2-22: Flynn out, McMaster in

My ownership of this domain is running out. Please let me know if you would like me to renew it and continue writing this blog. Thank you. –paul

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In the wake of the Michael Flynn debacle as President Donald Trump’s defunct National Security Adviser, the president has since appointed Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster in his stead. Yesterday antiwar.com ran this ominous headline:

The US Military’s Limited Critique of Itself Ensures Future Disasters

The article depicts McMaster as “a ‘warrior’ and a true believer in military power, applied intelligently, that is. He [McMaster] has been highly critical of political power brokers in Washington, DC, and wrote a book on the mishandling of the military during the Vietnam War.”

In order to gain some perspective on McMaster’s worldview, seen through his eyes as a career military man, consider the article below from William J. Astore.

From July 26, 2013:

In the New York Times on July 20 [2013], Major General H.R. McMaster penned a revealing essay on “The Pipe Dream of Easy War.” McMaster made three points about America’s recent wars and military interventions:

  1. In stressing new technology as being transformative, the American military neglected the political side of war. They forgot their Clausewitz in a celebration of their own prowess, only to be brought back to earth by messy political dynamics in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
  2. Related to (1), the US military neglected human/cultural aspects of war and therefore misunderstood Iraqi and Afghan culture. Cultural misunderstandings transformed initial battlefield victories into costly political stalemates.
  3. Related to (1) and (2), war is uncertain and unpredictable. Enemies can and will adapt.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these points, or in the general’s broad lesson that “American forces must cope with the political and human dynamics of war in complex, uncertain environments. Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely.”

The last sentence is a dig at the Air Force and an argument for the continuing relevance of ground forces, which is unsurprising coming from an Army general who commands Fort Benning in Georgia.

But the sum total of McMaster’s argument is remarkably banal. Yes, war is political, human, and chaotic. Did our military professionals and civilian experts really forget this before making their flawed decisions to go to war after 9/11?

McMaster ends his critique with a few words of praise for the US military’s adaptability. The usual refrain: We messed up, but we learned from our mistakes, and are ready to take on new challenges, as long as the department of defense remains fully funded, and as long as America puts its faith in men like McMaster and not in machines/technology.

Here comes the other foot.

If those are the primary lessons our country should have learned since 9/11, we’re in big, big trouble.

So, here are three of my own “lessons” in response to McMaster’s. They may not be popular, but that’s because they’re a little more critical of our military – and a lot more critical of America.

  1. Big mistakes by our military are inevitable because the American empire is simply too big, and American forces are simply too spread out globally, often in countries where the “ordinary” people don’t want us. To decrease our mistakes, we must radically downsize our empire.
  2. The constant use of deadly force to police and control our empire is already sowing the deadly seeds of blowback. Collateral damage and death of innocents via drones and other “kinetic” attacks is making America less safe rather than more.

Like the Romans before us, as Tacitus said, we create a desert with our firepower and call it “peace.” But it’s not peace to those on the receiving end of American firepower. Their vows of vengeance perpetuate the cycle of violence. Add to this our special forces raids, our drone strikes, and other meddling and what you get is a perpetual war machine that only we can stop. But we can’t stop it because like McMaster we keep repeating, “This next war, we’ll get it right.”

3.  We can’t defeat the enemy when it is us. Put differently, what’s the sense in defeating the enemies of freedom overseas at the same time as our militarized government is waging a domestic crackdown on dissent (otherwise known as freedom of speech) in the “homeland”?

Articles like McMaster’s suggest that our military can always win future wars, mainly by fighting more intelligently. These articles never question the wisdom of American militarization, nor do they draw any attention to the overweening size and ambition of the department of defense and its domination of American foreign policy.

Indeed, articles like McMaster’s, in reassuring us that the military will do better in the next round of fighting, ensure that we will fight again – probably achieving nothing better than stalemate while wasting plenty of young American (and foreign) lives.

