Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Law & Order and PTSD

So, I’m watching the original Law & Order, and by that I mean one of the latest versions of the original series. In it, as a defense, a psychologist points out that children, exposed to the nightly recap of two wars can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder...

I say, "No."

Not about the PTSD, but about the news showing nightly images of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is not true. You can go days without hearing stories of the war, and often those stories aren’t about the stress of combat on the soldiers, but about other aspects of military life. Should gays and lesbians be allowed to serve without having to hide their sexual orientation? Not exactly the same as details of the stress of combat.

For days I can read our local newspaper and not see a word about the wars. Not a single word. Important stuff overrules the news of war. After all, we need to know that Linsay Lohan might have sneaked from her rehab... Or Mel Gibson had another melt down... Or more about Kate and William.

Or that some alleged church, which I refuse to name, is protesting at a service member’s funeral because the government, and by this I mean the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense, allows homosexuals to serve...

Hey, if someone wants to serve, I say, "More power to them..." And who are these alleged God-fearing people who say otherwise? But I digress...

We can’t be bothered by news of the war. Besides, who does it really affect? The soldiers and marines fighting it, of course. Their families and their friends. But the majority of society pays no attention. There is no rationing because of the war efforts. There are no shortages because of the war.

I suppose what I’m saying is that the war just isn’t that big a part of life these days. It should be. We should be rallying behind our service members. But we don’t... and then we have to put up with all the nonsense that doesn’t really relate.

So, no... that character on Law & Order couldn’t be suffering because of the nightly images of the war on television because it just isn’t there on a nightly basis... and don’t even get me started on the slasher and torture movies that masquerade as entertainment.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rachel Maddow and John Kerry

Rachel Maddow, the other night, wondered why the "right" attacks "war hero" John Kerry but no one has similar, harsh things to say about John McCain. Why does McCain get a pass but Kerry doesn’t?

I thought about this briefly and came up with multiple answers but before I get to that, let me say that I too, am a Vietnam Vet. I flew helicopters and received the standard medals that go with that mission. I can claim to be a combat decorated veteran with but a single tour in Vietnam and a single tour in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

John Kerry, on the other hand, claims two tours in Vietnam but spent little more than fourteen or fifteen weeks there. His first "tour" was on a deep water Navy ship and it is possible that he never set foot on South Vietnamese soil while on that mission. Please remember I said possible... it is also possible that he went ashore for a period of hours. I was on Vietnamese soil for the full year I was there, living without air conditioning, often without electricity, and flying missions into hostile territory almost daily.

John Kerry, on his second tour, spent three month on river boats, a fairly dangerous mission where he claims to have been wounded three times. He used this to get himself out of Vietnam. I confess that had the opportunity presented itself, I probably would have done it too.

But the wounds were minor and when I hit an anti-tank mine with a helicopter, causing a slight concussion and ringing in my ears, I received no recognition, other than being the only helicopter pilot to hit an anti-tank mine with a helicopter.

Kerry came home early, got discharged from active duty early, on the condition that he would attend reserve meetings, but never did. Instead he embarked on a political career in which he condemned those of us who served as "baby killers," who committed atrocities at every opportunity, who were out of control, and who made Genghis Khan look tame. He used these allegations as a springboard for his political ambitions.

He was an organizer and participant in the now discredited Winter Soldier extravaganza in which soldiers confessed their sins and atrocities for the world to hear. Made no difference that some of those "soldiers" had never engaged in combat, never made it to Vietnam or were never in the Army. Their list of sins was cataloged and published without any attempt to verify their credentials or the events they claimed they participated in.

Kerry, of course, threw his medals away at one of the public demonstrations because, in the early 1970s, it was only idiots like me who were proud of their service. Oh, we never really mentioned it because, as Hollywood had noted, the quickest way to identify a villain in that era was to make him a Vietnam vet. Now, it’s to make him a corporate executive.

I learned this one day at work when it was somehow brought up that I had served in Vietnam. One of my co-workers said, "But you seem so normal..."

Anyway, Kerry’s medals eventually surfaced, on the wall of his senate office because it became a symbol to be a Vietnam vet. In fact, so many now thought of it as something to be proud of that during the 1990 census, when one of the questions was if you had served in Vietnam 13 million said yes... that’s out of the 2 – 3 million who actually did.

