Tag Archives: radical groups

Going to War: A Reflection so Far, Memories, PTSD and hopes and fears Past and Present

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As I have been writing of my experience in Iraq it is amazing to me the amount of emotions that I have experienced.  It is strange to feel like I am back there as I write.  I know that this is necessary but at times it is unnerving especially as I talk to friends who are going through much the same experience that I had coming home and sometimes worse.  I have been in e-mail contact with a friend from a NATO ally who has done a couple of tours in Afghanistan.  I can really feel for him as he is in a smaller military with a lot few resources that the Americans to deal with PTSD and other maladies from this war which seems to drag on without end.  Another friend on the West Coast has been dealing with the ravages of both PTSD and TBI and another Army Chaplain friend who has 2 Bronze Stars to his credit deals with PTSD as well as a very rare and eventually fatal lung and brachia condition.  Friends from my medical center are being deployed, I’ve been told that I am too valuable and needed where I am to deploy.  I do understand that at the same time deep in my heart I want to be with my friends from my ICU as they go to war.

The emotions took a big turn as I actually started writing about being in Iraq, beginning with the C-17 ride in to Baghdad.  In some sense the mirrored what I was going through two years ago.  It kind of came to a head the other night when I wrote about the rocket that went over my head at Camp Victory while waiting for my ride to head to the Camp Liberty heliport.  Then there was the flight to Fallujah and I can remember that flight.  I have never really liked flying in general and ancient helicopters in particular. Thinking that many of the CH-46s that I flew in while in Iraq had been in service in the Vietnam era was none too comforting.  They were almost as old as me.  Marine Helicopters are notorious for hydraulic fluid leaks.  The old joke goes” “How do you know when a Marine helicopter is low on hydraulic fluid?”  “When it stops leaking” is not entirely in jest.  I guess you can say that most of my career flying rotary wing aircraft in the Army and Navy has been just this side of terrifying.  I manage to survive every time but it takes forever to come back down from the anxiety of the preparation for and actual flights themselves it is no wonder that I still have problems sleeping and going on alert any time I hear a helicopter overhead.

Faith at times is an ongoing struggle. While I believe I question God more, especially when I see little kids suffering or read about young men and women killed in action or maimed by combat.  I find that I am less compassionate toward those who have not deployed who make suicide gestures and screw with their friends and families and then blow off help.  It angers me that their narcissism takes time and resources away from people who have been in the shit who need help and have to wait to get help.  I also find that religious people who have trite answers for everything really annoy me, especially those that are constantly talking about “spiritual warfare” when they have no clue about war, suffering and death. They are what Luther called the “theologians of glory” and they have no real answers, just platitudes that work fine until a real crisis comes.  Despite this I believe somehow in the God who is willing to be with me in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and at the foot of the Cross.

One of the things that tears at me now is the deep division in the United States as the obviously enlightened zealots of the extreme right and left push their agendas so hard that it seems impossible to find and amicable solution.  I wonder if we have entered “Weimar America.”  I guess I can understand how the moderates of the conservatives and socialists in Germany were ground to dust beneath the anvil of the Communists and hammer of the National Socialists in the later years of the Weimar Republic.  I really understand the military men who found both alternatives distasteful and tried in vain to seek the middle ground and maybe restore some sanity to the country.  That article is yet to be written.  I think I will call it “Weimar America?”  What really gets me is that both the right and left have dropped all pretense of civility and are now engaging in physical altercations at political meetings or “town hall” meetings and some have even be brandishing automatic weapons near venues where the President is speaking.  I have seen the results of this type of no-quarter politics in the Balkans and in Iraq.  I wonder what the hell all these demigods on both sides are thinking and if they in their devotion to their alleged “principles” would attempt “to destroy the country in order to save it.”   I have become ashamed of the leadership of both political parties as well as the special interest groups that drive the agendas of both extremes, especially as in the case of some who use the Christian faith to justify their actions.  When I see these people in action my anxiety level often returns to what it was in Iraq and on my return.  I can honestly say that the people on the extremes make me fear for my country.  I feel that they are pushing us to the abyss and that I can’t do a damned thing to stop it.  I’ve matured enough to know it is not simply the fault of one side or the other; as both are at fault and it seems that the most extreme on both sides have actually been wanting this to happen, at least from my viewpoint as a passionate moderate.

I have come to realize that my true countrymen are those that I have served with to defend this country and protect others abroad, especially as the insanity continues to spread.  Though I struggle and have to deal with emotions as if they were brand new every day just as I think that I am getting better I know that I have to keep going.  I owe it to my brothers and sisters from the current war and wars such as Vietnam.  Sometimes I wonder if all of us PTSD afflicted vets are the only sane people in the country. We are a brotherhood.  “We we happy few, we band of brothers.”

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I’m glad that I have friends, especially vets from Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf and Vietnam.  Limey and Barney with the Hue City Vets, Ray and Charlie the Vietnam Veteran of America brothers who man the beer stand on the concourse behind home plate, and so many others like my trusty assistant Nelson Lebron who helped keep me safe and sane in Iraq.

In the middle of all of this I grieve for my Vietnam Vet and retired Navy Chief dad who wastes away in a nursing home with end stage Alzheimer’s which according to his doctor should have killed him months ago.