Is it possible that the best way to win future wars is to avoid them altogether? As simple as that question is, you will rarely hear it asked in the halls of power in Washington.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Placed in perspective …

It is not unpatriotic to question our military, the defense budget, or American presence and actions in other countries. Astore refers to “the Romans before us.” Two millennia ago it was good to be a Roman citizen carrying all the rights and privileges of the Pax Romana, Roman Peace. As long as other countries paid tribute to Rome–in the form of taxes, soldiers, blue and no-collar workers, food and other supplies–the Roman Army would not annihilate them.

Adherents to the “my country, right or wrong” philosophy may want to read one of these books:

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: Life, Liberty, and the Death of the Republic, Barry Linton

Spoiler Alert: They don’t end well.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

1-22: A Message from the Heartland Regarding Immigration

Wee Mama of the Daily Kos reprinted the announcement below. It is an intramural address from a principal to the entire student body of the school he administers. I share it in its entirety and without comment. Make of it what you will.

“From a High School in Iowa …”

The following announcement was made this morning by Kevin Biggs, principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School (Des Moines).

“Good Morning Roughriders:

I apologize for the interruption. Please place down your pens or pencils and listen to this announcement. This weekend, much of the world’s attention was focused on an effort by the federal government to impose far-reaching restrictions on the ability of immigrants and refugees to come to the United States. From protesters at airports and on the streets to lawyers and judges in courtrooms, there was a swift reaction by many in support of immigrants and refugees.

To all of our students who are immigrants or refugees – and to their friends and classmates and teachers who are also concerned because of these recent events – know that you belong here – Roosevelt HS and DMPS stands by you. As you know, TRHS is a school of such diversity, with a student body that encompasses over 40 different languages and cultures. Over the years, thousands of refugee students from around the world have attended school at DMPS. Many have labeled TRHS as the most diverse high school in the state of Iowa, which in my opinion is a strength and gift that we are to be extremely proud of, but also use to grow as human beings.

Each one of you is sitting here today because your parents or guardians wanted you to attend a real-world high school, that exposed you to various cultures, religions, languages, experiences, and beliefs…because understanding and respecting these differences is what allows each of us to grow into the respecting, accepting, and loving leaders of tomorrow. Because of your attendance at TRHS, I believe you possess, or will eventually possess, a unique perspective on life and the world, one that will prepare you well for whatever conflict is thrown your way in the next few years.

For our students of immigrant families, we want to help you learn and succeed in school. We want to see you have fun and make friends and find your passions. We want to be there to celebrate that day when you walk across a stage to receive your diploma. We want to help you grow into the people you want to become. At TRHS, we welcome immigrants and refugees as our students and families, as our neighbors and friends. The entire district values our students, no matter where they might come from – this is your home and we are honored to serve you. The adults in the building are here to help in any way that you might  need.

When children in Des Moines show up at our schools – no matter their place of birth or religion or language or skin color – they should know that they belong here and we stand by them. America is a country of immigrants; every one of us has roots which began in countries across the globe. America was built on the pursuit of freedoms, and it is our responsibility as citizens to stand-up for what we believe is right and just.

For our immigrant students, especially those of you who’s home country is Iran, or Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, or Somalia…we are here to support you as this attempt to ban your family from our country is constructed by the federal government. I ask every TRHS student to stand by our friends, support them with unwavering love and empathy, and be respectful during this chaotic time. This is a time where Roughriders can show the world what happens when unity and love can overcome injustice. We love and respect each and every one of you and hope to prove that through our actions each day. Thank you for providing me a few minutes of your time. Go Riders!”

End

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

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[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Daily Kos.]

2-1: Italy’s ‘Humanitarian Corridor’

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from The Daily Beast.]

Activities at U.S. airports dominated the weekend news and have caused on-going outrage and debate ever since. By way of contrast I offer an alternative piece—not an alternative fact—written by Barbie Latza Nadeau about a contemporaneous incident at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Yearning to Breathe Free

In Italy, Saving the Syrian Children

FIUMICINO, Italy — It is just before 11 o’clock on Monday morning at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and Nour Essa is waiting anxiously in the arrivals hall of Terminal Two for a very special flight from Beirut, Lebanon.

