Sunday, October 30, 2005



I have followed your contributions for a better American over the last several years. Thank you. You have stated that you want to make a difference in changing our fractured America. I see only one way--a youth culture built around service.


For some time, I too have been concerned about our fractured culture. Recently, Readers Digest had an article about whether we are truly a "fractured America." It said "not as much as we think" but unfortunately, we let the left and right wings drive us according to the article. To be perfectly honest, I'm not so sure. I would like to think that most of us congregate in the middle but have my doubts.

The last presidential election is credited to the right wing fundamentalists of the Republican party for tipping the scales. However, they were only able to do this because a large contingency of who Democrats were counting on--the young people, simply didn't vote. To me, there's a great lesson in this. We have to have something other than politics to unite us. The benefits to an AllServe Universal Service are legion. One, above all, however, is the unifying factor. In our extremely polarized country, we need something to unify us. What better than youth, 18-26, with a common experience. An AllServe would provide such an experience.


What I am discovering is that many Americans will go for Universal Service if youth is given an option. When I first began my campaign ten years ago, it was just about the military draft. I could count on one hand those who mildly agreed, especially those with children. Thinking has changed and more and more parents of eligible kids see the advantage. Having a choice is the selling point. AllServe needs to be promoted, a formal organization created, and a build up of support in the country. Once this happens, the Congress will follow.

There are so many positives to this approach. First of all, it could be phased in over ten years and promoted among our youngsters now. A success story and the way AllServe could work is Teach America. They are getting top graduates who could be in medical school or Wharton business or wherever--yet choose to do something meaningful before they start their careers. Teach America sends graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years. For many, it has become a next step after graduation. These kids want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open. At Yale for instance, Teach America, drew applications from 12% of the graduates, 11% at Dartmarth, and 8% at Harvard. All told a record 17,350 applied in one year.

Are our present kids a post 9-11 generation ready to opt more aggressively for public service? I think so. Many of those volunteering for Teach America don't know what they want to do. The thought is that not knowing what to do, why not take some time to do something meaningful for a couple of years and think about the future. The military is only one of the options. Universal Service will work.

To be able to make something like this successful, we know that it is about marketing as much as anything. Consequently, a blitz of goals and an organized campaign over a five or ten year period is the secret. What think?

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Why? Many reasons: a war, economy good, resistance to the military by parents and zealots growing. Congress at leasts wants the Army to expand by 50,000 more while the military can hardly maintain the status quo. Where are they going to get these fifty thousand? In other words, the Army is in a hurt. Afghanistan and Iraq are long term commitments and there seems to be no let up in either war. The Generals give these rosy pictures but who believes them anymore. Not anybody I know. So, what to do!


In a perfect world, we would not need an Army but unless horses start to fly and the Democrats and the Republicans lay down together in the Biblical concept of Lions and Sheep, forget it. There's a real lesson for us here. I've been pushing the idea of AllServe for years and feel mostly like a voice crying in the wilderness. However, I am beginning to see a crack in the intransigent views. Congress, gutless as they are, will not even consider a draft. And, when the draft issue was raised, it was merely symbolic. However, all of this is missing the boat, big time. If we had an AllServe approach to Universal service, the draft, for instance, would be only one small aspect of the total picture. We would be limited only by our own imagination. We could have teachers corps, peace Corp, domestic service, minic many of the programs that the States or Cities already have in place. Military service would only be a small portion of it.

This idea doesn't even sound radical, merely practical. Would young Americans join the military in great numbers? Sure. We've already seen the evidence in crisis: in fact, many of our volunteer Army now were recruited after 9-11. The most famous recruit, of course, is the now deceased, killed in battle, Pat Tillman. A million dollar NFL contract would not deter him. And, despite many obstacles, it was his choice. Even though now, there is a question on how he died, this does not take away from his sacrifices. And, it would not deter many other Americans. All the AllServe would do for many is nudge them toward what they want to do anyway. There would be no deferments.

This idea is exceedingly more feasible than initiating a military draft which may become a possibility. And, we are at the point where we can give no credence to those like Rumsfelt or the Generals who run the recruiting program. They have failed and all their pronouncements are not going to make it any different. Our present military is woefully undersized for the commitments we have undertaken. We are incredibly lucky that we have not had to deal with a truly major conflict.

What if by some stretch of the imagination, we had to take on a major power like China with its unlimited manpower. They could easily overwhelm us, creating unthinkable options like nuclear. Without getting into strategy, an AllServe needs merely to think in terms of numbers. The benefits to an AllServe Universal Service are legion. One, above all, however, is the unifying factor. In our extremely divisive country, we need something to unify us. What better than youth, 18-26, with a common experience. An AllServe would provide such an experience.

Friday, September 30, 2005



I watched this program about the Sixties the other night on public TV. It had been on before but I saw it totally through for the first time. Very interesting. I was in Vietnam during the pivotal time, according to the show. And, like all documentaries, it tells the story from a particular perspective. The perspective being that the entire country was into the summer of love, San Francico and Berkeley being the place to be--the student movement, the black panthers, etc.. And, of course for the discerning person that was not true. The events that they think were turning points, I don't see at all and was mostly in their imagination. Someone said that "a person's perception is their reality" and so true. The documentarian of the program, The Sixties, has a perception and for him and the writers, it is their reality. But, for many of us, so entirely different.

One of those interviewed on the draft said something like, "anybody with intelligence, sophistication and didn't want to go to Vietnam, could get out of it. Relatively true and was one of the things wrong with the draft.

And, some of the facts in the program were wrong. An event in 67, before I went to Vietnam, I was with the 503d Military Police Battalion. We went to Washington for the March on the Pentagon. The 503d was shown in lots of pictures and the documentary called them the 82d Airborne. Not. The 82d was not even there. Now, does that make any difference? No. But, I think what it means is simply that TV, movies, etc. have a story to tell and sometimes the facts, even very relevant ones, get lost in the process.

The facts are that Vietnam was a sorry war. The draft was incredibly inequitable and consequently there was no sense of shared sacrifice. The Sixties were an important time in reflection but the perception of the TV documentary did not fit the rest of the country. But, surely cannot be minimized either in terms of the events and the significance even if not universal. As far as the "draft" is concern, what we are shown that we do not want a draft in the Sixties context. The draft to be successful must be only one avenue for an AllServe approach to service. For that fact alone, thanks for the good documentary.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


One of my Vietnam buddies told me once that when his brother was killed in Vietnam, his Mom went into the house and did not come out for seven years. Amazing but I am not surprised. Grief is a powerful force and affects all of us in different ways. For some, we move right on or appear too. For others, we never move on. The Mother of Pat Tillman is having trouble. I've been following her story and understand. She is after truth. How was he killed? Why was she lied too? What is the Army trying to conceal? The questions are endless and when her answers come, will they satisfied her?

I doubt it. Pat Tillman's loss is huge. Every loss in war is huge but his strikes a blow most unusual. An American success story: NFL star football player with a gigantic financial future. Enlists in the military after the attack on the World Trade Center. Becomes an elite Army Ranger. Is killed at war by friendly fire.


It happens all the time in war. I was amazed in Vietnam that we did not have more of it. Everybody had a weapon or several. We did not have the sophisticated communication systems we have now. And, for Vietnam or presently at war, under the best of circumstances, friendly fire happens!

I am not about to speak for the military or to justify any approach they have taken and surely understand Pat Tillman's mother's grief. Her grief appears to be vastly different than the grief of now celebrity protestor, Cindy Sheehan, who also lost a son. Whereas Pat Tillman's Mom shuns the limelight, Ms. Sheehan seeks it. Her motives to me are somewhat suspect as she appears to have morphed into a sound bite. Ms. Sheehan's picture smiling while being arrested appears to indicate that she definitely has moved on in her grief. Not so for Pat Tillman's Mom.

There will be no final answers is all that I can assure Pat Tillman's Mom, even when the Army has laid itself bare, if it ever does. As sad as it is, at the base level, we have to accept that Pat Tillman made a choice to "join up." And, unfortunately, the decision casts him forever facing the possibilities that at war anything and everything can and does happen. Even horrible mistakes! What makes the loss of life so hard to take, Tillman's life or any life in war, is the finality of it. And, these sacrifices aren't shared sacrifices, as only a miniscule number of our democracy owns the sacrifice. It is the peril of a Volunteer Army and it is simply a travesty.

Didn't Do The Math On English

Monday, Lynndie England was found guilty of Iraqi prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. She was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Please! Give me a break! Is there something wrong with this picture? You take a National Guard type who is as emotionally sophisticated as a tree, put her in a position to screw up, along with others without training and supervision; and, when she messes up, you zap her. Talk about making the military look bad-The black eye is on the military at the highest levels.

One of the reasons that the military is usually so effective is the chain of command. In this case, the first question that should be asked is where was the chain of command? Private England had a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, a first sergeant, a platoon leader, a company commander, a battalion commander, and on up the chain. Where were these people? I can tell you. They were asleep at the wheel. In one sense, she is hardly responsible. In another sense, she is not smart enough to be responsible! And, to convict her and send her to prison is a gross injustice and it ought to make military people ashamed. The entire chain of command is at fault and yet they are unscathed.

