Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Dear Madam Speaker, as one of your constituents, I want to affirm you for going to Iraq to see for yourself what a collosal mess we're in. You are right on in your assessment. Training is a key and in my view should come via the Special Operations (Green Berets) soldiers who are trained themselves to do exactly what you have suggested. In my view, we should immediately begin a phased withdrawal of conventional soldiers out of Iraq. Iraq is Iraqnam because when we introduced conventional soldiers into that sorry war, it was lost.

I don't want to take up your valuable time by giving you anymore of my views and would only say that we are where we are and have to figure it out. More troops, regardless of what we call them, is idiocy at this point. All we are doing is putting more Americans at risk. It will not work. All along I have been proclaiming that we simply cannot win in Iraq whether we call the enemy insurgents, terrorists, or the Iraqi government in the form of militias. You cannot beat people who will blow themselves up and kill their own families and countrymen indiscriminately. Ideology aside, it simply cannot be done.

I don't know exactly how to say this gently because I cannot tell you how much I admire you: however, one thing that I personally think that Democrats have to keep in mind, we did not change the Congress for it to be business as usual. Increasing the minimum wage and many other programs are good and useful but getting us out of Iraq in one way or antoher is what we want. At the State of the Union meeting, to be honest, I was a little put out with all the kissing and hugging and bowing and scraping. I respect the presidency but let us not forget that we are exactly where we are because the "decider" and his minions simply decided wrong and over 3000 young Americans and no telling how many others will never get a chance to live out their lives in our great country. They have paid the ultimate price for his "deciding."

A last thing: for at least the last 10-12 years, I have been pushing Universal Service and actually wrote the enclosed Memoir to help me sell the idea. Universal Service's time has come. I could list all sorts of reasons that Democrats need a platform that goes back to JFK, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Based on the scores of people that I constantly buttonhole, I almost never run into anybody who doesn't say Universal Service is a good idea. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this is not embraced wholeheartedly by the Congress. The draft will not fly. (I actually wrote Congressman Rangel with my ideas and why the draft won't work) but giving youngsters a chance and a choice of how they give their service will. I hope you'll think about it. God bless you richly.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Soldiers put their lives on the line everyday

Dad, did you hear that Nancy Polosi is going to Iraq?

Yes, I read it in the paper this morning. Wow, hope she is careful, Iraq is not exactly the sort of place that Americans want to be these days.

Dad, think about this: soldiers are out there everyday, risking their lives. I don't think Nancy Pelosi is worth more than those brave Americans, do you?
**Daughter talking to her father

**daugher is "hardcore" Democrat and symbolically a Bush hater but like most Americans regardless of views, respect and understand that the soldier is just doing his job. She is also a big supporter of the Speaker of the House.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I think much of where we are today in Iraq has to be laid at the feet of the military. By in large, they have had a free pass. We support the troops as they are just doing their jobs. But, what about the higher ups, mainly those at the top. Without a doubt, they have been pawns of the powers that be. Maintaining personal integrity for a commander is incredibly tricky. For General Officers at the top, especially, as they are political animals themselves. Does anyone think they got where they are in the system by bucking it. I don't think so! And, it is natural for military people to salute and drive on. To our discredit often, it is, "yes sir, yes sir three bags full."

Recently, I met a young Lieutenant and discussed extensively with him Iraq. He was a bachelor and had been there already. It was a frank and honest dialogue and I was impressed with his knowledge, commitment, and openness. After our conversation, I reflected on it: I was over the edge in not wanting to appear that I did not support him. Most Americans are the same way. We can't take a chance on denigrating the troops. Vietnam taught us that. I think the country has a collective guilt--they treated soldiers so badly after Vietnam, that "all" military is given a pass. At least on the surface. Soldiers are simply doing their jobs. When I asked the young Lieutenant, "do you and your soldiers worry that the vast majority of Americans don't support the war?" He said, "to be honest, we don't talk about it and just do our jobs."



How in the world did we get to this point? The decisions of stupidity are legion, nothing new: not enough troops, disbanding the Iraqi Army, a strategy of "whack a mole" which has been abysmal. As I heard last week that some young Captain in Iraq said, "Our strategy is to send a few soldiers out in a hum V to get shot at or blown up." Now that's a strategy.

And, we continue to present rosy reports, Casey, the head guy in Iraq, who is retiring, echoed it again. "By the summer of 08, troops might be leaving. What is going on with this? I think he was relieved anyway in a bit of strategy even if we don't know what it is--make a few changes to make it look like we're doing something and see what happens.


