Sunday, September 21, 2014


Americans have been called a nation of sheep, easily frightened and quick to look for a leader who will promise to conquer those fears.  They have an even more troubling tendency and that is how they refuse to learn from history and keep repeating the same mistakes with the misguided belief this time America's military might can defeat the boogey man and everyone can get back to watching men beat themselves into an early grave on Sundays and beat their significant other or progeny on Monday.

     I want to scream.  5,000 dead in Iraq and a couple hundred thousand wounded and broken.  1,000 dead in Afghanistan and tens of thousands wounded or broken.  Iraq and Afghanistan are dysfunctional and failed nations where religion and tribe are more important than nationalism.  We were told after September 11, the way to conquer our fear of terrorists...the way to strike back at those who attacked us...the way to prevent the bad guys from getting over more deadly weapons was to invade and conquer Afghanistan and Iraq.  We were told we could turn them into western democracies and that the people would welcome our assistance.  We were told the citizens of those two nations just needed our help to train them and then they would be able to defeat their enemies.

     Over 70% of Americans now say Afghanistan and Iraq were not worth the effort.  Pundits declared a new period of isolationism in this country.  Americans want problems here at home fixed...create more up access to college...a payroll tax holiday...rebuild our crumbling infrastructure..stop being the world's policeman.  President Obama has been using this playbook for the last six years.  What a maroon!  Americans now say the President is too soft, and not aggressive enough in his foreign policy.  He is weak and after being horrified by videos of some gruesome executions by ISIS, the majority of Americans now want us to strike back.  Being no fool, Obama declares a long, open-ended campaign against the terrorist threat.  We are even told these terrorists represent a direct threat to this nation's security.  Lest anyone get too concerned, despite this imminent threat, we are told we aren't going to start Iraq War boots on the ground by the president.  Really?  Do you believe him?  Have you ever heard of the concept of incrementalism?

     It started with extra soldiers to guard American embassies and consulates in Iraq.  (150-300) Then, we needed troops on the ground to coordinate air attacks, identify targets, liaison with Kurdish and Iraqi forces.  (400?)  Then we are told about Special Forces being used to identify more targets and help train Iraqis (300) and all of a sudden there are as many as 1,000 American combat soldiers in Iraq.  They are there to defeat ISIS despite the fact no one can define what either victory or defeat would look like.

     Now, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has testified in front of the Senate that if the fighting in Iraq grows more difficult, we will need to put more combat troops on the ground in Iraq serving on the front lines alongside Iraqi military forces.  Gee.  I wonder what will happen then?

     What will John McCain, Lindsey Graham, every Republican presidential candidate, Dick Cheney and the gang say if ISIS kills American soldiers?  What will the American people do if an American soldier is executed horribly by ISIS?  If a battle is going badly, will the Pentagon hesitate to send in the cavalry?  How many?  For how long?  At what cost?  If ISIS retreats into Syria with American prisoners will the military be ordered to invade to get them back and defeat ISIS?  Are you sensing a pattern yet?  Regressive Republicans are frothing at the mouth at the thought of another fight...another bite at the Iraqi apple and they will clamor for another use of force vote in Congress.  Remember the last one?  Remember how Hillary, John Edwards, John Kerry and all but 23 Democratic senators voted?

     The Pentagon has issued an assessment of Iraqi military forces and essentially says they are useless.  They couldn't beat the Little Sisters of the Poor at Parcheesi.  They won't fight to save their own country.  (Much the same situation exists in Afghanistan)  Dempsey says American boots may be needed on the ground in Iraq "...if the fighting grows more difficult."  What do you think are the odds ISIS will kick Iraqi ass and we will be told the only thing that will save them, and of course save the United States, is for American combat troops to turn the tide.  This would be great satire if it wasn't so tragic and a recipe for disaster...again.

     The cherry on the top of this particular cake is a statement last week by Moqutada Sadr saying if American troops return to Iraq, his Sadr brigade will fight them again.  American soldiers would be caught between Sunni ISIS and Shiite Sadr and once again would be in the middle of an unwinnable civil war.

