This War Won't Cost Much - I'm Already Against the Next One by Robert S. Swiatek - HTML preview
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This War Won’t Cost Much – I’m Already Against the Next One
Swiatek Press Copyright 2008, Robert S. Swiatek. All Rights Reserved
ROBERT S. SWIATEK
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Published by Swiatek Press, Inc. 71 Georgian Lane #3
Buffalo, NY 14221
Printed in the United States
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED to Sister Justine, my eighth grade teacheralso by Robert S. Swiatek
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I Don’t Want to be a Pirate – Writer, maybe
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Take Back the Earth – The Dumb, Greedy Incompetents Have Trashed It
Press 1 for Pig Latin Table of contents
1. 9/11 – a day to forget 1
2. Looking back 7
3. War preparation: big whoppers 13
4. Government deception 19
5. The romance of war 27
6. Hollywood hubbub 39
7. War – what is it good for? 47
8. The 9/11 response 61
9. Violence and conflict 71
10. Afghanistan and Iraq 81
11. Military intelligence 87
12. ROTC – it sounded like . . . 93
13. Crusades for war 101
14. The costs of war 109
15. The necessity of war 115
16. More reasons for war 125
17. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother 129
18. Pain and suffering 135
19. Hell, no, we won’t go 143
20. Bold steps 149 References and recommendations 165 Introduction
“The true patriots are those who carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, as a reflection of God’s eternal lover’s quarrel with the entire world.” – William Sloane Coffin
“Feeling, compassion, humility, dialogue and nonviolence all become the virtues of the weak. Ironically, it is the strong who need them most.” – Sister Joan Chittister
“If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility, never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility.” – Soren Kierkegaard
In June 2008, I finished reading Jim Marrs’ excellent book on war, The Terror Conspiracy: Deception, 9/11 and the Loss of Liberty. If you don’t believe in those things, I hope your reason isn’t because they don’t exist. There have been too many conspiracies in history to deny them. Moreover, some things are magic or magical, but certainly not bullets.
The book by Marrs should be read by everyone, despite its length at over four hundred pages. His treatise covers war and terrorism not only during the present time, but during the past half century as well, and from the book, you can certainly arrive at some conclusions about the future – not all of them pleasant. I warn you: the book is scary and in many ways discouraging, but you will also find hope. In addition, once you start it, you’ll have a difficult time putting it down.i
I also enjoy reading books by Michael Moore and his movies are worth seeing. Soon after it came out, I watched his award winning documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. If you haven’t seen it, it’s eye-opening. You may also want to get a view of what war really encompasses by reading his book, Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Watching the movie verified what I have read by various authors about war, especially the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq in the twenty- first century. It also gave me the opportunity to place a face with a name, as some of the writers whose books I have used as references appear in the movie. Also appearing on the screen are the victims of war referred to in the Moore book. In it, you will find numerous quotes – a few of these can be found at the end of some of the chapters here – by those who have experienced war, whether they have a friend or relative fighting, are soldiers themselves or veterans of war. People can make statements about being in the trenches, but these individuals have witnessed the horrors firsthand. Their voices should be heard.
There is nothing that compares to war. People debate that point, but I doubt that they ever served their country in battle. There have been many words to describe these types of conflicts, but certain expressions and phrases that have been used in the past don’t truly apply, such as “great war,” “romantic adventure,” and “fighting for peace.” I’m sure you can recall others. There is nothing glorious about war and as displayed in Fahrenheit 9/11, few people would volunteer to send their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mom, dad or cousins to battle, especially those in political office.
Wars have been fought for too long. Today, war is always unjust because of the weapons used. It is vastly different from years past in many ways but some things haven’t changed. People still die so that others can profit. And indeed the rewards are extraordinary. Warii
discriminates, as people in power who have money are never sent into battle. It is only those without resources who are commissioned to fight these illogical wars. Those transported to Iraq and Afghanistan are the poor and middle class, while the leaders usually never see the front lines, or anywhere near the area of conflict, except to proclaim “Mission Accomplished” when the battles are only beginning. Some of these leaders who conceive war have even been draft evaders.
War results in the destruction of human beings, resources, the earth, air and seas and the waste of money that could be better used elsewhere. The atomic bomb was one of the worse creations in the history of the world. If you use it, you destroy lives and the planet. If it never gets utilized, you’ve wasted materials and you still need to find a place to safely dispose of these weapons of mass destruction. That task itself is impossible.
I had an idea to write this book about a decade ago. Sometime in the 1990s, I penned a book of essays and one was titled, “Good war,” so that was the beginning. Looking at backups that I always take today – that wasn’t the case for my first PC – I found a word document of over eighty formatted pages from the end of 2004. It appears that I have been writing this book for about five years. I think it’s time to bring it into print.
Gazing at that backup file, the title for the book was Just Another War. I had a few other possibilities but settled on This War Won’t Cost Much, although in the spring of 2008, I added the subtitle. You should be aware that Paul Wolfowicz uttered that same feeling expressed in those first five words. His quote can be found at the beginning of Chapter 14. The subtitle is important because not only is this treatise about war, it is specifically about my feelings, based on my observations and that of many other people.iii
In late 2007, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Because of the endless list of victims listed on the wall, anyone who visits it will have a difficult time looking for the name of someone they knew who perished in that debacle. However, there is order, based on the years of conflict. If you had a chance to read it all, you would find friends, family, classmates and co-workers who never returned from Southeast Asia. Too many young men and women gave up too much for an unnecessary war that lasted too long and cost the world too high a price.
A decade ago, I thought that war was unjust, unnecessary, immoral and illogical. As of the spring of 2008, I had seen too many movies and television programs on war and reached my limit to the number of books that I cared to read on that subject. Today, I am completely convinced – and by the time you finish reading this, I hope you will be, too – that this killing embodies all those four adjectives and others besides.
This book is an attempt to end wars on the planet before the earth ceases to be. This work discusses bomb building, why war is good for nothing except the undertakers and corporations that sell munitions and rebuild countries. It covers many other topics related to war, such as terrorism, 9/11, religion, the morality of war and all the costs, especially the loss of human life and environmental harm to the planet. I also mention a few twentieth century actions that people may not have linked to wars in the twenty-first century.
Brainwashing on a conspiratorial scale will be discussed as will violence and conflict, the horror of war and the pain and suffering that it brings. The role of conscientious objectors, the necessity of war and other reasons for it are other topics considered. Besides getting into the ugly aspects of war (that seems to be a pleonasm,) I have outlined a few things that we as citizens can do. We need not stand idly by and accept justification for attacking another country even though our leaders insist it is the only course of action.
You may feel that I am not qualified to write a treatise on war. I never served in Vietnam, the Gulf War or any other conflict, but I suffered through two years of the ROTC program at Canisius College. And you thought the people on Survivor had it tough. I and those reality show participants faced nothing compared to what those sent overseas were forced to endure. Not having anything to do with the Armed Forces, I can name people in power with similar “lack of qualifications” who have brought us into wars that should never have been initiated. I even asked a veteran of the service to consult on this book and was told no because of a conflict of interest. I’m not sure what position on war this individual had. If there was agreement with me, that could have given the book more support. On the other hand, had this person been in favor of war, those words may have balanced the book in some way, just like Fox News. It’s probably better there wasn’t any involvement with this war veteran. Balance is for trapeze artists.
I have no degree in history or political science. I am neither historian nor war expert. The latter phrase is an oxymoron. If there were such a thing, we wouldn’t have any conflicts. As I mentioned, I have done a great deal of research, having watched documentaries on war – when I could stomach it – and read various books on conflict. The bibliography at the back should attest to this. In general I don’t care for war movies, but nevertheless have seen more than my share of movies about Vietnam and just about any war you can imagine. Because of this, I may be better qualified to speak against war than a power-crazed leader or war-mongering captain. I haven’t been brainwashed.v
I have a great deal of respect for the military. Unfortunately I can say that the leaders of many countries don’t seem to share my feeling of admiration. In war after war, people in office fail to listen to the generals who know better. Some military leaders have been removed from power because of these differences. Of course, over the course of history there have been ruthless leaders in war and many appear to have been brainwashed by their superiors. Simultaneously, there have also been men in the military who served in battle who were cautious, intelligent geniuses. Even today you will hear generals and corporals insist that war is a huge waste and should never have been started. I agree with them completely, no matter what war you are describing.
Above all, I hope you will be convinced that all the statistics about war are meaningless because they’re just numbers, which can easily be manipulated by a government or press. Stating that any war won’t cost much is nothing more than a lie for too many reasons. Arriving at a trillion dollar amount is much too low since the number of dead and wounded can’t be counted and the costs continue long after the war is over. This applies to any war, that one or this one. 1. 9/11 – a day to forget
“The task of our generation – the generation which President Roosevelt once said has a ‘rendezvous with destiny’ – is to organize human affairs so that no Adolf Hitler, no power-hungry war mongers whatever their nationality, can ever plunge the whole world into war and bloodshed. Soon the nations will have to face this question: Shall the world’s affairs be so organized as to prevent a repetition of these twin disasters – the bitter woe of depression and the holocaust of war?” – Henry Agard Wallace
“It is not that we see democracy though the haze of optimism. We know that democracy is a jewel that must be polished constantly to maintain its luster. To prevent it from being damaged or stolen, democracy must be guarded with unremitting vigilance.” – Aung San Suu Kyi, the inspirational and courageous democracy fighter of Burma
I am not sure why I didn’t hear the news sooner since I usually have the radio on in the car. Perhaps I was listening to a cassette or else I had on the Toronto FM jazz station as I was traveling on the interstate into the city. I got to the library and was headed to the front desk to turn in some books and CDs. As I walked past the TV monitors, I noticed people congregating. I soon discovered that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
I found some books and some DVDs and headed over to the checkout area. I then proceeded to my car and turned on WBFO, the Buffalo NPR station. It was then that I learned of the four planes crashes, the fact that the twin towers had been reduced to rubble and that many people had perished. I won’t elaborate on all the gory details, with which anyone reading this is all too familiar.
Unfortunately people all over the world have been deeply affected by that day, and since then, nothing has been the same. Before September 2001, the expression 911 had a particular significance, but now it will always be a reminder of that shocking event. Perhaps the perpetrators specifically chose that day to make that connection. That was a day that we would all like to forget, but unfortunately it is burned into our memory.
One question has come up and will do so for many years to come. Could the tragedy have been prevented? Some people in government say that there were warnings, but they were too general. On the other hand, there seemed to have been enough specific information to somehow stop the terrorists just as had been done in the late 1990s on a few occasions. Various intelligence agencies knew that something was going to happen, even to the point that they did not rule out the use of airplanes to cause great destruction and loss of life.
John O’Neill and Richard Clarke worked tirelessly studying the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The latter even wrote a book detailing the danger that terrorists posed to the United States. Against All Enemies describes many details that many didn’t pay attention to or want to hear. O’Neill was on the trail of the Saudis who were about to fly planes on suicide missions. He had a great deal of information about these men, but most of his efforts were thwarted. No one would listen to his pleas. In fact, before 9/11, John O’Neill stated publicly that he was blocked from investigation of the Saudi connection for political reasons. Eventually he was so frustrated that he quit his position to take a job as head of security at the World Trade Center. He died on September 11th.
Richard Clarke had been in intelligence for years, having served under presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. In January 2001, he kept up his efforts in the struggle against the dangerous Osama and Al Qaeda. Month after month he suggested getting together to let others know what information he had. The Cabinet was too busy worrying about attacking Iraq. They weren’t concerned about Osama bin Laden but tragically that changed on a bright sunny Tuesday in September. But then it was too late.
Wrongly accused, the intelligence community turned out to be the scapegoats. They had the knowledge ahead of time and tried to pass it on to those in power. Amazingly, despite these failures, no one higher up in the agency was relieved of his job. Eventually, Richard Clarke left his position, as did George Tenet.
As most people probably realize, the Bush administration is partly to blame for the events of that September day. You could blame the CIA, FBI or any of the other agencies studying the threat. However, as Richard Clarke in Against All Enemies points out, he and others were aware of the danger and saw something coming. There are other sources validating this. In fact, a friend of mine whose husband has an office in Manhattan, mentioned that people who worked at the World Trade Center were advised to stay home on September 11th.
According to the Journal News of October 11, 2001, in September 2001, the entire New Utrecht High School in New York knew a week beforehand that the Twin Towers were to be attacked. In addition, there were several reports from foreign allies about what was to come. These were all ignored.
Many others related this same information. Richard Clarke’s book seems to confirm the knowledge before the fact. When he initially heard about the plane crashes at the World Trade Center, he surmised that the death toll could be anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000. The count of 3,000 deaths points out that perhaps some people got information the day before and refused to go to work.
I find it difficult to accept the argument that intelligence agencies weren’t doing their job. If that is the case, all these agencies should be dismantled. We could save a fortune and the money could be used to provide retirement benefits and health care coverage for all Americans, matching that of Congress. Granted, people have on occasion mentioned that a “government job” is an oxymoron, but I don’t think that was the case relative to the attacks. Despite many lazy, bloodsucking employees who sit around and do as little as possible, there are many diligent people on the job. I have worked for the government and know others who have done likewise, all actually earning a paycheck, and we weren’t the only ones with this attitude. Blaming the FBI, CIA or other security agencies is a copout. If individuals screwed up, why weren’t they made redundant? I don’t mean it that way.
The president and his staff may have been too preoccupied with planning other wars to be concerned with terrorism threats. I don’t believe in micromanaging, so they should have been concerned with their tasks but used information that others were paid to provide, specifically about threats to the country. This didn’t seem to happen. Maybe they just simply took the day off and went on vacation. After all, it was still summer. George W. Bush did spend a great deal of time in Crawford, Texas. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation, but according to the meticulous records of Mark Knoller of CBS news, as of September 3, 2001, the Prez had spent 42 percent of his time after being elected president at the Crawford ranch, Camp David or Kennebunkport. He said that some of these days were “working vacations,” another oxymoron. You can’t get much accomplished for the country if you are sawing down trees and hunting. At least Cheney didn’t shoot anybody.
FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee alleging United States intelligence agencies had enough information to prevent the attacks. In December 2001, the Bush Administration censored twenty-eight pages of a joint congressional report on the September 11th terrorist attacks. The following August, Vice President Dick Cheney advised Bush not to turn over to Congress the president’s August 2001 intelligence briefing that warned of the terrorists’ trying to hijack airplanes.
There were many other signs that should have alerted someone of oncoming danger but no action was taken. If an individual wants to learn to fly an airplane without learning how to land or take off, this might be an indication that the student probably doesn’t have career plans as a pilot. The obvious outcome of this lesson can only be “suicide,” and the instructor should have had enough concern to report this behavior to the proper authorities. Unfortunately when businessmen are handed huge sums of cash, greed checks in and the brain shuts off. That’s why this class in flying succeeded on behalf of the terrorists. Credit must be given to some people since they passed these warnings along to others. Unfortunately, action wasn’t taken.
A few months after September 11, 2001, I somehow was tuned into a program about that day on the CBC called The Fifth Estate, questioning the official story. As a result, I had some doubts and obtained a few books on some of the unexplained concerns with what we had been told. The books you may care to read are by The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, Inside Job by Jim Marrs and 9/11
Synthetic Terror: Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley. I won’t go into any further detail but you can search on the Web for information and I may add some observations to the web page I have on this book. You may also want to research The Project for a New American Century and Operation Northwoods.
