low-yield” atomic bombs to “defoliate” and “destroy.” Continue reading 5-27: Who Is Commander-in-Chief Matters

5-26: Trump and Veterans Revisited

$6 Million for Vets

It was in all the papers. Cable news carried every sound bite second . It was during the Iowa primaries and Donald Trump threw a hissy fit about debate rules. So he decided to have a fund raiser for veterans and the donations would be huge. His campaign reported that the event raised $6 million. So far, about half of that total can be accounted for, and most veterans organizations that I am aware of have reported receiving zilch from the Trump extravaganza.

I would love to be made to eat crow when the full amount is accounted for and veterans’ coffers are better stocked. I just don’t see that day coming. The Daily Kos reports that “Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski says that, guess what? They didn’t raise $6 million.” Is this just another Trump lie that will be shrugged off as Trump being Trump? This was Lewandowski’s explanation. He

blamed the shortfall on Trump’s own wealthy acquaintances. He said some of them had promised big donations that Trump was counting on when he said he’d raised $6 million. But Lewandowski said these donors backed out and gave nothing.

“There were some individuals who he’d spoken to, who were going to write large checks, [who] for whatever reason . . . didn’t do it” …

This bothers me on so many levels. Lies. I hate lying. Blaming. Imagine, some “donors backed out and gave nothing.” Then they were never donors at all. Blaming his shortfall on potential-but-never-seen largesse of the rich and powerful is too easy an excuse. I wonder if these magnates remain “friends” with Trump. What else have they promised Trump, and what is he promising them? Unfulfilled promises. Veterans had no reason to expect charity from Trump. The promise came out of the blue. But it came, and it raised hopes, and it dashed those hopes. Continue reading 5-26: Trump and Veterans Revisited

5-25: Disunited Nations

Alexander and Caesar

Alexander the Great, philosopher-king–student of Aristotle and son of King Philip of Macedon–revolutionized war in a way. Any state he conquered or even threatened to conquer he allowed to maintain its integrity as long as it paid him his “due.” That is, as long as taxes were paid, the existing power structure remained in place and the ruler became a satrap. This worked pretty well, as Alexander became “great” and annexed most of the known world and any number of would-be victims got to keep their lives and, for the most part, their way of life. And that’s how Hellenism spread throughout the ancient world.

Then came the Roman Julius Caesar. Any student who suffered through second year Latin knows from Caesar’s Gallic Wars that “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” So it is at least a two millennia tradition for the conqueror to do as it wishes with the vanquished. Caesar apparently did not have Alexander’s patience. Although quite different from Alexander’s treatment of his foes, Caesar was on to something. The Pax Romana lasted for nearly two centuries; yet Rome did not shy away from severe crackdowns on groups who opposed the forced Roman Peace.

This ultimate human failure called war seems to have been with us since the beginnings of recorded history. And it never ends well for the battling nations: death, destruction, slaughter; and it never ends well for the combatants: death, amputation, PTSD. No one who experiences war comes out unscathed. Win or lose, battle creates broken people: warriors, civilians, sympathizers, objectors, all are scarred. Bertrand Russell declared, “War does not determine who is right–only who is left.” Continue reading 5-25: Disunited Nations

5-24: When the War Comes Home

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On May 24 a documentary on PTSD will be showing at theaters all over the country. Soledad O’Brien produced the piece. I am gladly dedicating this space to print her own words about the film called,

What We Can Do When the War Comes Home

Delon Beckett is wasted while our cameras are rolling on him. He is tripping around his living room drunk while his three-year-old daughter, Jayla, tries to wrestle. She hits his groin so he pushes her away, then he makes for the staircase. He knocks over some books and settles down in the second floor of his suburban house as his wife, Emme, tries to calm down the kids who are looking up the stairs scared.

“I used to see, you know, a hammer and then all of the sudden I would just think about picking up that hammer and just smashing their brains in,” says Beckett, an Iraq war veteran at the center of my documentary, The War Comes Home. “And I’m just like sitting there like … this is getting ridiculous.”

What our cameras captured for our documentary are the sad, damaging effects of the war on some veterans who live with Post-Traumatic Stress like Beckett….

