Monday, May 28, 2007


Recently, Lawrence Kolb proposed that because of how we have depleted the National Guard, we should develop a Home Guard in addition. I surely don't doubt that we need something. However, the fact that the Guard has been used as it has is pretty shameful. I'm not sure of the history of how the Guards and Reserves were used in other wars but from what I know, it appears that they were never intended to supplement the active forces. It is one of the great myths or crimes of how we have treated the military in the past by reducing it to numbers that made performing its mission almost impossible. Plus, as a nation we have visited upon the Guard and Reserves a terrible injustice. They didnot sign up for Iraq or war in general. For most, they wanted to serve, nice to be a uniformed patriot and said affectionately, a weekend warrior. And yet, the young Guardsman from the cornfields of Iowa who didn't sign up for war has been thrust into it and it is wrong. When I was in the Reserves back in the dark ages, a weekend drill meant a little training, some great bonding, a possible escape from normal family duties. It was a good patriotic feeling.

Where I would probably see it a little different from Mr. Korb is in creating another quasi military force to fill in for the Guard. My view would be to restore the Guard to the position it was designed to be. Let's not accept the idea that the Guard is always going to be needed for our wars. Instead of a Home Guard, what about some type of National Service modeled on the military draft. I have advocated this for at least the last 12 years or so. Talk about a voice crying in the wilderness. But, it would work, phased in over a ten or so years and giving kids from 18-26 a choice of where to serve: the miliary would be only one of many: Peace Corp, Teach America, Americorp, any non profit with a program or youngsters could design their own. It can't be viewed as forced volunteerism but giving Americans a chance to give back for the great privilege of being an American.

I don't have much faith in the present administration to have any concept of "new or different ideas" from Mr. Korb or anybody for that matter. Some speech writer probably wrote in something like "freedom corps" or "civilian reserve corp" mentioned by the President but like so many things that matter with this present administration, there is no real teeth. Politics has so bogged down the process of tackling real problems of which this is merely one.

My idea is restore the Guard to its numbers in the States and let them do what they are designed to do. No more fighting misadventures overseas. Increase the size of the active Army where they can do the job if need be anywhere in the world. Beef up the elite forces like the 82d Airborne, Delta Force, Green Berets, Special Operations of all services; have a conventional force that can be deployed if in fact we face a "big" war where ground forces truly face each other and not in the sense of an urban guerrilla war created by us.

We have some good thinkers in our country and Lawrence Kolb is one of them. Unfortunately, his ideas make too much sense and consequently, they will usually be headed to the "round" file.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


When we look at editorial Memorial Day comments, what do they say? Something like, "Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our Nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day."

WHAT DOES THIS REALLY SAY? What is the "core" message? YOUNG AMERICANS DIED IN THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM AND WE SHOULD HONOR THEM. Let's get real here: young Americans dying in Iraq hardly qualifies for securing our freedom at home. The vast majority of Americans think about the day's baseball scores more than the sacrifices of these young soldier heroes who paid the ultimate price. Still, it is not a bad thing to set aside a day to remember them. It is the absolute least we can do.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


My Mom would often say, "have they no shame?" This is the way I feel about a couple of things I've read recently: one on John Edwards who loves to call himself the poor man's bud; the one who is going to eliminate poverty in America. The guy who is the son of a textile mill worker. OK.

He charged University of California at Davis, $55,000 for a speech on get this: poverty. How do they live with themselves? I mean, the guy gets $400 haircuts and lives in a house with a basketball and squash court, I hear, not to mention that it is the biggest house in Chatham country as any North Carolinian will tell you. Let's don't even mention the fact that he got $500,000 from a hedge fund, which is typically open to only a limited range of investors, mainly the wealthy. Mr. "I just want to help the poor" here is a little hypocritical, wouldn't you say?

Edwards, of course, is not alone. This whole speech fee thing is irritating to me. St. Ronald Reagan was given a mil by the Japanese for a speech, Bill Clinton regularly gets a hundred thousand, and then there's Rudy Giuliani who was about to be run out of town before 9-11 and was recently given a $100,000 for a speech at Oklahoma State University plus $47,000 for a private jet.

I must say too that Institutions of Lower Learning who are parties to paying this sort of money for speeches must start their days with stupid pills. I don't get it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A slender, black-haired girl is dragged in a headlock through a braying mob of men. Within seconds, she is on the ground in a fetal position, covering her head with her arms in a futile attempt to defend off a shower of stones.

Someone slams a concrete block into the back of her head. A river of blood oozes from beneath her long, tangled hair. The girl stops moving, but the rocks keep coming as well as the victorious shouts of the men delivering them.

