Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tom Brokaw

Yesterday, Tom Brokaw interviewed the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi and posed the following question:

"I know that you and others like you are grateful for the liberation of Iraq. But can't you understand why many Americans feel that so many young men and women have died here for purposes other than protecting the United States"?

I honestly wondered what those "other purposes" could be that would interest a Tom Brokaw? Sending out the question to friends, I received several answers that were all in the same vein:

Many people think it's either to protect Bush's friend's oil interests OR it's to finish the first Bush's efforts to get rid of Saddam.

Does Brokaw believe any of this? That the President of the United States sent U.S. soldiers to die to help his friend's in business? That the President of the United States sent U.S. soldiers to die to finish his Daddy's business?

Of course not.

I would love to have heard Brokaw's response had Allawi simply responded "other purposes? What other purposes"?

Of course, Tom Brokaw would never allow himself to be televised defending foolish conspiracy theories. Even if he answered, it would have ended up on the editing room floor.

Then why pose the question?

Tom Brokaw was against the war and is against this administration. By mentioning "other purposes" without stating what they were, he gives credence that there may be legitimate questions to U.S., or more precisely, Bush Administration motives. The fact that those "other reasons" are absurd went unspoken.

We should expect more from the anchor of the nationally televised NBC Network Evening News, especially in times of war.

Or should we?

Let's pick up the interview where I left off:

Other purposes? What other purposes?

Uh...ahem...many people think this was a war for oil.

Oil? I'm confused. Is not the United States purchasing Iraqi oil?

Well, yes.

Are they not paying the world market price?

Um, I think so...

Was not the United States purchasing oil from Saddam?

Yes, but...

Wait a moment! Didn't I hear the same thing about liberating Kuwait?

Moving on...

As I understand it, the only people who were not buying Iraqi oil at market prices were stinking U.N. bureaucrats who were reselling Iraqi oil at market prices and stealing billions of dollars from Iraqi children! And you ask me about "other purposes"?!?!?! Out! Out of my site, you son of a camel's whore!

Like I said - on the editing room floor.

Abu Whatever

When you think of Auschwitz what image comes to mind? Dachau? Treblinka?

Now, what image do you get when you hear Abu Gharaib?

Thanks to the media, generations will pass and not reflect upon the thousands who were brutally tortured and murdered in that prison when its name is invoked. It is insulting to their suffering and their memory that the real atrocities committed there by the Saddam regime won't be what is condemned, but the actions of a tiny few of those who liberated the hell hole.

Today, I heard that the New York Times has run 48 front page stories to date on the Abu Gharaib prison abuse. This morning's Times had yet another extended editorial on the subject.

The moral confusion, double standards and just plain dishonesty of what is known as the "Paper of Record" is breathtaking.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Conversation With My Sister

My younger sister and I usually avoid face to face debates since we agree on virtually nothing. For awhile we were emailing our opinions on various issues back and forth, but even that became acrimonious.

Well, the subject of the Abu Gharib prisoner abuse accidentally came up last night (no, it wasn't me). The subject was actually brought up as the prisoner "torture", which should clear up who started it. I offered that what was done in that prison prior to liberation was torture not what she what she referring to. Immediately she waved her hands in front of her face and she said "we can't even talk about that". Then she proceeded to begin talking about it.

The first thing she mentioned was that "those people" (AKA: captured terrorists) had no idea that they weren't going to be killed. She, of course was referring to the most egregious example of abuse, the photo of the man with wires attached to his body and a hood over his head.

But if you call that "torture" what would you call it if the wires were actually were live with electricity? As I often note, this is not an insignificant distinction.

What is interesting is the anti-war, anti-Bush crowd prefers to frame the issue in the most harsh light with the most harsh rhetoric. This crowd includes the entire mainstream worldwide media. Indeed the majority of the photos show nothing more than what can accurately be described as humiliation. Also, keep in mind who these prisoners are as I segway to my sister's next comment.

"We invaded their country. They think they are 'Freedom Fighters'".

This statement is revealing in several ways. First, there is an odd concept of 'freedom' at play here. When you consider that the "insurgents" are blowing up their own people it becomes odder still. Now consider they are doing everything in their power to prevent the freedom that would stem from democratic elections, independent judiciary, free press, open markets, women's rights, etc... Basically everything we are trying to build in Iraq.

I don't believe that even my little sister thinks our enemies in Iraq are fighting for freedom. What she may believe is they are fighting to have the occupying forces of United States leave. But how one can use the word "freedom" in any context to describe them is beyond me. Since the insurgents are the reason we are staying they must be fighting for something else. The truth is that they are actually fighting not for something, but against something - freedom.

The other aspect of her "Freedom Fighters" statement that is revealing is "they think they are...". Since when are we concerned with what our enemies think of themselves? More specifically, why does she care? The Nazis thought they were the "Master Race". The Islamo-Fascists and radical fundemenatist Muslims think they are doing "Allah's work" by blowing up civilians.

