Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Remember the Fallen, Not the Breathing

I get hung up on issues of historical correctness, not political correctness. I am often frustrated by our nation's blissfully ignorant participation in holiday celebrations of historically significant events. You would think that a people whose labeling sensititivies have become so attenuated that the word "tooth" has been dropped from "toothpick" on the back of brownie mix boxes (go look: "Insert pick to test for doneness."), would be able to pay closer attention to the big, important distinctions in American life. Take Memorial Day. Originally begun as "Decoration Day" (decorating graves of soldiers killed in the War for Southern Independence in local cemeteries), Memorial Day was eventually declared a National Holiday for the purpose of remembering with solemnity the ultimate sacrifices made by those who fight our nation's wars. Memorial Day is not about honoring living veterans. Living veterans march in Memorial Day parades to honor their fallen comrades, and so most Americans, whose only use of a history book is as a door stop, incorrectly, if they do anything at all redeeming on the day, salute living veterans. Nice gesture, but wrong. Veterans Day is for that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kill the Enemy, Don't Torture the Prisoners...

Two gentlemen for whom I have great admiration, and from whom I learned important leadership and operational lessons, have an article in the Washington Post this morning clearly articulating the point that EVERY professional soldier knows instinctively. Generals Krulak and Hoar place the torture issue, and any abuse that results from a "flexibile" policy on it, squarely on the shoulders of leaders, starting at the TOP. They point out that "any degree of 'flexibility' about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule." Humane treatment of prisoners is a cardinal rule of warfare. Torture is anathema to professional soldiers. Frankly, torture yields little actionable intelligence.

The other night during the Republican debate (and I use that term so loosely that if it were my hat band, I'd be blinded), John McCain made this point. He should know. He suffered unimaginable torture at the hands of the Vietnamese Communists during his 5 years as a POW held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." Actually, the "Hilton" was a prison built by the French during their colonial mismanagement of Indo-China--another on a long list of reasons to detest the French. Read the book "P.O.W." Your view of the difference between Us and Them will be forever changed. But I digress.

John McCain, and every other American POW of that war, will freely admit that they eventually "broke" under torture. They will also quickly tell you that the information they gave up when they finally "broke" was of very little operational use to the enemy. Torture yields no valuable intelligence.

By contrast, Viet Cong captured by US forces, and humanely treated, often turned on their communist brethren and became guides for US units. The Viet Cong turncoats did so because they were able to clearly recognize the difference between the two antagonists. The communists were brutal, totalitarian monsters who terrorized the population with torture, assassination, and rape. We weren't perfect, but by comparison to the communists, American conduct of the war was near "angelic." And that is the point.

We MUST maintain the moral high ground as a society. When we go to war, we should be clear on our objectives and prosecute the war with every legal and ethical tool in our kit bag. And, the ENTIRE NATION must be on a war footing. Otherwise, we are just playing with guns.

When a leader indicates a slight wavering with regard to historically iron-clad standards, subordinates inevitably take that as a clear sign that "all's fair" and abuses result. Abu Graib is case in point.

Fox News "moderators" during this week's Republican debate posed a presidential decision situation that supposed a terror attack on American soil and the intelligence that other attacks were imminent. The hypothetical situation was that we had prisoners who we believed had information about the coming attacks. The question was should we torture them to save American lives. I was disappointed in all but McCain's "No Torture" response.

The real question that begs an answer is why our national leaders have bungled our war effort so badly that nearly 6 years after 9-11, we are still worried about a WMD attack on our soil. The German people were "innocent" but we killed millions of them from 1942 to 1945 and prevented Hitler from building his own atomic weapons and missiles and aircraft to deliver them to New York. Ditto the Japanese. Today, the Japanese and Germans are our most staunch allies on the planet.

We must destroy Iran, Syria, North Korea, and anyone else who is developing weapons or supporting those trying to kill us. The people in those nations will be our friends for another century.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eegeebegee Bass

Satisfaction has no peer to the feeling of landing a lunker from your own pond and releasing her back thereinto. I estimate she was roughly 6 pounds. She took a Culprit purple plastic worm on 8lb test line. Jumped four times--matched each time by a spike in my blood pressure and the upward thrust of my heart into my throat. Last jump nearly stopped my heart, as I was bringing her bankside with one hand while calling Brenda on my cell, to bring her camera down to the pond, with the other hand. I am pleased to report that both fish and Colonel survived the encounter. Life on Eegeebegee is good!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ride the Dragon!

There's an old Chinese adage regarding change. "Change is a Dragon. You can fight the Dragon and most likely be eaten; or you can ride the Dragon and thrive where it goes." I think, given the magnitude and gravity of the climate change we theoretically face over the next century, we need to stop trying to fight it and figure out ways to benefit from it.

It is likely that there are some human civilization contributions to climate change. But, given the fact that geological study has shown that our planet has experienced significant climate swings within the last ten thousand years (at times when human contributions would certainly have been negligible), it is even more likely that there is NOTHING human civilization can realistically do to significantly alter the course of climate change. The history of the human species is a study in adaptation to climate change. Specific human populations and civilizations have either adapted to climate change or died off.

