2-27: Farewell

To all who have expressed a kind word for this blog, thank you. I have particularly enjoyed and benefitted from feedback from kith, kin, and friends I haven’t met yet.

As long as wars exist, PTSD will linger, lurk, and lunge. And it doesn’t go away. And wars aren’t going away. And the cycle never ends.

The “International” page (A4) of Friday’s New York Times bears witness to the unrelenting bellicosity of the world we inhabit … and by extension to the countless victims of those wars who will suffer all the days of their lives. The piece covers a weapons show in the heart of the Mid-East in the same manner in which a local newspaper would cover a boat show or an RV show.

At a ‘Defense’ Expo, an Antiseptic World of Weaponry

By Ben Hubbard

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates—Serbia showed off armored vehicles, rockets and rifles, and drew in passers by with a video showing soldiers shooting targets to action movie music.

Pakistan had glass cases full of bullets, mortars, grenades, and guns, including a gold-plated AK-47.

And Sudan displayed an antiaircraft missile and its launcher….

More than 1,200 military technology companies and contractors convened to hawk their wares….

[The exhibition] provided a visual layout of the global arms trade, which is at its most active since the end of the Cold War …

Never to be upstaged,

The United States had the most floor space, befitting its status as the world’s largest arms exporter. More than 100 American companies were present, with elaborate displays showing everything from handguns to armored vehicles to drones….

Many at the show noted the size of the Chinese display, where eight state-run companies advertised boats, tanks, missiles, and other items….

Many of the marketing slogans made sense only if you knew what the product did.

[For example,] “Sees without being seen,” boasted an ad for a Czech-made radar system….

No End in Sight

To state the obvious, war is big business. There is no incentive for weapons makers to retool their manufacturing lines, not while their cash cows continue to lactate lucrative lethal bile. Other headlines from Friday’s NYT include the following:

(A3) Iraqi Forces Capture Most of Mosul Airport: Bloody Fight Expected after Milestone in Effort to Drive ISIS from City

(A6) Four Are Dead in Kashmir after Ambush

(A8) For Syrian Refugees Fearing for Safety, There Is No Going Home: Those in Lebanon Wary of Return

(A10) Nerve Agent Killed North Korean Leader’s Half Brother, Police Say

(A11) Bosnian Seeks to Reopen Serbian Genocide Case

(A18) U.S. to Keep Private Prisons, Scrapping an Obama Plan

(A22) Once Home to Masses, A Standing Rock Camp Is Emptied and Razed

Quotation of the Day

The Times chose this ominous quote as emblematic of the news of the day. It is attributed to Khaled Khodor, a soldier who defected from the Syrian Army and spent four days in a Lebanese jail for sneaking across the border.

“If the Lebanese president would offer me the choice of staying in prison forever here and going back to Syria now, I would choose prison.”

End

12-2: Iraq War Lingers, Numbers Grow

[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, excerpted from the work of David Swanson.]

Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events

This dated material comes from an e-book by David Swanson, also author of War Is a Lie. Swanson decries all war. So, although the excerpts below regarding the war in Iraq may seem anti-American, taken in the larger context of Swanson’s pacifism, they provide realism to the human cost of war.

Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)

… (S)ince the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation … and over (25) years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

This phenomenon occurs, I believe, because such a minute portion of the American people ever experience the battlefield. My frame of reference is Vietnam where, as in Iraq and all other war zones, “our” battlefield is “their” home.

By the Numbers

… As documented below, by the most scientifically respected measures available, Iraq lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, saw 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering….

The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military … made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction,” using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas….

I have first-hand knowledge and experience with white phosphorous and napalm. Some things, I guess, never change—except the words we use to describe the pieces that go into the panoply of war. Napalm in Vietnam, for instance, was termed a “defoliant,” not a WMD.

Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the U.S. military and its contractors….

Haliburton and Blackwater come immediately to mind … and they still operate in Iraq and around the world.