300 Cinemas, May 24

Now, in an effort to increase awareness around that topic and the many other needs of veterans, The War Comes Home, produced in association with MediaStorm, will be airing in 300 cinemas nationwide on May 24th. The screening is followed by a pre-taped panel discussion of experts and advocates who take the conversation beyond PTS to other veteran’s issues. The event is presented by Fathom Events, a partnership between the three largest theater circuits in the U.S. so you can see it in a theater near you anywhere in the country.

I worked with Fathom to get The War Comes Home onto a big screen because I want everyone to see how Beckett and our other characters live with PTS and the novel approaches being taken to address their pain and, sometimes, suicidal or homicidal thoughts. I want everyone to take a look at the services being offered vets and ask how they can help. I want people to appreciate how much we owe to the men and women who went to fight our wars and lost so much doing it.

“The outer shell of him came back,” his wife, Emme, told us about her husband’s return from the war. “But everything on the inside was dead.”

Continue reading 5-24: When the War Comes Home

5-23: Alcohol-Free PTSD Coping Strategies

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On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. That is an abominable statistic that can be found in numerous studies and reports. In a total non sequitor I came across an article this weekend concerning the “drunkest cities” in America. I decided to look into both issues to see if there is a correlation.

Dubious Distinction

24/7 Wall Street released a report based on self-reported data that lists the 20 drunkest cities in the country. For the record, here they are.

20: Corvallis, Oregon

19: Iowa City, Iowa

18: Lincoln, Nebraska

17: Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis, Wisconsin

16: Janesville/Beloit, Wisconsin

15: Racine, Wisconsin

14: Grand Forks, North Dakota

13: Missoula, Montana

12: Sheboygan, Wisconsin

11: Wausau, Wisconsin

10: Mankato/North Mankato, Minnesota

9: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

8: Ames, Iowa

7: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

6: La Crosse/Onalaska, Wisconsin

5: Fargo, North Dakota

4: Madison, Wisconsin

3: Green Bay, Wisconsin

2: Oshkosh/Neenah, Wisconsin

1: Appleton, Wisconsin

What the heck is going on in Wisconsin? Missing for me were states–forget cities in those states–like New York and New Jersey, Louisiana and Florida. That demonstrates prejudice on my part, I know, but I live in NJ and I know there is lots of drinking going on here. The other three states I thought would have been “good guesses.” Obviously, not so. So much for stereotypes. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

My search for a relationship between so-called drunk cities and veterans suicide came up blank. There are many reports and reliable statistics on veterans issues such as PTSD and suicide, but I could not find a single data point on location. From this I conclude that those issues are everywhere–no state is immune, no region of the country is more or less susceptible than any other. From that I conclude that we all have to be on the lookout for signs of depression in our vets–our brothers and sisters, cousins and neighbors. Continue reading 5-23: Alcohol-Free PTSD Coping Strategies

5-21: States Rights

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South Rising Again

Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) aims to introduce legislation to amend the US Constitution. The purpose will be to “give states the power to overrule federal law or a Supreme Court decision,” according to the Daily Kos. Gee, isn’t that what the Civil War was fought over, states rights? Slavery was just an aside that happened to be one of the issues the South wished for its states to retain. I guess the time has finally come for citizens from all regions to stop working toward a “more perfect union.”

Here is the list of Abbott’s proposed amendments (with my commentary):

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State. (So, Mississippi wants to bring back slavery–that’s ok.)
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget. (… except for defense of course. The likes of Bush and Cheney would still, presumably, be able to wage war without paying for it and issue no-bid contracts to the likes of Haliburton to “reconstruct” war zones, all without fiduciary oversight … then balance the rest of the budget.)
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from creating federal law. (What about all those K Street lobbyists? Are we going to put those poor souls out of work?)
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from preempting state law. (… by doing what? Repealing the Affordable Health Care Act?)
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision. (What does this do to the “balance of power” we pride ourselves on having at the federal level?)
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. (I need a point of reference here to understand what is being proposed. Does this mean we, the states, get to vote on whether or not to accept or reject decisions of the Court?)
  7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution. (Sounds reasonable. Where is that not happening now?)
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds. (I wonder if the governor would have been ok with this in the Florida Bush v. Gore debacle.)
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation. (See 5 above.)

The “balance of power” argument usually comes down to an intentionally strong versus a weak executive branch. And that usually comes down to an ideological fight between liberalism and conservatism (both loosely defined here). Why bother with the Pledge of Allegiance anymore?

