Friday, January 19, 2007

Lies and Lying Liars*

Why anyone who has a brain thinks that BushCheney is at all likely to salvage "victory" in Iraq by escalating the war is beyond me. Apparently some true believers still exist. Remember, the "cakewalk", "mission accomplished", "six months", "will pay for itself". I could go on but you get the idea. These guys either don't know what they're doing or their incompetent or this is exactly what they wanted to accomplish. None of these outcomes augurs well for America or Iraq.

And they LIED. Now they are lying about Iran.

These are thoroughly dangerous people.

[* with apologies to Al Franken]

To the Guy in the White Truck

You made a left turn from 16th Street on to Missouri in Phoenix yesterday morning between 7:15 and 8:15 in your big white pickup truck. I was standing on the southeast corner outside Senator John McCain’s office with about 10 others in a weekly vigil to remind Phoenix that our senator supports torture. I held the Veterans for Peace flag. A couple others were dressed in orange jumpsuits with hoods on their heads. The rest of our small group held signs calling for an end to torture and war in our name.

We must have posed quite a threat to you since you visibly and aggressively gave us the bird as you passed by. We returned your salute with smiles and peace signs. In the scheme of things our gestures as well as yours don’t amount to a hill of beans. But I wonder what provoked your hostile gesture, not the first I’ve seen in almost four years of standing on Phoenix streets as a witness against what I consider a terribly mistaken war that has cost this country so much.

Sure, you may disagree with me. That’s your right. You even have the right to argue against me. And, to a point, you can even demonstrate your opposition with words and gestures (I think legally the limit is where those words and gestures imply physical threat and intimidation but I’m relying on memory of a Constitutional law class I took in the mid-60's so I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics). What I don’t understand is why you feel the need to display such hostility to a group of peaceful fellow citizens exercising their rights of free speech and petitioning a member of Congress.

Perhaps you are a veteran of the Iraq war or a relative of an Iraq veteran or service member currently at risk in Iraq and believe that our actions denigrate that service. You may still be suffering from losing a loved one in the war and think we dishonor that sacrifice. If so, you are terribly wrong. Serving in Iraq is not the issue. The issue is the order that sent you or your loved one into harm’s way. I believe that the commander-in-chief has dishonored that service by squandering it on a lie. And, believe me, I know what it feels like to serve in a dubious cause. It leaves a wound that doesn’t heal. That’s why I am standing on that corner.

Maybe you have no direct connection to the war and those who fight it. Instead you are a patriotic American who believes that we should all stand behind the commander-in-chief when the nation is at war. I respectfully disagree. In fact, for me that is exactly the time that we should ask “why” and use the critical thinking that characterizes our species to ensure that when the nation goes to war, that action is taken as a last resort in response to a dire threat to our national interests. War under any other circumstances is a profound disservice to those we send to kill in our name. I come to that way of thinking through experience. You may think otherwise for whatever reason. You have that right under the Constitution.

Even if we disagree, I am distressed that you consider me such a threat that you must respond to my actions with such hostility. Your one finger salute certainly displays a lack of tolerance of differing opinions. Many others who think like you simply give me a “thumbs down” as they pass. In doing so, they display their disagreement but don’t imply the same threat that I see in your upraised digit. With them I see at least a modicum of respect for a differing opinion. Not so in your case.

Please don’t think I’m singling you out. You certainly have company, including the well-coifed Republican woman in the sporty yellow mustang who flipped me off last summer as I and other protesters greeted people entering The Biltmore to hear Dick Cheney campaign for our US senator (not St. John McCain, the other one). I don’t think I’ve been on the street without catching a few birds from passersby. What I don’t understand is the hostility. I know I wouldn’t flip off Republicans or war supporters if I saw them. I believe in treating people as I would have them treat me so if I make any gesture I would turn my thumb down or hold my nose. More likely, I would just drive by.

