Monday :: Jul 12, 2004

Can't Grease A Ghost

by pessimist

Vietnam - a war which lives in infamy.

Like the bloodied hands of Lady Macbeth, the horrors of Vietnam are still with us, unexorcised. Despite Ronald Reagan's gleeful announcement that 'we've put Vietnam behind us', we have not - and we won't. Not as long as there is a single American who lived through that time left alive.

Can anyone really put behind them the images of wounded GIs being lifted onto helicopters for transport to a field hospital? Can one forget the image of a Vietnamese girl running naked down the road, screaming in pain from the horrible naplam burns she's suffered? Can anyone ignore the brutality involved in taking Vietcong suspects up in a helicopter and throwing them out when they wouldn't answer interrogation questions 'satisfactorily'?

Like the virtuous Dr. Jeckyl, we don't want to remember our alter-ego, the vicious and evil Mr. Hyde - yet we do. Our bad side haunts us every time we stray from the path of goodness and light as the beacon of democracy and fall into the morass of evil, led astray by at least one of the seven dealy sins.

So it is today. We have been led astray by illegitimate leaders blinded by insatiable greed and an overwhelming lust for power, throwing away a hard-earned and costly reputation of several decades as the leader of the free world in a quest to dominate control of a dwindling resource to which we are addicted, instead of marshalling our tremendous resources to reduce our dependence and meet our needs through other means.

Yes - addicted.

Just like an addict, we ignore that which is good for us, because to defeat the demon which holds us captive, we would have to look at ourselves without reservation, see ourselves just as others see us, truthfully and without pretense - and that is hard. It's too hard, else we would have long since performed that task once it became evident in 1973 that we were not the masters of our energy resources.

Thirty years ago we got that first warning that we were out of control, powerless over our petroleum addiction, and we chose to ignore it, to bury it, to gain control of enough of it so that it didn't threaten 'our way of life'. We didn't want to change.

Just like an addict, we want to feel good on demand. We want to be able to fill the tank of that Hummer with cheap gas, and spew out the fumes as we roar across the landscape to the next gas station, so that we can repeat the thrill. of freedom as promised in the adverts. But that experience is more costly each time, and the feel-good effect is lessened. Our way of life was affected. We did have to change. And we didn't like it. In our desperation, unwilling to surrender to the inevitable, we turn to force to gain our fix. And as we discover to our chagrin, using force only makes it worse - much worse.

One of the PNAC goals was to control the world's petroleum resources, something we have less of each day. It was intended to get ahead of the demand curve, so that the laws of supply and demand would benefit the controllers when the world arrived, seeking sufficient energy supplies to maintain their ways of life. It would have been very profitable.

China has already drained one of their oil fields and others are getting low, and Saudi Arabia is pumping as much as they ever will until their fields dry up, because they no longer have the funds to invest in new infrastructure - they are spending it on their people in an attempt to keep them from rising up in rebellion against the monarchy. Demand is going to increase exponentially, with both China and India seeking larger shares of the available supplies.

Thus, we were sent to war to secure as many of the oil fields as we could through military force. Iraq was just the beginning, a place to stage sufficient men and materiel to enable further conquests - Iran, the Caspian Sea, Central Asia.

It was felt that by establishing a fait accompli we would not be challenged by any other regional power, a fallacious argument on its face, for just as we acted militarily when we felt our fix slipping away from us, so it would be with other nations. We would have been one of the triggers of a world war over oil.

That's how Vietnam ties into this tale - starting a war to prevent a war. It's never worked, and in Iraq we've managed to demonstrate that fact again, along with the proof that we still aren't learning anything from our mistakes. We will still strive mightily to avoind facing the truth, that we have to deal with our problems in other ways - even to the point of making major changes in our lifestyles to accomplish this. We are going to have to suffer the very pain we are attempting to avoid. And we are going to have to like it. Even our leaders - some of whom are beginning to see the light.


A number of dangerous developments in our military have suddenly come together -- pushed forward by the war in Iraq -- that should give Americans grounds for worry about the future security of our nation. Recent studies by the U.S. Army show that one in five U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq suffers serious mental health problems associated with post-traumatic stress syndrome. (Similar rates in the U.S. adult population are 3 percent to 4 percent; in the first Gulf War , 2 percent to 10 percent suffered such problems; and in Vietnam, a far bloodier war fought by a conscript army, 15 percent suffered the same problems.)

The figures are starting to add up in the newspaper articles. The Washington Post recently reported that the Army has added 8,000 slots to the 25,000 infantrymen it trains annually at Fort Benning, Georgia -- and to replace drill sergeants deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to train locals, it has mobilized about 100 reservists to drill the new soldiers. The Army will recall more than 5,000 veteran soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve to active duty (instead of reducing the number of troops in Iraq, as had been promised).

You do not have to be a West Point scholar of military strategy to realize how reckless this scenario is becoming.

Our military establishment, belatedly beginning to free itself from the neocons' and White House's idea of perpetual war, is finally speaking the truth. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the new Army vice chief of staff, testified recently in Congress: "Are we stretched too thin with our active and reserve component forces right now? Absolutely."

"The war in Iraq is wrecking the Army and the Marine Corps," retired Navy Capt. John Byron writes in the July issue of Proceedings, the professional journal of naval officers. "Troop rotations are in shambles, and the all-volunteer force is starting to crumble as we extend combat tours and struggle to get enough boots on the ground."

