Sunday, April 01, 2007

Quick notes on the current goings-on

Tommy, can you hear me?

Probably not... the few people who used to drop by this space have most likely long-since abandoned it due to my own lack of interest in it. I'm not sure what the real reason is for my dropping blogging as a regular hobby, but whatever it is, I've been out of the habit.

At any rate, things have continued to happen, both in my life and in the world at large.

I got this email the other day from the organizer of a "pro-troop/pro-war" group:

A great read on the Senate's despicable vote to undercut our troops in Iraq.

From Melanie Morgan at

P.S. For those of you who don't know, Melanie Morgan is Chairman of Move America Forward, the nation's largest grass-roots, pro-troop organization. Learn more about Move America Forward at:
The link is to Ms. Morgan's article on the recent Senate approval of a war budget that would require U.S. troops to be pulled out of Iraq in a little more than a year. It was a mass-email, but I wrote back anyway after reading Morgan's boilerplate, toe-the-line article:

This isn't a good read, and I think it's pretty intellectually dishonest. It's certainly not unique in that dishonesty, but it serves as a pretty good example of the overwhelming sentiment among the few Americans who remain "pro-war."

Melanie Morgan's argument -- that Senate Democrats ("and two despicable Republicans") have "blood on their hands" for "knifing" our troops in the back by adding language to the war budget that would require a timetable for withdrawl -- depends on some serious assumptions:

1) That the military's mission in Iraq is worthwhile because we are fighting terrorists there who would otherwise be attacking American targets elsewhere in the world;

2) that the U.S. military can work toward some kind of "winning" status in Iraq, provided sufficient time and money; and

3) that the President of the United States (who she constantly refers to as "the commander-in-chief") should have unchecked power to prosecute war as he sees fit.

At the same time, she ignores several important issues that should be taken into consideration before arguing for the war, for unrestrained presidential power, or against a reasonable timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

First, it is the president who has threatened to veto any measure passed by Congress or the Senate that involves a timetable. That kind of bullying is not only undemocratic, it also necessarily involves pushing the military's budget back for at least a matter of weeks, if not months. It is the president who has obstinately insisted on keeping U.S. troops in harm's way, and it is because of this war that the number of Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2001, has more than doubled (more than 3,200 U.S. service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan). If there is going to be talk of "blood" being on someone's hands, the president deserves at least an equal share of the blame.

Second, it was the White House and the Republican party that so thoroughly screwed up the first six years of Bush's presidency that Americans voted to put Democrats into the majority in both the House and Senate. No one could have made any mistake about what the DNC wanted to accomplish if given control -- an end to this war, which has now gone on longer than America's involvement in World War II, was high among their list of priorities. Should Republicans (and the White House) have acted with more credibility while they had the opportunity, then perhaps voters would have kept them around.

Third, the United States is built on a system of checks and balances, which is designed to preserve the very freedoms we're supposedly "exporting" to the very country we're currently engaged in. Despite American citizens' seeming disinterest in civil liberties, it is those freedoms that have made the U.S. the free country we're so proud of. Suggesting that citizens and politicians who don't toe the Administration line are "treasonous," "anti-American," or "supporters of terror" is not only stupid, but also, by definition, "anti-American."

These checks and balances serve also to keep each branch of government accountable. A recent study of the Defense Department's budget by the Government Accountability Office found that not even top DoD officials could properly account for their budgets. After the scandal that erupted last month at Walter Reed, it seems clear that the Pentagon is not exactly a sound steward of the tax money awarded to the military.

Before I get written off as some "liberal whack-o," I'd like to point out that I am an enlisted, active-duty soldier who's served this country for almost five years. I didn't sign up for college money; I already had a bachelor's degree when I joined. I did it because I believe strongly in American principles -- the ones spelled out in America's foundational documents, including The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the works of John Locke, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution.

In the Army, I've worked as a "public affairs specialist," which basically has meant I've written for various Army newspapers. It's been an opportunity to speak with some of the people who've been directly involved in America's role in Iraq.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke with a lieutenant colonel who was in charge of an advisory team from First Army's 4th Cavalry Brigade who were assigned to help Iraq's 2nd National Police Division become self-sufficient. He had just returned from a year deployment. The colonel made what I think is an important distinction.

"Our job isn't to make Iraq a safe place," he told me. "Our job is to give the Iraqi government the opportunity to make Iraq a safe place."

He said that he felt he and his men had indeed accomplished that mission, but whether Iraq will take advantage of their efforts remains to be seen.

Bush's commitment to denying the "terrorists" (mostly rival Sunni and Shiite militias, who are simply vying for control of the region, which remains a "country" in name only) is also allowing the Iraq government to avoid taking responsibility or control of their own land. Nursing infants must eventually be weaned from the breast, and so too must the Iraqi government. It is futile to indicate to this new government that America's support is unconditional, because they will continue to rely on it for as long as they possibly can.

The talk here at home seems to center around name-calling and patriotism competitions. It's puerile and unseemly, I think, for people who supposedly love their country so much to take for granted the system whereby they've been granted a heretofore unimagined level of freedom.

Support the troops by giving them some kind of light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. Iraq is beyond the point of "winning" or "losing;" it's a country struggling to redefine itself and get off the ground. Even the United States needed a Civil War to forge it into what it is today.

In the meantime, the blood of American troops is on the hands of those who refuse to give them an end to look forward to.

Very respectfully,

Spc. Ian Boudreau
U.S. Army
Fort Knox, KY
So, that's that.

The other day, I was listening to AM talk radio, which is a great place to go to find out what people who love war are talking about.

In this instance, Mr. Mike Gallagher was talking with a caller about the Marine Corps' tattoo policy. The two decided that since Marines and soldiers are working "in a dictatorship serving a democracy," that the freedom of expression granted to normal citizens didn't apply. Therefore, it was important that the military be able to maintain standards on tattoos. You don't get freedom of expression in the military, and that's the way it's supposed to work, they said.

The caller then went on to say that the "dad-gum" Democrats in the Senate weren't following the lead of the "commander-in-chief" (I hear this term more often than "president" these days), and that it was a gosh-durn good thing that we weren't running our war that way, because we'd be in some serious trouble.

The implication, of course, was that Democrats are pretty much the same as soldiers who disobey orders or go AWOL.

I wanted to call in and tell the two idiots to pick up a civics textbook, but it wouldn't have done any good anyway. It seems like everyone's forgotten that in our Democracy, it's important to have things called "checks" and "balances," and that no one person, office, or department has complete control of anything.

But accountability has been seriously undermined in the past six years, and conservatives have in general fallen into step behind the GOP, questioning the validity of commissions set up to examine serious failures of the government (notably, the 9/11 Commission, which Bush and Cheney did everything in their power to stall and hog-tie [to use a Texas colloquialism]).

Enough political ranting for now, though.

In good news, I won first place in the Department of the Army for commentary (military) in the 2006 Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Army journalism competition. They've got a link to the story up there, so check it out if you have a couple minutes.

Tomorrow I'll be back in the courtroom for a spousal rape court-martial. It'll be a nice change from some of the dreck I've been covering lately. I find covering courts-martial exciting, so I'll try to get back in here to talk about how things develop.

That's all for now -- mahalo.