Thursday, August 31, 2006
In the Middle of a Shoot
It's been quite an experience.
I had the opportunity to contribute a piece that may end up on national television, about my time in Iraq. So I get to say it all. In 90 seconds.
Why am I here? How did this come about? Thanks, Matt. An attempt to get some publicity for The Blog of War, the anthology due out from Simon & Schuster this next week...
No guarantees this will air, but if it causes some viewers to check out the blog, then maybe check out the book or other MILBLOGGERS...then it was more than worthwhile.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
What Deity, race or tribe might we still raise against the horde of Basiji?
My own guess is that neither
(Winston)”Does the Brotherhood exist?”
(O’Brien) “That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.”
That is the weakness of reason, Winston Smith’s weakness: to stop when there is no reason to continue. And that is the power of faith: to go on without the answers, but to go on.
As Fernandez suggests, we will need to find a “sustaining faith.”
A steely determination surely fortified that faith of the Basij that allowed
We look into the face of pure evil, as we have before. What will we see this time? Where will be our resolve? From whence will come our hope of deliverance?
It will always be extremely hard to argue with those gentler souls among us, who would never rise to the challenge of the oppressor, or tyrant, or murderer. We can appreciate their natural reluctance in the face of threat. But we must not tolerate their interference in those actions necessitated to ensure our very survival.
I heard a couple of stories recently from a couple of our veterans. A Marine sniper, undergoing treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) describes having to take down a woman with an AK47 engaging his fellow Marines. Snipers, I am told, are taught not to look their targets in the eyes. He didn’t, but he couldn’t shoot between them, either. A well-aimed shot at one arm, hoping she would stay down, drop the weapon. She didn’t. A shot in the other arm, and then a leg, same reaction both times, up and threatening. Only then did the Marine place one in what he knows should have been his initial target, and she was taken out. All the while working against what he felt inside, “no women or children.”
Another Marine remembers the boy coming at them with a grenade. He knows the boy may have been forced, to protect his family, or promised some eternal reward, or even temporal approval or encouragement. Slam dunk, ROE-wise, and poof, he’s blown away.
They both have nightmares where loved ones take the place of the terminus of their torment. Another observes, “When you were in the fight, you did what you had to do, you saw it as a soldier, it was alright. Now, you remember it as a husband, a father, a civilian, and you war within yourself, against what you ‘know’ is right.”
The men and women of our military are among the finest our Nation can produce. They go to war, “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right,” to quote
With such resolve, many have faced the threat. We have seen the carnage from many hard and brutal fights, not all of them, unfortunately, political. Some have seen first hand the worst havoc that humanity can wreak.
Every man and woman in the fight must find their own sources for inner and outer strength. We need as a society to come alongside, nurture, sustain, encourage, and comfort them in their afflictions on our behalf.
But we need to do something more, as well. We need to find that sustaining faith in our own foundations, our principles, and the bedrock faith in the great experiment in Democracy that is
Shocked I Tell You!
I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of an issue with Christopher Hitchens, who yesterday offered a devastating critique of David Corn and Michael Isikoff in Slate.
As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy. (His and Powell's—and George Tenet's—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward's "insider" accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward's revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) The Isikoff-Corn book, which is amusingly titled Hubris, solves this impossible problem of its authors' original "theory" by restating it in a passive voice:
The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.
In the stylistic world where disclosures are gleaned and ironies underscored, the nullity of the prose obscures the fact that any irony here is only at the authors' expense. It was Corn in particular who asserted—in a July 16, 2003, blog post credited with starting the entire distraction—that:
After you have noted that the Niger uranium connection was in fact based on intelligence that has turned out to be sound, you may also note that this heated moral tone ("thuggish," "gang") is now quite absent from the story. It turns out that the person who put Valerie Plame's identity into circulation was a staunch foe of regime change in
Corn plays the famous film homage perfectly:
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Via Glenn Reynolds, who observes that this reflects poorly on President Bush, “for his failure to fire Tenet -- and to roll some other heads at the CIA -- shortly after 9/11.”
Hard to argue with that.
The Editors at National Review are no more charitable than Hitchens, and conclude:
There’s a lot of blame to go around. First up is Armitage. There was absolutely nothing illegal about the original leak he committed, but he chose to remain silent while others — principally Rove and Libby — endured years of accusations in the press. (Armitage’s close friend Colin Powell also deserves a dishonorable mention for keeping quiet after learning of Armitage’s role.) The administration’s leftist adversaries in and out of government who have spent years shrieking “traitor” should be ashamed of themselves. Likewise the New York Times editorial board, which screamed for an investigation until it got bit it on the backside in the form of the media subpoenas. Fitzgerald should ask himself whether his wild goose chase has shown the judgment and discretion one expects from such an experienced prosecutor. Finally, the higher-ups at the Justice Department — Ashcroft and Comey in particular — bear great responsibility for buckling under political pressure when their own investigators knew there was nothing to the story.
Shocked, I tell you!
Monday, August 28, 2006
Byron York eulogizes Plamegate at National Review Online, in the wake of confirmation that then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the anonymous source, who started the Perfect Storm of Washington gossip, insider Beltway politics, and partisan media manipulation.
