Monday, August 29, 2005

Anecdote

This weekend was the first drill back for those of us who returned from Afghanistan earlier this year (you get 60 days off after coming off of active duty). Driving home to Lawrence from Topeka, I stopped into a gas station to grab a soda while still in uniform. As I was leaving, two older gentlemen stopped me and shook my hand. One said, "We just wanted to thank you for your service, Sergeant."

"Yeah," said the other, "we want you to know we support the soldiers."

It had been a long day and, in a mischievous mood, I grinned and said, "Thanks, but you could really support us by not voting Republican anymore."

The guys bust out laughing. "Why the hell would you think we do something as stupid as voting Republican?"

One man had served in the infantry in Korea and Vietnam. The other had served as a Marine in Vietnam.

24 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Huber said...

OUTSTANDING anecdote. I'll have to link it from PS.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Touche! It must have felt really good to hear that.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK that's funny.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most sensible. Kansas? I think they were all lunatics out there. Maybe there's some hope after all.

Lurch

4:18 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hey, maybe there's hope after all.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused--does that mean they supported or opposed the idiot Democrats who sent them to war in Vietnam and Korea, for nothing?

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I don't see why Anonymous is confused -- the fact that these two veterans are not such idiots as to vote for the candidates of today's Republican party sheds no light on their voting habits 35 to 55 years ago.

However, let us suppose that the Democrats who supported (and instigated) the US involvement in the Korean and Vietnamese wars were idiots. This supposed idiocy on the parts of Truman and LBJ:
* In no way lessens the culpability of our President for rashly embarking our troops on the unnecessary invasion of Iraq
* Nor does it absolve our President from the utter incompetence his administration has exhibited in the execution of the occupation of Iraq
* Nor does it make him one whit less responsible for the needless deaths of our service men and women (and of innocent Iraqis)
* Nor does it in any way mitigate the fact that his irresponsible acts have weakened our armed forces and lessened our nation's security
* Nor does it take one dollar away from the record deficits we are incurring to support both his war and his tax cuts
* Nor does it bring us one step closer to capturing Osama bin Laden (aka "he who must not be named by this administration") and the others responsible for the heinous 9/11 attacks upon our nation and our citizens.

I am pleased to learn of the two fine Kansans that Terry met, and their recognition that Mr. Bush and the Republican party have poorly served the American people during their recent tenure in Government.

Jim

2:26 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Thanks, Jim. I couldn't have said it better myself.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Jim, I'm also not sure what to make of that.

I mean, it struck me when I read the story that is was a piece of just-so fiction, and I'm as convinced of that now as the first time. I mean, it's the sort of story that surprises in the way that all good fiction does, and as such it should be examined and interrogated as all good fiction should be.

So, notice that the character of "Terry" assumes that these men offering their support in a gas station must be Republicans. Why would "Terry" suppose such a thing? Is there a suggestion that those who would offer support are likely to be Republican?

When the older men tell "Terry" that they wouldn't be so "stupid" as to vote Republican, is this meant to surprise the reader?

"Terry" tellls the reader that he's returned from Afghanistan "earlier this year." Why doesn't he tell the older men that he served in Afghanistan and not in Iraq? Is there a suggestion that "Republicans" were responsible for his service in Afghanistan?

Why does "Terry" tell us that these men served in the infantry in Korea and Vietnam? Why doesn't "Terry" note that these were wars waged by Democrats? Is there a suggestion that one favors the wars one found pointless as a young man when one ages? Or is there some other explanation for the older men's apparent affection for a party that wasted so many lives in pointless foreign adventures?

Why does "Terry" think it is appropriate to engage in partisan political activities while in uniform?