What amazes me is that we continue to act like we can arbitrarily make decisions. HELLO! Does anybody remember that Iraq has a duly elected government. The Premier is being called upon to get tough. Oh yeah, this will work; get tough with the very guy who is the driver behind him being in office. You have got to be kidding me. Get this, there are no less than 23 militias in Iraq and the Premier is going to disband them. PLEASE! GIVE ME A BREAK!


The President has said we have three options: (1)do what we are doing, (2) cut a chogie (NC expression for get the hell out) out of Iraq, or (3)the surge. No, we have four and here is the plan that will work.


Plan to stay in Iraq as long as it takes or somewhere close, 50-75,000 Special Forces soldiers who can fight the militias or keep the people from killing each other and train those who honestly might be willing to be trained. Simplistic. No, what people in Congress or even the military don't want to admit is that the Special Forces are trained for this sort of mission--a guerrilla war and they love it.

What we learned from Vietnam has totally escaped us and the military "brass" has to take a hit for this: leave guerrilla fighting to the Special Forces. The main Army should concentrate on big wars like WW II, to be fought for survival. Us Vietnam vets know the scenario. Vietnam began its eventual decline when we introduced conventional soldiers: young soldiers who are just bodies, trained as best we could but reluctant at best. We did a good job, carried the fight to the enemy but at the end of the day, we couldn't win it. In Iraq, conventional soldiers, as good as they are, are not going to win it either.


We cannot beat fanatics, those who kill themselves, their families, their countrymen. We cannot beat young Arab men who have joined the fight because they have no future, no prospects and they are imbued with a religious fanaticism that reasonable people simply cannot fathom, i. e., 73 virgins waiting for them in paradise. Fantasy in a normal male is a powerful thing and in a sexually repressed male like these kids in the militias in Iraq, it is multiplied by the scores.


So, how long will it take to get us to the point we can do this? Six months to a year, conventional soldiers can be out of Iraq and the Special Forces can be in place. What's happened to us in Iraq and Baghdad in particular is that we have given over the streets to the thugs, meaning the militias. They are unimpressed with our bravado, great equipment and fire power. They know they have us by the gonads. They are tribalists and we are trying to win their hearts and minds. Forget it! We can win the hearts and minds of a few civilians but for those taking the fight to us, we cannot.

We have got to get over ourselves. The militias/insurgents/terrorists are salvages. When I read the accounts of the killing of innocent Iraqis, I am amazed at what they will do to the poor civilians: students, kids. They don't care and are brutal to the max.

We slow this down by a highly trained force of Special Forces soldiers who understand counter insurgency and can take the fight to the enemy while keeping a low profile in training the Iraqis and winning some confidence of the people. This is a strategy and will work--two years. kt

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Our hero, Jack Bauer, of 24 has returned. And, Jack is in his best form. He is slightly aging but just as philosophical in getting the job done. It is fast pace and then more. My blood pressure goes up substantially during an episode. In fact, once I had to switch to something else to catch my breath. And, I constantly have to tell myself this is TV.

It is TV but 24 makes the mind go flying as well as the bodies on the show. It is terrorism at its worst. And, with the exception of the final victory, the "bad guys" are usually always winning. And, guess what they are: dark skinned and most likely have names like, "Ahmed." Well, we weren't attacked in 2001 by boys from Alabama, and to say that 24 does not add to ethnic harmony is somewhat a given. We did have Timothy McVey but we can say that in the final analysis, he spared all of us and chose to be out of here.

Here's what 24 does for me. It is a passing thought that maybe there is some element of truth what the zealots are saying about Iraq and Afghanistan: fight them over there or fight them here. No, I'm not backing up about Iraq but always want to be objective which us "drugstore cowboys" can afford to be: the thought is a "what if?" We have to admit that we have not been attacked since 9-11. For the entire TV program, 24 spells out the fact that an attack is eminent. It is chillingly realistic.

Should all Americans watch it? I think so or as much as they can take. There's something strangely compelling about thinking about the "what ifs" of terrorism. We have the evidence of its existence and possibilities: Spanish train blow-up, British subway, foiled airliner plots to name a few. And, those were not a TV show.

None of this glazes over the debacle of Iraq and had we fought that war with foresight and clarity, we might be in a different spot now. And, it is not going away. My suggestion is that the "powers that be" need to give an adjunct job to the writers of 24. Mostly what I think they could do is show us how to combat those who want to destroy our way of life and help us to go on with it. At the very least, we need to keep Jack Bauer handy. God bless us.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Today, we hear lots about heroes in connection to soldiers in Iraq. And, in a sense, it is good. It trivializes it a bit because all soldiers are not heroes just by the nature of being soldiers. They are doing their jobs, it is what they have chosen. Being in a war zone does, in some measure automatically qualifies a person as a hero. I believe it. But, like in all situations, there is a degree of danger, of sacrifice, and even of commitment.

