2-20: Hoover-Haunted America

Hoover Hovers

Names on buildings matter. Ask Donald Trump. Which is why I resent—and remain totally befuddled by—the continuance of the FBI building in Washington, D.C. still bearing the name of the reprehensible J. Edgar Hoover. Unless FBI really stands for Federal Blackmail Institute.

Hoover reigned unchecked over his personal clandestine empire for half a century. While his tough talk about gangsters, communists, and Nazis garnered blissful praise among his countrymen, his well-known and well-documented hatred for Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, among many others, was overlooked, if not out-right forgiven. J. Edgar Hoover was a patriot, the lazy wanted to believe.

For anyone who holds dear the notions that America is a republic, a democracy, and a nation of law, the tyrannical power Hoover wielded must be abhorred. J. Edgar Hoover was a bum.

Rumors abound that Hoover remained in power untethered because he held “dirt” on politicians, up to and including presidents. He threatened them, one after the other. He degraded the mighty and manipulated the masses. We survived Hoover, but as a nation we did not come out unscathed. His life is an historical blot. Only Death was able to end his monomaniacal ruthlessness. Why is his name still on that building?

Today, a new crisis has arisen.

Lefty that I am, Trump is not my guy; but he is our president. I accept that. I don’t like his cabinet appointments, I believe he is eroding our standing in the world even worse than “W” did, and I fear that he will eviscerate the commonweal by sledgehammering the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and other government programs that reflect our empathetic nature as a people. That said …

The Constitution does confer broad powers to the president. Scary, maybe, but there you have it. The assumption John Q. Citizen hopes to be true is that, when POTUS acts in our name, he does so having pondered deeply the exhaustive information provided to him by subject matter experts.

Therein lies the rub.

President Trump can’t be bothered reading. He has all but declared open warfare with “Intelligence.” Because he has said that he does not trust the many agencies that gather, report, and summarize sensitive information for him, their prime consumer, they have allegedly decided to withhold information from him. I agree 100% with the career professionals who believe that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner do not belong anywhere near national security briefings. But, alas, I do not have a say in the matter.

I don’t trust Donald Trump to “do the right thing” ever. But my opinion really doesn’t matter. Nor do I trust our Big Brother organizations to decide independently which data bits they will provide to, or withhold from, the president. Is this a Constitutional crisis? I don’t know.

I do know that I do not want federal employees, avowed agents of the government, making unfettered, unilateral decisions about the manner in which they choose to perform their jobs. Hoover is dead. Long live democracy!

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.]

2-17: The Russians Are Coming

Leaker: Pssst! Hey, buddy. You a news guy?

News Guy: Yeah. Whatchyugot?

Leaker: Ruskies. All over the place. This town is full of them.

News Guy: That’s not news. It’s a free country. What are they doing? Who are they talking to?

Leaker: They’re infiltrating the government. They’re everywhere.

News Guy: Give me a for instance.

Leaker: For instance, the media stinks with them: reporters, editors, you name it. They are in town halls and state houses. They’re right here in D.C., getting ready to overthrow the very core of our democracy. Heck, they’re even crawling around Hollywood, making movies designed to pollute American minds.

News Guy: Names. I need names.

Leaker: I have so many names you wouldn’t believe. They have spies. I have my own informants. Reliable sources.

News Guy: How do I know you are not simply trying to scare the public?

Leaker: Scare! You want scare? I’ll give you scare. There are many, many commies, today, in all branches of the military. That includes generals as well as privates. Does that scare you?

News Guy: I am finding this entire conversation extremely hard to believe. You haven’t given me a single lead worth following.

Leaker: Hmm. You don’t trust me. You don’t believe me.

News Guy: Not until you give me something substantial.

Senate Page: Paging the honorable Mr. McCarthy. Paging the honorable Mr. McCarthy.

Leaker: Have to go. See ya.

End

[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.]

