A Place to Talk About War

I would like to hear from soldiers who have been in combat situations, from their families, or from others interested in this conversation. I am a graduate student interested in war rhetoric. I have no preset agenda: I simply want to listen, to learn, and to be supportive.

Location: Texas, United States

Married, two kids. Worked in the defense industry for 20 years before taking a different path. I'll be starting my dissertation on the rhetoric of war in a few months. This semester I am teaching Freshman Composition. I DON'T CARE ABOUT BLOGGERS' SPELLING, PUNCTUATION, OR ANY OTHER GRAMMAR MATTERS--I JUST WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Were Vietnam Vets Spit On?

As usual, forgive me for the delay between posts. I am researching and writing instead of blogging. (Whatever has happened to my priorities?)

I'm asking for your help now. A battle of words is taking place on the Internet over whether returning Vietnam vets were indeed spit on, or had tomatoes, eggs, or feces (depending on the story) thrown at them. A number of these claimed incidents supposedly took place at the San Francisco airport. Jerry Lembke (a VN vet) has argued that the accounts are made up. (His book is titled The Spitting Image. See Amazon.com for more info.) Certainly I don't know if they happened or not.

So, what I'm asking my readers to do is to give me any information you can from the Vietnam vets that you know. Did anything like this happen to them? Where were they? Did they respond? Were the police called? Does anyone have a picture of such an act, or a then-current newspaper article which reports it? I would be interested in any information which you consider reliable.

Thanks. Best to all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Life-Saving Silly String in Iraq

There's nothing like Yankee ingenuity. Soldiers in Iraq are using Silly String to detect trip wires. One mom has organized a drive to deliver cases of the stuff to Iraq. Check out the story here: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/10477615/detail.html.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Concrete Way to Help in Iraq

If you'd like to do something to help the people of Iraq, here's an easy suggestion: send school supplies.

Major Scott Baum of Fort Worth, Texas, is spearheading "Operation School House" to collect supplies for children and teachers in Iraq. They need standard school supplies that all of you have probably bought at some point: pencils, notepads, pencil sharpener, color markers, crayons, scissors, erasers, glue, writing paper, construction paper, coloring books, backpacks. Teachers also need larger quantities of highlighters, staplers, and red pens.

What a deal: "The post office provides the free shipping box and the customs declaration form, and the maximum price for a shipment is only $8."

Send supplies to:
Operation School House
Col. Fred Woerner
3rd Division Headquarters
Al Kisik, Iraq
APO/AE 09334

If you'd like an electronic link to the article from which I pulled this information, let me know. I'm operating on the starfish principle: the school supplies I send won't cure Iraq's ills, but I'm hoping it will make a difference in at least a few lives there.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sailor Kills Marine After Lie About Rape

"A sailor pleaded guilty Monday to abducting and killing a Marine corporal he thought had been involved in a gang rape. The rape turned out to be a lie, but the truth surfaced too late . . . Federal agents had testified at his Article 32 hearing . . . that Jackson had been fooled into falling in love with a woman who called herself Samantha and made up a story about being raped by servicemen.

'Samantha' turned out to be Ashley Elrod, a 22-year-old hotel clerk on North Carolina's Outer Banks, who testified that she lied about being raped. She said she 'might have' told Jackson that one of the Marines was named Huff or Huffman, and she said Jackson called her after Huff was killed. Elrod has not been charged."

In exchange for his plea, he won't get the death penalty. Is there anything they can charge her with besides being a Jezebel?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Army recruiting up; so are waivers

You probably saw the morning news report that the Army's recent recruiting numbers are higher than they have been for a while--and that so are the numbers of waivers approved for crimes or health issues. Thought you might find this interview excerpt interesting: Harper's magazine is talking with "Eli Flyer, who retired as a Pentagon senior military analyst in 1979 and has since served as a consultant to U.S. armed forces on personnel issues. He has spent the last fifty years analyzing the relationship between military recruiting and military misconduct; of note is his 2003 report to the Pentagon, 'Reducing the Threat of Destructive Behavior by Military Personnel' (PDF). "

Don't the military services weed out applicants with criminal offense records who are more likely to get in trouble while on active duty?
Many applicants who are accepted for service have committed serious misdemeanors, and some even have felony convictions, even though the evidence is clear that these recruits are more likely than those with "clean" records to show be behavior problems while on active duty. To enlist with a conviction for a criminal offense, an applicant must receive a "moral" waiver. The process involved in issuing a waiver—evaluating reference recommendations for enlistment—is a weak one that has little value for screening purposes. It needs to be fixed. Since recruits who enlist with a moral waiver generally have higher discharge rates than other recruits, they should certainly receive more intensive screening for enlistment than they do now. A number of the men who have been accused of abuses against civilians in Iraq had histories that should have raised red flags. For example, former soldier Steven Green, who is accused of raping and killing an Iraqi girl and her family, enlisted with a moral waiver for at least two drug- or alcohol- related offenses. He committed a third alcohol-related offense just before enlistment, which led to jail time, though this offense may not have been known to the Army when he enlisted. News accounts say Green was a high school dropout (with a GED certificate) and suggest he was a seriously maladjusted young man. A limited background check during the recruitment process would likely have provided information showing he should not receive a moral waiver.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sorry, sorry, sorry

What can I say? Sorry I've been gone so long; nice to know that some of you missed me. While I am not going to resume my former output, I will try to be much more diligent about at least posting occasionally.

