Two Notes on the U.S. Military

napalm strike
Napalm Strike

W.J. Astore

One of the joys of blogging is hearing from insightful readers.  Today, I’d like to share two notes that highlight vitally important issues within the military — and that touch on larger problems within American society.

The first note comes from a senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.  This NCO highlights the tendency for “green” (new) officers to want to prove themselves as “warfighters,” instead of doing the hard work of learning their jobs, which entails listening to their NCOs with a measure of humility while working together as a team.  It further highlights the arrogance of some officers who are full of themselves after graduating from military academies, where they are often told to “take charge” because they are “the very best.”

Here’s the note:

As a Chief Hull Technician, I ran the damage control and repair shop.  My shop was responsible for hull, piping, water, sewage repairs and damage control equipment on our ship.  The officer in charge of “R” Division is always a first assignment for new ensigns reporting to their first ship.  I was a senior enlisted with 16 years in the Navy,  working for a 22 year old (ensign) with either 4 years at the academy or nine weeks of OCS (officer commissioning school) and a year of SWO (surface warfare) school.  All the new officers want to be war fighters.  None want to know the nuts and bolts of actually running the ship. During my tour I had 3 (Naval) academy and one OCS ensign.  The ensigns from the (Naval) academy were horrible.  Not just bad officers, but lousy people.  I understand the cluelessness of a 22 year old, but the desire to achieve with no regard for the people who will make you great was appalling.  They did not realize their crew would make them great.  They thought they were so brilliant, they could do it on their own.  My job was to save them from themselves.  My Chief Engineer would get mad at me when they made asses of themselves.  My OCS ensign was a good officer. He wasn’t full of the Naval Academy education… Breaking traditions is hard in the military.  The fact we have presidents with no military leadership is contributing to letting the Generals run wild.  Instead of realizing the civilians control the military, not the other way.  I would have fired or (forced) early retirements of all flag officers who supported the Iraq war.  Who needs people around who give bad advice?

This senior NCO makes an excellent point at the end of his letter.  Why not fire or early retire generals and admirals who offer bad advice?  But rarely in the military is any senior officer held to account for offering bad advice.  As LTC Paul Yingling noted in 2007, a private who loses a rifle is punished far more severely than a general who loses a war.  Citing Yingling, military historian Thomas E. Ricks noted in an article at The Atlantic in 2012 that “In the wars of the past decade, hundreds of Army generals were deployed to the field, and the available evidence indicates that not one was relieved by the military brass for combat ineffectiveness.”

Since 1945 decisive victories by the U.S. military have been few but everyone nevertheless gets a trophy.

The second note I received is as brief as it is powerful:

My father is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), he flew both Korea & Vietnam, had the time of his young hot shot fighter pilot life in Korea, but had grave misgivings in Vietnam, and in fact was passed over for a Wing & a promotion to General, because as he said to me on 1969 after his return; “There is something fundamentally wrong with dropping napalm on little old men in rice paddies, and going back to (the) Officers Club to drink it up, and do it all over again the next day.” 

Yes, there is something wrong with dropping murderous weaponry on often innocent people, then returning the next day to do it again (and again), without experiencing any doubts or moral qualms. There is also something wrong with a military that promotes amoral true believers over those officers who possess a moral spine.

The issue of killing innocent civilians is yet again in the news as casualties rise during the Trump administration.  According to The Independent:

More than three-quarters of the civilians killed during the four-year war against Isis in Iraq and Syria occurred during Donald Trump’s presidency, new figures show. 

A total of 831 civilians have been “unintentionally killed” over the period, according to the US military’s own figures. 

And the official figures offered by the U.S. military significantly underestimate civilian deaths, notes a recent study by Anand Gopal and Azmat Khan.  Yet moral qualms about the deaths of innocents are rarely heard today.

I’d like to thank again readers who share their insights and experiences with me, whether by email or in comments at this site.  This is how we learn from each other — it is one small way we can work toward making the world a better, more just, place.