Retelling the saga with the latest revelations added in,
Certainly it appears that no one committed any crimes by revealing Plame’s identity, and one could argue that the Justice Department should not have gone forward with a wide-ranging investigation after it discovered Novak’s sources. But if Fitzgerald was going to indict Libby, then why not Armitage, too?
The answer may lie in the bitter conflict inside the administration over the war in
I think much of
The President’s enemies within the Administration arguably have done him – and our Nation, truth be told -- far greater harm than his political enemies of the opposition party.
I think opposition to the War in
In the wake of 9/11, it’s apparent to anybody with any sense that the bureaucracies of our Intelligence Agencies failed our Nation, utterly. We were hamstrung by layers of bureaucratic constraint, Lilliputian in the specifics, but of incredible strength in its whole.
Conceived, architected, and painstakingly constructed by Bureaucratic elites, the Walls of Separation marked the turf between law enforcement and intelligence gathering, between agencies, between the bureaucracies and their elected but figure-headed Civilian Directors and Secretaries. The CIA. Departments of State and Justice. The FBI. Even the Military.
We can blame Nixon era hangovers and Big Brother paranoia for the constraints, but what may have started with good intentions crippled us for the fight to come. Inaction and avoidance, aided and abetted by malfeasance, and ignorance, the bureaucracies grew in power and permanence.
The 9/11 Commission came, and went, carefully avoiding direct responsibility, but largely exonerating the bureaucracies most responsible for the failures in preparation, threat assessment, and counter-terrorism. By avoiding direct criticism, they likewise avoided holding anyone accountable. A great triumph of the bureaucracy.
If 9/11 shook the core of these bureaucracies, they wasted no time shoring up their foundations. And seeing the target of their enmity for the threat he represented.
President Bush, at many turns since 9/11, has challenged the orthodoxies of these bureaucracies. He sees our enemies for who they are, and in so doing, provides a counterpoint to the bureaucracy.
They fought him agency to agency, they leaked politically damaging information, whether classified or not, they actively sought to benefit his political opponents and seek his defeat in re-election.
For President Bush committed the most unforgivable of all
With friends like these, who needed enemies?
Unfortunately for the people of
While I (Still) MILBLOG
Greyhawk at Milblogs linked over the weekend to this piece in Today's Officer Magazine. A while back I posted a version of the interview that contributed to this article, which expanded quite a bit beyond what was highlighted. I didn’t recall until I pulled it up in the archives, but it became Why I MILBLOG.
A major impetus for the story was a memorandum from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, requiring milbloggers to “register” with their commanders, and directing commanders to become aware of and monitor soldier blogs for possible OPSEC violations.
As to experiences with "registration," there's a lot less to the directive than one might think. "Registration" isn't a formal process. I met the requirement by discussing it with my Commanding Officer and my Battalion CSM. What they did with that knowledge, I can't say, but then again I stayed away from anything remotely operational, by choice.
Many of the Milbloggers who have voluntarily ceased blogging may have good reasons to think their immediate commands would react negatively or impose too many conditions. I was always afraid my BN Commander would insist on a puff piece highlighting his role. Otherwise, I had no problem.
I've read pieces by some of those most highly complimented for "war realism," and frankly, some have made me uncomfortable. Too much detail on procedures, specific battle drills, BDA, etc. Some have highlighted soldier reactions that are contrary to what good procedures dictate -- like turning the .50 cal on an exposed 155mm shell, which then went off, just missing fellow soldiers. (I cry either BS or “you're an idiot” on that one.)
I have deep respect for Greyhawk, who posts at Mudville Gazette. His blog was the model for many of us. He and Mrs. Greyhawk have long gone way beyond the extra mile in encouraging Milbloggers, and helping us find both voices and audience.
He’s Grandpappy Manly if you know what I mean, and I’d take seriously anything with which he expresses concern. He’s been more troubled by the new policy and some of its implications:
“It has discouraged a lot of folks who are ‘by the rules’ types, the kinds of guy who the Army would most like to have telling the story from
I do appreciate the concern that only the malcontents are left if all the positive voices "self-censor," but I think there was a time when there was way too much info out there.
I'd like to think this will be self correcting, as more soldiers are inspired to share their stories, and the military gets smarter about Milblogs, too.
I guess I’m with SGT Hook for a final takeaway, included in the TO article:
“Milbloging will be around as long as blogging is,” says Sergeant Hook. “Just as with anything new, there will be bumps in the road, but they will work themselves out, and milblogs will provide the American people with a great alternative to mainstream media in telling the military’s story.
“Who knows — they might even help recruiting efforts.”
Friday, August 25, 2006
Pamela Bone, writing an Op Ed in The Australian, bewails the silence of feminists in the face of Muslim oppression of women, and warns:
Hate Bush if you want, but please understand that your enemy's enemies are not necessarily your friends.
This echoes my reflections on Elia Kazan yesterday, how left oriented ideologues, then and now, blind themselves to the true nature of those with whom they align, ideologically and illogically.
Bone sounds an alarm for feminists in the West:
It seems inconceivable that we could lose this war against terrorism. But if we do, the consequences will be awful. And they will be worse for women, for the women in the generations that will follow us. We have to fight not against Muslims but against Islamic extremism. Don't expect left-wing men to help. They're full of "I'm not scared" bravado. Don't expect all Muslim women to want to be in the fight. There have always been women who oppose rights for women. (Remember the petition, from women, against Australian women getting the vote?) But the least we can do is let the brave Muslim women who are pushing for reforms know they have our support when they want it.