You can question what happened on that tragic day or accept what has been passed on to the public as the truth. I agree with Michael Moore who doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories except the ones that are true. Better yet, I like the quote by author Nelson DeMille, “Conspiracy is not a theory; it’s a crime.” Over the years, there have been too many conspiracies to deny the existence of them. Regarding the events of 9/11, my problem is that there are too many coincidences that occurred relative to the tragedies that would have to be accepted to rule out that 9/11 was an inside job. Anyway, I urge you to read some of the books on that event, rather than tuning in to Fox News, CNN or the major networks.
“We left thinking we were protecting the Iraqi people and protecting the people of the United States from terrorism. When in truth we are the terrorists.” – Chris F., who was in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004
2. Looking back
“I don’t think we should be over there. I don’t think it’s about justice and liberty, I think it’s about economics. The big oil corporations have a lot to do with what is going on over there. We are risking people’s lives for money.” – Patricia Biggs
“Let it be said then that I wrote this book in the absolute conviction that there has never been, nor ever can be a ‘good’ or worthwhile war.” – Farley Mowat, World War II veteran commenting on his 1979 book, And No Birds Sang.
“Where there are too many policemen, there is no liberty. Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice.” – Lin Yutang
“There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are all one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.” – Barack Obama“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – Edward R. Murrow
The blame for the tragedy of 9/11 goes back over a quarter a century to the 1970s. Had certain steps been taken then, the terrorist acts may not have occurred. That period brought an oil crisis and with it, gas rationing. Depending on the last number on your license plate, you could only buy gas every other day of the week. If you ran out and it was not a day in which you could procure gasoline, you’d have to wait a day. When it was permissible for you to buy gas, you’d still have to get in line at the pump.
People were more concerned about the environment and didn’t drive gas guzzling trucks and SUVs. President Jimmy Carter urged conservation, including lowering the thermostat in winter and raising it if air conditioning was necessary in the summer. He even appeared on television to urge people to get away from their self-indulgence and consider making sacrifices. Some listened and others ignored his pleas. During the late 1970s, Americans were held hostage in Iran and their not being released until after the election of 1980 probably led to Carter’s defeat. George Herbert Walker Bush, who worked for the CIA, may have had a great deal to do with this delay in the freeing of those victims. He also was Ronald Reagan’s vice president in the new administration. Before the election of 1980, comedian Steve Martin said, “I believe that Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was – an arctic region covered with ice.”
The changing of the guard still may not have affected the country, except that Reagan demolished all that Carter had done relative to conservation and the environment. In fact, he figured Americans were entitled to drive big cars, waste the earth’s resources and have creature comforts rather than make sacrifices of any kind. After all, we were living in America. The new administration couldn’t see too far into the future and certainly couldn’t predict what was to occur twenty years later. Most likely, an energy policy that reduced our dependence on Middle Eastern oil would have prevented the attacks.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the eight years of the Reagan Administration resulted in further difficulties with the war between Iraq and Iran. Those in power in the United States didn’t want the latter country to be a force in the area, so they did all they could to support Saddam Hussein. The administration supplied him with biological and chemical weapons and all he needed to create a stalemate with the Iranians. The struggle dragged on for most of the decade. Of course, the leaders of our country weren’t partisan as they also provided war materiel to Saddam’s enemy. You will certainly have more profits if you sell arms to both combatants. Greed is good.
Since one war is never enough, there was another going on in Afghanistan. The Afghan rebels were the home team, but also the underdog against the powerful Soviets. Secretly America came to their rescue, not providing troops but rather weapons to battle the Russians. You can read all about this endeavor in the book made into a recent movie, Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile, the true story of the largest covert operation in history. By the way, Mr. Wilson is from Texas. And you may have thought that nothing good ever came out of that state.
Some people say the end of that war brought with it the demise of communism. At the same time, the American government completely abandoned Afghanistan. They may not have known about the oil there, although if you believe that, send me $100 and you will be able to retire by the end of the month. One of the rebels who rejoiced in the defeat of Russia was Osama bin Laden. If his group could humiliate a country as strong as the Soviets, what other large strong industrial nation could they take on? Hint: It starts with a “U.” At the end of the decade, most of the citizens of the U.S. didn’t know too much about Osama, but that would change with time.
At this point, the country had two new friends overseas, Osama and Saddam. I don’t pick the people I hang out with the same way they do, but that’s me. In the summer of 1990, there was no lack of oil in Iraq, but for some reason Hussein figured he needed more. With his power becoming even more strengthened by the U.S. subsidies, he assumed he was close to invincible. He decided to attack Kuwait and take their oil. Before doing that, he felt he should get some feelers on the whole issue and talked to the ambassador, April Glaspie. She gave Hussein the impression that what the dictator did was none of the U.S.’s business. He probably should have gotten a second opinion. This point has been disputed by Tariq Aziz, who was captured during the latest Iraq War. The last I heard, he was still being held captive. Obviously, they both can’t be telling the truth.
Anyway, Saddam attacked Kuwait and Osama asked the House of Saud if he could take care of this problem, but was turned down. As a result, the United States entered the Arabian Peninsula and the result was the Gulf War of 1991. This occupation continued in part after Kuwait was restored. Meanwhile bin Laden wasn’t pleased with the American presence in the Middle East, before or after that war. It took about a decade but on September 11, 2001, we felt the wrath of Osama. At least, that is the official story. Of course, there were other smaller acts of terrorism before that tragic day, such as the first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993 and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
Had the Saudis allowed bin Laden to respond to the Saddam invasion of Kuwait, the World Trade Center could still be standing. The United States Government’s obsession with oil can be blamed for the early twenty-first century tragedy in Washington, DC and New York. Two families have a great deal to do with this, the House of Bush and the House of Saud. The former family includes the current president and his father as well as the late Prescott Bush, father to George H. W. Bush. What these men are well known for is their participation in politics and big business, particularly the oil industry. You might say the Saudis and Bushes are closely related. After all Prince Bandar has been referred to as Bandar Bush.
This closeness is part of the problem. You can read about it in the House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger as well as Sleeping With The Devil by Robert Baer, who worked for the CIA for over twenty years. With the unending clashes between Israel and Palestine, the reliance on Saudi oil and various terrorist factions, the situation in the Middle East has not improved with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the latest Iraq War.
Another book that I read in the spring of 2008 was All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. I was fortunate to view him on C-Span on the evening of June 7, 2008 and was impressed by his energy and the subject matter. It inspired me to obtain his work, which I had no difficulty finding in the Buffalo library. My arguments of the origin for the current problem that America is facing actually go back to the early 1950s. He points out that had Mohammad Mossadegh not been removed from power and replaced with Mohammad Reza Shah, the Middle East today would not only be free of the problems in Iraq, there’s a great possibility that that area would be a bastion of peace. Moreover, we may never have witnessed a Reagan or Bush presidency, the Iran hostage crisis, two Bush wars in Iraq and the horrible events of 9/11.
“I didn’t want to admit that my recruiter was a liar and that I was so gullible to sign my life away for six years. Once inside the military I realized that they don’t care about you. Your purpose is to collect bullets and fill a body bag. And for what?” – Jonathan, a former Marine discharged because of asthma
3. War preparation: big whoppers
“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war, in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch, and the blood boils with hate, and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear, and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.” – Julius Caesar“War does not determine who is right, war determines who is left.” – Chinese proverb
War never takes place without people training for it. The motion picture, Full Metal Jacket, should provide a glimpse of what “getting ready for combat” entails. Some months ago I finished reading Gus Lee’s novel Honor and Duty. It tells of a young Chinese American, Kai Ting, who decides to enter West Point to escape from his stepmother 3000 miles away on the west coast. I would have just moved to a different state and left no forwarding address, but for Lee’s main character there were reasons for his decision, which I will get into.
Even though Gus Lee’s book is fiction, there is nothing unreal about what the main character and his classmates were subjected to. Whether you enroll at West Point or the Air Force Academy or simply enlist, the first few weeks are grueling and degrading to any decent person. But that is the way the armed services operate. Brainwashing is one of the requirements for becoming a soldier.
In the novel, the first few weeks at West Point were characterized by degradation of the new recruits for a reason. They didn’t want the weak and the feeble to stay on in the program. This was the means by which people were turned away. There was another reason for the extreme behavior over and above the normal level of brainwashing. The first few weeks of boot camp were so intense that if you made it past that period, whatever followed would seem to be heaven, even going to war. That too was part of the deception.
I also give high recommendations to a work of nonfiction by the journalist Malcolm Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks. “Muddy Boots” refers to being in the field as the war takes place while “Red Socks” represents the apparel that the author bought since he hated the drab olive characterized by the Army dress. I can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t read this autobiography of a reporter who spent time covering the wars in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. He also spent time in Argentina and India on assignment.
Browne was a soldier as well as a journalist so he knows what is involved when it comes to war and mind manipulation. He states in his book, “The Army makes boys out of men.” He spends time talking about the various drills that the sergeants put the recruits through, particularly the bayonet drill.
“But bayonet drill wasn’t a game, of course. Its object was to thicken the psychic callus, so that when the time came, real slaughter would seem almost part of the natural order of things. Bayonet training was conditioning for face-to-face, remorseless killing, and that is the essence of war.”
You could argue that all the recruits would be driven away and no one would be left to serve his country due to the harassment and demeaning treatment by the sergeant. If only that were so, but that doesn’t happen for a few reasons. The first is sheer determination. Over forty years ago I decided to switch to contact lenses. Putting something in your eye is completely unnatural and somewhat unpleasant. You start with a half hour and build up wearing time gradually. That’s just what I did, and the first half hour was tough but I achieved my goal through perseverance.
That is precisely the mindset of some of the young recruits in the Army or Navy. They will get through basic training no matter what it takes. Other individuals may not be that determined but they hang on because of parental pressure or guilt. Kai Ting’s father had been in the military and his son felt an obligation to stay in West Point no matter what because of that fact, not wanting to disappoint his dad by bailing out of the academy. The parent and son or daughter connection in the military has been going on for many years. I know of cases of this happening and I am sure you do too. Just consider the plot of Saving Private Ryan, which is based on an actual family that lost three of its sons to war.
Besides pure determination and parental duty, others might join the service to get an education. Their intent is to get a college degree and the climate might be such that they never figure that they will ever have to enter into battle. Unfortunately there is no predictor of when war will occur. On the contrary, it seems like there is hardly a time when some kind of war isn’t taking place, even if it is only “minor.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think most people want to be involved in any war, even small ones.
I recently attended a presentation at the university about whether the country was safer now than immediately after 9/11. One of the speakers brought up the fact that a voluntary army is so much more efficient than one created from the draft. At first I tended to agree, but after some thought I came to the realization that those who signed up for the service really didn’t care at all to go to fight a war. They were there because of economic conditions and opportunities that they couldn’t find elsewhere. They signed up after hearing lies told them by a recruiter about not ever going to fight.
It really is necessary to brainwash young minds so that they can serve their country in battle. It is a great deal easier to do this if some cooperation on the part of the recruits is forthcoming, as I have pointed out. A few months ago I watched a touching movie called My Dog Skip, about an adolescent whose best friend returns from World War II as a deserter. Don’t let the innocent title of the movie lull you into thinking that this is another in the Home Alone series. The veteran is denigrated by his hometown but when asked if he was scared of dying, he said that he was scared rather of killing.
There are probably some recruits who don’t need much prodding to allow them to kill another human being, but most individuals will have to be brainwashed in order to pull off actions in times of war. I worked with a guy not long ago who served in Vietnam and considered that period to be the best time of his life. I imagine he would have re-enlisted for the Gulf War if he could have, except the Army wouldn’t let him bring his Geritol. He is not the only one with this attitude.
I read quite recently of a soldier wounded in Iraq who lost a leg, but was determined to get past that disability. He got a prosthetic limb and was determined to return to the front line. His patriotism and dedication are to be applauded, but you would have thought he had had enough of war. On November 7, 2004 the New York Times quoted a lance corporal whose name I won’t provide who stated, “I’m just ready to get this done. I want to go and kill people, so we can go home.” This was just before an attack on Fallujah. In both cases, it appears that the brainwashing had been accomplished.
This soldier may have gotten inspiration and followed the example of a soldier from the American Revolution, Peter Francisco. He was wounded five or six times. There may have been other instances of his injuries that weren’t reported. In each case, he went back for more. Surprisingly, he survived the war and lived to the age of seventy-one. I’m not sure but I think he may have been the model for a character in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
So what can be done to stop the mind control and the subsequent killing of other people? It is obvious that if no one enlists, there will be no one to brainwash. Without armies, there can be no war. Thus the people who refused to serve in Vietnam were doing the right thing. These people fled to Canada and were looked down upon with scorn. I give them a great deal of credit for standing by their convictions.
The soldiers who fought in Vietnam were spat upon and treated no better on their return to the states. So what should have been the path to take since both options resulted in rowing without a paddle? In reality, what is the difference between someone who fled to another country to stay out of ‘Nam and those in power who received one deferment after the other? That war, like so many others, was a mistake and history has proven that, although some “military experts” will debate that assertion. You know that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron, but now we have another. Take it one step further. Had the people who were commanded to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center refused the mission, I might be writing a different book.
“For every ‘whopper’ served to the American civilian, a whole menu of ‘whoppers’ is prepared for the American soldier.” – T.C., on active duty in the military 4. Government Deception
“‘We have the enemy on the run’, says General Custer.” – Art Buchwald, parodying Westmoreland’s claims of victory during the Vietnam War“If you want to know about governments, all you need to know is two words: Governments lie.” – I. F. Stone “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government even in its best state is a necessary evil.” – Howard Zinn
“When the big guys in Washington dream of transforming the world, it’s the little guys who come home in body bags.” – David Ignatius of the Washington Post
With respect to war, individuals besides those in the armed services bring about brainwashing. You don’t have to enlist to have your mind influenced so that your body can react in a specific way. To make my point, go back to the year 2001 and then step back ten years from that time. In each period, the president’s name was the same, flags were flying everywhere and America was at war. If you were opposed to the war or the policies of either administration, you were thought to be a traitor. After the attacks of 9/11, the chief executive referred to the war on terror by saying, “You are either with us or against us.” Apparently he never heard of the color gray, but he should have since that was the color of the Confederate uniforms in the Civil War. Well, I oppose war of any type, so I guess that according to the government, I am a terrorist. Talk to my mother, sister, friends and they will tell you otherwise.
In the twenty-first century, we saw the passage of the Patriot Act. Almost a century ago, the government passed the Sedition Act of 1918. This made it illegal to advocate opposition to the United States Government or to what was happening in the war. Democracy be damned. I seriously doubt if either of these laws would have met the approval of the Founding Fathers.