19 thoughts on “Two Notes on the U.S. Military

    1. Thanks, Nicolas. What you say here is crucial: “This has left average Americans in almost complete ignorance of the human cost of modern war, and has served to shield our political and military leaders from accountability for appalling decisions and policies that have resulted in catastrophic losses of human life.”

      Yes. War is presented as almost “surgical,” an exercise in “precision,” and civilian casualties as an anomaly, always accidental and regrettable. So most Americans are simply ignorant of the true costs of modern warfare, as you say.

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      1. When I saw this first thing in the morning I meant to respond but had a delivery first.
        However, when I got back and saw the comment I changed my theme to secrecy’s purpose using LS-85 in Laos. (secret then, now you can Google for LS-85, and get multiple listings)
        In November 1967, almost exactly a year before I enlisted in the Air Force (having been in Civil Air Patrol since 1960, I had my preference as I used to work on the fliteline of my local airport), the squadron I would join a year and a half later (June ’68) had a number of people (who I would also work with later) in Laos working on a “Combat SkySpot” station in far north eastern Laos, right next to the North Vietnamese border.
        To keep things hush hush, the Laotion ambassador didn’t want it known that US troops were in his country so the people working on installing and then working in the Skyspot location (LS-85, Lima Site 85) wore civvies and had all their military IDs stored away and replaced with IDs which said they were civilians working for a US firm. It was classified “secret” (I’m sure of at least) and may even have been “top” secret (don’t remember now). We got our money and orders from DIA but were not “spooks” of any kind.
        The guys I would later work with were geodetic surveyors, which I would also become, and finished their work, returning, before the site went fully operational. Later when I came into the squadron my first work, on the base, before my TDYs, would be on turning field computations into computer computations for Skyspot (directing bombing and other ordnance over North Vietnam more “accurately” than previous calculations) and other triangulations in a lot of places where we “were not.” No one AT HOME in the USA knew we were in so many locations.
        Intelligence had estimated that it would take some 6 months or so before anyone might notice the LS-85 installation. Remember, it was classified, to the point of covering personel by changing their IDs and their clothing.
        Clearly someone didn’t seem to realize that dropping an installation basically at someone’s front door would be noticed immediately. And they did. By March 11 of the next year the NVA massacred almost everyone there. Only a few managed to get out. One of those, a chief master sergeant Richard Etchberger got out, but died of wounds during the evac.
        His family was first told he had died in a helicopter accident. He had actually died after getting his people on board a chopper, then getting into the chopper after them, only to be shot through the skin of the helicopter by an NVA shooting from below. 12 people died that day, one in the air (Etchberger), 11 on the ground, four of whom were thrown over the cliff by the NVA.
        It was 13 years or so before Etchberger’s family knew more. Eventually (I think 1998 or 99) he was given a silver star posthumously and then in 2010 that was upgraded to a medal of honor with Obama giving the presentation.
        Secrecy protected no one but the damned fools who thought they could operate off the front stoop of the enemy they were bombing and who sent our people out there without adequate protecton or ability to evacuate quickly.
        Remember, the Hmong (some of whom were loyal to the North Vietnamese although they were expected to provide a level of security) and NVA were locals to the area. LS-85 certainly wasn’t a secret to the locals.
        Later, in newspaper work, I realized that the locals alway knew everything I would print later, they were just entertained to see me write it up for the news, especially if someone they didn’t like was getting roasted.
        Classification by itself is not protection for operations, especially if they are poorly conceived in the first place. But classification does keep the “ill-conceivers” from getting exposed and fired (at the least).

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      2. Thanks for sharing the story of LS-85. Yes, too often secrecy is used to hide things from the American people, e.g. the secret bombing of Cambodia by Nixon, or the Laotian operation you mention. Secrecy and classification multiplied greatly in the aftermath of 9/11 for no legitimate reason; then you had the war on whistle blowers by Obama and crew, the most transparent administration ever, so they claimed.