Without a long definition of hero, let's say there truly surfaces on occasion someone who does something so sacrificially that hero is truly applicable. The soldier who risks his own safety to take care of his fellow soldiers, a soldier who without thinking places himself in danger--God forbid, jumps on a granade; a soldier who in the course of fighting stands in the "breach" so to speak and dukes it out with the enemy. To call someone who does this in war, a hero, is not a hard thing to do: they are heroes.

But, there's another type of person who fits in a different category. Soldiers are at war, it is the environment. What about the person going about his daily business and suddenly is hit with a situation. Take for example Wesley Autrey, the father of two children who, while standing on a NY City subway platform, jumps onto the tracks and saves a person who has fallen. What made him do it? Is he a hero? What! We can psychobabble all we want too but without a doubt, we are talking hero. Was it his Navy training, some sort of inner wired system that make him different. I don't know but he's a hero.

Wesley's individual sermonette to us has to be, "would we do as Wesley did, without thinking? Are we inner directed enough?" Let's apply the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan? A man has been beaten by robbers. Jesus tells the story to teach a lesson. Those who happened on the man crossed to the other side, even the religious types. Finally a Good Samaritan in Jesus story stops, helps and figuratively calls 911 and gets him looked after. Good story. However, to make it applicable to us, what about this? We happen by the man when he is being assauted by the robbers. What would we do? Wesley Autrey would jump in and help. Would we? God bless Wesley, his selfless act inspires me.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


This sounds a little like some TV show but the severity and stupidity of it means that we wish it were a TV show. I can hardly believe that I am the only one in America who gets this: in Iraq, we are not in charge. Now I don't know some of the operational issues that might be involved but this is not like we are "calling the shots" and can made decisions about what we are going to do or not do. In case people have forgotten and apparently many have, Iraq has a democratically elected government for better or worse. Listening to the pundits, you would think that all we have to do is make a decision and execute it.


One word: Saddam. From various reports, we know there was a big dispute in giving over Saddam to be executed. In the final analysis, the elected government made the decision. The Ambassador and General Casey (both were on vacation or something) had no real say in what happened. But, at some level, the Americans made the decision to turn him over to the Iraqis, i. e., the government. From reports, we learn that Saddam thought almost to the end that the Americans would save him, Chalk up one more "sorry about that" for trusting the Americans at crunch time. Think Vietnam and all those Vietnamese left behind when we abandoned them to the Communists. Had it been up to me: noway would I have turned him over. Not that we need to have sympathy for Saddam but again, the issue is that we are not calling the shots. We have to get this in our heads.

The difficulties of our present position in Iraq are so enormous that it is hard to single out two or three and zero in on them. Putting more soldiers in Baghdad won't hack it. Americans, myself included, love to fix things and in this case, politics wants to fix an impossible situation. Thus, we are getting ready for the Powers that be to present a new strategy in Iraq. I hear you.

Interjecting politics into an impossible scenario, I see the dilemma of the Democrats. And, I confess that I am thinking on this. How can they fulfill the very reason that they have assumed the majority: squaring away the Iraqi morase and yet come across as also supporting the soldier? It is tricky.


What I think we must reiterate over and over; in order for soldiers to be effective, they have to believe in their cause by in large. And, there is no doubt from everything I read that they do in fact, believe in what they are doing. They are surely doing their jobs. However, I still get emails, purportedly from soldiers touting the good and the difference we're making. I have no doubt to them, it is true. Recently someone sent me an email with a laundry lists of all the good things. I didn't verify it as I don't believe it totally anyway. There are still diehards who think we are winning in Iraq or if we stay long enough, we can win. These may be the same people who believe there was no holocaust or followers of ego maniac Pat Robertson. Who knows! Simply, we cannot win. We cannot defeat fanatics who will kill themselves, their family, their countrymen. Consequently, we cannot fix Iraq.


Americans must take the broad view. I would compare it to responsible parents dealing with their children. Children don't often know what is best for them. They see pretty much what is in front of them. Therefore, parents have to do the right thing for their futures, their possibilities. This may involve decisions that are not popular with them, may OCCASIONALLY deepen the parental/child divide but the parent has to be the parent. This analogy seems to me to be appropriate to Iraq. We support the soldier, his sacrifice, his commitment and the fact that he/she is a professional, doing the job. But, a broader view must be taken.

