Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Fired CBS news producer Mary Mapes has a book out about the Bush National Guard Memo fiasco which cost her job. The article is mixed; Mapes acknowledges some error but continues to insist that the documents used were real despite the almost universal conclusion that they were not.

What intrigues me more is who circulated the fake documents. Who had motive and opportunity, as they say in the mystery novels. That would be the Republican Disinformation Machine. As a conspiracy it’s almost too perfect: kill a negative story by luring the press with juicy but easily refutable bait. And it worked perfectly; Bush’s failure to fulfill his National Guard commitment, which was never in doubt, was effectively removed from debate with the added bonus of making the press look lazy and biased. No one made any money off the affair so the only other likely motive would be as a political operation.

I have no proof of this, other than my belief that BushCheney and all his operatives are truly evil and will stop at nothing to achieve their twin goals of destroying effective government in this nation and transferring all wealth to their rich cronies. They have lied and dissembled many times before (remember t11.09he slurs against Anne Richards, Al Gore and Max Cleland or the Swift Boat lies about John Kerry) so this fits their M.O.

Of course, anyone can fall victim to a trap. I sometimes wonder if Iraq was Osama bin Laden’s clever trap to lure the US into an Islamic killing field and distract America from pursuing his own al-Qaeda organization. If it wasn’t his plan, I can only imagine that he is happy with the results nonetheless.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Death By Chance

The Washington Post carried an article yesterday about the capriciousness of death in the Iraq war. The story centers around a well-liked platoon sergeant accidentally killed by his own men during combat. As in all aspects of life, events are often a matter of chance and fortune but combat creates life and death situations daily. If you are lucky, you miss deadly events or are not the one injured or killed. I recall the experience well from Vietnam.

Combat for me was intermittent violence punctuated by occasional accidents. Either we’d hit the NVA/VC (our mission) or they would hit us (more likely). In between we killed and injured ourselves with our weaponry and equipment. Two guys from another platoon blew themselves up with their own mines. Deacon fell out of a chopper. Feemster was shot by his own platoon. Charlie Brown’s eardrums were blown out when a claymore mine exploded in a dry season wildfire . All that explosive in a tense environment. Accidents waiting to happen.

Actual combat was equally random. My company never Hit the Shit (direct engagement) when I was in the field. But the danger was most definitely out there. All the other rifle companies in our battalion were bloodied badly at one time or another. Maybe Alpha Compny was just better led. We certainly did not have a lieutenant lead us right into a reinforced NVA bunker complex and lose six guys (the LT included) like Bravo Company. Charlie and Delta Companies lost about 10 guys total in two separate ambushes. Most of this violence missed me. Alpha Company was nearby when Bravo hit the shit. I heard the small arms, artillery and aircraft as we waited for orders to go to their relief. We never did. Another company choppered in. When a small patrol from my platoon was ambushed, the men chosen to go to their relief ended with the man next to me in the company perimeter. He was wounded when that patrol, too, was ambushed. He never returned.

The pattern continued after I became company clerk mid way through my tour. A mortar attack as Alpha Company pulled out of a landing zone on its way to stand down. During the attack, a lieutenant fired a grenade that landed short, adding to our casualties. The guys who wandered to the edge of the perimeter to smoke pot for the ride out were the majority of non-wounded;they secured the area and directed the medical evacuation. A good friend won a Bronze Star that day.

All luck. Sheer luck. As a kid in the 50's I used to wonder how our fathers had survived the hail of lead and shrapnel that was my image of World War II. I found out when I saw combat on my own. It wasn’t the murderous thunder that I had imagined but rather the random explosion of periodic violence that fortuitously never injured me. But in between was the potential, the always lurking threat, not just from a determined foe but also from my buddies and even myself.  I’m lucky to be alive; 58,000 of my comrades aren’t.

The randomness of death and injury in combat has stayed with me since Vietnam. Shit happens. I saw it. Somehow I survived it. It’s still there, waiting to happen. Just ask anyone who was anywhere near the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 or in the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 or any parent of a murdered child. Perhaps the risks are less in civilian life but I know that I am never totally safe. In that respect I am still on patrol, hoping nothing will happen but entirely aware of the potential.

Monday, November 07, 2005


My core belief about treating others as I would have them do unto me reflects numerous religious traditions, so many that it is virtually a universal rule of conduct among humans. Most readers will be at least familiar with the belief as expressed in The Bible, Talmud and Koran. My belief in the unalienable rights of individuals will be familiar to Americans who have read the Declaration of Independence.

Fewer are likely to know about the source for my belief in the Social Contract. I first learned the concept studying political philosophy in college when I read The Social Contract published by Jean Jacques Rousseau in 1762. While no work of philosophy is perfect and undisputed, this work clearly articulates the role of the individual in an organized society. Readers interested in learning more about the concept can begin here. Information about Rousseau can be found here. The work remains in publication and can be found at and, no doubt, other booksellers.