Further still, England should never have been in Iraq. The National Guard should not have been in Iraq but that aside, a youngster like England is there because the volunteer is not working. We do not have enough forces to be in a war like Iraq which is going to go on endlessly. Therefore, we have to use the National Guard which traditionally has always been available for Governors. It is indeed a sorry situation when we have to use youngsters like England and all those involved in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Untrained, unsophisticated, unsupervised and we send her to prison. Sad and scandalous.

Friday, September 23, 2005


With Katrina and now hurricane Rita, somehow much of this loses its urgency but talking about things military shouldn't. We still have soldiers at war and soldiers who are dying. The count is nudging on toward 2000. I see this as a more than difficult time in the entire scenario. Right now, things domestic are on people's minds: the news clips have to do with hurricanes and things right here at home--Americans at all levels are suffering. And, to the average man on the street, fighting a war in Iraq, for whatever reasons the President and his die-hard supporters come up with, it does not resonate as it did before the Hurricanes!


With Katrina, it did seem to suddenly take a different turn when the troops showed up. One guy said, "I thought my country had abandoned me and then I saw the 82d Airborne." Now, that is an indorsement and rightly so. American soldiers like the 82d are the best trained in the world and could have alleviated much suffering in the first 72 hours of Katrina.

However, with all the Fauntleroy of supporting the troops, it is a sham; I want to say "what sort of show are people putting on?" Support the troops while at the same time headlines like "schools opt out" What this means is that schools are opting out of recruiters being allowed to talk to students. Does this speak volumes or what! NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). One mother said, "I don't want the military recruiters contacting her teenage daughters but she wants the teens to hear about college scholarships and job opportunities from other organizations." NIMBY! What she is all shook up about is the federal law, No Child Left Behind Act which requires that military recruiters have the same access to student information as educational recruiters. Schools that do not let the recruiters have at the students risk access to federal funds.


After Vietnam, vets got no sympathy mainly because the prevailing attitude was that if we weren't so stupid, we could have avoided Vietnam like most everybody else. What is the attitude now? Iraqnam? Maybe or maybe those hollow concepts of "support the troops" are really a mask for "my kids are too good for the military." I don't know and doubt anybody would admit it if they felt that way. And, until we have some sort of equitable AllServe, those troops who show up in New Orleans or Houston or wherever will come from a small segment of our culture. It ain't fair.

Sunday, August 21, 2005



As I understand it, Cindy Sheehan actually met with the president at some point and heard his "noble" cause speech. Since then, her grief has somewhat overwhelmed her I believe and regardless of what camp we are in, she has a dead son killed in war. She now says since all those "noble cause" issues are gone, No weapons of mass destruction, etc., "Then what, Mr. President, what is the noble cause?" But, her question has morphed into politics and so to me, there's some question now of disrespecting her son and the sons of other grieving parents: very confusing.

Although it is a free country and people can demonstrate or do whatever they want about the war, I admit that as much as I detest the mismanagement of the war, there is something disconcerting about protesting while we are fighting. When I was in Vietnam, along with most vets, I think, the demonstrating seemed at best disingenuous. We weren't sophisticated enough then to sort it out. It seemed so personal then, while the protests now seem so hollow.

I don't see any grand numbers of people getting on board the "movement" Sheehan has started. She has lost a son but for those who are there to show support, unless they are willing for their sons and daughters to be a part of the process, i. e., meaning some real investment like a son or daughter in the military, I don't want to hear it.--not much empathy from these quarters--there's little shared sacrifice because of the war, not effecting most of these people's lives. For example, they had a big vigil in San Francisco and someone said, "We'd like to be with Cindy but just can't work it out right now." Hell, they can't work it out because it's inconvenient.

Her crusade definitely became a "media circus" and now her grief has morphed into a "cause." Those who hate Bush and the war mostly are zeolots and like to think that Ms. Sheehan's cause is gaining momentum. Conversely, the Bush ideologues aren't going to change.

And, just yesterday, I read where Casey Sheehan had been promised he could be a Chaplain's Assistant. The Army reneged she said. Casey was a very religious kid and there is some thought that he was even thinking about the Priesthood. Cindy was a lay Minster in the Catholic Church. Her husband is divorcing her--the son's death simply destroyed the marriage. I can understand. There are no winners in the Cindy Sheehan saga. kt

Sunday, July 10, 2005



In the cowboy movie, Silverado, Kevin Kline is talking to the part owner of a saloon. He adores her as an honest, kind, and special person: a mother/sister figure. It has been established that Kline is one of those moral cowboys who is somewhat of a renaissance man. And, those he cares about, he really cares about. Not to mention he is a person to be feared in a gunfight. The bad guy who was once his riding partner has threatened to do harm to Kline's friend. A battle is raging over right and wrong: cattle barons versus the little guys. Kline's friend realizes the reason that he has not taken sides is because he fears for his friend. She says to him, "If," and she names the bad guy, "Cobb, is dead, he can't hurt anybody," thus giving Kline permission to do what he has to do.


No one needs me to tell them that things have changed for all of us since that fateful day in September, 2001. We see it in everything and the recent tragic bombings in London show us anew. Terrorism is a way of life! And, we have a choice on how we are going to deal with it.

We have chosen to take the war to the terrorists. An unpopular war to many Americans but one that undeniably is the right approach to me. It is a strategy and whether it is a somewhat selfish philosophy or not, terrorism has not come back to our shores since 9-11. So, is it working? I think so with a price.


My complaint about the Iraqi War all along is not the fact we are waging it--at some point Saddam would have had to be taken out. He was insane surrounded by lunatics. To me, our timing was off, and we mismanaged the aftermath in such a way as it is almost embarrassing when you think of the smart people we have in our country. To ignore the obvious: securing the borders, the storehouse of weapons, the national treasuries, disbanding the Army and totally not understanding the mind of the Muslim, just to name a few. It was almost as though the planners sat around some table and said: "How can we screw this up?"


We still do not have the right mix of soldiers in Iraq and there appears to be nobody listening to the many voices dealing with this. I am constantly reading articles by this very smart guy, John Arquila, a Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Always, his articles have a disclaimer: "Views do not reflect official defense department policy." Obviously not because they make too much sense. He advocates among many things: small teams of Special Forces troops who can hunt down the terrorists.


I echo his philosophy from our experience in Vietnam with some expansion. "Uncle HO" realized that he could wait us out as long as we fought the Vietnam War with conventional soldiers. The American Army in Vietnam was a good one that fought bravely but they were conventional soldiers. Simply stated, the American public would not stand for the war to go on forever. If Vietnam had WW ll front lines or even like Korea, conventional soldiers could have done the job posthaste. However, Vietnam and now Iraq are not conventional. The VC operated among the populace: we couldn't tell foe from friend.

Sound familiar? In Iraq, the complaint of our soldiers is that they know that often when the insurgents strike, they then hide among the populace. Very frustrating. What we need in Iraq as we did in Vietnam are unconventional soldiers: those who will fight the terrorists at their own game: hit and run, chase them down, equip the populace to help, train the police and mostly be unrelenting both in the fight and our resolve to stay till the job is done.


Special Operations troops are volunteers, they are experts in explosives, living off the land, weapons, and they know how to endure. They are the elite of the elite. And, they know how to train indigenous forces. Older and more experienced, these soldiers love this sort of stuff; they are Rangers, Navy Seals, Green berets--they are what are affectionately called, snake eaters. This is what we need in Iraq. And, it is what Professor Arquilla is suggesting but like so much in this war, nobody is listening. God bless us. kt

Sunday, June 12, 2005


By all accounts, military recruiters are facing untold hostility just in trying to do their jobs. It is Vietnam revisited: Iraqnam!!! I can surely understand the resistance of parents; afterall, 1700 dead Americans and 6000 wounded in Iraq is no small thing. And, parental resistance is a problem. Recruiters are telling stories of kids signing on the dotted line, getting them all the way to the starting line and whamo, the resistance of the parents is so strong, they back out.

Recruiting is tougher in urban centers obviously but supposedly not in the South and rural areas, where military service is more often considered a duty and a rite of passage. Why is a good question? I would not want to attribute too much to the South in terms of patriotism but facts are facts. From a 2002 Pentagon study of troops on active duty, something like 43% are Southerners. One would be hard pressed to go through a household in Dixie and not find some "connection" to the military. The two states, according to the Study, with the highest percentage of military, is Louisiana and South Carolina. The state with the lowest number serving is MA. Now there is a surprise!

I can still remember walking through my house growing up, there were all my brothers pictures in uniform scattered throughout. The day I went in, I had my picture taken and immediately sent it to my Mom. It could be in our genes.

The recruiters are like anybody, they are working the phones, cold calling--they approach kids at bus stops. They go to high schools. And, they are not very well received! A lot of teachers, counselors and administrators don't want them on campus. This seems a little unseemly to me as they are just doing their jobs. Many of the schools have a kind of subtle benign resistance, they throw their pamphlets away.

The Marines, in many cases, just looking those few good men, can't take everybody; a kid is overweight, another busted for smoking pot, a no go. In my way of thinking, the military is exactly where they ought to be. Shape the fat kid up and pound some sense into a possible drug user. This would happen in an AllServe mandatory community service environment.

To simply oppose kids from going into the military is one thing but there are groups who actively make the recruiters jobs almost impossible. One group called Peace People distributes pamphlets on military life, the draft and how to get out of a commitment once you've enlisted. Recruiters say they face all sorts of insults and screaming on campus. "I don't' think it's like this in Texas," one says, rolling his eyes.