     You have it in your power to stop this in its tracks now.  It's an election year.  American politicians have to be gob smacked about the head and arms by constituents telling them there will be no vote on the use of force.  Obama has to hear loud and clear there is no grey wiggle room...incrementalism will not be allowed.  Will Americans once again be frightened into wasting blood and treasure on a fool’s errand?

   Stop it now!  Write, call or email Hillary and ask her what her position are vis-à-vis Dempsey’s comments.  Will she once again cave to political expediency like she did in 2002?  Is she afraid of being accused of being soft on ISIS?  Didn't she say in an interview in the Atlantic Obama is too soft and not aggressive enough and she would arm "moderate" Syrians (whatever that means) and support a more focused Iraqi response?  Let the White House know how dangerous this incremental ratcheting up of force truly is.  We already know what the Republicans will say.  Are we going to stumble and bumble and create monsters in the night so that once again we will commit America to an unwinnable strategy?

     I sit here amazed, aghast and agog to be writing about a new military adventure in Iraq because Americans are pissed at the brutality and immorality of ISIS.  Is it possible they have publicized all of this brutality just to evoke this exact response and lure us into an intractable situation?  Are they using Iraq and Syria as a tar baby?  When will we ever learn...when will we ever learn?

Friday, September 12, 2014


I watched the President address the nation and announce a new strategy for dealing with the Islamic State (ISIS).  It is not lost on me that as I write a response to it today on September 11, eleven years after this nation was attacked, it was an attack which was used to justify two wars and a dismantling of American values as we know them.  By the time the president asked God to bless America (do you think ISIS asks Allah for the same thing?) it seemed there were more questions raised than answers given.

_____"...there will be no American combat troops in Iraq."  "...we will not be dragged into another ground war in this area."  We have over 600 troops in Iraq now and are flying hundreds of missions over the country.  What will we do if these troops are attacked...get trapped...taken hostage...killed?  Will we send in a rescue force and will we fight to get out people back?

_____"...Americans will train Iraqi troops."  Didn't we spend over 10 years and $100 billion of our tax dollars training and arming the Iraqi army?  At the first instance of a shot fired in anger, didn't they run like hell?  Most of ISIS's weapons are American taken from the "well trained" (in the opinion of the Bush and Obama Pentagons) Iraqi forces?  Why will they fight better this time?  If they can't, or won't defend their own land, what can we do to help?

_____"...this is a long term commitment, but we will continue until ISIS is degraded and destroyed."  The Powell Doctrine says you don't use military force unless it is have a clear concept of what victory have a clear and definable exit other words you can define success and when you have won.  What does victory look like in this case?  If ISIS is pushed out of Iraq, but is still occupying Syria is that victory?  If we attack ISIS in Syria and destroy its infrastructure, but it still exists as an Al Qaida-like guerilla force is that a win?  How do we know we won and can stop this commitment?

_____"...we have a coalition which will bear some of the heavy lifting in this effort."  Who is in this coalition?  Will Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), Egypt and other Arab nations be putting actual boots on the ground in Iraq?  Is this a coalition similar to the phony one Bush told us he had for the Iraq war?  What about money?  Who will help to pay for all of this?  Iraq is producing millions of barrels of oil a day.  Will they put up the billions necessary to save their own nation?  (remember when Paul Wolfowitz testified to Congress how the Iraq war would pay for itself?)

_____"...we will attack anyone, anywhere who is a threat to our national security."  If we attack and degrade ISIS in Syria, won't this allow the Assad regime to then turn their focus on the rebels and crush them?  Will our actions help keep Assad in power thus benefitting Iran tremendously?

_____"...I will ask Congress for permission and funding for moderate Islamic rebels fighting the Assad government in Syria."  What moderates?  Recently, Farid Zachariah wrote a piece about the myth of the moderate Islamic fighter and movement.  He says there is no such beast as a moderate Islamic fighter or militia or army.  The "moderate" are consistently overpowered and chewed up by the extremists time after time.  If we arm so-called moderates, how long before those same weapons are used against us or our allies?

_____The President says we also want to arm the Kurds.  What do we do when these well-armed Kurdish militias are used to back up a demand for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq?  Is this the beginning of another Iraqi civil war with us in the middle of it again?

