How the Pentagon Is Betraying the Troops

News at Home

Mr. Palaima, recipient of a MacArthur genius award, teaches war and violence studies and ancient history at the University of Texas at Austin.

I don't know how long or how widely Tim O'Brien searched for the epigraph for his masterwork on the experience of war in Vietnam, The Things They Carried. But he eventually chose a passage from John Ransom's Andersonville Diary, a grim account of life in a Civil War prison camp written by a twenty-year-old northern soldier. Why? Because all soldiers in combat feel like prisoners of war. And most of them are young.

No matter how good and just the cause, how dedicated the individual soldiers, how evil the enemy, in all firsthand accounts of war written by the soldiers who are actually fighting, at some or many points the objectives for which they are asked to risk their lives seem, and in many cases actually are, senseless - i.e., literally not worth dying, or even killing, for.

Such feelings of helpless imprisonment are captured vividly in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. The hero Yossarian's plight - as he tries to escape being manipulated by remote higher powers into serving beyond the fair and stipulated number of bombing runs - has become a Jungian archetype. He captures the sense of betrayal that common soldiers feel when government authorities do not hold up their side of the moral bargain; when the officers commanding them are motivated by their own career goals, their own egos or in some cases their own venality, incompetence or cowardice; when doctors despair that their interventions can't do any good; when chaplains are naive, weak or platitudinous; when God seems to be sadistic or off on holiday.

If you think Heller's work is pure fiction, or an aberrant view of the greatest generation's achievements in World War II, read Studs Terkel's oral history, The "Good War," (the ironic quotation marks are part of the title) and Paul Fussell's Wartime and The Boys' Crusade. The fierce anger in Fussell about how working-class infantry recruits were expended during the last months of the war in Europe still rages almost sixty years after his own firsthand experience.

There is no other job in our society where we can be ordered to put ourselves at mortal risk and where we have to serve out our "commitment" under penalty of imprisonment or worse. Under such circumstances, it is absolutely imperative that the authorities who control the lives of citizen soldiers scrupulously uphold all terms of the social contract. The consequences of failing to do so are dire.

After all, Veterans Administration psychiatrist Jonathan Shay has argued persuasively that the fundamental cause of post-traumatic stress in combat veterans is "betrayal of what is right," usually by authority figures whose job it is to do the right thing. Likewise, those same authorities are under a strict obligation to make sure that all those who commit themselves to military service do so as true volunteers - intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and socially.

In a re-enactment of Catch-22, our government is now using stop-loss orders to compel soldiers to serve in Iraq beyond their discharge dates. It is also manipulating back into combat veterans who thought that their full active and reserve service had been fulfilled. Both these practices are simply immoral. They are clear betrayals of what is right and should not even be prettified with the euphemism "back-door draft."

You might have seen the "60 Minutes" segment about the 4-foot-8-inch, 55-year-old female veteran, the disabled male veteran and the veteran who is now a mother of three young children who all have been called back to fight in Iraq.

How does the military justify this? By a "six-digit reference to an Army regulation . . . in a remark section" on the recruiting agreements these veterans all signed long ago. A West Point graduate and former judge advocate general says this "borders on being a deceptive recruiting practice."

It is worse than that. It is an outright swindle.

On stop-loss, eight soldiers have now begun legal actions against the U.S. government - and rightly so. How can our commander-in-chief, a veteran war-time National Guardsman himself, countenance policies that make a mockery of the term "all-volunteer army"?

On the other side are the new soldiers in our armed forces. In my opinion, there are questionable moral practices in how they are recruited.

Please read what the ground war in Iraq is really like and imagine being called back into this maelstrom after you had already devoted eight years of your life to our armed services.

Then think of your own adjective to describe what our government is doing. Mine is "immoral," at least in polite company.


This article was first published by the Sacramento Bee and is reprinted with permission of the author.

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More Comments:

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Probably never. Before it happens, Bush's family friend Osama, or someone of that ilk will "declare" another "war" on us, and the cycle of fear, ignorance, and power-hungry old men sending naive young men off to die can begin anew.

Let's be clear: courage, devotion, honesty, sacrifice, and respect for humanity are from extinct in today's U.S. military, but they have almost as little to do with reasons for the invasion of Iraq, as do weapons of mass destruction, Mideast democracy, or preventing another 9-11 attack.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Certainly Dick, W, and Don are no more "at war" with main bastions of "militant Islam" and nuclear proliferation, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, than they were "at war" with Saddam or Osama in the 1980s. It is not a matter of democracy in the Mideast (e.g. bringing it there), it is a matter of Democrats in the Midwest (e.g. scaremongering votes away from them in the "swing states" there).

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

It is for Ben to say whether his position is being accurately restated above. I would simply like to interject that there is a world of difference between temporary and neutral government assistance whether deserved (patent protection) or undeserved (Chrysler) on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the kind of cozy and corrupt collusion between government officials and corporate entities that could never survive on their own without repeated pillaging of taxpayers, such as W's heavily subsidized baseball team, and Cheney's crooked Halliburton.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am not an expert on the history of Halliburton, which is anyway now part of a larger conglomerate about which simplistic generalizations will not ultimately suffice. Surely though, a large part of the "game" they have been "in and at", possibly even before Cheney although he has been in the revolving door for many decades too, involves kickbacks, graft, cost overruns, and various forms of monopoly privilege and creative accounting. If no other corporation "does what they do" in the field, it may well be that no other corporation in its sectors has been as successful at bilking taxpayers and (unlike Enron which mainly screwed its own employees and shareholders) at getting away with it.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Despite your simplistic biases (perhaps you take some of the masthead slogans here rather too literally), you seem to know a thing or two about government contractors. Who then is doing Kosovo ? Afghanistan ? the West Bank ? I suppose there must be dozens of firms that can and do provide at least parts of the Halliburton package of services at comparable cost. But conflict of interest remains conflict of interest. If Cheney were a Democrat, the Republicans in the House would have impeached his foul mouth years ago.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

While waiting for the 59 million mental lightweights who last month ratified Cheney's 2000 selection to wake up from their slumber, the rest of us should start to consider remedies. Ideally, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld would first be impeached for treason, then convicted of manslaughter, and then sentenced to serve the rest of their lives as soldiers in the Iraqi Army. In the meantime, until that wise course of action is more widely advocated, maybe it is time for a renewal of the TV-smashing movement of some years back, starting perhaps with a demonstration outside of Fox headquarters. With the internet supplanting all its useful functions, there is simply no excuse for relying on the "Idiot box" any more unless you are one yourself. The "moral values" hype is 90% pure BS. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever say "blessed are the stupid".

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The losers are your grandchildren who will not be saying "he he" when they discover that your folly has left them in a weaker, less secure, poorer and more morally bankrupt country.

The historians will have the final word and it won't be a laugh.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Hitler also wept upon learning that World War I was over and could hardly wait for the next war. Non-fascists, by contrast, know the truth of W.T. Sherman's observation: war is hell. Corrupt and incompetent draft-dodgers Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush will have their chance to reflect on that connection (viewed in the opposite direction) in the hereafter.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Real historians of actual historical fascism know that a large factor behind its emergence was groups of radicalized ex-World War I soldiers from Germany and Italy disgruntled at their nations' defeat "off the battlefield" (The "backstab legend" etc.). Some American wars and movie trilogies in recent decades have produced similar effects, although thankfully to a much less extreme.

What then are "Islamofascists" ? Islamic Mujahadeen fighters who helped bring down Milosevic and drive the Russians from Afghanistan, and who have no particular national allegiances ? It is a considerable stretch. Better candidates for this pejorative and propagandistic label might be the fools in the American Republican Party who supported Saddam throughout the 1980s, who did extensive business with the Saudi dictators who funded the Taliban and whose Pakistani friends harbored and harbor Osama and Al Qaeda.

