Thursday, April 20, 2006

It Is Your Government And Your Laws And Your Military And Your War

We have often discussed where the guilt of war might lie. It is at this point I must admit that I often become quite emotional about this issue because of my personal commitment to this country and it’s military. Having said that, I want to share a few thoughts with my friends who sometimes openly “pray” for the complete collapse of the United States military and sometimes denigrate the soldiers serving in it.

It is my observation that the world is a very hostile place. It is filled with dictators, petty tyrants, and governments that believe in every form of vile governance and acts against man and beast. If I am not mistaken I believe there are about 169 very diverse nation states in the world today and unfortunately many of them are of the perpetual vile type. The history of mankind is filled with instances of grotesque atrocities pitting one of these nation states against another and even one ethnic group within a nation against another ethnic group within that same nation. Uganda and Darfur come to mind readily as immediate examples and many others in history too numerous to name. Because of this unfortunate circumstance in the world of Homo sapiens it is a cursed reality and necessity that nations must maintain armies to defend against aggressor nations and groups and therefore I believe that it is because of this condition that the United States must maintain a strong military.

The United States military is unlike most if not all other militaries in the world in that our constitution places the military under the strict control of the civilian government. It is not only a constitutional requirement but it is a well established condition of which this country is fortunate to have a 250 year tradition of adherence to. This requirement of the constitution creates a very special relationship between the civilian government and it’s military. It creates a relationship in which the civilian government is solely responsible for the establishment of laws and treaties and absolute authority in determining when and where to use military force and the military is responsible for defending the nation and winning wars while following the orders of the government and obeying the laws and treaties created by and entered into by the government of United States. This is a very important distinction in that it squarely places very specific responsibilities on these two entities.

Based on the Constitution of the United States it is the Congress’s responsibility to declare war and or authorize the use of military force and it is the Presidents responsibility to serve as Commander in Chief. And based on the Constitution of the United States if the President were to request and the Congress were to authorize the use of military force then that force would in fact be “legal” under United States law. This can, and possibly in the case of Iraq may some day, be challenged but it is none the less at this point in time apparently “legal” under United States law. Whether such an act is legal under international law, with regards to Iraq, is I believe yet to be determined and I’m not sure that it has even been challenged.

In my earlier writings I have attempted to draw a distinction between orders on the battlefield and orders to go to war. I did this for a very explicit purpose. As I said before the military in general and soldiers in particular are required and conditioned to follow orders and question those orders when necessary but, it is the constitutional responsibility of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches to ensure that the orders the military receives to go to war and to conduct military operations adhere to the constitution and laws of the United States and adhere to international treaties lawfully entered into by this nation. It is not the responsibility of the individual soldier to do this. It is the responsibility of the individual soldier to fight the war and adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and obey the laws of the land and tenets of the Geneva Conventions and it is the responsibility of their superior officers to ensure that those laws are lawful, adhered to and charges brought when they are not adhered to.

Because of this constitutional and traditional relationship and because the United States military is so very disciplined they diligently strive to follow their orders with not blind obedience but with just and balanced obedience. So it is when the Congress passes laws and the President signs those laws they become the law of the land and the military, like every other individual and entity, must obey those laws. It is really that simple and in this way the military is simply a tool of the government which is elected by and serving as the representatives of the citizens of the nation.

I believe that the military is a necessary tool for the survival of the nation. That is simple fact. You can wish it were not but it is still fact and reality. How that military is used is the responsibility of the United States government as the representative of the citizens of the United States. So I say to those who denigrate the military of this nation that these are your sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and neighbors doing the business you asked them to do. You can say I didn’t vote for him or her or I protested against this or that but the bottom line is this. This nation’s government is elected by its citizens and we citizens have access to more information than can be digested so the government in office is there because we put them there and it’s our fault and not that soldiers fault so you need to get over it and do something about it. The soldiers in the field are fighting for their lives because we put them there and we should be fighting for theirs and our lives here on the protest lines and in the voting booths and where ever else we can fight for America. The only way I see of bringing them home is to vote these fools and buffoons out of office so let’s get on with it. And while we’re fighting for America lets fight for the Iraqi’s too. It’s their land that’s being decimated.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Of Duty, Honor And Confusion

I have read quite a few posts and received quite a few comments on my own posts with regards to soldiers obeying and disobeying illegal and legal orders. One thing has burned through on all of these writings is what I believe to be a deep misunderstanding of the definition of and reality of an illegal order as opposed to a legal order. I am also getting the impression that many of the authors of these comments are confusing our presence in Iraq with obeying an illegal order. Let’s pontificate on this issue a little.

