Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Memorial Day v2.0

June 1, 2021

“Joey, have you ever been in an autonomous Turkish drone’s crosshairs?”

Oh, good. … Paging James Cameron … James Cameron, please come to the white courtesy target zone … er, the white courtesy phone.

Memorial Day 2021

May 31, 2021

A soldier’s things.

Some never made it home. Others did, but missing some vital part of themselves. Remember the fallen, the incomplete, and the fortunate who lost nothing more than youth and innocence.

Hustling the East

April 14, 2021

One disabled vet’s recollection of his tour in Afghanistan.

In his piece on the latest proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan, Charlie Pierce recalls a wounded veteran’s bitter assessment of his time in-country.

The disabled vet was Dr. John H. Watson, soon to be introduced to Sherlock Holmes, speaking in “A Study in Scarlet.” The tale was published in 1887.

The Holmes stories, which I first read in the 1960s, may have served as my introduction to warfare in Afghanistan. Later, there was Rudyard Kipling and his “epitaph drear.” The Soviet debacle I observed from a series of newspaper copy desks. Our own I read about courtesy of journalists like C.J. Chivers. A time or two I spoke with American vets about their own experiences.

Very little of what I read or heard inspired confidence in the ability of the American military-industrial complex to effect change — “Peace through superior firepower,” as the old joke goes — in a place where so many armies had had their asses handed to them. Nobody seemed to really want Afghanistan except the Afghans, and only a few of them wanted it badly enough to fight for it.

So here we are, nearly 20 years later, with 2,400 U.S. service members in their graves and $2 trillion pounded down various ratholes. And for what? Another epitaph drear.

Will we ever get the message that no matter how hard we sell it, “democracy” will never be America’s biggest export? When it hits the doorstep it often looks a lot more like vengeance.

God is said to have made us in His image. If so, He likewise has been compelled by circumstances to live with disappointment in His creations.

From one pilot to another

November 11, 2020

Harold Joseph O’Grady, from the 1941 edition of the Seminole yearbook.

Behold The Colonel, before he was a colonel, or even a pilot.

Harold Joseph O’Grady of Foley, Florida, was a freshman at the University of Florida in 1941. By February of ’42, he was a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps, having enlisted at MacDill Field “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He stayed on a little longer than that. The old man retired as a full bird in 1972, when I was a freshman at Adams State College in Alamosa, getting grades that were even worse than his had been. And mind you, I was taking stoner classes, not elementary physics, organic chemistry, and motorized artillery.

I didn’t last long in college, either, but not because I was going to war to save the world from fascism. I was going to be a push-broom pilot, saving banks from stanks.

Oh, well. As Will Rogers observed, “We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”

Dear diary

January 7, 2020

Dear diary, what a day it’s been. …

I never know where this blog is going to wander.

Some days it wakes up late, isn’t where it should have been. On others, it strolls about, looking at the shops. It rarely buys anything, but occasionally posts a letter on its way home.

On still others, it examines the news, roots through a pile of old journals and training logs, hears an old tune in its head, thinks it’s made some tenuous, possibly spurious connection, shambles into the studio, and cranks out a podcast.

Yes, yes, yes, it’s time for a literary edition of Radio Free Dogpatch, the first of 2020.

 

P L A Y    R A D I O   F R E E   D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Shure SM58 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “As Time Passes,” from Zapsplat.com, which also supplied the sound of a pen scribbling furiously on paper. Yeah, I know, I could’ve handled that myself, but I was on the threshold of a dream. Speaking of which, The Moody Blues supplied bits from “Dear Diary,” from “On the Threshold of a Dream.” Finally, “Remember, thou art mortal” was lifted from “History of the World, Part I,” by Mel Brooks.

No dicking around with Iran, please

January 6, 2020

Jaysis. I have no idea why the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free keep coming here.

Maybe they’re thinking: “Well, they hardly ever bomb anyone inside their own borders. Even the brown people.”

And they may have something there. I refer you to the late Professor Carlin: “You don’t have to be a history major or a political scientist to see the Bigger Dick Foreign Policy Theory. … It’s a subconscious need to project the penis into other people’s affairs. It’s called ‘fucking with people.'”

But then again, we have the Bill Burr Theory of Homeland Defense and Immigration Control: “You’re gonna build a wall from fuckin’ California to Texas? You actually think you’re gonna get this done? Look at the Freedom Tower. We actually wanted that shit, and it took almost 15 years to get it done. Half the people don’t even want this fuckin’ thing. … I’m telling you, by the time they finished it, this country would be so fucked up we’re gonna be the ones going over it.”

If Professor Burr is correct, it would seem that the Bigger Dick Theory applies to domestic affairs as well. They fuck with us here, too. Maybe all you brown people should save yourselves the climb.

‘Something Went Wrong,’ Afghanistan Edition

December 9, 2019

It’s one thing to suspect it, and another thing to have it dumped in your lap by The Washington Post.

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

Except ice cream cones taste good. This tastes like death.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

This one goes out to every aging child who, come Veterans Day, misses the old man (or old lady, for that matter).

Or maybe you just miss Steve Goodman.

The frog of war

June 21, 2019

“War is neither a scientific game nor an international sport; it is an act of violence, characterized by destruction. Now where’s my cheeseburger?”

Carlsjunior von Clownwitz seems to have stumbled across the notion that in a war, people get killed.

I can’t wait for the real story to dribble out of the Sieve House.

John McCain goes west

August 26, 2018

Just a little souvenir wisenheimery from the bad old days.

You’re going to see some relentless hagiography about John McCain from the national press for the better part of quite some time.

That’s the audience he played to, after all.

For a different perspective, check out Amy Silverman’s piece in the Phoenix New Times. Silverman, who covered McCain in the 1990s, calls him “one of the most fascinating politicians in history,” and a few other things, too.

I saw him mostly as a ruthless opportunist, a tireless self-promoter, focused on John McCain the Brand®. You could dig down into what seemed on the surface to be some statesmanly act and see the real McCain down there, smirking and rubbing his hands together. He recalled President Eisenhower’s secretary of defense, Charles Erwin Wilson, who famously told the Senate Committee on Armed Services: “For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. The difference did not exist.”

Substitute “John McCain” for “General Motors” and you’ll see what I mean.

Like George W. Bush he achieved high office thanks in part to a famous name, unearned wealth and a pugnacious ignorance that some mistook for straight shooting. Unlike Dubya, McCain was a sure-enough tough guy. But both suffered from the delusion that their guts held all the answers they’d ever need.

Hammers in search of nails, they teamed up to bring us the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to rack up bills and body counts. For an up-close-and-personal look at the latter, see Pulitzer-winner C.J. Chivers and his excellent book, “The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Remember “that old Beach Boys song? ‘Bomb Iran?'” You can be sure the Iranians do. As do more than a few American pilots who already had plenty on their plates, I imagine.

Here’s another lame joke that happily fell flat: For his last presidential bid, in 2008, McCain scraped the bottom of the Republican barrel and came up with running mate Caribou Barbie, in a stroke legitimizing the Tinfoil Beanie Brigade. Some think this is the shove that sent the Republic on its drunken stagger toward Il Douche, but we’ve always leaned in that direction and it was only a matter of time before we finally got there.

When you hear all the sermons about McCain’s selfless devotion to country, remember what he was willing to do to win the presidency. He would have sacrificed us all on the altar of his own ambition.

• Editor’s note: Charlie Pierce, who had a much closer look at McCain than I did, recalls a man he liked and admired, while adding that he “was destined, always, to disappoint me politically, but that was only because we didn’t agree on anything.”