Veterans for Dean
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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Retention of Reserves Finally Being Acknowledged

If the United States is unable to recruit significantly more international troops or quell the violence in Iraq in the next few months, it could trigger an exodus of active and reserve forces, the head of the U.S. Army Reserve said Monday.

So said Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the 205,000-member Army Reserve. He and other Pentagon leaders will be monitoring retention rates closely next year, when problems could begin to become apparent for full-time and part-time soldiers coming off long tours of duty in Iraq.

''Retention is what I am most worried about. It is my No. 1 concern,'' Helmly told USA TODAY's editorial board. ''This is the first extended-duration war the country has fought with an all-volunteer force.''

Counting training time and yearlong tours in Iraq, some Army Reserve soldiers could be mobilized for 15 months or more. Helmly described the situation facing soldiers in Iraq as ''stressed'' but said he could not characterize it as at a ''breaking point.''

Although the Guard and Reserve say their retention rates have not suffered this year, the figures could be misleading. Under an order known as ''stop loss,'' soldiers on active duty are prohibited from leaving the service until their tours end.

Active duty and Reserve commanders fear that when U.S. soldiers on yearlong rotations come home next year, many will choose to leave the service

The failed national security strategies of the past decade and the current administration will have significant impact on the ability of our forces to react to crises in the future. We are beginning to suffer from a failure of strategic planning with regard to our military. More on this tomorrow.

Monday, September 29, 2003
Crow Doesn't Taste Very Good

The administration early this morning stated that a full investigation was coming regarding the alleged illegal exposing of a CIA agent, including a statement that Mr. Bush would fire anyone who was involved if the story turned out to be true. Will Carl Rove be the first to be fired by the President? I doubt it (see Thurs, Sept 11 blog post in the archives, When to Part Company).
Here's the Reuters version of the story:

Democrats Want Independent Probe of CIA Leak
Mon September 29, 2003 12:18 PM ET

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats called on Monday for an independent review of charges that a Bush administration leak exposed an undercover CIA officer, saying a highly partisan Justice Department could not bring credibility to the probe.

Some of the 10 Democrats vying for the right to challenge President Bush in 2004 pounced on the public identification of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson as a CIA officer as a sign the administration was playing politics with national security.
They called for an outside probe, saying that Attorney General John Ashcroft would have a conflict of interest if his department were to investigate high-level White House officials.

"This administration has played politics with national security for a long time, but this is going too far," retired Gen. Wesley Clark told Reuters, suggesting an independent commission look into the allegations.

"I don't think, in this administration, the Department of Justice will have the credibility it needs to reassure American allies abroad, and people around the world, about this matter," he said, adding that an impartial probe could be headed by someone like former Sen. Sam Nunn or former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that two top White House officials called at least six journalists and revealed the occupation of Wilson's wife -- apparently in retaliation for Wilson's 2002 report that it was highly doubtful that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger.

CIA Director George Tenet has asked the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said keeping Ashcroft out of the probe would help ensure a thorough investigation free from political pressure, and suggested the review be carried out by the independent Justice Department Inspector General.
"We need to determine the facts in the highly sensitive matter free from any political taint," Dean said.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who called for the FBI to investigate the issue in July, also now says an independent counsel should be named to carry out the probe.

Democrats in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail have hammered Ashcroft for months for what they say are attacks on civil liberties and an overtly political agenda.

© Copyright Reuters 2002. All rights reserved.

And here again is John Ashcroft getting involved in another part of the government. I think I see a new organization chart emerging from the administration, from the President to the Justice Dept which is then over everything else in the country...

Friday, September 26, 2003
Gulf War POWs Fight Outrageous Justice Dept Actions

The following article speaks for itself. The Justice Dept. is attempting to take money awarded to POWs out of frozen Iraqi assets from the first Gulf War towards the current reconstruction of Iraq. You heard me right. More comments follow the article.

Former Persian Gulf War POW in Vegas trying to collect from Iraq


8:25 a.m. September 19, 2003

Associated Press
While sitting in front of the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, Jeff Tice, discusses his experience as a prisoner of war during the first Persian Gulf War and his involvement in a federal lawsuit for compensation to him and 16 ex-prisoners of war.
LAS VEGAS Jeff Tice describes his 46 days as a prisoner of war in the Persian Gulf War as a footnote in his life.

But he and 16 other ex-POWs hope to write a final paragraph to the story of their captivity in 1991, while giving clout to future prisoners under the Geneva Convention to hold rogue nations accountable for torture.

They have enlisted the help of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is retooling language in a budget measure, and from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., co-author of the POW Protection Act of 2003.

On the eve of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on Friday, Tice said he was trying to put his experience in perspective.

