Failure of Leadership / Veterans Day  (2015Nov11)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015                                              12:37 PM

Every war we talk about the bravery, the gallantry, of our side’s soldiers—and the perfidy and inhumanity of the other side. And no one with a heart could fail to feel the tragedy of young heroes going to their deaths with honor—or fail to feel disgust at war crimes. But to me, the failure is always on those who allow things to get to the point of war.

The anti-war movement that arose during the Vietnam War was begun by activists—but it attracted many parents of draft-age children, and of children who were currently serving, and of the fallen. They recognized a failure of leadership in a government that cared more for their Cold War ‘chessboard’ than for the men and women being sent into harm’s way. Had they known that Nixon’s advisors had told him the war was unwinnable, they would have had too much ammunition—so they were lied to.

Being the first time that a citizenry had actually opposed its own government’s war plans, the peaceniks made a few mistakes. Their biggest mistake was in demonizing the soldiers, along with their leaders—the horrors of Vietnam were laid at the feet of the grunts on the ground—young boys, mostly, trying their best to survive in a situation that their leaders sent them into without any hope of winning. Whatever savagery was reported as having been committed by US troops in Vietnam (and there was far too much of that, sadly) it was a consequence of boys being sent into hell without any leadership—and that was reflected in the top brass, all the way up to the C-in-C.

Nevertheless, today’s GOP cliché, that liberals don’t ‘support our troops’ was a valid charge in 1972. But the liberals have seen, along with the rest of the country, that our military reflects our leadership—those young people will respond to whatever training and discipline the USA gives them. And with world leaders—and military leaders—that can’t be bothered to think things through, to discuss alternatives, or to make plans before they start shooting—we can’t really expect those leaders to produce an army that won’t immediately descend into bloodlust—the whole idea of war is to suspend civilized behavior for the duration—exceptionally convenient for leaders—not so good for the GIs.

I watched the Iwo Jima Reunion of Honor documentary last night—and I was struck by the refrain of survivors of both sides—that they had nothing against any individual—that they fought only because their country told them to—and because they expected to be killed if they didn’t kill first. I remember the shock I felt, after a Cold War childhood of indoctrination into hating the commies, when I first confronted the truth that most citizens of the USSR were just like us, getting up every morning, going to work, raising a family, trying to live their lives—that they were an ocean away and, outside of a few Politburo members, no more interested in our neighborhood than we were in theirs.

The Cold War was two governments, riddled with fear and ambition, insisting that we citizens share those failings. It was give substance by the nuclear arms race and MAD—but those policies were also confined to our governments—in fact, most information concerning that science was kept secret—we were only supposed to share the fear and hatred, none of the understanding.

I’m disgusted by the fact that humankind is so tantalizingly close to a civilized society in some parts of the world—and our leaders, our military, and our media focus on the trouble spots—trying to treat war as if it were an inevitability. War isn’t inevitable—it is, and always has been, a failure of leadership—we should rename Veteran’s Day to Leaders Should Do Better Day.

Hawks will say this is naïve—that the world is full of evil and it must be fought. Well, evil is everywhere—when it happens here, we call the cops—we don’t declare the neighborhood a war zone—a profit center for arms merchants and black-marketeers. There is a balance to most things—war signifies those places where the powers-that-be have decided ‘balance be damned’. And they don’t do this because they have to—they do it because they’re too damned stupid and lazy to find a better way. Worse, there are those like Dick Cheney, who sees war as good business—how do we forgive ourselves for voting for madmen like him?

Americans have matured—we no longer blame soldiers for the horrors of the wars they are sent into. But when are we going to start blaming the governmental and business leaders whose responsibility those horrors are? When will the ‘Leader of the Free World’ evoke the image of a diplomat, instead of a sniper?

Sir Yes Sir   (2015Sep05)

Saturday, September 05, 2015                                          12:21 PM

The Times reported 30 cadets suffered concussions and broken bones after their annual, traditional ‘pillow fight’—I guess it should be called ‘pillow-plus’, since duck-down rarely causes contusions. Reportedly, helmets were added to the pillowcases—the word ‘rambunctious’ comes to mind. Despite the injuries, I consider such a foofaraw small potatoes compared to the military’s ongoing struggle with rape within the ranks. Both problems bring up the question of how organizations so focused on discipline struggle with disciplinary problems.

Cognitive dissonance and soldiering seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. ‘Honor’ is often used as a watchword during training that includes instructions on how to stab someone in the face. ‘Obedience’ to orders is considered a sine qua non—yet soldiers are told that, in extreme situations, each one of them is still expected to disobey when they feel they are being ordered to commit crimes against humanity—this as part of a cooperative murdering enterprise. Call the confusion police.

Don’t misunderstand—I’m not against the military, nor do I question the need for a military. We’re no crazier than the rest of the world—there’s just more method to our military madness than anyone else’s. But I am a great believer in seeing things as they are. The military—not so much. For all the “Always Faithful” being thrown around, we still somehow end up with thousands of vets without homes, without jobs, and committing suicide—some of them disabled from literally shedding their blood for the rest of us.

Yes, veterans should be cared for as a matter of public policy—though they never have been—not sufficiently. But, failing that, shouldn’t the military itself have a program that sees to these old warriors’ needs? And between the public and the military, isn’t it shameful that no such provisions are made? In battle, a soldier keeps marching forward as others fall—the medics will see to the wounded and the fallen. Is our neglect of veterans a mirror of that, writ large? Do we, like Donald Trump, prefer soldiers who don’t get captured (or shot)?

