Friday, December 28, 2007


I saw a couple of interesting things from and about the troops over the holidays. One was an interview with a soldier who was talking about what he called, "this war." He was ordering an omelet for breakfast, maybe a Burger King and shake for lunch, and a steak at night; then, they would go on patrol. Sure beats Vietnam, where C-rats were the constant. What he was attempting to convey, I think, is that we're in a different kind of war and even those fighting it are confused.

I don't doubt there's been progress made in Iraq in terms of violence reduction but even the "everyman," General Petraeus, covers his posterior and warns of uncertainies. (Thank you General for that insight). Over the long haul, I don't see how our present strategy can work--we are not going to stay in Iraq forever. Our main source of pride now are the Sunni types who were our enemy and now our friends: get the insurgency on your side is the first rule of the counterinsurgency manual. We've done it but have a Shiite government that I doubt is going to put aside generations of distrust and get in bed together. I wish they would but a scenario as one of many, none of them good, is out and out civil war.

A definite observation is that Iraq, in addition to looking more and more like Vietnam, operationally, is looking more and more like Vietnam in terms of benigh neglect. Iraq is not the main topic of conversation among a public that is only partially interested anyway. Mostly, it has moved from a headline to page three, much like Vietnam did as a war until the anti-Vietnam posturing captured the media's attention. And, then it was not on the war but the anti-war. The Vietnam war and the warrior were mostly forgotten or at least put on the back burner.

Iraq is quickly becoming a war of casual interest by the general public. A good clue is how little the Presidential candidates are making Iraq an issue--either getting out or the future. They're reading the minds of the public. Less and less are they questioned about their stands concerning the war. These are hints. This is not good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Few movies have I seen hyped this much. The Little Miss Sunshine of this movie season. I don't think so. I didn't like it at all and I've been asking myself why. All the critics loved it but I never listen to them. I don't want anybody even listening to me about this or any movie. Just opinion. I think one of the problems with me is that the movie trivialized a very important subject--teen pregnancy. And, the movie worked its message without those who are suppose to know better or at least have an idea, saying anything.

The characters were appealing, relatively speaking. This sixteen year old is the world's most clever bored teenager. She and her nerdy boyfriend decide sex is better than video games and she ends up pregnant. This is essentially all we know on the pregnancy issue. And then we go into this period of telling the parents who are at once accepting and clever in an odd sort of way. The Dad is a heating and air conditioning repair guy who is on occasion a common sense therapist even if he doesn't know it. The wife, step-mother of Juno, is equally clever, witty with the ready comments. She is a "nails" person, meaning she has a fingernail salon. (And, does nobody but me think it's a little odd that some writer came up with a comment from a teenage protester at the abortion clinic, who is Asian, that the fetus has fingernails). We doubt the step-mother is related to reality as everybody knows only the Vietnamese can run "nail" salons (at least in California). The step-mother verbally abuses a hospital technician who is trying to be empathic to Juno; and, we think that is funny. Give me a break.

The most empathic one to me and I'm sure that I'm the only one in the Universe who sees it this way is the Jason Bateman character. He is the husband of the adoptive mother character, Jennifer Garner. She is very good and for the story line, anal retentive to the max. Bateman goes from cool character to cad in milliseconds. A buddy of mine said he is merely a Peter Pan type, never growing up. Plus, this is the second time of late when I have seen men like Bateman castigated simply because they didn't want to be fathers. I actually read one critic's account that Bateman's character was a pedophile.

The book's author, on whom the story is based, says, not so, as written. She may be the best story with a movie of her life, i. e. stripper.

With a slight bit of psychobabble, I think one of the reasons that I feel so strongly is something that only recently happened to the son of a friend. And, this isn't subjective but fact as I have been fairly involved in the situation from afar but have read the official documents. My friend's son, a ne'the well 21 year old and his buddies who are all into dope and are having a party. At some point, a sixteen year old shows up. According to all involved, sex is way down the food chain. The uninvited female sixteen year old says she is 18, nobody thinks anything about it. At some point during the night when all the dope heads are passed out, she climbs into bed with the ne'the well son of my friend. They have sex. The girl goes home and when confronted by the stepfather concocts a story of rape, sex, all the related issues. My friend's son is jailed. The girl recants the story and admits it was her fault. I'm not making this up: makes no difference, this is the law, she was sixteen and under age. My Friend's son gets 3-6 years for being stupid.

Here's the basic scene with the Bateman character: Juno shows up unannounced while Bateman is home alone: they chat and rap about music, lots of symbolism going on. She shows up one more time and literally appeals physically to him for comfort. They hug. He awkwardly announces his plans to leave his wife. Why? Why at that point? We don't know but his character is forever trashed.

I especially disliked how the movie trivialized abortion. Planned Parenthood is the exact opposite of the clinic in the movie. Oh well, it is a movie and the great thing about movies is they can make anything happen they want. 2 parachutes.

Friday, December 14, 2007


When Barach enlisted Oprah, I lost "faith" with him. This is one of those "ah hah" moments in our culture. Are we truly the celebrity worshiping people that we seem to be. Some 40,000 or so showed up for Oprah. What is it about so many of the American people that they would do this. I wouldn't walk across the street to see Bono, Oprah, the President, whoever. But, I surely am in the minority.

I am amazed. What is it? I don't get it. Even my daughters are reading People Mag. And, I must admit that when I get Sunday's Parade, I am always turning to the personality page of the magazine. I say again, what is it about us that would make us such celebrity worshipers? For instance, is Oprah's opinion better than anyone else?

I often feel that I have to be careful when I say something about Oprah: she is black and a woman and if I had any desire to be PC, I would be violating PC big time. Please. And, what other dynamics are at play here? Why would Barach Obama choose to do this? And, what about Hillary? I would think that she would feel really put out: isn't Oprah a champion of women in general? Hillary is the only woman in the race. So, can we say that if you have an African America, Barach, and a woman, the AA wins out?

What is this? My brother who has been in politics his entire life has a view that sounds slightly racist, maybe? But, interesting. He says something like, "anytime you have a black in a race, all blacks will vote for a black." He gave this advice to another brother who was running for office against several others. He lost! Guess what--there was one African American in the race. My brother lost to him.

I don't know nor have a clue about all the dynamics but I think that as a possible Barack supporter, I'm now switching. Why? Well, someone who is into celebrity worship simply is not going to get my vote. This letter to the editor of an unnamed newspaper said it best: I am paraphrasing:

Oprah Winfrey's decision to endorse a presidential candidate is not simply misguided, it is dangerous. This is not voting by reason. It is rather voting by a mindless mass of individuals being shamelessly manipulated as part of a cult-of-personality movenment.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Recently, a friend and myself were discussing Iraq. He is a retired infantry officer and feels pretty much as I do: HOPELESS. Because we both feel so helpless, we posed the philosophical question: at any point, would it have made any difference had someone "stood up" even though the Commander in Chief appears to have been settled into a "don't confuse me with facts, I have my mind made up" mentality.

My friend named two who could have made a difference in his opinion: Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice. I will have to admit that I've never been much of a fan of Colin Powell. And, the reason is pretty subjective. I was stationed at Forces Command in Atlanta, Georgia when he came to visit. At that time, he was a big wheel, like Chief of Staff of the Army or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He spoke to the troops and laced his talk with ample profanity. Not that it was a big deal. However, had he not been black, somebody in the hierarchy would have crucified him. Regardless, if you look at the history of Iraq and especially Condaleeza Rice's role of National Security Advisor and now, of course, Secretary of State--the opportunity was there. These two have had a chance to effect history and they did not.

Why? Well, I'll have to leave that to history. But when they had a chance to go in another direction on Iraq, they either denied or were fooled: in Condi's case, I think she is so loyal to the President and as someone has suggested, his alter ego, that she simply folded.

Whatever, the "yes sir, yes sir, three bags full" of Powell and Rice have not served us well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Occaionally, someone asked me how did the "girlfriends" get started? Well, we really didn't just get started. My buddy, Michael, whom we call, Rolex Mike, is the best at building relationships or should I say, making them as anybody I've ever seen. He knows everybody and one of his goals in life is "putting peoople together." His constant refrain is, "You should meet so and so."

All the "girlfriends" I've met through Michael and with all his chancanary, adinfinitum, he gets lots of slack. A unique character that almost goes beyond description. In fact, I can't begine to describe him. On his birthday, we decided to roast him in various ways. Here's a collage we put together.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


AUGUST RUSH is a fairy tale of a movie. I loved it. Listen to this dialogue with the guy robbing you at the refreshment stand.
"Did you see this movie?"
"Yes and loved it."
"The critics panned it."
"Well, the problem with the critics is they take themselves too seriously and many times have lost any sense of imagination."

So, there you have it and there's not much left to say. My wife and I loved it. Our daughter had already told us the basic story and she and the granddaughters were gushing about it. The movie is incredibly implausible on so many levels but what the hay. We want to believe and so we do. Plus, if there's a more winsome human being than Keri Russell in movies today, I surely don't know who she is. She will always be Felicity--so impassioned that you want to hold her and say, "now, now." The expressions on her face convey mountains of emotions. I loved her in The Waitress too. I just love her.

