Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Veteran's Ongoing Battle

Veterans must continue their fight even after they return from battle, and against their own government, to wrest the benefits promised them. I wrote the following in response to a piece in the Tallahassee Democrat extolling the efforts of local servicemen on behalf of their fellows returning from their tours. I think it is shameful that their services are even required in this capacity.

Bob Gaboris's piece, "Vets Discover New Ways to Serve" (4/9/06)features local veterans who donate time to help fellow veterans get the benefits to which they are entitled, "after they are denied benefits from the Veterans Administration."

While the efforts of these servicemen on behalf of their brothers-in-arms are worthy, this feel-good piece misses the point: that fraternal military organizations like the MOAA, DAV and VFW must have service officers and volunteers to represent veterans in their appeals to gain proper benefits shows how morally bankrupt and corrupt the government's approach to our veterans remains.

The fact that veterans must fight to get deserved benefits is a shame and a sham. Ironically, the groups that advocate for veterans often also voice support for the misguided foreign ventures that are creating more disabled veterans daily. If we want to enter elective wars, then let's give uncontentious, realistic benefits to disabled veterans and their families. If we don't want to give realistic benefits, let's not have elective wars.

Excerpts from original article below:

Veterans Discover New Ways to Serve
By Bob Gabordi

I wasn't really sure what I had to say to men and women like Maj. John Haynes, U.S. Marine Corps (retired).

Haynes now spends most of his time helping disabled veterans and their families after they are denied benefits from the Veterans Administration. He served America during WW II and now faces his own serious medical issues with the same kind of courage he showed a different kind of enemy 61 years ago in China...

Earlier in the evening, I was introduced to Col. Walter G. Frauenheim Jr., U/ S. Army (retired), who had fought in one of America's most desperate moments of WW II, the Battle of the Bulge, as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division...

Their collective sacrifices awe and overwhelm me. Because of the sacrifices they made to keep those freedoms. we need to keep fighting for the Bill of Rights. I urged them to stand up still for thr the First Amendment and our other freedoms, especially when government officials today so casually trample upon those rights.

The officers reminded me that there is a greater purpose to those freedoms they fought to protect. They asked me to use those freedoms to help them get their message out to the public and in their continued service to their country...

These organizations are...a strong voice for veterans on issues such as military benefits, medical care and so forth. They raise their collective voices to fight to make government keep its promises...

These folks never quit serving. Haynes, for example, joined the military in time to be a part of the legendary China Marines...Now he volunteers to work with veterans and their widows during their most trying moments helping them after they were turned down for benefits. He works through the system, cuts the red tape, and gets answers, up or down.

If such people need my assistance, it's the least I can do.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"I'm the Decider!"

Re. the declassified document which outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, a Wall Street Journal editorial stated, "Mr. Bush was divulging the truth" (4/8-9?06). This is extraordinary. If the President is going to declassify anything, then why not do so in an official document or press conference? We have procedures to declassify documents, and doing so anonymously to a reporter is not the accepted conduit.

Further, the WSJ states, "No one disputes that the President has the authority to declassify documents or to authorize the disclosure of secret information." Indeed, one does not question his authority; one questions his motives. As Bush so brashly stated in a recent defense of Donald Rumsfeld: "I'm the decider,and I decide what's best." In this statement, one can picture the petulant child declaring his sovereignty over a schoolyard game. Sadly, this game has deadly repurcussions.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Irish-Iraqi Brotherhood?

In a recent posting, I likened the so-called insurgents in Iraq to the IRA and the ETA. No I read that a Sunni was found murdered, and "his face and legs had drill holes in them."

Using a power drill against victims is a tried-and-true IRA intimidation technique. Generally, the IRA maimed and mutilated without killing the victim. The Iraqis appear to lack such finesse.

It is my contention that there might be cross-fertilization occurring here. The IRA was historically allied with the PLO and the PFLP in the 1970's and 80's, so why not form an alliance with the Iraqi groups? This alliance could both embarrass British interests and be beneficial to the goals of the IRA.