No wonder real combat veterans such as McCain are calling for the resignation of Saddam's ex-buddy, the arrogant and incompetent Rumsfeld.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I don't know who this professor at an unnamed institution may be. He sounds sincere enough, but not very knowledgeable of history. I don't buy the Rove line (which he apparently has swallowed whole) that the "world changed" on 9-11. America did indeed wake up to some of its vulnerabilities on that day, and the White House chose to squander that opportunity by opting for political manipulation of American's fears rather than work to improve real long term security, but nothing really substantive changed. Our interdependent society was vulnerable and still is. Terrorism has existed since time immemorial and still will. Radical Islamists are exploiting America's blunders and still are. Ignorant masses were being duped and still are.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"The Left" is a phrase devoid of meaning used by the mentally lazy which come to this website by which set of weird links I guess I probably would not want to know. In any event, the configuration of people on different sides of a room in Paris in the 18th century is not a valid model for gauging political decision making in 2004. It remains a convenient jargon by which the dumbed-down news media cater to their couch potato sucker audiences, but that does not mean it need be mouthed by thinking minds.

There are a great many ways in which the treacherous thieves currently in control of the federal government are ruining America's long term future, but since the deficit is mentioned, it should be recognized that public spending funded by taxes does not threaten the "ability of future generations to pay" because there is no increased debt to pay off when the budget is balanced. With math-challenged crooks in control of federal tax policy, however, it is little wonder that "tax and spend" of the 1960s-70s has been replaced by borrow, steal and waste under Cheney, his figurehead Bush, and his incompetent and corrupt cabinet colleagues.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Contrary to your facile and erroneous assumption, I allege no pre-planned conspiracy, but it has been widely reported and acknowledged that Cheney worked for Halliburton, made huge amounts of money from it, and that Halliburton has profited mainly from government contracts awarded under at least questionable arrangements. Whether actual bribery (an inpeachable offense in the constitution, unlike adultery) has occured would be for a special prosecutor to determine. Maybe Ken Starr is available ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

There is a further subdivision, between those who "feel the allure of war" but who are otherwise normal, and those for who feeing that allure is at the core of their being. The more important divisions pertinent to this discussion are between truth-tellers and liars, and between consistency and hypocrisy.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

a) The rise of Baden Baden as desirable and world famous resort attracter visitors from around the world

b) The ancestraal departure from Baden Baden of above-mentioned world-viewers

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Thanks for the comments and further details. For the record, however, I do not believe that a desire to make the world "a little better for capitalism" explains the decision to invade Iraq which, after all, utterly contradicts the policies of Reagan and Bush I to leave Saddam in place in order to avoid instability in that region (and, of course, was a 100% reversal of the Powell doctrine of 1990).

If Karl Rove had developed a strategy for a kinder-gentler compassionate capitalist-socialist partnership for W to fashion with Schroeder and Chirac, as a means to winning swing voters in swing states (and Cheney had, for example, died of a heart attack instead of just using foul language in the Senate) I have no doubt that W would followed his original no-nation-building instincts and nixed the neo-con fantasy of a cakewalk to Baghdad. Winning the independent legitimacy at the polls that neither he nor his father had before 2004, by marketing himself as a "war president", was the main motive for the sudden jihad against Saddam in my judgement. W's own feeling that this was some sort of moral imperative strikes me as the self-delusion of a recovered dry drunk.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

My knowledge of history comes from books, newspapers, other printed periodicals, and historical archives and primary sources, not from TV.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When in doubt, or ignorant, make up a fable, seems to be Mr. Heisler's only retort to Mr. Severance's well-founded observations. Pork barrel giveaways are not only corrupting of public policy, they amount to theft from the general public. Genuine businesses need governments to enforce clear, consistent rules of the game, they do not need handouts from government. Examples of the contrary are legion: from the rape of public forests, to the great giveaway of the public airways, to the massive subsidy of urban sprawl connected with the vast acreage of public lands asphalted over for gridlock, air pollution, and energy waste for which trillions of taxpayer dollars are also spent (in the incompetent hands of the current bunch of cowardly traitors in Washington) ruining half a century of American foreign policy by deceptive military adventures in the oil-rich Mideast.

Enron was, of course, not some Clintonesque plot exposed by righteous do-good co-CEOs Cheney and Bush (who never managed to earn an honest buck in their lives), as Heisler’s mythology might suggest. What tripped up Dubya's buddy Kenny boy and his co-scamers was their greed hitting a peak as the market moved against them, and some excellent investigative journalism by the Wall Street Journal, which realizes that even free markets work more efficiently when lies are exposed and truth revealed.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Is there a shred of evidence for the following ridiculous fantasy ?

"...the attack on Iraq has made al Qa'eda think twice - in fact, a thousand times - before again attacking us directly."

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

No I prefer that corporate crooks who steal from the American taxpayers be sentenced to jail. Cheney will apparently not be, thanks to the spineless idiots running the Congress now, but he will rot instead in hell with the fake Christians who stupidly voted for him.

I have nothing against America's oldest ally, but they are irrelevant to this discussion of corporate crime and treason in the White House.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

This is not evidence, it is speculation. You are recommended to purchase a dictionary, or sign up for your first college history course.

One could as readily, and more sensibly, speculate that -having successfully provoked the reckless stupidity of the Iraq invasion- Al Qaeda sees no need for further attacks in the mainland U.S. (our Iraq colony is of course attacked daily).

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Tom's complaints fail to impress me because,

1. The reservists signed on for whatever the DOD would determine they were needed.

2. Upon the onset of the Korean War President Truman ordered the call-up of thousands of retreads, individual ready reservists, company grade commissioned officers, particularly infantrymen, to serve in Korea until the post-WWII depleted Army could be rebuilt, knowing it was unfair to plug men into combat who'd already placed themselves in harm's way during WWII. Truman ordered these men into action in lieu of using newly commoissioned officers who hadn't seen combat to lead infantry companies in Korea based on the reasoning that while unfair to those officers utilizing them instead of new officers who'd never heard shots "fired in anger" would save the lives of soldiers, based upon his opinion as a former combatant himself thart the best leaders in combat are those who've been there before.

In short, he deemed it necessary for the greater good to use retreads instead of inserting untested & unexperienced officers to lead other men in combat.

IMO Truman made the correct, albeit difficult & unfair, decision. Based upon my own experiences fighting in Viet-Nam for 22 months, until seriously WIA, certainly I'd prefer to fight beside tested veteans rather than men who had not heard bullets whistling past them. For one thing, despite appearances in stateside training environments one never knows how a man is going to react under fire, until it has happened.

for instance,with a unit training here in the States preparing to be sent to Viet-Nam we'd a big, unmarried, soldierly-looking aggressive in training lad who was confident that once in Viet-Nam he'd be an excellent soldier, but in fact once he was where the shooting was, he turned exceedingly cautious, not to the point of cowardice, but he failed to perform his assigned duties and sought safer ones.

We'd also a Captain of Infantry who did just prior to our being shipped toi Indochina show a yellow stripe down his back. He refused to go to 'Nam. I haven't the faintest idea whatever happened to the gutless wonder, who'd gone years drawing hisa Army pay but who when it came time to earn that pay turned chicken Was he permitted to simply resign his commissipon, or was he sent to the slammer? I dunno. But I am glad he, as gutless & unreliable as he proved to be, that he didn't go to 'Nam with us.

In sharp contrast to the two wannabe heroes painlessly there was a fellow by the name of Gary Gridly. Gary was short, overwewight& married with two or three children, in training an ordinary fellow of whom not all that much was expected or demanded, but who in Viet-Nam proved to be one hellofa soldier who was a tiger in combat, utterly reliable & trustworthy in any & all circumstances.

