Thursday, March 24, 2005

Thoughts on Duty

Am I a veteran against President Bush's war on Iraq? Absolutely.
What do I think about deserters applying for refugee status in Canada? If they ever set foot in my country again, lock 'em up and throw away the key.
Is this inconsistent with what I've said all along? I don't believe so. I have said all along that we serve our country and that our country picks the wars.
The Oath of Enlistment is a simple one and pretty straightforward: "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
Once you commit to serve, lives depend on you. I understand that poor kids... disadvantaged kids... immigrant kids... looking for any kind of a decent break hear the siren song of the recruiter. Three hot meals and a cot... money for college... learn a trade or profession. Some of them... Pat Tillman... they buy into "saving the nation from international (name a threat)." I know that it sucks to be misled by recruiters or Presidents or whomever; but that doesn't matter once you take that oath. The bottom line is that once you take that oath you have an obligation... not the least of which is to the soldier who's counting on you to watch his back.
I came to terms with the guys who fled their country rather than facing conscription during VietNam... not everyone had the advantages of Dubya or of Dick Cheney. I could respect a guy laying down his weapon and doing his time in the brig. A deserter just needs to keep right on running.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Nod to the Youngsters

Today I'd like for folks to read this post from Sgt. Sminklemeyer.
I've had DocInTheBox over on my sidebar almost since I started blogging. I didn't find out about his blog while he was in Iraq the first time, but he's sharp... and he's committed to his troops, and I like that. This post was written by a guy who's not just in it for base pay and allowances.
Through links on Sean's blog I found Sminklemeyer's blog. I don't necessarily agree with Smink's politics... I don't agree with anyone all of the time... but as I commented on his post: This isn't about politics... this is about keeping faith with people who are giving their lives for this country.
It isn't only men or nurses this time around. Blair... "Buffbabe"... did what I thought was some pretty good writing from Iraq. I remember this post caught my eye. "Sgt. Lizzie" wrote this when she got back to her unit from the hospital in Germany... *Gallows Humor Warning*... and technically she didn't "walk away" from the "accident."
There are others... Amber comes to mind... an officer.
You want it to be over... you want your life to go back to normal... but it will never ever be "normal" again.
We owe these people.
Semper Fi

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Thoughts on Civil Rights

It occurs to me that the test of civil rights is how they are applied to our enemies. I mean it's just a thought, but any damn fool can be nice to his mother. Can he be nice to his mother-in-law, is another question altogether.
Zacarias Moussaoui is a challenge for us.
Moussaoui is a disciple of Osama bin Laden, and he admits his allegiance to Al Qaida. He was enrolled in a flight training program at the time he was taken into custody. It is reasonable to assume... and he might admit... that he intended to do us harm; however, he denies having anything whatever to do with 9/11. He was already in U.S. custody on 9/11/2001; but apparently we allege that he was involved in the planning of the attacks on 9/11. It appears that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty in his case.
Moussaoui's lawyer has pointed out that the government's evidence apparently comes out of unsworn statements taken in secrecy from unnamed alleged conspirators, and that Moussaoui is being denied the opportunity to confront his accusers. John Couey will be given the opportunity to challenge the evidence against him. Timothy McVeigh had the opportunity to challenge the evidence against him. The federal courts have ruled that Moussaoui's rights are served... and therefor that his life depends... on "government-prepared summaries of the captives' statements."
Man, if I was Zacarias Moussaoui and my life depended on the integrity of this administration I'd be sweating bullets.
I'd be okay with locking him up... he is what he is: an Al Qaida terrorist who was in training to do us harm... but killing him because he hates us and we hate him and he's the only live terrorist we have in custody? I wouldn't want to have to explain that to my grandson.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Natural Injustice of War

