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.


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.







The good and the bad about the Obama war doctrine…

May 29, 2014

What I don’t like about the Obama approach is telling the enemy when we are going to quit. That’s absurd. What I do like about it is facing the fact that it is not in our interest and not practical to always use American force any time we see something we don’t like.

And as so many observers have observed, nation building is a mistake — it’s too costly in blood and treasure and it doesn’t seem to work — Iraq anyone? Even George W. campaigned against nation building and then inexplicably went on to do it in what is said to have been maybe the biggest military blunder of all time, Iraq.

And I think I’ve written this before and I heard one commentator say it yesterday, when we need to use military force to, say, oust the Taliban from somewhere, maybe they were talking about Afghanistan, we should go in there and do it and then leave, letting them know that if they cause a stir again,  we’ll be back.

I wholeheartedly agree with Obama that we should only use military force when our nation is directly threatened, at least I think that is what he said.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with cutbacks in our military. If anything, in this hostile world we need to keep it strong and even make it stronger. Of course we need to keep it efficient too.

The concept of drone warfare makes me nervous. Too impersonal. Too 1984 (Orwellian). It could get way out of hand.

And President Eisenhower was right on: you know his warning about the threat of the military industrial complex pushing us into needless war.

And finally, what a predicament for soldiers in the field. Who wants to be the last man (or woman) to die in the Middle East wars?

As I honor Veterans Day, the ambiguity of our present war strikes me…

November 11, 2013

Unless you have a government job it’s likely you have to work today (Monday, Nov. 11) even though it’s a national Holiday. It’s Veterans Day, honoring all those who have served in the armed forces. I know I get confused too, the other one, Memorial Day, last Spring, is designated to honor those who have died in the service of our country.

And to make matters even more confusing, this used to be Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I and those who died in the war and before that, maybe known as Remembrance Day, to honor Civil War dead — do I have my history right in that? Not sure.

But anyway on Sunday evening I watched a documentary about a unit of American soldiers in the war in Afghanistan. It was called “Restrepo”, named after one of their own, a doctor, who was killed right after they got over there. They later built a forward base, in between being shot at — shoot a little, dig a little, and repeat– and named it in his honor. And they were able to take the fight to the enemy (Taliban/Al Qaeda?) rather than hole up in a purely defensive position, but not without losses, of course.

As always is the case when I see these things, it impresses me that the young soldiers seem so mature and intelligent, but at the same time not without their youthful playfulness and sometimes irreverence. This unit seemed to be fortunate to have good leadership.

It seemed that the soldiers believed in what they were doing, that they were committed to the mission.

But the terrible ambiguity of it all came out as well. They unwittingly or by circumstances beyond their control injured and killed local family members and destroyed their houses — people who may have had no connection with the enemy, or maybe by the fact they are natives of where they are they did have some connection — but little children and their mothers? The unavoidable tragedy of war.

They helped the people in various road and building projects, as well as accidentally killed some at times, not to mention their livestock.

And we are stuck, or our forces are, trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Not an easy task when you sometimes end up killing innocents and destroying their homes and property in the process (the hazard of collateral damage).

The soldiers will come and go, but the Afghan native is stuck there in his and her own reality. And we won’t be there forever. We can’t last it out that long and also have to face the reality we can hardly run our own country, let alone theirs.

Some have suggested that we should have responded to the 9/11 attack more as a police investigation and simply gone after the perpetrators. It was not an act of war committed by one state or nation against another. It was more complicated than that. But then the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda has seemed necessary in order to weaken the forces of terror that brought that terror to our own shores.

And this was not supposed to be a post about a war, but about Veterans Day.

Veterans have been called upon to do everything from fighting their own brothers in the Civil War, or the War Between the States for those of you brought up in Southern culture, to coming to the aid of our allies in Europe in two world wars, to fighting off communist aggression, to now fighting against world-wide terror — a job that seems open ended, well until the money runs out.

I deeply question our foreign policy at times, and I also question whether our armed forces should be more of a defensive force or if we should continue as we do now and use them as an instrument of geo-political politics and overall foreign policy.