"I don't want to minimize what happened to me or my fellow POWs," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a Thursday interview outside the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas. "We're glad to be back alive and, essentially, in one piece."

"Now we have to go through with the final step," Tice said. "We're getting accountability. We have awareness. Now our focus is on deterrence."

Tice, 48, is now an airline pilot who moved from Sellersville, Pa., to Las Vegas in 1999. He spoke of brutality he endured in captivity and a lawsuit he and other ex-POWs won this summer in Washington, D.C., against the Republic of Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts of the District of Columbia awarded more than $959 million to the ex-POWs and 37 family members.

But money from Iraqi assets has been transferred to a federal reserve bank, and L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, has told the court he needs the money to rebuild the country. Justice Department attorneys have argued that because Saddam Hussein has been ousted, Iraq is immune from such lawsuits.

Tice, who ejected over Iraq after his F-16 was hit by a surface-to-air missile, stands to receive $26 million.

"I'm not in it for the money," he said. "It's been 12 years since enemy captivity, and I'm not a professional POW." Tice said he would donate his award to charity and to a fund for future ex-POWs.

He said the ex-POWs agree that rebuilding Iraq is a valid cause, but feel that funds should be replenished from accounts the former regime hid around the world.

He hopes the amendment Reid is crafting will make the Iraqi government pay into an account for the ex-POWs as assets become available.

Tice said the idea is to hold countries that torture prisoners accountable for not following the Geneva Convention.

"As strange as it may seem, wars have rules," he said.

According to the ex-POWs' lawsuit, Tice was beaten, kicked and tortured with electric shocks after he was captured and turned over to Saddam's military and the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

He refused to give any information other than his name, rank and serial number.

Tice called National POW/MIA Recognition Day a chance to show support for those who have endured captivity, torture or death in war.

"It's an opportunity for everyone in America to thank those guys and simply spend a minute and think about them," he said.

The former POWs appear to be in good spirits and believe their cause will yet win out working with a U.S. Senator. But I am not in particularly good spirits after hearing about this case - and its implications.

Veterans - you know with how much determination and support we have approached POW/MIA issues in the past, to the point of still searching for remains in Vietnam, for example, nearly 4 decades later (see Fri, Sept 19 blog post below). Many of you had training to endure possible capture by enemy forces. And I think it would be fair to say, that if and when this had happened, we would have expected our government to do anything and everything to get us back, treat injuries, and act in our best interests.

But the outrageous actions by the Justice Dept. in this case, no matter what legal face they put on it, are MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE. Granted, you might say that POWs from past wars didn't get financial judgments for compensation. But a very important precedent was set with these Gulf War Vets when a Federal judge awarded 16 POWs and 37 family members a total of $959 million out of then frozen Iraqi funds.

Several disturbing thoughts and questions occur to me:
(1) Rebuilding Iraq is now more important apparently than our long-standing national commitment to our own POWs/MIAs.
(2) Why haven't the DoD and other Veterans groups made a lot of noise about this case?
(3) Are we now letting the Justice Dept, by themselves, set policy toward POWs?
(4) How much of this $959 million would the Justice Dept give to Halliburton for reconstruction?
(5) How much is available from frozen Iraqi assets, over an above the $959, and what is this money being used for?
(6) Most importantly, what does this all say about our commitments to future POWs and MIAs?

Your thoughts?
Thursday, September 25, 2003
"On the Wings of a Lie"

I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie.Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2/19/03. Notice the date of the quote.

Stephen Cleghorn said this, earlier this year before the war in Iraq started: I stand here today as a member of Military Families Speak Out. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and other relatives of military men and women on active duty who will be in harm's way if the United States launches an illegal and immoral first strike war against the people of Iraq.

I have two points to make today. The first has to do with feelings about my stepson. The second has to do with the true roots of this proposed war with Iraq.

My stepson is in the U.S. Army and will be a participant if war is launched. I am of course concerned about his safety.... But even more than that, deeper than that, I am concerned about the defective mission upon which President Bush is sending him....So I am concerned that this patriotic young man willing to sacrifice for his country, along with many other honorable soldiers, will see his military career squandered and corrupted.

Secondly....My deepest fear is for America, as we have known it, as it has been handed down to us and protected and defended by people like my father and many millions who fought a true threat of tyranny in World War II. I fear for America and its hard-won democracy, its precious freedoms, because our government has been seized by far right zealots who wish to impose upon the rest of the world what they call a benevolent global hegemony.

I speak as a Veteran and the father of a military man who, thank God, came back safely a couple of months ago, but many others have not. Most can empathize with Cleghorn as a father. Maybe you agree with the words above "far right zealots" or maybe you think they are over the top. OK substitute your own words. As for me, as I've said before, and now say again: We have changed our national political philosophy regarding the use of the military from one of deterrence through unmatched strength to more of an offensive one which allows for the idea of regime change. Why is very little being said, by political leaders across the spectrum, that we have made a fundamental shift in our national strategy - one that I and many veterans do not support?