And, all the supporting cast was good. Robin Williams plays himself, other than funny one liners, they were simply one liners but he played and looked the part. And, Rhys Meyers, what is it with these guys with two last names. He was good, however; Irish to the max. Freddie Highmore, the youngster, lost for eleven years but never really lost by Keri Russell's character (can't tell you anymore, you have to see the movie). The implausible part of it was mostly the music. How could an eleven year old play and create such music. Well, I've seen a few prodigies on programs like 60 Minutes who defy logic. So...

It will be interesting to see how well it does at the box office. I surveyed a few folks coming out of the movie and every single one liked it. I'm thinking we all love a fairly tale.

I might have ended it differently but it was relatively satisfying and in a sense, the story allowed you to create your own ending. And, in this case, mine would be, "And, they lived happily ever after."

Friday, November 23, 2007


There are few movies I've seen so hyped to be so unsatisfying. When I go to a movie, I want to come out feeling that there's at least a smidgen of redemptive purpose. I have my own definition for this, mainly teaching a life lesson. The critics all loved it, that should have given me a hint. When they like something immensely, I can pretty much be assured I won't. I think most critics are a little jaded or cynical or even maybe arrogant.

No Country For Old Men is a great title but I can't figure how it relates. Usually, I don't pay attention to movie directors. In this case, it was the Coan brothers and apparently, they have a certain style. If this movie is an example, I don't like it.

The story is built around Josh Brolin's character who finds a big stash of money from a drug deal gone bad. In an odd sort of way, Brolin is a winsome guy, the best of the movie. Tommy Lee Jones is somewhat of a wise sheriff but the movie doesn't portray him as doing much. And, Javier Bardem is the bad guy who is a mean, evil, maxed out psychopath.

The best line in the movie comes from Brolin to Woody Harrelson who plays a kind of hit man fixer who finds Brolin and tells him the nature of the psychopath chasing him. In trying to establish rapport with Brolin who is a Vietnam veteran, he relates that he also is a Nam vet. Brolin says something like, "And, that is suppose to make us friends."

The critics loved this movie. Go figure.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion sounds really good (only read a review). The author, an Italian, Antonio Monta, asked 18 well known people, questions like: Do you believe in God? What will happen to you at death? Do you pray? Do you think religious believers are deluded.

Now, talk about a conversation he could have had with the "girlfriends," this is one. One interviewee was particular interesting to me, Grace Paley. I've loved her short stories over the years. She was especially adept at dealing with social issues of war, greed, and racism in telling stories.

Monta interviewed her two years before she succumbed to breast cancer. At the time, she wondered why he wanted to talk about religion and her views on it. Answer: I think it's the most important subject of our time. "Are you serious?" obviously thinking he was not.

The author interviewed celebs like Jane Fonda and several that I didn't know but were celebrities to someone, I guess. I did recognize Arthur Schlesinger and Martin Scorsese who didn't know much about God but believed in his Catholicism. Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice turned him down for an interview.

When he asked Ms. Paley, Do you think that life after death exists?
She replied, "Obviously no" but added, and an 83 old is telling you this, aware that she doesn't have much time to live. And then, turning the tables on Mr. Monda, she asked, "And what is there for you after death? He replied, "The true life"--she came back with, What is the life that we're living at this moment? He answered, "a passage and a gift." Now you see, she concluded, this is an idea that interests me because it's very different from what I believe in.

When Nathan Englander was asked if he believed in God, he whimsical said, "I'd be inclined to say no if I didn't fear God's wrath."

Some common themes: fundamentalism is bad, religions often gives people license to do bad things. Writing, film making, etc is a quasi religious calling. (Say what?) Jesus was a great thinker, rather than redeemer. As for organized religion--none of the interviewees had a good word for it. The author admits that he is a committed Catholic

I think that after reading the above comments, I am sticking to the New Testament. Power in the Blood. Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Healthy Religion

Or, maybe, what I ought to say is emotionally healthy religion. I think about this often. As a Christian, I debate constantly with my "girlfriends" what it all means. In our little group, we have atheists, lapsed Catholics, and a smattering of other Protestant types. And, the discussions are always lively, especially as relates to how prominent religion seems to play in world politics--From the reported 5 million radical Muslim extremists of the 9-11 philosophy to their moderate Muslims brothers to the right wing Christian zealots embodied in the late Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family guru James Dobson.

Most of us have various views, often not very objective ones on the power of religion or even how prevalent it is. In our American society, religion surely gets prominent lip service. No wonder religion often gets very confusing to the average person. Recently, when I ran across this wonderful little film, Eve and the Firehorse, on Sundance Channel, I was absolutely fascinated. The little film embodied almost every issue that we face as to religion and a healthy way to look at faith. Eve and Karena, two young Chinese sisters, maybe nine and eleven, living in Canada, are determined to reverse the string of tragedies that have shadowed their working-class family ever since their mother cut down the backyard apple tree. How they go about attempting to reverse these bad fortunes is by becoming good.

In this little family, there's the grandmother, dutifully pouring three cups of tea for the Buddha every single day with a faithfulness that is beyond Eve, the younger of the sisters, who remarks that apparently Buddha isn't thirsty. At some point, Grandma dies but continues to appear to Eve in various visions or apparitions that only Eve can see.

Karena, the older sister, is somewhat sullen and matter of fact in the beginning as the two sisters face the various rigors of the cruelty of kids at their school. The Mother has a miscarriage in rather dramatic fashion, then goes into a deep depression while the kids fend mostly for themselves. The hardworking and committed father has to go back to China to bury the grandmother.

All of Eve and Karena's goodness must be paying off because the father wins a new Cadillac in the lottery and his luck seems to change. The mother comes out of the "ether" and resumes her role with the family. Karena, the older of the two girls embraces Catholicism, trying to live the life of a saint. Eve kind of goes along while the mother adopts a view that the Buddha and Jesus can surely live together and this must be healthy. Eve, in the meantime, constantly has these apparitions where she sees what might be, i. e., Buddha and Jesus dancing and getting along rather famously. Plus, on occasion, Eve throws in a not too saintly angel who joins Jesus and Buddha in their dance. And, occasionally even the Grandma pops up. The movie's rather wry and delicately observed views about faith in particular and religion in general are absolutely delightful.

There are so many precious moments in this movie for those of us who are people of faith. Two notable ones: Karena has become somewhat obsessed with Catholicism and the Nun playing the part could use a little objectivity but her attitude plays well with the story. At one point, Karena gets the idea that in order for Eve to really shape up, i. e., Eve is constantly making up stories and if she gets baptized, she can do better. To the viewer, momentarily this becomes scary as somehow Karena views how long Eve stays under water determines how successful is her baptism. The viewer is left with the idea that here is a potential tragedy. In the next scene, we are transported to the Church where the Priest is baptizing Karena. She is arrayed in white. A voice over tells us that Eve died for a second maybe and that there was a white light that she remembers, along with the Fire Horses. Eve is the voice over and the philosophy of life is real and rich. The movie ends with one of Eve's apparitions as she looks at Karena embracing her faith and dressed all in white watches as Karena floats toward the ceiling.

What makes this such an important little movie is that this is the way religion is suppose to be; mystery, tolerance, embraced with a childlike faith. Amazingly, at least to me, a movie and a director's imagination conveys the real truths of faith, much more so than Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, adinitum.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Michael Clayton

If someone were to asked me, What Can Americans Do Better Than Anyone? I think I would say, "make movies." George Clooney in Michael Clayton, is a good example. Clooney is a lawyer; playing a kind of typical George Clooney character, much like he played in Syriana without being overweight. And, although George walked around with, as us NC types say, the "hang dog" look the entire movie--very effective.

My daughter says that most movies have a middle, meaning some boring aspects that move slowly. No middle in MC. And, the basic story of the lengths that some in the corporate world will go to in protecting profits and in pursuit of their own ambitions--No new news here and "no middle in it."

The villain, a female, almost stole the show. Her vulnerability with the sweating scenes and the practicing of her speeches showed an intensity that kind of made the movie. And, Tom Wilkerson is probably the best character actor around. The guy can pull off believability that is right on target. There were some issues that could have been a little more fully explored like the Wilkerson character's bipolar condition but then there might have been a middle. Good movie. Two parachutes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Martian Child

One of the ways that I always judge how much I enjoy a movie or better still, the experience of a movie, is how long it stays with me. The Martian Child is still with me. And, overall, I think that here is a movie that shows how much movie critics should be ignored. If those attending when I did were any representative sample, the critics were too effective in panning the movie. I saw it with my two granddaughters and almost had the theater to ourselves. A shame.

A very poignant movie and one that any parent should want a child to see: lots of teaching points. Don't look down on someone just because they are different. Don't worry about being different yourself, be who you are, walk your own way, sing your own song. What parent wouldn't want their kid to be their own person.

The basic story line has all the elements that probably critics hate; death, sadness, successful writer, winsome guy (Cusack), great sister, his literal sister, Joan; and, an almost unreal reaching out to a troubled youngster who has created his own world. Only the movies can create such a story but for me and my granddaughters, by their admission, they were pulling for some sort of healing, even if they didn't know exactly what it meant.

To hell with the critics, good movie and highly recommend it. 3 parachutes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


As we think about the absolute morass of stupidity that has led us to the war in Iraq, we might do well to think in terms of what Vietnam has taught us about getting out. At the time seeing the helicopters on the roof of the American Embassy is a picture seared into our brains. Yet, now 30 or so years later, looking at how we left Vietnam is maybe what we should do about Iraq. JUST LEAVE!

