2-14: Conflicts of Interest

Random Conversation Heard in D.C. Hall Yesterday

Johnny on the Spot: So, Mitch, big news today, right?

Mitchell: What’s that?

John: You know, Flynn got the boot. What do you think about that?

Mitch: Every president gets to choose …

John: Yeah, yeah. But looks like he chose wrong on this one.

Mitch: There would be no hullabaloo about this if the media didn’t leak damaging information.

John: You’re kidding. You have to be kidding.

Mitch: It’s the media’s fault. They set out to undermine this president. The general is a good man. I’ve known him for 20 years. He did not deserve this public humiliation.

John: He got too cozy with our enemy of, oh, some 70 years or so. He played big man on the block with them way before we changed administrations. He lied to the vice president. He played the mouthpieces for fools.

Mitch: None of that is against the law.

John: The Logan Act?

Mitch: Never been enforced.

John: So, do you think Congress should investigate Flynn’s actions?

Mitch: No.

John: No?

Mitch: No. And that’s the end of it.

John: Benghazi. How many hearings? E-mails. How many hearings?

Mitch: Not the point. We have a new president, a new administration. We should be doing the people’s work. We need to get rid of Obamacare. We need to cut taxes. We need to protect everyone’s right to own a gun. The people’s work. We control all branches of government. We have a mandate to put this country back on track.

John: Oh, my. On a lighter note, how is the misses?

Mitch: She’s fine, thank you.

John: All settled in at her new office? The president appointed her Secretary of …

Mitch: Uh, look at the time. Sorry. Got to go.

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.]

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.

7-25: Nasty Behavior on Both Sides

[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.]

Politics, Yuck!

I have written about the violence at Trump rallies and the fiery rhetoric of Republicans, specifically Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And that animosity played out right into the coronation convention last week.

A Pox on Both Your Houses

Sunday’s news carried enough dirt–on both sides–to fill a small farm. I am referring to Democratic National Committee Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and Fox impresario, Roger Ailes. Wasserman-Schultz was trying to tilt Democratic primary voters toward Hillary Clinton and specifically away from Bernie Sanders. That is no way to run a committee. The omnipotent Ailes got sacked from Fox for sexual harassment. I guess at some point the powerful among us really do not believe they bear responsibility for their actions.

The Democrat

Following revelations of emails showing what appears to be clear prejudice within the ranks of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has announced that she will be stepping down. (Daily Kos)

This is a breaking story, as I type, so details are sketchy. The crux of her problems, however, seem to relate to e-mailed remarks referencing Sanders’ religion, which happens to be Jewish. Wasserman-Schultz has admitted her wrongdoing and has stated that she will resign her post “after” the convention. She should step aside NOW. Donna Brazile, Deputy Chair of the DNC, should preside over the convention.

The Republican

Roger Ailes Out at Fox News Channel (The Houston Chronicle)

Roger Ailes has resigned as chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel effective immediately. 21st Century Fox Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch will assume his responsibilities.

The man credited with founding the network exits in disgrace amid a lawsuit filed on July 6 by former “Real Story” host Gretchen Carlson, who accuses her erstwhile boss of sexual harassment. 21st Century Fox swiftly opened an ongoing investigation into the claims that remains ongoing.

… Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes claims he sexually propositioned her, then fired her in retaliation after she complained about discrimination and harassment. Ailes has called her claims “false” and “offensive,” and promised a vigorous defense.

While numerous Fox News employees have publicly defended Ailes, Megyn Kelly was oddly silent until a New York magazine report, also by Sherman, claimed she, too, was harassed by Ailes.

When will they ever learn?

This past primary season saw mud slinging all ’round. And there is no doubt in my mind that each side will now attack the other, referencing these particular outrages. You know, I don’t want to hear, from anyone, garbage like “politics is a tough business.” Maybe so but you and I deserve better. We deserve the truth from government and we deserve honesty in all matters from those who lead.

Ailes, of course, was never an elected official but he certainly was/is a political animal. Wasserman-Schultz should have known better. The system stinks. Period.

7-15:

[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.]

Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos wrote an insightful, revealing blog about Donald Trump’s latest version of himself. It ran under this headline:

Trump Creates an Imaginary Crime Wave to Justify His law and Order Chest Thumping

Now that Donald Trump has adopted another plank from the campaign of George Wallace by declaring himself the “law and order candidate,” he needs some disorder to run against.

