Saturday, December 20, 2008


I once was in a military assignment where I had to pray the invocation at all these graduation ceremonies. It was tradition, just as it is at the President's inauguration. (I am surprised that some ACLU type hasn't already sued to stop it). I use to call these invocations, nods to God. I kept them short with something like, "Dear God, thank you for all our opportunities. Bless us in our future endeavors. Amen." One Chaplain said it was way too short. I promised to lengthen it. I never did. My view has not permeated many of those who pray on the National scene and I doubt it will the president elect's choice of Rick Warren doing the invocation at his inauguration.

On the Newshour the other night, they crowned Warren as America's pastor. Made me smile. I don't particularly like him because I am mostly jealous. The guy or someone around him is a marketing genius. He took an average book and turned it into an industry. I know a good bit about it as I followed the success of the book through this organization I'm in, Publishing Marketing Asso. And, a friend who is the epitome of the Christian right kept me informed: he marketed The Purpose Driven Life to Christian bookstores at huge discounts who then became agents in marketing the book to churches as a study guide. The Churches leaped on it and moved the book toward bigger and bigger numbers to the best seller list at the NY Times that started the cycle again. A marketing genius. And, the guy got Obama and John McCain to his forum. Amazing. I didn't think it was a good idea for Obama then because he was pandering to a lot of zealots, plus separation of church and state issues. But, it is politics.

I think it was a bad move to have named him. There were better choices. It would have been easy to name one of the Chiefs of Chaplains of the various services. And, I admit, slap, slap, that I don't like goatees. And, obviously, Warren is not hanging out at a gym very often.

America's pastor. I don't think so. If he really wanted to make an impact, he should bow out is my view. This could be his note to the President elect. "Thank you for the great honor in asking me to give the invocation at your inauguration. But, in light of the controversy and at this point in history in our country, we must do all we can to be united and not divisive. And, I have asked myself, 'What would Jesus do?' It is clear. Thank you again. You can be assured of my personal prayers and good will."

Will he do it. No, these guys have egos the size of 18 wheelers. And, unfortunately, they have not been reading the New Testament with regularity. What about the idea that Jesus conveyed constantly, "he who would be first, let him be last." Or, "let the least among you become the greatest."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Email Responses to "Do Over" comments

I so agree with the comments on the Airborne Press website. Thank you for this. But the sad part is there are still a lot of diehard Republicans in the state of Georgia and I think it's going to be hard to get the people out to vote as they did in the General Election. Today I've had robocalls from Bill Clinton, Max Cleland and Michelle Obama, which impressed me, but how many others? The ads have been running for weeks now and some of Saxby Chambliss's are pretty ugly. He's a slimeball who rode in on Bush's tail, and I fear he still has a lot of support. Hard to believe, but as you say, people never cease to surprise. Tomorrow LTG(R) Claudia Kennedy will be at Savannah Dem hdqtrs to talk to phone bankers, volunteers, etc. and then give a speech in one of the squares in support of Martin. Should help some and Savannah's a strong military town, but Atlanta has many more, and lots of big business, votes. We shall see. sf


Thanks for your candid comments. When the election looked like it was a tossup, my oldest daughter, whom I constantly had to say: "Take a deep breath," discussed somewhat tongue in cheek, what to do if the same old policies of the last eight years became future reality.

Honestly, I thought long and hard but never told her, what if John McCain won and we were facing another four years of George W. Where could we go, move? Ireland, maybe?. I wasn't all that serious. Fortunately, it worked out but now honestly, I think if I were you, I would think it might be time to get out of Dodge. I am partially kidding but I can hardly believe the majority of Georgians.To think they would go with the same old tired views when the economy is in the reverse, people are losing their jobs, recession is no longer even spinned; yet, they believe this elusive keeping a balance of power in Washington. What is it with these people. What planet are they on? I guess we need to be hopeful that there is only one Georgia.

I do feel sorry for those like yourself who are open minded. The flip side of the coin, however, is that maybe my brother who is a loyal Democrat and been involved in elective politics for a long time, is right: if a black is not in the race, African Americans will not vote. It sounds racist but in Georgia, it surely seems to be true. They simply didn't vote. I'm not sure even if an Obama visit would have helped. The Democrats did all they could, I think.

I truly am sorry for Georgians like yourself. Not that you need it, but to think that by a resounding majority, Georgians put back into office a man who maligned a triple amputee from the Vietnam war, on his first victory and rode back on his second term with Sarah Palen. This is pretty sad in my view.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Thank the Lord, the political season is maybe close to being over. And, it is time to get to "figure out how to right the country." For what it's worth, I do have one last comment. Rarely in life, do we get a chance to have a "do over" or as they say in golf, a mulligan, or maybe another chance to right a wrong but it appears to me that the state of Georgia has a shot.

In 2002, Saxbe Chambliss absolutely maligned Vietnam vet and triple amputee, Max Cleland, during the Senate campaign. Even John McCain called his comments outrageous. Chambliss called into question Cleland's patriotism. Get the picture, here is a Vietnam vet in a wheelchair, legs been blown off along with one arm and Chambliss questions his patriotism and the voters bought it. Now, they have a chance for a "do over" and I hope they get it right this time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanks to David Harris's article in Forum. His book, Coming of Militant Islam is a classic and should be read by every thinking American. I couldn't agree more on Iraq, what a mess. The so called "surge" only worked because we separated the factions and then armed the Sunnis. A strategy that is built on a house of cards. Time to get out and if the Iraqis do not approve the security arrangement, what a lucky break for us. We got rid of Saddam, we declare victory and hit the road. Regardless, we have to get out and let what happens happen.

However, I will have to depart from him on Afghanistan. Even though we are still dealing with a tribal people, we have a chance to restore, relatively speaking, the country. Here's a suggestion: we have a professional Army that constantly needs to be trained. Let's do our training in Afghanistan. The military spends millions of dollars in places like the National Training Center in California. Let's put most of those dollars into Afghanistan for our military. We simply cannot allow the Taliban to own Afghanistan again. Every American woman should be up in arms demanding this.

We have executed a counter insurgency approach that will work and a long term effort has a chance to succeed. This is the real war on terrorism. We are not the Soviets. We have a moral obligation to give Afghanistan a chance, regardless of how long it takes. Our soldiers will get better and better at counter insurgency and so will the Afghans. This can work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

FASCINATING WWll Vets--Can't miss our opportunity to know them.

A couple of nights ago I was talking to these two regular old guys at the VFW mtg ... one did 13 island landings in the Pacific before he finally was relieved and sent home. Another guy landed on France with the infantry and went all the way to Germany, he is in his 80's and ran a half Marathon last month.
the art of listening and engaging these guys is worth the effort, both for them and myself.

I asked the guy who did all the island landings what he thought of Clint Eastwoods film, "Iwo Jima", and if he preferred the American or Japanese perspective? He leaned toward the Japanese (I thought that was an excellent move on Eastwood's part to do that one also). db

When I hear of those like this, I always wonder, what
is their story and I would love to hear it. I ran into an old guy a
few years ago at the Spinaker's Restaurant in Sausalito and he was the chief executioner at the Nurnburg Trials. He didn't tell me this as I was fascinated at watching him. What a character! He was with two fairly attractive and I venture to say younger woman. It was almost impossible not to eavesdrop and after he left, I asked the waiter that I knew who he was.

I could not wait to see him again--drove one of those really expensive Mercedes. Would you believe he died before I saw him again. So, we need to get all these guys stories you can.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I knew there was some reason that I liked the general, Petraeus's replacement, given the fact that I'm not usually in the camp of most generals: too political to suit me. And, it sure ain't the new head general in Iraq's good looks. However, now that the Iraqi premier has threatened the good General Odierno with losing his job, I'm liking him better. The General told the Washington Post that intelligence showed Iran attemptimg to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to sabotage the Status of Forces Agreement (basically this is the document that lets us stay in the country--the rub is that the Iraqis want to have charge of our soldiers in case of an American mistake that might involve a civilian or interpretation of the "rules of engagement"--allowing the Iraqis to decide is unthinkable).

Iran and Iraq aligned--makes sense to me. From my prism, anything to get us out of Iraq. We're in a weird position and have been from the "get go." With our latest counter insurgency movement, if you think about it, we've armed and recruited the Sunnis (Awakening Councils), formerly the insurgents, who are now on our side. And, this has brought a relative degree of calm.

However, here is where it gets dicey, think about this: basically we have an official Shiite Army that we are training as our replacements but now beside them, we also have a Sunni Army, armed by us. They hate each other and have for hundreds of years. The Iranians are Shiite, like the government of Iraq and the majority of the country. Hello! And, why would Iran not want us out Dodge and if a few bribes gets us on the next train, so be it.

I'm not the only one who thinks this way, of course, but the author of Unintended Consequences has made this the thesis for an entire book.

Getting out of Iraq has to be a priority. We basically can declare victory: we got rid of Saddam, God bless you, we are gone. According to the author of Unintended Consequences, we have lost the war. I think he's probably right. If our goal is to keep the warring factions apart, staying in Iraq for years might accomplish this. I doubt it but still it could. How long? Well, John McCain says a hundred years.

