The Middle East is not worth another American life

June 22, 2014

Our focus in the Middle East has to be on protecting America. Sen. Rand Paul says he questions the wisdom of helping the Iraqi army who seems not to have the will to fight. Just as Lyndon Johnson said he would not send American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing (but he did) we should not send in Americans to do what Iraqis should be doing. But we were not in Vietnam to help Vietnam. We were there, rightly or wrongly, to protect our own global interests as we saw them at the time, and at that time we were trying to thwart the spread of communist domination. This time we are trying to counter the terrorists who might eventually strike us at home or strike us again if you look at 9/11. But conventional war does not seem to work for us these days. Nation building in theory might work but in practice it is too difficult and is really not our responsibility. Part of what is going on, in Iraq for instance, is civil war with outside influence, just as was the case in Vietnam, from which we have seemed to learn little.

Oil is and continues to be the reason we are so interested in the area but this has brought us into conflict with terrorists, that is not to say that one day those terrorists might have attacked us anyway once they had their hold on the Middle East.

And it is disgusting how religion seems only to support war. If you are not of my religion or not of my particular brand of religion I must fight you.

It is said that money is the root of all evil. In the Middle East, religion seems to be the root of all evil. Of course even in this case it all comes back to money. For conflicts are virtually always over the control of power and resources or the power over resources. One tribe or one religious sect wants to control the resources.

We must protect ourselves against terrorism, but:

Not another American life should be lost in this ongoing tribal warfare of the Middle East.

 

 

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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…

 


If we suffered Vietnam-style casualty rates the war would be over, won or not, and war and oil usually do mix…

June 2, 2009

War has become so blase that the fact that four more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan did not make any headlines.

ADD 1: If you really wanted to gauge public opinion of the war on terror, just imagine what it might be if we had casualties on the scale of the Vietnam War. During a two-week period in April  in Vietnam in 1968 the U.S. suffered 752 combat deaths. In Iraq in 2007 the U.S. had 334 deaths over a four-month period, and that was considered alarming. In Vietnam that high of a casualty rate with no end in sight turned public opinion steadfastly against the war. I hate to be cynical, but the public seems to be able to put up with lower casualty numbers, regardless of the justification or practicability of a war. I realized that the Democratic party victories in the congressional elections of 2006 and the presidential election of 2008 were seen as a kind of referendum that was negative on our war policy, but I notice that the war on terror continues, seemingly much as it would have under Bush/Cheney if they could have continued or even John McCain (of course the referendum was more related to the economy during the presidential election and Obama did admit in his campaign that he would push harder in Afghanistan). If the public mood was as anti-war as it became in the early 70s, we would be done with the whole thing, right or wrong.

And back to where I began with this blog:

I first read the fact that there had been four more combat deaths in Afghanistan while reading my morning newspaper on Tuesday in the ninth paragraph (on the jump page) down in a somewhat oblique reference in a story. Admittedly, the paper long ago gave up trying to be the latest in news on the national and world front. But you would think the death of four U.S. service personnel would rate a little higher priority. But maybe that was kind of the point of the story. It was something about the military using the latest communication tool for those with short attention spans, Twitter.

News that U.S. and Afghan forces had killed four “militants”  (I guess that’s what we call the enemy) was put out via Twitter by the military, according to the story, as a way to reach an audience that gets its news outside the traditional sources.

Let’s cut through the bull here – the military is using news selectively for propaganda to reach young people to ra ra ra the war (and I realize morale is important, but so is honest and complete info). Conveniently, as the story indicates, the fact the four service people were killed was not tweeted. Supposedly, according to the story, that was because, well, I did not get this part, something about that all has to go through NATO command.

But using that story and then searching the internet, I finally gathered that there had been four more U.S. combat deaths.

Now in traditional wars, four deaths in one day is not really big news unless you might turn it around and say that ONLY four were killed. Back in the old-time wars thousands were killed in a day or even less than a day. Then we went to hundreds, and today in our wars we go to things like one, none, seven, four, that kind of thing. But it all adds up and it seems to go on forever.

