Tag Archives: U.S. military

Sacred Burn

“You want to do what?”

I knew my father wouldn’t like the idea of me joining the military, but the look in his eyes shivered my soul.  That was easy for many people to do to me in the late 1980s, when I had little self-esteem and little self-respect.  I had hoped joining the U.S. Marine Corps could cure me of that.  Along with my alcoholic and same-sex tendencies.  Besides, life was not going well for me at the age of 24.  I had changed majors in college three years earlier and was nowhere near graduating.  Both my parents were upset that I’d decided to study filmmaking instead of computer science.  But, after 3 ½ years of pretending both to know what I was doing and enjoying it, I had cracked in the spring of 1985 and made the bold switch.  As high school-only graduates, my parents had imbued me – their only child – with grand ambitions.  Their ambitions.  Their dreams.  They thought my writing was just a hobby to pass the time.  They never realized I’d considered it seriously in my private cogitations.  But filmmaking?  I might as well have said I wanted to be a professional gambler.

Then came the military idea.  By 1988, I was truly at a loss of where I was going.   Still, my father insisted I finish college and earn a degree – any degree.  Especially one he and my mother found acceptable.  They had reluctantly come to accept my detour into film studies.

But the military?

After the debacle of Vietnam, the concept of military service fell out of favor with many young Americans.  It was fine if dad and granddad had done it.  But not the new generation.  Things had changed considerably by the 1980s.  It was not socially fashionable.  The thing to do was to get a good job – establish a career, rather – and make lots of money and live in a nice house with plenty of beautiful clothes and a new vehicle every year or two.  That’s what my parents had wanted when they began pushing me to study computer science as I neared high school graduation.  I felt I had no choice then.  And, even by 1988, I still felt I had no real choice.  I gave into my father’s wishes (demands) and decided to continue college.

Sadly, though, I dropped out and entered the corporate world in 1990 – always with the thought that I’d return to compete that higher education.  Which I did.  In 2008.

I loved my father, but I wished I’d actually rebelled against his insistence and joined the military anyway.  I feel now that my life would have gone much more smoothly overall.

All of that began coming back to me nearly 20 years ago, as the U.S. plunged itself into two new conflicts: Afghanistan and Iraq.  The scorn I once felt for the military had metamorphosed into respect and awe.

And it’s become even more apparent since the election (via Russia) of Donald Trump.  This week Trump has found himself embroiled in more controversy regarding the U.S. military.  Most of us remember that moment in 2015, when then-candidate Trump disparaged U.S. Senator John McCain by stating, “I like people who weren’t captured.”  It was a direct smack-down of McCain’s brutal tenure as a war prisoner during Vietnam.  Under normal political circumstances, that would have ended most political campaigns.  But Trump persevered and, despite that comment and the fact he garnered a medical deferment during the same period because of some mysterious bone spurs, he went on to win the Republican Party’s nomination and eventually the presidency.  Could the nation have picked a more disrespectful dumbass to be our leader?

Now come reports that Trump disparaged the U.S. war dead during a visit to France in November of 2018 to mark the end of World War I.  Allegedly, he denounced the long-dead servicemen as “losers” and “suckers”.  Of course, these are just accusations.  But, while some high-ranking officials have come forward to state they don’t recall Trump ever making those statements, others have declared our Commander-in-Chief did say those things.

And that’s the irony of this entire debate, isn’t it?  The President of the United States is the literal head of all branches of the U.S. military.  Any national leader holds that role.  Thus, for the President of the United States to denigrate war dead as “losers” and “suckers” just sort of undermines his credibility – presuming, of course, that he had any in the first place.

But Trump doesn’t.  He’s already been proven a draft dodger (something conservatives so easily lobbed at Bill Clinton nearly 30 years ago), a tax cheat, a womanizer (another conservative slam against Clinton) and a failed businessman.

It was obvious to me more than five years ago Trump wasn’t fit to be the leader of the proverbial free world.  His actions and his verbiage have proven that to many others since.  While it amazes me that so many go into orgasmic-like frenzies at the mere mention of his name, I find him beyond appalling.  He’s just downright disgusting.