We are about in as much a mess in the Middle East as we've every been so why not as the GIs use to say about Vietnam when we were there, let's "diddy mal" (get the hay out of here)!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Recently, my grand daughter and I were at a park in San Francisco and the serenity of a bright and sunny day was disturbed by the screaming overhead of these gloriously precisioned jets, the Blue Angels. They are the Navy's premier flying team, in San Fran for their yearly show called Fleet Week. Watching them practice was thrilling. Wow and more wow is what I thought!

But, later on in the day as I watched the stock market plunge to levels not seen in years, I began to think about the money spent on the "WOW" show of the Blue Angels and how many foreclosed homes that the Blue Angel money could save. And what about things like the trillions spent in Iraq. What about it? What does it all mean? For one thing, it is unbelievably complicated. How could saving on the Blue Angels possibly help the economy. It is the same view of eating one less expensive meal could hardly help the starving in Africa.

Well, it surely is complicated but there has to be some connection to our expenditures on the Blue Angels' air shows, the war in Iraq, all sorts of other things--to say it is too complex is to do or say nothing. Kind of like our present financial crisis, not figuring out how we got where we are is inexcusable: not coming to grips with the spending of millions of dollars on an air show and how it relates, is equally unacceptable.

It all has to be related. Having served at fairly high levels of the military, I use to marvel at the budget process. We operate within a budget. They must spend that money whether they need it or not or guess what? They will not get as much for next year. Spending more is even better (whether you need to or not) and that way you can asked for more.

So, how is it related? The Blue Angels have a budget, it is training and the thinking is that it relates to recruitment, kids will see the WOW of the Blue Angels and run right down and enlist.

We are too smart to simply let things like this continue. The Blue Angels are just symptomatic. I just bet if we were to dedicate ourselves to reining in purposeless spending that doesn't make sense, we could figure it out. These are tough times for the country and everything has to be on the table. Here's a good one, the Iraqis have an 80 billion dollar surplus, we have the worst deficit in history and are in crisis. Yet, we are spending billions a month in Iraq. Hello!!!!!!!!!!! Any North Carolina farmer can tell you how to handle this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Most of us who frequent the Internet with some regularity are constantly bombarded with forwards, political opinion, adinfinitum. I get really tired of it and have been discussing it with a religious email group in which I participate. One of the members recently chided us for our lack of response. What follows is some of our discussion.

Comment. Thanks for calling this to our attention. We've been remiss. I think for me, it has been a general feeling that our group is so locked in on rigid positions and are spending most of their time watching Fox News, plus forwarding ideas of what a great choice Sarah Palin was that my psyche didn't want to deal with it. I am pulling our chains somewhat. The weird thing about where we are in our country is that if you look at the Republican President, he has gotten every single thing he has asked for, i. e., a gigantic defense bill, not a single word in it about bringing home the troops

Comment. What concerns me, however, are the somewhat useless emails that fly continuously, mostly forwards, many time we don't even know if they are true. And, why anybody would think they are going to sway opinion with some ranting is beyond me.

Comment, replying to a forward. I don't doubt any of this is true; but this is precisely what I'm talking about; forwards like this are not helpful. All politicians are inherently corrupt and or if not quite as bad, are self serving--of both parties: it is simply the way it is. A biased forward has about as much chance of reaching me as flying to the moon. Plus, with the web, it is so easy to find something to reinforce your point. Why not search for areas where we can discuss, i.e., the bailout/rescue of Wall Street. You and I discussing abortion (His comments on terminating a pregnancy--the reasons I can’t support a Democratic candidate for President is because of abortion. It troubles me that the most dangerous place in America for a child is in its mother’s womb). It is like agreeing on the idea of Eternal Security (A Christian Religious term which means that once a person has committed him/herself to Christianity, it is forever sealed), a waste of our time to discuss as well as abortion.

Comment. I believe in soul assignment. This is not original with me but makes sense. When a fetus can live outside the womb, then God assigns a soul and the fetus becomes a person. I could never believe a teenager and his girlfriend in the back seat of a 49 Ford can make an instant baby. Makes no sense to me.

Comment. Here is what I think is helpful: a discussion of the financial mess and what brought us to this point.

Comment. OK, here's a stab at something for us to discuss: In a word, greed! And, for us Calvinists, we should get this with certainty. Man is sorry, good for nothing. Worthless, only through the Lord Jesus is he brought to any sense of redemption. And, even in that, redemption still possesses the rudiment of a sinful nature.

Comment: On a practical basis, through deregulation of the stock market, greedy traders and other worthless pieces of humanity lined their own pockets by lying, creating worthless assets, which they were able to put a value on, uninhibited without anybody minding the store. Then, of course, greedy bankers, many pillars of the church (although they probably didn't tithe) and, of course, the father of derivatives (which is anything that a Wall Street shyster thinks it is) is none other than former Congressman, Phil Gramm, who authored the bill creating derivatives (helped along by Dems and Repubs who lined their pockets): during this heyday, many preachers were preaching the "prosperity gospel. "

Comment. Demos and Repubs alike turned a blind eye while greedy Mortgage bankers let those who follow the late night TV shows on house
flipping think they could make a fortune like the bankers, etc. And, of course there were those poor folks who wanted a piece of the American dream and were greedy too. But, for these poor folks, we can be forgiving as for them they merely want what many of us have.

Comment. Now, this is useful and let's have another side, not some Internet posting, bashing some candidate or putting forth a Rush Limbaugh ranting.

Comment. The flip side of the coin is that I would like to hear some logical views sans the party line why we should put the Republicans back in again based on where the country is.

Comment. My take on the financial mess after reading and trying to understand is off the wall: we need the 700 billion rescue even though we are rewarding those who have caused the mess. If we don't, who is going to be hurt are the poor people. They are surviving on credit cards, etc; it is their safety net; our country is built on credit, at least our economy. We have to continue it although philosophically it may not be the best: it is what we have. For many of us, we can say "let's go to cash, tighten the belt" but the poor folks will fall through the cracks. I feel somewhat the same way about immigration; Lou Dobbs, aside, we can't solve it, let's continue what we are doing which is the best we can. Maybe a new Prez might funnel some bucks to help corruption and drug trafficking and maybe the Mexicans wouldn't want to come here. OK, I am out of hull defoliate.

Monday, September 29, 2008


One of my heroes is Barney Franks who is the Democrats "point man" on the bailout fiasco, (which, as of this writing, failed) the House Financial Services Chairman. What endears Barney to me is that he is not terribly unlike Barney and Friends on TV's Discovery Chanel, watched by my three year old granddaughter, Lilly. On TV's Barney, they end with "Barney Says." These are little lessons on living life that 3 year olds get.

Well, in the financial bailout, the bankers and those related who have gotten us into this mess could use a little "Barney says." Most of the bankers should remember "Barney Says" from a former encounter. He was a last minute sub for some big bankers Association. Here they are at this big gathering, waiting to be told how great they are. Barney gets up and "flays the sheep" so to speak. He tells them how sorry they are and how they are responsible for the many ills which Americans face. He tells them they don't care for the poor, adinfinitum. And, just as he is getting warmed up, someone is heard to say, "who invited this guy?"

What makes this amazingly remarkable is that this was several years ago but in light of this present crisis, it is like yesterday. So, what am I saying? Well, along with Warren Buffet (although the majority of the "girlfriends" say that Warren is part of the same group as Paulson and consequently has a vested interest), I trust Barney to keep our best interest at heart.

For most of us, we don't understand how this has happened. We surely can't see into the future to see what might happen if we don't do something. How can we know? The ones who got us into this mess and lined their pockets don't even know. So for now, it is BARNEY SAYS.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


The so called "surge" has been touted as the singular aspect of strategy that has literally changed the course of the Iraq war. Not really even as we acknowledge and are grateful for the decrease in violence. But, let us be realistic in what has happened. Plain and simple, a new doctrine of counterinsurgency has been initiated. And, this doctrine in the very beginning is "get the local populace on your side." And, I might add, in any way you can. However, here is the rub: the very idea that the Iraqis will have an acceptable measure of peace is as elusive as ever, even if temporarily, violence is down.

And, here is why. In the latest scenario, the Shiite led government will begin to man checkpoints and in general assume control over the Sunni fighters known as the Sons of Iraq (also called Awakening Councils). These are the guys that were killing Americans when the new strategy was initiated. We paid them to come over to our side. It worked, they quit shooting at us. However, the strategy now stands a good chance of coming unraveled. Lions may lay down with lambs in Biblical analogies but not in Iraq. The strategy can only continue to work if we stay in Iraq forever and back the Sons of Iraq. And, then it is only a "maybe." My view.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Recently, I took a trip back to North Carolina to see my brothers. I do this about every three months or so. I knew that it was going to be hard to avoid politics but didn't realize truly how difficult it would be. Politically, most are not on a different planet, rather a different galaxy. I have to shake my head because of this "sea change." Growing up, simply everybody was a Democrat. On this trip, I felt like what someone once said, "A lonely wanderer on a wind swept sea." There were a few times when I would be in a room full of people and be the only Democrat, two shakes from being "stoned." For my brothers, other than me, my Dad is turning over in his grave repeatedly. And, the idea of how the South has changed would not hack it with him. Sorry Dad.