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  I need to catch myself, maybe have a beer and focus on some baseball for a while before I get ready for work.  I have duty tomorrow and I expect that I will be busy the next couple of days.  I hope when I get off Wednesday afternoon that I will be able to see the Tides play.  I can use the view of the diamond at Harbor Park that helps calm my soul about now. Maybe between no and then I can get in with my buddy Elmer the Shrink.

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Pray for me a sinner,

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, iraq,afghanistan, Military, Political Commentary, PTSD, Tour in Iraq, vietnam

You Arrogant Ass, You have Killed Us! Randall Terry and the Destruction of the Pro-Life Movement

“You arrogant ass. You’ve killed us!”  Andrei Bonovia, First Officer of Soviet Alpha Submarine Konovalov in The Hunt For Red October.

I have few thoughts about the past few days.  In the past several days we have seen a watershed event take place.  This was the killing of Dr. George Tiller in Reformation Lutheran Church, Wichita Kansas, by one Scott Roeder.  A large part of Teller’s practice was late term abortions, which made him and his clinic a target not only of peaceful protest, but threatening protests and violent acts.  Teller himself was shot and badly wounded in a 1980’s assassination attempt.  His death in his church on Pentecost Sunday by a man who appears to be fringe player in the anti-abortion movement with long ties to various violent anti-government groups was a watershed.  The pro-life movement will never be the same after last Sunday. It will both adjust and stop using vitriolic and incendiary language; graphic images, bullying protest tactics, or it will continue down this path and be rightfully declared a domestic terrorist movement.  The label will not only apply to the violent who conduct such acts as the murder of George Tiller but it will be hung on those who believe that they are engaging in peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Unfortunately this is the culminating point of the pro-life movement. It actually was the logical outcome of radicals who raised the rhetoric so high that they could not back down.  It is the high water point much as Pickett’s charge was the high water mark of the Confederacy.  All the legislative gains of those who patiently and diligently within the law, those who treated their opponents with grace and compassion, those who actually tried to assist and give options to women who might have had abortions will be lost in the coming years.  From now on the pro-life movement will fight a rear guard action trying to protect whatever gains that it has.  It is a sad end to the movement and it can be laid squarely at the feet of Randall Terry and others who engaged in this use of confrontational and de-humanizing rhetoric to the debate.

The reason for this is clear.  Many anti-abortion leaders decided to adopt the tactics of the 1960s, only instead of emulating Dr King, they emulate radical revolutionaries such as the “Weathermen” or groups such as the German “Red Army Faction.”  They adopted a strategy of open confrontation and belligerence toward their opponents. Likewise they attacked people who were somewhere in the middle, opposing abortion but having legitimate questions and concerns about actual medial ethical problems, such as when the fetus is killing the mother.  The leaders of the radical wing of the movement led by Randall Terry and groups such as Operation Rescue have set a tone where people who would probably support their goals now want nothing to do with them.   Without these people, the pro-life movement becomes irrelevant in the national debates about life, not only abortion, but all life.  The language and behavior of Mr. Terry after the shooting of Dr. Tiller has shown that Mr. Terry intends to go down fighting and take the movement with him.

Like the First Officer of the Soviet submarine pursuing the Red October tells his Captain when the sub is about to be struck by its own torpedo which has had the safety’s removed “You arrogant ass. You’ve killed us!”  The leaders of the mainstream and peaceful pro-life movement should say the same to Mr. Terry and others like him. Terry and others pursue a jihad against all who oppose them.  This weekend was the logical outcome of a pattern of persistent escalation of both rhetoric and protests which often showed no grace, no love, and no redeeming purpose other than to hurl epitaphs and curses at abortion providers and their traumatized customers.  They have ensured the irrelevance and demise of the pro-life movement as we know it today.  They have ensured that even peaceful and law abiding demonstrators will be seen in the same light as them.  It was a suicidal strategy which can only end badly. Though the tactics helped Terry and others raise funds, support themselves and build an anti-abortion industry, they did not advance the cause of life. That cause was advanced by those who prayed, worked through legal and legislative means and those who offered loving and caring help to women considering abortion.  Their efforts have been dealt a devastating blow by the radicals.  The radicals thrive on confrontation and actually needs for Roe v. Wade to remain on the books to justify their existence and their paychecks.

In light of last week’s actions, and the subsequent comments by Mr. Terry at the National Press Club, any pro-life group which is foolish enough to protest this weekend is asking for trouble.  No matter how peaceful, law abiding and correct they are now pained with the same brush as Mr. Terry and radical groups.  The leaders of mainstream pro-life groups need to do some serious soul searching.  If they do not in thought, word and deed condemn the radicals, call their own members into account to behave peacefully, lawfully and in a manner consistent with the redemptive message of the Gospel, they will end up shipwrecked with Mr. Terry.  It will take only one more violent act which can be traced to a member of a anti-abortion group, or attributed to the exhortation of radicals for the government to declare all of them to be domestic terrorist groups.  If this happens the government will be well within its right.  No one, no matter how righteous they believe their cause to be can take the law, especially capital punishment into their own hands.  Mr. Terry’s remarks were chilling and if he continues down this path of bellicose confrontation without the Catholic Church or other pro-life leaders stopping him, they will all suffer the consequences of his foolishness.

It is a sad day.  Randall, you arrogant ass, you have killed us.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, Religion