Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare: Ug

Today the Supreme Court laid down two absolutely stunning rulings.  I'll deal with each one in a post on their own.  First up is Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.  Now to be clear I think that healthcare does cost too much.  The reasons are varied, everything from Research and Development costs, to the administration it takes to track you down to make you pay your bill.  Our system is not broken, it actually works remarkably well, given the stresses placed upon it by the explosion of people needing advanced healthcare and the steady decline of young men and women willing to enter the profession.  Doctors and Nurses work long hours, and for what they do their pay is actually not as great as you might think given the massive amount of time it takes to train for their jobs. 

The goal of lowering the cost of healthcare is laudable, and I really do applaud lawmakers for wanting to do this.  However the implementation has been nothing short of horrific.  First off the bill itself is a grand total of 2700 pages.  Have you ever read a book that was 2700 pages long?  The longest book I've ever read in one go was Battlefield Earth, which really should have been two books.  It was a struggle to get through that, and it actually had a plot.  Ever try to read a real actual bill, and not even a long one?  I've tried several times, and I usually am bored to tears by the first page.  How can you rule on a bill or law that you haven't read in its entirety?  Perhaps more terrifying is that we really don't know whats in the law.  There might be a million loopholes we will only learn about after its too late to do anything about them.  

The horror doesn't end there.  The irony that the same people who might have chanted "my body my choice" are now cheering this law, and especially the individual mandate on, is not lost on  me.  It is my body, and my choice, for good or ill, to get health insurance.  To be honest I simply could not afford it.  I can barely afford to stay in an apartment, eat twice a day and have gas to go to work or school.  I usually use the stipend for books to pay bills.  How exactly this will help me, a 28 year old, is not clear.  I would invite anyone that thinks this is a good idea to go through the VA system for a spin or two.  It gives migraines a migraine.  That's where we're headed.  Unfortunately the dirty little secret of this whole bill is that the whole aim was to get a single payer system.  Health Insurance is expensive, and some of the statutes in this bill will make it even more so, meaning that you will have to take the Government run option. 

And this individual mandate.  Weren't we told time and again that it was not a tax?  Well it stands, as it is because it is. . . a tax.  Putting aside that someone should be fired, and potentially put in jail for perjury, governments should be very wary about the taxes they levy.  After all it was Taxes that caused this nation to revolt in the first place.  Most especially in times of great economic difficulty we should be loathe to apply any new tax and should speak of any tax hike be it on the rich or poor, the same way we speak of an impending limb amputation.  And if we are speaking of lopping off 10% of the Defense budget to pay for the already inflated government, where is the money going to come from for this? 

As a law there is enough questions, and enough unease that it really should have been stopped long before it ever got to the point that it went before the SCOTUS.  There could have easily been smaller bills, or small fixes that might have done a far better job.  We need to tackle the Malpractice, which is driving up the cost of everything.  I'd even go so far as to say that we as a nation should have a national, per capita cap on lawyers.  We would even be able to reduce significantly all healthcare costs if we were in anyway able to expel all the illegal aliens, who never pay for healthcare, or taxes.  There are so many little things we could do that would almost overnight lower the cost of healthcare, but this bill was supposed to be the be all end all.

To be honest after reading some of the opinions, I am beginning to wonder if the Justices are getting high.  There really is a number of issues in this law that I haven't even touched on that really scare me as an individual, and as a citizen.  From a purely political prospective this may actually be a very bad thing for the Democrats.  Conservatives almost immediately pointed to November as being that much more critical.  The Liberal base is usually charged up for this cause or that but it is a truly rare thing in America when a conservative base gets fired up and goes full bore.  Expect to see a lot of people who are scared (for good reason) of Big Brother, doing everything they can to defeat the Democrats.  There might be a lot more Tea Party action and a swing of independents.  They might actually raise money on par with Obama (who has broken all records for campaign contributions).   So as disappointing as this ruling is, there is actually hope yet. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Instilling Fear in Your Enemy is a Good Thing

it seems kind of moot to point this out, but the purpose of terrorism it to. . . scare your enemy.  Now to be clear the modern form of terrorism is entirely directed at civilians, because actually fighting in a military engagement between the Man-dress Malitia and a real honest to God Army is something rather akin to suicide.  There certainly many many men that signed up for that form of suicide, whether the promise of 72 virgins, they were bored, or they were actually deluded enough to think they could win doesn't really matter, most of those men are dead or unable to fight anymore.  On some level, however Terrorism does actually work.  Not in the way that they obviously hopped, because let's face it we didn't capitulate, but it has forced us to alter the way we do business in this country. 

When it comes to our military, we tend to shy away from actually instilling fear in the civilian population.  In fact we try to do the exact opposite, we try, very hard I might add, to make them love us.  We can terrify them, and at a moments notice turn around and hand out soccer balls.  It is actually quite confusing both to friend and foe alike.  So lets be clear, that instilling fear in enemies or even potential enemies or even the people that don't quite get along with you is actually a very good thing when it comes to foreign relations. 

I'll start with purely military matters, and I'll draw only from American history, because that will be the most easily understandable.  So where do you have Armies inflicting terror upon each other?  Well I will naturally enough point to the Civil War, and the high point of the Confederacy in early 1863.  After the absolute disaster of Fredricksburg, the new Union commander Joseph Hooker (side note where the term "Hookers" comes from) sought to break the stalemate at Fredricksburg, and sought to slip around Lee, and catch him by suprise.  Using his vast army, he kept a force in place to threaten Fredricksburg, then moved North and East.  Only problem is Lee knew what he was doing so he divided his force (against all military logic of the time) and followed hooker.  Once the battle lines were drawn at Chancellorsville, Lee again divided his forces, sending Lt General Jackson on a 19 mile march around the Union lines, through the woods.

Jackson attacked 2 hours before dark, to minimize the damage should the battle go against him, into union forces that were completely unprepared for him.  When encamped troops looked up to see 28,000 Confederates charging toward them, not making the trademark rebel yell until they were right on top of them.  To call the response a route would be kind.  many regiments broke and ran in terror, leaving their weapons, ammo and supplies behind.  Hooker himself was thrown into confusion, and started giving orders that made no sense further compounding the mistakes already made.  In this way Lee was able to make his much smaller force(s) and squarely defeat a much larger army. 

It can be applied to even more battles, some even more recently.  There are a few notable examples, like Patton's 3rd Army in the latter part of the European Theater, and even the Inchon landing and 2nd Battle for Seoul, trapped a large amount of DPRK troops and almost caused a complete capitulation of the North Koreans, indeed if not for the intervention of China, Korea would be unified under a true democratic government.  However where America has truly inspired terror in an adversary could well be in Iraq, during Desert Storm.  The "hook" maneuver both trapped the Iraqi army in Kuwait, and also happened so fast that the enemy didn't have time to react.  The result was a route that the Us exploited to great effect causing the 19th largest army in the world to become so much slag.  They had not even begun to recover 12 years later when the US invaded and finished the job. 

And therein lies a lesson we can take for foreign relations, and international politics.  The entire world was so sure that we would not "go it alone" and that we would not invade Iraq (regardless of the "legality").  The world was sure that Vietnam had soured America in this kind of warfare.  That we actually went ahead and did it.  It shocked a lot of people.  One of the people it shocked was Qaddafi, who was already twitchy after we nearly killed him following Operation Eldorado Canyon, but OIF convinced him that Libya would be next should he not straiten up.  Even Iran began to sing a different tune (for a time).  Where we went wrong, actually has nothing to do with the political reasons to invade, but not to have enough troops to maintain security once the invasion was complete.  Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, has not only a history and cultural identity but a functioning if not first world at least second or upper tier third world infrastructure.  Indeed had we been able to maintain the Iraqi Army, and had enough troops to lock the country down for say 6 months, we might have easily been able to shave 3 or 4 years off the occupation, and we might well not have had to deal with the near civil war that we saw in 2006-2007.

From the mid 70's till the early 80's a majority of the world was "secure" in the knowledge that we wouldn't act preemptively, that we couldn't.  Rather than challenge the USSR we sought Detente.  Rather than bolster tenious governments we cut our losses.  Indeed it wasn't really until Desert Storm that people thought that America would do more than drop a few bombs to send a message.  OEF and OIF have shown that the US can and will sustain a long drawn out conflict.  We should not be so loath to embrace the mantra of the guys that bully the bullies.  We may wish to "use our words" but sadly there are far too many countries (and insurgent groups) that simply will not respect that.  Even the First World bastion of Europe is starting to suffer tremendously because it will not take clear and definitive action, even on simple issues that do not require military action. 

