9/11/2001: What Have We Learned in Eighteen Years?

The Daily Escape:

Man standing in rubble of the North Tower late on 9/11/2001, calls out in vain to possible WTC survivors – Photo by Doug Kanter

People say that they will never forget 9/11, but what Wrongo remembers is that it was the proximate cause of the war in Afghanistan, starting with our invasion on October 7th, 2001.

And now, we’ve been there for 18 years. The war in Afghanistan has led to the deaths of over 2,400 US soldiers, with another 1,100 coalition troops killed. Over 62,000 Afghan security forces personnel have died. Tens of thousands of Taliban fighters and thousands of Afghan civilians have also died. We’ve spent Trillions of dollars that could have been used here at home to make the lives of Americans better.

Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, it is still “wartime” in America. The War on Terror has been the primary driver for our government’s weakening the Bill of Rights. In the panic after 9/11, the GW Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act, along with measures that permit torture, illegal surveillance, and indefinite detention without charges or trial. Our whistle-blower protections were weakened.

If these attacks on the Bill of Rights continue, we’ll have gone full-circle: back to a post-Constitutional America, sharing much with how colonial America was governed by the British King.

With this 9/11 Afghanistan meditation as background, after 18 years of fighting, what are we to make of Trump’s botched Afghan peace talks?

He was right to try. It’s past time that we exit Afghanistan. Much like when we left Vietnam, talks with the Taliban are not about ending the war, they’re about limiting US future military participation in Afghanistan.

In 1973, Nixon tried to create the appearance that we were exiting Vietnam on our own terms. We settled for the flawed “Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” Under that pact, American prisoners of war were freed by North Vietnam, and the last US combat troops in the south left for home, completing a withdrawal begun several years earlier.

Primary responsibility for defending South Vietnam fell to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who we knew were incapable of holding the country. Our message to both North and South was: We’re outta here; you guys sort this out. And within two years, the Republic of Vietnam was gone.

Now, our military wants to shift its focus to China and Russia. So, here we go again, looking for a pretext that makes it seem that we’re leaving on our own terms, only this time, from Afghanistan.

Enter the Taliban talks. Trump’s “deal” relied on paper-thin assurances by the Taliban that there would be no haven for the terrorists, despite ISIS already being there in significant numbers. Al Qaeda is still active there, and is coordinating with the Taliban.

In return, the US would withdraw 5,000 of our 14,000 troops. We had no assurance that the Afghan government would agree to the deal, since the Taliban had refused to negotiate with them. Trump now says the deal is dead. Republicans think Trump’s move is an opportunity to reset the terms of the peace deal, which faced bipartisan criticism here, along with rejection by the Afghans.

Maybe.

Was much lost by walking away? Trump had planned on making a splashy announcement about bringing troops home on 9/11. He must have been channeling Camp David, where Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement with Egypt and Israel in 1978, and where Bill Clinton did the same with the PLO and Israel in 2000. So, Trump’s lost something.

But he realized the meeting wasn’t going to happen. The Taliban wasn’t going to visit the US unless the deal was signed, but Trump wanted more deal-making, followed by a signing at Camp David. The Taliban aren’t fools. Getting on a plane without a signed deal could have landed them in Guantanamo, not in Washington DC.

Peace isn’t obtained by photo-op. It requires sound planning, the participation of all parties, and exacting negotiations. Offering to host the Taliban during 9/11 also shows tone-deafness. These are the very people who gave cover to Osama Bin Laden!

However and whenever the US leaves, much like in Vietnam, the Taliban will become the government of Afghanistan, despite our 18-year effort. We now seem unwilling to say: “you guys sort this out”, so our longest war will continue. It will be accompanied by more death, and more money flushed down the rat hole.

We should also expect most Republicans and quite a few Democrats will remain silent.

Have all of these lives lost, and the trillions of dollars spent, taught us anything?

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Monday Wake Up Call – 2019 Memorial Day Edition

The Daily Escape:

Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery – 2013 photo by William Coyle

 “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Mark Twain

Today we celebrate the sacrifice of those who died fighting in America’s wars. We mourn those we knew, and we remember those we never knew.

We can’t seem to get our fill of war. In fact, since 1943, the year of Wrongo’s birth, the US has been at peace for just five years: 1976, and 1977, 1978, 1997 and 2000 are America’s only years with no major war.