2-14: Separation of Powers

Most U.S. citizens, it seems, need a refresher course in civics whenever our vaunted peaceful transfer of power occurs. The current ultra-partisanship that permeates the land and polarizes—not quite paralyzes—us is really nothing new. Heck, when George Washington was president, he had Federalist Alexander Hamilton barking in one ear while Republican Thomas Jefferson yelped in the other. When the bickering ebbed, however, all agreed that the Constitution reigned supreme. And it has ever been so.

The website

usgovinfo.about.com

provides a useful summation, authored by Robert Longley, of the respective roles of the three branches of our government.

A System of Checks and Balances

The framers of the U.S. Constitution built a system of “separation of powers” through “checks and balances” into the document to ensure that no single person or branch of the new government could ever become too powerful.

Men like James Madison knew all too well from hard experience the dangers of things like despotic kings. Or as Madison himself put it, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

Madison and his fellow framers believed that in creating any government administered by humans over humans, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

Three Branches, Separate But Equal

In the provision of the three branches of governmental power legislative, executive, and judicial—into the Constitution, the framers built their vision of a stable federal government as assured by a system of separation of powers with checks and balances.

Madison wrote … “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Checks and Balances in the U.S. Government

In both theory and practice, the power of each branch of American government is held in check by the powers of the other two in several ways. For example, while the President of the United States (executive branch) can veto laws passed by Congress (legislative branch), Congress can override presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote of both houses.

Similarly, the Supreme Court (judicial branch) can nullify laws passed by Congress by ruling them to be unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court’s power is balanced by the fact that its presiding judges must be appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate.

But Are the Branches Truly Equal?

Some people argue that there are more checks or limitations on the power of the legislative branch than over the other two branches. For example, both the executive and judicial branches can override or nullify the laws it passes. While they are basically correct, it is how the Founding Fathers intended.

Our system of separation of powers through checks and balances reflects the Founders’ interpretation of a republican form of government in which the legislative or lawmaking branch, as the most powerful branch, must also be the most restrained. The Founders believed this because the Constitution grants “We the People” the power to govern ourselves through the very laws we demand of the representatives we elect to the legislative branch.

Fallible But Durable

The authors of the Constitution ignored the peculiar institution of slavery. Although an expedient omission at the time, that was a huge mistake. Nonetheless, the document has only been amended 27 times. It has withstood the ravages of time and remains the centerpiece of our “nation of laws.”

Members of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government, We the People are watching you.

End

[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.]

2-13: Road to Political Perdition

Here is a story I missed last week. Saw it over the weekend at Huffington Post, reported by Sam Levine.

Michigan GOP Official Resigns after Calling for ‘Another Kent State’

Unbelievable! The article begins,

A Michigan Republican Party official has resigned his position less than a week after he called for “another Kent State” after protests at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dan Adamini’s comment was a reference to the 1970 incident in which members of the Ohio National Guard shot at student protesters [on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio], killing four and wounding nine.

He resigned as the secretary of the Marquette County Republican Party on Wednesday, after he faced widespread backlash over his comment.

Backlash? Is that all? Adamini was not exercising free speech, he was yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium. He does not offer any explanation or express any remorse for making the comment. He does, however, rationalize the resignation of his secretariat.

“I have always been intent on being helpful to anyone I associate with, and at the moment, all the hatred and anger and threats are being directed not only to me, but to other members of the party … It’s made it impossible for me to be helpful. The desire to not be a distraction and a hindrance to the work of the party is what prompted me to do this.”

The work of the party!? Is this what we have become?

Violence is unacceptable.

The incident at Berkeley included what became a violent protest against the scheduled—then cancelled—appearance of Breitbart News’s Milo Yiannopoulos, a proudly self-proclaimed spokesperson for the political far-right. The eruption of violence was wrong and should be prosecuted as any illegal act.

Blood will have blood,” Macbeth bemoaned to his wife after he had slain King Duncan, thus foreshadowing his own ultimate demise.

Adamini and his ilk need to be reminded that the U.S. Constitution supersedes eye-for-an-eye vigilantism. This is the remark he tweeted: “Violent protesters who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery.”