How to Ruin a Military?

Another defense secretary who could not admit he'd erred was Robert Strange McNamara, who, like Rumsfeld, was recruited from corporate America. By the time he did, it was too late.. (Note: see my blog post below, Tues, Sept 09). These words from Joe Galloway this morning. Galloway, the author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, comes down hard on Rumsfeld, arguing his belief that our armed forces, that took more than 20 years to rebuild (especially in terms of morale) after Vietnam, will again be severely damaged by the actions of this administration.

Galloway asks How will they explain to history the mistakes that threaten to weaken a great nation even as it seeks ways to win the war on terrorism it has declared? In just over three years, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy [the] Army.. Whether you agree with all of Galloway's argument, it's worth determining whether Galloway essentially is right. I've explored some of the points that Galloway brings up on this blog, with more to come.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Not Going to Let This One Get By

It's education time for some folks who lean to the left and have stereotyped views of the military. This blog wouldn't be here if I weren't looking for other alternatives myself as a vet. But from time to time, I receive emails from "friends" who hate the military because they associate it with whatever they don't like about the current administration. Here's one recent email, for example:

"Last week on the BBC World News, it was reported that US soldiers frequently murder Iraqi citizens without any provocation. They also interviewed and reported from the scene of an incident where a US tank driving down a city street went out of its way to drive on the wrong side of the road and even on the sidewalk in order to run over and completely demolish private passenger vehicles, then continued without stopping even though an Iraqi policeman signaled him to stop. Our young soldiers obviously think this a game and can do anything they want because they have the weapons and power. The meanness and disregard for life and personal property can be seen everywhere. It is no wonder that the Iraqi people hate us, regardless of whether they were pleased with the downfall of the previous regime."

OK, I get it. Let's see, based on one initial report from a news media source (funny how we use these media folks when it's convenient, and criticize them for being the tools of the right or the left depending on the need), if even true, means ergo that ALL "our young soldiers obviously think this a game and can do anything they want because they have the weapons and power."

By this form of one-size-fits-all logic, then, because the engineer (or postal worker, or you fill in the blank) goes into his workplace and shoots up the place and kills his boss and others because he lost his job, why, these engineers are dangerous killers and ought to be all locked up!

Our military isn't perfect, like the rest of society they come out of. But, come on, this kind of thinking is intellectually dishonest, because it's based on the personal agendas of those who are determined to make a direct tie between the military and their dislike/hatred for the administration. As a military vet, there are a lot of things I don't like about what is going in Iraq and in our country either - I’ve covered several of those already in the blog entries below. But, sorry, I'm not going to let this guilt-by-association "thinking" get by unchallenged. And neither should you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Hello Out There!

To the Dean campaign - a number of veterans and military support issues have already been surfaced on this blog. Given the quick inroads Gen Clark is making, you could get out in front of these issues before he begins to do so. Again there are a lot of veterans, active duty personnel, and families of the same who are looking for an alternative to Mr. Bush, waiting to see what you will do with our concerns. Granted they aren't the only concerns we, or you, care about, but few are listening to us now, especially in the administration. This is a very large constituency, across all the states, who have a record of voting at higher percentages compared to the general public. Time is of the essence and to be blunt, without any indication of support, many of these folks will otherwise turn to a military leader like Clark soon who will know how to court these votes. This message will also be put on your blog today. Thanks for listening to a supporter of yours.
Food Charges for the Wounded?

It's hard to believe that any veteran would not be outraged by the fact that wounded and ill troops coming off of the battlefield or training exercises are being charged for any hospital expenses, but they are. House Appropriations Committe Chairman Young (R-Fl) says this is "a serious affront to those injured in battle and training." So, although this is a new subject, here's my familiar refrain.
Fix It Now!

Monday, September 22, 2003
Increased Military Presence and Support on the Left - Part III

So, at least one Veterans group opposes concurrent receipt of military benefits and disability benefits, proposed by Democrats in Congress (see Part II, Sept 18th post below) because it would "severely restrict future disability claims" (Air Force Times Sept 22, 2003 issue, website article only available to subscribers). OK, the point is let's have some common sense here: fix the proposal so it works for Veterans! Time is running out on the 2004 Defense Appropriation Bill. And to the unnamed Veterans group opposing the current proposal: be part of the solution! Fix it now!
Short Sighted Planning: When the Reserves are No Longer in Reserve

Another confirmation of my statement below from 09/15/03 (see paragraph entitled: A National Strategy Gone Awry). Active duty people, all volunteers, know that they can't predict how long or where they will be deployed to - only that it is likely to happen. Reserves and National Guard are also volunteers - they make that choice, and have to take the good with the bad, as far as their personal lives. It's fair to say, however, that the terms of their service are now being exploited because of previous poor strategic planning - and now a lack of shortsightedness.