There is simply no reasoning to their position. I gave my view of "forget the candidates, tell me one thing that is right with the country." Do we want four more years of "W." NO COMMENT. And, I follow with the idea that when things happen on a person's watch, even if it is politics, the leader has to take the "hit." The nobody's home look. I usually follow with the idea that I hope this is not prejudice since we have a black man running for President. "Oh no, everybody insist." Yes, I believe that .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


When 9-11 happened, I, along with the rest of the country, wondered what our country would look like once we figured it out. We still don't know but something a friend said resonated with me at the time and is still with me: "9-11 has forever changed our country and everybody in it and anybody who has anything to do with America."

This has proven to be true. One of the very subtle ways I think the country has changed is the perpetual suspicion which is a part of our lives: suspicions of those who are different. Here's an example: On the bus, as I was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I glanced up and noticed a woman in a burka and beyond us, coming toward the bridge, very close, was a gigantic container ship: my first thought: how ironic that I'm in a bus with a Muslim woman, crossing the GG Bridge and my first thought is terrorism. It is in our psyche, a completely new phenomena, only since 9-11. Can any of us say that when see someone, a different look, someone we perceive to be Muslim, that our minds don't take us to Suspiciousville.

Other things, of course, remind us that life has forever changed. For one thing, two wars going on with the continuing reminders of young Americans dying, not to mention, Iraqi and Afghan innocents being blown up with regularity. (These events may have left the front pages of our newspapers but they are still going on). And, my personal pick, Gitmo where we are still holding low level types acting like they are major terrorists.

On a personal basis, I think that we simply have to protect ourselves the very best we can and then not worry about it. It is the only way to preserve our American way of life. God bless those who gave their lives in whatever ways on that fateful day of 9-11!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


When the framers of the Constitution made a conscious effort to separate the church from the state, there was a reason. And, we have a good example from Jesus when He was confronted by the Pharisees with the notion of church and state. His quote was simple and to the point, even providing an illustration, he took a coin and asked, “Whose picture is on the coin? Caesar. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s to God”. Makes sense to me.

How we have gotten ourselves to this point is beyond me. The idea that preachers can wield such power is baffling. Having studied the old time preachers, they never seemed to get into politics and yet to be fair, they didn’t have the temptation of the media either.

Billy Graham seems to be the first media religious darling to any degree. I always liked him. He never did get away from his basic message but then again, he didn’t dispute his influence either. Surely didn’t refuse an invite to the White House.

To me, it is hard to say what this religious forum means: a potential president appearing before a preacher to be questioned about his religious beliefs. Seems unseemly to me. Well, this is what my Mom would say.

The flip side of the coin is that those like Rick Warren can only be given influence and power in politics by those like Obama and McCain. I surely don’t blame those like Warren. In a sense, be is the pastor of a mega church with a slant on interpreting what Jesus meant. These gigantic mega churches usually are part church, part entertainment. I don’t care for them very much but they seem to meet many people’s need and I want to be fair. Mostly in my view, they are church/gospel/Bible lite.


Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, which I’ve read is OK as a guide for living but if people really wanted to get a formula for making it in this world and into the next, they should read the four Biblical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which are what Jesus said and did. Unfortunately, in Church culture, most people had rather take the shortcut of listening to a preacher say what Jesus said and did. The few times I’ve been in dialogue with the clergy and they have given me the word, “Jesus said such and such or God says: ” my usual retort is, “Where does it say that God says this?” End of discussion usually!

I don’t fault Warren for this coup of getting Barach and McCain to acknowledge the perceived importance of the “right wing” mostly. They are politicians, afterall. HELLO!!

I think probably these mega church pastors are fighting to be the titular head and Warren seems to be the front runner. Others have bit the dust in various ways: Falwell has gone on to his reward. Ted Haggard left Colorado after the gay masseuse scene, the Focus on the Family 's James Dobson has become a one issue type: gays are taking over the world; and the Texas syrupy pastor Osteen’s wife is flying first class and accused of assaulting a flight attendant. So, we have Warren.


To me, his book is the interesting thing. It is a marketing phenomena and mark me jealous. It started off with everybody in his church buying a copy or several. Then covering the entire country with promotion. All the evangelical churches bought copies and developed courses around the book, a 40 day spiritual journey that will change the reader's life was the so called, "purpose." An entire cottage industry has grown up around it. It has sold millions, reported to the various sources like the NY Times best sellers' list and the book reinvents itself over and over.


Barach should have resisted. It was natural for McCain as his party routinely panders to the right wing as a part of their persona. I fear Barach is being handled already. What he didn’t get is that he can’t win these people over. It can’t be done. A kind of “Don’t confuse me with facts, I have my mind made up” exist with them. "Right wing" (in terms of social issues, I don't see any difference in the terms, right wing and evangelical) Christians have certain issues: abortion, gay marriage, prayer in the schools, stem cell research, and various other fringe ideas. These good folks are not going to change their minds. They are willing to have a war that is bankrupting us, the worse deficit in history with the very real possibility of sacrificing our children and grandchildren’s future--a litany of negatives: a spiraling down economy where no one really knows the bottom, hard working folks losing their homes,the dollar falls and falls, inflation is moving upward and lastly something totally inexplicable, an amazing blindness to reality. If only they can have a candidate to champion their issues, to hell with all this other stuff.

Obama would have been better to have said, “I respectfully decline. If I attend, it gives the impression that I am choosing one expression of faith over another. Our country has always prided ourselves on freedom of religion or no religion at all. Thank you for your invitation and may the God of your choice bless you."

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Sometimes you read something and you reread and suddenly, it is "ah hah." I recently had this with an article in the New York Times Magazine. It seems of late that all my stuff comes from there. Why? Well, not so but they do in depth articles for one thing and the editors obviously don’t mind giving a writer a few pages, not the usual 500 words or less. This piece, The Last Battle (The Fight Among Iraq's Shiites) by Michael Gordon, is probably the best thing I've read about Iraq: succinct and puts us where we are NOW after all the millions of dollars and lives given.

The article had to do with a team called Phoenix, not after another infamous Phoenix, I don’t think. (The CIA engineered project for assassinating enemy combatants in Vietnam). The Phoenix Team had to do with these 3 young captains that General Petraeus had recruited to work with Sunnis and Shiites to create a greater sense of security, provide some jobs through a neighborhood watch program, and in general, be his eyes and ears in a region of the country that seemed the most conducive to employing General Petraeus' counter insurgency philosophy.

I was very impressed that the good general would be this open, creative and very protective of these three young soldiers who were not career types, although true believers. There has to be an amazing "back story" to this project. Here are three soldiers: a female Lieutenant, later Captain; another, having done several tours in Iraq; a Harvard graduate--and, an enlisted guy who could have been an officer but through some idealistic view wanted to be an enlisted man, later became a Sergeant. Their connections to Petraeus, to each other, to the Marines and ultimately to this story is almost too much to believe. I don't, for a moment, doubt the veracity of the story but there has to be more to how it all came to be. Well, for one thing, it makes for a good story. The flip side of the coin is that what they attempted when fleshed out to the possibilities is equally amazing. I simply will accept it at face value. It is a story that needs to be read.

The article is too long and involved to fully convey the gist of it, even if I wanted too. Several lessons to learn from the message: the military should not be put in a position to make promises or offer incentives that they cannot deliver. Reminds me so much of Vietnam. We made all these promises to the people and in the final analysis, didn’t deliver.

But, more than anything, what The Last Battle pointed out was the overwhelming complexity that we are in the middle of in Iraq: tribes, sheiks, political alliances, fanatical believers, you name it. It is simply an impossible venue for democracy. Here's a thought: the best we can hope for is that a kinder Saddam and surely less crazy, might emerge. The Last Battle reinforces that any idea of a democracy as we know it is a will of the wisp fairy tale.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


For one who finds it hard to give the President much slack, I will have to say that he did a good interview at the Olympics. They didn’t talk only sports but all the hot button front burner topics to include the Russian/Geogian conflict.

I often wonder how much these interviews are scripted. Maybe Bob Costas but the President sounded pretty candid. His main theme had to do with staying engaged with China and the idea that we wouldn’t agree on all things but we would on some--talked about how far China has come and watching the Olympics who could not agree with that assessment. And, it has been good that the president has been at the Olympics. He is the President. And, here the Office transcends the man.

There's a slight side of me that feels a little sorry for him. As one who voted for him during his first term, I thought of the great hope he brought. The country was in pretty good shape. And, even with the uneven performance of the "Bill" man, he was inheriting a no deficit economy and money in the bank. And, even though a disputed election, still I applauded the Supreme Court decision, let's get on with it.

And, then 9-11. At first, he seemed to be on top of it and came Afghanistan and the country applauded. At this point, I think, he got overwhelmed by the NeoCons, Chaney and crew. From there, a series of disasters which have brought him to the end of his term as one who blew his chances--mismanagement of the Iraqi war that will be debated for years, regardless of how we get out of it, “Was it worth it?”