Then, as we watched Kerry accept the Democratic nomination for president, he strode to the podium, snapped off a salute and said, "Reporting for duty." Now a proud Vietnam veteran who had forgotten all the atrocities he had cataloged twenty-five years earlier, all the disgrace he had heaped on his fellow veterans by underscoring the myth that we were all a bunch of crazed killers who shot up villages for the fun of it and gunned down innocents at every opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, these things did happen rarely and it made the life of all us that much more difficult, but certainly not with the regularity that Kerry would have had you believe...

And today, still in the Senate, with no higher political aspirations at the moment, Kerry again maligns the service of the service members in Iraq and Afghanistan suggesting they are under educated teenagers who can’t find a real job...

Since I was deployed with a National Guard unit, I knew that wasn’t true. We had one Ph.D. with us, a large number of men and women with master degrees, and a larger number of college graduates. We skewed older than the active forces but we did have some teenagers in our ranks and as in Vietnam, I saw our soldiers commit no atrocities but did see them repair schools, donate time to help Iraqi citizens at nearly every turn, and do much to help stabilize the country... without either Kerry nor the news media aware of all the good things we did.

So, Ms. Maddow, the reason Kerry is attacked is his hypocrisy about his war record, his condemnation of this fellow veterans when it is expedient for him to do so, his attempts to paint us as uneducated, wanton killers, and then his attempt to run on his combat record.

John McCain might be a lot of things, but he is not this blatantly two-faced about his military service. You might not like McCain’s politics, but he doesn’t attempt to claim political office on the backs of his fellow veterans.

And now you know why Kerry is not respected by very many veterans...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

George Bush's Lowest Moment

So George Bush’s lowest moment was when some hip hop guy (and yes, I leave his name out on purpose because it seems to suggest something about the importance of the statement) said that Bush didn’t care about black people. Not when Muslims (who were obviously extremists, as if it is necessary to qualify the statement) flew airplanes into buildings. Not when he learned that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen had been killed in combat. Not when the wars continued and more American service members were killed or wounded.


When some guy suggested that he didn’t care about black people.

When Bush said that major combat operations had ended, I was on active duty with the Army.

When Bush leaned on his podium, looked into the camera and asked our enemies in Iraq to "bring it on," I was standing in our Tactical Operations Center (TOC) in Baghdad... not overly thrilled with Bush daring them to attack us.

When Bush talked of sacrifice, I was in Iraq while he was in Washington, D.C., living in a mansion, eating three good meals a day, and not worrying about an enemy dropping a mortar on him or shooting him or blowing up his Humvee with a bomb.

But his lowest moment was when some guy said that Bush didn’t care about black people.

Geez, how detached can you get? Maybe I should have said something about how I missed the last family Christmas because I was in Iraq and my mother-in-law, who hosted them, died the September following my return.

Maybe I should have said something about how that 14 months on active duty wrecked what was left of my writing career. Nope, no one has called and suggested they would pay really big money for my memoirs. Instead I have to scratch around and try to convince a publisher to pay peanuts for my books (one of which is now a Kindle Book because no one else would pay for it).

Well, George, I’m sorry that Kanye West said you didn’t care about black people. How about this? I’m not so sure you care about the service members you sent In Harm’s Way. Think about that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bill O'Reilly and the Talking Heads

I have grown tired of the talking heads on TV and their continued promotion of their books. They all have them and they all hit The New York Times bestsellers list. And why not? They get nightly commercials to hawk their books while the rest of us aren’t so lucky.

These are the same people that "support the troops’ with everything they say, but I don’t see any of them in a uniform, holding onto a weapon and wondering if that dead dog in the road is concealing a roadside bomb... Oh, yes, the terrorists do that sort of thing and we learned to look for wires running from the animal into the bushes far away.

Why, you ask, should this bother me? Well, before my National Guard unit was called to active duty and I was sent to Iraq, I was a writer. I did many things. Science fiction. Action-adventure. Non-fiction. I had contracts to write books and I had work lined up.

