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What Can You Do for Your Country? Thoughts on the Passing of the Greatest Generation and an Unending War

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Marine Colonel Francis I. Fenton, kneeling prays at the foot of his son’s grave on Okinawa 1945

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tom Brokaw wrote:

“At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time. It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn’t make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen.”

I was born in 1960 and thankfully for whatever reason I developed a love of history and heritage. I began reading history books as early as second and third grade. The American Heritage Publishing Company had a Junior Library series that I could not get enough of awhile another publisher (it may have also been American Heritage) had a series of biographies which drew me into the lives of many famous people. From 3rd grade on I spent every spare moment at school in the library, even frequently cutting geometry class in 10th grade to explore the history reference books that I could not check out and take home.

I think that anyone that knew me then could probably associate me with a big stack of books that I lugged to and from class and back and forth from home to school. The ironic thing is that as I pack for work or to come home every day my back pack from my tour in Iraq is filled with the books that I am reading or using for research. Maybe it is not ironic, maybe it is the fact that some things never change. For me the quest for knowledge and historical, philosophical, or scientific truth is something that I cannot get enough of, nor be content to think that I know everything on any given subject.

This little introduction takes me into today’s subject. For those that don’t know we are coming up on the anniversaries of two of the most amazing historical events of the past 100 years next week. They are the battles of Midway, June 4th through June 6th 1942 and the invasion of France, or D-Day, June 6th 1944.

The Pilots of Torpedo Eight, only one Survived

I have always been amazed by the men who faced the Japanese at Midway, a battle that by any reasonable means should have resulted in a Japanese victory as well as them men that stormed the beaches at Normandy just two years later. When I first started reading about these battles many of the veterans were still alive, many not much older than I am today. However today not many are left, and the few that remain generally served as junior officers or enlisted personnel, none in high command.

Both battles are remarkable because an American or Allied loss could have changed the course of history. If the United States Navy been defeated at Midway it could have brought about a Japanese victory, or more likely made the ultimate American victory much more costly and taken far longer to achieve. If the Allies had been repulsed at Normandy it could have split the allied coalition or given the Germans the chance to renew their fight against the Soviet Union and possibly change history.

Thus when I look at these two events, battles that for most are now ancient history I am in awe of the men who fought them. They are not academic exercises for me, but as someone who has served at sea and on land in war I feel camaraderie with these men.

I remember reading Cornelius Ryan’s classic book “The Longest Day” and seeing the movie of the same name in grade school, and reading Walter Lord’s classic on Midway “Incredible Victory” when I was in 7th grade. Both are excellent books which have stood the test of time and though I have read and done much more research and writing on both battles I still keep a copy of each book and probably re-read each every few years and consult them for any new projects. Likewise have been fortunate enough to meet some of the men who served in both of these battles, and even in my time as an Army chaplain be with them in their declining years. Men like Frank Smoker and Henry Boyd, both Normandy vets who have since passed away mean much to me.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Today when I see a World War Two veteran, no matter where I encounter them, I make sure that I thank them for their service. They are part of an amazing generation of Americans who bequeathed those of us who live today so much, both during the war and after the war. Many millions served in the military, while many more served in war industries. All contributed to war bond drives, victory gardens and yes even increased taxes and decreased civil liberties to win the war.

The fact that Japanese Americans served in the most highly decorated Army units of the war despite their families being incarcerated in American versions of concentration camps is a testimony to sacrifice.

Likewise the efforts of African Americans who went to war despite being second class citizens and discriminated against under the Jim Crow Laws, which even Nazis like Hermann Goering recognized were only different from the Nazi anti-Semitic laws and persecution in manner of degree.

African American Artillerymen in France 1944

That was an amazing and unique generation of Citizen Soldiers. With few exceptions they were not the professional career soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who serve today. Most would not have considered themselves “warriors.” They were there to do a job, win a war and go home. It was part of who they were as Americans.

How many today would do any of those things? Today we have well under one percent of the population who have served in the wars of the past 16 years, fewer who have served in combat or in a combat zone. Likewise the population in general and in particular the bankers, businesses, lobbyists and defense contractors are not asked to sacrifice anything, instead when the country was attacked the President and others decried the fact that war might prevent people from doing business, shopping or living a normal life. For God’s sake, were at war and that attitude would have been incomprehensible to those of the Greatest Generation who for the most part either went to war, or supported the war effort with their work and other contributions. For them patriotism was not a bumper sticker.

Rachel Maddow said it well in her book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:

“When civilians are not asked to pay any price, it’s easy to be at war – not just to intervene in a foreign land in the first place, but to keep on fighting there. The justifications for staying at war don’t have to be particularly rational or cogently argued when so few Americans are making the sacrifice that it takes to stay.”

Jimmy Stewart and his Bomber Crew

Because of the sacrifice of people of the Greatest Generation I am grateful for them. I believe that we can learn so much from them. Even A-List Hollywood stars and professional sport heroes left their careers to serve their country. Clarke Gable, Audie Murphy, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio; just to name a few sacrificed major portions of their careers to serve. With the exception of Pat Tillman who died in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan which was covered up by the Army and Bush administration, how many of the 1%, the A-List, or professional athletes can you name that have sacrificed their fortunes to serve in the front lines? I can’t name any others, but in the Second World War even the 1% had skin in the game so to speak, the Kennedy’s, Roosevelt’s and the Bush’s to name just a few.

I think that is why I am in awe of those of the Greatest Generation and why as the anniversaries of Midway and D-Day approach I am extra thoughtful, quite reflective and very thankful for those who through their sacrifice made so much of what we have today possible. What bothers me today is how few, especially of those who either advocate for war, lobby for it or profit from it no matter what their political, economic or religious persuasion is, offers to serve or pay for the cost of war.

Today those costs are borne by a tiny minority of Americans, military professionals of the all-volunteer military, both active duty and reserve who have endured deployment after deployment as the bulk of the nation stood by, mostly cheering them on. Of course as one who had his father serve in Vietnam and entered the military not long after had to endure the jeers of Americans, cheers are nice. They are much better than being called a “Nazi” for wearing your uniform to class. However, sometimes I think that many that cheer us on are able to do so because vicarious patriotism is easy. Vicarious patriotism anything, someone else serves, and someone else dies while they “support the troops” without actually doing anything.

Now please don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good people who have never served in the military and who do care. There are men and women who take action to support the troops, both those serving and the veterans, including those disabled in some way by war. For them I am grateful, they donate time, money and personal effort to care, and I do not care if they are conservatives or liberals, Republicans, Democrats or Independents, religious or atheist. They are Americans who are doing something. Likewise I do not disparage those who take the time to learn the issues that the nation faces and the domestic policies that impact the country and in a healthy body politic it doesn’t mean that we have to completely agree with each other to be patriots. Such an understanding would have been unthinkable to our founders much less most of the Greatest Generation. Veteran’s issues are important but national security also involves so much more, everything from the infrastructure that the Greatest Generation had the vision and wherewithal to build to the environment.

I have been to Normandy as well as other World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. I can only agree with Tom Brokaw who wrote: “there on the beaches of Normandy I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.”

So, when you read anything I write or re-publish during the next couple of weeks, be it about D-Day, Midway or even Gettysburg, please read what I write though those lenses. It is not that I am bitter. I have chosen my life in the military, but I wonder why so few of us bear the burden. It is a question that every citizen must ask themselves and their political representatives.

Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn, a Navy Chaplain serving with the Marines, recalled Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address when gave a eulogy at the dedication of a cemetery on Iwo Jima that puts it all in perspective.

“Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores.

Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . .together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many men of each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.

Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn duty, sacred duty do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.

We here solemnly swear that this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.”

