Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Recognition

With all the talk about Memorial Day, I just thought I would remember the two members of my unit, the 2/94th Artillery, who were killed during my tour in Vietnam:

* Paul Jon Kosanke from Iowa, and

* Willie Austin, Jr., from Alabama.

They were killed at Firebase Barbara in I Corps, west of Quang Tri on April 29, 1970. You can find their names on the Vietnam Memorial by searching

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Worked

I wrote the following to my Congressman and Senators:

"As a Vietnam veteran, I oppose ending 'Don't ask, don't tell.' I am sorry that Congress is celebrating Memorial Day by imposing a new hardship on our military.

"I realize that the military pioneered racial integration by allowing blacks to serve. But gays are allowed to serve; they just aren't allowed to talk about their sex lives while serving.

"I think the policy change could have an impact on our war-fighting ability while we are fighting two wars -- Afghanistan and Iraq. I'd say we're ready for a new policy when homosexual sex becomes as common in the Denver Broncos locker room as it is in the US Congress or most prisons."

Memorial Day - Who Cares?

There's all this furor over Richard Blumenthal's claims about Vietnam service. As I said, I don't really care. Blumenthal supports veterans and looks favorably on Vietnam service. In that respect he is a welcome change from the majority of Americans who still despise Vietnam service. The thing that gets me is the Swift boat movement that attacked John Kerry for his service on Swift boats in Vietnam. The Swift boaters are the people who really hate America. They attack someone for serving his country and make it a bad thing.

I was not even a Kerry supporter. I was for Howard Dean, and when the Democrats dropped him, I voted for Ralph Nader. But the Swift boat movement made me realize that being a Vietnam veteran is a lost cause. Kerry did all right because he had some money and connections and then married more money and connections twice. But the average veteran ended up disadvantaged vis-a-vis his cohorts who did not serve. The Swift boaters made that clear. I thought that was one of the lowest, most unpatriotic attacks ever.

I heard some pundit say that a lot of the Tea Party impetus comes from the old Swift boat attack groups. If that's so, I can't see ever having anything to do with them. I already have this picture of many of them as retirees on Medicare and Social Security saying, "The government better keep its hands off of my Medicare and Social Security." Where do they think their Medicare and Social Security come from?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vietnam War, What Is It Good For?

As a Vietnam veteran, I'm not too upset by Richard Blumenthal's statements about being one, too. First, I'm more upset that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney were draft dodgers, just like Blumemthal was. Blumenthal's and Bush's career were similar, except that Bush apparently did almost nothing for the Air Force reserve or National Guard unit that he was in, while Blumenthall at least helped with Toys for Tots.

But it does bring back some unpleasant memories. My mother was a Sunday School teacher. As I was preparing to go into the Army and later off to Vietnam, one of my fellow Sunday School classmates asked her to help his application for conscientious objector status. I'm reminded of this by another article in the New York Times quoting former Congressman Chris Shays, with whom I went to college. Shays says that he avoided Vietnam service as a conscientious objector. Also, I remember flying home to Alabama from Ft. Leonard Wood with Charlie Graddick, a former high school classmate who later became Attorney General of Alabama, as Blumenthal did in Connecticut. Graddick was our high school quarterback and played in a local band. He was a much more logical candidate to fight in Vietnam than I, a skinny bookworm, was. On that plane, we had both finished one year of law school, as Blumenthal had, when the draft deferment for grad school got much tougher. So, we all got called up, but of the three I was the only one who actually went. Like Blumenthal, Graddick got into some reserve or National Guard unit. We were both returning after basic training, but his active duty service was over, while mine was just starting.

It's not all bad. I had basically run out of money to stay in law school. After Vietnam, I had enough saved, together with the little I got from the VA and odd jobs, to finish the last two years and get my law degree.

To me the real problem is that most of the elites in the Vietnam generation avoided service, and now many of them, like Blumenthal, have mixed feelings about it. It's certainly arguable that the Vietnam war was immoral and that they were right to avoid fighting it. But it's not clear that it was any more immoral than the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, which today receive a lot of lip-service praise from people who never served. You can argue that there are just wars, like World War II, but even there, what about the firebombing of Dresden or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? War is hell; it's also the ultimate sport that makes cage fighting look like dodge ball, or the ultimate mental challenge -- chess with living pieces that don't always do what the rules say they should do. Because of that, some veterans come back stronger than before, others come back broken for the rest of their lives, and others don't come back at all.