Again, performance in a training environment is no guarentee of how a soldier is going to react to hearing the "rattle of musketry."

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Heh, heh,

Another sore loser.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005


The photograph of the wounded fellow doesn't impress me, one WIA in Mr. Johnson's War & as a consequence spent ten months & 3 days in hospital attemping to recover from those wounds incurred.

Moreover, if the Bleed'n Heart types here hadn't realized it, perhaps the photo will help persuade our eay chair heroes that war is inherently a nasty business.

Anyway, the photo didn't indicate the fellow in the photo had been WIA, only banged up by ordanance, which doesn't us a whole lot. If he was a demolitions ordance expert, he was being extra to take the risks of dealing with high explosives. But if indeed he'd been WIA, again, some of the results of war can be rough.

In any event, what would the gutless weenies here, the types who throughgout most of the Cold War bleated for unilateral disarmament, have us to have done in response to 9/11, to have shugged our shoulders & whimpered, "They, the Islamic terrorists, need understanding because they live such deprived lives?"

Never mind, quoting President Perez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, "The Muslim umma (community)is one-fourth of hummanity, but we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy and indeed most deprived and weakest (quarter) of the human race" that the reasons Muslims are so backward are their civilization is based upon a fraud, the weird dreams of its founder, and as a consequence is a pathethic failure.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Oh how easily our armchair warriors chose to forget we are at war with militant Islam and wars are expensive propositions.

The primary reason we enjoyed for a while a budget surplus was because the Democrats gutted both our armed forces and our intelligence gathering capabilities. The near destruction of our armed forces & our intelligence capabilities began during the failed presidency of JImmy, "I'm still eagerly, even aggressively, seeking a Nobel Peace Prize" Carter with his appointee's, Stanisfield Turner's, decision as head of the CiA to cut back drastically on our human intelligence capability in lieu of electronic, aerial & space-borne intelligence gathering. Cuttiung back on our military forces came home to roost with the failed effort to rescue or people held in the embassy in Iran on Carter's watch.

It didn't help our cause that Chicken, "Blue dress," Willie chose to launch missilies at empty tents in Afghanistan & at a pill factory in the Sudan in response to attacks upon our military & naval forces by militant Islamists. But Willie did a great job of gutting our conentional armed forces & military intelligence. He accomplished the latter by elimanating two of the Army's then three battalions of military intelligence. Evidently, facing up to the then growing Islamist threat was inconvenient.

Doubtlessly, he prefered spending much of the the mopney saved on intelligence operations on welare queens pumping out hooked on crack babies & on illegal aliens.

Today's Liberals refuse to accept the reality that the cause of thir loss of 7 out of ten of the most recent general elections wasa in large part because a majority of the American people have rejected their wet-hanky agenda as a failure. Clearly, the way things are going, they are going to lose again in '08. After all, both Dan Rather & Bill Moyers have decided to quit the Democrat's principal peopaganda arm, old (& dying) media.

Bill Heuisler - 12/21/2004

Mr. Palaima,
Thank you for your kind, courteous response.
Perhaps it would be better to transfer my response to your latest article that continues the thoughts of the first article (above).

Please go to this weeks article.
Bill Heuisler

Thomas G. Palaima - 12/20/2004

Dear Mr. Heuisler,

I listen to all soldiers and veterans I know and I read as much as I can from those I don't know and I attend as many conferences and visit places like VA hospitals and talk to army surgeons, war correspondents, oral war historians, the under secretary of defense and so on. And I have had many of these people in to tell their stories to my students.

I agree with you that there are brave men and women who want to serve and want to be where the action is. One of my best friends, now a colonel, wrote me today that he is finally having his wish granted to go serve in Iraq. My reply, knowing his deep patriotism and committed service and his clear sense of justice and his intelligence, was that I was honored and proud to be his friend and that my prayers and good thoughts will be with him, his wife and his three children while he is in Iraq.

But he and I have debated just the issue you are debating with me now. The main crux is in how we are manning our armed forces. Yes, it is legal to invoke the clause to call back these veterans. Likewise, to point to my follow-up piece now posted on hnn.us, it is legal to package exciting war games to 12-15 year olds, to plant Jr. ROTC''s in poor and minority high schools, to allow 17-yr-olds to sign on 'preemptively, and to sell them on adventure, job preparation and college scholarships.

But a retired award-winning Marine recruiter told me that the first thing he told his potential enlistees was to take all promises about preparation for civilian careers and thrown them in the garbage. He then would show them ten-minutes of graphic footage of battlefield surgery. And he finds the marketing to high school freshmen by sleek 18-wheeler vans and constant recruiting displays and visits in the schools morally problematic.

Now, I listen to Fussell because there are many men like Fussell. I read Studs Terkel because there are many soldiers and civilian who put apostrophes around the Good War to this very day. I read Rolando Hinojosa, because I have met other Latino Korean War vets who thought their being there stunk to high heaven from Day One. And I read Wallace Terry, and had him in my classroom while he was still alive, because I know there are 'bloods' who felt prejudice in SE Asia, first of all from the very act of being there.

And I Iisten to men and women in Iraq who say things quite contrary to your view that those over there are even 80% committed. I know their disaffection with the war and their profound anger at the likes of Rumsfeld and Bush.


Tom Palaima

N. Friedman - 12/19/2004


No. I have noted the evidence I have in mind. The issue is how to interpret that information. You, in my view, have a different interpretation than I do. I think that the reason they do not hit us again is that we would obliterate their "world" and they know it. So, they are trying a different strategy.

Jonathan Pine - 12/19/2004

U.S Air Force 1968-69, 1974-5, 2 tours Vietnam Campaign Military ID - AF108195
U.S. Military Assistance Command, Combat Control Team,(MACTHAI)

Merry Christmas

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2004

There are, thankfully, no attorneys in my family! None of my children were allowed to consider the possibility of becoming lawyers, probably because of the low esteem in which the profession has been held by the parents.
We are mightily pleased that they have turned out to be such wise children. One daughter, a poet, teaches English at a university, has married an Irishman which comprises the only skeleton in my closet.
In the presence of lawyers I make the sign of the cross--just in case.

N. Friedman - 12/18/2004


The evidence is that we have not been attacked again and they al Qa'eda has changed its rhetoric.

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2004

By the way, Mr. Pine.
Apologies to Pope.
But you probably don't understand.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2004

Mr. Pine,
For a genuine patriot who's made a fortune and is a veteran to boot, you don't know much do you? You seem uncommon proud of very little. An apology to a poet like Macleish signals a deliberate misquote. But perhaps you're new to the language. Innocence? Calculation?

Or are you a quintessence even from nothingness - dull opinion and lean pedigree begot of absence, darkness and things which are not? A callow campus lumpkin? Fess up.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2004

The Charles Heuisler in my family (1st cousin) was the President of the NJ Bar Association - a lawyer - the black sheep of the family. We're all so ashamed. He lives in Cherry Hill with a large brood breeding grandchildren, one of them sure to be Charles...and probably a lawyer.
There's a Heuisler Honor Society in Baltimore for Law Students so my branch has fallen on disrepute. Hope yours has a better history and higher aspirations than the Bar.

Jonathan Pine - 12/18/2004

Everyone has a right to their own opinions but not a right to their own facts. You live in a proud little world, Mr Heusler, and you don't like it when someone tampers with it so it's easy to push your buttons. Your posts on this site have been nothing but opinionated blusterings from a very small man posing as someone who thinks he's someone else and who misquotes Macleish.