So today, we celebrate those who have died in service of our global ambitions. Maybe we watch a parade, shop at the mall, and attend the first cookout of the year. Perhaps we should be required to spend more time thinking about how America can increase the number of years when we are not at war.

But today also brings us something else to think about. The Yale School of Forestry published an article about the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, Fifty Years After, A Daunting Cleanup of Vietnam’s Toxic Legacy. Here is a snippet:

“From 1962 to 1971, the American military sprayed vast areas of Vietnam with Agent Orange, leaving dioxin contamination that has severely affected the health of three generations of Vietnamese. Now, the US and Vietnamese governments have joined together in a massive cleanup project.”

During the US Air Force campaign known as Operation Ranch Hand, Agent Orange was used to strip bare the coastal mangroves of the Mekong Delta and the dense triple-canopy forests that concealed enemy fighters and supply lines. One-sixth of South Vietnam was blanketed with 20 million gallons of herbicides, and as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese civilians were exposed to the spraying.

The three remaining hot spots of dioxin contamination were the US airbases at Da Nang, Bien Hoa, and the smaller air base at Phu Cat. These were the sites from where the spraying was launched. The residual levels of dioxin on those sites posed a serious ongoing threat to public health. Of the three, Bien Hoa was by far the worst. During our war in Vietnam, it was said to be the busiest airport in the world.

Phu Cat was cleaned up by the Vietnamese without US assistance. Next came Da Nang, a six-year project that was completed last October. It cost $110 million, of which $100 million came from the US State Department, channeled through USAID.

The sheer volume of soils and sediments that must be remediated is staggering. In Da Nang, it was 90,000 cubic meters; in Bien Hoa it is 495,300. The US has agreed to commit $300 million to the Bien Hoa cleanup over 10 years, but USAID couldn’t bear the entire cost. So, after much debate, the Department of Defense agreed to contribute half of the total.

This has to be done, since dioxin is a deadly chemical. It is both hydrophobic and lipophilic: it hates water and loves fat. It sinks into the sediment at the bottom of bodies of water, it attaches to organic matter and moves up the food chain, from plankton to small aquatic animals and finally to fish. In soil, it ends up in free-range chickens and ducks and their eggs.

It becomes more concentrated at each stage, a process known as bioaccumulation. Eighty-seven percent of dioxin enters the body through ingestion, before migrating into fatty tissue, the liver, and breast milk. And fish and poultry are staples of the Vietnamese diet.

The WHO stipulates a tolerable maximum of 1 to 4 picograms (one trillionth of a gram) per kilogram of body weight per day. The mean amount they found in breastfed infants in the Bien Hoa area was 80 picograms.

And we shouldn’t forget how haphazardly the VA has dealt with the medical issues of Vietnam Vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. For many years veterans with Agent Orange-related diseases were denied disability compensation by the VA. This only changed with the passage of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Now, the VA acknowledges certain cancers and other diseases are caused by Agent Orange.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975. The Vietnam vets that survived the war only to suffer from Agent Orange-related diseases had to wait at least 16 years before our government began helping the majority of them. Vietnam waited 50 years before our government acknowledged our culpability in destroying much of their environment.

This is a sad reminder about today’s Memorial Day, all of our past Memorial Days, and the ones to come.

It is good to be reminded again about our dead soldiers, and also to be reminded of what our government ordered them to do.

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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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Monday Wake Up Call – April 23, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Red Winged Blackbird chasing Red Shouldered Hawk, FL – photo by Lana Duncan

Wrongo and Ms. Right attended a meeting with Lynn Novick, co-producer of The Vietnam War, a 10-part, 18-hour video history of the War that aired on PBS. The series was intended to be a shared public event that sparked a national discussion about the Vietnam War and the impact it had on America.

If you haven’t seen The Vietnam War, it is streaming here.

As someone who served in the military from 1966-1969, Wrongo was on orders for Vietnam twice. That he spent his time in Germany during the war was largely good luck. Many of his Officer’s Candidate School buddies died in Vietnam.

Novick showed a short video of the first episode in the series, followed by parts of episode six and seven. The series uses no historians or talking heads. There are no onscreen interviews with polarizing boldfaced names like John Kerry, John McCain, or Jane Fonda. Instead, there are 79 onscreen interviews with ordinary people who fought or lived through the war.

