Category Archives: war

In Memoriam

I’ve discovered that there seems to be some confusion about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. That fact confuses me, frankly, though their previous designations would be much more unclear.

Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the American military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Whereas: Continue reading In Memoriam

Fallen soldiers, fallen leaves

I associate the raking of falling leaves with Veterans Day. Some of this is at the mundane level. One November 10, I raked the leaves so well, and then the next day, more dropped so that it appeared that I had made no effort at all. It seems that the leaves all fall almost at once. I can tell it was last Thursday in the front of my house, with leaves covering up half of the windshield of the car.

The linkage, however, is also more subtle. One rakes the leaves early on, and one feels a sense of accomplishment. In that second and third pass over the same terrain, though, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Is it REALLY worth the effort to go over that ground again?

War must feel like that. In the beginning, everyone, at least everyone who’s in charge of executing the war, must have a sense of the rightness of their duty. As the war drags on, though, do doubts settle in?

I always wondered about extremely long wars. In year 37 of the 100 Years’ War, do the leaders remember what the point was. By year 73, all the leaders are most certainly dead, and all there is to hold onto is an abstraction. “For England!” or whatnot.

I came across this video about World War I, the end of which we are celebrating its 90th anniversary today. It’s not all gunfire, as the first minute or two might suggest, but has music of the period.

As you may know, WWI was so awful that it was thought that it must certainly be the “war to end all wars.” The League of Nations was formed and the world lived peacefully ever after, or so the script read. Here’s a list of wars most of them since 1918, with casualties when available.

I guess we’ll keep on trying for peace, regardless of our inability to achieve it.

Nuance

I went to a talk by Rex Smith of the Times union newspaper who was talking about “Communication for Citizenship: How Journalism Can Help Sustain Society’s Progress.” One of the points he made was that if he were hiring a new reporter, he’d rather get someone who understand nuance rather than someone who was just a good writer. As the chair of the Education for Journalism Committee of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he is seeking to develop the same thing in young potential readers.
But, the last questioner (I) asked, “How do you teach ‘nuance’? It seems that so many institutions in the past 20 years are polarized, from Congress to elements of the press.” On the hiring side at least, Rex talked about looking for intelligence, people who can look at the whole picture.

Some people still seem to think that it is inconsistent to “support the troops” unless one supports the war they are fighting in. I so disagree. I think that one can oppose the war in Iraq, which I have from the very beginning, actually before it started, while appreciating the sacrifices of people in the military and their families.

I think “supporting our troops” would have meant getting them the vehicles and body armor necessary to withstand roadside bombs much earlier. I think “supporting our troops” involves supporting a G.I. Bill for our returning troops. I think “supporting our troops” means getting them home ASAP.


ROG

Iraq Plus Five


I’m not quite sure what more there is to say. Just this month, there was a study discounting the Saddam Hussein/Al-Qaeda link. This follows this 2007 report, which merely confirms what the 9/11 Commission said back in 2004. I won’t even talk about the expense, which is now calculated in the TRILLIONS of dollars.

Here’s a website tracking the casualties. Let us pray that we’re NOT there for another hundred years.
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I need to write more on this, but let me say that I really liked Obama’s speech on race.

ROG

War to End All Wars

Since I understood its meaning, I always liked Veterans Day. When I was a child, I loved the parades.

Now, I appreciate the perhaps the foolhardy optimism of a war to end all wars, which is what they called The Great War; it ended on November 11, 1918, which became Armistice Day. Of course, the Great War became World War I when we fought World War II. Armistice Day became Veterans Day, and we’ve had a couple wars since then.

Even as we honor those who fight the wars the politicians send them to, the foolhardy dream remains:
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
I ain’t gonna study war no more,

Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.
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United Methodist bishops call for US withdrawal from Iraq.


ROG

One Nation Under God

On vacation, I was reading an old Newsweek from early May. The cover story was about military chaplains, and how they balance serving God in a time of war. I thought the Editor’s Desk piece by Jon Meacham, who has a background covering religious issues, was particularly interesting:

Historically, the most fervent of believers have often been the most bloodthirsty of warriors. [The Newsweek writers] note that religion can be a dangerous element in the lives of nations. From Saint Augustine to Shakespeare to Lincoln, some of history’s most searching thinkers and politicians have wrestled with the question of God and war, of how we can know for certain that the blood we are spilling is being shed in a just cause.