Not only do I have my usual teaching load this semester, but I am assissting my dissertation director with an upper-level War Rhetoric course. That is not a complaint--I was honored that she asked me and thrilled to be teaching in my area. But it does make me busy when added to my other responsibilities (especially the dissertation that I am supposed to be writing).

Things that I was tempted to post about, but never got around to:
  • Woodward's new book says that Henry Kissinger is advising President Bush on the war in Iraq. Oh, that's very comforting, seeing how well Vietnam worked out for us.
  • One of the arguments against allowing our military or intelligence officers to use "tough tactics" aka "torture" against prisoners is that it leaves our soldiers open to torture if they are captured. Can we think this through just a moment, please? Is there any government or combatant group out there who bases their treatment of our soldiers on how we treat others? I am NOT advocating torture--far from it, and I'm still a little rattled that we're in a position to even be talking about whether it's okay for Americans to torture people. But in some hypothetical situation--war with North Korea, let's say--can you imagine Kim Jong-il basing his decision on whether to torture American soldiers on the latest U.S. military guidelines on the topic? I can't.
  • There's something disturbing about this war being fought by 52-year-old grandmothers manning machine guns. I know she was in the reserves, but it still just seems, well, wrong somehow. Story here.
Okay, let's hear some comments so I can feel justified in taking the time to post. :-)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sorry for the silence

I'm traveling a lot in June, so posts will be sporadic (as you've noticed). I should be back to a regular schedule in July.

If you haven't already, read the comments on the post below, then go to Nate's site and leave a kind word.

Here's something you can think about for a while: how will we know when we've "won" in Iraq? How will we know when we've won the War on Terror? All comments welcome on what "winning" looks like to you.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Away for a few days,

but I'm sure that war will continue in spite of my absence. Have a good Memorial Day, everyone!

Monday, May 22, 2006

How DO we support the troops?

Let's suppose that you "support the troops" whether you believe they should be in Iraq or not. This question has two parts: first, what, if anything, do you do to support them? Second, what do you think most Americans do, if anything, in the way of support?

Possible answers might include the following, although the list is far from exhaustive:
  • donate to charitable organizations that send care packages overseas
  • donate to Paralyzed Veterans of America or similar organizations
  • write your elected representatives to press for better military pay, veterans health benefits, body armor, shorter deployments, etc.
  • write your elected representatives to call for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq
  • greet returning soldiers at the airport
  • put a magnetic ribbon on your car
  • visit patients at the local V.A. hospital
  • vote Republican
  • vote Democrat
  • send your own care packages addressed to "Any Soldier, Iraq"
  • fly your flag on Memorial and Veterans Day
  • pray daily for their safety
  • think general good thoughts about them and tell people that you support the troops
  • enlist in the military to give them a helping hand
  • encourage your relatives to enlist
  • drive a fuel-efficient car

I could keep going, but that should be enough to jump-start your thinking. I look forward to reading your perceptions of how America is collectively supporting her troops.

Oopsy! Thieves Steal Personal Data of 26.5M Vets

"Thieves took sensitive personal information on 26.5 million U.S. veterans, including Social Security numbers and birth dates, after a Veterans Affairs employee improperly brought the material home, the government said Monday.

The information involved mainly those veterans who served and have been discharged since 1975, said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. Data of veterans discharged before 1975 who submitted claims to the agency may have been included.

Nicholson said there was no evidence the thieves had used the data for identity theft, and an investigation was continuing."

Maybe the VA needs to rethink its policy on taking work home.

Monday, May 15, 2006

When good charities go bad

I have posted before about Soldiers Angels, a charity run by General Patton's daughter. I thought it was a great idea--they used donations to put together care packages for soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and by virtue of their organization could do so much more efficiently than what individuals could. It seemed to me that contributing would have more of an impact on soldiers' lives than mailing a package of socks and playing cards to "Any Soldier."

Sadly, I have asked to be removed from their mailing list. I understood when I first contributed that I would receive more requests for donations--that's what charities do. But the request I received last week was the deal breaker: a cardboard mailing tube with an American flag and a small tag enclosed. I was asked to sign the little tag, enclose it with the flag and a donation, and return the whole thing in the mailing tube using their pre-paid address label. The flag (just slightly bigger than 4x6, on a wooden stick) was to be carried in a demonstration in Washington "showing all our troops how much we support them and their mission."* The flag was accompanied by a letter in which Ms. Patton-Bader railed against all those liberals who "rejoice . . . with every American death" and who desperately want America "to lose this war."

