Tag Archives: war

A nation on the mend?

capitaldawn - 1Our Chief Executive, Mr. Donald Trump, and the Republican Caucus, headed up by Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, have run together as only the worst pairing in a three-legged race could.

Mr. Trump strikes out at his “partners” while the 3-legged race is in progress, hurling slanders and trash talk at his “trusted” aides and Senate “allies.”

The undignified and repeated bashing of various public and elected officials follows closely on Mr. Trump having earlier extolled the same persons in the most oleaginous phrasing.

Many suffer cognitive whiplash if they take Mr. Trump’s twitterings seriously.

Our unseemly Senate debate in the Republican Caucus has gone on for months weighing how much we’ll pay for war and a wall and reducing taxes for the rich at the expense of providing affordable health care to millions of Americans who will be ill or die without the care.

James Madison, in Federalist 49, cautioned that we need to be wary of a government composed of three departments, designed to check and balance each other, if ever two of those three Departments become dominated by the same faction.

Madison referenced Thomas Jefferson’s concerns that “the weaker departments of power” be able to withstand “the invasions of the stronger” and, if two Departments become so strong and unified, Jefferson insisted we must convene to alter or correct our constitution.

If the people are “the only legitimate fountain of power,” then such an encroachment requires “an appeal to the people themselves …”

Madison conceded that “every appeal to the people … carr[ies] an implication of some defect in the government.” Continue reading

Memorialize peace

My Dad in the cockpit!

My Dad in the cockpit!

I remember as if it were yesterday my Mom crying, the keening, the ancestral Irish wailing of her mother’s people, a soulful wound disgorged by screams and tears, when she learned my Dad’s brother, Charles, died of internal bleeding.

Years earlier, my uncle Charles had been shot in the chest in World War II in Italy and captured by the Nazis.

Charles was denied a blood transfusion in a Bronx hospital that would have saved his life.

President Woodrow Wilson promised that World War I would be the war to end all wars.  It was not.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WWII, said, “There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”

The “blood it costs” is the lost life of a spouse, sibling, child, relation, close friend, a loved one, leaving survivors bereft, never to know those they loved alive again.

Each of us would likely risk our lives, perhaps without a thought, on impulse, or instinct, for someone we love, to risk our life for one who makes our life whole and meaningful.

But would you do it for a nation-state hell-bent on exploiting the resources or citizens of another nation?  Continue reading

Political Magic

magiccardsNow you see it. Now you don’t.

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved magic, learned and performed tricks with cards, coins, magnets, (foam rubber) rabbits, large silvery clanging rings, false bottom boxes, ropes, and guillotine-like finger “slicers.” I found Harry Houdini mesmerizing, and I still love going to a good old fashioned magic show – as I did the other day to watch a self-described “Hogwarts graduate,” Michael Barron, who does “magic tricks for a living.”

We know that magic is an illusion, that the finger sliced off when the blade falls will be restored, yet we scream, for our collective mind suspends its disbelief, wanting to believe we’ve observed a magical singularity defying all past experience and common sense.

We play the fool, indeed we crave to be deceived, so we may puzzle, “how do you suppose he fooled us?”

How is this like politics?

It’s similar but not so harmless.

In politics, we often have the oleaginous con, the pol who does not perform as well as a tyro carney magician, he may even appear to be a clumsy oaf, stumbling to speak, having nary an original thought, a slender resume to fill the elective post he seeks, but he searches cleverly, like a political dowser might, to find the wellspring of our hope or fear that he promises to satisfy – while our jimminy cricket whispers, “you know, he can’t possibly do that.”

You’ve heard it this silly season.

One says – Walls will go up I tell you.

Another – Opportunity will rise – beyond your wildest dreams.

There’s a high price we pay for being suckered by such political misdirection. Continue reading

Why do we war in the Mideast?

unknownsoldierI have heard it said about Lahore and Brussels and Paris and New York that the reason the “terrorists” attack “us” is that they hate “our way of life.”

I don’t think that’s it at all. Yet, this explanation is repeated after every one of these tragic attacks.

I don’t think a man, no matter his religion or ideology, blows himself up because he envies us, acting out a terminal case of Freudian status-envy.

An obvious explanation, the terrorists offer, is that they bomb our innocent civilians because we’re bombing their women and children in the mid-East.

After the tragic 9-11 attack, we recovered computer records from an al-Qaeda office in Kabul. Al Qaeda calculated that, after the 9-11 attack, we’d either withdraw from the Muslim world, or launch a massive invasion that would drain our treasury, and force America to leave the Muslim world anyway. We charged into Iraq, took out Saddam Hussein, kind of left, and thus made ISIS possible.

It is my hope, therefore, that our councils at the so-called “defense” department, the CIA, NSA, HSA, and when all those acronym-laden experts gather at the White House, that they’re discussing something a lot more nuanced than how terrorists envy our way of life.

We can’t make decent foreign policy decisions based on BS “intel” that “terrorists” envy our burgers, reality tv and sprawling malls.