Time to Worry

Thank goodness that at least this fool is not an elected official. But he is an apparatchik, and that scares me. Party fanaticism like Adamini’s has spawned personal animosities which has replaced genuine patriotism in America. Do we really want to continue along the road to political perdition? I don’t.

End

[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.]

2-10, Score Another One for Big Oil

Let the Drilling Begin

Having checkmated an Obama Executive Order, President Donald Trump cleared the board and set a new game in motion. Opening move, get rid of the pawns, you know, the little people.

Under Trump’s auspices and direction the Army Corps of Engineers reversed their earlier position and decreed that an environmental impact study is not necessary for the project to proceed. And so, drilling under Lake Oahe, which is situated within territorial boundaries of the Sioux Nation, has begun.

Energy Transfer Partners, the prime Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) contractor, has won. They can drill. Oil will flow. Bank accounts will rise. Stock holders will rejoice.

Jobs, Jobs, and More Jobs

Oh, and the president continues to claim that the project will “create thousands of jobs,” which sounds like the beginning of a crude joke: How many workers does it take to watch oil flow through a pipe? Rather, the serious question that we hope never requires an answer is: How many workers does it take to clean up an oil spill?

Although DAPL opponents vow to continue the fight the project in court, as of this writing, the drilling has already begun. Thus, I am pessimistic that DAPL will be thwarted in any way.

For what they are worth, if you have not followed this matter closely, the questions and answers below will provide useful information as to why the fight against DAPL was waged. They come from a Popular Science article, “What Is the Dakota Access Pipeline? A Controversial Connector,” by Mary Beth Griggs.

Where is the pipeline located?

The DAPL … snakes 1,172 miles through parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.

Why is the pipeline being built?

The pipeline is intended to transport 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the rich oil fields of North Dakota to a storage facility in Patoka, Illinois….

The pipeline is being built as a way to transport the large amounts of oil extracted from the Bakken without using tanker trucks or trains … Whether transporting oil by train, truck, ship, or pipeline, all methods involve environmental risks in the event of a crash or leak.

Why don’t people want a pipeline nearby?

There are innumerable reasons that people aren’t interested in having a major pipeline nearby. The people most affected by the pipeline construction, and the majority of people on the front lines of the protest, are the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies. The tribe’s main sources of drinking water are located downstream of the current route of the pipeline, and the protesters fear that a spill on the pipeline could irrevocably contaminate their water supply.

Griggs explains, “It’s not an unfounded fear….”

In 2010, a spill from an oil pipeline into the Kalamazoo River spewed 840,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment, leading to years of cleanup and recovery at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. That incident was the worst inland oil spill in the United States, but far from the only pipeline-related oil spill. More than a million barrels of oil have leaked from pipelines in the last 20 years….

And it’s not just environmental safety concerns.

In Shelby County, Alabama late last year, a construction accident caused a fatal explosion at a gasoline pipeline, sparking wildfires near the drought-ravaged region. The explosion occurred just a few miles away from the site of a gasoline pipeline spill that occurred a few weeks before.

“Then there’s the cultural aspect,” she adds.

 According to lawsuits filed on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the path of the pipeline crossed areas of cultural importance, including burial grounds and significant places of prayer. Some of those areas have reportedly already been destroyed in construction.

Is it really Us vs Them all the time? Is that our DNA? When did we devolve into a might makes us right society? Do all Americans share a common culture? Does it matter? And what is culture anyway?

Way back in the 19th century Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of being.” To me, that requires us to accept and respect others as they are. Further, it requires us not to ignore, disrespect, or destroy another’s way of life, particularly in vain pursuit of our own self-proclaimed desires.

End

[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.]

2-9: Sad Tale of Dakota Pipeline Continues

Army Corps of Engineers March On

When my light infantry brigade was based in Tay Ninh in 1966, we shared a bunker line with PhilCAG, Philippine Civil Assistance Group. The main job of this civil engineering unit was to build roads in this western province of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. If my platoon or company was not out in the boonies on an extended mission or otherwise engaged in protecting the camp itself—e.g., patrolling or manning the bunker line—we would assist PhilCAG by riding shotgun in their dump trucks and setting up a protective perimeter around their excavation site.