Can we really expect to maintain and draw good people into the Reserves and Guard at the same rate in the future when they see the treatment of these forces today? The only ones doing the shooting in this case are the administration, including the DoD - primarily shooting themselves, and us, in the foot.
Friday, September 19, 2003
A Government Agency That Still Cares

Remains of Vietnam era MIA pilot from Mobile identified

The Associated Press
September 09, 2003

The remains of an Air Force captain from the Mobile area whose helicopter was shot down during the Vietnam War have been identified and will be returned to relatives, federal officials said.

The remains of Capt. Richard C. Yeend Jr., missing in action since June 9, 1968, were found in February and identified last week, said Larry Greer, a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department's MIA office.

Greer spoke to the Mobile Register for a story in Tuesday's papers.

"We always knew he had died because it was witnessed," he said. "But even so, he was never found and that haunted us," said Richard Yeend's brother, Mike Yeend.

Yeend, who graduated from McGill Institute in Mobile and from Auburn University, and three crew mates were trying to rescue a downed Marine pilot just over the border of Vietnam in Laos when they were shot down, said Greer. Yeend, 29 at the time, was co-pilot of an HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopter.

Yeend's family is planning a private memorial service, Mike Yeend said.

Yeend, who owns a Mobile jewelry store with his brother Tom Yeend, said a representative from Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, notified the family on Thursday that his brother's remains had been found and identified.

Greer said bone fragments and teeth found in February have been identified as those of Yeend and the other three men who went down with the helicopter.

Experts compared teeth found at the site with Yeend's dental X-rays, Greer said. The remains were shipped to the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii, he said.

"Family members are very, very appreciative that we have kept this mission going ... and have spent time and money to bring this warrior back," Greer said. "It allows them to finally close a chapter in their lives."

Mike Yeend said a list of the items found at the crash site included buckles from uniforms, part of a boot sole and an Air Force issue .38-caliber pistol.

Greer said there are still 1,882 Americans listed as missing in action in Vietnam and nearby countries. He said the remains of 701 former MIAs have been found and identified.

In 1998, some Vietnam veterans began an intensive effort to find the helicopter that Yeend was on when he disappeared.

In November 1998 a pilot and a flight engineer who had flown numerous helicopter missions during the Vietnam war gathered at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to try to determine where the helicopter had gone down.

The veterans, using a computer simulation program, were able to pick out three likely spots where Yeend's copter could have gone down in the jungle. Four days of searching the areas by a Defense Department team, however, failed to turn up any sign of Jolly Green 23.

The crash site was eventually found on the Laotian side of the border, about 10 miles from where the searchers' best guess had placed it, Greer said.

In May 2002, Laotian villagers reported what they believed was the wreckage of a helicopter in their area, Greer said. A team of U.S. investigators converged on the site the following November found a number of human remains, including lots of teeth from the four crew members.

Greer said Yeend's remains soon will be returned to family members in the Mobile area.

It will be left up to the family to decide whether the remains will be buried in Alabama, in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere. A full, military funeral will be provided if the family requests it, authorities said.

Richard Yeend entered the Air Force in March 1963 and was assigned to duty in Vietnam in February 1968. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, the Air Force Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart.

A Salute to the MIA Office for their determination to find MIAs - 35 years later! Any debate about whether this office should stay open is mute as long as we keep seeing results like this.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Increased Military Presence and Support on the Left - Part II

Washington, DC– U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today said "the Senate has approved full concurrent receipt of military retirement and disability benefits within Defense Authorization bill for 2004.

Under current law, military retirees can not receive both full military retirement pay and full VA disability compensation. Instead, retirement payments are reduced by the amount received in disability compensation. This provision fixes this inequity and allows veterans to receive their full benefits.

"I am pleased that the Senate has taken this important action today," said Johnson. "Changing the law to allow for concurrent receipt is an issue of basic fairness. Veterans who earned both should receive both."

For several years, Senator Johnson has worked with South Dakota veterans and his colleagues in the Senate to fix the concurrent receipt problem. However, every time the Senate makes the decision to provide full concurrent receipt benefits the Administration opposes it. Last year, the Senate approved full concurrent receipt within the same bill being considered today and the Bush Administration threatened a veto of the bill if this provision was not pulled out.