Two things stand out about the series: First, that it presents the perspective of South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese, along with that of the American soldiers, a significant advancement in perception for Wrongo. Second, how little that anyone on the US side, our government, our military or our soldiers, really understood about the Vietnamese. Novick told one story that was not included in the series, about how the North Vietnamese, traveling the Ho Chi Minh trail, would find an impassible rock formation, and without dynamite, they couldn’t work around it. The solution was to expose the area to US jets, who obligingly bombed the trail, making it passable for NVA trucks.

Lynn Novick said that you could divide the War into two phases: First, from the time of Truman through Kennedy, where honorable people were trying to do the right thing, and were simply getting it wrong. Then, phase two, when it became clear that our military thought that there was less than a 30% chance that we would be victorious. Novick said that recent scholarship dates that conclusion as being presented to the White House and the generals in 1965. Yet, the war went on for another 10 years. Clearly, in this phase, the decision-makers were no longer honorable people.

From that time forward, Presidents Johnson and Nixon knew that the war was unwinnable, but like their predecessors, they were unwilling to have the War lost on their watch. Their political calculations were largely responsible for 57,797 of the 58,220 deaths in the War.

And Vietnam remains the gift that keeps on giving. As of 2013, the US is paying Vietnam veterans and their families or survivors more than $22 billion a year in war-related claims.

The war at home pitted college students and clergy against politicians and the National Guard. There were huge demonstrations, and ultimately, the deaths of four Kent State college students at the hands of the Ohio Guard in 1970. That wasn’t all. Eleven people were bayoneted at the University of New Mexico by the New Mexico National Guard, and at Mississippi’s Jackson State University, police opened fire at demonstrators, killing two students and injuring 12.

These shootings of American kids by our own government led to the first nationwide student strike in US history. Over four million students participated.

The Vietnam War is a very complex and difficult topic. Our military’s plan was to win “hearts and minds” but they also bombed villages. We backed incompetent and corrupt in-country leadership. Our military falsified the metrics to show we were having “success” on the ground.

There was inconsistent, and eventually, dishonest direction from the White House.

Novick thinks that Vietnam was the most significant event for America from the Civil War to 9/11. It had a major impact, creating divisions that still persist today. In the Q&A, it was clear that the audience expressed many of the viewpoints that you might have heard 40 years ago. Ideas like the politicians prevented the military from winning, or that there were really no atrocities on the ground.

But, the afternoon’s discussion also opened people to being receptive to a different conversation, to be thoughtful about the meaning and mistakes of the War, and how we might use that experience to inform decisions our political class is making today.

So let’s wake up, America! Watch the series. Give some thought to the carnage that was wrought in our names, both in Vietnam and at home. Now, link all of that to our current endless fight against the Global War on Terror.

See any similarities?

To help you wake up, listen to Neil Young singing “Ohio”:

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

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What the Tet Offensive Can Teach Us

The Daily Escape:


Wounded Marines carried on a tank during the fight to recapture Hue in the Tet Offensive in 1968 – photo by John Olson, The LIFE Images Collection. It is one of the most famous photographs from the Vietnam War. The pale figure is Alvin Bert Grantham from Mobile AL, who was shot through the chest. He survived.

Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Tet Offensive. Tet is the Vietnamese holiday that celebrates the lunar New Year. On that day, the North Vietnamese (NVA) and the Vietcong launched a massive military offensive all across South Vietnam. It was largely a surprise attack. The NVA thought their attacks would trigger popular uprisings throughout the country, and that the US military and the South Vietnamese could be beaten in a quick, though bloody battle.

They miscalculated. Within a month, the Tet Offensive was over, and the war continued for another seven years.

In “Hue 1968”, a remarkable book by Mark Bowen, (who wrote “Black Hawk Down”), Bowen faults General William Westmoreland, who days after Tet started, said that the country-wide attacks were a diversion from Khe Sanh, so he initially held back troops from Hue, and other Vietnamese cities.

Khe Sanh was the seat of the district government. US Special Forces built an airstrip there in 1962, and ultimately a fortified base. Westmoreland believed it was a strategic location both for covering the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and to cut off NVA infiltration from Laos. Bowen writes:

Indeed the attack he expected there [Khe Sanh] loomed so large in his mind that he had entertained the use of chemical and even tactical nuclear weapon (p. 314).

A few days later, Westmoreland wrote:

The use of tactical weapons should not be required in the present situation…. [but] I can visualize that either tactical nuclear weapons or chemical agents would be active candidates for employment (p. 315).