From Fear to Hope

The 30-year-old Syrian refugee knows that in a few minutes, 41 other refugees like her will be crossing the threshold, essentially moving from a state of fear and uncertainty to one of hope thanks to Italy’s “Humanitarian Corridors” safe passage program.

Like her, the refugees on the other side of the opaque doors have been hand-picked from refugee camps, vetted and invited to be resettled in Italy. And, as it was with her, they have no idea just what to expect on arrival.

Essa, 30, shared the same sad journey from Syria to Europe as those coming today, even though the last part of her path from to Italy from Lesbos, Greece, last April was the result of very special dispensation: She and her husband and young son were among 12 refugees Pope Francis brought home to Rome with him from an apostolic voyage to the island.

At the time, she told The Daily Beast that she was scared and nervous and didn’t know what to expect. She and her family had been given less than a day to decide whether to go with the pope or wait and try to get to northern Europe to join other Syrians from their village outside of Damascus as they had planned. “I hope we are doing the right thing,” she said at the time.

Now, she knows she and her family made the best decision. That’s why she is at the airport to offer the newcomers comfort and hope.

Churches are not buildings.

Essa, who trained as a microbiologist in Syria, will start a new job as a biologist with the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome next month. She and her family have learned Italian and have moved into their own apartment after living in a shelter provided by the Sant’Egidio Catholic Community, which is sponsoring today’s arrival along with the Federation of Protestant Churches, the Waldensian and Methodist Churches in Italy….

Sheltering the Homeless

Most of Monday’s arrivals were from Aleppo and Homs. The youngest was a baby born on December 12. Most were broken families like that of Kiamam Habat, a young mother with four children, age 13, 12, eight and 18 months in tow. Her husband died before her youngest son was born in a refugee camp along the Syrian border with Lebanon. She had no financial or other means to get to Europe on smugglers’ ships with her children. And she had no home to return to in Syria….

“O! woe is me, / To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!” –Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, I, 169

Habat’s eyes, red from exhaustion and emotion, seemed unable to hide the horror she has seen. As she spoke of hope, her children sat quietly around her, the older ones each holding small bouquets of flowers and notes of thanks they planned to give to the caretakers where they will be spending their first night in Italy.

They will be moved to Palermo, Sicily, where they will live in a group home with other widowed Syrian families. “I hope they can return to Syria one day in the future,” Habat says, holding back tears as she looks at her children. “But for now they need to go to school and be normal. And we all need to heal.”

Can any parent, any civilized person, not understand Habat’s plight?

I hope they can return to Syria,” she says. That is home.

But for now they need to go to school,” she says. That is what children do. They go to school.

But for now they need to be normal,” she says. War is not normal. It must never be made to seem normal.

And we all need to heal,” she says.

Let us stop the bleeding so that the healing may begin.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-31: Gandhi, Truth Teller

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from history.com.]

January 30, 1948

Gandhi Assassinated

This is the first half of the first paragraph published by history.com addressing the brutal and untimely death of a great man.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic. Born the son of an Indian official in 1869, Gandhi’s Vaishnava mother was deeply religious and early on exposed her son to Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion that advocated nonviolence….

For a man who chose to live simply, Gandhi left us a biography filled with complexities. As with all great personages, his life merits our attention, his cause deserves reflection. I have tried in the quotes below to honor Gandhi’s memory by trying to capture universal truths … leaving the last word to Gandhi himself.

Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address.” “Equal and exact justice to all men; of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations …”

Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed. “The spiritual perfection of man consists in his becoming an intelligent being—one who knows all that he is capable of learning.”

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. A Thousand Days (1965). “Above all he (John F. Kennedy) gave the world for an imperishable moment the vision of a leader who greatly understood the terror and the hope, the diversity and the possibility, of life on this planet and who made people look beyond nation and race to the future of humanity.”

James Monroe, “Annual Message to Congress.” “The Monroe Doctrine.” “… with the governments … whose independence we have … acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling, in any other manner, their destiny …”

Denis Diderot, “Essay on the Merit of Virtue.” “From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”

Mohandas Gandhi, True Patriotism: Some Sayings of Mahatma Gandhi. “Nonviolence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another. There is no god higher than truth.”