Some civilizations have created the localized microcosmic ecosystem change that became their undoing. The Mayan's are a great case in point. Mayan civilization, like all growth civilizations, exploded and advanced when the Mayans figured out how to grow enough food to feed not only those growing the food, but others not required to farm. They figured out that swamp muck carted in and placed on their crop fields increased the fertility and productivity of those fields exponentially. The Mayans not required for food production could then focus their time and effort on science, building, religion, art, and politics (and war, as an extension of politics). The Mayans began building great edifices of stone; pyramids of power and cultural prestige that went far beyond functional needs. They covered these pyramids with a lime-based whitewash. The lime was procured by burning vast amounts of green trees. This resulted in massive local deforestation. Without the forest ground cover, the hillsides surrounding their agricultural fields eroded massive amounts of poor clay onto their once-fertile crop lands. Crop yields crashed and Mayan civilization with it.

But, the Mayan example is not man-made climate change, although I have heard some disenginuous activists present it as such. It is an example of man-made ecosystem change and there is a huge difference. Regardless, the Mayans failed to adapt to change and their grand civilization collapsed. They probably had no way of knowing that their extravagant consumption would have such an end, until it was too late to reverse the trend.

So, if the climate is changing and mankind's activities are contributing to it, we have a limited number of options. First option is the Mayan Option: Do nothing. Consume and party on and hope we go to our final reward before the crash occurs.

The second option is the Gore Option: Dismantle our civilization trying to resist the change occuring, in the hubris-filled belief that man is totally responsible for the change and man can fix the "problem."

There is a third option: Ride the Dragon. Instead of wringing our hands at the negative aspects of climate change, we should recognize the direction that climate change is going and adapt to take advantage of the opportunities. There are an equal amount of opportunities and drawbacks in every change. I liken our choice to that of a man who blames his homelessness on his joblessness, but is unwilling to move somewhere else where the opportunity for employment and affordable housing is greater. He would rather sleep on a steam grating in the inner city of some northern metropolis, whining about the lack of good paying office jobs, than find his way to a warmer clime where manual labor is in demand (10 million Mexican migrant workers can't be wrong).

If mankind ignores the dragon of change, we will suffer the fate of the Mayans. If mankind fights the dragon, we will most likely still suffer their fate--by our own hands. Riding the dragon will take us into new territory, but exploration has always been the activity from which has come our greatest triumphs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Slopping Hogs

I used to proudly describe myself as a "news junkie." At the low point of my addiction, I probably spent eight hours a day tapped into some sort of medium, drifting in a delirium of brain matter-wrinkling bliss as up-to-date data and useless information coursed into my system via my auditory and ocular veins. The lengths to which I would go for news, and the depths of my depravity, can be summed up in the following: National Public Radio.

I am now proud to announce that my addiction, while not cured, is under control. I have the antics of pusillanimous politicians vying for rotting pieces of the power pie to thank for my sobriety. My disgust at the lack of principle, moral degeneracy, and self-serving disrespect of the American people displayed by the current crop of "leaders" has reached such a point that the bile backed up in my throat prevents my heretofore unbridled ability to scream at the newscast. Deprived of that release, I can no longer physically bear to watch or listen.

One criminally complicit legislator in particular has placed an indelible stamp of disdain on my once-proud vision of the American governmental system. The bullying and bilious bluster of a fellow Marine, in the conduct of what he should consider his sacred congressional duties, is almost too much to which to bear witness, ... and I've seen lot of crap in my life.

Marines pride themselves on the core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Congressman Murtha (Colonel Murtha, USMC, Reserve) should take no such pride. He is a liar, a crook, and a bully, whose only commitment is to his own aggrandizement. His actions dishonor the title, Marine.

I met Murtha once. It was the early 80's and I was a young captain, on assignment as an instructor of brand new lieutenants at Quantico, VA. Each class of lieutenants concluded their six months of basic training in tactics, leadership, and officership with a formal dinner steeped in tradition and honorable hokum. We Marines call this event a "Mess Night." Murtha was an invited guest on the strength of his Vietnam-era Marine service and his membership in the House of Representatives of these re-United States. I had the opportunity to speak with him. In fact, I shamelessly pulled rank on lieutenants and maneuvered to do so. I recall being unimpressed and slightly disappointed, but chalked it up to my American history-loving high expectations of a congressional statesman. I have come to realize since, that the bilious boor I met that night was representative of what it takes these days to stalk the halls of power on the Hill.

There was a time when I fully expected to run for some public office in the course of my duty to my country. No more. I've done my duty. The sliver of self-respect remaining in my back pocket is way more than would allow me to even consider stepping down into the muck and mire of the political pig stye.

It is far too much that I have to share the title, "Colonel of Marines" with the likes of Murtha, I will not share the abhorrent appellation, politician.