If the United States had taken five trillion dollars, and — instead of spending it destroying Iraq — had chosen to do good with it, at home or abroad, just imagine the possibilities. The United Nations thinks $30 billion a year would end world hunger. For $5 trillion, why not end world hunger for 167 years? …

Mind boggling!

Swanson goes on in great detail to delineate the cost of (this) war. My concern, for purposes of this site—PTSDOutreach.com—is the effect of war on the American soldier.

A soldier orders a strike—of whatever weapon: cluster bomb, napalm, etc.—a soldier delivers the strike, and a soldier witnesses the aftermath. These actions are not without consequence to the soldier. Immediately or most assuredly eventually the soldier will process, mentally and emotionally, the acts of war. In the end, the soldier pays the price of war. And Haliburton, Blackwater, et al. get richer and richer.

*****

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.

 

 

5-20: Yemen and the Mushroom Shaped Cloud

[Facebook Readers: If you would like to continue accessing this blog and have not done so yet, input your email address in the box to the left and hit “Subscribe.” Thus you will receive “PTSD Outreach” directly in you e-mail queue. I have been told, and I agree, that FB is not the appropriate medium for this blog. I will stop posting to FB Memorial Day.]

Proliferation of WMDs

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

Why Yemen?

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

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

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

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

Why Saudi Arabia?

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

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

Mushroom Cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraq Body Counts’ estimates:

Baghdad: 4,767 deaths

Anbar: 3,623 deaths

Salak Al Din: 2,550 deaths

Ninewa: 2,367 deaths

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

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

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

 

5-4: Reflections on War Is a Lie, Chapter 6

[This blog consists of titles and one-sentence excerpts from David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, Chapter 6, “War Makers Do Not Have Noble Motives,” followed by my own comments.] 

Introduction

“The important motivations, the things the war masters mostly discuss in private, include electoral calculations, control of natural resources, intimidation of other countries, domination of geographic regions, financial profits for friends and campaign funders, the opening up of consumer markets, and prospects for testing new weapons.”  Let’s just look at the last. As much as there was no need to bomb Hiroshima, there was even less of a strategic need to destroy Nagasaki, except for one thing. The second bomb contained plutonium which the U.S. had never tested live, so to speak. Thus, with one flip of a switch, President Truman’s favorability numbers rose, America warned the world (e.g., Russia) that it had and would use this weapon of mass destruction, and field tested its newest, fiercest weapon.

In Their Own Words

“Cheney wanted forcible ‘regime change’ in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests …” Why, one might ask, does political change have to be “forcible”? And it seems to me that the predominant interest America has in Middle Eastern states is the existence of oil. Cheney and his neo-con gang of thugs allowed hundreds of thousands of people to lose their lives and shed blood for what he perceives as U.S. interests. The word megalomania comes to mind.

Conspiracy Theories

“The motivation for U.S control over areas of ‘vital interest’ … is aided and abetted by the motivations of those who profit from the war making itself.” Profiteers come in all sizes, ranging from Cheney-connected Haliburton, to black ops mercenaries like Xe, to the little subcontractor that makes roller bearings for landing gear on bombers.

For Money and Markets

“As George McGovern and William Polk noted in 2006: ‘In 2002, just before the invasion [of Iraq], only one of the world’s most profitable corporations was in the oil and gas field; in 2005 four of the ten were.” It was inevitable. Because of the on-going conflicts the price of oil jumped and soared. You know how smart and trustworthy those Wall Streeters are. Corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and BP were able to employ the old supply and demand farce to argue the precarious ability of Middle Eastern countries providing enough crude to satisfy the West’s demand for black gold.

For the Profits

“During the 2003 war on Iraq, Vice President Cheney directed massive no-bid contracts to a company, Haliburton, from which he was still receiving compensation, and profited from the same illegal war he defrauded the American public into launching.” Yes, I believe Cheney is a war criminal. So does a militant lawyer in Canada who threatened to have Cheney arrested if he ever stepped foot in the country. Cheney cancelled his book tour and has not gone abroad since leaving office.