According to one article, at some schools there are "counter recruiters." Another group is called, Raging Grannies. Sometimes, they are not grannies but dressed up like them. Some have on buttons or have signs that make fun of the Army. One sign read, "Travel to exotic foreign lands, meet interesting people and kill them." The Grannies say they just want to tell the full truth about the military.

What is fascinating is that you would think that the military is like some negative institution dedicated to America's destruction as opposed to defense. The Grannies say the recruiters stretch the truth, i. e, once you've signed the enlistment papers, you cannot change your mind. Untrue say the Grannies--a fact that the recruiters forget to mention. The Grannies believe that the military is targeting the disadvantaged and those with few opportunities. I think so. Yes, those with little prospects and why not? What is wrong with this?

Let's face it. The military is no "day at the beach." It is not a democracy. You don't get to choose but then again, it is what discipline is all about. America's youth could use a little of that I would think. Another group called Vets For Peace is very active. One says "When I talk to students, I try to make it very clear to them: the purpose of the military is to kill and in the process, you might be killed." Potential enlistees get a lot of talk from recruiters about travel and money for a college education say the military detractors. But the truth is, most people in the military don't get to travel and only a small percentage ever use their educational benefits. I'm not so sure that is true.

What it boils down to in many ways is respecting the right of kids to make adult decisions. They are not stupid and can be discerning enough to know the smoke and mirrors from real facts. Afterall, they've weaned themselves in buying cars and as consumers. I don't think we have to tell them that being in the Marines, for instance, is a twenty-four hour job nor is it a piece of cake.Once you're in the military, you're under its control 24 hours a day, every day. You can be ordered to do any task, work any hours. It is what's called dedication by Marine standards, it is called the military. And, for most American kids, it would be a good thing.

We're not going to sort out situations like Iraq any time soon but military recruiters are not the problem. They are just doing their jobs and ought to be left alone and certainly not denigrated. Let's respect the rights of kids to choose and in the privacy of their own homes, if they parents want to object, so be it. My thoughts.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Military Recruitment has gone South based on everything we read. The NY Times recently did an editorial called, The Death Spiral of the Volunteer Army. Pretty good title and I hope they are right! What I have been lobbying for is the return of the draft as part of a Universal Service option. The Volunteer Army worked when there was no war. Kids could go in with the idea of money for college, learn a skill, maybe even see a foreign port or two. Plus, most of them had little prospects for the outside anyway or if they did, couldn't figure out what the prospects were. Parents liked the idea of the military: get the kid out of the house, instill some discipline, teach independence. It was win win.

For years, military recruitment has been a "piece of cake." With the arrival of Iraq, in particular, the cake has turned to stone. We could cogitate our navels for lots of reasons but the idea of maybe chasing some educational money while dodging bullets in Iraq has caused a little loss of appeal. Thank you very much! For years, the Army has had its pick of the numbers of available males, by all accounts, to be around 60 million with the military quota as something like 80,000. What has gotten the old "pucker factor" up is that the Marines, who have great looking uniforms, can't even get their few good men.

American youngsters are no dummies! They read or listen to the news, check out the net, talk to their friends, and although the brass constantly says we are winning, they are looking at the numbers: over 800 Iraqis killed last month and the death toll of Americans creeping up and up. And, recruitment has lost maybe their key ally--parents who are no longer seeing the military as an option for their youngsters. Even if Mary Lou and Johnny could stand a little discipline, they prefer them alive.

The Guard and Reserves have even greater woes in recruitment. For years, the Guard has been called out in Stateside emergencies while allowing plenty of time for a little "grab ass" and swigging a few brews. Suddenly, they are in Iraq, expected to soldier full time. What is this? They didn't sign up for war. And, they have taken a hit for being involved in most of the black eyes in Iraqnam mismanagement.

The Volunteer Army is not working. It is time to figure out another course and the time is NOW!

Friday, May 27, 2005


On a recent Sixty Minutes episode, an emeritus professor from Princeton talked about his runaway best seller (every book seems to be a best seller even if you haven't heard of it), called ON BS. He talked about BS in our lives. "Nobody really tells the unadulterated truth," he says.

Few of us take the time to delineate BS from lies--its worth the effort and Professor Frankfurt has spelled it out. The interesting little "read" got its biggest boost from Jon Stewart's, The Daily Show, which fits perfectly with this book as the show is a perfect metaphor for the term BS--A fake-news show that walks the line between social commentary and yes, BS on one hand and comic hyperbole and "over the top exaggeration" on the other? And, what makes The Daily Show so good is that they don't care what the truth really is. Consequently, what they have to say is more truth than fiction as it pokes fun at BS, especially government BS.

Jon Stewart was interviewed on his view and said, simply, "BS is a way of life." The biggest purveyor, of course, and the most important is the government. The most egregious incident of government BS is Iraqnam. It started out as weapons of mass destruction. They weren't found, then it became Iraqi Freedom, and now it is the war on terrorism. According to the good professor, "in there somewhere is some shade of the truth."

The little book is a quick read and worth the time. It will not change your life but just might make you more aware of your own BS and that of others.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


This was the title of a NY Times piece which dove tailed into their series on Class in America. Very good and the series has surfaced many of those things that we don't talk about in this country. However, I thought the piece on the National Guard as blue collar workers who peopled the Guard was especially poignant for now that we are war.

In the Volunteer Army, there is nothing more apparent than "class." Officers are mostly taken from the upper middle class, either college graduates and more likely West Point or another of the Service Academies. And, the enlisted ranks are filled from the working class, whatever that comprises. Where the Times got it a little skewed is that it isn't just the Guard but the Army at large. I don't have any hardcore statistics but believe it to be true. The Navy and Air Force are peopled with a higher "class" of soldier. If by "class" we mean education, family background and the "priviledged" in various ways. For opening up this, we thank the Times.

If there is anything that makes the case for the failure of the All Volunteer Army, it is the fact that the working class of Americans are fighting America's wars and nothing is more representative of this fact than the National Guard.

To take the tact of the Times and tackle the hard subjects, think of the most egregious national embarrassment, among many, that we have dealt with in Iraqnam--prison scandal and who was at the center of it? The National Guard. A group of rogue Guardsman whose claim to fame was stupidity but mostly emotionally unsophisticated men and women who were without supervision and proper training. It was and is an abomination and an indictment of the shortcomings of leadership and of the Volunteer Army they have promoted.

According to the article which I think is true. The Guard is almost entirely made up of those from the working class and is a far cry from a cross section of America. And, in my opinion, these patriotic Americans are to be lauded not condemned. During Vietnam days, the Guard was used as a harbinger for those dodging the draft and Vietnam. Think of the President.

The Guard doesn't view its role in class terms but by in large as patriotic duty. Who can complaint about that great attitude! And, let's face it, there's some consolation that in most circles, rising from poverty to the White House is a plus. And, we cannot imagine any politician who doesn't want to tout his common roots.

There's lots to be said for how the Guardsmen see themselves. I especially like the comments from one Sergeant who had served three years on active duty and then joined the Guard. He said, "there are rich people, who are the thinkers. There are blue collar people like us, who are the doers. And there are the poor people, who don't do anything but will follow." This sergeant favors a draft. Good for him. Yes, these are the working class, the salt of the earth: a crane operator, Walmart worker, a fireman, and a prison guard. GOD BLESS AMERICA

Monday, May 23, 2005



The grieving father, Fernando Suarez del Solar, lost his Marine son, Marine Lance Corporal Jesus Suarez, in Iraq in March of 2003. Devastating! This is the second time I've read about this sad Father. The first time was when he literally went to Baghdad with Global Exchange, an antiwar group. I understand and grief does something to people. He is presently making a campaign out of attempting to talk Latinos out of joining the military. He appears to be relatively successful. Less Latinos are joining up. This is not good news for the recruiting woes of the military.

That having been said, still, this is not just about a grieving father. You have a father who, in his grief, has a need to blame someone for the death of his son. I can understand but war by its very nature means loss. The military is about war and fighting wars. It is not about gaining citizenship, educational opportunities, or career possibilities. It is about war and in war, people are killed. It is a choice Lance Corporal Suarez made.

I think that quite possibly the father of Lance Corporal Suarez might be desecrating more the memory of his son than promoting his cause. It is a "tricky" emotional difficulty. He cannot bring back his son who willingly joined the Marines and bought into their philosophy. He died in service to his country. Taking it a step further, what would it have been had Lance Corporal Suarez lived: he would have easily become a citizen and made a different and better life for himself. Thousands and thousands who have gone on before him have done exactly that.

Peace groups like Global Exchange and the Quaker antiwar group, American Friends Service Committee, are missing the boat in my opinion. They are not achieving their goals with individuals like a grieving father when they would do better to promote something like a Universal Service for America's youth--an AllServe. By so doing, if America's youth were required to AllServe, an American president would be much less likely to send those like Lance Corporal Suarez to war.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


For the past three months the Army has failed to meet its recruiting quotas, and some recruiters have been accused of signing up young men and women they knew were not qualified. The head of the army recruiting command says that recruiting these days is the toughest he's ever seen.