(The latest figures I got off of Wikipedia show there have been at least 4,296 U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq war since 2003, and 677 in Afghanistan since 2001 (I don’t think this includes the latest deaths, and of course there are deaths from other nations’ forces and the of Iraqis themselves and thousands wounded.)

And maybe too close attention to the negative gets in the way of the mission. Maybe that is why we lost the Vietnam War. We concentrated on our losses and not our wins – that often seems to be the new history (revisionist?) of the whole thing I see these days. I just watched an Vietnam War documentary and that’s partly why I’m blogging this today. But I am not a convert yet. I still think Vietnam was a deadly mistake for us and also a shame because we sacrificed so many without having a clear cut purpose or resolve. I hope we are not replaying history in another part of the world now.

No we probably should not have screaming headlines that say FOUR KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN. But at the same time we should not get so numb or jaded about the war effort that we just put it all out of our mind.

The fact that the Military would see fit to brag that we killed four enemy, but leave out that we lost four of our own reminds me why we need independent reporting so we can get the full picture.

And I go back and forth here because I realize that just as the government and military can be biased and misleading in its reporting, so can so-called independent sources.

I have to admit that the tone of the reporting on television and the newspapers and news magazines for the most part during most of the Vietnam War seemed negative against the war. We were told that we seemed to be meddling in the affairs of a nation that had a corrupt government and had a civil war going on (what would have we thought if England, who leaned toward the confederacy in its feelings, had interfered in our own Civil War?). But the civil war in Vietnam was being aided and abetted by the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent communist China. But the idea of North and South Vietnam was basically an artificial one – after all they were all Vietnamese and it was a Cold War construct that created a North and South, just like the two Koreas. We were told that there were no front lines and that despite our overwhelming fire power (most of the time), the enemy seemed to be inexhaustible, anywhere and everwhere, and could take heavy losses and come back forever. We were also told our own government would not let our forces go all the way (and I guess that was because the public had been convinced that wars could be controlled, as if run by a rheostat device or a light dimmer – escalate, de-escalate, which begs the question, why not just turn them off then?).

Probably our biggest mistake in Vietnam was not to do everything we could to disrupt the supply lines and go to the source of supply in North Vietnam. We finally did do some of that late in the war, but by that time support at home for the war was depleted. I actually have to credit Richard Nixon for some of his actions – but it was too late and not carried far enough, because as I mentioned, public support was gone. I think he must have thought that somehow we could stave off the enemy a little longer and that South Vietnamese forces would fight on their own and in the meantime we could get out and haver “peace with honor” (Nixon’s own words)). But without our continued involvement and with the fact that their government was corrupt, there was no hope.

Okay, so much history. Maybe only useful to history buffs. But could we apply this to today? Do we really know what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Personally, as much as I follow current events, I keep asking that question.

(In the beginning – the first Gulf War, it was all about oil, and if we are honest, even though we have 9/11 to consider, doesn’t oil still become the bottom line here? And if does, does that make it wrong? Why do we not want to admit it?  And see Add 2 at the end of this blog.)

George W’s (and dark Dick Cheney’s) concept seemed to be of an all-encompassing never-ending war against not a particular force or group or nation, but a concept (U.S. vs. Concept) called “terror,” or as W pronounced in “Terrr”.

President Obama seems to be trying to extricate us from Iraq (ever so carefully), but has vowed to fight on in Afghanistan. He would have never have got the support of the electorate if he had simply just run as an updated version of George McGovern and Vietnam. Americans were nearly always divided on Vietnam and seem to be on this one, but all out surrender is not to our liking (even if we did essentially quit Vietnam).

But even if we were able to subdue those who seem to support terror against us in Afghanistan, who is to say the forces of terror will not pop up somewhere else?