For Money and Class

“McCarthyism led many struggling for the rights of working people to place militarism ahead of their own struggles for the latter half of the twentieth century.” Labor union memberships have declined in great numbers while, ironically, the military-industrial complex just hums along. Maybe that’s not ironic at all. As the oligarchic industrialists at the top of the ladder continue to land government contracts to support unending war, they acquire greater leverage over workers struggling just to stay on the bottom rungs.

For Oil

“A major motivation for wars is the seizing of control over other nation’s resources.” There are legitimately moderate states in the Middle East–Jordan comes to mind–and there are pretenders–I nominate Saudi Arabia. By any of the standards we hold other allies to, e.g., human rights, Saudi Arabia fails dismally. But they have oil. As a leader of OPEC Saudi Arabia wields great control over the daily worldwide flow of oil and therefore its price. Saudi Arabia appeases the American beast, the beast looks away. Prior to what became known as the “Saudiization” of their country the company that pumped and poured Saudi oil was called Aramco, which stood for Arab American Company. Aramco had headquarters in Houston, Texas. How is that for being close?

For Empire

“Fighting for territory, whatever rocks may lie beneath it, is a venerable motivation for war.” … and detestable.

For the Guns

“Another motivation for wars is the justification they provide for maintaining a large military and producing more weapons.” Profiteering. When the Soviet Union collapsed thereby putting an end to the Cold War, there was all kind of happy talk about the “peace dividend.” With the ominous threat of a communist attempt at world domination gone, we wouldn’t need to spend as much of our GDP on military weapons and materiel. Right? No, don’t be silly.

Machismo

“One of the most dramatic news stories that came out of Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was the news that 70% of the motivation of the people behind the war on Vietnam was to ‘save face.'” Imagine that. Sixty thousand Americans died in Vietnam, who knows how many Vietnamese (North and South) died, and all because arm chair generals did not want to be embarrassed. This one gets to me the most because I always feel it and take it personally. Those who are willing and anxious to send others into actual combat (see Cheney) are never willing to take up arms themselves.

Are These People Crazy?

“President George W. Bush at times suggested that the war on Iraq was revenge for Saddam Hussein’s alleged (and likely fictitious) role in an assassination attempt against Bush’s father, and at other times Bush the lesser revealed that God had told him what to do.” Yes, these people are crazy. But we let them get away with it.

Spreading Democracy and Manure

“When they think it will work, even temporarily, war makers will simply lie and tell the public that a war isn’t happening at all.” Swanson mentions places like Indonesia, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador where the U.S. has either provided troops and/or funding and materials of war. In 1967 a mission in Vietnam took me and my squad into Cambodia. We did not meet a friendly border toll collector along the way who would remind us that the U.S. and Cambodia were officially not at war with each other. Maybe not, but I was there. To deny that would be to accept the manure.

So Many Secrets

“The masters of war fear, above all, two things: transparency and peace.” Why? For the life of me I cannot figure out who “they” are and how they got the way they did. I refuse to call “them” the best and brightest, preferring the worst and vilest. Sure, there are legitimate disputes among countries and they need to be dealt with. (Imperialism, oil, and machismo are not among them.) After wars, “we,” whoever we are, set up organizations to forestall future wars: The League of Nations, NATO, SEATO, The United Nations; but we largely ignore them. (Here “we” is the U.S.) If America were willing to accept the decisions set forth by these peace seeking organizations, there would be a precipitous drop in our shoot first, ask questions later attitude.

Make Sure Americans Die

“(When Americans die) Then a war can not only be begun but also continued indefinitely so that those already killed shall not have died in vain.” This singular thought brought tears to my eyes at “The Wall” in Washington, D.C.