Her crime? The 17 year old Iraqi female's crime was to love a boy from another religion. For her uncle and cousins, that was reason enough to stone her to death.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sixty Minutes Review

If I were president, what I could do is have some aide listening to Sixty Minutes every Sunday so I could jump on what they exposed. One story was homeless dumping by hospitals. No denials because they had a video of it. Very sad. And, the hospitals owned up. One was Kaiser and I immediately thought, "they should cut back their advertising budget." They have two commercials that I love: one has this guy who is older, dancing, doing the splits. Wow. Some theme like, Live life. The other is another guy trying to lose weight, the comercial takes him through what he needs to do: well done, theme is "Be your own project."

The commercials for Kaiser didn't look too swift as a video showed an older demented woman wandering around in a hospital gown on Skid Row. First time I've heard that term, Skid Row, mentioned in some time. Sad to the max. In American with all our plenty, how we still have people living on the streets is beyond me. Could you imagine what we could do about this problem if we didn't have to fund the war in Iraq. I realize, of course, that it is not as simple as I would like. Homelessness is no simple process from any direction and having done volunteer work with homeless Vietnam vets, I can tell you for a fact that it is more than putting a roof over someone's head.

At least a third of those who are called homeless are mentally ill as was the woman in the program on Sixty Minutes. No excuses to dump her but an example of the entrenched problem. They did send her away with a diaper, thank you very much. Many are on the streets because they want to be there: addicted, into drugs of various sorts and their existence has become a lifestyle. And, then there's a small percentage that we could actually help if we were a mind too as my Mom says.

A Second unbelievable investigative report from Sixty Minutes had to do with the Coast Guard. They have spent millions on upgrading the fleet. A total waste as the ships they built were not even sea worthy. Get this: they were told by all kinds of experts that they wanted to do was the wrong way to go--lenghten ships they already had. The Coast Guard, whoever they were, told the whistleblowers, shut up. What was fascinating about the story was that nobody seemed to be accountable. And, get this: they would not even allow congressmen to check things out or talk to those who were responsible. What is this? Talk about if I were a Congressman, I would be lightening flashing mad. The Congress can not make them do anything but they have the purse strings and if they are willing to use them, someone in the Coast Guard will listen. An aside is the same thing that we are seeing now in the debate over Iraq: controlling the purse strings, want to make a difference in Iraq? Close the checkbook.

Regardless, the taxpayer always pays. Is anybody listening?

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I can't blog because I have to go out and fight. This GI blogged an entire book while he was in Iraq. Won a prize of $10,000; the military has now banned blogging on their computers: good idea, they are suppose to be fighting a war.

The "girlfriends" discussed the latest stuff about the Pope, convinced I'm down on the Catholics: not true but things like the Pope's pronouncements do set me off a bit. Pope calls on drug dealers to quit kidnapping citizens, oh yeah, like they are going to pay attention. He also put the badmouth on contraception and abortion. What he didn't say was that the lack of birth control forced poor folks to have large families, contributing to massive poverty in counties like Brazil, where they have the largest population of Catholics in the world. Someone who should know told me recently, "in countries where women are in control of their reproductive rights, the level of affluence is raised substantially." No, I am not down on the Catholics, just ignorance. My perspective. Also, Pope Benedict urged bishops to mold a new generation of Roman Catholic leaders in politics to reverse the church's declining influence. If I'm not mistaken, I think they've already tried that.

When I was a pastor just starting out, we had a guy in our church who could hardly sing but always said, "If you want me to sing, asked me, if you don't, don't asked me." OK. It is a little like John Travolta being ticked off because a documentarian called Scientology a cult. Dud! What would he like to call it? Scientology, like all cults, is built around a person literally cutting themselves off from their family. The guy doing the documentary calls it brainwashing and? I liked this: supposedly, at one point in the filming, the documentarian lost his cool and had a shouting match with a Scientologist. Later on, he apologized and said, "It was my seventh day with Scientologists and I defy anyone to spend that long with them and not feel brainwashed." IF YOU WANT ME TO SING, ASK ME. IF YOU DON'T, DON'T ASK

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Daily, I'm reading or hearing someone talk about how Iraq is related to Vietnam and by extension, how in the hell can we extract ourselves from the Iraqi quagmire. I don't think withdrawing in wholesale scale is it. Remember the idea, "we are like a gambler at the table who can't quit the game." That's it!

I do agree with Stanley A. Karnow who wrote "Vietnam: A History." It was one of the first books I read about Vietnam, years after I had put the literal war behind me. Karnow says of Iraq: it is "unwinnable;" Dud! What I do like about his present day thinking is the idea of partitioning of Iraq: Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. And, he wants to set a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal and begin phased withdrawals immediately. I think so.

