Thursday, May 18, 2006

What If They Walked Away

As you know I write about the military. I write about the pride that I felt as a soldier and as a retired soldier and I write about the pride I feel as the descendant of a long line of soldiers and as an American citizen. Virtually every time I write a post I get at least several and sometimes many not so nice comments about soldiers and the military. I’ll expound on this below the fold.

As I said I get some not so nice comments and this post is for those who write those not so nice comments but those of you who write nice comments or even don’t write comments at all are invited to read this too.

We are an imperfect nation of imperfect people. Yep, we are imperfect. We have, from our inception, done really, really bad things and really, really good things. We have done bad things on purpose and bad things not on purpose. We have done good things on purpose and we have done good things not on purpose. In other words we have been doing a lot of things good and bad. (My token paragraph for those who use Bushian speak.)

Now our forefathers sat down in Philadelphia some 225+ years ago and drafted some documents that created the basic outline and laws of our nation. You know the constitution. They tried, based on their limited intellect to create a really good country. Since that time a lot of really, really good and really, really bad people have controlled and governed this nation. It has been kind of a mix for the most part but generally a little bit of both but leaning more to the good. (I know that some of you believe that a group of nare-do-wells control the whole thing and that may or may not be true, I just don’t know.) The point is that our founding fathers created this entity we call the United States and left it to their progeny to manage into the future.

Now I believe that in the this country regardless of who is elected or who is in office, or even if the nare-do-wells are in control, that we as a nation have an incredible amount of freedom and an incredible amount of access to information which allows us to remain informed and educated on not only our nation but also the world. We have an incredible ability to educate ourselves and organize and to choose our path in the world. Some of us choose to teach, some choose to drive a truck, some choose to pursue elected office, some choose to be firemen, some choose to be policemen and generally everyone chooses to be or do something. Some even choose to be soldiers. Some also, unfortunately, choose to not be or do anything, but that’s another story. We all seem to generally choose to be and to do something within the realm of this nation state we call the United States of America. Most importantly though is that we all have the opportunity to choose to make a difference. We who blog here on this site are choosing to voice our opinions. We are choosing to organize and cajole and to put forth our opinions and influence people to become active and activist in order to make a difference. At least I think that is what most of us are trying to do.

What I am saying here is that we citizens, both born and naturalized, all share in the inherited and adopted responsibility for this nation. We are not helpless sheep being led to slaughter. We are cogent humans with an ability to make change and whatever this nation was, is, or is becoming we are responsible for it and how we go about fulfilling that responsibility is of our own choosing.

Now, about those soldiers. Today soldiers generally choose to become soldiers. That is how they have chosen to fulfill their lives and to contribute to this nation. It is my belief that unfortunately we live in a world occupied by nation states and entities and people who would do us and millions of other people harm. It is, in my mind, a simple fact and because of that fact we must have a military. Now you may disagree with me on this point but I’m afraid that I still prefer that we maintain a military just in case you’re wrong and there really are people out there who want to harm us. You might say that I want to error on the side of “our” safety. It is also unfortunately true that when it is necessary to maintain a military you subject that military to the control of the government that you put in office. Yes I said you put in office. Remember the “we are responsible” bit I mentioned above; well if the people in office aren’t very nice people then it’s our fault and we put the military under the control of those not so nice people and it doesn’t matter if we voted for the person or not it is still our fault. It’s still our fault because “we are responsible” and we should have worked harder to get different people in office.

Now this is directly for those who write the not so nice comments trashing the military and soldiers. Soldiers join our military to serve and defend the Constitution of the United States. If they are sent to say Iraq by your President then it is your responsibility because it is your President. It is your government and it is your country. Get it? If you don’t like it you should change it. If you want the soldiers brought back from Iraq then you need to do something about it. Write your Congressmen. Write your Senators. Write your friends and relatives. March in the street. March with a group or march alone. Do something but do me a favor and don’t blame soldiers or trash them because they are in Iraq spilling their precious blood and leaving their limbs behind. It’s called citizenship. And don’t say you don’t do that on Dkos or MLW or MyDD or any other blog because you do. You are the people out there who don’t assume responsibility and find it easier to wax philosophically about how nation states shouldn’t exist and Marx said this or Lock said that or some other BS. It is what it is and that’s reality. You have one other option if you choose not to do anything and that is move to Iraq.

Now that we’ve established who is responsible for this great nation let’s talk about what happens if “They All Walk Away”. Think about it. What if every soldier, sailor, and airman walked away?

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

I would add this. The battle field is not always one of dirt and blood but it can be and is sometimes the halls of government.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I fought for God – Or Did I?

