Monday, June 30, 2008

Dirty Tricks?

According to Warner Todd Huston, a writer on Newsbusters, Google has frozen or shutdown at least 7 anti-Obama blogs; most of them written by supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton who now support Senator McCain. Most of the blogs belong to a group of bloggers called the Just Say No Deal coalition. Rumor has it (Mr Huston was unable to confirm the rumor; perhaps he needs to go to Senator Obama’s rumor control website) that several Obama supporters accessed the Just Say No Deal coalition website and in a “dirty tricks” move constantly hit the “mark as spam” link so that Google’s system of finding spam blogs would trigger and freeze the targeted blog. If the rumor is true; it sure says a lot about how Obama supporters approach the concept of free speech. It’s something that applies to anyone who agrees with them; but certainly wouldn’t apply to anyone who disagrees. I guess when you can’t win based on your programs, your principles, and your leadership, you need to resort to “dirty tricks” to silence your opposition

Friday, June 27, 2008

McPeak Strikes Again

If Senator Obama had an ounce of good judgment, he'd either sit on, or get rid of, former General McPeak. That Senator Obama hasn't done either shows me just how lacking the Senator is in his ability to judge a person's character and abilities. In the latest demonstration of former General McPeak's total lack of class, McPeak told the Washington Times newspaper that he and Senator McCain had been classmates at the National War College in 1973-74, after Senator McCain had just been released from a prisoner of war camp. McPeak said, describing Senator McCain, "He was fresh out of jail, you know. Skinny kid. All beat up of course, physically. But quite thin. They weren't feeding him well in Hanoi. He's done very well at the dinner table in Washington."

Now, I have a problem with former General McPeak describing Senator McCain's experiences as a prisoner of war, one of the most horrendous experiences anyone who serves this Nation can suffer, as being in "jail." Yes, Senator McCain was confined, but to call it being in "jail" seems to me to mock and belittle the horror Senator McCain endured while a prisoner or war; a horror he endured with honor, I might add. It seems to equate being a prisoner of war and being tortured for serving your country with being incarcerated for breaking the law. I don't know how former General McPeak can justify calling Senator McCain's stay in a prisoner of war camp as being in "jail." I don't see belittling honorable service in the name of politics as serving any greater good.

I also have a problem with former General McPeak's personal attacks, like his allusion to Senator McCain being fat. Maybe it's just me, but I'm really tired of candidates, from either party, who personally attack their opponent (or use others to do so) on something other than issues or character. A campaign should be about valid differences in policy. I don't have a problem with a candidate raising questions about their opponent's character or values, but I could care less if a candidate doesn't look like he or she runs a marathon, or could pose for an underwear ad. Snipes about a candidate's looks are petty. Who cares. One of the greatest Presidents this Nation had, Abraham Lincoln, was also one of the most homely. FDR couldn't walk. Several of our Presidents middles strained the buttons on their waistcoats. So what. Could they think? Did they have good judgment? Could they find the right people for the right jobs? What were their positions on the issues impacting their time? It seems to me that these are the pertinent questions by which to judge a candidate, not how they look.

I've said it before, a good measure of a person is in the company they keep. In keeping former General McPeak as a close advisor, Senator Obama's judgment is suspect; at least in my book.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supporting the Troops

If you're looking for a way to lend support to our deployed Marines, here's a quick, easy (and painless) way to do so. Major Pain (the pseudonym of a currently deployed Marine Major who writes a milblog documenting his experiences) has started a "Letters from Home" campaign. I've copied Major Pain's letter from his blog below. Think about taking a minute or two to draft an email and send it to Major Pain's Marines at Don't you think they deserve the minute or two it would take us to say thanks?

If you want to do something a little more, think about sending a care package through the or websites. They even have "ready made" care packages available, where all you have to do is order them through the website, or you can buy, package, and send your own care package to an address they'll provide you. You can also check out the Soldier's Angel organization at They have some wonderful programs, including adopting a soldier (or sometimes entire units), hero packs (care packages), blankets of hope (a program to hand make quilts and blankets for wounded service members or donate the cost of supplies for those who make them), angel bakers (making homemade treats), and project valour-IT (providing voice-activated laptops for wounded service members). These are all great programs providing wonderful support for our fantastic service men & women. Don't get caught up in the idea that "America's military is at war. The rest of America is at the mall." Please stay involved and show more support than putting a magnetic ribbon on the back of your car.

Enough of my tendency to lecture. Here's Major Pain's letter:

What would you say to a warrior deployed in Iraq? If you could chat with him? You might say "Thanks for protecting us", or "We support you", if you were somewhere in passing. But what if you were sitting down, sharing your feelings over dinner? Then what would you say to him? Think about it, because you now have that opportunity.

We have a large group of Marines currently located in a remote area of Iraq. Mail might arrive once a week if the fates are with them, and water is obtained from a well on site. These are your Marines, living on the edge of the empire, alone and determined to succeed. They don't live in Fallujah, they don't have a PX or a store. They operate with the bare bones and a can do attitude. Adapt and overcome are the pillars of their structure, while rebuilding in an insurgent filled area. Police stations are built and governed by Lt's, and life and death decisions are made by 20 something year olds.

They sleep in WWII era wooden huts and sleeping bags, as the constant blowing dirt finds its way into everything they own. They cherish the basic things most take for granted in the states. Operating flawlessly in the 100+ weather is not the exception, it's the expected. They are a tight group that redefines the phrase, "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy".

