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

1-17: UN vs Iraq, 1991

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

Just a few questions:

  • Where were you on January 15, 1991 when the “coalition” began bombing Iraq because of its invasion of Kuwait?
  • Did you know or care about Iraq’s presence in Kuwait before that date?
  • Using a globe or map, could you place your finger on Iraq or Kuwait, then or now?

History.com reports (for January 15, 1991):

The Persian Gulf War Begins

At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor.

Did you even know that the United Nations had a Pentagon?

At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code-name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House.

You see, although any grade schooler can tell you that in America only Congress can declare war. So, if the Coalition-U.N.-Pentagon-White House designates a hostile act an “operation,” said hostile act is not a war. Oh, people will die, lots of people; but a state of war does not exist. The United States is not at war.

The operation was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

Did you know that American forces, even when nominally in combat under the auspices of the United Nations, never fight under the command—or the flag—of another nation? That’s a rule.

During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war …

On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. Kuwait was liberated in less than four days, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces surrendered, retreated into Iraq, or were destroyed….

We can’t leave well enough alone.

On March 20, 2003, a second war between Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition began, this time with the stated U.S. objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power and, ostensibly, finding and destroying the country’s weapons of mass destruction.

That’s not exactly how I remember it. In fact, campaigner George W. Bush clearly articulated his non-desire to effect regime changes around the world, he would not be a “nation builder.” Although Bush was president, I continue to hold his veep, Dick Cheney, and other chicken hawk neocons responsible for the disaster that was the war in Iraq.

Hussein was captured by a U.S. military unit on December 13, 2003. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Although U.S. President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, an insurgency has continued an intense guerrilla war in the nation that has resulted in thousands of coalition military, insurgent and civilian deaths.

It never ends.

*****

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.

1-16: U.S. Troops to Poland

[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 CNN.]

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

If you have never heard of Zagan, Poland or can’t point to its location on a map, your geography IQ is about to rise a few points. Without disregarding all the political haranguing about US-Russian relations, we now have “boots on the ground” to back up the talk. As of Thursday of last week, 4000 soldiers (an armor brigade) from the 4th Infantry Division deployed to Zagan in a conspicuous show of force to our Cold War foe.

This should trouble us—it does me—for many reasons, highest among them being the real possibility of U.S. forces deployed and fighting in three quite separate and distinct theaters of operation: Afghanistan, the South China Sea, and eastern Europe, not to mention other hot spots such as Syria and Yemen. Disaster looms … for us and for the world.

With regard to Poland Laura Smith-Spark and Atika Shubert filed this report.

Poland welcomes thousands of US troops in NATO show of force

Zagan, Poland (CNN) Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo welcomed US troops to her country at a formal ceremony Saturday, saying it was a “great day” that would help ensure Poland’s security.

Some 4,000 US soldiers have been deployed as part of troop rotations to Europe that the Pentagon has said are intended to bolster ties with NATO allies and send a clear message to Russia.

Not surprisingly,

Russia has criticized the continuous deployments as a threat to Russian security.

“It’s a great day today when we can welcome, here in Zagan, American soldiers who represent the best, the greatest army in the world,” Szydlo said at the ceremony in the snowy western town of Zagan.

Speaking after the Polish leader, Paul Jones, the US ambassador to Poland, said the troops arriving in Poland were “America’s most capable force,” embodying an “iron-clad commitment” to defend NATO allies.

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said the US troops would help ensure “freedom, independence and peace in Europe and the whole world” and that Poland was proud of “joint efforts that guarantee the security of Europe and of the eastern flanks of NATO.”

American soldiers “stand united on Polish soil to deter and defend,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy McGuire, deputy commander of US Land Forces in Europe. He added that the troops’ arrival was a “concrete sign of the continued US commitment to the defense of Poland and the NATO alliance.”

The 3rd Armored Combat Brigade Team of the 4th Infantry Division “is a highly capable and ready force with the best equipment, leadership, and training of any combat force in the world,” he said.

To maintain combat readiness, the soldiers will conduct “realistic exercises” with allies in locations across Poland and Europe, McGuire added.

… just as the Chinese and U.S. navies “conduct ‘realistic exercises’ half a globe away.

The deployment will serve as part of a rotation of American military assets in the region and is part of an effort to demonstrate the US commitment to European allies in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, according to Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, deputy commander of US European Command.