"It is absurd for the Administration to justify their lack of support of concurrent receipt for military retirees based on funding issues," Johnson said. "The men and women who have served in our military have earned every cent of their retirement pay with their dedication and service. Those with the grave misfortune of being harmed while on duty, protecting their country, have earned every cent of their disability compensation with their body and blood. To suggest that we cannot pay our veterans what they have so valiantly earned is an insult to the sacrifices they have made to serve and protect this nation."

The Defense Authorization bill must still be approved by the House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Bush. "

As a vet, this is very good news, and it comes from an established democrat! This blog will continue to push for more of the same from Gov Dean and gives you another reason, if you are a vet straddling the fence, to consider giving Gov Dean your attention and support.

Let Sen Johnson know today that you thank him for his work.
Increased Military Presence and Support on the Left - Clark Jumps In

Gen Clark's entry into the field of Democrats signals a key, underlying reason why this blog was started, namely to help shape the thinking of the Dean campaign, that I support, with regard to veterans and the use of our unmatched military capabilities now and in the future. There are a lot of new dynamics that now enter the race that I view as likely to be helpful to veterans. Many people have already stated that Clark would make a great VP candidate with Dean, and I agree, but that's jumping the gun quite a bit. The impact of Clark won't make itself evident, after his initial surge, probably until the primaries begin to sort things out.

Many vets and military people, who want an alternative to President Bush, may be ready to jump the Dean ship now because of Clark's entry into the race, but I would strongly recommend taking an extended wait-and-see attitude for awhile. One report on radio from Pentagon correspondent Ivan Scott this morning cited unnamed sources calling Clark possibly the "greatest military mind and leader we've ever produced!" On Jenning's ABC news last night, a reporter claimed that Clark would pose a serious challenge to Mr. Bush because Clark is "anti-war". These kinds of instant statements will need more in-depth analysis in the coming weeks and months.

Bottom line - we need a candidate who is going to WIN, and who will listen closely to veterans issues as well. We are not being listened to well by the current administration, in my opinion. So, unlike many of us fickle Americans who will change their minds in an instant, I'm hanging in there with Dean and will try to continue to impact the Dean campaign for vets and military peoples' needs - and see what happens vis-a-vis the Dean-Clark dynamics. I have a gut feeling we'll like the results.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Strangely Silent?

Even the foreign press didn't pick up on the fact that the speech writers for Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, and Ms. Rice are apparenly in communicado from each other. Over a period of 48 hours, another episode of administration doublespeak, or in this case triplespeak, confounded even the most careful listeners. Your ears should perk up every time you hear one of these two phrases: "We never said that..." or "We've always maintained that...". Either one indicates that another spin cycle is starting, based on their assumption that, "They (the media and the public) are too stupid to remember what we said... and if we now start saying what they've been saying all along, but pretend we invented the idea, they'll support us even more!"

Case in point:
(1) Cheney on last Sunday's talk shows, "We've learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s.''
(2) In the same news story, Rice: U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday the Bush administration had never accused Saddam Hussein of directing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.Her statement, in an interview recorded for broadcast on ABC's ``Nightline,'' came despite long-standing administration charges the ousted Iraqi leader was linked to the al Qaeda network accused of the Sept. 11 attacks.
(3) Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had no reason to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld was asked about a poll that indicated nearly 70 percent of respondents believed the Iraqi leader probably was personally involved. "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that,'' Rumsfeld said.
Makes perfect sense to you, doesn't it??? Boy are we dumb - at least 70% of us...

2004 Can't Miss Bumper Stickers

Looking at my previous blog entry, the Republicans should thank me for what could be their bestseller bumper sticker for 2004:

Bush/Cheney in 2004: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Come to think of it, with one minor change the Democrats could do it this way:

Bush/Cheney in 2004? Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

I am thinking of taking orders online....
Klaatuu the Prophet Comments on the Patriot Act - 50 years ahead of time

This week AMC reprised the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). I last saw the movie that year, over 50 years ago. Klaatuu, the humanoid alien, and his death dealing robot friend who melts things with what amazingly looks like a laser, arrive on the Washington D.C. mall in, what else, a flying saucer. Klaatuu tells the earthlings that they have come because the earth is on a course to destroy itself because of nuclear weapons. Reason has been left in the dust, and in fear, unnamed countries are about to do the unthinkable. Klaatuu says if the leaders of the world do not immediately change the course of earth's history, Klaatuu and his friend will destroy the earth themselves. (Ok, so you are saying, "huh?" - I didn't write the story line). Here is a weird, and maybe not so coincidental, connection between seemingly unrelated sources:

-Klaatuu facing the earthlings: "Fear has replaced reason"
-Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine, as he wonders why the U.S. has a murder rate 10 times higher than any other country: "Fear seems to have replaced reason" (paraphrased)
-A Vet (this blog) commenting on the Patriot Act two days ago: "The "Patriot" Act, an Oxymoron of Fear Replacing Reason."