But I don’t question those who have honorably served their country in peacetime and war.

And maybe I am wrong that it’s mostly government employees who get the day off. But anyway, hopefully you will do more than take the day off or avail yourself of the various Veterans Day sales (although our economy can use that I suppose), but instead also take time to honor veterans and if there is some function to that end, maybe attend if you can.

Better yet, or just as well, get that documentary “Restrepo” and watch it. I got if off my Kindle, but I am sure it’s available through the other wide variety of sources we have in this computer/digital age.

And as a promotion for it said: “Watch it and you be the judge”.

Comparing JFK assasination to 9/11, and have our own security concerns turned us into a police state we’ve always fought against?

November 4, 2013

I’m not sure what has been the most momentous thing to happen in current events in my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the 9/11 attack on the U.S.

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination coming up (Nov. 22) I was thinking of those two events. In my life, perhaps, the JFK assassination has had more significance. I was a freshman in high school. I paid attention to current events and read a weekly news magazine and watched Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite newscasts on TV. I knew that not everyone loved JFK even if the hype in popular culture seemed to indicate otherwise. Still, he and his family were something different and exciting for much of the public. The president was relatively young (in his 40s), when compared to the previous presidents, and I guess JFK and wife Jackie and children Caroline and John John were the first mediagenic first family. And JFK had that strange but fun-to-listen-to Boston/Irish accent where he pronounced Cuba as “cuber”, and in his press conferences, of which he held many, he would flash that magic, magnetic smile, often along with some expression of wry humor often via innuendo, which to any guy seemed cool and probably to any girl or woman, well, whatever…

But when it came to things like the Cuban Missile Crisis when the nation was actually concerned that it might end up in nuclear war at any second with the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he presented himself as a steady reassuring hand as he soberly addressed the public. He just seemed to say the right thing.

They say he was not a top student at Harvard (I don’t know, maybe he kept up the “gentleman’s c”) but he was eloquent in speech and always seemed to make the well-reasoned and convincing case.

He was staunchly pro-civil rights but had to deal with the political realities of the times. It would take the older and much more seasoned congressional wheeler-dealer Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s vice president, to push the civil rights legislation through after he assumed the presidency, upon the assassination of JFK.

The assassination of JFK blew our whole world apart. While he had his detractors much of the nation seemed enthralled with him and his family. They were like royalty almost. And maybe that is what someone or ones were afraid of.

I’m not a conspiracy buff by any means. But I have to wonder if his assassination was not a CIA job. That theory has been posited before of course. I have a book by some woman who claims to have been a lover of Fidel Castro (I mean one of his lovers) and who claims that she was with the CIA and that they were mad about JFK’s abandoning the Anti-Castro forces in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. I think her book is rather obscure and she may have well been just trying to make some money. You think? But still…

We know that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin. We also know that he did not just pop up out of nowhere. The CIA and the FBI already knew about him and yet why did they not make sure where he was that fateful day in Dallas? Well, back then maybe we did not have that much capability in tracking people? (We had a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden is nearly plain sight.)

And what made me think of all of this is the recent and ongoing revelations as to how much our own government via the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches is spying on its own citizens — eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, and other world-wide web data. It is also spying on friendly foreign leaders and in the process the president himself (which he claims not to have known about — and that is bad either way). I mean what possible reason or justification is there to spy on our allies? And is not an agency dangerous if it is spying on the president? J. Edgar Hoover, the late director of the FBI, was infamous for blackmailing high officials with the dossiers he held on them.

And then to 9/11. In the first direct attack on U.S. soil since the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of terrorists pulled off the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, hijacked four airliners, and ran one into the Pentagon. And the baffling thing is that our intelligence agencies had the names of these guys and I guess their descriptions on their watch list and yet they were allowed to board airliners. Okay probably too paranoid conspiracy-centric here, but did someone want this to happen? We know that forces behind the rather dim-witted former president George W. Bush were pushing for war in the Middle East and even published a paper that opined we needed a new Pearl Harbor to wake the electorate up — and along comes 9/11 with the numbers of dead very close, close to 3,000 in each.