Imagine. In 1968, field commanders were willing to recommend using tactical nuclear or chemical weapons in a war that was not an existential threat to the USA. This is the type of nuclear weapon that the Trump administration is currently thinking of adding to our to-be-built nuclear arsenal. Also remember that Trump has delegated tactics to field commanders in the Middle East and Africa, our current Vietnams.

There are a few lessons to be learned from the Tet Offensive. You can say that it was the beginning of the end for our Vietnamese adventure, but it took until 1975 for us to finally leave.

One thing that changed forever was the US public’s faith in what LBJ and the generals were saying about the war. Both had grossly oversold our progress to the American people, and Tet made that clear. More from Bowen:

For decades…the mainstream press and…the American public believed their leaders…Tet was the first of many blows to that faith in coming years. Americans would never again be so trusting (p. 505).

The publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 sealed the deal. They showed that American leaders had been systematically lying about the scope and progress of the Vietnam War for years.

After Tet, there was no more conjecture in the White House or Pentagon that the war could be won quickly or easily. The debate moved from how to win, to how to leave.

A month later, LBJ decided not to seek reelection. Westmoreland was soon removed as the field commander. And 1968 also brought the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, and then, the riots. Richard Nixon was elected eight months later, promising not victory, but that he had a “secret plan to bring the war to an honorable end”.

What have America’s presidents and generals learned from the Tet Offensive? We know that the military teaches future commanders about Vietnam to no apparent effect. It is still re-fought by our military. And almost half a century after Tet, they haven’t won it yet.

The Pentagon got the Trump administration to agree to a new “mini-surge” in Afghanistan intended, in disturbingly Vietnam-esque language, to “reverse the decline,” and “end the stalemate”.  The Pentagon convinced Trump that more troops will do the trick.

This is tragedy bordering on farce. And sadly, there is no course in quagmire management for future presidents.

Vietnam was, in truth, a 21-year war, from our first advisors at Dien Bien Phu, where the French were defeated in 1954, to that last helicopter in Saigon in 1975.

Afghanistan is now a 17-year war, with about as realistic hope of ending successfully as Vietnam had at the 17-year mark. And much like in Vietnam, we have no real strategy, and no long-term realistic end state that we can see.

The only thing that keeps Afghanistan going is that very few Americans have a relative in the fight, because we ended universal conscription in 1973.

That was one lesson from Vietnam that our military accepted and put into practice.

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What Can Vietnam’s Success Teach Us?

Wrongo was against the Vietnam War. He was drafted right after college into the US Army while America was fighting the Viet Cong. Once in the military, he was twice on orders to go to Vietnam, but luckily, ended up serving his time in Germany, running a nuclear missile unit.

He has several army buddies whose names are inscribed on the Wall in Washington, but that was 50 years ago, and he holds no grudge against Vietnam, or its people. So, the remarkable recovery that Vietnam has made from the war, their now friendly ties with the US, and their success in becoming a middle income country ought to be instructive to our foreign policy establishment.

From the Economist:

Foreign direct investment in Vietnam hit a record in 2015 and has surged again this year. Deals reached $11.3 billion in the first half of 2016, up by 105% from the same period last year, despite a sluggish global economy. Big free-trade agreements explain some of the appeal. But something deeper is happening. Like South Korea, Taiwan and China before it, Vietnam is piecing together the right mix of ingredients for rapid, sustained growth.

Since 1990, Vietnam has averaged GDP growth of nearly 6% a year per person, lifting it from among the world’s poorest countries to middle-income status. This is similar to India’s or China’s growth, but China then went on to average double-digit growth for years. Check out this photo of today’s Ho Chi Minh City, what GI’s once called Saigon:

Stark Tower 2

The tall building is 68 floors high. It is the Bitexco Financial Tower, but locals call it “Stark Tower” because it looks like Tony Stark’s headquarters in the Iron Man films. While it is the city’s tallest building now, next year it’ll only be the fourth tallest.

So, how did this communist country do it? By moving from state ownership of the means of production to a mixed model. Vietnam’s Doi Moi policy opened up Vietnam to the rest of the world. They revamped much of the legal system to create a transparent and attractive place for foreign investment. This has given foreign companies the confidence to build factories. Foreign investors are now responsible for a quarter of annual capital spending. Trade accounts for about 150% of national output, more than any other country at its level of per-person GDP.

They established the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange in 2000, and de-nationalized many state-owned companies, opening doors for foreign investment. Equity was sold to both foreign and domestic investors, and in some cases, foreign ownership can now be 100%. In 2015, total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was $13 billion.