Then we were called to active duty and I didn’t have time to meet my deadlines. Oh, the publisher were gracious enough to ask to me to finish as soon as possible. I finished one of the books just before we left home but the next didn’t get delivered on time... and the one that followed that was late. I could not fulfill my obligations for the copy edited manuscript or the page proofs because I was in Iraq.

They said that when I returned they would set something up and we’d do some additional books. But then it came time to deliver on that promise and they were all afraid that I would be deployed again. I told them that I thought that wouldn’t happen, but, of course it did. That deployment was short. Then came Katrina and I was on active duty for that and finally the floods here. All required periods of active duty lasting from about fourteen days to a month or more.

My writing career is now pretty much in the toilet. I don’t have access to a daily TV show to tell everyone about it. I can’t buy commercial time on TV or the radio because it is too expensive. And those talk show hosts don’t want to talk to me because they don’t care about what I think.

I’m wondering what the careers of all those talking heads would be if they had to take 14 months off to serve. What if they didn’t have daily access to TV to promote their books... and don’t tell me they’re too old to serve. I was in Iraq at 54... and this after serving in Vietnam at 19.
If any of them would like, I can speak intelligently on a variety of subjects. For example, I knew in 2003 that the Iraqis wanted us to leave, which is what all the surveys were reporting. I knew because I had talked to Iraqis in Baghdad and Tikrit and Babylon. But I also knew the rest of the statement... Yes, they wanted the Americans to leave, but not right now. That was something that hasn’t been reported until recently.

Hey, networks, why not?

Anyway, the point is... if I had access to a daily commercial for my books, I too would find myself on the bestseller list. Instead, I was out of the country, on a mission dictated by the president and endorsed by nearly all those talking heads. Now my career is in the dumper but none of them are around to offer help. Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gender Pay Gap

It happens every fall and this year is no different. We’re being told that women earn about 80% of what men earn. This alleged pay gap is reported by so-called non-biased groups and underscored by government research. I say nonsense. Actually, I say something a little more profane but I try to avoid that sort of language here.

My evidence, you ask...

Sure. I looked that the pay scales for the military and I saw no asterisks that suggested women would be paid at a lower rate than their male counterparts. I saw the pay scale that pays based on years of service and rank. I saw that a few, in the lower officer grades were paid more than some others, but that was based on service in enlisted grades and not gender. The pay is equal.

I looked at some school districts and saw the pay scales based, not on gender, but on length of service and education. Those with graduate degrees were paid more than those who did not have graduate degrees. The pay was not based on gender.

I will note right here that there seem to be more males in the administration of the school districts, but I saw nothing to suggest that the women holding similar positions with the same educational background and length of service were paid less.

In the recent past, I have noted a couple of stories that show women, at some entry level positions are paid MORE than their male counterparts. This means there are fewer women for those jobs and the companies and corporations get "brownie points" from the government for having female employees in those jobs. Since there are fewer women available they are paid more... and I hear no one complaining about this disparity in pay. The pay is based on gender and who is available.

I’ll even take this a step farther. I know of one company that promoted women over men based solely on gender rather than on longevity, education, or performance. They wanted a female manager and it made no difference that their choice was based only on gender.

I’ll even bet that if you looked beyond the statistics, you’d find reasons beyond gender. The male might have been with the company longer, though they are now in the same job. Maybe the male has a higher level of education. Maybe the woman took three or five years off to raise a family.

No, I’m not offering excuses, but reasons. If you just look at who holds what job and what they are paid, you might not be getting the whole story. Your results would be skewed, but you would be reinforcing the common myths about these unfair practices.

And if the woman learned that she was being underpaid by her corporate bosses, then doesn’t she have grounds for a lawsuit? Aren’t there supposed to be laws that prevent this sort of thing?

No, I just don’t believe this without some substantial proof that women in the work force are being unfairly treated... Yes, some are. Sexual harassment is still a problem, but none of this is as blatant or widespread as it was last century. Maybe we can get another story broadcast about the success of women in the work force...

Oh, that’s right. That isn’t the storyline we want to follow. We want to believe that women are being universally mistreated and unpaid. That gets the viewers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Time Table for Withdrawal

I’m very annoyed at the Commander-in-Chief for giving our enemies a time table to end combat operations. Has he learned nothing from history? Does he not have a clue about running an effect war? Just who in the hell are his advisors anyway?