Of course, Trump is primarily playing a very familiar tune on a very old dog whistle. That tune is called “The blacks are getting uppity.” His timing of his law and order campaign is intended as a response to Black Lives Matter, and his “inner cities” is a shorthand so well worn Republicans probably have an emoji for it….

Nationwide, crime is down, and it keeps moving down. That’s true across cities of all sizes. What’s increased over the last twenty years is not crime, but our awareness of crime. For good and ill, we now experience shootings on the far side of the country as if they happened on our block.

Art Imitates Life

I liked the early episodes of TV’s Law and Order. The first half-hour was devoted to the cops running down leads and catching the innocents-until-proved-guilty, most of the remainder of the story was filled with courtroom drama where tough-as-dynamite prosecutor Jack McCoy tried to put the bad people in jail for a long time. It was “law,” as in the breaking thereof, then “order,” as in “order in the court.”

As noted above in Sumner’s piece, George Wallace was a law and order candidate for president; he ran proudly under the banner of “segregation now and segregation forever.” Glad he didn’t advance. Richard Nixon first ran as a law and order guy. Abruptly, his VP, Spiro Agnew, was indicted for tax fraud. Under Bill Clinton, three-strikes-and-you’re-in for a long time became the mantra of the tough guys du jour. Today it is Donald Trump whistling at your dog.

Officer Safety

Another Daily Kos blogger, Thandisizwe Chimurenga, claims:

Cops Are Safer under President Obama, Whether Critics Like It or Not

I do not mean to conflate crime against cops with crime in general, but Chimurenga’s point shines a bit of light on the overall problem we have dealing with crime in America–whether it is rising or falling. Statistics nuts on both sides can roll out their data to support their respective points of view.

July 7 saw the most deadly violence inflicted on U.S. law enforcement officers since September 11, 2001. Twelve police officers were shot during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas, Texas. Five of those officers did not survive. Critics of President Barack Obama took the opportunity to once again harangue the president for his alleged tacit support of Black Lives Matter and his alleged lack of support for police….

The Dallas shooting was a jarring, sobering reminder of how precarious the lives of police officers can be, but under Obama—the president harsh critics say does not support law enforcement—police have been the safest they have ever been in decades.

Choose your own statistics, as you will. Conclude what you will from the data you have excavated. I just honestly do not believe that anyone running as a “law and order” candidate for any office is the kind of person I can support. I do want our laws to be obeyed and honored and I do want miscreants taken off the streets. What I do not like is a pretender walking ground upon which he has never trod.

PTSD Connection

I used the word “pretender” in the previous paragraph. Here is the connection. While I was serving in Vietnam, some of the best and most heroic soldiers I knew were draftees: privates, specialists, and buck sergeants. Some of the worst were RA (Regular Army): NCOs and officers alike. Many of the RAs predominantly worked on their careers, unfortunately for them they got caught in a war. Draftees had no long-term military agenda. Which is precisely what made them better soldiers.

It doesn’t take much to set me off … but … in my experience tough talkers are usually meek walkers. And meek walkers, when it counts in combat, get other soldiers killed. That gets to me.

 

 

7-11: Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Politicians

[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.]

Clinton (Bill) and Gingrich

This is an easy one. While incumbent President Bill Clinton was doing scandalous things with a White House intern, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich publicly berated him mercilessly and daily. At the same time Loud Mouth Newt was cheating on his second wife.

Clinton (Hillary) and Gowdy

Another snap. Congressperson Trey Gowdy threw away $7 million as Chairperson of a rat pack committee that supposedly was investigating Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions during the “Benghazi Affair.” When finally the committee subpoenaed Clinton for an 11-hour grilling, they admittedly discovered “nothing new” (or indictable). So  Gowdy kept spending and digging and now the subject under investigation has morphed into Clinton’s use of her private e-mail server. While this fire drill is going on–republicans trying to tarnish Clinton as a presidential candidate–we find that Gowdy himself uses a personal server/account for his political fund raising activities. Columnist David Brock of Alternet wrote this open letter to Gowdy on the subject.

Dear Chairman Gowdy:

I noted with interest your public demand that Secretary Clinton turn over her personal email server, presumably so that the committee can access some 30,000 Clinton emails deemed to be strictly private and beyond the reach of the government.