Most of us 1970s feminists are grandmothers now. Lifelong socialist and humanist that I am, if fighting to prevent the possibility that my granddaughters - our granddaughters - will one day be forced to wear a burka makes me right-wing, then right-wing is the label I'll have to wear.
Call her right wing if you wish, but I call her an ally, someone who clearly “gets it.”
The Secret Mechanism
So THAT’S how they do it.
You know, the bourgeoisie mechanism whereby the rich are able to divert all the financial benefits 6 years of economic growth. Without involving spending any of that money, thereby benefiting the middle or lower classes.
Not involving illegal immigration, and the all-to-visible pressure to keep salaries for low or no skilled jobs at a minimum.
Bearing no relationship to any discernable economic activity, transaction, or even human behavior. So secret, in fact, that even socialists who believe in the mechanism have absolutely no idea how it works.
I remain bewildered how those who hold such extreme views, so fervently, about economics and the worlds of trade, commerce, industry in wealth, can be in such absolute ignorance of the basic facts of how such things really operate. You know, in the real economic world.
Income inequality. It’s bad, it’s the fault of the rich, “through mechanisms we're not entirely sure of.”
Have a nice Proletarian Day.
(Via Iain Murray at The Corner)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Remembering Elia Kazan
Scott Johnson of Powerline links to some excellent commentary on famed (and defamed) Broadway stage and
I happened to catch a portion of a PBS (!) special on Elia Kazan last night, which seemed to present a far more complex and sympathetic portrait than I would have expected.
I’m not sure why all the sudden interest at this particular time.
I spent many years in the theater, immersed in drama, delving into the pantheon of great dramatic literature, as well as the history behind a fair amount of 20th century staging of then modern works. I developed a keen appreciation of the authors whose works
On the Waterfront, Death of a Salesman, Gentlemen’s Agreement, All My Sons, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Sweet Bird of Youth.
Man, these are credits to be envied.
I’m grateful for another link from Johnson, to an essay on
It turns out the Hollywood Left has a long and storied history, which in terms of Stalinist apologia and communist sympathies is no new news. But I didn’t know that these fellow travelers first invented the blacklist:
Working slyly to advance these political changes were communist operatives, led by German theater veteran Otto Katz. According to historian Stephen Koch,
As party members took up key positions in the studio hierarchy, they began to wield power. As associate producers, story editors, and even agents, they not only saw to it that fellow communists got work but—in a sort of reverse blacklist—made sure that anti-communists didn’t. “There’s no question they looked out for their own,” observes
F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent his last years as a studio hack, well understood the political climate of that time. “The important thing is you should not argue with them,” he wrote of
Well-positioned party members also worked to bar the making of anti-communist films. In a 1946 Worker article, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo noted with satisfaction that prominent anti-communist books of the thirties and forties such as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon never made it to the big screen. Nor did any script touching on the
This history lends itself to compelling comparison to today’s political climate, and it’s foremost left-right arguments. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is no way to retain moral ground at all, let alone the moral high ground.
We must look past the hate we feel towards one kind of enemy – and see without artifice the true character of those we would make our friends, because they share our hate. There’s surely a lesson there for conservatives.
I doubt liberals and other anti-war types would be quite as receptive to the teaching point.
Stein described the change that happened in
No longer sympathetic to the far Left, Kazan not only looked at the Soviet Union differently than they did, but also at the United States, which he no longer saw as a bastion of corruption and exploitation but, despite its flaws, as mankind’s best hope.
Yes, the committee was a nest of vile bullies; and, yes, some who opposed them had shown great courage. But what was getting overlooked—increasingly so as time passed—was the poisonous nature of the ideology that those on the other side were defending. Whatever the career considerations,
The great moral, ideological and even logical weakness of would be socialists and early day progressives in the 30’s and 40’s, was that they refused to reconcile their fervent desires for workers paradise, with the evil that any known examples of such experiments have always produced.
Then, it was blindness towards Stalin, enough that many so called “blacklisted” signed on as his agents. Later, blindness toward a similar figure in Castro, a blindness that remains unhealed. To Yassar Arafat, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient that did more to make peace in our time impossible than anyone in the
Some can make comparisons, too, to a recently deposed tyrant in
Rev. McNellis’s review stands as an excellent essay on what constitutes courage, as applicable on September 10th, 2001, as it was on September 11th. The difference, McNellis poetically underscores in his piece, is that courage built in the day to day, remains constant at a moment of greatest danger, and fear:
We see people putting others first, on this, the worst day of their lives because they’ve been doing it every day of their lives. And if you spend your life as a husband and father putting those you love first, then when the crucial day comes chances are that as a policeman you’ll put the people in the
Courage is not the absence of fear. Anyone present at ground zero that day would have been a fool not to feel fear. We see that these men are afraid, but they overcome it. And fear isn’t overcome without leaders. Sgt. McLoughlin asks for volunteers; the others can say yes or no. Jimeno is the first to say yes, and then others follow his example.