Catapulting the Propaganda

“(the use of fear) We can go to war or die horrible deaths at the hands of fiendish beasts, but it’s your choice, entirely up to you, no pressure, except that our executioners will be here by next week, if you don’t hurry it up.” Acts of terror have been an unfortunate part of American life in the 21st century. And they will likely continue. But they have to be placed in perspective. And let me be clear, we have to defend ourselves from terrorist acts and we need to hold terrorists accountable to the fullest extent of our laws. But targets of terror and war zone battlefields generally have little in common. There is size alone, time span, identifiable enemies (hopefully, but not always), clear cut chains of command, government sanctions.

 

I mentioned several blogs ago that good writers get readers to think … for themselves. What I have tried to accomplish here is to illustrate that point. Although David Swanson is certainly a persuasive writer, he is also a gadfly. he raises important issues and lets the reader (me) make conclusions. It helps, of course, that we begin with basically the same point of view about war and the search for peace.

4-25: More on Military Spending

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

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

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

School bombed

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

4-24: Military Spending Keeps Wars Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-8: Eisenhower and the Domino Theory

Eisenhower Coins the Phrase “Domino Theory”

The History Channel (http://www.history.com)  reports that on April 7, 1954:

President Dwight D. Eisenhower coins one of the most famous Cold War phrases when he suggests the fall of French Indochina to the communists could create a “domino” effect in Southeast Asia. The so-called “domino theory” dominated U.S. thinking about Vietnam for the next decade.

Yeah, one American politician after another fell into the wrong-headed thinking that deploying more and more troops to Vietnam would somehow allay an impossible mission.

By early 1954, it was clear to many U.S. policymakers that the French were failing in their attempt to re-establish colonial control in Indochina (Vietnam), which they lost during World War II when the Japanese took control of the area. The Vietnamese nationalists, led by the communist Ho Chi Minh,

Ho was not a hard line communist from the beginning. He was a nationalist who would have taken aid from any country, including the United States in order to build his own people’s standard of living. America ignored his letters requesting aid and so he turned to China. Note that at the time France was trying to re-establish colonial control in Vietnam. France was there for the valuable raw materials it could steal from its colony. America, in effect, backed the European colonialist over the Asian nationalist. And 60,000 Americans died. Continue reading 4-8: Eisenhower and the Domino Theory

4-3: Cheney’s Filthy Rich Haliburton Hands

[Anger is a major manifestation of PTSD. But that is not to say that anger is necessarily misplaced or even wrong. Sometimes anger is just anger. Dick Cheney makes me angry:

  • his five deferments from the draft during Vietnam
  • his lies about WMD in Iraq and throwing his chief of staff under the bus for it
  • his permission to allow flights to Saudi Arabia in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when all other international flights were cancelled.

And then there is his association with multinational corporate giant Haliburton. You remember them, they won a non-competitive bid contract to rebuild every place around the world we decided to bomb into oblivion after 9/11. Despite multiple contract violations, they are still sucking from the teat of the US taxpayer. We bomb, they bank on building. (By the way, I place Blackwater, or whatever they call themselves these days, in the same rotting boat of mercenary war profiteers.)] Continue reading 4-3: Cheney’s Filthy Rich Haliburton Hands

Dialog: Gitmo

Paul: So I says to myself, Self!

Self: Yes, Paul, always good to hear from you. What, may I ask, bothers you today?

Paul: Guantanamo Bay, Self, it’s just not right. When Obama campaigned and then won the election, he vowed that closing this camp was a top priority.

Self: So he did.

Paul: I am disappointed. Seven years later and he’s still not through.

Self: You know that Congress proudly wears the mantle of obstructionism in this regard.

Paul: What are they afraid of?

Self: They seem to believe several nonsensical arguments. First, no state with a maximum security prison in the continental United States wants them.

Paul: No convicted terrorist has ever escaped from one of these facilities. Further, these specific prisons were built purposefully to house so-called high profile inmates and they are the major employer of builders, maintainers, guards, et al. in their districts.

Self: Second, Many Guantanamo prisoners, with varying years of captivity, have not even been indicted much less convicted of unmentioned crimes.

