Friday, November 19, 2004

Back from Fallujah

Ready to Roll into Fallujah
Ready to Roll into Fallujah - picture taken at a staging area an hour or so before we rolled in the first day of the operation. The city is just over the dune behind us.

What an interesting trip, interesting being an understatement and probably inappropriate.

I was with an Iraqi Brigade and six other Americans. I found the Iraqis to be wonderful and brave fellows. I learned to never give a gift to an Iraqi unless you are willing to play a never ending game of one-upmanship. I had five Iraqis that I inadvertently engaged in this game. It all started with me giving them gum, progressed through them killing and cooking a rooster for me, me buying cartons of cigarettes from Marines for them and ended when they 'liberated' several cases of Coca-cola from a store and brought it to me. I knew then I had to tell them the game had to stop.

Taking all the politics, motivations, lies, deceptions and whatever else brought us all to this point out of the equation, my experience with these fellows is something that will stick with me for a life time. They are so eager, too eager, to be just like us. The fellows I was with think the world of a US uniform and were willing to do anything and everything I asked, a wholly different experience than that of many US soldiers.

By the third day of the operation civilians by the dozens began to emerge from the rubble, old men and women, young mothers and children. They hid from us as long as they could, they surely thought we would gun them down. Their hunger and thirst forced them out. Contrary to the stories I later heard I can tell you we fed these people (out of our own food and water), medics tended to them and they were taken care of. The fear was evident in their eyes, even as they lined up to receive food and water.

Much more to tell, many more thoughts to think, just now I am too close to some of the more painful sights, sounds and events to comment. I saw some very fine young men doing things young men ought never have to do. Love the USMC. Those kids are simply the finest and 99% of the world can never really and truly appreciate what I mean by that.

This is a damned nasty war. Make no mistake about it.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

'If Only the Führer Knew…'

While I sit and wait for things here to begin again...dare not do anything with an election afoot...I found this by Micheal Peirce:

In 1944 the young German fighters in the panzer divisions knew perfectly well that fighting under the guns of the Allied fleet in Normandy was madness. On the Ost Front they were equally aware that the order to "hold at all costs" was grinding their elite units into dust and robbing them of their unquestioned advantage, tactical flexibility. However, their faith in Adolf Hitler remained undiminished – they blamed these suicidal orders on the high command, on the regular army generals, and repeated this slogan to each other, "If only the Führer knew…"

American conservatives are much like that. They are quite aware that the United States government is working actively against the best interests of the people of this country. The failure to defend our borders, the draconian and unconstitutional assault on our God-given right of self defense, the mass murders of the unborn, the transformation of the public school system into left wing indoctrination centers – conservatives are aware of these things. But there exists this huge disconnect – constantly one hears the same mantra, "Don’t worry, the adults are in charge now."

If they had but eyes to see they would see that it wasn’t liberals who recently announced a plan to send fifteen billion extorted dollars to Africa, ostensibly to fight the AIDS epidemic that is depopulating a continent. It wasn’t the liberals who declared, "Islam is a religion of peace," ignoring history and common sense. It wasn’t the liberals who tried to sneak through a general amnesty for illegal aliens and who failed to take any action whatsoever to protect the unborn or the Second Amendment. And it is certainly not Al Gore who has dreamed up this horrific plan of attack against a third-rate country in the Middle East, claiming that we will not forget 911, an action in which Iraq had no part.

As Josef Goebels and Adolf Hitler were well aware, a big lie works best. I’m astounded when "conservatives" call me a wimp and a communist because I refuse to face up to the imagined threat posed by Sadaam Hussein. Well guys, it wasn’t Sadaam Hussein who used tanks to kill Americans in Waco! You can take this to the bank – I’m against their wars of aggression, their war on some drugs, and their attack on our right to own weapons – how this is un-American eludes me. I’ve got George Washington and all the founders on my side. None of whom were wimps or communists!

Of course, I’m often reminded that this business of a Constitutional Republic was decided on the battlefield, in the "late unpleasantness" as they daintily refer to the destruction of the South by government mercenaries. Then why do we pretend to honor the history of this very same Constitutional Republic?

Y'all just stop and think about it...or not I suppose.


Everyone waits from time to time. The world awaits the outcome of the US election. A whole bunch of insurgent knuckleheads are hunkered down in Fallujah awaiting their impending doom. Amazing how so many folks and so many events await the culmination of this uniquely American spectacle that has become the presidential election process.

I happily mailed off my ballot for Dr. Michael Peroutka some time ago. Of course some might say that was a wasted vote but it was my conscience. I think you always have to go with that. What else does a man have if he does not listen to his conscience?

I had a fascinating discussion with a Marine buddy of mine tonight as we sit and wait for all the “big events” in the world to transpire so that we can again get on with the business at hand.

Really in the big picture it does not matter who wins the election. There is not that much difference in the two fellows or the two parties. An Australian buddy of mine expressed to me his wonderment at the passion Americans display based upon parties. From his perspective there is little difference. My view has been much the same for several years now.

It is fascinating; in all the time we have spent together we have never had the opportunity to discuss philosophy or life. As we sit and wait we found the time tonight. We agree that there is nothing new under the sun and that there is little that we as mere mortals can do to alter the course of events. We envisioned a couple leathered warriors of Rome’s legions sitting next to a fire a few hundred years ago having the exact same discussion we enjoyed tonight. I am almost certain there were some of those fellows on the far edge of the empire fighting various barbarians (insurgents in modern parlance) pontificating on the same issues we covered. My mind always goes back to the words of Vegitus.

Good folks are so hard to find. I have been so lucky here to encounter many.

I have the pleasure to work with two of the last best Sergeant Majors left in the military (I am sure there are probably a handful scattered here and there but they are few and very far between). SGM V is a heck of a guy, the sort of guy that is there for you and there for the troops no matter what. Likewise with SGM C, different sort, a lot less dirty (no sure how he works that out because I see him in the same places as me). V is much more the “SGT Rock type” and C is much more the stereotypical British Sergeant Major type. Both are fine men and excellent NCO’s. Not typical at all.

The other officers I work with are all (with one exception) mustangs (all prior enlisted). At 38 I am not the old man in this group, which is nice. The perspective of these fellows is just a whole lot different; refreshing, real and comforting. We weaned the last of the Air Force folks from the team two weeks ago and shuffled them off to “other work”.

We got a new Navy Senior Chief in last week. We have three other Navy folks. They have all adjusted very well. Senior Chief is a bit like a fish out of water, he has spent 20 years aboard Subs. He is not exactly accustomed to carrying a rifle and could not tell the difference between incoming mortar and rocket rounds when he came to us. I have a lot of respect for the fact that he knows when to shut his mouth and follow on task he has no clue and is willing to speak up on the technical issues he is here to do. We took him to a make shift range and gave him a bigger weapon the other day. I think we will turn him into a soldier. He is certainly willing to learn. I think a a couple months he will be a real veteran and able to carry his own weight. He and I get along very well.

I think I mentioned before my love for the troops with us. No matter what we do or where our tasks pull us there are there to support with nothing more than the expected complaints (if they did not complain a little something would be wrong…I would take that as them not trusting me).

It is raining here now…I doubt it will really stop for the next month. It is a crazy place, hot and dry all year with just one rainy month. Makes you wonder how this was potentially one of the cradles of civilization. The fine powder sand has all turned to muck. This is of course very much irritating. Not the sort of stuff you really look forward to laying face down in. Amazing that it is possible to wish for the weather of June but I do.

I notice some folks were kind enough to link over to me. I appreciate that. I do not have the time to really track them down and post their links. I actually feel rather bad as I do not have the time to write much of interest to anyone and I would hate for people to take their time to visit the site in these circumstances.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Friday, October 29, 2004

Three good buddies (I am in the middle)

Buddies in Baghdad

My battle buddies; Dale (USN) and Cheddy (USMC)...two very fine and brave human beings. I owe a lot to these fellows.

Taken in beautiful downtown Baghdad

Friday, August 27, 2004

Fools and their Parties

Negativity is certainly not a condition that attracts others. In fact cynicism, even when well founded, has a way of turning people away. It seems that the longer that I live, the more things I see and the more I think about the world the more cynical I become. Oh don’t get me wrong, I make herculean attempts at seeking bright areas to celebrate and cherish. The fact is that outside of friends and family there seems to be little in the world to celebrate. I am of course speaking of real and important things.

I have a happy life, I am a happy person. I do see and experience many things that I would never wish on my worst enemy. It is possible that my experiences have tarnished my worldview. It is also possible that I simply see things as they truly are. I do not pretend or contend that I am endowed with greater wisdom or intellect than most men. I assume that I am basically an average joe. It is the fact that I consider myself not so different that every other man and yet I see the world so differently than most people I encounter that boggles my mind.