My Dad's old boat, the USS Barb had a slogan: Cavaet Tyrannis.  Tyrants Beware.  It is doubtful that the world will stabilize, in a way we would hope.  Economic upheaval almost always gives rise to tyranny.  We should be ready for being called upon again to depose tyrants.  It is perhaps a good thing then that we seek to instill as much fear in such men as we possibly can.  By instilling fear in men who rule by fear we might actually avoid unnecessary confrontations or even cause reforms.  We will have to remember, however that our principles must always guide us, that our credibility must be maintained, even as we tare down more stature of dictators. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How I Survived Crippling PTSD

You know it really wasn't until I got to the WTB that I really knew what a "flashback" was.  I had had training in methods of reducing or treating Combat Stress, I could recite all the symptoms of Acute Stress Reaction in my sleep.  As a Medic, I was the one stop shop for all the medical needs for 35 men.  I had a reference book (a very good one that I still have) that I carried with me for anything that I couldn't fix right away.  I could tell you all the methods of alleviating the inevitable stress that would come from combat losses.  None of that knowledge or reference material helped me a damn when I was the one that needed help.

I didn't even know I needed help until I was pulled aside by my commander at the time and sent for a mental health eval.  It was standard procedure, and I grumbled but went.  What came out was a bit surprising.  It really was getting to me.  I mean I had been deployed before.  Seen death, gruesome injuries, and felt unbelievable fear but somehow this was very different.  I knew  the men I was trying to treat.  I couldn't separate myself and view the injuries objectively.   Keep in mind this is still in Iraq.

Fast forward.  I've been moved to the WTU, before it became a battalion, I'm heavily medicated, and still somewhat hopeful that I might at some point soon be able to hop on a plane and go back to Iraq.  I was just leaving formation and nothing was really happening, No one had said anything in particular, but it was cold, and one of the soldiers behind me made a kind of snoring sound trying to get the snot out of his nasal passages. 

I can not describe in words exactly what happened.  The white became dark, I could still see Riley and the snow on the ground but I wasn't there I was back.  Over There.  I was holding a young man who had been hit by an IED, the back of his turret had been blown clear he had been blown forward his jaw crushing on his saw, he made these horrible snoring respirations as his body fought to stay alive.  It was one of the most painfully powerless moments in my life.  I could not save this man.  Each exhale would splatter blood all over me and the drivers seat behind me.  All I could do was hold his airway open and talk to him.

I mist have been completely stationary for a while because my squad leader came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.  I know I jumped, and tried to play it off like I was trying to remember something I had to do, but the incident had really shaken me.  I wish I could say that was the last time.  I wish I could say that I never had to relive shoving Kirlex into a man's leg as he was screaming for me to stop.  I wish I could say that I never had to remember when an AT-4 inside a burning humvee went off 20 meters away from me, I wish I could say that that one time was the only time I had to worry about my past barging into the present in such a shocking way.  Sadly all that and worse happened.

Once when one of my friends, Gary, took me out to the only decent bar in Junction City, my right hand started to shake, like Tom Hank's did in Saving Private Ryan.  It freaked me out that my hand just would not stop shaking.  I drank more and more and blacked out before midnight.  When I woke up the next morning it was still shaking.  It kept going for a week strait.  It eventually quieted down, but would act up on occasion.  Fortunately it was cold out so I played it off as me trying to be a hard ass and not wearing enough snivle gear, but I do remember once I saluted an officer, and for some reason he stopped and looked at me, I naturally stopped as well.  I held the salute, and the longer I held it the worse the shaking got.  When he finally returned the salute he patted me on the arm and in an almost fatherly way asked if I was getting that looked at.  Sadly, this problem persists.  If I get angry, nervous, or excited my hand will start to shake, not nearly as bad as it did, but it still bothers me.  Sadly I do not know the cause.  

To say I was nearly crippled by my Post Traumatic Stress is not an understatement.  I was barely able to function for even minor tasks.  I would space out when driving.  I was unable to focus on anything, I would over react to minor things, and I would hide as much as possible, from the world, from myself I'm not sure.  I have already admitted I almost killed myself twice, but what I never really talk about is knowing basic pharmacology, and using it to get a desired effect.  I had a nurses desk reference (2003 edition) which I would use to great effect to mix up OTCs with my prescribed meds and alcohol to get the kind of buzz that is (for very good reason) illegal.  I can tell you that this is not something you should ever do, but at the time I wanted the flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety to stop. 

What saved me was really a couple of things.  The first is actually the fact that Gary was worse off than I was, his great ambition was to die in battle, and he was depressed that he was still alive.  It might seem strange but something about having someone worse off than me kicked in the old medic training in me and I had to help him.  Another strange thing, is that indeed a love of a woman helped unbelievable, but losing that said woman made me realize just how far I had fallen.  It made me realize I needed help, and made me realize I needed to get serious about getting help or I was going to suffer until I simply ceased to be human.  Lastly and most painfully was confronting the men I had treated (and at the time felt I had not done enough for), and the families of the fallen.  Talking with the families took years to build up enough courage.  I want to say Staff Sergeant Brian Beaumont, is a true American Hero.  When I went to him and told him all the things I had done wrong when I treated him, and all the things I should have done, he stopped me

"Doc, shut up.  You saved my life.  That's all that matters"

I wrote down what happened to Craig and Harrelson, and for me writing really does help.  I called and talked to Craig's mother, I talked to Harrelson's mother, step-father, and sister.  All are good people, and I did what I could to tell them what happened and how their loved ones died.  It gave them peace to hear it from someone that was there that they were not alone and that they were loved by their brothers in arms.  There will come a day, perhaps soon when I will go to their graves, and have a long talk with absent companions. 

PTSD can be crippling.  You can run from it in many forms.  Sometimes you can run for a long time, but it always catches up with you.  The only way you can really get better is it turn around and confront your pain.  You don't have to do it alone, there are people out there to help you.  Please, I say this to any Veteran out there that is suffering, if you need help, get it.  If you can't find it come to me.  If I can't find it for you I will try to find someone who can.  You can live a full and complete life, it just takes a little courage.  Never give up.  You can still do great things.  You can still make a difference.  Trust me I know.  Please don't suffer in silence.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Warriors and Politicians

Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military theorist once said in his treatise "On War" that "War is a continuation of politics by other means".  He said a lot of things actually, but I have always been struck by this one quote.  It strikes me because Politicians often make poor Warriors, and Warriors often make poor Politicians.  Indeed the only thing the two professions seem to have in common is that they are both filled with uncertainty.  What your enemies do, as well as what your allies do, and what random third part involvement might give you might totally change the fortunes of any venture, be it war or politics but that, is really where the similarities end. 

Soldiers are not always plain spoken, but more often as not they have to be.  If you use to much flourish in language when giving orders on a battlefield you might well cause a "charge of the Light Brigade" just by saying the wrong thing, in the wrong way.  One must be clear in their orders.  One must be clear when reporting to superiors.  If you lie about even minor things, your superiors will act on faulty information, compounding whatever error you are attempting to hide. You can be reserved in your speech, you can be cautious but you always try to get the most direct meaning in as few words as possible.  Sadly many Soldiers that have gone onto politics have been much maligned for this trait.

Politicians and political speech is anathema to a warrior.  Sure generals play politics, and have to craft their words carefully, but you can always tell a general that's a fighter, and one that is a POG.  Pure and simple the flowery language, which allows a man to go on stage and spend two hours without giving one concrete thought that can be made into discernible action, is both a talent, and one that can be used to great effect, though often causing more harm than good.  Rare is the politician that says "I was wrong" and rarer still is the politician that states that they may not succeed in everything they set out to do. 

There have been many memorable speeches in the history of both war and politics.  But by far the most memorable things always are actions.  Who then has the clear advantage?  The Soldier may go out to war at the politician's behest, but it is the actions the Soldier will take that are remembered.  In 100 years only historians may know who Harry Reid is, but they will know that when America looked like it was going to lose, it was the Soldier that averted disaster, despite (not because) of the politician. 

It is clear to see why Soldiers often hold such contempt for Politicians. A political minded person will find ways to avoid responsibility if the consequences are negative, whereas a warrior will accept, and learn as much as possible from all mistakes made.  Should the consequences be positive it is truly like a stampede of humanity, all trying to get in front of the camera first to claim that they were proud supporters of this or that all along.  When a Soldier does a job well, they might get a small rest-bit but then it is time for an even greater task than the one before.  The punishment for a job well done. 

It is also clear that political influence can corrupt even true heroes who are laudable, even in disgrace.  Randy "Duke" Cunningham one of only two aces in Vietnam, was caught taking bribes.  His actions are no less heroic, and yet the tarnish of the office is such that we must now view him in such a way that less respectful.  It is really a shame.  He, sadly is not the first, nor will he be the last warrior corrupted by the soft offices, and on call perks. 

There are always exceptions.  George Washington was not a politician by any stretch of the imagination and yet he managed to draw together and lead the nation.  The leadership skills that served him well as a soldier also served him well as a president.  Dwight Eisenhower was both politician and soldier, a manager that was able to keep disparate personalities in check, and manage a country with such a gentle and fair hand that some thought he was asleep at the wheel, even though the 50's were chaotic times in America.  In more recent times Rep Allen West has used his plain spoken soldierly ways to shake up the status quo, when we desperately need someone willing to tell us not only the hard facts but the brutal realities involved. 