Going back to the Gulf War of 1991, I don’t condone what Saddam Hussein did when his country invaded Kuwait in the preceding August, but not enough patience was exercised with respect to economic sanctions against Iraq, which might have had an impact. People who complained the sanctions weren’t working may have been right, but they probably were chicken hawks as well. By the way, a chicken hawk is someone who all too often advocates war but never experienced it firsthand, such as people in power, even if they were appointed. Perhaps the phrase “chicken hawk” shouldn’t be used as it gives a bad name to two different animals. Henceforth I will use the phrase “spineless wimp” in its place. If sanctions were not effective, maybe they weren’t the right ones. This applies to any war. Yet, when someone says the sanctions aren’t working and thus we have to go to war, aren’t those in power trying to deceive us?
There were other incidents where the government brainwashed the country so as to be able to win public support for the Gulf War of 1991, specifically, the babies on incubators. According to a fifteen-year old girl named Nayirah, the babies were left to die when incubators were removed. That turned out to be completely untrue and in reality the girl’s last name was al-Sabah, from a royal Kuwaiti family. A member of that same family, Mishal alSabah, was a co-investor with Marvin Bush, the president’s brother.
Waving a flag in times of war is another thing I question. I see too many signs that say “Support Our Troops,” or “God Bless America.” I support the men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I support neither war. Thus, if I were to say that I supported the troops, I would be a hypocrite, since supporting them implies being in favor of war. Nonetheless, I feel for these human beings and pray for them daily and for a quick end to the war. What about those in power who sent these individuals to fight without body armor or adequate protection in their hummers? The truly patriotic thing to do is to get all the troops home without haste. That will save lives and the environment – what’s left of it after the last five years – and huge amounts of money.
“God Bless America” is wonderful phrase but what about the innocent men, women and children of Iraq? They have suffered through Hussein’s long war against Iran and the endless bombs falling in early 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The current war there is worse than that of a decade ago, as the insurgencies and endless warfare have made surviving a challenge in itself. Perhaps the sign should read “God Bless Iraq.” I like the bumper sticker, “God bless the whole world: No exceptions.”
Those sayings that you see on cars everywhere are a bit misguided. The ribbons that contain them are nothing more than a big-business effort to capitalize on war and disaster. Some people have no shame in how they choose to make a buck. I have a great place to put these ribbons, but it might cause some difficulty in breathing.
When I heard about the beginning of the Gulf War of 1991, I was ashamed to be an American. Many people thought highly of all the bombs falling and the great fireworks display. Unfortunately, it was neither a show after a sporting event, nor a Hollywood blockbuster. It was all too real and many innocent people were terrified and suffered because negotiations were abandoned.
And yet in any war, we are all encouraged to support the effort and proudly wave the flag. Those at the helm seemed to forget what the flag represents. The Founding Fathers established a republic that wasn’t perfect but liberty, freedom and justice were the goals that were achieved after fighting the revolution. Two hundred years ago, each star and stripe on the flag represented a state of the union, just as it does today.
Nonetheless, waving a flag doesn’t imply we can bomb a country in order to crush a brutal regime at the expense of killing innocent men, women and children. It doesn’t mean we can imprison others indefinitely without telling them the reason why they are being held; nor can we deny them rights and lawyers to defend them. We certainly are not allowed to torture or kill them. That flag represents freedom, which no longer exists when an administration passes laws that remove our rights and liberties all in the name of national security.
The flag also represents the fact that we can express our feelings; discourse that is discouraged or ends with imprisonment is in violation of the principles set forth by Washington and Jefferson. When the Freedom of Information Act is suppressed even though security is not an issue, we have lost much of what the Founding Fathers fought for over two centuries ago. When an administration fails to use its intelligence services in the way intended, the flag will result in being shredded, one way or the other.
Patriotism does not involve draping a coffin from Iraq or Afghanistan with a flag and then completely forgetting about the lives that have been affected. It also is not sending men and women to fight in battle and then on their return, blaming psychological problems of the soldier on that person’s life before combat. Flag waving also is not ignoring the veterans once they return to the states, nor is it ignoring your duty to the armed services by being granted special privileges because of your name or status.
The flag does not give a candidate the right to slander his opponent, spreading lies in order to win an election. Patriotism is neither Republican nor Democratic and someone aspiring to the highest office in the land who tries to win by placing a label on his rival while completely ignoring one that applies to himself is no friend of the Constitution.
By so many of these examples, we have been hoodwinked by our government, by the very people we elected to office to serve us. The events of September 11, 2001 resulted in even more brainwashing. If that were not the case, why were so many people willing to sign up for military service after the World Trade Center fell? In the war in Afghanistan as well as the Persian Gulf, higher-ups in the government made it a point to convince us all that these wars were a good thing. One day I turned on C-Span and heard some dude saying that war wasn’t the worse thing in the world. Well, tell me sir, what is? Have you signed up to go and fight in Iraq? Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the term “sir.”
In early November of 2004, while Americans were getting ready to vote, according to a Harris poll, forty-one percent of the population still believed that Saddam Hussein planned the attacks on the World Trade Center. As has been repeatedly demonstrated over time, there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism until after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Apparently too many people were watching Fox News and listening to right wing propaganda passed out by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. The only connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq is that each is an example of a “Q” not be followed by a “U.” Webster would be infuriated.
Immediately after those attacks on 9/11, the people of the United States were united in astonishment and grief. The nations of the world felt for the country and the administration had a great opportunity to do the right thing in combating terrorism, but they blew the chance. Going it alone wasn’t the proper choice. At the same time the president and his staff brainwashed Americans and convinced the majority of people that their way was the correct approach and anyone objecting to this was also an enemy of the country. A society where there is neither discourse nor dissent may just as well not exist. Most citizens fell into the trap of brainwashing set upon them.
The following quote is by Hermann Goering. Goering’s comments were made privately to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist who was granted free access by the Allies to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail. Gilbert kept a journal of his observations of the proceedings and his conversations with the prisoners, which he later published in the book, Nuremberg Diary. What follows is part of a conversation Gilbert held with a dejected Hermann Goering in his cell on the evening of April 18, 1946, as the trials were halted for a three-day Easter recess.
During the conversation, Gilbert recorded Goering's observations that the common people can always be manipulated into supporting and fighting wars by their political leaders:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
“Why, of course, the people don't want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”
“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”
“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
On October 15, 1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell, taking a capsule of poison.
“The voluntary army is based on trust. We trust the heads of the four forces to never ask us to do anything that they wouldn’t do themselves, or haven’t done themselves in the past. We trust them to be the wise soldiers that they are, soldiers who don’t invite war. Nobody loves peace like a soldier, they say.” – Bob Schaefer, who joined the army in 1972 at 17
5. The romance of war
“The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon…” – John Swinton (1880), former New York Times Managing Editor
“I learned the hard way there is no glory in a folded flag.” – an Oakland woman who lost her husband to the Vietnam War
The government doesn’t act alone in brainwashing the people. The media help, even if not willingly. In some respects, the two work hand in hand. The government allows coverage of the war up to a point. They allow reporters to send stories back home, but only after they have been censored. The amount of coverage throughout the years has varied from one war to the next. You’ll find instances of this control in the Civil War, where the military commanders required journalists to sign their name to their stories.
Sherman’s campaign of devastation was so controlled that the press were shut out from coverage of what was going on. At times, the people in the nation’s capital couldn’t reach him either. Some wondered if he was still alive.
Ever since journalists were allowed on the battlefield, they have had to deal with the reality of war and not report the actual conflict taking place. Why even be a reporter if you can’t tell others what is happening? No matter what war they were covering, journalists knew that the censors would not allow them to write about certain events. As it turned out, those checking the stories didn’t have to say a thing to those writing it as the latter eventually wound up censoring themselves. You could say the journalists were brainwashed like everybody else.
Journalists made a name for themselves covering conflicts beginning with the Spanish American War. Just like the Civil War, the military didn’t want reporters along in battle. Censors held back reports from the front lines until they lost their value. The government lied to win American support for this war. This tactic of misinformation has not changed over the years.
World War I was “The war to end all wars,” but apparently someone was inhaling when he came up with that designation. The sinking of the Laconia at sea brought the United States into that struggle. The government mobilized the press to obtain support for the war and whitewashed the public by lying about the actions of the Germans. The strategy worked. As Ernest Hemingway stated, “Journalists wrote propaganda, shut up or fought.” I would have preferred a fourth option.
As in most cases, there was a great deal of opposition to the First World War. Many saw it as a senseless fight between rich men, paid for with the blood and cash of working people. Those in power sent young men and women to do the fighting for them. People who don’t learn from history are likely to repeat it.
For any war it is difficult to give an accurate number of the lives lost and those wounded. Most counts will probably be too low. In the First World War, during a period of one and a half years, 50,000 Americans were killed. For the entire period of conflict, casualties for both sides were in the millions.
Civilians were targeted for the first time in World War II. It was called, “The good war,” an oxymoron similar to “minor surgery.” The latter is what many soldiers face after being injured in battle. In earlier struggles, medicine wasn’t as advanced so injury usually resulted in death. Today it’s different, except people are brainwashed into thinking a war injury is a broken leg, a bruise or something that will heal and the person will soon be whole. On the contrary, injuries result in the loss of eyes and limbs and too much pain during and after the event. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. Just talk to a true hero, patriot and veteran of Vietnam, Max Cleland.
Just after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Edward R. Murrow was at the White House and Franklin D. Roosevelt mentioned what had happened. Murrow had this great story but didn’t write a word about it. As in so many situations, the press wound up censoring themselves. For four days, the Navy held out information about the attack of December 7, 1941. In the days that followed, journalists submitted their stories for censorship.
Andy Rooney of CBS covered the war and even went on a bombing mission. While in flight, he was terrified and asked himself, “Why am I doing this?” His plane was hit but fortunately he made it back. Unfortunately, other flights weren’t so lucky as the loss rate was one out of four planes. It wasn’t long before journalists were no longer allowed on those missions.
Despite the death, destruction and horror of war, little of the details made it back to the people of the United States. The country was in the war for twenty-one months before the government allowed photos of the dead soldiers to appear in print. Graphic footage was not released until after the war was over.
During World War II, Ernie Pyle was the best interpreter of that struggle. He wrote honestly even though he felt people didn’t want to read about the pain and death. He accomplished this by implication, as his writing delivered the message to the people back home. All the pain and suffering soon overwhelmed him. In a letter to his wife, he wrote, “I’d like so much to be home and personally not ever see any more, ever.” Like so many soldiers, he never got his wish. He was shot by the Japanese in the Pacific and died instantly.
On the shores of Normandy, bombers targeted their own men, killing one hundred eleven GIs and wounding nearly five hundred more. Journalists who accompanied the troops had a view of the war that was exciting, dangerous and very narrow. This seems to apply to all war. Somehow, the landing was reported a success, but the reporters there saw the dead and destruction and realized that it really wasn’t anything of the kind. In summer and winter, they saw men from both sides dead by mass murder. To the people back home the dead were merely numbers.
With the end of World War II, a period of over fifty years passed in which journalists had depicted war as an honorable pursuit, a gallant adventure, a noble sacrifice and a glamorous crusade against the enemies of freedom. You know what that judgment was – that may be why the soldiers had to wear boots. Of course, this had come about through censorship by the government. Atrocities weren’t usually reported. Coverage of the Holocaust was small and underplayed. Reporters couldn’t write objectively because it would have been treacherous to the side they believed in. An alliance had been formed between the military and the press.
With the war in Korea, that pact would disintegrate. The battles on the Korean Peninsula were basically a police action as no war was ever declared. Journalists told exactly what happened, as the fighting there raised huge doubts. General MacArthur even accused the reporters of being traitors. But weren’t they just doing their job, unlike most of those covering the action in World War I? The feeling was that this was not a place where the West could achieve victory. Eventually this turned out to be the case.
One individual who covered the war was Homer Bigart, but he was not morally neutral. His job was to cast some light on all the cruelty of war. In doing so, he won his second Pulitzer Prize. He had many feelings of mistrust of the military, as most people with intelligence have. For him, this was crucial in being a good journalist.
Even if the truth does come out, it can cause people to have beliefs and conceptions that are not what is actually taking place. For example, suppose fighting is very intermittent and occurs only a few times a month. This gets reported but due to the pictures sent back home as well as the barrage of repetition on television, it might appear that the war is a day-to-day occurrence. On the other hand, the fighting could be non-stop but coverage may be so limited that the viewer at home might get the impression that it is not really much of a war. In each instance the press is reporting what is happening but there is a distortion of events.
Malcolm Browne points this out when he writes, “War news may be factually correct but very unrealistic in context, and therefore misleading. (I could add that all news, not just war news, necessarily distorts objective reality to some degree.)”
A few years after the Korean War, the United States was firmly entrenched in Vietnam. At first there was no censorship but the intention of the government was to have it be a secret war. In 1963, footage from Vietnam was first shown on television. Very little combat and not much fighting were broadcast as viewers saw a sanitized picture of war. Reporters were continually being given false information. In reality, censorship was applied, but in a “nice way.” While on a mission, Journalist Ward Just was given a 45-caliber pistol to protect himself. He was a bit perturbed and said, “I wanted to disappear.”
Gloria Emerson reported the action on war and characterized it as “such a waste of life.” Of course, this could be said of any war, as could the observation by many journalists that their presence had an influence on what was occurring. Many covering the fighting also realized that soldiers were stuck in the mire while they themselves could just get out at any time.
As most people know, war brings with it the disappearance of truth. There is another relevant quote by Malcolm Browne, which you can find in the last chapter. He refers to different sources of information for the coverage of the war when he says, “‘Stars and Stripes’ and the Armed Forces Network were not immune to military tampering or, on occasion, outright censorship.”
I don’t mean to imply that many in the media don’t do their best to bring out the truth but their task could be compared to a cook who has to prepare a meal for a dozen people with one pot, a few ingredients and a single burner on a stove. In each case the mission will be quite a challenge. If a reporter is allowed on the scene and reports what is actually happening, his coverage may not only be censured but he could also be booted out of the country. Thus what he reports will necessarily have to be written in such a way that the government will not be upset. This is quite a dilemma.
Vietnam turned out to be a huge disaster and the memory of it would remain for quite some time. In the 1980s the United States spent a short period of time in Granada, but there were no reporters allowed on the scene. The campaign may have been an attempt to show the might of the country after the terrorist attacks on the Marines and the subsequent withdrawal from Lebanon. In 1989 there was another adventure in pursuing Manuel Noriega in Panama. “Operation Just Cause” got their man, but according to Physicians for Human Rights, it resulted in the death of more than 300 Panamanian civilians. When people in power were questioned why they were attacking Panama, the answer was “just because we can.”
During the Gulf War in 1991, reporters had limited access, as there was great control by the military over the press. Journalists who were close to the action were allowed access only if they were in a press pool. They were said to be embedded with the troops. To say they were in bed with the troops may have more accurately reflected the relationship.
This was the first video war and many in power tried to brainwash the people into thinking that here was a casualty free war. To many, war became fun, respectable and a game. The ghosts of Vietnam were vanquished, or were they? In a decade, another War in Iraq would make us realize that Vietnam was not forgotten at all.
There’s more deception as pointed out by John MacArthur in his book on the Gulf War, Second Front. Once the war began, the lies and misinformation followed. According to John MacArthur, “In that war, 62,000 tons of explosives – or seventy percent – missed their targets. So much for the ‘smart bombs’.”
