Monday Wake Up Call – Veterans Day 2018

The Daily Escape:

“Sands of Remembrance” sand sculpture, Normandy, FR – done for D-Day, 2004

Wrongo still thinks of Veterans Day as Armistice Day, probably because he’s old enough to remember when we celebrated it as the ending of WWI. Now, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans. President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.

Let’s focus today on the closing hours of WWI, and then add a few thoughts about Vietnam.

First, WWI: In the eleven hours of that final November day, the different countries of the Allies were still launching attacks even though they knew that the cease-fire was set for 11 am. In fact, the French commander, Marshall Foch, refused to agree to a cease-fire. The American generals also wanted to make a point with the Germans, and that day, about 3,000 Americans were killed and wounded.

There was a Congressional Hearing after the War about the 3,000 Americans casualties, but they never published the results, because it would have made the American Generals look bad.

In the many centuries of European history up to 1945, an army crossed the Rhine on average once every 30 years. War was historically what the major nations of Europe did. In the 73 years since WWII, they’ve decided not to do that to each other, an astonishing and humbling fact.

On Saturday and Sunday, we saw the strong expressions of unity between France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel, along with Merkel appearing on Sunday morning in London. These were mere symbols for peace, but it mattered very much for the world to see them, even if they are immaterial to the current US president:

On Vietnam: Few know that there are eight American women listed on the Wall. Each are nurses, who dedicated themselves to taking care of our wounded and dying. They were part of the more than 265,000 American women who served during the Vietnam era. Approximately 11,000 served in Southeast Asia. Close to 99% were nurses.

A small number of women served in civilian capacities, such as with the American Red Cross and the USO. More than 50 civilian American women died in Vietnam.  Others worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and in other capacities.

It wasn’t until November, 1993 that the patriotic service of all women was honored in the nation’s capital at the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Every holiday offers the opportunity to remind ourselves of who we want to be as a nation. The day after every holiday gives the opportunity to start down the path of doing something about that.

As Fabius Maximus says:

We ask our men and women in uniform to fight for us. The right or wrong of the conflicts – the responsibility for them – lies on us, the citizens at home who elect our leaders, not on those who carry out our orders. On this day we celebrate their service, without which the Republic would not have survived.

Since every “Support the Troops!” celebration inevitably becomes a “Support the War!” celebration, it’s curious how a celebration about the end of a war has gotten so twisted in America. There is no better way to support our active and veteran service members than to make sure we never commit to war, unless absolutely necessary.

So wake up America! Here’s what we have to do, starting today:

Stop under-funding care for veterans. Every month, we hear about active duty military and veterans suffering poor medical care, or having to wait years for the care they need. The military can always find funding for big-ticket weapons, but not for our veterans.

Here in America, we will say anything to support our troops, but we won’t fully fund the Veterans’ Administration. We won’t provide truly first-class aftercare to the wounded and maimed. And we won’t ensure that widowed spouses and children are cared for adequately.

Stop Congress from giving Presidents a blank check to conduct military operations that are not purely defensive in nature. Rewrite the AUMF. Put Congress back into its long-abandoned Constitutional role of approving wars that are recommended by the president.

With a Democratic majority in the House, these two things are possible.

Since its Monday, tell your Congresscritter to get busy on them right away.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 13, 2016

Has this been the worst week ever? And then we learned that Leonard Cohen died last Friday. We will devote Monday to him, but we should be glad that Janet Reno died thinking that Hillary had it in the bag. Wrongo promised some comments for Veteran’s Day:

If we can’t care for the ones we have, perhaps we should stop making new veterans:

cow-known-soldier

Supporting the troops needs to be more than lip service”

cow-support-the-troops

The Dems now need to do what the GOP did in 2012. Of course, they will probably ignore the findings too:

cow-autopsy

We need to change perspective regarding our differences:

cow-big-wall

 Trump’s infrastructure plan ties everything together:

cow-new-infrastructure

Comey’s boys played their part:

cow-get-our-man

We leave you with the lyrics to a Steven Stills song:

There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

 

I think it’s time we stop, children,

What’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down

 

There’s battle lines being drawn

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

Young people speaking their minds

Getting so much resistance from behind

 

It’s time we stop, hey,

What’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down

 

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away

 

We better stop, hey,

What’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down

 

See you on Monday.