… of the united states … one nation … with liberty and justice for all. Continue reading 5-21: States Rights

5-20: Yemen and the Mushroom Shaped Cloud

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Proliferation of WMDs

Russ Wellen, authored a recent piece on America’s siding with Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. His blog claims that he “has long been puzzled by a national security strategy on the part of a superpower such as the United States that leaves tens of millions of its own citizens at risk of dying in a nuclear attack.” Here are some affiliations he has that may interest you. “Wellen edits the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points. He also holds down the “Nukes and Other WMDs” desk for the Faster Times. In addition, he’s associate editor of Scholars & Rogues.” My kind of guy.

Why Yemen?

Wellen discusses–questions, really–why America was so quick to offer military aid to Saudi in their interference in the civil war going on in Yemen. He specifically mentions drones, and quotes from colleague Micah Zenko (Foreign Policy) thus: “make no mistake, the United States is a combatant in this intervention.” Zenko continues:

U.S.-operated drones are supplying targeting intelligence to Saudi forces in Yemen, which goes well beyond the definition of logistics and intelligence….In addition the U.S. is providing aerial refueling for Saudi fighter aircraft.

Wellen concludes: ” as always, it’s the civilians who bear the brunt of U.S. efforts to keep Iran in its place.” What is Iran’s place? Is it not a sovereign nation? Although it meddles militarily in internal affairs in other Muslim countries, I can’t think of a time that Iran has actually declared war on any country. Maybe the Crusades? What is Iran’s place?

Iran is situated along side Iraq and Saudi Arabia. That makes three oil rich countries in tandem. Among the three America is in cahoots with Saudi, which places Iraq and Iran in a close tie for last place in American eyes.

Why Saudi Arabia?

That’s easy. Although the price of oil varies, as do all commodities, Saudi at least attempts to keep it stable. That’s one. I’m not really sure which is more important, but number two, our friends the Saudis purchase billions and billions of dollars worth of military stuff from us every year. That keeps scores of congresspeople and thousands and thousands of Americans who work in the defense industry happy.

Today Saudi Arabia is using made-in-America bombers to destroy targets in Yemen. At the risk of sounding cynical, the more bombs they drop, the more bombs they have to buy. The more planes they fly, the more spare parts they need. Saudi Arabia is a huge trading partner with the United States.

Mushroom Cloud

There is a folk song from the 1950s that still bears relevance. “The Merry Minuet” names countries that do not like each other (then)–one can change the countries and the song remains relevant. The moral of the satire is that, if perpetual hostility remains the norm, then nuclear annihilation will be the conclusion.

There’s rioting in Africa / There’s strife in Iran. / There’s hurricanes in Florida / And Texas needs rain. /

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls / The French hate the Germans / The Germans hate the Poles. / Italians hate Yugoslavs / South Africans hate the Dutch. / And I don’t like anybody very much.

But we can be happy and tranquil and proud / ’cause man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud. / And we can be certain / That some lovely day // Someone will set the spark off / And we will all be blown away.

Has the world changed much since then? I don’t think so. I think it has gotten worse. Has war changed? I think so. It has gotten worse. During wars gone by, soldiers fought soldiers and soldiers died. Today ground troops engage ground troops and soldiers die. But aerial and missile warfare has changed the face of war.

The statistics in the following article are from 2014 (http://www.rt.com), but they are indicative of the incredible numbers of civilian deaths in modern wars.

The number of civilians killed in Iraq in 2014 doubled from 9,743 in 2013, while compared to 2012, the number has grown nearly four times, Iraq Body Count reports.

“These numbers do not include combatant deaths, which even by the most cautious tallies have also seen a sharp rise in 2014,”

Last year’s is the highest death toll since 2006-07, and IBC links it to the rise of Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) as a major force in the conflict, the Iraqi military response and the bombing campaign by US and coalition air forces.

Iraq Body Counts’ estimates:

Baghdad: 4,767 deaths

Anbar: 3,623 deaths

Salak Al Din: 2,550 deaths

Ninewa: 2,367 deaths

Baghdad has become the deadliest Iraqi city for civilians, where 4,767 civilians have been killed in violence. In Anbar province the death toll reached 3,600 with half of them – 1,748 people – being victims of the Iraqi military daily air strikes, the report says.

And that’s just Iraq, to which Peter, Paul, and Mary would ask:

How many deaths will it take ’til we know / That too many people have died?