I read this piece on MSNBC this morning, and felt moved to comment on it.
Regardless of how one feels about the particular war these kinds of things happen... and you have no idea how much I loathe using a euphemism like "these kinds of things." When... not if, but when... it happens this huge black hole of karma opens. There is no "wrong" other than the wrong of war but there is horrible injustice.
He's speeding home with his wife and six children fifteen minutes before curfew after which they're liable to be shot for being Iraqi out after dark... the troops are on foot as sundown draws nearer. He gets too close too soon in the fading light and the troops, justifiably, open up on him... and his wife... and those six children.
I think the piece speaks to the children... who believes justice has been served by giving $7500 to the family elder? Who blames the 14-year old for her consuming hatred?
The piece mentions the role of the Army in restoring the troops to combat... to compartmentalize the trauma of opening that car's doors and seeing what they've just done to an innocent family.
The unit's chaplain, Capt. Ed Willis, says there's no reason to feel guilty: "If
you kill someone on the battlefield, whether it's another soldier or collateral
damage, that doesn't fit under 'Thou shalt not kill'."
I can't begin to tell someone who hasn't lived with it how little that means to the men who are going to wake up from those dreams for the rest of their lives. Of course, this is something with which the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and current Secretary of State would not be familiar.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Thoughts on the Loss of Faith and Confidence

This has been kind of a downer morning...
I saw this piece on Halliburton, then I read this post in a blog of an OIF returnee, and then I re-read Tamar's post from back in January. I didn't do all of this on purpose, of course, but I seem to be seeing more and more in this vein lately.
The legend is that our government is a "government of the people by the people for the people," and that the purpose of that government is "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." I believed in that for a lot of years. I wonder if I might not have had some development delay... I believed Eisenhower, Kennedy, Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, Carter... never Johnson nor anyone since.
I had been thinking about Halliburton last night as I drove home... how they seem to be doing business everywhere... in Iraq before the war, in Iraq during the war, in Iran, kind of like cockroaches... if anything survives Armageddon it will probably have a Halliburton logo on it.
We did business with Marcos... we did business with Noriega... we did business with Hussein... We didn't take him to task when he put that missile into USS Stark... We don't get principled until we're done using them. We... Who is we? Is this my government?
I've been working on a post on why I think we need to reinstate the draft... for a number of reasons... but would I let either of my kids go? Should I?
I'm retired military, and... to be honest... what I resent most of all at this point... is that their conduct has led me to ask these questions. I'm supposed to be able to follow them anywhere, and obey their orders without hesitation.

*Update* This is thought-provoking.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Observation on The Peter Principle

I learned this morning that Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the senior Intelligence Officer in Iraq during the Abu Graib prison scandal, has been... rewarded?... with command of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, the training center for Army interrogators, at Ft. Huachuca.
Presumably the Peter Principle no longer establishes the ceiling for professional development... unless, of course, she was just following orders in Iraq... you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Exercise of Power

I don't get it... I know good people who voted for Republicans so I feel like I have to be missing some redemptive virtue.
Today they... the Republicans in the U.S. Senate... attached the authority to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and exploitation to a budget bill... thereby protecting it from a filibuster... and passed it on a 51-49 vote. The people who have lied to us continuously since 2001 have assured us that there are billions of barrels of oil buried there and that it can be brought out without significant damage to the environment.
The oil companies did their part... running the price of gasoline right up to the record on the weekend before the vote... and the Senate Republicans did their part... giving the oil companies the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge... just like that.
I hate writing about politics... but I'm afraid to stop. I don't want to be bitching about the outcome from this in ten years and have someone ask me why I didn't say anything at the time.

The Consequences of ADHD

It came to me as I was driving home last night that you never hear about Afghanistan (Dubya's other "success" story) these days.
It turns out that they're having a pretty tough winter and are still experiencing a significant amount of civil unrest. As I looked at this piece it came to me that there may be legitimate reasons why people turn to organizations such as the Taliban and the Mafia for protection. For better or for worse, they do offer a level of stability.
As I was reading I noticed that except for limited special forces activities we've offloaded most of our responsibility for conditions in Afghanistan onto the UN and NATO... and then we send John Bolton to the UN? How decent of us...
Where is Osama bin Laden? Remember the guy who did attack the U.S.? Cold trail.