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Veterans Day: 11/11/2015

In his latest book, The Last of the Presidents Men, Bob Woodward reveals a previously unreported memo from 1972 in which Nixon writes Kissinger, saying that a years-long bombing campaign in Vietnam had produced “zilch,” even as he pitched the exact opposite message to the American public. He wrote that the day after giving an interview to Dan Rather, declaring that the bombing of North Vietnam had been “very, very effective”. Nixon’s note said:

K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result=Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.

Nixon then increased bombing, dropping some 1.1 million tons in 1972 alone — more than in any single year of LBJ’s presidency. From Woodward: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[Nixon] Us[ed] Vietnam to enhance his re-election prospects…breaking perhaps the most sacred trust for a commander in chief.

All these years later, it is hard to believe that anything Nixon did could surprise us, yet there it is.

Since the 1970’s, a meme among conservatives is that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of will, brought on by liberals and war protesters. But thinking that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was that liberals stabbed America in the back is ridiculous. You may remember that in 1968, Nixon said he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. He had no plan, and by 1972, when he sent the note to Kissinger, he knew he was losing the war.

In total, the war stretched on for 7 years after the announcement of Nixon’s “secret plan” to end it.

Today we hear that feckless leadership is causing us to “lose” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This comes from a few career military, and many, many Republican Chicken Hawks, who continue to raise the specter of Vietnam.

On Veterans Day, let’s remember that Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled and died on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to the war profiteers, and where we left behind zero ability to foster the “democratic” way of life that our politicians wanted to bring to those nations.

And what about the “sacred trust?” Politicians break the sacred trust to its citizens and soldiers all the time, if there is an opportunity to spread the gospel, secure the oil, or beat the “enemy”. War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. Their families robbed of optimism, their memories an open wound.

THAT is the sacred trust in ruins. That is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan on this, and on all Veterans Days.

And do the Chicken Hawks take care of our veterans after the fact, once they come home? They do not. The CH’s “cut taxes” mantra means that more money for the oligarchs has to come from somewhere. So, they try to cut social programs, because war profiteers (including those in Congress) can’t make any money off government-run, not-for-profit social programs.

Veterans have been with us since before the founding of the Republic. To observe this Veterans Day, here is a reasonably obscure song by Bob Dylan, “’Cross the Green Mountain.” It appeared on the soundtrack of the film, “Gods and Generals,” a Civil War film that was entirely financed by Ted Turner as a pet project.

The song speaks to the horror faced by soldiers in the Civil War. Dylan’s Civil War tale could be about any war, as his worn-down singing captures the essence of a soldier pining for home while reflecting on what may be his last battle, his last moments in life. Below is the abbreviated version of the song that was used as the official music video:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

That gives you a taste, but if you want the whole thing, the full 8 minute song was part of Dylan’s Bootleg Series #8: “Tell Tale Signs,” and you can view it here.

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What Have We Learned from 13 years of War?

“The Americans have all the clocks…but we have all the time” – Taliban Commander

On Veteran’s Day, the Wrongologist asked himself whether, after the last 13 years of war in the Middle East, conducted by four presidents, with the loss of many thousands of American lives, and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, what have we learned?

Maybe, not enough. So, here are three more credits in the Big Picture:

Syria became the 14th country in the Islamic world that US forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980. Here’s the list:

Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-present), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-present), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-present), Pakistan (2004-present) and now, Syria.

We need to figure out what we have learned from all of this intervention in the Middle East. We need to total up what we have accomplished in the Middle East, and what a sustained war footing has cost us as a nation. Our veterans and the American people deserve an accounting.

On Tuesday, the NYT had an op-ed by Daniel Bolger, a retired General who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Bolger wants us to stop saying that the surge won the Iraq War:

The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad…the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate. Like a handful of aspirin gobbled by a fevered patient, the surge cooled the symptoms. But the underlying disease didn’t go away. The remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents we battled for more than eight years simply re-emerged this year as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Please read Bolger’s book, “Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars”. Its first paragraph:

I am a United Sates Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.

Americans have the problem, our politicians have the problem, and so do our generals. We think that we can: i) bring stability wherever it is needed, or ii) remake parts of the world in our image. Well, we can’t. And the world doesn’t want us to even try to do it. America has many fine attributes and things to be proud of, but there is a naïve and possibly purposefully ignorant side of the American psyche that gets us into trouble. It is the myth of American exceptionalism. It bleeds into our politics, our popular culture, and much of our military. You only need to look at Tuesday’s Concert for Valor to see how deeply we are infected by the Exceptionalism myth.