While deployed, I've heard about others who have asked you, our awesome supporters, to step up to the plate. You've been asked to help keep morale high and to show your men how much you appreciate them. And you have! Well, I'm asking again. Through our blog (OMV) "Letters From Home", you can send your warriors in Iraq an email to show them how much you care. You may have sent a letter in the past where one or two servicemen got to read it. This time, sending in an email will give OMV the right to publish it in any format, thereby allowing me to publicly post them all. This way many will benefit from your support, instead of just a couple. Please take just a few minutes to let your Marines know how proud you are of their outstanding service, and incredible spirit.
Your service members are making a difference regardless of the small amount of press showing their great achievements. YOU know they are doing great, make a difference yourself and email them your thoughts at !

One Team One Fight-Maj Pain

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Baby Alex"

In my last post, I talked about an “OH!” moment I had when I was a young Captain. I think the folks need to have an “OH!” moment and realize a few things that most of the country has understood for a while now. I think that most everyone has heard of or seen the “Baby Alex” political ad. You know the one where the mother holds the baby and tells Senator McCain she can’t have her baby for his 100-year Iraqi war. The political ad makes it appear as if the President has the authority to order citizens to serve in the military. That’s pure unadulterated B.S. The President can’t do it alone. We don’t have a draft. We have a volunteer military. A national draft would, literally, take an act of Congress; something that isn’t about to happen anytime soon. Frankly, most military folks I know like it that way. The folks also ignore the idea that, with a volunteer military, the young men and women who serve do so because they want to. Some serve despite the opposition of their parents. Now if Baby Alex wanted to serve in the military when he turned 18-years old, he could; even though any McCain Presidency would be long over. His mother’s selfish opposition wouldn’t matter one bit.

Like most of the liberal elite, is invested in the idea that the military is a faceless machine consisting of low-class, low-educated, low-motivated thugs who can’t make it in civilian society (remember Senator Kerry’s claim that if you don’t study you’ll get stuck in Iraq). This political ad shows that, like most liberal elite, take our freedoms and values for granted and hold the organizations that do the most to protect them in contempt. tries their best to play on a mother’s fears for the future of her child. Well I’ve been there. My children serve, and I’ve sent my son to war. It’s hard and it will never be easy for any parent. But it was my children’s choice to serve and my choice to be proud of them. Like most who actually do serve in the military, my children are highly educated, highly motivated and highly intelligent young people. (Okay, minor parental puffery allowed.) I know that they serve, in part, because they believe our Nation and its freedoms, and its citizens are worth protecting; even those liberal elite who believe the protectors are uneducated thugs.

As an aside, I do have to say that I tend to feel sorry for poor Baby Alex. His mother certainly won’t teach him the joy of service to others, the cost of freedom, or the value of patriotism. Her type of selfish disdain for the sacrifice of others teaches only narcissism and elitism. Is this the kind of change that we want for our Country? Is this the kind of new hope for the future we envision? Surely not.

UPDATE: Check out Some Soldier's Mom and her "Dear Alex's Mom." Yeah, what she said, too!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"OH!" Moments

Ever have one of those “OH!” moments? You know, those moments when what was fuzzy suddenly becomes clear. Sometimes, when someone has an “OH!” moment, it shows on their face. They might get a bemused look, or a sheepish look, or a maybe an angry look. Little kids’ faces are best at showing “OH!” moments, maybe because they haven’t learned how to hide from the world yet, or maybe because they tend to have so many of them. Watching a little kid’s face as they figure out the answer to that moment’s question is priceless, though. But I digress.

When I was a young AF Captain, I had one of those pivotal “OH!” moments; the type that shifted my view of the world and my place in it. It came when I was on a TDY trip to Korea for a trial and defense counsel conference. During the conference, we took a trip to Panmunjom, the Joint Security Area that bisects the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea. It was there that I had one of those moments.

To set the stage for my moment, when I went to Korea, I had served a little over 3 years in the Air Force and before that had been the quintessential Air Force brat. My dad had been assigned to mostly Strategic Air Command bases and so for a long time I thought that the SAC motto of “Peace is our Profession” found on every SAC base Main Gate was actually the US motto. I thought that everyone in the US stood up for the National Anthem in movie theaters before watching the feature presentation. It was not a big deal for me to have a dog walk through my date’s car at the Main Gate if I came home after 10pm. It wasn’t until my Dad retired that I realized that there was a different culture “out there” to be explored. I joined the Air Force during the latter part of the Cold War. Like a lot of other people, my husband and I joined the Air Force to gain legal experience. We weren’t unique. It was an all-volunteer military, there was no “shooting war,” and people joined for experience, training, travel, or educational benefits. In the immediate post-Vietnam era, very few recruiters emphasized that the military “broke things and killed people.” Even though I was a military brat, the first time I heard that phrase (during some initial training), I thought “yeah, right. I’m an attorney and this is the Air Force.”