        The U.S. government and especially the Executive branch strain hard to classify everything, thereby avoiding oversight. Congress is mostly content to look the other way, rather than to serve as a check on abuses of power. Some of our worst and dumbest actions have been shrouded in secrecy — and the continuation of secrecy ensures lessons aren’t learned, setting up future fiascoes.

        The military often doesn’t realize it needs oversight and challenges to save it from its own folly. The attitude is, leave us alone, give us a blank check, let us do the job. This has been a recipe for overreach and disasters for decades.

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      3. Whenever I hear someone start prattling on about “surgical” bombing, I remember an appropriate response that I once heard: “Yeah, like in Civil War Surgery.”

        For some reason, the thought that no one ever seems to question the absurd idea of “surgery” in connection with explosive ordnance (“Let’s perform a heart transplant using a hand grenade to open up the chest”) brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the British pragmatist philosopher F. C. S. Schiler:

        “Neither is there anything too ‘sacred,’ which generally means a fear that the things so denominated cannot bear investigation.”

        Putting together the concepts of “surgery” (as in B-52) and “sacred” (as in “soldiers”) leads to:

        Sacred Surgical Strikes

        Quietly one cannot go
        About an amputation.
        Neatly neither can blood flow,
        Nor sap and sawdust ever grow
        Where limbs fly off and butchers crow:
        In slaughter, their salvation.

        In abattoir and arbor, they
        Perform the surgeon’s mauling.
        The animals and plants they slay
        Efficiently, both night and day,
        Dismembering what doesn’t pay
        To live — a breed appalling.

        But doctors of divinity
        Have sworn in sacred theses
        That what man wishes, man can do:
        The rape of many by the few;
        The just deserts, the proper due
        Of GAWD’s own chosen species.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2014

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  1. I do dance photography, and have since I started dancing more than 20 years ago. Hard to realize but I’ve been photographing for a little more than 51 years now (summer of ’67) but until I hit dance, in particular performance dance, I didn’t realize how valuable “notes” are. Dancers are used to notes during rehearsals, after performances and so forth. If you are from the outside some of those notes can sound more than a little direct. But dancers are hungry for them because each note helps them see what they cannot see about their own performance and in the process allows them to do better work. If those notes are not direct and hard hitting they let the dancer continue with mistakes which are embarassing. So the notes are important support (they are very tight knit) both personally and professionally. Every dancer wants the best (most helpful) notes in order to have the best performance.

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    1. Don’t mean to go on but I should add that dancers on stage are totally exposed to the audience (unless you hide them in very dim lighting – I’ve seen that). So they really do want to know anything which will perfect their performance. Similar with me and my pictures. I don’t like someone complementing me when they don’t know what they are saying or because they are being nice. I really need to have good criticism otherwise I will be taking pictures back to the dancers which are embarrassing both to them and (because I should know better), to me. I don’t like just getting knocked but I really do need to know if the position or technique or timing or any number items are off. This is highly technical as well as very artistic work and it lives on an edge within an extremely tiny sliver of time for each shot. So I listen as hard as I can. I like direct “notes” best but otherwise I also listen for those demurements which indicate that I missed the mark but someone isn’t really saying that.
      Here is a link to a page on my portfolio site about photographing dance:
      Please, please feel free to kill the link if it doesn’t fit.
      I don’t mean to pump myself, only to illustrate.
      http://www.mikestrongphoto.com/CV_Galleries/PhotoCV_SubjectKnowedgeForDance.htm

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  2. After reading this, I was reminded of a deployment to Iraq with an SF captain who graduated from West Point. On his first convoy, he had a meltdown when we got into Mosul and I took my hands off the crew-serve long enough to sling my rifle. He decided to call me out during the exfil in front of the “big Army” Major who was sharing his experience before going back the US. When I pointed out I wouldn’t be able to fire at anything closer than 30 feet using the crew-serve, he changed the subject and ‘continued his assault’, stating ‘we’ll cover each other’ to which I responded ‘I don’t think I ‘ll have problems covering your vehicle, sir”; the Major intervened and spoke with him privately for about five minutes and the captain gave me a hate stare as we mounted up, but had a convoy protocol the next day-that included a slung rifle for the guy in the turret when the convoy was in metropolitan areas. That same captain was trying to get in company XO time, screwing one of the better officers in the company (who was elated to go to MFFS-SWT in AZ when we came back), as the West Pointer wanted to get time in that role and get a promotion; his deployment to Iraq was his first as an SF team commander; promotion would have made any future deployment primarily adminstrative/FOB-based, rather than field-oriented. That was ten years ago-he could be a group (rather than just a company) XO by now.

