Is Iran on our side now? This is all crazy…

June 13, 2014

UPDATE: The news since I first posted all of this is that now President Obama has ruled out sending in U.S. ground troops but other options remain under consideration.

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This is all crazy. Iraq is disintegrating in sectarian fighting and now there is the prospect of Iran taking part and actually being on our (U.S.) side to protect the Shiite government they back, as opposed to the Sunni militants (who are the old Saddam Hussein people, arch enemy of Iran). You may recall the U.S. at one time backed Iraq (Saddam Hussein) in its war against Iran. Maybe we were on the wrong side. Whatever, mixed up in all of this are the Islamic terrorists who would impose harsh Sharia law on all — no rights for women, and no individual rights for anyone really. Whether we should have ever got mixed up in all of this is one thing, but mixed up we got. We spent millions of dollars and suffered much loss of human life with thousands killed and severely wounded (for life) and then walked away with nothing.

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Are we going back to Iraq?

The US’s war in Iraq was supposed to be over and now it was on to winding down our involvement in Afghanistan.

But militants are taking over, threatening the government there we helped create (albeit the one who for all intents and purposes kicked us out). But secretly it asked us recently for some air support against the militants.

And now after declaring our involvement Iraq over President Barack Obama says nothing is off the table, all options are being considered, in the crisis there.

Let’s see: Vietnam, Iraq (two times, now three?), and Afghanistan (where the Taliban is just waiting for us to leave in order to take over).

Is there something similar in all of these?

When you don’t fight a war to win you lose.

Don’t get into war unless you have the stomach to win.

How can our leaders look into the eyes on the faces of the loved ones of those who have died in these wars?

So much sacrifice. For what?

P.s.

It seems to me that the only sensible way to have handled things was to go for all-out victory and then impose rule by a transition government of our creation and stay engaged. If that was not practical then we should have not been involved in the first place. If we go back now I doubt half measures will work. It’s a tough decision. Do we have leadership here in the United States capable of handling it? Not sure of that at all…

 

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The mighty Cantor forgets that all politics is local, if you don’t vote others will and get their way…

June 12, 2014

You’d think Republican and now outgoing House Majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia with all his power and the money power brings in would have realized the political maxim that “all politics is local”. But apparently he did not. Seems his constituents were convinced he got a little too highfalutin with national issues and really did not represent his district. So an under-funded and heretofore politically unknown economics professor beat him in a primary election. A house majority leader has not been discarded by his own constituents since 1899.

Whether Cantor did or did not truly represent the interests of his constituents, I would not know. But just letting someone paint him that way and not successfully answering it shows he was not on the ball. Maybe he was a little too close to Wall Street and not Main Street. There was a low voter turnout in his district, which did not help.

And that might be a lesson to those who shrug off the importance of voting. If you don’t vote, others who have a special interest in the outcome will and will get their way. And money alone does not always win elections.

The winner, one David Brat, is now being cheered on by the so-called Tea Party — and I just revised this sentence from the initial version of this post. Even the Tea Party I think did not see this one coming and failed to fund Brat to any extent if at all (not sure on this).

An article in National Review gave conservative talk show host Laura Ingram major credit for the Brat upset over Cantor.

At any rate, while I am relatively sure that I would disagree with much of what the tea baggers and others of that ilk seem to stand for (actually I am not at all sure what they stand for), I have to admire the way they are shaking up politics.

It’s good to see Wall Street beat out by Main Street.

All politics is local.

P.s.

While in the long run the refusal to compromise can stymie the work of government there is a danger in too much compromise that just dilutes strong principles into a weak mismash that leads to poor policy.

 


I don’t think the authors of the Second Amendment had this in mind…

June 11, 2014

When our founders wrote the Second Amendment I doubt they meant that all mentally deranged people should have a sacred right to carry guns and murder people. If what is going on today in our schools, and elsewhere, was happening then I would think they would have at least made a proviso that their concern for the need of an armed citizenry to protect itself did not mean that any loony tune or person sick of mind should have easy access to guns.