In the midst of wartime devastation of that beautiful land these guys were actually building something. I mention this because it is the only experience I have with military civil engineers, a very positive experience. So I can easily and readily transfer that sense of good will to U.S. military civil engineers. I can also attest to their bravery, as their work brings them to the enigmatic front lines which exposes them to imminent danger.

An Aside

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 the U.S. Navy created the Navy Construction Battalion. They soon shortened their name to “CB” which morphed into the nickname “Seabee.” Which brings us back to …

The Dakota Access Pipeline

Earlier this week the Army Deputy Assistant Secretary, Paul Cramer, announced in a letter to the House (of Representatives) Natural Resources Committee that the service—i.e., the Army Corps of Engineers—planned to allow Energy Transfer Partners to build a section of pipeline through Sioux territory without conducting an environmental impact study.

The previous administration granted a stay of this polarizing project back in December in order to allow time for the conduct of such a study. The current administration obliterated that stay via Executive Order. The Army’s Acting Secretary, Robert Speer, said, “… another study on the project’s possible environmental impact was unnecessary …”

Checked, Not Balanced

Drilling down the Corps’ official website, one finds a description of its Environmental Advisory Board.

The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) was created … in 1970 as a means for the Chief to gain outside, expert and independent advice on environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.…  We intend to … use the Board as a vehicle of communication to reach out and build partnerships, understandings and cooperation with the environmental community, and public at large.  Environmental concerns have never been more important. We see the EAB playing a key role in contributing to enhanced mutual understanding and confidence between the Corps and both the general public and the conservation community.

Further down the webpage is the EAB’s Charter Purpose:

Advise Chief of Engineers by providing independent advice and recommendations on matters relating to environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.

So, what’s the hurry? The Huffington Post’s Michael McLaughlin summarizes the Standing Rock Sioux’ argument against the project. It

  • threatens the water source for their reservation
  • disturbs sacred ground, and
  • violates a 19th century treaty with the federal government

What if?

If this fight is now over, we, the American people, lose. Respect for indigenous people disintegrates. Civilian control—the executive branch—over our distinguished military—the Army Corps of Engineers, in this case—devolves into dictatorial mockery. Treaties—our sacred word as a nation—become meaningless. And so one may sadly ask:

What have we become?

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.]

2-6, Vets Stand against Pipeline Again

The battle between the U.S. Government and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline project continues. The Huffington Post’s Mary Papenfuss reports:

Pipeline Will Never Be Built, Warriors Vow

These Vets make me proud. It is a testament to their constitution, as well as to the Constitution, that they continue to defend Native American rights which the federal government have trampled on or ignored for centuries. Many of the defenders bear the scars of the Vietnam Era. They know, firsthand, that might does not make right … nor should it. Papenfuss begins, “U.S. military veterans have thrown down the gauntlet … vowing that the Dakota Access Pipeline will ‘not be completed— not on our watch.’” She continues,

Veterans Stand, a group of vets who have vowed to protect the pipeline protesters of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and supporters, ominously threatened the possibility of more “boots on the ground” at the site — but also repeated their commitment to nonviolent action. The group is capable of calling up several thousand veterans to the protest site.

There are “Doctors without Borders.” These are “Warriors without Weapons.”

“We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected,” spokesman Anthony Diggs [said]. “That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch.”

… and yet arrests are made.

The latest defiant declaration follows the arrest Wednesday of nearly 80 protesters camped out at the demonstration site near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, amid [Government’s] … determined press to push through the controversial pipeline. Local law enforcement said the protesters were arrested when they moved from one of their camps onto land owned by pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners,

Does anyone remember Cliven Bundy, that stalwart American cattleman who brazenly grazed his private stock on public land and instigated an armed standoff with federal law enforcement? He aroused a few flag waving, misoriented libertarianistas but, in the end, was brought to court for his … well, for his blatant stupidity.