    In my short time with that group [four years], I saw an SF captain who had been deployed once get promoted to Major, becoming a company commander (overseeing 5 teams, rather than the usual 6 as SF guys couldn’t be built fast enough and retained) and after deployment to Iraq, he was promoted to Lt Colonel and assigned to the Pentagon. He was West Point too.

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    1. You describe — quite accurately — the bureaucratic phenomenon of “ticket punching,” as rampant today in Iraq and Afghanistan as back during the long-lost American War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). The U.S. military suffered an epidemic of ticket-punching towards the latter stages of “Vietnamization,” or what the French called “Yellowing the Corpses,” the policy developed and implemented by President Richard Nixon and his Svengali advisor, Henry Kissinger, from 1969-1973. Today, I suspect that we might call that practice “Browning the Bodies,” by which we still mean the same thing: namely, that the U.S. military can somehow get the native inhabitants of [Third-World Country-X] to fight each other, destroy their own country, and die so that American military personnel — mainly the officers — can get “combat experience” stamped on their personnel records before hauling ass out of the mess they have created and getting back as quickly as possible into the gravy train of career promotion upwards toward their level of incompetence (if they haven’t reached it already). Parkinson’s Law meets the Peter Principle.

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  3. American’s actually love dropping bombs on non combatants and we have killed at least 2 million of them that way since the end of WWII. We love it most when there is absolutely zero chance a pilot will get hurt. Killing the defenseless is honorable, brave and patriotic in America. Nations which don’t drop bombs on defenseless civilians, China essentially zero ever, and Russia very few, mostly just now in Syria don’t believe in freedom.

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  4. A note from the Grammar Gestapo (or Regimental Rhetorician) concerning the rhetorically redundant phrase “vitally important,” especially when used in the context of matters relating to the U.S. military.

    First, the word “superlative” means “of the highest quality or degree.”

    Second: adjectives describe nouns, and the English language features three types of adjectives: (1) descriptive, (2) comparative, (3) superlative. For example: “good,” “better,” “best.”

    Third: the superlative adjective “vital” means “a matter of life or death.” For example: if we don’t have oxygen to breathe for only a few minutes, we die. The heart is a “vital” organ because if we don’t have a heart, we die. Or, as the U.S. military used to say (and possibly still does) “Vietnam is vital to the security of the United States.” Even as a lowly enlisted man in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, whenever I would hear such nonsense, I wanted to ask the superior orifice who uttered it: “So, like, if the United States doesn’t have Vietnam, then the United States will die?” But I never spoke aloud these misgivings because, as the U.S. Navy taught me from my first day of basic training: “Nobody cares what you think. If the Navy wants to know what you think, the Navy will tell you what you think.”

    In light of the above, then, the proper sequence of adjectives describing a noun like “issue” goes like this: “important,” “more important,” and “vital,” as in (1) an important issue, (2) a more important issue, and (3) a vital issue.

    On the other hand, converting a superlative adjective into an adverb — i.e., “vital” into “vitally” — in effect reduces it to just another modifier of a modifier of a noun, and hardly one “of the highest quality or degree.”