This Orwellian demand has no basis in law or precedent. Every government employee decides for themselves what email is work-related and what is strictly private. There is no reason to hold Secretary Clinton to a different standard— except partisan politics.

But since you insist that Clinton’s private email be accessed, I’m writing today to ask you and your staff to abide by the same standard you seek to hold the Secretary to by releasing your own work-related and private email and that of your staff to the public.

While I realize that Congress regularly exempts itself from laws that apply to the executive branch, I believe this action is necessary to ensure public confidence in the fairness and  impartiality of your investigation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 David Brock  Correct The Record

Speaking of E-Mails

Did you know that former president George W. Bush had as many as five million e-mails, written and received during his presidency, deleted? Poof, gone. No special committee investigating that one.

Rumsfeld and Shinseki

Prior to the American military clumsiness that followed 9/11/01, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked his key military advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, how many troops would be necessary to root out the Taliban and restore order (from an American point of view) to the Middle East. He already had a low-ball figure in mind to feed pablum-like to the American people. Shinseki told his boss the number needed to be much higher. Rumsfeld fired Shinseki. The war in Afghnistan is now 15 years old, the longest war in our history. The secretary got his boots on the ground, the general got the boot.

Politicians and PTSD

Politicians love to discover and self-righteously report naughtiness performed by other party members. Politicians lie about military matters all the time. If they are not lying, they are silent while hiding behind the shield of “national security.” I have tried here to  draw a line between political pettiness and a war weary nation. Even President Barack Obama, who campaigned partly on a promise to end the war in Afghanistan, has recently upped the number of U.S. soldiers, from 5,000 to 8,000, who will remain in that country at least through the end of his term in office.

Soldiers follow orders. They are good at that. But when soldiers are given conflicting or confusing information (e.g., term of overseas assignments) their belief in the system’s mechanics begins to break down. Distrust sets in. Mission definition blurs. Soldiers continue to kill and be killed. For what? That’s the PTSD part. Combat in and by itself is nerve racking: PTSD inducing. Nebulous war contributes to combat fatigue, PTSD.

Suicide

I read recently that the average age of veterans who commit suicide is 51. Generally, that is too old to be in combat but young enough to still be fighting the war. The thought of suicide haunts too many desperate men and women who served their country  honorably and with hope for helping create a better world.

7-8: Please Pick Newt

[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.]

If Only …

 

No doubt about it. Newt Gingrich would love to be on the Republican ticket as Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate. He is the original glory hound and his presence would not be eclipsed by the Trump ego.

Like it or not, Trump proved his legitimacy by knocking out 16 bona fide opponents for the nomination. Like it or not, Gingrich was Speaker of the House back in the day. Given those positive credentials, the fun starts when digging beneath their one-line resumes. Trump is a buffoon with a limo-sized clown car. Gingrich is a has-been, self-promoting bloviator. Place a tent over any dais they might share and enjoy the show.

The facts that Trump won the popular vote in this year’s primaries and that Gingrich actually was two heartbeats away from the presidency make me shudder. But just the idea of them running together on the Republican ticket thrills me. A proper vetting by the press will expose these phonies as the charlatans they are.

Trump tells us what a great businessman he is–the press has already revealed his four bankruptcies. Gingrich had his “Contract with America” (Remember that?) which he completely ignored when Republicans took control of the House. Both members of the “Party of Values” have been married multiple times … not that there is anything wrong with that … BUT … Trump routinely makes crass remarks about women in general and some women specifically. Gingrich asked his first wife for a divorce while she was in a hospital bed dealing with breast cancer, then he asked his second wife if she would be interested in an “open” marriage.

There are other names being floated as possible VP-nominee choices. For me, NJ Governor Chris Christie–who would also love the job–carries too much baggage, especially Bridgegate, which will begin litigation soon. The person I think Trump is looking at most seriously is Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Anyone Else out There?

Pence has great appeal with the Christian right–that’s a plus. But, CNN reports:
Pence … has had trouble in his four years in the governor’s office — struggling to grasp the reins of state government after spending 12 years as a congressman more often reacting to events than setting an agenda.
… 2015 proved to be disastrous for Pence politically, laying the groundwork for an opening for Democrats.
The first signs of trouble appeared when The Indianapolis Star scooped Pence on his own plans to launch a state-run news service. Pence’s response, including allowing the debacle to overshadow his rollout of a state-crafted Medicaid expansion, foreshadowed the crippling fight he would face on “religious freedom” just a few months later.

