Friday, September 29, 2006

A Soldiers Shame – Or Why I Won’t Wear My Uniform

The day I retired from the United States Army I had my dress uniform cleaned and pressed and I hung it in the closet ready to put back on. I have only worn it on a very few special occasions since that day. One memorable time was a proud day that I was privileged to participated in my older daughters’ graduation from training in the United States Navy. The other occasions were of course very special events and celebrations of national and military honor and tradition. You see, I believe that one of the great privileges of being a soldier is that after you retire you can put that uniform back on and celebrate with great pride yours and your nation’s accomplishments.

Today I am taking an oath to not put that uniform back on. Let me explain why.

I have endured much in my life. Please don’t misunderstand because I say that with great and humble pride. I have endured much because that is what my family has always done since the revolutionary war. You see my family just happens to be one of those families that have chosen to serve the nation by serving in the military. That is simply what we do. I will not go into all of the details because I have mentioned them in several posts before but suffice it to say that for well over 200 years virtually every generation of my family has served in the United States military in defense of our constitution; that would be the Constitution of the United States of America. We have done so in peace and war and with pride and humility and we have all walked tall because we have always viewed our nation as a beacon of liberty in a world all to often filled with despots and tyranny. But today all of that has changed.

Today I hang my head in shame and I take a sworn oath and I take it as freely and solemnly as I took my oath of enlistment. Today I swear that I Sergeant Major Myers, United States Army Retired, will not put on my uniform again, for any reason what so ever, until George W. Bush is removed or leaves office and the abomination that has just passed the Congress of the United States is struck down by the Supreme Court or rescinded by an Act of Congress.

It has not been enough that this President has taken this country to war with a web of deceit and lies and it is not enough that he has by his actions and lack of leadership, in the words of former President United States and Noble Laureate Jimmy Carter, "brought discouragement and sometimes international disgrace to our great country," but now he would compound our disgrace and remove the rights of Americans as defined in our constitution and defile humanity by attempts to legalize torture of other human beings. I must also say that what is just as disgraceful and humiliating to this nation is that there are members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate, that would go along and support, no, even encourage such efforts for obviously crass political, personal, and economic gain.

No, enough is enough and this tired old soldier has one more fight left in him and it will be to do all that is in my power to defeat this blatant assault on our nation from within and I say to Mr. Bush, you sir are an abomination for a President and an abomination for a Commander in Chief. Your actions have removed any mantle of moral authority you may have had. You have in every way, imaginable and possible, broken the oath you took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I love my country sir but I possess not one iota of respect for you.

I say to you sir, in spite of you, this nation will DEFEAT TERRORISM NOT SACRIFICE LIBERTY.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Soldier's Little Children and Uncaring Presidents

You know soldiers don’t have it easy and it’s a fact that every war throws a different set of miseries at them that scars, cripples and all too often kills. Bullets are one obvious and common misery to all but there is a whole other set that is not so obvious; like the cold muddy fields of Europe during World War II and Korea that left fingers and toes frost bit or missing and then the glue like mud and wait a minute vines of Vietnam that left you with trench foot, crotch rot and bloody scratches and now it’s the blistering heat and sand of the Middle East that infest you with biting insects, strange bloody rashes and grinding grit between your teeth. But did you know there is another group that has suffered along with these soldiers and have had their own debilitating and scaring and varied miseries. That unheralded and suffering group is the families and friends waiting back home.

The reality is that most people not only don’t know or understand combat and its miseries that soldiers must endure but they also don’t know or understand the stressed despair of loneliness that is suffered by those left behind. They don’t understand that hollow painful void in a mother’s heart as she thinks and waits for her son or daughter or the worried headache of a father thinking of a son or daughter in imminent danger. They don’t understand that aching throb that is the lump in the spouses chest every time they think of their husband or wife and the danger he or she face or that sinking feeling of despair when they contemplate the unthinkable life without them ever again and they don’t understand the emptiness in a young child’s stomach when they miss their mommy or daddy and can’t understand why they’re gone or why they don’t come home everyday like all the other kids mommies and daddies do.

No, many people don’t understand these things because today fewer and fewer have ever experienced it and or don’t care and you know what; it shows all over this country. It shows in our government and in our society. It shows in the way our government treats our soldiers and it shows in the void that should be an outcry from those who should understand and care but don’t or won’t. It shows when after our country has been attacked a President says go shop and doesn’t say we must all sacrifice and here’s what I’m asking you to sacrifice. It shows when in the midst of a great struggle against terrorist the only sign of support for the troops and their families that you see is a magnetic ribbon on a bumper.

It is my thought that there will be an awful price to be paid by our country for not understanding and or not caring what the leadership of this nation is doing and that price is beginning to be paid. We have a military that is not only not ready but one that continues to be decimated through gross mismanagement.