I think we have had far too many political creatures for our own good.  President Clinton's evasive language and rhetoric have pervaded the political elite, and the hangers on in such a way that no one wants to admit to the American public just how bad things have gotten.  Political screw ups of such magnitude almost always lead to war, if not immediately then they certainly lay the conditions for the most desperate and brutal battles.  For too long we have allowed politicians to tell us what we wanted to hear, and now it is time for a plain spoken warrior to take up the fight.  The words must be truthful actuate and to the point, because the more time that is wasted the less time we have.  Let us make war on our own iniquitous decision making processes.  Let us fight not for "social" justice but for true justice where we are judged and either rewarded or censured by our merits, not our economic background, racial traits, sex or religion. 

We have a chance, to steer away from oblivion.  But it will require hard choices.  There will be cuts.  Painful ones.  But the choices really are clear, cut now or later you'll have jack and squat.  The world is in upheaval, and we will need leaders that are willing to make hard choices.  No doubt there will be cries for us to get involved in Syria, and if not there, then perhaps Somalia (again) and we may have to say "no".  We may simply not be able to go where needed as we once were.  Dropping a $20 Million Smart Bomb on a $5 hovel to get two guys just may not be an option anymore. 

To all Warriors out there that think they can make a difference, I say stand up and be counted.  You may not be an economic wiz, or a legal guru, but we've had those a plenty.  What we need is a SGT that is willing to say "pull your head out of your 4th point of contact" to an individual that is stonewalling.  You took an Oath once to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and bare true faith and allegiance to the same".  If things keep going the way they're going that Constitution you swore to defend will not amount to much more that some really old paper.  you were once Guardians of Freedom.  Now I ask you, I implore you, I am even willing to get no my knees and beg, you are needed now more than ever.  Take office.  State, Local, Federal, it doesn't matter, all will need warriors willing to make hard choices and speak plainly.  You country needs you to save it again.  Answer the call!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

So, is the "Post American" World Really a Better Place?

It is one of the Highest Progressive ideals that the elimination of Nationalism is a good thing, and that the world would be more peaceful with a governing body of delegates to "reasonably" resolve issues.  Essentially that the UN would solve all the issues of the world, the World Court would punish any offender of making "illegal" war, and thus war in general can be avoided.  This is often referred to as the "post-American" world.  America being the last Superpower would (we assume) willingly give up its power and leadership role.  It is rather ironic that diehard Liberals or Progressives (whichever they choose to call themselves) will often accuse the Right, of trying to create a "New World Order" which is essentially what the "post-American" world would look like. 

Now not to get involved in a political fight, but President Obama's leadership style is ill suited to the role as Chief Executive, he is used to being in a Legislature, and perhaps his talents would have been better suited had he remained in the Senate.  While he has pushed many issues, he has never struck me as an "up front" sort of leader.  I could pick on the House and Senate Democrats for the handling of Obamacare, but really it was the President's baby, and one would assume that folks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Ried would be more in the background behind the President as he gave again and again his very forceful arguments for it.  Indeed one would expect that if the President believed that strongly in the bill he would have been leading the way and pointing out every error in his opponents resistance.  He did not. 

I think also I could cite his handling of Afghanistan.  I'm not going to mention Iraq, because really he had little to do with that.  The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) had already been signed by President Bush, and I actually think his speech about the end of the war showed a lot of class.  Even though I am philosophically opposed to him, I can still acknowledge that at times he does show class (and not the warfare kind if you catch my drift).  It bothered me how General McCrystal was treated, and how the Afghan war has been treated thus far.  He now has ownership of it, but even though he "inherited" the longest running US war, he seems to have little desire to win it.  We may not win as we see it.  The most we can hope for is a somewhat stable government, but really, Afghanistan is only a country because everyone else says it it.  As a nation it has no history, only the Tribes do, and they can be as varied and diverse as even the most cosmopolitan countries.  "Withdrawal" sounds great until you realize that's exactly the language used to end the Vietnam War, and there we didn't win we didn't lose it just kind of ended.  Sadly the manner of its ending made it all but certain that the North would pounce upon the South as soon as the US turned a blind eye.  Here to that might happen again. 

Libya is another great example of a failure to take a leadership role.  I get that we didn't want to be the ones doing all the heavy lifting.  Really I get that.  I also get the zero ground troops.  I'm sure there were a few Secret Squirrel ops going on, but *hopefully* details of those ops won't leak to the media (another sore spot for me).  But really why did it take so long to accomplish the mission?  The War Powers Act was nearly violated, and we really didn't have anything to show for it.  Qaddafi was bad, ok I get that.  He needs to go ok I get that too, on board with that even. . . so why did it take so long?  In one month of not even heavy aerial bombardment the US was able to support the rag tag Northern Alliance against the Taliban and turn a bitter stalemate into a route.  So why couldn't we do the same?  Surely one Arc Light strike from a Buff (B-52) could have taken out significant portions of Qaddafi's military infrastructure.  He didn't even have the sophisticated radar systems that might hav imperiled the bombers.  Hell, Operation Eldorado Canyon during the Reagan administration, which boiled down to one Alpha Strike from a Carrier Air Group and a Tactical Fighter Wing, scared him silly and had him dancing to our tune for almost 20 years.  So why the haphazard support? 

We let France of all countries, and Brittan lead the attack.  While the French do have some good units their record in war is not something I'd write home about, and the British, after massively scaling back their Ministry of Defense, are having serious issues projecting power.  It seems that America was the only member of this impromptu coalition that could end the Libyan civil war quickly.  But we didn't, and it dragged on and on and on.  In the end Qaddafi met his maker, not the way we would wish, at a trial, but at the hands of a mob which beat him senseless after finding him in a storm drain, then put a bullet quickly to the head.  Couldn't we have flexed a *little* more muscle to see to a speedy and more satisfying resolution? 

We could have (and still can) topple the Iranian regime, which has been giving us a headache for decades.  Iranians have done their level best to be a threat to the West every chance they get.  From supporting Hezbollah, and doing everything they can to wipe Israel off the map (they were actually allies during the Shah's reign) to sending in Quds forces to Iraq to train Shi'a militias and literally kill American Soldiers.  They're doing the same in Afghanistan now.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they're pulling more than a few strings in Pakistan as well.  Here's the really crazy part, students (the same group that supported the Yahoos that got in power in '79) are quietly revolting.  They can't be too overt but Iran is actually in a massive economic recession, and a lot of the people are tired of the iron grip the mad Mullahs have on their society.  Imagine a free and democratic Iran!  It could happen, and we could foster the very people that could make it happen.  But we don't.  I am not privy to the policy discussion there, but if I wanted to prevent Iran from getting Nukes I think "change of government" would probably be the most likely option to succede.

It is truly worrisome the current administration and indeed the Senate is getting restless about Syria.  I believe Assad needs to go, but seeing as were facing a looming crisis with our budget, brought on in no small part by an appalling lack of oversight by the Legislature, I am truly perplexed as to how anyone plans to fight in Syria.  Which is made all the worse because China and Russia together are effectively "checking" the US moves to cut off Assad, and the Libyan adventure has made it painfully obvious that America is the only Western (or NATO) power even capable of doing more than firing a few salvos from a really wimpy destroyer.  At one point someone even floated the idea of a joint US-Russo-Sino military alliance to deal with Assad. . . No that's not a joke someone really suggested that.  After hearing this, I promptly fired off a letter to the State Department requesting senior officials take a drug test.  

So this is the "post-American" world.  America's preeminence as a power to be respected, and one tyrants fear, seems to indeed be on the decline.  The UN has proven time and again hopelessly inept at even the most simple international efforts (to include, but not limited to introducing Cholera to Haiti and killing hundreds of thousands, "Resolutions" that have the effectiveness of spitwads, and attempting to tax "1st world" nations with bogus laws and statutes) and is rife with corruption.  China and Russia can not be trusted, seeming to be indulging some of the worst of their old habits from the Cold War.  So with all this in mind is the "post-American" world really the joyous conflict free utopia we were sold on?  Is the world really better off when we sit back and let others lead?  Or is the reality of the "post-American" world actually quite horrifying?  I'll let you be the judge. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are Soldiers "Mindless" if they Follow Orders?

To preface this post; I got into it with someone over twitter about a piece of anti-war drivle called "I sing of Olaf Glad and Big" now to be clear I think the idiot who wrote it was probably on some form of medication, its pretty poorly written, and sounds like someone was trying to turn it into a song but just got lazy along the way.  I don't really care about the poem, because like I said its very poorly written.  But when I have friends that retweet this, it gets a *little* disturbing, and then to have someone try to troll me which is in essence to shout me down, sounding ever more childish I realized that I simply could not respond properly to his claims in 150 characters or less.  So here is my considered response and really I don't care if you keep up your "I know you are but what am I" BS, because chances are people won't take my words to heart. 