So it was a bit of an eye opener when I noticed what looked like unfinished overpasses with these things that looked like giant concrete jacks (you know the kids game played with jacks & a ball) scattered on the side of the road on the way to Panmunjom. At first, I couldn’t figure out what they were. Construction equipment? Support beams? Then it dawned on me. They were barriers of some sort; perhaps to stop tanks or an invasion. “Wow” I thought. “The Korean government isn’t playing games here.” My eyes grew a bit wider the first time we passed an American Soldier on the road, carrying a weapon and obviously ready to use it. The Soldier yelled out his unit’s motto. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but was later told it was “Tip of the spear, Sir.” (We had General Officers aboard the bus.) It was obvious that our Soldiers weren’t playing games either. I really had my “OH!” moment; however, when arrived at Panmunjom, received the safety and security briefing, and were allowed to tour the area. Despite the humorous offer of a TV for any company grade officers who defected (field grade officers got a VCR and a TV) made over the loudspeakers from the North Korean side; I realized that those North Korean soldiers just over that small line were ready to do violence in a heartbeat. I had heard how a simple tree cutting exercise had gotten out of hand a few years earlier, resulting in deaths. I knew if anyone in the tour group did something stupid (we’re talking lawyers here); things could get out of hand again. It was then that I had my “OH!” moment and realized that although I was an attorney, I was also an Air Force officer and I was truly in a business that “broke things and killed people.”

Was it a bit scary? Yes. Not because I had chosen to serve my country, but because of the responsibility that serving in a business that does violence brings with it. What is awe-inspiring to me is that in today’s post-9/11 world, our young people have already had that “OH!” moment. They already know, when they volunteer, that they are joining an organization that “breaks things and kills people.” They’ve seen a shooting war played out on TV for several years. I know that there are still some who believe that most of our young people join because they lack education or lack opportunities or lack something (brains)? I know better. I’ve served with them. I know that most of our young volunteers join the military out of a sense of responsibility and desire to give something back. As a staff judge advocate, I routinely interviewed young attorneys applying for a position with the Air Force Judge Advocate Corps. When asked why they wanted to serve, almost all would blush or look somewhat sheepish and reply something along the lines of, “well, it may sound corny, but I wanted to serve my country.” I know that different people join the military for different reasons, but I think just about everyone leaves with a sense of responsibility for and pride in this country. Realizing that was another one of my “OH!” moments; but then sometimes I’m slow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Women in the Military--Guest Post

My daughter, Sevilla, is an Air Force Captain and a woman who pilots helicopters. Over the years, she and I have had a number of interesting conversations; some of them about being a woman serving in the military. When I started this blogging-thing, I told her (and all my kids) that I'd welcome them posting on this blog if they had something they wanted to say. Sevilla has taken me up on the offer. Here's her guest post:

“Describe your military experience, please. What does it mean to be a woman in the military?” Blah. Blah. Blah….

I really hate it when people ask me things like that. “What does it mean to be a woman in the military?” What does it mean to be a man in the military? What does it mean to have brown eyes and be in the military? What does it mean to be short and in the military?

These are characteristics, not definitions. When I look back on my military service, I don’t want to think of myself as a “female warrior” or a “lady pilot”. I’m a pilot. I happen to be a woman, but I also happen to have brown eyes and a tattoo. Those aren’t germane to this discussion, why should my gender be?

And, of course, I know the answer.

The answer is that it’s germane because we as a society have made it germane. It’s almost like a type of voyeurism. We want to know about everyone’s dirty little secrets and experiences. It’s like it gives us a thrill to hear that someone has faced discrimination. For many of us, I suspect, it lets us feel vindicated. Holier than thou, perhaps, as if we’d never, ever contemplate judging someone on the basis of their gender, or race, or appearance, or whatever.

I also suspect that for most of us, that’s what we in the business call “Bullshit”. (Feel free to edit, Mom. Just leave in my parenthetical. smile.). If those things truly didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have to ask questions like “so what does it mean to be a woman in the military?”.

See? Catch-22, like so much else. smile. But now that I’ve talked you in circles, let me answer the question I hate.

For me, being in the military means that I have to be competent. More than that, I have to be proficient. Now, acquiring competency/proficiency requires several other virtues. Self-discipline comes to mind, as does tenacity and personal responsibility. Without those, one cannot do what is necessary to become either competent or proficient at one’s job. And when being good at your job means you get to keep breathing…well…you see where I’m going here.

When it comes to being a woman in the military, being proficient is what matters. I’ve had long discussions with colleagues of both genders about how a woman should behave in order to be successful in the military. We’ve come up with lots of strategies, tips, tricks and the aforementioned bullshit, but it all boils down to that. If you are competent, if you are proficient…the rest matters less and less. Whether you choose to be “one of the guys” or a "girlie girl," it’s hard to argue with being good at your job.

As I said at her retirement ceremony, I learned that from my mother. There is no substitute for brute competence.



As I was finishing this up, Mom sends me an email challenging me to answer in verse. Since I usually take what dares I am given, here goes:

Gender Study
By Sevilla

Don’t ask me
How to be a woman

As well ask me what it’s like
To speak
Or walk
Or fly.

It just is.

You do what you do
And if
You want to keep breathing

You learn to do it very,

Women of the Military

GI Kate has posted a video clip showing the introductions from the 10 women interviewed (so far) for the Women of the Military documentary on her blog, My American-Iraq Life. Just from the introductions, it looks like this documentary is going to be good (if I say so myself). Go on over and check it out for yourself! Kate is also interested in getting an email from women who have served and would be willing to sit for an interview. Drop her a line!

UPDATE: Lt Nixon also discusses GI Kate's post on his blog, Lt Nixon Rants. Cool!

Monday, June 16, 2008

You're Known by the Company You Keep

Senator Obama scares me. I know I’ve ranted on this topic before, but I want to expand on it a bit. I’ve explained how I’m not sure if he’s a wimp or a bully; but that neither bodes well for the person who is to lead our country. Senator Obama also scares me because I believe you can tell things about a person’s character from the company he keeps. The kind of people Senator Obama seems to surround himself with tells me I’m right to be afraid, very afraid.