My intent is not to draw a false equivalency between Bundy’s illegal trespassing and the Sioux’ honorable defense of their sovereign territory. Rather, I want to expose Bundy and his ilk for the uncivilized barbarians they are, while extolling the Sioux and the non-Native Americans standing beside them as the heroes they are.

Follow the Money.

[President Donald] Trump late last month signed an executive order to advance construction of the pipeline just weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers had held up the pipeline by calling for a new environmental review that could take up to two years. Financial disclosure filings by the president (reported on by Mother Jones) have revealed that as recently as last summer he owned shares in Energy Transfer Partners, and company CEO Kelcy Warren contributed $100,000 to elect Trump.

… but we are told that only the media want to see the president’s tax returns. Balderdash!

The arrests at the protest site occurred the day after Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the environmental review and grant Energy Transfer Partners the final easement it needs to complete the last stretch of the $3.7 billion, 1,172-mille-long pipeline.

We are a “nation of law,” politicians like to brag. It just ain’t so.

When bankers go to jail for manipulating the housing market such that they reap filthy lucre while the poor are run out of their homes, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Steve Mnuchin, I mean you.

When corporations that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves while wandering the globe and extracting natural resources from dictatorial, impoverished countries such as Chad and Sudan, pay their fair share of taxes, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Exxon-Mobil, I mean you.

When politicians who incite wars, send others to fight them, and personally benefit from them are tried as criminals, I’ll believe we are a nation of law. Dick Cheney, I mean you.

Home of the Brave

Although the fair and equitable distribution of justice is wanting in our country, we are not without the bold and courageous. Vets Stand, you are the greatest of our generation. Standing Rock Sioux Nation, you are America.

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.]

 

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.

1-19: Manning-7, Petraeus-0

Military Justice: It’s Complicated

Two U.S. soldiers deploy to Iraq during undeclared war time, one a 4-star general and the other a private first class. Under ordinary circumstances their names would never appear together … anywhere. Their paths would never cross. But today they do. Both of these Americans, while wearing the uniform of their country, swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Implicit at their swearing-in ceremony was the willingness to obey all legal and moral orders issued to them by their superiors.

Within the rigid rank structure of the Army, PFC Chelsea Manning could not “order” anyone to do anything. General David Petraeus, on the other hand, commanded the entire force. They served at opposite ends of the chain of command … literally. And yet, it turns out, both had access to “classified” material. And also, it turns out, both leaked said material. They were both wrong. They were both guilty of criminal activity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It can easily be argued that each in his own way brought harm to America.

In brief, for sharing Top Secret information, which included actual names of intelligence operatives, to his lover/biographer, Petraeus was charged with no crime, never appeared before a jury, and in essence received a “naughty boy, don’t do it again” from the system.

Better than that,

You can read all about the general’s life and career in a hagiography written by David Pietras. For me, the title is almost as creepy as the near-homonym names of author and subject. What I have read of In the Footsteps of a Hero: The Military Journey of Retired General David H. Petraeus nauseates me. I expect more than career building at any cost from my heroes. Petraeus suffers from hubris, the fatal flaw that should have brought him to his knees. Before being outed as a philandering blowhard, Petraeus headed the CIA. The CIA!

Meanwhile, at the lowest rung on the ladder,

Chelsea Manning, who grew increasingly disillusioned with U.S. military presence and activity in Iraq, took it upon himself (living as a male at the time) to release a slew of classified material to Wikileaks. Wrong then, wrong now. Having by the time of her trial been allowed to identify openly as transgender, she was sentenced to 35 years in jail and has so far served nearly seven. Since passage of the “Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917,” no person has ever been sentenced to as many years as Manning, nor has any person served as much time in prison.

Apples or Oranges?

We can argue ad infinitum about the relative damage done to America by the treacherous actions of these two former soldiers. What is inarguable is that they both broke the law.