Bottom line here:

The reason we fought in Vietnam was that we had a well entrenched Cold War policy of containment of communism and along with that we followed the “domino theory” that said if one country falls, they all will. China fell, South Korea would have if not for our defense of it, and no one wanted to be blamed for losing South Vietnam (even though in the end we did lose it).

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we find all these years later that communism, although a terrible form of government as practiced, with its totalitarianism and its police state mentality, crumbled seemingly by itself from its inefficiencies and failure to catch the imagination of the people it subdued. Seems given a chance most of them want capitalism and the goodies and freedom that come with it – although there is some indication that some former communist citizens miss the social safety net – in Russia, the former East Germany, as examples. But the last major power to still have communism, China, seems to be evolving into a capitalist society, with only the old-line government officials holding out.

Had we known all this (and we couldn’t have), we could have avoided conflict and just waited it out, perhaps. Of course the fact that the Soviet Union decided to spend so much of its resources fighting us in places such as Vietnam, which was really a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, helped lead it to its demise. It essentially went bankrupt (oops, I shouldn’t mention that, a country going bankrupt).

And isn’t it ironic that after another proxy war where we fueled the insurgents in Afghanistan against their Soviet neighbors who also expressed concerns about disruptive forces there, we find ourselves fighting many of those same insurgents we once aided, to include Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive.

A lot of disjointed thoughts here maybe. But I got this idea originally because I was reading a book about Pearl Harbor and the fact that we conducted a policy that led to it (not that we were in the wrong – that can be debated). And I thought about how in World War II we fought a costly war with Japan only to become good buddies later and then for a time we were even threatened by their own prosperity that we helped create (that role has now gone to China, whom we saved from Japan).

It’s all about making sure we really know what we are trying to do and what the consequences might be and deciding whether we should continually try to fight the whole world or whether we should try to live in peace, but keep our defenses strong. The general public can remain in ignorant bliss in all of this and leave it to the politicians, but there are risks.

Add 2:

I made a reference to fighting for oil earlier in this blog. Related to that I recall I blogged some months ago, possibly in August, that here we have been fighting in Iraq and we know it has something (a lot) to do with the fact that most of the world’s oil is in that region and meanwhile China has signed a deal for oil with the government we helped install there after executing Saddam Hussein. I just ran across an article on the web (dated April Fools Day, but it’s apparently too true) that says our main rival for world oil, China, has indeed finalized an agreement to develop an oil field in Iraq that is expected to produce 25,000 barrels per day for the first three years and 115,000 barrels per day for the following six years . China had initiated the deal in the 1990s when Hussein was in power.

So, yes, it is about oil, but whose oil? Seems like if we fight for oil, we should get it all. (I don’t recall China helping us out in Iraq).

But kind of related to the idea of fighting for oil, I ran across this in a history of the Vietnam War on Wikipedia: “Because of the vast Dutch oil discoveries in nearby Indonesia, first the French, then the Americans, wanted to explore the broad Vietnamese contenental shelf.” Today Vietnam is not listed as a top oil exporter, but it is an exporter. It installed its first oil refinery in February.

P.s. It occurs to me in all of this that the thinking of policy makers seems to have been that the U.S. can fight wars if casualty numbers can be kept down low enough that there will be no significant public backlash. We all would like to minimize casualties, but in so doing we run the risk of both prolonging wars (thus raising casualty rates) and being unsuccessful in the long run.


As we get deeper into Afghanistan I sense public indifference…

May 20, 2009

I know polls are done all the time and I know that one reason, besides the financial crisis, that is given for Barack Obama winning the election is that the public is displeased with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in my own highly unscientific view of things (support the troops bumper stickers notwithstanding) I sense great public indifference to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen was quoted within the last 48 hours as saying it might take the U.S. as much as two more years just to turn the tide in Afghanistan (and I think most of us see just an indefinite or open-ended commitment). And Mullen also said we have a difficult time avoiding civilian casualties and that those casualties play into the hands of our enemies, the Taliban, or is it Al Qaeda ? (whatever we’re calling them today)

Yes, in going after the enemy if civilians are in the way they are no doubt going to suffer. I really don’t know how our forces are expected to do their job trying to figure out who is friendly, who is indifferent, and who is the enemy, and who may be all three, keeping in mind the fact that none of these people are wearing uniforms.