Consider retired AF General Tony McPeak, a former Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Like most other Air Force officers I associated with, I celebrated when General McPeak retired. He was one of the most despised and reviled generals in our service, and not because he was a difficult or demanding boss. Difficult and demanding isn’t a problem, if you’re accomplishing something, or if you have the respect of your subordinates. Unfortunately, all General McPeak seemed to accomplish is change for change’s sake. (Sound familiar?) He changed the Air Force uniforms to look like either Navy uniforms or commercial pilot uniforms. Granted the “boxy” look of the old uniforms needed some updating, but why change the entire traditional look? He changed the traditional one wing-one mission structure of the Air Force to try to institute a composite wing structure; something that still hasn’t worked and only results in confusion of mission parameters. He changed how we wrote Air Force Regulations, changing them to Air Force Instructions, resulting in absurd and unnecessary repetition. (Did anyone really think that numbering a paragraph was really “efficient?”)

General McPeak is now Senator Obama’s military advisor and national campaign co-chairman. Now, I haven’t followed General McPeak since he retired, I was just happy he was gone. But, Greyhawk, a milblogger at Mudville Gazette, has. He’s compiled some McPeak quotes that show that not only does General McPeak like change for simply for change’s sake (something that seems to drive the Obama campaign) but changes his opinions for expediency’s sake. For example, in 2003 (just before the invasion of Iraq) General McPeak said the potential attack on Iraq is “the fight you dream about, a wonderful kind of war to have.” He raved that “everybody’s going to get decorated out of this thing.” (As if that was what the invasion of Iraq was all about . . . this is the military expert advising Senator Obama; someone more concerned with medals than potential weapons of mass destruction.) In March 2003, just after the invasion, he said that we’d be in Iraq, “a century, hopefully. If it works right.” He also said about leadership (and this is really telling) “I never made a plan that relied on the courage of my own troops. You hope that – and they generally will – fight bravely. Your plan ought to be predicated on more realistic assumptions.” Interesting. Senator Obama’s primary military advisor would not count on the courage of our fighting forces and thinks that war is good because everyone could get a medal? In 2004, while he was advising John Kerry, General McPeak called for doubling the size of our forces in Iraq; yet in 2006, when he became advisor to Senator Obama, he said, “judgment is what we need from our next commander in chief. Barack Obama opposed this war in Iraq from the start, showing insight and courage other did not.” So, has he backed away from his position that more troops were necessary in favor of his candidate’s position that the war was unnecessary? Or is he changing his opinion for the sake of change?

Senator Obama has made it clear that he wants to cut or significantly scale back many defense programs, including abolishing funding for “Star Wars” and slashing investment in ballistic missile defense. He’s also promised to support the policies of Caucus 4 Priorities (a pacifist organization) which include cutting the F-22 program, the National Missile Defense program, the Virginia-class submarine, the V-22 Osprey, the DDG-1000 destroyer and the Army’s Future Combat System. The group also wants to eliminate 2 Air Force fighter wings and one aircraft carrier battle group. The funds saved from cutting all these programs would then go toward a variety of special interest groups. Interesting. I wonder how much of this is Senator Obama’s own policies or the policies based on advice of General McPeak, who likes change for the sake of change, or change just to put his own stamp on things.

If you’re known by the friends you keep, Senator Obama’s judgment is extremely suspect. Not only does he count racist-radicals and home-grown terrorists like the Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, and Father Pfleger as mentors; but he is married to a woman who has said she’s never been proud of her country. He seeks advice and guidance from people who have no judgment like General McPeak and Jim Johnson, who had to step aside because he had been the CEO of one of the mortgage companies the Senator had criticized for the mortgage crisis. Another member of Senator Obama’s committee to find a vice-presidential candidate is Eric Holder, who was involved in President Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich. My mom always told me that if you lay down with the dogs, you’ll get up with the fleas. Well, looking at the people Senator Obama’s surrounding himself with, he’s going to be doing a whole lot of scratching.

Happy Birthday!

Happy 5th Birthday to my darling little CurlyLocks! She told me that now she's 5-years-old, she's no longer a little kid. She's officially a big kid! Aren't grandchildren wonderful. . . .

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flags & Fathers

This weekend, we celebrate both Flag Day and Father’s Day. It doesn’t seem like flags and fathers would really have any real connection, but they do. They’re connected because they deserve our celebration; our honoring of what they are and what they represent. Our flag is the very recognizable and internationally known symbol of our country. In honoring our flag, we recognize and honor our love of Nation, of freedom, and of home. Like our Nation, our fathers are our bedrock. They lead us, guide us, and protect us. Both our flag and our fathers deserve our respect.

My dad served in the Air Force for 20 years. He enlisted after high school. As he tells the story, his uncle (who had flown bombers over Europe during WWII) saw him struggling with the whole “what do I want to do with my life” question after he graduated high school and marched him down to the Air Force recruiting office. Thank God for perceptive uncles! Anyway, my dad enlisted in the Air Force, then met and married my mom. After a couple of promotions, the Air Force decided they needed more officers from within the ranks and sent my dad, along with a few others, to Officer Candidate School. Now under this program, you didn’t need a college degree and my dad didn’t have one. But he was smart and a leader, so the Air Force got one right and sent him to get a commission. My dad eventually retired as a Major, after serving 3 tours in Vietnam.