I write often of my disillusionment with pieces and parts of the world. Most recently I have written of my disgust of what has become the folly of Iraq. On that issue I would like to write more but so much of what I know I cannot write or share. Many of the things I probably could legally write about I do not because of a conflicting sense of duty.

Events here follow a strange cyclical pattern. We are, despite all attempts to claim otherwise, an army of occupation attempting to force our will on a population that is both unwilling and unready to accept it. As a result of our foolish prewar beliefs we are faced now with a strong and unrelenting insurgency. From my perspective this creates periods of intense activity followed by respites of relative calm. During the islands of tranquility I have time to read the news of the world, write a little and attempt to keep up with other things.

I watch the news on occasion, as much as I can stand. Every few days I sit down and surf the Internet and keep up with what some folks in the blogshere are busy chattering about. I am not isolated or cut off from the rest of the world. My exposure is just limited.

It is interesting, looking in on the world from afar for only brief periods. In a very real way it only serves to add to my cynicism.

I am convinced now more than ever that the world is headed to Hell in the proverbial hand basket. Each and every time I have been in front of a television broadcasting Fox news I have seen a segment on the Scott Peterson trial. I ask myself each time why this has any relevance to anyone. Of all the things occurring in the world why would a “news” organization dedicate such a large percentage of its’ air time to such a silly occurrence.

It really matters little if the event de jur is Scott Petterson or some other smuck, the major news organizations have for years focused on sensational news, really mere entertainment programming, rather than real stories. Why is this? It is because this is the sort of entertainment that the public wants. People do not want to be bombarded with real stories. If they were they may become as cynical as those of us that see the world without rose-colored glasses.

This is my first point in my argument that the world is really without much hope. People simply do not want to see the truth. Liberals are happy watching CNN and getting a happy left spin on their “news”. “Conservatives” happily watch Fox and kid themselves that it is truly “fair and balanced” and without any spin to meet the desires of the viewership. Neither organization can qualify as a true news organization.

Look at their lineups. They sell people and personalities rather than news. Every host on Fox has written some sort of book and spends an enormous amount of time selling their book on the air. What is up with Larry King? (I seldom watch CNN so I cannot comment at length on their hosts)

I am left to conclude that Americans are stupid and happy being so. They do not want real news because they do not demand it of the program managers that arrange the current fare. Real news would force real questions.

I have read some of the post of a few of my blogging friends. They are busy defending Bush and attacking Kerry. These folks have the best of intentions; they are reasonable, intelligent people. Yet it amazes me that even people that think deeply about issues are so easily sucked into the deception that is the two party system.

The argument that they use when challenged about the effort they put into the fight goes something along these lines: “we have to fight to keep the democrats out of office because they are socialist” or “at least Bush is a Christian” or any number of other justifications.

The very simple and true fact is that there is very little difference in the Democratic and Republican parties. I was talking politics recently with an Australian officer here. He laughingly remarked a statement very close to what I just stated. Looking from afar it is easy to see that there is very little separation between the parties.

Sure they appeal to different sorts of people. Each party incorporates enough of the “core issues” of their demographic to claim separation. It is really a matter of measuring the results. Some claim that the Democratic Party is about a move to socialism and the Republicans represent a way to thwart that effort. The reality is that both parties have moved the country closer to Orwellian centralization. It is really absurd to state otherwise. I can point to too many examples of Republican participation in the demise of the core values of the Republic for anyone to honestly deny this fact.

So it would seem that in our two party system we have two groups of ignorant people. Liberal Democrats that advocate socialism almost outright as a way to cure the ills of the world and “conservative” Republicans that vote for a party that has often times led the march toward big government and elimination of individual liberty. Both of these groups are of course wrong but it is hard to determine who demonstrates the greatest degree of ignorance. The liberal bleeding heart is tiresome but at least they stand for some principle, no matter how flawed that principle may be. The “conservative” supporter of the Republican party is either a dupe or a hypocrite. They have either been fooled by the lies perpetrated by the Republican leadership over the last 25 years or they secretly wish to impose a neo-conic vision on the world.

People often argue that there is no other choice but the two party system. To them we either support the lesser of two evils or by default we succumb to our worst fear. In my simple mind this is a weak and feckless argument. Sure third parties have no chance in the current system. It does not matter if they are right. When good men stand by and do nothing, evil triumphs. When people that ought to know better accept the current circumstance as the best we can do they are in effect aiding evil.

Good men are becoming fewer and fewer. As government grows and programs expand into our lives more and more ordinary people forfeit their ability to step away from the public trough. We have families and responsibilities. Each year as more and more of what were once freedoms and rights are defined as privileges and as more and more of what we earn goes to support an overreaching Federal bureaucracy more good men become part of the system. Once a man becomes so embedded and indebted to a system that he is no longer free to make principle-based choices he has in effect become a slave.

I have lost hope for the United States for many reasons, declining morals, abandonment of The Constitution, and other reasons. The primary areas of concern are I believe apathy and ignorance. People are too ignorant of history, the Constitution and our founding principles to know what right looks like. Those that do know or should know are misled by false beliefs in a broken two party system or too comfortable with their lives to stand and make a difference.

As the election draws near many millions of words will be written and spoken about who should win and why. So long as the discussion centers on the two major parties it is a pointless endeavor. Ultimately it does not matter which one of the major party fellows wins. Each will lead us down the wrong path if given the opportunity.

To those that are still misled and enamored with the Republicans and their promises of conservatism I would simply ask; what have they really done to restore America to the right path? Have they limited government, turned back the clock on socialism, restored our individual rights or respected the Constitution? In the last 25 years the Republicans have had the White House the majority of the time. They have certainly not taken steps that have produced fruit. Instead we have moved closer to centralization, government has grown, rights have been denied and American has continued a moral decline. This is not the work of a group that truly wishes to restore America to its rightful purpose.

Waste your time if you will with this pointless endeavor. If you really want to make a difference it is time that a few good men stood up and said “no more”. A cry should go out across the land that we will no longer accept the charade of representative government paraded about by the two organized parties. There are still enough good men left to stand up and make a loud roar. If we are unwilling to demand and take control of our destiny then we as a collective people are deserving of the result we receive.

To those I have offended I mean no harm but if my words sting there is still hope. The path we now follow will lead to tyranny of Orwellian proportions in generations to come. In my lifetime encroachments that were once unimaginable are common. The government continues to grow and creep into every facet of the individual life. As an individual I have no influence on the outcome of political events; I have no voice because those that would represent me are not given a fair chance.
Do what you will but realize that good men become fewer each year. By supporting a broken system you are not “staving off disaster”, you are simply part of the problem.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Monday, August 23, 2004

My beef with the Air Force

In my last screed I began expressing my disdain for the United States Air Force and the influence it holds on military strategy, policy and direction. I am sure that my opinions will offend some, especially those that collect paychecks from the Air force or wore a blue uniform at some point in the past. I am not positive that this will be the case however. In the last week I have had interesting conversations with some current Air Force personnel and a couple civilian contractors that were formerly in the Air Force. Each of these individuals agrees in principle with my general assessment of the weaknesses in the Air Force.

Also I would like to point out that it is unfair to take my views of the deficiencies in the Air Force as the reason and cause of all the maladies that face the military in general. The fact is that all the services have succumbed to one degree or another to the weakening forces of political machinations and correctness. My point is that the Air Force has resisted least, embarked on its own path of wrong actions separate from political pressure and embraced whole-heartedly all that is wrong with current military thought. The fact that the other services are forced by law to not only tolerate but work with the Air Force is not at all helpful if the real fighting services ever might hope to reestablish a system of discipline and quality required in times of dire need.

At the core of the problem with the Air Force is a flawed theory. The idea that air power alone can win or even significantly influence the outcome of warfare has been proven over and over to be false.

In the 1920’s forward thinking flyers fought for this concept. The need for an ability to conduct air operations in support of tactical operations was obviously required. It was not a concept that air power thinkers pondered often. During WWII the tactics and techniques needed to conduct combined arms operations were lacking and nonexistent in the US. We had spent our resources and efforts thinking about a massive bomber force that could pound potential enemies into submission.

During the war we were forced to develop the ability to support ground operations with tactical air support on the “fly”. Doubtless countless American lives were lost as a result of the arrogance of air power thinkers. Even in the face of the necessity of tactical support the leadership of the Air Corps insisted on the need and relevance of a roust bomber command.

What was the result of the massive strategic bombing efforts over Germany and Japan? Militarily they were negligible. The fact is that German industry actually benefited from the bombing campaign. Older, less efficient German factories were destroyed and the Germans proceeded to build more efficient production facilities underground. German production increased during each year of the war despite massive day and night bombing campaigns.

