Category Archives: war

Paul Fussell

It’s hard to say just how much his writings shaped my thinking and life.

I will always remember taking the train out of Riga going to teach class and reading Fussell.

He was under appreciated.  PBS Newshour didn’t do a segment about him tonight.  That’s on them, not him.



Hackers vs. drug dealers.

This looks to be a time when we will see if the power of exposure is greater than the gun.

I’m 100% behind this.  I don’t care if it is fake or not.  Just the idea of a group of internationals getting together and saying no, you will not do this is very powerful.


You Tell Me if This is Weird

From our local wingnut talk stations here in Houston:

Operation Desert Storm: 20 Years Later
Analysts: withdraw was the right thing to do.
By Nik Rajkovic
Monday, January 17, 2011

It has been two decades since Americans became glued to their radios and television sets as coalition forces began to bomb Baghdad.

Just like many of us, retired Army General Bill McClain also was watching the coverage on television, but from inside a briefing room at the Pentagon.

He says although the first assault came as somewhat of a surprise, the U.S. military began preparing the day Iraq invaded Kuwait.

“We knew it was going to come, because Saddam Hussein wouldn’t give up on anything,” says McClain.  “It was a good feeling to say now this is getting started.”

In what appeared to be an easy victory for U.S. forces, some still question the decision to pull back without taking out Iraq’s leadership, adding we could have avoided the most recent conflicts in the Middle East.

But Texas A & M military history professor Joseph Dawson says Bush One made the correct call.

“The American military as strong as it was,” says Dawson.  “We still did not have complete plans for occupying the country.

For those who argue we could have prevented going back or even the events of 9/11, former ambassador Ryan Crocker disagrees.

“I would see no connection at all to 9/11,” Crocker says.  “Osama bin Laden simply didn’t care about those things, operating on a completely different ideological structure.”

In fact, all agree that the time between the two Gulf Wars allowed U.N. sanctions to set it, and U.S. officials to develop a plan for occupancy before Operation Iraqi Freedom got underway in 2003.


Again, what?

The Way it is Done

I watched and listened to President Obama tonight.  His address was quiet, sincere, heartfelt, and nothing like what W. did back on “Mission Accomplished” day.

I’ve wasted things in my life: money, time, opportunities, other people’s time, but I have never wasted as much money or as many lives as George W. Bush has.  The woman Margaret interviewed on the News Hour tonight just made me cry.  It reminded me of the one Iraqi student we’ve had in our program at school.  Iraq is cursed, she said.  Margaret said she hoped the woman was wrong.  It was heartbreaking.

The president addressed our nation well and all of the criticism — from both the left and the right — is uncalled for.  This president has had to walk a line few others have — perhaps none other has.  He’s doing a good job and his poll numbers are coming up — despite the spitefulness of people on both sides.

I still believe in Hope.  I still believe in Change.  I am also realistic and pragmatic.  It will take time.  How much time depends on this November.  We can go forward — pick up a stronger Democratic majority — or go backwards — return to the frivolous investigations and government shut downs brought about by divided government in the 1990’s.  Remember, when Dems took over in 2006, they didn’t shut things down.  The Republicans will if they have just a one seat majority.

I was proud of my president tonight — I’ve been proud of him for a long time now.  I am hopeful that the economy will start coming back in the next couple of months and that come November, we will see that the hate and anger directed toward him will be recognized for what it is.

While Others Have Forgotten Them

The last combat troops are out of Iraq.  While it’s not everyone, it’s what was promised.  And don’t give me any crap about The Surge.  This could have been achieved sooner and with less loss of life without The Surge.  And don’t tell me that Obama is doing the same thing in Afghanistan.  APPLES AND ORANGES.

Here’s John McCain.

And just look at what Kathleen has been blogging about.  It’s not Iraq.

This is very good news, especially since it is ahead of schedule.  Here’s hoping Afghanistan can work out the same way.  After hearing Petraeus last Sunday, I do have hope.

Added later — and I remember all of the trepidation I felt when I knew W was keen on invading, all of the political pressure put on the House and Senate to vote before the first midterm elections, all of the name calling — especially calling those of us against the invasion traitors, all of the smart-ass and holier-than-thou nonsense of Kathleen (she still clucks over whether your comment is “civil” and never apologizes for name-calling or admits to being wrong).  I remember following what had happened to Margaret Hassan.  I remember being so frustrated with someone at work over her opposition to a peace march that I almost lost my job.  I remember Bill Bennett claiming that if we would do in Iraq what Ethiopia had done with Somalia at that time, we would “win” in Iraq.  Clue bat: the Ethiopians are still struggling in Somalia.  It’s no better or even worse than it was in 2006.

It just all comes flooding back, especially how people like Kathleen were cheer leading while it was fashionable, but later, forgot, because you know politics is all about the current shiny thing.

Nixon in China

Robert Gates, telling Congress to cut it out.  Literally:

In a speech that was as welcome as it was remarkable, the Pentagon chief explained that the Congress, Department of Defense officials and defense contractors had allowed military spending to grow unchecked after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Warning that this sort of budgeting without checks or balances is unsustainable, Gates called for a radical shift in direction.

“What it takes is the political will and willingness…to make hard choices — choices that will displease powerful people both inside the Pentagon and out,” Gates declared on Saturday, in a speech at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, where the current Secretary of Defense noted that the, like many military men, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe during World War II worried about excessive defense spending and warned about the threat posed by the “acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Here’s a nice background article on President Obama’s first defense budget last year.