    Pardon the pedantic lecture, but I have a real problem with ostensibly educated military orifices who haven’t a clue about what constitutes “a matter of life and death,” which accounts for why so many of them get so many millions of other people killed. I thought of these things the other day when I saw on my Internet monitoring device pictures of “Defense” Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis visiting still-Communist Vietnam to arrange for U.S. Naval vessels to vist the Port of Da Nang where U.S. Marines first stormed ashore in 1965 looking for Vietnamese communists to kill. Then I remembered back to when U. S. President George “Deputy Dubya” Bush (AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard) finally made it to Vietnam himself, on my birthday, November 17, 2006, decades after a better American woman, Jane Fonda (a Total Babe in Barbarella Queen of the Galaxy) made the trip in his place. Surely I must have written an ode to commemorate such a momentous occasion. And I did. So as the wheel comes round again, with American “commanders” once more involving themselves in “vital” Asian matters about which they haven’t the first clue, I reprise:

    Hanoi Haiku

    In Hanoi at last
    Red-carpet in return for
    Our carpet-bombing

    The words no one heard,
    Due so many years after:
    “We apologize”

    Deputy Dubya
    Sheriff Cheney’s Barney Fife
    Lost in Mayberry

    Gullible Goofy
    The boy who cried Wolfowitz
    Far too many times

    Emerald City
    Naked ruler’s brand new clothes
    Viewed through glasses green

    Mission Accomplished!
    A cakewalk in its last throes
    Now a glacier race

    Four Years an “instant”
    Nothing happens right away
    What did you expect?

    Broken-egg omelets
    George Orwell’s Catastrophic
    Gradualism

    Shop till the troops drop
    Buy a plane ticket or two
    Your part in the “war”

    Rob the future now
    They will never break our will
    Those grandkids of ours

    Lecture the victors
    About their First and Second
    Indochina Wars

    Where did we get him?
    How come we can’t do better?
    We look so stupid

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

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    1. Pedantry with a point. One of my pet peeves is “very unique,” when unique means one of a kind. You can’t be “very one of a kind.”

      Both notes I highlight are important; the second is vital. It is vital we stop killing innocents, not only because it’s wrong but because it’s stupid. We kill innocents while creating more enemies which leads to more innocents being killed which creates more enemies …

      The first issue, that of cocky and and inexperienced officers failing to heed the advice of sober and experienced NCOs, may at times be of vital import, notably in combat, but not only then.

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      1. Yes indeed, “very,” the most useless adverb — next to “really” — in the English language, as in:

        Q: “How vital is it?”
        A: “Why, very vital, and you just can’t get any more vital than that. Really.”

        From Lost for Words: the Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language (2004), by John Humphrys:

        “The worst jargon is dreamed up by management gurus, some of whom make fortunes telling managers how to run their businesses. Since they have mostly never run a business of their own, they must conceal this by using language that holds no meaning but creates an illusion. The illusion is that this meaningless language is actually profound. It is vital that you speak it. If you cannot you will appear a fool to those who can.”

        I wrote an essay once entitled: “Really very vitally important adjectives used as adverbs that modify adjectives that modify nouns.” I wish I still had it. I’d send a copy to President Donald Trump, that lover of self-descriptive superlatives, advising him of a formula claim to unforgettably deathless immortality such as the world has never seen before in past history:

        “I alone among the uniquely individual self that I personally call me have just achieved, with the signing of the signature of my name, the Republican refomation of revenues that my previous precursor predecessors, Deputy Dubya Bush and Black Obama, had reduced and then made permanent before I reduced them even further towards a more unchangeable permanence in the future to come someday.”

        Gee. With only a little practice, a person with a halfway decent vocabulary could get really very exceedingly good at this virtually vital bullshit.

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  5. I was in Vietnam from March 1970 to April 1971. We sometimes had squad leaders “Shake and Bake” E-5’s that went to Basic, Advanced Infantry Training on to the NCO School and then Vietnam. We had others that were promoted to E-5 as squad leaders from the ranks.

    A few times some older (relatively speaking) E-5’s that had been busted back a rank or E-6’s wound up back in the bush as punishment.

    The Field Grade officers, were clustered back in the rear at a Bn. forward fire base, or even farther back at Brigade or Division Bases. Everyday, the Field Grades at the forward fire base would hop aboard a chopper go out to the bush, and survey by flying around. If was a resupply day they might actually set down.