Even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose love of warfare was instrumental in fueling this war, stated in a speech at an international security conference in Singapore that the United States and its coalition may be winning some battles, but may be losing the war against the source of the problem - Islamic terrorism. "It's quite clear to me," he was quoted by The Associated Press at the conference, "that we do not have a coherent approach to this."

But when we hear these comments and reconnoiter this administration's warfare landscape, we find some deeply disturbing responses. What would an even relatively responsible family or institution do in the face of such unnecessary overstretching of one's capacities? The responsible father or American official would reassess his or her obligations, make sober judgments based upon the level of true needs, and recalculate his responses.

But -- and this is the interesting part -- that is not what the administration is doing.

Watch the television talk shows. Men (and a few women) from the conservative think tanks and the Republican administration argue, as though they never made a mistake in Iraq: We must plow ahead in exactly the same field. The Rumsfeldian civilian Pentagon (not the uniformed military, who abhor the neocon, imperialist, and Israeli Likud Party civilians) talks about a "broad transformation" of the U.S. military -- particularly in terms of rebasing American troops away from Europe and South Korea and toward new zones of trouble.

But after Iraq and failures in Afghanistan, what they are essentially talking about is "restructuring" against enemies they can't even vaguely know or define.

Curiously enough, some of the Bush administration's war party mention restoring a draft so that all American boys -- and girls -- can partake of the joy of serving in their abstract wars of personal agenda and ambition. Think for just a moment how crazy this really makes them out to be!

A draft would bring to the fore all the corrective elements in American society whose absence from the play during the last four years has allowed these neocon adventurers to do what they have done. A draft would connect average American citizens to their government and force them to become voices in the irresponsible deployment young Americans. Don't the administration's hawks know this?

It is a kind of perverse tribute to their fanaticism that they do not. They are so focused on the horizon -- where they imagine an imperialist America in league with a "reconfigured" Middle East in which Ariel Sharon 's Israel is the major player -- that they cannot see that a draft would doom their adventures.

All of this discussion is not about how we can dredge up every college boy, young father and budding woman professional to be sent to all the corners of the globe for the military adventures of a few in Washington. Rather, we should be considering how to reinstate an American government that can make rational policy choices that will truly serve American interests.

We Have All Been Here Before

"I just keep thinking, 'Gee, we aren't going to do this, are we? We're not that dumb, are we?' "
- John Fogarty

John Fogerty's 'Déjà vu' song critical of Iraq war

John Fogerty's song Who'll Stop the Rain remains one of the cultural touchstones of the Vietnam era. In the 1970 hit for his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty spoke about the helplessness millions felt watching the body count in a war that seemed to them pointless and heartbreaking:
Long as I remember The rain been comin' down Clouds of myst'ry pourin' Confusion on the ground. Good men through the ages, Tryin' to find the sun; And I wonder, still I wonder, Who'll stop the rain.

Now Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Fogerty is back with a new song that expresses similar regret, this time over the nation's involvement in Iraq. Titled Deja Vu (All Over Again), it was turned into DreamWorks/Geffen Records this week and should be released soon to radio stations. It begins:

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio. Did you try to read the writing on the wall. Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before It's like deja vu all over again.

What gives Who'll Stop the Rain and Deja Vu (All Over Again) their power is their relatively understated tones. Unlike Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, this isn't Bush-bashing. It's more sadness than anger. "For anyone old enough to have lived through the Vietnam War, the thing in Iraq just seems spookily reminiscent," Fogerty said by phone this week from Missouri while on tour.

Fogerty said he resisted writing a song about Iraq because the theme seemed too obvious. But one day last fall the words just came to him when he was working on the new album. "I was planning to write a swamp-rock kind of song on that day, but the first line of the song just came, and I knew right away what I was thinking about," he says. "I heard the melody and the tone of the guitar all at once. I grabbed an acoustic guitar and had the chorus and the first verse within an hour and a half." It took months, however, for him to complete the tune, whose second verse carries its most powerful punch:

One by one I see the old ghosts rising Stumblin' 'cross Big Muddy Where the light gets dim. Day after day another mama's crying She's lost her precious child To a war that has no end.

While the song stands on its own, its emotional power may be greater for those familiar with other Fogerty-written Creedence hits: Who'll Stop the Rain and Fortunate Son, both at least in part about Vietnam, and Run Through the Jungle, a song about the gun proliferation in the United States that millions came to associate with Vietnam.

In the opening lines of Deja Vu (All Over Again), he speaks about first hearing about the Iraqi invasion plans and asks, "Did you try to read the writing on the wall. By the end of the song, he makes the direct parallel to Vietnam by referring to the memorial in Washington, D.C.: Did you stop to read the writing at the Wall.

From A Whisper To A Scream

The veteran rocker, who lives with his wife and two children in Los Angeles, said he visited the Vietnam Memorial with his family and was deeply moved. Fogerty describes himself as liberal but likes to think of the song in human, not political, terms. And he does believe music and art effect change. "If any one guy stopped the war in Vietnam, it was Bob Dylan," Fogerty said. "I really believe that. I think music can change people's minds, and things like Michael Moore's movie. The opposition to this war started out as a whisper, just like in Vietnam. But it's not a whisper anymore. That movie is now mainstream.

"It's like the latter stages of the Vietnam War. A lot of people are learning that to speak out against your government policy is not un-American. It's OK to protest. It seems like a lesson that has to be learned every generation."

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pessimist :: 4:25 AM :: Comments (17) :: Digg It!