The death of JFK put LBJ in office. I have no doubt that he had good intentions, but he was perplexed over what to do about the ongoing situation in Vietnam, threatened by an ongoing insurgency that would result in a communist takeover of South Vietnam. And it was simply understood at the time that we had to stop communism anywhere we could. While JFK was trying to keep from sending actual American combat troops there, while supporting the anti-communist side nonetheless — we only had military advisers in the theatre — LBJ eventually sent as many as a half million U.S. troops there, even though he knew from almost the start that the situation was hopeless. But ever since China was lost to the communists in 1949 during a Democratic administration, Democrats had to be on guard not to lose anything else. The fear of being weak in the face of the communist threat forced President Harry Truman to send troops to save South Korea (a highly unpopular move at the time).

And the lives of so may young Americans (and the their loved ones) were forever changed by LBJ’s actions. I probably would not have gone into the Army if it were not for the Vietnam. In some kind of twisted logic I joined the Army, figuring I would be drafted soon enough anyway. The draft lottery had not been put into place at that time. But I was sent to Germany. But one of my brothers was grabbed by Uncle Sam and put into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Fortunately he did his tour and came home safe and sound. But such was not the case for nearly 60,000 American troops who died and thousands more who were gravely wounded. And besides that: all the lives torn apart. Wives who lost husbands and parents who lost children and so on.

(Even though I joined the Army I was not much of a soldier, but I am glad I served if for no other reason than I can say I served. I am proud that all the boys in my family served. My oldest brother served 20 years in the U.S. Navy.)

So, anyway, the 9/11 disaster was used as a pretext to get our nation into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know what that has wrought, nearly 7,000 dead Americans over a decade (thousands more wounded) with no discernible good to have come of it and trillions of dollars drained from our treasury. But of course we can’t afford to guarantee health care to our own citizens, the troubled Obamacare program notwithstanding, and have to cut back on aid to the poor, and we fail to invest in our infrastructure.

So, it is hard to choose as to which event was more momentous, the JFK assassination, or 9/11. There is no correct answer. It depends upon your age, really, and your own personal situation (you may have lost someone in the current wars).

And then again, with the result that intelligence agencies have been so emboldened to turn on the public they are supposed to protect, maybe 9/11 is the more momentous.

We are all so accustomed to giving out our Social Security number and our email address and we are so wired-in now with commercial interests knowing our personal tastes and information and every move, that we almost do not notice that we have become something close to a police state worthy of the old Soviet Union or East Germany or Hitler’s Germany. So far, no discernible ill effects, but overnight that all could change, the apparatus for the evil of control over all humans by a minority is already in place.

There is talk (or maybe it has already happened) of domestic use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement. We may not fear it as much when used elsewhere, but here?

We really need to pause and think about all of this.

The presidential candidates need to address Afghanistan and in some detail…

September 10, 2012

I hope that in the upcoming presidential election debates that President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will address the continuing war in Afghanistan and state clearly what our purpose is or should be and what each one of them plans to do about it in some detail, rather than vague language or platitudes (I don‘t mean give away military secrets, or course).

I was dismayed (although not surprised) when the president in his nomination acceptance speech seemed to curtly dismiss the war with the announcement that we will be out of there by 2014. And when Romney failed to mention it at all.

I am not being flip or sarcastic when I ask: if we know now that we will simply quit by then, why not quit now and save lives and money? There is no human way we can know that we will have prevailed by then, and actually I suppose the truth is that we can never prevail or at least not by way of the fashion we have handled things so far. Things are a bit confusing because in our modern approach to war we do not seem to strive for old-fashioned victories with a vanquished enemy and surrender ceremonies and such. We are not fighting those type of territorial wars against established forces who actually wear identifiable uniforms.

The problem may be that Obama bought into George W. Bush’s or Karl Rove’s or Dick Cheney’s and all the rest of the neocons’ version of perpetual war against not just one entity or group but terrorists in general or maybe not even against people at all but a concept: “terrorism”. Thus we forever pour our blood and treasure into a war against evil.

While we always have to guard against evil, funding ongoing military actions in far-flung places will eventually bankrupt us — or maybe it already has.