Courage as a virtue is increasingly misunderstood in our society, especially among the keyboard class. As our lives become more comfortable and protected, we forget who does the protecting.
We in the military recognize this attitude of service, we’ve lived it, more or less, though always with less certainty of our own steadfastness and resilience, than what we see clearly in our fellow soldiers. “If you weren’t afraid, you’d be a moron,” one of my Master Sergeants often said.
Cross-posted at Milblogs
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The upcoming publication of the MILBLOG Anthology The Blogs of War, published by Simon & Schuster, edited by Blackfive, and inclusive of a post of mine, has created some interesting opportunities, of which I hope to share news soon.
But as a consequence of these unfolding events, Mrs. Dadmanly and I have done a lot of soul searching. We are in a particular place and time, emotionally and spiritually. We confront the consequences of my deployment to
I’ve been struggling to capture a mess of feelings and impressions, most recently with this post. Mrs. Dadmanly experienced what she describes as revelatory – for those who don’t share our religious beliefs, call it inspired awareness – and she writes, as follows.
It has been nine months since my soldier came “home.” I counted the hours, days, sometimes minutes, while he was deployed. What day is it today? It is a blessing to count months again.
I remember last summer 2005 when friends/family/co-workers would express “how quickly the summer is going by.” For me, it was the longest summer I could remember, and I prayed it snowed “tomorrow,” which would mean summer was over and my soldier would be home soon.
This summer is so much different then last. I look at the tree in the front yard, the same tree to which I tied the yellow ribbon and American flags, the tree that every time I would come in or out of the driveway, tears would flow. I sit at the kitchen table looking out the window, and remember wondering if my soldier was going to come home to me. I look across the table, and he is sitting there smiling at me, drinking coffee, the coffee I longed to share again.
I thank God for having him return to me, to our family. With all the joy and happiness that the end of deployment brings, it also brings a sharp reality, almost a contrast of sorts of what I had thought life would be like “after deployment.”
Many areas have gone amazingly back to normal or I should say normal for us. Some have not. My soldier and I are different, changed. That does not necessarily mean in a negative way, but some ways feel very “uncomfortable” for lack of a better word.
A reality has “hit” me in the past week. In the same breath that I speak of joy, happiness, gratefulness of the return of my soldier, I am experiencing sadness, grief, fear, anxiousness, anger. I can be looking directly at him and will begin to cry for fear that he will not be coming home. Odd, I think, he is standing right in front of me. I cannot speak or think the words of the past deployment without tears welling up in my eyes.
The reality that “hit” me this past week is this. During the deployment, I really thought I was dealing with the separation and all the emotions, thoughts, feelings, fears, anger, that would try to overpower me. I did not. “I’m a mess,” like one of our soldier friends likes to say.
What is wrong with me? My soldier is home, he is safe, and why can’t I get a grip? Why can’t I control the overflowing outpouring of emotions? It “should” be over now that my soldier is home again.
I have come to realize that it is just beginning, that is, me dealing with, working through, allowing all that I “thought” I dealt with, apparently suppressed, to be heard, to come out, to let happen.
In the past nine months I truly never thought, it was because of the deployment that I was experiencing all these issues. I pride myself on being “in touch” most of the time with “why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling,” but not this time. I tried all my old “fixes” to rid myself of these uncomfortable emotions and feelings.
Eating obsessively…did not work this time. Exercising…did not work this time. Losing weight…not working. Praying… not working. Taking trips…nope. Even trying all kinds of vitamins that say, “they will help me stop feeling this way.”
As much as I heard the counselors from the Vet Center, read articles, read peoples stories, even other soldiers wives sharing, I NEVER made the connection that I needed to finally experience, acknowledge, accept, work through, all that I had pushed down and inward while my soldier was away. It went off like a light bulb, it all makes sense.
I even remember telling myself in my head, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not feeling like they are,” or reading something and saying “that is not happening to me.” YES IT IS!!!!!! The one word, emotion that seems to overpower the rest is “sadness.”
I want to share this example, because the experience I had is part of the reason I am able to go forward, and work through all that I’m experiencing.
As I walked to the store I looked across the parking lot, and saw an elderly couple getting out of a car. The man had put the lady’s wheel chair as close as he could to her car door, and now had a walker with her balancing on it, to go from seat of car to seat of wheel chair. I watched as he carefully helped her, continuing to hold her and the wheel chair to keep it from moving.
My first thought was sadness that they had to go through this, getting old, not being able to just jump out of the car and walk swiftly into the store. I believe at that moment God spoke to my heart.
What came over me was this. Stop always looking for the sadness, and do something about it, pray for them, pray that they will have an easier time today, getting in and out of that chair, that they enjoy their day, that if she is in pain it is gone for today, pray for joy for them.
I did it, I prayed and “I felt good.” Then I prayed, Lord let me see this in all situations, remind me, convict me, prick my spirit in all areas to help when I can. Wow! I thought, Life is not over, it is just beginning.
Life is without a doubt different since deployment, changed, I need to deal with the separation that occurred, I need to let it out, I need to share it, and I need to let me be me. There is not a time frame on when I’m supposed to “be over it,” but to realize I am not, right now. It is O.K. I can be where I am. IT IS GOING TO BE O.K. but for today, even though the emotions are overwhelming, they are mine, I’m going to work through it. Life really is good! I made it through deployment, I will make it through now and God is taking care of me, carrying me, whispering in my ear that “all is well.”