This is a stretch, but an analyst is supposed to make these linkages.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

A recent Wall Street Journal article, "Terrorists and the Supreme Court" (Review and Outlook, 4/1-2/06) is extremely troubling as it confounds several unrelated topics. The confusion is amongst the terms "captured", "enemy" and "enemy combatant". Indeed, Supreme Court Justice Scalia is quoted: "I'm not about to give (a Guantanamo detainee) who was captured in a war a full jury trial."

If they were captured in a war, then they are prisoners of war and should be afforded the full protection of the Geneva Convention. There is no other way in a democracy sworn to abide by the rule of law. Why are we unclear on this matter?

What statute, US law or international law legitimizes the concept "illegal enemy combatant"? Categories cannot be arbitrarily established for the convenience of the war on terror. If a person is in fact a terrorist, then arrest him, try him, and legally incarcerate him, for he then falls under the purview of criminal civilian law. Why is this administration loathe to rely on the open rule of law? Isn't this the basis of democratic thought and action? Keeping people imprisoned without due process or affording them POW status should sicken all Americans.

The article goes on to talk about the "all too real threat from dirty bombs, anthrax and WMD that can kill hundreds of thousands", yet , where is the evidence to prove the veracity of this 1984-ish statement? We accept these statements without critical evaluation, which creates a climate of fear that enables the administration to trample on the rule of law, all with the US cirizen's tacit approval.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Iraqi Insurgents Are the New Republicans?

Recently, I likened the so-called insurgents in Iraq to the IRA and ETA. Now I read that a Sunni was found murdered, and, as described in a recent John Friedman NYT column ("Iraq at the 11th Hour"), "his face and legs had drill holes in them."

Using a power drill against victims is a tried and true IRA intimidation technique. Generally, the IRA maimed and mutilated, sans the victim's death. The Iraqi's, it would seem, lack such finesse.

It is my contention that there might be cross-fertilization of outfits occurring here. The IRA was historically allied with the PLO and the PFLP in the 1970's and 80's, so why not form an alliance with the Iraq groups? This alliance could then embarrass British interests, while furthering the implicit goals of the IRA.

This may be a stretch--and I'm not generally in the camp of the wing-nut conspiracy theorists--but an analyst is supposed to make and test these possible linkages.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

We Support Our Troops--NOT!

Do the US command authorities or does the average yellow-ribbon-magnet-displaying citizen read the articles regarding this war? According to an AP article, "Field Clinics Save Lives With Science, Speed" by Jacob Silberberg (1/1/06), Spec. Leonard suffered severe wounds and leg amputation while on combat operations outside of Bagdad. Says Leonard, "Our combat medic didn't have morphine... that was the worst pain of my life."

It is criminal to send US soldiers on combat operations and not have medics properly equipped. Where, why and how could a patrol leader, Company/Battalion/Brigade/Divison, Corps/Theatre commander allow such criminal negligence to occur? A medic without morphine is like a civilian ER without morphine. What kind of amateurs are running this show?

Ironically, Spec. Leonard has not quite yet experienced the worst pain of his life. He'll know that when dealing with the Veteran's Administration throughout the remainder of his life as a discarded soldier.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Frog Prince

Ranger is 60 years old, and the events of the last few years have led me to be curiouser and curiouser about the Declaration of Independence (DI), the statement of our country's raison d'etre. Since this is a bedrock document--predating the U.S. Constitution--it reflects the spirit and intent of the original fathers. And since we give a lot of lip service to democracy these days, I thought it best to go to the source for some insight and refreshment on our country's mission statement.

Before officials and military personnel swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, it'd be wise to require them to actually read these quaint foundation documents. I often wonder how many Americans have actually read them, much less understood their political and philosophical implications.

In the first paragraph of the Declaration, Jefferson refers to "Nature's God", indicating his Deism. The Founders were not fire-and-brimstone televangelists shilling for some right wing Republican party organization. Deism is not the same as Christianity.

Some further clarification of terms is necessary. The DI refers to the "King of Great Britain," King George III. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll refer to George W. Bush as George III, instead. (The Royal King George III is actually George #1, George Herbert Walker Bush is George #2, leaving GWB, George the 3rd in this dynasty of Georges.)

One breaking point with England was over obstructing British laws which prevented naturalization of foreigners and refused to encourage emigration. Sound familiar? Are we as a nation encouraging "migration hither"?
Ask the 11 million illegals presently in the country.