Let me start by saying that I have a deep appreciation for these posts because it shows a desire to connect with a soldier’s world that one does not often see and I sincerely appreciate such efforts. Now here’s my short take on this issue. It is my belief that the founding fathers probably thought of this nation as being in a constant state of orderly/disorderly revolution through the electoral process. I believe it was for this reason that they rightly placed the military always and forever in civilian control and made the President the commander in chief. I believe that they looked to and intend for the citizenry, and not the military, to control the government and that the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branch would also keep each other in check and from running amuck. I do not believe that they ever had any intention that the military would defend the constitution from within. It is because of this that I must disagree with some comments and writing in that I do not believe there is any conflict in a soldier’s oath with regards to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Soldiers not only take an oath to support and defend the constitution but also to follow the orders of the officers appointed over them and they take that oath in the belief that those orders will be constitutionally legal and that those orders will in fact be steps in and of themselves in defense of the constitution. We must remember that in addition to their soldier/military side there is another side to the soldier and that is the citizen side that has all the rights of any citizen to protest and vote and take any other action that is within the law to bring about change in our government. I would add that soldiers do this every day and with zeal.

Now let’s clarify a couple of very different dynamics that may or may not be occurring in Iraq that I believe are adding to or even creating some of the confusion. If a soldier is given an order that is obviously illegal, i.e. shoot that civilian or torture that prisoner, then that soldier has not only a right but an obligation to disobey that order. And order such as that is rather obvious in nature and could more readily be interpreted as legal or illegal by most people with common sense. But if a soldier (General) is ordered to invade another country by the commander in chief and with Congress’s apparent approval then the officer must believe that in the absence of Congress’s objection and in the absence of judicial interdiction that the order is legal. Therefore to disobey the order to invade the country would in effect be a blatantly illegal act. This would hold true for the Generals subordinates as well since they also have no reason to believe the order to invade and conduct combat operations is illegal. We must not confuse the reality that we are in Iraq “legally” with our individual perception of being in Iraq illegally. If the citizens of this nation perceive and believe we are in Iraq illegally, as I do, then it is incumbent upon us, the citizens, to change the Legislative and Executive Branch and it is not, that is a capital NOT, the military’s responsibility as a military entity to take such action. Thank God!

Let us not take the incidents that occur at Abu Grahib, Gurantanimo Bay, or anywhere else in Iraq or Afghanistan out of their context of individual instances of possible illegal orders and overlay them on the invasion of Iraq. These are two very different and separate things. So to those of you who point the finger of guilt at the soldiers I say look in the mirror. The guilty person is looking back at you unless you voted for Gore and or Kerry. ;-) The military is doing its job and it is not doing it illegally yet (Sans Abu Grahib and some other highly suspect operations such as certain activities at Gitmo). If the Supreme Court or Congress says or determines that the invasion of Iraq is illegal then I am sure all of the soldiers will be glad to come home but until then they have no option but to defend themselves and the nation as ordered to do with the greatest honor and dignity possible which is what I believe 99.9999 percent are doing.

It’s not your soldiers but your government.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Generals All – Or The Burden Of Duty And Conscience

Today I sat down and read through the comments of the General Officers who are now speaking up about the planning and execution of the Iraq war and subsequent occupation. As I read through their comments several things became crystal clear to me. The first was that these are soldiers whose conscience has come home to roost. I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not denigrating these soldiers but simply recognizing their positions.

Generals are like Sergeant Majors in many ways but in at least one way they are painfully alike. They have both achieved or are beginning to realize the achievements of their life’s dreams. I have always believed that a soldier is the consummate professional. They take an oath when they join the military to support and defend the constitution and they dedicate their lives to that oath. Achieving the rank of General or Sergeant Major is, to these individuals, the recognition of having fulfilled that oath to the ultimate degree. But that is not all there is to it.