We as a nation need to rethink Afghanistan and such actions and reassess what our goals should be and if it is a worthwhile cause.

What prompted this post was Obama’s simple assertion that we would essentially quit Afghanistan by 2014 and a story I read a few days ago that said the American public is numb to war and pays little attention, except for the minority who are in it or who have loved ones in it.

The story said that so far this year we have averaged one dead soldier a day. Not a big count by world war standards when the losses could be in the thousands in one day or by Vietnam (and don’t forget Korea and other places) where we had nightly news reports of hundreds of combat deaths (and grave injuries as well), but a tragedy nonetheless, especially since I doubt most of us could articulate what it is we are trying to accomplish there, beyond platitudes, such as freedom is never free. That may be true, but nation building in far-off Afghanistan poses no promise to preserve our own freedom, and may be impossible anyway.

I mean it is true if we could build a world where everyone wanted to live in peace and freedom that would be wonderful. But it hardly seems that the ongoing fight against the insurgency (aided by outside forces as it may be) in Afghanistan gets us there.

Eventually, by 2014, I guess, we will pack up and come home.

I think maybe when Obama proclaimed we would be out of there by 2014 he was at once trying to please those weary of war and to remind the corrupt government there, that is supposed to be on our side, that it may be on its own soon, as well as somehow imply we have or will shortly attain good old-fashioned victory. Too bad we have to telegraph to the enemy the date we plan to give up.

If there really was something worthwhile to do or left to do there we would all be involved somehow, with oue children in the war, with higher taxes to pay for the war (I mean is not that “supporting the troops”), and other sacrifices here at home in order to optimize the availability of the supplies for war.

But in a form of political chicanery to avoid the delicate subject of taxes and hard debates on policy and to please opposing factions at the same time and to preserve the defense contracts for private industry the congress does not budget war. It is fought off the books, with the congress voting every so often to appropriate more money. Because the actual cost is not considered, the federal government finds itself short of money and has to borrow more, thus the staggering $16 trillion national debt. You see, if we admitted the cost we would have to tax ourselves enough to pay up front, but we just charge it and pay the interest forever, and the interest mounts (we pay interest on interest) — just like a consumer credit card. It would have been more cost effective to budget the money and tax accordingly and would have forced us all to make better decisions (and that kind of also answers what happned in 2008 to consumers, doesn’t it?). 

I feel badly for those who have been killed and for those who have been injured and for their family members. If we can still make this into some kind of worthwhile endeavor that would be good, but we would have to have the proper leadership. I have not seen that either from the White House nor from the military leaders. Maybe I have watched too many movies (yes I have), but it seems to me most of the brass today are in it to get their ticket punched, get the promotion, and then retire, and they try to lead from the rear (not that I would actually expect them to be out on patrol dodging enemy bullets).

I have in the past written my congress person and U.S. senator on this subject. That is all I can do besides write these blogs (I am 63 and did my time in the Army, safe from harm’s way in Germany. Hey that’s where they sent me.)

But I wish other concerned citizens would at least do that, write their congress people and senators (and the president), that is.

Even those who claim to be gung-ho on this war or war in general have to be dismayed at the half-hearted, way too cautious approach our leaders take.

I say always avoid the use of force or war, but when it is unavoidable don’t hold back. To let a soldier die in an effort where you make the military fight with one hand tied behind its back — remember Vietnam?  — is immoral.



Did it again with numbers: this time in my original post on this I used billion instead of the correct trillion, as in $16 trillion (plus) national debt.


Our leaders fail us in Afghanistan and the public fails to give a clear signal as well…

September 2, 2012

One would have thought or hoped that our fiasco in Vietnam all those years ago would have taught us (the USA) that trying to win the hearts and minds of the people in a foreign country is not the way to success in a war. And it is hard to impossible to win when we kill innoncent people along with bad guys, and generally disrupt the lives of those who live in the country.

But here we remain in Afghanistan more than a decade after the initial invasion with part of the enemy being the indigenous recruits we are trying to train, so much so that we have had to suspend the training.