I look at the tree as I drive in and out of the driveway and the emotion wells up, I cry, for past, for present, for future, sadness, happiness, uncertainties, reality. As the tree sheds its leaves in the fall, and regrowth occurs every spring, I too will lose some layers, add some new ones and keep some of the old. Everything in our lives is affected by a season, one ends, another begins, and sometimes they intermingle for a short while.
Dadmanly concurs, and wants to add, but to all, there is a purpose, unto heaven.
UPDATE: Some Soldiers' Mom echoes many of the themes Mrs. Dadmanly covers here, but with an experience I know the Mrs. praises God she never had to go through...
Linked over at Thunder Run
Jonah Goldberg proves himself foremost among those “most talented” young conservative writers Fred Barnes mentioned recently in a Hillsdale College speech, in today’s editorial at Real Clear Politics.
Goldberg takes on the illogic of Judge Taylor’s NSA decision, and examines the core hypocrisies of several of the plaintiffs of the case:
You do see the irony here, don't you? A coalition of pressure groups - Greenpeace, the ACLU and a bunch of left-wing professors - are arguing that the Constitution must be immutably inflexible, adamantine in the face of changing times. The fact that al-Qaida is using new technologies the founders could never have imagined is irrelevant, say the absolutists. If the government can listen in on bin Laden's phone calls without a warrant, what's to keep them from listening to a phone call between me and my Aunt Sally?
Isn't this just a bit hard to take with a straight face from the ACLU, which finds powers not created by the Constitution every day and periodically declares such inanities as the idea that the Constitution forbids teachers from reading "The Chronicles of Narnia" in class lest the tykes' young minds be corrupted by hidden messages about Christianity? Such concerns would have left the founders dumbfounded before the opening prayers of the Constitutional Convention.
I’d note that this is probably the best of all reasons for critics to insist that plaintiffs first establish standing, before they’re ever allowed to argue their case for harm.
Of course, if you are a jurist who favors a particular side in a legal debate, who seeks publicity, and wants to advance a political agenda, a plaintiff being on your side may be all the standing you need.
I couldn’t help myself, I read through some of the hysterical name calling and trash talking from the left, in response to Ann Althouse’s excellent Op Ed in the NY Times yesterday. Ann is this, Althouse is that, the rhetorical equivalent of “yeah, well you’re a poopy head!”
I am sick of being lectured on ethics, law, the Constitution, Government, and anything remotely related to National Security by those of a political persuasion that makes critical reasoning impossible. Who don’t even both with considering alternative points of view, or the logical strength of the arguments of their opponents.
There’s no hope for them, these leftists. They’ll need to retire, and eventually fade into angry obscurity. If God is merciful, they won’t entirely tear the country down – or so thoroughly collaborate with our enemies as to surrender what remains of our liberty.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
2007 Milblog Conference
Per Andi, the 2007 MilBlog Conference will be held on Saturday, May 5, 2007 in
Also linked at Milblogs.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Some things are just too tragic for words.
Another year of crap from the Yankees fans, who abound and no not the perpetual grief of a Red Sox fan (abated but once).
The Rules of Law
Tribe is a celebrity jurist if ever there was one, on par with Court TV and all those defense attorney talking heads that show up on cable. You know the type, the ones that make a living offering commentary on the latest celebrity trial or sensationalist murder case. (Let’s face it, the real process of law is as deadly boring as sitting through televised town council meetings. Hence the need for professional TV attorneys and judges. “I am a real judge, but I don’t bother practicing law because a play a lawyer on TV!”
Here’s as much of Tribe’s defense as I’m willing to indulge (emphasis mine):
When a presidential program that wouldn't have been exposed at all but for leaks that the administration is trying not just to plug but to prosecute is manifestly lawless in the most fundamental respects; when that program challenges constitutional as well as statutory constraints on executive authority; when it is promulgated by an executive branch in the hands of characters who care little about the rule of law, much less about legal nuance; and when the lawmakers who are posturing as the program's critics have in fact engineered a statutory "fix" that amounts to little more than a whitewash in the offing -- when all these things are true, it's not costless to harp on the details of a basically correct legal denunciation of that program to the point of ridiculing the motives and capacities of the judge delivering the blow.
Gad, I thought I did the run on sentence thing to death. I’ve met my match.
Note the way Tribe describes the Bush Administration as characters who don’t care one whit about laws, and used that as excuse for why Judge Taylor didn’t need to exercise her authority as, well, a judge and not a blogger or other talking head. And hey, what do I know? Not as much as the more vocal critics of Judge Taylor’s opinion, who have pointed out the following.
Judge Taylor neglected to establish standing -- the legal term that refers to whether a specific plaintive has any personal justification for objecting to a law, program, behavior or event that. In this case, that meant, someone who’s communications had been monitored or intercepted. The idea is to prevent “just anybody” from bringing suits. They have to have been harmed or affected in some way.
Judge Taylor ignored important precedents. She ignored arguments in support of the program. She dismissed without discussion well-known tensions within the Constitution, between the Constitution and legislation. She refused to consider any special circumstances involved in terrorism, the fight against it, changes in technology, or any particular compelling reasons to think beyond what she obviously considers so obvious that it doesn’t require evidence or argument.
