Category Archives: Loose thoughts and musings

My Allegiance: To the Union, Free and Undivided with Liberty for All

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I have been too busy to post the last week or so I am kind of catching up. Things are going well but I have been incredibly busy working in the house, working with authors and those reading my book manuscript. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond, with the intent of writing blurbs for it.

Many have responded and are in the process of doing this, four have already submitted their blurbs, and I am honored. Here are the ones that have already gone to the publisher. Another dozen or so are in process and they include some big names.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom wrote “ A richly documented history of the ideology of racism that manifested itself in slavery, the Confederacy, the overthrow of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the myth of the Lost Cause that glorified the Old South and the Confederacy.”  

Dr. Charles Dew, Ephraim Williams Professor of History at Williams College and author of Apostles of Disunion: The Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War wrote:  “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a book for our time. Steven L. Dundas has skillfully woven slavery, race, racism, politics, and religion into a single entity in telling this country’s complex story. Every American would profit from what he is telling us.” 

Dr. Lloyd “Vic” Hackley, military civil rights pioneer and Vietnam War hero before becoming President of the North Carolina Community College System, Vice President of the University of North Carolina System, and Chancellor of North Carolina A & T University wrote, “Steve Dundas has written the definitive account of America’s onerous history with African Americans. A must read to fully understand, teach or discuss the institution of slavery, racism, religion and their current impacts. Every school library should have a copy.”

Joe Levin, Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Commission wrote, “Commander Dundas not only brings us a powerful history of slavery but, more importantly, the consequence of untruths and how twisted religious beliefs shaped America. All educators should read it and ensure that its message is delivered to their students.”

I cannot wait to get the others. I hope that it becomes a best seller and in the process help persuade people sitting on the fence.

Our Guest Room

We have been working hard in the house and have never taken more satisfaction with the work of my hands in transforming this house as a place of rest, study and peace. But it is also a place of where I will plant my flag in opposition to the White Nationalists, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Christian Nationalists, and every potential secessionist or insurrectionist know where I stand. So I have posted my flags on our forever home in the historic, heavily African American neighborhood in Norfolk.

I posted this on Facebook this evening.

“To any secessionists or insurgents out there, know that I am a Union man dedicated to the words of the Declaration that “All men are equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Likewise the words of the Constitution echoed by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, that we commit ourselves to “building a more perfect Union.” This applies to all Americans and those who want to be, who come here many times giving up all. It is an ever expanding liberty and cannot be allowed to be denied or rolled back like it was during Jim Crow and other unfortunate times in our history.

My ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy,even though their neighbors in Cabell County Virginia voted not to secede and instead with the rest of Wets Virginia seceded from Virginia and joined the Union. Of course they owned slaves and much land, so they turned their backs on their neighbors. Had I been alive back then I would have probably already have joined the Army because I never could just sit back and stay in one place all my life, and my choices would have been more centered around my oath,my life in the Army and loyalty to the Union like George Thomas and John Buford, more than to family members bent on destroying the country for the sake of slavery and profit.

The flags displayed are the 34 star Circle Union flag, the regimental guidon of the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, with the Circle Union circling it’s 1st Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac with Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg on its stripes. The flag of the gallant 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry most famous for its stand at Little Round Top, and finally the flag of the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry of the legendary Irish Brigade, many of whose soldiers were recent immigrants fighting for a country where many people treated them like dirt.

Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine remarked, “But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power.” It still is.

We fight today with our voices, ballots, and even peaceful protests for that freedom that those men fought and died fir their descendants and all to have. Here stand I, I can do no other, so help me God.”

I will speak the truth, write the truth, and lay my life down for the truth. I fight for the truth that these people try to co-opt as being patriotic turn to myth and use to support flagrant policies of authoritarianism and race hatred that go so deep that I have a hard even fathoming as to how they can get there if they were honest in the myths that they claim to be historical facts were true.

With the resurgence of these heavily armed and violent nationalists and Nazis I expect that when Mine Eyes Have Seen They Glory is published, and if it becomes the best seller that I expect that it will become, that I will be a potential target of violence. Hell, I started receiving death threat over a decade ago, and I am in too deep to back down now.

So until tomorry.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Somberly Remembering 9-11-2001 and its lasting Consequences

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

September 11th is a day that always makes me more introspective. It brings back so many memories, some that I wish I could forget; but I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. The burning towers, the people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames, and the scenes of devastation. I have decided to take the time tonight to share that day and what followed in my life and with the people that I served, including those who died.

I knew one of the victims in the attack on the Pentagon, an Army Lieutenant Colonel, Karen Wagner who commanded a Medical training company at Fort Sam Houston where I was serving as the Brigade Adjutant in 1987 and 1988. She was a very nice person, very gracious and decent, admired by everyone who knew her; I was shocked to see her name on the casualty list after the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner, Medical Service Corps, US Army

The emotions that I feel on the anniversary of these terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of so many innocent people, and which devastated so many families, still haunts me, and my subsequent service, especially in Iraq has changed me. Years after he returned from his time in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence; the immortal Lawrence of Arabia wrote to a friend, “You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.” I often feel that way.

Nineteen years ago I was getting ready to go to the French Creek Gym at Camp Le Jeune North Carolina where I was serving as the Chaplain of Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division. I had returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea just two months before with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines.

Staff Sergeant Ergin Osman, US Army, former US Marine, KIA, Afghanistan 26 May 2011

One of the Marines I got to know well at 3/8 was Corporal Ergin Osman. He eventually left the Marines enlisted in the Army and was serving with the 101st Airborne Division when he and 6 members of his platoon were killed on May 26th 2011 by an Improvised Explosive Device, while hunting down a Taliban leader.

Father (Chaplain) Tim Vakoc

Another man I knew was Father Timothy Vakoc, an Army Chaplain I knew when he was a seminarian going through the Army Chaplain Officer Basic Course with in 1990. He was horribly wounded by an IED when traveling in a HUMMV to say mass for his troops near Mosul, Iraq in 2004. At the time he was a Major in the Chaplain Corps. He never made a full recovery from his wounds but was inspirational to all he met and served until he died in 2009 after having eithe been dropped, or fallen in a nursing home.

On the morning of 9-11-2001 I was preparing to transfer to the USS Hue City, a guided missile cruiser stationed in Mayport, Florida, to deploy in January 2002 to support operations against the Taliban and take part in the UN Oil Embargo against Iraq.


At the time of the attack I had already been in the military for over 20 years and I had actually taken a reduction in rank to transfer from the Army, where I was a Major in the reserves, to the Navy to serve on active duty. In those previous 20 years I had served overseas during the Cold War along the Fulda Gap. I had been mobilized to support the Bosnia mission in 1996, and I had just missed being mobilized for Operation Desert Storm as my unit was awaiting its mobilization orders when the war ended. I had done other missions as well as the deployment to the Far East that returned from in July 2001; but nothing prepared me for that day. Like other career military officers I expected that we would be at war again and thought it might be back in the Middle East, and probably a result of some fool’s miscalculations; but like the American officers who were serving at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, I never expected what happened that morning.


Tuesday, September 11th 2001 had started like so many days in my career. Routine office work, a couple of counseling cases and what I thought would be a good PT session. I was about to close out my computer browser when I saw a little headline on Yahoo News that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I paid little attention and figured that a private plane, something like a Cessna piloted by an incompetent pilot had inadvertently flown into the building.

9-11 jumpers

That delusion lasted about two minutes. I got in my car and the radio, tuned to an AM talk station had a host calling the play by play. He started screaming “oh my God another airliner flew into the other tower.” Seeking to see what was happening I went to the gym where there were many televisions. I got there and saw the towers burning, with stunned Marines and Sailors watching silently, some in tears. I went back out, drove to my office and got into uniform. After checking in with my colonel a made a quick trip to my house for my sea bags and some extra underwear, and personal hygiene items.

When I got back the headquarters we went into a meeting, and the base went on lock down mode. The gates were closed and additional checkpoints, and roadblocks established on base. Marines in full battle-rattle patrolled the perimeter and along the waterfront. I did not leave the base until the night of the 15th when things began to settle down and we all went into contingency planning mode for any military response to the attacks.

My wife, who as waiting for a doctor’s appointment with a friend saw the attacks on live television and knew when the first plane struck she told her friend that it was terrorism. Her friend responded “that damned Saddam Hussein.” Like so many of us who initially thought this, my wife’s friend was wrong.