Relative to the “small” number of soldiers from the United States forces who perished in the Persian Gulf, he adds, “Of the 148 U. S. troops killed, thirty-five were by ‘friendly fire.’ Of 467 wounded, seventy-two were by their own side.”
As far as I am concerned, sitting in front of a glowing fireplace is what the term “friendly fire” should represent. The term may be a relatively new one, but the practice has been occurring throughout history. In all wars, soldiers die at the hands of guns and bombs from their allies. According to soldier and historian Paul Fussell, “In the Allied Invasion of Sicily of 1943, U. S. Navy and ground gunners shot down twenty-three planes carrying 229 men of the U. S. 82nd airborne division.”
There probably hasn’t been a war in which this killing of innocent soldiers by their comrades hasn’t occurred. And yet this fact doesn’t get published until years after it happens. This is just another incident of government control over reporting of actual events.
The 1991 Iraq war brought this feeling out, as the bombing appeared to be nothing more than a great fireworks display. At least this was the impression many viewers got from the coverage by CNN. In actuality it was nothing more than vast destruction and the killing of people who wanted nothing to do with the conflict. The people who cheered while watching the pyrotechnics on their TV at home would feel completely different had this been happening to their neighborhood.
Historian Bill Buford stated, “War correspondents are some of the sickest people you’ll ever meet.” While doing their job, reporters that come to depend on a unit for protection will do what they can to protect them as well. Objectivity is never achieved under these circumstances and as I mentioned earlier, you learn nothing from live coverage. There may be “great” pictures but no great information.
War is a manmade spectacle, filled with romance, life, death, adventure and high drama. It’s a duel between gentlemen. How can you go to war and not be a soldier? You can report on it. After all, journalism is a dashing and glamorous profession. The purpose of writing about conflict is to make others feel something. There is no bigger story than war. Correspondents may be the last romantics, but how can you make sense of war?
War certainly is not romantic or an adventure. If governments don’t tell enough lies, with war comes the complete loss of truth. War is not a video game or a movie filled with violence, death and destruction. In Hollywood movies, the actors will do another picture, unless one of the special effects kills them.
Too many calming words and spin come out of the government relative to war. Throughout history, you may have heard the expression, “theatre of war.” When I lived in downstate New York, not far from New York City, I attended numerous “plays” on Broadway at various theaters. War never was, nor will it ever be characterized as “play.” Quite the contrary, it’s the worst possible job imaginable. You may have heard the term, “fortune of war,” as well. From what I have written so far, you must realize that corporations building bombs and weapons and companies rebuilding are the only ones who will make a “fortune,” while young men and women die for their country, which is sad and “unfortunate.”
As far as the war against terrorism goes, we probably won’t know what really happened and is happening for years to come. Truth will eventually come out, but it will take time. Reading the newspapers, weekly magazines like Time and Newsweek and watching television gives us about as much information as watching a soap opera. I viewed none of the events of 9/11 because my television was being repaired after a construction accident. Even had it been functioning, I would have not been watching. As it was, I still had as much information about what was happening on that day as people who sat glued to their TVs for the entire day.
What occurred can be interpreted in different ways and this could be just as bad as a lie. Governments of countries involved in wars give different reasons for not having the truth come out, one of which is national security. Malcolm Browne mentions a statement that Arthur Sylvester made in this regard. “Sylvester, the spokesman for the Pentagon during the Cuban missile crisis said that every government is entitled to lie to protect its vital interests.”
Browne adds, “Governments do lie when they feel it is necessary. It is equally a fact that reporters in a free society are paid to penetrate and expose official lies.”
However, as I have mentioned, that task on the part of the press is indeed very difficult if not impossible. This applies to all wars but in the case of the Iraq War of the new millenium, the government gave out numbers for deaths and injuries and the press merely reported them. On one occasion, while surfing between the network news and The News Hour on PBS, I heard one reporter say that the death toll for American soldiers had hit the one thousand mark, while another at the other station a few seconds later mentioned that count of fatal casualties was nine hundred ninety-six. Obviously, one of the two was in error, or maybe both, and this only confirms the fact that statistics are impossible to verify.
Death and injury reports are often distorted by the government. For example, if a convoy is on its way to a mission and somehow the vehicle flips over and the driver suffers a back injury, that is not reported in the list of injuries. Similarly, if someone is wounded in action and is shipped to the states, the incident is reported as an injury and stays that way even if the soldier subsequently dies. The discrepancy that I mentioned earlier should reinforce the fact that you need not go to Burger King to get a whopper.
Civilian deaths aren’t usually reported for either side in battle. This includes journalists who cover the action, even in a censored manner. Reporters and cameramen die each day. One prominent journalist who lost his life in Iraq was 39-year-old David Bloom of NBC News. I had seen him on the news from time to time and his death brought sadness and anger to me. He died not from a gunshot wound, but from a pulmonary embolism. “Pulmonary embolism is the occurrence of a clot, which usually begins in the leg. The clot breaks loose and travels upstream through the blood, travels through the heart and lodges in the vessels of the lungs,” pulmonologist Dr. George Boyer said. He also said that for twenty-five percent of people with pulmonary embolism, the result is sudden death. And some health experts say living conditions are important. “In Bloom’s death, he was cramped in his living and sleeping conditions while covering the war, as well as dehydrated from the heat,” WBAL-TV 11 NEWS reported. Thus Bloom could still be alive today had he not been covering the war in Iraq.
Ted Koppel of ABC devoted an entire program of Nightline to listing the soldiers who died in action up to that point in war. His efforts at honoring those who served in battle were not without criticism. The Weekly Standard denounced the show and the Sinclair media company broadcast a different program on its ABC affiliates. Bill O’Reilly claimed that one of the networks broadcasting images from Iraq put American lives at risk. He failed to consider the fact that certain leaders could be to blame for beginning this war in the first place.
You might ask how the truth can ever come out under these circumstances. The answer is that time takes care of that, as I have already indicated. A reporter in Vietnam who sees what is really happening may not be able to transmit an account of the war to his paper at the time of the occurrence. He could write a book on the experience, which will be published some time after the war is over. If it comes out too soon, his publisher could censor the book and he might lose his job. He has to exert caution. After all, he wants to be able to finish his mission, which is to get out the truth.
“There is nothing worse than the armchair warriors who spout and mumble about how wonderful the war is, these vacuous idiots who have no kids over there, who make comments with nothing at stake.” – M.B., the mother of a soldier in Iraq
6. Hollywood hubbub
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson
“I hate it when they say, ‘He gave his life for his country.’ Nobody gives his life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don’t die for the honor of glory of their country. We kill them.” – Admiral Gene LaRocque
The government and the media have a lot to do with influencing opinion about any war, but they have a great deal of help for their brainwashing. The entertainment industry does their part as today’s television, movies and video games glorify violence and make it seem like a game, with the explosions, blood and gore. When the World Trade Center came tumbling down, people were glued to the sets whether they were at home, at work or on the run. As I mentioned earlier, I was very fortunate that my television was being repaired so I didn’t see all the gory details.
Even had my TV been fine, I would have refused to gaze at the devastation in New York and Washington, D. C. I am not and never was a big fan of violence and suffering and I don’t see how anyone can be. And yet the public can’t get enough of movies like The Terminator, Independence Day and Saving Private Ryan. From what I saw of the first thirty minutes of the latter, it seemed like the color of the blood was embellished for special effect. Like each of these flicks, anyone in front of the screen on September 11 may have had the illusion that they were seeing a Hollywood production. What was happening was all too real. Unfortunately many people cannot distinguish between the special effects and actual events.
In general, I don’t like war movies but if I watch one, I probably won’t view it a second time. I have seen too many war flicks and television programs on that same subject, and read too many books about it and about governments that go along with fighting rather than dealing diplomatically with other nations. The majority of motion pictures are anti-war, but there are some that glorify it and deal with the romance of battle. Nonetheless, they’re all the same, treating of the bombs, bullets, dead and injured and all the horror that goes with these struggles. If a movie or book emphasizes all the disadvantages and horrific outcomes of war – and it really doesn’t matter which one is being discussed – apparently that effort hasn’t had much of an effect since we still have the killing and the destruction today.
One of my favorite movies is The Milagro Beanfield War, although it really isn’t a war movie, despite the title. It’s about the struggle of a poor New Mexican who decides to grow beans with a developer’s deeded water. The flick is magical, spiritual, uplifting and inspiring. It came out in 1988 and was directed by Robert Redford and in no way compares to any other war movie since the gore, death and violence are missing. It is a great example of how people can coexist without killing each other.
The trouble is that in their pursuit of the almighty dollar, the major studios, television networks and producers of video games could care less about human beings. If it makes them rich, so what if a few people are affected? So often I hear statements made that violence on the screen and tube have no direct correlation to violence in our society. I wonder how that study was conducted and who did it. There probably isn’t any connection between cigarettes and cancer, either. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that explosions on the movie screen affect the audience in some way even though it may not be instantaneous. I add a comment from the journalist Malcolm Browne, who says, “An innate love of explosions may similarly inspire the career of soldiers, quarrymen, demolition workers, miners, chemists, physicists, timpanists and war correspondents.”
Note the types of individual affected. If you read Muddy Boots and Red Socks you know that the author spent time with chemical reactions as a youth, so he is speaking from personal experience.
It seems everyone loves explosions, pyrotechnics and special effects. Sporting events are sometimes followed by huge displays of fireworks, which usually bring in more fans to the game. And yet, when you see one show, what more can be done at the next presentation, which isn’t much different? The same thing applies to special effects in the movies. The way these scenes are done to simulate a real situation of devastation, there are so many “special effects” that before long, they are no longer “special” but rather ordinary. The whole area has reached the limit of what can be done. If you have seen one Lethal Weapon movie, you’ve seen enough.
However, this constant viewing has repercussions. It confuses what is created on the screen with actual events. The difference between the two is blurred and people become numb to any reality. Violence has been glorified and is a very good thing. It stops being such when your sister or father is lost in the Persian Gulf War. Is there any difference between a relative or young woman with whom we are not acquainted dying in an unnecessary war? They are both human beings, each with feelings and faults just like you and me, and it doesn’t matter whether they are American or Vietnamese.
A few years ago I tried to watch a PBS program on World War II but it was too brutal for me to see it all the way through. Similar programs have been on from time to time. In the fall of 2007, Ken Burns’ epic about World War II, The War, graced the airwaves of PBS for seven episodes on four nights. It was a masterpiece featuring over fourteen hours of horror, gore, violence and shock. I taped the series when it was broadcast but didn’t view it until the spring of 2008. It was so real and brutal, that I watched the first two episodes, took two nights off before watching the third and fourth installments and repeated the procedure until I had viewed the entire production. I will say more on The War later.
In the case of movies and television, you could argue that this violence wouldn’t be produced if the public didn’t buy it and you would be right on the money. If I am a producer and something doesn’t make a profit, I won’t continue creating it. If I am a concerned producer and violence, death and explosions make me a good living but I am opposed to it, I won’t bother to have it in my movies. Money has a huge effect on what comes out of Hollywood. There are some higher ups in the business that do have scruples, but others could care less one way or the other.
Besides what I have mentioned, there are other instances where violence is encouraged and all that goes with it. How about shows like COPS and its imitators as well as The Jerry Springer Show and similar programs that don’t mind a bit of confrontation on the air? Some of the dramas dealing with hospitals and the police in action can’t avoid conflict of some sort. What about some of the news programs which are anything but news? The subjects they cover include war and violence because people want to see it. Both the national and local news keep their ratings up by showing shootings and gore since that is how they stay at the top.
These are some of the reasons why war is supported without any question. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the one in Afghanistan, Vietnam or the Civil War. Obviously the motion picture industry and television couldn’t affect anything in the last mentioned encounter since they weren’t around, but I think you see the point. We have been dumbfounded and confused about war by many factions, but we are guilty of buying into it ourselves. All this is done without feeling of any kind. Are we not ourselves to blame for supporting violence in war? When the bombs started falling on Iraq in January 1991, weren’t the majority of Americans cheering, high-fiving and asking for more?
There is no question that we are bombarded by various sources so that we accept violence in all these forms. Luckily we can have some control. The first thing to do is to not turn on the television tonight. When you wake up in the morning you will realize that you haven’t missed a thing. The same can apply to all those crazy games on the PC and Internet. Instead of renting a DVD or video, why not check out the arrival of Saturn and Jupiter in the southern sky? One Sunday morning three deer came into view as they passed not far from my window on their way across the street. When my sister and her friend came over for dinner that same day, we sat around talking and awaiting the return of the deer rather than heading into the living room with the TV. We didn’t miss a thing on the tube. Although we didn’t see a deer, we spotted a brilliant red cardinal – yeah, he did have a high IQ – as well as a blue jay on that mid February day.
We rely too much on television even for news about the weather. A meteorological forecast is nothing more than a guess based on existing conditions relative to similar ones in the past. I can’t verify the accuracy of these numbers – they’re probably very close – but it’s been said that on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil has a reliability rating of about thirty percent. The only sure thing about Groundhog Day is that it’s a good movie which will make you chuckle.
Being glued to the television because of an obsession with CNN doesn’t do anything except make you a couch sweet potato. These are the viewers who choose Goobers over Lay’s. If you recall what I said about truth relative to war, how much do you really think you will learn from tuning into the coverage about the fighting? You will be wasting your time when you could be doing something more worthwhile and productive. Even if you sat around and did nothing, you would still be better off.
Unfortunately we are in a rut from which it is hard to escape. Our society frowns upon settling differences by reasoning things out. If things don’t go our way, it can be easily settled by shooting someone. One of the first playthings that a boy has is a gun. Maybe not now, but years ago one of the first games he played was Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers. Now the game is Tomb Raider or something similar. Confrontation is taught and insisted upon. How many times have you heard a parent say to a child, “You have to defend yourself?” Why start the squabble in the first place, or if some bully initiates it, what is wrong with a solution devoid of beating someone to a pulp?
Do kids really need to play with guns? Does Johnny need to have a set of GI Joe soldiers with which to spend his time? Maybe you should not allow your son or daughter to turn on the PC if that child is going to be a zombie playing some game of killing and violence. Since you are the parent, it won’t be easy but there are plenty of alternatives. In the long run you and the child will be better off and eventually he or she will thank you for what you did.
“Military recruiters prey on the young, vulnerable men and women, constantly lying to these new recruits, filling their mind with false information such as, ‘You’ll never go to war,’ or ‘You can leave whenever you want.’” – Z.M., an Air Force veteran
7. War – what is it good for?
“We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves.” – Albert Camus
“One does not make wars less likely by formulating rules of warfare. War can not be humanized. It can only be abolished.” – Albert Einstein
“We paid with forty years of enormous and otherwise unnecessary military expenditures. We paid through the cultivation of nuclear weaponry to the point where the vast and useless nuclear arsenal had become (and remains today) a danger to the very environment of the planet.” – George Kennan
“The concepts ‘war’ and ‘progress’ are now obsolete…the futility of modern warfare should now be clear. Must we not now conclude, Simone Weil, that the technical aspect of war today is evil, regardless of political factors? Can one imagine that the atomic bomb could ever be used in a ‘just cause’?” – Dwight MacDonald, after the bombing of Hiroshima
“Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a Great War, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one.” – historian A. J. P. Taylor
In my recent book, Take Back The Earth: The Dumb, Greedy Incompetents Have Trashed It, I spent a great deal of time on the bomb building process and mentioned the Manhattan Project. Consequently, I won’t repeat too much of that narrative, but emphasize the danger of bombs. Obviously, creating them isn’t a smart idea even if deterrence is taken into consideration. This idea advocated that since other nations may have had atomic weapons, it was beneficial to create weapons of mass destruction in our own land just so that they wouldn’t be used. This goes along with the idea put forth by geniuses that the atom bomb was used so that lives would be saved. You may argue the latter statement but are probably ignoring the fact that millions of people died in the Second World War, as pointed out by Ken Burns in The War.