When George W. Bush became President he inherited a military that was not only combat ready but the absolute finest in the world bar none. This was graphically demonstrated during the invasion of Iraq. It was a military that was not only ready but one with moral among soldiers and family member that was the highest it had been in decades. In a few short years he has successfully broken it materially and morally. He has created a rush to exit of the finest soldiers’ ever enlisted and begun to replace them with those less qualified intellectually, physically, and morally.

Over the last few days you have seen a continuing line of America’s finest officers come before the Democrats of our Congress and give testimony to what I have said here. These are soldiers who care and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they speak the truth. It takes great courage to stand and be counted and these soldiers have done it on the battlefield and now they are doing it at home.

Somewhere today a soldier’s spouse is hurting, a soldier’s mother weeps, a soldiers baby cries, and a soldiers fathers eyes are blurry.

Last word for today – It’s time that those who don’t understand and or don’t care woke up and smelled the roses. Your nation is bleeding and it’s bleeding to death.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Of Soldiers And Punctuation – Or Why I’m Not A Comma

"Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that’s the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there’s also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people…. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy." George W. Bush to Wolf Blitzer, CNN - Emphasis mine.

2,703 dead American commas, 19,910 wounded and maimed American commas, 35 – 40,000 dead Iraqi commas.

What do you think it feels like to be a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq without the proper body armor to protect you?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq without the proper armored vehicles to protect you?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq on your third tour and to not know when you’ll go home to your family because you’ve been involuntarily extended….again?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq on your third tour and 24 hours before you’re suppose to go home you find out you’ve been involuntarily extended….again?

What do you think if feels like to be a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq and know that fully two thirds of American combat units are not combat ready?

What do you think it feels like to be and American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq knowing that the Chief of Staff of your Army withheld submitting the budget to fund you and your equipment because the Secretary of Defense slashed $25 billion off of your budget?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq knowing that the National Guard back at home doesn’t have the equipment it needs to train to replace you and to help your family when another Katrina strikes?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq knowing that your President wants to modify the Geneva Conventions and jeopardize your life and treatment and those of your comrades who follow you so that his administration can torture other people?

What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq knowing that the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan as strong as or stronger than ever taking large swaths of country your comrades bled and died for?

Now…..What do you think it feels like to be an American soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq on your third tour and to not know when you’ll go home to your family because you’ve been involuntarily extended….again and your Commander in Chief has just referred to you and what you are doing in Iraq as a COMMA?

What do you think it feels like to be a mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, or daughter of an American soldier killed, maimed, or wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq and your President referred to your mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, or daughter as a COMMA?

For nearly three decades I was that soldier and today many of the soldiers I trained are those American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and I will say this for myself and if I maybe so bold for those soldiers.

Mr. President I’m no damn comma!!

I am an American soldier and if you have no more respect for me than that, then I say to you sir that your words and indeed your deeds can only lead me to believe you are ignorant at best and a coward at worst and certainly not deserving of my respect and since you are in fact the President of the United States I must say I tend to believe you must be the later.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Have We All Become Such Cowards – Or What Is In Washington DC Is Not What This Soldier Fought For

During the course of my military career I received training on how to survive being a Prisoner of War (POW). In a very controlled training environment I was subjected to “torture” that included humiliation (being kept nude), physical abuse such as slaps, belly slaps, punching, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, threats of electrocution, and even water-boarding. We, I and my fellow soldiers, were exposed to this in training because it was made clear to us that as soldiers, should we ever become a POW we should be prepared for and expect this kind of treatment from the “bad guys”.

This treatment was put upon us in a controlled environment and we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what we would not be permanently or irreparably harmed in any way and yet it was still a life altering, horrendous and humiliating experience.

The training was particularly poignant to us in that it was conducted in conjunction with our training on the Geneva Conventions. It was made clear that we as American soldiers were expected to conduct ourselves in a morally upright and honorable manner no matter what ours or our comrades in arms treatment was at the hands of an enemy. We were given detailed in depth training on the Geneva Conventions and we were given extensive hands on training in how to treat prisoners of war should we be faced with that situation. I believe that we all, to a soldier, learned our lessons well because I can say without equivocation that in the ensuing nearly three decades of my military career, which included several combat tours, I never treated a POW, nor did I personally witness a POW being treated in any manner that could ever be construed as inhumane.

As a young soldier that training taught me something much deeper than just how to expect to be treated as a POW or how I should treat a POW. It taught me that America was a nation founded on the rule of law and a nation that still strived to achieve and maintain the moral high ground no matter how the enemy conducted themselves. It taught me that we weren’t a nation built on religious fanaticism but one build on human dignity and justice. We didn’t gauge how we treated others by how we were treated but how we as human beings expected to be treated.
Today in Washington DC we have an administration that has lost touch with America. It has lost touch with American and all that this great nation has stood for better than two centuries. The conduct of the war in Iraq has been and continues to be an embarrassment to this nation and has undermined our moral standing in the world to the point of making us virtually irrelevant. From the falsehoods that took us to the preemptive war in Iraq, to the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, to the shame that is Guantánamo Bay, and on to the injustices put upon innocent victims of rendition such as the Canadian Citizen, Maher Arar, and many others currently incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay, this administration has ceded the moral high ground. Indeed the chaos that is Iraq today serves only to shine a bright light on what I believe is this administrations ineptitude and moral depravity.