One of my oft repeated mantras used to be that every young man and woman in America could benefit from a time in the military. In fact, with great regularity I use to recommend it to kids at my Church, those I saw on the bus, wherever: "Have you ever considered the military?" I thought that the youngsters who mostly would benefit were the ones who didn't have a clue what they wanted to do with their lives. Little or no resources and for sure were not going to college. They could go in the military and get some discipline, build up some bucks for college and come out with some relative direction. A few actually followed my advice.

And, then something happened to me: I quit recommending the military. Why? In a word, Iraqnam. And, I suddenly discovered that I am, like many Americans who care, are part of the reasons that the Volunteer Military is in a world of hurts. We have cease to be the influencers to our children, our neighbors, our friends. And, according to the head knocker of the Recruiting Command, General Michael D. Rochelle, recognizes this is why it has become so difficult for recruitment. Recruiters have lost the support of parents, grandparents, and friends to influence America's youth to sign up.

And, in a sense, maybe this is a good thing. When we realize that the All Volunteer Military is not working, then we are in a position to consider what we should have had all along, an AllServe military. The All Volunteer force is workable when we are at peace and it has been sold on that basis. It's a job. Now, that we are war, these parents are reluctant to put their children in harms way. For most, they probably haven't thought much about putting other peoples' children at war but now that they do, noway are they going to encourage it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


No one denies that our country is facing all kinds of crisis. Maintaining an armed forces at the level to protect and defend is suddenly surfacing as a number one problem. The Army is way behind in recruiting as well as the venerable Marines who have missed their goals for the last three months--unheard of! The head general of the recruiting command, Major General Michael Rochelle, is getting more TV time than Britney Spears. And, the General has been to all the schools: calling Lou Dobbs, "Lou." Lou, of course, is on a break from bashing illegal aliens, to talk to the good general. And, according to the General, the Army is going to hold a conference, a "stand down," as they are calling it and as we did in Vietnam, to figure out the problem. Good luck!

I've got a few suggestions. An AllServe military. A universal service, choices for America's young people, ages 18: they can choose different avenues to be named, i. e., Teach America, etc. But, enough would choose the military to fill the ranks. However, something larger is at stake here rather than just filling the ranks--a chance to restore a sense of community to the country. Think about it. A hundred years ago, a national consensus existed and today, no way--the country is fractured and is in despeate need of repair. What better way than through national service, an AllServe.

The military holds the greatest possibility in restoring a sense of unity to our country. The AllServe military could easily restore a sense of balance and tradition not to mention some sense of discipline. Americans today disagree on fundamentals, ethics, a thousand and one things and this is not going to change. But, we have no unifying institution--an AllServe universal service could do that for us.

The schools have failed miserably in doing what they should be doing, the least of which is to introduce a shared Amcrican culture. A concept of universal service--youngsters being required to give back to America a little something in service. I'm convinced that youngsters, given this opportunity, will respond.

It is unseemly for Generals like Rochelle and these poor young recruiters going out hat in hand begging young men and women to serve their country. AllServe is the answer.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Base Closings. Every few years, there's a big exercise where the American public, those of us who care, are put through this experience. There's a Commission: they look at all the military facilities. They have staffs, they go for visits, they intimidate the people at these bases. The people at the bases put on a good show, taking them away from what they are suppose to be doing. The Commission goes back to the funny farm, Washington DC, and they make a recommendation to a gutless Congress who lamely accepts the recommendations.

All the while, it is a sham. Basically, all that happens is that we transfer tax payer dollars from one pot to the other. In the long run, nothing is saved for the taxpayer and an exercise in futility takes place. And, there's the psychological effect which is incalculable. A local military presence disappears from the American conscience: a sham.

And, worse of all, the person making the recommendations is the Secretary of Defense, who has been the architect for the worst debacle in modern military history, IRAQNAM. And, we are to trust his guidance. Give me a break!

Saturday, May 14, 2005


The below comments were in response to an email that someone sent regarding a female chaplain at the Air Force Academy who bad mouthed too much religion at the Academy. The full article can be found at the Thursday, May 12, NY Times. The article was sent to me by a chaplain buddy of mine.

Thanks for sharing this article, Lamar. My basic feeling is that probably much has been taken out of context by the news media. All news media slant; whether it is the NY Times, Newsweek, Time or some of the various patron saints of Conservatives: O'Reilly, Fox, etc.; all slant, even us "bloggers." My suspicion is that this is true of the comments of this female chaplain. I started to say, gal, but then decided to be PC. I think the account of her comments were probably slanted.

My basic reaction is "to hell" with the crowd wanting us to be other than what we are. Fight their asses tooth and nail. I know you guys won't remember this but at the big Reserve Chaplain Conference when I was at the Presidio (of San Francisco when it was a full scale military installation), the Chief (of Chaplains) was suppose to show up for the morning talk and cancelled. The 6th Army Chaplain made the mistake of asking me to fill in at the last moment. I developed a talk about an outfit in San Francisco called, "Class Act." They would do anything for you in the way of organizing a party, gathering, etc. and their concept was that it should always show "class." I did a take off on this idea that chaplains should always be who they were: if they were Mormons, Baptists, Catholic, Jewish, whatever--just because they were in the chaplaincy should not change who they were. I thought the speech was fairly benign, nobody reacted to it as I remember. Later in the day, I almost got in a fistfight with the Rabbi that the Chief, (of Chaplains) had hired to waste money fighting the unconstitutionaly (two law students back during the 80s filed a law suit attemtping to get the chaplincy decared unconstitutional. They did it as a school assignment and the Chief of Chaplains overreacted) suit against the chaplaincy. The Rabbi who happened to be a lawyer and a Reserve Chaplain later wrote a book. Anyway, this Rabbi goes back to the Chief's Office and distorts everything. I don't know what happened but as I remember, nobody stood up for me. The moral of this war story is "Let's give this gal the benefit of the doubt" and if the story is accurate, "to hell with 'em, chaplains need to be a "class act" and who they are. Airborne. Power in the blood.

I am much more concerned with spending all this money on sending us these lapel pins, etc. (see previously published blog article). We need an AllServe conscription plan in America and it ain't going to happen with stupid stuff like spending money on us "over the hill" types to help them recruit--how many people have you talked into joining the Army lately? God bless America. What a great country!

Friday, May 13, 2005


Most Americans support the troops to do their fighting for them for sure. Uncle Sam desperately needs new soldiers. How is the best way for him to find them? This was the lead sentence in a story in the NY Times on the critical nature of the recruiting problems for the military. The Army has missed their goals for enlisting America's youth for several months. And, the forever successful and stalwart Marines, have missed their goals for three months in a row. What portends are dire scenarios if shortages reach a stage where truly national security is in peril. In my view, "the powers that be" have only themselves to blame anyway. The military is treated somewhat like the "play thing" of the President and the "illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill" by most Americans who give any thought to the military anyway. They do support as long as it is not their sons and daughters.

The article in the Times tried to help the military with a few ideas, none of which were useful in my opinion. Appealing to the "jobs and training mentality" is definitely not working. For almost the entire life of the Volunteer Army, this has worked. No longer. Once on a planeload of soldiers heading to AIT (advanced individual training), I casually asked about why they had joined the military. To a person, it was training and job skills, educational expenses after the military, and their best offer at the time. Patriotism was never even mentioned.

Idea number (1) Basically, use all sorts of measures now to appeal to young men, especially peer pressure, the opposite sex--smart TV ads, etc. Dumb! Wasting money on advertising with Nascar and in popular magazines are not going to get America's young men to enlist. Give me a break. Already, our voluntary military has reached out to the lower socio category of our populace. We don't have lawyers, doctors, chemists, Indian Chiefs sons and daughters now serving. While the Volunteer Army, up till now, has worked in terms of numbers, it no longer is, given the shortages faced.

The dumbest idea, however, appears to have come from some author of a book called, The Kinder, Gentler Military: How political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars. (2) She wants to privatize nearly everything outside of the infantry. In other words, let's outsource everything except those who die. If the NY Times article has conveyed her ideas correctly, what she doesn't have a clue about are the workings of the military in combat. You can't take some military contractor and give him/her the dedication to support the troops doing the fighting. There's aspects to the military that defy logic and esprit de corps is one of them. Esprit can't be outsourced. Sure, it might sound good to some civilian sitting in an armchair at the Pentagon but it won't work and will actually hinder. Stupid, stupid.

Almost equally as dumb is an idea of letting illegal immigrants fill the ranks of the military. Now, wait till Lou Dobbs hears this. (Lou is an anchorman on CNN who appears to have made his entire mission in life ridding the borders of illegal aliens). It is bad enough for us to have a volunteer Army where only a small portion of the people incur the risks. What about taking people from another country and letting them fight America's wars. This takes the Volunteer Army to a new level of mercenaries. Now there's some real patriotism, put people in harm's way simply because they are poor and want a better way of life. Why don't we go to the projects in Baltimore and offer the drug dealers the same amount of money they're making to get their troops to enlist. (Idea of Baltimore comes from the TV show, The Wire, which shows the Baltimore drug scene--could be any large city).