Paul: This one gets to me. We like to brag to the world about how everything is better in America, including our form of government and its judicial system. Yet Congress, and supposedly the CIA and military higher-ups, fear that open trials in federal courts will necessarily reveal national security information that must remain secret in order to keep the country safe.

Self: Right. and that leads to number three. The United States used torture. No secret there. Dick Cheney …

Paul: Dick Cheney hid in the early days behind euphemistic rhetoric about “advanced interrogation techniques” and the like. His knowledge of torture by U.S. citizens and his complete disregard for the Geneva Conventions make him a war criminal.

Self: That is a serious accusation, my friend.

Paul: He is a war criminal and, if not directly a war profiteer, an aider and abettor of those who are. Before the dust settled on the first bombing missions over Afghanistan, Cheney’s former company, Haliburton, was awarded a non-competitive omnibus contract. Over night they became our one-stop-shop. They are still raking in billions of dollars with no end to the profit pipeline in sight.

Self: We began this discussion talking about Guantanamo Bay, which led to torture, which led to the entire U.S. judicial system, which led ultimately to your indictment of the former vice-president of the United States as a war criminal.

Paul: Yes.

Self: You obviously hold a great deal of animus for the man. Is there more to it?

Paul: The man who would become Secretary of Defense, Vice-President, Chicken Hawk, and War Monger was himself subjected to the draft of young men during the Vietnam troop escalation. Five times. Each time he received a deferment. Five times. In defense of his unwillingness to serve the nation in uniform he once said glibly, I had other things to do.”

Self: I get it. Is there anything else you would like to say before we go our separate ways?

Paul: Just one thing. As a seventy-year-old man with growing belly and decreasing levels of testosterone, I have no need nor desire to share with you anything but the truth.

Self: True. You have nothing to gain through exaggeration.

Paul: The truth then is what you shall have. When I was a twenty-one-year-old grunt in Vietnam I feared little, not even death; in fact, I fully expected to die. I was not afraid to die, but, I can tell you, I was deathly afraid of being captured and tortured.

Self: Thank God that did not happen.

Yes: But the knowledge of being afraid haunts me to this day. I am fully aware of things I did and things I was capable of doing as a combat soldier–by things I mean actions.

Self: Some would call that bravery, Paul.

Paul: I prefer to think of my actions as survival-driven. But back to capture and torture. So, just as I know what I can do physically–have done, if you prefer–I also know my being can be wracked with overwhelming fear. Wouldn’t it be delightful if I ended this conversation with you, Self, by saying, as a sophist might, that war ultimately reveals to the warrior the nature and the existence of good and evil in our world. Alas, I cannot. I would be a liar. I saw evil in the actions of war, and I feared that the enemy’s evil would prove to be greater than our own. In the end, I am afraid of being afraid.

Self: Thank you. Good day.

Escalation Right from the Start

As discussed in this space earlier, U.S. Marines set up camp just outside Da Nang on March 8, 1965. According to http://www.history.com, this is the news from one day later:

“The 3,500 Marines of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade …continue to land at Da Nang. … Among the arrivals on this day were the first U.S. armor in Vietnam—a tank of the 3rd Marine Tank Battalion. More tanks, including those with flame-throwing capability, followed in a few days.”

Mission creep began from Day 1. And the story kept pace for 10 years.

“… During the course of the war, the Marine Corps deployed one corps-level headquarters, two Marine divisions, two additional Marine regimental landing teams and a reinforced Marine aircraft wing, plus a number of battalion-size Marine special landing forces afloat with the 7th Fleet.”

 And that is Marine Corps data only. The numbers grow exponentially when the other services are included. With the application of arithmetic to gauging success in Vietnam the inevitable lying quickly ensued. King Propaganda boasted in superlatives about every aspect of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The biggest, longest lasting lie concerned antiseptic body count. The American public, along with politicians and other armchair generals, were fed the lie that in the latest encounter xxx enemy were killed, while we suffered “only” the deaths of yy. Here’s my perspective on just a few notions that whet the American appetite for being best at everything and having the best of everything.