This is the abyss of moral relativism.

This gets all the more intriguing when you remember the big question the media asked after September 11th - "Why do they hate us"? Thus, liberals are concerned with what our enemies think of themselves and us. I'd like to know what liberals think of them?

The abyss of non-judgmentalism.

This preoccupation with feelings, even the feeling of those who wish to kill you, is a major difference between liberals and conservatives. That's why, generally speaking, liberals are concerned with intentions while conservatives are concerned with consequences.

Two important lessons most people learn growing up:

"Your feelings are important to you. Your actions are important to everyone else in the world".


"Not everyone is going to like you".

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Memorial Day 2004

A couple years ago, I was biking with a group of friends over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sam's Anchor Cafe where we would sit on the huge deck, enjoy the views across the bay of San Francisco and cocktail. When it was time to go home we wouldn't even have to bike back - the ferry would take us.

I've done this ride many times before and since. However, this particular ride happened to be on Memorial Day weekend.

As we embarked en masse on our journey, I had not given a thought about why we were all doing this on a Sunday. All I cared was that tomorrow was a holiday and there was fun to be had.

The ride takes us through the Presidio, a stunningly beautiful piece of land at the base of the Golden Gate that had been a military base since 1776. On this property there lies the Presidio National cemetery.

The image I remember is glancing over and wondering 'why all the flags'? 30,000 war veterans and their families are buried there, from the Civil War on, and each marker was adorned with at least one small American flag.

This year I made it to the ceremony over an hour early. Just a few yards from the entrance there is a small administrative office. As I wondered in I saw on the wall a list of the 50 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients buried there. Then in a back room I heard a man's voice. At first I thought he was recording something for the radio. Then I realized he was practicing his speech that he was to give later at the ceremony.

I listened to these words of honor, valor, bravery, duty and sacrifice then exited, misty eyed, into the bright sunshine. There I scanned the hilly acres of headstones and American flags large and small.

It was a powerful way to start the day.

About half way up on the left side there were two men in full Civil War regalia. The grave next to them was adorned with potted flowers and large flags. The man buried there was named Truman Head and these men were there to tell his story.

Truman joined the Grand Army of the Republic when he was 52 and became a member of the U.S. Sharpshooters - the first elite corps in U.S. Army history and a precursor to today's special forces. Truman became something of a legend during the war for his marksmanship. After the war he became a local San Francisco legend. There were photos and an era rifle to add to the tale.

I continued up the hill heading towards some of the larger headstones and monuments. There I literally bumped into the tomb of Thomas Cowan Bell - one of the founders of my college fraternity - Sigma Chi. There, I also came across a couple winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Their graves were adorned with a separate blue Medal of Honor flag, in addition to the American flag. There also was a potted flower bouquet. The reverence for these men and for what they had done was unmistakable. The care taken to continue to honor them after so many years...inspiring.

There are monuments to fallen shipmates placed by the survivors and other assorted plaques of interest.

I wondered down to the bottom and started walking towards the beginning of the parade route. By now there were more people arriving. As I walked down the street I saw an old man with a cane, walking by himself with three large medals hanging from his chest. I crossed the street and asked him if he would tell me about the medals.

His name is Sam Bobu. Probably in his mid 80's now, Sam was in the Navy. When he was 18 he was aboard the USS Chicago on his way to Guadalcanal when she took 7 torpedoes from Japanese planes. Sam was in the water for 5 hours before he was picked up.

At that moment, I said "You don't want to know what I was doing at 18".

Sam added that he was supposed to receive a Bronze Star, but after the war the military ran out and he never received his. Later that day I met another veteran who works for Veteran's Affairs and he quickly agreed to help me get Sam his medal.

Sam and I continued walking up towards to entrance until another man about Sam's age approached. His name was James and he was wearing his old uniform with a chest full of medals. James and Sam greeted each other and spoke like lifelong friends. Sam complimented him on fitting into his uniform and James joked about sucking in his belly. Only when Sam introduced himself did I realize they'd just met.

After a few minutes James said "After all these years, this is still hard" with his voice breaking at the end. Sam said "I know" and the two men embraced.

I walked Sam to a seat at the ceremony and left him with some other new friends.

While talking with a couple other Korean War vets, they directed my attention to the lone man sitting on the stage named Michael Thompson. "He has two Distinguished Service Awards" they told me. It was obvious, they would not have been more impressed had Michael Jordan been sitting there. Actually on this day, I might have been unimpressed also.

By the time the ceremony started there were several thousand people. The organizers were delighted.

The first order of business was the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A large group followed the wreath back up the hill where SF Assemblyman Leland Lee gave an asinine and wholly inappropriate speech about the need to end all wars. Nothing like setting your sights high. I know I'll sleep better knowing that Assemblyman Lee wants to end all wars.

The Color Guards presented the flag. We sang the National Anthem. Then for the first time in years I said the Pledge of Allegiance. The twice decorated Distinguished Service Award winner led the group.