LutjensHonors

Those were tumultuous days, so much fear; so much paranoia; and so much bad information as to who committed the attacks and what was going to happen next. One thing that I do remember that for a brief moment in time we were united as Americans. Say what you want about him now and his later decisions which proved deceitful, unwise and embroiled us in a military conflict and failed attempt to build a nation in our image in a land that never accepted foreign models of government. But on the ruins of the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was inspirational in the days after the attack. He rallied us and led us in our grief in a way that former President Trump, who lied and continues to lie about what he saw and did that day, never could.

The fact that in February of 2020 President Trump made a peace agreement that sold out the government of Afghanistan, recognized the Taliban, forced the Afghans and others to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, including leaders who were wanted by the U.S. Government on charges of terrorism, murder, and crimes against humanity. He reduced American intelligence and air support to Afghan forces and reduced the amount of U.S. ground forces from over 7,000 to 2,500 by the end of his term. He also reduced the number contractors that the Afghan military needed desperately to maintain its fleet of U.S. weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. The deal put the official seal of defeat on the U.S. and NATO effort to stabilize the country after the withdraw. When President Biden announced to finally pullout the military moved so fast that it left the Afghans, NATO and our own State Department reeling. The military withdraw, and that of our contractors amounted to a ”skeedaddle” opening the way for the Taliban to overrun the country in under two weeks. President Biden owns the chaos of the withdrawal and the numerous failures in planning by every agency involved. at least the military was able to implement a contingency airlift that got 125,000 people out of the country in less than two weeks. it was an amazing feat, but many more could have escaped between 2018 and 2021 had not Trump and his senior advisor, Stephen Miller not slowed the pace of admitting Afghans who helped us to a crawl. The effects of that are still being felt.

hue city boarding party

A few months later I deployed aboard Hue City to the Middle East where we supported the air operations in Afghanistan, anti-terrorist operations off the Horn of Africa and in Operation Southern Watch and the U.N. Oil Embargo against Iraq.

I then did three years with Marine Security Forces, traveling around the world to support Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team companies. For three years I was on the road one to three weeks a month traveling to the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific and many parts of the United States.

In 2008 I was promoted and transferred to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, from which I was deployed with my assistant to Iraq, where we served as members of the Iraq Assistance Group in all Al Anbar Province supporting small teams of Marine Corps, Army and Joint Force adviser teams to the Iraqi Army, Border troops, Port of Entry police, police and highway patrol.

with-mtt-3-7-ronin


When I returned from Iraq I was a changed man and while I am proud of my service I am haunted by my experiences. One cannot go to war, see its devastation, see the wounded and dead, as well as the innocents traumatized by it. One cannot get shot at, or be in enclosed rooms, meeting with people that might be friends, or might be enemies, and while everyone else is armed, you are not.

War changed me, and my homecoming was more difficult than I could have imagined. I never felt so cut off from my country, my society, my church, or even other chaplains. My experience is not uncommon among those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for that matter those who have served in almost any modern war. Erich Maria Remarque in his classic All Quite on the Western Front who wrote:

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.”

That being said I would not trade my experience for anything. The experience of PTSD and other war related afflictions has been a blessing as well as a curse. They have changed my world view and made me much more emphatic to the suffering and afflictions of others, as well when they are abused, mistreated, terrorized and discriminated against. These experiences along with my training as a historian, theologian, and hospital chaplain clinician before and after my tour have given me a lot bigger perspective than I had before.

But I have to live with all of the memories. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier“Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.”General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

As hard as this has been these are good things, and as I go on I wonder what will happen next. I do not think that the wars and conflicts which have followed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks will be over for years, maybe even decades. I pray for peace, but too many people, some even in this country seem to live for the bloodlust of war. One can only hope and as my Iraqi friends say, Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

I wonder too, if the words of T.E. Lawrence reflecting on his service in the Arab Revolt are not as applicable to me and others who came back from Iraq, “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.” I have lost too many friends in these wars, including men who could not readjust to home, many like me. I have seen the men and women, broken in body, mind and spirit and I wonder if any of it was worth it, and if in some of our response, especially the invasion of Iraq has not made a bad situation even worse, and turned the war into a generational conflict.

As for me, I am now retired after 39 years, 4 months and 6 days of military service. Yesterday I was given the honor of giving the invocation and benediction at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Though retired I am part of the shipyard family, and get invited back for events like this. It was more somber, reflective and less vindictive than in the past. I think that it will take a long time for us to digest the attacks of 9-11-2001 and their aftermath, especially our defeat in Afghanistan.

But that being said there are still U.S. Military personnel in harm’s way in many places around the world. I wish I could say that they will be safe and that there will be no more killed or wounded, but I know that will not be the case. Now we have young men and women serving in wars that began before they were born, but now Afghanistan is not among them. We have to now ask if it was worth it and

Yesterday and today there were many ceremonies and services to remember the victims of the attacks. I think that is fitting. As I said, I gave the invocation and benediction at one of those events. As I gave them I could feel the emotions, see the faces, and remember all the people I knew and served alongside who died that day or in the following wars.

So please, have a good day and whatever you do do not forget those whose lives were forever changed by those dastardly attacks and all that has transpired in the years since. I do hope that things will get better and that some semblance of peace will return to the world, and even more importantly that amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic and the damnable political division and violence in our country, much of it brought on by the President and some of his White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi followers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and Christian theocrats whose message and goal is little different than the people who attacked us twenty years ago. Under the direction of former President Trump these people attempted to overthrow the United States in a way that no foreign enemy could ever attempt. They conducted an armed insurrection and attempt to capture the Capitol in order to prevent the Congress from fulfilling its Constitutional duty to certify the vote of the Electoral College in hopes that Trump, who lost the election could illegally remain in power.

Sadly, they pose more of a threat to our Republic and democracy than Osama Bin Laden, A Qaida, or the Taliban ever could.

Since my retirement we have moved to our forever home in a historic neighborhood in Norfolk. I am now teaching and writing, and my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond which will be published by Potomac Books of University of Nebraska Press next year. We have made the transition to civilian life with our four Papillon babies, Izzy, Pierre, Maddy Lyn, and our newest a rescue named Sunny Dae who was rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

That is all for the night.

Peace, Shalom, and blessings,

Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The End In Afghanistan: A Misbegotten Campaign Without a Strategy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have resisted writing or commenting much on the final defeat of the United States on Afghanistan’s Street Without Joy. It has been a disaster 20 years in the making, 40 if you include the initial U.S. support to the Mujahideen resisting the Soviet invasion and intervention in Afghanistan. Please note, this article has no political animus. The disaster in Afghanistan was presided over by two Republican and Two Democratic Administrations, as well as the previous Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, which though connected are a separate subject.

As I said there are four Democratic and four Republican administrations that are complicit in what happened over the past 40 years in Afghanistan. Four administrations, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton were the prologue to the disaster. The following four, the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations the principal culprits.

Since I was a Republican from 1976 until 2008 and a Democrat since I try to be honest about all of them. I write from the point of view of history, policy and strategy, not my allegiance to any President or Party. Thus you will see criticisms of President George W. Bush who I voted for twice, Barack Obama who I also voted for twice, and Joe Biden for whom I also voted.

I do not neglect the responsibility of Republican and Democrat controlled Congresses who did not exercise their duty to declare war or enforce the War Powers Act. Instead they passed legislation that passed the buck to the President on foreign and domestic military and security policy in a broad Authorization of the Use of Force, and Patriot Act of 2001. Both were passed by large bipartisan majorities signaling the mood of the time to “get something done.” They were signed by a “Who’s Who” of leading Democrats and Republicans and out of 535 Senators and Congressmen and women, only Representative Shiela Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas, voted against the amorphous Authoritarian of Use of Force. Her arguments on the House floor were sound, but she was called a traitor and sympathizer with our enemies. As far as the Patriot Act, only Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin voted against it along with 62 Democrats and 3 Republicans in the House.

Now many people on the extremes of the political right and left are consumed in the search for blame, something that runs deep in American history. Lost in this search for blame was the fact that our military and those of our NATO allies evacuated almost 125,000 people by air from a landlocked land, in a contested and chaotic environment in just 10 days. Nothing like this has ever been done before. The evacuation, despite the failures in planning was a miracle brought about by the skill and bravery of our military that executed it.

Unfortunately the American and NATO war in Afghanistan never had a consistent strategy that military or civilian leaders could articulate to the public, explain to the troops, or convince the world of its rightness. This does not diminish the valor, courage or honor of most of our soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and CIA officers, and our allies who served in the field. Unfortunately we had who’s actions resulted in war crimes that harmed our cause and national reputation. These actions added to a list of actions by the United States Government government, particularly the ambush administrations in Afghanistan and Iraq that would have met many of the criteria that we tried the Germans for war crimes at Nuremberg.