“Military Assets”

I hate that term, because, since that rat, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, popularized it during the Vietnam War, military brass and politicians have used it to include personnel. Just as corporations are not people, soldiers, sailors, and airmen/women are not objects. Assets don’t bleed, brothers and sisters do. Assets don’t suffer, mothers and fathers do. Assets don’t die, sons and daughters do.

Russia’s Predictable Reply

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a conference call Thursday that Russia’s response was a natural reaction to an increase in military strength by a neighbor.

“We see it as a threat to us. This is an action that threatens our interests, our security; moreover, this is a third nation (apart from Russia and Poland) that is increasing its military presence near our borders in Europe, and it’s not even a European nation.

“One thousand or 10,000 — we’re talking about the increase of military presence. There’s nothing to add.”…

I will be anxious to hear of American chicken hawks’ response(s) in the coming days over this recent, troubling development. I will be more anxious to learn what “official Government sources” have to say … and do. Whose voice will be loudest and most convincing, Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense? Which branch will carry the most weight in global policy and decision making, Executive or Legislative?

If there were ever a time for enlightened diplomacy, the time is now.

*****

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

1-13, Time to Leave Afghanistan

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

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

… but … but … but

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

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

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

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

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

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

October of what year one might ask.

The scene:

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

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

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

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

Statistics don’t help.

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Terrorism in Turkey

Russian Ambassador Shot and Killed in Turkish Capital of Ankara

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

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

… and whom do Americans we support?

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

Deja Vu! Another Truck, Another Mass Killing

Truck Plows into Crowd near Christmas Market in Berlin

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

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

Berlin police said nine people were killed….

… people praying …

Man Opens Fire in Zurich Mosque, Wounding Three People

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

What happens to evacuees from a war zone?

Aleppo Evacuations Resume after Days-Long Standoff

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

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

What does it mean to be victorious?

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

Buses Burned

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

 

Russian High-Stakes War Games, Playing for Real

Russian Military Plane Crashes in Siberia

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

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

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

Killing the Old Fashioned Way

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 49 Soldiers in Yemen

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

Nothing New

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

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

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

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

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

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

And That Is Just One Day!

*****

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

12-2: 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.

 

 

11-30: A Mother’s “Gift”

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

Death in war does not always come from a bullet, as shown in this story from WWI.

American Nurse Maude Fisher Writes to Mother of War Casualty

On November 29, 1918, Maude Fisher, a nurse in the American Red Cross during World War I, writes a heartfelt letter to the mother of a young soldier named Richard Hogan to inform her of her son’s death in an army hospital.

“My dear Mrs. Hogan,” Fisher began, “If I could talk to you I could tell you so much better about your son’s last sickness, and all the little things that mean so much to a mother far away from her boy.” Richard Hogan, who survived his front-line service in the war unscathed, had been brought to the hospital with influenza on November 13, 1918–just two days after the armistice was declared.

Thus, the “war to end all wars” had come to an end. That did not end the suffering, however.

The influenza soon developed into pneumonia. Hogan was “brave and cheerful,” Fisher assured Mrs. Hogan, “and made a good fight with the disease…. He did not want you to worry about his being sick, but I told him I thought we ought to let you know, and he said all right.”

Before two weeks had passed, however, Hogan was dead.

Would his death have borne different meaning if it had come from German shrapnel? Would that have mattered to a grieving parent? I don’t think so.

Knowing the woman would only receive an official governmental notification of her son’s death, Fisher gave a more personal account of his last days, including his joking with the hospital orderly and the other nurses’ affection for him. According to Fisher, Hogan was buried in the cemetery at Commercy, in northeastern France, alongside other fallen American soldiers of the Great War.

Yes, “alongside other fallen American soldiers of the Great War”!

“A big hill overshadows the place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy,” Fisher wrote. “He prayed that the people at home might have great strength now for the battle that is before them, and we do ask that for you now. The country will always honor your boy, because he gave his life for it,

until it forgets your “boy” and all the other boys laid to rest in the cemetery at Commercy

and it will also love and honor you for the gift of your boy,

This is where I have trouble. It’s the “gift” part. Would wars exist if parents worldwide freely bequeathed their offspring to some cause or another, as they once did in ancient Sparta? And what about our “boys” and “girls” today who comprise the all-volunteer military, and what about their parents? Is the death of an American soldier today a gift? To whom? For what?

but be assured, that the sacrifice is not in vain, and the world is better today for it.”

But I am not assured that war death is not in vain. Since Vietnam and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, soldiers have been referred to as “assets.” Kind of softens the blow if an asset is lost rather than a person. Chicken hawks use flippant terms like “acceptable risk” and “collateral damage.” No, I am not assured that the world is a better place because it is smeared with American blood.