It is assumed that it requires intelligence to survive.  The smart people get to go on living right?  Stupid people always find a way to get themselves killed, and no place is this Darwinian theory played out than in War.  Right?  Well. . . actually that's a very narrow and irrational argument.  It is assumed that if you're "smart" you won't obey orders that will get you killed.  Even more so it is "intelligent" or "brave" even to take a look at what your nation is doing at war, and say in a loud and firm voice "I'm not going".  Sure at this point there are probably other words like "immoral" and "illegal" thrown in to give moral justification for the stance taken, but the ens result is the same.  You refuse to go.  Way to stick to your guns. 

There's just one problem with this argument, namely that it assumes that intelligent people never go to war.  To be clear War is not something that anyone should undertake lightly, and while it is moral and indeed prudent to ensure that your leaders have done everything possible to ensure that you're fighting a good cause.  However once the war has actually started, any methodology that attempts to subvert overtly or covertly the war effort is wrong.  They even have a word for that.  Treachery.  To be clear I am talking about American wars.  I can argue quite vociferously that the Soviet Union should have had quite a few traitors, because it was a system not worth the loyalty it would pretend to have in propaganda. 

But is it mindless to obey orders that you know will get you killed?  Orders that seem futile?  I can think of no greater example of futile orders that caused a leader a great moral struggle than on the morning of June 3rd 1863.  For two days the North and the South had been locked in truly brutal combat.  On the first day the North lost, rather badly, but managed to retain the high ground.  On the second day, thanks in no small part to General Dan Sickles completely boneheaded move forward into the wheat field (which nearly doomed his men, and was the sight of some of the most brutal fighting) the South nearly won the day.  There were several night skirmishes that again the South won, and had they been able to exploit it, might have given them victory.  On the third day Lee was sure the Union center would break.  All the rest of his divisions had been engaged and were suffering heavy losses, except one.  General Pickett's.  General James Longstreet tried desperately to get General Lee to reconsider the attack.  In the end, however he could not dissuade Lee.  Pickett who was eager to get into the fight asked Longstreet if he could attack.  Longstreet with a pained expression could not speak, only nod.  What followed is one of the most heartbreaking displays of American bravery, and courage under fire in our entire history.  Pickett's division was cut to pieces, over a mile of open ground all the while filling in the ranks.  They breached no further then ten meters at only one point in the Union line.

Now was this mindless?  Most people would shrink in sheer terror at even the notion of being asked to make such a charge.  I have been to combat, and if I were ordered to make such a charge I might certainly lose my lunch, but make it I would.  There are other examples of such actions.  VT-8 attacking the Japanese fleet without fighter protection, flying the slow underpowered Dauntless Devastator torpedo bombers.  Of the15 flyers that made the assault, only one released his torpedo, and only one man survived.  That day, VT-6 and VT-3 also assaulted the carrier shortly afterwards.  Only 6 Devastators returned to their carriers.  Not a single one of the 45 planes scored a hit.  I could also speak of the Marines at Peleliu charging across the airfield with jack squat for cover.  Such bravery has a terrible cost, and sadly the anti-war crowd is often far to quick to condemn bravery in the face of enemy fire for the idea that it is braver not to fight at all. 

It is difficult to defend morally ambiguous wars.  Indeed, deciding which side has the moral high ground is something that historians always hotly debate.  We point to WWII and the Civil War as wars we had the moral high ground.  The North freed the Slaves, and yet they invaded and terrorized the South, which in any other conflict would be seen as the "good" guys because they were simply defending their homes.  The Confederacy had the first Draft in American history, and the North's vast conscript army would torch and loot every town the occupied.  So who had the moral high ground here?  Both sides truly believed they were in the right.  So who was right and who was wrong? 

It might seem that I have just shot holes through my argument.  But in truth, it takes a very intelligent individual to fight in a war.  You must always use your head and your wits.  Your baser instinct is almost always to run, not just run but run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  It takes an incredible act of will, to keep going, even to counteract the enemy's movements.  To keep looking around when you hear that very familiar snap-hiss of a bullet coming oh so close to hitting you.  Even if you don't run, it takes an incredible amount of composure not to shoot at anything and everything that moves.  The methodical act of quickly moving to cover, and then making sure to fire a well aimed shot versus "spray and pray" takes more than just courage.  American soldiers never "mindlessly" follow orders, they usually know full well the consequences of the orders given, and good commanders know to keep their orders flexible enough to allow junior leaders room to maneuver, and implement them to the best of their ability.  Believe it or not some of our highest awards for valor often go to men who disobey orders, in order to save comrades or because they see some objective that their commanders are not aware of.

Today's Army is all volunteer.  I might buy it if there was still a draft on that perhaps some people ended up in the Army that just should not go to war.  That argument is completely invalid now.  It doesn't matter if you trained to fight the Evil Empire and never got the chance, you go where you are sent.  Soldiers can not and really should not be allowed to choose the conflicts they take part in, if that were the case we would have a military dictatorship no better than Myanmar or Cuba.  Indeed civilian control is a good thing.  They have not always been wise or even deserving of the loyalty the Army has shown, but it is far better than the alternative.  Again here, do not confuse selfless service with mindless obedience.  In private we will express our opinions, strongly even, but in public, we do our duty because it really is the right thing to do. 

Lastly I want to talk to the idea of opposing immoral wars.  To be absolutely clear though I do not want to get into an ethical debate, there really were some good reasons to get involved in both Korea and Vietnam.  The "boat people" provide more than enough proof that the "People's Republic" of Vietnam was just as cruel as the Japanese and French that occupied them decades before.  Did American generals lose their way?  You bet they did.  You can thank the political appointees for that.  I personally have nothing but the deepest loathing for McNamara and Johnson.  Again, the troops really did try to do the right thing, but the emphasis on body count and "political" victories made a lot of their sacrifices painfully empty. 

to those that have, and will continue to call soldiers mindless, I can only say this: I don't care what you think. That somehow you think you are my intellectual superior because you "knew" enough to stay out of conflicts.  That notion is to me very laughable indeed.  How can you possibly judge me unless you've done a tactical ruck march in my boots?  Would you understand the purpose of things like "Operation Ranger Dominance" and the very real impact it had?  There may indeed be times that I as a ground soldier do not have the larger view, but my view is sufficient to know that Iraq was worth fighting for.  You will scoff at me, mock me, and attempt to belittle my service.  I can only laugh at the *ahem* mindlessness the intellectual cowardice of the anti-war crowd.     

Lastly I want to leave you with two pictures to contemplate my "immorality"

Obvouslly I am one mean evil MoFo.  Man you can see all the torture I've done on them. . .  The one on the top is Zarah the one on the bottom is Hannan.  Their town was ringed by landmines Sadam emplaced to kill wayward Kurds.  The mines were removed at great expense by America.  Hannan is now married and has a child with another on the way.  If you do not thing they are not worth fighting for then I am not sure what is.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who is the Best American General?

When it comes to Military matters battles, and wars are often identified by the Generals, or Admirals that fight them.  I am not a Naval expert, though I do come from two generations of Navy men, I know the Army, heart and soul.  It is natural that we should see the clash of two Armies as a singular clash between two Generals.  This is not true, and more often than not it is the "Strategic Corporal" that may turn some small but vital role in a battle.  Sometimes the stubborn bastard that refuses to retreat, or the headstrong young pup that chooses to charge will decide whole battles, even massive ones like Gettysburg, or the Battle of the Bulge.  Often these men are overlooked because in the face of the great struggle going on around them, it is easy to overlook crucial moments, Its is also possible eveyone that witnessed this moment is dead. 

So lets look, as History does at the leaders.  Who is the best American General?  Keep in mind that this is only my opinion here. 

First of the most obvious, by act of Congress the highest Ranking General EVER is General of the Armies of the United States of America George Washington. 

If we look at his record he fought 8 engagements.  5 were clear losses, 2 were victories, and one was a draw.  Any General with that record going before congress today would be practically lynched.  Well one of the truest things about War is that its not how many battles you win, its who wins the last battle.  Washington, is not a tactical genius, but on a strategic level he was brilliantly able to "check" his enemy, forcing him into positions that were unsound.  It should also be noted that Washinton could not have been able to do anything he did without some notable talents. Baron Fredrick von Steuben trained his army, Henry Knox gave him decent artillery, Daniel Morgan (and Benedict Arnold) kept his northern flank clear and there were just as many heroes in the south.   In the end Washington's best ability was was recognizing talent, and using it. 