I was touched by the story I read sometime ago about a soldier who was in Vietnam and probably had a supply clerk's job. He was concerned about the women who did his laundry and cleaned their hooches, as the thrown together huts in the rear were called. His point had been that he wondered about them, what had happened.

Many veterans still feel a deep shame and guilt at abandoning so many people who had come to trust and depend on us. Even the president has evoked memories of boat people, reeducation camps and the killing fields to argue against withdrawing from Iraq.

There is a legacy of Vietnam. Most of us who returned from Vietnam realized that Vietnam meant something entirely different from those back home. We had to fight the war over and over in the sense of having literally been a part of it.

It is hard to know what the war in Vietnam meant to many Americans. Even today, I hear over and over that protests stopped the war. Maybe? But, it wasn't the war as much as a philosophy of war, it was the draft, it was more a domestic conflict than anything. Many Americans at the time honestly harbored thoughts that the Vietnam vet was too stupid to get out of the draft or else he wouldn't have been in Vietnam anyway. It was Jane Fonda who became synonymous with how confused the whole experience was for us.

To be honest, I am utterly amazed that we don't deal more with Vietnam and how it relates to our present wrong headed approach to war than we do. It can be summed up with one word, denial.

The Vietnamese Americans are probably the most successful immigrant story ever. When I read of a Vietnamese success story in this country, I get teary eyed. Honestly, they come so often. Recently, I read, A refugee's odyssey. Christopher Do arrived in San Rafael, California on September 2, 1975, then five, and is now a VP with Merrill Lynch, San Francisco. He was one of those airlifted to safety from the roof of the U. S. Embassy in Saigon in April, 1975. To our country's credit, when there appeared to be widespread opposition to America's role in taking in so many Vietnam refugees, the sight of them getting off the buses, quelled the opposition immediately.


Saturday, October 27, 2007


Say what? It seems that an older lady lived next door to a "crack" house. Cars coming and going constantly, ne'the wells everywhere. She talked to the police but nothing happened with the only encouragement coming from her pastor, "let us pray." A few weeks later, the house burned to the ground. Her pastor remarked that it was a miracle. The old lady smiled and said, "Yes, it is a miracle even if I did have to put feet to my prayers."

Recently, I talked with a former Army nurse who is receiving a disability for MS. It is something very worthy but also a little troubling. I've never quite understood the system. The VA gives recognition of illnesses like MS and of hysterectomies (I know because another female friend told me of her rating). I'm not against this but just don't understand when so many combat soldiers have trouble in getting evaluations and help from the VA when non combat illnesses seem to get attention. I find myself in unfamiliar territory as I only want to make the point of the slow response of evaluations which in term equals treatment.


All of us have read of the unbelievable bureaucratic hassles that wounded soldiers seeking disability care and benefits face. Most of the time, it takes at least six months for a soldier to get benefits, arriving at this juncture after four tortuous hearings to determine his eligibility. What is he/she suppose to do all this time while he's waiting? The country surely didn't wait when they sent him/her off to war. Give me a break, this is outrageous I am told by reliable sources that there's a backlog of literally thousands of cases.

According to the VA, they can't hire the people to deal with this great influx. Well, why not? A friend of mine who is fully eligible to be involved encountered a mountain of paperwork in getting hired. Supposedly, the VA is offering professionals a good chance to get into the system on a temporary basis. But, let's face it, what professional health care professional, who has a good practice, is going to give it up for a "possibility." VA needs a better system. Figure it out.


Veteran benefits and care is not the same thing. My experience with VA is that the care is good and the patient satisfaction rating is one of the best in the country. But, that is if you are already in the system. What if you are not in the system? The veterans benefits system has not been changed since the close of WW ll. It is about time.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe brain injury already affect an estimated 45,000 in the present wars. They need attention and not a wait and see. We fully understand what happened with Vietnam vets who more or less took things into their own hands to get their benefits. For goodness sakes, let's don't make the Iraqi and Afghanistan vets do the same.

Let's establish blame here: the President and Congress. We are calling the present soldiers heroes and rightly so but while we are doing it, let's put feet to our prayers and give them recognition that actually helps. One immediate solution is to keep wounded soldier on active duty until their cases are resolved. This move to shuffle them out of the military as quick as possible is wrong headed. What gives?

The Army says it has a solution--special "warrior transition units" which are to be at 32 national centers. This is a start.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Because we live in an environment where so few people have military experience and the general public has no personal investment in an untenable fiasco, war is often viewed like it's the movies. In the movies, directors can make it turn out however they want or they can use their imagination (see review on In The Valley of Etah). Not so in real life and especially at war. If we have ever had an example of a spinned philosophy gone awry, Iraq is it. The movies can't even make it turn out right.

Iraq is a media war. We have soldiers writing books, blogging battles, not to mention professional journalists embedded, sending missiles to their publications and then writing books. It is never ending. Even the military is studying the lessons of Iraq formally at their Command and General Staff School: what went wrong, whose fault is it? The scenario is almost beyond the pale--studying how we have screwed up even while the war goes on. It was years after the quagmire of Vietnam before we took a serious look at it. For us old soldiers, we are simply flummoxed.

I feel heartsick for what happens in the theater of battle. Innocents get hurt or maybe the not so innocent, who knows? We report enemy combatants killed in battle, the Iraqis report the same incident as women and children and old people killed. Help! I especially feel sorry for those soldiers attempting to do what they've been trained to do: the Haditha killings are but one example, some charges dismissed, others tried for innocuous crimes such as failure to investigate. Another officer convicted of unauthorized possession of classified documents, conduct unbecoming and then a relationship with an interpreter. And, the often forgotten ones--the families back home, the wives and children whose lives are forever changed and for what!

I recently talked to the father of a former battalion commander who has done two tours in Iraq. The son told him we were making progress but it would take 10 years to even come close to stabilizing Iraq.

All this amidst our kids getting blown up with regularity as the casualty count heads toward 4000. Iraq and all that it encompasses is like a nightmare from which we can't awaken.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Recently, on a wonderful trip to North Dakota, Pheasant Hunting, I had the chance to spend lots of time with one of my old Army buddies. He is the greatest guy, a right wing fundamentalist but so nice that you don't notice. However, his brothers are great and friendly and hospitable folks as all I met in the Dakotas are; however, they are typical of what we face in politics.

At our hunting lodge which was a mobile home, very rustic type of thing; we had a TV but could only see what the people in the main house could see, meaning these nice right wing fundamentalists types. We are stereotyping here a little but I can assure you that I am not far off the mark: how does to the right of Attila the Hun sound? We were forced to watch Fox News. I became nauseous. I did watch some of Bill O'Reilley and will have to admit that I was a little favorably impressed that he didn't interrupt constantly. But, then again he was interviewing Dennis Miller that I like but who is a little full of himself in what he says(he put the badmouth on the Dan Fran Mayor).

Oh well. It did reinforce one thing I believe, however, that Hillary can win an election. The country is so divided that no candidate is going to win a big mandate but if the Democrats can get as fervent as the right wing non thinking types, Hillary can do it. My favorite candidate is Ron Paul but he doesn't stand a chance even if I am seeing his bumper stickers in San Fran.; but, to reinforce my point: we were about to have dinner after a long day of hunting and in attempting to interject some levity into a conversation with the brother of our host who was a Teamster's truck driver for forty years, I said, "I think Hillary can be elected." These were his exact words, "Anybody who would vote for Hillary doesn't have the morals of a skunk." Now, is that hardcore or what!

We are not going to be able to change these people's minds. They are not going to be objective. They watch Fox News and Rush Limbaugh who just auctioned off some letter written to him by about forty idiot congressmen because he put the badmouth on somebody. Regardless, if it is for a good cause but why would any thinking congressmen give credibility to a drug abuser and to someone who has never served in the military. Oh well...I am on a rant.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The good general Sanchez has told it like it is: Irag is really Iraqnam; it is a mess, a flawed strategy from the beginning, no way out, only hope is to starve off defeat. Surge is a joke.

So, why has he waited so long? And, what about all those comments recorded when he was the commander in Iraq and said Iraq was good to go, making progress--what was this? Well, any of us who understand the military "get it." Generals are geared to tell the Commander what he wants to hear. And, the present Commander in Chief, bolstered in the beginning by Rumsfelt, made those who didn't preach the party line pay the price, i. e., the good general Shinseki who was unceremoniously sacked when he said we would need hundreds of thousands of soldiers to conquer and occupy Iraq.

So, what should a general say? Well, what we would like for him to say/do is be out front and brutally honest. We know they won't/don't; it is not that they lie but they are soldiers overall and soldiers do what they're told. And, generals have a "can do" mindset often when they know what they are asked to do is impossible.

There's a prominent view of general officers, who early on, mostly when he or she is a Colonel when they are in the running for that elusive "star" which few get. They stifle their convictions about many things with the rationalization that at some point when they have made general, they will revisit all those convictions they have pushed down into their psychic. Unfortunately, when they make the rank and get to the point when they are ready to do something, they reach down inside themselves and the convictions have mostly evaporated. Sad. This may sound fairly ethereal but true. Most generals simply "go along" and all of us are the poorer for it.