Listening to him talk to Costas, I thought: no credibility to talk about the Russian/Georgian conflict: castigating them on an idea of Regime Change. Hello! The most disturbing thing is when Costas tried to inject some reality on our country's challenges and the President's spin of "we don't have problems." This is a theme of denial which has costs him his legacy I think. The greatest problem is when a "spin master" believes his spin. America's a great country but we have beau coup problems and to deny them is not to face them.

Monday, August 04, 2008


When I was in the Army at Fort Bliss, Texas at El Paso with Juarez, Mexico, just over the border. We use to regularly get lectures about the pitfalls of crossing the border, especially if we drove: the possible accident, the laws of Mexico, the mordita, the payoff. In fact, when you went to Mexico, you regularly took a handful of dollars to pay off anybody who resembled authority.

The intrusion of politics in what to do about Mexicans crossing the border illegally, the numbers already illegally here, etc. have become big political issues. There's the intrepid vigilante group, the Minute Men and let's not forget the National Guard confronting the "would be" border crossers.

I do readily admit that when you are not directly involved, it is easier cogitate your navel. A friend of mine who lives on the edge of the desert close to Sierra Vista, Arizona has tale after tale of Mexicans crossing his property and trashing it. You would think, according to my friend, all our problems stem from South of the Border. Well, hardly.

It is a problem but not insoluable. Movies are one venue to get a handle on the problems and the directions to go. We should pay more attention. One movie, Bordertown, does what movies are suppose to do, at least what I like, instruct and tell a good and compelling story or confront a societal problem. Bordertowm does all of these. It is about the murders of young women working in the factories on Juarez, going home alone at night, being attacked, murdered and their bodies buried in the desert. Some estimates say that thousands have died.

Bordertowm took on NAFDA, Mexican profiteers working these poor women, often way to young, for pittance in wages, no protection at night--the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor.

As movies go, there are a few implausible things but the movie does its job in bringing the problems to light. Jennifer Lopez, as an actress, is good I think. I don't know why she gets panned so much, probably reviewers can't separate singer/lifestyle from her job. Damned if I know.

This is the third movie I think which does a good job with issues of immigration from Mexico and highlights problems. Jack Nicholson's, The Border, was one: Three Burials of Estrada was another one. And, who can forget the hopelessness and happenstance of a wonderfully sweet Mexican nanny in Babel.

A book called The Reapers Line speaks to the same issue and absolutely one of the best books I've ever read in highlighting the real border problem which is DRUGS. Although about drug interdiction, it hit the migration issue and hard. One of the best statements on the subject, something like, "The problem with our immigration policy isn't the poor Mexicans trying to gain a better life for their families but those who are profiting from them like the drug lords,etc." What we may need to root out corruption is Denzel Washington in Men On Fire. Denzel confronts kidnapping in Mexico where he kills everybody but the director.

The final hit has to be our own lack of common sense in our approach to our neighbors to the South. If we took a fraction of the money we have wasted in Iraq to root out corruption in Mexico, improve the possibilities for the workers, they wouldn't want to come to the U. S. Will we do anything? I doubt it but movies like Bordertown keep trying.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


My High School English teacher, Ms Dixon, use to chide us about the world situation by saying something like, “You can never accomplish anything in life unless you get lighting flashing mad". She's right on! I recently read one of those pieces in the New York Times Magazine that made me lighting flashing mad--Is Afghanistan A Narco-State? It was written by Thomas Schweich, a former senior counter narcotics official in Afghanistan. He seems to know what he's talking about and is taking on the supplier of 90 percent of the world's heroin: Afghanistan. Basically, the good professor (he's now a prof. of law at Georgetown U) says that we weren’t allowed to eradicate the opium fields in Afghanistan because of corruption at the highest levels and a myth that had been perpetuated intentionally that poor farmers are driven to raise poppies as their only livelihood: take away that and we hurt them. According to this article, not so, quite the opposite, the wealthy war lords in the South of the country are making big time bucks from poppies while in actuality the poorer farmers in the North of the country have reverted to traditional crops like veggies, cotton, and wheat and are already making great headway. The wealthy farmer/warlords/profiteers in the South are putting big bucks in their pockets, not to mention the Taliban raking in millions to finance their war efforts.

There were so many disturbing things about this article: the first glaring one is that Schweich would write it to begin with; a high muckedy muck with a good case for how we are screwing up. His patience with the corruption, based on the article, astounded me. The article may be written from his perspective but there is no doubting that he knows what he's talking about and is taking a risk. The second big discouraging issue coming from the article, is the continuing fact that it is a wonder that we ever get anything done given the egos and turf issues, to include the military. Rarely does anyone say “for the good of the country,” or accomplishing the overall mission as opposed to saying what is in it for me or how will this help or hurt my career. And, for me, it is reaffirmed that the present U.S. Administration (Condi Rice came out looking pretty good in the article and let's give her credit) could screw up a two car funeral procession.

From the article, one has to conclude that Afghanistan has become a country where it is only a matter of time until it reverts to where it was or worse, like so many places in our world, self interests trump the people and the good of the country.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Examples of the lack of common sense abound us daily. However, on the public stage, there seems to suddenly be an epidemic. Think of the Texas cop who arrested a nine months pregnant illegal, handcuffs and chains her to the bed. (He did have a little help in all this stupidity, however with supervisors). The mother eventually delivers her child, which is promptly taken away from the mother by other brilliant Texans--a whole series of sans common sense actions. It is Texas, however which may serve as some excuse.

And, now taking a cue from the Texas mental giants, some Air Force generals siphoned off millions of dollars from terrorism money to build luxury planes to haul other generals around. This, of course, on top of flying nukes all around the nation while some of their other compatriots are found to be napping on the job.

Let's see what happens to these guys--anybody this stupid needs to get the ax but doubly so since they are suppose to be protecting us. Honestly, it is as though the Air Force's top military brass has been taken over by an alien force at worst or brains bottled in formaldehyde at best. HELP!


These are two stories that won't go away. The first one is the infamous Swift
Boats Vets
and how they were used for political purpose. John Kerry won't let it go! Somehow his honor is tied up in it. I understand. Did it cost him the Presidency? I don't think so. It is kind of like a last ditch field goal in a hard fought football game--wouldn't be a problem if the field goal was not the difference. The election was probably lost in other ways. If the contest had already been decided, the Swift Boat Vets would have been a non issue.

Regardless, the Swiftboat Vets were used at least as I see it. Although John Kerry's tour of duty and awards didn't fit a usual pattern, his awards were in order. And, if you know the military, nothing is left to chance in the awards arena: everything is verified--Witnesses have to be produced--no chance. The Swiftboat Vets, with their own agendas, either lied or didn't think. Had they been thinking, I would like to hope that they would have given a fellow vet the benefit of the doubt. They didn't. Their main funder, T Boone Pickins, appears to have switched course. Come on, John, LET IT GO!!!!!!

The second story that hangs on is the Tillman friendly fire incident. I get it. On the part of his Mother, who has authored a book--it has to be grief--we surely understand.

Nothing could or will replace her son. However, I doubt that blaming
his fellow Rangers, the Army, God, whoever will take care of the
grief. Having read lots of the material, official and otherwise, it
was an accident which may have been prevented. But, in war, all the scenarios are off the table. When you are in the fields of fire, anything can and does happen.

I don't know what happened. What I do think might have surfaced for some who were there, they wanted to preserve Sergeant Tillman's hero statue. In the Nam, we did it when we had too and nobody questioned it. Often, they could have. Being killed by the enemy is a heck of a lot better than killed by your own.

Did the Army lie? Probably, somebody did but it doesn't change anything. Grief is a powerful emotion and sometimes people have to do what they have to do to get past it. Could be this is what Ms. Tillman is doing. God bless her.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This is the anniversary of the Volunteer Army: 35 years. I would not have known it had not the Chief of staff of the Army, General George Casey, called our attention to it. Instead of touting the success of the Volunteer Army, he should have been apologizing for leading us down the primrose path.

What the military is charged with at the higher levels is making sure that we are prepared for any military contingency. The generals have failed miserably. During the cold war, they went for a smaller Army and were literally seduced by high tech. They said we were prepared by producing a gaggle of slogans even as Casey has: sustain, prepare, reset, transform--what the hell does that mean? Some civilians have spent days coming up with it. Every new Chief needs some gimmick. How about this, admitting that a Volunteer Military, even though good, cannot sustain us when we are in a prolonged war.

What we now know is that Casey and other generals have been willing to claim success of the Volunteer Army and by doing so have put us in an incredibly precarious situation. They accepted plans for a war in Iraq with an inadequate force, creating untenable choices for our soldiers.

Multiple tours of duty have become the rule rather than the exception. Problems abound, i. e., suicide, divorce, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in varying forms. If our Army isn't broken, it is close. Policies like Stop Loss and forcing Guard and Reserve troops to perform missions for which they are not trained or ill equipped is tantamount to unforgiven--think Abu Grabib. Almost every single difficulty we face with our military today can be placed at the feet of the top Generals , plain and simple.