Since the last members of the Greatest Generation are passing away at an ever increasing rate and few will remain among us; I will ask you to ask yourself the question posed by the World War II veteran and hero John F Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, Military, national security, Political Commentary, World War II at Sea, world war two in europe, world war two in the pacific

Armed Forces Day 2015: The Breach of Trust

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“What is the cost of war? what is the bill?…“This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….” Major General Smedley Butler USMC

Today is Armed Forces Day and unfortunately most of the country will not notice unless they are attending a Baseball game where it is being observed or some special event on a base, national cemetery, monument or VFW hall. Armed Forces Day was established in 1948 by President Harry Truman after the founding of the Department of Defense.  It was established to honor and remember those currently serving, not the discharged or the retired veteran, they are remembered on Veterans Day, the former Armistice Day, nor the fallen who are commemorated on Memorial Day which we will do next weekend. 

Unlike Veterans Day or Memorial Day there is no national holiday for Armed Forces Day. I find this ironic for a nation which claims to support the troops that the men and women who we honor are honored on a day that unless they are deployed in harm’s way or have duty, is regular day off like any Saturday. Personally I think the day should be celebrated by giving the active duty force a real day off and if they are deployed given some kind of down time as operational needs allow, and maybe even given them a ration of beer. We did this for the Marine Corps birthday in Iraq, so why not on Armed Forces Day? But I digress…

Back when Armed Forces Day was established there was still a draft which meant that in theory everyone had skin in the game and that our leaders were far more hesitant to commit the nation to war. 

Back in 1952 the New York Times editors wrote:

“It is our most earnest hope that those who are in positions of peril, that those who have made exceptional sacrifices, yes, and those who are afflicted with plain drudgery and boredom, may somehow know that we hold them in exceptional esteem. Perhaps if we are a little more conscious of our debt of honored affection they may be a little more aware of how much we think of them.”

But sadly today in all honesty were think very little of them. Today of course there will be a fair number of local celebrations to honor members of the Armed Forces across the country, but for the most part they will be small and not well publicized. Most of the people I attendance will not even be there for the troops. They will be there for the event and their hearts will be warmed by the tributes paid to the troops. As a career officer and son of a Vietnam veteran Navy Chief I appreciate those events and at least some of the good hearted the people that put them together. Being a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, especially those that have taken the time to honor Iraq and Afghanistan veterans like me who have returned from war totally fucked up. But again I digress, badda bing, badda boom, badda bomb…

Bu here is what really s upsetting to me, good number of these patriot, flag waving, war porn satiating, yet somehow inspiring ceremonies to honor the troops are not even coming for the heart of the people putting them on. I steady they are coming out of the Pentegon budget and being paid for by the taxpayers. These events are nothing more than faux patriotism and little more than propaganda that exploits the troops. They are being done as a recruiting tool with the Department of Defense which is paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the tax exempt National Football League and its teams to put on shows that give all the appearances of honoring the troops but are really nothing more than propaganda and recruiting commercials. Likewise for all which for all the money we the taxpayers spend on them actually net few recruits if any as a huge number of our current troops are the sons and daughters of men and women who have also served this country. They, like I do, do this for something greater than partisan politics  greater than money, greater than anything that can easily be repaid, the love of this country and the principles found in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. However, that is fodder for another article. 

But honestly I am so offended by this faux  patriotism shown by the NFL and God knows who else that it causes me a great deal of anger. I say this because throughout our nation’s history our political leaders, business leaders and the populace as a whole have despised the military, and those who in the absence of a draft chose to serve. That despicable attitude was well recounted in Herman Wouk’s monumental novel, which became a classic film The Caine Mutiny. In the film a defense attorney for those accused of mutiny, Barney Greenwald played to perfection by Jose Ferrer told the acquitted mutineers of the Caine’s wardroom:

“You know something…when I was studying law, and Mr Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton,method was standing guard over this fat dumb happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh no, we knew you couldn’t make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn’t crack up like Queeg.” 

For those who are now getting pissed off at me, let us look at facts. At any given time less than 1% of Americans are serving in all components of the military. For over 13 years we have been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as other locations that we don’t like to talk about too much. However this has not been the effort of a nation at war, it is the war of a tiny percentage of the population, a segment that everyone is far too willing to exploit. 

As a nation we are disconnected from the military and the wars that the military fights. The fact is that most Americans do not have a personal or vested interest in these wars, they have been insulated by political leaders of both parties from them. There is no draft, and no taxes were raised to fund the wars and the military is now worn out.

We have been at war for nearly 14 years and truthfully there is no end in sight. In that time every single Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman volunteered for duty or reenlisted during this time period. Motives may have varied from individual to individual, but unlike the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam every single one volunteered to serve in time of war. I think that this makes the current generation of veterans quite unique in our modern history, but not so different than the professionals who served before and after the Civil War,and  those who served before and after the First World War. The situation after the Second Wolrd War and the Cold War required a large standing military and large reserve force. This required the draft, which though hated by many  leavened the professional force with civilians who got a taste of military and when they left did not forget they meaning of their service and the sacrifices made by the professionals. We do not have that anymore. We are no longer are no longer a military composed of citizen soldiers. We who serve,  even in our reserve components are  a Warrior caste, set apart from the society that we serve.

There is a tragic disconnection between the military and civilian society in the United States. This is the result of deliberate public policy since the end of the Vietnam War supported by both political parties. For almost 40 years we have relied on an all volunteer force. It is that relatively small and socially isolated military which is sent to fight wars while the bulk of the population is uninvolved and corporations, lobbyists and think tanks get rich.

Andrew Bacevich wrote in his new book Breach of Trust: How Americans failed their Soldiers and their Country:

“Rather than offering an antidote to problems, the military system centered on the all-volunteer force bred and exacerbated them. It underwrote recklessness in the formulation of policy and thereby resulted in needless, costly, and ill-managed wars. At home, the perpetuation of this system violated simple standards of fairness and undermined authentic democratic practice. The way a nation wages war—the role allotted to the people in defending the country and the purposes for which it fights—testifies to the actual character of its political system. Designed to serve as an instrument of global interventionism (or imperial policing), America’s professional army has proven to be astonishingly durable, if also astonishingly expensive. Yet when dispatched to Iraq and Afghanistan, it has proven incapable of winning. With victory beyond reach, the ostensible imperatives of U.S. security have consigned the nation’s warrior elite to something akin to perpetual war.”

Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel and Vietnam veteran who lost a son in Iraq is dead on, as is Rachel Maddow who wrote in her outstanding book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:

“The reason the founders chafed at the idea of an American standing army and vested the power of war making in the cumbersome legislature was not to disadvantage us against future enemies, but to disincline us toward war as a general matter… With citizen-soldiers, with the certainty of a vigorous political debate over the use of a military subject to politicians’ control, the idea was for us to feel it- uncomfortably- every second we were at war. But after a generation or two of shedding the deliberate political encumbrances to war that they left us… war making has become almost an autonomous function of the American state. It never stops.” 

The lobbyists, pundits, politicians, preachers and war profiteers that promote war don’t care about the troops. When they say they do they are lying out their asses. This is because no matter who is in office or who controls congress these people and corporations will promote policies that keep them employed and their businesses enriched. Marine Major General and Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler was quite right when he said:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

I think that the reason that our current wars have gone on so long is the that misguided policies have brought about a chronic disconnection in our society between those that serve in the military. But how can there not be when in the weeks after 9-11 people like President Bush and others either directly or in a manner of speaking told people to “go shopping” * as we went to war in Afghanistan? When I returned from Iraq I returned to a nation that was not at war whose leaders used the war to buttress their respective political bases.

The results are terrible. Suicide rates are continuing to rise among veterans who have returned to find that neither the VA nor the civilian mental health care sector is prepared to care for them. Even worse the members of the GOP controlled Congress are working their asses off to screw the troops. Ohio GOP Congressman, Tea Party favorite,  supposedly deeply committed Christian and even worse a Colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard has attempted and is attempting again to attach an Ammendment to the 2016 Nation Defense Authorization Act which would keep the Defense Department from enformice rules which would protect young troops from the predatory payday lenders who line the avenues leading to every major military base in the country. My opinion, this man is a traitor to the country even though he wears the uniform and has deployed and led soldiers in in Iraq and other locations during this war. He is selling out the the young troops to protect the payday lending industry with which has had a nearly incestuous relationship since he day that was elected to Congress. 