But the main confusion in matters military is discipline—they want disciplined fighters. But they want fighters—not traditionally the most disciplined people. The military has no choice but to admire the spirit of young people who like to ‘mix it up’—they invariably have to look the other way when certain traditions get out of hand—nothing could be worse than a battalion of docile, obedient pacifists—you might not be able to trust them to kill.

‘Roughhouse’ is a tidy little word, isn’t it? It implies that otherwise criminal behavior is just a matter of letting off steam—and in the case of trained killers, roughhouse can extend all the way to concussions, broken bones, rape—well, the boundaries get a little fuzzy after a while. One commenter on the pillow-fight story asks, “Seriously? These are our future military leaders?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes—military leaders have to deal with chaos and violence from both without and within—violence is their purpose. How can it help but be their essence?

Absence of Justice


I find it so difficult to accomplish goals nowadays—the fatigue, the distraction, the swiss-cheese of my memory…It’s kinda like Mississippi having only last month completed their official State ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery—only I’m in their league in neither lag time nor significance of mission. I guess you have to be a government to screw up to that high a degree.

How sad the waste time passed. It has finally come to me (these mills grind slowly…) that the entitled, the wealthy, and the powerful see their cardinal mission as the maintenance of status quo. What all the rest of us want (and our numbers grow, as the aforementioned 0.1% of ‘Dynasts’ shrinks to an even more measly few) is change, substantial change. The Dynasts are careful to couch these things in general terms such as ‘the economy will collapse’ or ‘our military defense will lose its primacy’ or ‘chronic mass unemployment’—but in truth that is only the background to the personal nightmare currently premiering in brains near them, nationwide—the loss of personal power, wealth, security, shelter, food, health, ending ultimately with themselves and their families being at the mercy of the same winds of capitalism, desperation, and pain that storm across the landscape of the rest of us ‘regular people’.

We want big change—they want no change—or, if absolutely necessary, a little, tiny change. They set the odds because they run the table—many of our problems are worsened by misguided argument in the media, which only moves the issue further away from its substance.

We talk about the unlimited sexual assaults by our fighting men and boys, against our fighting women and girls. And they want to talk about ‘under-reporting’, ‘counseling’, and ‘prosecutions’—when what should be the prime issue—why are these men being trained in boot camps and in exercises about how to fight, without covering the important topic of “Don’t rape anyone, but for god’s sake, if you have to, at least don’t rape your own!” Is this something the military is too bashful to talk about in public? Is it so very hard to include, along with say field-drills or gun-cleaning, a few words about how sick and disgusting and sad it is that women who dare to put their lives in the hands of their military leaders—to serve their country—end up being targeted for sexual assault by their own fellow soldiers?

What the hell?


We want to know what the big deal is with increased taxes on people that make more than a million dollars a year—are you kidding me? We got tens of millions without jobs, homes, or even food—and these fat cats want to discuss how ‘business will be hurt’ if our heavy players have to part with more cash flow! I call BS on that one—total BS. It’s time to stop worrying about what would hurt business, and start worrying about what we can do to stop business from hurting people.

It’s time we saw some limits placed on industrial and financial lobbyists—it’s time we created more jobs by increasing the number of regulators watching over every bank, investment house, and trading market. If the derivatives are too complicated for anyone to understand them, then make them against the law—is that some big intuitive leap?

If the NRA lobby pushed through legislation to stop the CDC from recording or reporting any data on gun-related death and injury stats, then let’s take away their permission to be lobbyists—and overturn that bill and any other law that specifically suppresses significant research collection and publication—how is such a law not deemed unconstitutional in the first place? Doesn’t our freedom of speech include the right for our government institutions to freely collect and share health-related data?

Who are these bums on Capitol Hill? Someone please explain how the correct answer could be, “Let’em burn; we’ll start over from the ashes.” Not even in session, lazy bastards, and blaming the ‘advent of sequestration’ on the President. Five years now I’ve been waiting for these closet-red-necked pussies to give our president the respect he deserves—but they’re still trying suck the life out of our country, while pointing at Obama. As if it maybe might work, eventually. Not according to the polls, not for a while now—is it only the Republicans themselves who are convinced of something the whole danged rest of the country has seen through—and been wise to for some time?

Big movie coming out “A Place At The Table” about hunger in America—the tens of millions, largely children, of the greatest food-producing nation in the world that go without enough food to keep them alive. I give up. Starvation? For crying out loud—why isn’t starvation included in any of these political debates over the National Budget—are the Hungry a frickin’ side-issue? What are we?

Okay, enough out of me. The media will continue to emphasize the sensational, diverting attention from the actual substances of our problems—that way, we get to enjoy our empire’s decline on TV, instead of actually pushing back at the darkness that weighs so heavily on us all.

Just think, if we employed one person, and told them their job was to make sure this little girl got three squares a day—then we’d have one more unemployed with a new job, and one less starving child. There, that’s a recovery plan. It’d work great—so much to do, so many people busy, so many kids overeating for the first time in their lives—but you know those suits and talking-head-pundits and power-grabbers would tear it to shreds, and make the tearing to shreds of it last as long as possible. That way, they get us all busy arguing over what a stupid idea it is—you know, distracted—the way they like us.