Barack Obama has got himself into the LBJ tar baby (no racial slur meant here) mode (LBJ once told a colleague that Vietnam was like a tar baby, you know, like the old Brer Rabbit trick, once you touch the tar baby you can‘t unstick yourself). He, Obama, has to know the cause is all but hopeless but he also knows that if he quits he’ll always be known as the president who lost a war, who effectively surrendered.

And you would think that we would know better than to let our adversaries know that at some point we will pull out. An enemy has to know that you will never give up until, well you are defeated, or until you attain total victory.

The problem is that neither the civilian leadership nor even the military leadership seem to have the courage of their convictions. They only half fight wars nowadays. A lot of troops die this way.

But our leaders also do not get any clear signals from the public. The public is indifferent for the most part. The public probably hates to think America is weak but it will also not tolerate high casualties.

Maybe the cause over there — and just what is it again? I forgot — is hopeless and someone has to just say so and we pack up and come home.

Our rationale for going over there in the first place was that Afghanistan was controlled by the forces that attacked us on 9/11 and or by allies of theirs, the Taliban, and that the nation was the staging area for the attack and that it would not turn over Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen.

In some respects it seems strange that we would send an army to essentially go after one man or a few men. But then again, it seemed that we had a whole nation full of forces arrayed against us. So we invaded the country.

Using 20/20 hindsight, I realize, I think we should or could have done the blitzkrieg on them, unapologetically taking over the nation and setting up a provisional government and then let them be, with the warning that if they don’t behave, we’ll be back.

Or, we should have skipped the invasion and just concentrated on going after Bin Laden and captured him, or killed him, as we ultimately did a decade later.

War is often not the answer.

But despite the advance in technology, war is war and generally one side wins and the other loses. You can’t half win. If you simply quit, you lose by default. But better to cut your losses than to pile up more.

There can be stalemates, I suppose.

What did we accomplish in Iraq? The nation today is unstable and leans toward our arch enemy Iran. And we did not get control of the oil (which of course was the only rationale for going over there, whether we choose to admit it or not).

I for one want to hear President Obama and presidential contender Mitt Romney tell us what each one of them plans for Afghanistan now. Hopefully that will be addressed in debate.

Our war or military operations there, whatever you call it, is a continual drain on our economy, costs lives, and has major implications on our place in the world.

Why are we still trying to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan when history shows it is futile?

March 13, 2012

With the latest incident in which an American army sergeant went on a rampage and killed 16 men and women and children in Afghanistan, apparently all innocent civilians, and the just previous Koran-burning-by-Americans episode, along with one in which American soldiers allegedly shot civilians for sport, along with other such incidents in both Afghanistan and before that Iraq, it’s getting hard to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

And that begs the question: why are we in the winning-the-hearts-and-minds business anyway?

I guess it all started in Vietnam. We (the U.S. public) were originally told that we had to hold the communists back from invading and taking over South Vietnam to stop the dreaded domino effect — Southeast Asian countries falling one by one like a row of dominoes to communism.

Conveniently, we had a treaty with South Vietnam that obliged us to come to their aid in the face of a communist-inspired and backed insurrection.

I wrote about this before, but back then few people even knew where Vietnam was. I recall as a kid we had a world globe and it simply labeled what had already been designated as North and South Vietnam as “Indochina”.

Then I recall seeing an article in National Geographic on how the brave and valiant South Vietnamese peasants were fending off the communist Viet Cong insurgents (who were backed by communist North Vietnam and the communist bloc, most notably the old USSR).

While much of the public and even the congress, I think, were dubious about going to war in Southeast Asia, most thought if we needed to do something there, certainly with our military might it would be relatively quick and easy.

The domino theory and the idea of helping helpless peasants were what were used to sell our eventual military involvement there.

But as things escalated and it turned into a real full-fledged war, suddenly the very people we were supposedly trying to help seemed a lot more like our enemies in the minds of soldiers who saw their comrades being killed by peasants in black pajamas aided and abetted by local villagers (everyone wore black pajamas). Well there is a whole complicated story and history to that, but the point is that the strategy of the war seemed to change from defeating the enemy (the communists) to “winning the hearts and minds of the people” we were supposed to be helping.