But Congressman Stivers is not alone, Congressmen and women of both parties sell out the troops to prop up banks, insurance companies and Wall Street. Those military health benefits not directly provided in military medical centers are run through an organization called Tricare. Tricare, which is managed by the insurance companies who bid on competitive contracts is a for profit industry. These insurance companies routinely deny services to the families of military members, pay so little or are so mind numbingly  incompetent that many medical providers refuse to deal with them, leaving the troops their families stuck in the middle. That my friends is fact. Now the GOP led by the Koch brothers is attempting to privatize Veterans Admisistration Heath care. Now in all honesty, the chronically underfunded and bureaucratically bound VA. That being said my friends privatization will only make things worse for veterans who will now have to deal with private for profit insurance companies and Heath care systems that see them and their wounds and infirmaries as a way to make a buck off of taxpayer and to screw the veteran. 

But let’s not stop there. Politicians and their backers from the financial sectors have been working overtime since the Adminstration of George W. Bush to roll back retirement benefits which they call  “entitlements” which are supposedly destroying the financial health and well being of the nation. Never mind the fact that these same  politicians have spent trillions of dollars bailing out the corporations which have almost single handed lay destroyed this nation’s economy time after time since the 1970s, and who support corporations who are based in this country but have sold the nation out and work against the interests of Americans. 

But never mind, I digress, for as we all know it is the troops who are the leches who are bankrupting the country. 

But this isn’t new my friends it began during the Reagan Administration which changed the retirement system from the flat 50% of one’s final active duty pay that one would retire with at 20 years of service or high multiples up to 75% at 30 years to an average of the last three, or the highest three years of pay that one earned while on active duty.  In effect the Reagan Adminstration robbed military retest of hundreds of thousand of dollars of hard earned benefits. But again the beloved Saint Ronald loved the troops, after all he said so. 

Likewise, did you know that some GOP legislators want to cut the disability payments to military members who have been wounded or injured during their service?  You probably didn’t and you won’t find that fact out on Fox News or CNN. This is not to be confused with the retirement benefits that they are looking to cut.  This my friends is the debt of honor  that this nation owes to the men and women who have given everything and now are broken in body, mind and spirit. But then those who promote such policies, even those who have worn the uniform like Congressman Stivers have no honor. Like those that sold out the Union veterans after the Civil War and the Doughboys after World War One they are much more indebted to their political benefactors than they are to te troops no matter what they say. 

Now I do believe 

Armed Forces Day should be better celebrated and I am grateful to the people that do things every day to thank and support military personnel. These wonderful people that do this come from across the political spectrum. Some are veterans and others non-veterans. But they care for and appreciate the men and women that serve in and fight the wars that no-one else can be bothered to fight.

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Of course the politicians, pundits, preachers and the defense contractors, banks and lobbyists will find a way to profit. They will do so no matter how many more troops are killed, wounded or injured and how badly it affects military personnel or their families and will push to abandon those who fought as they do after every war. After all, to quote Smedley Butler, “war is a racket.”  So fuck them all, and if there is a just God and there is a Hell, I hope that they end up there, especially the preachers who tomorrow will invite the troops to their churches to supposedly honor them even as they support the politicians whose policies damn the very troops that they honor tomorrow. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

President Bush’s actually words were “Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t — where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop…” http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011011-7.html

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D-Day, Midway and a Nation at War: Thoughts on History as the Greatest Generation Passes Away

d-day-orderDwight Eisenhower speaking with men of the 101st Airborne Division before they jumped into Normandy

“At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time. It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn’t make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen.” Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation

I was born in 1960 and thankfully for whatever reason I developed a love of history and heritage. I began reading history books as early as second and third grade. The American Heritage Publishing Company had a Junior Library series that I could not get enough of awhile another publisher (it may have also been American Heritage) had a series of biographies which drew me into the lives of many famous people. From 3rd grade on I spent every spare moment at school in the library, even frequently cutting geometry class in 10th grade to explore the history reference books that I could not check out and take home.

tumblr_lahyzakLSB1qbjz0go1_500Marine Colonel Francis I. Fenton, kneeling prays at the foot of his son’s grave on Okinawa 1945

I think that anyone that knew me then could probably associate me with a big stack of books that I lugged to and from class and back and forth from home to school. The ironic thing is that as I pack for work or to come home every day at the Staff College my back pack from my tour in Iraq is filled with the books that I am reading or using for research. Maybe it is not ironic, maybe it is the fact that some things never change. For me the quest for knowledge and historical, philosophical, or scientific truth is something that I cannot get enough of, nor be content to think that I know everything on any given subject.

This little introduction takes me into today’s subject. For those that don’t know we are coming up on the anniversaries of two of the most amazing historical events of the past 100 years next week. They are the battles of Midway, June 4th through June 6th 1942 and the the invasion of France, or D-Day, June 6th 1944.

ts8The pilots of Torpedo 8, only one survived Midway

I have always been amazed by the men who faced the Japanese at Midway, a battle that by any reasonable means should have resulted in a Japanese victory as well as them men that stormed the beaches at Normandy just two years later. When I first started reading about these battles many of the veterans were still alive, many not much older than I am today. However today not many are left, and the few that remain generally served as junior officers or enlisted personnel, none in high command.

Both battles are remarkable because an American or Allied loss could have changed the course of history. Had the United States Navy been defeated at Midway it could have brought about a Japanese victory, or more likely made the ultimate American victory much more costly and drawn out. Had the Allies been repulsed at Normandy it could have split the allied coalition or given the Germans the chance to renew their fight against the Soviet Union and possibly change history.

Thus when I look at these two events, battles that for most are now ancient history I am in awe of the men who fought them. They are not academic exercises for me, but as someone who has served at sea and on land in war I feel a certain camaraderie with these men.

I remember reading Cornelius Ryan’s classic book “The Longest Day” and seeing the movie of the same name in grade school, and reading Walter Lord’s classic on Midway “Incredible Victory” when I was in 7th grade. Both are excellent books which have stood the test of time and though I have read and done much more research and writing on both battles I still keep a copy of each book and probably re-read each every few years and consult them for any new projects. Likewise have been fortunate enough to meet some of the men who served in both of these battles, and even in my time as an Army chaplain be with them in their declining years. Men like Frank Smoker and Henry Boyd, both Normandy vets who have since passed away mean much to me.

442ndRCTThe 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Today when I see a World War Two veteran, no matter where I encounter them, I make sure that I thank them for their service. They are part of an amazing generation of Americans who bequeathed those of us who live today so much, both during the war and after the war. Many millions served in the military, while many more served in war industries. All contributed to war bond drives, victory gardens and yes even increased taxes and decreased civil liberties to win the war.

The fact that Japanese Americans served in the most highly decorated Army units of the war despite their families being incarcerated in American versions of concentration camps is a testimony to sacrifice.

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Likewise the efforts of African Americans who went to war despite being second class citizens and discriminated against under the Jim Crow Laws, which even Nazis like Hermann Goering recognized were only different from the the Nazi anti-Semitic laws and persecution in manner of degree.

That was an amazing an unique generation of Citizen Soldiers. With few exceptions they were not the professional career soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who serve today. Most would not have considered themselves “warriors.” They were there to do a job, win a war and go home. It was part of who they were as Americans.

