Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Recently, I met some of my Vietnam buddies at one of the Indian Casinos in California for a little R&R. This is the second time we've done it, mainly to honor Scotty who died a gcouple of year's back. And, get this: he left several thousand dollars in his will for us to show up every year or so to commemorate a day when fifteen of Scotty's comrades were killed. They were ambushed by a battalion of NVA soldiers. Our guys fought them tooth and nail, killing or wounding over a hundred. This is war, not a movie. But, Scotty and the rest of the platoon felt they'd failed. Not so but they were unconvinced.

In fact, at the gathering we worried that one of our guys was so morose that he might do himself in while they were here. Try as we might, we could not snap him out of it. A little like the Kansas City Chief linebacker who recently killed his girlfriend and then shot himself. Our good Sergeant didnot kill hself at our gathering but a few weeks later, he disappeared into some remote area in Alabama and probably did. What moves a person to take such a desperate out. I thought about our soldiers and vets and decided to do some research.

"For every soldiered killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 vets are dying by their own hand. An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average in combat. Veterans kill themselves on average one every 80 minutes. More than 6500 veteran suicides are logged every year. More than the total number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined since those wars began (A columnist in NY Times).

What the f..k! This is outrageous and guess who is to blame. We are. For example, recently I had breakfast with about six or eight fellow Vietnam vets. To a person, talking about the rash of suicides, they felt that repetitive tours is the culprit. The emotions of going back and forth have to take its toll. And why is this? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to piece it together. During Vietnam, we had the draft, a ready pool of soldiers. Few Vietnam veterans did more than one tour, usually lasting 12 or thirteen months. That is it, over, finish, next case. The military wants some more soldiers/cannon fodder, they draft some more. The draft was far from perfect as about anybody who wanted could get out of it. Interestingly, often soldiers were happy to be drafted. It was a point of pride. Then along came SecDef Melvin Laird and icon Milt Friedman who sold Americans on ending the draft. The unintended consequences was a Volunteer Military that was too small and totally unrepresentative of our democracy. In other words, we now have a military of other people's children fighting our wars. Less than 1% have any investment in our ill conceived wars or our military. And, of course Donald Rumsfelt and draft dodger, Dick Chaney, who had other priories during Vietnam, only added to the difficulties now causing an epidemic of soldier suicides. Military leadership has to bear some responsibility with their "can do" attitude. Fluctuating economy, kids who have limited options have joined this AVF (all volunteer force) and added to the fact that you have a lower socieo economic category of soldier which also means that he has less coping skills.

It is scandalous as my mom would say. So, what is the remedy. Too late for those soldiers who have cashed out. Bring back the draft or some sort of community service. We don't have the political will. So, what then. F..K, I don't know.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Ex Prez Bill--Can't Say Sorry

Bill Clinton's assertion in his review  of the "Passage of Power", the latest installment of Robert Caro's, "LBJ", in the NY Times that "LBJ did not "get to him" as he did many others of his generation." F..king "A" he didn't. LBJ was after him but failed. He didn't fail with many of Clinton's contemporaries who were drafted and went to their deaths in Vietnam. I like Bill and think he has been a good ex president. He should say "I'm sorry that I dodged the draft. (as well as Dick Chaney who had other priorities) I don't begrudge Clinton. He might have died in that sorry ass war. But, there's something to saying "sorry" and not trying to obfuscate it by bullshitting. He never even said he was sorry to "Monica."

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Recently I was hanging out at Starbucks and watching the herd of kids coming in from the various offices around. They are laughing and talking, dozens of them. Most are doing some sort of social networking: tweeting, Facebook, talking to each other. Planning their social activities. All these kids are bright, well educated, probably come from upper middle class homes or higher. I informally surveyed a few and easdropped on others  They don't have much interest in politics or overall what is going on in the world, surely not Afghanistan. I am possibly a little harsh as I don't really know but while in line, I showed several this article I'm reading and asked about the war, military, government, deficit--for those who didn't escape, not that much on their minds. Contrast this with the profile of a group of Marines in Afghanistan. These guys are going on patrol. Fighting the Taliban, developing strategies. They are tough, tattooed, proud, doing their job. At war. The contrast is absolutely stark.

This is the same kind of article I've read over the last several years. Profiling what it means to be a modern day soldier in combat. It is hard, tough, life threatening. And to the NYT's credit, there have been several of these in depth articles of our fighting troops and I always asked the same question, who is reading these articles? Who really gives a flying f..k, whatever? Not these kids at Starbucks. They are untouched, probably unconcerned. It isn't judgment or their fault. It really doesn't effect them. They, like 99% of Americans, have no "skin" in the game. We have a professional and volunteer military, mostly kids who are unrepresentative of our American culture. I don't know this for sure, just mu guess. We can engage in wars or at least have been able in the past and merely pay the bill.

Without running the risk of sounding too philosophical, the issues now and what we ought to be concentrating on, are the unintended consequences of a "no draft" military. Iraq and now Afghanistan goes on and on because we have no overall American investment. Had we had a draft and Americans as a whole were paying the price, it might be entirely different. I am sure that the motives of  Milt Friedman and then SecDef Melvin Laird, as they led the charge of abolishing the draft in 1973 was, relatively, what they considered in the best interests of the country. To me, based on where we are in the world, our future, abolishing the draft was historically one of our all time biggest mistakes and an unintended consequence which is enormous.