    One of my CO’s in the field was ex-SF. I asked why he left SF, as he seemed to like SF and he replied no promotional opportunities, beyond Captain.

    It does seem the higher in rank you go in either the military or civilian side of DOD, you are immunized from failure. 9/11 was a huge strike at Corporate America (World Trade Towers) and it’s sister institution for carrying out world wide imperialism the Pentagon.

    A rational person might think the leadership in 2001 would have been sacked (or cashiered) at the DOD, CIA, NSA and Pentagon after 9/11, not so of course. The fable spread by the press was our Security Apparatus did not fail, the enemy tricked us by using an asymmetrical suicide method of attack. No one could have foreseen this, we were told, even though plane hijackings had happened many times before and suicide attacks had taken place in the past.

    At the Corporate Level the Captains of Industry and their companies were bailed out during our financial crisis of 2006-08. Fraud was over looked and we had the policy of Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail.

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    1. Languor, et al. Go re read Catch 22 and forget all that anti war stuff. Catch 22 is the story of the war, and after, when the Cathcart’s and Korn’s and Minderbinders were eager company men. The men who went on to join corporations. Relentlessly, the company man became the only man to be. Sexy, savvy, on the go. Ready and willing to do anything , on the job, for the organization. Success defined by surrendering ones individuality, for the corporation. (All institutions, government, NGO, Party or corporation all have the exact same structural hierarchies based upon the modern business corporation)

      During and after the war there was a wide and deep skepticism if not disgust with the ass kissers and game players up and down the officer corp among ex GI’s and the general public. The term ‘company man’ was a understood as a pejorative by many Americans well into the 50’s. Then in the 60’s, as opposed to the narrative that hippies and alt culture changed things, the real change was that the company man became the man to be, almost unseen. So apparent now. A Spicer will always have a job and get respect. Respect from every company man; professional courtesy

      The person in tune with their exact place within an organization rises. Those who don’t care either never even try to rise or never even get in the front door.

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    2. General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell (of WWII fame) had a pithy saying about military promotions in the officer corps: “The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more of his behind you can see.” Not hard to see a bare-assed monkey-general (or two or three or …) running around the White House or flying secretly into and out of Afghanistan or Iraq in his personal jumbo jet, running a “war” in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains from behind a cushy office desk in Washington, D.C. or Florida. REMFs, all of them.

      I made E-5 by my third year in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, but couldn’t make E-6 without extending my enlistment past six years, which I had absolutely no intention of doing under any imaginable circumstance. By the sumer of 1969 I had completed my qualifications as a nuclear power electrical operator and had landed a berth on staff as an instructor. I thought that I could look foward to at least another year at the A1W (surface ship) prototype in Idaho Falls, Idaho, followed by perhaps a year or two gaining hands-on experience aboard ship, then out of the Navy and back to civilian life. But then the reactor needed to shut down for refueling, which takes years, and the Navy had stopped building nuclear powered surface ships aboard which guys like me might serve. My poor eyesight disqualified me from nuclear submarine service, so what does the U.S. military do with a Surplus Sailor who has three years left on his enlistment contract and no possibility of promotion to higher rank?

      Why, what a coincidence! As it turns out, President Nixon only needs three years until he runs for reelection in 1972. He can’t just negotiate a cease-fire in Vietnam (like the French did in 1954) and withdraw the American forces already in-country (who wished only wrap up the whole stupid farce and come home) because that would result in the immediate collapse of the imaginary Saigon “government” put in place over decades (and continually stuffed with millions of U.S. dollars) by the U.S. government’s very own “leadership,” civilian and military, who wouldn’t look too good for “losing” “something” absolutely “vital” to the security of the United States, if not all of Southeast Asia, or the world. “Dominoes” falling everywhere does not look too good — especially in the “war” business — which usually translates into U.S. presidents and their political party losing elections: as Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphry, and the Democrats had just done in November of 1968.