You have to suspect, that this line is meant only for our consumption, so we don’t ask why we’re really in the mid-East.

The powers that be assume most Americans have no idea where Belgium is, and a vague sense it has something to do with waffles.

The Economist said last November that Belgium has “a scabrous reputation as an incubator of jihadi ideology and a paragon of law-enforcement incompetence.” I’m not vouching for the foreign coverage. But is anyone reading this stuff? The Economist knew something was likely coming. And it did. But still Brussels was caught Flemish flat-footed.

The public has to be informed at home that what’s going on, prompting terrorism, is so much more complicated than nation-state envy?

Let’s level with the American people. Why exactly are we fighting in the Middle East? Is this an extension of dollar diplomacy, of securing mineral rights, of taking oil, of hegemony in the region, of exploiting a political vacuum we caused when we charged into Iraq, of securing Israel, of honoring commitments to Turkey (against Syria). Why are we there?

It’s hard to swallow the oft-cited claim that, “We’re just there to help the innocent women and children,” when we are dropping bombs on them with quite a bit less precision than you’ve grown to expect watching the current blockbuster action flicks.

Nor can we ignore that we have our latter day Crusaders who believe this is a holy war against Muslims. Save us!

No matter what is our true rationale, we should understand that when we drop bombs on population centers and strike civilians in the mid-East, we can expect that violence to come back on us, in Europe, Pakistan, and the United States.

The “terrorists” are curing the world of the sanitized TV version of the mid-East war, as a distant encounter that need not concern us, by concerning us, by bringing the fight to those nation-states, mixing into the centuries of religious wars they’ve endured. The cliché applies – “What goes around, comes around.”

So, it would be really good to define why we’re at war, for Aristotle said, nothing improves your aim like having a target, and if we can’t say why, we should get out of it.

The abyss revisited – Vietnam

The Vietnam Memorial

The Vietnam Memorial

On Veterans’ Day, we rightly celebrate the sacrifice of our young service men and women but don’t ever speak enough about how we decided to engage in the wars that risked their lives.

This was especially the case in the Vietnam War when young men were drafted to become cannon fodder in a war that defied the wisdom of Indochina history and based on the lie that it was a war of defense.

We “60s kids” were a generation that believed the government would tell us what was true and right for the nation; Vietnam was our awakening that the government could not be trusted.

It’s instructive to re-visit how we went wrong in Vietnam because we have since repeated this questionable toxic war scenario in the Middle East.

In the late 1940s, Ho Chi Minh told the French, then occupying Vietnam, “You can kill ten of my men for everyone I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.”

Ho Chi Minh spoke of the resolve of a nation to be let alone, and his challenge was not meant for the French alone.

Ho Chi Minh succeeded. He beat the French.

An arrogant United States, however, thought to defy philosopher George Santayana’s caveat that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We never held the high ground in the Vietnam War.

Our government lied that we needed to war in defense of American interests,

President Lyndon Johnson’s war powers relied on a manufactured pretext to go to war. Our government claimed the USS Maddox was targeted in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin by communist forces. This was untrue. The USS Maddox was never at risk, there was no provocation, and former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, admitted as much – albeit, long after the fact.

Nevertheless, our Congress empowered the President to war against “communist aggression,” a fatal deceit that killed our young men in combat actions having nothing to do with our national defense.

The United States was complicit in the political assassination of a corrupt Vietnam head of state we had championed, ignored the sanctity of other nation states when we bombed Laos and Cambodia, and lied to the American people about kill ratios and accumulated Viet Cong deaths, and the progress of the war generally.

On January 30, 1968, on the Tet holiday, the Vietnam New Year, a combined force of 80,000 Vietcong and the People’s Army of Vietnam launched a country wide offensive against 100 towns and cities; it was an assault few observers thought was possible; support for the war evaporated; the bold attack proved the communist forces were hardly on the run in Vietnam.

By the time the last American troops left Vietnam on August 15, 1973, Presidents Johnson and Nixon dropped 4.6 million tons of bombs on Vietnam.

We lost almost 60,000 service men and women and millions of Vietnamese were killed.

I do believe that we should honor those who served in Vietnam and every other war.

But we would honor them and this nation more if we only waged righteous wars of defense that were based on what was true, rather than the bald lies, the false propaganda, that the public is urged to believe instead

Sniper Chris Kyle – hoorah?

chriskyle

The “American Sniper” movie and autobiography by Chris Kyle that spawned “the movie” are taking unrelenting twitter fire.

It’s an Iraqi dust storm obscuring what’s accurate about the sniper’s character and what he did in the war.

It also tears open the mortal wound inflicted on the nation’s psyche by a war that many believe never should have been.

Chris Kyle, a Texan who believed in our country, was at a loss to make something out of his life as a private citizen.

Chris joined the military to find his home among the elite as a Navy SEAL, finding purpose and joy in combat, and becoming legend – as an historic sniper.