I love my dad, and I know he loves me. Although I can count on one hand the number of times he’s said the words, “I love you, sis” he’s told me how much he loves me in so many different ways. When I was growing up, I remember my dad laughing a lot. He liked to joke around with friends. He started eating peanut butter and jelly on hamburgers on a dare and kept it up for the next 15 years; just because he liked it. My dad’s lucky and has a knack for video poker (just ask the casino manager who had to pay two jackpots from two different machines within 10 minutes of each other). He can beat just about anyone, except maybe my spouse, at cribbage; and in his younger days was one of the best fast-pitch softball pitchers around. He loves golf (as long as he's keeping score), baseball, military history, and his grand- and great-grandkids. My dad’s quite a guy!

When I retired I wanted to honor my father for his service and to show him how his example of service lives on in all my children, whether they've chosen military service or not. The best way to do that was with a ceremony honoring the flag. It was the highlight of my retirement program. I was able to present my dad, my uncle, my husband, and my serving children, with the symbol of this Nation I love so much. I was lucky that, in a small way, I was able to honor both my dad and my flag. Take this weekend to honor our flag on Flag Day and your father on Father’s Day. Both are worth our respect.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"You Can't Handle the Truth!"

Last summer, all we heard from certain circles was that “Bush’s War” in Iraq was lost, that the conflict there had descended into a civil war, and that we needed to bring “our boys” home immediately. A number of politicians, media outlets and others invested their egos in this drumbeat of defeat laid down by entities with a vested interest in seeing a failure in Iraq; whether for political gain or for some other reason. Everywhere you went for information had a dismal outlook for Iraq and our successes there, except for military blogs or some imbedded reporters actually reporting on the troops. Granted, pre-surge military strategy in Iraq didn’t seem to be getting the job done, but our National leaders did what they needed to do. They asked the experts, they listened to the experts, and they did what the experts advised them to do. The “surge” was the result.

This summer, despite every effort to undermine the “surge” from the beginning, it’s apparent to just about everyone that Iraq has turned the corner and is (hopefully) on the road to success. Media outlets that last summer reported gloom and doom now report almost nothing about Iraq. Some media outlets have even reported positively. What our milbloggers and independent journalists have been reporting all along has been true; the “surge” is working.
Why then, has the House passed Amendment 56 to the Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009?

This Amendment prohibits the Department of Defense from engaging in publicity or “propaganda programs and bans funds for those programs. It also calls for a GAO investigation into DoD’s Military Analyst Program. The sponsors of this Amendment, Representatives Hodes (D-NH), DeFazio (D-OR), and DeLauro (D-CT) say the Amendment is needed because the DoD manipulated the media and deceived the public with false information about the Iraq war during Pentagon briefings to retired military pundits. What baloney!

There was no Pentagon propaganda, if you define propaganda as spreading false ideas or information. The idea is absurd. First, the Pentagon and DoD has got to be one of the most scrutinized institutions on Earth. Can you imagine the number of Congressional hearings if there was one iota of evidence Pentagon briefers deliberately gave false information to retired pundits? Just look at all the investigations into whether the false information about Jessica Lynch’s actions before her capture was deliberate or not, or whether the information given to Pat Tillman’s family was deliberately falsified. Second, military public affairs folks are professionals and know that any falsity will hurt the overall mission and potentially harm those in the field. They won’t do it. As Lance Fairchok says in his article for American Thinker,

A fact that you will not hear from the press is that military public affairs and media liaison offices stress a strict adherence to truth. Despite the myths we are fed from the let, the military understands that a lie will always come back to haunt you; while truth may be difficult at first, it is a far better and honorable course. The military still believes in honor. While individuals may break this code, they inevitably suffer for it. In each of the supposed “exposes” such as Abu Grab, Hadditha, and Guantanamo Bay, the military had already conducted investigations and indicted those suspected of wrongdoing. They needed no prodding from the press.

Now, that’s not to say that public affairs folks won’t chose their words carefully. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not propaganda to use the word “hit” instead of the word “bludgeon.” One just sounds worse than the other; but both are true. Finally, what’s wrong with giving those retired military pundits who serve as talking heads a primary source of information, rather than making them rely on second or third-hand reports (some of which may be information planted by our enemies)? How does this constitute “propaganda?”

These briefings to retired military pundits were not the false propaganda the sponsors of this bill and it’s supporters in certain circles would have you believe. The information was accurate, verifiable, and comported with what was being reported by independent journalists and those in the field. Look at General Petraeus’ testimony on Capitol Hill. His testimony didn’t need the “willing suspension of disbelief” to understand. He didn’t give “spin.” He gave facts, perhaps not the facts those invested in Iraqi defeat wanted to hear, but facts nonetheless. Despite attempts to interrupt him, to silence him, and to insult him, General Petraeus remained the consummate warrior; speaking the truth and providing the facts.

This Amendment is really an attempt by those invested in the drum beat of defeat to regain control over information. For a long time, those certain circles (with the collusion of major media sources) controlled the information we receive. Since information influences opinions and decisions, by controlling information they tried to control our opinions and our decision-making. They used information to get us to think like them. Sometimes it worked; particularly when there were no alternative sources of information. As Mr. Fairchok explains,

Much of what the American people believe about Iraq derives from images, ideas and narratives produced by people who hope for our failure and would gladly abandon Iraq to ruin. The consequence of their advocacy, as ever, does not trouble them. Our failure in Iraq would aid them politically and that is all that matters to some.