Although I understand the generals retiring from The Forces and writing books telling their true view: what went wrong, adinfinitum--any way served up, however, comes out somewhat disingenuous. For once, I'd like to see just one general say with clarity and no military speak the real truth is: the Volunteer Army simple is not working, in our present war footing nor will it likely work in the future.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I once had a blog called, Most Americans Are Stupid. I did away with it after the last elections mainly because the voting public surprised me. I had become jaded on the idea that our President had poll numbers almost like he does today and still got elected. My big thing was the war--how could we be so stupid after Vietnam to get ourselves into an impossible situation like Iraq. Hence, I had the need to write about it in a blog, but after the election and regaining faith in my fellow Americans, in honor of them, I deleted the blog, not that anyone was staying up nights reading it anyway.

I feel like in many ways, it is time for the blog again. Why? Well, Rush Limbaugh for one thing. Honestly, talk about fluxmoxxed. Here is a guy who was a dope head and should have gone to jail. He used his maid to get the drugs for him and yet he is supposedly in command of a 40 mil salary per year with 20 million listeners daily. Who are these people who would listen to this guy? The NY Times Magazine did a centerpiece on him a couple of weeks ago. I was amazed--to give such a guy this much ink is amazing and reduces in statue a magazine like the Times by at least 50% in my mind.

Still, this many Americans listening to anything this blowhard has to say simply floors me. In the same somewhat category is Howard Stern--how does it happen! He almost commands an entire radio hemisphere and yet, if you were to remove the "F" word and a few others, his vocabulary would be reduced by about fifty percent. Crude is not even close to the word. Who are these people who listen to this guy? And, in my biased view, the best we can hope for is that these listerners of these bigoted a'holes don't vote. Maybe it is time for my blog back again!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


***I’m sorry I can’t send you a personal email but with over 2,600 individuals in our address book it just isn’t practical. I hope you understand?

As is the case each summer, I am offering you a special gift in return for helping us through the dog days of summer. This is the time of the year when donations drop-off dramatically. It happens every summer. So, I have an incentive to consider sending something extra this month to help Vets With A Mission through the summer shortfall. On a first-come, first-donation received basis of $100 or more, as long as supplies last, you get your choice of one of the following books:

PS: If you would like to make a donation online through our secure web site click here: . Then send me an email to and let me know which book you would like.

***The above excerpt from an email gave me a chance to define my own view of giving.

I've expressed this view before but as usual, no one was listening--I like the idea of giving to individuals as opposed to organizations. This isn't always practical and organizations have to come into play but even with that, a person should follow the gifts and know where the money is going. Usually, the tax deduction issue comes up. Individuals have to decide on how important it is: personally, I don't think it's very important.

The little nonprofit that I'm involved with, Vietvets Family Project, has built two schools in Vietnam, plus a language lab in the old Cholon section of Saigon. We don't raise money, just word of mouth in case somebody wants to give to someone and run it through us, i. e., like a student. (Don't even know if this is legal, as we've never done it but sure that other nonprofits do). The worker bees, of VVFP, me and two other Vietvets, keep it simple.

This is not a pitch but just follows the idea of giving to individuals. A couple of the "girlfriends" gave this gal with terminal cancer a few bucks, as Andy says, a "C" note, to help her with expenses as she was going to Santa Monica for treatment. This was good and they got points but should have given a few thousand as they could afford it.

My basic view is that most people are pretty selfish and don't give. To be a little kinder and not appear judgemental, let me say it this way: most people simply don't think much about sharing their bountiful resources and they don't. I have stories but will spare you.

OK I'm ending this treatise as I'm certain you are hanging on every word.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Wow, if only the Iraqis would say get out and in my view, there is only a slight possibility they will. I am holding my breath, however, even with the least bit of chance. In my way of thinking, it is BS brinkmanship on the part of Iraqi politicians. The slight possibility, however, is a two parter dilemma presently in the mix; one, an LOA (Letter of Agreement) on allowing Americans to stay in the country and the other is the Status of Forces agreement that says who basically is in charge of the "Forces," meaning America or the Iraqis.

Could it be that the Iraqis could do for us what we will not do for ourselves? What has concerned me all along is our look of being permanent. We have established permanent type bases with great GI amenities telegraphing we're staying. It just can't happen. The politics and religious fanaticism simply will not allow it. Iraq is not like Germany after WW ll when we were an occupying force or for that matter, Korea. We transitioned in both places to a support role. In Germany and Korea, we became guests, not occupiers. We cannot do that in Iraq as our very presence denotes occupation. And, the presence of a foreign army in a Muslim country will, without a doubt, be a magnet to fanatics of all stripes.

With the Iraqis throwing us out, not only can we save face but end this debacle by declaring victory--we got rid of Saddam and gave you back your country.

It may sound stupid but the President actually opposes our getting out now. He once did say that if the Iraqis tell us to leave, we will. Let us fervently pray they will.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


As far as I know, my mom only voted one time in her life. It was when
Jesse Helms ran for the Senate. She use to watch him on WRAL TV in
Raleigh. It really didn't make any difference about the subject or
issue, Jesse was always running. To my mom, Jesse was the embodiment
of tradition and old time American values. The fact that Jesse
switched from Democrat to Republican should have caused her pause but
it didn't.

I was sad to read of his death even though it was time, 86. Based on
where one stood politically, maybe emotionally, is how one sees Jesse.
To some, he was a bigot, divisive, mean spirited with a talent for
character assassination.

To those like my Mom, he was a God fearing man who wanted prayer in
the schools, supported a strong military, was against taxes and was
for the "little" man whoever he/she might be.

In short, Jesse was probably somewhere in between. He was a
politician,afterall. An African American friend of mine, a fellow
North Carolinian said over breakfast the day after Jesse had gone on
to his reward that he was the least racist of any politician he knew.
I don't know how he knew but I think he's close to the truth. Jesse
could play to his audience. And, my Mom was on the front row.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

THE 101st Airborne Division Vietnam Reunion

Dan Roach was a Lieutenant platoon leader in Vietnam. The below is his account of his recent reunion experience. There really is nothing emotionally in the world like being with guys that you literally were in combat with in Vietnam. Here you are in the room with them, the emotional electricity is simply overwhelming.


BY: Dan Roach, 3rd Platoon Leader, Delta Company 1/501, 2nd Bde. 101st Abn.

Father’s Day, Sunday, June 15, 2008; I’m flying home to California after attending the 2nd Bde. Reunion at Ft. Campbell Kentucky. This was my first reunion and the four day event was packed with activities and good emotions. Thursday was a travel day with vets arriving from across the US and as far away as Alaska, California, Connecticut and local Southern States. Delta Company 1/501 had the best representation with at least 13 troopers. My first evening culminated with heart felt greetings from guys I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. Our departure from Vietnam was fractured to say the least, yet each individual reconnect seemed to involve a glaze that peered through the years seeing beyond the wrinkles, thinning grey hair and weathered structural changes to a rediscovery of that recognizable voice and physical mannerisms that was the essence of each soldier then and now. Heartwarming is a good term yet fails to describe the discovery of GOLD I experienced that first evening. It was like picking up where we left off without the pressures of WAR and with wholesome gracefully aged friends.

Day 2 of the Reunion started at 0800 with the boarding of the military buses which initiated an 8 hour tour of Ft. Campbell. We were treated to several briefings by post staff explaining the evolution of the configuration of the 101st from 1968 to the present. We also toured several memorials and were introduced to the Air Assault Course where several vets got the opportunity to repel off the Air Assault School’s Repelling Tower. A mess hall style lunch was served at a college type cafeteria; boy have things changed. I didn’t even miss the fragrance of the sun baked canvas mess tent or the rattling of stainless steel mess trays. Throughout the day it was evident by their absence that the 101st
Division was missing from Ft. Campbell due to their deployment to the Mid East.

The Don F. Pratt Museum tour was impact full as the history of the 101st was portrayed from inception to the present. One highlight occurred when a visiting family encountered two of our vets from the 3rd Platoon of Delta Company, 1/501 discussing their experience with a 90 mm recoilless rifle. The family was elated that they were actually speaking to a real vet that was an expert 90 gunner. The family’s experience was greatly enriched with their interaction with our vets. Though the evening ended with a BBQ Dinner at the Holiday Inn Express throughout the entire day bonds between brothers were once again forged with gratitude.

Paul Adamic a firefighter/paramedic from Joliet, Illinois brought his 101st display and placed it in our hospitality room at the Holiday Inn Exp. Although Paul never served in the military his passion for capturing our history through “soldiers in uniform” was evident; he got it right. Paul wanted feedback concerning the authenticity of his collection; a collection that Paul’s been working on for the past eight years. Though Paul received some minor feedback he got the opportunity to join in with us in our celebration and enjoy the many stories that ricocheted through the years and the photos that told the story of our “rendezvous with destiny.”

Day 3, Saturday could be described as a “minimum day” since our official activity was an 1800 Reunion Dinner at the Sportsman’s Lodge. Our group spent the morning touring a local memorial trail and military shops in the area. I had forgotten what a “Military Town” looked like yet Oak Grove seemed deserted since the Division was deployed to the Mid East. Once back at the hotel most of us gravitated to the “Hospitality Room” where we continued with our reconnect. I can truthfully say that I laughed till I cried then cried and laughed some more. Chaplain Jerry Autry, though not at the reunion in person, seemed to be present in spirit as he gifted each of us an autographed copy of his latest book the “GUN – TOTIN’ CHAPLAIN;” thanks Jerry and “God Bless!”