Has anybody noticed that "Fear, not Reason" is an underlying administration tactic for justifying their actions? We need a new theme in government, soon before we self-destruct without even the need for WMD (oops, see I did it myself... but in this case fear IS reasonable!)...
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
This Shouldn't be Happening

If you heard the NPR report this morning, you as a Veteran or having an interest in Veterans' issues might have been shocked.

Veterans are 3 1/2 times more likely to be homeless than anyone else. About half of the homeless vets are from the Vietnam era. The VA is a large bureaucracy, and therefore we can expect mistakes to be made from time to time, as pointed out in the NPR example. But the VA, though they admitted the mistake and corrected it, should be especially vigilant with sick and wounded vets and take proactive steps, across the organization, to prevent similar problems. This kind of nonresponsiveness is simply intolerable. That there should even be a National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is a shame on all of us - an issue that I urge the Dean campaign to address - it isn't being addressed by the current administration.
Monday, September 15, 2003
Dean Support from an Unexpected Source?

A current Newsweek article is a good example of a viewpoint, from an unexpected quarter, that I hope the Dean campaign listens to closely, namely from military veterans.

After Vietnam, I think many of us in the military made up our minds to do what we could within the system, and the law, to state our views when possible to do so, so that other Vietnams might be prevented. However, those on active duty, including the very highest ranking positions (Joint Chiefs, etc.) are prevented by law from stating political views publicly or from being involved in political activities (the same has been true, for the most part, of civil servants for many years - most people don't know that). So when you see active duty leaders publicly stating their opposition (as did Gen Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army, before he got fired), then that's a pretty good indication of much that is unseen at senior levels & below. In our system, the final decisions still belong to the elected politicians, but it's not mindless as some would believe.

Mr. Dean, I personally am very attracted to your campaign, and I think many other veterans might be also. But the national values, which provided the framework for why I stayed in the military after Vietnam, are changing. I would ask that you consider addressing four areas that, from my standpoint as a veteran, are important issues for many of us:

1. A National Strategy gone awry. From my experience, what we are seeing are the results of many years of downsizing of our military in favor of improved technology and more reliance on the Reserves and National Guard. However, you reach a point of diminishing returns - and in military strategy & tactics, you still have a practical need, in most cases, to occupy & hold territory for some time to gain the upper hand. This downsizing started in the late 1980s after the Berlin Wall fell. It's turning out that this strategy is not working well now because there is more potential for conflict since the Cold War, rather than less (aside from anything we might start ourselves). We are very fortunate we don't have more hot spots right now - we couldn't respond well to them. We need an in-depth rethinking of our national strategy with regard to the shape of our military for the future, including partnering with other nations to focus on the right priorities. For example, we can't afford as a nation, either in terms of money or long term use of our forces, to stay indefinitely in Iraq, when we could be putting that focus where it belongs when needed (e.g. the backers of 9/11).

2 . A National Strategy gone awry (Part II). We have changed our national political philosophy regarding the use of the military from one of deterrence through unmatched strength to more of an offensive one which allows for the idea of regime change. Why is very little being said, by political leaders across the spectrum, that we have made a fundamental shift in our national strategy - one that I and many veterans do not support?

3. Better Collaboration & Cooperation with Other Nations. We don't have enough forces in reserve now to keep rotating people into and out of war zones. And we seem to be playing a game of revenge with the UN and other countries that wouldn't help us at first but now may be willing to do so. We simply can't be the lone ranger endlessly. We're going to need some help in terms of occupying force numbers to get more of our kids home. And the Reserves and Guard are being held in country as well - they are often the first ones to go in, and now many are there as long as active duty forces.

4. The "Patriot" Act, an Oxymoron of Fear Replacing Reason. A lot of people have actually not read the Patriot Act yet, but claim to know what it says. I know this because I've done my best to do so, but as you probably know, this cumbersome act changes numerous other acts by often making individual sentence or phrase changes. So, you have to go look at all those changes individually and collectively to realize that, over the long term, and in the wrong hands, this act is dangerous to our rights as a free people. The act was passed a few days after 9/11 with little opposition because of the emotional and national determination to respond to the outrage of the attack. The act, rather than being added to, now needs to be carefully dissected and taken apart, if not eventually completely overturned. What also hasn't been asked: how did such a complicated and detailed act, which must have taken a long time to compile and get vetted, get passed so soon after the attack. The guts of it must have been sitting on the shelf, in some form, waiting for an opportunity.