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2004

Mr. Pine,
After plumbing your depths, such as they are, hearing the frightened whimpers, and there, there in the starless dark(with apologies to Archibald Macleish) the doubt, the hatred, the vast wind across a cancelled mind;
there in the sullen blackness, the black pall
Of nothing, nothing - nothing at all.
Bill Heuisler

Thomas G. Palaima - 12/17/2004

I agree with your points, including the last.

N. Friedman - 12/17/2004


I agree with you about Israel. I do think, however, that they must arrange things so that they do not need to rule people who do not desire Israel's rule. And that will, one way or the other, require Israel to cede at least some land - which can be accomplished according to UN 242 as I previously said -. The issue is to avoid the cancer of a second Palestinian state while allowing the Palestinian Arabs to have a good life with a say in their own rule.

I do not see the benefit for the US of changing regimes in Iraq. I do see the benefit for the Iraqis but, evidently - as was said by many experts before the war -, they have issues that make it almost impossible for them to realize the potential benefits. Were the Iraqis to be willing to fight for their own freedom, I would support them - just as I propose that we support the Maronites. But, understand my view: we need to work with people who want us and not imagine that people who are against us will, by our imaginary assumptions, be with us. I also do not want us engaged in any more combat than absolutely necessary because killing people is a very, very bad thing.

I do not see the benefit to an attack in Iraq for purposes of dealing with the Bekaa Valley. I think the Maronites, the Israelis and us are more than enough to shut Hezbollah down rather quickly and, I might add, without having to have large numbers of Americans dying. As I have said, the Maronites and other Christian forces in Lebanon want their freedom and, if we and the Israelis support them, the Christian forces will help us solve the problem. Syria, no doubt, wants to absorbe Lebanon into a Greater Syria but does not want to pick a fight with the US over the matter. And Iraq would not have lifted a finger over Lebanon since, in fact, Iraq was surrounded.

Lastly, the threat of taking the oil away will, I suspect, change the tune of many Arab regimes.

Bill Heuisler - 12/17/2004

Mr. Friedman,
We agree, but you must also see how literally central the bases in Iraq will be to any operations in the Bekaa and to isolate Syria. Having the US on two sides of Iran is also useful in a geopolitical and military (think air and special ops) sense. And Iraq is close enough to Israel for a mutual missile defense (for the Nafud in S.A. and the Southern half of Iraq including Baghdad).

I'll call you and raise on the West Bank and Gaza. There should be a quid pro quo with Jordan and Egypt: relieve the "refugee" situation by absorbing at least half the so-called Palestinians of Egyptian and Jordanian heritage into their home countries in exchange for land guarantees and continuation of economic/monetary US aid. Israel has won three wars of agression against her and cannot be expected to permanently cede more land to the aggressors.

The Bush Administration will move against Hezbollah once the correct assets are in place - assets that could not be risked prior to the election because of unreliability in a potential Kerry regime. Note: Marine Combat Teams have recently taken casualties where the Euphrates crosses the Syrian border. They're not there for drill.
Bill Heuisler

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/17/2004

Bill, as I understand my paternal lineage, the Heislers immigrated from Dusseldorf in the late 19th century and settled in Southern Illinois where they were railroaders.
As unsual as the name is, I suspect there are ties somewhere--your spelling is much more Germanic and I suspect that our family name was, at some point, changed.
I notice there are some philosphic similarities--maybe it is genetic! I am a vet and an ex-cop as well!! Hell of a deal.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/17/2004

I believe that Halliburton is a government created corporation since nation rebuilding is really not something the average corporation engages in--Halliburton's most recent history includes a string of government contracts, under several administrations, and includes, I believe some foreign contracts as well. As I indicated earlier, there is no corporation in the United States and perhaps the world that has the resources and talent to do what Halliburton does--which explains the no-bid contracts.
As for Cheney earning a huge salary--yes, ex-politicians and defense secretaries, make huge salaries working for private industry who do buy their influence and inside knowledge and contacts--that is the way it is done in America. I assume that Halliburton and its stockholders got their investment back with the leadership of Cheney.
These arrangements aren't questionable in the least--they are the rule. Perhaps you would prefer an incompetant, incapable corporation wasting your tax dollar Peter? How's about a incompetant, incapable French corporation--that suit you better, pacify your sense of outrage??

N. Friedman - 12/17/2004


"Concise and plausible, could this reasoning change your opinion on the strategic plusses of the Iraq war? If not, could you explain how otherwise these goals would've been achieved?"

I actually consider the point well taken. However, that is not the end of the story. Which is to say, I have always accepted the view that the attack on Iraq has made al Qa'eda think twice - in fact, a thousand times - before again attacking us directly. Presumably, they have to ask whether a further attack will lead to a devasting counterattack by the US. Which is to say, we have demonstrated that we can and will up the ante.

With respect to the spread of democracy, I think it makes a lot of sense in principle but not, at least in the short term, in practice. That is to say, I do not think the Muslim world can, at this point, be converted so that while we must support democracy there if there are signs favoring it, we should not bet the house on it as a strategy.

The question is to find at least the same deterence created by the twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to end the Jihad before it goes nuclear (i.e. we must end the Jihad as quickly as possible).

First, general principles:

A. We need to actually attacks Jihadist movements which are out in the open. I have, in particular, Hezbollah in mind. It operates free and clear in Lebanon. It openly supports terrorists against the US. It is, further, an arm of Iranian and Syrian diplomacy and a major intellectual force behind the Jihad.

B. We need to make clear the price of attacking the US or US interests. That means making more use of our deterrent capability and our military forces in doable actions.

C. We must engage natural allies we have in the Arab world, help their causes and use them to divide and conquer.

Second, actual actions:

A. First order of business would be to rid the world of Hezbollah. That can be accomplished with the help of the Christian forces in Lebanon. Such people are ready to help us at the drop of a hat. We have something to offer them, namely, freedom from the Muslim Lebanese, the Syrians and the PLO. Moreover, we have a staging ground and a willing ally, namely, Israel from which to supply the Lebanese, the Israelis and ourselves. I would, as part of the project, work on Syria. Syria would be forced out of Lebanon where Syria is a bad influence. I do not think that Syria would stay in the picture very long as it has little to gain. I would also set up an independent country for the Maronites and other Christians in Lebanon and arm them so that they can survive.

B. I would let Israel take its gloves off and wipe out the PA, al Aqsa Martyrs, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and, at the same time, settle the dispute, using - whether or not the parties, including Israel, likes the approach - the model set in UN 242 as it was originally understood, meaning, I would bring Israel, Jordan and Egypt to the table with Jordan acquiring the Arab majority portions of the West Bank and Egypt Gaza. The refugess would be settled wherever they now are and compensated. Israel would be left with a defendable border and not forced back to the 1948 armistice lines and not forced to remove most of the settlers.

C. Regarding Saudi Arabia, Iran and the other oil countries. Their achilles heal is their reliance on oil. Which is to say, I would make clear, in no uncertain terms, that we shall seize their oil fields - and share the proceeds and control of them with the Europeans (who can be counted to follow their economic noses) - unless the oil countries play ball with us. That is to say, we expect them take out all of the known Jihadis among them, to shut down, without delay, the religious Jihadi factories (i.e. religious preachers of hate), to stop funding maddrassa that preach hate, etc. and to start singing the praises of the US and the West and teaching that praise in school. A short time frame would be set and, upon any signs of non-compliance, we would have to make good our threat. I would also tell them that if we are hit with nuclear weapons, our response will potentially be directed at all of them, meaning, I would tell them that we would reply with massive nuclear strikes.

D. Regarding Pakistan, I would tell Pakistan that we shall arm India massively and support the various mistreated minorities in Pakistan (e.g. the Shi'a and the Christians) unless they shut down the Jihad industry, close the maddrassas that teach hate, start teaching tolerance in school, etc., etc.