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How many today would do any of those things? Today we have well under one percent of the population who have served in the wars of the past 13 years, fewer who have served in combat or in a combat zone. Likewise the population in general and in particular the bankers, businesses, lobbyists and defense contractors are not asked to sacrifice anything, instead when the country was attacked the President and others decried the fact that war might prevent people from doing business, shopping or living a normal life. For God’s sake, were at war and that attitude would have been incomprehensible to those of the Greatest Generation who for the most part either went to war, or supported the war effort with their work and other contributions. For them patriotism was not a bumper sticker.

Rachel Maddow said it well in her book Drift The Unmooring of American Military Power:

“When civilians are not asked to pay any price, it’s easy to be at war – not just to intervene in a foreign land in the first place, but to keep on fighting there. The justifications for staying at war don’t have to be particularly rational or cogently argued when so few Americans are making the sacrifice that it takes to stay.”

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Because of the sacrifice of people of the Greatest Generation I am grateful for them. I believe that we can learn so much from them. Even A-List Hollywood stars and professional sport heroes left their careers to serve their country. Clarke Gable, Audie Murphy, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Feller, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio just to name a few sacrificed major portions of their careers to serve. With the exception of Pat Tillman who died in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan which was covered up by the Army and Bush administration, how many of the 1%, the A-List or professional athletes can you name that have left sacrificed their fortunes to serve in the front lines? I can’t name any others, but in the Second World War even the 1% had skin in the game so to speak, the Kennedy’s, Roosevelt’s and the Bush’s to name just a few.

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I think that is why I am in awe of those of the Greatest Generation and why as the anniversaries of Midway and D-Day approach I am extra thoughtful, quite reflective and very thankful for those who through their sacrifice made so much of what we have today possible. What bothers me today is how few, especially of those who either advocate for war, lobby for it or profit from it no matter what their political, economic or religious persuasion is, offers to serve or pay for the cost of war.

Today those costs are borne by a tiny minority of Americans, military professionals of the all-volunteer military, both active duty and reserve who have endured deployment after deployment as the bulk of the nation stood by, mostly cheering them on. Of course as one who had his father serve in Vietnam and entered the military not long after had to endure the jeers of Americans, cheers are nice. They are much better than being called a “Nazi” for wearing your uniform to class. However, sometimes I think that many that cheer us on are able to due so because vicarious patriotism is easy. Vicarious patriotism anything, someone else serves, and someone else dies while they “support the troops” without actually doing anything.

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Now please don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good people who have never served in the military and who do care. Men and women who take action to support the troops, both those serving and the veterans, including those disabled in some way by war. For them I am grateful, they donate time, money and personal effort to care, and I do not care if the are conservatives or liberals, Republicans, Democrats or Independents, religious or atheist. They are Americans who are doing something. Likewise I do not disparage those who take the time to learn the issues that the nation faces and the domestic policies that impact the country and in a healthy body politic it doesn’t mean that we have to completely agree with each other to be patriots. Such an understanding would have been unthinkable to our founders much less most of the Greatest Generation. Veterans issues are important but national security also involves so much more, everything from the infrastructure that the Greatest Generation had the vision and wherewithal to build to the environment.

I have been to Normandy as well as other World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. I can only agree with Tom Brokaw who wrote: “there on the beaches of Normandy I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.”

So, when you read anything I write or re-publish during the next couple of weeks, be it about D-Day, Midway or even Gettysburg, please read what I write though those lenses. It is not that I am bitter. I have chosen my life in the military, but I wonder why so few of us bear the burden. It is a question that every citizen must ask themselves and their political representatives.

Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn, a Navy Chaplain serving with the Marines gave a eulogy at the dedication of a cemetery on Iwo Jima that puts it all in perspective.

“Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores.

Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . .together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many men of each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.

Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn duty, sacred duty do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price. .

We here solemnly swear that this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.”

Since the last members of the Greatest Generation are passing away at an ever increasing rate and few will remain among us; I will ask you to ask yourself the question posed by the World War II veteran and hero John F Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Military, national security, Political Commentary

Counting the Cost: Reflections on Armed Forces Day 2014

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“What is the cost of war? what is the bill?…“This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….” Major General Smedley Butler USMC

Today is Armed Forces Day and unfortunately most of the country will not notice unless they are attending a Baseball game where it is being observed or some special event on a base, national cemetery, monument or VFW hall.

There are also a fair number of local celebrations to honor members of the Armed Forces across the country but for the most part they are small and not well publicized. As a career officer and son of a Vietnam veteran Navy Chief I appreciate those events and the people that put them together. Being a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, especially those that have taken the time to honor Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

At any given time less than 1% of Americans are serving in all components of the military. For over 10 years we have been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as other locations that we don’t like to talk about too much. However this has not been the effort of a nation at war, it is the war of a tiny percentage of the population.

As a nation we are disconnected from the military and the wars that the military fights. The fact is that most Americans do not have a personal or vested interest in these wars, they have been insulated by political leaders of both parties from them. There is no draft, and no taxes were raised to fund the wars and the military is now worn out.

We have been at war for nearly 14 years and truthfully there is no end in sight. In that time every single Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman volunteered for duty or reenlisted during this time period. Motives may have varied from individual to individual, but unlike the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam every single one volunteered to serve in time of war. I think that this makes the current generation of veterans quite unique, we are no longer a military composed of citizen soldiers we are now, even our reserve components a Warrior caste, set apart from the society that we serve.

There is a tragic disconnection between the military and civilian society in the United States. This is the result of deliberate public policy since the end of the Vietnam War supported by both political parties. For almost 40 years we have relied on an all volunteer force. It is that relatively small and socially isolated military which is sent to fight wars while the bulk of the population is uninvolved and corporations, lobbyists and think tanks get rich.

Andrew Bacevich wrote in his new book Breach of Trust: How Americans failed their Soldiers and their Country:

“Rather than offering an antidote to problems, the military system centered on the all-volunteer force bred and exacerbated them. It underwrote recklessness in the formulation of policy and thereby resulted in needless, costly, and ill-managed wars. At home, the perpetuation of this system violated simple standards of fairness and undermined authentic democratic practice. The way a nation wages war—the role allotted to the people in defending the country and the purposes for which it fights—testifies to the actual character of its political system. Designed to serve as an instrument of global interventionism (or imperial policing), America’s professional army has proven to be astonishingly durable, if also astonishingly expensive. Yet when dispatched to Iraq and Afghanistan, it has proven incapable of winning. With victory beyond reach, the ostensible imperatives of U.S. security have consigned the nation’s warrior elite to something akin to perpetual war.”

Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel and Vietnam veteran who lost a son in Iraq is dead on, as is Rachel Maddow who wrote in her outstanding book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:

“The reason the founders chafed at the idea of an American standing army and vested the power of war making in the cumbersome legislature was not to disadvantage us against future enemies, but to disincline us toward war as a general matter… With citizen-soldiers, with the certainty of a vigorous political debate over the use of a military subject to politicians’ control, the idea was for us to feel it- uncomfortably- every second we were at war. But after a generation or two of shedding the deliberate political encumbrances to war that they left us… war making has become almost an autonomous function of the American state. It never stops.” 

The lobbyists, pundits, politicians and preachers that promote war don’t care about the troops. This is because no matter who is in office or who controls congress these people and corporations will promote policies that keep them employed and their businesses enriched. Marine Major General and Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler was quite right when he said:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

I think that the reason that our current wars have gone on so long is the that misguided policies have brought about a chronic disconnection in our society between those that serve in the military. But how can there not be when in the weeks after 9-11 people like President Bush and others either directly or in a manner of speaking told people to “go shopping” * as we went to war in Afghanistan? When I returned from Iraq I returned to a nation that was not at war whose leaders used the war to buttress their respective political bases.

The results are terrible. Suicide rates are continuing to rise among veterans who have returned to find that neither the VA nor the civilian mental health care sector is prepared to care for them.

I think that Armed Forces Day should be better celebrated and I am grateful to the people that do things every day to thank and support military personnel. These wonderful people that do this come from across the political spectrum. Some are veterans and others non-veterans. But they care for and appreciate the men and women that serve in and fight the wars that no-one else can be bothered to fight.