Because American elites refused to fight in Vietnam, a disproportionate amount of the fighting was borne by poor, black soldiers, who didn't have the benefit of educational deferments and political connections to get into reserve units. Today, because American elites still won't fight, and the US has declared war on Muslims, the bulk of the fighting is borne by poor, white rednecks. There is no draft and many blacks have too much sympathy for Muslims to wage some holy war against them for George Bush and the Republican Party, now carried on by Obama and the Democrats. I think Obama is doing the right thing not to cut and run in Afghanistan, although he's a black man whose father was a Muslim. We may not be able to win in Afghanistan, but we can certainly lose, and Obama is trying not to lose.

Unfortunately, the Blumenthal saga illustrates another possible divide in the war fighting people of the US. In general, Jews don't fight for America, although they will fight for Israel. Blumenthal is Jewish. You would think that the US offering homes to so many Holocaust victims would make Jews want to fight for the US, but they don't seem to. I don't remember meeting one Jew in my two years in the Army. I don't see very many stars of David in among the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. My poster boy is Rahm Emanuel, who served in the Israeli army (although not in uniform), rather than in the American army. I've tried off and on to find statistical data on this, but it's hard to find because of privacy protections. I think there were a relatively high percentage of Jews who fought in World War II, because the draft was so pervasive. But I'm guessing you wouldn't find nearly as high a percentage in Korea, just a few years later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

English Anti-Semitism

This book review equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, which has the effect of making Israel above reproach. In the process, the book he reviews reviles some of the greatest writers in English -- Shakespeare, Dickens, and T.S. Eliot. If you are not Jewish, it's a stretch. What Jews need to do is clean up their act -- quit persecuting Palestinians, deal honestly in commercial matters, etc. It doesn't help that so many of the people involved in the latest financial meltdown were Jews. By no means all of them were. In Europe there was criticism of the Anglo-Saxon way of doing business, but in America there were a disproportionate percentage of prominent Jews, from Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke to Lloyd Blankfein and John Paulson, among many others.

So the idea is that Jews can do anything, and if you criticize them, you are anti-Semitic. And if things get testy, there's always the cry of "Holocaust!" I don't buy it. Israel and the Jews need to get their house in order.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Israel and Non-Proliferation

I am worried that the Western world, including the US in particular, is too unconcerned about Israel's nuclear status. The Arabs and Muslims, particularly Egypt and Iran, will make a run at Israel during the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN, but are unlikely to achieve much. The US will be instrumental in running interference for Israel, which will not be there because it is not a member of the NPT. There is a lot of racial, religious and national acrimony between the Muslims and the Jews, but there are some genuine issues that get overlooked because people concentrate so much on the religious aspect.

Israel is the panic room for Jews all over the world. It is the place where they can go if they are threatened again by something like the Holocaust. Thus, Israel's bomb is really a Jew bomb that could be used in defense of Jews anywhere. An unusual question is under what conditions Israel would use it's nuclear weapons in defense of Jews in another country, as well as the more typical question of when it would use nuclear weapons in defense of Israel itself. If someone were to start another Holocaust, would Israel nuke them? What if there were a purge of both Jews and gentiles, like Stalin carried out in the gulags? Would Israel use nukes?

It's not a current question in the US, but what if in the future a state passed a law that discriminated against Jews as much as the Arizona immigration law discriminates against Hispanics? That certainly doesn't merit a nuclear holocaust, but it's moving that direction. Are there circumstances in which Israel would use its nukes against the US?

Thus it is reasonable for the world to ask what nuclear weapons Israel has, what delivery systems it has, and what its nuclear policies are. Currently this dialogue stops before it begins, because Israel won't admit that it has nuclear weapons, and it won't renounce them and join the NPT.

Monday, May 03, 2010

NPT RevCon Starts

The Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference started without me. About 15 years ago, while I was in Poland, Amb. Strulak was lobbying me to get US support for him to serve as Rapporteur. It's hard to believe it was that long ago.

This year, Obama has laid a much stronger position for the US at the RevCon. The NPT calls on nuclear powers like the US and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Usually the US has done nothing and is the object of criticism from the smaller countries who say that the NPT is a one-sided deal, because they promise to give up their nuclear ambitions, while the US does nothing. This year we have done something by signing the Start successor agreement with Russia. In addition Obama had his huge summit conference on controlling nuclear materials. We are trying to balance the scales a little bit.

Clearly Iran will be a target of this meeting. But the US and its allies must be careful not to alienate signatory countries by appearing to apply the NPT in a discriminatory manner. We need to prove that Iran is in non-compliance. The rest of the world will probably not accept a claim that we have to sanction Iran because we don't like them.

Other countries will also perceive that we are Israel's proxy in this dispute, because Iran potentially constitutes a much greater threat to Israel than the US. Meanwhile, Israel is not an NPT signatory, while everybody believes that it has nuclear weapons, and thus is technically more of a pariah state than Iran, which is an NPT signatory and which no one believes has nuclear weapons yet.