And it’s not all about Iraq. Look what’s happening with the economy. The media has been telling us that we’re in a recession, so despite economic indicators to the contrary, most of the country believes we’re in (or headed for) a recession. It’s all about needing to have the economy as a focus for a Presidential election, not about whether or not Joe down the block is struggling economically.

Fortunately, in today’s “information age” it’s not so easy to control information. Look at how independent journalists and the milblogging community have been able to “force” a recognition that the situation in Iraq has greatly improved. We need to resist being put back into the box. Keeping our independence of thought, in reality, is too important. We need to stand on principal and think for ourselves; not let those in certain circles think for us. Amendment 56 passed the House 384-23 in a voice vote. Amazing. We need to remember this come election day. Mr. Fairchok says it best,

The political fight for America’s access to the truth, whatever the source, is one battle the military cannot fight for us. They must remain apolitical. This is a fight we the people, must win for them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wimps, Bullies, and Warriors

I spent a lot of years on active duty in the military where you kept your politics to yourself (mostly), or at least not to express your political views publicaly. Being retired has been liberating in a number of ways, but perhaps one of the most liberating is feeling like I can freely express my political opinion in a public forum. Now I know that the readership of this blog is pretty limited, but it is the internet so that makes it the equivalent of getting up on the proverbial soapbox in the public square. This is my public forum, so I get to express my opinion on politics or anything else I want to talk about. Now that’s liberating.

Like a responsible citizen, I’ve been paying attention to the Presidential race. I want to be an informed and educated voter, who will vote for the candidate that best represents my views, values, and interests. I don’t want to vote based on party-affiliation, identity-politics, or emotion. I have to tell you, what I’ve learned about Barrack Obama scares me.

I’ve had a theory for sometime that how people respond to fear will tell you a lot about their makeup. I’ve emphasized here before that I’m no mental health professional, but as I see it, how someone responds to real fear or periods of great stress is difficult to fake. For us lawyers, it’s the theory behind why there is an “excited utterance” exception to the hearsay rule in the law of evidence. Normally, one person cannot testify what another person said. That would be hearsay, and hearsay is not admissible. But, there is an exception when a person testifies that another person said something during a startling event or while under stress. These out-of-court statements are considered inherently reliable because the excitement and the spontaneity that goes with the event or stress removed any chance that the statement was fabricated. So, under my theory people will show who they really are in how they react to fear or great stress, they won’t have time to fabricate or run opinion polls on how their response will be viewed in order to tailor their actions. They’ll react according to their makeup.

Under my (rather simplified) theory people will respond to fear or great stress in one of three ways, depending on what type of person they are. A warrior will stand and fight to protect what is threatened from the threat. A bully will use excessive force or other tactics, such as collateral attacks, to try to eliminate the threat. And a wimp will appease or ignore the threat and hope it goes away.

Let me give you some examples. I see Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and the lemmings blindly following him, as bullies. Rep. Kucinich, for some reason, will not let the idea of impeaching President Bush go. Perhaps he sees it as a way to further his own political career. It certainly keeps his name in the press. Perhaps he has a fear of losing his notoriety and just being the Congressman from Ohio, so he’s responding by attacking. It doesn’t matter that the impeachment won’t fly or that his party leadership didn’t want it. He’s as much a bully as the big kid who demands lunch money from the smaller kid. He does it because he can. President Clinton is another example of a bully. When the roosters of his philandering were finally coming home to roost, instead of facing the music he stepped up a crisis with Iraq, or the Sudan, or terrorist training camps, or whatever he had to shoot missiles at to deflect the missiles being aimed at him. He deflected those impeachment missiles by being a bully.

I think President Carter was a good example of a wimp. Look at how he handled the entire Iran hostage crisis. He dithered, he talked, he postured, and he tried to get everyone else to act. When he finally did actually take action, by sending in a team to try to rescue the hostages, he tried to micromanage every stage of the process and pulled them out when things inevitability started to go wrong. Then, instead of regrouping, fixing what went wrong, and getting the job done, he sat on his hands and said “too hard.” In contrast, President Bush (whatever you think of the Iraq War) is a warrior. When we were attacked, he acted to protect. Who can ever forget his speech to Congress on September 20, 2001?

Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done . . . After all that has passed -- all the lives taken, and all the possibilities and hopes that dies with them -- it is natural to wonder if America's future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world. . . . I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.

Those are the words of a warrior, and his actions since have supported those words. President Bush reacted to the fear and stress of the attacks of September 11th with decisive leadership. He acted to protect our country and her citizens from further attacks. That is the measure of a warrior.

I don’t think we’ve seen Mr. Obama in a situation where he’s really been placed in great fear, except fear of not reaching his goal of becoming President, but I do think we’ve seen his reaction in periods of stress. From the glimpses we’ve seen, I tend to think Mr. Obama is either a bully or a wimp. Neither of which is the type of person we want as the leader of our Nation. That’s what scares me. I see Mr. Obama as a bully when he reacts to negative statement by challenging the person making the statement, as when Ms Ferraro was called a racist for saying Mr. Obama wouldn’t have gotten where he was if he was white. I see Mr. Obama as a bully when I hear him making statements that he would have intervened militarily in Pakistan to quell internal riots. I see Mr. Obama as a wimp when he proposes negotiating with rogue nations like Iran without preconditions; appeasement by any other name. I see Mr. Obama’s proposal to withdraw funding from important military programs as wimpy pandering to those who also want to appease. But whether wimp or bully, Mr. Obama scares me because in no way do I see him as suited to be a leader. Wimps and bullies do no make good leaders. Not in the long run. Not when it’s important. That’s my opinion, and now I feel liberated by expressing it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good Advice