And what with civilian casualties, yes it does seem a strange way to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, something that we are being told we must do to win the war.

Maybe, just maybe, if the people of Afghanistan realized that we are committed to going after the enemy and that to be near the enemy is dangerous that might have some effect on how they deal with this enemy. Or we could send tons of aid to try to win those hearts and minds. And meanwhile, what about the hearts and minds of so many of our own people? Pardon me if I sound sarcastic or frustrated or both.

Didn’t we face this same problem in Vietnam? Didn’t we fail there too? And didn’t I blog this previously? Yes to all.

I actually thought at one time we were in Afghanistan to go after the forces that hit us on 9/11. Now was that Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Originally we were told that it was Al Qaeda, which was given aid and comfort by the Taliban who at the time of the invasion were officially in charge of the country. Nowadays they still seem to be in charge of most of that country.

Somehow Al Qaeda and the Taliban have become one.

And for some comparison/contrast: at the height of Vietnam the U.S. had a half million troops committed. I think the U.S. invaded Iraq with some 300,000 troops and today we only have about 140,000 in Iraq, and we are trying to ease our way out. In Afghanistan the U.S. has committed nearly 60,000 troops, which include 17,000 ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama. An additional 30,000 have been committed by other NATO members.

We are nowhere near the casualty numbers in the current wars as we suffered in Vietnam and that may be a key reason we have been there so long and remain. That and the fact we have no military draft. If the draft had been imposed I doubt we would still be in Iraq or Afghanistan (win or lose).

In Vietnam, after more than a decade of war, the U.S. casualty total was nearly 60,000 military personnel dead with hundreds of thousands wounded. More than 4,000 have been killed and some 50,000 wounded in the current wars (primarily in Iraq, with the Afghanistan casualties rising). We’ve been in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

So, anyway, Admiral Mullen sees a tough road of as much as two years ahead. We were told for more than a decade in Vietnam that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that we were winning. In Afghanistan we are told it is indeed hard to see that light and, as a matter of fact, right now we are not winning. We’ve been there for going on nine years now with no measurable progress. Iraq is not won yet, but we may be smart enough to declare victory and get out — or not.

Supposedly we now have a counter insurgency, black ops expert of a general by the name of Stanley A. McChrystal who has been selected to take over in Afghanistan. Maybe he can figure it out.

But it seems like we need to be reminded of what our exact reason for being there is and if the American people are really as indifferent as I sense, I have to question why we are there at all.

P.s.

The idea that we can conduct business as usual at home and successful wars abroad seems questionable at best. Maybe some of us can block the human tragedy out of our minds because we are not directly involved. But the financial cost of it all has already come home to roost. If you haven’t noticed the U.S.  either is or is going bankrupt. How long will China, a political and ideological adversary, bankroll our wars?


Half measures will not do in keeping terrorists from Pakistani nukes…

May 8, 2009

As we face the prospect of a grave military threat from terrorists in Pakistan who might grab that unstable nation’s nukes, I ponder my attitude toward war.

(And I call them terrorists because that is their methodology. They use the name of Islam, but their method is terrorism as brutal as any ever used and they have made no bones about wanting to destroy our way of life in the Western world and us along with it.)

I have always looked toward the wars in our time with ambivalence. Basically I am anti-war. That is to say I don’t see war as just another foreign policy tool. At the same time I have thought that once the nation is engaged in a war it should do so with focus on an acceptable outcome. That would be winning versus stalemate.