And that brings us to our present predicament in Afghanistan where we originally went in there a decade ago to catch the now late Osama Bin Laden (a whole army to catch one man?) and I guess to deal with Al Qaeda, who under Bin Laden’s direction had perpetrated and/or supported the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

A lot of history here about diverting attention to Iraq, but bottom line, we eventually wound up in a quagmire, where we are today still, and it gets deeper and deeper, with the idea that to defeat Al Qaeda we have to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans, who are broken up into tribes, and whose loyalty is more to the tribe, than to any kind of united nation.

Why are we trying to win hearts and minds? And does that work? Our history tells us it does not.

And over the ages, may powers tried to conquer Afghanistan, the old USSR in modern history, to name one. The tribes might fight each other, but they are united against foreign invaders, even when they are disguised as nation builders.

All that could be done and more has been done in Afghanistan. It is past time to say goodbye.

Should the need arise, we could always go back. But then we should go back with overwhelming force and the determination to do what we have to do to stop anyone from using the area as a base of operations to attack us. If that is not feasible, then we should just skip it and strengthen our defenses in our own country.

There may be Afghans who want to be our friends and who want our help. Unfortunately, if they cannot convince their brothers of the cause it is hopeless.

I am surprised that Barack Obama has let himself get trapped like a tar baby (no racial insult or slur intended) to Afghanistan as Lyndon Johnson did in the case of Vietnam (Johnson had used the tar baby allusion).

As the song says: “When will they ever learn…?”


I know I used that song verse before, but it is so true.

P.s. P.s.

And I forgot to mention the recent incidents in which Afghan soldiers we are supposed to be training have turned on their mentors (Americans) and have shot them. There is definitely something wrong with this relationship, and/or it is some kind of a cross between the Viet Cong sending “sappers” behind our lines to kill us and American soldiers killing their own officers (and NCOs) in “fragging” incidents during the Vietnam blunder. Afghanistan has essentially become the 21st Century version of Vietnam for the U.S.

Off to Afghanistan: when will they ever learn?

February 23, 2012

UPDATE: (2-25-12):

Since I first posted this, it has been reported that several U.S. military personnel, including two high-ranking officers, were killed in connection with rioting and a general uprising among some of the populace in Afghanistan over the burning of Islamic holy books, Korans, reported to have been done recently by mistake by U.S. personnel. They were supposedly burning subversive material and the Korans got mixed in. I suppose since most of our personnel don’t know the native language of the area, and what is it? that could be possible, that it was a “mistake”. But whoever ordered it should be demoted, prosecuted, and sent home. If that was not incompetence, I don’t know what is.

But actually all U.S. personnel need to go home. The Afghan war is a pointless exercise. It apparently takes the United States about a decade to learn these things.

Winning the hearts and minds of people around the world should not be our job. If we minded our own business, they might seek to emulate us because of our standard of living and our freedom. We (the United States) went in there because terrorists used Afghanistan as a staging area and headquarters leading up to the 9/11 attack — ironically we finally killed the master mind of the 9/11 attack, Osama Bin Laden, not there but inside Pakistan, who pretends to be our friend at times for our financial and military support, but who aids and abets our enemies. Because our modern enemies are not uniformed soldiers operating out of specific nations they are harder to fight and beat, but helicopters swooping in with Navy SEALS is a modern tactic, and a drone up the a.. works at times too, although the latter in problematic and poses questions of ethics and whether modern warfare has got so impersonal, those who remotely fly the drones commuting to work and then home again to the suburbs, half way round the world from where the action is, that it adds a new Orwellian dimension that may already be out of hand.


If Ron Paul was not so one-dimensional, he might be the leader who could lead us out of the madness.


I see via the photos and story in my local newspaper that a local National Guard unit is deploying to Afghanistan.

And I thought all of this was supposed to be over for us (the U.S.).

But it’s never over.