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Of course the politicians, pundits, preachers and the defense contractors, banks and lobbyists will find a way to profit. They will do so no matter how many more troops are killed, wounded or injured and how badly it affects military personnel or their families and will push to abandon those who fought as they do after every war. After all, to quote Smedley Butler, “war is a racket.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

President Bush’s actually words were “Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t — where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop…” http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011011-7.html

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, leadership, Military, national security, Political Commentary

Armed Forces Day 2013: A Sober Reflection on a Nearly Invisible Holiday

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Today is Armed Forces Day and unfortunately most of the country will not notice unless they are attending a Baseball game where it is being observed or some special event on a base, national cemetery, monument or VFW hall. There are also protests, sometimes involving veterans. Last year at the NATO Summit in Chicago which coincided with Armed Forces Day a number of veterans protested by throwing away their Global War on Terror Medal. I actually have little problem with people protesting wars, even the current one so long as they direct their protest at the appropriate target, the politicians, pundits, think tank wonks and lobbyists that profit from war and not the soldiers that fight them.

Now there are a fair number of local celebrations to honor members of the Armed Forces across the country. As a career officer and son of a Vietnam veteran Navy Chief I appreciate those events and the people that put them together. Being a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, especially those that have taken the time to honor Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

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Likewise there are wonderful people that honor the Armed Forces every day. I think especially about the Maine Troop Greeters of Bangor Maine and the Pease Troop Greeters of New Hampshire. These men and women, many veterans themselves or related to veterans are amazing. They have been welcoming veterans back since early in the war and provide many services to the men and women of the Armed Forces that pass through Bangor Maine International Airport and the Portsmouth International Airport, the former Pease Air Force Base in Pease New Hampshire.  I have had the honor of passing through both locations, Bangor on more than one occasion. While I know that there are many others that do this they are in the minority in this country.

At any given time less than 1% of Americans are serving in all components of the military. For over 10 years we have been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as other locations that we don’t like to talk about too much like Pakistan. However this has not been the effort of a nation at war. For the most part the war effort is that of a tiny percentage of the population.

As a nation we are disconnected from the military and the wars that have been going on for so long. The fact is that most Americans do not feel that they have a personal or vested interest in these wars because they have been insulated by political leaders of both parties from them. There is no draft, and no taxes were raised to fund the wars and the military is worn out while taking 50% of the cuts of the Congressional Sequester.

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We have now been at war continuously for nearly 12 years and truthfully there is no end in sight. In that time every single Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman volunteered for duty or reenlisted during this time period. Motives may have varied from individual to individual, but unlike the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam every single one volunteered to serve in time of war. I think that this makes the current generation of veterans quite unique.

Many of these volunteers served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither war was popular, except in the very beginning when casualties were low and victory appeared to be easy and quick. We like short wars. We left Iraq in December 2011 and Afghanistan is still going to be with us for God knows how long, even though we are drawing down or forces there.

In Afghanistan we followed the same path trod by the British and Soviets in trying to topple regimes and plant our respective versions of civilization in that land of brutal Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek warlords who war on each other as much as any foreign infidel.  It is a path that leads to heartbreak which ties down vast amounts of manpower without any significant strategic gain for the United States or NATO.  This even as war drums beat across the Middle East and nuclear armed Pakistan slips into political and social chaos and keeps a major supply route for the US and NATO to Afghanistan shut down.

The fact is that American and for that matter other NATO and coalition military personnel who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa or at sea are in the minority in all of our countries. Thus when a few of the few of these veterans choose to make a public spectacle of themselves by tossing a medal away they get cheered and lots of media attention. Some liberals applaud the medal throwers and conservatives vilify them without getting what is really going on. Both miss the tragic disconnection between the military and civilian society that is the result of public policy since the end of the Vietnam War. A relatively small professional military in comparison to the population is sent to fight wars while the bulk of the population is uninvolved and corporations, lobbyists and think tanks get rich.

Rachel Maddow the MSNBC host of the Rachel Maddow Show wrote in her outstanding book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:

“The reason the founders chafed at the idea of an American standing army and vested the power of war making in the cumbersome legislature was not to disadvantage us against future enemies, but to disincline us toward war as a general matter… With citizen-soldiers, with the certainty of a vigorous political debate over the use of a military subject to politicians’ control, the idea was for us to feel it- uncomfortably- every second we were at war. But after a generation or two of shedding the deliberate political encumbrances to war that they left us… war making has become almost an autonomous function of the American state. It never stops.” 

Now, going back to the protestors for a minute. The right to protest and disagree with policy and the politics of war is important and for Americans is protected under the First Amendment. That being said I think it is important that when one protests a war that they direct their protest at the appropriate target, the army of lobbyists and think tank wonks that promote the politics of war regardless of who is President and not the soldiers. The fact is that the lobbyists, pundits that promote war don’t care about the protesters or the troops. This is because no matter who is in office or who controls Congress they will promote policies that keep them employed and their businesses enriched. Marine Major General and Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler was quite right when he said:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

I may disagree with the manner of how and when veterans protest wars that they have served like those that threw their medals away in Chicago last year. However, I am not going to question their motives, integrity or honor even if I disagree with their manner of protest because I came back different from war.

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When a society sends off its sons and daughters to fight in wars that no one understands, and the vast majority of people no longer support it is no wonder that some veterans make such displays. Likewise it is understandable why other veterans have major issues with such protestors, just as many Vietnam veterans still feel the hurt of how a nation turned its back on them. For example I still have a terrible time even thinking about Jane Fonda, the images of her manning a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun when my dad was serving in Vietnam.

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Protests may make some feel good, but they often miss the bigger point of why wars like these go on for so long.  That they do is because misguided policies have brought about a chronic disconnection in our society between those that serve in the military and those that do not. But how can there not be when in the weeks after 9-11 people like President Bush and others either directly or in a manner of speaking told people to “go shopping”* as we went to war in Afghanistan? When I returned from Iraq I returned to a nation that was not at war whose leaders used the war to buttress their respective political bases.

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I think that Armed Forces Day should be better celebrated but I am grateful to those people that do things every day to thank and support military personnel in thought, word and deed like the Maine Greeters and Pease Greeters. The interesting thing about these groups is that they are made up of citizens from across the political spectrum, veterans and non-veterans who simply care for and appreciate the men and women that serve in and fight the wars that no-one else can be bothered to fight.

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I just hope and pray that the end in Afghanistan does not turn into an even worse historic debacle than suffered by the British or the Soviets during their ill fated campaigns. Of course the politicians, pundits, preachers and the defense contractors, banks and lobbyists will find a way to profit from this no matter how many more troops are killed, wounded or injured and how badly it affects military personnel or their families. After all, to quote Smedley Butler, “war is a racket.”

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Peace

Padre Steve+

President Bush’s actually words were “Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t — where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop…” http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011011-7.html

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, Military, national security, philosophy

Return to the Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover: Padre Steve’s Cure to Politics as Usual

I wrote this about a year ago and after the fiasco that we have endured during this long and all too painful year think that it is time to revisit the topic. Since I have been rather morose of late I figure that this should break things up a bit.