I think he deserves honorable mention, and he will always be, "first in the hearts of his countrymen"

Next is the Civil War.  There are really only four Union Generals of note in my mind.  Winfield Scott Hancock, Phillip Sheridan, Tecumseh Sherman, and Ulysses S Grant. 

Lieutenant General Ulysses S Grant was known as "the Butcher" because he would often have very, very bloody battles.  In the course of one month he at the head of the Army of the Potomac lost 50,000 men.  And he kept doing the same thing against Robert E. Lee.  The Siege of Petersburg was almost a dress rehearsal for WWI.  Grant's main talent was tenacity.  Unfortunately, in the Civil War Tenacity usually equaled body count.  He was again and again out maneuvered by Lee, and won not because of some great strategy, but because he simply exhausted Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.  Despite being notable I honestly think Sheridan and Sherman were better generals.  The only reason Grant is remembered (well) is that he won in the end. 

General of the Armies Jack Pershing is an interesting character.  He was all over the world, and fought in several "brushfire" wars his most notable mission was in WWI.  Unfortunately here there is not much you can say for tactics, his main difference is that he would attack, whereas the French and British were content by that point to not launch major attacks.  Tactically or Strategically speaking he was sadly too far ahead of his time.  He lead some of the great generals of the next war, and inspired them to be bold. 

General George Smith Patton Jr. is a favorite of a lot of people bold brash, and often profane, he was a cavalry officer by trade, and pioneered the use of tanks for America.  When placed in command in North Africa after Casarine Pass, he managed to turn a demoralized American Army, into a crack fighting unit.  He was able to beat the "Desert Fox" Erwin Rommel using the very tactics that that he pioneered.  His actions in Sicily and his rivalry with Montgomery are legendary.  He was so feared by the Nazis that he was actually used as a diversionary tactic when planning the Normandy invasion.  The 101st and 82nd would have had many, many more drops in WWII but darn it Patton kept overrunning their DZs.  His hook maneuver to "save" the Screaming Eagles was the stuff textbooks are written from.  I think that he is perhaps one of the best generals in American History, but he was only a wartime general.  Had he lived in peacetime, it is certain he would have somehow started a war with Russia, or been forced out in disgrace. 

General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur is perhaps one of the longest running, highest ranking, and most controversial generals in American History.   From WWI to Korea he is without a doubt an Army man, and served in every role from Cadet to Chief of Staff.  I want to be clear that though his father Arther MacArthur's Medal of Honor is indeed for valor, GoA MacArthur's was entirely political.  It strikes me that despite the face that he was brilliant in later parts of WWII not being ready for action in the Philippians despite advanced warning, and the Pearl Harbor attack, was one of the greatest blunders in History.  I think that his butting heads with Nimitz and pretty much everyone else in the Pacific was also a huge mark against him.  However he was also able to take risks and think boldly.  The landing at Inchon was bold decisive and almost won the Korean War.  Not preparing for eventual Chinese intervention, and threatening to use Nukes afterwards again adds to the controversy surrounding him.  In the end my feelings on Mac are. . .mixed. 

Creighton Abrams had the misfortune of following a truly bad General Westmoreland in Vietnam, so his contributions thus are somewhat overshadowed.  It should be noted that he started really trying to win "hearts and minds" and while sitting over the Vietnamization program was also head of MAC-V that was more successful that it had been previously.  Most of the battles in his tenure were not major battles (owing in part to the disaster for the North that was the Tet Offensive).  It is one of those great "what if" questions, if you could somehow flip the commanders for the War, would the outcome have been better?  It should also be noted that as a Tank Commander under Gen Patton, he was well noticed, and was at the forefront of much of the push across Europe.  Sadly the War in Vietnam is how he shall be remembered, and by the time he took command there had been enough blunders that the well was well and truly poisoned. 

General "Stormin Norman" Schwarzkopf, is one of those Generals that has all the advantages that every General everywhere wishes they had.  Despite being up against a larger force, which by all accounts was battle hardened, and extremely dangerous to challenge, he manage to completely destroy it in a ground war that lasted only three days.  His massive flanking maneuver was only possible thanks to the innovations in technology, though it is clear that when there were actual battles the enemy was totally out fought, maneuvered and gunned.  Some of the very best tanks and APCs that the Soviet Bloc could produce were turned into so much scrap metal.  I don't even want to contemplate what the body count on the Iraqi side was, but I'm willing to bet it was obscenely high.  Here again he was able to take the best people, from multiple services and the best technology and employ them in ways that shocked the world.  Hindsight being 20/20 he really should have turned north and finished the job, but, like I said Hindsight is always 20/20. 

General David Petraeus is perhaps the most well known (and liked) General that America has produced from the last 10 years at war.  After leading the 101st in Mosul, and rocking at it, he said some things that the SecDef at the time Donald Rumsfeld disagreed with.  He was "banished" to the Army Staff and War College at Ft Leavenworth Kansas.  If you've never been there it kinda sucks.  Rather that pout an moan about it, he rewrote the COIN (Counter-Insurgency) manual, and kicked some serious ass.  When America was against the ropes, OIF was going badly, and it looked like the best option (at least according to Kerry) was to break up the country into three parts, they turned to Petraeus, and sent him along with the much needed "surge" of troops to do a Hail Mary and win the war.  The world was watching and the pressure was extreme, and here's the really crazy part, it worked.  He did what General Abrams could not an won a "hopeless quagmire".  For that he was placed in command of CENTCOM, then when Gen McCrystal got fired was moved back down to Afghanistan, and was still rocking strong and hard.  He is now the head of the CIA, and I would not be surprised if there was something else very big in his future (Hint Hint Sir!). 

So who in my opinion is the "Best American General"?  Well actually none of the ones listed above. 

General Robert Edward Lee.  Now let me clarify, the CSA are still Americans, and acts of congress have given amnesty to all.  Sadly Lee is as American as they come, which makes his story all the more tragic.  Son of "Light Horse" Harry Lee, who fought with Washington, he married Mary Custis, and was thus related to Washington by marriage.  Now the really astounding thing is that when he went to West Point he literally had zero demerits.  They give those things out for unshinned shoes!  His work in the Mexican war as well as the Capture of John Brown made him one of the most promising officers in the Union Army.  This is why a Colonel of all people was offered command of the entire Union Army.  Sadly he could not go against his state of Virginia. 

From 1862-1865 he singlehandedly kept the Confederacy together in the East, and his victory at Fredericksburg was so complete that its amazing the Union could still fight.  Again and again he would defy all logic, divide his army and attack where he was not expected or draw his adversary into an attack they could not win.  He was also a very kind and even gentle man, very just in his dealings and never referred to the Union as the enemy, only "those people".  I would say that Gettysburg was his one great failing but even then if most of us were placed in his shoes, we might've made the same mistakes.  I think really only Pickett's Charge was the only error he made in the battle.  A battle he very nearly won.  His gentlemanly way of command should be held up as the highest ideal of "an Officer and a Gentleman".  Look at the Peninculla Campaign, Spotslyvania and Cold Harbor for some of his greater victories.  Most were masterful given the time and  technology. 

All these men that I have talked about were fighters, all in their own way.  Some were more sucessful than others, and all were "great" in their own way if not always in good ways.  If you are looking for lessons in leadership, I would strongly suggest taking a closer look at Lee, Washington, and Petraeus.  If you want to look purely at tactics I would suggest Lee (again), Schwarzkopf, and Patton, and Abrams.  All these men have lessons we can learn (still) and probably should apply to our own lives.

for me the ranking would go thus:
1). Lee
2). Patton
3). Washinton
4). Petraeus
5). Schwarzkopf
6). Abrams
7). MacArthur 
7). Pershing
8). Grant.

If you want me to give my reasoning for the ranking I certainly will. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The disheartening part about being a Milblogger

I'll be honest, as a writer its incredibly flattering that people like the Rhino Den, Ranger Up, Blackfive, or This Ain't Hell pick up my stuff, mention me, or otherwise agree with me on really anything.  If I had a tail I'd probably be just like my Ridgebacks knocking over everything behind me and thwacking people with the "wagging tail of death".  It really feels that good to see someone pick up your pieces and run with it.  I'm not getting paid, but that seems completely beside the point, getting noticed feels good.  It also helps that someone actually agrees with you, or takes your words to heart.  The response to the post about not wanting pity as a veteran was really surprising.  As was the massive influx of people reading my "full retard" post. 

Unfortunately then you read some of the comments.  If anything could demotivate an individual, it would be the comment section of anything they write.  Take for instance the WaPo article about the backlash over "Incident in New Baghdad".  I get that its the WaPo and there are going  to be diehard followers, but I mean come on!  There are people strait up calling me a liar and a war criminal.  Its a little hard not to go on there ans answer every single one, saying "no, look this is what happened, I was there see?"  Maybe my views on the War on Terror (never likes that by the way) and its two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan are different but when people call me a mindless tool of corrupt men I tend to take that a little personally.