 

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-30: South China Sea From China’s POV

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from South China Morning Post, January 27.]

I remain troubled and concerned by Sino-American double daring in the South China Sea. Consider Friday’s reporting from South China Morning Post’s Liu Zhen.

China ‘steps up preparedness for possible military conflict with US’

Reporter Liu Zhen writes that “China is stepping up preparedness for a possible military conflict with the US” and warns (my word) that “Beijing is bracing itself for a possible deterioration in Sino-US ties, with a particular emphasis on maritime security.” She goes on to write: the “People’s Liberation Army said in a commentary on its official website last Friday … that the chances of war have become ‘more real’ amid a more complex security situation in Asia Pacific.”

We rarely read in the American press such strong rhetoric coming from China. Thus, my fear. Liu continues,

The commentary written by an official at the national defence mobilisation department in the Central Military Commission said the call for a US rebalancing of its strategy in Asia, military deployments in the East and South China Seas, and the instillation of a missile defence system in South Korea were hot spots getting closer to ignition.

“Instillation” is her word—not a misspelling of installation—which bears thought, as we think of instilling values in our children not installing them. Liu then paraphrases from an official publication of the Chinese government, People’s Daily:

China’s military [will] conduct exercises on the high seas regardless of foreign provocations. [For example,] China’s sole aircraft carrier Liaoning passed through the narrow Taiwan Strait last month.

More troubling, she adds … to her Chinese readership:

New White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a press conference … that the US would prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea.

Spicer told the press “the US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there” … “It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country,” he said.

From what source do we, the USA, derive unilateral authority to “defend international territories”? China responded quickly and directly to Spicer’s comments.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying [told] the US “to be cautious in what it says and does, so as to avoid harming the peace and stability in the region.”

Warning!

Liu notes: “President Xi Jinping is overseeing massive reforms within China’s military to improve its fighting capabilities.” She also states ominously,

Vice-Admiral Yuan Yubai, the former North Sea Fleet commander, has been promoted to head the Southern Theatre Command, which focuses on the South China Sea. “Promoting naval officers to command theatres is aimed at utilising them to the maximum and getting ready to win wars …”

As I have worried before, openly in this space, our military presence throughout East Asia is not a trifling matter. Without the invocation of trite slogans such as “defending freedom” or “keeping the world safe,” I would genuinely like to hear from our government a concise definition of “American interests.”

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-13, Time to Leave Afghanistan

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from Reuters at Worldpost.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

… but … but … but

U.S. Military: Firefight With Taliban Caused Civilian Deaths, But Troops Acted In Self-Defense

KABUL, Jan 12 (Reuters) – A U.S. military investigation confirmed that dozens of Afghan civilians were killed in a special forces operation near the northern city of Kunduz last year, but found troops had acted in self-defense and decided no action would be taken against them.

The report, published [yesterday], said 33 civilians were killed and 27 wounded last November when a U.S. and Afghan special forces unit returned fire against Taliban fighters in the village of Boz, near Kunduz, and called in air support.

The euphemism for this is “collateral damage.”… but everything is OK because the action fell under the cover of “self-defense.”

“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” the U.S. military in Afghanistan said in a statement.

The raid, involving both U.S. and Afghan special forces, took place during operations to push back Taliban fighters from the vicinity of Kunduz, the strategic city they had come close to overrunning in October.

October of what year one might ask.

The scene:

The unit came under heavy fire from Taliban fighters using civilian houses as firing positions and suffered several casualties before calling in air support, the military added.

“Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan said in the statement, adding that “all possible measures” would be taken to protect Afghan civilians.

While the investigation concluded that more than 30 civilians had been killed, it said aircraft providing support had used “the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings.”

It also found that no civilians were seen or identified, and the dead and wounded were probably inside the buildings used by Taliban fighters. Some of the casualties may also have been caused by a Taliban ammunition dump that exploded.

Statistics don’t help.

Two U.S. soldiers and three Afghan army commandos were killed and another four Americans and 11 Afghan commandos wounded, with around 26 Taliban fighters also killed.