Both articles are worth the time to read them.

From the Administration: Cheney is Just a Chest Beater

True enough.

Here’s the entire entry — copied and pasted without a bit of guilt:

The Same Old Washington Blame Game

Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on December 30, 2009 at 03:34 PM EST

There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day.  I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.

First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years.  It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda – more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia.  And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

The Speech

He reminded me again (as if I needed it) of exactly why I voted for him.  He was logical, methodical and hit just the right tone — he’s no believer in “American Exceptionalism” but he also is no apologist as others have tried to portray him.  We must finish what we started, back in the day when virtually everyone — and everyone I knew at the time — was with us.  He’s laid the groundwork through his travels, meetings and speeches since taking office.  He’s got not only the support of, but also praise from his lead commander in the region.  And despite McCain being on two networks right afterwards acting cranky and old, (along with Bob Schieffer of CBS — gah the man is obnoxious;  I don’t care how long he has been around), I think President Obama will be more persuasive.

This morning I was listening to Bill Bennett, and one of his callers related a story about his son being at Westpoint in 1996 or 1997 when Bill Clinton gave a speech.  The caller suggested that Clinton had already by that time disgraced the office . . . perhaps his memory is . . . spotty . . . but he claimed that the cadets would be polite for President Obama (no big surprise there) just like they were for Clinton, but he also claimed that after they had shaken hands with Clinton, they had a ceremony to “cleanse” their hands.  The caller suggested the same would happen with President Obama.  I’m doubtful.  Those I saw on teevee thrusting their hands forward through the thick of their classmates didn’t seem to be faking it.  They all seemed enthusiastic.  Many of them also asked to pose for pics with the president.  I’d like to follow up on this with Bennett tomorrow, but since I have a job, I’m not able to spend three hours on hold while Bennett belches and mumbles.

On the very long way home from work (don’t ask) I listened to a completely incoherent Michael Berry.  He is struggling with his position on Afghanistan — dipping into anti-war arguments, but clumsily.  (I’m doing this from memory — during a very terrible drive home, so forgive me if I don’t get it exactly right.)  He disparaged both the Afghans and the Pakistanis.  They live in caves.  They are backwards.  Osama Bin Laden can only connect with people in old fashioned ways because there are no cell towers where he is.  They are an arbitrary conglomeration and not a nation (neither one).

Then he switched over to hyper- conservative and agreed that going to war for oil is good.  You know, because WE NEED IT.  So it’s ok.  I didn’t hear him make the same argument for poppy seeds, but he could have.  He also proclaimed that he supports the troops!  as much or more than anyone because he is a good redneck.  Unfortunately, like all other chickhawks of all time, he never felt so strongly about it that he could serve.  Maybe it was because he was fat.  He does go on and on about that weight loss company that sounds a lot like AA for fatties (not that there is anything wrong with that).

But enough of giving time to small audience talk radio types for tonight.

I am proud of my president.  While I did not advocate military action even in Afghanistan, even back in the day (I’ve always been for the law enforcement approach), President Obama inherited (and no, Michael Berry, you cannot redefine what “inherited” means, no matter how hard you try) this conflict, and from all I can tell he has made an informed and prudent decision.  I support him.  He made a difficult decision.  He will follow through.  He has the support of the his commanders.

Now it’s just up to us — all of us — to make sure that we — with this plan — can succeed.

Armistice Day

That’s what this day was originally about. It wasn’t about veterans (our country already had a day for that — it is called Memorial Day). It was about peace, world peace, after the loss of life and destruction of the First World War. It is still observed in that same way in other countries that were involved.

I see no reason to have two days to do the same thing. I also think there is far too much made of all of it. War should not be glorified and those who have served since the draft was abolished do so at their own risk.

People who never served, like Bill Bennett, slobbering over themselves on a day like today is more than repulsive. If he cared so much he would have served. Instead, he was too smart to serve and got a deferment. He wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. My father wasn’t so lucky. He served and then was called back during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He missed my birth because he was called back.

It’s a point that has been made again and again: if you are so pro-war, then you had better have served. The problem is that for many in the military, like my father, war was the last thing they wanted. It is what they train for, but the hope is that it won’t happen.

Originally, today was supposed to be about peace. In some ways it still is — at least for me and for most of the world. With Iraq, Afghanistan, The Congo, and Burma, among other places with conflicts, there is a long way to go.

War cheerleaders and supposed military supporters are not helping.

Tear Down This Wall

I work with people from all over the planet — every continent and almost every country.

Not a single one of them credits Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I lived in (not as a tourist) a former Soviet Republic.  Twice.  No one there credited Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I visited Gdansk.  I didn’t see any monument to Ronny.

But this freaking meme will not die.

Even Gorbachev and liberal historians agree that Reagan was the driving force behind ending the cold war. Why would you want to deny it? So strange to me.

Completely unsourced and untrue.  I lived with people who lived through it.  I didn’t just visit them or read some book.  I lived with them.

What nonsense this woman spews.  She doesn’t even know what she is talking about.

On The New Hour tonight, West Germans admitted that while they paid for reunification monetarily, the people of East Germany paid in other ways, painful ways.

I will always remember my colleagues.  There were some good aspects of their system.  Ones that they missed.  Before independence, women weren’t assaulted.  Just go and search you tube for Russian prisons.  And now parts of the former Soviet Union have “leaders for life” — that’s progress if you don’t care about the people who live under those rulers — or don’t even know where those places are.