It could be that I am being too intellectual about the whole thing. Maybe you’re just an asshole. But then I’d be thinking just like you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Patriot's Duty

Came across this 1967 quote from Martin Luther King at The Rude Pundit.
And I might say this is another basic reason why I am involved and concerned. It is because I love America. I am not engaged in a hate America campaign. I would hope that the people of this country standing up against the war are standing up against it because they love America and because they want to see our great nation really stand up as the moral example of the world.

This pretty much summarizes my reasons for opposing America's wars over the last four decades. Admittedly, I didn't alwasy feel quite so generous. It took a while to get over Vietnam. My anger often blinded me to what is good about my native country. Just about the time I finally put that anger to rest, BushCheney invaded Iraq.

This time around, I can honestly say that I oppose this war because I love America and the ideals upon which it was founded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Support Your Troops

Today in Washington, DC a very courageous group of active duty military service members will petition Congress to end the war and occupation of Iraq. The signers of the Appeal For Redress are are Americans who volunteered to serve their country who believe that their service is being wasted in a spurious cause. Today's Washington Post has an >article about the organizers. The Nation also ran an article about the Appeal a few weeks ago.

As a veteran who served in an equally dubious conflict, I strongly support this effort. Nothing says NO! to war like service members speaking out. I still remember how proud I was to hear the news about Vietnam Veterans Against the War marching to protest the war in Operation Dewey Canyon III.

The service members who sign the Appeal are taking some real risks. It's a lot easier to speak up after you're discharged. Even though the Appeal is legal, the military can certainly make life difficult for active duty personnel who speak out. A similar effort during the Vietnam War, the Concerned Officers Movement, was a dramatic protest but quickly faded as the signers were forced out of the military.

I urge all my readers to support these fine Americans and to spread the word to any active duty service members you know. The Appeal's web site will remain open for signatures even after the presentation to Congress.

Monday, January 15, 2007


[A friend gave me a subscription to The Sun for Christmas. One feature solicits essays from readers on specified topics. The next topic is "Guns". Here's what I came up with.]

Seven-six-one-nine-two-seven. That serial number was stamped on the M16 issued to me in January 1971 at Fire Base Mace in Vietnam. It wasn’t my first M16. I’d had one in basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and another in infantry training at Fort Lewis, Washington but that particular M16A1 rifle, serial number 761927, would be the one I carried into combat, the rifle I would fire at another human being. The others were for practice. This was the real thing.

As a kid I had shot targets with a .22. I wasn’t very good with it but as a red-blooded American male child of the 50's, learning to handle a firearm was part of growing up. My father taught me to regard all firearms as loaded and to always point the barrel toward the ground, two principles I never heard from my Army trainers. My prior experience didn’t do much for my marksmanship, though–I barely qualified, scoring one point above the minimum during basic training. My score may have improved during infantry school but I never qualified for more than the lowest marksmanship badge.

But in January 1971 that didn’t really matter. Mine was only one of about eight or ten M16's in my squad–we also had a M60 machine gun. Four squads made a platoon, three platoons made up Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. We packed immense firepower; my limited marksmanship skills made little difference. That became clear to me in my first “firefight”. I use the term loosely since we took almost no return fire. But we sure poured it out even as our targets melted into the jungle. Our first salvo swept away the small brush in front of us. Our continued fire pruned away larger vegetation while the M60 rounds chewed through small trees. The entire engagement lasted no more than one very long minute and left the air filled with smoke and the smell of cordite. Our follow-up patrol found drops of blood but no other sign of the two individuals who had the misfortune to intersect our path.

Although I did not know it at the time, this was the only time I would fire my rifle in combat. I began firing single shots, aiming each shot as I had been trained. After a few seconds I realized that I had no target. I switched to automatic and held the trigger for long bursts, emptying several magazines before a cease fire was called. Something about shooting at another human being both excited and repulsed me, leaving a psychic wound that has never healed. And I have no doubt that, had the occasion demanded it, I would have fired again and again.

Maybe that’s why 761927 is imprinted on my brain. I know that’s why I didn’t fire a rifle for almost 30 years afterward. When I did shoot again, my targets were tin cans and bottles but in my head there is always a human being in my sights.