What I do know is that our era of endless war begets wounded generation after wounded generation.

*****

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.

 

 

11-11: Veterans Day

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. I have chosen for Veterans Day to cite myself–to share an excerpt from my book, After the Storm.]

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I do not believe the artificial rhetoric I have heard since the election about how the President-Elect will govern so much differently than he campaigned. I do not sincerely believe he can be magnanimous or gracious. And does he still believe that the election system is rigged? I believe we are in for a bumpy, humiliating, disastrous ride.

Yes, I am cynical. What came to my mind in thinking about an appropriate Veterans Day blog was our nation’s naiveté. I get that many, many voters simply dislike Hillary Clinton; I don’t understand it so much, but I get it. What I don’t get is the acceptance of Donald Trump as the alternative. I am honestly afraid of what his presidency will bring, the damage it will inflict on our culture, and the humiliation—at the least—we will suffer around the globe.

“Before” the Storm

As a way of introducing and summarizing Chapter 14 of After the Storm, “Pulling the Pin,” I cite a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

That’s how I feel about America today. In my view the electorate has “pulled the pin” and thus triggered a tumultuous, vindictive, dangerous bomb called Trump. It is impossible for me to imagine that our next commander-in-chief can in any way relate to the 20-year-old infantryman described hereunder.

“Pulling the Pin”

Not long after our first encounter with death …the platoon went out on patrol in a free fire zone … we found the terrain relatively easy to navigate …

We saw a small clearing ahead … Plunging straight ahead could be suicide for (my) squad … The plan came down that the squads on either flank would skirt the edges of the wood line, thereby establishing some lateral security, and (my) squad would advance cautiously across the open stretch: run a few steps one fire team at a time, hit the dirt, run a few steps, hit the dirt until we reached the other side.

As we dropped to the ground maybe twenty yards or so into the clearing, I saw a flash of movement behind a pile of dirt at the far left corner, that is, at the beginning of the woods we were headed toward. The mound itself looked suspicious because it appeared from the color of the dirt to be freshly dug. A bunker, perhaps; a foxhole; a grave?

Without much thought, I signaled to the rest of the squad and both flanks to stay down. Then I detached a hand grenade from my harness and low crawled directly toward the target. When I got close enough to feel comfortable that I could lob the grenade just over the berm thereby causing maximum destruction to whomever or whatever lay behind it, I pulled the pin, tossed the grenade, and still on my belly tried to squeeze my entire body inside my steel pot for protection, in case the shrapnel blew through or over the mound. Bulls eye…. I now had to inspect the result of my first deliberate belligerent act.

I’m not sure what I expected….

Over the years, I have remembered and thought sometimes very deeply about this incident…. I know that part of me died that day. For I knew from that instant what I am capable of. Without emotion, without hesitation, with no sense of guilt at the moment, I could kill. I could kill someone I never met and didn’t hate. My innocence lay shattered that day….

A paradox of war is that, within the context of this basest of human activities, individuals often discover in themselves and others the highest of human qualities: patriotism, honor, loyalty, courage, comradeship, dignity, love of life. The moment I pulled that pin, however, I discovered the nadir of my humanness….

In my very humble opinion, I do not believe we have yet witnessed the worst of Trump.

*****

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.e is an author and past Chaplain

 

 

9-22: Who Is in Charge?

[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, which comes from various places.]

With regard to the U.S. bombing of regulars in the Syrian army last week it seems several scabs have been scratched.

On the World Socialist Web Site we find:

“Everything suggests that the attack…… was deliberately committed by forces inside the US government hostile to the ceasefire….Claims that US fighters were unaware of who they were bombing are simply not credible, and are flatly contradicted by other accounts in the media…”
— Alex Lantier

The Smirking Chimp headline roars:

Rogue Mission: Did the Pentagon Bomb Syrian Army to Kill Ceasefire Deal?

This provocative, bold-faced question begs another: who is in charge of U.S. military affairs, the White House or the Department of Defense?

The Chimp’s Mike Whitney says,

A rift between the Pentagon and the White House turned into open rebellion on Saturday when two US F-16s and two A-10 warplanes bombed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions at Deir al-Zor killing at least 62 Syrian regulars and wounding 100 others. The US has officially taken responsibility for the incident which it called a “mistake”, but the timing of the massacre has increased speculation that the attack was a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to derail the fragile ceasefire and avoid parts of the implementation agreement that Pentagon leaders publicly opposed. Many analysts now wonder whether the attacks are an indication that the neocon-strewn DOD is actively engaged in sabotaging President Obama’s Syria policy, a claim that implies that the Pentagon is led by anti-democratic rebels who reject the Constitutional authority of the civilian leadership (emphasis added). Saturday’s bloodletting strongly suggests that a mutiny is brewing at the War Department.