I think the above can be accomplished with far fewer casualties than our current approach. Moreover, you can count on the oil countries to follow their economic noses. Further, it gives the Europeans reason to side with us since, if we have to act against the oil, they will have a share.

Jonathan Pine - 12/17/2004

Be very careful Mr.Heuisler, if the information you have given me is true, then too much has been given away and you are now in a position with too many points to defend. Establish credibility with yourself first. Not your bragging rights. Your blindness is greater than I thought.

N. Friedman - 12/17/2004


You apparently did not read his bio very carefully. The good professor has written widely and is a recognized expert on the subject.

His view of the Islamic world is very widely, but not unanimously, shared (although most Maronite Christians and Copts and Jewish refugees from Arab countries agree with him). His view of non-Muslim minorities fighting for their freedom in the face of Jihadist ideology of many Muslims is also very widely shared by people who have studied what has occured to such minorities. One is always free to disagree with his conclusions. However, he is a serious authority to be reckoned with.

Your problem, Peter, is that you have no answer when someone confronts you with people who view the evidence differently than you do. Instead of responding, you employ ad hominem type attacks. You say you do not follow people who appear on TV. Frankly, that is not an answer to his point.

I note: I do not discount people who have appeared on TV. I do note, however, that his contribution to things far, far exceeds his appearances on TV.

Bill Heuisler - 12/17/2004

Mr. Friedman,
We apparently disagree only on Iraq's strategic value in the War on Terror. In that vein, this from a Mr. Henke on a blog called Instapundit:
"One year ago, Al Qaeda believed they should work against the United States, rather than working to destabilize the Arab regimes. One year ago, Al Qaeda was focusing outward, rather than inward. One year ago, Al Qaeda believed in coexistence with the House of Saud. One year ago, Al Qaeda believed the Caliphate could best be established by detente with the House of Saud, and War against the United States. Today, Al Qaeda seeks detente with the US, and war against the House of Saud."

Concise and plausible, could this reasoning change your opinion on the strategic plusses of the Iraq war? If not, could you explain how otherwise these goals would've been achieved?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/17/2004

Mr. Heisler,
Our names cannot be coincidence. The Heuislers came from the Baden-Baden area of Germany in the 1800s and settled near Baltimore. There are evidently Hesslers still in Bavaria and one old woman named Heuisler; I've also heard of other spellings. My research is inadequate, but our branch moved to Philly around 1900. If we're related, you have cousins all over the US - and a few in Tucson, AZ.

We share a world-view, could we have a common ancestor?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/17/2004

Mr. Pine,
So, you're a genuine patriot who's made a fortune and is a veteran to boot. Congratulations. My law enforcement experience warns me, however, that in order to accept your rather bizarre world-view I must establish your credibility. You slather opinion all over your posts, but seem a little shallow on facts...and experience. First, Disarming explosive devices is not a great money-maker.

The fact you think it is makes me wonder about all your other claims. My US Marine Corps service number is 1695349, among other duty stations, I served in the FMF and with B122 at Lejeune and elsewhere for a few years. I'm an ex-cop. My Tucson home is adequate, my acreage sufficient to my five greyhounds, my wife is beautiful and accomplished in her profession and I just lost an election in Democratic Pima County - 114,000 votes to 135,000 votes - to a Democrat. My reason for going back to work has more to do with paying off campaign debts and contributing to my country than with amassing a fortune.

The fact you don't understand much of anything and have such a jaundiced view of the greatest country in the world makes me wonder where you've been and what branch of the US military you served. Care to fess up?
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/17/2004


I found the following online about Professor Phares"

Dr Walid Phares is a Professor of Middle East Studies, Ethnic and Religious Conflict, and an expert on Political Islam, Jihad and the Clash of Civilizations

Born and raised in Lebanon, Walid Phares was educated at the Jesuit and Lebanese Universities of Beirut where he obtained degrees in Law and Political Science as well as certificates in Sociology. He obtained a Masters in International Law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the University of Miami.

He practiced as a Lawyer in Beirut, served as an analyst editorialist and was the publisher of several weeklies and monthlies in Arabic, French and English (1982-1987). Worked with the Kasleek University Research Committee and under erudites such as Fuad Afram Bustany on Arab Islamic Civilization, Religious and Ethnic Conflict, Minorities and Clash of Civilizations.

Published his celebrated book on the Clash of Identities and Civilizations in Lebanon in 1979, followed by a number of books and articles in the Arab and international press since 1980. Engaged in public discussions with Islamic Fundamentalist and Arab Nationalist intellectuals in the 1980s out of Beirut. Visited number of countries in the Middle East and lectured worldwide (Europe, Brazil, Uruguay, Cyprus, Canada).

Relocated to the United States in 1990, where he taught at Florida International University, the University of Miami then was hired by Florida Atlantic University. Teaches Middle East Politics, History, Ethnic and Religious Conflict, Clash of Civilizations, Islamic Fundamentalism, Human Rights, Nationalism.

Phares lectured on US campuses nationwide and internationally including in London, Stockholm, Mexico, Jerusalem and Rome. He published several books and articles including in the Middle East Quarterly, Global Affairs, Journal of Midle East and South Asian Studies and other especialized journals. He was interviewed by national networks including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, as well as local ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC and others. He appeared on European, South Asian and Latin American outlets.

Phares expertise covers Islamic Fundamentalism, the Jihadic Movements and strategies worldwide, Arab-Israeli Conflict, Human Rights under Islamic Regimes, ethnic minorities, women, and democratic processes within the Muslim world, Terrorism, as well as the Clash of Civilization.

He has served as an analyst of the ongoing conflict since September 11 with regards to Bin Laden ideology, strategy, al-Qaida, Taliban, regional and local Jihadic groups, as well as Militant Islamists within the West. Phares analyses the surge and development of those movements in the Muslim world as well as within the West and South Asia.

He testified to the US Senate, conducted Congressional briefings and lectured to State officials on Terrorism, Religious Conflict and Ethnic Coexsitence.

Phares serves as an academic advisors to several Western-based Human Rights and minority groups within the Muslim world.

Phares conducts an ongoing monitoring of the Jihad movement worldwide and an updated analysis of al-Jazeera TV.

Jonathan Pine - 12/17/2004

Mr. Heuisler
Somewhere you lost way. My patriotism is genuine as is the fortune I have made, not phoney and money-oriented like yours. And naturally you see Iraq as an opportunity to make a profit. A typical low-ceiling orientation.

N. Friedman - 12/17/2004


He teaches at some university in Florida. In any event, he does substantial work for the government on terrorism issues - because, note, he is among the world's leading experts on the subject -, has written broadly on terrorism and on the Arab world - another thing is rather expert on -, is quoted regularly by people on all sides of the debate and has appeared often on TV. In this case, it is you who need to catch up with those with some knowledge.

I know people who have taken courses with him and say he is rather brilliant.

In that you think he has problems with his history, why don't you point them out. I happen to think most of what he cites is rather accurate and is widely accepted among experts in the field. Which is to say, I think you are mistaken.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/16/2004

Now all you have to do to prove your conspiracy is to find how Cheney and Bush have profited, been paid off, bribed by Halliburton. Good luck Peter, all the media and the entire Democratic Party has a head start on you in this search!

N. Friedman - 12/16/2004


Read these two articles by one of the World's foremost expert on the Islamists, Walid Phares.

First: "VOTING AGAINT JIHAD (I)," http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_446.shtml

Second: "VOTING AGAINST JIHAD (II): STAYING THE COURSE OF HISTORY," http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_451.shtml

As you can see, it is possible to disagree with your point of view and actually know something about Islam. Now, I am not a Bushie and I do not like the Iraq war. On the other hand, I cannot say that Phares' reasoning is, as you seem to think, so very obviously wrong. Which is to say, I have very mixed emotions about things. I do not like the Iraq War but I recognize the fight against Islamism for what it really is, namely, a fight for freedom. I do not think you understand what this fight is about.