While I fear this is all futile, it is not quite like Vietnam in that the military personnel going over there are all volunteers and interestingly the ages of the soldiers are often much older — one from my hometown or area is in his 50s. In Vietnam young men still in their teens were forced to go fight a senseless war which we had no business fighting and nothing to gain. We may have thought otherwise at the beginning, but it became apparent as time went by that it was all a terrible mistake, a blunder if you will.

I suppose those going over from my area feel that they are serving their country and somehow it all translates into the fight for freedom and against tyranny and extreme Islam. There is also a financial incentive. They signed up because it is an extra job.

I do not condemn them for it. I just don’t agree that it is worthwhile.

And the next part is kind of touchy. While I do not condemn the troops, I do the policy makers who are squandering our tax dollars.

I also think it is heart wrenching to think that some of these people will not make it back or will return terribly wounded. There are mothers and fathers going; in at least one case both the mother and father are going from one family. And as I said. The age span is much wider this time around.

Ironically, I think I once considered — albeit not too seriously — signing up for the unit in question, and for the wrong reason, more money. I served three years in the Army during the Vietnam War but did not go to Vietnam. I don’t know, maybe if I would have singed up for the reserves or guard I might have eventually found myself in Desert Storm or even in Afghanistan — I’m 62 now.

I was no soldier, even though I was in the Army. I did my service, though. I filled a slot.

I think it was former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who said, I think in reference to the Kosovo campaign (one I never understood what our interest in was), “what good is it to have an army if we can’t use it?” (a paraphrase probably, despite my quote marks).

I agree with that sentiment, but we should be awful choosy as to how we use it.

And think of World War I and think of Vietnam:

And think of what Peter Paul and Mary sung: “where have all the soldiers gone, gone to graveyards everyone, when will they ever learn?…”



In case anyone was wondering or cared, I inadvertently left out a preposition in my original headline to this post. Been so busy with my real job, I did not catch it till quite a bit later.

Even though soldiers should follow orders and keep their mouths shut, you can’t blame the general for being resentful and a bit incredulous about the attitude of Afghanistan…

November 5, 2011

Soldiers are supposed to know how to take orders and move out smartly and otherwise keep their mouths shut and definitely not to step out of the chain of command. Of course a general is not just any other soldier, but their duty is much the same when it comes to following the civilian leadership. They can always resign if they cannot follow the program.

Nonetheless, you can hardly blame that general in Afghanistan (not the top one, but a general nonetheless) for telling it like it is and being incredulous, or more precisely, resentful of the attitude of Afghanistan’s leader Hamid Karzai for saying such things as Afghanistan would take the side of Pakistan if the U.S. went to war with that nation. And he is resentful of the whole attitude of the Afghans he is trying to train.

Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander for the NATO training program in Afghanistan, has been relieved of his command for his outspokenness (I link to the story at the bottom of this post).

Too many thousands of lives of U.S. servicemen and other personnel have been lost there already and the U.S. is going bankrupt in what is a quagmire of epic proportions.

If the United States was not spread so thin, it might do well to simply make Afghanistan a protectorate and quit the nonsense of nation building in a land where the inhabitants are either unable or unwilling to govern themselves in a peaceful manner. Now it is their right to live tribally like they have for so many thousands of years, except by aiding and abetting the Taliban in 9/11 they made it our business.

But Osama Bin Laden is dead, and of course he was caught hiding in plain sight, not in Afghanistan, but our fake ally Pakistan.

However, the U..S. is not in any shape to make Afghanistan our 51st state or whatever.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

We should leave now and give thanks to those who died or were gravely injured for the cause — it may not have come out as we wished it, but we did keep Al Qaeda tied up and we will continue to deal with them and any others under the mantra: If you attack or threaten the U.S. you can run but you cannot hide”.

We should also leave Iraq altogether. Our combat mission there has been given the boot by an ungrateful nation.

They’ll make do. They have oil. I hope they drown in it.

And to Afghanistan, I say, go back to your tribal affairs and just don’t help terrorists attack us, thank you.

A lot of innocent people, millions, in that part of the world have been killed due to our actions. But as backward as some of them are, there is plenty of communication these days and they have to realize that they can’t just hide behind their sometimes backwards culture as if it were in a vacuum. When it affects us, we feel forced to act, and yes, we may have overreacted.