Chris put aside family, fear of risk to his life, suffered swimming that he hated, skirted sharks and sea lions, endured humiliating and abusive training exercises, and combat hardship, in ways few people on earth can imagine. Chris finished four tours in the mid East conflict in Iraq, coming home at the end in the fog of fear and anxiety, suffering what war inflicts on the best of warriors, indeed the shock of war that few escape.

The best indication who Kyle truly was is found in his “autobiography” that sounds in several different voices.

In person published interviews with Chris allow you to pick out what most resembles Chris’ own voice from among the “others” who helped him write his bio.

If I had not read the entire book, I would reduce Chris’ code as a warrior to the fun of killing savages, as stated in the first few pages.  But what’s said afterwards is more nuanced. Continue reading

Peace on earth

Peace on Earth – that’s what this season is all about.

Yet, we’ve witnessed from afar how in a matter of minutes Pakistani school children can be killed en masse by Taliban terrorists.

francisDoveWe wonder whether peace is an elusive idea that perhaps cannot be achieved on earth.

Our leaders raise their voices in hymns of hate.  Words of killing, conquering, overcoming other peoples, fall too easily from the tips of tongues, untested in tasting words of peace, except to justify the wars they wage, preferring death and suffering instead, and often of the truly innocent, dismissed as the collaterally damaged.

It’s hopeful, therefore, when we can seize upon a peace overture that succeeds.

It shows that we are better than the mad impulse to war.

Pope Francis, 78, became Pontiff in March 2013.  Almost from his first day in the Vatican, he worked in secrecy to enable President Barack Obama of the United States and President Raul Castro of Cuba to set aside past distrust and convene a dialogue for peace.   Continue reading

On the beheading

maskedJihadiAn American Journalist, James Foley, was beheaded by a Jihadi terrorist.

Beforehand, the masked executioner wrote:

“… You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings! The first of which being the blood of the American citizen, James Foley! He will be executed as a DIRECT result of your transgressions toward us!”

As gruesome an act as this was against an innocent non-combatant journalist, killing innocents in other ways has become a modern war stratagem.

Warring nation states kill innocents from opposing nation-states to break the public’s will, to force the policy question, “Is military action really worth it?”

The “great” civilization of Rome beheaded Cicero at Mark Antony’s direction for what Cicero wrote against Antony.

Now, we have Jihadi cutting off a journalists head for all to see – inviting citizens of the offended nation to be a voyeur at another man’s brutal death.

This public execution contrasts with the killing of thousands of anonymous innocent men, women and children, who are blown to bits by bombs or shot to death.

How much of our anger at this execution therefore is about having been forced to acknowledge that even our nation is engaged in this psycho drama, killing innocents, to build body counts, that become win loss body tallies, so we may win the war of religions, get to seize oil reserves, or gain market dominion, hegemony or territory, all the time, quite unconcerned about whether we’re also killing innocents or uniformed combatants? Continue reading

War madness

The Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul

In a world that prefers to war, can’t get enough of it, innocents are killed, and those senseless incidents in turn provoke more war.

It happened in the Ukraine and the testosterone is running high.  Ukraine calls to the West to put up or shut up with military force, not just economic sanctions.  The US saber rattles in response.  Partisans insist we must do more.

It could be as “simple” an error in the Ukraine as giving the separatist “freedom fighters” weapons that they should never have had.  The Russians entrusted these weapons in the Ukraine conflict. They thought they’d trained them no doubt. When the plane went down, the “freedom fighters” said they’d downed a military transport.  When they found out otherwise, the separatists went dark.  The United States weighs giving these weapons to other “freedom fighters” in Syria.

Not only do we have to trust these people – freedom fighters – if you must – to use the weapons in a just war, whatever that is these days, we also have to trust that they really know how to use the weapons at all, under the right circumstances, and, oh yes, that they won’t lose, give or sell the weapons we supplied to be used against us.

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A Magical Time!

German and British Troops together in No Man’s Land

German and British Troops together in No Man’s Land

The seasonal commercial onslaught notwithstanding, this is a magical time of the year, full of family, warmth, intimacy, compassion, togetherness, efforts to find one another, and abundant good will.

It has always been so, or so it seems, as the light of the sun is reborn, the rays shining longer day by day, a time when we renew ourselves from each other, resolving that for the next year, in the New Year, we will do things differently, reform ourselves but also perfect how we can deal better with each other.

While many of us watch film classics of the season about giving and risking for others, about the magic and miracle that is this holiday season, we don’t always appreciate the lesson.

99 years ago, somewhere in Flanders, in the Northern region of Belgium, there was singing in watery and flooded muddy pastures and trenches.

Some say guttural voices were first heard in German, singing, “O Tannenbaum,” and then other voices were heard in the King’s English, singing “The First Noel,” but the voices were conjoined when, in Latin, known to Germans and British alike, they could all sing together the familiar words, “Adeste Fidelis, laeti triumphantes.”

World War I had been underway for four months and it had wrongly been anticipated at the outset of the war, that it would all be over in time for Christmas.  But it wasn’t.

Continue reading