Continue reading 7-8: Please Pick Newt

7-5: Robert Reich on Patriotism

[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.]

I believe that we Americans use the word “patriotism” too frequently during the 4th of July season. But I don’t think we think too much about what that really means. Perhaps we can agree on a simple definition: patriotism is love of country. After that it gets complicated, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes “we need also to take to heart its five basic principles.” To wit:

First: True patriotism isn’t simply about waving the American flag. And it’s not mostly about securing our borders, putting up walls and keeping others out.

It’s about coming together for the common good. (In a nation of about 320 million people “common good” can be problematic. But surely we can agree on some matters that are indeed good for us all. I submit: public safety, excellence in education, all those Constitutional freedoms, racial and religious tolerance, health care, safe roads and bridges … add your own.)

Second: Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad. Not just voting but becoming politically active, volunteering time and energy to improving this country. (No one likes paying taxes, including me. But, when not being wasted, I do not mind paying for health care and social security and education. My argument against tax manipulation, excessive defense spending, and things of that nature is term limits. To paraphrase a fatuous phrase from the Gipper: politicians are not the solution; politicians are the problem. I honestly believe that “six years and out” for all public office holders would go a long way to mending our broken republic.) Continue reading 7-5: Robert Reich on Patriotism

7-4: Happy 4th

[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.]

Church and State

The letter re-posted below–with commentary–moved me.

I dislike the country’s pseudo-celebration of the colonists’ declaration of independence, because so many of our fellow citizens really do not hold to the tenets of our founders. I am a left-wing, liberal, tree hugging Christian. I am also an American who has worn the country’s uniform in combat. I believe I have the credentials to say that all Americans should be able to enjoy the same benefits of American-hood that I do. But much too often these days I hear politicians spewing racism via vicious, unwarranted xenophobia. The Daily Kos posted an open letter from John Pavlovitz a Christian blogger. “You can read his work here.” The letter began:

Dear Offended Christian,

I’m terribly sorry that your feelings are hurt again. I feel badly about that. None of us likes to be criticized, so I totally get it.

… I am really tired:

Let Me Count the Ways

“He proceeded to list all of the ways he is tired with the hypocrisy shown by so many people, wrapped up in a cross, who have seemingly forgotten to read the books they proclaim to set their moral compass to.”

I’m tired of hearing you telling gay people that they can’t simultaneously be both gay and Christian. (Who are you to tell anyone who he or she can or cannot be? If you truly follow the word of God (and that goes for you too: Muslims, Jews, Mormons, et al.) then you must realize your own shortcomings and should be working on them.)

I’m tired of having to explain what “Transgender” means to adult Christian people, who I’m quite sure have Internet access and should know better by now that it ain’t “a guy in a dress”. (Caitlyn Jenner aside, people who have suffered all their lives believing their feelings are not “honest” should be admired for their courage, not maligned because of others’ ignorance.)

I’m tired of arrogant pulpit bullies who believe they’re entitled to tell people where they can pee and who they can marry and whether they really love Jesus or not. (Me, too. Go way.)

I’m tired of you regularly dispensing damnation on the queer community, and then offering empty “thoughts and prayers” in the face of tragedy before resuming your normal schedule. (Yes, “thoughts and prayers” are expressed briefly and the victims who have been thought about and prayed for are forgotten just as quickly. Politicians in particular sully even the idea of thoughts and prayers when they vacuously invoke them–ever so briefly–and then continue their personal agendas. Victims of gun violence deserve much more than thoughts and prayers. That is not a sacrilegious rant; it is an outpouring of frustration.)

I’m tired of you being more outraged by red coffee cups and department store restrooms than by poverty and racism and gun violence and our crumbling school system. (Me, too.)

Continue reading 7-4: Happy 4th

6-16: Power of Prayer … in Context

Blogger It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid was one of many who commented on the story below, which quotes from the middle of Psalm 109.

Georgia Senator Prays for Obama’s Death — in Public

Sen. David Perdue is the junior senator from Georgia. He’s known in the Senate as a nice, modest guy — not one of the bomb throwers, by any means.

