Trump and Torture

TRUMP: I’ll work it with the generals. I’ll work with the generals.

What generals, one might reasonably ask.

COOPER: I talked to General Michael Hayden.

TRUMP: For sure he says it’s terrible that we talk that way. And, you know what, that’s why he’s been fighting this war for many years. OK.

COOPER: He is the Four-Star General, Former CIA, Former Head of the CIA., he says your foreign policy ideas are frightening…..

(Soltz) Donald Trump has a pattern, in pretty much every position that he takes with any issue. If you aren’t winning fast, he wants to just brutalize the other side. Continue reading Trump and Torture

Violence at Trump Rally

Friday, March 11 brought an ugly return to politically motivated violence in America. No surprise it was at a Trump rally. The link below is the first I encountered and was posted while protesting was still in progress. It is, therefore, admittedly an early, developing, incomplete report. It does, however, provide insight into actions incited by mob psychology. (And I am guessing that sometime down the road some mob members regret their participation in a chaotic event. Speaking for myself, it is humiliating to know that a single person can influence so many, many people to do awful things, particularly those present at an event (such as a rally. People, I think, feel strangely anonymous in a crowd, free to act outrageously.)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-rally-chicago_us_56e366ece4b0b25c9182176f

 

Donald Trump Rally In Chicago Canceled Amid Security Fears

Fights broke out after the event was called off.

03/11/2016 07:58 pm ET

Fighting broke out when the cancelation was announced …

Why? Who on either side was amped up enough to begin swinging just because of a cancellation? Disappointment, maybe. But it seems to me that in the ranks of both supporters and opposers there were plenty of folks revved up to be angry, no matter what Trump might have said.

Trump’s events in recent days have featured numerous instances of violence. Trump has encouraged supporters to attack protesters, saying they should “hit back” more often.

“We have a country that’s so divided …” (Trump)

Gee, I wonder how that happens.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he (Trump) continued. “There’s a lot of anger in the country, and it’s very sad to see.” 

Sad, indeed. In my view, the Republican party has now reaped what was sown by The Tea Party and Citizens United: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have blossomed into new strains of nastiness in political dialog. I don’t know who scares me more. And although I concede that my left-wing leanings favor Hillary and Bernie, I ask the reader not to consider any candidates as representatives of a particular party; rather, don’t watch any more debates, just read the transcripts. Decide for yourself: Where is the substance? Where are the sophomoric ad hominem attacks? Who sounds, dare I say it, presidential?

“Tonight’s rally will be postponed,” a Trump campaign staffer announced … “Thank you very much for your attendance, and please go in peace.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Editor’s Note (not the blogger’s): Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynistbirther and bully …

Women in the Military

Things sure do change http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ash-carter/us-military-combat-positions-to-women_b_9440158.html. During my nearly one year of training and another in combat I encountered zero women in uniform. Not even a nurse. Granted, that was 50 years ago and I don’t remember that as ever being noteworthy. My, how times sure do change.

Fifty years ago, women in the military was virtually a non-issue. Sure, I know they were there, serving just as honorably as any of their male counterparts. But a half-century ago there was also a draft to fill the ranks with as many male bodies as circumstances dictated. The all-voluntary military of today has changed all that.

No draft/no unlimited pool of bodies. And so there is no–and should never be–any form of discrimination concerning citizens willing to:

  • wear the uniform
  • reply, “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” to superiors in rank who may or may not be superior in any other way
  • sit, stand, eat only when told
  • bear arms
  • follow orders
  • kill

I am quite ambivalent on this matter, specifically, women achieving total equality with males in terms of position, ability to rise in rank, and openness to all MOSs, including 11B, infantryman. My equivocation derives from the struggle between personal experience of yesteryear and today’s societal realities.

I do not in any way doubt a woman’s fitness for service. And my manhood is not threatened by a woman who can outrun, out lift, or outshoot me. But therein lies the rub. I know how fast and far I can run, I know how much I can lift, I shot “expert” on the rifle range. All of that is peripheral to the discussion, however.

After all that physical recognition and achievement (and psychological preparedness as well, I suppose), there is the matter of actual combat, the raison d’etre for a standing military in the first place. Strength and stamina and stealth can get one to the enemy’s lair. At that very place, though, the soldier’s existential paradox arrives.

Pulling the trigger is the ultimate test: pull the trigger of a weapon aimed at another human being, pass the test. Simple enough. It does not end there. Pulling the trigger is also the ultimate proof of one’s more complex capabilities; it demonstrates unequivocally and irretrievably that one is willing and able to kill.

It is impossible for me to ignore the sexism of my view of women in combat roles. Since Vietnam, I have grown ever so steadily toward pacifism, knowing full well that there really are pockets of evil around the world that need to be dealt with. In the instant that it takes to pull that trigger a person’s life, male or female, is changed forever. Why would we want to place that life-long burden on yet another segment of our population? Are we prepared to have more women join the ranks of over-medicated, under-medicated, non-medicated, suicidal veterans with PTSD?

How to Follow PTSD Outreach

I think my blog/posts are connected to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ Even if I am, I’m not sure what that means.

What does work–I’ve tested it–is the “subscribe” bar I installed. After clicking this bar, you input your e-mail account and each new post goes directly to my/your e-mail inbox.

However they are received–via whatever medium–I sincerely hope that dialog occurs and that PTSD might be better understood, if only because people feel free to discuss it.

Peace,

paul

A Really Bad Night

Headline and quotes come from www.history.com. I was there, and so the comments are remembrances and reflections of that terrible time. Sights, sounds, and odors experienced in situations like this become PTSD triggers.