The problem was that after the heinous attacks and mass murder on American soil by Al Qaida on 9-11-2001 our nation momentarily came together to punish those who did this. The Bush administration rapidly decided to not deal with this as a terrorist attack by a non-state actor, but as something akin to Pearl Harbor, an attack by a nation state. The Bush administration would continue to use that reasoning to attack Iraq which had not been a participant in the attacks of 9-11-2001, but identified as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iran, which condemned the attacks and at that time, as well as North Korea. The propaganda was initially successful, but once the American people got bored and realized they actually were not going to be asked to make any sacrifices because the burden they lost interest. Thus the war, which required the utmost support of the people was placed on the volunteer military which including reserves and national guard forces numbered under 1% of the population. Evidence and intelligence to the contrary was ignored or dismissed, with devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, we, as we most always do did not take the time to learn the lessons of history. The fact is that every foreign power that has ever invaded and tried to occupy Afghanistan all failed, often at great cost. The Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Indians, the British on more than one occasion, and the Soviet Union all failed miserably. The truth is that Afghanistan cannot be ruled by foreigners, or even Afghan tribal leaders who refuse to make alliances with other tribal leaders, even ancient enemies, and appointing a national leader that they agreed upon. So long as that King did not ally himself with foreigners, offend Islam, or betray his supporters Afghanistan retained some stability, even though it was not a true nation in our understanding. Afghan history has been dictated by mix of Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims who did not war against each other based on their sect of Islam, but on family and tribal grievances. We never understood this, despite the vast amount of literature left by those we followed into the deadly abyss. That willful ignorance of history was perhaps the most significant factor in our failed adventure on our own “Street Without Joy.” (The Street Without Joy” was a highway in French Indochina upon which many French, French Foreign Legion, Vietnamese and North African “Colonials” fought and died, and is the title of a book by French Journalist Bernard Fall who was killed by an IED while accompanying a patrol of U.S. Marines during our Vietnam War. Fall died in 1967, and Commentary Magazine wrote of him I. 1968:

“Intellectually an American pragmatist with a French sense of irony, Fall did not take a doctrinaire stance against American intervention in South Vietnam. On the other hand, he made two general criticisms of the U.S. Indochina policy: first, that it lacked a coherent frame of reference and second, that, based on theories unrelated to the local situation, it lacked flexibility. Though Fall continued to hope for improvement, his description of U.S. policy in Vietnam points to a long case history behind its now-apparent symptoms Of schizophrenia.”

The same could be said of the American invasion and attempt at nation building in Afghanistan.

Israeli Historian and former Ambassador to the United Staes, Michael Oren, wrote in his book “Faith Power and Fantasy: American and the Middle East from 1776 to the Present” regarding how President Bush took the US to war in Afghanistan and Iraq:

“Not inadvertently did Bush describe the struggle against Islamic terror as a “crusade to rid the world of evildoers.” Along with this religious zeal, however, the president espoused the secular fervor of the neoconservatives…who preached the Middle East’s redemption through democracy. The merging of the sacred and the civic missions in Bush’s mind placed him firmly in the Wilsonian tradition. But the same faith that deflected Wilson from entering hostilities in the Middle East spurred Bush in favor of war.”

Likewise, we built a military to fight peer competitors, not insurgents. We have never succeeded in any “small war” that we have ever engaged, even if we won the military actions. When we left we sowed seeds of distrust and hatred, and the feeling that we did not uphold the values espoused in our founding documents. As Mark Twain wrote concerning the American War against the Philippines after we took them over following the Spanish-American War:

“There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land. . .”

But the Afghan war was left to a small professional military and Federal law enforcement agencies to fight, while Bush in the aftermath of 9-11 told people to “go shopping” and to resume normal lives. We were led into these wars based on the false premise that we could remake the Middle East in our image. Lie after lie, from every administration from Bush to Biden assured us that things were going well against all evidence to the contrary.

It began with the Bush Administration which led us into the quagmire, followed by the Obama administration, which afraid to oppose General Stanley McCrystal’s urge for a major surge halfheartedly acquiesced because Afghanistan was the “good war.” After meeting some of the military objectives we began a withdraw after killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The surge resulted in the highest numbers of US casualties during the war and only temporarily hindered the Taliban. Like the Bush and Obama administration’s conduct of the war the Trump Administration did not tell the truth about their intentions in Afghanistan which differed from Bush and Obama. As early as 2013 Trump said that the war was lost, announced his decision to withdraw if he became President, praised the Taliban and took cheap shots at the US military, its leadership and even the troops. However, he did not fully withdraw during his term, and negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban and excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. At that point the moral of the Afghan military which had been increasing in effectiveness collapsed. They had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. Had they been included in the Trump-Taliban negotiations and treated and supported as they should have been, they might have met or exceeded the expectations that we based our assessment of their strength and resilience upon and been able to support our withdraw so long as the contractors who maintained their advanced weapons, a certain amount of former military trainers and advisors remained, and were provided needed air support from ships and bases outside Afghanistan. Trump’s deal was a disaster for the Afghans and ensured that no-matter how it was done a certain amount of chaos would affect our withdraw.

President Biden, has responsibility for the mistakes made in the withdraw. That is in his wheelhouse, but he did tell the truth and kept the promise to end this war, despite the political cost. He has been heavily criticized for this, but Trump would have done the same, after all he negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. His actions set the stage for the collapse of the Afghan military and government.

The Afghan Army, especially their highly trained Special Forces had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. This was much the fault of DOD and NSC leadership who should have fought harder to maintain full support support to them until our withdraw was safety accomplished.

Taliban leaders understood this and made deals with local tribal leaders/ warlords, governors, local officials, police,and military commanders. These deals ensured that when the Taliban launched their final offensive when the bulk of American military forced withdrew, that those leaders mostly surrendered and allowed the Taliban to advance. The Afghan soldiers knew that they had no chance after the May 2020 agreement between Trump and the Taliban, they wanted to fight and win but knew that they had been betrayed.

In today’s blame game people criticize not starting the withdraw earlier and there is truth to this, but that being said, had we started earlier the panic would have began then. There is criticism of handing Bagram Air Base to the Afghans in early July, but we had already removed the troops needed to guard it because DOD pulled out as fast as it could leaving State, CIA, and everyone else out to fend for themselves. State should have gotten approval early to begin processing our Afghan friends and scheduling flights out from Kabul and Kandahar well before the final collapse of the Afghan government, military and security forced began. The Afghans knew in 2020 that we had abandoned them, and the rush by DOD to get our troops and contractors out hindered everything else that happened.

Unfortunately, Biden required nothing of the Taliban, just as Trump had not. Afghan soldiers who would have fought to the death were left to their fate, having no logistical support, no air support, being cut off from their supply lines, and serving a corrupt government that often refused to pay them or protect their families.

Biden could have prevented the rout of Afghan forces by not allowing DOD and the contractors to withdraw so fast which would have made the withdraw less chaotic. His decision to,withdraw was correct but could have been accomplished much better as I will explain.

As to the withdraw, our interagency planning sucked. With the deadline of 31 August DOD, State, the NSC, CIA, and NATO should have met and settled on a plan to determine what had to be done to ensure a safe and successful evacuation by early April at the latest. That is something that Biden should have ensured and placed a single individual in charge of a joint, interagency and international effort to safely evacuate all the people we could. To my knowledge hat wasn’t done before everything started going to shit, then we acted with speed but in crisis mode.

Despite all of our mistakes, poor planning, lack of coordination, and our over optimistic estimation of the Afghan military and government strength and resilience, the evacuation should be considered like Dunkirk. Dunkirk was not a victory, but it was miraculous.

The fact is that no-matter when we began we were not going to get everyone out. In 1940 the French very much resented that more French were not evacuated from a Dunkirk, Calais, or Cherbourg, and that following their surrender to the a Germans the British Royal Navy attacked French Navy units who had been their allies days before sinking several battleships and cruisers, seizing French ships in British ports, and killing many French sailors.

However, like then when the British and French high commands did not coordinate their efforts we didn’t coordinate ours. We also ignored intelligence and put our bets the the rosy assessments about the capability and resilience of the Afghan government and military. This meant in July when things started falling apart we were caught flat footed, just like when the Germans broke through the Ardennes, crossed the Meuse River, outflanked the Maginot Line and made for the English Channel, and like a scythe cut off the best French armies and the British Expeditionary Force. Likewise, the British and French did not expect that the King of Belgium would without warning surrender his army, which still had a lot of capability to fight. The Belgian surrender opened a massive hole in the defense that could not be plugged.

I think that the Battle of France the example to best explain what happened in Afghanistan, not South Vietnam or Beirut.