The cost in human lives that resulted from this folly is not at all negligible. First there is the opportunity cost of resources spent. How many American lives might have been spared and how much sooner the war might have been ended if these resources were instead allocated to tactical air-land battles will never be known. There is also the cost of the crews of bomber command. Proportionally bomber command took a higher percentage of casualties than did front-line infantry units. Finally there is the moral issue of the bombs that were dropped on German civilian populations. WWII was a good and just war; the actions of the Air Corps as they fire bombed civilians was immoral and contrary to all formerly established rules of just war. That drunken murderous bastard Sherman would have been happy to call himself a commander of a bomber wing in WWII.

History would view air power in its’ proper light were the atomic bomb not developed. This of course nullified any real discussion of the fallacy of strategic air power as a primary weapon of war. We never really discussed why were wasted so many resources on the strategic bomber wings. Instead we created an independent Air Force, gave them the bomb and rested our hopes for national security on men that were willing to drop horrendous weapons of mass destruction on civilians. This very trait disqualifies such a person from the ranks of great military men of history. Military traditions of the true officer class in the west have always held civilian populations and cities as illegitimate targets. We abandoned all of that when we empowered men that would be murderers with rank, position and power to influence military thought.

Thus at the very core of its’ existence and creation the Air Force was lead and formed by men that held views and moral viewpoints contrary to the rules that have for centuries (with rare and notable exceptions) restricted and controlled military leaders. The influence that this corrupt thought process has exerted on the military establishment as a whole has not been insignificant. The fact that Congress in its’ finite wisdom decided in the 1980’s to force the other services to accept and incorporate the Air Force to a greater degree only served to cement the corrupting influence.

Beyond the corrupt beginnings the Air Force there are numerous other peculiarities specific to those blue weenies. As a rule they accept and embrace business school principles as principles that are directly applicable to military thought. This is of course not at all true. I am always humored when I see some business type with Sun Tzu on his desk. The applicability of management principles to leadership is likewise as absurd on a practical level. To be certain some of the ideas are useful and all good leaders need management skills. The problem with the Air Force is that they make managers of all the folks that ought to be leaders. They have developed a culture of managers instead of leaders.

I am constantly amused and then angered as I encounter Air Force folks here on their arduous three month tours. They show up with their stupid ideas, take up space, stir the proverbial pot and then get on a plane and go home.

I suppose that I could go on and on but time is limited. Suffice it to say that if the US intends to retain the empire it has embarked on creating then the armies of the empire need serious realignment for the asynchronous conflicts to come.

I read in the London Daily Telegraph a quote form a young man that represents the “barbarians at the gate of Pax Americana”

Struggling to lift a Kalashnikov, a 12-year-old with the Mahdi army militia said he could do anything in battle except fly a helicopter.
"Last night I fired a rocket-propelled grenade against a tank," he said. "The Americans are weak. They fight for money and status and squeal like pigs when they die. We will kill the unbelievers because faith is the most powerful weapon."
No matter what you may think of the principles behind this young man’s belief you cannot deny that his beliefs engender a passion unfound in our system. The bravery that I have seen here are things we simply cannot replicate large scale. Men die, fighters can be killed but real principles will not go away. The business model, moral-deficient way of waging war for no other reason than you were told to is not the sort of thing that endures and wins.

If the military of a nation is supposed to reflect the society from which it is drawn then I suppose the corruption and weakness that is the Air Force is a just and good representation of America. If the borders of the empire do not hold in the coming years then historians will have ample fodder to dissect the cracks in the armor. The march of time has a very unique way of correcting flaws that mere men are too weak to see. The Air Force, the ideals and values it sprang from and the weakness of manly virtue it represents are but one of the numerous viruses that the empires suffers.

I am merely an observer of the slow death of a giant.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Vegitus Redux

Life has again slowed for a brief respite; my mind has again turned to observations and ponderings of the world that surrounds me.

My thoughts most recently have turned to the utterly screwed up the structure and organization of the United States military.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not contending that in the present circumstance of the world that the US Military is incapable of effectively dealing with any foe the national policy makers desire to engage. Far from it, technological and logistical superiority do now and shall for the immediate future remain the elements that ensure supremacy in almost all conceivable conflicts.

Having said that the structure of the military is far from perfect; to the contrary we are very much like the society and culture that supports and maintains the force. That is to say, corrupt on many levels; afflicted with bureaucracy, political correctness, ineptness, selfish careerism and general disarray. The most powerful giant that now roams the Earth is in many ways a very sick beast.

Vegitus wrote eloquently to the Roman Emperor of the maladies that afflicted what was then the most powerful beast roaming the world. The Roman Army easily won every battle that it fought for years after it began the decline and demise akin to and apace with the moral, economic and political demise of the Empire in general. Ultimately winning mere battles was neither enough to win campaigns and influence the face of the world into the image desired by Rome nor was it enough to save the empire.

One could reasonably argue with a great deal of validity that the most professional and competent military ever in possession of the United States existed in the 1930’s. Small, professional in both the NCO and officer corps, the military of the 1930’s was not only forward thinking and innovative it retained all that was good from centuries of military tradition. WWII and is the greatest testament to the competence of the 1930’s military. To be sure it was not this force that fought and won the war. It was the leadership and leaders that this force developed and produced that won the war.

The most significant difference in the military of today and the 1930’s force is that we simply do not produce the sort of men we did back then. I think this point is basically inarguable and I would challenge anyone to find that caliber of man wearing stars today.

The reasons for this are of course numerous. WWII required a great influx of bodies in all ranks. The small pre-war force could simply not fight a global war. The officer corps grew with the inclusion of men that were not part of the “officer class”. I am not inferring that society should be based on solidified social strata, rather that morals, ethics and principles have historically been housed best is classes of men, the idea that any society can rely on the general populace to provide men of principle and character in great quantities “from the street’ has been proven incorrect.

Following WWII the moral failings of the “citizen officer corps” were addressed through the Dewy Commission and the legislation passed as a result of its’ findings. Instead of insisting that measures were emplaced to ensure that only moral men of true leadership capacity were commissioned congress decided to reduce the authority of commissioned officers in general. Invariably this changed the system of discipline and command that was previously developed over centuries of trial and error. The effects of the mistakes of the post WWII congress are still felt today.

We cannot of course blame all ills on the 1947 congress. Each successive congress has done its’ part to meddle in affairs they do not fully understand. I suppose that it is impossible to expect a gaggle of political creatures to place what is right above what is expedient. In our system we have long ago abandoned any expectation that politicians, have the capacity or desire to really do anything more than make a name for themselves. Sad that we accept this as the truth but it is reality.

We saw the disastrous effects of congress’ meddling in the Korean War. The military was there plagued by discipline problems previously unknown. Of course everyone knows enough about Vietnam and the problems there.

Then of course there was the attempt to create an all-volunteer force without properly funding pay and allowances. We foolishly attempted the feat of maintaining a superpower force to face down the Soviets with underpaid volunteers. Times had changed; the profession had been diminished by years of abuse and mismanagement by the government. The best and the brightest no longer wanted to serve in sufficient numbers. Add to that the fact that the sheer numbers required put a burden on recruiting that could not be met without reducing standards.

For all the talk of the great and wonderful force we have now the reduction in standards of the 1970’s still plague us. We added women to many specialties that they really have no business physically or emotionally tackling. I could go off on that tangent for pages. My views on that matter are solid, supportable and basically inarguable (despite the fire which some may bring to the discussion). The NCO corps, the groups that ought to be the backbone of the force, became weak sisters.

During my entire 19 years in boots I have observed a steady decline in the quality of NCO’s at senior levels. This is I believe a direct result of when they came in and how influenced them early. Bad habits have a way of spreading. Thos fortunate enough to have as chief influences men that were hold-overs from the good habits of the old force “grew-up” right. Unfortunately most of the senior non-coms of today never had the experience of being taught right. Instead they have been developed by a broken system that encourages individual politics and self-preservation. I have come to view anyone wearing E8 or E9 rank as a mere nuisance and best and a real problem at worst. These folks add nothing but another butt in need of a chair and a loud mouth. The rare few that have some worth are hard to find and seldom celebrated by their “peers”. In fact the few that are actually worth a darn are so rare they are peerless.

These are of course just some of the events and pressures that each service has endured. Each service has dealt with these issues in different ways. The United States Marine Corps (Semper Fidelus and God bless the Corps) has been the most stalwart in rejecting the machinations of incompetent political masters. The Navy being a sea service and very tradition bound resisted pretty well until Tail-Hook; after that heads began to roll of those that did not adapt to a "kindler-gentler" Navy. The beheadings of course did not stop with a few "rowdy-boys" the phenomenon spread and continued until the entire leadership was purged of real men. The Army made some effort to resist but the fact that the Army has the largest manpower requirements meant early on that there was little choice but to adjust to the conditions set by Congress.