All of these silly ideas are surfaced simply because we don't want to face the problem that in order for our Armed forces to solve this problem, we have to admit that what is happening to us now is the result of a lack of foresight and designing a fair and objective system for all of America's young people to serve their country. AllServe. Some may choose the military. Others can choose a variety of things: the Peace Corps, Teach America, other possibilities of which we haven't even thought. In the final analysis, AllServe, problem solved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I am absolutely astounded. Today, in the mail I received a letter, telling me how great I am and thanks for continuing to be an enlistee in the war on terrorism. Signed by no less than the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army. Plus, I got a nice certificate that I can hang on my wall and an army pen to wear in my lapel. And, then I have a couple of decals to put on my car. Wow, what is this! I've got to email my retiree buddies to see that they got the same thing. We are talking beaucoup bucks here. What is this all about? My suspicion is it is an attempt to enlist the retirees in recruitment efforts. If so, I doubt it will be successful but I'm just as concerned over the expense. What would be the motive to do something like this? It is beyond me.

What seems to totally escape the mentality of the "powers that be" is that the very Voluntary Army is the creation of the problem. The Army, for instance, is about to have a "day" when they sit around and try to brainstorm the problem. Why are not America's young people joining up? They didn't invite me to the conference but I could tell them. We have created a mentality in our country which simply put says, "let other people's children fight our wars." And, it is OK when recruiters can talk to kids about educational opportunities, learning skills, adventure but dodging bullets in Iraq and Alfganistan, now that is another story.

We are approaching the problem entirely from a "no win" possibility. It is time to be realistic and float the "AllServe" possibility, at least start the debate.

Abu Ghraib As Reality TV

Noway could Fox have come up with a better reality show than the Abu Ghraib ongoing embarrassment. Here it is: you have a somewhat older guy and a less than "bright bulb" in the Maryland Guard. They join up to wear the uniform and yuck it up at a meeting once a month. Iraq was not in their plans. He's a cave man type who admitted dragging his former wife around the house by the hair.

This unpromising couple ends up in Iraq in the sensitive job of guarding and interrogating prisoners. For amusement, they take some pictures flashed to a weary world. Older soldier meets another girl, beds her while impregnating the other, eventually court martialed because of abuse of prisoners, goes to jail, ends up rescuing his former girlfriend and Mother of his child from prison herself, meanwhile getting married by proxy to another girl that he met while he was abusing prisoners. And, Elvis does the wedding. No, that's another reality show. The parents accompany the daughter to the proxy wedding as they want to be part of the reality show. Now, tell me, could Fox come up with a better reality show? I don't think so.

And, all the while, all those Officers and NCOs (Non Commission Officers) choose not to be in the reality show as they, like the infamous Enron crowd, claim to know nothing about the abuse. And, yes, Kenneth Lay was not a great buddy of George W. and didn't meet with VP Chaney on energy policy. Thank you very much.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I met this really fascinating guy the other morning, a retired attorney, Korean war veteran and very much opposed to Iraq. I was sharing with him that one of my big dilemmas was the fact that I did indeed support the troops as they are merely doing their jobs. But, I was troubled by the idea that on a wholesale basis, without fail, they are totally in support of their mission. And, that I understand: soldiers have to support what they are doing. His comment took me aback--he said something like "I don't disagree with you but when something is based on a "lie" then everything associated with it is tainted." What he was referring too, of course, was the non existent weapons of mass destruction. THINK ABOUT VIETNAM and what we now know about the Bay of Tonkin incident which propelled us into a wholesale involvement in that sorry war.

Also, my new acquaintance went on to say that what he believes is that we have a civil war in Iraq. And, I will have to admit that there surely appears to be truth here. Think about it: almost daily, Iraqis killed by Sunni Muslims it appears. Today, sixty eight killed. In one incident, this car was turned away from a checkpoint, goes down to a place where Iraqis are trying to get day work. The Iraqis gather around the car which then blows up. This sort of thing has become the rule rather than the exception.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Read an interesting article in Reader's Digest about the expensive gadgets and toys parents and grandparents buy their children. It was saying something like "even if one is affluent, still not a good thing." It was indicating that children truly expect to get everything they ask for and that most parents (even if they can't afford it) will still buy. It went on to say that this kind of thinking has even spilled over to older adult children in that they still go to their parents for handouts - that they can't learn to live within their means.

This is not new news but some times I think that maybe, just maybe, what most Americans kids need is to learn sacrifice, team work, being on their on. How about the military?

I see kids, sloppily dressed appearing to be aimless--those kids need to be in the Army. What a chance for youngsters if we could only get them interested. Simply we can't. They don't have too and consequently, they won't (join up).

Think about this: inner city kids in Baltimore as depicted on the HBO program, The Wire. It is a segment of society lost to America in a sense. Kids with no hope, no chance, no future. Many will be dead before they reach adulthood. They live in the "projects" where drugs are a way of life. How to reach those kids! We can't under present circumstances; if we had a draft, an AllServe, they might have a chance. Do you think they will sign up of their own volition? Forget it!

I saw this Marine sign on the window of a recruiting station that said, "We'd promise you (if you joined up): sleep deprivation, mental torture and muscles so sore you'll puke. But we don't like to sugar coat things."

How many American kids would benefit from joining up? MOST!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005



Breaking promises is a way of life for the soldier. Over the years, they have endured, RIFs (reductions in force), downsizing (fired), and SERBs, (selective early retirement boards). Most young soldiers don't think in these terms but any of us old soldiers know that promises made at one point are hollow at another one. It is the nature of the beast. Even as we speak, benefits are being eroded for retirees and some VA hospitals are struggling to provide basic services for returning wounded from Iraq. And, these are just two issues among many. Frances Quarles in the 1500s penned this very appropriate poem which applies so aptly to today's soldier,

"Our God and soldier we alike adore.
When at the break of ruin, not before.
After deliverance both alike requieted.
Our God forgotten, and our soldier's slighted."

CAN WE AFFORD THE VOLUNTEER ARMY? moneywise or emotionally?

Based on the costs in Alfganistan and Iraq, we may quickly be closing in on what I call the Iraqnam quagmire. Congress wants to add more troops, by some estimates, at least 40,000. We can't recruit for the 500, 000 authorized even. How are we going to get these? And, how can we afford them. John Kerry says for instance, that to add 40 thousand to the regular military would cost 4.5 billion to attract and retain troops. And, where are we going to get these troops short of a draft? What would be the incentive to join up?

Friday, April 08, 2005


No soldier starts a war-they only give their lives to it. Wars are started
by you and me, by bankers and politicians, excitable women, newspaper editors, clergymen who are ex-pacifists, and congressmen with vertebra of putty. The youngsters yelling in the streets, poor kids, are the ones who pay the price
. Father Francis Duffy

Our military is stretched unbelievably thin. We have 310, 000 military serving in 120 countries. For example, in an NPR (National Public Radio) program recently, I heard a young Marine interviewed who served in the African country of Darfor. I didn't even know we had troops there. And, in Iraq, with 40% of the Guard and Reserves making up the force, we are in deep kimchee (kimchee, a type of vegetable in Korea which literally is fermented and to be in deep kimchee, means that you are where it is buried in the process and literally walking on it deep in the ground while it is marinating; a little like the crushing of the grapes in wine country. Deep kinchee is not a good experience). How can we sustain this number of troops, many are already serving repetitive tours.

Where would we be if we truly had to fight another conflict?--philosophy is out the door. The draft would be our only possibility. Now is the time to plan and act! Obviously, there is scant support for the draft in Congress or with those in power.

I'm convinced that the part of the public that cares would accept a draft if it were part of a bigger plan. A National service plan in which young people could still volunteer for the military but have options of other types of service.



The All Volunteer Army is strained to the max bigtime. When I first started talking about restoring the draft or mainly to have some kind of AllServe, I didn't think we stood a chance for really seeing the return of it. Now, I'm not so sure. The non genius Secretary of Defense's plan of transforming the military into a high tech mobile force simply has lost so much credibility that we are close to crisis. Rumsfeld, if anything, is stubborn; failed policies in Iraq, a tenure marked by one misstep after another. He's invulnerable, however, it appears, so living with him is a given. However, forces beyond his control seem to be shaping up. The Volunteer Army keeps dwindling.
Early on, I said that to bring back a semblance of the draft, American kids had to quit volunteering and it appears they are. Attempts by the military to offer greater incentives and appeals to patriotism don't seem to be hacking it.

The draft ended in 1973 and seemed to be assigned to the trashpile of history. Maybe not! The Marines have missed their recruiting goals for the last two months and the Army can't fill it's ranks of 500,000 and the National Guard and Army Reserve is way down. They are trying to buck up but the goals keep going south. For the first time of recent note, the military bureaucrats are admitting they have a problem


A friend of mine calls what the military is doing now is something business often does. In a sales organization, a style of management that doesn't work usually is to bring in some manager with a whip and tell the galley slaves to row harder: sell more, do more cold calling. Whip. Whip--the movie, Glengarry, Glenross approach. These guys in the movie are selling swampland in Florida with a motto of lie, cheat, steal...all in a day's work. Translated to the military, it shakes out to be more recruiters, get your quota, pull them in at any cost.
How this translates is for the military to lower standards or in one ploy: uping the age to join up. If you are 39, you can still join the Reserves or Guards. Please! The military at the fighting level is a young man's game. It would be like putting some aged football type into the backfiedof the Greenbay Packers and expecting him to perform like a 22 year old. Galley Slave approach: bring in a new advertising agency.
But, at the bottom line, parents and potential soldiers are realizing, "this ain't no game." I can be told anything by a recruiter but my next step may be Iraq. I think not.