There is another similarity, many French had not desire for war after the bloodletting of the First World War. Likewise conservative French politicians, generals and admirals hated the Third Republic and as General Weygand, the last commander before the French surrender said, “I didn’t get the Boches but I got the Republic.” Their country had been tearing itself apart as the left and right battled to rule the country. I wonder how much of this is true of Americans today. There are certainly many on the political right praising the Taliban and encouraging the overthrow of or government and system of government for an authoritarian and theocratic regime. Most of those advocating this, in and out of government are fanatical Fundamentalist Christians.

We can easily pass the blame for what happened to the President’s, Congresses, and Courts who initiated policies, launched wars, passed legislation which was mostly upheld by Courts, including the Supreme Court. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought but less than 1% of our population, all volunteers. With not skin in the game most Americans became cheerleaders for or against the wars, voting for politicians without regard for policy. Policy and strategy was what mattered most and we never had one.

I emailed the late great Catholic Priest, theologian, sociologist and political commentator Andrew Greeley from Iraq in 2007. My concern was what would happen to the Iraqi people. He emailed me back and said, “Sadly, Father, most Americans don’t care about the Iraqis.”

Likewise, most of us did not care about the Afghan people unless it suited our domestic political ends and the leaders that we backed. Morality, faith, and ethics were damned, we just didn’t care.

I lost too many friends to let things remain this way. The truth matters. Our Declaration and Constitution matter, our form of government maters, our respect for our laws and international law matter. The same is true of the people in lands we attack, invade or occupy matter, as do those of the nations who stand by us as allies.

Finally our freedoms here matter, especially the freedom of speech, association and the right to call our government into account for what it does or does not do, regardless of what political party has power. These rights are being eroded across our country, even as we seek to impose them on others. However, if we trample them why should anyone in any other country believe us.

As a nation we left Afghanistan with a stain on our national honor. Like T. E. Lawrence wrote about the British occupation of Iraq following the First World War:

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Bagdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.

Well, we experienced a disaster 20 years in the making. However, that does nothing to detract from the military, CIA and State Department personnel who evacuated 120,000 souls in less than two weeks by air in a landlocked land under intense military and terrorist pressure. Call it the “Miracle of Kabul” for lack of a better name. God bless the men and women of these air crews and the men and women on the ground who provided security to get so many people out. They are heroes.

Our war in Afghanistan is over, despite the words of those so addicted to war that they insist that we will have to go back in, but like in 2001 they have no strategy, or no logical explanation of just what they expect the military to accomplish in another campaign to eradicate terrorists based in Afghanistan.

So until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Venting My Spleen About the Afghanistan Lies and Terrible Loss of Life


The British Military Cemetery in Habbinyah Iraq, 2008

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been doing a lot of work around the house because it has to be done and because t keeps me from getting sucked in to the nonstop blame game going on regarding the recent events relates to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. I posted this on my Facebook timeline tonight. It went rather long so I decided to post it here exactly as it appeared on Facebook.

Have a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

I am so freaking tired of the bullshit that I see being promoted by some people of Facebook about what is going on in Afghanistan, including by an active duty Marine nephew of mine. I am tired of seeing the bullshit. If people don’t like it screw your and drop me. I am angry about what is going on but to blame Biden for everything and “losing Afghanistan” is pure lies. He has resposbilty for the way the evacuation was conducted, but he didn’t lose a 20 year long war. Bush, Obama, Trump, most of Congress, the defense contractors and many in the military and intelligence establishment are also at fault, and probably more so. Then there are us, the citizens who really never cared because most of us had no investment in the war. I did and didn’t turn my back those 20 years. I have lost too many friends dead, maimed, or broken psychologically, physically, and spiritually to do so. Among all, the cheerleaders of ware and those who nodded their heads and looked the other way while their guy was in the White House are the most guilty. Think about it hard. That is the truth. I no longer care if people like me or not. This is about truth and it is about those who gave their all in a doomed war. When you point the finger of blame Biden or any other single President take a look in the mirror, four are pointed at you.

Our policies though described as noble by Presidents going back long before 9-11-2001 have often, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been considered as war crimes had we been the Germans at Nuremberg. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief US prosecutor at the major war crimes trials said as the rules for the trials were developed said: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Marine Corps Major General and two,time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler wrote of the soldiers going to fight in WWI “Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. The was the “war to end wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here…”

The military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower described before he left office is alive and well, now joined by a professional propaganda network or war cheerleaders who cannot justify their lives without promoting endless war. When the Cold War ended they found new enemies, and they are now strengthened by a Taliban-like version of a Christian Nationalism that is devoid of the teachings of Jesus as are the Taliban and ISIS devoid of the teachings of Mohammed.

As was written of the British Invasion and intervention in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842 “WITH THE BENEFIT of hindsight, among the more important lessons the British should have learned from the First Afghan War were many that resonate today. Their leaders were not honest with themselves or their public about their motivation, providing partial and misleading information to both Parliament and public. In their own minds they exaggerated the threats to their position in India and exaggerated the power of their available troops to cope with the demands an Afghan campaign would make on them. The British entered Afghanistan without clear objectives or a defined exit strategy or timetable. In what could be termed regime change, they endeavored to impose on the country a ruler unpopular with his people. The Duke of Wellington correctly prophesied that Britain’s difficulties would begin when its military success ended. These successes led them into an open-ended commitment to a ruler whom they had not chosen well and, when they realized this, hesitated to different from each other and speaking mutually incomprehensible languages. They did not understand that these tribes united only rarely and that when they did so it was against a foreign invader such as themselves…. In general, British troops struggled to distinguish between hostile and peaceful Afghans, both in Kabul and in the countryside, even when, as was not always the case, they tried hard to make such distinctions. As a consequence innocent civilians were punished and killed, and even more of the population were turned into ready recruits for the enemy. The British and the Afghans alike had problems in understanding each other’s cultures and characters. The British stereotyped the Afghans as cunning, corrupt and deceitful and thus found it difficult to believe in the motives of those who were in fact well disposed toward them. The Afghans accepted British protestations of their reputation for straight dealing at face value and were thus the more let down when the British proved duplicitous and Machiavellian.26 The Afghan propensity for assassination as well as the taking and subsequent trading between themselves of hostages initially appalled the British, but later they at times found themselves complicit in plans for targeted assassination as the easiest way to rid themselves of troublesome opponents. The attitudes and ambitions of Persia and the passage of forces and weapons across the Helmand River as well as the porous, imprecise border complicated British policies. Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism. Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more than a few strategic outposts outside Kabul, rather than the whole countryside. Sometimes even these outposts were overrun. The British found it easier to purchase acquiescence to their own and Shah Shuja’s activities than to win over Afghan hearts and minds. Therefore, perhaps the biggest British miscalculation was—in response to cost-cutting pressures from home—unilaterally to reduce some of the subsidies paid to Afghan tribal chiefs. Their economy measure was immediately followed by an Afghan rising.

Auckland, a pleasant character, had proved a good administrator in less demanding posts in the government in London. However, even if the post of governor-general was slightly less powerful than that of Roman emperor, he was insufficiently strong a character or leader when placed in supreme command of policy in India, thousands of miles and many weeks in terms of communication away from London, to withstand either the conspiracy of optimism generated by Macnaghten from Kabul or pressures from home both to economize and to expedite success and withdrawal. It was not that he was a complete failure—he did restrain some of Macnaghten’s plans for operations beyond Afghan borders—but that he was not equipped temperamentally or intellectually to dominate the situation. He preferred to acquiesce in his subordinates’ plans to continue existing policies when they began to go awry, rather than ordering either a halt or a thorough review. Chief among Auckland’s subordinates was Macnaghten. Though an undoubtedly clever man, he was out of both his milieu and his depth in Afghanistan. Nearly all his career had been spent in the secretariat in Calcutta, and he had little experience of independent command. His ingrained optimism led him throughout to minimize or ignore difficulties. He underestimated the military capabilities of the Afghans and overestimated those of the British and Indian troops, leaving him both to accept troop reductions and deployments when he should not have and to propose grandiose operations beyond Shah Shuja’s borders—for example, against Herat—which were entirely unfeasible. Though he understood the importance of making it appear to the Afghan population that Shah Shuja was a true king and thus ensured that his troops led the army on its marches and made the first ceremonial entries into cities, in promoting the invasion and Shah Shuja himself, he was far too optimistic in his assessment of Shah Shuja’s abilities and of the ease with which the diverse and stubborn Afghans could be induced to accept as a ruler a man they considered to have an aura of ill fortune.”