I have the same feeling as does President Obama on this one. He said he was “stunned” after  the gunning down of a class full of first graders  somewhat over a year ago that Washington was powerless to do anything. And now there have been a rash of school shootings, one just yesterday in Oregon where one student was shot dead by another student, who then killed himself.

I’ve been reading a book about the whole history of the Second Amendment and so far it seems to me that its authors were talking more of the value of state militias as something to counter a national army run by the central government, although they may well have been addressing an individual right inherent in that idea as well.

Whatever, it does seem incredible to me that we seem to be held hostage to the Second Amendment and the gun lobby, being prevented from making common sense rules on safety. And I don’t mean disarming the public. And I realize that all the laws in the world would not stop every deranged person. But one would think some prudent steps need to be taken.

(Many say that there are already enough laws on the books, they just need to be enforced. Somehow I think something must be missing.)

Again, as I often write, we need citizen legislators who are not professional politicians at the mercy of lobbyists to fund their campaigns or to not put out propaganda against them, in this case the gun lobby.

The right to keep and bear arms can be preserved with reasonable regulation aimed at public safety I would think.

The mental sickness that seems to have pervaded our society will not be solved by gun laws of course. But that fact should not be used as ammunition against any reasonable gun safety precautions.

I think it would be interesting to see a study documenting in these cases through the years how people obtained their guns and the timing. I mean do these people go crazy and then go out and buy guns or find them somehow or what?

Gun rights supporters worry that any move to curb access to guns will eventually lead to the confiscation and prohibition of guns.  If things keep going the way they have been, violence wise, who knows?


From saving private Ryan to saving sergeant Bergdahl…

June 8, 2014

In commemoration of D-Day there was that movie a few years ago called “Saving Private Ryan”. But the best we could come up with in this day and age, just having marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, is “Saving Sergeant Bergdahl”. He being the runaway PFC in the Afghanistan war who was for no apparent reason promoted to sergeant while in captivity.

Details of his desertion or whatever it might be called still seem to be murky. And while some accounts paint him as a soldier who preferred not to fight others say he was quite enthusiastic, although he may have preferred the idea of helping civilians in Peace Corps fashion. There just seems to be differing accounts. There still is no one version of how he escaped his duty station or what his intentions were, although it seems to be established he did leave his post in an unauthorized fashion. He was captured by the Taliban enemy. And now he has reportedly told medical personnel in Germany that he was tortured while in captivity. That has not been confirmed but one would expect that. One wonders what he could have been thinking. If he did not like the conditions in his outpost did he really think he could find better outside walking (running) through the desert where is would surely be captured by an enemy known for lopping people’s heads off?

But I don’t want to come off highly critical of Bergdahl. I know what it is like to be a confused young man. It just does not seem we can paint him as some type of model soldier (as had been attempted). I don’t know maybe he was on some kind of covert special mission (not likely).

And back to the heroes of D-Day. It’s not like in the movies (well the standard patriotic ones), even in our so-called successful and more favored wars, even in those there were deserters or those who shirked their duties. Pity poor private Eddie Slovik in World War II. He deserted his unit in Europe as thousands of others had done (he having decided facing enemy fire was not for him), or got separated and did not bother to go find it. But Gen. Eisenhower made the final decision that an example had to be made. Things were getting out of hand. So he was executed. The poor guy thought he would just be court martialed and get credit for time already served in the stockade and then go home. I read one book that said that Gen. George Washington during our Revolutionary War at least one point had to ride among his troops waving his sword threatening to execute them if they fled the field of battle.

No one can know what he or she might do faced with the prospect of flying bullets and shells and improvised explosives until, well, faced with that. It’s probably situational — I mean if one is in a no-choice (nowhere else to go) situation, then he or she is more likely to look brave. And then of course there are the brave or fearless.

