Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Entertaining Vietnam. A really terrific documentary. I see lots of documentaries and this is as good as most and better than most. And, it is such a compelling subject, things/issues I never thought about. There are stories within the video that are adventures themselves. For instance, I felt really bad about one of the entertainers who was killed by friendly fire. You must watch the interview to "get it." The interview of one of the band members who witnessed the event, was mesmerising. Basically, a soldier who had gone "over the top" and, meant to kill another soldier, missed and killed the entertainer. What a story! Sad.

This documentary deserves wide coverage. Vietnam vets will love it. It should have a national/international audience. Also, in viewing the video, I was struck by the lack of support the entertainers got from the military. This was awful. Apparently the entertainers don't feel this way but I do. Some commander should have been making sure these valuable military assets were protected, transported and anything else needed. We let them down. It is obvious to me that the entertainers' commitment to the troops in bringing them a portion of home deserves recognition. And, this documentary gives a measure of recognition to them. For this, I say, HooAhhhhhhhh!!

I love the way the film maker has put the video together, right to the point of the running credits. A great job. And, thanks more than I can possibly convey for the interest and bringing a portion of home to the Vietnam warrior and also for putting together this video. We are now in a war that is Vietnam revisited. It is Iraqnam. Caring Americans need to see Entertaining Vietnam to understand the psyche of how history repeats itself. Entertaining Vietnam would make a great addition to a college course and I'm personally passing it along to a college Prof. friend. I hope others will do the same.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, I saw Ayaan Hirst Ali on the Bill Maher show. What is this I thought. Already a bigtime fan as I had been following her remarkable career as a member of Parliament in Holland. In fact, I elevated her to hero status by putting her picture beside my computer screen along with another female hero, Joya of Afghanistan. On Maher's show, she held her own: no, she was much better than the other two guests, a California Congressman who loved to talk and an actor. On the show, she "got" America better than the vast majority of Americans. A terrific point she made which I am inadequate to convey but it was something like: "what the Western world must say to Islam. We want to be tolerant but simply say, 'there are some aspects to Islam that are incompatible to Western society and we cannot and do not accept it.' "

I had seen her on Sixty Minutes months before and was truly impressed. Her bravery was evident in so many ways. And, now she had written her memoir, Infidel. I immediately rushed out and bought it.

I see it as one of the most influential books I've read. Having just published a memoir of my Vietnam days, I grasped what a memoir was suppose to be. First of all, it is the writer's recollections of what happened years ago, a life's story. And, often it is painful and difficult to write about as the author is always questioning the veracity of what's written. At least I did.

Once I started reading Hirsi Ali's book, I could not put it down and read it completely in three settings. I marked significant passages and have by word of mouth promoted it bigtime. It it powerful reading. The basic thesis of the book is a cry for women's equality in Islam. Finally, she simply determines it can't happen in Islam if one follows the teachings of the Koran, i. e., woman should obey their husbands. Women are worth half a man. Infidels should be killed. This doesn't come out of some islamaphobe. It's there in the Koran.

Infidel details Ali's move to various countries as a child and the description of her life growing up. To an American, it is horrendous. To her, it is the way it is suppose to be. I love to read to learn: this book does it for you. First of all, I learned about tribes in Somali. About the only thing I knew was "Black Hawk Down." She describes life for her as refugee in Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia. Always, it is with clan, a full cast of family and extended family and family drama.

This book is also one of attempted reconciliation with a father and other family members; decisions made in the moment, ill advised marriage, the process of "becoming" who she is. Always questioning, thinking, attempting to figure it out. And, always the sense of inferiority in a male dominated culture. Ali has the "spark" amidst the chaos.

I think the description of female circumcism drove home how utterly perverse is such thinking in a culture. And, so impossible to understand. A 5 year old mutilated: all little girls mutilated for a misguided religious belief that to Western minds is simply inconceivable.

She details her thinking in finally leaving this culture and fleeing to Holland. Here we are educated on the process of gaining refugee status and then citizenship. All is not without pain. And, what Ali presents is the dilemma of the Western world as they deal with a Muslim culture mired in the Middle Ages. Here we have Holland with its elevated concept of multiculturalism--tolerance and yet hypocrisy.