Our people in uniform can’t legally criticize their Commander-in-Chief in a public setting, but I certainly have no problems with it.  Trump’s words fail to surprise me anymore.  It’s just more proof of his mental instability and blatant incompetence.  All of that is bad enough.  But blatant disrespect for the millions of Americans who have served in uniform – including my father, other relatives and friends – is one of the most despicable things anyone can do.  Whether or not they are President of the United States.

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Tweet of the Week – June 12, 2020

Donald Trump on renaming U.S. military bases originally named for Confederate military figures.

There’s something inherently un-American about a U.S. military base named after someone who moved Heaven and Earth to fight against the United States.

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Best Quote of the Week – February 28, 2020

U.S. Marine Commandant David H. Berger

“We have the need within the country to try and create as much unity as possible and to suppress White nationalism and racism within the ranks of the military because, every once in a while, it crops up and causes an issue.”

Richard Kohn, history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about a recent order by U.S. Marine Commandant David H. Berger that Marine leaders remove confederate-related paraphernalia from the service’s bases worldwide.

Berger’s order comes about a week after a congressional hearing about the rise of social extremism within the ranks of the U.S. military.  It also included commands for more women in combat roles, reviewing maternity leave, and extending parental leave for same-sex partners.

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Best Quote of the Week – February 7, 2020

“I left the [State of the Union address] after Trump – a draft dodger who has mocked Sen. John McCain, Gold Star families, and soldiers with traumatic brain injury – started talking about the good he has done for our military.”

Seth Moulton, Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts.

A former Marine, Moulton led one of the first infantry platoons into Baghdad at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 – a conflict initiated by another well-known draft dodger and indiscriminate liar: George W. Bush.  He left Trump’s Congressional address this past Tuesday when Trump began talking about his “record-breaking” investments and support of the U.S. military.

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Shut Up and Draw

George W. Bush delivers remarks at the opening of his library in Dallas on April 25, 2013.

George W. Bush delivers remarks at the opening of his library in Dallas on April 25, 2013.

“I no longer feel that great sense of responsibility that I had when I was in the Oval Office.  And frankly, it’s a liberating feeling.” – President George W.Bush, to a high school graduating class in Roswell, New México, May 2009.

Countless numbers of Americans, especially several military families, wish we could liberate ourselves from the dismal legacy of the Bush Administration.  Unfortunately, we’re stuck with it.  But, survivors of military personnel killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars bear relentless pain and anguish.  Anyone who enters the military has to accept the fact that they could be called to war and therefore, prepares as best they can for it.  Their parents, spouses, children and other relatives try to prepare themselves, too.  But, it’s still not easy losing a loved one to a foreign conflict.

Recently, Bush launched an initiative to help our military veterans transition back into civilian life as smoothly as possible.  My own conversations with past veterans made me realize how difficult this can be.  Through his Bush Institute, the 43rd president is imploring companies to recruit and retain military veterans, believing their tendency towards self-discipline and teamwork makes them among the best employees.

“We’ve got a problem, too many vets are unemployed,” said Bush.  “There’s what we call a military-civilian divide.”

He just figured this out?  It’s a noble cause, though.  The unemployment rate for military veterans remains around 10% as of 2013, compared to 7% for the general population.  A few times in recent years military veterans working for staffing agencies have contacted me about various technical writing positions.  The moment I hear them say they were in the military, I stop the conversation and tell them how much I appreciate their service.  It usually catches them off-guard.  But, in turn, they appreciate just hearing someone tell them that.

However, Bush has gone further and also issued a challenge to the medical community to drop the word “disorder” from the term “post-traumatic stress disorder.”  PTSD is a relatively recent term in the lexicon of psychological afflictions.  It used to be called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.”  Many thought it was just a phase; almost an imaginary disorder.  But, it’s real and it’s painful for its sufferers and the people closest to them.

Bush, nonetheless, believes the “disorder” word stigmatizes the affected individual and makes them sound defective, or unable to be rehabilitated; therefore, he states, they may have trouble finding work in an already-fragile job market from employers who are weary of difficult people.