War is hell for those actually under direct fire and no one should have to endure it, and yet no one has figured out a way to prevent it. Simply refusing to take part does not necessarily work. The forces of evil are glad for you to stand down. They want to take over.

But that does not mean we always have to fight in every situation. There has to be some direct interest. It also has to be practical.

I heard a good quote on a radio program earlier today. It was something about various humanitarian organizations wanting to help the distressed people of Syria in the ongoing internal strife there (to include the possibility of inserting troops). How do you help people without doing more harm than good? That was not the direct quote but the essence of it I think.  In that case it is hard to tell who the good and bad guys are. Although Assad is a tyrant and responsible for ordering gas attacks on his own people, the so-called rebel movement is infiltrated with Islamic terrorists while is said that Assad actually supports a more pluralistic society (well someone said that).

We had an advantage in World War II in that there was a clear line of demarcation between good and evil. The German Nazis clearly represented evil. The allies represented freedom.

(And I am not forgetting the other front against the military-led government of Japan.)

The United States came out as the leader of the free world in that war.

But the nature of war has changed and indeed the world has changed.

Something that has not changed, though, is the constant human struggle for land and resources and power over others, really the cause behind all wars.

P.s.

Read that Sergeant Bergdahl’s father has received death threats. Those threats no doubt are coming from the misguided or the just plain mentally deranged. Nothing they (father and son) may have done can be worse than the actions of those who make such threats.


D-Day may have been our finest hour; we are not in that hour now…

June 6, 2014

I have to give thanks to all those who took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy 70 years ago today — to those who died right there, those who lived but are now dead, and of course those hearty souls, most in their 90s or beyond, who are still around to tell the tale.

It was the largest military invasion in history and forces of the United States with the backing of the British Empire and the French brought the war to the Nazi’s front door and then into their home territory and of course won and saved the world from their evil plans.

Winston Churchill had early on in the war exhorted the English to fight and persevere and said it would be their “finest hour”.

Well D-Day may have been the United States’ finest hour — not to disparage or minimize our other military victories.

We are not in our finest hour in that regard now. It is not the fault of our troops and maybe not the fault of their military command. It is the fault of poor civilian leadership when it comes to the business of war, and a public who is too preoccupied with its own comfort.

It is also because war is different nowadays and the battles are not clear cut. And of course we may be too careless or too gullible about war — we have been lured into traps I fear.

And yet, the United States is still the leader of the free world. We need to live up to the courage of those who fought to keep us free.

We need to demand of our civilian leaders that they do not get us into wars as simply foreign policy but only for defense. And once the case is made, we need to support the effort. D-Day would have been impossible in today’s environment.

 


Since when do deserters get promoted to sergeant for their efforts?

June 4, 2014

There are a lot of unknowns about the soldier Bowe Bergdahl story. Was he a deserter? Did he willingly leave his post in Afghanistan? Actually the answers to those questions appear to be yes according to all the stories I have read and heard so far, although there is usually some qualification. But he was a PFC when captured by the Taliban. He was held for five years until being released the other day in a surprise and perplexing move by President Barack Obama trading five high-level Taliban fighters we (the U.S.) held for the release of Bergdahl.

In the meantime he somehow magically became a sergeant.

I realize that Bergdahl may not be sinister. He was likely or is likely a confused young man. And a disillusioned young man when he saw first-hand what was going on in the Afghanistan War. He reportedly wrote emails expressing dismay and revulsion at the way U.S. soldiers treated Afghan people (we are not supposed to be at war with them, but rather the Taliban and Al Qaeda). He also referred to fellow soldiers who went along with the program as “fools”, I think I am correct in saying.

(And whatever Bergdhal witnessed was one man’s perspective in a certain time and place and not the broad view. War is ugly and there is not always a clear right and wrong like in those traditional war movies many of us have watched.)