Now, Jim did attempt to make some arguments against the war in Iraq, and to the extent that the point of the arguments is to insist that Bush is responsible for the course of events, then certainly he has a fair point (though an objective evaluation would point out that most Democrats favored the war in Iraq as well, so long as it proved popular). But if the point is that the war is mistaken--on a variety of fiscal, national security and moral concerns--well, that's going to take more than conclusory statements. For example, one might point out that linking the war in Iraq to the failure to capture bin Laden is just a non sequitur; our efforts in Bosnia also didn't bring us closer to the capture of bin Laden--does that mean they were and are mistaken? Of course not, and it is idiotic to pretend some sort of logical or even strategic relationship. The rest is of a similar quality.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Anonymouse,

Terry is not a "character," but is me. Terry Welch of Lawrence, Kansas. That's my mug on the photograph beside this post. (The photo was taken last New Years' Day while I was on leave in Barcelona with my wife.)

You can believe the story or not. I don't care.

I assumed they were Republicans because A) it's fucking Kansas; and B) I often find that Republicans are desperate to flaunt their "support" of the troops, since it serves the purpose of separating them -- in their fevered little brains -- from the Democrats they accuse of not supporting the troops.

I said Afghanistan and not Iraq because I actually served in Afghanistan. Here's a picture of me in Herat. See how it says "Welch" on the nametag? Hmmm...? Where I served didn't come up until after the gentlemen said they support the troops.

I mentioned the men's service because it was interesting to me. Have Democrats started unnecessary and costly wars? Yes and it's terrible that they did. I'm sure I would have been anti-LBJ in 1968, too. I don't see why that makes this one any better. As a matter of fact, the most heinous warmongering Democrat was Woodrow Wilson, who publicly advocated sprinkling democracy around the world like so much fairy dust. In the end, he actually decreased Democracy wherever he went, leaving us with numerous thugocracies to our south and a much shakier position in the world. You'd think Bush would have learned not to be like that Democrat, but maybe he remembered that war is still good for business.

Your "objective evaluation" is mistaken. Not only did most Democrats oppose the war in Iraq, but most Americans as a whole did as well. On January 10, 2003, only 23 percent of Americans believed we should invade on Bush's "evidence." After the "State of the Union" 59 percent said we should wait. You'll see polls that go slightly the other way, but most favored more patience, more time, more evidence, more allies...

Even the DOD admits it moved assets from Afghanistan to stage them for the Iraq war, so, yeah, there's a connection between the Iraq war and not catching bin Laden.

As for partaking of partisan political activities in uniform I'll say this: Fuck you. Bush has used the uniform of my service as a political backdrop for nearly five years. Also, while I was in uniform I was not on active duty, but even then I would be able to "express his or her personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces." This means I can say I disagree with the president but not that the Army disagrees with the president. (Interestingly enough, the RNC bragged that 144 active duty military members were delegates at their convention in 2004, which is expressly forbidden.) I'll say what I want when I deem it's appropriate. So, again, fuck you.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I find it interesting that "Anonymous" presumes that Terry is posting fiction on this blog instead of attempting to provide a faithful reporting of actual events he has experienced and presenting his thoughts and opinions.

Perhaps it is because Anonymous feels no obligation to hew to the truth in his/her/its/their comments.

In any event, Anonymous failed to catch the point of my posting -- Anonymous's original comment is a complete non-sequitor.

Even if we grant his/her/its/their premise:

"Truman and LBJ were idiots who sent our troops to die 'for nothing' in Korea and Vietnam"

this does not change the fact that, in today's America, one must be an idiot (or, possibly, hate the United States) to blindly vote for Republican candidates, given the piss-poor job they have done in the White House and Congress.

I can only conclude that Anonymous is a troll.

He/she/it/they are welcome to prove me wrong by setting forth exactly how they(?) thought the actions of the Democrats who controlled the Presidency and Congress circa 1950 and circa 1965 have any bearing on our evaluation of the performance of today's Republicans who run our government.

I ain't holding my breath.

Jim

3:50 AM  
Anonymous William Bollinger said...

Jim,
Anonymous's last post is full of neo-con talking points strung together in a manner designed to twist random bits of half-truth into an overall lie, that's typical of right wing think tanks. He's more likely a they.

Any response you send will be analyzed, picked apart, and responded to with focus-group tested lies crafted to sound true and knowledgable. They won't actually listen to your comments, except to find ways to twist what you say to support their message.