When you enter the military you are assimilated into a culture that dictates and requires that you dedicate your life to a belief that it is “mission first” and “soldiers always”. In other words accomplishing the mission and taking care of your soldiers are synonymous. One simply cannot happen without the other. And by doing this you are fulfilling your oath. Because of this it is my belief that these officers have fought the good fight and done their best to accomplish the mission assigned but have come to realize that they are not being heard and they can no longer bear to watch as their soldiers pay the ultimate price for the incompetence of this administration. It is only something so painfully ingrained in these officers that could drive them to break their discipline of silence as they have done. One must understand this in order to understand the gravity of what is occurring.

As I continued to contemplate these officers’ remarks another thought became crystal clear. Though not clearly spoken I believe that these soldiers are very, very concerned that Iran could be next. I believe this could well be the second major driving force behind them speaking up and I believe this should signal to the American people the gravity of the situation. These are not the kind of people who take talking to the public lightly. It is important to the military that they stand behind the civilian leadership. That is part of the bedrock of our constitution and these officers take that very seriously. So the mere fact that they are stepping forward and breaking their silence is more than significant.

As important as these officers coming forward is, I unfortunately do not see that it will be enough to bring about any real change. The Bush administration has shown a perpetual pattern of poor judgment and dishonesty along with a severe lack of foreign policy and military skills of any kind and they carry no credibility what so ever either at home or abroad. In an environment such as that I do not believe that simply the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld will bring about any significant change and besides Rumsfeld is not the root of the problem but simply a member of an incompetent band of Vulcan and Neocon Radicals that are bullying the nation and the world. I have no doubt that should Rumsfeld resign he would simply be replaced by more of the same arrogance and narrow mindedness that dominates this administration. The reality is that it will take an electoral change to make a real difference. Until the American people, Republican, Democrat, Independent or what ever political affiliation, wake up and demand change nothing will change and we will continue down the path to eventual total failure.
Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Now let me be clear on one issue. I, unlike many of my superior officers, am not a military tactician. I am just a crusty old retired Sergeant Major with exceptionally accurate gut feelings and enough combat savvy and luck to have stayed alive. Having said that let me say that I saw, while observing from the outside and from the beginning, where the nation was being driven by this administration and I along with many of my comrades in arms boisterously voiced our concerns to every elected representative that would listen and wouldn’t listen (Unfortunately there were more of the later and damn few of the former.). Because of this, I have only one thing to say, to those senior officers and civilian leaders in positions of leadership who had direct knowledge of the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War and subsequent occupation and who failed to speak up, that they will unquestioningly understand. With all due respect sirs and ma’ams, NUTS!!!!

These individuals have, as surely as George W. Bush has, let this country down. They are responsible, as surely as George W. Bush is responsible, for the unnecessary deaths and injuries of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Please understand that I am ecstatic that these officers are now coming forward. I laud them and applaud them. We need them to raise their voices and to shed the bright light of truth on this administration and its wanton disregard for the rule of law and the safety and security of this nation. As they do so I thank them from the bottom of my heart but I must also say this to them. It will take some time for me to get over your failure to come forward sooner and save this nation and the people of Iraq the many lives lost and broken and the suffering endured as a result of your failure to act sooner.

April 12, 2006 = KIA’s: 2,364; WIA’s: 17,469; Iraqis (Estimated): 100,000 +/- or WTFK’s

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Death, Honor, Honesty, And Other Fairy Tales

Have you ever had one of those seemingly very rare moments of absolute crystal clarity? If you have then you will know what I’m talking about in this post. For me these moments of clarity are moments when you look around and the whole world is in sharp focus and you think to yourself, “So this is what it’s all about.” I had one of those moments this weekend and the focal point of that moment of clarity was something I have known for a long time.

At the time I experienced this moment of clarity I was thinking about two very related subjects that I often think about and those are, the casualties of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the reporting of deceit, dishonesty, and corruption by the media. These two subjects are closely linked in my mind and I will expound on that in a moment.