Back in Britain, politicians and others concentrated on the political and moral aspects, both more subjective and more difficult to analyze. Sir John Kaye, the historian who collected many of the primary documents and indeed published in full those that had been expurgated or omitted from the government’s publication justifying the war in 1839, saw the hand of God in the outcome: “The calamity of 1842 was retribution sufficient … to stamp in indelible characters upon the page of history, the great truth that the policy which was pursued in Afghanistan was unjust, and that, therefore, it was signally disastrous. It was … an unrighteous usurpation, and the curse of God was on it from the first. Our successes at the outset were a part of the curse. They lapped us in false security, and deluded us to our overthrow. This is the great lesson … ‘The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite.’ ”

Henry Lushington, another commentator, wrote in a book-long analysis of the conflict in 1844: “We entered Afghanistan to effect a change of dynasty—we withdrew from it professing our readiness to acknowledge any government which the Afghans may themselves think fit to establish. We entered it above all to establish a government friendly to ourselves. Are the Afghans our friends now?… Except for the anarchy we have left in the place of order, the hatred in the place of kindness, all is as it was before … The received code of international morality is not even in the nineteenth century very strict. One principle however seems to be admitted in the theory, if not the practice of civilised men, that an aggressive war—a war undertaken against unoffending parties with a view to our own benefit only—is unjust, and conversely that a war to be just must partake the character of a defensive war. It may be defensive in various ways … either preventing an injury which it is attempted to inflict, or of exacting reparation for one inflicted, and taking the necessary security against its future infliction but in one way or other defensive it must be.” He could find no justification for the campaign being a defensive war since “the Afghans had not injured us either nationally or individually.” He believed that individuals could not place the blame for the war solely on the government: “The crime … is one of which the responsibility is shared by every Englishman. It is no new thing to say that a nation and especially a free nation is generally accountable for the conduct of its government.” Lushington placed particular emphasis on the impact of misjudgment. “The great error of Sir William Macnaghten,” he wrote, “appears to us to have been the attempt to bestow too soon and without sufficient means of coercing those who had hitherto lived at the expense of their weaker neighbours, the unappreciated blessings of an organised and powerful government upon the people of Afghanistan.

We have received a severe lesson which we may make a useful one if we choose to learn from it well, if not we shall perpetrate injustices again and again.” A report produced while the war was still in progress by one of the committees of the East India Company, which, as Hobhouse had confessed, had been largely ignored in the conduct of the war, stated, “This war of robbery is waged by the English government through the intervention of the government of India without the knowledge of England or of Parliament … and therefore evading the check placed by the constitution on the exercise of the prerogative of the crown in declaring war. It presents, therefore, a new crime in the annals of nations—a secret war. It had been made by a people without their knowledge, against another people who had committed no offence. Effects …: loss of England’s character for fair dealing; loss of her character of success; the Mussulman population is rendered hostile.” The Times in May 1842 commented, “This nation spent £15 million on a less than profitable effort after self-aggrandisement in Afghanistan, and spends £30,000 a year on a system of education satisfactory to nobody.” However, calls for a full parliamentary inquiry into the background to the war and into the doctoring of the government papers, led by, among others, a newly elected Tory member of Parliament named Benjamin Disraeli, came to nothing.

Outside Britain there was general satisfaction at Britain’s unexpected reverses in Afghanistan. In the United States the Afghan War took up numerous column inches in the nation’s newspapers, large and small. Outrage at the “odium” and “wickedness” of the British intervention and admiration for the “indomitable love of independence” of the Afghans were almost universal. Atrocities committed by the British as they sought retribution were equally condemned. Afghanistan became somewhat of an issue in the 1842 congressional elections with British attitudes and actions being seen as emblematic of behavior America should avoid….”

“Now was the time for analysis and blame-sharing. Sir Jasper Nicolls, commander in chief in India, wrote to Ellenborough, succinctly listing eight reasons for the campaign’s failure.

1st: Making war with a peace establishment. 2nd: Making war without a safe base of operations. 3rd: Carrying our native army … into a strange and cold climate, where they and we were foreigners, and both considered as infidels. 4th: Invading a poor country, and one unequal to supply our wants, especially our large establishment of cattle. 5th: Giving undue power to political agents. 6th: Want of forethought and undue confidence in the Afghans on the part of Sir William Macnaghten. 7th: Placing our magazines, even our treasure, in indefensible places. 8th: Great military neglect and mismanagement after the outbreak.

The Afghans regardless of tribe or branch of Islam have long memories.

“The Afghans see the last two centuries of interaction with the European powers and the United States as one continuum. A British officer reported recently how an Afghan government minister had reproached him that the British had burned down the covered market in Kabul. Fearing some hasty action by his nation’s troops, he eventually discovered that the remark had referred to the burning of the bazaar by the British at the end of the First Afghan War. Along the route of the catastrophic retreat Afghans today show coins seized from the British baggage train, which have passed down their families, and recount the deeds of their ancestors in slaying the infidel British, while pointing to the sites of the battles. Invoking events long past, a recent Taliban recruiting slogan asked Afghans, “Do you want to be remembered as a son of Dost Mohammed or a son of Shah Shuja?”

(From “The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan” by Diana Preston, 2012.)

T.E. Lawrence wrote of the British intervention and occupation of Iraq following the First World War: “The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.”

British military historian and theorist B.H. Liddell-Hart wrote in his book “Why Don’t We Learn from History”:

“We learn from history that in every age and every clime the majority of people have resented what seems in retrospect to have been purely matter-of-fact comment on their institutions. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too “sacred” to think about…

The most dangerous of all delusions are those that arise from the adulteration of history in the imagined interests of national and military morale…

We learn from history that men have constantly echoed the remark ascribed to Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” And often in circumstances that make us wonder why. It is repeatedly used as a smoke screen to mask a manoeuvre, personal or political, and to cover an evasion of the issue. It may be a justifiable question in the deepest sense. Yet the longer I watch current events, the more I have come to see how many of our troubles arise from the habit, on all sides, of suppressing or distorting what we know quite well is the truth, out of devotion to a cause, an ambition, or an institution; at bottom, this devotion being inspired by our own interest.”

That is where we are after 20 years of folly. Young Marines who were babies when Al Qaida attacked the Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11/2001 are dying to rescue people who put their trust in us. Unfortunately, four Administrations have proved that we used them to further our strategic interests with little regard for them.

There. I have said my peace. I have not made this political because there is enough blame to go around to implicate every President, most members of the House and Senate, professional and appointed officials in DOD, State, CIA, FBI, NSA, the media, DOD contractors and the defense industry, church leaders, and the endless supply of talking heads on every cable news channel justifying their actions or blaming others to go around.

So if you have any sense stop getting your news from Facebook and Twitter memes, half truths and complete falsehoods put out from every part of the political spectrum and start learning history or shut your damned mouths. Don’t like me saying that then go fornicate yourself.

A Gravestone at Habbinyah

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More Thoughts on the Afghan Collapse from 2012

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

this is another article that I published in 2012 about Afghanistan. Once again it is an article that is informed by history, culture, and military strategy devoid of a clear political goal. It deals with our violations of the laws of war, war crimes, and how they effected the campaign, and the duplicity of former Afghan President Karzai and the number of attacks on U.S. and NATO forces by our supposed allies in the Afghan military and police forces. The article, first posted on March 17th 2012 was entitled Failing to Learn from History: the Lesson of the First Anglo-Afghan War and Questions About the U.S. – NATO Campaign. Like the article that I republished last night it deals with our mistakes, but even more importantly the unreliability for the Afghan government and security forces in being committed to with the war for their freedom over the Taliban. The link to the article is here in case the reader thinks this is something that I just came up with. I pride myself on being honest so here is the link that is the original article that follows below. https://padresteve.com/2012/03/17/failing-to-learn-from-history-the-lesson-of-the-first-anglo-afghan-war-and-questions-about-the-us-nato-campaign/

I will continue to republish some of my older Afghanistan articles and write more as I find out more about the collapse of the Afghan government and military in the past week and a half.

Peace,

Padre Steve

“The Americans in Afghanistan are Demons. They claim they burned Korans by mistake, but really those were “Satanic acts that will never be forgiven by apologies.” Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

It seems that we in the West seldom learn from history nor do certain Afghan leaders like Hamid Karzai. The situation in Afghanistan has taken on a more ominous tone as the situation continues to spiral downward with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s demand for the US and NATO to redeploy their troops to large bases and leave the countryside to Afghan control. Even more ominously he said that the Afghan-NATO relationship was “at the end of the rope.”  Karzai alluded that he did not believe that US and NATO account of the killing of 16 Afghan villagers near Kandahar.