Unfortunately during my lifetime we have had no wars that I can think of with an acceptable outcome. Korea took place when I was a small child. We did hold the red tide back or beat the red tide back, but at great cost. I think in history it is questioned as to whether we should have gotten involved. North Korea with the backing of Red China (remember? we used to call it that) and the Soviet Union overran South Korea, but we got involved under the auspices of the United Nations and beat them back to a stalemate and all these decades later must still contend with a belligerent communist North Korea who threatens us with ultimate creation of their own nuclear force. This is after the Soviet Union dissolved and although the old Red China is still communist in government, it has a primarily capitalist economy (that I think one day would result in communism dissolving). We wouldn’t let Gen. MacArthur chase the red devils all the way to the North Korean capital. I was still a child, as I said, but that was the start of our more cautious approach to war. Whereas in World War II we decided the way to resolve the issue was total victory, by the early 50s we had no stomach for that – quit while we are ahead (where we began is where we finished).

And then came Vietnam. Again, the red menace. The country was sold (at least there seemed to be support) at first when it was thought we would just throw a little weight around (yes I’m skipping over volumes of history) and be done with it. But the war dragged on. Casualties mounted. And we did not define what winning was, let alone resolve to go for total victory, which would have been to take over what was North Vietnam, the belligerent who eventually overran the south. Nearly 60,000 American dead and thousands gravely wounded, and for what? Today a unified Vietnam as China has a communist government and, though not on the scale of China, it has moved toward a capitalist economic system.

Saddam Hussein’s forces turned out to be a pushover in the first Gulf War, but once again our resolve was less than full fledged (at least by our leaders), and instead of total victory, overrunning the belligerent nation that started it all, Iraq, we held back. And eventually the first president Bush’s son became president and found a convenient excuse to finish what his daddy didn’t. Some say all the trouble the younger Bush had in Iraq is proof we would have been wrong to invade the first time. But that was then and this is now. All evidence is we certainly could have done the job the first time, but we would have needed the forces and the resolve.

There is evidence we might have gotten more cooperation this time around in our initial invasion had a large portion of the Iraqi population thought we had the resolve the get the job done. They correctly guessed we did not and acted accordingly.

We initially invaded Afghanistan supposedly to go after Osama bin Laden and his forces who took credit for the 9/11 attacks. There was widespread public support and world sympathy (help would be nice, but sympathy’s good too and I know we’ve had help, but only token help — again my apologies to the soldiers involved). But little Bush decided he wanted to make a stand in Iraq and we dithered in Afghanistan (with all due respect to the actual troops who did not run the war – I’m talking about the leadership).

Today we face the threat of Taliban and Al Qaeda getting their hands on nuclear weapons due to an unstable Pakistan, our nominal ally.

I continue to be ambivalent toward war. It shouldn’t be  just a tool in the bag of foreign relations. But the survival of all mankind depends upon keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists.

Does Barack Obama have more resolve than his modern predecessors?

The fate of the world may depend upon the true answer to that question.

P.s.

I actually was going to blog on a slightly different, but closely related subject. It had to do with the fact we don’t seem to get much actual war reporting. I checked out a library book entitled “The Blog of War” (a play on the phrase “the fog of war”), by Matthew Currier Burden, a former U.S. Army major. Nowadays soldiers tell their own stories in realtime (or near), blogging from the field. But unless you read those blogs you are not likely to know how things really are. It is not going to convince me politically whether a war is right or wrong by knowing how a participant feels, but he or she can provide me a sense of the real situation on the ground and the human aspect of the whole thing. That is something that has been missing, I think. And really the whole dynamic of the professional soldier (the all-volunteer military) vs. the drafted citizen soldier adds a whole new dimension to war for the United States, good and bad. When I finish reading the book I will have one more thing blog about, I’m sure. I had previously purchased another book with a kind of insider’s view of the war but at the time it seemed too much of a pro-warrior, my country right or wrong, inside baseball approach. But I’ll have to get back to it sometime, because it too had some actual battle accounts you just don’t get from the standard media. I think those who run the paid media feel that citizens just don’t have the patience or attention span for real stories and the business-oriented management thinks that they don’t sell. This is a long post script. I’ll quit now.