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

William,

You are, of course, on the money. And Terry's final paragraph above concludes with what may be the best possible response to such trolling.

Sigh.

I still like to believe that there is a place for discussion on-line, but I am a notorious optimist in many respects.

On those occasions in which I give in to the urge to respond to a troll, I try my best to ignore their digressions and stick to the key point. I can't say that I always succeed :-/

Best,
Jim

7:39 AM  
Anonymous William Bollinger said...

I don't think it is entirely wrong to respond to these groups, but I recommend pointing out their tactics instead of trying to engage in an open discussion. Failing to respond completely will work with an actual troll who is trying to start fights, but these professional trolling groups use web-bots to identify topics containing facts that they are trying to suppress, and then inject misinformation in an attempt to discredit the discussion. By pointing out the specific tactic being used, readers can understand that this input is not actually a part of the discussion. It ruins their purpose.

There is a definite place for discussion, both on line and in person. The damage being done to that discussion by these groups is a major part of what is wrong with America today. We have to ignore them and break this us vs. them mentality. Those damned (insert political party or group here) are not the enemy. They are a loyal opposition, and fellow Americans.

Probably the best rule of thumb is, if all they do is attack, point out that what they are attempting to do is disrupt discussion and ignore any points they make, if they disagree, discuss those differences, and actually try to understand their points. Remember, you don't have to agree with what they say, but you should concider their position worth listening to.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, obviousy stories are stories, and your story, as offered here, can be examined as any other story. I needn't believe it true or false to discuss it as a story. But since you insist that it is true, we'll leave it at that.

Now, as it happens, when I was discussing the Democratic support for the war, I was thinking of specifics, like the majority of the Democrats in the Senate voting to authorize the use of force. How voting for a Democrat instead of a Republican would change the outcome when Democrats vote with Republicans is a difficulty left unaddressed.

The suggestion that because two items are linked in time they are somehow linked by causation is unworthy of anyone over the age of 10. We have troops in Kosovo and Korea--are those reasons we haven't caught bin Laden? Of course--they happened at the same time!

On the fuck you point: my understanding--and please correct me if I have it right--is that partisan activity for enlisted members while in uniform is forbidden, whether on active duty or not. No exceptions. That is, "Terry" in the story has arguably violated the law (without regard to whether you violated the law). You're entitled to your views, but you're not entitled to express your partisan views while in uniform.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous has yet to explain why his/her/its/their premise that

"Truman and LBJ were idiots who sent our troops to die 'for nothing' in Korea and Vietnam"

somehow changes the fact that, in today's America, one must be an idiot (or, possibly, hate the United States) to blindly vote for Republican candidates, given the piss-poor job they have done in the White House and Congress.

I will also note that he/she/it/they somehow believes that the removal of special forces personnel from Afghanistan (to prepare for the invasion Iraq) had no affect on our efforts to capture bin Laden. In contrast, consider this article from the Washington Post

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52673-2004Oct21.html)

"In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan."

"That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength."

"The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion ..."

Evidently Anonymous believes that a concentration of intelligence and special operations assets in theater is not required to track down and capture terrorists. Perhaps Anonymous believes that we need only ask nicely and bin Laden will turn himself in!

Let me venture to predict that Anonymous will continue to split hairs and attack others without attempting to set forth any rationale for his/her/its/their original post, and we will never know why the poor governance of Mr. Bush and the Republicans in Congress is somehow excused by the supposed "idiocy" of Democrats in the '50s and '60s.

Jim

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, if you know where bin Laden is--and your post indicates that you do, and that it only resources that have prevented his capture, then, please, share with us that information. That's what's necessary to show the causal relationship. For example, there is no causal relationship if, say, bin Laden is in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. In that case, having all the resources in the world in Afghanistan wouldn't result in bin Laden's capture, would it?

12:08 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

EXAMPLES OF PROHIBITED POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

In accordance with the statutory restrictions in 10 U.S.C. 973(b) (reference (b)) and references (g) and (h), and the policies established in section D., above, of this Directive, a member on AD shall not:

1. Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others.