Talk about your naked assertions of power.
Conclusion: Changes and After-Effects
Part 2: You Call That PTSD?
(This is belated follow-up in a multi-part series I introduced, entitled Conclusion.)
This post won’t seem to write itself, and I’m not doing much better getting it done myself.
I started with a disclaimer to what I planned on writing here, all well and good, but then it stalled right there. Lots to talk about, some reluctance I guess to pick it back up. So here goes. First, I’ll repeat a very short summary of my disclaimer to refocus.
A deployment to a combat zone – and experiencing combat first hand – changes a person forever. Yet some of our soldiers, including many Veterans of prior combat, seem quick to dismiss such thoughts from their consciousness.
Very few of our soldiers saw anything remotely like combat. Yet as leaders, we’re trained to look for, anticipate, and help our soldiers cope with inevitable effects of their deployment experiences. We try to help our soldiers deal with their experiences. If you lost something while you were there, if your mind and heart and feelings and attitudes changed, let people know. That’s a big part of what makes a MILBLOG, too, as I think about it.
So much of what we say can be twisted and used as anti-war propaganda by the usual useful idiots. But better that stuff that needs to get talked about, gets talked about. The useful idiots we will always have with us, biting ankles while the grown-ups talk things over like adults.
On the whole, most of our soldiers view their service in
I saw our Command Sergeant Major (CSM) a couple of months after our return, he wanted to talk about
It’s how I feel when I get a chance to slam back a few beers, play cards, tell stories, just talk smack with others who know exactly what I’m talking about. Shared experiences, but even more, shared mental states.
Sometimes it’s just some time to escape from the world of family, or work, or even just the mundane demands of the civilian day-to-day. Maybe for some, to get away from the world of women, who largely create the “nests” we men inhabit.
I think differently now about how this all works, than I thought before. During mobilization training, the focus was on preparing our soldiers physically and mentally for what we would face.
Extensive training on all phases of operations. Reports and administrative functions for headquarters staffs. Stocking spare parts and vehicle preparations, including up armoring, general motor maintenance for mechanics. Detainee operations for Tactical Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Teams (THT), leaders, really, all of us, as our Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (BN) was to be responsible for one or more detention facilities. Defensive Lanes, Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), Convoy Operations, and Casualty handling for everybody, because you never know who’s going to use it or need it.
Above all else, medical assessment (SRC) to clear soldiers for the demands of deployment to the combat zone. Finding the men and women with chronic health problems or other limitations, and assessing whether those were severe enough to warrant being coded “Red” (Non-Deployable).
The medical staff were very responsive to both soldier and command concerns, and in my view, always tried to make the right judgment between unit mission requirements and soldier capabilities and limitations. Permanent profiles exist in wartime as well as peacetime, but some limitations can get you killed in a combat zone.
Alcoholism and heart conditions. Back problems and obesity. Psychiatric or psychological problems. Age. Overall physical health.
I worried mostly about my two time veterans, the soldiers who had served in
It was a moment of all kinds of decisions, for leaders and Commanders, certainly, but also for men and women who rarely get to ask themselves how far they’re willing to go, who much they really want to serve, what they’re really willing to endure. How they will view themselves in the future. I’d like to think we all made the right decisions, with only 2 or 3 exceptions out of 200, mostly the result of self-deception or a willful deception of commanders by the soldiers in question.
All through the medical readiness and mobilization training period, we grew hardened, no nonsense, coldly practical about a lot of things. Some of us copped attitudes towards those who failed the screenings, or couldn’t keep up, or otherwise let the process place them outside the deployment. Many of us started using derogatory terms for those who struggled, or fell out. This made redeployment more difficult for some.
The same attitudes we left with, didn’t survive long upon our return from
Your average soldiers tend to be low maintenance, tough guys and gals, who pride themselves on endurance, strength, fortitude and getting the job done. “I’m okay. I don’t need a Doctor to tell me what hurts.”
Not everybody, mind you, but for citizen soldiers in the National Guard, most of us were something else first, and several things second and third and even more, before we were soldiers. Maybe it’s the lifestyle, the ethos, but many of us were quick to cop the tough guy stance, at least on the outside. I think it’s how many of us steeled ourselves to get through a combat zone deployment and a year more or less away from our families.
Some of our soldiers had no trouble at all describing every visit to sick call, every ill or ailment, to the Veterans Affairs (VA) counselors and medical staff upon our return. We had lots of encouragement. The VA was aggressively active promoting their services and advocating for soldier care immediately upon our return, thoroughly supported and encouraged by unit commands at every level. We must have had three Post deployment health assessments within the first 6 months of our return.
But even those soldiers who found it easy to report an ache, a problem, an injury or a burden newly carried in their lives, even these soldiers most ready to self-report, still encountered something we didn’t expect, but maybe should have: Guilt.
The average soldier returning from
Today’s veterans face very different circumstances, but can still end up in the same place, mentally and emotionally. We are often overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of our fellow citizens, family, neighbors, friends and co-workers. The American people seem bound and determined to never again make the mistake of blaming the soldier. The military stresses that we not keep anything to ourselves, and the entire deployment and redeployment processes reinforce constantly that we need to look out for each other, and refer ourselves and others for services if necessary. Even if we think just to be sure, just in case, somewhere down the road, we might possibly need extra care or services.