McCain thinks Palin presidential, that says it all

October 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I will not vote for a candidate who refuses to answer questions directly, and especially if they go off on to a different subject. If both candidates play that game tonight, then I will vote for a third party candidate or perhaps not vote at all. And I think if I hear one “talking point,” which as far as I am concerned is nothing more than a ready-to-go piece of propoganda candidates carry around, that is going to be one heck of a turn-off.

These are desperate times, and I just don’t have the patience for games as usual. I live in California, so my vote likely does ot count due to our electoral college system (which I feel should be abolished). The system was designed to help the smaller states. But California is the most populous state in the union and yet because it is winner take all and because it is believed to be solidly in the Obama camp (whether we support Obama or McCain) in essence it makes no difference because it’s a foregone conclusion (unless a whole lot of folks said what’s the use and failed to vote. Many are already voting, with absentee ballots going out now).

They say it’s going to take time for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout to work. Well with the nation’s economy and that of the world seemingly disintegrating around us, someone better step on it.

Certainly that should be the main topic at tonight’s debate. It’s a town hall format, so I guess it’s up to the folks there.

We know that Barack Obama has had some tenuous association with a guy involved with a 60s and 70s radical movement that bombed government buildings and did result in some deaths. But Obama was just a child when this guy was doing that. Later when Obama was grown up and got into politics their paths crossed (it’s been written about – I’ve mentioned it myself in two of my blogs). There is no evidence Obama talked or conspired with the man about anything subversive. The man, William “Bill” Ayers, is nowadays a college professor.

And we know John McCain has for three decades played footsie with his big money buddies in Washington because pretty much that is what Republican (and Democratic) lawmakers do. The big money folks are more fun to hang around with and they come in handy when you need campaign funds. We know the whole sordid story about McCain being part of the Keating five, going to bat for a guy (Charles Keating) who bilked oldsters out of millions of dollars. McCain has said it was a mistake on his part.

I have yet to read anything sinister about Obama’s connections with Ayers (since they came long after Ayers’ radical days). While I have nothing but contempt for Ayers, he is not running for president. And apparently there is no connection at all between the two these days. Yes and we know that Obama has had some involvement with some sleazy character named Tony Rezko, a land developer and slum lord who has been convicted of fraud and bribery of public officials. And we know Obama got some type of a sweetheart deal on land adjacent to his home through Rezko. Sounds like Chicago style politics to me.

But there has been months upon months of campaigning with nothing substantial (distasteful maybe) coming out of any of this. Some people are already voting and the official election day is less than a month off. It’s a little late to worry about any of this trash. As far as we know, either McCain or Obama is going to be the new president, no matter what anyone thinks about Ayers and Rezco and Keating.

I would think most folks want to know what each man proposes to do about the fact we are likely for the first time in my 59 years actually headed for the second Great Depression. We’ve had plenty of recessions and downturns, but this one is beginning to look ugly. The frightening thing is even the experts seem to be saying they don’t know exactly what can or should be done.

What we need from the candidates is some specifics and not platitudes or silly things like: “the Democrats just want to tax and spend,” or “The Republicans got us into this mess” (even if it’s partly true). How do we get out of this mess? Just tell us Mr. Candidate, and if we buy your ideas we just might vote for you.

But as I keep saying in this blog, the Democrats will probably emphasize bottom up measures (helping workers and their families and in so doing get folks buying things and thus stimulate consumer spending and getting the economy going). And the Republicans will concentrate on doing things to help big business, under the mantra of cutting taxes (but whose taxes?). Both candidates supported the bailout (I call the Wall Street extortion).

I would hope too that there are questions about the wars and I would hope those questions pin the candidates down (war, pin down, an inadvertent play on words). I really have not seen much difference in their war policies, even though McCain insists that he wants to win (whatever that is) and his opposition wants to “surrender.” Obama has pushed for a timetable (but not an immediate pullout) in Iraq and more or an emphasis on Afghanistan (and McCain now calls for the latter). I don’t see an anti-war or “surrender” candidate there.

McCain has been getting a lot meaner in his tone (I’m not sure how that plays at a town hall meeting).