Later at the dinner LTG (then COL.) John H. Cushman led the celebration with a “key note” presentation which was extremely inspirational in linking our Vietnam service as part of the continuing legacy of the 101st. I was always proud of my service yet by evening’s end I was bursting with pride. LTG. Cushman (retired) asked for a show of hands of those that would be willing to commit to attending a follow-up reunion next May when the 101st “Returns Home,” from the Mid East. It would be a fitting welcome from those of us that weren’t welcomed home to celebrating a homecoming that we wish we received upon return to CONUS; count me in. The Alpha Company Co. Don Shive, presented Col. Cushman with a book “General William C. Lee, Father of the Airborne,” written by none other than Jerry Autry his chaplain. Once back at the hotel many of us continued the very important business of reconnecting until 0100 Sunday morning. Personally, I had an extremely important exchange with a warrior that was left undone for the past 40 years; our reconciliation of the event was priceless. I slept well that night.

Day 4, Sunday; move-out and return home. Some of us caught a quick breakfast in the hotel lounge and said our “good-buys” as others were already homeward bound. I made the 50 min. drive to the Nashville Metropolitan Airport (BNA), turned in my rental car; it was finally over. I was walking to my gate and was hailed by a soldier from A Company. We hadn’t had an opportunity to talk during the previous three days and for the next 90 minutes had the most interesting and bonding conversation. At one point we were interrupted by a young woman who had just deplaned and spotted my Screaming Eagle Base Ball Cap. She said “it’s Fathers Day and I see that you served in the 101st in Vietnam and I want to thank you for your service.” Shaking my hand, she said “my dad served as a Marine in Vietnam.” I was overcome with emotions though I responded with “I sincerely thank you for remembering and I forgive your dad for being a Marine.” She laughed and said “I can’t wait to tell dad!”

Delta 3-6 OUT; somewhere over Arizona headed west.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The first time I met Joe Bobrow was at an interfaith memorial service where he was the Buddhist representative. At that time, I thought: what a gentle person. It was somewhat of a generalized statement as my experience with the Buddhists in Korea had been quite extensive and always good. The Buddhist are a wonderfully "at peace" group that we would do well to emulate. Anyway, I lost contact with Joe until my wife met him at a gathering for organizations serving Iraqi and Afghanistan vets. Joe's organization, the Coming Home Project was and is doing fabulous and extraordinary work with Iraqi and Afghanistan vets.

The Coming Home Project seems to have zeroed in on how to grapple with the special needs of vets. With all the emphasis now, Joe's organization is already running retreats and providing therapy to hundreds of soldiers and families. I think it is poised to be the premier helping Provider for vets--no small thing. Too many organizations have great programs on paper but in actuality provide very little.

And, as we know, unfortunately, the bureaucratic processes often overshadows the care of the soldier. It always happens. Unless a soldier is unbelievably tenacious, he/she falls through the cracks. The Coming Home Project is a wonderful stopgap and advocate.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I just finished the book "Wiser in Battle", by LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez
(USA Ret.) and Donald T. Phillips. Sanchez commanded coalition forces in
Iraq after the invasion. Phillips has written several books on
leadership from a historical/political perspective.

Though the meat of the book is Sanchez's account of his command in Iraq,
his biography, learning experiences and explanations of Army command
form the context from which he tells the story. It's a helpful
approach. Just what is it that generals do? What do they have to worry
about? What goes on in a headquarters? Where does civilian
authority end and military authority begin?

V Corps assumed total responsibility of all U.S. and coalition ground
operations in Iraq after President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished!"
The fact that a corps (3-star) command assumed this monumental task was
only the first in what was to be a never-ending series of mistakes and
disorganized knee-jerk reactions. The agenda that took us to war was at
best short-sighted, and at worst handled in a way that put the
President's second term in higher priority than the war, and troops
fighting it. As commander of V Corps, Sanchez experienced 18 months of
poor (or little) strategic planning that would increasingly put him in a
position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul, create policy where none
existed nor was given when requested, and hold the collective hand of
the State Department. In addition, the Army was trying to appease a
Secretary of Defense who insisted on complete control of the remote,
changed channels on his terms, and kept the volume on mute

Sanchez outlines his military experience at each command level he
assumed along his career, and the lessons learned. He also shares his
personal life and how it shaped his attitudes and thinking. He then
takes the reader on a journey into 'post-war' Iraq, where the lessons he
learned during his career were at odds with the White House, the Senate,
and media-driven public perceptions. He covers, in detail, the problems
at Abu Graib, the insurgency, when and how al-Qaeda got involved,
Falluga, and the problems with Muqtada al-Sadr. He describes having to
take equipment from U.S. troops, who were already under-supplied, to
give to the coalition forces. Recounting the first assault on Falluga,
he writes how a few days into the operation, the President ordered
forces to 'cut and run' under fire -- a decision that fueled the
insurgency and invited al-Qaeda to pour into the country. His accounts
of dealings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador Paul
Bremer, who was supposed to be administering Iraq's recovery, leave the
reader with a sense of dismay as to how such people could be selected
for the highest positions in the country.

I think back to the Clinton years, and the years since, and all of the
stories of how the Clintons disrespected the military. Yet, in all of
those years, not one service man or woman, officer or enlisted, ever
stood up and supported that claim. GEN Colin Powell resigned his
position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when President Clinton
advocated allowing gays to serve in the military, but he claimed only a
strong difference of policy. Sanchez is not the first military officer
to make these claims about the Bush administration. According to him,
he was urged by many serving officers to write this book because they
can't speak out while in uniform. Sanchez supports a large number of
claims in the military and other government agencies that this
administration has repeatedly demonstrated a 'my way or the highway'
attitude and will squash any dissent.

To be fair, Sanchez was ultimately relieved of his command of V Corps.
He was blamed, at least initially, for the failures in Iraq. It
ultimately cost him a fourth star and nearly cost him his third. He
feels betrayed, set up as a fall-guy, and the victim of blatant lies.
To say that there are some sour grapes in his book is an understatement.
It can be argued that this book represents the ravings of an angry
ex-employee of the government. Yet, his claims are supported and shared
by some investigative committee findings and many fellow officers. He
doesn't attempt to hide his ill will and goes to great length to explain
the reasons for it. He states a good case for the poor treatment of
himself and others, along with the devastating effects being suffered by
our troops. Jerry O

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Almost every Vietnam vet who has been in heavy combat has pretty much the same "story." Sleeping problems, nightmares, and a long period of reconciliation. Most enter into the workforce and live a reasonably successful life while coping with various symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

During America's participation in the war, from 1959 into 1975, we lost 58,000 men and more. The Vietnamese recorded more than 1 million soldier deaths and perhaps at least 2 million civilians. One recovering combat Vietnam vet said something like this, which is so "right on." The process of training an infantryman for war is a dehumanizing process--we are transformed as just average "joes" to killers. We are forever changed by a type of brainwashing. The soldier comes home and is afraid to talk about his experiences for fear of losing control. Lost of control may have far reaching effects way past Vietnam but a direct result of the war. At its extremes, loss of control destroys lives in one way or another, i. e., jail or suicide, not to mention divorce, inability to cope, and all sorts of other results. At some point which is a gigantic trigger for the Vietnam combat vet, he grasps that Vietnam was a total waste of human life on both sides.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


What does it all mean? Without sounding almost cavaliar about a sacred subject, at least to me, (I did get in trouble once by saying the following about a purple heart) Being a combat soldier and a dollar and a half will get you a cup of joe in San Francisco, a small one, based on how much of the general population is interested in a combat soldier's war stories. Look at what little fanfare the war movies about Iraq or Afghanistan have gotten. Like none.

I just read where one of my favorite actors, John Cusack, is going to give it another shot in a movie called, War, Inc. He plays a mercenary in a fictional country. It is an antiwar satire. John, I doubt it will be on everybody's "to see" list, based on previous records of war movies. But, who knows! I thought In the Valley of Elah would get people's attentions, along with about a dozen others--most hardly made it out of the movie can. I do like the idea of John's movie, however, since he plays the role of a mercenary. At least it might be vicarious--in the old days of all these dictators who were abusing their people, we at least might have entertained the idea of taking them out. Now, with our morass in Iraq, we only can do it in the movies. Good luck, John.

Now, if you are really interested in reading about combat, I just read a fascinating account on Hamburger Hill. It was only called Hamburger Hill by the movies but an apt name. In actuality, it was called Ap Bia Mountain (in military parlance, Hill 937). And, from my perspective, the movie was pretty accurate, overall the best Vietnam movie made. I have recommended it to those who wanted to see authenticity.

It may have been the epic battle of Vietnam. But, in a sense, other than historical significance, who is interested or why should they be? Well, it is part of the American experience, and we need to acknowledge and hope against hope, that somehow it might make a difference to future leaders. It surely didn't work with our present one as he and his cohorts acted like Vietnam never existed. But, to those who fought, it surely did.

The details of the logistics and the battle itself are unbelievable feats. The battle costs the lives of 60 Americans with 372 GIs wounded. It is estimated that the regular NVA (North Vietnamese Army) lost 2000 in the battle.