Friday, January 05, 2007


As I've listened and read the various pundits and followed my news junkie addiction, I can't tell you the number of times I've read about someone saying I'm sorry. Mel Gibson, Michael Richardson, various others. What is this? Well, what can you do when you've messed up but say, I'm sorry. It is, in a sense, the human condition: screwing up. As far as apologies go, if someone messes up, better they say they're sorry than not--their screw-ups don't vanish with the "I'm sorry" but still , they've done what they can. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt.


Recently in a Newsweek column by Anne Quinlen, I thought she put a little different spin on it. Not totally to my liking because let's face it, us male types somehow are a little or a lot turned off as writers refer to the gender, etc., in most everything. In her case, she had the audacity to say there's a type of masculinity, machismo American style that has to do with saying I'm sorry. I smiled as she is more right than wrong. It is probably in the same part of our midget brain as asking for directions.

PUBLIC "I'm Sorry"

The apologies I'd like to hear are the pols, however. Just once I'd like to hear a politician say, I screwed up. The closest I've heard lately came from Gordon Smith, who at the Senate’s lame-duck session, suddenly rose to give one of the most passionate and surprising speeches about the war in Iraq. For a Republican who had originally voted for the war, the "I'm sorry" words spoken by the Senator, were pretty dramatic. I was wrong and I'm sorry.


People in public life or private for that matter rarely say I'm sorry. Most aren't. Do you think the Office Depot guy who just resigned and will get millions in his golden parachute is in the least sorry that he is hurting the company. I don't think so. You better believe Presidents or countries don't apologize. I did read recently that some newspapers apologized for century's ago discriminating and other foibles. Better late than never, I guess.

Husbands probably say we're sorry more than most any of the species. Quinlan in her article dissects apologies and intimates that politicians are reluctant maybe because from then on out, they would be subjected to pundits, newspaper columnists and radio and TV screamers--bloggers. Even Smith was excoriated for being 4 years late or wanting to pass the buck to the President.


If someone wants to question one's motives, there are plenty of venues to do it. What Quinlen seems to be implying is that pollutions and presidents don't apologize for political reasons, not that they might not believe they are wrong. Since we can't know their private thoughts, then we simply don't know why they are reluctant. We have history. I still feel badly that Bill didn't apologize to Monica.

I like what Samantha Power said in her book, A problem From Hell: America and The Age of Genocide (what a title?) "Whether regarding the Vietnam war, America's cold war assassinations, or our misguided former alliance with Saddam Hussein, American officials kept their eyes fixed on the future. They rarely admit responsibility for failure, for costly meddling or for large scale human suffering. They resist debate--internally or publicly--on how good intentions went astray. And they most certainly don't apologize to those harmed." And, who can forget Robert McNamara's words, I was wrong, terribly wrong. Thanks if a tad too late.


Quindlen quotes author, Deborah Tannen, who says an apology has four parts: (1)admitting fault, (2)showing remorse, (3)acknowledging damage and (4)indicating how it will be repaired. I'm wondering if Ms. Tannen shouldn't apologize for borrowing this concept from Alcoholics Anonymous.

I think saying "I'm sorry" is good for you and most of the time when you screw up, it will help the situation if you just say, I f..... up. When I was in the Army and the commander would summon me for what I knew to be an ass chewing, before he could administer it, I would say, "sir, I f..... up." More than likely it would take the wind out of his sails--he would say, go and sin no more.

We've screwed up in Iraq. I'm not sure establishing blame is going to help us much. But, maybe there is some machismo thing that says until we admit our screw-up, we are stymied in our efforts. However, based on our recent election, we now have a new congress elected mostly on the basis of admitting our screw ups in Iraq. Why can't we say this: We screwed up, we admit it and here is my plan for moving out. We're sorry but there's nothing else we can do. Out of here.


In our Republic, we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are governed by the very wealthy. Our new speaker of the House of Representatives is probably the weathiest member of Congress or one of them for sure. Is this bad? I don't know. What we hope is that in our very peculiar type of American pluralism, weathy means that pluralism is a cornerstone of governing. Plainly put, this means basically that in a land of various minorities, the majority insures that there rights are preserved. In our case, the poor or those who cannot or do not have a voice. This is very tricky in a country of 300 million citizens, not to mention all sorts of other groups who may not even be citizens but who have a stake, i. e., illegal immigrants.

To be honest, I think we are doing pretty good. But, I'm not sure that overall, it is good for us to have only the rich govern us. For someone who has never known the pain of hunger or the discrimination of race, can they truly look out for their interests?