_____What about Iran in all of this?  If we "degrade and defeat" ISIS, doesn't this benefit Iran directly?  Do we arm Hezbollah militias if they join us in fighting ISIS?  If we prop up the government in Baghdad, which is still closely linked to Tehran, are we playing right into Iran's hands?

_____Can we "win" in Iraq if we don't get some sort of resolution between the Israelis and the Palestinians?  Israel just announced it is illegally seizing more land on the West Bank for Jewish settlements.  How is it we don't connect ISIS and Syria and Iraq with what is going on in Israel?

_____These are just some of the questions the President's speech raises.  There are so many others.  Will we demand that Germany, France, Italy, and the rest of the NATO countries increase their military budgets and shoulder some of the burden caused by Putin and Russia and Iran and ISIS?  Can we afford to take on ISIS, Russia, put troops into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as a hedge against Russian aggression?  If they won't pony up, what should we do?

     Maybe the biggest question is raised by those who claim it is an incontrovertible fact that ISIS represents a direct, imminent threat to the security of the United States.  Really?  In what way?  Well, Americans, or others with European passports could come to this country and commit acts of terrorism.  I thought we already assumed this was a possibility we have to confront every day.  Isn't this the justification behind the Patriot Act and the destruction of the 4th amendment?  Isn't this the stated defense of the massive illegal actions of the National Security Agency?  Don't they tell us they need to hear every cell phone every email we send...see everywhere we go online in order to protect us from these fifth column assassins?  We have lost most of our privacy and constitutional protections based on the premise we are being protected from the very attacks we say we now have to go back to war to stop, aren't we?  What is the new threat ISIS represents to our nation?  They can't attack us militarily.  They can't send troops over here.  They can't harm our institutions or culture or democracy.  Yes, they killed two American journalists in horrific fashion and I would love to get the guy or guys who did that, but that is not a threat to the integrity of this nation.

     We are told ISIS is a danger we have never seen before.  Really?  Wasn't that what we were told about Afghanistan...about Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.  Then, everyone was sure...there was no doubt...the threat was was scary...we couldn't afford to wait for mushroom clouds over Manhattan remember?  Aren't we told the same thing about Iran and its attempt to get a nuclear weapon?  ISIS is a new immanent threat to us, yet Russia which has thousands of nuclear weapons and has directly threatened us and our neighbors...Russia which is invading allies and crushing democracies...Russia is a foe we can't even impose strict economic sanctions on and the president has completely ruled out any military action whatsoever to deter them.  We soft peddle Russia's actions and the threat it represents and fan the flames of the more "serious" threat in the form of ISIS.  Does this make any sense?

     A new Wall Street Journal poll says more and more Americans want us to attack ISIS.  Why?  Is it the outrage we feel about what they did to the two journalists?  What is the outcome Americans want?  The same regressives who refuse to pass legislation to rebuild this our crumbling roads and bridges and an electricity grid which is one transformer away from blacking out half the nation...lower interest rates and principal on student loans...provide more money for basic research and job training for Americans, are the same regressives now calling for pouring money back into the War Department so we can ramp up our military efforts against ISIS just as they did when they wanted to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The American people seem once again to have been frightened or steamrolled into agreeing with them.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


  When my oldest son and I talk, he frequently reminds me there are only two dates that matter...the day you go to prison and the day you come home.  As my time as a guest of our government come to an end, I anticipated all kind of feelings and reactions.  As I played it in my head, it would be a time of great explosion of freedom...a cornucopia of foods missed over the years...a welcome home party of epic proportions...a moment of unrequited joy for my family and for me.  Reality, as is usually the case, is far more messy and complicated.

     I haven't been writing as much as in the past and I was perplexed as to why.  Midterm elections and the control for Congress are up for grabs in November.  Russia has invaded Ukraine.  ISIS continues to roil Syria and Iraq committing unspeakable crimes against innocent men, women and children. (The same chicken hawks that lied us into Afghanistan and Iraq now want us to do it all over again.)   A new report confirms the top 1% are vastly richer today then in 2010 or before.  Every cell phone call we make is being monitored by the government and mysterious cell towers are appearing all over the country and no one seems to know who owns them or what purpose they serve, but the suspicions are ominous.  All of these items should be grist for my mill and yet my pen lays silent.  Why?

