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Uncommonly Sensible

Keeping the "anal" in analytical... (While trying to remain civilized)

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Location: United States

Friday, May 27, 2005

In Memoriam...

From the battle of Lexington and Concord more than 200 years ago to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East today, the members of the United States military have served this nation with honor, integrity and pride. Through their efforts and sacrifice, they have fought for and preserved the principles that are the cornerstone of our way of life.

In May 1868, as the United States was healing from the ravages of the Civil War, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order No. 11, proclaiming Memorial Day as a time to remember the fallen as follows:

“…gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime…let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude, - the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

This Monday, as we observe Memorial Day, we remember the more than one million servicemen and servicewomen who have given their lives to preserve our freedom, and salute the loved ones they have left behind. We also honor the prisoners of war, those missing in action, our veterans, and the men and women on the battlefield and in the command centers of today who are prepared to pay the ultimate price to ensure that we are kept safe. As you enjoy the three-day holiday with family and friends, I encourage you to take some time during The National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. to reflect on the many sacrifices so many have made, and continue to make, on our behalf.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Back from the Front...

(Firsthand account by an officer departing Baghdad)

Hi Everyone.
Just wanted to thank all of you for your emails, jokes, packages, hospital supplies, cookies, cards, letters, newspapers, etc. You've all made this tour just a little bit easier and for that I thank you. I will be departing Baghdad on Sunday, 22 May.

It's been a wild five months. Many of the things that I've seen, both good and bad, I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I thought I'd leave you with my final thoughts from Baghdad for whatever they're worth:

The big question: are we winning this war? My answer to that is both simple and complicated. In short, yes we are. But this war will not be over any time soon and in fact it will likely last our entire lifetimes. It is so much bigger than Iraq. Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism have been growing unabated and unopposed for decades. Add to that the demographics of the Arab/Muslim world, corrupt governments that can't meet the basic needs of their people, decades of terrible US foreign policy, the morally bankrupt influence of Wahhabism, disenfranchised youths, the disrespect of women, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc.

And to prove God has a sense of humor, he threw into the mix a region that floats on oil and gave the West an insatiable desire/need for the stuff. In short this is all very complicated stuff with no easy answers. Additionally, for the US to win this war its strategy must also include a confrontation of our own past and values: is it still permissible to support or turn a blind eye to those corrupt governments that happen to be pro-US, what damage was done by not confronting terrorism earlier (from Carter thru 9-11, both parties are guilty), do we have the will to see this battle through to the end, what role does our own lack of energy conservation play, should we have a greater influence on Israel to cease counter-productive policies like building more settlements in the West Bank. So when I say we are winning, it only somewhat refers to the situation on the ground, troop levels, insurgents killed, etc. Despite what the press says, great progress is being made. This is not a popular uprising that we face-it is comprised of foreigners, criminals, and ex-Baathists. Bombs will always make better headlines than the building of schools or the functioning of a court system. Mainly I say we're winning because our enemy, the foreign insurgents and fundamentalists, have nothing to offer to the people of Iraq. They can blow themselves up and take innocent people with them but they can never win the popular support. They are loathed by the Iraqi on the street. To see what kind of government are they capable of producing, one need only look at the Taliban. They're great at forcing men to grow beards or stoning women, but they can't provide basic social services, build roads, educate their children or create employment. Like the Nazis, Soviets, and Apartheid before them, they will ultimately fail simply because they are incapable of succeeding.

In my lifetime I have witnessed three great triumphs of the human spirit: the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela walking out of prison, and Iraqis defiantly going to the voting booth on January 30th despite the constant threat of death.

Secondly I would say that I will never again view the act of voting the same way. I've been pretty hit and miss over my life when it came to voting. Sometimes it was inconvenient, other times I wasn't well versed enough on the issues, and still other times I thought that I could voice my dissent by not voting. I am now ashamed by all of these excuses. I've heard a thousand times the cliché that people gave their lives so we that could have the right to vote. I guess I never really internalized it before. I now know men and women, American and Iraqi, who actually gave their lives so others could vote. For the rest of my life I will think of them whenever I am in a voting booth.

I know the range of opinion on this war run the entire spectrum, even among my good friends on this email. Everything in the preceding paragraphs is open to debate and I don't claim to be smarter than anyone else on these matters. But I would like to close off with one observation that I believe to be absolute: we should all feel honored by the men and women who are serving here. They work under impossibly harsh conditions: the danger, the heat, the dust, and the split second life and death decisions. These kids who serve their country are amazing. They do their job, they take care of each other and they don't expect much in return except a hot meal once in a while and a cot in a corner somewhere to get some sleep. They are selfless beyond belief and they would without hesitation risk their lives for each other or for total strangers. To know them and to serve with them has been the greatest honor of my life.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Wholly Sith!!!

We went to see the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"; it was a great idea gone horribly bad.

Special effects notwithstanding, they don't quite make up for this lame attempt to tie up loose ends, and set the stage for the original trilogy.