I don’t know about you but as a passionate moderate I am fed up with the nasty politics as usual that is killing our country.  Our political ruling class appears to be hell bent on destroying the country all to satisfy their respective need for power and to satisfy the basest wants of their most strident supporters. The corruption and malevolence of the career politicians on both sides of the aisle have bankrupted the country, cost American lives in war, cost American jobs, destroyed our manufacturing base, placed the interests of financial traders who produce nothing except promote the evil practice of usury because it makes them money which they in turn contribute copious amounts of said money to their political patrons.  Then to top it all off they pass laws that make no sense and that you have to have an army of lawyers to understand.  They are out of touch with the everyday concerns of real Americans and have done their best to destroy the fabric of our society in their quest for power and they are many times an unseemly lot who do things that regular people could never get away with. The number of ethics violations, criminal charges and convictions and resignations due to shady financial dealings, backroom deals, sexual scandals and sometimes rather nasty criminal cases are too numerous to catalogue unless you are Matt Drudge.  I won’t list them here but they include notable Democrats as well as Republicans, nor will I go into all the idiotic things that our government, both Democrat and Republican controlled administrations or congresses have done as the task would be ginormous. Since we all get spun up about different issues usually in tune with our own political or social viewpoints I leave it to you my readers to fill in the blanks and comment on what you think they are screwing up.

Part of the problem is that our political ruling class, the Federal Government particular is completely out of touch because they live in the netherworld ofWashingtonD.C.  This city has become the symbol of all that ails the country and since our political class only leaves it to raise money for their next campaigns they have no earthly clue of what the rest of us are experiencing.  Thus they can coddle up to their big financial supporters and most demented party extremists and unseemly lobbyists representing some of the vilest elements of our society.  As a result for at least the past 10 years and I am sure a lot more they have for the most part forgotten the people that they are supposed to represent. The political class doesn’t live in our world, thus they do everything that they can not to look at what is best for the country but rather what is best for them, for their party, their supporters and their agendas.  If you ask me its all out of whack and they really all should be whacked.

Since they all spend far too much time inWashingtonor raising money to stay there it is high time that they get out of Dodge so to speak.  This is my idea of how we fix this situation.  My suggestion is definitely not politics as usual.  Instead it is based on relationships built from shared suffering and since we are suffering why shouldn’t they suffer too? So here’s my idea. First we shut down the government for a month. Now before you think that you won’t get what the government owes you I don’t mean the people that actually do the work.   What I mean is both houses of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court.   We shut them down.  Let the clerks of the court do their thing, let the White House staff do its job and congressional aides deal with constituents.  Give the Russians and Chinese, the Iranians, Al Qaida, the European Union and everyone else a message that we’re busy the next month so don’t bother us.  We’ll tell them that if they mind their own business that our stand ins with itchy fingers won’t nuke them. where is Al Haig when you need him the most?  Hey MAD (mutual assured destruction)  worked during the Cold War, after all nothing like an ICBM loaded with multiple nuclear warheads to keep people in line and not do anything really stupid.

So do you hear me Mahmoud and Osama? Do you hear me?  All that would come between you and nuclear annihilation are a few disgruntled civil servants with road rage that just got to work after being stuck in Beltway traffic for 3 hours. Go ahead make our day.

Once we shut the place down we put all of these guys and gals on Greyhound buses packed to the gills.  Each bus would have a mix of members of each party really making sure those that hate each other most sit next to each other.  Secret Service and FBI agents on the buses would have the option to Taser anyone that tries to switch seats.  Then we drive them all to some big assed dude ranch inMontana, outfit them in silly looking cowboy clothes with boots that are a bit too tight and leave them there in the charge of a bunch of cowboys at least two of which have had a recent “BrokebackMountain” experience.

They would have no cell phones, computers or communications with the outside world or even their minions back in D.C., nope, just them and Mother Nature sharing the experience of high plains living.  In fact to liven the place up we need to bring a few folks back into the mix, some former Presidents and Speakers of the House would do fine. Also the addition of the most strident Cable TV and radio talking heads and commentators would be good too, but I digress, too many extras might spoil the moment.  Maybe we should have a separate sleepover of Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd or Sean Hannity and Keith Olberman later?  No, we’ll throw them into this one to make it more fun.

This dude ranch living would be a bit Spartan. Since most of these folks a Spartan way is driving in a luxury car or SUV, having to fly First Class, staying in a luxury suite or eating at a 4 star restaurant they might have a hard time with what I propose but that would just be tough.    They made this mess and by God we’re going to get them back in touch with the real world and in the process get them to build real relationships with each other instead of the artificial life that they have led inside the beltway for years.

Once we get them to the big assed Dude Ranch we pair them up the best we can with a liberal and a conservative in each cabin.  We would try to keep the cabins of the same gender not to cause too much scandal but would make a few exceptions to that rule.  Now by cabins I don’t mean those really nice cabins that people take real vacations at, no I mean really rustic, Spartan tiny cabins with no amenities and only one bed, a full sized bed that our new roommates would need to share. The cabins would have no couches, easy chairs or love seats, no sleeping bags not even a bearskin rug, nope nothing else but the bed.  They would have a rather rustic communal outhouse to share with everyone else over a deep pit latrine and share their meals in a rather dilapidated chow hall eating off of tin plates and drinking from tin cups.  There would be a camp saloon but it would be like those of the old west, nothing but rotgut whisky, no mixed drinks, no foo-foo appetizers, no micro-brew beer. They would sleep together, eat together and have to participate in trail rides, fly fishing, Grizzly Bear hunting, rodeo events such as bull riding and calf roping as couples, odd couples, but couples nonetheless.  This togetherness would be enforced. Those Secret Service and FBI agents with their tasers… they’ll be out there too.  Anyway when our leaders go on the overnight trail rides the fun really starts.  After they eat their beans from tin plates, sing really bad western songs and take a swig or two or more of rotgut whiskey and then relieve themselves in the manner that the cowboys did in the old West they would get to curl up together in their own two person pup tent, a really small one and spoon.  This would help break down the walls that separate them and force them to get to know each other, some possibly in the Biblical sense of the word, but in the spirit of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell I won’t go there.

There is something about shared suffering to bring people together and make them realize that there is more to life than their own narcissistic agendas and power trips.  No this wouldn’t be prison for them as much as a lot of Americans think that prison would be fitting for them; prison is far too easy for our political class. Instead this would build character, character that if once they had they lost over their years inside the Beltway.

Of course they would not get to pick their room-mates so here are some of my suggestions:

President Obama and Rush Limbaugh: I know I said that the media should have their own version of this but since Limbaugh is the leader of the conservative movement he has to come and buck with his pal Barry.

Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch: They’re both Mormons so they can at least pray together.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Rachel Maddow: I don’t know it just sounds right.

Nancy Pelosi and Antonin Scalia: Sure it’s an opposite sex pairing but they are both Italians they should have fun.

Tom Tancredo and Janet Napolitano: Let’s make a run for the border and mend some fences together

Russ Feingold and Ron Paul: Government control and Libertarianism two great tastes that go great together

John Ensign and Barbara Boxer: He can’t seem to hold it in and she looks like that she could use some loving

Al Franken and Clarence Thomas: A comedian and a straight man…what a combination

John Kerry and John McCain: Both Vietnam Veterans, they understand the value of camaraderie

Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer: The just look like they need to be together

Diane Feinstein and Michael Savage: ASan Francisco treat

Barbara Milkulski and Kay Bailey-Hutchinson: Why not?

Joe Lieberman and Tim Pawlwnty: Not opposites but they seem to go together

Samuel Alito and Maureen Dowd: It just sounds right

Eric Holder and Glenn Beck: I sense real chemistry here

Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich: He’s running and she’s not but why not?

Barney Frank and Sean Hannity: They debate on his show often enough let them really get to know each other

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden: Not a recognizable cognitive thought between them all hormones and testosterone

Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ann Coulter: Salt and Pepper

Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and Pat Buchannan: It can’t get any better than this

John Boehner and Joe Biden: I think that they could really come to love each other

Plus some new additions

Allen West and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: Bringing Florida together

Michelle Bachmann and Ed Schultz: That Heartland feeling

Herman Cain and Kieth Ellison:  Building bridges of faith

Rick Santorum and Lawrence O’Donnell: It can’t get any better

Unfortunately some of our more interesting members of our political class have passed on I would have loved to throw Teddy Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and any number of others into the mix, but what can I say?