A Little Bit of Perspective

Seriously, I wasn't going to post about this... I really never meant for this to be a political blog, or a commentary on Dubya's War on Iraq... and I'm really happy that the people of Iraq are starting to get their legs under them... but the parliamentary session today is what it is... and no more.
The election at the end of January was a milestone in the development of a new Iraq, but democratic? To the extent that voting for the republican ticket in 1800 without knowing if you were going to get Thomas Jefferson or Aaron Burr for President would have been democratic I suppose it was democratic. Can you imagine voting Republican in 2004 thinking John McCain and getting Dubya?
What we have in Baghdad today is a parliament... an interim body that's more a constitutional convention than a legislative body... still without a President and without a Prime Minister. It's a step toward the eventual restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. We'll see how long it takes us to end our occupation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Thoughts on Presence and Commitment

You know what's confusing?... When you click on DefenseLinkdotMil and read that the "Coalition" in Iraq is just peachy and getting peachier; and then on the same day you see an AP story like this one which could lead one to believe that our allies are pulling out of Iraq as quickly as it can be arranged (except for Tony Blair, of course) you just have to ask yourself who is to be believed. That isn't what bothered me though. What bothered me was that in the follow-up question: "Should Italy's decision to pull its troops from Iraq affect U.S. policy?" 35% of respondents said that "the U.S. should keep as many troops as necessary in Iraq for as long as is need to ensure a healthy democracy survives."
I know that these MSNBC news polls aren't scientific, but still... 35%?... for as long as it takes however long it takes until OUR desired outcome is achieved? Can you say "until hell freezes over?" You know why I support a reinstatement of the draft? Because I'd bet you that none of those in that 35% have kids at risk of serving there... or they're making a ton of money from our commitment there.
Mind you that I think the 22% who want to be out of there by this weekend are nuts, too; but an open-ended commitment? No, thank you. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Joe Scarborough Can Eat My Shorts

I got a tip to read "Congressman" Joe Scarborough's blog post of March 8th in which he purports to offer his advice to Democrats while at the same time challenging their patriotism.
" has been clear that while most Democrats are not openly cheering for the
terrorists killing our troops, neither were they in America’s corner."

It occurs to me that Joe's not really a congressman anymore, is he? I mean, I'm a retired Navy Corpsman and Chief Petty Officer, but I don't go around calling myself "Doc" or "Chief" anymore. It isn't really that important to me what he calls himself. It's just that if someone who's never served a day in uniform... even President Bush wore his uniform occasionally... is going to challenge my patriotism I like to know where he's coming from. If he's some pathetic little hack "wannabe" in need of a real life that's still okay. I'll keep a good thought for him.

What I really need is for one of these neocons... because this should be easy for a strict constructionist... to tell me how we get from " order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..." to getting kids killed trying to transform the world into a Republican fiefdom. I'm un-American? (Retired Navy Chief Expletives Deleted)

Have you ever Googled this guy? Way to go, MSNBC!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Thoughts on Outsourcing Torture

Before I get sidetracked, I wanted to mention this. I had all but moved on when I was reminded this morning about this story.
Listen, I know why people want to torture. I understand it. Your life is on the line... or that of a buddy or loved one... you think this guy you're looking at has information about it... I understand. It's like when people ask if you wouldn't support the death penalty if your child was the victim... it's an ad hominum argument that has nothing to do with whether or not it's the right thing to do.
The problem is that you're not allowed to do that in America... or if you are an American... so you send them off to another country... even Syria which you've pretty much determined has one of the most loathsome governments in the world... and then you can testify in front of Congress with a straight face that you didn't torture or sanction torture and can you help it how other countries act?... but you go ahead and act on the information.
I swear you people are worse than my kids! Is there such a thing as a neoconservative ethicist? How do you people sleep? Do you recognize that at some point you may have to try to sell this bullshit to your Creator?