      Bottom line: (1) President Nixon needed to drag things out in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) for three more years; (2) the U.S. Navy still owned me for three more years but didn’t know what to do with me (they couldn’t just let me out); and so (3) “Vietnamization,” or <bThe Nixon-Kissnger Fig Leaf Contingent, would “solve” the U.S. government’s political and military “problem.” Some yeoman (Navy talk for personnel paper-pusher) looked in my service record and saw that I had four years of a foreign language in high school. He therefore thought that I might make a good candidate for language training and adviser duty in Vietnam. I tried to point out that if he looked a little closer he would notice that I had taken French-1 twice and French-2 twice, just in order to get a “c” grade so I could qualify for college (which I barely got into with the lowest possible passing score on the ACT (American College Test). I actually sucked at foreign languages in high school. “Two beats nothing,” he replied, and stamped my orders for Counter Insurgency School, Defense Language School, and South Vietnam for a year tour (minimum) as a U.S. Navy electrical adviser. Later at DLI we erstwhile Vietnamizers of the Vietnamese would would have a standing joke:

      Question: “If President Nixon is withdrawing the troops from Vietnam, how come I’ve got orders to Vietnam next year?

      Answer: “You fool. How can Nixon withdraw you from Vietnam unless he sends you there first?”

      So, after almost a year of preparatory training, I found myself on a chartered Flying Tiger airliner descending into Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon, South Vietnam, in July of 1970. I would not leave for good until late January, 1972. In the intervening eighteen months, I would meet my share of other U.S. enlisted men and officers. Vietnamese, too. We all did our share, for good or ill, to help drag things out until President Nixon could get reelected in 1972 without becoming “the first American President to lose a war.” Too bad for all the people: Vietnamese as well as Laotian and Cambodian and American, who suffered and died for such an ignoble objective. Like everyone else that I knew in those days and under those circumstances, I tried to make the best (or most) out of what I couldn’t change. In some small ways, I think I succeeded. I count myself a lucky man, indeed, to have survived the demoralizing disaster.

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  6. The US destroyed Raqqa and doesn’t know how to rebuild it.
    “I will point out to you [that] the people on the ground in Northern Syria is the United States. But there are others who should be doing some more here, and need to do more. This is a problem.” — Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command located in Tampa, Florida.
    http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2018/01/special-report-shattered-raqqa-top-us-general-calls-worlds-help/145393/?oref=d-channelriver
    It will require a herculean effort to rebuild Raqqa, much less end the war in Syria. The U.S. entered the fray four years ago with a bombing campaign that escalated into a relentless assault. Block after block, entire multi-story apartment buildings lay fallen in pancaked heaps. //

    Raqqa completely destroyed?
    alJazeerah, Sep 20: “The avoidance of civilian casualties is our highest priority when conducting strikes against legitimate military targets with precision munitions, unlike the indiscriminate nature of ISIS tactics which result in an enormous number of avoidable civilian deaths,” the press office of the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said. . .
    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/raqqa-faces-deadly-barrage-led-coalition-170920192052894.html

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  7. At the start of the “war on terror” those who spoke of going after terrorists as criminals were denounced in favor of those calling for war. Tell me if I am wrong but I believe a clear distinction between going after criminals and going to war is in the former case specific suspects are identified then every effort is made to bring them in and, in the case of resistance, there may be injury or death for a suspect, but woe to those who shoot anyone other than the subject because all others are considered innocent parties with rights as such.

    In war, on the other hand, the situation is much relaxed, a human target can be identified and then the object is to take that target out, along with bystanders if unavoidable, with nobody to second guess what was avoidable.

    Given the choice of the strict procedures of a hunt for criminals or (by comparison) the open season allowed by warfare combined with the far lower value placed on the lives of foreigners compared to Americans, how much easier it was for us to go to war and how easy it is to cruise with it.

    The best proof of what I am talking about is the drone killing campaign under the direction of our Assassins in Chief, our presidents. How easy and satisfying it appears to be, yet what a senseless series of “little slaughters” it actually is. I await this endless, apparently easy and cheap war with no real constraints on the number of dead (that are not Americans) to come back and bite us.

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