Further: "He has made judges dependent on his will alone." Do Harriet Myers ("She's my friend"), or Alito or Roberts, or for that matter, Gonzales, come to mind?

"He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people." Sound suspiciously like Homeland Security and a normal day at the airport, gratis the Patriot Act?
Doesn't NSA eavesdropping on US citizens without warrants qualify as harassment?

"He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power." Does authorizing the military organization called the National Security Administration (NSA) to spy on us sound like something the DI was opposed to? In effect, the U.S. military is now a warrantless, long-term domestic spy agency, in blatant defiance of the concept of jurisdiction and civilian control of law enforcement. The U.S. military was not formed to spy on U.S. citizens.

Yet January 6, 2006, George III via executive order moved to suspend Posse Comitatus, which would institutionalize further militarization of law enforcement. (See my 3/8/06 post, Posse Comitatus Violation in NSA Eavesdropping.) This was done, of all reasons, to protect us from bird flu. So we're being militarized over some sick chickens. Chicken protection from chickenhawks.

"For protecting large bodies of armed troops and protecting them by mock trial from punishment." Sounds like the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Camps Alpha and X-ray, and armed enemy combatants, the latter of which do not even get the courtesy of a mock trial. The mock trials are the prosecution of junior enlisted soldiers.

Meanwhile, those in the chain of command have carte blanche. Incidentally, the Geneva Convention forbids putting POW's in prisons and penitentiaries--a point which has escaped an administration which believes it supersedes international law. And while we're at it, we've done a good job of poking the Geneva Convention full of holes, too, making it just as leaky as George III's rationale for implementing his pre-emptive war.

But here is the best way in which the Georges--I and III--mirror each other:
for "Depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury." Does Jose Padillo and armed enemy combatants ring a bell?

If terrorists and "suspected" terrorists violate Federal Code, then try them by jury.
There is no other way in the U.S. system, a democracy last I checked, unless they are deemed prisoners of war. Either way, the rule of law should prevail, and in the USA, a trial by jury is the singular standard test for guilt.

"He has burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people."
Does this sound like an unjustified invasion of countries? While Iraq may not be "our people" (despite George's colonial behavior to the contrary), it is nonetheless a thorough rending of their social fabric.

It is perfectly acceptable to George III to destroy Iraqi towns so that we can have photo ops with purple thumbs. But destroying countries to make them democracies is not exactly Jeffersonian democratic thought in action.
And sacrificing our servicemen and women on the funeral pyre of George's misbegotten crusade certainly qualifies as the "destruction of our people."

He is transporting large armies to complete the works of death, destruction and tyranny with circumstances of cruelty scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation."
Ditto Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, et al.

"He has constrained...(citizens) to bear arms against their nation, to become executioners of their friends." Does the new US-formed Iraqi army reflect democratic ideals? Surely Shiites armed and trained with US finances are killing and torturing their brethren Sunnis in this civil war-like conflict.

"He has excited domestic insurrections." Again, creating an army in Iraq that has a sole purpose of suppressing its own citizens seems to qualify as "exciting insurrections."
What would you do if, say, a rabid band of Georgians or Idahoans wielding weapons came knocking on your door some night? Invite them in for a pow-wow?

"A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be a ruler of a free people." Our own George III has usurpt the congressional prerogative of declaring war. This act is illustrative of the Machiavellian corruption of character our President displays at each turn.

he President
cannot declare war under our laws. He can request a declaration of war by Congress, but as Commander-in-Chief, he cannot put the nation in a state of war. A President cannot constitutionally preempt the authority and purview of Congress. And C
ongress, in turn, has inverted democratic principles by accepting this travesty. The president is not a prince!

"And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." (Note: large D in Declaration, small d in divine, done by Jefferson in the original.)
The new conservative religious takeover in this country has reversed this.

A modern summation of this closing would probably condemn influence peddling to increase personal fortunes, and surely our sacred honor should not rest upon the profits (prophets) of companies contributing to the political longevity of any individual party. We should not be in the business of dynasty-making. Leave that to the cast of "Dallas" and other third-rate soaps.

Where is Jefferson's "sacred honor" now? I am feeling like a very bereft Diogenes today.

Labels: , , , , ,