The best advice my Dad ever gave me was to never let anyone else tell me what I could, or couldn’t, do. It was good advice; the kind of advice that applies to a lot of different areas of life. Good advice is like that, it crosses boundaries. Take my Dad’s advice, for example. He offered it to me back in the 1970s, when women were starting to explore the limits of bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan. Women’s lib was the “in” thing. My Dad and I were talking about my future, and he told me that I was the one who should decide what I was capable of. It wasn’t up to him, my friends, my teachers, or society. It was up to me. I took him at his word and found out he was right. Don’t get me wrong, there were circumstances and chances that impacted my decisions and either constricted or expanded my range of choices; but nevertheless, the choice was mine. That’s the way it should be. But my Dad’s advice wasn’t just career advice. It applied to other decisions that belonged exclusively to me. The hard part was figuring out which decisions those were.

We’ve all received great bits of advice from important people in our lives. Tidbits like, “always wash your hands before dinner” or “look both ways before crossing the street” or “don’t leave the house without wearing clean underwear” or “don’t take candy from a stranger.” All of this advice translates well across the boundaries of our lives. Washing your hands for dinner and wearing clean underwear is really just advice to be prepared, and you really wouldn’t go to a business meeting without preparing for the meeting. The advice to look both ways and not take candy is really advice to be cautious, and you really wouldn’t consider an unsolicited offer to help a Nigerian attorney recovery money from a bank just by emailing him your social security number and bank account information. So you see good advice crosses boundaries.

So, in honor of Father’s Day this Sunday; what’s the best advice your Dad ever gave you?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Teenage Boy Disease

When I was actually trying criminal cases, I would often have to consider whether the person I was prosecuting or defending had a mental health issue. You see, in order to do an effective direct or cross-exam, you really need to have at least a little bit of an idea what you’re talking about; just enough to make you dangerous, so to speak. As a result, I ended up becoming pretty friendly with several mental health professionals and even had occasion to crack open the 4th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Health Disorders (which, according to PsychiatryOnline website, is the “standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals worldwide to promote reliable research, accurate diagnosis, and thus appropriate treatment and patient care”). This book, known as the DSM-IV-TR, is the tool most psychiatrists or psychologists turn to when diagnosing patients who have a mental health problem.

All of this is a rather lengthy introduction to one of my pet theories. After a number of years’ observation and some personal testing, I have a theory that perhaps we should add a diagnosis to the DSM-IV-TR. “Teenage-Boy-Disease.” Now to suffer from “teenage boy disease” you have to be male. Now lest those of you out there make unfounded charges of sexism, I have seriously considered whether there should be a corresponding “Teenage-Girl-Disease.” Perhaps. However, that is for another post. If so, the symptoms would be different and the disease would manifest in different ways. It is also possible that the disease would manifest earlier, perhaps in a prepubescent girl’s fascination with all things equine, because (of course) girls do mature faster than boys. In my limited observations, however, teenage boys act differently to certain stimulus than do teenage girls. It’s a fact. Get used to it. Thus, “teenage-boy-disease.”

Suffers of “teenage-boy-disease” demonstrate distinct symptoms over the course of several months to several years; depending on the severity of the disease. One of the primary characteristics of the disease is the tendency toward the nocturnal. Suffers have trouble waking up in the morning, often requiring multiple alarm clocks, “nudges” to wake up, or banging of trashcan lids to actually come awake (particularly when there is a need to go to work or school), and may have difficulty falling asleep at night (particularly when there are places to go, people to see, or things to do). Suffers will, however, want to sleep during the day, often falling asleep at inopportune times, such as during class or while watching a movie, or in the middle of a discussion with a adult, unless placed in a standing or front-leaning position.

Another primary characteristic of teenage-boy-disease is an extreme fascination with electronic games of any type, often at the expense of other productive efforts (such as school or work). Suffers of teenage-boy-disease will spend hours, sometimes morphing into days or weekends, trying to win electronic sports games or kill all the alien zombies currently invading Earth. The disease is also characterized by an extreme fascination with sports of any type, things with wheels (particularly flashy cars), and violent or extremely stupid movies. For some reason, suffers of teenage-boy-disease also find it particularly hilarious to be able to quote stupid movie dialogue verbatim.

Suffers also have trouble with self-confidence; reflected in an obsession with finding the “right” acne medication, the “best” deodorant, and the “finest” pair of jeans. This lack of self-confidence may also manifest itself in a compulsive need to build muscle tone and frequent trips to a local gym. (However, this compulsion is not always bad, since it may also result in a beneficial type of informal group therapy with other suffers of teenage-boy-disease.) One symptom of the lack of self-confidence is the tendency to get tongue-tied or say stupid things around members of the opposite sex. With those suffering extreme symptoms, the sufferer may even act like a buffoon or repeatedly trip over feet that suddenly seem way too large when within three feet of a female.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist and I have never been trained in the mental health field; but I have been an officer, have led young men and women, raised three children to adulthood, and I like to watch people. Those experiences wouldn’t qualify me as an expert witness, but I like to think that they do qualify for something. In my opinion, teenage-boy-disease is real (taking my tongue somewhat out of my cheek). From what I’ve seen, young men, fresh out of high school, are often still suffering from the disease or from leftover symptoms of the disease. I think there’s a case to be made for some type of universal service requirement as a maturation step to allow recovery from teenage-boy (or girl) disease. Now, I’m not calling for a universal draft, and I’m not proposing some type of AmeriCares-type social service requirement. I’m not sure that I even have a specific proposal. I just know that of the young men and women I’ve been associated with, those that have gone through some type of maturing process, whether it was intended or not, tend to achieve their goals. That maturing process can include military service, social service, or religious service. It just seems that some type of service teaches values and helps a young person mature and lose the characteristics of teenage-whatever-disease; which is nothing more than selfishness and self-absorption. Now isn’t that a good thing and something we should think about?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Women in the Military