Gov. Dean, you may find new backing from an influential and widespread veterans community if we hear you are interested in what many of us have to say on the above issues. Thanks for listening.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Why the Simple Solution is Often the Best One

Looking at the 9/11 remembrance news reports last night, once again I couldn't take my eyes off of the blue beacons of light shining up in the sky where the towers once stood. Though simple in concept, the lights have a way of focusing your attention. Those of you who have been to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. know how that memorial has incredible power to draw people with its simple but forceful design. The design of the 9/11 memorial should be left up to the people of New York. I hope they decide to keep the blue laser lights as a permanent nighttime remembrance of what happened there.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
When to Part Company

Why I, as a retired military officer, will not be voting for President Bush next time - Part II.

You can tell a lot about a leader by who he chooses to be his advisors and how & when he has to let them go. Another recent example: Richard Boucher, the State Dept Press Secretary referrring to four European countries as nothing more than "chocolate makers." While much disbelief and humor ensued, this is an unacceptable embarrassment that simply has no place in such a visble part of the federal government. Why Mr. Powell did you not give Mr. Boucher his walking papers? And when that didn't happen, why Mr. President did you not ask Mr. Powell to get rid of Mr. Boucher? But that's still small potatoes compared to the next one.

When weapons of mass destruction were initially a primary basis for our going to war, when those weapons did not materialize, when bad intelligence then became blamed for possible bad information regarding WMD, and when Mr. George Tenet, head of our intelligence apparatus and the CIA took the blame for possibly misleading the President on WMD, and when our military began to lose their lives over this house of cards, no one was held accountable. Mr. President, Mr. Tenet essentially became the fall guy for a massive failure of leadership. Why was Mr. Tenet not replaced after taking the blame for what perhaps will be the key turning point in your administration for 2004. If Mr. Tenet had been replaced, you had a perfect opportunity to stop the slide of confidence placed in you by the people of this country - a built in way to buy some support for something "you couldn't have helped." And by the way Mr. Tenet, when the President didn't fire you, why didn't you resign? But something else is missing here. Intelligence is a combination of raw data, making connections between that data, and making recommendations to leadership. Rarely therefore can failures really be blamed on "bad intelligence", but more logically on which recommendations were chosen by leadership, and why.

Oh by the way, those 16 words about nuclear materials from Africa in the State of the Union: Since when is the most important speech the year not vetted in excruciating detail to make sure that everything is correct? I can't help wondering: was anybody fired over that fiasco. What we have here are major failures of leadership, Part II.
On the Anniversary of 9/11, I Remember that I Did not Believe What I was Reading

OK I promised myself I would begin to walk through the reasons why I, as a retired military officer, would not be voting for President Bush next time. This may take several entries. The first one follows. In spite of the TV movie about him earlier this week, early on, several months ago I began to read accounts which portrayed him as anything but a leader or a manager in those first few days after 9/11. He did step out in strength finally in several ways, but strength without the right direction is like being "sincere" - you can be sincerely wrong.

Sept 15th, four days after 9/11, having returned to D.C. and having had several meetings with his closest Cabinet advisors, now all were meeting again, this time at Camp David. The morning meeting turned into a finger pointing match. During the break, Bush talked to Condi Rice privately and told her he now had a plan for the afternoon meeting, "I'm going to go around the table and I'm going to ask people what they think." (Bob Woodward, Bush at War, p.86.)

That's it. That was the plan at that point, other than to have Rice just listen and not comment. I thought to myself, "This is leadership? Going around the room like it's some new management fad?" I thought, "Has he had no management or leadership training or experience?" I'm not sure running the Texas Rangers counts, especially since he didn't earn the leadership of that organization...
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Barriers to a Non-existent Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy? Almost a year ago, organizations sympathetic to the administration regarding the then impending war with Iraq were asking, what will the exit strategy be?

Here's the irony: Now that it is being acknowledged by most experts inside & outside of the administration, that more troops are needed to "win the peace", the fact of the matter is we don't have the troops necessary to do this indefinitely, especially if more conflicts in other countries begin to loom on the horizon.

What we are seeing are the results of many years of downsizing of our military in favor of improved technology and more reliance on the Reserves and National Guard. However, you reach a point of diminishing returns - and in military strategy and tactics, you still have a practical need in most cases to occupy and hold territory to gain and keep the upper hand.

This downsizing started in the late 1980s after the Berlin Wall fell. It's turning out that this strategy is not working well now because there is more potential for conflict since the Cold War rather, than less. We are very fortunate we don't have more hot spots right now.

And we have been playing a game of revenge with the UN and other countries who wouldn't help us at first but now may be willing to do so. We simply can't be the lone ranger endlessly. We're going to need some help in terms of occupying force numbers to get more of our kids home. And the Reserves and Guard are being held in country as well - they are often the first ones to go, and now many are there as long as active duty forces. This process is NOT being directed well since the war "ended" in April, in my opinion.