Which brings me to our national anthem. One of the verses of the Star-Spangled Banner that has long brought me pause is the fourth and final verse. (I know by heart the first and the last; the second and third in part.) It goes:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Again from Newsweek’s Meacham:

How can we tell when religion is playing too great a role in our politics, or in the decisions made by our leaders? Lincoln offers a useful test… He prayed…that he might see “the right as God gives to see the right”…He resisted seeing any political course of action as divinely ordained…Are [current and future leaders] curious and probing, believing, as Lincoln did, that “probably it is to be my lot to go on in a twilight, feeling and reasoning my way through life, as questioning, doubting Thomas did?”

Perhaps it is that discomfort, that questioning, that Abraham Lincoln felt in the midst of war that we ought to embrace. It is that thoughtfulness, that wariness, I believe, that best serves God and country.
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Roger Ebert remembers his friend, and fellow movie critic, the late Joel Siegel

ROG

Memorial Day 2007

Somehow Blogger did in the posts I wrote for the past three days. One was the post I did about Lydia, for which I just posted pictures instead. Yesterday’s post on the parenting question I decided to recreate, as it was relatively short. the third, of course, was this one. The problem, which others have experienced as well, is “being worked on.

The gist of the third lost post had to do with the tension of being largely a pacifist and opposing this particular war, for reasons best expressed here, with an appreciation of the sacrifices people in the military and their families endure. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: I don’t fault the soldiers for fighting in Iraq. I fault the leadership that put them there, ignoring prewar intelligence.

Someone on one of the Sunday morning shows, a family member of a military man killed in Iraq or Afghanistan referred to Arlington National Cemetery as a “beautiful awful place”, beautiful in the neatly arranged gravestones, awful in terms of what those gravestones represent.

Anyway, try to remember that today is not just “the unofficial beginning of summer” or the end of a three-day weekend.
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Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News reporter who almost died in Iraq a year ago this week (and two of her colleagues did perish) has a special tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 10 pm EDT called Flashpoint that I will watch.
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Charles Nelson Reilly died recently. Johnny B. packaged a video tribute so I didn’t have to.

Four Years

Four years ago, the President gave this brief address to the nation. Since then, Saddam Hussein is dead, 3000+ Americans are dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, two million Iraqis have fled their country, including many who had supported the US military mission but who are now not getting the support they need.

Many of the American wounded might not have survived 25 or even 10 years ago. Some, especially early on, were provided inadequate protection, and now find that, once they leave the hospital, are given inadequate care. “Support the troops”, indeed.

John McCain was right about those non-binding resolutions the Democrats tried to pass earlier this year: it’s immoral to continue to, on one hand, fund the war and on the other hand, suggest the war is wrong. The “surge” will work until it’s over, and whether or not we set a “timetable for withdrawal” or not, the forces of instability will wait it out, change tactics or change venues. Hey, don’t believe me; read what wide-eyed liberals such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, National security adviser to President Carter; Richard Clarke, Counterterrorism czar from 1992 to 2003; Gen. Tony McPeak (retired), Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War; and Bob Graham, Former chair, Senate Intelligence Committee have to say.

I had predicted four years ago that a partitioned Iraq would exist one year from now. Kurdistan exists now in almost every way (flag, currency, head of state) right now, and has since the US and UK enforced the no-fly zones 15 or 16 years ago. It seems that perhaps trying to force together an Iraq initially created by the British after World War I, insensitive to tribal concerns (see also: the colonial powers in Africa), that a different way ought to be considered. Yes, I know about the concerns of Turkey and other countries in the region. The Kurds may be the largest group of people without a country to call its own, and trying to keep an imposed country together without force may not be practical (see also: Yugoslavia), maybe it’s time to deal with the reality.

Incidentally, I don’t think that the wisdom of initial opposition to this war should be shelved with a “yeah, but what would they do NOW?” retort. Criticism of this war before the war started, expressed by Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich, and no other Democrat or Republican running for President – if there’s anyone else, please let me know – shows at least a certain foresight that their colleagues lacked, which may bode well for the future.