It now seems that McCain showed reckless judgment when he chose Sarah Palin to be vice president (an office that has the same demand for qualifications as the presidency). So far she has put on one hell of an act, and I have said she definitely has Reagan tendencies that way, but when you examine what exactly she has said and how she has said it (hardly as elegant as Reagan) you see that so far she has only proven that she is qualified to be a head cheerleader, mayor of a small town (probably better suited to be head of the chamber of commerce), governor of Alaska (only because, well she is). Leader of the free world? No.

That pretty well only leaves Obama. He does not have a long record. But he is a U.S. senator, and we pretty much know his life story. It’s been written about and there have been documentaries on TV. And we know he is a thinking man and capable of putting sentences together (that would be refreshing). And he seems willing to listen to others and consider their ideas (that would really be refreshing).

While I can hardly say I have an open mind going into this debate. I certainly will listen. I don’t know which man will win yet and I want to get an indication of what we are in for.


What’s a patriotic white boy to do???

September 6, 2008

(copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

You’re almost made to feel guilty if you don’t vote for John McCain, especially if you’re a patriotic white boy like me.

Here’s this all-American son of a military family, a little wild – boys will be boys – darn near gets burned up on an aircraft carrier in a horrible fire where many did lose their lives and a year later gets shot down over North Vietnam while on a bombing mission. Says he really thought mostly of himself until crawling out of the darkness of a hole in the ground and seeing the light after being tortured way beyond the endurance of any normal human being (that’s why he was against torture until he decided lately he was for it again). Then and there, as he tells the story (and in my most non-sarcastic voice, I say a compelling one it is), he decided that there was something in life more important than himself – it was the good old USA, mom and apple pie he missed so dearly. But even though the longing for home was great and the torture dreadful, he honorably refused the propaganda ploy by the North Vietnamese to let him go before others who had been there longer (he was the son of an active-duty Navy Admiral at the time).

He went on to serve his country in the congress, first as a representative and then as a senator.

Well so far, so good.

I have no problem with McCain’s heroism, but I think I’ve heard the story enough now and would rather get on to the issues of the day.

Oh, if I were pressed, I could find fault with his military service, but even I have to admit I probably would be a bit unfair about it all. It was not McCain’s fault, as it was not the fault of most or all who served in the Vietnam War, but if ever there was a war we did not need or should not have been involved in, I believe that was it – well, maybe this one in Iraq ties it or even beats it.

North Vietnam and the Viet Cong did not attack us (unless you go by the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which it is entirely unclear what happened and in which there was no loss of life). The United States was trying to prop up a corrupt government in South Vietnam, whose only attribute was that it was opposed to communism. There is of course a lot more to that history, but we don’t want to get off into a whole different subject here. The idea is that we were not “fighting for our freedom” as unnecessary wars are always sold to us as being – a fight for our freedom, that is.

In Iraq, we are not “fighting for our freedom” as the Republicans and other war supporters claim we are. We are struggling for dominance of a region, which just happens to have a lot of oil. If your argument is that we have to go after all the world’s resources to ensure our freedom, well okay, I’m wrong, onward Christian soldiers.

Iraq did not attack us and there is no evidence that it in any way supported the 9/11 attack. Saudi Arabian citizens made up most of the attacking contingent (but the Saudis are our allies (???)). And we weren’t legally enforcing UN sanctions either, because the UN did not call for it (and I have little use for the UN, but that’s off point).

But the by gosh by jingo USA, USA, USA folks are not concerned with the finer points of all of this. They want to win a presidential election.

Really what we have here is ideological, philosophical, and class, and race (to some extent) warfare with things a bit jumbled. There’s not only a struggle going on between Republicans and Democrats, but between Republicans themselves. One piece I read said in the Republican Party it’s the old country club set vs. Sam’s Club, a clear reference to Sarah Palin (and I don’t know if she goes to Sam’s Club or not).