This should come as no surprise to any observer of Afghanistan or anyone familiar with the relationship of Afghan leaders with western occupiers.  Karzai knows that the US-NATO era is coming to an end and even though he rules only because he is buttressed by western military power he is now trying to ensure his political and literal survival when we leave be it in 2013 or 2014.  The one thing that Karzai needs to keep in mind is that like his predecessors who turned on their western supporters be they British or Soviet he will be dangling from the end of the rope when we leave. He and his corrupt band of thieves who have alienated and plundered their own people will not survive their wrath once the protective cordon of American and NATO troops is withdrawn.

Karzai’s anti-American stance is further reinforced by the growing number of killings of US and NATO troops by Afghan police, soldiers and other personnel. Even this week an attack was made by an interpreter who drove a stolen pickup truck at a Marine Corps General and his British Brigadier assistant commander at Kandahar while awaiting the arrival of Secretary of Defense Panetta. Likewise the death of a Marine in February was officially announced as being at the hand of an Afghan soldier. The death occurred before the Afghan reaction to the burning of the Koran and was the 7th NATO service member who died at the hands of Afghan forces in February.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales at the National Training Center in 2011 (US Army/DoD Photo)

The final nail in the coffin for the campaign occurred last week when Staff Sergeant Robert Bales for unknown reasons went on a shooting rampage killing 16 Afghan civilians including 9 children when they were asleep in their homes.  Bales actions whether attributable to a psychological breakdown, being drunk or if he was simply a cold blooded killer have effectively destroyed any chance of the United States and NATO recovering the situation in Afghanistan. It is already said that Bales attorney plans to use the case to also put the US war effort on trial. Since Bales reportedly has a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI and possibly PTSD who allegedly was told that he would not be deployed again expect that the Army Medical Department and Madigan Army Medical Center will be raked over the coals. Those institutions and the Commanders of Joint-Base Lewis McChord are already being investigated for downgrading PTSD diagnosis to other mental illnesses that do not qualify for medical disability payments.

Staff Sergeant Bales appears to be a man who appeared until this incident to be an honorable and professional soldier with a distinguished combat record. However he had a number of potentially troubling legal and personal situations occur over the past number of years and had not been selected for promotion. How those events play into this and what may have happened to push him over the edge or to unleash an evil in him that no one knew was there will be the subject of much debate in the coming weeks.  None of it will be good for the United States.

At the same time the question will have to be asked how and why a soldier with injuries of PTSD and TBI was deployed as part of a small team supporting Special Forces troops instead of with his own unit even after allegedly being told that he would not redeploy.  That is a question that must be answered.  Why would the Army deploy a soldier with known PTSD and TBI as an Individual Augment with different unit than which he was assigned? In this environment he would not be in a place to have the same camaraderie of being part of his own unit probably suffer much more isolation with the inherent dangers of such a situation. Having served on small bases in Iraq with the small teams of advisors and having worked with Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen assigned to commands as Individual Augments (IAs) and having been one myself I can say that these assignments are often much more dangerous for those with preexisting trauma.

The result of this latest incident coming on the heels of the burning of the Koran and other religious texts at Bagram Air Base, the release of a You Tube video of a US Marine Scout Sniper team urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters and the revelation of the “Kill team” in 2010 has for all practical purposes ended any chance of making a successful transition in Afghanistan.

Last Stand of the 44th Regiment of Foot 1842

Afghanistan was supposed to be the “good war” and for a couple of years that is what it was. US forces had taken down the Taliban regime with minimal effort in 2001 and appeared to be well on their way to finishing off Al Qaeda and banishing the Taliban from Afghanistan. However in 2003 the US took its focus off of Afghanistan by invading Iraq. We also had placed our trust in Hamid Karzai to guide Afghanistan into a new and democratic era. Karzai has proven to be much like Sujah Shah Durrani who the British imposed on Afghanistan in 1838 when they could not get Emir Dost Mohammed Khan to do their bidding in trying to keep Russia and Persia from dominating Afghanistan. That was a mistake of epic proportions that led to one of the greatest British military, diplomatic and political disasters of the Empire.

A survivor to the First Anglo-Afghan War Chaplain G.R. Gleig wrote about that war something that may be said about our campaign there in years to come:

“a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.” 

We can pray that it doesn’t happen that way. What started as an attempt to find and kill Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan in October of 2001 has turned into a long term occupation that serves no strategic interest of the United States.  Nearly 100,000 US troops are tied down in a country where they can do little conduct local operations against an intractable enemy to support a corrupt government that the people of Afghanistan loathe.  It is so similar to the British experience that it makes one wonder if anyone has ever read a book about the country before invading it.

Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is still reeling from continued strikes on its leadership. The goal of the war was achieved. Afghanistan is Afghanistan. It will not change and any threats brought by terrorists that may try to use it as a base can be defended so long as we are able and willing to whack a mole whenever they raise their head up, just as we are in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and even Pakistan. That does not require 100,000 tied down in Afghanistan where they are exposed to local threats as well as the possibility of being cut off from supplies should Pakistan or the Russian Federation cut supply lines or should hostilities break out with Iran.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The War that Could Not Be Won: My Article from 2012


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been watching with great concern the situation in Afghanistan since President Biden made what I believe was the correct decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Yesterday, Kabul fell to the Taliban which overthrew the Afghan government in a lightening campaign that lasted just 10 days. It wasn’t so much that the Taliban defeated government forces, it was the unprecedented collapse and surrender of those forces often without a shot being fired. Michael Hastings wrote: Whether or not Afghanistan would be a peaceful nation-state had we not gone into Iraq I doubt. Afghanistan is going to be Afghanistan, no matter how hard we try to make it something else. He was correct, as I was in 2012.

I will write more about this over the coming days and detail the reasons for the collapse and the false assumptions about the resilience and staying power of the Afghan government, military and police forces.

I believe that we lost Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 when the Bush administration shifted its focus to invade Iraq and denuded the efforts to find and kill Osama Bin Laden and finish off the Taliban. Then we tried to remake Afghanistan in our image, a Western democracy foreign to its history, culture and religion. The Soviets attempted to turn Afghanistan into a Soviet state, like us they failed.

What follows is an unedited article that I published in February 2012. The link to that article in case you doubt me is here: https://padresteve.com/2012/02/27/the-war-that-cannot-be-won-afghanistan-2012/

As I said I will write more in the coming days and I will be unsparingly honest in my use of Afghan history, my knowledge of military history, strategy, counter-insurgency warfare, and the role of religion and culture that to our detriment we ignored. But for tonight I leave you with this article: The War That Cannot be Won, Afghanistan 2012.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

The War That Cannot Be Won, Afghanistan 2012

“There is no single piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier . . . no single military problem that has arisen and not been solved, and yet there is still no result.”  Sergei Akhromeyev, Soviet General Staff Chief 1986

Sometimes one wonders if anyone actually reads history and if they do whether they actually want to learn from it. Back in 1979 the Soviet Union had advisors in Afghanistan. A lot of them. A local and indigenous Communist Party had some measure of political power and this was before the Soviets invaded.

However in March 1979 a major unit of the Afghan National Army in the city of Herat mutinied against the Soviets and the Afghan government. Before the mutiny was put down 50 Soviet advisors as well as 300 of their dependents were brutally murdered by Afghan Army personnel. A further 5000 Afghans died in the revolt.

Since 2009 the trend of Blue on Green killings, that is Afghan Soldiers or Security Force members killing US or NATO personnel has been increasing at a troubling rate. We should not be surprised, the one thing that the Afghan loathes above all is the foreign soldier on Afghan soil.  While some Afghans may desire a more modern society and something more akin to the Western democratic political model to include women’s suffrage they are in a distinct minority.  The fact is that as General Barry McCafferty recently noted regarding the murder of two US military advisors in the supposedly secure Afghan Interior Ministry “we may be seeing a watershed event after billions of dollars and 16,000 u.s. casualties. we see how shallow the impact we have on this primitive society is.” 

Approximately 130,000 US and NATO troops including a number of my friends are deployed in penny-packets across Afghanistan and are increasingly isolated and in danger.  The “inadvertent” burning of copies of the Koran in a garbage dump by US personnel has resulted in the deaths of at least 4 US military personnel and the wounding of 8 more and put our bases on lockdown as thousands of Afghans protest and attack them.  More than two dozen Afghans have died in the recent violence.

As deployed they are able to achieve local success but unable to secure the country. Dependent on supplies delivered by air or along tenuous supply lines hundreds of miles long these forces though numerous are dispersed and deployed in areas where their inherent technological and operational superiority is negated by weather, terrain and restrictive rules of engagement as well as a counterinsurgency strategy in which these advantages matter little and that they do not have enough troops to accomplish.