Did you ever wonder what soldiers fight for? Well I’m pretty sure the radical Christian right thinks that every soldier is a red blooded American boy (sorry girls) who goes out to fight for God and Country. I’m just as sure that every Neocon thinks that every soldier goes out to fight for the spread of Christian Democracy. Well you know what? They aren’t just red blooded American “boys” and they don’t just fight for God and Country and the spread of Christian Democracy. I’ll tell you who I think they really are and what they really fight for below the fold.

So who are American soldiers? During my 27 years in the United States Army I discovered that beyond the uniform soldiers had a lot in common but they also had a lot not in common. I found that if you took off the uniform you discovered soldiers are men and women; they are black, white, red, brown and every shade of ethnicity in between. They are tall and short and every other height. They are married and single and something else. They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles. They are gay and straight and not so straight. They are from Angola, Greece, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Indonesia, Ghana, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, Iran and every other country on the National Geographic map. They are educated, uneducated, smart and sometimes ignorant and some times yes just plain stupid. They are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Latter Day Saints, Agnostic, and Atheist. They are brave and not so brave. They are scared and some even cowardly. They are honest and dishonest and something in between. Most of all, the soldiers I know are, or want to be, American.

Now just what is it that American soldiers fight for? During my 27 years in the United States Army I discovered that there was one thing that every soldier was fighting for and it’s summed up very well in the oath that the soldier takes on the day they join the military. Here is the oath that they take when they join the Army and it is essentially the same, with very minor variations, for all branches of the service and all ranks.

"I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

This oath and my experience tell me that soldiers fight in support of and in defense of the Constitution of the United States of America or in other words they fight for FREEDOM. It’s that simple. Contrary to what a lot of people would like to believe the American soldier doesn’t join and fight for God or against terrorism or communism or Marxism or any other ism. American soldiers take and oath and fight for freedom as it is expressed in the Constitution of the United States of America. It is my humble opinion that the great men who gathered in Philadelphia to form our American government and ultimately write the constitution intended it so. Freedom was their focus. I have searched through the constitution and, believe it or not, I do not find the word God anywhere in the document nor do I find anti-Marxism, anti-communism, or anti any other ism. I do however find that every word of it and the construct of every phrase and sentence of that great document is focused on guaranteeing the freedoms of every citizen of the United States of America. It is this for which the American soldier fights and nothing else. This document does not guarantee a religion nor demand the spread of democracy outside the borders of our nation but it does guarantee every citizen’s freedoms and rights.

It is my belief that when you are elected to public office and you take an oath of office to uphold the constitution of the United States that you have incurred a solemn obligation and duty to obey the laws of the land an perform the duties of your office in the most honorable and faithful manner possible. If they believe in God they swear or affirm to God to do so. If they don’t believe in God they still swear or affirm to do so. The President along with the Vice President, members of Congress and all officers appointed by the administration take oaths of office. Below is the oath taken by the President and members of Congress.

The oath of President of the United States.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The oath of members of Congress of the United States

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

I have included these oaths so that you may more fully appreciate and understand that the focus of our government is and always has been on freedom and the freedoms guaranteed to each and every citizen of this country under our constitution. It has never been on the establishment or endorsement of any religion or on the spreading of Jeffersonian democracy. When one views our government through the prism of our constitution one can truly appreciate and comprehend the gross failures of the President and Republican controlled Congress in upholding their oaths of supporting and defending the constitution and in guaranteeing the citizens of this great nation their constitutional rights and freedoms.

President Bush along with the Republican controlled Congress has sent our troops to fight the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons and they have done so through the use of lies and deceit. The President has added further insult to injury by denying the American people their rights to a free and open government by concealing the resulting carnage of his misguided war and further violating their rights under the 4th amendment to the constitution by authorizing illegal wiretaps.

American soldiers once again find themselves in the unenviable position of fighting, not for American freedom, but for Executive and Congressional hubris. It is self evident that there are grounds for impeachment of the President and it is time that the Congress did its job. Each day that Congress continues to shamelessly avoid their duty more American blood is wasted into the Iraqi sand, not for freedom but, for arrogance and political gain.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Honor, Integrity, Compassion, Courage

As the only “career” soldier in my family I have had the honor of inheriting most of the awards, decorations, and military memorabilia ever given to the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of my family. It is really quite a collection because as I have mentioned before every generation of my family has served in the armed forces of our great nation since the Revolutionary War.

