Saturday, May 26, 2007


On this Memorial Day, Americans need to look closely into their hearts. For most Americans, Memorial Day is pretty much a holiday, some time off, a barbecue, traveling: that's about it. But, for Americans who care, it should be a time of reflection. We find ourselves at war--in a very divisive war where there seems to be no way out. Constantly, there is some revelation that we should have known better but acted blindly. All that aside, however, the issue and what should cause us pause on this Memorial Day is honoring those who have paid the ultimate price--those brave men and women who have given their lives for our country.

The why as to most Americans lack of sacrifice and interest is not my purpose here. Good books like AWOL have been written which seek to call us to answering the question of "why." In fact, it's subtitle has been one that I've used often: the unexcused absence of America's Upper classes from military service. The answer is pretty simple really--America's upper class or any class for that matter don't need to serve as we have a volunteer Army.

And, here is the contribution of the Volunteer Army during our present misadventure in Iraq: 3,443 who will never get to live out their lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Voluntary Army and cyberspace

The military recently decided that they didn't want their soldiers at war emailing and blogging and hanging out at on government computers. They say the issue revolves around too much bandwidth and some security issues. Who believes this?

The real truth is that the military has needed to reign in the commo of the troops and what they are doing when not fighting or prosecuting the war. All along, I have had my doubts in what all this instant communication is doing to their focus.

I can surely understand the other side. The loneliness, opportunity to talk to loved ones. A seemingly wonderful morale issue. But, what about a platoon leader whose wife has found interests elsewhere or families who need the dad at home for soccer matches or to fix the washer or to take a firm hand with a daughter on her curfew. In the old days of Vietnam, for instance, the soldier would think about all of this and may have gotten the word through letters but it was nowhere close to daily and instantaneous as it is now.

In an emergency, a soldier could possibly use what in the old days was called MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio System). The soldier would have to plan ahead or someone do it for him and then when he finally made connection, he would have to end the portion of his comments with "over." Think M*A*S*H, on TV--Radar with the ancient instrument to his ear, trying to accomplish some task. This now would be a neanderthal communication system. However, in Iraq, the soldier can be off patrolling the means streets of Baghdad, concerned for his life and his friends and in a few hours, be back somewhere on the "net" emailing or text messaging his wife or girlfriend or buds on MySpace. No way to run a war.

Having to deal with family issues while at war can be incredibly distracting and interfere with the mission. War is no day at the beach and allowing troops to be distracted from it is lethal for them among other issues.

In war, there is always inequity. We faced it in Vietnam with nine support troops for every ground pounder (combat arms soldiers). There were soldiers who were suffering the daily travails of war off in the jungles with nary a hot meal while others were living a good life. I'm not sure it is the same in Iraq but surely there are scores of soldiers who never go out on the road, who don't have to worry about insurgents, IEDs or suicide bombers. Those who are inside the relative safety of the Green Zone and those at bases spread throughout Iraq and are mechanics, mess hall personnel; those who operate the radios, and a thousand and one more supportive and necessary jobs. These soldiers may have time for MySpace but by in large, not a good thing.

WHO IS AT FAULT/and/or responsible for where we are? By in large, Commanders at all levels are at fault. Well meaning morale issues are always important but commanders have to know the overall picture and make decisions accordingly. It is very easy for us armchair quarterbacks to sit around and cogitate our navels about the war. But, commanders, especially young captains and their battalion commanders--they are on the ground and have to make hard decisions. We are at war and being focused on that task is the only paramount.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


A telling comment by a University writing professor, in talking to his students about Iraq, he railed with something like, "How can you let us get away with it (meaning the older Vietnam generation)? We are spending your inheritance and leaving you holding the bag." All nodded but what the Professor knew and was concerned about was the fact that for 3 years in his writing classes as the students were asked to write about the troubles of the time, not one had written about the war, other than the students in the National Guard who had been called up. They had written about deep perosnal wounds that plague our culture--absent or abusive parents, bulimia, anorexia, date rape, too much drinking and drug use--but not about the war.

Friday, May 04, 2007


For us old soldiers, I am absolutely amazed at the continuous coverage of the war. As someone has said, it is a "victims" war. What we are seeing is not the war fighter who is doing what soldiers are paid to do: fight. What we see are overall depictions of problems that soldiers have because of the war. Overall, I don't think it's healthy for us as a nation and surely not for our soldiers to constantly be a "woe is me." The constant use of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) language is almost a self fulfiling prohesy. Does this mean it does not exist. Of course not but there are all kinds of other questions.

Here's a for instance, the news media says that as much as one third of American soldiers (this means Marines, all servicemen and women) suffer from psychological differnces when they return. Of course, they do. They have been in combat. We are not talking a "day at the beach." What do we expect? And, the media is aiding and abetting it, constantly making the soldier out to be a victim. And, they do it in the light of "supporting the soldier." It is the media, not liberal or Fox news type, simply the media.

You cannot watch a news show on TV that they do not deal with the war and mainly its aftermath. Understand always that the news media is not interested overall in the truth rather a story. It is just a fact of life. All along, I was somewhat against the embedding of journalists with the military for lots of reason. Mainly that war is not something to be fawned over but a serious dying business.

We are in a difficult time as a nation. We want the news, to know what is going on but there is a price to be paid.