Archive for June, 2014

“From Sea to Shining Sea”

June 20, 2014


It was a 2,572-mile flight.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, departing New York at 8:26 AM EST and arriving in San Francisco at 12:08 PM PST, I had over six hours last Wednesday to reflect upon the sudden, yet utterly predicable turn of events in Iraq as the Boeing 737 traveled coast to coast over this great, sprawling country of ours on an amazingly clear journey at 525 miles per hour six miles high.

Across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, I watched below as our California bound jet traveled from the mountains to the prairies, then across vast expanses of no man’s land before bright, sunlit reservoir reflections signaled the end of our journey.

How could so great a nation have been so wrong?

Of all people, Megyn Kelly of FOX News, of all networks, was spectacular in courageously challenging former Vice-President and Iraqi War architect Dick Cheney in a live interview, hurling back at him his own words from the Wall Street Journal that same day.

“In your op-ed, you write: “Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well, Sir.”

Kelly then recited numerous shortcomings of the Bush administration, particularly Cheney’s assurance that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, that the war would be brief and that Iraqi insurgency was “in the throes” in 2005.

Kelly then quoted the Washington Post, which stated, “There is not a single person in America who has been more wrong and shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney.” Megyn finally observed, “The suggestion is that you caused this mess. What say you?”

A clearly rattled Cheney responded that Megyn was wrong, baldly and untruthfully alleging that, “We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about the extent of Saddam’s involvement in weapons of mass destruction.” This clearly doesn’t explain why 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the war at its initiation, including hundreds of thousands in dozens of American cities.

As Cheney and a handful of co-conspirators again pollute the airwaves with pathetic attempts at revisionist history, George W. Bush ducks public exposure, hiding behind his easel — painting pets.


Reviewing all in my mind’s eye as we touched down at Terminal 3 of SFO, I concluded that if there was ever a time for honest evaluation, such moment must be now. In this light and with such measurement, Megyn Kelly seems undeniably heroic.

I have always saved a five-page term paper for which I received an A plus during my college years earning a Degree in Social Sciences. I retain this essay as a lasting reminder of ever lurking fallibility.

In this piece from the early ‘60’s, I applaud our anti-communist efforts in Vietnam, endorse “the domino theory” as though it were my own, and unequivocally predict a quick and final victory by the South Vietnamese with the help of our American advisory teams and weaponry. I was thoroughly convinced in the righteousness of our cause. As currently witnessed in CNN’s outstanding series on “The Sixties”, I couldn’t have been more completely wrong.

Those who outrageously suggest that new nightmares in Iraq are due to President Obama’s withdrawal of troops are similarly in error, again seizing any opportunity to viciously attack our Commander in Chief with spiteful ignorance and hateful rhetoric bordering committable lunacy.


Over two decades of well-intentioned, but ill-advised military adventures, we have proclaimed “democracy” while functionally crying “havoc” as we let slip the proverbial dogs of war – leaving a legacy of devastation, death and destruction in our wake.

Redemption begins with recognition.

In our “America The Beautiful.”

“America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.”

Katharine Lee Bates (1895)

“A Prodigal Son”

June 6, 2014


“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

Luke 15:32

An area of theological instruction reserved for senior year study at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, my alma mater, dealt with the dicey issue of “Proportionate Evil”. Simply stated, one can find oneself trapped in a situation offering only two choices, both carrying negative consequences and requiring unavoidable immediate resolution. A stunning example can be witnessed in Alfonso Cuaron’s multiple Oscar winning space thriller, “Gravity.”

Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) must determine whether to sever his linked umbilical connection to Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and die — or guarantee killing both by not doing so – effectively being forced to decide between suicide and a double homicide.

Not nearly as dramatic back here on earth, but nonetheless offering situational comparison, here’s Barack Obama agreeing to obtain the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban after five years of enemy captivity in exchange for five enemy combatants caged at Guantanamo for more than twice that time, unleashing in the process an explosion of hypocritical right-wing political wrath. But it was that or leave him abandoned in chains or worse as we begin our withdrawal from combat, Sgt. Bergdahl being the only member of the United States military held captive in Afghanistan.

One out of five young American soldiers repeatedly sent to fight needless wars in the merciless heat and dirt of Iraq and Afghanistan since March of 2003 are now displaying classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Over 5,000 of our troops have been killed. Over 70,000 have been seriously wounded, these warriors returning to often face inexcusable delays in obtaining basic health services from the Veterans’ Administration.

Bergdahl’s family may display unsettling eccentricity and the Sergeant, himself, hardly seems the heroic John Wayne type, but let’s reflect on the irrefutable truth that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Afghanistan’s Taliban involvement should have been ancillary and temporary. We can call them “terrorists”, but we’ve always been on their turf. Taliban is NOT Al Qaida. Three trillion dollars of our collective treasure has been lost with nothing gained but strained foreign alliances and a people divided by irresponsible media and limited leadership.

National insanity is individually contagious and reliably self-perpetuating. As more facts emerge, it seems clear that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl answered his country’s call to service only to find himself psychologically unstable, chronically conflicted and deeply disturbed, perhaps even pathologically so. It appears probable that Bergdahl left his post near the Pakistani border and disappeared with disillusion –unarmed into the night.

As men and women from our “Greatest Generation” were properly recognized and honored upon the 70th Anniversary of “D-Day” on June 6th, it should be recalled that over 21,000 American soldiers were convicted of desertion during World War II. 49 were sentenced to death, but only Private Edward Donald Slovik of Detroit became the first and only American to be tried and executed for desertion since the Civil War. Sgt.Bergdahl may well be eventually determined to be a deserter.

Yet with more than a small measure of emotional reluctance, I cannot help but agree with President Obama’s assertion that “Whatever circumstances turn out to be, we still get a soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”

I also support 31-year-old Gerald Sutton of Michigan, a member of Bergdahl’s abandoned combat unit, who contends, “Whatever the tribunal or whatever he faces, whatever judgment they pass will be – if they just decide to give him a black mark and a dishonorable discharge – I think he should face the music.”

As harsh rhetoric increases with dedicated fervor from Obama haters and as wild speculation and unfounded innuendo continues screaming from both press and pulpit, I would hope we might find unified concurrence on one simple fact.

A war is mercifully ending as a prodigal son comes home.

It is the American way.

“There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after –
One tin soldier rides away”

“One Tin Soldier/ Theme From Billy Jack” — Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter — (1969)