Indeed anything I say about Iraq, or Afghanistan (which I have not been to) I'm sure someone will bring up Haliburton, Bush is evil, War for Oil, Baby Killer, Imperialist, etc.  Sure there's more words and its not exactly like that but that's the gist of it.  In essence every single comment like that is saying either A). Everything you did amounts to nothing or B). Everything you did was evil.  Both are extremely disheartening, especially given the sheer volume of comments saying just that. 

My view is perhaps skewed.  I truly want to believe that my country is worth the level of sacrifice that would tare a father away from a daughter he's seen only once before he dies.  I want to believe that a 19year old kid with dreams of going to 'Bama and becoming an Engineer, did not end in a fiery death for nothing.   More importantly I want to believe that Hannan, Zarah, Nurhan, Ali, and Icklas, will all have better lives because were were there not despite it.  It is truly sickening when you get comments about how I probably Raped those kids after I was done talking to them. 

Do we really think so little of our Soldiers as a society?  Do we really think that nothing is worth fighting for?  I hear time and again Isolationist views of people who are diehard supporters of Ron Paul, about how its not our business to get involved in the worlds affairs.  I hear the diehard lefties, that talk of "illegal" war, and I can not help but wonder what war would be "legal" to them? I hear the Right Wingers who say "support our troops" without really understanding what that means.  I hear all these things and wonder, "Does no one get it?" Ron Paul is wrong because if not us, than who?  China?  Russia?  Don't even make me laugh and say the UN.  And the Lefties if they had their way would back themselves into a corner time and again and get us involved in every Vietnam that came our way with a demoralized and castrated military.  The Far Right isn't much better, because for all the "support" shown, they still haven't grasped basic concept in how to employ a military.  Its not a big shiny broadsword that you can simply swing whenever the hell you feel like it. 

But more than that, when I read the comments, or I read the things people say about Iraq or Afghanistan, Korea or Vietnam, even WWII, I find myself growing ever more melancholy.  People keep coming up with all sorts of reasons of why we fight, from the jaded "it was all for money" to the esoteric "for freedom", but in all that no one has stopped to ask "are we truly worthy of such sacrifice?"  People make such bold and absolute statements about the War, and yet never bother to look at themselves and the things they are doing.  It strikes me as shameful that there can be so many opinionated individuals that know so many "facts" and clearly don't have a clue about reality. 

I think though one of the worst things about being a Milblogger, in this day in age is knowing without a doubt that regardless of what the Paul supporters the Lefties or the Right Wing say, more sacrifice will be necessary.  More pain involved.  Peace is not something you get by wishing and having good feelings, it has to be earned, fought for even.  Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a state where justice reigns.  If we pull back to our shores and mind our own buisness the inequity the world is experiencing will come to us.  It seems almost a form of sacrilege, but there are times after reading the comments section of important policy pieces, I wonder if the citizens of this country are still worthy of this sacrifice.  It seems harsh, but I don't want yellow ribbons, or Red Shirts on Friday, I don't want a small donation to the Wounded Warrior Project every time the 4th of July comes around.  I want you to truly honor the troops by lifing up the the highest ideals that this country was founded on.

I know America hasn't always had a smooth history.  During the Civil War the North nearly tore itself apart, and New York City of all places almost seceded.    I know that the Progressive movement wasn't all sunshine an lollypops.  Perhaps it is just the memory of youth but I seem to remember a time when we as Americans actually believed in ourselves, that we were the good guys, that we could help forge a better world.  So where has that Faith gone? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why We Should Be Reserved In How Much We Use the Reserves

Talk to any serious follower of Military matters, and not the hard core ideologues that sees all military as bad, and the looming budget cuts make about zilch for sense.  If you remember in 2007 we were desperate to grow the Army and Marine Corps, because the Active, and even Guard and Reserve forces couldn't keep up with the Op tempo, and the demands placed upon them.  Whole units were formed and deployed in record time.  There was a lot of talk about how some of the recruits were under trained, or that the stress on the seasoned troops was too much, cripples with P3 (also known as Dead Man) profiles were deploying.  Really its hard to argue that both ground combat services weren't scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I could talk about Stop-Loss/Stop-Move, or the numerous waivers granted to recruits but that would be simply beating a dead horse. 

So now we're getting ready to cut the ground combat services by a staggering amount.  Keep in mind we're still at war, and this is to say nothing of the Navy and Air Force, which have already taken massive hits to support the Army and Marine Corps.  Why are we giving so many active duty troops the pink slip?  The demand isn't going to go away.  Chances are if its not Syria, North Korea, Iran, Somalia, or God forbid, Europe (again), there will be some conflict that will arise sometime in the near future that the US will get involved in.  In such an unstable world, its almost a certainty.  So why cut the active force? 

Well it goes back to a way of thinking that is sadly seeing too much play in defense politics.  Soldiers of the Active Army are expensive, they do nothing but sit in their barracks until called upon right?  Well why have this vast Army (or any other service), we can [insert corner to cut here] and save [insert dollar figure here].  This idea really started with the George H. W. Bush's "peace dividend".  In the process of closing certain bases and squeezing troops into others, it was seen that some MOS' were not essential to a peacetime Army.  So some MOS' were combined or roles were reduced, and because we weren't preparing to fight the Soviets anymore there was no real complaining there.  Thing is, Clinton took it one step farther, by drawing down the force by massive levels, 7 whole Army divisions, were cut from the rolls, and to offset the loss of troops, certain nonessential jobs the Army used to do for itself were taken up by independent contractors.  You wouldn't need an Active Duty Army of 700,000 if you had contractors taking care of a majority of the Service/Support roles. . . It seemed to save money, that is until the Army had to go to war again. 

One can not argue that the contractors in Iraq were a hassle from a lot of perspectives.  I'm not even going to talk about the KBR or Blackwater guys, I'm sure there's more than enough people that will froth and foam at the mouth about the things they did.  The point is they would be paid double or three times as much as a Soldier of Marine to do the same job, making the overall war, very very expensive, more so than it should have been.  From a political standpoint the politicians won because they didn't have to send 500,000 troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.  But the truth is in the numbers, and the amount of money spent and the number of contracters there don't lie.   

But what about now?  We can't give any more jobs to contractors.  If we did we really would have to privatize our entire military.  I'm not sure how comfortable people would be with a private company running the US Department of Defense.  So if demand is not going away and we can't contract anymore jobs whose going to take up the slack when the Active Duty troops go away?  Well the Guard and Reserve are just sitting there aren't they?  Again for a lot of good reasons this is a very bad idea, that sadly the bean counters will overlook. 

Remember in 2005 when 60% of the forces in Iraq were Guard and Reserve?  The Active Duty had pretty much sent every single unit to Iraq or Afghanistan and most needed time off.  So the Guard and Reserve took up a lot of the slack.  Well a bit of an interesting thing happened before they went.  Years of Peacetime had left the Guard with many troops that weren't really fit to fight.  50 year old Specialists, Sergeants First Class that were on the last rotation of Vietnam, the list goes on.  A lot of these people should have retired or been quietly chaptered out, but the simple fact is that Reserves and Guard get their funding based on who actually shows up at drill, so every swinging dick was essential, and if they didn't show up in reality, they did on paper.  It didn't help matters that pre-9/11 most of the "training" amounted to weekend BBQs and occasional disaster relief training, nor did it help that people who were on the IRR were reported as Active Guardsmen, even though they never showed up to drill.  When the call ups started in 2004, it became painfully clear that many units just weren't ready for combat. 

Now fast forward to now.  The Iraq theater of operations is essentially over, and Afghanistan, despite protests of the commanders on the ground soon will be as well.  We have enough figures to draw some interesting, and disturbing conclusions.  When compared with the Active forces Soldier for Soldier they would take up to 60% more casualties.  In addition, while many units did their job well, it is telling that you tended not to see reservists in major battles or offensives if they weren't in a supporting role.  It make it clear that while the JCS might trust the Guard and Reserve to fill the gaps in the Active force, they do not trust them to hold the line so to speak. 

Another little wrinkle was made painfully obvious when Katrina hit New Orleans.  One of the major complaints was how long it took the Military to deploy to help rescue and relief efforts.  But posse comitatus, prevented just that from happening with out a Federal state of emergency being declared.  In one of the most painful ironies of the whole lamentable incident, a majority of the Louisiana National Guard, who would have responded to the disaster, were at the time deployed to Iraq.  When the 82nd Airborne of all units was called into help with the policing of American soil, things have truly gotten out of hand.  You actually had an instance where the Active Duty was filling the Guard role and the Guard was filling the Active Duty role. 