N. Friedman - 12/16/2004


Read these two articles by one of the World's foremost expert on the Islamists, Walid Phares.

First: "VOTING AGAINT JIHAD (I)," http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_446.shtml

Second: "VOTING AGAINST JIHAD (II): STAYING THE COURSE OF HISTORY," http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_451.shtml

As you can see, it is possible to disagree with your point of view and actually know something about Islam. Now, I am not a Bushie and I do not like the Iraq war. On the other hand, I cannot say that Phares' reasoning is, as you seem to think, so very obviously wrong. Which is to say, I have very mixed emotions about things. I do not like the Iraq War but I recognize the fight against Islamism for what it really is, namely, a fight for freedom. I do not think you understand what this fight is about.

Thomas G. Palaima - 12/16/2004

Thank you all for your open give-and-take on this issue. It sure beats reading all-liberal or all-conservative reinforce-your-own-prejudices Web sites.

IMHO I think we shall see ten years from now that this pre-emptive war whose operations were declared over so long ago will have the same outcome as most American foreign interventions from 1947-2001. The world will have been, at best, made a little better for capitalism, the real aim of US foreign policy for the last 55+ years.

See Michael J. Sullivan, III, American Adventurism Abroad: 30 Invasions, Interventions and regime Changes Since World War II (Greenwood 2004).

But it will also be seen to have set a terrible precedent in American and international state relations and I cannot even predict where all this is leading in our increasingly Orwellian domestic affairs.

Anyone who wishes to be sent images of what happens when even an uparmored humvee hits an IED or what an enhanced VBIED can do, please contact me at tpalaima@mail.utexas.edu.

These images alone will make Rumsfeld's comments seem all the more sickening.

The standard all good leaders should follow is: "Is this issue and are the conditions sufficient for me to commit my own children to warfare." It is the standard met by Priam in the Iliad. But it is certainly not being met now.

Tom Palaima

N. Friedman - 12/16/2004


You state your argument very well. And I'm with you up to a point.

As much as I hate war, I know in my heart and head - not to mention years of studying the Muslim dominated regions - that the fight against Islamism is a war and, more than that, a genuine fight for freedom.

I am not, that being said, convinced that Iraq is the right place but, no doubt, war - not talk - is central to defeating Islamism and convincing the Islamic dominated regions to chose a different path.

Bill Heuisler - 12/16/2004

Mr. Pine,
I have. I'm on a waiting list - a private defense company dealing with demolitions - for a month or two. My special talents aren't predicated on age and I'm in exceptionally good condition. A list? A very long one. Many intelligent little men like me view this war against Islamofascism as a fight for survival. Can't wait. But I'll write HNN.

Your wishful schadenfreude about the military is as phoney as your so-called statistics about the poor and the lower income in service. Your dialectic needs an update. Most volunteers are from the middle class and have some college. Many are college grads. They join out of patriotism and love this country. They/we hate the 9/11 terrorists and laugh at the empty skeptics who can't see past a narrow bias against the US and recognize the real danger. Recruiting? The Marine Corps has surpassed recruiting goals by greater margins each year since 9/11.

Another thing: You write, "The war continues to go badly. Equipment is in bad shape." Wishful ignorance at best.
Reality is, Mr. Pine, the war went very well - fastest, most territory and least casualties in history. We are now in the business of killing terrorists and giving the Iraqis a chance at self-government. And we are succeeding.
You, who crow at every casualty, applaud every setback and constantly predict disaster in the face of victory, need to examine your conscience. You need to ask what are your motives? Do you hate President Bush more than OBL and Saddam and Abbas and Nidal? Or do you simply want the US defeated again like in 1973?

Ask yourself what action you would have taken that would defeat the terrorists in their part of the world. If you answer the way I think you will, then maybe you're living in the wrong country. Can you sing "Oh Canada"?

Think I'm unfair? People like you and the reporter who planted the Rumsfeld question are deliberately hurting our military and trying to destroy morale, aren't you?
FYI, It won't work this time. You just look foolish.
Bill Heuisler

Jonathan Pine - 12/16/2004

We are all "little men," like it or not, all caught in the net of the tyranny of the government-industrial-corporation-complex. The issues were the same in the 20’s, the 70’s, and still are relevant. Being a veteran myself, your brand of patriotism doesn’t appeal to me or millions of others. And we are all victims to some extent. Especially the poor, the lower income who usually are recruited first when the economy is doing poorly. Those lovely recruiters/contracters know how to paint a pretty picture.

Griping among the troops is as old as armed conflict. But something more than that is happening in Iraq. Evidence includes numbers of deserters (reportedly in the thousands), resignations of reserve officers, lawsuits by those whose duty period has been involuntarily extended, and a refusal to go on dangerous missions without proper equipment, and many would not, against a country who never attacked us. There's also been a willingness at grunt level to publicly challenge the Pentagon — as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld found out recently in a trip to the war zone, where he got an earful about unarmored humvees.

Some, who are blinded by "patriotism", don't see much defiance. Yes there is a surprising amount of solidarity considering we are "going to war with what we have and not what we would like to have" or some such idiotic words mumbled by a surprised Rumsfeld that morning when taken off guard by a "little man". But others, who do see things from an historical perspective, from what you call Mt. Olympus, see an unusual amount of tension surfacing for an all-volunteer military force.

Driving the resistance is the same thing that drove it during Vietnam — a lack of trust in the civilian leadership and a sense that the uniformed leaders are not standing up for the forces. The lack of trust and the inequity of the tours will very likely be reflected in the numbers of Guard and reservists who vote no-confidence with their feet.

That already appears to be happening. The Army National Guard is short 5,000 new citizen-soldiers.
Gen. James Helmly told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year they continue to experience difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified individuals in certain critical wartime specialties. The number of officers wanting to resign from the Army Reserve has jumped as well. And according to a recent report on CBS's "60 Minutes," the Defense Department acknowledges that more than 5,500 service personnel have deserted since the Iraq war began.

While the complaints and the resistance to following some military policies may pattern earlier conflicts, the fighting in Iraq has a unique context.

It's the first large-scale 21st-century conflict against an aggressive insurgency, causing thousands of US casualties; the first war in more than a generation in which homeland security and the threat of domestic terror attack seem so real; the first "semi-draft," with the Guard/reserve component approaching 50 percent of combat and combat support troops (and already taking more casualties than they did in Vietnam); and it's the first time in many years that soldiers have been ordered to serve beyond their commitments.

All this is happening in an age when CNN brings live war coverage to the trenches and barracks, when troops are more aware of the successes and debacles on the battlefield than ever before. At the same time, reporters embedded with combat units, as well as e-mail and Internet access, make it easier for families and others back home to be heard by the soldiers and for the soldiers to complain to them. This is especially true, perhaps, of citizen-soldiers, who are not only older than the average GI but more used to speaking out.

Since the fighting began in Iraq, the number of Guard and reserve troops on active duty has more than doubled. An indication that US forces are stretched too thin. One such critic is Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, a supporter of the war who declared this week that he had "no confidence" in Secretary Rumsfeld.

More GIs are speaking out and finding leverage points to protect their interests — including personal safety. These are not malcontents. The war continues to go badly. Equipment is in bad shape. Supply problems continue. Tours are extended. Many are on a second or third deployment to a combat zone.

