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.