Creating these awful weapons does more damage than anyone can realize. I used the present tense does rather than did because weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are still being made, even as I write this. The entire process uses up precious resources that might be needed in the future for more user-friendly products. Even in the construction of the areas where bombs were produced during the Manhattan Project – which took place in towns and cities besides the obvious, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford, Washington and Los Alamos, New Mexico – as well as parts of the country described in Take Back the Earth, such as Rocky Flats, the earth was destroyed with the creation of the mud, horrible conditions and erosion. This doesn’t even account for the damage done to the land, air and water because of radiation and toxic chemicals.
The greatest resource on the planet is also greatly affected: mankind. The radiation led to the death of many associated with the Manhattan Project and many others involved in building the bomb even after that project was supposedly finished – I believe it’s still progressing. Somehow, that last word is off the mark. Too many have succumbed to cancer and other illnesses and there is no end in sight to the pain and suffering that the introduction of the bomb has fraught. If you live in an area of the country without cancer brought about in this way, consider yourself fortunate.
Many feel that dropping the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was not necessary. Certainly, the devastation could have been avoided and lives spared. Nonetheless, some felt that since that weapon was a reality, it simply had to be used. Both may have been dropped for that reason and not to set an example for the already defeated Germans, but for an ally, the Russians. War does some crazy things to people’s minds and certainly these efforts can’t be described as too logical.
One lasting impression that probably forced me to take breaks of a couple days while viewing the seven episodes of The War was the images of the bombs falling. It may appear innocent enough, but one needs to place oneself in the area on which these horrible creations were falling. Somehow, those munitions weren’t so great. Then, pilots that delivered the destruction may not have been bothered during flight back in the time of war, but those who survived were certainly troubled years afterwards, especially veterans offering comments in Ken Burns’ brilliant work.
I apologize for repeating myself, but over the years, war has plagued the globe for so long and no one seems to have learned a thing from the past. There are so many examples of these same mistakes occurring even when smart – maybe that’s the wrong word – people do precisely what they shouldn’t when it comes to conflict. I was going to use the words, conflict resolution, but that might involve progress, alliances and consideration for other nations.
Besides the immediate danger of building WMD, the harmful effects of the process last indefinitely because of the radiation hazard. As we witnessed in the dropping of bombs in any war – nuclear, atomic or even carpet bombing – too much damage is done to the earth and the people. If you don’t use these devices, you’ve wasted great resources – I’ve already mentioned that – and moreover, how do you rid the universe of this horrible creation? With time it may not be harmful, but from what I have learned, that may take centuries. Dumping it into either the ocean or outer space is not a solution.
I mentioned a few facts about the bomb building process that can be found in Mike Wright’s book, What They Didn’t Teach You about the 60s, which I think are worth repeating. These include, “By 1960, the military budget was $45.8 billion or 49.7 percent of the entire federal budget.” That sounds like too much money for defense and the military. There is much more startling news as Wright relates, “By 1962, the United States had more nuclear bombs than we could ever use: 1500 atomic bombs, more than enough to destroy every major city in the world. This was the equivalent of ten tons of TNT for every man, woman and child on earth.”
As destructive to the earth as building weapons is, you can’t ignore the fact that using them in any conflict has worse consequences for the earth’s environment and its inhabitants. No matter what war is fought, be it the Vietnam War or any war in Iraq, the land and the people will be seriously affected. The carpet-bombing in Indochina killed innocent human beings as well as devastated the planet. It was also used on Japan by the United States during World War II. In addition, those who survived may have lost a limb or been traumatized for life. Soldiers who didn’t return in body bags wound up with baggage for years to come.
This applies to every war and there really are no exceptions. Just as the air, land and sea make up the planet and need to be saved, the people are an important part as well. Centuries ago, when humans fought with sticks and stones, there may have been such a thing as a “just war.” With all the technology that we see today in weaponry, there will never ever again be a “just war,” even if only knives and slingshots are involved, since people could still get hurt. If you still think that war is the right alternative, let me try to convince you otherwise.
Edwin Starr sang a song entitled, War – what is it good for? over a quarter century ago. The answer we all know – absolutely nothing. Certainly these conflicts affect marriages, families, the earth and all kinds of relationships, whether it is between nations or individuals. In the forty years after 1945, it is estimated that there were one hundred fifty wars with twenty million casualties. The Civil War saw brother battling brother and a resident of a town fighting his neighbor and resulted in the death of 620,000 people. That number has been disputed as much too low. In the 2008 issue of Binghamton Research, historian J. David Hacker calculates that the actual toll on the population was three times that.
Current wars see similar conflicts. Two people may differ on whether the war is just and that by itself results in fighting, even though it may not be with assault weapons. The current war in Iraq created another in the United States, although the damage isn’t anywhere near as bad. In too many wars, citizens of one country end up battling their neighbors.
Actually there is a benefit to war. It means a great deal of business for undertakers, banks, corporations that build weapons and those that rebuild a country after the war. Each death means more income for the mortician, and conflicts across the face of the globe mean loans and interest that benefit the banking institutions. There are plenty of jobs in the munitions factories and for corporations that send out highly-paid consultants during the fighting and after it’s all over.
The destruction wrought by the fighting takes a huge toll on the earth. It’s just not natural to blow up homes and the people who live in them. Cleaning up and starting from scratch means that more of the earth’s resources will be required. Neither war nor reconstruction help the planet very much. Over the years, no matter which one you are describing, war has had an impact on global warming. It’s unfortunate that those in power aren’t aware of this fact.
War means that hospitals have more to do but I don’t think too many nurses and doctors are overjoyed with the wounded coming into their facility. They can’t be thrilled with the danger they themselves face in a war zone. Triage units in a regular emergency room have enough stress and concerns not to mention the added difficulties in times of conflict. The trauma of seeing wounded soldiers all too often has lasting effects on people in medicine.
Not long ago I viewed a program on PBS about letters written home during war. It covered conflicts such as the Civil War as well as World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam. It was very moving but also sad, depressing and disheartening. Someone would read a letter sent by a private to his or her loved ones and consequently it would be mentioned that a week later private Smith died when his plane was shot down or his life ended when he stepped on a land mine.
In The War, the Burns’ PBS miniseries that I hope can help to end all wars, four U.S. places, Luzerne, Minnesota, Mobile, Alabama, Sacramento, California and Waterbury, Connecticut were highlighted, including stories of those who lost their lives, were injured or were merely family or friends of the soldiers. The program dealt with the conflict on a few fronts, with consideration of the war effort in the states as well as in Europe and the Far East. These four cities represented what was happening throughout the country, especially the loss of lives that no town escaped. It was sad to see a relative – holding back tears over a halfcentury later – reading a letter of some soldier who would consequently die in battle.
NBC nightly news anchor Tom Brokaw has written about “The Greatest Generation” in three works, the most recent of which is An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation. In it he summarizes the events around World War II and includes letters by those who experienced the war years, whether in Japan, Europe or at home. These documents illustrate what people of that time went through, whether they were in action or not. It is a book that’s difficult to read but it should convince you that war serves no good purpose. Some of the observations that follow are not limited to that war alone.
WHEN PEOPLE NOW HEAR THE WORD FRIENDLY FIRE, THEY CRINGE.
Many people have the impression that the term “friendly fire” is a new war expression, but it’s older than you think, at least the concept. Most likely this practice was happening in wars as early as the Civil War, if not sooner. It certainly was happening in World War II as pointed out by Emery Morrison, who states, “We had our own planes coming into Ford Island, with their lights on; one of the gunners was convinced it was Japanese so he opens up, and they all open up including our gunners, too. Several of our planes were downed and pilots killed.”
It’s difficult to count the number of casualties a country inflicts on its own troops. While on his second tour of duty, John F. Kerry did some investigating into the matter. Deaths in Vietnam because of friendly fire were from 2 to as high as 20 percent.
EVEN THOUGH ONLY ONE OUT OF A FAMILY GOES OFF TO WAR, THE ENTIRE FAMILY IS AFFECTED.
I find it hard to comprehend why there is so much support for a war while at the same time the majority of people want nothing to do with it. In the U.S. elections of 2006, the people unanimously voted to remove the men and women from Iraq and bring them home. Apparently, the people who serve us in the Nation’s Capital fell asleep because the war continues today as I write this. This feeling against war was prevalent in more wars than just those of the twenty first century.
Do you think the average mother wants to see her son, daughter or husband board a plane to some distant land to fight in battle? Even a father cares not to have his offspring see action as pointed out by Joseph Raymond MacDonald in the Pacific when he wrote, “My sweet life to date for me has been full – the best years were with you, my love – and our little Ray. I hope he never has to go to war – that the world will see how futile it is and never let it happen again.” He died three days later when his ship the USS Keokuk was hit by a Japanese plane.
Herrick S. Roth vividly points out, “No one I knew of my generation wanted war. No one wanted to be drafted into the Army of the United States. I certainly did not.”
Maureen Honey talked about her dad Keith, who served in World War II when she wrote, “He doesn’t like war and the hoopla that goes with patriotism. He’s a peaceful, loving man now, modest, gentle and wise.”
Regardless of what side you fight on, Harold D. Muth adds, “...all who give their lives for their country in a war have names, families, and loved ones who must stay home and grieve when their son, husband or brother fail to return.”
A woman worries about her son or daughter while each is on the front line and only prays that he or she will return home soon, not affected by the combat. Having a son die before a parent is a hard enough burden to bear. Losing an offspring in battle can only be that much worse.
BESIDES FAMILIES, SWEETHEARTS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.
You don’t have to be the parent of a soldier or married to one to experience worry and sleepless nights if your fiancée or boyfriend is sent into battle. Betty J. Morrill emphasizes this fact when she writes, “So much is told of mothers and wives of GIs who were lost in World War II, but so little is mentioned of the sweethearts that were left behind. We too suffered, but without a gold star to hang in our window, just one to hang in our hearts, to remain there forever, symbolic of a life that might have been.”
Some of the wives and sweethearts simply couldn’t take their loved one going off to fight, so they found someone else. Lester Varnell illustrates this in his letter when he offers, “…every day guys were getting letters from their wives telling them that it was over for some reason or the other. Far too many guys received these Dear John letters.”
WAR BRIDES HAVE DIFFICULT TIMES ADJUSTING TO THEIR NEW LIFE.
I’m sure you’ve known men who have served in foreign countries who eventually brought home a foreign wife. Perhaps the bride was German or Japanese and she later became the mother of beautiful children. Unfortunately, the difference in cultures overwhelmed her and she wound up leaving her husband and offspring to return to her native land. This situation plays out on too many occasions. Books have been written about this scenario, including a collection of stories by Helene Lee, a writer from nearby Lockport, New York. Her well-researched narrative is, Bittersweet Decision. Perhaps those who lead a country into war should read these treatises first.
If you still think that war is acceptable on any level, watch the 1940 movie, Mrs. Miniver, starring Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson. It deals with a family in England all caught up in the bombing during the Second World War. You can also read Flyboys by James Bradley. It’s the gruesome true story of the atrocities of battle and not recommended before dinner. The only good time to read this is the day of preparation for a colonoscopy – you won’t want to touch any food.
WAR JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
Earlier, I pointed out the lunacy and craziness of war. It won’t be the last time in this book. John L. Murphy had this to say in one of his letters, “...asked if I would volunteer to bag and tag the bodies, I agreed. After this happened, I could no longer fire my rifle at the enemy because the whole thing to me was senseless. I went into the Army a naive schoolboy and came out feeling that the leaders should do all the fighting while we and the enemy have a few beers, making friends and watching the big shots doing their things.”
I recall watching a program on the Civil War that mentioned a re-union of living veterans of that war sometime in the early twentieth century. They were from the Union and the Confederacy. There was much handshaking between people who had fought on different sides in battle. These former soldiers questioned why they had ever taken part in this endeavor so many years ago.
Some people like to say that playing in the NFL is like war. Coach Marv Levy would argue that one is life and death and the other is merely a game. He is right, but there is one alarming similarity between the two. The leaders or managers of each send out young individuals to entertain the fans or fight for them. They themselves usually don’t go into battle. In the case of a MacArthur or an Eisenhower, they could be generals on the front line but usually the leaders stay away from harm.
Another observation regarding the fact that war does not make sense also touches on brainwashing. Lester Varnell states, “He was dead when I got to him. I became so enraged; I wanted to kill the entire German Army. This feeling taken with my training was exactly how the Army had intended me to react.” Varnell returned to the states but lost a leg in the war.
Does it make sense to spend billions of dollars on weapons and planes, then to bomb a country to nothingness only to spend billions more to rebuild it? At the same time many innocent people die in the process.
THERE ARE NO WINNERS IN WAR.
In the time he stayed in Mitsuhama, Japan, Edward Herold visited a local home and got to know those who lived there. He went back many times and referred to this family when he wrote, “They had lost some of the men in their family, yet there was no anger, just a feeling of sorrow that people were killed on both sides.”
From Muddy Boots and Red Socks, Malcolm Browne notes, “...Vietnam, a war in which there were no good guys and very few good causes.” It seems that this applies to all too many wars.
YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT WAR.
In the case of the combatants, many of them were numb from the experience, which resulted in little if any communication on returning home. This certainly applied to what had taken place in the trenches, and was influential in the breakup of many marriages and the breakdown of individuals. If a couple barely talked before the war, there was even less conversation afterwards.
Though this pertained to the soldiers, it also meant that the people back home weren’t allowed to bring up the subject of war either. Barbara Howell was deeply affected, as she never met her father Bob Nichols, who died in North Africa during World War II, before she was born. Her pain was long lasting as growing up she was discouraged from talking about the war. She writes, “I am not saying there weren’t happy moments when I was growing up. But even during my happiest times, I felt anger, confusion and anxiety. I had no control over my feelings, which translated into clinical depression.”
SEPARATION IS NECESSARY IN WAR, EVEN IF TEMPORARY.
I have already touched on the effects on families and sweethearts, but don’t forget the guy next door or your cousin. Some of the soldiers were lost at sea or in battle on the land, never to be recovered, while others were sent back home in body bags or caskets. The rest may have returned, but missing an arm, leg or worse, while some may be fortunate to have their body in tact when they step off the plane in the states. But even they will have wounds that will never heal.
Nightmares can be a part of each evening for a former soldier and the use of alcohol or drugs won’t help. Addictions and suicides are common and it could be years before someone approaches a state of being anywhere near what he or she was before he or she left to serve the country. Soldiers have returned to the home front while part of them remained overseas. War has ruined too many lives, even if the person appeared to be whole. It really doesn’t matter what war you are considering, either.