Last year, the U.S. military disciplined 16 service members over a separate incident in Kunduz in 2015, when a U.S. air strike killed 42 people in a hospital run by medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Being sorry is not enough. It is high time we withdrew our forces from Afghanistan. Since early successes against the Taliban in that country over a decade ago, we—the U.S. military—have accomplished nothing of value. The first step toward stopping the killing and dying on both sides is withdrawal. There is nothing of value to be accomplished by our continued presence in Afghanistan. Nothing.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-4: Happy New Year, Make It Happen

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from Marjorie Cohn at Truthout: “A Year of U.S. Militarism.”]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

At 2016’s end, human rights lawyer and lecturer Marjorie Cohn summarizes what she terms

“the intensification of Cold War dynamics,”

with particular regard to U.S. foreign policy and actions, including, in her words,

  • the ongoing proxy war in Syria
  • the U.S.-supported Saudi-led bombing in Yemen
  • U.S. use of drones and manned bombers in Libya
  • U.S. bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • unprecedented U.S. military aid to Israel
  • U.S. special operations in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen
  • U.S. saber-rattling against China in the South China Sea, and
  • steps toward normalization of relations with Cuba.

Ms. Cohn’s context is her fear that the United States and Russia appear to be preparing themselves, their citizens, and the world for military engagement. Below are just the first paragraphs she writes about U.S. activities in the past year.

Syria

The tragic war in Syria continues unabated, with the Syrian government fighting ISIS … and defending itself against rebel forces. Although Assad has been responsible for large numbers of civilian casualties … the “fog of war” makes it difficult to sort out whether the liberation of Aleppo is “a good thing” or whether Russia and Syria are committing war crimes, which is “a bad thing…. the charge that Russia deliberately targets civilian facilities and centers is, of course, a part of the growing anti-Russian line that’s captured our politics and has led to this scandal in Washington.”

Yemen

The United States has supported the Saudi coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. This conflict is part of a regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are bombing Yemen in order to defeat the Houthis, a Muslim minority who have been resisting government repression for the past several years. Iran has been accused of supporting the Houthis, although Iran denies this. Yemen is strategically located on a narrow waterway that links the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea. Much of the world’s oil passes through this waterway.

Surprise! Oil!

Libya

Obama [said] “the worst mistake” of his presidency was not planning for the aftermath of the U.S. 2011 regime change in Libya, although he stubbornly maintained that ousting President Muammar Gaddafi was “the right thing to do.” The U.S. regime change created a vacuum, leading to the rise of ISIS.

Iraq

Four U.S. presidents ― George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama ― have bombed Iraq almost continuously for more than 25 years.

Afghanistan

In October 2015, U.S. troops bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including patients, three children, and medical personnel from Doctors Without Borders. Thirty-seven people were injured, including 19 staff members …

African Continent

The United States continues to pursue “low-profile missions,” “named operations,” and “quasi-wars” in Africa …

Israel

In late September, Obama pledged to give Israel a record $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years, fortifying his legacy as the strongest financial supporter of Israel ever to occupy the White House….

China

In October, a U.S. Navy warship sailed close to islands China is claiming in the South China Sea. It was the fourth time this year the U.S. challenged what it considers China’s unfounded claims in the South China Sea.

Cuba

In March, Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, the first by a U.S. president since 1928. Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro forged a pact in December 2015 to work toward normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. They have concluded bilateral agreements connecting the two countries by direct telephone service, postal service and commercial air travel. The U.S. State Department removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Iran

Obama certified Iran’s compliance with its initial obligations under the nuclear deal and the corresponding lifting and/or waiver of international sanctions on Iran. Additionally, Iran released five Americans detained in Iran and the U.S. and Iran settled a long-standing financial dispute.

Where do we go from here?

No doubt the world of geopolitics played among superpowers and want-to-be countries is complicated and harrowing. But it is not a game. When mutual respect and diplomacy are forsaken, we are all losers. Let’s not just mouth to each other,

Happy New Year!

Let’s join together and make it happen.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-21: Stop the Haters

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece, a report by Mehran Mehrdad Ali from the New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights.]