Sanchez is a civilian and I respect him for speaking out even thought it's a tad late. And, who can disagree with what he says. Not any of us who think. If anything, I wish he would call on more of his former general buds to also speak out. Iraq is a mess. Iraq has become Iraqnam, there is no way out--we are simply starving off defeat. What would be nice if he would spell out a cogent exit strategy that Americans who care could get behind.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


I had read about this case some time ago but didn't think very much about it until a few weeks ago when the President commuted his bud, Scooter's prison sentence. For the record, I thought the Judge was a little heavy handed on Scooter. Hell, this is politics where the usual thing is to lie, steal, and cheat. The Judge couldn't take a joke. The prez should have commuted his sentence afterall, there's probably much more that we don't know. And, practically, why not, the advantage of being a wildly unpopular president is that you can't get much lower. Why not protect yourself or your buds.

However, the two Border Patrol agents who were sentenced to 11 and 12 years respectively for shooting at and wounding a fleeing suspect who was smuggling 743 pounds of marijuana over the boarder, is unbelievable. Their sin mainly was covering it up but to do so made sense to me as this guy was not hurt. Who would not have made the same decision? But, the justice system for these two went South. The prosectutor and Judge seem to have had their brains bottled in formaldehyde as they really are at fault. Us common people think that the issue in courts is justice. Well, I don't tthink so.

It would be interesting to hear the judges explanation. Any farmer from North Carolina with one eye and half sense would know this is stupid. A criminal suddenly is the good guy and these guys are rotting in jail.

At least people are taking notice. I doubt the Prez but Diane Feinstein after reading the transcripts came out of the ether and fired off a letter to the President. Under any sort of hearing, this whole thing is idiocy. Two Border Patrol agents trying to do their jobs are in jail and a dope dealer is suiing the government and get this, while he had immunity from the prosecutor, he smuggles into the States another 753 pounds of pot. Got to love it. But, the agents don't love it as they are in prison with the very people they put their.

What is amazign to me is that common sense seems to be nowhere in sight. And, also, with the attention of those like Feinstein and even John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, plus Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, still these two guys are in jail. When there's no response from the White House, what do these concerned Senators do? If the "Agents" were named Scooter or some such name, maybe they could get attention.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I don't know what to say about this movie. Magnificent, disturbing, should be seen by every American. Mixed messages? What? I actually went to see it based on recommendation of the "girlfriends" or as we've recently been called, The Dysfunctional Six.


Basically, it is the story of the anguish of parents. A missing son, AWOL (absent without leave). Just home from Iraq, what has happened? The father, a military type, himself, an investigator, CID (Criminal Investigative Division). He bleeds red, white and blue. The story is wrapped in crime, drugs, the Mexican mafia. However, it really is not about this. Charlize Theron is good as the local detective who battles all sorts of demons, this one is only one file on her desk or would be if it was not for Tommy Lee Jones, the Dad. He is relentless. Jones is "Call" in Lonesome Dove. Take no prisoners. Susan Sarandon is the Mom, somewhat of a cameo appearance but very, very good.

Underlying it all is the Iraq War. What have we done to America's clean cut kids. The story is disturbing because, as my friend said, it forces us to deal with questions that nobody is asking. One question: is it about class--when we talk about Iraq, the elephant in the room is "class." Only the lower middle class at best is fighting this war.


How different is he/she than vets of any age. The same. Yes and No. The combat veteran is just that; a warrior who has seen war. However, the young Iraqi soldier is different inasmuch as the world is different. In The Valley, there's a scene of the son calling home. He is sending pictures over the Internet; it is a media war.


The symbolism of the title is fascinating. The story of David and Goliah and as the movie deals with it--all about conquering one's fears. Fascinating how the movie makers decided on the particular title.

How can war not affect the warrior. The issue is how? Here we were thinking that we had the Iraqi vets covered: not like Vietnam; in the jungles one day, Detroit the next. No reentry. This movie conveys that we are not prepared for their homecoming: is this true? Or, does the plight of the vet simply convey a story of a movie Director who wants to make a statement about Iraq. And, he does. This a compelling story from every single direction. My suspicion is that it will be a critic's choice (and it should) but that the public at large, will basically ignore. It is too heavy and too, too close to the bone. Three parachutes.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I don't know where I read this but my Mom's idea of scandalous is right on. The rich are the ones who run the country. Our president's assets are estimated between, 8-20 million. Virtually all of Congress fit in the millionaire several times over category. They leave office and are paid these outrageous fees for making speeches. And, nobody seems to mind, like they need the money. Saint Ronald Reagan got 2 million from the Japanese for two speeches, the senior Bush followed him and became an icon in Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 9-11 for his money making prowess; and the "Bill" man is reported to get $350,000 a speech. Can you believe it? Who in the world has anything worth saying worth a half mil. Give me a break. To give him his due, I have heard that Bill donates his speech money to his foundation which buys medicines for developing countries, especially AIDS drugs.

We live in a celebrity worshipping culture and so why not those like the Bushes and Clintons. Well, there really is no reason and yet, I'm with Mom, scandalous. When they depart the scene, it isn't like they are homeless. Us taxpayers give them big pensions close to $200,000, all sort of other stuff, not to mention Secret Service protection, and rent money for an office. Gee whiz. People are willing to pay, at least organizations. I'm not a member of any of them or I would be raising hell. Nixon even got 2.3 mil for his memoirs, which others will get as much or more. What is there left to say from these guys.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Thank you Jesus is a good term used by evangelicals and right wing Christians often. It is like saying, way to go, God bless America, Praise the Lord, Power in the Blood. Need I go on? This is how the arrival of the good General Petraeus in Washington was herald. For any thinking military type, this is fairly painful to see one of their own put in such a spot. Jim Lehrer on PBS's, The Newshour has asked the question several times with a bit of sarcasm in his voice, how has it come to this--one American general seemingly so portrayed as the Savior of American policy in Iraq.

Well, I have my thoughts, it is the "nature of the beast" in our media driven world. Simply, General Petraeus is a four star general and his commander is the President. The Commander has screwed up in Iraq and the top general is like a fist full of "what ifs" to the rescue. And, in Washington and media style, the General and Ambassador are providing great political theater.


Anybody who has seen the HBO program, Entourage, will understand exactly what I mean. On the show, a celebrity is followed around by a couple or three of his buddies. He trusts them. They do his bidding. General Petraeus has his entourage. He is a celebrity, not unlike the character on Entourage. In our celebrity worshiping culture, this makes perfect sense. General Petraeus's entourage consists of three colonels, all Iraq vets with Ph.D.s, along with a Rhodes Scholar wearing captain's rank. (I would have been more impressed if his entourage had a few Sergeants and Privates). The good General himself has a PhD from Princeton. Keep in mind that all of this fine education for the General and his entourage was paid for by you and me, the American taxpayer.

In a sense, the President is using General Petraeus and that is flat out wrong. Historially, it has probably happened more than we'd like to admit but it is still wrong. Amazing how history repeats, the NY Times had this amazing picture of General Westmoreland briefing Congress in 1967 on what Wesmoreland described as gains in Vietnam. General Westmoreland is saluting. (SEE PICTURE INSERT)It is an impressive sight and we know what happened to Westmoreland and the war. Let's face it: to our present leadership, Vietnam never existed.

I don't know General Petraeus but have heard good things about him but this will forever taint him. It's not his fault. Maybe it's OK with him. The President is the commander, and he really can do anything he wants. I'm not sure about the protocol of it but think in a strict sense, the President is violating the chain of command. He should be talking to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who should be getting his information from Petraeus--surely not portraying Petraeus as the savior for Iraq. But, that is a minor point, I surely haven't heard the chain of command issue raised by anyone and why would they? Most of the Congress would not know the meaning of the military chain of command or the concept of it if it ran over them.

Anybody with any smarts can tell you that whatever Petraeus says will be taken by the President or his rivals/detractors/the media to mean whatever they want it to mean. Spin will be the order of the day and that is unrelated to truth.


No one can doubt that Petraeus believes what he believes. He's a soldier and soldiers in general have to believe in what they are risking their lives for. And, surely we applaud the sacrifice of the General. He's been in Iraq more or less for five years. He has a son who is in Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) and has just finished airborne training. The son will be in the danger zone for going to Iraq if we are there as long as I think we'll be. General Petraeus definitely has "skin" in the game. The flip side of the coin is that the General has all the benefits that his rank affords: great house at Fort Myers, good pay and benefits, and an entire bevy of servants (entourage) to look after and hang on every single word. And, in a sense, tell him, as he is going to tell the president, exactly what he wants to hear.

Here is pretty much what he has said which was predictable: the surge has worked but Iraqi politics is not where it should be. He talks about the success in Anbar province. What he won't say is that the Shieks wanted their former power back and were willing to throw in with the Americans even though they delighted in killing them previously. He also won't say that in order for us to replicate the Anbar Province scene, we would have to be in Iraq for who knows how many years.

The General will praise our soldiers as well he should but what he will not say is that our military is unbelievably stretched and we can no longer afford the "can do" attitude of the past. And, he surely will not say that the sacrifices of our soldiers are singular as they are the only Americans dying because of this war.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I am putting aside my prepared speech and want to talk off the cuff about Iraq. Let's put aside partisan politics and believe that we went in with the best of intentions which I believe. We cannot export democracy as we know it to countries like Iraq. As we have discovered, just because you have elections, doesn't mean that you are going to have democracy. It takes time, a long time, generations and is painful. And, for us to bring it about or contribute to it, we would have to be in Iraq a hundred years or more. Also, our initial decisions concerning Iraq were flawed: to few troops to secure the country and especially the borders, dismantling of the Army and Police and purging the Batthists. All of this was made on wrong assumptions that we now understand.

