28 February 2008

Pow/MIA...what does it mean to me?

I was inserted onto the mountain above Kham Duc airstrip along the laotian border in 1969...along with a contingent of the 5th ARVN Rangers, and two Australians...a warrant officer and a lieutenant...long story short...when we were digging in, I hit something odd...kept digging...bones...three human leg bones...all left legs...found some miscellaneous more bones, a wallet in plastic with photos and a military ID...and a set of dog tags which didn't match the ID...so at least these were three MIAs...from when the special forces camp had been overrun a few months before...and bombed into oblivion by B52s....I notified graves registration...after we cooled the LZ...took a couple of weeks...they came out and dug some more...forensic archaelogists, more or less. They found more US remains... They would have been MIA forever. I keep a POW/MIA decal on the back window of my pickup...but I use it to remind myself of how many were lost, never to be found again...Vietnamese...millions...as well as Americans. A great book...really great book..."The Sorrow of War"...by Boa Ninh... From Publishers Weekly "Kien, the protagonist of this rambling and sometimes nearly incoherent but emotionally gripping account of the Vietnam war, is a 10-year veteran whose experiences bear a striking similarity to those of the author, a Hanoi writer who fought with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade. The novel opens just after the war, with Kien working in a unit that recovers soldiers' corpses. Revisiting the sites of battles raises emotional ghosts for him, "a parade of horrific memories" that threatens his sanity, and he finds that writing about those years is the only way to purge them. Juxtaposing battle scenes with dreams and childhood remembrances as well as events in Kien's postwar life, the book builds to a climax of brutality. A trip to the front with Kien's childhood sweetheart ends with her noble act of sacrifice, and it becomes clear to the reader that, in Vietnam, purity and innocence exist only to be besmirched. The Sorrow of War is often as chaotic in construction as the events it describes. In fact, it is untidy and uncontrolled, like the battlefield it conveys. The point of view slips willy-nilly from the third person to the first, without any clear semblance of organization. The inclusion of a deaf mute who falls for Kien, and acts for a while as a witness to his life, seems gratuitous. The faults of this book are also its strengths, however. Its raggedness aptly evokes the narrator's feverish view of a dangerous and unpredictable world. And its language possesses a ferocity of expression that strikes the reader with all the subtlety of a gut-punch. Polishing this rough jewel would, strangely, make it less precious." I highly recommend it!

16 February 2008

The Depths of Winter

The temperatures have been consistently below zero F for the past couple of weeks...with a few breaks. I've rec'd good news from my check-up...I'm good to go...but where? Cheryl has carpal tunnel surgery scheduled for 6 March and is looking forward to it with some trepidation. Three weeks minimum of immobilisation of her hands...she'll be my betsy-wetsy doll for that time. Then another three weeks of light duty 'til she can begin some exercise therapy. That puts us at about mid April, which is the average time for the ice to be off the lakes around here, and spring to really begin in earnest. Just think...there'll be asparagus poking through the soil, morels up with a bit of warmth...sunfish biting...what a great spring meal. Five months of winter is too much. I love my homestead, and the critters I've come to know and love who hang around on our land...from Shakespeare, the barred owl...to little black ears and downy...and Bucky...and all the rest of the herd of 15 who meander through, at times walking amongst us as we meander ourselves. The four cats...pogo, tigger, 'baby' and goldenrod...(the mom)...all fit in so well...they are friends with the deer and lay low when Shakespeare is about. Who knows what the spring will bring? I've still got some seeds to order from FedCo in Maine...I've got work to do in my shop when the temps stay consistently above 30 degrees F... Sugar Camps should be opening within two weeks...sap will be rising. I need to fall some trees which have grown so tall they obscure our solar exposure for the PV panels...it's mostly the balsam firs...they grow so fast and they just don't allow any light through. I love their pointy little heads... Playing guitar quite a bit again. The best therapy for the little hammer finger on my left hand...chording is a bit more of a challenge since I broke it last March... This country, this world, is in a state of flux. I wonder and I dream. I hope for the best for all of us, and wish for everyone to be kind to one another, respectful and sharing...how much is too much...can't we ever say 'enough'? Especially when so many go to sleep in hunger and fear... If someone does come along to bring us all together and to make the world a peaceful place...rumours will stalk him or her, 'they' will be killed...and more wars fought...because we fear peace and tranquility, equality and justice...why, that's downright communistic. "Where ya think ya live, boy?" I'm truly sorry.