This of course leaves the Air Force. For reasons that are incomprehensible to me the Air Force has not only embraced the move from practical, proven military tradition and discipline they have in fact innovated and created new methods that the Congress itself was not bright enough to devise. In my humble opinion the Air Force has long ago ceased to be a military service and has become nothing more than a uniformed service. There is a significant difference in the two.

In the mid 1980's Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act. I am pretty sure that Barry Goldwater was too old by that point to realize the significant negative impact this one act would have. The bottom-line is that all operations that can be joint are by law forced to be joint. This means folks from all the services take part. Never mind that this means incompetent flunkies from the Air Force are now forced by law into every major command. The influence of these non-military folks that merely wear uniforms on the outcome of everyday events is enormous. As I overheard an Army general put it the other day “I have a great deal of suspicion of anyone that comes from a service that is lead by people that believe in business school models and fly around in air conditioned airplanes dropping bombs on unsuspecting people from thousands of feet". I do not believe anyone could put it better.

I can and will elaborate on the deficiencies of the Air Force and their continued participation in any influence and decision making capacity in current and future military operations. In my opinion they ought to be treated as nothing more than people that fly planes from point A to B on order from the military services, period….more on that later when I have more time to vent...I am sure I will anger someone that has or does collect a paycheck from the Air Force. If so, just hold your thoughts until I have time to elaborate and complete my venting, then unload on me as best you might.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Saturday, August 14, 2004


I have thought often of writing a little something. I suppose the fact is that I really have little time. I have on occasion fired up the laptop and actually began banging away at keys but each time I have not gotten very far.

I am well, things here have taken a helluva turn in the hyperdrive mode. I have been very busy out and about doing my little bit. I have several observations that I have made on an entire range of topics. None of which I will broach here that do not directly relate to my current topic.

I have received several emails from many of my few “faithful” readers and I appreciate all of them. I apologize that I have been remiss in responding. In all honesty I barely have time to read my personal email much less respond a lot. There are many questions that I intend to answer. Some in private and others that I will eventually answer here. I am certainly not ignoring anyone that has written. Your letters are appreciated and your questions will mostly all be answered in time. Iraq is what it is. I suppose that if you could transport yourself to some distant future where historians are able to write the real truth of all of this you might understand some of the things I understand. For now I suppose my best recommendation would be to read Rudyard Kipling. The plight of the British in the 19th century is a pretty true synopsis of the reality here in a geopolitical sense.

When I have time for deeper more meaningful thoughts my ponderings have often turned to the issue of just what constitutes a “bad person”. By bad of course I mean the sort of person that is worthy of killing and unworthy of self-determination as it pertains to the sort of government they establish for themselves.

Over the years I have often questioned just what the eternal fate of a person born in another culture and taught to practice a religion other than Christianity would be. As a Christian I am taught that there is but one way to heaven and all other paths lead to damnation. It may be arrogant of me to think that I know the mind of God but I have always wondered if there was not more to that story.

What of a good kid that grows up a Hindu. His parents are Hindu as are his grandparents, friends and neighbors. His society is based on Hindu beliefs. If he hears the message of Christianity it is most likely from a foreigner. Not many of us are likely to listen to the teachings of a foreigner if it contradicts all that we have been taught and have lived all of our lives. I have always wondered if in God’s plan of mercy there was not some measure of hope for such a person.

Do not take me wrong. I am not advocating that in each religion there is truth and that one can merely pursue an al a carte eclecticism and still go to heaven. It is just something I have wondered about.

This leads into the observations I have made here. Really many of the same observations I have made before in other lands. Beyond a doubt religion plays a key role in the cement that builds societies. In the early stages of government religion plays a role in giving legitimacy to rule. In time religion becomes the enemy of the government it once empowered. History bears this out and we can look around the world and see this to be true. More “advanced” governments turn on religion as intolerance; less “advanced” governments use religion as a support.

Realizing this to be true it is apparent that it is impossible to merely say a person is “bad” and worthy of being called enemy because they desire a government based on their religious preference. After all in a less “advanced” nation without the benefit of a couple centuries of republican government it is logical to accept that people need a religious based government. Again, history bears this out. In the United States we relished our religion until the point we collectively decided we were too “advanced” for such notions.

As I look across Iraq I do not see “good guys” and “bad guys”. I see instead a very diverse collection of groups, each seeking different goals. We, the US, try as best we might to label everyone as good or bad; with us or against us. In this we are wrong and because of this ultimately we will fail. Sure we will continue to win every battle and eventually some sort of government will survive here. We will fail to achieve a drastic change in principles and without that we will fail to change the environment.

Take for instance some of the groups struggling for their own goals. Again, whenever any of these groups diverges too far from the plan they are labeled as bad.

The Kurds: These are the best folks in Iraq. They were they only group to rise up and attempt to overthrow Saddam, with the open encouragement of Bush I. For their audacity they were starved, bombed, murdered and dislocated. Kurdish villages and towns in the south practically ceased to exist in the 1990’s. In the north the Kurds enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. They established their own security forces, rebuilt industry, governed themselves and lived as a defacto free people from 1991 until we invaded Iraq. The Kurds are moderate Islamics, they hold little animosity toward Israel, embrace free markets, capitalism and democratic republicanism. In short, the Kurds in northern Iraq are the best hope for a reasonable Muslim government in the Mid-east.

The Shia: This folks comprise about 60% of the population of Iraq. They subscribe to the most radical version of Islam, they hate Israel and the West. Iran is a Shiite republic and has been so since 1979.

The Sunni: This is of course the brand of Islam practiced by Saddam. The Sunni are a minority in Iraq, numbering just a bit more than the Kurds. The Sunni are divided into two groups; those that still support Saddam and those that support a return to the Baath party pre-Saddam. The Sunni are less fundamental in their version of Islam and tend to act more out of matter of expediency rather than religious fervor.

Then of course there are the foreign fighters. There is no doubt that these people are in Iraq. After all the US is here and it is a good place to pick a fight. The agenda of these people is pretty much what US propaganda says it is; to thwart any efforts at stabilization.

The problem with our approach to explaining the situation here is that we attempt to lump anyone and everyone that disagrees with OUR plan into the enemy category.

I have no problem at all with our fight against foreign troublemakers. They are here with a mission similar to ours. They want to influence the outcome of events. They are here picking a fight and for that they die in great numbers each week. As a very good friend puts it often; “if they are so anxious to go meet Allah, I will help arrange their travel”. These are the same sorts of troublemakers that would fly a plane into a building or strap explosives to their bodies in a crowd if they had a chance. Better to let them pick a fight here rather than back in South Carolina I say.

I do have a real problem with our view of the other groups. First there is the Kurds. They were willing to fight for their freedom and died by the thousands for it. When it was convenient for the US we supported their bid for autonomy. Now that their goals no longer match ours we demand that they give up their independent existence and join with the rest of Iraq to become a mere minority in a nation that loathes them.

We preach that we are here now to establish democracy. Of course you know I hate that term and everyone that speaks it ignorantly. Democracy in Iraq, well let’s see, the Shia outnumber everyone else so that means any democratic government will quickly turn into a Shia government and become very much like Iran. I do not think that is part of the “grand plan” so when the leaders that be speak of democracy they really do not mean “democracy”. The problem is the Shia are not stupid. They have realized this. They understand full well that the intention is to limit their influence on the eventual government. This is exactly why the formerly oppressed Shia are now rising in great numbers to fight the US as their current oppressors and occupiers.

This leaves of course the Sunni. We have gone to great strides to give the Sunni a voice in the new government to quiet their support for the Baathist. Still a large percentage of Sunni do not embrace the “grand plan”.

To a simple country boy like me the solution is rather simple. None of these groups really want to live together. There is no democratic solution that will prevent the Shia from dominating the other groups in a forced country. Why not simply let them each go their own way? The Kurds were well on their way, the Shia and Sunni live in different sections of the country. It seems too simple to let secession be an example that would work here. Of course such notions simply do not mesh well with neo-conic thought. We were stupid enough to think we could force the Balkans into peaceful living conditions when the best choice was division. We only succeeded there after the killing and genocide had changed the demographics enough to allow some cohabitation. Even still it requires a lot of “peace keepers” to ensure the killing does not resume. How foolish.