US and NATO forces are embedded with the Afghan Army, Police and Border forces, many of whom are either incompetent, corrupt or allied with Taliban or Al Qaeda. Most Afghans feel that any foreign occupier is a mortal enemy and mistakes such as the recent Koran burning only add fuel to the fire of hatred no matter how many times our leaders apologize. Formerly unclassified but now classified reports easily available on the internet including at US Government websites paint a picture of mutual distrust and animosity that can only be described as toxic between the Afghans and NATO personnel, especially Americans.

To make matters worse the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are surrounded to the west by an ever more bellicose Iran, to the south and east by an unstable and often adversarial “ally” Pakistan through which 30-40 percent of their supplies transit.  To the north the United States and NATO are dependent on agreements with the former Soviet Central Asian Republics Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with most having had to transit Russia.  In the 1980s the Soviets only had make a withdraw across the border into their own country.

Another potentially disastrous situation would be for a war to break out between Iran and Israel or with the United States and our allies. The way our troops are deployed means that they cannot be easily concentrated to parry any threats and their isolation prevents them from being used as an offensive asset should a war break out against Iran.

The fact is that US and NATO forces are now in a very similar position to the Soviets in the mid to late 1980s.  We are engaged in a war where military success is not going to win the war. No matter what any politician says there is nothing that can change that unless they would be willing to commit to greatly increasing the number of ground forces in Afghanistan with the costs and logistical problems that would entail.

President Obama is in a “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t” position.  If he keeps the status quo the danger persists and maybe increases. If he were to begin a more precipitous withdraw there would be the same dangers and possibly more during the withdraw. But mitigating against a faster withdraw is the 2012 election in which his Republican challengers would accuse him of “losing the war and betraying our troops.” However the chance to end the Afghan War from a position of strength was lost in 2003 when we diverted our efforts to the invasion of Iraq. That action gave Al Qaeda and the Taliban the breathing space that they needed to make a comeback and that was not on President Obama’s watch.

Geopolitically the presence of 130,000 US and NATO forces does nothing for regional or US national security and prevents those forces and the attendant resources needed to support them unavailable for any other dangers in the region. The goal of “creating a stabile and secure Afghanistan” is a myth. Afghanistan is not Iraq and will for generations remain a backward, tribal and religiously intolerant society that will never embrace western ideals that conflict with their culture.

The question now is how do we get out of this place, seal it off to keep terrorist threats from emanating from it and endangering US, NATO and Allied interests in the region.  The reality is also that no matter what we do that any defeat or withdraw will be grist for Al Qaeda, Iran and other Islamist propaganda.  The inability of the Soviets to “win” in Afghanistan was of the factors that brought down the Soviet Empire and ended the myth that Soviet Communism was invincible. The same could happen to the United States.

When presented with a cataclysmic strategic situation on the Western Front in 1944 Field Marshall Gerd Von Rundstedt was asked what should be done. His simple response was “End the war you fools.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch56NAL1C-I

We are not yet in a cataclysmic situation but the time to make decisions is now not later because there is nothing that can change the strategic or operational conditions in or outside of Afghanistan. Facts are facts and politicians from both the Republican and Democrat parties should stop trying to turn this into short term political advantage and look at the actual strategic interests of our country as well as our broader security and economic interests in the region.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Party and Cult of Death: the GOP and its Anti-vaxxer “Christian” Base



Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been pondering this article for a while. I have been using the term The Party and Death and Fascism to describe the GOP and people like Trump, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbot, Ran Paul, many other GOP political figures and their propagandists on Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and in the process I have been developing this article.

I have watched in horrid fascination as the Death Cult of the Trumpified Republican Party and its various propaganda outlets, especially Fox News, have been on a crusade against responsible people trying to keep people from being infected and dying from the Delta Variant of the Coronavirus- 19 Virus. The most frightening part of this sorry exploitive campaign is that it targets Trump’s most ardent supporters. No longer are the people with obvious risks for COVID most of the new the victims are divided along political political lines; Trump supporters and GOP loyalists are refusing the vaccine and being infected and dying in increasing numbers. The only saving grace at the moment is that over half of the population has been vaccinated, otherwise the numbers would be far worse.

Frankly, I hate to see that I saw the endgame when I left the GOP in 2008 shortly after Sarah Palin was nominated for Vice President. I realized then that the party was now in the hands of conspiracy theorists, most of who are Evangelical Christians. Many were raised on the most paranoid aspects of Premillennial Dispensational theology with its focus on the coming one world government of the Antichrist coupled with a long history of dualism in which the elect are spiritually at war with Satan and his minions, demonic and human. This is coupled with a new variant of Christian Nationalism, this one based on Christian Dominionism and what is called seven-mountains theology. Under the spell of the self-proclaimed of the New Apostolic Reformation, many of who have stood by the side of former President Trump and every one of the lies of QAON. Since the beginning of the pandemic all of these people; the politicians, the preachers, and the pundits of the radicalized authoritarian GOP have done all that they can to flaunt every public health recommendation, from masks and social, distancing to vaccinations. They include GOP leaders including a large number of prominent GOP leaders including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Greene, Greg Abbot, Ron DeSantis, and many more.

These people claim to be “pro-life” because they oppose and are attempting to end legal abortions even as they cut healthcare for mothers and children and support policies that lead to high infant mortality and doom poor and minority children to lives of poverty with little chance of escape. However, it is their opposition to and successful propaganda that has been a direct cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths linked to COVID.

They are shameless in promoting lies and conspiracy theories, claiming that they are being persecuted and comparing vaccinations and government mandates of masks to the Holocaust. They are seriously sick and deluded sociopaths. They are dangerous and will kill to display their faith.

A members of ReOpen Maryland wearing a custom face mask listens to a speaker during a road rally procession calling for the re-opening for the state of Maryland amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Sailsbury, Maryland, U.S., May 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

The truth of the matter is that all of these people have a profound disrespect for life that cannot be attributed to anything in the Gospel. Their “god” is a “no-god” based on the Social Darwinism of the Ayn Rand Cult of the Libertarians which has taken over the GOP. As such they have created something that they call Christian but has nothing in common with the Christian faith, not that Christians, churches, and Christian movements have not often participated in many of the world’s worst atrocities and genocides. But this is different, it is insidious and is a clear and present danger to everyone in this country and other countries where similar people have either taken over or have major influence.

sadly, no matter how many people die these people will continue to ensure that more die, like the 635,000 Americans already dead of COVID are not enough.

As for me, my patience with them has run out. If they get infected and die I will not mourn them, but I will mourn those who they infect and kill.

I could go on, but that is enough for the night. Until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Working, Reading and Observing

Pierre with Me as I read Following Breakfast, a new part of my morning routine

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As most of my readers know, since early April I have been nearly totally consumed by our move to our new home and transforming it into our forever home one step at a time. It has involved a lot of physical work, sometimes so much that at they end of most days I was too tired to read, write or do much other than pop up my periscope to see what was going on in the country and world that I would normally be writing about.

The good thing is that we are making a lot of progress and despite lots of work I am not having to do as much every day. Between last week and now I assembled all of our patio furniture including our rocking chairs for the veranda. Tomorrow, after going to an early appointment with my new civilian primary care doctor, I will be hanging some large blinds of the living room and a couple of standing lamps for the living room and our bedroom sitting area.

Likewise, I have been able to get things to my publisher for Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory! and in the process continue to meet great historians, educators and civil rights leaders. I need to get them a recent photo for my author Information sheet, continue building my book and business website, and set up an LLC for my books and the various military history staff rides and Holocaust education travels that I plan to begin as the dust dies down. Finally, I need toset up a Zoom meeting with my agent to plan for publicity related to the book, but that pretty much deals with work, on to reading and observing.

With the additional time I am having more time to spend at periscope depth and observe what is going in the country. For the first time in a while I am digging deeper into the news and beginning to make more comments about it on Facebook and Twitter. There is som much it is almost overwhelming between the GOP insurrectionists and the GOP party of death trying to kill as many people possible in Texas and Florida by exposing them to the Delta variant of COVID, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the natural disasters relations to global warming, and ever present threat of more right wing terrorism. Eventually, when I am ready I am going to begin a series of articles about all of these things and try not to have my writing dictated by the news cycle. I’m want to be more strategic, and to do that I need to digest what is going on to be more effective and place it in context.

To do this I am now taking more time off from the internet and reading, and I realized that in order not to get drawn back on to the internet I need to read books that are not digital. In other words I am going back whenever possible to real live books printed on paper. I have even gone back to get copies of books I have on Kindle in hardcover, softcover or paperback.

Because of my reading I can make some book recommendations to you. The first is Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump by John Fea. Fea is a historian and Evangelical Christian. He is a professor at Messiah University near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His previous books include the very provokative Is the United States a Christian Nation?