But in our heads, we’re thinking, “suck it up. Quit yer whinin’.”
Guilt again, but this time for a different reason. “I’m no hero,” most of us say. “I didn’t have a hard time at all,” or “I never saw any action,” or even, “I never really thought I was in any danger.” Boredom, tedium, routine, and more American style services and amenities than any prior generation of soldiers could dare to imagine. Like R&R all the time. For most, but obviously not all. Like a lottery in reverse, where only the very unlucky lost. The rest of us won.
Internet cafes, nice gyms and juice bars, café latte at the Green Bean, dining facilities (DFAC) that blow away stateside, institutional facilities, regular trips to the PX, Subway, Pizza Hut, and a 4 day pass to Qatr.
We had to deal with stray mortars, rockets, and explosions from vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) outside the wire or even at the gates, but these were infrequent and almost entirely ineffective, unless their aim was to lull us into complacency and a feeling of invulnerability. If that was the aim at the larger forward operating bases (FOBs), then they were largely successful. Our sense of security might have been illusory, or based on “safe from harm so far,” but that’s how it was for us in Tikrit. Results varied. Small, remote bases could be more dodgy. Big FOBs were well insulated, and the insurgent teams responsible for sporadic mortar or rocket fire never had a chance to get much practice before forced “retirement.”
This had to be one of the craziest, most unreal “combat” environment in the history of war, even by modern standards. And I don’t think we will fully appreciate what it was, or was not, and how uniquely whatever it was, affected each of us as individuals.
Some soldiers grew disgusted that there wasn’t any “action.” It seemed to make them angry. Maybe they hoped to take out some of the enemy, for any of the good or bad reasons people want to do that kind of thing. Patriotism, zeal, glory, bloodlust, a violent nature, repressed, or not-at-all-repressed anger.
Some breezed through their deployments, and several wanted to stay, or follow-up for contractor positions for a very commonly anticipated 100K tax free for all manner of specialty trades and occupations.
Some soldiers seemed to develop difficulties with the start and stop, sudden changes in security posture, on and off again vigilance, even the simple after-effects of basic, low level stress.
It really had nothing to do with whether you got shot at, or rode through an IED, or witnessed first hand a mortar or rocket strike. It had most to do with what was inside of you, what made you tick, how you coped, how you pushed both the crazy mundane, and the hopped up combat rush out of your mind, just to do the next necessary thing.
Because war really does bring a man or woman to a point of clarity, and maybe refinement, as in the way precious metals are refined by fire. Not everyone makes it through the “refiners fire,” as scripture reminds us, to be tempered like steel, or purified like gold and silver. Some end up as a lot more dross than treasure.
We had what I came to think of as “canaries,” and that’s most of who we dealt with as emergencies and situations to deal with while deployed. Canaries were the early warning soldiers, the ones who would likely have popped, in whatever way each was built to pop, when stress came. When the going got a little tough.
Canaries revealed themselves early in mobilization training. The same soldiers who were “problem children” in training, tended to be problem children overseas. Not always, but often enough that exceptions proved the rule. The canaries fell over in their cages, but things never got so bad that the rest started falling, too. Canaries fall over in their lives back home, at their jobs, with addictions or problems that were out of control when they were mobilized. Canaries were likely to make poor choices in dealing with stress, problems, or temptations, and deployment would only add to opportunity.
I often said to myself, as I tried to stay alert for warning signs, for trends, for weaknesses that would impact everybody, or symptoms that start to spread: “Keep an eye on the canaries. Judge the potential emotional and behavioral ‘casualties’ against the general population of soldiers. Once you start seeing non-canaries, you’ve got a serious problem.” I can honestly say, we pretty much only saw the canaries fall over.
One of my soldiers seemed the farthest from harm to many of us. He worked in a decidedly non-combat role. He played the clown, often, and never seemed to take very much seriously. He had a wild streak from time to time, but seemed to settle down before anything got too out of hand. He might have gone outside the wire a couple of times, traveling to the next FOB. He might have taken a drive to our more remote site once, admittedly a more dangerous ride, but as a passenger, not truck commander (TC), driver, or gunner. He worked a short, late night shift, skeleton manning in an Admin tactical operation center (TOC). Walked back to his billets by himself, which he admitted was the scariest part of his tour.
He came back, did the VA thing, ended up with a disability and a ticket to immediate, lifetime drill pay and no need to continue staying in the Guard. He also found himself out of place in his own skin, uneasy and anxious, and now finds it difficult to work his civilian job that used to be second nature. “I’m a mess,” he says, but for the first few months we thought it was just his shtick.
Those of us who had copped that hardness towards the Non-deployables, found ourselves confronting the flip side of our prejudices. The sick, the lame, the lazy. Another term that I won’t share, but starts with “broke.”
My disabled soldier carries something beyond his injuries from this deployment to
That’s pretty hard when you think your fellow soldiers think you’re a shammer, or a shirker, or a whiner, like that “broke-thing.” Harder still, when you start thinking of yourself that way.