However, all that being said, we are in Iraq and must engineer a way out--a Christian nation (semantics aside) occupying an Islamic one is a perception that the Arab world cannot tolerate, regardless of our good intentions or motives. There are 1.4 million Muslims or so in the world. Most are not the Jihiist extremists that are dedicated to killing infidels. We must accept the fact that we cannot reason with fanatics who will blow themselves up, kill innocents and believe a dogma which is unfathomable to us. Consequently applying Western mentality to an impossible situation is beyond the pale. Iraq is a country with a tribal mentality and they are not going to "come let us reason together" after thousands of years of conflict. For years, under Saddam, Sunnis ruled and exacted blood from the Shiits; the tables are turned and revenge is a big part of the equation, plain and simple.

Here's what I would suggest: get the conventional troops out of Iraq and leave 75,000 or so Special Operations soldiers out in the desert, mostly to serve as advisers and to secure the borders. I wrote the counter insurgency manual and honestly believe this is our best possibility. This Force would include private contractors who are mostly ex Special Forces soldiers anyway and are willing to put their lives on the line. Special Forces (includes Navy Seals, Air Force Special Ops, Delta Force) soldiers love the counter insurgency environment and are trained for a prolonged struggle. Also, we must dismantle most of the bases we have established in Iraq and start the withdrawal process sooner than later. We did not enter this country with a plan but we must leave it with a carefully thought out exit strategy. God bless our soldiers.


Sunday, September 09, 2007


What makes this incredibly fascinating as a movie are those times n which we lived. In some ways Bobby should be coupled for a night of viewing with a documentary, One Bright Shining Moment. They both cover the Democratic presidential campaign 0f 1968. In Bobby, the lives of 22 people come together at the Ambassador Hotel on June 6, 1968 when RFK is assassinated. Interesting way to tell a story with a great cast of actors. Emilio Estevez wrote, directed and is also in the movie.

What this movie did for me is the same thing that One Bright Shining Moment did: make me wonder what would have happened if Eugene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy had won the presidency. Well, we know what did happen. Nixon won and it was business as usual.

For me, the fascination is with the political process. The acceptance that the process is not somewhat corrupted is naive in my view. With politicians, to include the Presidency, there's always a taint of, if not corruption, then compromise. Still, presidents send us off to war and that alone makes who is president very important. There's a scene in Bobby where we are looking at an actual protest march and the signs indicate at that time, only 8000, have been killed in Vietnam. Eventually it was 58,000.

The movie uses actual archival footing of the times and actual speeches by Bobby Kennedy.

The 22 whose stories make up much of the movie really aren't strangers rather archetypes--their stories intersect at the Ambassador Hotel. In light of our political season, this movie should be a must watch for Americans who care.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

WHAT ARE WE TO BELIEVE ABOUT IRAQ??????????????????????????

To say that the war and interpretation of it has to be incredibly confusing is an understatement of many a day. There are zealots on the margins with most of us in the middle attempting to sort it out. And, to attempt to be objective is a gargantuan task. Here's a good example, I am in an email group of highly educated and committed retired military types. It is as though we are living in different galaxies.

Sometime ago, I realized that there's a philosophy with many: do not confuse me with facts, I have my mind made up. I don't think this is true of me. I would be so thrilled if I could find one thing about our involvement in Iraq that is not messed up. When I hear the talking heads on TV, I am amazed: it is as though they simply don't face any sort of facts. Is the surge working? "Well", would be their answer. "We have made progress in Baghdad, people are not killing each other as much." Yet, the facts can be: 300 Iraqis and five soldiers killed today in Iraq. Their mantra: Facts should not interfere with their views.


On the PBS's Newshour, which attempts to take an objective stance, I think, there's some guy whose group is spending 15 mil for ads showing how successful Iraq has been. Totally ignoring any facts. To him, they simply don't exist. And, the MoveOn.Org. guy, not a good spokesperson in my estimation, he counters. I admit that I come down more on the side of MoveOn.Org--no one except someone who is on anotehr planet cannot see that we have had botched war strategy from the beginning. Simply, however, what are people who care and trying to be informed, to believe?

A senator goes to Iraq, Republican type, comes back and says we need to start withdrawing 5000 troops by the end of the year: some general in Iraq immediately counters his view by saying how disastrous to pull out.


The pro Iraqi war guy uses words like cut and run, defeat. Next comes a talking head, from the New Republic. He injects how we screwed up Vietnam by leaving. Nobody points out that our leaving was not disastrous nor did the so called, "domino" theory happen. Today, Vietnam is a peaceful country--every tourist describes the modern Vietnam in glowing terms. (To me, it doesn't speak well of news organizations to have some thirty something so called commentator who spouts off, knowing little and surely with no skin in the game on Vietnam or Iraq. Of course, in my view, can't compare Vietnam as a country and Iraq at all--Ho was a nationalist mainly. His goal always was to unite the country. Iraq is complicated by 2000 years of strife, with violence among the sects in a way of life which is not going to end).

Here is my prediction, knowing that my track record is dismal: I am the guy who said Kerrey was going to beat Bush. Most Americans who care and not all do, remember Vietnam: they are not going to put up with us staying in Iraq forever which we'd have to do to win and then I don't think we could do it, short of 2000 years.

All of the politicians and news types keep talking about September as if it was the Second Coming with General Petreous--what in the world is he going to tell us that we don't already know. Nothing but more confusion.


The best thing that I've seen in ages is an article in last Sunday's NY Times by get this: 1 Sp4, 4E5s, 2 SSGs (thes are all soldiers and this is the kind of war we have: guys watching YouTube, emailing, etc., constantly--another example of this war, we have 75 bases in Iraq; one of them has a PX (post exchange) where a GI can buy a wide screen high definition TV. This is a war where we should have zapped Saddam and been out of there in 6 months).

These guys who wrote the article are in the 82d Airborne Division, all finishing 15 month tours. I'd love to see the rest of their career (meaning will they have to pay for penning this article) but I think we are in such a different era with the volunteer Army, not good or bad, just different.

This article is a litany of how we've screwed up in Iraq, simple facts. And, the confusing thing is that it is as though these guys have written this in a vacuum, as far as I can see--like so much else about Iraq, their comments are totally ignored. Here is just one paragraph from the article, "in short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse--namely the widespread use of lethal and brutal force." This is a great article, not because I agree with it but because it effectively spells out what the situation is. Not the denial that we are constantly hearing.

I agree with John Edwards about this: it really doesn't make any difference what Democrat is elected president, he/she will get us out of Iraq at some point. Ron Paul is the only Republican who would do the same and we know what chance he has.

I loved the way these soldiers ended this article, makes me proud, even as I am amazed that they've written it, "We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see the mission through." Instead of Congress listening to Generals, these are the guys they should be talking too.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Every once in a while a movie shows up that sticks with you even when in a sense, you already know the outcome: the demise of bigtime tobacco. (I find it pretty hard to put the bad mouth on tobacco since I was raised on a tobacco farm). The flip side of the coin is that I've never smoked. So...this movie is not so much about tobacco as it is about a crisis of conscience which envelops one man: Jeffrey Wigand.

I remember following all of it on Sixty Minutes. Like so many things in life, few of us who care knew all the machinations going on inside Sixty Minutes concerning a program of how tobacco executives lied and how Wigard had evidence of the lying, especially his company, Brown and Williamson.

What we discovered is that big tobacco also had big money. And, money rules especially where truth is involved.

This movie, The Insider, was totally ignored at the box office but this is not so unusual. What makes this really different is that the movie making people loved it: seven nominations for Oscars. I don't particularly like Russell Crow, my problem: his private life often overshadows his acting ability. Not his fault but mine. Anyway, the movie highlights the producer of Sixty Minutes, Lowell Bergman, who is a hero: in fact, Al Pacino, plays a great part. Often he sounds just like Lieutenant Frank Slade in Scent of a woman. The real life Wigard has to be a hero too: lost his family, profession. Christopher Plummer who played Mike Wallace had his moments. Good movie and in light of so many anti heroes in today's world, kind of nice to see one stand up. 2 parachutes

Monday, July 30, 2007


I like Frank Rich, one of my favorite writers and I agree with most everything he says. But, Frank, on your usual theme of bashing the President for his stupidness over Iraq, taking on General Petraeus is a fast train to nowhere. The President doesn't read your column. Don't feel bad, he simply doesn't listen to anyone who differs from his views, regardless. For the time being, his attention is focused on General Petrateus. I don't know the general but I do know many who know him. They say he's a good and capable leader. I don't doubt it but he's a general and he's answering to the commander in chief who only wants to hear what he wants to hear.

Because we have so few Americans who have any military experience, most don't understand how a general is made, who they are, a thousand and one things. A general, is a politician, plain and simple or, he probably wouldn't be a general. I am always amused when I see the military generals with all those chest full of medals and glistening stars come before congressional hearings. Their politician inquisitors are questioning other politicians who just happen to be in the military.

The generals have a mentality. It is a "can do" approach to the mission. And, they don't sit around cogitating their navels on the what ifs: it is get the job done. It is a mentality. And, let's face it, what would we expect the good general to say come September about Iraq. "We are in a mess, the "surge" has failed. Saddam has joined other would be martyrs, the Iraqis have a constitution, we are out of here. God bless them." Give me a break!