This is a claim not to be taken lightly by any of us. Our history was forged on the principle that the supreme leader, so to speak, must be a civilian; our future as a democratic state depends on it.

The world is watching.

The chasm that’s emerged between the Pentagon warhawks and the more conciliatory members of the Obama administration has drawn criticism from leading media outlets in the US (The New York Times) to high-ranking members in the Russian cabinet. On Saturday, at an emergency press conference at the United Nations, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin referred to the apparent power struggle that is taking place in Washington with these blunt comments:

“The big question that has to be asked is ‘Who is in charge in Washington? Is it the White House or the Pentagon?’ …Because we have heard comments from the Pentagon which fly in the face of comments we have heard from Obama and Kerry…”

The old adage about political differences ending at our shores apparently does not hold sway anymore. The current argumentative state of presidential debate does nothing to assuage this condition. The New York Times reported on the incident, saying that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

“was among the administration officials who pushed against the (ceasefire) agreement … although President Obama ultimately approved the effort … at the Pentagon, officials would not even agree that if a cessation of violence in Syria held for seven days — the initial part of the deal — the Defense Department would put in place its part of the agreement on the eighth day…

“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.” (“Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon“, New York Times)

Food for Thought

(Whitney) Think about that for a minute: Lt. General Harrigian appears to be saying that he may not follow an order from the Commander in Chief if it’s not to his liking. When exactly did military leaders start to believe that orders are optional or that the DOD had a role to play in policymaking?

This is serious stuff, folks. Let’s hope the subject comes up in next week’s debate. It certainly wasn’t broached in the so-called Commander-in-Chief Forum hosted by Matt Lauer.

7-13: CNN Lights Dim

[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.]

Go to Network?

Back in the day, CNN was my go-to network whenever a big story–domestic or international–was breaking. They seemed to have knowledgeable reporters everywhere.  No more. Now, CNN more resembles a tabloid newspaper than a “legitimate” news source. Today, July 12, instead of leading with President Obama’s moving speech in Dallas, or Senator Bernie Sanders’ official endorsement of Secretary Hillary Clinton, or even the race of rats vying for the Republican vice presidential nod, CNN chose to hype this tripe (a Daily Kos headline):

CNN Invites Joe Walsh on Network after Walsh Tweets ‘Watch out Obama’ Threats. Why?

Walsh is a one-term former Representative from Illinois, known mostly for his bluster not his effectiveness as a lawmaker. Today he is a conservative talk radio host. Of course he is. After five police officers were gunned down dead in Dallas, this is what the bum tweeted for his followers:

This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” [“War,” “punks,” and “real America” just about sums up all America’s problems. The problem is Joe Walsh and his ilk.]

This is what Walsh told CNN host Don Lemon Friday night:

“I stand by what I meant, Don” …regarding the flood of tweets he sent blaming activists, liberals, and Obama for the deaths of five police officers …

Then he snidely began to backtrack.

He didn’t intend to threaten the president, he explained. [Then what did he intend to do? Was this a magnanimous gesture to Americans in general warning them to watch their backs?]

What Matters?

Black lives do matter … and so do inflammatory words. War is not a word to be thrown around lightly; it insults warriors and victims alike when used capriciously. In essence, Walsh trivializes combat by likening the actions of a “lone wolf” to an act of war.

In my view, CNN has demoted itself to third-rate journalism. And Walsh’s use of the word war–via Tweet and TV–really riles me. CNN at one time had the premier war correspondent in the world, Peter Arnett, then along came Christiane Amanpour, also a heavyweight in the international division. These two top-shelf journalists were followed by another, Michael Ware, an Australian.

We do not see Ware dodging shrapnel anymore. He is suffering from PTSD. That’s why real American, chicken hawk punks like Walsh are so dangerous. They do have followers, and every now and then one of them acts. The Black Lives Matter march in Dallas was a peaceful protest conducted under the protection of the local police. How dare Walsh call them punks and then have the nerve to insinuate that the murderer is a real American. He has a frightful case of PTSD, which in his case refers to Petty Tarnished Stupid Dope.

Wake up, CNN.