When I talk to people which I do constantly about some sort of Universal service, what I call AllServe, those who think about it can give arguments out the gazoo: I understant. Reps Charles Rangel and Pete Stark gave the draft a symbolic try in Congress which got "lost at the train station." The draft is political machinations and hot air say some. All the "talking heads" have some general view and scenario of how the Volunteer Force is working. The simple fact exists that if Iraq drags on, how are we going to play the role we have set for ourselves without some sort of draft: what if North Korea or Iran truly erupts.

Most who do any thinking about our Forces tout the success of a Volunteer Army. The success resides in numbers only--the volunteers are good but in pure terms are mercenaries--they are being paid to fight. My retort constantly is that I don't have any real arguments for these views that the Volunteer Force is working. The only unrefutable argument I have is that the Volunteer Army simply is not representative of our country. And, it is not fair to have only one portion of our society bear the burdens of military service.

Presently, we are like teetering on a needle. If certain things happen, then we'll be OK but if the direction goes toward more conflict/terrorism, our stuff is in the streets--we are not ready or able to counter. We simply don't have the troops. Sure, if the Iraqis begin to police their own country and we can begin to bring home our troops, assuming the present "powers that be" would do that, the All Volunteer Force is what worked.

During the "cold war" when there really were no bullets flying, the All Volunteer force worked like a gem. However, we doubt the "powers" will disengage from Iraq or the Middle East since we are already there. Ever hear of the NeoCons who are driving our foreign policy--way too much influence from those who got us into Iraq with faulty thinking in the first place.

We would be much better off to bite the bullet NOW and come up with a plan for an AllServe conscription plan. Even if it is years out, to put it on the table, to prepare, to be ready. We need to do this now and not "hope that all things are going to work out." They're not.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Vounteer Army Is A Subculture of American Society

SMOKE AND MIRRORS. The Pentagon is at it again. Base closings. Talk about a sham. What happens is one pot of money is taken from one taxpayer's coffers and put in another. Nothing is truly saved. The false savings create a breakdown in a basic American values of AllServing.

The Presidio of San Francisco is a typical example. It was a thriving military post with a long history. Over the years, it was a beacon in an ocean of the Left Coast. It was closed in a long and arduous procedure, turned over to the National Park Service which in turn made it into the most expensive park in America . And, probably the least visited by mainstream Americans.

The Presidio of San Francisco is a fabulous place for San Francisco in particular. But, it's a long shot from "savings." And, there's a psychological thing with the Presidio and with most military installations that are closed. The military presence goes and the surrounding communities are deprived of a basic symbol of American democracy. The institution of the military disappears and they don't see anyin in Uniform. The civilian populace has no interactions with men and women serving their country. Consequently, the military becomes more of a subculture of the American society. Nobody thinks of this sad fact. Congress will close bases on the pretense of saving money. A SHAM!

Friday, March 18, 2005

AllServe Volunteer

I'm so excited about the possibility of you helping in the AllServe project. I want to tell you my ideas and see where we can go from there. Overall, what I think we have to do is identify if there's anyone else who is doing what we want to do. What I liked about your ideas was that they sounded exactly what I think: some sort of universal service would (1) unite the country (2) provide a sense of pride in what it means to be an American (3) give America's youth a sense of the shared experience (4) and most importantly, it would make our leaders more reluctant to send our sons and daughters to war.

I don't want to answer questions nobody is asking but basically feel that we need some sort of national organization. We might need to form a nonprofit for donations. Regardless, let's begin the dialogue. My thinking is that we have 300 million people in this country and there's got to be some of the Americans that care who would like to see this happen. There might be all kinds of groups to get united. I've thought that at some point, if we could enlist various groups, we have to apply political pressure. Right now, there is none. And, there's many philosophical reasons why not: the selling of the volunteer Army, so few Americans invested in any sort of national service, and lack of true vision and then the hassle of politics itself.

There might be many groups interested, hard sell as it might be: churches, Vets, peace groups, a monumental task. Let me know your thoughts or some ideas on how for us to proceed.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


GAY WARRIORS. And, I don't mean "happy." This is an issue that continues to surface and now is brought even more to the forefront with the critical shortage of troops. This is one of those almost unique American ideas; most armies don't even consider such an issue. However, the American style democracy is a pretty unique thing. Bill Clinton tried to deal with something like an "open" sexuality which didn't work. (And, I'm not talking Monica). We ended up with the "Don't Asked, Don't Tell" policy which didn't' please anybody.

It's estimated that at least 10,000 gay troops have been discharged. Among those are some with highly critical skills: percentage wise, this may sound small since we have well over 2 mil in uniform. The Economist, a mag I don't read very often had one of the best overall views of the problem that I've read. They said something like, "The reasons that we have such a Neanderthal policy toward gays is a mentality rooted in three tiers: (1) gay soldiers would hurt teamwork and morale. On the battlefield, soldiers do not fight for King and Country; they fight for each other--for love of their "band of bothers", as Shakespeare put it or Easy Company of TV fame. (2) Gays serving openly could actually be bad for recruitment. (3) An army reflects the mores of the societies from which they are drawn and America, it is said, is unwilling to allow its heroes to be gay."

This is all pretty iffy in a sense. I persoanlly have to come down on the side of gays serving. Afterall, there is a concept of pluralism that the military has always honored: the rights of the minority are not dwarfed by the majority. But, that having been said, it is tricky. Because of the Volunteer Army, we have a very conservative Officer and NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) core; any spin can be put on it but there's a reason that most of the military votes for the President and supports strongly our efforts at war. They have to believe in what they are doing. It is in their psyche. And, you can take this to the bank: Officers and senior NCOs are a bunch of conservatives, often ultra conservatives. End of discussion.

Although The Economist claims that attitudes are changing and discharges are actually down, my belief is that this may be true moreso because of the shortages that exists and the "stretched thin" mentality than attitudes softening. The war fighters are a bunch of macho, kill types that must exist to have a competent military. War is No Day At The Beach even if the media often acts like it is. Combat soldiers are trained to kill and there's no dressing that concept up with PC type pronouncements. If we had an AllServe military, I have no doubt that the idea of gays serving would be no issue. And, this is probably true with support units but not so with elite Special Operations troops who are just a millisecond shy of being militiamen.

I personally think that there are many minefields in this social issue. In the present military, we all are better off with a "closet" mentality as relates to gay soldiers. Soldiers aren't stupid and they know who their gay breathren are and most don't give it a thought but don't want to talk about it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


You are definitely not the only one who hates this war but what I can't figure is why we aren't hearing more protests and questioning. I read this morning that the President is asking for an addt'l $81.9 billion which will bring the total cost of Iraq and Afghanistan to $300 billion. More than the entire Vietnam war. I think this is unconscionable and I truly fear for what our children and grandchildren will have to deal with in the future. sf

ANSWER. My basic belief is that we don't hear more protests because most Americans are relatively uninvolved in the war--their lives are not effected, they don't have one single investment--no kids, nothing is changing how they live, etc. It is pathetic and morally reprehensivle that Americans are willing to let other parent's children fight their war.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


What about Iraq? I'm already seeing the news coverage shift; now not on page one or even two but eight. Not sure what this means. And, I'm not so sure that we have this much support for troops other than mouthing although Congress is doing some good things like raising the death benefits, long overdue. But, not sure that there's not a false support: more of a detachment, not my children. If you think that serving your country is so great, then why would you not want your children to serve.

In a sense, I have been totally off base in my thinking that many would think that a form of the draft would be good. Especially vets. Not so. One of my best buddies, a real hero, was a Marine platoon leader in Nam, wounded badly; but, when I questioned him about draft, thinking he would be all over it as great. He was vehemently against it! Why? Didn't want his two boys to serve? Interesting.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Military recruitment

Once I sat in a parking lot outside a big mall. Two military recruiters walked by: one a Marine, dressed to the nines. I love those Marine uniforms and the other in Army greens, both spiffy! What attracted my attentiion was not so much them but their actions. It was kind of like they were stalking this kid. Later on they walked up to him and began talking. I was reminded of Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. I don't know what was said but hey gave him some literature and off he went. For a moment, I felt incredibly sorry for the Recruiters.

First of all, they are under enormous pressure. Most of them are "detailed" to it for a certain period of time. They have to produce. They are under pressure--most are career soldiers and if they don't do the job, will find themselves at a career dead end. They shouldn't have to do this: stalk youngsters, spend time talking them into the military. It is demeaning. It should be a privileged to serve.

There's a big hullabaloo in recruiters telemarketing High School seniors. How did they get the numbers? How dare they do this? There's a kind fo beliegerance: how dare a military recruiter try to talk to my kid. Disdain!

And, the military falls further behind especailly in the National Guard; they are as much as 30 percent behind what they should have. The military has doubled its advertising spending, to recruits. Standards have been lowered with benefits while signup bonuses have been increased. The Army is bombaring MTV with ads, suggesting a visit to to play a video game. It has sponsored a NASCAR entry and even has a dragster.

What does all this mean. Plain and simple it means that the American public is distancing itself from the military. It is what having a Volunteer Army does. As long as the public can keep the military isolated to only those kids who want to serve, then the vast majority of kids can be free to pursue their lives at college or whatever it might be sans military. Most parents don't want to take the chance of having their eighteen year old talk to some salesman's pitch on the military.

