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Just Say No

12:25 pm in War by dakine01

I have been struggling these last few days and weeks to come up with something to say about the possible US engagement/bombing of Syria. Usually when I write a blog post, it comes together quickly and the words just flow but this is different. Part of it is knowing that some people I respect seem to think bombing Syria is a good idea for some reason. Another part is a lot of people I do not respect are now sounding like the dirtiest of ef’fin’ anti-war hippies that ever came down the protest road.

A 500lb bomb ready to drop...

A 500lb bomb ready to drop…

I am a veteran even though I am and have been staunchly anti-war since my college days in the early ’70s. There is a small amount of irony in this as I attended a military high school in the late ’60s and at one point thought I wanted to be a career infantry officer. My draft lottery number was six and if I had not had an ROTC deferment, I would have been in the US Army during Vietnam. As it was, I avoided Vietnam but wound up enlisting in the Air Force and serving from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982.

We have the most technologically powerful military in the world. I almost said “the most powerful” military in general but a lot of the military has been broken through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet we have people in Washington today calling for the US to intervene militarily in Syria in a civil war.

The DeeCee “conventional wisdom” seems to be that the Syrian government gassed their own people so we have to bomb them. Yet, there are credible allegations that any gassing may have been done accidentally by the rebels using chemicals provided by the Saudis and mishandled by the rebels. Secretary of State John Kerry says there is evidence to support attacking the Syrian government but that it is secret. I would like to believe him, I really would. But the US government, headed by presidents from both major political parties has long forfeited its right to be believed and trusted. There has been way too much adventurism based on incomplete or cherry-picked evidence for the US Executive or Legislative branches to be trusted.

This lack of trust in the government goes much further back than just the ten years ago run up to invading Iraq based on lies and half truths. It goes back beyond the Gulf of Tonkin “incident.” It goes back beyond the recent admission by the CIA that they helped over throw an elected Iranian government in 1952, installing the Shah; eventually leading to his overthrow, the attack on the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the stand-off between the US and Iran that exists today. I am not a tin-foil wearing conspiracy theorist but these items I have mentioned are not conspiracies, they are facts, albeit often not admitted for decades.

I don’t know for sure which side is which in Syria. I have a strong sense of “a plague on all of your houses” may be the best response. I keep hearing that we will only support the “moderate” rebels, as if there can ever be such a beast. The saber-rattlers in Washington seem to think we need to drop bombs, even if some of them admit that it won’t do much good and won’t end well.

I seem to recollect learning in school that if you were a larger person, more powerful, you had an obligation to walk away when provoked. The theory being that because of the power, the individual had a responsibility to do all in their power to avoid conflict, not seek it out. It was only the bullies who sought out and provoked conflict. Nowadays, it seems the prevailing thoughts are that we must bomb other countries to “save face.” I seem to recall another set of lessons from my school days where the idea of having to “save face” confused many of us as it seemed to lead to such awful outcomes such as many of the wars we studied.

I would like to close with a question that has been floating in my mind these last few days. Do the dead really care how they were killed, by chemical weapons or by bombs? Or do they just recognize that either way, they are dead? It is too bad we can’t ask them, isn’t it?

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Army Inspector General Audit Uncovers Contracting Problems

10:04 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

[Ed. note: Promoted as this deserves greater attention. It's very important to remember that the Defense Department still can't say how many contractors' and subcontractors' personnel are working for them even after a request from the House Oversight Committee last November.]

The other day I received an email from a friend with a link to an article in the September 1, 2010 issue of Government Executive discussing an audit the US Army Inspector General had conducted on 18 different contracting vehicles (seven contracts and 11 task orders) used to support activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The actual audit report is a PDF at the first link of the GE article.)

The GE article and the audit itself seemed to concentrate on the process errors in the award of some of these contracts and Task Orders as sole source and the failures to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Acquisition Regulations (DAR) and these are indeed serious problems.

I worked in Accounting and Finance while I was in the USAF, for the Defense Logistics Agency as an in-plant QA specialist for a couple of years as well as other contracting support activities after that. Some of the FAR and DAR can be a real pain to comply with and the lead times necessary to plan for a contract award can be years, depending on the scope of the effort. I’ve been involved as a "Non-government Technical Adviser to the Source Selection Board" and I’ve been on both the winning and losing end of various contract awards. I’ve been on the winning end where we took a contract away from a preferred incumbent and I’ve been on the losing end of the same situation.

As I read the audit report, the problems with the contracts and task orders highlighted in the report seemed to be as much the result of laziness as anything. A lot of failures to follow all the required processes and due diligence.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

So by this standard, I guess Bush will Apologize in 2050

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

I was surfing through various news sites this morning and over at McClatchy, I see this headline

For those who are too young to know or were asleep during the late ’60s/early ’70s, the My Lai massacre was a slowly unfolding example of the US Army covering up atrocities by soldiers (and where have we heard of this happening recently?). William Calley was the only person convicted during the various trials, although there were others in his command chain who were charged and acquitted, including his company commander, Capt Ernest Medina. Charges were even brought against the commander of the Americal Division, Maj Gen Samuel Koster (charges against Koster were later dropped and he lost a promotion to Lt Gen and was instead demoted to Brigadier before retiring in ’73).

Among the various investigations of the massacre were ones conducted by a young Army major by the name of Colin Powell and a young investigative reporter named Seymour Hersh. The My Lai investigation was actually Hersh’s first major expose and resulted in a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

So here we are, forty plus years after the massacre where former 2nd Lt Calley is quoted

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, [GA] on Wednesday. His voice started to break when he added, "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

And as always, there are two or three relatively anonymous heroes in this story, most especially Warrant Officer One, Hugh Thompson, Jr, who led a helicopter crew that confronted Lt Calley and his men.

One man (and his crew) stood up for what is right. One man "followed orders" and was convicted (officially of 22 murders although the death toll reported ranged from 347 (the official US Army number) up to 504). No other convictions of anyone at any level. Cover-ups at multiple levels. The victims were all "VC" or "guerrillas."

Over forty years for the one man convicted to apologize.

I do hope folks aren’t holding their breaths waiting for George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and all the others to apologize for their atrocities.

And because I can:

What have we done, Chapter 1,468

1:51 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

So there I was, surfing through news sites this morning when I came across this article from the Boston Globe, More female veterans are winding up homeless.

WASHINGTON – The number of female service members who have become homeless after leaving the military has jumped dramatically in recent years, according to new government estimates, presenting the Veterans Administration with a challenge as it struggles to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

As more women serve in combat zones, the share of female veterans who end up homeless, while still relatively small at an estimated 6,500, has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For younger veterans, it is even more pronounced: One out of every 10 homeless vets under the age of 45 is now a woman, the statistics show.

And unlike their male counterparts, many have the added burden of being single parents.

“Some of the first homeless vets that walked into our office were single moms,’’ said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “When people think of homeless vets, they don’t think of a Hispanic mother and her kids. The new generation Read the rest of this entry →