Because of what these soldiers have turned into, divorce could also occur. According to an article in the Associated Press on February 5, 2006, Defense Department records show that more than 56,000 people in the Army - active, National Guard and Reserve – have divorced since the start of the campaign in Afghanistan in 2001.
WAR IS A COMPLETE WASTE.
I have already mentioned the money spent on war material and rebuilding after the devastation. All this cash could have been spent for much better purposes. A country that throws more money into its defense budget than on its own people should be seriously questioned. An entire chapter was devoted to discussing what building weapons of mass destruction and using them does to the environment. The human beings who die on both sides make up a greater, unnecessary loss.
Betty J. Morrill adds, “What a waste of strong young boys a war makes.”
DON’T VIOLATE THE RULES OF WAR.
What exactly are some of the rules of war? You shouldn’t kill the leader of your enemy or there can be no fighting on religious days. You are not allowed to use certain types of weapons. I doubt that these have been followed even if they are set rules. How about the following guidelines?
1) Guns, bombs, and knives are not allowed.
2) No fighting can take place on a day of the week ending in “y.”
3) If the day of the month is even, there can be no fighting if it rains that day.
4) If the day of the month is odd, there can be no fighting if the sun shines.
Actually, all rules should be replaced by, “There shall be no war.” This would simplify matters and make the world a much better place. In truth, having rules for war, whether they are the ones I suggest above or those of the international community, makes about as much sense as war itself.
“Please give me a reason to support my boss while my fellow brothers and sisters in arms are dying in a war that seems to be for nothing more than financial gain and power.” – SSG Ben Barlow, serving in the USAF
8. The 9/11 response
“When one powerful group thinks that the end justifies the means, and flagrantly breaks the law, when we turn our backs on the very democratic institutions and traditions we most value, when violence and murder become political tools, then we enter a nightmare world in which we are all at risk.” – Robert J. Grodin & Harrison E. Livingstone from High Treason“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” – William Faulkner
As soon as the Twin Towers fell, people were angry, upset, scared and frustrated. Some people were looking for a way to respond. Most of these were the spineless wimps, which I described earlier. The question that arose was who should be attacked? It made no sense to go after the terrorists who flew the planes since they were dead, that is, if you believed the official story. Even after it appeared that Osama bin Laden was the leader behind the plot, how could you find out where he and his accomplices resided? Why was only Osama considered as the reason for 9/11? Why did the obsession by the media and the government begin and end with him and no one else?
It didn’t take long to get the names of all the terrorists. Since all of those lunatics died in the plane crashes, how did the authorities come up with those nineteen? Did they just go to the passenger lists, select all the suspicious surnames and figure they were the guilty parties? What if there were thirty possible names that may have fit? How did they know which ones to select? How did they know that these questionable names to begin with weren’t aliases? Finally, if they concluded that these were the culprits, why didn’t they have this list before the tragedy took place? These are some of the many questions that entered my mind in the days after September 11, 2001.
With 9/11, the war against terrorism was about to begin. Yet, it could not be fought by conventional means since it wasn’t like other wars, such as the World Wars or Vietnam, or even the Cold War, for that matter. The effort would have to be covert, as bombing a country that harbored the terrorists just wouldn’t accomplish the mission – at least I didn’t think that made any sense. It would take a different kind of strategy. After all, if it was determined that Osama was living in New Jersey, would the government have bombed that state? Actually, maybe that’s a good idea, but don’t tell the residents there.
From a previous chapter you should be aware that John O’Neill and Richard Clarke had persevered in just what needed to be done in combating terror. The last decade of the twentieth century had seen a few terrorist attacks, such as the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the 1995 Riyadh attack and the 1996 bombing in Dhahran. These took place, but some plans were foiled such as the Bojinka plot and the assassination attempt on the Pope.
The millennium acts of terror were also foiled thanks to the good efforts of people in intelligence. During the Clinton administration, there was the possibility of eliminating bin Laden, but it wasn’t carried out for a few reasons. First, there would have been collateral damage, as innocent men, women and children would have been killed. There also wasn’t enough certainty that bin Laden would be in a specific place. Another consideration had to do with the fact that the Monica Lewinsky caper put a damper on any kind of attack on Osama’s camp. Even if he had been apprehended with no other casualties, someone else may have appeared to take over leadership and continue the terror. As you can see, getting rid of this leader is a very complicated business and not as easy as it seems.
The Bush administration took the problem head-on by launching an attack on Afghanistan in order to end terrorism. As I have pointed out, that approach was all wrong. To make matters even worse, within a few months the campaign continued by attacking Iraq. This was done under the premises that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he was closely connected to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. As was mentioned, over a decade ago bin Laden wanted to attack Iraq for Hussein’s foray into Kuwait. Maybe they made up and became friends. As it was proven, no WMD were found at the time and the two leaders were bitter enemies. Thus the attack was unwarranted. Even had it been justified, I hope you are convinced that this use of conventional warfare to fight terrorism is the wrong approach.
During the 2004 presidential campaign John Kerry stated that he would someday like to have terrorism be seen a nuisance, rather than as the all-pervading, demoralizing force that is present in the country. He had it right, but his opponent took these words, added a great deal of spin and made it look like the Kerry was weak on terrorism and defense. Some people will do anything to be president, but the American people bought it, because he was re-elected.
I like to compare terrorism to cancer. They are both to be avoided but probably will be around for a long time to come. As Clarke and O’Neill demonstrated, terrorism can be stopped in its tracks, not unlike certain types of cancer, which can be treated. Millions of dollars are provided to help in the struggle against both. There’s probably more money spent on terrorism, which seems to be growing and can get out of hand if the right approach isn’t taken. That pretty much describes cancer as well. We all hope for the day when there will be a cure for cancer and it becomes a disease of the past. We have the same feelings about terrorism.
For cancer, we need to take a preventive approach. Thus, people who exercise, watch what food they eat, don’t smoke or drink will have a better chance of avoiding the disease. That doesn’t mean that they will forever be cancer free, but it’s a good start. There is another reason for cancer: the environment. Some types of cancer, such as colon and prostate are caused by pollution in the air, water and on the land. It’s great to find cures for diseases, but it’s better and much more economical to eliminate the causes, specifically stuff in the environment.
The same applies to terrorism. Fighting it will cost billions of dollars and most likely it will never be completely eradicated. Looking at the root cause of the problem is an approach that should be taken. Unfortunately, it may be too late at this point. Actions of the past have led up to what we have today. Had efforts in the 1970s been made to make the United States completely independent of Middle Eastern oil, what happened on September 11th may have been avoided. Of course, I have already mentioned the exploits of the 1980s with American support of both the Iraqis and Iranians with weapons and the covert operations in Afghanistan for starters. Those decisions didn’t help in the least as far as the future of terrorism went.
The 1990s weren’t much of an improvement with the Gulf War. Of course that had to be fought so there would be enough fuel for the trucks and SUVs on the United States highways. Things went from bad to worse. If it is not already obvious, Osama bin Laden wasn’t very happy about having American troops in the Middle East. This certainly doesn’t justify flying airplanes into The World Trade Center, but somehow the United States Government had a hand in the devastation, even if only indirectly.
I have gathered some of the causes of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Note that this is not a complete list.
1. The terrorists themselves. This includes all those who flew planes into the buildings, who wanted to do so and those who planned that day in advance.
2. The House of Saud. The family that ruled Saudi Arabia was only concerned about money in their pockets that was brought about because of the oil under their sand. Meanwhile the country had a majority of people who not only didn’t share in the wealth, but also were struggling to survive. The Bush / Saud family connection is not to be ignored.
3. The failure of the CIA. Robert Baer worked for the CIA but left in 1997. From reading his books, he was not the problem. In fact if others had listened to him and worked as diligently as he did, more plots would have been foiled. Another of his books that I mention later is See No Evil, which is what too many people in the FBI, CIA and government seemed to have been doing.
4. The October Surprise. Gary Sick, who served on the National Security Council staff under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan wrote a book by that same name. It describes the machinations of the Bush Sr., Reagan and William Casey troika in order to win the 1980 election. Specifically, they saw to it that the Iran hostages were not released until after the election. Had they been freed sooner, Carter may have extended his presidency for another four years. If so, the United States would not have had to put up with both George Bushes and Ronald Reagan for two decades. That possibility would have gone a long way in creating an energy policy devoid of the Middle East, which in turn would probably have meant that 911 would still refer to a phone number to call in an emergency and only that.
5. The Presidency of Ronald Reagan. Through his administration, we witnessed the destruction of all the energy policies of Carter, the covert operation in Afghanistan against the Soviets, the pouring of weapons into both Iraq and Iran during their war, the Iran / Contra scandal and the terrorist attack on the Marines in Beirut, for starters. I have already mentioned what the United States did to strengthen their friends, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Some say that Reagan is responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union because of his huge military buildup as well as the Afghanistan effort, but the Afghans may have received help from some other countries and thus brought down their enemy in other ways. Another overlooked incident was what occurred at Chernobyl in April 1986 and the lifelong efforts of Pope John Paul II. This catastrophic event and the efforts of the pope certainly helped to contribute to the demise of the Soviet Union. Reagan may have been an influence in the downfall, but unfortunately Saddam and Osama became stronger because of the actions of the US Government.
6. George H. W. Bush. Though his presidency only lasted four years, it included what some people refer to as the First Gulf War. Of course, the people of Iraq will dispute that appellation. The administration failed by allowing Hussein to remain in power when there was an opportunity to remove him. Nevertheless, that may have led to a civil war. However, the Kurds and Shi’a were on their way to finishing the job, but the United States withdrew and failed to provide support. As a result, Saddam massacred both groups and stayed the boss.
7. George W. Bush. When he took office, Richard Clarke asked time and again for a meeting about terrorism, but his requests went unheeded. It wasn’t until late summer of 2001 that people started to listen to him. The previous administration had seen terrorism and was actively pursuing the perpetrators. They were somewhat successful, but the effort needed to be continued. Bush and Cheney were too preoccupied with oil and attacking Iraq.
8. The media. They gave George W. Bush a free ride to the White House by overlooking his lies and unfairly characterizing Al Gore as the bigger liar. Had the latter been determined to be the winner of the 2000 election (he did win the popular vote), most likely the intelligence agencies would have prevented what happened on 9/11. The environment would have been a lot safer – that’s certain.
9. The Supreme Court, the state of Florida and the Republican Party. Acting together, they gave the presidency to George W. Bush. The fact that all the ballots were not recounted might give you an indication as to who the winner should have been.
10. The United States Legislative Branch. They wasted our money when they investigated and tried to impeach a president when they shouldn’t have. This activity used up valuable time that could have been spent on more pressing needs. They failed to uphold the Constitution when they neglected to get after and remove from office a leader who thought he was above the law. They also gave themselves huge pay raises in the dead of night while failing to pass legislation that would benefit the people who put them in office. They also let us down when they allowed a leader to impose tax cuts for the rich, neglecting the less fortunate while a war was going on that they sanctioned. This same war cost the American people dearly and should never have occurred if the legislators had diligently investigated the claims of the president for this drastic action. They also failed to stand up to their chief executive even though he has violated the Constitution and acted only in the interests of his rich, corporate cronies.
11. The people. As you may be able to conclude, the election of the Bushes and Reagan had much to do with the actions of 9/11. However, someone voted them into office on five occasions, and that’s a great number of people. They also probably cheered the entry of the country into war rather than telling their representatives that perhaps there may have been a better alternative to bombing and killing. These same people are the ones who waste resources instead of practicing conservation, who don’t recycle and who drive gas guzzling, environmentally polluting vehicles like Hummers and SUVs.
12. The removal from office of Mohammad Mossadegh and his being replaced with Mohammad Reza Shah in 1953. Besides the already mentioned book on the matter by Stephen Kinzer, he has another work out – which I highly recommend – that sheds more light on the terrorism in the twenty first century entitled, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.13. Oil.
Now, it’s too late to do much about what has already transpired, but something must be done to reduce terrorism to the point that it is only a nuisance. I find it unbelievable that George W. Bush said that he would defeat terrorism and then on another occasion said that it could probably never be conquered. Maybe the W stands for waffler. There are steps that can be taken to make the world a better place in this regard, which I will get into later.
Getting back to the beginning of the chapter, not all reaction paralleled that of the spineless wimps. There was a plea not to respond with terrorism and violence to the bombings on 9/11. This came from courageous people who lost loved ones that tragic day. Despite their grief, they did not ask for revenge but rather restraint, so that more innocent people would not die. Nothing could erase their pain but their advice was not considered.
On October 2, 2006, a shooting at the West Nickel Mines School in eastern Pennsylvania shocked the nation. What happened there is chronicled in Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, a book by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher. What may have raised more discussion than the actual event was the reaction by the people in the town. There is a great example set by the Amish in their response and each of us should find the time to read this wonderful story.
9. Violence and conflict
“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than on love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“War means an ugly mob madness, crucifying the truth tellers, choking the artists, sidetracking reforms, revolutions and the working of social forces. Already in America those citizens who oppose the entrance of their country in the European melee are called ‘traitors,’ and those who protest against the curtailing of the meager rights of free speech are spoken of as ‘dangerous lunatics.’” – John Reed, 1917
We need to ask ourselves the question why we are such a violent society. This applies to the United States as well as to the rest of the world. It begins when a child is born. A boy is welcomed into a room of blue while a girl goes into a bedroom of pink. The favorite color of a friend of mine is purple, a blend of the two. I won’t reveal the sex of this person because it really doesn’t matter. The blue and the pink tend to stereotype the individuals. Later in life, the boy will be encouraged to play with guns while the girl will be motioned over to the dolls. Of course, the pairings don’t always remain.
By the time a boy reaches adolescence, he has played with toy soldiers, guns and various games such as Cowboys and Indians, which I touched on earlier. We’ve been led to believe that the good guys are the cowboys while the Indians are bad. If you read A Newer World: Kit Carson, John C. Fremont, and the Claiming of the American West by David Roberts as well as A People's History of the United States: 1492 – Present by Howard Zinn, it might appear that they have that reversed. Weren’t the native Americans here first – even that appellation says something – and didn’t they fight back because they were attacked? Eventually, the government took away their land and rarely, if ever, do they play the role of good guy. The cowboys wear white hats and their opponent, black. That sounds racist to me.
Children are also taught to stand up and fight when the need arises. The Bible had Christ recommending that when attacked, we restrain ourselves. That idea of nonviolence was also advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. In each case they became heroes and their causes were advanced despite the fact that they were both assassinated. Once again, I emphasize the desired response of the families of the victims of 9/11 and the Amish, as detailed in the last chapter. I wonder what a parent tells his son or daughter when a bully pushes either around. It’s probably to “stand up and fight.” Whatever happened to working things out peacefully?