There seems to be some question as to whether he was captured while performing his duties or whether he wandered away (ran away) from his post and then was grabbed by the enemy. But from the way everyone qualifies everything, it seems they are only being polite or defensive, with the understood meaning being that, well he deserted. I don’t know.

But I find it curious and even insulting that while he was held prisoner he was promoted from PFC to sergeant. It’s bad enough they promoted him, let alone skipped a rank. There is an intermediate rank between private first class and sergeant. I’m not sure whether this promotion in absentia in a situation as this has been done before. But if there is a question as to whether Bergdahl was a deserter or away without leave or not at his post or whatever, what is this promotion all about? How insulting to those who work for it and show actual leadership capability. And how insulting to we taxpayers. Oh, and how insulting to other POWs with no question as to their loyalty.

There almost has to be something more to this story. But even so, it is doubtful anything can make it right. If I understand it correctly, the Obama administration wanted to hand off the Taliban prisoners even before the Bergdahl swap was suggested. I don’t know what that is all about. Have to do more reading. From something I heard the president say, it appears he thinks former Taliban fighters might become part of the “peace process”. So this was a goodwill gesture and a chance to reunite a captured American soldier with his family.

Well regardless of Bergdahl’s actions I am happy for him and his family. I mean if he did wrong, maybe he can be forgiven. And I hate to see any families suffer the anguish.

But if he did wrong he is going to have a hard time living with the fact that some American soldiers reportedly lost their lives and other troops were occupied looking for him, shortly after his capture (escape).

And how the president thought that making such fanfare over this swap would be a good idea, I cannot imagine.

Swapping those who want to kill Americans for someone who deserted? I don’t get it.

p.s.

And if in fact Bergdahl did act honorably (even if the published emails or quotes from them are true) I don’t know why the administration and the military and his family would not proclaim this. Well, actually Susan Rice did — but her job seems to be taking flak.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Combat veteran Shinskeki takes the honorable way out, now let’s see some action…

June 1, 2014

Well let’s hope Gen. Eric Shinseki is not the only one whose head rolls in the ongoing Veterans Administration scandal. Certainly anyone and everyone who had a hand in the secret waiting lists should leave too.

After reading Shinseki’s bio, the fact that as an army officer he was seriously wounded in Vietnam, losing part of a foot, it seems to me a heck of a way to end a career. But like someone said to me, when you are in something that involves politics you have to expect things like this.

It may be that Shinseki dug his own grave, so to speak, by several years ago creating unrealistic expectations — at least for many facilities and at least in the short run. That is, new patients were to be seen in no less than 14 days. I guess when the higher up in a big organization sets a goal, those at the bottom of the ladder have to do anything they can to meet it and if that does not work, make something up.

And Shinseki had that military background. In the military you can’t do something is not an option. Once a sergeant told me to go back into the barracks and get a web belt, because that was the uniform of the day. I for some reason did not have one. He told me I better crap one, except he did not use the word crap. Well that little anecdote does not necessarily fit here, but you get the idea, maybe.

Actually Shinseki may have made vast improvements during his tenure at the Veterans Administration, but the long complained of problems of patients having to wait an inordinate amount of time persisted at many facilities, according to reports, even though many veterans lauded the treatment they did get when they got it.

But when you are in charge of something that is what you get paid the big bucks and get all the prestige that goes with it for. And while Shinseki had been an army general, working his way up to Army Chief of Staff, before taking the civilian position director of the VA, I have to think of the Navy tradition of the captain taking the blame for all that goes wrong on his ship, his watch. Tradition and honor demands it. We just need more leaders in both military and civilian life that think like that.

But now let’s demand our leaders make something positive happen and quickly at the VA. We don’t need excuses, we need action. Our veterans deserve it.

P.s.

Again I feel somewhat badly about Gen. Shinseki. You might recall that this combat soldier warned the George W. Bush administration going into Iraq that they needed more troops. The likes of the Vietnam draft evading but war hawk (any war) Dick Cheney disregarded the advice, only to find later after much bloodshed that Shinseki was right.