How does one get to be a general? It is not because of his good looks or winning personality although these might help. He plays the games, especially as he gets close to the prize, a star. Somewhere along the way he acquires a sponsor, someone of a higher rank who has been this route before and is now a sponsor for a potential general officer. And, it is not out of the realm of possibility for an officer (Colonel) to be selected because of politics. Many have been "presidential aids" or similar sorts of things, i. e., served at embassies.

The "would be" general gets all his "tickets" punched. He goes to the right schools, i. e., Command and General Staff College (for potential commanders) and the War College or some similar school (to think over the heavier issues). Probably, along the way, the military sends him to a civilian school for a Masters degree and on occasion, a PhD--all at tax payer expense, mind you. And, he has the right military jobs, i. e. command posts, serving on a "joint" staff with all the Services. In most cases, he is a "ring knocker",(Academy graduate-West Point, Annapolis, AF Academy). When they are eligible, based on length of service, all of the above, they come before a promotion board. It is as secretive as getting into a Masonic order. It is playing politics as much as any Congressman/woman and we would do well to understand as these men have our kids lives in their hands in a place like Iraq.

Most generals would not be where they are if they weren't terribly ambitious. My experience is that the best officers in the military never get to the top for lots of reasons. Mostly, they tire of the games and sacrifices and opt for the civilian world. Our celebrity worshiping culture bears some fault in how we see our generals. Our media makes them into celebrities; for some, they get more face time than Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. Much of what they say publicly is scripted and they have no more control over what happens in Iraq than those of us sitting out here in the hinterlands listening to them.

And, sadly,the generals have not helped us in Iraq; perpetrating a rosy picture that only makes it worse and delays the hard decisions. We have screwed up bigtime in Iraq and any truly honest general would say the same. Some have--a few have resigned but under this president, it really makes no difference.

My prediction is that General Petraeus will say that we have made progress, we are turning the corner. He'll use Anbar Province as an example and will not share that he and the Iraqi premier have almost come to blows over it. Petraeus has armed the Sunni Sheik's who have switched sides. Now, Maliki threatens to do the same with the Shiite militants. He has even threatened to have Petraeus relieved as if he could. Still, hardly a way to run a war.

And, the truth is that he believes it. And, he might be right if we stay there for years. We can't and won't is my hope.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ain't It So

"It is a mind-boggling thing to me that we never learn. After every war, we scream, 'Never Again!' Only until we do it again. I don't understand it."
Movie Director Milos Forman

Milos, I agree with you. But, trust me on this, we are two voices crying in the wilderness. I don't know whether or not it is a reality that as we get older, we seem to cogitate our navels more when we think about repeating Vietnam all over in Iraq. Most Vietnam vets that I know say to me, how stupid that we are in Iraq after the debacle of Vietnam?. What thinking! In fact, one said to me recently after seeing, Rescue Dawn, a movie about the very first escape by a POW as Vietnam heated up. The Vietvet said, "I found myself being ashamed that here we were these big bad Americans whipping up on these emaciated peasants--" a little dramatic and I don't believe that's what he really means rather that somehow he didn't feel good about what we had done in Vietnam." And, the add on is that we cannot feel good about what is going on in Iraq.

Not long ago, I met an older gentleman, a world traveler, who had been in Rhodesia which is now Zimbabwe, for 20 years who said to me the often repeated comment, "We have not had a terrorist attack in America because we are pursuing them in Iraq." Republican Presidential candidate, Rudoplh Giuliani, has made "no attack at home" his theme song. What they are really saying is that it is OK for people to die in other places as long as it is not in the good old U. S. of A. Now, that's an attitude.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Recently, I've seen two movies that caused me lots of reflection. One is Sicko, the Michael Moore indictment of the country, and rightly so, of our despicable health care system. And, I don't care how you feel about Michael Moore, the facts, like Iraq, jump up and kick you in the posterior; 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. And, we are prisoners of the Health Care industry mainly because of gutless politicians and money. I came out of that movie saying WE CAN DO BETTER. Well, Rescue Dawn, shows us why we can do better. It is the epitome of the American Spirit.

Rescue Dawn is set in 1966: this is before the Vietnam war had jumped up and kicked us in the posterior. Here was young and cocky Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale, who was fabulous), German borne but American through and through. Rescue Dawn is really a character study or studies. A buddy of mine actually knew Dengler who died in 2001 in Mill Valley, California. He says that Dengler credits his very tough upbringing during WW ll to his capacity to survive.

Rescue Dawn is one of those uplifting movies that is destined to stick with you. It is harsh in terms of conditions and there are a few holes in the story but don't take away from the movie, i. e., what happened to the rest of the POWs who escaped with Dengler.

One gets the impression that these POWs held in Laos were not treated nearly as harsh as the Hanoi Hilton heroes like John McCain. It was tough though. Dengler had a terrific supporting cast. One, emaciated, already gone over the top and another who was precariously perched on the edge. For Dengler, as opposed to the rest, not escaping never even entered his mind.

What was fascinating to an audience, surely me, was the physical changes that we watched as Dengler and his cohorts moved through their meager and pitiful conditions: the sunken in cheeks, the emaciated looks, the obvious craziness that starving brings. It was only in reading about the making of the movie did I discover how it was done. It was filmed in reverse, meaning that they got the looks they wanted at the end and I guess inserted them in the movie at the right time. Genius, in film making, I think.

The director, Werner Herzog, has to be one of the best, merely for his versitility if for no other reason. Until I read that he had also done Grizzly Man, which is about the idiot who lived among the bears and they ate him--I had not realized that Herzog had made that documentary also.

I'm going to order the documentary made too by Herzog about Dengler, (Little Dieter Needs to Fly). I'd like to know more about Dengler, a true hero. In fact, when Dengler was being initially interrogated by an English speaking type, probably educated in the States, he is asked why he is bombing and doing these terrible things to these people. Dengler says something like, "I don't want to hurt anybody, I just wanted to fly."

There are some fascinating scenes in the movie, Dengler eating worms and maggots and making the experience like he's at a 4 Star restaurant. Whew! And, the best line of the movie spoken by another prisoner who simply could not grasp the idea of escape as they had already been there a year or so was, "The Jungle is the prison." I can tell you this is true from Vietnam. As a vet, I can remember being in an open space and then traveling a few miles (clicks) and you could easily be in triple thick jungle canopy where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. In fact, I can remember spending hours helping carve out a landing zone in the jungle for helicopters: it was excruciatingly difficult, back breaking. So, escaping through it had to be a Herculean effort by Dengler.

A last thing. When the movie ended, it was unbelievably quiet. A mostly full theater and there was no talking, no usual comments, I put it as a reverent feeling. Not an easy movie to watch but a movie experience that sticks with you, very existential. Three parachutes, maybe 4.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I wanted to say "living in paralleled universes" but I've already said that so many times. When I hear the President speak or any Republican, I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. Although I am a registered Democrat, I am really an Independent. Consequently, if I heard anything realistic coming out of the mouth of the President or anybody in the Administration, I would like to think I would give it credence. Honestly, however, I simply am flummoxed. It is as though the real happenings in Iraq are in a parallel universe of which they are not aware.

Recently on the Newshour, Jim Learer had a Senator from Pennsylvania and then Kay Baily Hutchinson from Texas. They were talking about Iraq: she is saying things like stay the course, cut and run, defeat is sending a message to the troops. I am thinking she has been hypnotized or something. Based on all we know and see and read, how can this be. I will have to say that the Senator from Pennsylvania did not respond to her comments (who would have expected him too or even the question from the moderator--the mantra is, "never answer the question you have been asked but answer the question that you wished you'd been asked.)I don't know if he used this tactic but it was almost like he didn't hear her but listed the numbers of American deaths in Iraq, the wounded, the maimed. It was pretty powerful, not an argument, simply the facts.

I am perplexed really how to put any sort of good comment or spin on Iraq. Just today, I was emailing my best friend who has a son in Iraq. As I was about to begin to rail like I am now, I suddenly stopped. Noway, he doesn't deserve any more pain than he already has. I don't know what these loved ones of soldiers think or how they cope with this impossible situation. To me, this makes Vietnam look like a much better war if there is such a thing. In Vietnam, we mostly were fighting in the country but for the combat soldier in Iraq, there is nothing worse than being in an urban guerrilla war. It is awful and I can only imagine--the total lack of knowing who the enemy is, all of the cloudy issues, i. e., religious fanaticism, tribalism, you name it.

There is simply no positive, other than the way the troops have performed. Just today, there's an article in the local paper about how much the insurgents have infiltrated the Police and Army. I know this is San Francisco and the way newspapers even do their headlines often points to the way they tilt the news. However, we can't deny that the situation is about as bereft of good news as anyone could imagine. Sometimes when I hear the President, I think, "I'd love to know who his speech writers are, how they can take a report like the Iraqi government's benchmarks and say this is positive--we have fulfilled 50% of them. Well, I guess fifty percent is better than nothing.

I think that soldiers, career soldiers in particular, are doing the best they can under the cloud that their life and death struggle is unpopular with Americans who care and think. Thinking Americans will be dealing with Iraq for a long time once it is over and it will be at sometime. Please God.