Oh, I understand that he is playing to his liberal minions and that he is attempting to fulfill a campaign promise. But here is the problem with that. Soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen are still in the field and are engaged by an enemy that is ruthless, uncaring, murderous, dangerous and without morals. He’ll tell you one thing and then stab you in the back. It has been this way since the beginning of time and you would think that anyone who as ever studied history would know this.

But let’s look at some of this history. Lyndon Johnson lied us into the war in Vietnam (I just mention this so we can get away from the Bush lied us into war in Iraq... they all do this). Richard Nixon lied to keep us engaged in Vietnam and then lied to get us out.

In the meantime the men and women of the military made the sacrifices that the country asked, often without question, doing what they believed to be the honorable thing to do. And what did it gain them?

A lack of support from the civilian chain of command. Richard Nixon could have ended the Vietnam War the day he took office with the same results he got four years later. Instead, he came up with his plan, put it into effect a week before the election and achieved his goal... reelection.

Of course the communists lied to him... or Henry Kissinger, and the minute the American ground forces were gone, rolled over the South Vietnamese Army. As I say, our withdrawal could have been accomplished four years earlier with a reduction in the lost of American lives and the same, ultimate outcome.

The point? Politics took precedence over responsible pursuit of the war. Those who were hurt? The military men and women and their families... but this war didn’t touch everyone. You could walk down the street and see no sign of the conflict. Who cared?... except those in uniform and those who loved them.

President Obama apparently didn’t study the Vietnam War. He is obviously unaware that the North Vietnamese knew, based on what was published in our newspapers and broadcast on our news, that all they had to do was wait. Engage in some combat, but just wait. Eventually we would tire and leave... which we did.

And once we were out, we would not be inclined to re-engage, no matter how swiftly the North Vietnamese violated the peace agreement. They knew we wouldn’t come back...

And now here we are, forty years later, and that lesson of history has been lost on today’s politicians... democrat and republican (no, they don’t deserve capital letters). With Bush in office, the democrats offered resistance every step of the way. Now with Obama in office the republicans are resisting and no one seems to notice how they have changed sides. Politics over rational thought and strategic planning.

But the war continues. American military men and women (sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers) are engaged in combat while the politicians are engaged in rhetoric. These politicians claim to be for the "troops" but when push comes to shove, they are for their own political party, their own political agenda, and their own political life. The troops be damned.

So now the president has said that he will end the combat operations in Afghanistan next year, as promised. He said that he will analyze the situation then and make a decision, but we all know that politics will be the deciding factor here. The military situation will not dictate the solution. Politics will.

In the end, it will be the military who make the sacrifices and the only ones who really worry about them are their families and friends. No one pays attention to this any more because the important stories such as which Hollywood idiot was arrested, who is in jail and who is out, and the important story of how the Oval Office has been redecorated will fill the "news hole."

In this case, however, the Commander-in-Chief ought to read the history. He should not make a decision that unnecessarily puts the military at risk nor should he announce his strategic decisions months before he puts his plans into action. In this case, he should not be a politician but take the title, Commander-in-Chief to heart and understand what it means. In that way he can transcend the nonsense of some of our past Commanders-in-Chief. But only if he can set aside politics and I have seen nothing to suggest he is capable of this... and in the end, it is the military who will suffer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wall Street Greed?

Just when I thought it was safe to watch television again, the political ads have returned. Now I’m again treated to the Washington crowd as well as other politicians, telling me that the vast economic problems we face today are the result of Wall Street greed. Those evil corporate men and women doing everything they can to earn a buck... almost always at the expense of the rest of us, or so we’re told.

Well, I ask, what about Congressional greed? Representatives and senators voting with their pocketbooks rather than with the best interest of the country in mind. These men and women wondering what they can do to buy votes for their re-election rather than what harm might befall those in their home districts.

It seems to me that these people in Washington wrote the book on greed. Social security... you pay into but not them. They have exempted themselves from that. In fact, they always seem to opt out of these programs that are supposed to be so good for the rest of us.

I really don’t want to hear about Wall Street greed simply because we know those people are acting in their own self interest. That’s what they do. That’s what they trained to do. It is their mind set. Gordon Gekko said it best. "Greed is good."