These defense cuts tend to make far more sense if one thinks like a bean counter.  There's this force that's trained, sure they're part time, but we can have them fall in on the equipment that is already there, and we'll only call on them only when needed.  This idea completely discounts every bit of military wisdom regarding the Guard and Reserve, and their original intention when created.  Indeed as part of the employment of these soldiers they are locked down and trained relentlessly for 6 months, before they are considered certified to deploy to combat.  This means the next time we're stuck between Iraq and a hard place, the Active force will have to hold the line for 6 months before they can reasonably expect any kind of relief.  And what if a majority of the Active troops are deployed and "something comes up" as it so often does?  We cant call a time out while we wait for the Guard to train up for combat. 

Lastly this mindset completely negates the very real impact on these Guardsmen.  When AD troops deploy it is hard on everyone, but there is a support system there for them to use.  The spouse might choose to go back to live with their parents, as often happens with newlyweds, but if they choose to stay there are systems on post to help them with everything, from getting groceries, to child care.  If the systems aren't working Rear D[etachment] will solve the problems their facing.  The Guardsmen will have that support only if their family lives close to their training area, and if they're lucky enough to have a strong FRG, but lets face it, most of the spouses, girlfriends. boyfriends, and children are simply not used to living the Army life.  Also keep in mind whereas the AD troops may be gone up to and perhaps beyond a year, the NG and AR troops will have to be trained for 6 months before their deployment, making it up to, and sometimes beyond 18 months their away from their families.  This is to say nothing of the jobs left behind, slots that the employer has to hold open, even in this economy. 

When one looks at all these facts, and views it in context we can absolutely say that we can save [insert figure here] dollars, by cutting the active force and relying on the Guard and Reserve more.  We can say that because from a purely Dollars and Cents perspective its true.  Sadly when the time comes and we will need our Army to preform brilliantly like it *almost* always does, the cost will be much more evident, and painful to bare.  We should beware the idea that a penny saved is a penny earned when talking about war.  When it comes to the Military, General George S. Patton Jr said it best "A pint of Sweat will save a gallon of Blood".  I can only wonder, and cringe at the cost in blood these cuts will have down the road. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who is the Mad Medic?

In my short career in the Army I had a nasty habit of going against the grain. I was a rebel where I could be always in small ways, but absolutely diligent to my job. It's kind of funny looking back how many people I managed to piss off or become notorious to. People knew me. People remembered me. What that says about you in a system where being "known" is not always a good thing, I couldn't tell you, but one thing is sure my reputation preceded me wherever I went.

I think it started in Basic. See at some point I got the bright idea that I could skip the hair cuts and save some cash if I shaved my head. Only I got caught before I'd even finished the top. What resulted was the most bizarre haircut ever. The middle of my head was shaved bare in a patch ant the rest was starting to get fuzzy. I had to wait a whole week for a hair cut. In that time my face became readily recognizable to the rest of Delta company 2/47 infantry. In a place where everybody looks the same, I became a huge sore thumb sticking out. I suppose it didn't help that I forgot to wash my hands at the gas chamber and started screaming in the Latrine about my dick being on fire.

 But that was Basic. That insanity surely wouldn't have followed me. Oh boy, wrong again. See I had a buddy who came over from Benning by the name of Ward. Former Marine and all around goofball he introduced me to the riverwalk the proper way. With lots of alcohol. I wish I could say that I kept my head about me, or even that I remember most of the night, but I didn't and was forced to listen to (in detail) the sad story of my escapades. At one point I'd hit on a woman who identified herself as a Nurse going through OBC. Well I thought that was grand and asked her to show me what she knew, I might have suggested we do a proper exam on each other.  She might've slapped me. It kind of got worse from there. At some point I was still thirsty and apparently out of money I decided it would be a good idea to take a drink from the riverwalk. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, but not before I was about two inches from dunking my head in the foul smelling water there.

It got worse when I got to my first unit, I was there for half of a of a day when I had the dubious pleasure of getting orders to the sister battalion that just happened to be. . . out in the field.  Oh. Joy.  Well I waited on the steps of staff duty all day till about 2100 when I had to go back to the Repo depot, for the night with my battle buddy Alverio.  The next morning we got up bright and early and got the further joy of moving a bed fron the third floor on one side of the quad to the second floor of a building perpendicular.  It was not a light bed.  By the time I actually got out to the field (after a quick class in how to put together the LBV) I was tired.  There is no rest for the wicked though. 

The next day I put on war paint for the first time since basic (and the last time not for Halloween) we had a MASCAL and I managed not to make an ass out of myself not knowing what the hell to do.  I also managed to get on about three details, and lost in the cantonment area.  Ah the days of being a private.  That night we got "attacked" and my whole company was ordered to go into our little bunker.  Guess what happened.  My whole company was "killed" by OpFor.  Well this Army thing is getting off to a great start.

I could keep talking about Hawaii, and the time during drivers training where I almost slid off the side of a gulch.  Or I could talk about the time I got drunk and lost in Waikiki, and kept asking every passing person where my hotel room was.  But really fast forward to Iraq.  Again lots of stories here.

I want to focus on two stories that really got me my moniker.  See after about 4 months I got switched over to Ambulance Platoon, and eventually I ended up with Charlie Battery 2-11 FA.  Now this is 2004 so no Xbox 360, and lets face it I'd never seen an actual Xbox original until that point.  During one of the down times there they asked if I wanted to play.  Oh heck yeah I do!  Well there was this map called rat race, which with enough players is one giant killtastic furball.  I still hadn't figured out the layout, and forgot that the controller was set up for a left handed person so the triggers were reversed.  so I kept lobbing grenades and then promptly run on top of them.  This would kill not only myself but pretty much everyone else as well.  I was laughing my head off the whole time.

 At sometime some one says  "damn Doc, you're crazy"

 "That's me, the Mad Medic" I replied  the name kinda stuck.  

The second story, I have sadly already told in my post about Privates, but yes I really did ask Col. Miles about his "peg leg" and yes he really did show me, and yeah I had a habit of putting my foot in my mouth.

I could talk about the time I ran into a bunker nearly naked, or the time I had an AF LTC screaming at me to get under cover and I told him to hang on as I was enjoying my burger.  Heck I could even talk about the time a Sergeant Major pulled me over for speeding, and the rather stupid situation, and how I can only tell how fast I was going by how fast the speedometer spun (See?  It really it wasn't my fault!).  There are so many stories, not only of my time in the Sandbox, but also in the hospital, and at Riley.  I seemed to make it a career choice to piss off my chain of command. . . and give fodder to my battle buddies for hours of laughter.

I'm a Medic, I'm a little crazy, and thats part of who I am.  I'm the Mad Medic.  Like me, love me or hate me, you have to admit I'm one hell of a character.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Better Question for the AG: What DO You Know?

I'm not one to follow C-Span, like some do.  I am not religious in my tracking of the Government, and I do not have the time that reporters do to sit in on some of the House and Senate hearings for every little thing.  One thing I have been following very closely is the Fast and Furious "gun walking" program that the ATF so amazingly screwed up.  When I say amazing I really mean it.  They essentially went to local dealers and told them to allow sales of all sorts of rifles that one does not use for hunting deer if you catch my drift.  A lot of the Dealers being patriotic Americans decided to go along with this in the assumption that the ATF actually knew what the hell it was doing. 

Things kind of fell apart from there.  The Firearms weren't chipped or had their firing pins removed (two standard tactics when the Bush administration did similar operations).  No these were the real deal.  Essentially the dealers and a few low level field agents were getting pretty worried about what was going on and tried to put a stop to it.  The higher ups that had actually authorized the whole thing did two things, the Agents they did have control over got moved off the case and off to different offices.  The dealers, whe mind you were cooperating with a federal investigation actually GOT BLAMED FOR THE WHOLE THING

Things kept escalating, to the point the cartels had an psudo insurgency going on in most of Mexico.  It escalated until it reached freaking Baghdad in 2007 levels of shit hitting the fan, most especially in the northern Mexican states.  Phoenix also had a crime spree that looked like a bad Hollywood movie.  All of it going back to one of the most retarded operations in the history of the Federal Government, which might as well have been called "Operation: I'm a dumbass".  We essentially armed the cartels, with military grade rifles (thank god they didn't get their hands on crew served weapons). 

The SecState, before the details of Fast and Furious leaked, even had the unmitigated gall to suggest that the reason that Mexico was in a state of near war, was entirely because of America's love of guns, and need for drugs.  Well that got a lot of the GOP riled up but no one knew what the hell was going on.  The Brian Terry was killed with one of the guns from Operation Fast and Furious.  Suddenly everything hit the fan at once.  Now you would think with something this big, with a screw up of such monumental proportions it would be the first thing to brief the Attorney General and say "hey sir, we screwed up, here's what you need to know".  The political fallout alone would necessitate briefing the President soon there after. 