Violence is taught at an early age by parents, television, movies and video games. This comes about even if not intentionally. Because of the elimination of the middle class, supervision of sons and daughters has slackened because fathers and mothers just don’t have as much time to care for their kids. The replacement falls into the hands of the boob tube – not the best baby or child sitter, for that matter – or friends. The latter guides others to the cineplex, which features all the latest releases of explosions, gore and disgusting stuff. The top rated blockbusters over the years have been Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, the Die Hard and Rambo series, all jam-packed with fire, death and annihilation. That won’t change any time soon as Hollywood keeps making these types of flicks because people flock to see them, first at the theatre and then later on a videocassette or DVD. In many cases, the film is not rented but purchased so that it can be viewed over and over again. As a result, children and adults alike become immune to what is happening on the screen. It’s no big deal. I should mention that the 2007 movie, No Country for Old Men won 4 Oscars. I reluctantly viewed it in the summer of 2008 and believe it should have been re-titled, No Movie for Old Men, Young Men, or Anyone Else.
I’m not crazy about all those special effects but movie makers have a much different, impressionable audience. Our society is all about guns and violence – it’s in the culture. That’s how problems are solved rather than by negotiation. Why sit down at the table and work things out when a bullet or two will eliminate the problem?
When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, many saw it as little different from one of these trash movies. On the silver screen, heroes as well as foes may have appeared to have their lives ended but the actors and actresses rose up to star in another movie. The victims of the tragedy of 9/11 were not so fortunate. They didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the light of another day. We have been brainwashed into feeling that war is not such a bad thing and that violence is all right.
Another big part in the lives of children growing to maturity is sports. Many sports are quite tame, such as golf, tennis, chess, curling and cricket – why do these last three begin with the letter “C,” also the first letter of the words, care, concern and consideration? On the other hand, there are a host of competitive endeavors which aren’t quite as peaceful. Consider auto racing, which sometimes results in death and injury to a driver, but fans don’t even consider that as they view the spectacle. In fact, many go to the track and hope to see crashes, not realizing that even though they are only watching, they too may suffer harm.
My father and younger brother at one time were big fans of boxing – I have never been one. Maybe it has to do with the cruelty and brutality of the event. Watching two people pound each other’s brains out is not my idea of entertainment. In the sport, in order to beat your opponent, you really have to beat him up. Decades ago, Friday night was fight night and boxing may have been the top sport on television. Muhammed Ali probably was the greatest heavyweight of all time but he paid dearly for his title. His body took the blows from his opponents, but seeing him today only makes one wonder if it was worth it. He is not the only fighter who is suffering because of his being in the ring. Today even females have begun to participate in the “sport.”
Hockey is another sport that is filled with plenty of violence. Men and women on skates smash each other into the boards, and on too many occasions the gloves come off. You’ve heard the joke about the spectator who went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. What happened to watching the game for the skills of skating, rather than the brutality? The league could easily do away with all the fisticuffs by creating a rule that would severely penalize players for fighting. Of course, the league would lose many fans if it were enforced, and that’s why participants in scuffles are not suspended or bounced from the league.
There may not be as much hard checking and fighting in the junior leagues and at the college level, but there certainly is some. Even the peewee leagues have small-scale fights, as tiny tots want to emulate the players they admire in the NHL. They do this by hard checks and not backing away from fights. Moreover, I’m sure you’ve heard of some of the coaches and parents who got into the action as well. If teachers and parents don’t set good examples for the kids, who will?
Football has a huge following in college and the pros, and it too has violence. I used to watch the game but never really was too pleased when any player was injured. In many cases, seeing someone on the field on his back for a long time is downright scary. On two occasions I was at a game where a player’s bones were broken. It’s not a pretty sight. You may recall a few seasons ago when Washington Redskin quarterback Joe Theisman had his leg broken on national television. One of the worse things about that play was that the television networks showed the replay, over and over. Shame on them.
Some players actually live for the brutality. They seem to be on every team, from one season to the next. These macho men don’t just tackle an opponent, they bring him down by smashing into him. Coaches actually recruit these killers and through the years, players have been paralyzed by these demolition men – although not in all cases. At one time, I enjoyed watching the game for the skill, finesse and excitement, but in the words of B. B. King, The Thrill is Gone. I’m sure many others feel the same way because of the violence, and for other reasons as well.
Many fans don’t complain though, and they even welcome seeing an opposing player get hurt. Over the years, players may not have been paralyzed, but they sacrificed years of their life, and some have died, all for the glory of the game. Today the game is played with bigger bodies that can run faster on more dangerous surfaces. Naturally there will be more injuries and they will tend to be more serious. Meanwhile the fans still keep coming out to the stadium or watching the game on the tube.
From September to February, the atmosphere on Sunday afternoons in NFL cities – yes, the season seems to never end – is one of synthetic violence, even in the stands. The huge success of the sport, thanks in large part to the American Football League, which began play in the 1960s, has helped to cause this commotion. It began when huge stadia were created without much consideration for traffic flow in many cities. This led to the tailgating phenomenon and hours of partying before – we can’t rule out during – and after the game. Fans arriving at 10 am on Sunday for a 1 pm kickoff, or at 6 pm for a Sunday or Monday night kickoff a couple hours later need something to do to occupy the time before the game. One choice is eating and another is drinking a beer or two or three. Consequently, the three hours or more when the Bills tangle with the Dolphins may not be the best time for a family to be in attendance. Even people who care to watch the game in earnest may have to witness a few fights in the stands as well as on the field. It’s not a great scene.
Someone said that basketball is a contact sport. At one time that may have been true. In high school, I was on the varsity team my senior year. Notice, I didn’t say I played on the team. Actually, I did manage a few minutes – not many – but did keep the bench warm for the starters. After that I played intramurals in college. During one of the games someone’s fingernail “contacted” my eye and I was the recipient of a scratched cornea. It sounds worse than it was as my vision was fine after a few days. At the time it felt like something was in my eye and I wanted to continually try to rub it out.
On another occasion I got the wind knocked out of me. It’s not too pleasant a feeling as you wind up gasping for breath. I don’t recommend it to anyone. From these encounters of mine on the court in college, you might want to argue about that word, contact in reference to basketball. The person who used that gentle word was corrected by another who said that basketball is a collision sport and dancing is a contact sport. If you’re still not convinced, let me remind you of the NBA game in Detroit in the autumn of 2004 that erupted into a huge brawl, involving the players as well as fans. There’s nothing like people getting involved in the game. On that occasion, a player didn’t care for some fan in the stands and headed up the rows, and he wasn’t going for a beer. Of course, that wasn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. You may have heard of coaches throwing chairs around during these events.
Just as I have moved away from watching the NFL, the same can be said for the other pro sports and college competition. I had season tickets to Canisius College basketball throughout my undergraduate years and more recently a few other guys and I obtained season tickets in the 1990s. Over the last decade, watching the game has been exhausting and painful, with contests that could have been won by exercising fundamentals of the game. On too many occasions, the team grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.
Nonetheless, I hung in there despite the numerous losses. A game in early 2006 saw another good part-time effort wasted. In the last minute of the encounter, one of the Canisius guards wasn’t very happy – I wasn’t thrilled either – and took it out on the opponent. That was frustrating to me but not quite as much as when the coach decided he wanted to join in. It was at that moment that I had had enough. I turned my remaining tickets over to my friend and have yet to watch another game on that court of my college alma mater. As I have pointed out too many times, I am not a big fan of violence.
The great American pastime of baseball is a pastoral event. It is deeply rooted and has all kinds of strategies despite the slow pace of the game. I was visiting the high school of my youth and in one of the faculty rooms, I happened to get a glimpse of a batter charging the mound on ESPN. It was a replay from a previous game, but it appeared that the pitcher had only barely missed the strike zone. He didn’t throw at the hitter and I felt the response was not warranted. This happens all too frequently, along with fighting and bench-clearing brawls. As in other sports, these melees could easily be eliminated by enforcing the rules. The league doesn’t do a thing about the extracurricular events on the field because the fans like them.
We might be thankful that there are events with no violence, such as soccer and the Olympics. As serene and peaceful as it seems, soccer takes on a different flavor in Europe. The players are well-behaved, but the same can’t be said for the fans. An excellent, at times hysterical book on soccer across the Atlantic is Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs. Buford writes about his experience after he infiltrated the stands of the drunken mob, even tossing down a few brews to fit in. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. He also suffered through a beating along the way. I’m sure he would have rather been on the field running around.
The Olympic Games have been marred by some violence from terrorists during the last part of the twentieth century. All in all, the games are free of brawls. That wasn’t always so. The early Olympics weren’t anywhere near as brutal as the wars being fought during those times, but there was a saying about two outcomes for the games: victory or death. When someone described these early spectacles as, “war without the guns,” that may have been an exaggeration, but even the victors wound up getting beat up to some extent. Of course, the competitors didn’t have any concern about buying uniforms since they fought in the nude – ouch! We are fortunate that the early tradition hasn’t continued.
In general, sports involve too much violence. But isn’t playing the game supposed to involve being a good “sport”? Shouldn’t sports build boys into men and girls into women and make people better citizens, who have greater regards for other human beings? Instead it has created a more violent society, one that regards war as not being the worse thing in the world.
Sports and violence have enabled people to accept war with no qualms. The games and the struggles between nations seem to be so similar. Consider the fact that in talking about the war being fought, many generals like to use different sports’ metaphors. The words, “bomb,” “blitz” and “shootout” all refer to the games but they seem so appropriate when talking about war. When you hear, “We’re in the bottom of the third inning” or “slam dunk,” you might imagine that you’re watching ESPN; these are spoken by the leaders referring to the war being fought. At the same time you may hear a coach or player call the game “all-out war” or “our Waterloo.” The coach and the general have got it all wrong, as the former may never have been in Vietnam and the latter needs to realize that the battlefield is nothing like the arena for football or baseball. It’s entirely different and there’s just no comparison.
Nonetheless, there are many similarities between a game like football and war. In each case, the team owner or the head of a country that initiates war has a great deal to gain financially from each endeavor. In football, the more people that come to the stadium, the more cash will flow into the pockets of the owner of the team. The leader of the nation probably has a few corporations who can stand to make huge profits from the war. Some of this money will somehow flow back to that leader.
In many instances, each of these leaders may never have played football or actually been on a battlefield. That doesn’t mean that they can’t profit from each endeavor. Their bottom line is success, and there probably is little concern for what happens to the individuals who are working for them. Injuries or death to the participants are not really their concern.
The sports world has its shares of pain, broken bones and even death. On occasion, even the fans can be injured. With war, different types of fatalities ensue as well, hardly any of which are not serious. Innocent bystanders can wind up injured or killed. The amount of damage done in war greatly exceeds that from the gridiron or hockey arena. Those involved in competition in stadiums or arenas have devices that can inflict serious harm on their opponents, such as hockey sticks, bats or football helmets. These are nothing compared to the bombs, weapons and chemicals that are used in war.
10. Afghanistan and Iraq
“…major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” – George W. Bush, on May 1, 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
“You can’t fight terrorism conventionally like a war. Any 16-year old kid can strap on dynamite and take down any building. It must be fought clandestinely, dealing with the underlying causes and taking security measures in our own country.” – an official of the George H. W. Bush administration
“If the current situation persists, we will continue fighting one form of Iraqi insurgency after another – with too little legitimacy, too little will and too few resources. There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw: quagmire.” – Larry Diamond, former advisor to the U. S. occupation authority in Baghdad
The reaction to 9/11 with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is proof that the government is missing intelligence. To make this point, I would like to consider my experience as a high school teacher. Let’s start with a teacher in fifth period algebra. Before getting to class, some mischievous student places some gooey dog feces on the instructor’s chair. It could be plastic or the real thing. The teacher enters the classroom and sometime later, plants his behind on the stuff.
There are a few possible reactions to this scenario, but the infuriated teacher asks for someone to step forward and admit to the mischievous deed, or to rat on who is responsible. There may be a student in the class who deplores what took place and even knows who did it but says nothing for fear of retaliation by the culprit. More than one may be to blame for this sophomoric action in freshman math, but not a soul responds. The instructor then decides to punish the entire class by having everyone stay after until someone takes the blame.
A few periods later, this same teacher is in his geometry class and realizes that this group has a few troublemakers who may be co-conspirators in the dung disaster. He proceeds along the same path as before with his previous students and asks for any information about the poo-poo placement. Once again, no one responds and he punishes that entire class until the problem is resolved. Some students may have no idea why they are being penalized.
This teacher is certainly not a veteran of education, and what he did would not be the path followed by most in the field. I will get into some alternatives later, but I think you might see a parallel between the happenings in both classes and the American wars in the twenty-first century across the ocean. The algebra class could be compared to the war in Afghanistan and the geometry class would be similar to the bombing of Iraq to get Saddam Hussein. You might say that the dung dropper appears to be Osama bin Laden, but I would say the perpetrators in the class are the terrorists. The entire school incident reflects 9/11, except in the seriousness of the consequences.
Note that the geometry students may have had absolutely no connection to the dog doo-doo dropper, even the not so virtuous students. But just like the innocent kids in the algebra class, they have been made to suffer. They are not unlike the inhabitants of Afghanistan and Iraq, men, women and children just trying to survive. Thanks to the rash, arrogant people who are supposed to be leaders, decisions were made that just don’t make any sense.
In each case, the perpetrators of the debacle weren’t apprehended. Moreover, besides enduring needless torment, the wronged individuals have only become infuriated and upset. Relations between the teacher and his two classes have deteriorated, just as has the rapport between the American government and the Iraqis and Afghans. A bad situation has not been resolved; it has only evolved into a much worse problem.
Both involvements of war were initiated in order to capture terrorist groups and make the world a safer and more peaceful place. Instead, just like the teacher’s action, these efforts have only created more animosity. More specifically, launching of the military efforts has brought more terrorists into the fold. This is not unlike trying to extinguish a fire by dropping gasoline on it.
Obviously you can’t bring about justice for wrongdoers by warring against everyone close to those individuals. The two wars have cost billions of dollars and killed and injured thousands. It certainly hasn’t put an end to or slowed the growth of terrorism. Many have suffered and it will continue for some time. The war begun in Iraq may not seem like a quagmire to some, but in some respects it is worse than Vietnam. Today in Vietnam, we see growth and progress. More important there is forgiveness for all the wrongdoing on the part of the aggressors against the victims. This may never occur in Iraq.
I am no expert in terrorism, but I have heard those who claim to be such. They have sided with the Iraq and Afghanistan offensives. Personally I think “terrorism expert” is an oxymoron. They don’t exist. If they did, why do we still have terrorism? Actually, it seems like those who strap explosives to their bodies or drive in vehicles loaded with explosives are the “experts.” Nonetheless, I agree with those in the field who say that terrorism is not conventional war and can never be fought in the same manner as previous fights. For one thing, it’s hard to know whom you are up against. You are not necessarily fighting a country and different techniques are needed. A different approach needs to be exercised – including intelligence gathering – which I will talk about later.
Getting back to our inexperienced teacher, I, too, was like this person when I started out in the profession. One day one of my students placed a tack on my chair and naturally, I sat down on it. However, my reaction was quite different from the teacher in my example. As the object made contact with one of my cheeks, I wondered what I had sat on. I didn’t scream or yell and barely felt the sharp tip. I went on as though nothing had happened and the person who placed the object on my chair probably figured that it had missed my skin somehow. Either that or he thought I had no feelings and was no fun when it came to pranks. I had become the victor and the defeated most likely decided to work on another teacher.