The denial in her adopted country of what needs to happen in dealing with Muslim communities is all to pervasive. Her book simply spells it out: we let them live in their enclaves, go to their own schools and literally accepts their blind adherance to Islam which is simply incompatible to the Western world. What it reminds me of is "the old Southern idea, of separate but equal." In the south it was racism, in Holland and Western countries, it appears more denial. Ali forced her new country to confront it. They didn't like it.

For many Americans, Holland has seemed to be the epitome of a liberal and open democracy but when the chips were down, they didn't measure up. It wasn't Ali's assertions. To this reader, it was just obvious. Circumstances appeared to simply converge where Holland didn't step up to the plate. It all culminated in a sense with the murder of Theo Van Gogh. I remember it well from news reports and now to hear Ali tell about it is mesmerizing. It is fanaticism revealed. I would like to have known Theo. From her description, he was off the charts, living life large. I think he would have been more at home in San Francisco than in Holland. Ali's description of him, the making of the movie, Submission, made me desperately want to see the movie. Her treatment by the Dutch during this time under the guise of protection leaves me cold. Isolating her surely looked like giving a nod to terrorists and fanatics to me. Once you do that, they've won.

Ali tells it like it is; she talked about the utter ignorance of Islamists in talking about a religion of peace and tolerance, not the slightest bit violent. "These were fairy tales , nothing to do with the real world I knew," she said.

I don't want this review to be a book and so I must end it. Read this book. It is not one that preaches intolerance, rather just fact. I came away with a couple of thoughts that have stayed with me. What is it about this remarkable woman that produced the "spark." Surrounded by family, clan, tribe, still somehow or another she "got it." I find this awe inspiring. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a gift to America. We must honor and cherish her. And, above all, we must protect her and make sure she can go about her business while at the same time, not being cowed by our enemies. I don't know her thinking in coming to America but it makes me proud that we're a country where she can. Every caring American needs to read this book. God bless her and God bless America.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Recently, I was discussing with one of my buddies the fact that an expression we often hear when describing Iraq soldiers is heroes. My friend, a Vietnam vet, says noway. They are to be admired, doing their duties, praised but hero is not the proper term. There are some who do extraordinary things in the course of doing their jobs which is fighting. A soldier at war is doing his job when he goes on patrol, when he lays down fire, when he searches out the enemy, even when he puts his life on the line by being "present for duty." However, in the course of events, when he goes above and beyond the call of duty, takes out a machine gun nest, rescues a wounded soldier in the line of fire, does extraordinary things jeopardizing his own life. He/she is a hero. But, for the vast majority of soldiers in Iraq as in Vietnam or any war, they are simply doing their duty and for that, we are appreciative and deserve all the accolades we can heap upon them.

Now, here is a hero without any doubt. Billy Walkabout--decorated Vietnam vet. Billy Walkabout, a native American (Cherokee), whose heroism in Vietnam made him possibly the most decorated soldier of that sorry war. Sergeant Walkabout was an 18 year old Army Ranger, often going on long range reconnaisanced patrols when he and 12 other soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines. It was 1968, just south of Hue. They ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came under withering fire for hours, during which Sergeant Walkabout was seriously wounded. Most of the others were killed. Sergeant Walkabout returned fire, helped his comrades and litrally carried injured soldiers back and forth to Medivacs (medical evacuation helicopters).

Sergeant Walkabout died recently at 57. One of his medals was the Distinguished Service Cross, probably an interim medal for the Medal of Honor. (Most of the time when someone gets the DSC, it started out as a recommendation for the Medal of Honor but because of paperwork snafus, bureaucratic, whatever, it doesn't happen. This is probably the reason that we see the Medal of Honor awarded sometimes years and years after an act of heroism took place). Someone gets behind it and stays with it. Doesn't look like anybody stayed with Billy's. But here are his other medals, purple heart, 5 silver stars (3d highest award for bravery)5 Bronze stars. Not too shabby!

Like so many Vietnam vets, exposure to agent Orange, took its toll on Billy--he was on a kidney transplant waiting list while undergoing dialysis three times a week.

His 23 months in Vietnam once caused him to say, "War is not hell, it is worse." By his own admission, Sergeant Walkabout had failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self isolation. He went years six years once and never spoke to another person. Obviously suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), Vietnam finally got him.