We need a debate. What are we doing in the Middle East? Andrew Bacevich, a professor and retired army colonel has said: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

You know, we live in a country where if you want to go bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost, even though the costs almost inevitably end up being orders of magnitude larger than anybody projected at the outcome. But when you have a discussion about whether or not we can assist people who are suffering, then suddenly we come very, you know, cost-conscious…

Has the Middle East become more or less stable? Has it become more democratic? Is there less anti-Americanism? The answer is “no” to all. So, it is time to recognize that US military intervention in the Middle East has failed us as a primary means of US policy.

Mr. Obama’s bet — the same bet made by each of his predecessors, going back to Carter — is that the application of US military power would solve the dilemma of the moment. All of them were wrong, and so is he. Without a real debate, when the 14th campaign runs its course, a 15th will be waiting.

One thing worthy of debate is whether we should return to a universal service based on a mandatory draft. Richard Nixon replaced the draft with a lottery. That morphed into our all-volunteer armed forces. And thus, the ideal of the citizen/soldier was another casualty of the Vietnam War.

Non-professional soldiers would assure that we debate what we are doing militarily. It would engage the public in our foreign military strategy, unlike their current engagement with an all-professional military.

Will Congress ever agree to a commission to examine our grand strategy in the Middle East? Not without real civilian pressure. Who in their wildest imagination, after Vietnam, would have thought we would commit to a military strategy and a foreign policy that produced the debacle we now have in the Middle East?

Then again, how long will Sisyphus continue to roll that rock up War Mountain?

 

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How Do You Honor The Troops?

Veteran’s Day came into being on June 1, 1954 as a date to honor all who served in the US Military. Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died while serving in the Military. We celebrate Veteran’s Day on the date of the WWI armistice, the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that ended the fighting. That was exactly 96 years ago today.

Veteran’s Day brings the reflexive, “thank you for your service” from everyone in America. The two things the average person could do to honor the service of veterans are to vote, and to make sure that Vets get the health care they need when they come home. Sadly, we do neither:
COW Dead Vets could talk

People: If you say that veterans died to protect our freedoms, you dishonor them when you don’t vote!

The Census Bureau reports that in 2013, 3.6 million veterans had a service-connected disability, with 957,504 having a rating of 70% or higher. Severity of disability is scaled from 0 to 100%, and eligibility for compensation depends on the rating. Let’s also remember that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is at epidemic levels among Vets, as is suicide. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 Vets a day commit suicide. You all know we continue to do a terrible job taking care of returning veterans, and you should be finding out why, and pushing your congressperson to finally fix it!

Veterans rapidly are becoming a two-age group cohort. The Census Bureau report shows that most Vets are getting older, with 47% over the age of 65. Tom Dispatch reports that today’s military is made up largely of Millennials. In fact, with nearly 43% of the active duty force age 25 or younger, and roughly 66% of it 30 or under, it’s one of the most Millennial-centric organizations around.

How the “entitled” generation will perform as our protectors is still up in the air. An NIH study determined that people in their 20s have Narcissistic Personality Disorder at a rate three times that of people 65 or older and a recent survey by Reason and pollster Rupe found that 18-24 year olds are indeed in favor of participation trophies while older Americans overwhelmingly favor winners-only prizes.

Millennials may yet surprise even a cantankerous coot like the Wrongologist. Time will tell.

Here are two terrific, but very under-appreciated tunes for Veteran’s Day. We start with “1968” by Dave Alvin.

Sample lyric:
And tonight in this barroom he’s easin’ his pain
He’s thinkin’ of someone, but he won’t say the name
Folks say he’s a hero, but he’ll tell you he ain’t
He left a hero in the jungle, back in 1968.

Here is another almost unknown song “I’m Writing in the Margins” from the album of the same name by John Gorka about a soldier in Afghanistan:

Sample lyric:
I am writing in the margins
Notes to me and you
Cause the pages are all filled
With new orders coming through

There are not a lot of rich boys
Wearing DCUs and sand
But I’ll think about that later
When I make it home again

(DCUs are Desert Camouflage Uniforms)

There is a great story told about a T-Shirt worn long after the war by a Vietnam Vet. On it was the outline of a map of Vietnam, superimposed with:

Participant, Southeast Asia War Games, 1961-1975: Second Place.

Huge thanks to the guys/gals who follow orders, who do really hard and dangerous things and who too often pay a high price for doing so.

Sources:

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