I would like for you to take a moment and think about death. I realize this is not a very comfortable subject to discuss but I would like for you to just dwell on the idea of death and I would like for you to really try to understand the permanency of it. I would really like for you to try to think of what it is and what it might be like. Take a moment and really, really think about death and the emptiness of it. Think about not just death from the point of view of the person dying but also from the point of view of those left behind without them in their lives. Now if you have children I would like you to think about how you feel about your children. Really think about your children or if you don’t have any then think about the children of your brothers or sisters or close friends. Think about how you feel when your child hurts or injures themselves. When you are really into the emotion of your child being injured I would like for you to snuff that life out. That’s right, just snuff it out. They aren’t there anymore. They’re gone from your life permanently. Just imagine and dwell on your life without your child.

Now I would like for you to take a moment and think about a young man or woman about 19 or 20 years old and about what their life might be like. Really imagine what this young person’s life might be like. Think of them and think of your own child at that age and really dwell on it for a moment. Now think about that child’s mother or father. Think about how that mother or father feels when their child is injured or hurt. Now when you are really in that other parent’s head I want you to snuff that child’s life out. I want you to imagine life suddenly without your child and transfer that feeling over to the parent of that 19 or 20 year old child who is no longer there.

Now just think about those same children alive but horribly crippled and maimed for life. Think about those children missing legs, arms, eyes and even their ability to speak to you. Think about your child and the children of your family and friends in wheel chairs and in beds that they will never leave.

Over the weekend, as I read the headlines and then reviewed headlines of the past 4 or 5 years, one over riding and overpowering theme screamed from the pages and that theme was dishonesty. Oh, the headlines all read differently. Some were subtle and inferred, “influencing” and others were not so subtle and stated blatantly that they were accused of perjury or bribery or fraud but the theme of dishonesty was always there regardless of the adjective or noun and seemingly regardless of the subject being addressed. They might discuss “shielding” the president or employing “plausible deniability” but still the theme remained dishonesty. They might state that the president didn’t “authorize” the leak but he declassified the information after the leak and the theme remained dishonesty. The most telling and obvious of all the headlines though were the direct quotes about the war with and occupation of Iraq that were consistently diametrically opposed and spoken by persons representing the administration if not always the president himself. The point is that the theme was always dishonesty and it seems to me that when the theme is always dishonesty then dishonesty is fact. It also seems to me that this administration is the personification of repetition. Unfortunately, they are consistently repeating misinformation, disinformation, deceptive information and blatant lies. They would appear to be attempting to confirm the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he said, “Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.”

The lose of a child is a horrible and unspeakable thing. When one contemplates such a thing it is often a fruitless struggle to understand that which is not understandable and to justify that which is not justifiable. And so we find ourselves asking the unanswerable. Why is my child gone? What did my child die for? It is because of this unspeakable pain and these unanswerable questions that when the leader of a nation request authorization for and directs the use of military force it is imperative that it be a just and humane cause and a just authorization conducted in the bright and focused light of honesty. To ask for less is to ask that which should not be asked and to do less is to do the unthinkable.

The reality, the moment of clarity for this nation, is this. The children of America are giving their lives and limbs for lies. The children of Iraq are dying and being maimed because of lies. For this reason alone the citizens of this nation must stand before the gates of Washington D.C. and shout, ‘Mr. Bush, bring our children home!’

Where is there dignity unless there is honesty? Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Of Irony, Sacrifice, and Betrayal

As I drove home today I was listening to a report about the Moussaoui trial. The segment I was listening to was about the testimony of a Firefighter who, on September 11, 2001, was watching as his friend and fellow Firefighter was killed by the falling body of a victim of the al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center who had jumped to his death. The irony of this event wasn’t lost on me nor was the pain that I felt and understood as I heard this report. The narrative triggered a series of thoughts and emotions that began as a flashback. I found myself reliving the lose of my friends and comrades in arms and I was seeing all of them falling and dying all over again but this time it was all of them at once. For anyone who has experienced such an event the shear horror of it cannot be expressed and the knowledge that on that day events such as that were occurring all around the Trade Center sickened my heart.

I then, in my minds eye, fast forwarded to the present and my thoughts moved to each of the 2,345 soldiers who have given their lives since the beginning of the Iraq conflict and each of the 17,469 soldiers who have spilled their blood and left parts of themselves in the deserts and streets of Iraq and then on to each of the estimated 100,000+ Iraqi deaths since the beginning of the conflict. My mind just kept reeling with the images of the men, women, and children dying and being crippled by the ravages of war.