Why don’t you volunteer for Iraq Mr. Heuisler? There are volunteers over 70 years of age in Iraq at this moment.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/16/2004

Have no doubt that Enron bilked the taxpayers big time--you might want to check out all the millions that the Clinton Administration loaned Enron. I think you will find that these unrepayed loans exceed the kickbacks (unproven), graft (unproven), and cost overruns (not unusual in government contractors) that you ascribe to Halliburton. Much more than "employees and shareholders" were damaged by Enron--the electrical ratepayers in California and the California retirement system being two of the largest. I know you want to make Halliburton the heavy because of the Cheney tie but, matter of fact, they are a well run and competant corporation that is unique--as I said, no one does what they do and the job is necessary.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/16/2004

"Cheney's crooked Halliburton" simply happens to be the only corporation in the world capable of doing the kind of global multi-tasking necessary in this day and age. Halliburton has been in and at the game long before their association with Cheney and Bush II. As I recall, the Clinton administration had plenty of work for this bunch.
You may have noticed that there was no other corporation complaining when Halliburton got the job in Iraq, and for good reason, no other corporation does what they do. Many complainers tend to forget that when they trot out their limp conspiracy theories--not that you are conspiratorial or limp!

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/15/2004

Ben I simply disagree with you on this matter. I do not believe most corporations are rapacious beasts, most are regulated, perhaps even over regulated, by government.
There is a very good natural selection that goes on in business where the best corporations survive and the weak fail. That government should help corporations when necessary is beyond discussion--I well remember the outrage when Chrysler was assisted and now, years later, the result of this government help has resulted in a vibrant company that employees thousands and feeds both the tax coffers and the retirement incomes of many.
That we help agriculture is also very important--America feeds the world while producing inexpensive food for our own citizens. Surely you realize who would suffer the first and most severly if we lost this source of always available and inexpensive food.
Nothing, Ben, in this democracy operates in a vacuum, ripples here become ripples there, it is all so interdependent. I sometimes get the impression that many believe you can hurt the corporations and the rich without a much more difficult pain being inflicted on the citizens that need the most help--that simply is foolish.
As for you disgust with the current administration, that is merely an opinion that is not shared by 51% of your fellow citizens--like it or not, Ben, you will be just fine in four years.

Bill Heuisler - 12/15/2004

Mr. Pine,
FYI the word "malcontent" is apt and descriptive; your objections to that description aren't very clear. These litigant soldiers and those in that Quartermaster Company are obviously not content with the life they volunteered to assume. To say the Pentagon "betrayed" the troops is a stretch from saying these troops got more than expected.

I've given up on Mr. Clarke, but you seem to have a very interesting world-view. You wrote that I don't know the, "...difference between victim and unwitting victim or between cause or result, between the grand sweep of history and the little man caught in it." Grand Sweep? Possibly too grand for illiterate ribbon clerks, hog farmers and patriotic veterans like me to understand.

This observation implies that you, on the other hand, understand these differences and (Hallelujah!) have an opinion about the "little men" who volunteer to serve. Your view from Mount Olympus apparently allows no place for any other view and assigns either ignorance or victim-status to volunteer patriots serving their country.

You know best? That's chutzpah. Or purblind ignorance. Now that's name-calling.
Bill Heuisler

Ben H. Severance - 12/15/2004

I will answer, for I owe you an apology, not for the general content of what I've said, but for allowing my comments to take on the tone of personal invective. I don't know you, so I have no right to rebuke you. The rancor in my blog is directed mostly at the Brood of Vipers that is currently running this country.

I agree that corporations produce a great deal of wealth that in turn is channeled back into the public sector, sometimes through philanthropy, but mostly through wholly justifiable taxation. Moreover, the government then serves as protector of this public weal. Unregulated capitalism is a rapacious beast. And unregulated corporations operate a labor system not too disimilar to slavery. Too often, the GOP brands Democratic economic policy as socialist, when it is actually longstanding Progressivism--government as watchdog, where agencies such as the SEC have real teeth (though Republicans like to play dentist to that body). I have no problem with Republican views regarding fiscal conservatism. I just with that that party was really conservative with the treasury. In the end, I'd rather several thousand poor folks exploit the welfare state to the tune of a few million bucks, than a few avaricious financiers swindle the nation out of hundreds of millions.

Incidentally, while you insist that I offer proof of my assertions, I notice that you offer none for your own.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2004

Why, I am a true child of America Ben--it is Mammon of course! It builds large churches and provides for all the best clerics available! Now that I have further offended you with my answer, which you characterize as mean spirited (funny how that doesn't apply to your incorrect canards about Republicans) I will ask another question, which you will probably not answer.
Ben, do you know of a time when a corporate society has not made a profit and stayed a corporate society. You have given a couple of examples of government support of business but those are the exceptions, not the rule, and even given that, government assisting business in keeping people employed is preferable to letting those businesses fail and ruining lives. Don't you agree? Enron, by the way, no longer exists because it was allowed to thrive on nothing but smoke and mirrors during a smoke and mirror Democrat government-have you forgotten that. Enron failed when the Republicans came into the White House.

N. Friedman - 12/14/2004


You write: "Mr. Heuisler resorts easily to name-calling but he apparently doesn't have the big picture. ..."

Big picture? Big picture? We are infinitely too close to the events - in time and place - now playing out in the world to even guess at the big picture. Let's try understanding the small picture first - if we can -.

Ben H. Severance - 12/14/2004

Spoken with all the mean-spiritedness that has come to characterize the self-righteous, monied elites of the GOP who have long deluded themselves into thinking the wealth they own is a product of their hard work as opposed to their privileged place in society. Anyway, the government routinely pays Red state commercial farmers to NOT grow grain or pour milk down the drain, all in an effort to save them from their agricultural incompetence. The government has long kept the airline industry afloat, as well as the auto industry going all the way back to its expensive bail-out of Chrysler in the early 1980s (yet everyone lauds Iaccoca as a genius!). And let's not even go into the huge quantities of tax-payer dollars dumped into the weapons contractors' pockets.

Corporate America does generate revenue, but it also hoards it everytime it whines about taxation policies. Why is that Republicans wave the flag of patriotism, yet protest payment of the secular tithe--the tax--not to mention their failure to volunteer to fight in such unjust wars as Iraq? But no, it's the small-time welfare "chisler" who is hurting American solvency. As for fiends like the board of directors at Enron, those boys are "Captains of Industry."

Which is it, Mr. Heisler, God or Mammon?

Jonathan Pine - 12/14/2004

Mr. Heuisler resorts easily to name-calling but he apparently doesn't have the big picture. Such a glimpse is shown on post#48789. Don’t think he knows the difference between victim and unwitting victim or between cause or result, between the grand sweep of history and the little man caught in it.

Members of the Army’s 343rd Quartermaster Company refused orders in Iraq last month because they considered it too dangerous. The national conversation about the war largely has taken place absent those who are fighting it. The military makes it hard for its members to speak independently. In a culture that prizes obedience, loyalty and duty, no one is rewarded for breaking rank. Further, the Bush administration over the past three years has sent the message that dissent is un-American.

From 2002 to 2003, according to military records, conscientious objection (CO) applications tripled for the Army and quadrupled for the Marines, the two branches most involved in combat in Iraq.

The speech rights of soldiers are limited by regulation and tradition. Punishment for breaching that limit can range from ostracism to court martial. There’s rights and then there’s the climate that most don’t make trouble with.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2004

Ben, thanks for the unnecessary religious instructions and since you respond in simplistic terms, let me rely in kind. What are the "extravagent subsidies" you believe the Republicans are giving coporate America? I am curious about this "Corporate pork" that you allude to.
I assume you are aware that government can only be generous to its citizens when revenue exists and that government creates no revenue--only collects. Corporate America creates the revenue which you generous and kind Democrats seek to distribute. Following the reasoning, what is good for coporate America is good for government which is good for those seeking government generosity. Right????