There is a similar struggle going on in Democratic circles involving women, working class folks, with some split among the races (the competition at the lower end of the food chain is often fierce), as well as moderates vs. liberals, and conservatives in there too, yes, there is also such a thing as conservative Democrats (the South had a lot of them until Nixon stole them away).

Interestingly, though, despite the struggles, it appears that both parties have come out of their respective conventions fairly well united and enthused.

Obama did it for the Democrats, and surprise, surprise, the spunky firebrand Palin did it for the Republicans. Actually, for once, the Republican convention, despite its delayed start, was more exciting, at least from my TV vantage point, than the Democratic one.

One TV commentator announced after the strong speech by Palin: “a star is born!”

If I were her, I wouldn’t quit my Alaska governor gig just yet (and watch out for those National Enquirer articles), but there is no doubt that the potential is there. She’s kind of the Republican version of Ann Richards, but better looking (sorry Ann and may you rest in peace).

But as that already tiresome modern catch phrase goes, “at the end of the day,” we have two basic philosophies running against each other:

The Republicans think that government’s job is more or less simply to provide for the best business environment and that a high tide lifts all boats. And they of course want the government to provide for the common defense. Their definition of a common defense is any war that the president decides is necessary.

The Democrats support a more activist government that supports or helps people in a more direct fashion, and they want a government that while providing a good business environment also protects workers (and the majority of the populace is workers). They support a strong defense as well.

But sometimes the compassionate get tired. You have a class of folks who howled and complained that they did not get the help they needed in a hurricane disaster a few years ago – we saw it played out on our television sets. The whole force of the United States government could not get in to help them, but TV news crews could get in to get the story. The complaints were bitter and understandable. Fast forward, though, and government acts swifter, evacuating folks before the storm. Now they complain that they want to go home, that their shelters are not good enough. Maybe so, maybe not, but such crying is not conducive to garnering more help or compassion from the populace as a whole. And anyone who is honest, knows that the ranks of the freeloaders of all races and ethnicities in society grow and grow over the decades, with some not able to hold down jobs but exceedingly skillful at reaping every benefit available, a trait passed down through generations. And my is this class prolific.

On the other side of the coin, though, there is corporate welfare. As an example, gamblers and out and out thieves manipulate the housing market and then get the government to bail them out when their house(s) of cards falls apart.

Philosophies aside, in the actual workings of government Democrats and Republicans often do pretty much the same thing. That’s why the presidential contest is one more between individuals than parties.

The wild card this time around is that both candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican McCain, are calling for change. In fact, McCain cleverly co-opted Obama’s call for change in his own acceptance speech and came off sounding, and I did say sounding, like he might just be the man to do it. He even rebuked members of his own party saying that they went to Washington to change things and Washington changed them. In the strongest terms he vowed to clean house on corruption and wasteful spending (McCain, though, has not been immune to scandal or accusations of such).

McCain has the governmental experience and he was been at odds in the past with those in his own party and he even tested the waters awhile back for switching parties, he was so frustrated.

Obama is of a new generation and he calls for a completely different way of looking at things, possibly, but will he be able to act, being the comparative neophyte he is in the national realm? And all those neither yes nor no but “present” votes in the Illinois legislature indicate a lack of conviction or perhaps guile to me.

But, if you are not of the upper economic echelon or not even of the middle class, who would more likely represent your interests?

I don’t have to answer that for you. In your heart (you know I’m right, no, whoops that was Barry Goldwater), you know the answer, but you might still wrestle with it.

P.S.  One of my main concerns (not the only, by a long shot) with McCain is that he has made it clear that he is itching for a fight with Iran over their nuclear program. While I understand the danger there, it seems imprudent to draw lines in the sand. One loses the option of choosing when and how to act when the adversary decides on his own to accept your challenge and cross that line. We have actually already made our position clear. It should be up to Iran to wonder what the next move is. McCain should know better. He’s a follower of Teddy Roosevelt who called for speaking softly and carrying a big stick. But McCain sees military puffery as his top campaign tool.