Yes I know that the neighboring countries do not want a divided Iraq. I say to heck with them. The US is going to be here for many years to come no matter what form of government arises. It would be far better to be here protecting people that were happy with the government they have rather than fighting to force people to accept something they do not want. I am not so sure that we can classify people fighting against a form of government that they do not want as “bad”. Seems a little hypocritical to me.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Surrealism I

I received two emails damning me for my apparent support of the caste system I described in Kuwait. In my previous post I merely stated that Kuwait was a pleasant place to visit as a US soldier. I did not state that I believe or disbelieve their form of societal controls is good or bad. It is a complicated circumstance in Kuwait. I suppose the bottom line is that folks there seem to accept things as they are. TCN’s continue to willingly move there to work even though they are in essence the lowest rung on the social and legal ladder. Mothers continue to insist that their daughters abide by the social norms for women even though women are without most of the rights enjoyed by western women. I do not and did not judge their system. I simply described it.

I suppose that my previous post meshes well with my thoughts here. It is a basic dichotomy that Americans support the stationing of troops in Kuwait and the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and oppose systems equally restrictive in places like South Africa. There is really little difference in apartheid in South Africa and the system in Kuwait. In each system one group benefits from the labor of others. In each instance one group enjoys legal privileges and protections not enjoyed by others. It is a form of surrealism to consider how one system is accepted and another rejected.

A few notes before I continue. I have been asked why I have toned down my political observations. It is simple and complicated. I do not fear retribution of ill treatment. If there is something that must be said I will say it. There will come a time some day for me to reflect and ponder on the "whys and hows" of all of this. I do not believe I have the time right now to properly think on these things. Also, there is the fact that I am with people 24 hours a day that go out and make sacrifices, large and small. There is a time to ask why and there is a time to accomplish the task at hand. So as I find time to write and post my topics will be, well rather boring observations of the world around me. I will leave commentary, hypothesizing and opining to a latter day.

I will not discuss a lot about what I do either. I really do not want my blog to become about my life and me. I think that writing about observations over the next few months might assist future readers in grasping the full meaning of the opinions I will eventually express. Where I find it impossible to tell the story of my observations without fully excluding me as the participating observer I will endeavor to minimize my role.

It is fascinating how much things have changed in Iraq in just a few months. It is amazing how much the US military has changed here. I left an army here that was a fully arrayed army of invasion. I find now a well-entrenched army of occupation. The differences in those two configurations are significant.

The army of invasion of my memory was hot, dirty, uncomfortable, on edge. The atmosphere was very much wild west in nature. All of the manuals and books on how to fight a war go out the window soon after bullets begin flying. War has always been thus.
Many people mistakenly assume that military men are warmongers. This is of course not true at all. We are much like anyone else. Those few that are true warriors by nature enjoy the opportunity to escape from the text bound rules of peacetime. The horrible costs of war are the only things that prevent a man of conscience from being a seeker of battle.
During every war technology, tactics and terrain force men to devise new and innovative ways of accomplishing their missions. This is exciting and challenging. This tests one’s full intellect, skill, resourcefulness and creativity. It is exciting and exceptionally terrifying, especially for those that make decisions and give commands. General Lee said it best, "it is good that war is so terrible, else we would grow to love it". I cannot think of a truer statement to describe the reality. In a very real way the love/hate relationship is a dichotomy creates a very surreal situation.

The army that I left was filled with innovation, creativity and resourcefulness. The old peacetime rules were abandoned immediately when it was found they no longer made sense.
To the casual observer I suppose the first sign was universal modification of uniforms. First Sergeants have busied themselves for years ensuring that troops wore their field gear in just such a way. Everything was standard, everything taped down just so. Command Sergeants Majors patrolled field sites enforcing these standards. Primarily because that entire rank group has long ago abandoned their primary role as chief trainer but also because these folks have little else of importance to do.

All of that standardized nonsensical uniformity was discarded soon after bullets began to fly. The equipment a soldier has to carry to survive is heavy enough. The desert is very hot and unforgiving. Soldiers began to wear what war needed.

Another big change that was quickly adapted as a grassroots effort was additional armor for vehicles. In very short order one began to observe vehicles of all makes and intents outfitted with homegrown add-on armor. Heavy weapons were mounted to vehicles that no peacetime book ever intended. People began to do what needed to be do in order to survive and win.
Leadership began to change also. Many a young captain with six to eight years in the service never previously had the opportunity to really lead. By that I mean the opportunity and chance to make momentous decisions that would result in life or death, success of failure. Many of these decisions were made in circumstances that did not match the peacetime textbook solution. It was an exiting time. There was a mission to be accomplished but no real clear rules on how to do it. There were simply a lot of young folks out there figuring it out day to day, using whatever training they had before but more importantly they used their individual skills and intellect.
Of course all of that is very different now. To be sure there are some elements of chaos involved. However it is a more standardized sort of chaos. It is the sort of chaos that is partially controllable and partially predictable. This of course allows for folks that believe they know best to begin writing rules. It allows for the numerous headquarters weenies at every level to begin doing what they do best; writing copious standard operating procedures for everything.
One can still observe the effects of the "wild west" period. There are still a fair number of joes that spend their days tired, hot and on edge. The modification of vehicles into up armored battlewagons has continued. The fact that the military cannot provide enough factory modified armored humvees will ensure this trend continues. Most joes have avoided a return to peacetime uniform and equipment standards; although the trend toward standardization for the sake of standardization is slowly beginning to take hold.

The most significant change is in the role of leadership at the lowest level; events are less fluid now, they appear more controllable. Technology enables higher commanders to observe and virtually control the actions of team size elements. Since the pace of action has slowed to a circumstance that allows these higher commanders to pick and choose their operations they choose to engage in just as many events as they can personally oversee. There are no more young captains out maneuvering their companies in a chaotic and dispersed environment far from their boss and his control. Thus innovation and creativity have been replaced by control and standardization.

I would be remiss if I did not describe the nature of life of the troops involved. Whereas in the army of invasion troops went for days and weeks without even seeing a tent many troops now live in air-conditioned tent cities. Many live in portable trailers complete with electricity and AC. Where water was at a premium it is not readily available. Shower and latrine facilities are exceptionally nice. There are Exchange (military Walmart) facilities on almost every camp and a couple of very large facilities on the larger camps. Burger King, phones, internet cafes, laundry facilities and even pools (thanks to Saddam) on some camps.

Of course the nicer camps house the majority of the headquarters weenies. These are not the sort to ever seek being dirty or uncomfortable. However, even the camps that house the men that go out each day and do bad things to bad men have most of the amenities described above. Part of what makes this so surreal is the fact that inside the wire there is all the comfort of home, if you removed the oppressive heat and added family members one might think that the location was Fort Bliss Texas, just outside the wire there lurks the danger of the bad men. It is difficult to keep that in perspective. You look around and see soldiers that never leave the wire, living relatively comfortable lives and then realize that this is still a place where people die.
The bad men try as best they might to remind all the HQ weenies that they are supposed to be earning the combat pay they receive but really do not earn. Almost weekly there occurs random mortar attacks on many of the camps. Not really shelling, generally just one or two rounds. They bad guys know that counter battery radar can easily pinpoint their location so more rounds would surely shorten their life expectancy. The rounds are not really well aimed, just sort of in the general direction of the camp. In a large camp with thousands of people it is pretty unlikely that any particular individual will be unlucky enough to be on the receiving end. It is just enough to remind those that never leave the comforts of the camp what is outside waiting on those that do.

That is more than I intended to say on that. I intended to describe more of the bizarre realities here, such as Saddam’s Al Faw Palace and reserved hunting grounds. This place would make any good ole boy that has ever joined a hunting lodge envious. I will do that in a latter post. Amazing stuff really. I hope my words will do justice to the amazement it brought to my mind.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Thoughts from the edge of limbo