  • Body Count. Never knowing what, if any, piece of a larger operation we combat infantrymen were part of, the larger battle always shrunk with the myopic vision needed to confront the enemy immediately at hand. Such was the case with Operation Attleboro. I really don’t remember how many days my platoon/company spent in the field before we returned to base camp. (One day and night during that battle remains one of the worst of my life.) I was a drinker and when we returned to camp at Tay Ninh I got drunk. One of the guys read aloud an article from The Stars and Stripes about Attleboro and we all got a good laugh about how many VC and NVA regulars we were reported to have killed. Lie.
  • Best Equipment, Clothing. Those desert fatigues soldiers wear today look awesome. Soldiers in Vietnam wore jungle fatigues and boots–eventually. The clothing and equipment issued to me and my brethren at Fort Dix in October 1965 were exactly what we wore and carried off the troop ship that deposited us onto the shore at Vung Tao in August 1966. That gear even took us through jungle training, includ raiding a VC village set up at Camp Edwards in a foot of snow. We were in-country for several months before swapping out our industrial strength clothes for proper attire. A disturbing sidebar to this humanitarian activity, however, is that the fighters were the last to receive light fatigues and boots with drains in them to help fight against dry rot and who knows what. Rear echelon cooks and truck drivers had them before us.
  • Best Equipment, Rifles. I am told today how great the M-16 is. It wasn’t. First of all, my brigade, the 196th Light Infantry, trained for the better part of a year using the M-14 as our basic weapon. We shot it, dirtied it, cleaned it, zeroed it, qualified with it. Then, shortly before the day we boarded ships at Boston Harbor, Army Intelligence decided to have us turn in those weapons and swap ’em out for M-16s. All we learned in the states about that weapon was how to strip it, clean it, and put it back together in a hurry. We did not shoot a single round out of that weapon until, somewhere out in the South Pacific, we pinged garbage tossed off the fantail of the ship. Less than one magazine. For an entire year I carried and fought with a weapon I never zeroed. Worse than that, the sucker was prone to jamming, usually in the middle of a fire fight. Apparently, firing multiple rounds rapidly, as one is inclined to do when trying to achieve life over death, heats the chamber to a point of expansion and the spent round does not eject. (That happened to me, but that’s for another time.) Nonetheless, the maker–Colt, I believe–made millions through distribution of their weapon to users who had no choice, and some politician(s) surely rolled over for them. We grunts were Beta testers for a company whose profits climbed along the same slope as that which tracked the length of the war.
  • Armor. This is nothing against armor soldiers, who can refute or verify my experience with their own. Whenever we grunts went out with and were thereby protected by the tremendous firepower of tanks, etc., something bad happened. Any track vehicle larger than an Armored Personnel Carrier either got stuck in mud somewhere inconvenient or it rolled over a land mine. Great machinery with big bangers were of little use in close-in combat.

War profiteers have always been around. That never changes. The flags they swathe themselves in are made from dollars and stock options. See the link below for full text of the excerpt that follows.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/09/why-is-america-using-these-antique-planes-to-fight-isis.html

“War was just an experiment for two of the U.S. military’s oldest and most unusual warplanes. A pair of OV-10 Broncos—small, Vietnam War-vintage, propeller-driven attack planes—recently spent three months flying top cover for ground troops battling ISIS militants in the Middle East.

“The OV-10s’ deployment is one of the latest examples of a remarkable phenomenon. The United States—and, to a lesser extent, Russia—has seized the opportunity afforded it by the aerial free-for-all over Iraq and Syria and other war zones to conduct live combat trials with new and upgraded warplanes, testing the aircraft in potentially deadly conditions before committing to expensive manufacturing programs.

“That’s right. America’s aerial bombing campaigns are also laboratories for the military and the arms industry. After all, how better to pinpoint an experimental warplane’s strengths and weaknesses than to send it into an actual war?”

We never learn.