This past weekend I had some quiet time to spend looking through this collection that includes such things as documents signed by my ancestor who was an officer during the Revolutionary War, a copy of my great-great grandfathers Civil War military records and even the scratched and worn “dog tag” that was my grandfathers and worn in France during World War I and even my fathers wings from World War II. I started with the oldest and picked them up one by one turning them in my hand. And as I touched each one I found myself thinking about each soldier who wore, carried or was represented by each of the items. I found myself remembering my father’s stories of World War II and my grandfather’s stories of World War I and the stories he passed on to me about the Civil War that were told to him by his father and grandfather. I also remembering that not once did my father or grandfather ever tell stories of the death associated with war but seemed to always focus on the camaraderie and the patriotic reasons they or their fathers, brothers or uncles served their country. It seemed to me that it was always about the ideals that our country was founded on and the need that every citizen sacrifice for the preservation of those ideals. It was never about their individual heroism or personal sacrifice but always how brave their friend was and how much their friends sacrificed. It was always obvious that they not only loved their country and respected the ideals on which it was founded and built but they really cared about their fellow soldiers and citizens.

I found that as I touched each of these mementos of my families’ history and as I reflected on my family both those long departed and those still on this earth two things began to occur. First, deep in my soul, the memories of my families’ shared and common experiences were stirred and as they were I grew very, very sad; then as I dwelled on all of their individual sacrifices I grew very, very angry. I grew sad and angry not because they were gone or because they sacrificed or suffered. No, I have long since mourned their parting and basked with pride in their accomplishments. I grew sad and angry because unfortunately we have a government that has lost touch with the sacrifices of past generations and are shaming our nation with their arrogance, intolerance, and false pride. I became sad and angry because all that I and my family and millions of other Americans have sacrificed and fought for and believed in is being systematically destroyed by those who know no honor, those who have no integrity, those who have no compassion, and those who have no courage.

Honor, integrity, compassion and courage. Dwell for a moment on the definitions of these four powerful traits. Take just a moment to read and think about them and then ask yourself this simple question. Which member(s) of the Executive branch, the United States Senate, Congress, and Judiciary Branches of our government can I describe using any one or more of these words?

Honor – Principled uprightness of character; personal integrity.

Integrity – Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

Courage – The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.

Compassion - Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

As of this writing 2,448 soldiers have been killed in Iraq. As of this writing 17,869 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq. As of this writing somewhere between 35,101 and 39,258 Iraqi’s have been killed in Iraq.

Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty years or more from now a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle will be opening a box of military mementos. They will be taking the items out one by one and turning them in their hands. They will begin remembering the stories that their brother, sister, father, mother, grandfather or grandmother told them about World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War or the war in Iraq. What will their thoughts be? What will they feel and what will the country they live in look like and represent to the world? What will this generation have left them?

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

As Rome Burns – Or It’s Not Just George That’s Fiddling

Last night, at the end of The News Hour, I watched sixteen young faces materialize and then dematerialize on my screen. They were almost all between 18 and 22 years old. Young, innocent faces much like my youngest daughter who is just 22. As their young faces faded from my screen I thought to myself, ‘thank dear God that none of them were my little girl’. And then I felt horribly guilty.

2,228 KIA – Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
17,869 WIA – Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
39,258 Civilian –

How much blood Mr. Bush? How much American and Iraqi blood is enough Mr. Bush? When will your thirst be quenched Mr. Bush? It isn’t your children is it Mr. Bush?

How much blood Mr. Cheney? How much American and Iraqi blood is enough Mr. Cheney? When will your thirst be quenched Mr. Cheney? It isn’t your children is it Mr. Cheney?

As the nation raptly follows the Republican soap opera that is Washington D.C. today our children die. The Bush Administration and the Republican Party as a whole have brought corruption, radicalism, and political and economic failure to the nation’s capital. These are not melodramatic hyperbole statements but simple and pure fact. Our children are dying both at home and abroad because this administration and the Republican Party in control of our government lack the capacity to develop and strength of character to implement a rational and cohesive domestic or foreign policy. And the Executive Branch in particular lacks the leadership and managerial skills to operate our government. That is simple reality.

I want everyone who reads this to understand that this is a partisan post. I am unashamedly pointing a partisan finger and placing blame and guilt at the feet of the Republican Party.

What is happening in this country today is a Republican fiasco. Republican…..purely Republican…..and nothing but Republican. Republicans are in charge of the Executive Branch. Republicans are in charge of the Senate. Republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives and Republicans are mostly in control of the Supreme Court so yes this is a Republican scandal and fiasco and the citizens of this nation are morally obligated, by any moral standard, to hold the Republican Party responsible. They are in charge. No if’s, no and’s, and no but’s. Each Republican member of the House of Representatives, each Republican member of the Senate, and each Republican member of the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch are responsible for each one of those young people’s deaths. These individual Republicans and the collective membership of the Republican Party are responsible for the climate of corruption, lying, and deceit that is Washington D.C. today.

I am angry and each time I see the faces of those soldiers and I think of the children of Iraq I grow more angry and any American who doesn’t feel that same anger and sadness and moral outrage needs to hang their head in shame.

I read this today and then I could only think….Damn you George W. Bush!!!....Damn you Dick Cheney!!! DAMN YOU anyone who voted for them!!! You have no soul.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.