The debate that is occurring in Washington DC is one that should never occur and is a simple continuation of a policy that is lost. It is indeed a needless exercise that can only result in the further deterioration of what is left of our standing in the international community and jeopardize the well being of every American Soldier for generations to come. Torture simply does not work. This has been proven time and time again and I can personally witness to that fact and Senator John McCain can certainly attest to that fact even more strongly than I. Torture is not and instrument of extracting truth but is more accurately an instrument of revenge and extractor of fiction.

Have we become a nation of cowards who seek revenge at all cost? Have we become a nation that would resort to physical and psychological torture to extract information from another human being? These are the acts not of just and honorable people but of cowards and people of no moral stature. If the answer to these questions is yes then the constitution and nation that I and millions of other Americans dedicated their lives to and shed our blood for no longer exist.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Failures Of Diplomacy – Or What Price Lies

As a soldier I understand the consequences of failures in diplomacy. We soldiers all understand because the consequences of failures in diplomacy have all too often been a liberal spilling of our blood. And even at such a costly price we can accept the consequences when they are the results of “honest” failures. We can accept the consequences because we know that all other options have been exhausted and now we must do the difficult right thing. But what I and most other soldiers have great and real difficulty with is failures of diplomacy that are a result of dishonesty and that result in the dishonorable letting of American blood.

As I have witnessed in recent weeks the Bush administrations machinations as it has tried to un-lie the lies that were told to take us to war in Iraq and connect this dishonest and illegal Iraq war to a disingenuous and impossible “war” on terror I have become physically ill. I have become physically ill not just because of what they have said or because of my extreme dislike for this president and his dishonest and immoral cohorts in crime. I have become physically ill because of the gullibility and blatant ignorance and selfishness of a broad swath of the American people who glibly follow George W. Bush. I have become physically ill because this same group of Americans seem to fail to fully comprehend or show real understanding of the sacrifices of the American military and the carnage that has been put upon the Iraqi people as a result of the bald faced, in your face, lies told by George W. Bush and the members of his administration. I have become physically ill because this same group of American people sit blithely by in their overstuffed recliners in front of their 42 inch plasma screens as a Republican controlled House and Senate not only allow but in fact enable this administration to become an autocracy as a result of their own greed for wealth and power.

Are these people so engulfed in their own narcissistic delusions that they have lost the capacity to understand that this president and his Neocon henchmen are taking this country down the path to global isolation and irrelevance? Are they so engulfed in their own narcissistic delusions that they have lost their understanding of moral rightness and human compassion? Are they so engulfed in their own narcissistic delusions that they have lost their desire to maintain the laws, moral stature and democratic principals of the nation that was so graciously bequeathed to us by the founding fathers as set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

As I look around I cannot believe that this is the same nation that I and my ancestors have fought, bled and died for since the Revolutionary War.

To those of you who follow George W. Bush; I ask you at what price? Think about 2,687 dead American soldiers. Think about 19,399 wounded and maimed American soldiers. Think about untold thousands of killed, wounded and maimed Iraqis. Think about thousands of killed, wounded and maimed innocent men, women and children.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Geneva Conventions – One Soldiers Perspective

Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

This article does not and has never held any ambiguity for me and I do not believe it has ever held any for the millions of American soldiers (to include the OSS and CIA operatives) who have served in our armed forces since the United States signed these conventions. I make this statement without reservation and with the backdrop of having served in the United States Army for nearly three decades including several combat tours of duty. I also say to you that I proudly carried the “Geneva Conventions Card” in my pocket every single day of my military career from the day it was issued to me in basic training. I carried that card proudly because it represented the moral stature of my nation. It said to me that no matter what, no matter how I was treated, if I was captured or if I captured an enemy soldier I knew what my country expected of me and what my country stood for and I would never violate that trust. I would never violate the trusts placed in me by the citizens of our great nation, my comrades in arms and yes, even my enemy.

I thought not to write this post. I thought not to write it because I have become convinced that Americans, at least that vast multitude that continue to allow themselves to be deluded by the Bush administration, don’t care about anything but themselves much less the Geneva Conventions and I would therefore be posting to the wind. I still believe that and unfortunately I believe it with all my heart but in spite of that stolid belief I had an overpowering need to express my utter disdain and contempt for George W. Bush and the actions of his administration. So I say to you that in my opinion, this administration possesses not one iota of common decency, honor, or moral character and these attempts on their part to change the United States interpretation of the Geneva Conventions are just one more example of an administration with no moral compass. This is to me just one more example of a Commander in Chief who has removed his cloak of moral authority and I say God help us all if our elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate allow this grotesque interpretation of the conventions to become the law of the land because that will be just one more nail in the coffin of our democracy.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.