Those of you who read this blog regularly will anticipate my reaction: sending care packages to soldiers=good; mailing flags back and forth to each other and trash-talking liberals=bad. The march in Washington is debatable--showing support for soldiers is a good thing, but turning it into a conservative rally using charitable donations isn't acceptable to me. (I also have to wonder how many soldiers could have received care packages with the money it's costing to stage this march.) And of course anyone who asserts that liberals "rejoice" when American soldiers are killed has zero credibility with me.

Anyone know of a good charity out there who can send care packages to deployed soldiers without political rallies or strawmanning?

*This is a paraphrase--the other quotes in this post are exact.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Another one that you just can't make up . . .

Moussaoui Asks to Withdraw Guilty Plea
Convicted Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui says he lied on the witness stand about being involved in the plot and wants to withdraw his guilty plea because he now believes he can get a fair trial from an American jury.

I wonder if the expression "A day late and a dollar short" translates into Arabic.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What is Militarism?

Some Pacifists consider Militarism to be any military action, but war theorists instead consider it a “common propensity or cultural bias in favor of war, upon which the war-maker is continually able to draw and with which any peacemaker has to contend. It first precipitates war and then dictates its ruthless prosecution.” War is seen as a positive good, something of intrinsic and unique value.

Fascist militarism “ruthlessly subordinates the good of humanity to the good of a particular race, state or nation.” But while fascism parades its militarism, others hide their warlike nature behind a peaceful and humanitarian facade. “The readiness to equate the good of humanity with the triumph of a particular community or set of values and to advance that claim through war . . . is really a form of imperialism: that is, of moral particularism masquerading as moral universalism.”

Unlike the realist, who opts for war on pragmatic grounds, or the just war theorist, whose grudging acceptance of the moral permissibility of war stops well short of moral enthusiasm, the Militarist is an enthusiast for war, a "happy warrior" who shares none of the moral anxiety rightly associated with the just resource to war. (Think of General Patton.) And, A.J. Coates argues, not only the Right but the Left, as well, has its militarists, although the Left “effectively disguises [it] by its much-vaunted espousal of pacific and humanitarian goals.”

“The modern transformation of war fought to vindicate a world-view [rather than territorial claims] generates Militarism, quite irrespective of the specific ideological aims.” The cause of war is not the perpetration of any specific injury or the posting of any particular threat, but the general offence and the general threat posed by the existence of the other. (Think of the Ayotollah Khomeini, who stated that, "A religion without war is a crippled religion.")

Those who think that they have a historic destiny feel the need to rid the world of competing destinies, so "the use of force with a view to such grandiose ends tends to become an end in itself, and war becomes an intrinsic value in the way it is not for the Realist of Just War theorist." The real object of war [to the Militarist] is the transformation of man and of the human condition. And those convinced their cause is revolutionary or historically significant can be just like Khomeini’s followers, with a sense of participating in a grand design. “This understanding and experience of moral, psychological and emotional self-fulfillment enhances war and threatens its moral regulation. It transforms war from an instrumental into an expressive activity, and gives participants an incentive for engaging in it that is largely independent of specific cause."
And, unfortunately, conciliation is rejected because the conflict is absolute, and there can be no compromise with an absolute enemy.

Source is once again A. J. Coates' The Ethics of War, and all quotes come from his book.

This ends my posts on theories of war. (Yes, I hear the collective sighs of relief.) I'll return to discussing what is currently in the news, where, I assure you, you will not find any thoughtful treatment of competing theories of war.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What is Realism?

The political ideology of Realism does not seek peace as it's commonly understood (in which we all get along fairly happily). The key concept for Realists is "balance of power," an understanding that says the State is served best when other global players are kept in mutual check. Its language, however, is moral: Machiavelli considered the ability to convey the appearance of virtue to be an indispensable part of the statesmen’s art. Problems can arise for the Realist, however, if "the moral appeal is taken so seriously that it begins to undermine the power brokering and diplomatic horse-trading in which international politics are seen to consist." Realists don't actively seek war, but do consider it part of the natural landscape--to them, there is nothing abnormal about war.

Realists trace their history back to Thucydides, because it's always a good rhetorical move to claim that your ideology is part of a 2,000+ year-old tradition. The best example of a Realist in the last 30 years is Henry Kissinger, who regrets the “creeping idealism” in postwar presidential rhetoric about creation of New World Order. Kissinger has stated that he would “balance rivalries as old as history by striving for an equilibrium between Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.” Thus, “What seems a damning indictment of US foreign policy—its readiness to make war against a state to which it had lent recent material as well as diplomatic support—is portrayed here as a mark of genuine statesmanship.”

Post on Militarism coming soon.

(Source is again A.J. Coates, and quotes come from his The Ethics of War.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Three Down, One to Go

I finished my written exams at 5:00 this afternoon. Assuming that I get a call tomorrow saying I passed them all, orals will take place Wednesday afternoon.

I'm ready for this to be over so I can start making the blog rounds again. ;-)