The assault on Hamburger Hill signaled the beginning of the end. As a typical example of our many failures in that war, Americans took the hill and then were ordered to give it up. In less than two weeks, the 29th Regiment of the North Vietnamese Army reoccupied Hamburger Hill.(A really great book that details some Hamburger Hill type decisions made in Vietnam, Self Destruction by Cecil Currey)

Combat vet, Max Cleland's comments seem appropriate here: "I have seen this movie before (Iraq), and I know how it ends with thousands dead and tens of thousands more injured, and years later you ask yourself what you were doing there." And, to the troops, Phil Woodall's mantra in his wonderful poetry book, Rhymer in the Sunset, "They may have died in vain but they lived in honor."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


FINISHING THE SEASON. In the movie, Bull Durham, Kevin Costner, a minor league baseball catcher is released. He comes by to see his love interest who has a voice over once he leaves and says, “he has to finish the season.” I feel this way about Hillary. When I hear those criticizing her, I think, give me a break: she is just finishing the season.

And, she has done just that. Even though she lost the nomination, the media cannot cease bashing her. I am fascinated in how vitriolic some are toward her. I have been a supporter all along if for no other reason than she is a woman. Men have screwed up the country so much, let's give a woman a shot. Didn't happen. And, I am amazed that she did not get the nomination. My disclaimer, as if anybody is interested, "I would vote for almost anybody if he/she were a Democrat." I made my mistake for “W” first term. And, who likes all the Congressional types who call themselves Democrats? Or, say, Howard Dean. Well, not I! But, of all things considered, based on performance and the mess our country is in, putting the Democrats in gives us the best chance to right a whole series of disasters, mainly Iraq.

But, of all the things I’ve felt bad about this campaign, it is that Hillary has been treated so badly by the news media. I don’t think anyone who is the least bit objective can deny it; shameful as my Mom would say. There has been almost no subject that she has not taken abuse on: the “talking heads” foray of her remarks about JFK’s assassination as if she meant somebody is going to knock off Barack. Please! These O’Reilleys and Limbaughs need to get a life. But, it really is not only them, teh main street media too--amazing that the people, especially where she has won, have risen above the media negativity and voted for her.

In some ways, it is simply politics as I see it but then again, it isn't. To be honest, always in the past, I have not been so overwhelmed about the presidency, thinking having a majority in Congress counter-balances but "W" has made me think differently: a president can take you to war and that makes all the difference in the world. And, this president has done that and now we are in a debacle from which we cannot extract ourselves.

Congratulations to Hillary for finishing the season.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Barach Obama has recently resigned from his Church, the UCC (United Church of Christ) in Chicago. All of us are familiar with the controversy over the remarks of his now former pastor. I didn't get very excited as I understand preachers like the good Reverend Wright since I "are" one. The preachers have to stoke their ego, create controversy, stir the mix, fire the people up with outrageous statements and views of oppression. The demomination, UCC, was created out of several other denominations and has moved to where much of their leadership are minorities. And, as minorities have felt oppressed. Reverend Wright has made a theme out of the issue and I understand. Obama resigned, he said, so that simply he would not have to deal with it, nor would the Church: too distracting (my paraphrased view).

I continue to be amazed at how religion seems to dominate so much of the political life of our nation. And, so crazy in so many ways. Recently, I saw a "b" movie in a sense, Brooklyn Rules. So much of it, amidst the "f" word, had to do with being a Catholic: the Virgin Mary, the total lack of reality in tying everyday living to the Church. "Let's go out and kill someone and then go to Church and possibly confession, get forgiven for our sins and then we'll be cleansed and ready for our next murder." Really! And, truly, we talk about the fanatical Islamists--somewhat sisters under the skin with the views of the Brooklyn Catholics. The Brooklyn Catholics, however, are not going to blow the infadels up nor view that they are getting virgins in heaven. However, if I had a pulpit and preached this, I could stir folks up: and, if a member of my Congregation was a possible future president, look out news media. Get it?

I recently saw this letter to the editor, "Not to be outdone by Obama's pastor problems, John McCain turns down another pastor's endorsement from a preacher who said that God sent Hitler to help the Jews reach the promise land. All these wacko preachers make me 'thank God' I'm an atheist." I like it.

Just when you are at the point of shaking your head at how people use religion to convey such idiocy views or for their own purposes, making hypocrisy the rule rather than the exception, along comes something or someone that makes you stop and think. This stoper was an article in the local paper about a young preacher in Oakland, California who somewhat mirrors the ministry of Jesus: walking among the down and out, the downtrodden, dope heads, the poor. From the account, there doesn't seem to be any reward for him personally. I am slightly worried that now he has attained some notoriety, he might go "south" himself. It has happened before.

The "preacherman" as he is called has a flock of about 50 who mostly sleep on the streets. He gave up a comfortable life, a wife and child, was a PhD candidate at Berkeley. What gives? He shows up seven nights a week, rain or shine, to gently sermonize and pass out sandwiches, blankets and a few dollars he makes through day labor. This may be the only chink in his armor: giving away money to dopers, etc. might be a motivator for them to show. But, overall, a minor thing.

It surely appears that the "preacherman" believes his preaching. His message is very simple and basic and right out of the gospels. His prayer, "Lord, help us against the cold, the poverty, the loneliness, and keep us on the right path so we can love our brothers and sisters."

He works on odd jobs as a carpenter, hmmmmmmmmmm: At his 30 minute service, he hands out a few dollars to each--about $50 from a deck rebuild job he had done--blankets and food. "I don't expect people to become saints listening to me, I just hope they walk away with seeds in them that someday will flower. I want them to live better lives."

What gives? What would cause someone to give up a good life to live life on the streets with some elusive idea of helping people? Preacherman is a graduate of Rutgers--"I'm not nuts. I'm basically just a regular guy. But at one point I began really reading the Scriptures, and they really blew me away. God gave me faith. This is what I must do."

He got married right after college and was into his doctorate when he received the "calling." The marriage hit rocks when his wife couldn't deal with the homeless sleeping in their home. Yeah! "That was terribly difficult but we just disagreed about how I do this work, and I can respect how she felt." His ex wife moved back East. He rarely sees her or his son. "It hurts like a thousand darts in my heart not to see them, but this is the path God has chosen for me." The peacherman's mom said that he was not an unusually devout Catholic growing up. She thinks his transformation began when, as a history PhD candidate, he began reading the Bible in one of its ancient Aramaic-language versions. The Mom says, "My son is a hard worker and a good man, but he simply dropped out of school and chose his calling." The last time she visited him was about three years ago. "I didn't know where he was, but all I had to do was go to East Oakland and ask around to the homeless people. They all knew him."

Preacherman said he didn't start sleeping outside until four years ago, when he decided the best way to reach his audience was to live like them. He sold his collection of 300 scholarly books, turned in his apartment key and hit the streets. "It was pretty scary taking that step and I do miss the comforts, my family, all those things. But this is where God led me. And I will be out here until He has other plans." One non-homeless says of the Preacherman, "I was never that religious, but when you see the effect he has on these people who are just trying to survive, I have to say this: "You can feel God's love in him."

Contrast the Preacherman to Reverend Wright, Obama's pastor or these mega church preachers. I am amazed and always think: what is it that would lead this promising young man who wanted to be a college professor to end up on the streets of Oakland as a Jesus figure.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


There are no cartoons like Bill Mauldin's Willys and Joes. Sergeant Bill Mauldin, no less. Those looks of the Willys and Joes and the ordinary screw ups of soldiers in everyday existence always made me smile. I recently read a review of his life.

An aside: The fact that Bill ended his life with Alzheimer's is sad as it is for all who do. Why we can't end this disease is beyond me. To put a machine on Mars and not find something for this debilitating illness is way beyond me. Help!

Here's something in the review which is a wonderful tribute to him. "With compassion and precision, the military presents the widow or widower of its fallen fighting men and women a folded flag and thanks of a grateful nation. At every such burial an everyman folk hero is crafted from a lost life. Mauldin's characteristic skepticism of war's heroic commemorations may be more telling. Asked to comment on Tom Brokaw's enormously popular homage to the men and women of the Greatest Generation, Maudin blew his own version of Taps: 'They were human beings, they had their weaknesses and their flaws and their good sides and bad sides. The one thing they had in common was they were a little too young to die.' "

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Got to love the Marines and this is coming from an Army guy. Simply, there's something about them: the last vestige of "hardcore" that seems to be willing to go to the ultimate--just average guys or maybe even troubled ones, marginalized but once a Marine, it is Sempi Fi forever.

In the local paper a few days ago, there was an article showing Marine training ending with a grueling forced march, miles in full pack--enduring all to finally become a Marine. Makes me proud to know we still have kids who are willing to push themselves. Then in Parade Magazine there was a very heart warming article about a Marine remembering those 36 days on Iwo Jima. He told his story, the one of shooting at the infamous flag of Flags of our Fathers, thinking its flapping was an enemy soldier. And, actually putting a hole in it; the second stripe according to him. He was so funny and self effacing, "I should have been court martialed," he said. And, then there's his very moving story of sending back some Japanese souvenirs to a surviving relative--quite a story.