I continue to have the privilege, or misfortune, to receive continuing instruction in the lost art of patience. It seems that being a mere number in a database precludes one from any degree of personal consideration.  As I have pointed out before I am an individual on this deployment.  I am without a unit and the accompanying support one gains from that experience. 
It seems all of the delays I experienced getting to this point were just preparatory training for further delays. I am but a mere captain awaiting space on a flight that will take me from Kuwait to Iraq.  I am part of a queue of “patiently” waiting souls that include all manner of ranks, job specialties and military services.  Unfortunately for me, as I scan the room filled with others in my predicament I painfully realize that in this particular circumstance being a mere captain holds little weight.  There are many folks much more senior than I awaiting flights.  I am certain in the battle of whose situation is more urgent I will continue to lose my battle to secure a seat on a north bound plane. Ah yes, being a number is trying indeed.
I am disconnected with much of the ordinary events of the world.  I read the Stars and Stripes, I watch the news during chow, but otherwise I know very little of what is occurring in the world outside of my little slice of it.  I get a few fleeting moments of access time to the Net each day.  Otherwise it is just me sitting atop my bags with a couple books and my laptop.
I have been to Kuwait several times in the past.  Most were under much happier times.  Kuwait is a fascinating land.  It is unlike any other place on earth.  For sure it is a Muslim nation but it is not nearly as repressive or radical as that concept might engender in the mind of the uninitiated.
Kuwait is one of the few truly modern aristocracies existing and functioning today.  The population is neatly divided into five castes; the royal family, native Kuwaitis, Western military, Bedouins, and third country nationals.
The royal family and those descended from families that claim the land from the time of the first Emir comprise Kuwaiti citizens.  They alone have franchise to vote; they are given special protection under the law.  In reality, Kuwaiti citizens comprise much less than half the population of Kuwait.  Kuwaitis perform no real work.  Some few hold professional positions in the military, law or medicine.  All of the Kuwaiti officer corps is comprised of Kuwaiti citizens. Others hold positions in government; often these are no more than titular positions.  Kuwaiti businessmen seldom take a very active role in the day-to-day operation of their enterprises. All true Kuwaiti citizens receive a stipend from the government; a form of oil profit sharing for the aristocracy.
Bedouins occupy a unique and odd position in Kuwaiti society and culture.  According to their own traditions and Kuwaiti law they are forbidden from establishing permanent residence. The realities of the modern nation-state and controlled borders combined with the amenities available to a people that establish some roots to the land have effected a change in the lifestyle of the Bedouin.  Today all across Kuwait Bedouins pitch their tents in what have become basically permanent arrangements.  Their tents are equipped with satellites dishes, swamp coolers, utility connections, driveways, landscaping of a sort and several vehicles parked out front.
Third country nationals, known as TCN’s, comprise the majority of the population of Kuwait. They pick up the garbage, cook and serve food at restaurants, mange the shops, drive the buses and taxis. Without this labor force Kuwait would not function.  Stated more accurately, without TCN’s Kuwaitis would actually have to perform these functions. TCN’s live a precarious life.  They fall under a different set of laws; they are subject to arrest for things Kuwaitis are immune to.  They can be and are deported with ease for minor violations.  In the mind of egalitarians in the West this might be viewed as atrocious.  When one considers that work in Kuwait presents a real opportunity for these guest workers and when the happiness that these workers go about their daily existence is considered it appears that this is a system that works.
This leaves of course Western military inside Kuwait.  In all honesty we are treated far better here than any treatment I have ever received anywhere in the United States.  The first time I visited the country after the war in 1991 a Kuwaiti that I had conversed with aboard the plane invited me to his home for tea.  In the Arab world this is a great honor.  Each and every time I have flown into the Kuwait City airport I have enjoyed a speedy transition through customs.  Never once have I stood in the lines that the majority of visitors endure; never once have my bags been searched; never once has the customs officials said anything more to me than “thank you, enjoy your visit to Kuwait”.
Imagine that treatment compared to the hypersensitive Nazi’s that work airports in the United States under the careful supervision of the Transportation Agency and the insidious Homeland Security goons. As a commissioned officer, sworn to defend the Constitution and cleared by other hypersensitive intelligence Nazis in other government agencies to access classified material, I have been subjected to searches and detailed questioning on more occasions than I can count.  There have been occasions when, because I purchased my ticket late or my arrangements were one way, I have been pulled out of the security line for in-depth questioning. This while folks remain that look much more threatening than me to me; this in the country I am sworn to defend.  Not so in Kuwait; in this land we are treated as the benefactors of freedom.
In Kuwait it is not uncommon for citizens to come up to you and personally thank you.  It is not uncommon for people in line at McDonald’s to offer to allow you to move to the front of the line.  The one time that I was pulled over for speeding here in 1997 we were allowed to go immediately when the police realized that we were US military.  In Kuwait, Kuwaitis understand full well that their aristocracy and well being rest squarely on the soldiers of other nations that fought for and stood in the desert for a decade defending the continued right of the Kuwaiti system to exist. 
Right or wrong, Kuwait is a nice place to visit because of the genuine love and affection demonstrated by Kuwaitis. 
All the same….I will be very happy to board the “next thing smoking” in a northern direction.  My ability to remain positive in the midst of nothing constructive to do is lapsing. 

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I am a Fundy

I have recently given thought to something that continues to puzzle me. I am amazed at the degree, depth and breadth of the outright hatred of Christians and Christianity that exists in the blogshpere. I have never before taken notice of this fact because I had no occasion to.

As you probably know I support the idea and the concept behind Christian Exodus. I have written a couple of times expressing this. I have yet to fully articulate here the multiple reasons that I support this idea; that is something I will do when I have time. It is sufficient to say that nothing that group stands for conflicts with the views, opinions and principles I advocate here almost every time I post.

I began to notice the hatred expressed toward Christianity when I noticed traffic coming to my blog here from blogs I had never heard of or visited. It seems that I am one of the few blogs on the net that openly supports the idea behind Christian Exodus. All of the new traffic I have been receiving is from the various sites that quote me as a supporter of the 'fundies'.

What a fascinating term, 'fundy'. This is my first experience with the term. It obviously is a derogatory term for fundamentalist. Like any term applied carte blanche to a wide group of people in stereotypical fashion this term is inaccurately applied. I am in fact a Bible believing Christian of definite conservative leaning. Of this there is no doubt.

It is impossible to apply the term fundamentalist to me however. Do I believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God? Sure. Do I believe that this is the one and only revelation of God? Probably not. Any casual review of the history of the creation of the Bible points to the definite fact that Man had a great hand in the assemblage of the books that comprise the Bible. Man is fallible. We undoubtedly failed in the selection of books to include and exclude and in the translation of books. I believe that certainly God guided man in this endeavor. It just seems that getting all worked up about such things leads to unnecessary conflict. Constantine, the Roman Emperor that commissioned the Council of Nicea, was interested more in creating harmony in the empire than he was in listening to the voice of God. The Canon of 'approved' books was a hurriedly done endeavor with a political purpose.

Sure it is possible, even probable that God used Constantine to advance the cause. It just seems to me that it is pointless to get proverbially wrapped around the axle over issues that we as mere mortals cannot know.

I ask questions, I ponder possible answers, I seek truth where it might exist. I am not a fundamentalist in terms of thinking that God is limited to the interpretations of his word by men.

I suppose my views in this regard place me in the lonely position of neither being in one camp or the other. I am accustomed to this. My views of the Southern Movement and what we ought to do and what is really important have for a long time alienated me from the doctrinaire members of that group.

The same is true for denominational doctrine. I am a Southern Baptist, yet I see no real harm in an occasional drink. I do not go to bars, I do not get drunk but I do drink one or two beers a month. I think the Bible itself is filled with examples of folks drinking a little. The book tells me not to get drunk so i do not.

So I suppose my views of Christian doctrine might also alienate me from someone that interprets the Bible literally by the standard of a group of men.

I believe that man is sinful by nature and that without salvation through the grace of Christ he is lost. I believe that grace is freely given and may be accepted by any man that is open to hear and receive. I think all arguments about other requirements are proven moot by the example of Jesus promising the thief on the cross that because he believed he would share in paradise.

I believe God is bigger than merely being limited to just the creation story as told in Genesis. I believe God could have created the world in such a way; I also believe he could have created the world in a number of other ways and the Genesis explanation was merely a way to explain things to a simpler culture. We cannot know these things for sure. In my simple mind the hand of a wise and awesome God could certainly exist in something like the 'Big Bang' and evolution. Of course these are just theories created by man. The real truth could be something even more fantastic; or it could be something as simple and beautiful as the Genesis story. I just think these are things we cannot know for sure. We have only to believe in a God that could do all of these things and more. Getting all worked up one way or the other is simply wrong and foolish. I disdain scientist that disavow any possibility of God; likewise I disagree with Christians that discount science. Man is falable and we do not have many answers but we may have something on the order of 5% of them, it is possible.

I suppose I am a Fundamentalist that views God as an incomprehensible being in many respects. I think we can know his will and intent for us if we are faithful and listen. I do not think we can with assurance know every answer about the universe though words passed to us by Him in the Bible.

Having said that, and although I will remain an open-minded believer, I would gladly pitch my tent with the fundamentalist any day if given the choice between them and the bigots and haters of the world. It is a far better thing to believe in something bigger and better than oneself than to merely place all of one’s faith in Man. If the fundamentalist is content not to ask questions and rely on the Bible as the end of the discussion I find nothing wrong with that. I can coexist happily with the fundamentalist.