Monday, March 12, 2007


This is a good NC expression and one that aptly applies to our misadventures in Iraq. Truly, to me, it is as though a gaggle of bureaucrats, meaning the powers that be said before we got involved in Iraq, "OK, how can we f... this up?" Well, on every hand, they have. No use for me to count the ways but one that is dear to my heart is one that surfaced last night on Sixty Minutes. The story had to do with how we have treated those who have helped us. In this case, the Iraqis who threw in with us immediately after the invasion. Based on "the clan" in this case, the Insurgents, mainly Sunnis targeted this group of people for their crime. And, their crime: helping the Americans. So, who do these people look too when they realize they are in danger and their families are in danger. They look to the Americans. They come knocking and guess what: we ain't home. It is shameful.


For years, a sizable number of Vietnam veterans (I surely don't speak for all Vietnam veterans) have felt a collective guilt because we ran off and left the people. The feeling of despair in watching the helicopters on the American Embassy roof has stayed with us all our lives. In fact, several of us formed a "non profit" to try to give back to the Vietnamese something to assuage our guilt. It was only a token, building a school in Vietnam. But, we could take pride in what the country did for those Vietnamese who did get out. At least, the "powers that be" then stepped up to the plate and resettled over 130,000 Vietnamese in a few months. And, who can forget the baby lift. Over the years, it has made me proud. And, according to the Sixty Minutes Program, at first there seemed to be opposition but then as Americans who cared saw those poor Vietnamese refugees getting off the plane, the opposition melted. America gave it a shot then of doing what we could.

NOW, nata, nothing: those Iraqis who have risked hteir lives to help us, we have squandered the good will by doing nothing. Nobody is home. Now, the people who were in the decision making positions, Colin Powell and Condi, guess what, not home. And, why, well, they want to blame it on 9-11. There has to come a point when we realize that everything can't be blamed on 9-11; potholes aren't filled, 9-11; traffic is a mess, 9-11; the stock market up/down, 9-11; houses are selling/not selling, 9-11; stop lights not working, 9-11, Walter Reed, a mess, 9-11; gas prices out of sight, 9-11; toilets overflowing, 9-11; illegal aliens, 9-11; good/bad weather, 9-11; commute, good/bad, 9-11; spying on citizens, 9-11; not accepting Iraqi refugees who helped us, 9-11. Get the picture?

What is so sad is that it takes the news media to point out the obvious. Lord help us.

Saturday, March 10, 2007



Started reading an interesting book, Leap; at first didn't think I'd like it as it is about Baby Boomers and getting older and where do they go from here. My experience thus far in articles I've read about that elusive class of aging boomers is that they are pretty selfish and narcissistic.

I had actually read an article about this author; Sara Davidson. She's a good writer and obviously has an "in" with publishers, etc. even though she "poor mouths" lots about her profession. She has crafted the book in a way which is very interesting. However, understanding the book business makes me realize much of what she has said rings true even if there is a whining aspect to it. Amazingly, her level of experience is enormous but she has fought the same struggles according to her (which I doubt) that most writers do; hooking editors, publishers, whoever might be interested in your project. Obviously, there's much we don't know but she's not reticent in detailing her trials and tribulations. She's written 4 other books, the only one I've perused is Loose Change. Also, lots of TV writing, magazine stuff and has made a good living from it.

Her book reminds me a little of Gail Sheehy's Passages of Seventies fame. She interviewed boomers and gleaned their views of what life holds for them as they age. I did smile a bit as some of her subjects hit a provocative note. She interviewed such notables as Hanoi Jane, Carly Simon, Tom Hayden: all enlightening but the best stuff came from the non celebrity interviews. And, I didn't read any interviews with "poor" folks.

According to her, years ago she wrote Loose Change and made quite the splash but since then, nothing has worked out as she might have wanted: two marriages, etc. However, she is the living example of what baby boomers face and how they deal with it. And, the good news about most of her interviewees is that many of them have indeed changed course as they've needed too. For instance, Carly Simon, one of my favorite artists, had breast cancer, etc.; nothing had panned out and then she did this CD of Sixties hits and it went off the charts.

The theme of LEAP at least as I see the book is "change" and something I've always believed: change is the secret in everything. All can change but guess what: most don't.

I recommend the book as it does cause one to think. As books go, my personal taste run different. I'm reading Aleen Hirsi Ali's book, Infidel. To compare, may be apples and oranges but can hardly help it. Leap is trite, American upper class angst. Infidel is in your face, street wise and survival and so relevant. LEAP is so what. I did like the "sex" part, however.