Mehran Mehrdad Ali claims, in the title of a piece she wrote earlier this month,

We Want a Hate-Free City

Ali reports that

On December 2, hundreds of residents gathered at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights in Queens to call for their community to be made a “hate-free zone,” in response to the recent spike in hate crimes, assaults and incidents against people of oppressed groups….

It shouldn’t be naïve to believe that America is truly the land of the free. But it is, naïve that is. A nation of immigrants—not counting our indigenous brethren, of course—the thought of any group expressing dominance of any kind over any other group should be odious to all of us. But it isn’t. And too many of us opt to remain silent. Ali provides details of the event, beginning with the gathering at

“Diversity” Plaza

Participants gathered at Diversity Plaza for the rally and then marched to 89th Street, where a closing rally was held. Along the way, they chanted, “Here to stay, here to fight!” “When (immigrants/Muslim lives/women/trans folks/queer folks) are under attack, what do we do? Fight back, fight back!” “United we are stronger!”… The chant sheet distributed to marchers was in various languages, including Spanish, Hindi and Bengali.

The rally wasn’t just about people coexisting and tolerating each other or a particular oppressed group talking only about that group’s issues, but people facing different oppressions coming together to show true solidarity. There was a sense that

everyone is in this together.

Isn’t that true? Are we not all in this—this city, this nation, this world, this life—together?

… Two elderly women held up signs from Jewish Voice for Peace that read, “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia.” …

There was a call for people to come together with elected officials to create

hate-free zones.

The implications of that statement are startling and horrifying. The United States of America, by definition, if not by our Constitution, should be hate free.

… From snippets of conversation heard during the rally and the march, it was clear that people see the need to start getting organized themselves–and that they lack faith in elected officials….

The march was bold and confident. There were several large banners and organized contingents, as well as enthusiastic individuals. Hundreds of people marched proudly and loudly through the streets of Jackson Heights, and there was great support and solidarity for the march from the community.

This is the start of something that has the potential to grow much bigger and more powerful as people start to get organized to make our communities hate-free.

“… start … potential to grow …”

This is 2016 not 1516. Have we as a people regressed, or did we never even come close to reaching our potential? Why do we insist that in order for some among us to live the dream, so to speak, others must be denied? To my way of thinking, that is un-American.

All Deserve a Hate-Free America.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-20: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Huffington Post.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

We live in a dangerous, complex time, as evidenced by the headlines and excerpted articles below—all of which appeared yesterday. One day’s worth of news. Some (may, I hope) assault our sense of being American citizens of the world. All affect our humanity and decency.

Terrorism in Turkey

Russian Ambassador Shot and Killed in Turkish Capital of Ankara

ANKARA, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot in the back and killed as he gave a speech at an Ankara art gallery on Monday by an off-duty police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” and “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the death of envoy Andrei Karlov, calling it a “terrorist act.” Relations between Moscow and Ankara have long been strained over the conflict in Syria, with the two supporting opposing sides in the war.

… and whom do Americans we support?

Russia is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes helped Syrian forces end rebel resistance last week in the northern city of Aleppo. Turkey, which has long sought Assad’s ouster, has been repairing ties with Moscow after shooting down a Russian warplane over Syria last year….

Deja Vu! Another Truck, Another Mass Killing

Truck Plows into Crowd near Christmas Market in Berlin

BERLIN, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, police said….

The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. The attack was claimed by Islamic State….

Berlin police said nine people were killed….

… people praying …

Man Opens Fire in Zurich Mosque, Wounding Three People

ZURICH, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A man stormed into a Zurich mosque and opened fire on people praying on Monday evening, injuring three people, police said….

What happens to evacuees from a war zone?

Aleppo Evacuations Resume after Days-Long Standoff

Thousands were evacuated from the last rebel-held enclave of the city of Aleppo on Monday after a deal was reached to allow people to leave two besieged pro-government villages …

Convoys of buses from eastern Aleppo reached rebel-held areas of countryside to the west of the city in cold winter weather, according to a U.N. official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group….

What does it mean to be victorious?