Gosh, how thoughtful.  It’s also hypocritical.  Like his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, Bush used just about every excuse to avoid military service when his country called upon him more than four decades ago.  An average high school student and occasional troublemaker, Bush managed to enter Yale University in 1964 and graduate four years later with a business degree.  Upon his graduation, his draft deferment ended.  The nation was mired in the depths of the Vietnam War, with public sentiment against the conflict (and the men who served there) becoming more vehement.  Still, Bush managed to secure a relatively cushy spot in the Texas Air National Guard.  Large numbers of young men were trying to do the same, and – according to some records – all of the spots in the Guard were taken.  I guess it didn’t hurt that his father was a U.S. congressman at the time.  Bush reenlisted in 1972 and was honorably discharged from the Guard two years later.  Questions remain about his level of attendance and whether or not he even completed his service.  His military records mysteriously vanished, and the Pentagon later claimed they were inadvertently destroyed.

I’ve always found that to be a rather convenient explanation.  A friend who served in the U.S. Air Force for twenty years, including several tours of duty in Vietnam, still has his military records.  All military personnel, he told me and several others more than a decade ago, are legally allowed to keep copies of them.

Dick Cheney, on the other hand, never did even that much.  He garnered five military draft deferments around the same time: four educational and one because he was a new father.  “I had other priorities in the 60s than military service,” Cheney said in 1989.

Words and actions always come back to haunt people.  I understand that no one wants to go into battle.  War is ugly and dirty; it is one of the most vile of human interactions.  But, hearing Bush trying to make nice with the people he sent to war is revolting.

The Iraq War is the crux of my anger.  It’s a conflict based solely on lies and innuendoes.  Abusing the international support brought on by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration created a tenuous link between Al-Qaeda and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  I believe the sole purpose was to gain access to the vast reserves of oil beneath Iraqi soil.  Proof comes in the fact that Halliburton (the energy conglomerate that Cheney headed before resigning in 2000) received a slew of no-bid government contracts.  For example, almost as soon as the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of 2003, the Army awarded Halliburton a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure.  Boots had just hit the sand and blood was still dripping while gilded corporate executives were salivating over big payouts.  While not necessarily illegal, no-bid contracts are certainly unethical and, in this case, highly suspicious.

War is fought by the grunts on the ground, but it’s waged by well-dressed power brokers in far-away skyscraper office suites whose idea of pain and agony is a paper cut.  It’s pretty much been that way for the past century.

As part of his retirement from public life, Bush has taken to painting.  He took up the hobby almost as soon as he departed the White House.  While his works may not earn him a spot in “International Artist” magazine, they’re being prominently displayed – (where else?) – in his presidential library.

In the spring of 2005, my-then supervisor at an engineering company, a coworker and I lived and worked in northeastern Oklahoma on a special project for the government agency where our firm had a contract.  We’d fly into Tulsa, rent a car and drive to the hotel in the far northeastern quadrant of the “Sooner State.”  One morning, as we prepared to board a flight in Dallas, I noticed a large group of people in military fatigues gathered nearby.  After a few moments of observing them, I approached the group and personally thanked each of them for their service.  They all seemed genuinely surprised that I – a total stranger – would do something like that.  But, it meant a lot to me that they were making such personal sacrifices.  In retrospect, I wonder how many returned alive, or at least undamaged.  I guess I’ll never know.

I’ll keep thinking about them, though, and I hope Bush just keeps painting.  He and the other clowns in his administration have done enough damage.

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In Memoriam – The Iraq War

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Today marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  It’s tough to believe an entire decade has actually passed.  Any war is a sad, catastrophic affair.  But, this conflict is made even worst when we realize it was not only completely unnecessary; it was based on a pack of lies.

The nexus of the invasion was that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” or yellow-cake uranium from Nigeria, or something that could wreak havoc on our world.  I knew almost from the moment that President George W. Bush stood before the United Nations in September 2002 that he was lying about Hussein’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

It’s equally sad that the U.S. media followed suit with the Bush Administration’s lies, and – to make matters worse – so did much of the American public.

The Iraq War did have one clear winner: the American oil conglomerate.  Before the invasion, Iraqi oil reserves were closed to Western oil companies.  Now, it is largely privatized and almost completely dominated by foreign entities.

“Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007.

Then Senator and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pretty much agreed, when he said also in 2007, “People say we’re not fighting for oil.  Of course we are.”

The Iraq War was a long time in the making.  You only have to look back to 1998, when Kenneth Derr, then CEO of Chevron said, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas-reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.”  Derr later became CEO of Halliburton – the same company Vice-President Dick Cheney lead until May of 2000, when he abruptly resigned and moved from Texas back to his native Wyoming.

In 2000, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell dumped millions into the Bush presidential campaign; more than any other presidential race.  Their efforts seem to have paid off.  Less than two weeks after Bush took office, Cheney chaired the newly-formed National Energy Policy Development Group whose entire purpose was to lay out the course for America’s energy future.  In March 2001, the group outlined Iraq’s oil production capacity and produced a final report two months later.

In 2004, Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, said, “Already by February (2001), the talk was mostly about logistics.  Not the why (to invade Iraq), but the how and how quickly.”

They found a way: the September 11, 2011 attacks on New York and Washington.  Dancing on the graves of the nearly 3,000 people killed in those attacks, the Bush Administration shifted attention to Iraq; accusing it of complicity in the calamity.  But, even before our troops landed in Baghdad, Cheney’s group was already making plans for Iraq’s postwar oil and energy industries.  Now, Chevron, Halliburton and several others have full access to Iraqi oil.  They must be happy – and proud.

It’s easy for draft dodgers like Bush and Cheney to wrap themselves in the American flag and cry freedom, before sending others into battle.  Like most wars, this one was commandeered by old men lounging safely ensconced in their leather chairs and fought by young people who often had no other opportunities in life, except to join the military.

Here’s what we have to show for the Iraq War:

Social conservatives always seem to find money for war – but never enough for education or health care.  Aside from the tangible costs, there are the emotional and psychological effects endured by military personnel and their families.  Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one – even if that person willingly joined the military, knowing they may never return alive.  The level of arrogance in the Bush Administration extended to the display of flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S.  In an effort to hide the true impact of war, photos of these coffins were banned from publication by the White House; a move you’d expect from the military dictatorships of Myanmar or Uganda.

Making matters worse, President Bush’s own mother, Barbara Bush, appeared on “Good Morning America” just a day before the Iraq invasion and said, “But why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or that or what do you suppose?  Or, I mean, it’s not relevant.  So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that, and watch him (her husband, former president George H. W. Bush) suffer?”

God forbid if Barbara Bush’s quaint little tea parties should be disrupted by the sight of body bags on television!  I mean, that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?  I remember Bush, Jr., saying that he still listened to his mother.  Now, we know why he’s such an arrogant bastard.

A few years ago my local ABC News affiliate showed a young man returning to his home in a small East Texas town on Mother’s Day weekend and surprising his mother who worked at a Dairy Queen.  Only his father knew he was coming back, but kept it a secret, so the kid could surprise his mother.  I thought, ‘That’s who’s fighting this war: kids from small towns whose mothers work at Dairy Queen.’  Not Ivy League lawyers and Harvard graduates; not the sons and daughters of hedge fund CEOs – kids with few options in life.  Many of them are dead now; their promising futures squashed so cowards like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can look good in the eyes of their blind supporters and large oil companies can earn extraordinary profits.

I know that the Great Creator will damn the likes of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice for fabricating this mess and trying to sugar-coat it with layers of patriotic fervor.  Until then, I pray for the welfare of those who actually did the dirty work of fighting this war.

A family tries to leave the besieged Iraqi city of Basra March 31, 2003 in the back of a truck near a British manned bridge that had become a demarcation line. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

A family tries to leave the besieged Iraqi city of Basra March 31, 2003 in the back of a truck near a British manned bridge that had become a demarcation line. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

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Veterans’ Day

Today is Veterans’ Day here in the United States, and I want to acknowledge all our military personnel – past and present – as well as the military personnel of other nations.  They often do the dirty work of the political elite who sit up high on their marble thrones and cry freedom and patriotism.  In the aftermath of this year’s vicious presidential elections, we need to realize true freedom is often written in blood.

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Cartoon of the Day

 

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