So after 30 days our political elites would board their buses and go back to their home districts or home towns.  Then they would have some real town meetings as couples, holding hands, looking dreamily into each other’s eyes and bringing peace to the political landscape.   With those pesky Secret Service and FBI agents and their tasers at the ready our leaders would have to listen to their constituents and not the lobbyists. Speaking of lobbyists they all get sent toNew Guinea.   As for the Congressmen and Senators they and their new found friends would have to spend 8 months a year living in their home state or district. The would give up their palatial estates in favor of homes that are in the median real estate price for their area. They would send their kids to public schools, go to PTA meetings, coach little league or soccer, deal with local government officials as the rest of us are forced to do.  They would have to do their own grocery shopping, fight lines at  Wal-Mart, take out their own garbage and spend time sitting in traffic behind the wheel of their average car or SUV. They would fly coach or business class and go through the TSA checkpoints like the rest of us, maybe even getting the full body scan once in a while. They would sit in the drive through line at Wendy’s, make a run for the border, Taco Bell that is and shop for the lowest priced gasoline.   The four months that they spend inWashingtonDCwill be devoted to actually fixing things that they have fouled up over the years.  They would have to pass non-pork laden budgets passed, reduce the deficit and do everything that they can to bring industry back into this country, rebuild the manufacturing base, protecting the environment as they rebuildour nation’s infrastructure and eliminate the barriers that keep small businesses and entrepreneurs from developing solutions to the challenges that face the country.  Likewise they would need to repeal all of the draconian laws that intrude on the everyday life of ordinary Americans. I want the Federal government out of our churches, out of our local public schools, out of our bedrooms and out of everything that they don’t belong in. Freedom baby, I love it.

Finally just to make sure that our now properly schooled public servants don’t forget the lessons of the Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover they would for two weeks each year have to do this again. Maybe it could be a trail ride inTexasandOklahoma, a swamp safari inLouisianacomplete with no mosquito repellent. Perhaps a winter camp out at the Donner Pass, a gang- reenactment camp in East L.A. or an Appalachian family get together, still building and moonshine making contest in some holler in West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky. The possibilities in our great country are endless after all learning should be a lifetime event.

Of course my pairings of political bedfellows may not work for you, maybe you have better ones.  If so feel free to add them as a comment and on this one no pairing will be denied because it’s all about togetherness.  Because as I see it everything comes down to relationships and if we can just get these folks out of Washington to share some hardship, to eat together, ride together and even spoon together after all who can’t say that they don’t feel closer to someone after spooning together?

Now before you think that I am advocating that they all have higgily-piggily sex together I am not.  However if it does happen and they get right with each other and start to work together for us what can be wrong with it? Half have probably had nasty sex with people that aren’t their spouses anyway so what difference does it make? It would be a sacrifice that they make for us, their fellow Americans.  I know that I don’t want to sleep with any of them and figure that you don’t either and I really don’t want to know what happens when they spoon.  Don’t ask don’t tell baby, don’t ask don’t tell.  Besides would you want to know what happens when Sean Hannity and Barney Frank spoon? I don’t. I’ll say it again, don’t ask, don’t tell that’s my rule for life.

If this works maybe just maybe that they will finally start looking to the issues that Americans care about. Maybe they will finally understand the desire that we all have to see our children grow up to have the opportunity to outdo us, that our children might have a better future and that the country that we live in would come together like we did in the Second World War to overcome all the obstacles that stand between us and a better future. Call me a genius or call me crazy, chalk it up to Mad Cow, after all I can’t give blood because I lived inEuropeand ate too much beef. But remember “Padre Steve” is a “Uniter” not a divider, a decider not a ditherer and a real American for real Americans.

Padre Steve: a passionate moderate with radical ideas.  Sleepover anyone?

Peace and laughs

Padre Steve+

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The Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover: Padre Steve’s Solution to Politics as Usual

Sleepover on a Dude Ranch anyone?

I don’t know about you but as a passionate moderate I am fed up with the nasty politics as usual that is killing our country.  Our political ruling class appears to be hell bent on destroying the country all to satisfy their respective need for power and to satisfy the basest wants of their most strident supporters. The corruption and malevolence of the career politicians on both sides of the aisle have bankrupted the country, cost American lives in war, cost American jobs, destroyed our manufacturing base, placed the interests of financial traders who produce nothing except promote the evil practice of usury because it makes them money which they in turn contribute copious amounts of said money to their political patrons.  Then to top it all off they pass laws that make no sense and that you have to have an army of lawyers to understand.  They are out of touch with the everyday concerns of real Americans and have done their best to destroy the fabric of our society in their quest for power and they are many times an unseemly lot who do things that regular people could never get away with. The number of ethics violations, criminal charges and convictions and resignations due to shady financial dealings, backroom deals, sexual scandals and sometimes rather nasty criminal cases are too numerous to catalogue unless you are Matt Drudge.  I won’t list them here but they include notable Democrats as well as Republicans, nor will I go into all the idiotic things that our government, both Democrat and Republican controlled administrations or congresses have done as the task would be ginormous. Since we all get spun up about different issues usually in tune with our own political or social viewpoints I leave it to you my readers to fill in the blanks and comment on what you think they are screwing up.

Part of the problem is that our political ruling class, the Federal Government particular is completely out of touch because they live in the netherworld of Washington D.C.  This city has become the symbol of all that ails the country and since our political class only leaves it to raise money for their next campaigns they have no earthly clue of what the rest of us are experiencing.  Thus they can coddle up to their big financial supporters and most demented party extremists and unseemly lobbyists representing some of the vilest elements of our society.  As a result for at least the past 10 years and I am sure a lot more they have for the most part forgotten the people that they are supposed to represent. The political class doesn’t live in our world, thus they do everything that they can not to look at what is best for the country but rather what is best for them, for their party, their supporters and their agendas.  If you ask me its all out of whack and they really all should be whacked.

Since they all spend far too much time in Washington or raising money to stay there it is high time that they get out of Dodge so to speak.  This is my idea of how we fix this situation.  My suggestion is definitely not politics as usual.  Instead it is based on relationships built from shared suffering and since we are suffering why shouldn’t they suffer too? So here’s my idea. First we shut down the government for a month. Now before you think that you won’t get what the government owes you I don’t mean the people that actually do the work.   What I mean is both houses of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court.   We shut them down.  Let the clerks of the court do their thing, let the White House staff do its job and congressional aides deal with constituents.  Give the Russians and Chinese, the Iranians, Al Qaida, the European Union and everyone else a message that we’re busy the next month so don’t bother us.  We’ll tell them that if they mind their own business that our stand ins with itchy fingers won’t nuke them. where is Al Haig when you need him the most?  Hey MAD (mutual assured destruction)  worked during the Cold War, after all nothing like an ICBM loaded with multiple nuclear warheads to keep people in line and not do anything really stupid.

So do you hear me Mahmoud and Osama? Do you hear me?  All that would come between you and nuclear annihilation are a few disgruntled civil servants with road rage that just got to work after being stuck in Beltway traffic for 3 hours. Go ahead make our day.

Once we shut the place down we put all of these guys and gals on Greyhound buses packed to the gills.  Each bus would have a mix of members of each party really making sure those that hate each other most sit next to each other.  Secret Service and FBI agents on the buses would have the option to Taser anyone that tries to switch seats.  Then we drive them all to some big assed dude ranch in Montana, outfit them in silly looking cowboy clothes with boots that are a bit too tight and leave them there in the charge of a bunch of cowboys at least two of which have had a recent “Brokeback Mountain” experience.

They would have no cell phones, computers or communications with the outside world or even their minions back in D.C., nope, just them and Mother Nature sharing the experience of high plains living.  In fact to liven the place up we need to bring a few folks back into the mix, some former Presidents and Speakers of the House would do fine. Also the addition of the most strident Cable TV and radio talking heads and commentators would be good too, but I digress, too many extras might spoil the moment.  Maybe we should have a separate sleepover of Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd or Sean Hannity and Keith Olberman later?  No, we’ll throw them into this one to make it more fun.

