Archive for the ‘War’ Category

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.”

Space farce

August 9, 2018

The Empire has cornered the Tang market in preparation for galactic conquest. | Liberated from @Todd_Spence on Twitter.

Emperor Pompatus wants a Death Star.

It figures he’d have an interest in space, since there’s so much of it between his ears. Also, and too, he looks like an astronaut wanna-be who couldn’t make the weight and washed out of the program after a Tang overdose.

Might be nice if we settled a few of the fights we’ve picked down here on Earth before we blast off in search of the Rebel Alliance, don’t you think?


When will we ever learn?

May 28, 2018

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room.

And that’s only one of our national cemeteries. Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady is buried at Fort Logan in Denver, along with three Medal of Honor recipients, seven Buffalo Soldiers, two Navajo Code Talkers from New Mexico, and Spec. Gabriel Conde of Colorado, a kindergartner on 9/11 who was the 2,264th member of the U.S. military to die in the war in Afghanistan.

I guess we finally found out where all those flowers have gone.


The summer grasses remain

November 12, 2013

I neglected to post something yesterday about Veterans Day, thinking I didn’t have anything fresh to say, and finding the outpouring of social-media thank-yous to the military slightly irksome. I never served, but if I had, I expect I might not enjoy being pandered to any better than I would being ignored.

Like Charles P. Pierce, when I was a squirt I didn’t know anyone whose father was not a veteran. Since the old man was career Air Force, we mostly knew the kids of Blue Zoomies, but in the course of affairs we would meet others; sons and daughters of soldiers, sailors, Marines.

dad2We’d hear the tales secondhand (none of the dads I knew bragged to kids about his service, so the kids bragged for them). This one was at Omaha Beach, that one at the Battle of the Bulge; this one got shot down in a B-29 after bombing Tokyo, that one flew unarmed Gooney Birds out of New Guinea.

It all sounded really cool, especially while consuming a steady diet of war movies at the base theater, like “The Longest Day,” “The Dirty Dozen,” or “PT 109.” And then we got a little older, and a little smarter, and we came to realize that going to war involved a strong probability of getting one’s arse shot off.

We realized that we never got to hear kids tell about their dads who didn’t make it back, because those kids died unborn with their would-be fathers, figments of an unrealized imagination. And we didn’t get to hear about the men who returned from war damaged in body, mind or spirit, or meet them; not until our own war, Vietnam, came along.

Books like “All Quiet on the Western Front” took on new meaning. And there were others, like “Dispatches,” by Michael Herr; “A Rumor of War,” by Philip Caputo; and “Everything We Had,” by Al Santoli.

In “Narrow Road to the Interior,” Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-94), following a visit to the ruins of Yasushira — and riffing off a line from the Chinese master Tu Fu about how war had left “the whole country devastated,” a place where “only mountains and rivers remain” — wrote:

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams

In “The Poetry of Zen,” co-author Sam Hamill calls this poem “a brilliant indictment of the stupidity and cruelty of war,” one that reminds us how little we have learned over the millennia. How does one say “Thank you for your service” to the grass?

By seeing to it that subsequent generations get to spend as much time as is humanly possible enjoying the sunny side of it, I suppose.

Peace to those to served, and especially to those who never came home.

The bomb’s in your court, Congress

August 31, 2013
Everything's coming up roses.

Everything’s coming up roses.

Well played by the wily Kenyan Mooslim socialist usurper. He dumped the whole Syria mess smack dab into the lap of Congress. If the situation weren’t so serious, I’d be laughing my ass off.

But asking Congress for permission to do something stupid is like shooting puppies at the pound — to wit, not exactly sporting. A guy can hardly miss. It’s harder to squeeze shit out of a colostomy bag.

This is going to be a living lesson in civics, a real physical (and mental) exam for the American body politic. The early smart money seems to think that the prez eventually gets the green light for this dumb idea, but I’m not so sure. The Rethugs hate his ass so much that they might just deny themselves the pleasure of sending a few other folks’ kids to the boneyard this time around. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Late updates

• Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog says Congress is like a dog that chases and catches a car, then has no idea what to do with it, calling Obama’s move “one of those terrific examples of good politics and good policy.”

• John Nichols at The Nation says: “This is as the founders intended when they wrote a Constitution that gives the power to declare war not to an all-powerful commander-in-chief but to an unwieldy Congress.”

• Kevin Drum at Mother Jones says: “Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also forces Congress to exercise its constitutional responsibilities, something they should spend more time doing and less time constantly squawking about.”

‘Limited’ warfare, my ass

August 29, 2013

Call me a knee-jerk pacifist, but where the hell is the upside in this?

The probability of a lot of the wrong people getting croaked seems high to me, as does the price tag for a nation that can’t seem to budget for much that doesn’t involve blowing shit up. The odds that a few cruise missiles will deter Syria’s further use of chemical weapons, meanwhile, strike me as poor.

As for such an attack shoring up our “credibility,” I’m not certain we still have any of that in this particular neck of the woods. And I’m getting a little tired of presidents dragging us into these things while the Congress plays with its pud.

The Nation‘s editors make their case against military intervention. The New York Times editorial board says Obama hasn’t made his case for such an attack. So far I’m with the naysayers on this one.


Little Boy at 68

August 6, 2013

Hell came to Hiroshima 68 years ago today.

My dad, who was flying C-47s out of in New Guinea at the time, said years afterward that he was convinced the U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to save his life and the lives of his comrades, arguing that carrying conventional warfare to the bitter end with an invasion of Japan’s home islands would have been a long, drawn-out and very bloody business.

Maybe so. Greg Mitchell at The Nation has his doubts, and suggests that the notion that prevailed in 1945 and for decades afterward — that nuclear weapons were simply another tool of modern warfare, one that could be used surgically if need be with few serious consequences  — is a myth that persists today (see Israel v. Iran, et al.).

Kids today don’t enjoy the duck-and-cover drills that I took for granted as a child, or if they do, I haven’t heard about it. As a rabid consumer of apocalyptic fiction one of the first things I thought about our 1967 transfer from Randolph AFB outside San Antone to Ent AFB in Bibleburg was: “Holy shit. Cheyenne Mountain. Major Soviet target, right up there with the Pentagon and SAC at Offutt.” Ironically, one of the first houses we looked at was in Cheyenne Mountain School District 12. It had a bomb shelter, which would have been about as effective against a spread of SS-9s as the miniature parasol Wile E. Coyote deployed to deflect incoming boulders.

Today’s remote-control, push-button warfare mostly involves drones, but it’s still real people out there ducking, covering and dying. Whatever you think about what took place 68 years ago today, be sure to spare a thought for what might happen 68 minutes from now.