Just when you think you've heard it all about Iraq, something else pops up: a bank robbery in Iraq, guess what was stolen? Millions of American dollars and no suspects. Nobody, especially the Americans, seem to know how or why the bank had all this American money anyway. If it wasn't so sad, it would be laughable.

Here's a good one. Supposedly, 250,000 Iraqis have been trained for the Army and Police. They are on the streets NOW or suppose to be. Here are the statistics: in Oct 2005, the military recorded 545 insurgent attacks, now it is 1,060 with the Iraqi Army and Police on the street. Well, they are suppose to be on the street but they really aren't. Out of a 1000 man unit, only about 330 show up for duty every day. Whether or not they show up, they still get paid. As for the police, it is estimated that thousands of positions are thought to be phantom officers, invented by supervisors who pocket the salary.

I could go on but I am really tired. let me end with a direct comment from one of our fine young battalion commanders who is out there with his soldiers every day, "The 'month of fire' has begun and the weather is living up to its reputation. Temperatures rise to well over 110 degrees with great regularity and we have conducted operations in 125 degree heat on multiple occasions. When it’s this hot, simple patrolling tasks take on new levels of difficulty. The sweat soaks through our uniforms in minutes, drips into our eyes, and our concentration takes more than the usual effort. Despite the suffocating heat, we are adapting to the harsh climate and continue with our mission in a way that would make you proud." For our fine young soldiers, we are indeed proud. jda

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I'm leaning more and more toward Barach. Why? New ideas. I've been a Hillary person, thinking that a woman would be better for the country. But, let's face it, the Clintons are politicians through and through. I remember reading some article once where Hillary and Bill sat down with their daughter and basially said, "Be prepared, everything in life as relates to our family has to do with politics". This is not exactly it but close, meaning that everything is considered in that vein.

With Barach, I don't think this is the case. At least at this point, he doesn't appear to be handled by handlers but an honest expression of who he is. He's not afraid to hit back at those who want to "Swift Boat" him. But, mostly what I like is that Obama is not going to be a Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton. Jessie Jackson will show up where there's a camera and play to the crowd. This is understandable. Many a politician when they are talking to a friendly audience gets egged on by them and often "opens mouth and inserts foot." Think the President who goes before military audiences or a ship and declares victory. Barack doesn't seem to be in that nature. And, he's not tilting his words in such a way that they end just at the point when the crowd can go crazy with applause. None of those metaphor laden speeches of the "Jessie" man. Here's a guy who talks about issues and has avoided the minefields of being stereotyped while not denying who he is.

I think "white" America will vote for him and will be excited about what we get. We want somebody of substance--at least those of us who think do--not the same old stuff. We had a black Prez on the TV show, 24 and I could hardly believe they killed him off even if he wanted to go on making those commercials for All State Insurance. AllState was smart because the former Prez on 24 made you feel that you were in "good hands." Thats the way I think we're going to feel with Barach, we're in good hands.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Every person in America who cares ought to be forced to watch this DVD. What I thought I was renting from Netflix and what I got weren't the same. I've never even thought much about McGovern. What I remember about the Presidential election in 1972 was that McGovern lost in a landslide. I was on the other side and only watch and bow my head NOW in retrospect. One Bright Shining Moment really shows all those awful times of the Vietnam era. It is 1972, I was in the Army. Seeing what was going on in Vietnam during this time and comparing it to Iraq today with all the denial of what we're doing in that mismanaged war is unbelievably excruciatingly sad.

I've never been much of a conspiratorial type and the idea that Nixon was such a scoundrel is hard to realize. He surely was. Now in hindsight, to me, it was about the war. For Americans who literally operate in a state of denial, the same thing that happened then is with us today. Gross denial.

Where in this world would we be today had McGovern won the Presidency? A man, even if sanitized in the DVD, still came across as dull as a butter knife but truthful and with one goal: get us out of Vietnam. One statement he made sounds so much like one heard over and over today: he said about Vietnam, "if we continue to bomb for another five years, it is not going to make a difference." In Iraq, if we stay there a hundred years, it is not going to make a difference.

Watching One Bright Shining Moment, I think as a country, we probably deserve what we get. The DVD again shows how media driven we are. What we see on TV, how it is spun, this is what most Americans go for. I guess many of us still are naive about life and politics in America and what is right as opposed to wrong is going to eventually out. It's pretty sad if you asked me. One place where our hope lies is that the Internet spawning blogs and websites make the process of 72 at least more difficult. Today it is much more transparent and that is some of our hope that the McGoverns of the future get a true chance at serving the country.

In 68, Nixon promised that we'd get out of Vietnam, if elected. He lied and 20,000 more young Americans died. McGovern's Speech Come Home America is one of the best I've ever heard.

Ron Kovac, author of Born on the 4th of July in the documentary says something like, we will never let something life Vietnam happen again. Guess what, Ron? We have. This DVD is like looking through a mirror. On one side is Vietnam and on the other is Iraq. They are the same. Even today, I often am simply overwhelmed with the idea that after Vietnam, we have another Vietnam in Iraq.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Fabulous documentary. One morning really early, I couldn't sleep and started flipping the TV, just as I'm about to go to music, I run across this documentary, Hollywood Vietnam. It is how Hollywood deals with war. What was absolutely mesmerizing is the fact that I'm looking at this while we are at war in Iraq. The documentary was made during Iraq and makes no reference to it. Openings were everywhere to show the insaneness of war and especially in light of what a mess we are in in Iraq, Nada.

The documentary uses comments from those like former Georgia Senator, Max Cleland, one of my heroes. I could not help but think of how he was unseated in his bid for a second term in the Senate. Mostly it was a smear campaign by the right wing, mainly those like Anne Caulder who has now been mostly discredited by anyone who thinks. Her outrageous statements are designed mainly to build her bank account. During the campaign, she said that Cleland should not be considered a war hero because what took his legs and arm was a routine accident. Many Georgia voters apparently bought her rantings. I would love to know where those voters stand now in light of Iraq. Probably at the same place: don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up. Shameful.

Lee Ermey, who was the drill sergeant, in the best movie I think about Vietnam, Full Medal Jacket, and was killed in the movie by one of his crazed recruits. Matthew Modine was really good. There's one scene where some Colonel accosts him in Vietnam. Modine is wearing a peace symbol. The Colonel lets go with a barrage of typical stuff: do you love your country, etc.; Modine comes forth as a very respectful Marine and says something like, "the symbol is about the duality of man. A Jungian thing." Funny!

Bobby Muller, founder of Vietnam Veterans of America, was very eloquent. I've read about him for years. I was a VVA member for awhile and probably still would be if they had been better at marketing. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet, with somewhat political babble talked about a more balanced view of the Vietnam vet and issues of an Army out of control.

Hollywood Vietnam shows the transitions of what we see in war and in Vietnam in particular. We start off with the heroism of War, the WW ll movies, Sands of Iwo Jima, John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Battleground. We want to translate that to Vietnam and in the beginning Hollywood depicts just that, i. e., Green Berets with John Wayne. It's kind of heroist but not totally: movies like, Boys in Company C, Purple Hearts which single out individuals but still with some degree of positive.

The country changes and movies take on more a flavor of negativism and surreal existence: Apolcalyse Now and Platoon. In Apocalyse Now, there's one telling scene that Frances Ford Coppola insists upon to tell the story that he wants to tell: the boat crew suddenly stops a boat of Vietnamese and ends up killing them. It is a kind of MyLai right in the middle of the movie.

Next Hollywood begins to depict the returning vet as some sort of crazy. America is tired and wants to get out. LBJ says, "I can't be the first President to lose a war."

Then there comes more of a sympathetic view in movies like, Coming Home and the Deer Hunter. Ten years after the 1968 Tet offensive which most Americans viewed as the turning point of the lost war--the Vietnam war was a loser, therefore Vietnam vets became losers. Hollywood is not left with any real winners as they see it and so they have to find some stories where there's personal winners: movies like, Born on the Fourth of July. Ron Kovics, the writer, played by Tom Cruise in the movie makes a pivotal speech that is so applicable today; basically that the government is not the people. These are angry guys from Vietnam with a cause.

In Hollywood Vietnam, someone says vets need a parade--we put you through this and as a society, we owe you a parade. We never did that with Vietnam vets. The War at Home and other movies began to depict the hair trigger nut. Vietnam vets who were nutso. Nutso Vietnam vets in movies like Black Sunday. Gardens of Stone, Rolling Thunder, and even comedies like Caddy Shack, with Bill Murray, a Vietnam vet who was unhinged.

Then, there's the kind of redemptive movie or attempts at it where Jon Voight says, "I'm not the enemy, the enemy is War." Deer Hunter was another of those attempting to be sympathetic while telling a story, sometimes inaccurate, i. e., the crazy Russian roulette scene which never was.

Movies were primarily the media that informed America about Vietnam. In movies like, Flight of the Intruder, people are dying for nothing. America wanted to believe if you just had Chuck Norris, Syvester Stallone. just the right mix--Special Forces. Look at Iraq, still searching for a stragedy, with the seeming idea that if we can just find the right mix. Forget it! Often, movies had nothing to do with reality.

There seemed to be some sort of evolvement; instead of the crazed, there's a flesh and blood, hero in the movie, We were soldiers.