ROG

My Periodic Need for a Non-Thematic Post, January 2007 Edition

DEAD PEOPLE

I’ve seen saxophonist Michael Brecker playing somewhere. Maybe it was backing Joni Mitchell in Philadelphia in 1981, or maybe on one of his solo jazz excursions. He appears in that “Hot Tub” segment of Saturday Night Live I linked to when James Brown died last month. In any case, you’ve almost certainly have HEARD Michael Brecker, who played with Paul Simon (Still Crazy, among others), Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run), Frank Zappa, and zillions more, including the aforementioned James Brown, and who died of leukemia this week at the age of 57.
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Art Buchwald, whose wonderfully acerbic column I used to read, was probably best known for not dying when everyone, including himself, thought he would. That and the lawsuit over the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America.
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I would have said something about the passing of film producer Carlo Ponti, except that I might have accidentally revealed my grand crush in high school (and later) of his wife, and it seemed unseemly, so I won’t.

MYTHS
…DEBUNKED

HIV/AIDS attacks

AND NOT A MYTH: (A LITTLE) TAX BREAK

A SPECIAL ONE TIME TAX CREDIT ON YOUR 2006 TAX RETURN

When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don’t overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A.

This is about the federal excise tax that’s been charged for long-distance calls on phone bill for years, based on the distance and length of the calls. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts. The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies were given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of August 30, 2006.
But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one-time credit will be available when you file 2006 tax returns. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get.
If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40.
If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two or more children.
In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 – UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 – which I certainly don’t – then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT. If you do that, you’ll have to file a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the form 1040EZ will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point – this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out. If you would end up owing the IRS a balance, the refund will reduce that balance you owe. If you end up getting a refund, the credit will be added and you get a bigger refund by that $30 to $60, depending on how many dependents are on your return.

WAR AND PEACE

January 27-29 gathering in Washington, DC, “to remind the new Congress that we elected them to end the war in Iraq and to bring the troops home now.”

LIBRARIAN HUMOR, NOT AN OXYMORON

Conan the Librarian
A REAL library’s take on Madonna’s Ray of Light
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A Biblical Understanding of Marriage
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Finally, watch Tom the Dog on 1 Vs. 100 (square 81) AGAIN tonight on NBC, at 8 EST.
Carlo Ponti,

What Is Pacifism?


This year, the blogger English Professor has written on What Is Militarism, What Is Realism, and What Is Pacifism, all very interesting pieces. I knew that I wanted to try to come to grips with the latter as it applies to me, and when better than Memorial Day weekend.

When I became eligible, I registered for the draft on my 18th birthday. At that time, I noted that I was a conscientious objector. After a whole bunch of stuff (I could probably write an autobiographical chapter just on 1972), I find myself in front of my draft board in the fall of 1972, explaining what being a C.O. meant to me. Among other things, I noted that the military life necessarily put one in the position of having to respond in a particular way to violence, and that my beliefs did not allow for me to put myself in that situation. One board member asked me what I would do if someone were attacking my mother. My response was that I would try to stop the attacker; I went on to note that there was a difference between putting oneself in the position to having to respond to violence and responding when violence unexpectedly comes calling. Someone expanded the question to suggest that someone like Hitler was the equivalent to someone attacking my mother, essentially, “If we don’t stop him now, your mother will be become imperiled.” I’m not quite sure of my response except that I rejected the premise of the question. And eventually, I was given C.O. status.

Which is why I was somewhat troubled by my reaction to our invasion in Afghanistan in 2001, which was, pretty much, none. I did not protest, I did not write letters, as I did in the buildup to the war in Iraq. I was sad when war became the answer, but I certainly understood, in a way I hadn’t before (and haven’t since) the desire to use military force. And I realized that at some level, I’m not as pure in philosophical spirit as I would have liked. At least part of it was that I really disliked the Taliban, in large part because of the capricious and totally unnecessary destruction of the Buddhas earlier that year. And if the troops got Osama, all the better.

So, I’m thinking on Memorial Day, we should remember those who fought and died. But we should also remember that when we send people to war, all sorts of unintended consequences will arise (think Abu Gharib), and that war needs to be the last resort, not the first option.