I'm a strong believer in supporting our leadership, but sometimes you've got to find out if somebody's listening. We're seeing an unusually large number of retired Generals/Admirals addressing just these problems. One former active duty General (Shinseki), didn't last long when he spoke out about needing more troops in Iraq.

Your thoughts?
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Quagmire 101

Quagmire - "a situation from which extracation is difficult" (American College Dictionary). It occurs to me that $87 billion qualifies more as a quagmire than as an exit strategy.

Many years ago, my excellent high school English teacher taught us that no analogy is perfect - except for the ones you are using to make your point. So, according to the Administration, the analogy of Vietnam is not applicable to Iraq but the analogy of Germany & Japan after WWII is applicable.

I beg to differ. Many of us who went through Vietnam vowed never again to let us get into conflicts for the wrong reasons again. Now history is an important, but two-edged, teacher. We can and must use the lessons of history to prevent similar tragedies from happening, while recognizing that the specifics of a new political/military challenge may be quite different.

Let's look at some lessons unlearned from history and then ask some questions. Robert McNamara, a Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, said many years later that he and the administration had made many mistakes.

The President's job is to help lead the country, not as a dictator but as a persuader. To lead a democracy, you need a concept of values and objectives and you need then to put your concepts at risk in the forum of public debate, and have them debated and hopefully move the people to support them and move the society to them. Kennedy thought that way.

What I said then was that we should shift emphasis from what I call the military track toward the political track and seek to engage in negotiations to try to withdraw our forces militarily without seriously weakening the position of the West vis-a-vis Chinese communism and Soviet communism. That was the course I was pushing and trying to pursue and I clearly wasn't persuasive enough.

Well, one lesson that I've drawn from my life is the value and necessity of the freedom of debate, and that's what I really want to focus on in that book {see reference below}. If you accept Vietnam as a tragedy, and certainly I believe the majority of Americans today do, you should ask how it came about.

In his book, In Retrospect, McNamara says, We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.

Yet, ironically, in spite of these admissions, McNamara himself was criticized because his book was short on accountability and was severely criticized for not asking the right questions:

Before committing US forces to combat, we should ask ourselves six questions: Is a vital US interest at stake? Will we commit sufficient resources to win? Will we sustain the commitment? Are the objectives clearly defined? Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? Have we exhausted our other options?

Incredibly, McNamara recalls--but regards it as insignificant--that the service chiefs told him in 1964 that the US had not defined a "militarily valid objective for Vietnam." With similar arrogance, McNamara continue[d] {Note: McNamara is now deceased} to believe that his strategic and tactical abilities were better than those of the military professionals and that his micromanagement of the war was a good idea.

Bottom line of these thoughts: We are getting further into Iraq, not out, and more sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers will pay the ultimate price.

Mr. Rumsfeld, we don't want to be reading your memoirs years from now saying the same things as Mr. McNamara.

Monday, September 08, 2003
Veterans for Dean Blog kickoff

So, you are now looking at a “Veterans for Dean” blog. Sort of a pretentious title, isn’t it? You may ask, isn’t that a contradiction in terms? After all, you may say, the liberal side of the spectrum hasn’t especially been known to support military and veterans' priorities when compared to conservatives – so why should veterans consider any option other than President Bush for the coming 2004 election?

Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t going to consider any Democrat or other opponent, but the weight of events and the actions of this administration, especially with regard to veterans and the use of our military, have slowly caused me to change my mind. Yes, I’m a veteran, retired with almost 27 years of service, and I unreservedly support our military – that’s why I decided to put this blog into play (with the help of my daughter – who is a blogger supreme). Something inside me says that if I am needing to talk about a lot of things that really bother me about the use of our military and support of our veterans, then I suspect there may be many more of you out there. And, know this for sure, this blog is NOT intended to create dissent among our troops, veterans or active duty, but to intelligently lay out and discuss ideas.

I’ll address my thoughts in another blog entry of why I have chosen not to vote for this President next time. But, you say, OK, why should Howard Dean be considered? After all, if you look at his website, you could argue that Mr. Dean hardly mentions the military or veterans, except to say he has been strongly against this war.

Agreed – that’s another reason for this blog. We – you and I – may be able to help shape the thinking of the Dean campaign with regard to veterans and the use of our fabulous military capabilities now and in the future. After all, from a practical perspective, members of our constituency could be very helpful to Mr. Dean.

Like many of you, I respond to leadership, and so far I like what I see with Howard Dean, although I plan to speak out on things I disagree with.

So this is not just my blog – it’s yours if you care to join me.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
Thank you for visiting Veterans for Dean. Here we will discuss the coming election in the context of current events and why keeping the current administration in office is not, in our opinion, the best option for active duty service people, veterans and their dependents. Please visit us and let us know your opinions on the subjects presented.