Perhaps the turd victim should have done something similar. He could have said a few choice words and then let the whole matter pass. What he did obviously was way out of line. I have always felt that the whole matter should never have come this far. That is, his classroom should have been such that his students came to a learning environment and actually enjoyed being there so much that they wouldn’t think of doing anything so juvenile. There was respect between the teacher and the students and the kids found their entertainment and laughs outside his classroom.
This way of teaching sounds easy but it isn’t always that simple. It takes effort and the teacher needs to set down rules the very first day and make sure they are enforced. If this is done, you will find that every one, student and teacher alike, will have fewer problems. You need to build the environment that people enjoy being a part of and not be like the Soup Nazi. Nobody likes a ruthless dictator.
This same practice can be applied to the nations of the world. Had there been more cooperation between countries and more respect for the religion and culture of others, it is very possible that the terrorist acts of 9/11 would not have occurred. A few years ago an American president named Bush talked about a “kinder, gentler nation,” and that’s just what is necessary. Caring for others, whether they are in the United States or abroad is something that needs to be done. Bullying others and occupying their land cannot be condoned. It only breeds resentment and creates problems. 11. Military Intelligence
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.” – John F. Kennedy
“I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know and I have good judgment about who will be either telling me the truth or has got some agenda that is not a right agenda. And I’m tough enough to tell somebody to kiss off if they’re trying to put one over on me or on the country.” – George W. Bush
“Never, never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” – Winston Churchill
“In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought by the military-industrial complex.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
As reasonable people can conclude, terrorism needs to be fought by good intelligence. As I pointed out in an earlier chapter, this method can and has worked. At the same time, the occurrences on 9/11 indicate that it can fail as well. Nonetheless, covert planning and spying seems to be the correct approach to the war on terrorism, rather than fighting with conventional warfare, which is doomed to failure.
We are all aware of the huge costs of intelligence. It amounts to thirty billion dollars a year for twenty-six intelligence agencies in the United States. As I write this, I’m sure that number is off the mark. According to the Future Technology Intelligence Report of March 2002, Vol. 13, No. 3, this is in addition to a secret budget that is said to be about seventy billion dollars. With this amount of outlay, the attacks should have been prevented. This expenditure is courtesy of the taxpayers, who come to question whether it is all worth it. When the knowledge is there and plots are averted, not many citizens will complain. On the other hand, buildings that tumble from terrorist acts leave the public concerned about what they’re paying for.
This consideration is not unlike that of the math teacher who sat on the dog deposit. If he spent so much time and effort pursuing the culprits of that dastardly deed, he would shortchange the students who were in class to master math. His obsession with closure would only be viewed by his students, fellow teachers, parents, administration and the board of education as a waste of taxpayer money. His being on the faculty would certainly come into question.
Finances also come into play when you consider all the various intelligence agencies that exist. Initially I was under the impression that there were only three or four organizations, but as I have pointed out there are over two dozen agencies. With all the secrecy involved with them, that number may be a tad low. When an intelligence bill is signed to improve matters by adding another in order to coordinate all the rest, things may only get worse. The better choice would be to look into what exists currently, weed out the duplicate agencies and incompetent ones and go from there.
The result would be three or four groups that work together with no overlap, all under the leadership of one knowledgeable leader. Each would do a specific job and be aware of the activities of the other agencies. Intelligence would be a success rather than a failure, and costs would be controlled. Under these circumstances, the general public would be satisfied and not mind paying taxes to support these efforts.
Citizens of the United States are not at all happy when an individual like Robert Hansen is uncovered as a traitor. In The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History, Elaine Shannon and Ann Blackman describe the deception carried out by one of the most damaging agents in U. S. history. Don’t forget about Aldrich and Ames and the others who have been arrested as well as those who haven’t been caught through the years. If you have spies and agents, you will necessarily have double agents as well – it comes with the territory.
Like war, spying sounds like an exciting and dangerous adventure, which it most certainly is. You can get a true feel for it by reading books by Robert Ludlum or John Le Carre. Though what they write is fiction, all the espionage, subversion, clandestine meetings and other events taking place reflect the true nature of the intelligence business. Two other aspects might come through in their novels: immorality and illegality. If you are not one for reading much fiction, I recommend the Robert Baer book, See No Evil, which I referred to earlier.
You can get good insight into the qualities of espionage by reading First Hand Knowledge: How I Participated in the CIA-Mafia Murder of President Kennedy by Robert D. Morrow. Like Baer, he was a senior CIA agent so he relates what took place with reliability and candor. Even if you don’t believe in his involvement in the Kennedy assassination, you have to accept the dark side of the picture of intelligence that he and Baer paint in their books.
It doesn’t appear that you can carry out meaningful intelligence without evil activities, immorality and breaking of the law. But consider the law of nations that says you cannot assassinate the leader of a country. Thus the United States couldn’t kill Saddam Hussein but it was perfectly all right to bomb the country, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, and if he just so happened to be killed, c’est la vie. Killing of anyone is not to be condoned, but wouldn’t capturing Saddam have been a better alternative than the war begun in 2003, even if the leader of Iraq were eliminated?
Besides all these serious issues, there is another aspect of the intelligence game that is very troubling: secrecy. The web of intrigue is so pervasive that two individuals in the same cubicle don’t even know what the other is working on. It may get even worse as they don’t even know each other’s names. If you are a part of an intelligence group, you are not allowed to talk about your work with your wife, children, relatives or friends. That approach makes it hard to keep from getting divorced.
Perhaps all spies should be single men and women. That would certainly take care of marital breakups and disrupted families, but it would also mean that these individuals wouldn’t be allowed to have any meaningful relationships. How about recruiting orphans? Even for those unfortunates, they may have a good paying, dangerous and exciting job, but no life to speak of.
Because of all this required secrecy, there have been some agencies that very few people even knew existed. Of necessity, there will never be a concern about how much money is spent by agencies. How can you measure how much is needed or who is to be paid? Very few people know who is doing what and it seems like this is the approach that has to be taken. Thus the necessity of secrecy implies that the agency can never be as well organized as it should be. This deficit of organization means that there is disorganization, which naturally means that incompetence will result. No reasonable citizen cares to have his or her taxes spent on any agency that is disorganized and incompetent. But that is just what is happening and it means that a single dollar spent for intelligence in this country may be one dollar too much.
Fighting wars in the conventional way may be a thing of the past. If military intelligence is indeed an oxymoron, doesn’t that make secret intelligence a pleonasm? Combating the problem with intelligence appears to be one huge boondoggle and just won’t work, but how else do you fight terrorism? There has to be a better way.
“The world is not, and will not be a safer place after Iraq. We have more likely created more Osama Bin Ladens, and will be fighting them long after we have tried to forget about the Bush presidency.” – Ray Perkins, a veteran of four years in the military
12. ROTC – it sounded like . . .
“And the time is rapidly approaching when the professional soldier will be placed on the same level as a bandit, the Bedouin, and the thug.” – Anonymous
“Personally, parades that honor the military are somewhat troublesome to me because the military is about war, and war is troublesome to me.” – Mary Belle Dressler
“Reason in this world functions on the cold, calculating notion that might makes right and that feelings are a sign of failure. Feelings enable us to remember pain so that we dare not inflict it. Feelings require us to spend ourselves on love so that we do not betray it. Feelings give us a vision for the beautiful in the world bent on the ugly victimization of whole peoples.” – Sister Joan Chittister
ROTC, which we used to pronounce as “rot sea,” and for good reason, is the acronym for Reserved Officers Training Corps. If you leave out the last word, you get ROT and Reserved Officers Training To Eliminate Nazis would of course be ROTTEN. I was introduced to ROTC when I began studying in college. We had to take the course since our college had no physical education program. Apparently the school wanted the students to stay in shape, even the nerds. Before I even started undergraduate work, I envisioned staying in the Corps for four years and getting a commission as an officer. It only took one drill session to realize that two years of that crap would probably be more than I could stand. But that’s what we go to college for: to get smart! It didn’t take me very long before I realized that winners of the Darwin Awards had company in the military.
The course itself was a great deal of work that I thought was a complete waste of my time. I could have been partying. My first teacher thought he was the greatest, with his arrogance, condescending manner and spit-shined shoes. Actually, his footwear was so glossy that I’m sure they were lacquered. I didn’t have the easiest time with the material – maybe it was my attitude – and so to help boost my grade I did an extra paper on General William Tecumseh Sherman. Even with that effort, which I thought was quite good, I still only received a D. If I hadn’t come up with that work, I may have flunked the course.
The second year wasn’t much better. We were involved in map reading and searching out the enemy. I spent some time thinking about being on bivouac and asked our beloved sergeant about a dilemma I faced. If I were out spying on my adversary with a pair of binoculars, wouldn’t he notice me because of the reflection of the sun off the lens? Of course, if I covered the binoculars with mud, then I couldn’t see him at all. So what was I to do? I was very disappointed as here was a teacher who was supposed to instruct us and he couldn’t answer this simple question. At least he could have smiled and recognized my sense of humor.
As bad as classes were, weekly drill was much worse and it really emphasized the fact that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron. We dreaded Wednesday afternoons at the athletic field used for this activity or at the armory when the weather was bad. We were required to disassemble and clean our rifle regularly and our hair had to be short and mowed on a regular basis. The latter expectation seemed to be that a haircut every two weeks wasn’t quite good enough. However, I figured that once a month should have been sufficient, although I did get a haircut every two or three weeks. In the process I was threatened with demerits.
Now that I think of it, why should we care about merits or demerits? In what way did merits help your grade and demerits hurt them? I imagine that enough of the latter could lead you to fail the course. Yet there was so much injustice and hypocrisy in handing them out that we really started to lose all concern. Suppose you had your hair almost completely removed, your shoes and the metal on your uniform shined and your rifle maintained. You might still get that infamous demerit. I vividly remember this scenario on one occasion when I almost received one. The following week I slacked off a bit and didn’t spend any time shining my shoes, only buffing them. Wouldn’t you know it, I got a merit.
It just wasn’t fair, but it got worse. We had to march to the armory and there may have been snow, sleet, mud or water on the way. You weren’t allowed to look down at your feet as you chugged along. But if you looked straight ahead and stepped in some slush, you could later get a demerit for your shoes. It was a no-win situation. Fortunately hypocrisy came to an end. After the last drill and final exam, we all celebrated, knowing it was all over but hoping that we got a passing grade.
I hated this lunacy about the armed services but it isn’t the only thing I find objectionable. Conditions for soldiers in just about any war are deplorable. You had freezing temperatures, snow and mud during the world wars in Europe while at the same time one hundred degree temperatures, humidity and rain in the Pacific portion of World War II. Korea was no picnic and the Vietnam War was never ending rain, heat and humidity. The wars in Iraq were and still are usually unbearably hot, but the winters are cold. We know about the brutality of the winters at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War as well as conditions of the Civil War. If you are going to start a war, could you at least make sure you pick a time when it’s not raining and the temperature is in the 50s or 60s? If it’s snowing, forget about sending the troops into battle.
One book that I can’t forget is one with the shortest title I’ve ever seen, called, ‘Nam. I’m not even sure of the author. I began it in the summer of 2002 and managed to get through a few pages, but just couldn’t stomach what I was reading. Two points resonated with me, and these were rather mild compared to other events. The first was the feeling a recruit experienced after stepping off the plane in Southeast Asia. She was greeted with a blast of 90 degree air and an even higher humidity. The second attack on the senses was the smell: it was the aroma – definitely the wrong word, here – of a giant toilet. I’m sure that at that point the soldier was asking herself what she was doing there. Things would only get worse. That was my feeling and I am blessed with a good sense of smell as well as a preference for cooler weather.
This reminds me of two assignments that I had over the years in the business world. The first was for a manager who felt he could work twenty-four hour days and finish the assignment on time and expected the same of us. My assignment in this deal was ten-hour days for a two-month period. I had an hour-and-a-half commute to work each way so this meant thirteen hours per day if you add in the driving time. Fortunately it was over in about nine weeks. Nevertheless, this boss could have let us work forty hour weeks for three months and there would have been a great deal less stress. This scenario compares to what soldiers go through except they can’t leave after a couple months and move on to another task like I did.
Another assignment may have been worse. We were just about ready to implement a new project so we had to embark on a phase of system testing. Management wasn’t very well organized and broke us up into two groups. The first came to work at 8 a.m. and left sometime in the afternoon or early evening. They were lucky. The others reported at 1 p.m. and left whenever the head honchos thought testing was satisfactory. That meant those people could be there a long time. I was part of the latter group and I hated being there, not unlike the soldiers in war. Again though, eventually I could go home while the troops don’t have that option.
Speaking of which, I have a problem with the word, “troops.” When I was in the dreaded ROTC program, I was part of a squad, which in turn made up a platoon, which was a component of a company. I believe that was the makeup, but I don’t recall individuals being referred to as a “troop.” A long time ago when I was a boy scout, a few of us were the Iroquois patrol and a number of these patrols made up Troop 161, which included the adult leaders. In this case “troop” represented about thirty people.
Webster defines a “troop” as a collection of people, just like our Boy Scout group. This is precisely what the word sounds like and seems to represent, a collection of individuals. The military assigns the word to each soldier. Thus they could say there were fifty soldiers in the area or fifty troops there. Since you already have the word “soldier,” why do you need another word that only confuses matters?
While I’m complaining about the military, who designed those uniforms? They look so ugly. How about some style in the dress for those who serve the country? I thought the uniforms used by the British in the Revolutionary War were quite spiffy. Of course, the red may have been a bit too bright. They may just as well have come out with uniforms the color of a school bus. Recently on National Public Radio I did hear that there were plans to redesign what the soldiers wear. For the taxpayers’ sake I just hope that they are not as expensive as the toilet seats and the hammers.
As I have already mentioned, war, killing and fighting are lunacy. Thomas Friedman’s book From Beirut to Jerusalem is an insightful narrative about the Middle East. War has always been idiotic and that will never change. You may want to read the entire book, but I posted a few excerpts in my 2005 book, for seeing eye dogs only, a humorous look at missing intelligence. This was one of them.
“One day we were throwing stones at soldiers all morning and they were charging at us. We were going back and forth,” said Abu Laila from Kalandia.
“Finally we sent one of ours up to one of theirs and said, ‘You go eat and we’ll go eat and we’ll all come back later.’ They agreed. So we all went home.”
In wars throughout history you read about instances of lulls in fighting. The obvious one may be around Christmas or some kind of holy day of significance. There are less subtle stoppages such as when a soldier from one country strolls over to the enemy and says that it is time for a lunch break. Both sides agree to stop for a while, and continue in a few hours. As absurd as this may seem, I have heard of similar cases in the course of battle over the years. Are these instances any more ridiculous than two nations dropping bombs on each other and fighting each other to the death?
Another example of the lunacy of war was mentioned in a book whose title and author escapes me. The writer talks about the American-paid Royal Army in Laos, whose members would break ranks to pick flowers or go swimming. On one occasion, both sides left a “battlefield” to join the fun at a nearby festival. Who said war can’t be fun? I conclude with the song that all us disillusioned part- time soldiers wound up singing despite lack of pitch, at least once each week after drill. We did use a much stronger word rather than what follows here.
It sounded like bull droppings to me, to me, ROTC,
And that’s what it turned out to be.
13. Crusades For War
“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the waste of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst.” – Mark Twain’s prayer
“You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
– Nelson Mandela