In one of his final actions as POTUS, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. Obama haters take note: he “commuted” Manning’s sentence, he did not “pardon” her. Petraeus walked, walks, and will continue to walk free. I guess the adage is true:

Privates go to jail, while generals go free.

When setting these cases side by side, for me, justice suffers. While we the public learned every detail of Chelsea Manning’s life during her incarceration and trial, as far as Petraeus goes, we mainly heard what a brilliant officer he was, not dragged-out specifics of his adultery and carelessness. Manning at least acted (inappropriately) out of a sense of honor, believing that the mission in Iraq was inherently wrong. Petraeus cannot claim that high ground. He spilled secrets to his mistress/biographer/running partner. His life story was in her hands, why not demonstrate to her how powerful he was?

With all due respect to retired General Petraeus, in the end, judging them by their final acts as active duty soldiers, PFC Manning is the bigger person. Bear with me here.

Remember the courtroom drama in A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson’s character—the commander at Guantanamo Bay—screams at Tom Cruise’s character, “You want me on that wall.” No, the audience realizes, Americans don’t want rogue soldiers running loose, deciding autonomously and despotically right from wrong.

*****

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.

1-12: Presidential Farewells

[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.]

For all the vitriolic speech that accompanies our election cycles, the presidency itself seems to mellow the officeholder. Although I am not a big Ronald Reagan fan, there is no denying that he was “The Great Communicator.” And so, having just heard Barack Obama’s official farewell to the nation–a wonderful speech, in my view–I thought it interesting to revisit Reagan’s goodbye.

My fellow Americans:

This is the 34th time I’ll speak to you from the Oval Office and the last. We’ve been together 8 years now, and soon it’ll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I’ve been saving for a long time….

People ask how I feel about leaving. And the fact is, “parting is such sweet sorrow.” The sweet part is California and the ranch and freedom. The sorrow—the goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place.

You know, down the hall and up the stairs from this office is the part of the White House where the President and his family live.… The view is over the grounds here to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall and the Jefferson Memorial. But on mornings when the humidity is low, you can see past the Jefferson to the river, the Potomac, and the Virginia shore. Someone said that’s the view Lincoln had when he saw the smoke rising from the Battle of Bull Run….

Welcome, refugees.

I’ve been thinking a bit at that [view]. I’ve been reflecting on what the past 8 years have meant and mean. And the image that comes to mind like a refrain is a nautical one—a small story about a big ship, and a refugee, and a sailor. It was back in the early eighties, at the height of the boat people. And the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat. And crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up, and called out to him. He yelled, “Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man.”…

It’s been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.

Prelude to Obama’s Tenure

The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of ’81 to ’82, to the expansion that began in late ’82 and continues to this day, we’ve made a difference. The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I’m proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created—and filled—19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership….

[B]ack in 1980, when I was running for President, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that “The engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they’re likely to stay that way for years to come.” Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is, what they called “radical” was really “right.” What they called “dangerous” was just “desperately needed.”…
Countries across the globe are turning to free markets and free speech and turning away from the ideologies of the past. For them, the great rediscovery of the 1980’s has been that, lo and behold, the moral way of government is the practical way of government: Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive….

Populism

Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: “We the People.” “We the People” tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us. “We the People” are the driver; the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which “We the People” tell the government what it is allowed to do. “We the People” are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I’ve tried to do these past 8 years….

I’ve been asked if I have any regrets. Well, I do. The deficit is one. I’ve been talking a great deal about that lately, but tonight isn’t for arguments, and I’m going to hold my tongue. But an observation: I’ve had my share of victories in the Congress, but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn’t win for me. They never saw my troops, they never saw Reagan’s regiments, the American people. You won every battle with every call you made and letter you wrote demanding action. Well, action is still needed. If we’re to finish the job, Reagan’s regiments will have to become the Bush brigades….

Nationalism

Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in Presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past 8 years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want….

And let me offer [a] lesson … about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do….

Romanticism

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still….

And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

*****

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.