Michael Di Tore - 12/14/2004

Spent time in Landstuhl, Germany. That photograph is the tip of the iceberg.

Michael Di Tore - 12/14/2004

Actually the US Federal Budget, in surplus only a few years ago, dropped dramatically into deficit shortly after Bush and Co was elected (data from the White House OMB Feb 2004). Just who has been spending beyond the ability of future generations to pay for this? and the Republican budget slashes domestic priorities and spends Social Security surplus before the privatization plan is even in place. Dangerous.

Ken Melvin - 12/14/2004


Oscar Chamberlain - 12/14/2004

Peter, your division of the world into fascists who love war and the rest who hate it is a bit cheap. One can agree or disagree with Bill, and I think his dismissal of people who complain as "malcontents" is worth fierce disagreement.

However, the allure of war--for lack of a better phrase--is not confined to fascists. It is possible to have in one's heart both the knowledge that war is hell and the feeling that in that hell one was most alive.

Furthermore, we need people who understand that. Winston Churchill understood Hitler better than many around him in the 1930s not because Winnie was fascist but, in part, because he understood from his own feelings that it was possible to be sane and still feel the allure of war.

Ben H. Severance - 12/14/2004

Mr. Heisler,

Democrats and Liberal-minded Americans have never touted fiscal conservatism as an sacrosanct virtue. Instead, the Democratic party believes that a government should be generous towards its citizens. Republicans, however, would rather the people starve while they channel extravagent subsidies toward corporate America. Therein lies the greater hypocrisy. Republicans condemn so-called tax-and-spend Democrats, yet unhesitatingly hand over the national bounty to businesses that presumably should be able to stand on their own (unlike many of the people). Corporate pork has bilked the treasury of far more than any welfare program. The selfish Religious Right should read its own Bible: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" [Mt. 7: 9-10] Christ was not a capitalist, but he was liberal, a term for unconditional generosity.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2004

Why wasn't the deficit such a moral problem for the Left all those years during which they controlled government and allowed spending to increase well beyond the ability ot future generations to pay? The liberals that cry and moan about the deficit and what it is doing "to our grandchildren" remind me of ex-drinkers in their stuffiness and piety!

Bill Heuisler - 12/13/2004

Mr. Palaima,
Your discomfort with those "stop-loss" arrangements is understandable, but your premise is false, your citations biased and your view of the American fighting man is terribly, insultingly skewed. You obviously view American fighting men and women as victims. That is a desecration.

Our soldiers are volunteers, many enjoy the life and the dangers involved. Most 0311 Marines I've known were anxious for "their war" and reluctantly stayed in the peace-time Corps because they were waiting. After combat, only a few said never again (only to change their minds when called back up) but most of us were charged, pumped, excited and anxious to return. After I was shot nothing seemed right until I was back - and that seems a common experience in Iraq. Call it duty to your comrades or to the cause...or call it insanity, but it is a fact that, in general, many young American volunteers love combat.

Don't listen to Fussell's anger refering to conscripts. Most Guard and Reserve units have older men and women - sometimes with families - but their patriotism, anger and committment burns just as bright while tempered only slightly with the larger regrets. Call a Guardsman or a Reserve a victim and he or she will be insulted.

Don't read Heller, listen to them talk, read their words. Not braggadocio, not sea stories, not even arm-chair Generals, what I mean are the quiet talks - the edgy memories - of that time when they were more alive than ever before, or since. You won't hear it in the faculty lounge or the afternoon cocktail party, but go to a VFW, a Legion or a Marine Corps League hall and listen to the conversation. Read books about fighting men - real combat experiences. To use Terkel and Heller as source-material or examples of military reality is as ludicrous as my using Chomsky as a source or an example of a historian.

Many Airborne, Rangers, Marines and members of Regular Army Units are in combat because they want to be. Many soldiers are serving in other capacities. No one in our modern US military serves in a combat unit against their will or without specifically requesting that designation. They are not victims, Mr. Palaima, they are proud and eager to serve. To quote "60 Minutes" and to set up eight malcontents as representative of a proud tradition is either ignorance or cynical political opportunism.

I suspect the latter.
Bill Heuisler

Ben H. Severance - 12/13/2004

Your first point is technically correct, but the current exploitation of the IRR is nonsensical. Why send someone several years removed from service into a guerrilla war when there are tens of thousands of regular army personnel who have not seen action? I am a veteran of Desert Storm, but I've been out since the early 1990s. I'm tactically rusty and out of shape, and would be more of a hinderance than an asset if I were sent to Iraq. Now, I could competently fulfill some rear echelon duty thereby freeing up a young captain to "see the Elephant."

As for your second point, it is rife with Catch-22 problems. No one becomes a veteran until they see action, but ideally only veterans should fight! According to your logic, the nation would have been deprived the services of Gary Gridly because he was not a veteran until became a veteran! You yourself would have ridiculed Gridly on his arrival in Vietnam because he wasn't a veteran, just as veterans undoubtedly rolled their eyes at your arrival. Your whole second point wallows in circular confusion.

Ben H. Severance - 12/13/2004

"Seasoned" is a poor word choice. "Designated" may be the better word. By that I mean that the 24th Mech has long been designated a rapid deployment force whose intended battleground is the deserts of the Middle East. The 24th trained for years to fight in the desert, just at the 3rd ID that replaced it at Fort Stewart. Both units performed very well in their conventional roles both in 1991 and 2003.

The point I was trying to make is that the Pentagon needs to rotate in different and fresh line units. Granted, the men of the 3rd ID are definitely "seasoned," but we are losing these veterans through attrition and overuse. Why not send in the "designated" 24th? One of the lessons of WWII that I thought the military learned was that it was foolish to keep the same combat units at the front and merely replace casualties with raw recruits. The better plan would have been to rotate new divisions through (alongside veteran divisions), thereby giving the veterans a break and making the entire military combat experienced.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/13/2004

I'm not even sure what it means anymore to say that a unit is seasoned, if there has been a break in combat. Sure, there remains developed unit SOP, and on paper "lessons learned", but with two year assignments (sure you can extend or re-up in place, but that's not the norm) after a few years there ain't nobody in that unit with unit-based combat experience. The downside of such turbulence is that it doesn't lead to unit cohesion, nor a sink of experience, where darn near everyone in the unit has combat experience. The upside is that combat experience is distributed widely in the service, so no unit is without combat veterans, even if the unit itself hasn't seen combat in decades.

Ben H. Severance - 12/13/2004

I agree with you that active duty and reserves are essentially in it for the "duration" but that the Stop-Loss policy is inexplicable. I thought Bush senior's brief activation of the entire reserve system in the Gulf War was a good shakedown exercise, but Bush junior's policy seems to be an egregious abuse of the system, one designed to avoid having to resort to anything akin to conscription. Rumsfeld's insistence on economy of force in Iraq has forced the Personnel department to make painful decisions regarding those who have already faithfully served. My larger question is why the Pentagon has not deployed more of the units withdrawn from Europe or such divisions as the 24th Mech now at Fort Riley. I served with the 24ID in Desert Storm, so I know it is seasoned for operations in Iraq, yet it has never gone over, while the 3rd ID is going back again. Moreover, the 5th ID at Fort Polk, the 9th Motorized at Fort Lewis, and the 25th ID in Hawaii have never seen any action. My understanding of the reserves was that they were mostly to serve as stay-behind replacement garrisons for the regular army divisions, not fight in their stead, except in exigent circumstances.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/13/2004

Some of this I don't understand. When I was in the volunteer army, it was well understood that should hostilities break out, and should the command authority need your efforts, then you were in it "for the duration". There was never any understanding that you left in the middle of combat operations when your enlistment was up. On the other hand, I don't understand the other practice of returning people to active duty who had been discharged, in the absence of a general callup.