 Here is how the prayer he encouraged the audience to make for Obama continues from verses 8-14:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.

Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

The title of Psalm 109 is

“Prayer of a Person Falsely Accused”

Does the senator or his righteous followers know that? The first 8 verses read as follows:

  1. Oh God, whom I praise, do not be silent,
  2. for wicked and treacherous mouths attack me. / They speak against me with lying tongues;
  3. with hateful words they surround me, / attacking me without cause.
  4. In return for my love they slander me, / even though I prayed for them.
  5. They repay me evil for good, / hatred for my love. / My enemies say of me:
  6. “Find a lying witness, / an accuser to stand by his right hand,
  7. That he may be judged and found guilty, / that his plea may be in vain.

Perhaps the senator’s fellow Bible quoters and he would be more credible if they did not cite verses out of full context. There is an adage whose origin is unknown to me that Perdue et al. might consider: Be careful what you pray for, you might get it. Continue reading 6-16: Power of Prayer … in Context

6-06: The Idiocy of Claiming Success in War

Because of the nature and intent of this blog, I generally pause to read items regarding Vietnam. And so,

Nixon Calls Cambodian Operation a Success

The year was 1970. The source of the piece: http: //www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nixon-calls-cambodian-operation-a-success? If one wants to see in action the definition of mission creep, here it is.

In 1966 I was based in Tay Ninh which is approximately six miles east of Cambodia. It was no secret that our enemy was using Cambodia as a staging area and safe haven for planning operations. We, the U.S. Army, were “not allowed” to pursue the enemy beyond the border which we couldn’t find on a map because we didn’t have maps; we had green-tinted aerial photos with gridlines superimposed.

Despite this allegedly rigid rule of engagement–no Cambodia–my squad conducted a successful search and rescue mission and recovered a wayward airborne comrade. What caused me to include this article in this blog is the 2nd paragraph which I will share.

U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had launched a limited “incursion” into Cambodia on April 29. Richard Nixon had run on the platform of ending the war and bringing troops home. Like so many before him and since, before a war can be ended it must be expanded. I don’t know who wrote that rule.

The campaign included 13 major ground operations to clear North Vietnamese sanctuaries 20 miles inside Cambodia. The campaign failed.

Some 50,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 30,000 U.S. troops were involved, making it the largest operation of the war since Operation Junction City in 1967. I fought in Junction City. Here is a poem I wrote about it in 1980.

I’m far to young to be afraid / Of plots and schemes that others laid. / I’ll survive / Come out alive / God damn this war that old men made!

I hate the napalm bombers drop / Too close screams that will not stop. / I’ll survive / Come out alive / To see a fertile paddy crop.

Boredom, action, firefight / Zinging, whistling, bursting light … / I’ll survive / Come out alive / But will I ever sleep at night?

At the squad level, which in my view is what all armies boil down to, it doesn’t matter whether the operation is the largest ever known to mankind or a routine patrol. To engage the enemy, we walk outside the bunker line, we jump off the back of trucks, we hop out of helicopters. We go where we are told. Size and numbers don’t really mean very much. So there is no particular sense of pride, or anything else, knowing we fought in the largest operation of the war on Vietnamese turf. It really does ultimately come down to him or me.

It is the lying, looking back, that gives us–me for sure–a particular sense of betrayal. I remember reading a Stars and Stripes article in base camp after returning from Junction City. The body count was 100-1 in our favor (I’m lying here because I don’t remember actual numbers, but it was some outlandish figure). I was there. “They” lied.

We weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia or Laos. We were. They lied. Despite all the untruths spread by and across administrations about how well American GIs were doing, the truth is we lost the war. I believe that lying about our bogus successes contributed to the ultimate failure.

The Vietnam War was a Ponzi scheme. Every “success” had to be followed by a bigger success and on, and on, and on. In order to keep the war going, the public had to be convinced we were winning. How is that for tortured logic?

I wonder how many more successes we need to have in places including Iraq and Afghanistan until we can declare victory. How many lives and limbs will it take?

Government, bring our troops home from those hopelessly unwinnable places where they serve. Since the wars are based on lies to begin with, declare to the world that we are withdrawing because we have won. Civil wars will no doubt continue, but American lives will be spared.