2. Be a candidate for civil office in Federal, State, or local government, except as authorized in section D., above, of this Directive, or engage in public or organized soliciting of others to become partisan candidates for nomination or election to civil office.

3. Participate in partisan political management or campaigns, or make public speeches in the course thereof.

4. Make a campaign contribution to another member of the Armed Forces or to a civilian officer or employee of the United States for promoting a political objective or cause.

5. Solicit or receive a campaign contribution from another member of the Armed Forces or from a civilian officer or employee of the United States for promoting a political objective or cause.

6. Allow or cause to be published partisan political articles signed or written by the member that solicit votes for or against a partisan political party or candidate.

7. Serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club.

8. Speak before a partisan political gathering of any kind for promoting a partisan political party or candidate.

9. Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate of a partisan political party or candidate.

10. Conduct a political opinion survey under the auspices of a partisan political group or distribute partisan political literature.

11. Use contemptuous words against the officeholders described in 10 U.S.C. 888 (reference (b)), or participate in activities proscribed by DOD Directives 5200.2 and 1325-6 (references (c) and (d)).

12. Perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee during a campaign or on an election day.

13. Solicit or otherwise engage in fundraising activities in Federal offices or facilities, including military reservations, for a partisan political cause or candidate.

14. March or ride in a partisan political parade.

15. Display a large political sign, banner, or poster (as distinguished from a bumper sticker) on the top or side of a private vehicle.

16. Participate in any organized effort to provide voters with transportation to the polls if the effort is organized by, or associated with, a partisan political party or candidate.

17. Sell tickets for, or otherwise actively promote, political dinners and similar fundraising events.

18. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces.


Let's remember, too, that these are the requirements for active duty soldiers, who are different from reserve component soldiers. If there weren't a difference, then reservists wouldn't be allowed to hold public office, which many do.

Now, you can't wear a uniform "when participating in activities such as public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration (including those pertaining to civil rights), which may imply Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted" nor can I wear it in the "furtherance of political activities." I personally don't see a wiseass comment and a conversation as the furtherance of political activities. I've talked to numerous military people about politics -- some who disagree with me and some who agree -- and only once did the conversation get shut down (I pointed out to a Lieutenant Colonel who had recently met with Wolfowitz and was spewing Republican talking points all over his troops that his facts were wrong and, as I began to list the reasons why, he told me that we weren't in the appropriate environment for a political discussion.) I've seen plenty of pro-Bush comments from active duty soldiers and plenty of anti-Bush comments. Soldiers have a write to converse, they just can't imply to outsiders that the Army feels like they do.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't doubt that you can discuss these issues in uniform with other soldiers.

And I don't think you believe that you could, say, repeat this conversation all day long across Kansas without violating the restrictions you discussed. That is, you'd certainly recognize that if you went, say, door to door across Lawrence in uniform, urging people to show their support by not voting Republican, you'd have violated the rules.

So what you're urging (what you must be urging, if you're being reasonable at all) is a special, one-time only exception--I can have this conversation in a gas station, but I can't do more than that (like going door to door having the conversation). And there's something to be said for that, as a matter of enforcement. But the question of enforcement is a separate question from the question of violationn, and I can't quite see how you've avoided at least a technical violation.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Marge said...

Wow- you're tenacious, I'll give you that. But you really need to give up this stupid and pointless thread because now you are arguing just for the sake of arguing, Dick. May i call you Dick?

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

My track record as a prognosticator is spotty, but I thank Anonymous for confirming my prediction within 30 minutes of its posting.

Now if I could only show such skill in forecasting the winning lottery numbers ;-)

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I don't think any current day idiocy is excused by any prior idiocy. I don't think the fact that I was a foolish 12 year old in any way excuses the fact that you're a 30 year old loser, for example.

5:34 PM  
Blogger teh l4m3 said...

Ha. Sounds like something my dad would say (also a Vietnam Vet).

8:31 AM  
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2:15 AM  

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