Vietnam shares a border with China. As Chinese wages rise, some firms can easily move to Vietnam for lower-cost production, while maintaining their links to China’s supply chain for parts.

Vietnam has a relatively young population. China’s median age is 36, while Vietnam’s is 30.7. Seven in ten Vietnamese still live in the countryside, about the same as in India, compared with only 44% in China. This reservoir of rural workers should help hold down wage pressure, allowing Vietnam to build up labor-intensive industries, a necessity for a nation of nearly 100 million people.

Public spending on education is about 6.3% of GDP, two percentage points more than the average for low- and middle-income countries. In global rankings, 15-year-olds in Vietnam beat those in America and Britain in math and science.

Although Vietnam has benefited from foreign investment, only 36% of its firms are integrated into its export industries, compared with nearly 60% in Malaysia and Thailand. While Samsung plans to invest $3 billion in consumer electronics production in Vietnam, there will be very little domestic content, except for packaging. More local value-added must be found to keep GDP growth high.

There are big problems: The fiscal deficit in 2016 will be more than 6% of GDP for the fifth straight year. As mentioned, domestic content in exports is low, and imports of consumer goods purchased by newly prosperous workers fuels a trade deficit.

Vietnam is now classified as a middle-income country; so it is about to lose access to preferential financing from the multilateral development banks. In 2017, the World Bank will start to phase out concessional lending.

Vietnam is successful, despite our dropping 3.5 times the number of bombs on it that we dropped in WWII, while killing more than a million Vietnamese.

For America, Vietnam’s success, despite our past efforts to devastate it, should cause us to reflect on how and why we are a guns-first country when we deal with the third world.

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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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Monday Wake Up Call – August 3, 2015

Today’s wake up is for the US neo-con policy makers who made so many mistakes in the 1960’s and 1970’s that some are still being uncovered. Last week, NHK Tokyo had a report about the US’ operation of a secret experimental nuclear reactor in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

We put a nuclear reactor in Vietnam? When there was a war underway?

The site was in the city of Da Lat, 120 miles northeast of Saigon, where Americans had installed a research reactor. It was a General Atomics TRIGA Mark II model. We began building the TRIGA in the 1960s as another example of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” campaign at the end of the 1950s, just like the reactor we sent to Iran in 1967.

So many neutrons, so little peace.

According to NHK, as the North Vietnamese Army was approaching, Henry Kissinger ordered the site dismantled to keep the technology out of communist hands. The big news: In the event of an inability to dismantle the reactor, the NHK reports that, as a last-ditch measure, Kissinger ordered that the radioactive core be blown up rather than fall to the North Vietnamese.

NHK interviewed Wally Hendrikson, now elderly, who in 1975 was a nuclear fuel specialist at the Idaho National Laboratory. He was on the small team sent to recover the reactor’s fuel. When Hendrikson arrived at the US Embassy in Saigon:

We were told distinctly that if we could not remove the fuel and get it out of the country, we were to make it inaccessible and to pour concrete…to cover the core.

If all else failed, Hendrikson says,

We were to dynamite the core

Luckily, the team got the fuel out of Vietnam without needing to create a nuclear disaster. Vietnam later rebuilt the reactor, using technology and nuclear fuel from the Soviet Union. Today, the facility remains the only functioning research reactor in Vietnam.

How many times will we have to dodge bullets that the neo-cons and cold war warriors keep loading in guns that keep getting get pointed at America’s head? Wake up, neo-cons! To help you with your wake-up, here is #5 in our songs of summer series, Katrina and the Waves with “Walking on Sunshine”:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Monday’s Hot Links:

A map of American swearing usage, produced by a lecturer in forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states – together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – like using motherfucker. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts.

Earlier this year, Trump for President, LLC trademarked “Trumpocrat” and “Trumpublican.” Who knew that Trump wanted you to have a ball cap with “Trumpocrat” emblazoned on the front? Doesn’t Trumpocrat sound more like a plutocrat than Democrat? “Trumpocalypse” sounds correct, and has a nice ring to it, but it apparently isn’t one that they trademarked.

Exxon’s lobbying firm donated to Chris Christie’s Super PAC while Christie pushed for favorable 9to Exxon) NJ environmental settlement. Public Strategies Impact, the firm that represents Exxon’s interests in New Jersey, has donated $50,000 to “America Leads,” a super PAC supporting Christie’s presidential campaign. Christie’s proposed settlement, aims to reduce levies against ExxonMobil from $8.9 billion to just $225 million. Christie has defended the agreement as a good one for the state. NJ Democrats legislators have been seeking to block the settlement. Nothing to see here.

Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea proves 100% successful. The trials involved 4,000 people. Unlike using the randomized approach, taking a population at risk of Ebola and vaccinating half of them while giving the other half a placebo, this study used a “ring” design. When Ebola flared up in a village, researchers vaccinated all the contacts of the sick person who were willing to take the vaccine, family, friends and neighbors, and their immediate contacts. Children, adolescents and pregnant women were excluded because of an absence of safety data for them. In practice about 50% of people in these clusters were vaccinated.

To test how well the vaccine protected people, outbreaks were randomly assigned either to receive the vaccine immediately, or three weeks after an Ebola infection was confirmed. Among the 2,014 people vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination. In the clusters with delayed vaccination, there were 16 cases out of 2,380. Scientists, doctors, donors and drug companies collaborated to push the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Merck owns the rights to the drug. Invest at your own risk.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 4, 2015

The 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon passed unnoticed by this blogger last week.

Wrongo was drafted in 1966. He was on orders for Vietnam twice, but managed to spend most of his service time in West Germany, running a nuclear missile unit. He lost many friends in Vietnam, but was home, and out of the service in time for most of the big protest marches of the 1970’s. By 1974-75, no one in the States truly expected a “victory”. The debate was, according to Richard Nixon, how to achieve “peace with honor.”

For Nixon, that meant selling America on the premise of “protecting the troops as they withdraw,” or, “securing the release of POW’s”, which Nixon used to extend the war for years.

Since the 1970’s there has been a meme among conservatives that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of national will, brought on by liberals and the war protesters. We still hear this today from a few career military, and many Republican chicken hawks. But, the idea that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was a liberal stab in America’s back is ridiculous, when you realize that Nixon stretched out the war for 6 years beyond the announcement of his “secret plan” to end it.

And if you remember how rapidly the South Vietnamese regime collapsed when it was no longer being propped up by the US military, you know their argument falls apart.

Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to our war profiteers, and where we left behind no ability to bring about the “democratic” way of life that some of us had wished for them.

War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. This is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And do Chicken Hawks care about taking care of our veterans after the fact, here at home? They do not. Their mantra is cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes on the war profiteers. Cut social programs, because how can a war profiteer (including those in Congress) possibly make any money off a government-run non-profit social program?

Wake up America, time to throw the Chicken Hawks out of office! Today’s wake up song is “There’s A Wall in Washington” by Iris DeMent:

Sample Lyrics:
A boy, he traveled from far away
to walk the path ’til he finds that name
He reaches his hand up and traces each letter
He stares at the name of his unknown father
His heart is young and it’s filled with pain
in anger he cries out
‘Who is to blame for this wall in Washington
that’s made of cold black granite?
Why is my father’s name etched here in it
On this wall in Washington?’

Your Monday Hot Links:

Czech libertarians received 200,000 applications for citizenship of Liberland, a seven-square-mile microstate established between Serbia and Croatia. The economy will be based on a digital cryptocurrency. Libertarian paradise. What could go wrong?

Reuters says that China will crack down on strippers who perform at rural funerals. Apparently, the Ministry of Culture is taking aim at performances which corrupt “social morals”. Strippers at funerals?

Statues of Snowden, Manning and Assange were unveiled in Berlin. All are considered heroes on the German political left for leaking US intelligence documents. The life-size statues will be going on a world tour, since they have fewer travel restrictions than the real people.

Want to carry a gun in your pants without risk of becoming a gelding? Try Thunderware, a holster designed to give you security while you pack heat near your meat. Is it pants stuffing? Is this for the guy who want you to think he has more down there than he really has? You be the judge. Gun fanatics bristle when people say that their attachment to guns is very phallic, yet they market Thunderware with a straight face.

Audi has announced that it is making synthetic diesel fuel from just water and carbon dioxide. In a bid to put an end to our fossil fuel crisis, Audi’s experimental diesel fuel is made from air and water. Called “e-diesel,” it has less sulfur and fossil-based oils, so it is more environmentally friendly. Audi claims an overall energy efficiency of around 70%. Sounds too good to be true and so far, they can only make 42 gallons/day. Invest at your own risk. If you have an Audi vehicle take a look at this VW service Melbourne as the provider also specialises in the same for Audis.

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