Thoughts on Inevitable Consequences

There are so many things that cry for attention... but several of them seem to me to dovetail into one thing... our unflinching confidence in our global supremacy. It is increasingly apparent... to me at least... that this administration pretty much seems to feel that the world is our oyster and that we are going to call all the shots from here on out.
The nomination of John Bolton to be our ambassador to the United Nations pretty much says it all. J in Armchair Generalist wrote about this on Monday. What better way to tell the world that we really and truly couldn't care less in one bold stroke?
I really don't believe that George W. Bush is the most evil human being on Earth today... I don't believe he's smart enough... but I really think someone in this administration needs to pause and reflect on the message for a bit.
Let's forget for the moment that we're a debtor nation incapable of feeding, clothing, housing or fueling ourselves... and let's even assume for the moment that we really aren't concerned about all those Chinese... or Russians... or Moslems... or any number of folks who might not think highly of being regarded as part of an American hegemony. Let's just think for a moment about the end of the Soviet Union... or the British Empire... or the Roman Empire... or any number of others.
How long can we keep all of those balls in the air? What happens when they start to fall? Who'll pick up the pieces? Do any of these people ever think ahead to how this ultimately has to end?
These people are like my kids! They want it all, they want it now, and hang the expense.

Hello? Earth is a planet! If we screw it up for them we screw it up for ourselves, too!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Thoughts on the Environment

The President has nominated Steve Johnson to head the EPA... a position he's been acting in for some time. This is supposed to be a big plus because he's a long-term EPA scientist and not a politician... Oh, really?
In his remarks, Mr. Johnson said, "it will be my distinct privilege... to continue to advance an environmental agenda while maintaining our nation's economic competitiveness." The piece goes on to quote his appreciation of the "great strides in environmental protection" during this Bush administration.
Mr. Johnson's area of expertise is supposed to be pesticides and toxic substances? If memory serves, was there not some shuffling done with the permissible level of arsenic in our water during the previous term?
Sen. Jim Jeffords, who used to have a little sense, pointed out that "the Bush administration has the worst environmental record in history," and still said "I am hopeful that he (Steve Johnson) can bring a fresh and new approach." This is like me being hopeful of waking up skinny, handsome and rich tomorrow.
Apparently the electricity utilities lobbyist likes the guy... That's not really reassuring.
The ANWR is so screwed.....

Did you see where James Baker is starting to talk about global warming?... to a roomful of oil company execs?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Thoughts on the Oil Business

I only have a few minutes, and had a couple of things irritating the heck out of me before I saw this piece on the forthcoming push to drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.
They're going to do what they're going to do, the Republicans, because they have a majority in both chambers and the White House, and because very few of you are really paying attention; but it ticks me off.
The oil industry is going to take maybe five years I believe it was to try to find less than ten years worth of oil and they're going to destroy the existing eco-system up there in the process. In return the American public is going to get bupkis.
For some reason people seem to buy into the bull that the oil industry is shoveling... and, bless their hearts, I suppose to some extent ignorance is bliss... but this has nothing to do with dependence on overseas oil. It's all about greed... a few million barrels of oil... not enough to make a difference really... and all it's going to cost is the environment. Drink up.
I live in California where they've jacked up gas prices because they had to change the formula of our gasoline which they've been doing twice a year every year for about... twenty years? Now I'm not an MBA but I'd bet that those oil companies have a five-year business plan that accounts for periodically switching fuel refinery standards, periodically doing maintenance and upgrades on their refineries, etc. If they're really and truly caught off guard twice a year every year by the reformulation I'd be really, really disappointed. Every time they tell me they had to raise prices because they had to take a pipe or refinery offline for maintenance I smell fertilizer.
Oil is $53 a barrel? So what? Do the oil companies not control the production, the refineries, most of the distribution system? Are they not charging themselves $53 a barrel and passing the bill on to us? I know they pay royalties out of that, but they're buying and selling oil to themselves.
Do you know what the oil companies are doing with the oil they're currently getting out of Alaska? They're selling it in Asia and still bringing in our oil from other countries! Do you know what they're going to do with the oil they get out of ANWR?
Listen... I'm not laboring under many illusions here. These people won the elections, and the ANWR is... in all likelihood... toast. If they're not going to hesitate at thousands... tens or hundreds of thousands... of human lives lost and countries in ruins, they aren't going to slow down for some wildlife and some scenery. I just think it's a damn shame is all. I generally hold that, while evil will come and go, the good will prevail over time. I just don't know what will be left when it goes this time.