But Congress and the Senate? They were supposed to think about what their constituency wants. They’re supposed to have our best interests at heart. But what do they do? Vote for what they think will keep them in office. Sell their votes to the highest bidder. (Oh, you want an example... How about the original plan that would have kept Nebraska out of the universal health care? Explain that...)

So, the next time that you see one of those ads that talks about greed on Wall Street remember this. The real greed is in Washington where they have their hands in our pockets. If they could take everything we own, they’d do it in a minute... and then give it to someone else, as long as the new person would vote for them.

So much for Wall Street greed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Burning the Quran

For those who don’t get it, the world is now connected by the Internet. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, or how backward your country might seem. We’re all connected in ways that no one envisioned just a few years ago. Who would have thought that I could sit in my room and communicate instantly with people all over the world without having to use a telephone.

This was demonstrated again when a pastor with a congregation of a couple of dozen made a wild statement that he was going to burn the Muslim holy book. Within hours he had ignited protests throughout the Muslim world. The commanding general in Afghanistan said that this would adversely affect the men and women stationed there and would make their jobs that much more difficult, if not deadly.

The pastor, a man of God, was unmoved by all this.

Muslims responded with protests, burning the American flag. People did die during the protests and it seemed that the pastor, a man of God, was unmoved by all that as well.

I will make two comments. As a soldier who had been stationed in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, I knew the power of the Internet and satellite TV. What was being said in the United States, including the lack of support coming from our own Congress was well known to the Iraqis... they did, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have access to satellite TV and the Internet. Those comments, made in a political arena and based only on a political agenda, affected the soldiers in the field. The Muslims were watching satellite TV and reading the Internet and reacted to it... often negatively.

Upon my return, I asked some of those protesting the war if they were at all concerned about the danger the soldiers in the field faced. I asked if they realized that their words were encouraging the terrorists to wage war. I asked if they thought about the consequences.

Not one had.

Worse still, now that they knew, they weren’t going to let that affect their political agenda... We support the troops, but not to the point where we must weigh what we say against the consequences for those on the front lines. They weren’t interested in supporting the troops to that extent.
And second, why would those who abhorred the burning of their holy book respond by burning the American flag? Shouldn’t we now be out in the streets protesting their destruction of our national symbol...

Oh, wait. That comes under the heading of free speech, a right that many have gone to war to protect...

I won’t point out the irony here. I’ll let you figure it out.

I will say this. In our world today, you must carefully weigh your words against the possible negative outcome. When it comes to protecting the troops in the field, I’m for limiting what is said... while the troops are engaged. Before that engagement, after the danger for them is over, say whatever you please...

But remember, what you say is no longer said in a vacuum. The world is watching on satellite TV and the Internet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Ground Zero Controversy

Yes, I'm back... I have heard from a few people who said they wished I would do something more here, so, I'm back.
Let's talk about the nonsense surrounding the Islamic Center that Muslims wish to build near Ground Zero. Yes, religious freedom gives them the right to worship however they please and whoever they please. It doesn't not give them the right to build anywhere they wish without consideration of the sensibilities of those who would be their neighbors or without consideration of what the specific location might mean to others... in this case, the majority of Americans.
I saw the reporter for CNN touring the blocks around Ground Zero pointing to a "gentleman's club" which is, of course, code for a strip club. I saw her point out the OTB which allows people to place bets on horse races without the inconvenience of going to the track. And yes, I saw the bars and other places that many of us would not wish to see in our neighbors, all operating without protest.
But here's the difference. Strippers didn't fly airplanes into buildings. Gramblers haven't proclaimed their hatred for Americans. Acoholics haven't wished to destroy the United States.
So if the Muslims are really interested in building bridges between them and the rest of American society, let them listen to the wish of the people and build their center a little farther away. This would show some sensitivity to those who lost loved ones in the destruction of the twin towers.
And just so that we're clear here... any attack on a mosque in the United States is wrong. The vast majority of Muslims are good people who can relate to the feelings of others and listen to what they have to say. When we attack their centers of religion, we fall to the level of those who fly airplanes into buildings and we are all better than that.