Maybe East is East and West is West after all.

The story about the fired general:


Yes I know they had culture, and sometimes a very advanced culture, in the Middle East before there ever was a European civilization, but in some ways they failed to progress, at least by our western standards. But again, that’s okay as long as they don’t attack us.

And we really do need to find alternative sources of energy.

Bin Laden raid may have provided answer to how to get out of the Middle East wars

May 29, 2011

If I just read it correctly, in the near future we will have another official holiday to observe, besides the Memorial Day weekend we are currently in. There is to be a day to honor those who have served or taken part in the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’m seeing the handwriting on the wall that tells me sentiment is leaning heavily for ending our involvement over there (the Middle East).

A measure was narrowly defeated in the House the other day that was aimed at doing just that. Even the Republicans seem to be turning against what was the Bush war and now is Obama’s war.

If I were the cynical type I would say, okay fine, it was all well and good in the name of fighting for freedom and all that is precious when it was a Republican-led effort, but now that the first black president, and a Democrat at that, has embraced the war over there, the by gosh by jingo lets fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here folks are having second thoughts.

But in fact, I think save for a little excitement in the beginning, the public at large — not the families of soldiers — has been largely indifferent to the whole thing. One big reason is there is no draft. Young men (and women) do not have to worry about being called up to die for a questionable cause and parents don’t have to worry that their children will be yanked from them to become cannon fodder.

Even those who normally equate everything our nation does militarily (especially if there is a Republican president) as immune from criticism are having second thoughts, I think.

It’s the cost man. The U.S. has spent more than a trillion dollars in a near decade-long military effort in the Middle East and keeps spending billions per month, but cannot figure out if or when it can win or has already won (probably not on that last one) and cannot figure out how to stop or get out. And now the U.S. is facing the equivalent of bankruptcy we are told with the prospect it (we) will be forced to default on debt (bond) payments. While some of that threat is political theatre used as leverage to force changes in social policies, most of it is certainly real, I would think. And since the dollar is what we and the world depend upon, a default could not be good, to say the least.



So several days after posting this I found the figure I was looking for. According to a story in the Washington Post the U.S. is set to spend $113 billion this year alone on the Afghanistan war and is proposing to spend $107 billion the next fiscal year.


To simply quit would seem to add one to the loss column, as in Vietnam, not only casting shame on us all and making a mockery out of the sacrifices of our soldiers, but making us look weak in the face of our enemies, emboldening them to strike us in ever newer and deadlier ways.

And the fear is that if we leave, militant Islam would fill the void and be in a stronger position to defeat the U.S.

But maybe the Bin Laden hit has provided an answer.

Maybe that is what we should have been doing all along, that is going after the perpetrators, rather than destroying peoples’ homes and livelihoods and nations and making new enemies in the process.

Modern technology and its rapid speed transportation and communication is a two-way street.

On the one hand, it made 9/11 possible. It allowed a shadowy underground of terrorists to make an enormous deadly strike on the world’s only remaining super power.

But it also allows that super power to strike back in surgical fashion as in the Bin Laden raid, giving proof to good old George W. Bush’s use of that old saying (was in from Joe Louis?) “you can run, but you can’t hide” (well you actually can hide and quite well for a long time, in plain sight even, but we will eventually get you).

Let’s bring the troops home and really have a celebration.

Let’s spend those trillions of dollars to pay off the national debt and provide health care for all and to revitalize our industry which made us strong to begin with.


And yes, in honor of Memorial Day let us all take some time to look back and appreciate the sacrifices others made in the name of freedom (regardless if the policies that put  them there, and over which they had little to no control, made sense).

P.s. P.s

President Barack Obama really ought to be called out on his Libya involvement. It does seem to have violated both the Constitutional war provisions and the War Powers Act (although I confess I have not researched this; I’m just going on what others have said or written). I guess some are hedging in case the Libyan adventure were to turn out to be successful.


And one more thing here: I have been having computer problems and have not been able to post as much as I would prefer. Believe me, I have not been without things to comment on.