10 February 2008

To Be a Republican You Need to Believe

1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. 2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's Daddy made war on him , a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a 'we can't find Bin Laden' diversion. 3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony. 4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq . 5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation. 6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay. 7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex. 8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money. 9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart. 10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools. 11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which tens of thousands die is solid defense policy. 12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet . 13. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery. 14. You support 'Executive Privilege' for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity.) 15. Support hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail. (anonymous e-mail)

08 February 2008

The 'Reagan Legacy' and Republican Idolatry

Ronald Reagan ran on a 'balanced budget' and limited government...and yet never submitted a balanced budget, and increased the size of government...He ran on cutting taxes, yet was responsible for the largest tax increase on the working class in history...doubling the FICA tax...(Federal Insurance Contributions Act...social security)...to create a trust fund which he then raided to mask his deficit spending. He took the country from a debt of 700 billion dollars to a debt of 4 trillion dollars...He granted amnesty to over a million 'illegal' aliens...now it's being spun that he was 'forced' to grant the amnesty by democrats...was he that weak? He supported death squads and paramilitary operations...I personally saw the results up close, taking medicines into villages in the mountains of Nicaragua, near the Honduran border...a day or two after first aid workers and teachers had been killed by 'contras', most of whom were from Somoza's army... supported by Reagan's policies...clinics bombed, schools targeted... From the 'October Surprise' to 'Iran-Contra'...Ronald Reagan was bad mojo... I'll quote here from Media Matters: Ronald Reagan was many things, but most undeniably he was a pathological liar. True, he also gave every impression of being an unbelievable moron (which is why Saturday Night Live could once parody his pathetic excuses for the Iran/contra scandal with a skit that depicted Reagan as -- get this! -- brilliant and competent). His worshipful, if fanciful, biographer Edmund Morris even calls him an "apparent airhead." The President's famous cluelessness was so obvious during his years in office that his defenders would attempt to deploy it as a defense of his actions, as if he were a small child or a beloved but retarded uncle. The President tended to "build these little worlds and live in them," noted a senior adviser. "He makes things up and believes them," explained one of his kids. Recall that ol' Dutch frequently made arguments about history based on movies he half-recalled. He thought he'd liberated concentration camps. He invented what he called "a verbal message" from the Pope in support of his Central America policies, news to everyone in Vatican City. In 1985, Reagan one day announced that the vicious apartheid regime of P.W. Botha had already "eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country." Not only did Reagan make things up, he also forgot some things that most of us consider pretty important. Morris, for instance, lets us in on the astonishing fact that the President not only did not know his own Secretary of Housing and Urban Development--no big whoop, as the guy was, after all, black--but that Mr. Family Values also failed to recognize his own son (his own son!) while attending his graduation. If any of us had a parent given to such behavior, we might feel compelled to look into some sort of institutionalized care, if only for his own protection. But another, more significant, little-mentioned tendency of the ex-President was his fondness for genocidal murderers. I do not use the term "genocide" lightly. Take Guatemala. That nation's official Historical Clarification Commission charged its own government with a campaign of "genocide" in murdering roughly 200,000 people, mainly Mayan Indians, during its dictatorial reign of terror. The commission's nine-volume 1999 report singled out the US role in aiding this "criminal counterinsurgency." The violence in Guatemala reached a gruesome climax in the early eighties under the dictatorship of the born-again evangelical, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt. Nine hundred thousand people were forcibly relocated and entire villages leveled. As army helicopters strafed a caravan of 40,000 unarmed refugees seeking to escape to Mexico, Reagan chose that moment to congratulate Ríos Montt for his dedication to democracy, adding that he had been getting "a bum rap" from liberals in Congress and the media. His Administration soon provided as much aid to the killers as Congress would allow. Reagan showed a similar indulgence toward the terrorists in El Salvador. The President and his equally immoral advisers consistently behaved as if they were hired public relations agents for the murderers of children, nuns, priests and peasants. Not long after these killings reached the amazing level of more than 200 per week -- in a country with just 5.5 million people -- Reagan mused aloud that they were not the work of "so-called murder squads" on the right, but of "guerrilla forces" who think they "can get away with these violent acts, helping to try and bring down the government, and the right wing will be blamed for it." In fact, only days later, Vice President Bush flew to San Salvador to insist that "every murderous act" committed by "right-wing fanatics ... poisons the well of friendship between our two countries," and that "death squad murders" could cost the killers "the support of the American people." Didn't Reagan know what Bush knew? Does anyone care? After the war, the Catholic archdiocese in San Salvador documented the number of killings on each side. The tally: military and government-assisted death squads, 41,048; left-wing guerrillas, 776. Reagan was off by almost 5,500 percent. Liar or moron? You tell me. Historians are starting to provide a useful corrective, perhaps in anticipation of an orgy of dishonest eulogies like those for Richard Nixon in 1994, while pundits casually credit Reagan with inspiring Moscow's capitulation in the cold war, via his obsession with Star Wars. But as Frances FitzGerald demonstrates in her new book, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan and Star Wars and the End of the Cold War, the historical record does not even remotely support this wishfully ignorant thesis. Similarly, in Matthew Evangelista's new work, Unarmed Forces, we discover the key role played by transnational forces in convincing Gorbachev & Co. to shut down the arms race in spite -- not because -- of the belligerence emanating from Reagan and his men.

The River

upstream from white sand beaches are hamlets, paddies and canyons bombshells unexploded, cratered land, cratered faces  mangled extremities...