What has basically happened in the Iraq war is what always happens in war: the planning goes to hell in a handbasket. Knowing the military as I do, the planning was down to a ghat's hair. And, if it had worked out, then we would have been "hunky dory" as my Mom would say. But, in war, it never works out as we plan. In Vietnam, LBJ started out as belligerent: we'll show those little guys running around in black pajamas. We know what happened.

In Iraq, we can't prevail because we face a dogged adversary every bit as determined as those little guys in black pajamas in Vietnam. In Vietnam, they were prepared to take unlimited losses to the point that you could never break their morale no matter how many we killed. In the end, politics tripped us up and we got out.

I've never gone along with the idea they beat us. They out patienced us. And, for my two cents, the powers that be never figured out that our mix of troops was wrong. The moment we introduced conventional forces into Vietnam, it was the beginning of the end. Conventional soldiers proved themselves more than adequate for the job. However, the drawback was simply the "conventional." The military was prepared to stand and fight. The enemy in Vietnam did not stand and fight. They fought and hid.

We could have salvaged Vietnam in my view had we gone back to the original tactical view of using the Special Forces (Green Berets) to continue to take the fight to the enemy. We had the firepower, the strategy. The thinking at the highest level was like a booby trap ready to be sprung. We tried to fight a conventional war with an unconventional enemy. If we had moved the conventional forces out, started a phased withdrawal and just kept doggedly struggling, I think Ho Chi Minh would have sued for peace and we'd have been at a standoff.

Would this have been better. The 64,000 question! The gigantic difference in Iraq and Vietnam is the fact that in Iraq, the enemy has no regard for life--their own or their countrymen/women and what we seem to refuse to deal with is a religious fanaticism centered in tribalism. In Vietnam, the enemy, based in Ho, had one goal: unify Vietnam." They were "nationalist" goals. In Iraq, the one consistent goal of the enemery is "kill Americans" and therein, we have to figure out a way to "quit the table."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


A few weeks ago, my granddaughter and I were crossing the street in San Fran near where I live. Suddenly her eyes grew wide. She didn't say a word but there in full burka was a rather large woman. I should have used the moment to discuss differences, diversity, and tolerance but I could not bring myself to do it. WHY? Well, I am struggling in the same way that I think many Americas are struggling. When 7 men are arrested for wanting to kill as many Americans as possible at Fort Dix, what do we think? Not that they were a bunch of right wing Christians or Jews or Buddhists. We immediately think radical Muslims if there is such a thing. And, most of the time, we are right.


What the Fort Dix incident says to us is that the terrorism hatched in Muslim minds is indeed a war. The suspects include three brothers, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, living illegally in the United States and working at a roofing business. The others are legal residents. All six were described as being in their 20s.

And, this is pretty much a "homegrown" plot. Young men enjoying the benefits of a free society succumbing to an ideology which to Americans is simply insane. And, of course, now their families are affected in ways that we have no way of comprehending. All we know are the news reports: one whose family owned a pizzeria and of all things named Family Pizza. One terrorist was intimately acquainted with Fort Dix because of his pizza deliveries.

Even with the gross mismanagement of our involvement in Iraq, we see terrorism there on a daily basis: killing of Americans and innocent civilians, all based on a religious belief from the Koran which says "kill Americans."

WHAT ARE WE TO THINK???????????????

Sunday, May 06, 2007


One constant and mostly friendly debate over the years has been the question of whether West Point, the Army's military academy, is in fact a University or a training school for soldiers. Regardless, West Point, is a much sought after appointment. By all measures, only one in a dozen gets admitted. They never have such great athletic teams because they are cadets first and those who aspire for big lucrative athletic futures don't go to West Point or any of the Service academies. After graduation, the cadets, now young Lieutenants, face a 4 year commitment to the military.

Iraq has not been kind to West Pointers or "ring knockers" as they are often called. 53 dead in Iraq or Afghanistan, a higher percentage of West Pointers than in any other war in recent history. This includes Emily Perez, a 2005 graduate who was the first minority female command sergeant in the West Point's history. She was killed in Iraq last September at 23. Well Done, be thou at peace, is inscribed on the Final Roll Call, a listing the website of the Academy's Association of Graduates maintains. WELL DONE INDEED!

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Recently, I talked with a documentary film maker at the San Francisco Film festival. She has quite the view of the media at large. She says that the media only wants to support the soldier when he/she can be seen either as a victim or a savage. At first I didn't see it but as I've watched the papers for this trend, the NY Times and other media like TV, there is something to what she says. A good example is a story in a recent NY Times Magazine about female soldiers; based on the story, all are sexually harassed and raped.

The Director went on to postulate about Vietnam, "if Vietnam became notorious as a war that combined violence and sex, with Southeast Asian brothels being the destination of choice for soldiers on temporary leave from the war, the sexual politics of the Iraq war are, as of yet, unclear." Maybe the director is on to something.