This dude ranch living would be a bit Spartan. Since most of these folks a Spartan way is driving in a luxury car or SUV, having to fly First Class, staying in a luxury suite or eating at a 4 star restaurant they might have a hard time with what I propose but that would just be tough.    They made this mess and by God we’re going to get them back in touch with the real world and in the process get them to build real relationships with each other instead of the artificial life that they have led inside the beltway for years.

Once we get them to the big assed Dude Ranch we pair them up the best we can with a liberal and a conservative in each cabin.  We would try to keep the cabins of the same gender not to cause too much scandal but would make a few exceptions to that rule.  Now by cabins I don’t mean those really nice cabins that people take real vacations at, no I mean really rustic, Spartan tiny cabins with no amenities and only one bed, a full sized bed that our new roommates would need to share. The cabins would have no couches, easy chairs or love seats, no sleeping bags not even a bearskin rug, nope nothing else but the bed.  They would have a rather rustic communal outhouse to share with everyone else over a deep pit latrine and share their meals in a rather dilapidated chow hall eating off of tin plates and drinking from tin cups.  There would be a camp saloon but it would be like those of the old west, nothing but rotgut whisky, no mixed drinks, no foo-foo appetizers, no micro-brew beer. They would sleep together, eat together and have to participate in trail rides, fly fishing, Grizzly Bear hunting, rodeo events such as bull riding and calf roping as couples, odd couples, but couples nonetheless.  This togetherness would be enforced. Those Secret Service and FBI agents with their tasers… they’ll be out there too.  Anyway when our leaders go on the overnight trail rides the fun really starts.  After they eat their beans from tin plates, sing really bad western songs and take a swig or two or more of rotgut whiskey and then relieve themselves in the manner that the cowboys did in the old West they would get to curl up together in their own two person pup tent, a really small one and spoon.  This would help break down the walls that separate them and force them to get to know each other, some possibly in the Biblical sense of the word, but in the spirit of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell I won’t go there.

There is something about shared suffering to bring people together and make them realize that there is more to life than their own narcissistic agendas and power trips.  No this wouldn’t be prison for them as much as a lot of Americans think that prison would be fitting for them; prison is far too easy for our political class. Instead this would build character, character that if once they had they lost over their years inside the Beltway.

Of course they would not get to pick their room-mates so here are some of my suggestions:

President Obama and Rush Limbaugh: I know I said that the media should have their own version of this but since Limbaugh is the leader of the conservative movement he has to come and buck with his pal Barry.

Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch: They’re both Mormons so they can at least pray together.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Rachel Maddow: I don’t know it just sounds right.

Nancy Pelosi and Antonin Scalia: Sure it’s an opposite sex pairing but they are both Italians they should have fun.

Tom Tancredo and Janet Napolitano: Let’s make a run for the border and mend some fences together

Russ Feingold and Ron Paul: Government control and Libertarianism two great tastes that go great together

John Ensign and Barbara Boxer: He can’t seem to hold it in and she looks like that she could use some loving

Al Franken and Clarence Thomas: A comedian and a straight man…what a combination

John Kerry and John McCain: Both Vietnam Veterans, they understand the value of camaraderie

Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer: The just look like they need to be together

Diane Feinstein and Michael Savage: A San Francisco treat

Barbara Milkulski and Kay Bailey-Hutchinson: Why not?

Joe Lieberman and Arlen Spector: Not opposites but they seem to go together

Samuel Alito and Maureen Dowd: It just sounds right

Eric Holder and Glenn Beck: I sense real chemistry here

Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich: He’s out of office but they both want to be President

Barney Frank and Sean Hannity: They debate on his show often enough let them really get to know each other

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden: Not a recognizable cognitive thought between them all hormones and testosterone

Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ann Coulter: Salt and Pepper

Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and Pat Buchannan: It can’t get any better than this

John Boehner and Chris Dodd: I think that they could really come to love each other

Unfortunately some of our more interesting members of our political class have passed on I would have loved to throw Teddy Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and any number of others into the mix, but what can I say?

So after 30 days our political elites would board their buses and go back to their home districts or home towns.  Then they would have some real town meetings as couples, holding hands, looking dreamily into each other’s eyes and bringing peace to the political landscape.   With those pesky Secret Service and FBI agents and their tasers at the ready our leaders would have to listen to their constituents and not the lobbyists. Speaking of lobbyists they all get sent to New Guinea.   As for the Congressmen and Senators they and their new found friends would have to spend 8 months a year living in their home state or district. The would give up their palatial estates in favor of homes that are in the median real estate price for their area. They would send their kids to public schools, go to PTA meetings, coach little league or soccer, deal with local government officials as the rest of us are forced to do.  They would have to do their own grocery shopping, fight lines at  Wal-Mart, take out their own garbage and spend time sitting in traffic behind the wheel of their average car or SUV. They would fly coach or business class and go through the TSA checkpoints like the rest of us, maybe even getting the full body scan once in a while. They would sit in the drive through line at Wendy’s, make a run for the border, Taco Bell that is and shop for the lowest priced gasoline.   The four months that they spend in Washington DC will be devoted to actually fixing things that they have fouled up over the years.  They would have to pass non-pork laden budgets passed, reduce the deficit and do everything that they can to bring industry back into this country, rebuild the manufacturing base, protecting the environment as they rebuildour nation’s infrastructure and eliminate the barriers that keep small businesses and entrepreneurs from developing solutions to the challenges that face the country.  Likewise they would need to repeal all of the draconian laws that intrude on the everyday life of ordinary Americans. I want the Federal government out of our churches, out of our local public schools, out of our bedrooms and out of everything that they don’t belong in. Freedom baby, I love it.

Finally just to make sure that our now properly schooled public servants don’t forget the lessons of the Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover they would for two weeks each year have to do this again. Maybe it could be a trail ride in Texas and Oklahoma, a swamp safari in Louisiana complete with no mosquito repellent. Perhaps a winter camp out at the Donner Pass, a gang- reenactment camp in East L.A. or an Appalachian family get together, still building and moonshine making contest in some holler in West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky. The possibilities in our great country are endless after all learning should be a lifetime event.

Of course my pairings of political bedfellows may not work for you, maybe you have better ones.  If so feel free to add them as a comment and on this one no pairing will be denied because it’s all about togetherness.  Because as I see it everything comes down to relationships and if we can just get these folks out of Washington to share some hardship, to eat together, ride together and even spoon together after all who can’t say that they don’t feel closer to someone after spooning together?

Now before you think that I am advocating that they all have higgily-piggily sex together I am not.  However if it does happen and they get right with each other and start to work together for us what can be wrong with it? Half have probably had nasty sex with people that aren’t their spouses anyway so what difference does it make? It would be a sacrifice that they make for us, their fellow Americans.  I know that I don’t want to sleep with any of them and figure that you don’t either and I really don’t want to know what happens when they spoon.  Don’t ask don’t tell baby, don’t ask don’t tell.  Besides would you want to know what happens when Sean Hannity and Barney Frank spoon? I don’t. I’ll say it again, don’t ask, don’t tell that’s my rule for life.

If this works maybe just maybe that they will finally start looking to the issues that Americans care about. Maybe they will finally understand the desire that we all have to see our children grow up to have the opportunity to outdo us, that our children might have a better future and that the country that we live in would come together like we did in the Second World War to overcome all the obstacles that stand between us and a better future. Call me a genius or call me crazy, chalk it up to Mad Cow, after all I can’t give blood because I lived in Europe and ate too much beef. But remember “Padre Steve” is a “Uniter” not a divider, a decider not a ditherer and a real American for real Americans.

Padre Steve: a passionate moderate with radical ideas.  Sleepover anyone?

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