     It dawned on me the answer may lie in the fact I have a little more than three months left before I go home.  Since I have already served over 72 months, 3 ought to be a walk in the park.  The next 3 months should be a joy-filled, smile-inducing, countdown to an event worthy of an epic party.  It's known as being," short to the door" in here and most of those in my housing unit would be thrilled to switch places with me and have such a short time left.  For me, not so much.

     Please don't misunderstand.  I don't want to spend one more day in here than necessary.  I take full responsibility for the actions which put me in here and once again offer an apology to anyone I have offended, but will always bristle at a sentence which in no way reflects or was commensurate to the crime committed.  However, as the door approaches, my fantasy about going home has run smack dab into reality.

     The reality of going home has caused a whirlwind of thoughts and concerns and more than one sleepless night.  For over 6 years my job has been to survive.  My obligation has been to make it day to day and to do the work necessary to fulfill my promise to my wife to come home healthier and better than I left.  Dealing with bills and jobs and children and an economic disaster of historic scope was the responsibility of my wife and family and you.

     Responding to, and caring for, my son's cancer, my wife's health emergency, my daughter's pulmonary embolisms, my brother's heart crisis, my sister-in-laws fight with cancer, my sister's neighborhood in San Bruno destroyed by a natural gas explosion and the harm to her family, my son's loss of sight and much more, which all occurred while I have been here in exile, fell to others and all I had to do was worry and pray and hope they could handle it all.

     In a little more than 3 months, the weight and reality of the world will slam squarely back down on my shoulders and there will be many people with expectations for me and the life they will expect me to begin to live.  What about earning a living?  How do you re-introduce yourself to your wife after 6 plus years in which she has had to be the bread winner and family glue...6 years where she had to face fear and loneliness and terror by herself with no shoulder to lean on and no partner...6 years of anger about how she was let down and betrayed and disappointed by a man she married.  I've missed six years of my children's lives as well as the fact that all of my family has been embarrassed and humiliated publicly by my actions.

     When I come home, do I fade away into the ether, slink away silently into the night and hope people forget what I did?  What job or jobs will I be allowed to hold and will anyone hire an ex-felon with my crime?  Will society allow a second chance or a shot at redemption and even if it does, how does one go about securing such outcomes?  Is there a media company out there which would be willing to endure the heat and controversy which would be associated with hiring me?  (although I guarantee the shows would be electric and dynamic and entertaining as hell from a host who is chastened and humbled with so much to say)  All of this and more has crowded into my head and now I can't stop thinking and wondering and speculating and it seems to be crowding out everything else.

     I find myself obsessed with two concerns.  First, I want to be in physically as good a condition as possible.  This means taking a very disciplined approach to exercise every day without fail as well as a focus on what I'm eating, and not eating, to get down to as good a weight as possible.  Second, approaching the door forces me to assess me and to make sure any progress I have made turning myself around...progress getting pride and ego under control...progress in understanding how my actions affect others...progress in walking out the door a better husband and father and friend...progress in my relationship to a God who gave me so many talents and gifts and now wonders if She may have made a mistake...that I can bring all of this with me back to a world which will try to distract me and derail me and tempt me and fool me if I let it.

     I cannot promise this mental quagmire or thought storm makes as much sense as would overarching joy at coming home...getting away from this dysfunctional system designed to encourage recidivists not deter them...spending these last months planning the huge welcome home party.  I could be writing this to an audience of one, but I wanted to articulate to you why my production has slipped and why I am not as motivated right now to write about Obama  I apologize for the naval gazing but it seems to be increasing as the days drop away.

     There is much more to write.  There is more to say.  I have learned so much and want to pass it on.  Please bear with me over these last few months as I try to sort through all these feelings and questions.  We have all been on this journey together and I owe so many of you, and especially the minders of this site, for your friendship and support over these six plus years.  I have used this space to think and explore and to reveal to you what has been going on with me along this path.  We have some more roads to travel together I believe.