What I liked most though was his picture, grizzled in his uniform, smiling, holding his photo as a young man. And, then get this, he had three ribbons. Contrast this with the picture of all the generals parading on TV with all these rows of ribbons. Give me a break. They could learn a thing or two from Richard Nummer, age 82. Well, for that manner, all of us could.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Happy Memorial Day. I am always a little sad as it really is not about honouring vets in general but honouring those who have paid the ultimate price. And, I surely think that as we head toward the 6th year of an unnecessary war, at least from where I am--SAD, REGRETFUL, ANGRY--let's do a little better toward our brave soldiers than pay lip service.

With all this "support the troops," I can think of a tangible way to do it. Give the soldiers an honest to goodness workable GI bill. What they have now is inadequate to say the least. The Montgomery GI bill was started at a time when the Volunteer Army was touted as the final say so for providing a ready active force. And, it was at a relative time of peace and so the Congress or President didn't feel any great shakes to do better than the Montgomery Bill which just won't hack it. The soldier has to end up providing $1200 dollars himself for something like 36 weeks of schooling--not nearly enough to sustain the fledgling student. The present GI bill was like making a down payment without knowing where the rest was coming from. It was a benefit but a poor one. Now, there's a different Army, there's a world wide war on terror which is not going to end and it is time to sweeten the pot. Senator Jim Webb in trying to get his new GI bill passed said something like, "we must honour these few who are making the sacrifices by insuring that they have an adequate GI bill when they get out."

What we hope this GI bill will be is close to the WW ll one. In 1944, FDR gave GIs an adequate one and it paved the way for a bright future for the 8.2 million returning vets who took advantage of it. And, then of course, there's John McCain and the Senator from South Carolina, Lindsay Graham, who don't want an adequate GI bill because that means that soldiers might get out of the military. What sort of thinking is this? Well, it is the sort of thinking that got us into Iraq in the first place.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Saying something is SOP in the military is standard fare. It is like saying, "how do you do something?" Oh, just follow the SOP. In the civilian world it might be called a vision statement, protocol, whatever but in the military it tells you the rules and exactly how to do something, step by step. It spells it out, no questions asked.

Well guess what? SOP was not followed at the Abu Ghraib prison if the infamous photos show anything. In some ways, it didn’t tell us what we had not already heard.

What it really boils down too is a bunch of unsophisticated emotionally and intellectually kids left to their own devices. Non thinking youngsters who get into a kind of cult existence, led by this 37 year old n'the well who becomes their guru. The military, however, is where the real fault lies, the overall military is complicit. All of us who have any connection to the military should be ashamed. The chain of command totally broke down, leaving these kids on their own. And, to make it worse, they are National Guard troops, some of the first to arrive in the country, almost no training. And, then they are thrown into this crazy situation and it's the toll of war in more ways than one. From their perspective, they simply do what they are told to do.

My suspicion is that we have so few in Congress and other places who have next to no experience with the military, they did not even know the right questions to asked. Where was the chain of command? The Sergeant Major, The First Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant. No unit that I've ever been in would have let this happen. The First Sergeant and the chain of command would have been all over it. This is a sad aberration but one where only a few went to jail is equally an aberration. There are so many at fault who got away with not even a slap on the hand: Generals, commanders, non commissioned officers, civilians, the list is endless.

Seeing SOP makes an ex Army guy ashamed. This is a disturbing movie that few will see. The movie maker does those Hollywood sorts of things that make the picture entertaining in a weird sense: the music, etc. What is amazing are the interviewees; with this entire group, not one seemed to honestly get it, "not my fault, doing what I was told." Almost all didn't seem to get any connection between right and wrong, humiliation, basic decency. Maybe one youngster who was a generator mechanic and kind of got caught up in it. He felt bad that he had soiled his family's reputation.

Up the chain of command, there is not a single person who says, "I should have been there." The most obvious one was the Brigade commander. It was her job and in her interview, if accurate, merely plays the "left out of the loop" card. And, what about Sanchez. I always liked him but ultimately, knowing or not, it was his job. In his book, just out, Wiser In Battle, he absorbs himself from blame. Someone else's fault. To me, this story is the story of how everything associated with our debacle in Iraq has been mismanaged in every way. Sad, sad, sad.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Pretty sad commentary. Recently the Pew Research Center conducted a poll where they asked Americans to estimate how many soldiers had died in Iraq after all this time. Only 28% got anywhere close. Only 6% of Americans say they are even following the war. This is a sad fact and only going to get worse. People don't have any investment: Americans have not been asked in any way to make any sacrifices. And, although my practical mind says that at some point we have to pay the piper; still, sharper minds than me have said that we can continue to fund the war indefinitely as it is a small part of the gross national product/expense. My interest, however, is in the moral and spiritual toll the war has taken and this will only grow.

To say that we are in a disconnect is way beyond the pale. We have an absolute plethora of books and movies written and made from every conceivable viewpoint of the war. Guess what? The movies go unwatched and the books unread. A movie like Rendition with top stars and a compelling story of "what ifs" almost went straight to video. It is a story of innocents going to foreign prisons, one in particular; and the powers that be simply willing to indict a scapegoat. Bureaucrats considering career before lives and surely before honor.

The movie had some of the best lines and scenes that I've seen ever. With Reece Witherspoon, the distraught wife saying to the witch of a bureaucrat, "I only want to find my husband." The witch lying through her teeth: I wish I could help you my dear. And, then a Senator's aide, trying but then realizing that there's nowhere else to go: believe the government or trust his instincts. The government sadly wins through lies.

Rendition, at least, reaches out and gives conscience a chance--Jake Gyllenhaal, a green CIA agent, who is smarter than he looks but gets it. The government says, "we don't torture." He says, I'm looking at torture. Good for him. Atta boy.

Then comes some Iraqi vet who has started his own music label, To The Fallen which has already released three CDs. I am ordering them and encourage all to do the same--a small thing we can do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Immediately after 9-11, I said to someone: we will never be the same in our country and all are effected who have anything to do with us. I didn't realize at the time how prophetic my statement would be. Truly, life has never been the same. And, the terrorists probably accomplished much more than they even imagined.

I just saw a movie, The Visitor and, nothing that I have seen in a long time illustrates how much life for us has changed. A good story but a very sad one. Without giving away the plot, a widower, college prof and all around depressed guy, Walter Vale, is forced to go to the Big Apple to present a paper to a conference. Reluctantly, he travels from his college in Connecticut to his old apartment that he has kept. We are never really told why but assume that somehow it has remained a shrine to his deceased wife who was a pianist--quite good, maybe even a concert pianist. In fact, the story opens with Walter on his fourth piano teacher attempting to learn to play himself. He does not have the talent for it according to his very kind teacher.

At his old apartment, he discovers two people living in it. Without fanfare, they leave: a Senegalese, I think, and Tarek, a Syrian, who are lovers. Walter is played by Richard Jenkins who is perfect for the part. He is more understated than William Hurt if that is possible. He is excellent, so hesitant that one wonders how he navigates anything. So often during the movie, I wanted to finish his sentences. He was excellent and an unlikely candidate to learn to play Tarek's bongos. In a turn of events, the somewhat simple story gets very complicated. Tarek gets arrested on a bogus charge and is incarcerated in a warehouse of a jail; it is suddenly 9-11 and nothing is simple anymore. He is an alien, dark skinned, has no rights, something that Walter can hardly believe. Tarek's mother shows up and Walter befriends her. They start a very sweet relationship where the mysteries of every body's stories are imagined as well as real.

This is a wonderful movie where the implied thing is "what has happened to us?" Help. We have gone from a country where opportunity and promise are the bread of life to a country where suspicion is more the rule than the exception. Help.

In this movie, it doesn't all turn out right. The message is one where the innocent gets caught up in circumstances where before 9-11 would matter little but now, drives an entire segment of the population into a system of despair. All the bad symbols are here: the detention center for the suspects, the bureaucracy that is overwhelmed by sheer numbers and aren't paid to be even civil. And, then's there's the dismay from those of us who can't believe that we have come to this.

I had several overwhelming thoughts when I sat in the movie watching the ending credits, (1) we absolutely must get these people who are running our country OUT: they must go and if they don't, not only is it more of the same but those cherished ideals about us will be more and more dust. The second one had to do with the terrible toll it is taking on those at the lower levels who are the door keepers of the prisons like the one in this story or GitMo. Check out a movie like Standard Operating Procedure which is about Abu Ghraib prison and the atrocities and those who perpetrated them just to get an idea of what happens. And, a last one (3)which may even be the main reality: with all this time since 9-11, two wars, 4000 plus young Americans gone forever--think about it, all the books written which have reinforced the above thoughts; the movies like The Visitor, Rendition, Lambs and Lions, The Valley of Elah, scores of others which have pointed out how we have changed and moved away from American ideals--with all the books and the movies, nothing has really changed. Americans are still dying, spin is rampant and denial is a constant--nothing has changed as I see it.

While those like myself are sometimes accused of finding no good in our fight since 9-11, I plead innocent as it was only with the colossal mismanagement of the Iraqi war that I became a skeptic or worse. And, movies like The Visitor make me know we are no longer what we were and this is sad.