Fea is not a part of the Evangelical Trump Death Cult that makes up the corrupt soul and rotten heart of the modern GOP. Believe Me is different than many other books that have come out about the Trump administration over the past few months because he deals with how supposedly conservative Evangelicals got to the point where they threw out everything that they once proclaimed were non-negotiable character traits for the candidates they support in Presidential campaigns. The book deals with the history, theological, societal and political movements that created the modern Evangelical political machine that scarified all for temporal power and a place at the side of a corrupt despot.

I also read Peter Longerich’s The Unwritten Order: Hitler’s Role in the Final Solution which is a necessary read for anyone who has to refute Holocaust deniers. Finally, I am about 40% through Jill Lepore’s incredible These Truths: A History of the United States. Since it is almost 800 pages it is a hefty read, but Lepore is a historian who writes a fast paced fact filled history that is incredibly balanced but cuts through the myths, simplistic narratives, and ideologically driven texts that pervade many recent works dealing with American history.

So anyway, that is all for tonight. Please be safe and take care.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Update

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I figured that I needed to update everyone on what is going on since my last post of a month ago.

Anyway, that’s me and my post-retirement beard. Since the time this photo was taken the beard and mustache have continued to thicken up, and I think that the mustache will do a nice handlebar. It will look late 19th or early 20th Century by the time that it is done. That being said we have moved into our “forever home” and are continuing to work to make it what we want. It is a beautiful home in a neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and though only 11 years was built to look like the historic hundred year or more old homes in the neighborhood.

It is amazing and because it is not in Virginia Beach it didn’t break us. If we had found something like this in Virginia Beach it would have cost over a million, but in a quite and safe neighborhood where neighbors look out for one another in Norfolk it was less than a third of that. Since we have lived in military housing, starter tract homes, apartments and most recently a townhouse this is a mansion. Judy has an amazing art studio and my library/office is coming together. I cannot believe how much work it has been but our progress is amazing, and our Papillon kids love it. They have lots of windows to look out, a backyard that they play, do their business and keep watch on the neighborhood. Izzy and Maddy love the windows as do Sunny and Pierre, but Pierre needs to be up on furniture to look out.

Izzy and Maddy on watch

Anyway, the amount of work has often left me exhausted, so much so that I had brain cramps and writers block. However, we are at a place where I was able to start working with my publisher and agent on Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!, and things are taking off. I have a number of well respected historians, educators and civil rights leaders, including a Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian who are reading it in order to write blurbs for the publisher. I continue to work with my agent and the publisher daily in addition to working in the house.

So I am quite busy. I hope to write more here more often as things progress and time allows.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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The Most Glorious Fourth and my first Article in Nearly Three Months


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been nearly three months since I wrote anything on this blog. Since my last article so much has happened and frankly I have been so busy preparing our old house to sell, purchasing and moving in to our our wonderful home, as well as finishing the last quarter of teaching Rhetoric, the History of the Renaissance and Reformation, and early American History to the Civil War that I have had hardly any time to do anything else. Frankly, I have been too tired and emotionally exhausted to write anything.

However, on this night I am writing. It won’t be long but I hope that it will be meaningful. This is the 157th anniversary of what some have called “The Most Glorious Fourth.” It is not only the anniversary of Independence Day and the promise of the Declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Though the committee of five men, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams who drafted the Declaration included a scathing paragraph condemning slavery, that paragraph was removed because the Continental Congress could not ensure the unity of the country if it were included in the Declaration. It is certain that South Carolina and Georgia specifically rejected because they had no intent of ending the slave trade or slavery, and other states where slavery was not only integral to the economy but society would have rejected it out of hand.

So it was expunged. Had it not been those words, which Abraham Lincoln and others believed were meant to apply to an ever expanding and diverse populace composed of every race and religion, and have been instrumental in the hopes and dreams of people around the world would have had much more of an impact, the slaveholders of then, the Confederates who expressly included slavery as their primary reason of secession, and the White Nationalists, and insurrectionists who attacked that Capitol on January 6th, and their leader, former President Donald Trump be damned.

The words of that draft paragraph expressed a sentiment that those who with mythologize our past or condemn the men who drafted the Declaration as not going far enough would be embarrassed to read, so I post them here:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

Had that paragraph been included it would have changed the course of our history for the better. Blacks would have been emancipated and made citizens sooner, and instead of a massive institution of Slavery which poisoned the country for 89 years after independence, a further hundred plus years of Jim Crow, racial violence, the wholesale destruction of Black communities, the lynchings of thousands of Blacks, bombing s of Black churches and assassinations of civil rights leaders including Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965 a resurgent White Nationalist movement, which though a significant minority of the voting population of the United States have so gerrymandered the congressional districts of so many states that they have far more house members, and a plurality of Senators who use a hackneyed version of the Filibuster, called Cloture, to ensure that a supermajority of at least 60 Senators have to agree to a bill to pass it into law, or to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court. This has ensured that the White Supremacist Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell have used Senate procedural rules to block Democratic nominees to the Supreme Court and end up with a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, which just last week dismantled the last remaining pillar of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. As this was being litigated hundreds of measures to restrict voting rights have been introduced, and in some states like Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas have been passed by state legislatures and signed into law by their governors.

July 4th 1863 is often referred to as the Most Glorious Fourth because on that day following their decisive defeat at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began their retreat to Virginia, while General John Pemberton’s Army at Vicksburg surrendered to the armies of Ulysses S.Grant, exactly four score and seven years after the publication of the Declaration of Independence. On that day one Confederate Army was eliminated from the war and the most dangerous, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was so shredded that it could never go on the offensive again.

Now, twelve score and five years after the Declaration we are facing an existential threat to our democracy from the party which used to be the party of Lincoln, emancipation, and Reconstruction to that of the Southern Democrats who fought for slavery, fought civil and voting rights for Blacks, rolled back the rights fought for by Union Soldiers and voted into law in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the afore mentioned Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965.

The simple fact is that our democracy is under attack and it is very possible that this Independence Day May be the last that we observe as a democracy. It is imperative that we fight at the ballot box, in state legislatures, in Congress, and with the power of an incumbent President committed to that democracy to beat back the attempts to overthrow it by legislation ,through the courts and by violent coup attempts. We may even have to take up arms to defend the American Experiment. If we do not we will cede the field to those who have already done everything they can and are working on more to disenfranchise most Americans and form a minority controlled, authoritarian, Christian Nationalist state that restricts the rights of the majority to maintain political control and cede power to an oligarchy of Christian Nationalists, Corporate interests, and violent White Supremacists. In effect we are at the same point as the Union in 1861 and the Weimar Republic in January 1933. We know how well those ended. Both ended in the defeat of the authoritarians but a great cost.

Many of the people endangering our system of government, our democracy and way of life have been convinced by propaganda and are completely ignorant of our history. Their ignorance is not something we can excuse. That being said we cannot treat them as enemies until they attack. Thus, we have to peacefully to to become this friends and show them how they have been deceived, just like most poor Southern Whites before the Civil War, and many otherwise decent and moral Germans in the 1930s. If we can do that. If we can win without violence and and help change the hearts of people ignorant of our history and Constitution we can defeat this racist, theocratic, and authoritarian threat before it can claim complete power in all branches of of government.

Historian Timothy Snyder wrote:

“The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don’t know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that. Some of the Germans who voted for the Nazi Party in 1932 no doubt understood that this might be the last meaningfully free election for some time, but most did not. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks who voted for the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1946 probably realized that they were voting for the end of democracy, but most assumed they would have another chance. No doubt the Russians who voted in 1990 did not think that this would be the last free and fair election in their country’s history, which (thus far) it has been. Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.” 

If we do not succeed, we will enter the most dark and dystopian future imaginable, it will be like the series The Man in the High Castle. That is not the future that I want to contemplate, however with the election restrictions being pasts in many states, the Supreme Court backing those restrictions, and an ever increasing violent element in the Republican Party we cannot be complacent.

So, I wish to a happy Independence Day and please don’t take it lightly. Democracy is fragile and under threat by Americans who would rather see a one party authoritarian State based on White Christian Nationalism. A State where Racism and anti-Semitism in its crudest forms takes over the nation.


This is not a partisan issue. Many people voting for the GOP are doing so because of years of propaganda who have no earthly idea of just how badly it has already harmed them, socially. politically, and morally. Conservative wings of Christian Churches have become nothing more than mouthpieces for the anti-Christian and anti-humanitarian new-fascists of the GOP, poisoning the faith and causing many people to abandon it.

I don’t know about you, but I will fight that future, if need be to the death.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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