“U.S. 1st Infantry Division troops engage in one of the heaviest battles of Operation Junction City. The fierce fighting resulted in 210 reported North Vietnamese casualties.”

Early into the battle, a platoon from the Big Red One had lost radio contact with HQ. My company–A, 3/21, 196th Light Infantry Brigade–set out to find them. We did. All dead. Some slaughtered beyond recognition.

It took a long time, multiple droppings of 500lb bombs, and a heavy dose of napalm for us to breach the machine gun-protected woodline. It was late afternoon. The command decision was that it was too late to evacuate the dead; they were, after all, dead not wounded. The extraction would occur in the light of the next morning.

That meant that our three rifle platoons had to dig foxholes to form a perimeter around our fallen comrades and sit out the night on high alert. We were attacked several times: some single shot sniper rounds, some heavier barrages. Not knowing whether we were fighting VC or NVAs and not knowing the troop strength of the enemy, there was a real, albeit unspoken, chance that we too could be overrun.

Bad things happened that night, including the back blast of an improperly placed Claymore mine nearly blowing my head off, a buddy in my foxhole getting shot right next to me. I remember the assistant machine gunner who got out of his fox hole, then one shot, one scream, another dead American.

“Operation Junction City was an effort to smash the communist stronghold in Tay Ninh Province and surrounding areas along the Cambodian border … The purpose of the operation was to drive the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops away from populated areas and into the open, where superior American firepower could be more effectively used.”

Grunts never knew the master plan. All we knew was that there were American soldiers who needed to be found. That was our mission. We swept the jungle for about two weeks after the bodies had been choppered out. The mission changed from “recover” to “search and destroy.”

“Junction City was the largest operation of the war to date, involving more than 25,000 troops.”

For the guy on the ground, the number 25,000 means nothing. Numbers that matter are 30: my platoon; 10: my squad; 5: my fire team; 1: me.

“There were 2,728 enemy casualties by the end of the operation on March 17.”

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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.

 

 

U.S. Troops Begin Engagement in Vietnam

Excerpt from http://www.history.com for March 8, 1965:

“… The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade … (took) up stations 4,000 yards off Red Beach Two, north of Da Nang…. The 3,500 Marines were deployed to secure the U.S. airbase, freeing South Vietnamese troops up for combat.”

How did that work out?

On that date I was working as a United Auto Worker at a ball bearing plant, while also attending night college. I was 19. Two weeks before my 20th birthday in October, I was drafted. When I arrived in Vietnam in 1966 there were 50,000 U.S. troops deployed; when I left a year later, there were nearly half-a-million. Oh, how things get out of hand! Quickly.

We never learn from our military history and we always buy into the myths.

Myth 1: The presence of U.S. troops will free up host nation soldiers to conduct ground operations. This is like a high school basketball team keeping its first string players on the bench during a conference championship game. Never happen. Our national DNA will not allow it.

Myth 2: The U.S. military will work closely with its allies. In fact the U.S. will act in whatever way pleases it and/or keeps it in the dominant role. Combat goals become fuzzy, exit strategies non-existent.

Myth 3: There is an acceptable risk of collateral damage. What an odious euphemism this is. It presupposes, and accepts, that innocents will die. Inevitably, they do.

Myth 4: The people of country ABC will be better off when tyrant DEF is gone. We can certainly debate this one with regard to recent conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Somalia. Ancillary to this myth is the perceived need for the continued presence of U.S. military stations after open hostilities have subsided. I give you North Korea/South Korea and Taiwan/China in Asia and NATO in Europe. It can’t be healthy when most American tourists in some places wear uniforms instead of mufti, where the dollar is cherished more than local currency.

By the time of our ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, I am hard pressed to report a single good, from an American point of view, that resulted from that conflict. Rather we have a wall with 58,000+ names.

And we have an impossibly calculable number of our countrymen knowingly or, worse, unknowingly dealing with PTSD. We were thrown into the haphazard mix of myths and spewed out as collateral damage. That was then, this is now. What has changed?

Even at the Golf Course

So this guy at the course asks me what I “used to do.” Rather than spew out the entire resume, I said, “teach.” Well, he has a friend who used to be a teacher. None of his students messed with him because he was a Vietnam vet and they all figured he was, you know, crazy.

When I taught at Rumson-Fair Haven in the ’70s, the movie Deer Hunter came out. A teacher who saw it–a history teacher, mind you–asked me if I ever played Russian Roulette when I was in Vietnam. Imagine that!

It is comments like these that make me wonder: why did I not talk about the war for many years? Was I practicing selective mutism or were people around me avoiding the subject because they thought I might do something ugly? This thinking both over-simplifies and over-generalizes. Moreover, speaking for myself, it forced pseudo-amnesia of what would later become indelible images.

I did not want to talk about war with people who had not been to war. I wanted neither praise or pity, although I’ve received both over time. And this begs the question of merit, i.e., what, if anything, do I deserve? Veterans, in general, are lauded for “service to the country.” Vietnam veterans, in particular, are viewed as unfortunate victims of “the draft.” And so others both praise and pity us at different times for different reasons.

All I wanted to do yesterday was play golf.

Welcome

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has led me on a strange journey. I did not want the Vietnam War to define me and so fought off my demons for many years. I chalked up erratic behavior to personal quirks, never linking them or discerning any pattern at all. Until I was diagnosed.

 

I sought help for so-called “anger issues” which seemed to me not very natural for a guy in his 60s. This accounts for steps 1 and 2 in managing life’s difficulties: acknowledging a problem and seeking help. I am now a regular at a VA clinic and with a VA-approved counselor.

 

My aim and desire is to provide on this site an opportunity for all to receive and share insights about their “examined life.”