By the way, I am also reading another book just now 'Jesus Freaks'. It is about folks that have died for their conviction to worship and follow Christ. Excellent book. More on that later.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Hurry up and Wait

I said in my last post that it would be my last post for a few months.  I forgot one of the oldest adages of military life.  I left my home station 11 Jul and reported to Fort Bliss Texas for what was suppose to be a couple days processing and then a flight to Iraq. 
Nothing in the military really ever goes the way one plans.  My two days turned into a full week of much waiting around.  My flight has been delayed, once again, until Tuesday of next week.  I am left miles from home with little to do as I “patiently” await my flight date.
This assignment is unique in that I am deploying as an individual.  I am just one more body among a sea of faceless souls moving from one point to another in a constant rotation of people.  There are many downfalls to such a circumstance.  Being a faceless body you have little control over your destiny.  You are in fact subject to the whims of a gigantic machine.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to be exposed to people and things I have almost forgotten in the last two years.  I have spent my recent assignments primarily with only Army people, in combat formations.  I have had almost no interaction with reserve and national guard soldiers.  I have had very little interaction with members of the other services.  You tend to forget a lot of things.
I have forgotten just how “civilian” reserve and national guard soldiers are.  I have worked closely with those folks before and have over the years developed a rather low opinion of their real capability as soldiers.  Nothing against them, this is just a profession that demands more than part-time attention to hone the skills necessary to really perform at the level required. 
I have been reminded over the last few days during my conversations with several of these folks of the tremendous sacrifice that being a part-time soldier can entail.  I left my family in the diligent care of my unit back home.  There they have access to the same medical and other services they are accustomed to.  The family support group is fully capable of assisting with any problem than may arise in my absence.  For my family the only hardship my deployment entails is just my absence.  My pay remains the same, their life remains unchanged and they have a support system.
The reservist does not have these luxuries.  Many leave behind jobs that support their current lifestyle.  Many lose their health benefits or have to pay out of pocket to remain their normal coverage.  Sure they are enrolled in TRICARE, Military socialized medicine, upon entry on active duty but this is wholly inadequate for folks wishing to utilize their regular doctors in their cities and towns. 
I could list many more difficulties these folks experience. There is no point.  The simple fact is that the reserve system is inadequate to one meet the needs of the individual and two provide fully trained and competent soldiers.
Don’t get me wrong, these folks are very much required.  That is they are required if as a matter of foreign policy the United States is intent on building a neo-empire on the “nation building” model first embraced so firmly in the early 1990’s. The Army and Marine Corps simply do not have the manpower to engage and sustain such operations long term without additional manpower.
I wonder what will become of the reserve system in the next few years.  Employers will certainly become reluctant to hire reservist for fear that they will deploy and leave the company without key assets.  Reservist will themselves eventually decide that they did not join up to deploy for months on end in operations that do not directly threaten the security of their homes.  Changes will come because necessity will require change.  It will be interesting to see what form that change takes.
I have also met several of the IRR (individual ready reservist) recalled to active duty involuntarily.  News reports depict these individuals as holders of “key” skills that knew full well that they were subject to recall.  This is false.  My estimation is that the only “key” skills these people have is the ability to breathe and walk.  A man that hung up or threw away his uniform two or three years ago simply does not remember enough about his particular job to be immediately useful.   The stories of these folks are actually sad.  All that I have talked to have gone on with their lives, they served honorably, were honorably discharged and got out to get on with the business of their lives. This is in effect conscription of folks that previously volunteered.
I understand full well the original intent of the IRR program.  It is a hold over from the cold war.  Back then the idea of being able to quickly put new bodies in boots was necessary.  Back then a real draft of ordinary citizens would have also followed.  The IRR program was never meant to take civilians straight from the street and send them essentially straight to combat, at least not without also demanding sacrifices from the rest of the citizenry. This entire episode is a travesty of the highest form.  It is unfair to force these poor folks to serve against their will while the rest of the nation goes on about their business untouched.
Don’t take me wrong; I am not for a return to the draft.  I am just pointing out that it is unfair to draft some because they decided to volunteer to serve some years ago while others that never volunteered go completely unhindered by the troubles of the empire’s wars.
I am reading an interesting book entitled “Peace Kills: Fun with America’s new imperialism”. A interesting concept from the book is a theory of why Arab culture has ceased to create things or grow and develop.  The author’s theory is that the tendency toward centralized government combined with an early written language led to stagnation.
This is at odds with many that view the conflict and differences between Western and Arab culture and one of religion.  Taken at a purely face value there is not much difference in Christianity and Islam.  Sure, theologically we disagree on several key points.  From the standpoint of “right and wrong” I certainly believe as a Christian that Muslims have it wrong on these points.
My point is really about the underlying morality of Islam and Christianity, specifically as it relates to things like commerce.  If one reads the Koran (I have) you see that on points of economics the basics of the religion are very free market. 
How then do we explain the apparent departure from the teachings of their religion and the actions of their governments?  I think to really understand the differences between Western and Arab culture we have to look at religion but we also have to look deeper at history.
In the West the notion of private property took hold fairly early.  To be certain the concept was limited originally to nobles and landed gentry but the idea was there.  When a man in Europe was granted title to land he knew that unless he committed some grave act against his lord he would retain that land and pass it on to his son. The land became a source of the family’s current and future wealth. The land was this treated as a sort of investment.  Farming for maximum short-term effect was counter-productive.  Instead the trend was to nurture and develop one’s small hold for continued production.
The idea of private property never really developed in Arab lands.  Land grants were given to men for specific times for specific service.  The sultans, pashas and other lords used the land as a continual source of patronage. The temporary landholders used the land to reap the greatest benefit in the time they controlled the land. This invariably led to reduced production.
Historical estimates demonstrate that the fertile plains in Egypt and Iraq diminished in their agricultural yields with almost each generation for the last 1400 years.  The rape and pillage land patronage system has much of the blame in this.
The development and dissemination of a written language that the masses could grab on to combined with the centralized nature of governments in Arab lands led inevitably to the creation of bureaucracies. Centralized governments with highly developed bureaucracies and codes of law do not lead to cultural development.
I think that the germ of an idea contained in the book I am reading combined with a lot of additional thought and research will eventually provide the meat of an interesting essay.  I will endeavor to write this in time. 
I think these are thoughts worth pondering and concepts worth investigating.  If the West is truly involved in a cultural war with Arabia then there is a lesson here.  In Arabia we have a system of government that has turned from the concepts that allow freedom of development.  This is a culture that has produced nothing of note for over 1000 years.  If we are indeed in a clash of cultures conflict then we should do well to remember what tends and events have made theirs such a decrepit and stagnant civilization.
We cannot win such a conflict if we become the very thing we are fighting.  This is really the notion that makes the righteous quest for Southern independence so relevant.  Our desire to retain and build a civilization that respects the freedoms from an oppressive central government are the very keys to success of civilization in general.  
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid 

Friday, July 09, 2004

Reflections on What Matters

I prepare now to leave again for foreign lands to fulfill a duty I long ago swore. It is often at these times that one feels as if a great transcendence between worlds occurs. Here hearth and home provide a tranquil repose from the harsh realities of the world. A man has time to reflect on what is and what ought to be. Matters of philosophical and political matters find attendance in the idle mind. The pleasures of simple things become, at times, routine and often lose their rightful significance.

In the final analysis of what is important and what is meaningful it is the things that one finds in this world, here with amoung home and friends, that have the most significant meaning. I shall not for a moment assert that there is not meaning and purpose in the place to which I go. There are young souls in need of guidance, direction and leadership. There is work to be done. God is their in my heart and watching over me as well. I leave this life because at the very core of my being I am and have always been a creature existing in two worlds. I was born for the work that I do and no matter how painful the departure I cannot alter that fact.

The sadness of the goodbye and departure from my life here is nothing new. Yet it is the same emotion each time. These things simply do not become easier with repetition.

I have watched over the last several days as my beautiful, loving and devoted wife has busied herself with motherly preparations; asking me again and again if I packed this item or that. The packing is done, the preparations are complete. She has little to occupy her mind with except the fact that we will soon be apart. This wonderful gift from God has been my wife for thirteen of the nineteen years I have been in the military. She is no stranger to the goodbyes. She is solid and stalwart yet she is also tender and needy as each of us for the company of our companion. I love her with all my being and leaving her is always a sorrowful event.

My children have handled this as they have every other separation. My son has aged years in the last few months since I returned from my last deployment. His understanding of the world has greatly increased. He has had many questions of me that I have never had to answer before. My daughter is just attaining the age that she is capable of demonstrating that wonderful womanly quality of aloofness. She does not understand the reasons I must leave but she certainly has the ability to express her displeasure with alternating hug sessions followed by carefully orchestrated distance keeping. I suppose that is her defensive measure to meter out the hurt over a period of time rather than feel the full weight of it at once.