So there I was; under the lights, in the “hot seat,” answering the tough questions, wondering “why me?” No, I hadn’t been called into the local police station for interrogation. GI-Kate was interviewing me for a potential documentary on women in the military. Cool!

What an experience! First of all, meeting GI-Kate was wonderful. What an impressive young woman. I’ve followed her blog, My American-Iraq Life, for a while now; but getting to meet her and know her in person was great. She’s a lot of fun and extremely intelligent. Second, watching the producer work was amazing. I couldn’t believe how much “behind-the-scenes” work goes into taping interviews. He was very professional and very easy to work with. Both GI-Kate and the producer set those of us being interviewed at ease and were interested in what we had to say. Finally, we taped my interview, and the interview of another female veteran, at the Women in Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. The staff there was so welcoming and so helpful. The Women’s Memorial is a superb facility. If you ever get to Arlington Cemetery, you must make it a part of your pilgrimage. It is spectacular! If you’re a woman veteran, you should register your service in their register. You can do it on-line at their web site. Anyway, I can’t give enough praise to GI-Kate, the producer, or to the staff at the Women’s Memorial. They made the whole thing work. Hopefully, the topic of women’s military service is sufficiently interesting to make a documentary that will be interesting to the public. I know I found it interesting! But then, I have “been there, done that.”

So; stay tuned. Perhaps there will be an announcement about a future showing. . .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Anger at the Defeatists

Ms. Beverly Perlson, an Army Mom and blogger at Band of Mothers, has an article at National Review Online that is worth a read. In the article, Ms. Perlson expresses her anger at our Congress; who keeps putting their political ambitions ahead of the needs of our Armed Forces. I’m right there with you Ms. Perlson!

Ms. Perlson, like you, I am extremely proud that my children have chosen to serve this Nation. They see something in it worth serving and worth risking their life to protect. I honor them for that choice, and am proud of their service. Also like you, it made me angry the first time Congress played Scrooge with the Pentagon, forcing our military leaders to shift funds to sustain the war effort. And like you, I’m even angrier now that Congress is doing it again; without understanding the impact their failure to fund the war effort will have on the men and women who simply strive to do the job we’ve asked them to do. Those men and women are doing that job, and doing it well. Shouldn’t they get paid for it? Shouldn’t they be equipped to do it with the best equipment we can get for them? Shouldn’t Congress do everything they can to make sure those worthy men and women are properly funded, rather than recess and take a lengthy vacation?

Congress seems to be purposefully ignoring the excellent strides our armed forces have made, in conjunction with Iraq’s government, police, and military, in ousting Al-Qaeda in Iraq and preventing what could have become a full-fledged civil war. Our Congress doesn’t want to give credit where credit is due, but instead wants to find fault where no fault exists. Why? It’s because they’re committed to the defeatist agenda of the political hard-left.

According to Ms. Perlson, Admiral Mullen the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, warned Congress that they needed to pass a military funding bill before Memorial Day or we might not be able to pay our fighting men and women. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, responded “No big deal.” Well, Mr. Reid, it is a big deal for those doing a job, any job, to not get paid for that job. Perhaps those in Congress supporting the defeatist agenda need to find out what its like not to get paid, permanently. The men and women of our armed forces deserve more from our Congress.

Monday, June 2, 2008

PFC Ross A. McGinnis

President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor today to Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis. PFC McGinnis was only 19-years old when he threw himself on a grenade, saving the lives of four other Soldiers. PFC McGinnis had been standing in a turret, manning the 50-caliber machine gun in an armored humvee when an insurgent threw a grenade that managed to fall through the hatch onto the radio at McGinnis’ feet. He yelled “grenade, it’s in the truck.” The other four Soldiers had no way to escape the humvee. Although PFC McGinnis could have jumped out of the turret and escaped the blast, he didn’t. Instead, he jumped on the grenade, using his body to absorb the grenade’s blast. Did I say he was only 19-years old?

In the Medal of Honor ceremony today, PFC McGinnis’ father explained that PFC McGinnis wanted to be a Soldier from the time he was in Kindergarten. From every description, PFC McGinnis had a wonderful sense of humor, loved life, but was a warrior, one of those who can conquer fear rather than let fear conquer them. Mr. McGinnis, PFC McGinnis’ father said, “I guess about the only thing you’re really going to remember about my son is that he did the right thing at the right time, because his life was very short. It wasn’t an exciting story until it got right to the end, but he just made the right decision when it was required.” Well, Mr. McGinnis, your son’s life may have been short, and it may not have been extremely exciting, but I can tell you that he will be remembered for more than just the nature of his death. He will be remembered for the nature of his life; for his sense of humor, for his friendship, for his service, and for having the courage to do the right thing at the right time, saving the lives of four of his comrades. He is a true hero in every sense of the word. If doing the right thing when necessary is the measure of a man, your son was a giant! Thank you for raising such a man.