Is it that we have a love of war? Can't learn from history, My favorite depiction in Hollywood Vietnam is one where Bruce Willis in, In Country, is facing the Vietnam Memorial in contemplation, he leaves a Bronze Star Medal and a pack of camels--this is his closure. We wish it were that easy.

What I came away from this accidental viewing of HOLLYWOOD VIETNAM is sadness: a sadness that as a country, we never learn. The undeniable stupidity that we are at war after having the experience of Vietnam is almost unbelievable. If we had a Vietnam vet president, I doubt seriously that we'd be in Iraq but we know that story, right?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Deja vu

When I was watching this movie, I immediately thought, "Wow, what a concept for Iraq." The basic story is that Denzel Washington is an ATF Agent and is called to the scene of an awful terrorist attack. A group of sailors on leave on a ferry boat, along with scores of other innocents, are blown up.

Denzel is one of my favorite actors, always good and cool. In the process of his investigation and in cooperation with the local gendarmes, he is introduced to what he thinks is an intricate surveillance system, only to discover that it can actually recreate the past. Do you see where I am going here? He recreates the past, discovers the culprit and someway sends himself back into the past to prevent the terrorist act and save the girl. I love movies/books/tv, they can make what they want happen. Always.

Apply this to Iraq. Let's go back. Saddam: let's keep containing him, getting good intelligence. We turn back the clock before 9-11, Afghanistan. See what I mean? The movies can do what they want. Real life just ain't so. God bless us.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Senate isn't serving himself well by badmouthing the military in the form of General Paetraus and the ousted Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Pace. I want to see Reid's "military record." Then and then only can Reid be even close to criticizing Pace. And, to blame Pace for the debacle in Iraq is about the epitome of stupid. Maybe Pace was not as forceful with Rumsfelt or now with Gates as possible but he's served his country well and has now been treated shabbily.

I really don't know what someone like Pace could do. Well, he could have resigned, I guess and yet, in the big picture what would it have served? Rumsfelt although a Patriot, still operated with a "I have my mind made up and so don't confuse me with facts." I'll bet you that Gates wishes he was back at Texas A and M. Replacing Pace is a long shot from making any difference in Iraq as if anything could short of rewinding and hanging on to Saddam.

In a recent survey of Americans on who they trusted most? (Although I'm not all that big on surveys--much has to do with how questions are asked). Question was, who is most trustworthy? It ain't the President and surely not Chaney; of the fifteen folks trusted, Chaney is fifteen and the President is next to him. Got to love it! Guess who was number ONE, uno--Patreus. People trust him and Reid even put the bad mouth on him because Pretraus said some places in Iraq had improved. And, they have and Paetraus may be able to bring this "quagmire" home but it would take five to ten more years minimum, plus lots of pain.

Reid is not serving his party well or maybe those of us who care. One of the only positive thing about Iraq happens to be the soldiers. And, this is no small thing, believe me. And, When Reid, representing the Majority party blames the military for the morass in Iraq, we have got to think that he is maybe suffering some TIAs or something. More likely, he was speaking to a bunch of left wing bloggers and was warming to his audience. Politicians do it all the time. They get in trouble by listening to the enthusiasm of a bunch of zeolots and the first thing you know, they've transferred into stupid.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I'm sure that General Pace won't quite feel it like many of my Vietnam vet buddies who were summarily fired after surviving several tours in the Nam. Many had shed their life's blood and Uncle Sam called them in and said, Sayonara. Officially it was called a RIF (reduction in force) and later downsizing. But, any spin you put on it, call it fired.

Thus far, I've not been a fan of General Pace or his boss, Gates. Let's call it what it is, politics. And, all generals above the 1 star are political or else they would not be where they are. As they face the tribunals for promotion, they have to have a sponsor, somebody already there, sometimes even a politician who makes sure they are afforded all the necessary considerations. And, so it is that Pace is where he is because of some element of politics. This does not mean he is not a good leader and honorable man; simply, it means that ascendancy just didn't occur on his good record alone. Scores of others whose records were equally as good were not chosen.

I feel bad for him. In his present job, he has not distinguished himself other than somewhat of a "yes" man. But, this is understandable. Military people learn to say "yes" to superiors, it is in their nature. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full! We would like to think that the good Marine General, at some point, behind closed doors said to Gates and surely to Rumsfelt before him, "You are full of it." I've always felt that generals at the top levels need to be advocates for soldiers. Here we have a military with legions of problems: military recruiting, equipment being run in the ground, multiple tours at war, lack of preparation for returning vets--the list is endless. Advocacy at the top level is what is needed, not compliance.

Gates fired him pretty publicly even while killing him with kindness: he no longer can leap tall buildings with a single bound but is good at small ones. Politics really did General Pace in and in a sense, nothing to be done about it. Here's what I think would have given him a lasting legacy: be courageous in the same way he was while a combat Lieutenant in Vietnam. He's been talking to politicians who want to blame you for the debacles of Iraq. Most wouldn't know a pair of combat boots if it ran over them. To hell with them, Pace is better off and his firing won't solve Iraq.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


The not so secret saying among Vietnam vets during the aftermath of Vietnam and our shabby treatment was, "What we need is a war." To vets this meant that with war comes attention to the vet. This is exactly what we are seeing now with the emphasis by the Congress on veteran treatment. If the Vietnam vet has any legacy, it has to be that Americans who care never want to see the present day vet treated as badly as we were.

As most of us search for anything positive about Iraq, I think I might have found something. The thought was given me by this doc I was with in Vietnam. He said something like, "What most people don't realize is that those of us who served in Vietnam and came back and made a life for ourselves in medicine are usually 10 times better and more experienced docs than those who didn't have Vietnam". Why? Mainly it's the experience. Just think about it as my bud went on to say, "had we been in the states in an emergency room or going through some sort of specialty training, we would have seen the normal sorts of medical difficulties. In Vietnam, we saw everything and had to do things that we'd never have gotten a chance to see or do as civilians. I discovered that I was so far more advanced than other medical types when I returned. Where they might see two or three cases a day of a particular trauma, I would be involved in 25."

THINK IRAQ. Based on my friend's comment, imagine what we are and will be seeing from our present war. For one thing, a flood of wounded GIs, those who would probably have died on the battlefield but now because of technology and new techniques and the ability to get to wounded soldiers almost immediately, many are saved that would have otherwise died. And, this doesn't even account for the traumatic psychological wounds that will inevitably result.

The "bean counters" are already tallying up what it's going to cost. For us vets, we "get it" better than most. Think of this. After Vietnam, vets had to fight for every single thing: many dying before their claims could even be processed. It was shameful and like all wars, when Vietnam was over, the mantra was, "let's shrink the military and send the soldiers home and forget about them."

Already Congress has appropriated over 6 billion for vets benefits and claims. It appears like we have at least learned a few things.

There's great lessons in all of this. When a country goes to war, they don't think about the aftermath. We've learned that for many combat soldiers, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) occurs long after the combat is over. I've seen many of my buddies, now 40 plus years after Vietnam, who still suffer the traumas of war and many of them are still dealing with it on their own. WHY? Well, there are lots of reasons, mainly among Vietnam vets, the feelings of old about how much a hassle in trying to get anything out of VA. VA has changed for the better, however, but still, the future for Iraqi vets is NOW and we must prepare. Us vets are watching.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


When the Bush team mentioned that our debacle in Iraq might well be another Korea, it was all I could do to keep from losing my breakfast. I have resisted saying that our Leader is out to lunch, honestly, but where he gets such notions is beyond me. And, I can't figure that others who should know better about history don't jump up and say, "Are you kidding me?" It is not about staying in Iraq that is even plausible, it is in thinking that we could replicate what happened in Korea to Iraq. This must drive athopologists crazy. Imagine trying to compare the Koreans to Iraqis.

Korea is homogeneous

Simply this means that the people are culturally mostly the same. For God's sake, they only have about five or six surnames, Kim, Lee, Hwong, Yu, a few others. Their very nature is based in Confucianism which is mostly a philosophy. In Confucianism, it is mostly three common things: authority over subject, father is over the son, the husband is over the wife. Have you ever wondered how someone like Kim, Il Jong has been able to subjugate the people of North Korea. In many ways, it is in their nature. King over subject.

South Korea or called by its official name, Republic of Korea, is a fascinating country. They are Buddhist, even though the largest Christian Church in the world is in Seoul. However, even Christianity is practiced with a Confucian/Buddhist flavor. South Korea has a great sense of country and regardless of all else practiced, at their core, they are very much alike with a national identity.

This is very simplified but basically right on. Iraq is a tribal country, plain and simple. Loyalty is to the tribe. They will never get past this if we stay there a thousand years. To even suggest that we can keep or maintain soldiers in that country indefinitely is about as stupid as anything I am yet to hear.

South Korea would not even exist today had not we come to their rescue in 1950. How much this plays a part in our still being there eludes me even. I have advocated for some time that it is pretty foolish to keep the level of soldiers in Korea that we have. The ROK has the absolute best ground army in the world, spare none. They are extremely well trained, disciplined, and they are very much a homogeneous force--they are Koreans. Consequently, keeping a Division (20,000 or so troops) on the DMZ is to me, simply not very bright.


The powers that be have long ago, to be precise, over 4 years ago let go of a realistic view of what is going on in Iraq and what the prospects are. As we've often said, they seem to exist in parallel universes. And, the mere mention of a model as in a Korean standoff has to come from somebody on too much of the weed. It is the only explanation I can see.