The recapture of Aleppo is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory so far in the nearly six-year-old war, but the fighting is by no means over with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.

Buses Burned

On Sunday, some of the buses sent to al-Foua and Kefraya to carry evacuees out were attacked and torched by armed men, who shouted “God is greatest” and brandished their weapons in front of the burning vehicles …

 

Russian High-Stakes War Games, Playing for Real

Russian Military Plane Crashes in Siberia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that one of its planes had crashed in northeast Siberia with 39 people on board as it tried to make an emergency landing near a Soviet-era military base….

Putin “Remilitarizing” the Arctic. Why? Does Oil Have Anything to Do with This?

Tiksi, a coastal town of around 5,000 people inside the Arctic circle, hosts a Soviet-era military air base that has been renovated in recent years as part of President Vladimir Putin’s drive to remilitarize the Arctic.

Killing the Old Fashioned Way

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 49 Soldiers in Yemen

ADEN (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 49 soldiers … in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on Sunday … as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nothing New

Officials said at least 60 other troops were wounded in the attack, which occurred near al-Sawlaban military base in Aden’s Khor Maksar district, where another Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up a week ago killing 50 soldiers….

What will we do in the near term in the Philippines?

Philippines’ Duterte: ‘Bye-Bye America,’ We Don’t Need Your Money

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring “bye-bye America,” and “we don’t need your money.”…

The firebrand leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.

“We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many,” he said. “The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.”

And That Is Just One Day!

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-19: Does the South China Sea Belong to China?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Associated Press’s Christopher Bodeen, “Report: Beijing Adds Weapons to South China Sea Islands.”]

China Building Bases in South China Sea … Why?

According to AP’s Christopher Bodeen,

China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea … upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg.

Do you think? The question, of course, is why. Why does behemoth China feel it necessary to bolster their coastal defenses?

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report … that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.

What country would be foolish enough to fire missiles at China, and for what purpose?

The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military grade 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations and other infrastructure.

“… over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants …” How is the U.S. threatened by the existence of these bases? More to the point, I guess, is what U.S. interests are threatened? And, digging deeper, what are U.S. interests in and around the South China Sea?

Appropriate and Legal

In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry [said] that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”

“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.

Point taken. But who poses such a threat?

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing that he had no information about the reported weaponry, but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right.

The Philippines, which has troops and villagers stationed on some reefs and islands near China’s new artificial islands, expressed concern despite recently improving relations with China.

“If true, it is a big concern for us and the international community who uses the South China Sea lanes for trade,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good.”

China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” Center for Strategic and International Studies experts wrote in the report.

Now I get it.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” the report said.

Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region while downplaying their military utility. They also mark China’s claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea.

Dollars, Dollars, Dollars

It hardly seems plausible that America would attack such an important trade partner and debt holder as China.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year, while the U.S. Navy insists on its right to operate throughout the area, including in waters close to China’s new outposts. China has strongly criticized such missions, known as freedom of navigation operations….

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a visit to the U.S. last year that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area … Despite that, China considers it vital to equip the islands with defensive means given their distance — 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) — from the Chinese mainland, together with the nearby presence of forces from rival claimants such as Vietnam, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.

“As the matter of fact, these occupied islands have been armed and fortified for a long time,” Yue said. “No country in the world would only commit to providing civil services without considering its own security safety.”

Looking forward, the nature of China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the U.S., said the IISS’s Neill.

In or Out?

How do we Americans find ourselves so deeply involved in affairs such as this? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the U.S. Navy’s insistence “on its right to operate throughout the area.” Since WWII, we have established and expanded our military presence in Southeast Asia. After using weapons of mass destruction (the “bomb”) on Hiroshima and Nagasake, we wrote the Japanese Constitution which forbade that nation from rebuilding its military. We, the U.S.A. would instead impose our military in Japan in perpetuity.

Then came the Korean War. More troops, more need for permanent bases in South Korea. Then Vietnam. Air and naval bases in the Philippines. War. War. More war. How appalling it is that we commit our military so liberally and interminably. When it comes to war zones, we’re in.

The question we need to demand our leaders to answer is: How do we get out?

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.