Which is part of the change that has to happen, each in his or her own private way. Few of us saw combat in any meaningful way. Fewer still suffered casualties or witnessed death and destruction close up. Compared to any prior generation of soldiers, we had it easy. No Greatest Generation, we. No Depression through which to survive childhood. No flaming hell like
We can suffer serious and long-standing injury, if we can’t make peace with our service, our changes, ourselves.
I have another soldier who struggles with the same troubles he left home with, amplified in some way now that he sits alone in an apartment. Away from his fellow soldiers, he’s suddenly away from the forced communal living that makes a kind of family. Alone before
He’s a smart one, can quote you paragraph, line or letter about what he’s going through, what makes him tick, what a mess he really was before deployment, but hadn’t needed to confront his problems. Suddenly he finds himself unable to leave his apartment. He’s too smart and well educated to believe in God, he says, but educated by life enough to know that one can still live the life of the damned, as an atheist or agnostic.
Maybe if he could just find a volleyball club of some kind, or maybe just some kind of hobby or fellowship, just not that whole church thing. Something that can get him out of the house and around other people. Sure, he wouldn’t mind if somebody checks up on him form time to time, even as he knows we have to if we’re leaders or NCOICs. “You have a responsibility to make sure I get help, so that’s what you’re doing.” And true to form, one of the NCOs threatens to tell the CSM that he said he’ll kill himself – he hasn’t said any such thing – if he doesn’t see the counselor at the VA. (And he sure doesn’t want the CSM to be the leader who feels obligated to check up on him. His immediate NCOIC and even First Sergeant sound a whole lot better to him.)
So he knows he came to the combat zone with pre-existing issues that somehow got bigger with deployment and redeployment. Not that the VA cares, nor should they, nor should any of us. He’s our knucklehead, he’s struggling, he’s one of our own, and we aren’t going to leave him behind.
One of our soldiers had two businesses when he deployed, and came back to neither. Bust, gone broke, nothing left but debt and obligations.
The guy who went AWOL at the start, prompted by a demanding wife, brought back in, counseled, encouraged to do the right thing. Deployed, only to find out his wife was busy making other plans in his absence. Who still wanted to cash his checks and keep his money, but use it to prepare a nest-egg with her new squeeze.
We all took turns working on him until he severed the financial ties and saved what was left. He made quite the turn around in assertiveness, seemed to make himself a new man from the experience. Re-enlisted, earned himself $15,000 tax free, then returned stateside and disappeared somewhere in
We talk about our experiences a lot during drills, during social events. We talk about those soldiers who are still on medical hold, dealing with the Army medical process for injuries while deployed. This involves huge and somewhat Byzantine paperwork, medical consultative and care management processes, beginning with that most important Line of Duty report and medical assessment.
First time and second time around Veterans talk over who seems to be doing well, who’s suffering, whose marriage went south, who needs what surgery that most will refuse, rather than let Army Doctors try out sports medicine, back, and other complex surgeries. Who stayed active duty or Active Guard Reserve (AGR), who took the plunge to Washington Agencies, either GS or contractor.
We talk over dealing with the VA. Those who know the VA from Vietnam days marvel at how much support we get, how aggressively everybody makes sure we know what help is available.
My Master Sergeant Vietnam Vet, the one I wrote about in this Profile, overhears one of our conversations, with one of our soldiers talking about difficulty sleeping, anxiety, a litany of disturbances. The soldier mentions how the VA counselor describes it as a low level kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
“You call that PTSD? That ain’t PTSD,” he finally blurts out with obvious impatience. “When you wake up screaming in the middle of the night, start beating on your wife in your sleep, or run outside in your underwear at 3:00 a.m., yelling ‘incoming,’ then you can talk about PTSD.”
He’s told us about his experiences after his time in
“It stopped after a while. I don’t get bothered much anymore.”
Maybe. I remember the many months Harry was working full time for one of our Intel missions, and we would visit him once a month at the site. He always seemed glad to see us. “I don’t really get out much, just stay in my room.” He stayed in largely empty BOQ billets. He never seemed to need much social contact, otherwise. I always thought his alone-ness, his preferred solitude was the way he was able to make peace with his wartime experiences.
In the grand scheme of things, Harry went to hell and back early in his military career. Nearer its end, he had a different kind of experience in the combat zone. His deployment to
So for a Vietnam Vet, what we’re going through is nothing compared to what guys like him went through. In the days when they were a lot more on their on, with little support, where the best thing to do was get rid of the uniform and sneak back home in ones and twos.
And maybe in the end, with everything else we have available, what’s most valuable has been the least appreciated from the start. The memories and experiences, the heartbreak and the anger. Whatever worked for those who came before, who have been there, done that, but back in the day when doing it was one big piece of yourself you never got all the way back. Even when we have to hear it in the form of the caustic wit of a two-time combat veteran, putting it all into perspective.
I’m glad the Army made it easier on Harry this time around. For one thing, he deserved better than he got then, and the Army had a chance to make it up to him. (Other than sending him to
Good for Harry that the Army does things a whole lot better nowadays. That’s good for us, too, because he’s still one ornery son of a gun to deal with now. I can only imagine how tough he’d get with us if he had to live through a
And we’re the better for both of his experiences.
Linked over at Milblogs, Fuzzilicious Thinking, Bear Creek Ledger, Biting the Heads Off Gummi Bears, Some Soldier's Mom
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