The pivotal scene, in which Darth Vader is "born", is too contrived to be believed. In under 2 minutes, Anakin Skywalker goes from deepest remorse to deepest remorselessness.

May the force(d) be with(out) you! Save your money.

But you don't have to believe me. That dissident rag, the Rolling Stone, posted a review with which I am quite in agreement.

Sith happens...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Oil-for-influence? "Greasing" palms...

Washington Post - Top Kremlin operatives...reaped millions of dollars in profits under the U.N. oil-for-food program...a Senate investigation has concluded. The allegations...are detailed in hundreds of pages of reports and documents made public last night by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in advance of a hearing tomorrow. The documents outline a trail of oil and money that leads directly from Iraq to the Kremlin and the former chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former president Boris Yeltsin. The report said Iraq sought to influence and reward the Russian government because it sits on the powerful U.N. Security Council that oversaw sanctions against the Hussein government. Russia repeatedly sided with Iraq on issues before the Security Council...

So while President Bush took up his case with the U.N. Security Council, trying to get them to actually enforce their many resolutions, which obviously weren't worth the paper they were printed on...behind the scenes, the "fix" was already in. Over a year of attempting to get the U.N. to "put some teeth" into their so-called resolve, undermined by more corruption.

But when the "cowboy" went ahead and did what was needed to break the regime that had been gassing people, shooting at our planes, supporting terrorism, etc., he got accused of engaging in a unilateral and unauthorized war against a sovereign nation.

Yet there are still those who say we shouldn't have gone to war with Iraq; that bringing down the Taliban was the right thing to do, but that Saddam Hussein was just a petty tyrant, and only a problem for his own people.

Oh yeah, and maybe some of his neighbors, too.

Give me a break...

Monday, May 09, 2005

"The Greatest Generation"

AP: MOSCOW - World leaders whose countries faced off on the battlefields of World War II paid tribute Monday to the fallen soldiers and millions of civilian dead, joining Russian President Vladimir Putin on Red Square for a lavish military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

Yesterday, May 8th, was the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Amid much pomp and circumstance, the world took the time out of its busy schedule to commemorate the occasion.

U.S. President Bush stood shoulder to shoulder with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder while Russian President Putin gave a speech; all the differences regarding the war in Iraq were put aside, at least for the day, as the latter three were the most vocal objectors to a U.S.-led intervention in Saddam Hussein's regime.
(Perhaps the fact that they were all selling him military hardware influenced their respective positions, but I digress)

What I'm really thinking about is how much has changed in the world in those 60 years. It was a simpler time in 1945...no cable or satellite television; no satellites or televisions at all, in fact. The Information Age hadn't even been conceived of, newspapers and radios were the "state-of-the-art" on the communications frontier. Telephones were available, though not as ubiquitous as they are today, and a lot of people who did have phones shared party lines. The Internet? Who could have envisioned the impact of this particular medium?!

The war effort had introduced many women to the work force, due to the shortage of able-bodied men, who had gone off to fight the war. Only the lucky ones returned. These men and women were actually first referred to as "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw, NBC anchorman, in a book he wrote about them with that title.

The fact of the matter is that "The Greatest Generation" is dying off now at an accelerating pace. Once that pre-Baby Boomer Generation is gone, all that will remain are the successive generations of increasingly self-centered, spoiled individuals who have found it all too easy to forget the sacrifices of their predecessors...being too busy pursuing their own happiness.

I am certainly not innocent of this attitude. Although I did serve in the Armed Forces, it was a "kindler, gentler" version of the military my forebears knew. I still have one of their helmets; the "doughboy" variety from WW I...the war to end all wars. If only!

I would urge everyone who knows or has known one or more members of "The Greatest Generation", to spend some time thinking about these things. I was lucky enough to spend some time with two of them (my parents) just yesterday. And if any other members of "The Greatest Generation" happen to read this, I was thinking about you when I typed it, too. Thanks...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cutting off their nose?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A car bomb exploded at the funeral of a Kurdish official in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing about 30 Iraqis and wounding more than 50, (according to) the U.S. military, as the death toll in a wave of violence against Iraq's new government rose to at least 120.

The "insurgents" (a euphemism if ever there was one) are still at it, blowing up more people all the time with their Improvised Explosive Devices.

But lately, they've been mostly killing their fellow Middle Easterners, which doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense; rather than persuading people that their cause is a just one (although it's not), they are trying to rule by fear. Of course, that's exactly the terrorists' (which is what the so-called "insurgents" really are) Modus Operandi...right out of Basic Terrorism 101.

These "insurgents" are desperate; since they were fighting a losing battle against Coalition forces, now they're focusing on a "soft target", their own people.

Someday, hopefully soon, they can either be wiped out or made to see the error of the ways.

The spread of Democracy, in whatever form it may take in the Middle East, cannot happen quickly enough. Ideally, what with the withdrawal of the last of Syria's troops from Lebanon, the Lebanese people can form a democracy of their own. Other countries in the region, like Iran, will continue to feel the pressure from within to create some kind of representative government.

In essence, a completely new type of "Domino Theory" could take place; the World would only be a better place if it does...

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