The nausea was still with me earlier this evening as I watched the news and reports on how I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby testified before a Grand Jury that Vice President Cheney told him that President Bush had authorized him to leak classified information in the Valerie Plame case and Alberto Gonzales’ testifying before Congress that the President can authorize warrantless domestic wiretaps if they are al Qaeda related and then report after report of corruption and political cronyism. As I watched these reports, just as vividly as my flashbacks, came my remembered images of the endless series of interviews and speeches by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Codolezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spewing a never ending series of purposefully deceptive statements, deceitful misrepresentations and plain lies. And just as vividly the never ending line of Republican Senators, Congressmen, and of course the sometimes suffocating masses of conservative talking heads spewing the same vile deceit and attempting to justify the grotesquely incompetent actions of their President and his administration.

As I watched and experienced these things the sickening reality came into crystal clear focus that on September 11, 2001 this nation was assaulted by a terrorist organization led by Osama Bin Laden that took the lives of thousands of Americans and the only member of that organization who has been brought to justice is a delusional “wanna be” named Moussaoui. The sickening reality came into crystal clear focus that our nation’s leadership, aided by both the active and complicit support of the Republican leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives and a parade of conservative pundits, misled and lied to the American people and took the nation to war and into an occupation of a sovereign nation that had absolutely nothing to do with the assault on the United States. As I watched these things the sickening reality came into crystal clear focus that thousands upon thousands of people have died as a result of their deception and immoral and illegal actions.

This nation has been betrayed by the President of the United States, his administration and the Republican Leadership of the Senate and Congress. They have been betrayed and the cost of that betrayal is absolutely inconceivable, disgusting and sad and stretches from the banks of the Tigress River to the Gulf shores of Mississippi and Louisiana touching the lives of Iraqis, Americans, and countless others.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Tribute To A Young Journalist

This is just a short post in tribute to what I believe is the heroism of Jill Carroll. I have never actually read anything written by Jill Carroll but that doesn’t stop me from respecting and admiring her. I have read a lot about her over the last 82 days and I must say that what I have read has impressed me and left me with nothing but respect and admiration. I have been left with a picture of a young woman trying to report on the truth of the horror that is the Iraq war and the plight of the Iraqi people. I can think of no nobler cause for a young journalist to pursue so I can think of a no more appropriate place to be than where she was when she was abducted.

My experience with the military, of which I’ve had a little, has also left me with a deep appreciation for the fate and experiences of prisoners of war and hostages. I would tell you that even with my depth of experience I can only imagine the ordeal that Jill Carroll experienced over those 82 days of captivity. They were, I’m sure, those things of which nightmares are made. Just knowing these things are what make me see her as and believe her to be a true heroine. I believe that for her to be home in what appears to be good health and whole, at least physically, is a blessing for her and her family but what scars she may bear mentally will only really begin to be seen with the passage of time and for whatever those may be I am deeply saddened.

Now, as I said this post will be short, but I cannot bring it to a close without a comment on what I consider the grotesque conduct and comments of some all knowing, all seeing, heroic conservative bloggers and talking heads that have belittled the actions of Jill Carroll. From what I have seen in the past a returning hostage would never be questioned as to their conduct while in captivity but unfortunately in the politically hyper charged and divided political media world created by the radical Neocon, Vulcan, Rovian, Republicans of the Bush administration and those influenced and controlled by them it has become the norm. For you Rovian savants I want to tell you that whatever Jill Carroll said or did while in captivity that helped her to gain her freedom was the dead on correct thing to do or say. What I mean by that is that I laud and commend her for whatever she said or did that convinced her captors to free her. She was not a prisoner of war but the hostage of a bunch of radical criminals. So for you slim sucking ultra conservative radicals, for those of you who would point an accusing finger of shame at Jill Carroll as though she were a prisoner of war in your little make believe world I say this. First, it’s and Iraqi civil war and an American occupation. Second, when you have gone to Iraq and been taken captive and held for 82 days and returned, call me and I’ll have time to listen to you. Until you have completed that little mission I would ask that you simply shut the f**k up because you have no credibility.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.