I am long since past real fear of physical danger. That is not to say that I have lost the ability to feel the rush of adrenaline and the anxious heartbeats that accompany real danger. I have seen real danger too often and escaped unscathed to think I am impervious. I have seen men die of the most inane accidents after facing what appeared to be impending doom and danger in other situations. I have, what might best be termed, a sense of fatalism about these things. Car accidents occur daily and kill thousands, a myriad number of other deaths await unsuspecting souls. What becomes of us here on Earth and what death awaits us is not entirely in our hands. In a very real sense it is not within our control at all. There is no rightful or justifiable purpose in concerning ourselves over these matters. There is no practical sense in having real fear, beyond that rational men have as a method of self-preservation.

My faith in God is always renewed whenever I face real danger. My faith in man is always diminished when I view the depravity that man visits upon man. No creature on Earth is a capable of building great wonders. No creature on Earth is as cruel to its on kind as man. I became convinced the first time I observed war, in all of its awful and powerful destruction, that the best cure for humanism and atheism was for man to go and experience this for himself. A man that can see with his own eyes, and smell with his own nose the result of man’s fallibility cannot with intellectual honesty declare that man is a supreme being.

I shall not post again until I return. This should be an easy and short deployment. I plan to be back in six months; “God willing and the creek don’t rise”. To those few souls that read my occasional rants I thank you and wish you well.

I go now to do what I must do because it is my job. My heart belongs to God, my love and affection remains with my wife, my devotion remains with my children and my hope remains with the freedom and prosperity of my home. Dum Spiro, Spero

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Revelations anyone?

I am not a doomesday sort of fellow....but take a look at these headlines on Jun 06 of almost looks Biblical in a strange sort of way.

AIDS epidemic rising at enormous rate, according to U.N. report...

Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high...

UN issues locust plague warning...

Could be nothing at all as most of history has been is odd though..Plauges, strange occurances in the sky, locust and of course war and rumors of war

Monday, July 05, 2004

This Ain't Your Daddy's Corps

"Kidnapped US marine Wassef Ali Hassoun has been taken to 'a place of safety' after he pledged not to return to the US military, his captors told al-Jazeera television in a statement yesterday. "

It has been some time since I went on a real rant about all the evils of “sissyfying” the military. All of the years of indoctrinated political correctness, easing training standards for fear of hurting someone, easing recruitment standards because there are really just not enough good kids waiting to get in, eliminating the ability of commanders at the company level to issue stern punishment; all of these and more are examples of the things I am talking about.

Imagine this, a US Marine deserts and then defects. Unconscionable and unfathomable. The Corps just ain’t what it used to be…and to think I wrote a piece bemoaning the eventual beheading of this criminal.

I suppose this young man, though he be a translator, was never fully introduced to the meaning of Semper Fidelis.


Wonderful piece by Stoney

"'Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.' -- John Adams

Adams was proven right in less than a century, as the Union majority rolled over the South and the Republic died a fiery death. Democracy was established by the sword, and Democracy is our government to this day.

'Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.' -- Benjamin Franklin

Ask any American schoolchild what form of government we have, and they will inevitably answer 'A Democracy!' Those who rule us have been pushing the idea of a democracy since the very beginning. Thus was Adams shown to be right... the 1787 Constitution was wholly inadequate for the governance of those who did not respect it.

Why does this happen?

The answer lies in the imperfection and fallibility of Man.
Only God is perfect. All mankind is fallible and imperfect, because of original sin and our constant rebellion against God. To be saved, washed in the Blood, forgiven, and brought into the family of God is a great thing, and earthshaking thing, and awesome manifestation of the love and power of God...
...but it does not make Man perfect.

He is still rebellious and full of stubborn free will. He is still fallible.
That is why all the edifices of government that Man has erected to his own intellect are doomed to fall. Every attempt at Man governing Man will fail, because perfect government will not exist in the world of imperfect Man.

What, then, do we do? There are hundreds of millions in this country needing leadership. There are billions throughout the world crying for liberty. Some sort of governance, of government, is impera"

The United States, America and The People

I have engaged in several conversations with various people as of late that have shined a glaring light on a major misconception. It seems that in the mind of many it is impossible to differentiate between these three entities. It is a major flaw in one's thinking and limits any subsequent arguments not to be able to tell the difference.

First of all what is America? In terms of the common usage it is really a concept. It is the embodiment of a nation-group of people with a shared history and a shared culture. To be certain within the American cultural group there are many very well defined subcultures; some of these are differentiated enough to qualify as full-blown cultures and people groups on their own.

America is not a nation in terms of existing in one particular form of government. Many countries, even most countries, presuppose the current national government that represents them. As one example Russia, as a country, was represented by the Czar. During the revolution of 1917 Russians did not cease to be Russians and take on the mantle of Soviets. Russia was merely submerged for a time under the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell, Russians remained Russia; the notion of a country of Russian had never ceased to exist.

The people groups that comprise America have had many governments represent them. We were represented at the signing of the Declaration of Independence by thirteen sovereign and newly independent States. We were represented by a Confederated central government from 1781 until 1791. We did away with that government and created a new central government under the Constitution. No matter what form or name the central government has taken the underlying fact that America still exists, as a nation-group of people, has remained unchanged.

The notion of America predates that of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In fact we began as a people soon after colonization. Shared values, a common sense of purpose, the belief that man ought to be able to determine his own destiny with his own hands and the aid of God, these things bound us together early.

What then of the People? We, those fortunate enough to have inherited the birthright that is the American ideal, comprise The People. In 1776, we acted through our sovereign states to demand independence for us and all of our off-spring. This was not the birth of the United States; it was simply the birth of freedom. It was the assertion of the inalienable rights of The People to establish for themselves the forms of government that best suited their needs and values.

Americans, i.e. The People, enjoyed for almost eighty years the right and privilege under the Constitution the right to self-government on most matters through their State government. Prior to that, The People enjoyed this privilege to a great degree under the Articles of Confederation and earlier still to a surprising degree of profoundness under the Royal Charters proceeding independence. During the majority of over four-hundred years of American history The People have exercised and enjoyed great latitude in matters at the State level.

The United States is but the executive agent of the will of the people and the formal representation of America. It is neither The People nor America. It is a separate entity that was created to serve the needs of these two other entities. If the United States as a government were to be replaced by a different central government we would remain Americans. If the various States were to reassert their sovereignty and elect to discontinue their participation in the union we would remain Americans in much the same way that Europeans remain European no matter the form of various national governments or unions of states (i.e. European Union).

The notion that The United States as an entity is irrevocably meshed with that of America or The People is a dangerous one and acceptance of this idea can and will invariably lead to tyranny. If The People cease to hold dear their right to establish their own form of government and if patriotism to America is so interwoven into patriotism to a government we have no hope of recourse.

Americans of all our various sub cultural groupings must come to agree that it is more important to be an American than it is a Citizen of the United States. Being Americans guarantees us the right to self-determination and perpetual freedom. Being Citizens of the United States guarantees us only preeminence in the world (for a time) while our true values and principles are eroded and stolen at home.

As you ponder the aftermath of this weekend’s celebrations of the bold statement of freedom by The People and their States way back in 1776 try to remember what being American really means. When you feel a surge of patriotism at the waving of the flag remember where that emotion and loyalty truly belongs.

Our allegiance is to God, our families, our home, our country and then the government that represents us. So long as that government represents us well it is fit to stand. Whenever it may cease to serve its intended purpose it deserves neither our respect nor our loyalty. That is a very American point of view.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

Another false alarm

Another major holiday has come and gone. Prior to this holiday as with every event since 9/11 we were told to “be on the lookout”. This time the targets were exploding beer coolers and subway gassing. The holiday came and passed, as all the previous events, with no incident, no major arrest, no nefarious conspiracies uncovered.

It seems that the only terrorists we can find are those fighting in Iraq for their desire to influence the eventual nature of the government there. Where are all of the terrorist? Why are we constantly in a state of alert? Why do we need the Homeland Security Department and the Patriot Act?

It seems that all that these things have really accomplished is to take away more of our freedom and spend more of our money. It is time to stop this Orwellian mirage of constant vigilance against enemies that do not appear. It seems that the real enemy is clear and present and right in front of us. Maybe it is time more folks began to realize this fact.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The looming Republican war

The current tussle in the Congress over the budget is just a precursor to what I think will be outright Republican civil war after this election.


Whether the coming civil war is about who lost the election, or who will exploit the victory, it's going to be nasty and enduring. No single party can be both for individual liberty and for theologically-based social policy; both for fiscal balance and drunken-sailor spending; both for interventionism abroad and against moralism in foreign policy. The incoherence is just too deep, the tensions too strained. And with the war on terror itself a point of contention among conservatives, geo-politics will not be able to keep the coalition in one piece.