What followed went from a simple question of "how did this happen" from Rep. Issa (R-CA) to full blown "WTF" levels of disbelief.  Whats worse than hearing how this whole thing was botched from the get go, is that the AG seems to have no idea who authorized it at one point, no idea who was investigating it, when he was told of it, and what his immediate actions were to deal with the situation.  In fact, it seems as if almost every question asked is answered with either an "I don't know" or "my staff was taking care of it".  That might fly if this were some minor screw up with evidence, but are you seriously expecting me or anyone else to believe that the AG is this incompetent?  Even after thousands of documents were submitted, some of them even describing briefings he sat in on, he still can not remember when he heard about it or if anyone briefed the president. 

So here's a better question.  What the hell are you doing in that office?  I mean its not like you're investigating the New Black Panthers who intimidated voters in the '08 election.  Its not like you spent any serious effort until the House essentially forced the issue, and even then the effort seems halfhearted.  We're investigating all sorts of things that seem not to matter like, where Guitar manufacturers get their wood, and not things like who the hell would authorize this and why aren't they fired yet? 

I am tired of hearing him go uh, uh , uh then tell the people asking him that he has no clue about major issues.  I don't mind mistakes.  I might even accept partisan hacks if they actually get the job done, but quite frankly this AG is incompetent, or corrupt.  Either way he should be fired or removed from office most ricky-tick!  The only way he could screw up more is to endorse some idiotic ruling of say the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to release a bunch of inmates that have to sleep in bunk beds, or fail to investigate the wrong-doing at Solyindra.  Oh wait. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Proposal for a "Veteran's Secret Handshake"

Time and again we are confronted with SEALs who were the best snipers in the world have a million kills and know everyone in the CIA.  Their Bad Assery is so astounding its hard to believe.  Really hard to believe.  Then there are those stories that are much more Banal.  They were tales of Medals of Honor that did not go through because of politics.  There's been a ton of Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Purple Hearts, MSMs ARCOMs strangely not so many DSCs or Navy Crosses, but that's probably because they are far less known outside the services. 

How many times do we see yahoos like this

Or this:

What's really sad about both of these men is they actually did serve.  The First, "Willie" actually did earn some of the medals shown, but there are so many foul ups its a wonder he could look himself in the mirror. The second, colloquially referred to as Master Sergeant Soup Sandwich was a shit bag while in the service, so that might explain a few things (like why he's wearing a Female coat)

and then there's guys like this:

Michael Patrick McManus, recently deceased.  This "General officer" was celebrating the election of Houston's first Gay mayor.  He came out in more ways than one.  Now I'm not one to nitpick but since the Civil War have you ever heard of a general that is younger than say 40? This guy has a lot of decorations too.  Not going to touch on the SAS wings, the CIB the airborne wings, etc.  The medals have all been picked apart as well notice the big old CIA Badge on his right side?  And the big ol JCS badge on his left?  This man spun more than one tale, at one point he tried to get a free flight as an "air marshal" who was Delta force trained. . . yeah a real winner. 

I could go on to talk about Rick Duncan, or half a dozen others, some go from just wanting a little attention to truly disgusting. 

there's actually a better video of this fat sack of excrement, but the truth is I can't stand to look at his play list for more than a minuet.  His contempt for stolen valor is painful in that really no one can stop him, until people start taking the law seriously.  Seeing as we have a ton of Murders Rapes and Theft to deal with it's not high on anyone's priority right now. 

So what do we do?  Well we as Veterans have to keep up the good fight.  If you say you went to Iraq, and killed a hundred insurgents and would have gotten the Medal of freakin Honor if some dickhead LT hadn't screwed you, well I want documentation.  Give me permanent order numbers, hell there is usually a 15-6 every time we fire our weapons anymore.  Give me that. 

For the rest of us Veterans, we have to seriously do our level best to educate the Media.  First thing you should always ask for when doing a story about a Veteran is a DD-214.  Its a record of military service.  Only an idiot doesn't have an "i love me" book that is readily accessible with all his awards and decorations.  I have every single official movement order the Army ever gave me, from MEPS right up till I was Discharged.  If anyone ever calls me out on anything I say I've done, I'll be more than happy to put the orders right up here (with social and HOR redacted of course) that states everything I say. 

I think we Veterans should have a secret handshake that we have when we meet a veteran or Service Member we're not familiar with.  It would be a two handed greeting where one can pass either CAC card or folded DD-214, for the other to recognize.   There might even be a secret tap code for conflict or years of service, and this code is only taught to troops that complete one full term of enlistment honorably (and aren't shit bags).  Hell we're such a small percentage of society we might as well have a secret handshake (I'm pretty sure Ring Knockers already have one of those).

There will always be war stories.  Some will be a little embellished, but there is a huge difference between embellishing a story and flat out lying about it. I was knocked on my ass by a Mortar round once.  Yeah it was a great story and I love to tell it, but immediately after it happened I went to my PA and got checked out.  He gave me a clean bill of health so I am not going to claim TBI (ears still ring from time to time though).  I seriously ask all Veterans everywhere, when telling your stories, be careful how far you go in the embellishment. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Veteran Suicides Are Not a New Problem

If I said the name Major Charles Whittlesey, what would you think of?  Would you think of a Citizen Soldier?  Would you think of a man who believed the war was wrong for America, but went anyway?  Or would you simply give me a blank look and say "who?"  Unfortunately most of the people out there wouldn't know anything about who he was, what he did, or why his story is still relevant.  If I showed his picture you'd think he was a poindexter who was probably a clerk or typist or something.  Nothing really heroic, or tragic there.  You'd be dead wrong on both counts.

Major Whittlesey lead the "Lost Battalion" into the Argonne forest, he was ordered to continue his attack despite the fact that whole divisions on his flanks had been beaten back.  He was quickly encircled and badly out numbered he and his small battalion fought bravely and gallantly to hold off the enemy for over 5 days, losing over half his unit in the process.  For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor, and was one of the pall barres for the Tomb of the Unknowns soldier from WWI.

His visage would not make one think of a warrior, nor would it make you think of uncommon valor or sacrifice, but he was a standard barer for the time.  On par with Sgt. Alvin York, he was a celebrity for the roaring 20's.  But this celebrity wore on him.  He only lasted a few years after the war.  Although it is not known exactly how he died, what is known that on the 26th of November 1921 he disappeared off the SS Toloa.  There were several notes left with precise instructions so it is fair to assume that he threw himself overboard.

 But sadly he is not alone.  Many of that generation felt "lost".  Because there were no statistics kept, we may never know just how many died because the trauma of the war was too much.  It didn't help that the methodology at the time to treat "shell shock" (some of which might have actually been TBI) was to hook them up to a system and just keep giving electro shocks until they were fixed.  This sadly had the opposite effect, despite the many quack doctors assurances.

I like this picture of Audie Murphy the most.  Its one of the few you can really see his eyes.  I have said before that if ever we need to look to a Hero, this is the man.  Every award for Valor in WWII, a battlefield commission, and nearly got into West Point.  This is a man that should have found a long and very prosperous career in the Army.  Unfortunately an infection after the action that earned him the Medal of Honor ended all that.  He made his way to Hollywood, and was living out of a suitcase, when he caught a "break" of sorts.

He played in many many westerns, and even played himself in a movie based on his memoirs.  But his struggles with Hollywood, and his nearly constant battles with depression guilt and anger are probably the better story.  The more heroic.  He had locked himself in a hotel room, to come down off of medications he was addicted to, and actually had an apartment of sorts in his garage where he could go to be alone when the memories got too bad.  Audie Murphy had a hard life, and he had nearly committed suicide a number of times.  That he didn't is probably more a testament to his own willpower than to any one factor we can easily replicate.

In 1996 the Chief of Naval Operations, the head Admiral of the Navy killed himself over a series of Medals, he apparently claimed he had more than he did.  There wasn't much follow up to this incident, but it was found out moths later that he was actually authorized everything he showed on his uniform, which made his suicide a little more baffling.  If the head guy in the Navy could kill himself, over a clerical error, what is to stop Private Joe Snuffy after a really hard deployment? 

The Answer is that there were always suicides in the military.  Going back as far as history is recorded.  Men would often kill themselves rather than accept a loss or defeat.  Once after the Civil War, veterans would intentionally be addicted to morphine or heroin to "cure" alcoholism.  The morphine addiction was considered a more "?socially acceptable" addiction, as they weren't likely to tare up every bar in sight, beat their families black and blue, and generally cause a ruckus.  Did it matter that this would only subject them to their own personal hell that would inevitably lead to either death by suicide or over dose? 

The "12 veterans a day" number is frightening.  There's only a few million Iraq or Afghanistan veterans in America.  so if that number is true, then we might disappear faster than any previous generation of veterans before us.  Unfortunately at some point there will come a time where that will stop.  All the ones that can be helped will have been helped, and the ones that can't. . . we can only pray they found Peace.  The problem is not new.  It is very old.  Perhaps, however, with new techniques, we may find a way to reduce this problem as much as humanly possible.  I know I owe it to my Battle Buddies, and to all the Soldiers Sailors Airmen and Marines that came before, and will follow me.