I also wonder something else. Is all this hype and glory in honoring the soldier truly sincere on the part of the public. With the fervor of "honoring the military," I've begun to wonder. Is this a kind of projection: we really don't want to feel guilty or bad

Sunday, January 30, 2005


In a very interesting article, Military service can open the eyes of country's ‘elite', Kathryn Roth-Douquet, an attorney, had some really idealistic thoughts. The article was inspired by a dinner party she attended and the subject of the draft surfaced: “Without one,” a woman asserted, “they'll never get my educated and talented boys.” I'm sure she's right. Rich people simply don't "do" the military. Ms. Roth-Douquet went on to say that until a generation ago, the children of presidents, oilmen and bankers regularly saw service. Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Kennedy, Prescott Bush — all titans — had sons who served. Ms. Roth-Douquet laments that the real losers are the young and privileged adults themselves.

Ms. Roth-Douquet married a Marine Corps officer and obviously her attitude changed. She says, "If I could address the country's fortunate young who imagine themselves one day making a difference, this is what I would say: 'You expect to do well in life. No one you know is in the military. There's a war going on that you think was a mistake or, perhaps, a good idea gone wrong. You think military service is for people without money or skills—not someone like you.' "

RIGHT ON! In the movie, Fahrenheit 9-11 (I must confess that I'm not big on Michael Moore), however, there's a telling point where he confronts several congressmen, Democrats and Republics, about whether they would have their kids serve in the military. To me, it is the best part of the movie, handing them paperwork to give to their kids to join up. Talk about stammering and stuttering! What I would suggest to Ms. Ross-Duquet is to get involved in a movement to start a military draft or something on that order.

Kids are not going to join the military overall, not in the environment we're in. What we have in the Volunteer Army, especially with the Marines and those organizations that have always been volunteer, are a patriotic subculture. The rest of the kids in the military are there mainly because they had few options: they didn't want to go to college or couldn't. Minorities, for instance. We're in a situation where the poor, relatively speaking, fight our wars and the affluent stay home. Advocates of the Volunteer Army claim it's middle class; we really don't have a clue who the middle class is. It's all definition. I'm more inclined to think that many of those in military come from more the "working poor." This is all speculation but what we absolutely know is that there are few sons and daughters of bankers and lawyers and doctors in the military.

The bottom line to me is that we need the draft for other than manpower. We need it as a nation to have a unifying experience for all young Americans. Ms. Roth-Douquet, like any of us who see the big picture of what a draft or some sort of universal AllServe would mean, are facing a tall order. She's abosolutely right though: Joining the military may make you a better person and profoundly inform your entire life. Military service nurtures belief, without irony, in the tenets that founded this country, and a love of country distinct from jingoism. Its every action expresses awe for the noble experiment of liberal democracy. True, oh so true.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Recently, Open Forum, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the featured article dealt with my favorite subject: Draft Talk Premature-An All Volunteer Military Can Still Work. My initial reaction: It has never worked. Or, it all depends on what one’s definition of "work" is. Sure a Volunteer Army can work if we continue to allow other people's children to fight our wars and we have no qualms about other people's children dying for us.

A Volunteer Army may seem to work if all we talk about are quotas and numbers. As one who has served in the military for 29 years and has been drafted and even scammed the draft board with various deferments, I see that we are at a point when the country needs a semblance of a draft more than the draft needs the country. Financially, if we continue to drain our resources in impossible situations like Iraq, a military draft may be our only course. However, there really is a much bigger issue. I can assure you, as can scores of drill sergeants. retired military, and even draftees of the Vietnam era: a two or three year hitch in the military could be the best thing that could happen to America's young men and women. We have to quit being deceived by the spin masters and those who don't "get it" about the draft.

The article touted an idea that the military is a "skills" based military and must be taught within the Army is simply false. Most of the jobs are comparable to those in civilian life, especially the ones that require science and math skills. Driving tanks and operating the complex computer systems in them are not much more sophisticated than many of the computer games these kids are playing now anyway. The article went on to say that because the military is all volunteer, there are far fewer discipline problems. I doubt it. If the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and soldiers refusing to go on missions is any indication, All Volunteer Army discipline has a ways to go.

Volunteering is nothing new in the military. The Navy, Marines, and Air Force have always been volunteer. In the Army, elite units like the 82d Airborne and Special Forces are volunteer and proud of it. Another bad idea in this article, in my opinion, is that military leaders are thoroughly convinced that a return to the draft could "only weaken the armed forces," is naive." What would we expect the generals to say? For years, when I was in the Army, I was amazed to hear the top leaders tout the success of the Volunteer Army. I was living with the volunteer Army and I wanted to say, Give Me a Break.

At the top levels of the Army, the brass is permeated with a "can do" attitude. You want a job done, you’ve got it. Rarely does someone stand up and say, "Whoa, we don’t have the resources." Rather it is an idea that we will make it succeed, regardless. And, more often than not they do by throwing money at it--taxpayers money, I might add. And, let’s face it, the top military leadership has become so politicized that we need to listen to them with a jaundice ear at best. Any general above the rank of one star is suspect. Either they become cheerleaders for various policies or simply "roll over" and say nothing. For most general officers above the rank of one star, you can rest assured that they didn't get to where they are on merit. It doesn't mean they are not good leaders, it merely means that they may or may not be the best we have.

Another false principle in this particular article was that the draft violates the hiring of people; i. e., doesn't give them a choice. Sure it does. The right to be an American ought to come with some price. It doesn’t have to be the draft, but some sort of universal service--AllServe: teaching, peace corps, a host of possibilities. We are a smart people and could figure this out. It ought to cost every American something to be a member of this great country. We squandered a noble chance after 9-11 when young Americans were lining up in droves to sign up, almost a WW ll experience. Think Pat Tillman, the NFL football star who gave up millions and lost his life in Afghanistan. Tillman's story is inspiring to the max. We have scores of youngsters out there who would be today's heroes if they were nudged a little. But, they are not going to "step up" in a Volunteer Army because they don't have too.

The Volunteer Army is an abysmal failure in terms of being representative of the American society. The spin masters in the military and in politics proclaim endlessly its success. It just ain’t so. Our Army comes from mostly a pool of kids that joined up with the idea of earning money for college or couldn't figure out what else to do and rarely with an idea of "service to country." They are a group of great kids who simply didn't have many options.

I think it was quite significant that both presidential candidates made a big point that they didn’t want the draft. Shame on them! They are denying young Americans the very best chance to truly be American and it is our loss. In the movie, Buloxi Blues, the last scene you see is this young Neil Simon, riding on a train, returning home to New Jersey and commenting on his Army life. Drafted, Simon was suddenly thrown with all these strange people. Simon's story could be told a thousand times over in a draft Army. He says, "as I look back, a lot of years later, my time in the Army was the happiest time of my life. Not because I liked the Army, but I liked it for the best reasons, I was young. I didn’t like most of those guys then but today I love every damn one of them."

Friday, January 28, 2005


In an article in the NY Times, entitled, Iraqi War Veterans Turn Critics, one of the vets mentioned in the story is Robert Acosta who has joined an outfit called, Operation Truth. In Baghdad, a grednade was tossed into Acosta's humvee shattering his legs plus he lost his right hand. Once back in the states and viewing the carnage from afar, while recuperating and watching and reading, his doubts over the war surfaced. He is already facing the difficulties of dealing with the VA. I hate to tell him but it's going to get worse. At one point he had to duct tape his prosthesis. Awful!

Sometimes, when people asked about his war injury and he tells them it happened in the war. More likely than not, they say "What war?" Such a comment is but one example of how little most Americans even know about the sacrifices of our brave young men and women. They don't know because they are are not involved and have no investment. We have no draft, they have no obligation. Their lives have not changed! WHAT WAR INDEED?

Thursday, January 27, 2005


The National Guard is hurting so much in terms of recruiting that they want to increase their token $50 bonus to $15,000--is that a jump or what! To me, this is downright scandalous and something that we have come to accept without blinking an eye: paying young people for serving their country. We are not talking about a fair wage here for services rendered. We are talking enticements to join the military and to fight.

What sort of message does that send! There are many problems with it, not the least that that it is immoral. Paying other people's children to fight our wars is simply not right any way you cut it. It debases patriotism. It is not a matter of begrudging a bonus to those who join up. We could make the argument that we do it in business all the time. But, this is the military where a soldier might ultimately be asked to lay down his life for his country.

Will the military get any takers? Of course. Take a young eighteen year old with little or no prospects and offer him fifteen grand and see what he does. He doesn't think past that new car or buying his sweetheart a ring. He has hit the jackpot, grabbed the brass ring! Give me a break! The last thing on his mind is patriotism and dying for his country. What is equally just as bad is the fact that we think this is perfectly fine.

ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) as an option for military service

This is a tricky question. Recently, my nephew sent me an email from a friend giving his son views on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. I thought the views were objective but it did get me to thinking about this question. His comments: "I can think of a few things you ought to consider before taking the dive:- Military isn't for everyone ... you have to be able to accept the authority structure and sometimes rigid way of life (the latter mostly applies to training, not your time on active duty)- We are now an 'Expeditionary Air Force' ... every Airmen is a candidate to deploy in support of operations around the world -- this is both exciting and perhaps a bit frightening and it shouldn't be taken lightly- You'll have additional requirements on top of your academic load- Military training -- Air Force ROTC training is no Paris Island(Marines) but it's not a cakewalk either- Your time & choices aren't completely your own (reference first bullet)- It won't always be fun or easy -- have to want to stick to it"

What I liked about his comments was the positive but realistic view of advice to a High School senior looking for a way to pay for college. And, without commenting in general, what about this for an entry into military service? It is a good one but again has significance since we do not have any sort of manditory military service. Those who mightchoose the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) go with a motive of financing their education. Whereas if we had an AllServe environment, the motive might be more altruistic. Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

All Volunteer Army is UnAmerican

About twice a week, I get together with about six or eight of my buds. One is a dentist, another a retired hiway patrolman, one a precious jewel dealer, an architect, a retired fireman, a businessman. We are a bunch of old white guys. What makes us a little different in my opinion is that we are Americans who are involved and invested in what’s going on in our country. We care. All but one has served in the military. Recently, our discussion centered around the military draft. I presented my idea of Universal Service or AllServe. Our dentist didn’t have much to say since he was fairly new to the group. Most of these guys had heard everything I had to say anyway. So, I asked the dentist, “Doc, what do you think about the military draft?” I’m for it he shot back. Wow, my one buddy said, “I think I need to make you guys a pair of matching earrings.” Then came the big question. “OK, that’s good but are you for it for your own children serving.” HESITATION.

I had been this route before and knew the questions to asked. Many people are for military service especially if it does not involve their own children. The Draft as a philosophical issue is one thing but involving their own family is another. Upon further prodding, my doc buddy said, “Yes, he did believe in it for his own children.” This is not totally pure as it is not in real time but I do understand. But, for now, this is good enough.

The doc’s main thing is that the draft would be great for all the disenfranchised kids in America. Those with no prospects, hanging out on street corners. Nothing to do. The Military Draft would be their ticket to a future. I agree, it surely is one element of the importance of the Draft. My good buddy, the retired hiway patrolman, a former Marine, related a military war story about something he called the Motivation Platoon in boot camp. When a young Marine in boot camp wants to quit or is messing up, anything that the drill sergeant deems that would mean he is not conforming to what a Marine should be, he is put into the motivation platoon. In the Motivation Platoon, he is given a gigantic hammer and literally sent all over Camp Pendleton breaking big gigantic boulders into little boulders. A few days of this and these guys are motivated. They move back to regular training and complete it and are truly proud of themselves. Does this happen? I thinks so. And, guess what! The unmotivated suddenly become motivated. I can’t remember the book but it came out a few years ago on the mentality of the Marines in turning youngsters with no purpose into Marines: Sempi Fi!

Recently, in Congress, several Congressman called for a return to the draft. It really wasn’t a serious effort. Relatively, politically motivated with no idea that the proposed legislation would pass. It didn’t and was mostly a sham. The President says the Draft is not needed. These generals keep parading on TV talking about how successful the Volunteer Army is; and some DOD (Department of Defense) weenie consultant volunteered how infeasible the Draft is because it would take years to get geared up. What they don't “get” is that there's more to the reinstatement of the Draft than” bodies.” How about service to country, sacrifice and of course, AllServing--the rich and the poor. All would serve, 18-40.

What we have in the Volunteer Army is incredibly unrepresentative of our democracy. Downright unpatriotic. We have a small segment of our society bearing the burden of war. The best examples are minorities: 25-35% of active duty are minorities while in the population, minorities represent 12%. Why? Many reasons, probably but for years, the military has been a gateway for minorities to get equal chances, escape the dregs of segregation and poverty and advance on an equal playing field. When I was in Korea in the eighties, at my Camp, we had five African American Sergeants Major. Three of them were female. Each had inspiring g tales about how they had overcome and how the military had given them a chance. This is great. And, while wonderful, illustrates the lack of representation in our military. AllServe is now.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


UNIVERSAL SERVICE is an idea that has been batted around for awhile. My idea is that it is somewhat like the idea of Americorps which is not a bad idea and is an opportunity for America’s youngsters. I don't know where Americorps is in terms of what is going on now. I surely support the concept. Americorps is a program that allows 18-24 year olds to spend a year or two in community service, doing everything from teaching kids to read to shoveling snow for seniors.

Since September 11, especially for awhile we saw a wave of increased interest from young Americans looking for ways to give back and fulfill their roles as citizens. The one who immediately comes to mind is Pat Tillman, the professional football player who gave up millions to serve in the military. He was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan.

At one time, Congress was thinking of expanding Americorp from 5O,OOO to 25O,OOO. The article I read said the Americorps volunteers earn about $93OO a year with about an equal amount as an education benefit. This is not going to make anybody rich but we are talking of service to one's country.

The military could be the same sort of idea and grouped under the Universal Service idea--a year of mandatory community service for all 18 year olds--about 25 million a year, to be inducted into two years minimum compulsory national service. Drafted into a Universal Service with no ands, ifs or buts--AllServe. Not like the old days of the draft when the only ones who ended up in the military were those who couldn't get a deferment, didn't know any influential people or simply couldn't come up with any excuse.

As a country, we would need some innovative minds to figure out how to create and implement a situation where AllServe. We are smart people and can do it. The opposition would be enormous. We have fallen into the trap of thinking that we don't need to have a compulsory service for America's young people. We have the Volunteer Army. Wrong thinking. The Volunteer Army is a far cry from representative Americans.

A major benefit of AllServing is a chance for all young Americans to experience a shared existence. This has not happened since Vietnam and then was a long way from being equitable. Simply, those of privilege often dodged the draft in one form or another. If AllServed, kids from all socio economic backgrounds would have a chance to know each other--doctor's kids would serve right along side carpenter's kids.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Restoring The Draft

When I talk to people about restoring the draft, immediatly, I get the nobody is home look. They don't take the idea seriously as they don't expect anything to happen. Most don't think about it and if forced too, are simply against the draft. The reasons are many but I think it is a lack of understanding of what the draft would do.

First of all, we are not going to have a draft! During the election campaign both candidates said, NO. It was even in the Republican platform. The Congress even had a vote on a bill sponsored by Congressman Rangel and a few other Democrats. Overwhelmingly defeated! The good Congressman's motivation in introducing the bill was like all politicians, in my opinion, political but trying to make a statement. He has said, which I agree with: it is totally unfair to have a small segment of society bearing the burden for war: i. e., the Volunteer Army. He is primarily talking about minorities. I would take it several steps further. It is morally reprehensible to have the most vulnerable of our society act as our surrogates in war. An example of the ambiguity of the subject, a guy like Don Hewitt who created the TV newsmagazine, 60 minutes, went so far as to say that we should hire mercenaries to fight our wars: an almost direct quote, "we don't want our young boys and girls fighting our wars." I could hardly believe it.

The scare tactic of fighting the return of the draft became one of the causes of the "anybody but Bush/hate Bush stances during the election. But, in my opinion, the groups against the draft totally missed the point. I remember reading this "hit" email about the draft. What those who developed the email, especially the peace groups, or any of those who oppose the war, don't "get" is that a form of the draft would accomplish their goals much better than any possibly thing they can do. The draft or better still, a type of Universal Service would be a good thing. If AllServed, it would be about or should be about serving the country. Giving back for all the great benefits that the country has given us. And, if we AllServed, we would have a president who would be incredibly reluctant to commit us to war because he or she would know they had to pay a price for that decision. This includes the Congress that might support him.

George W. did not have to pay a price when he made the decision to invade Iraq because only a small segment of the society has any personal involvement. It only become a national issue because of the election. If it had not been for the election, we would, as most are doing anyway, going about our business. Through the voluntary Army, which is terribly unsuccessful other than numbers, only those youngsters who have little or no options end up in the military. This is not a putdown of the American soldier. It is an indictment of us as a nation. For those who care, letting someone else's children fight our wars is morally reprehensible.

Inequities of war

In a sense, the inequities of war are nobody's fault. But, here is a good example: on NPR recently, a kid in Iraq, in a support unit, is a bigtime bird watcher. He has chronicled all his bird watching in Iraq and put it on a blog. Interesting! This is an example of the incredible ingenuity of soldiers. He has been doing this since he was fourteen and so this isn't something new. He is in the National Guard and does have a job but most of it is based on where he is in the country: a safe environment by in large, not involved in life and death struggles. In many ways, able to take his year and do something useful. He is a support soldier and in a sense has not heard a shot fired in anger. Based on his great love of birding, his year in Iraq has been great. He has made good money, comes home a hero, life is good.

Contrast this with a combat soldier in Iraq. On patrol, life on the line everyday. Seeing his buddies killed, wounded. The "birder" and the combat soldier is hardly equitable in the big picture. This isn't a putdown of the "birder" soldier. More power to him for using his year productively. But, an examble of the inequities of war.
Same in Vietnam. We had nine support soldiers for every single combat soldier. Many lived the "life of Riley" so to speak. After I came back, I met this Sergeant Major who was in Vietnam for five years. Know what his job was? Ferrying USO show girls or the local entertainers to various NCO (non commissioned officer) clubs in and around Saigon. He told me that he made so much money that when he went to his next assignment he paid cash for his house.

Why is this important? It is only in terms of understanding. All war time soldiering is not equal.