Sunday, April 30, 2006

The ground is fertile for action

I received the following email from Ralph Nader recently because I supported his last two runs for president. One of the reasons I supported him in 2004 is that he advocated US withdrawal from Iraq immediately. Since the election, things have gone from bad to worse in Iraq and last week was a particularly bad one regarding the loss of American servicemen's lives. Nader's letter shows how our country has misused its power in the past, and I think it is relative to the purpose of this blog. The following was written by Ralph Nader:

Dear Fellow Citizen,

You often hear Europeans and other foreigners say – I can’t believe you Americans elected George Bush as President – twice.

But looking back, not only is it believable – it makes perfect sense.

After all, too many Americans know more about the contestants on American Idol than they do about their politicians – never mind Iraq or Iran.

Bush was projected as a guy you could have a beer with.

And the Democrats were – and remain – squishy Republican lite.

Prescription for disaster.

During the 2004 campaign, we challenged the two party duopoly, corporate power, and the war in Iraq.

People come up to me and ask – Ralph, how are we going to get out of this mess?

And my answer remains – it’s all about creative, confident citizen action.

The collective creativity of the American people trumps the power of the corrupt corporate kleptocrats and their cronies in both parties.

As we wind down here at, I’d like to leave you with three points:

First, don’t believe the hype.

On foreign policy, Democrats would have you believe that Bush is the most reckless President and that he has ripped the United States away from a tradition of cooperative diplomacy by violently overthrowing governments.

But as former New York Times reporter Steven Kinzer points out, the opposite is true.

Bush is actually following and escalating a long-established tradition.

Beginning with the ouster of Hawaii’s monarchy in 1893, the United States government has not hesitated to overthrow governments – fourteen by Kinzer’s count – that stood in the way of its political and economic goals.

One example from the fourteen: Fifty-three years ago, the United States launched Operation Ajax to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran – Mohammed Mossadegh.

Now it looks like Bush is preparing for Iran again.

In 1953, Mossadegh was fed up with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – now BP – pumping Iran's oil and shipping the profits back home to the United Kingdom.

Mossadegh said -- hey, this is our oil, I think we'll keep it.

Bad idea.

For the United States government, close to the Big Oil Companies, decided to overthrow Mossadegh’s government.

Kinzer, who has written a number of books documenting a century of regime change overseas, puts it this way:

"Imagine today what it must sound like to Iranians to hear American leaders tell them -- ‘We want you to have a democracy in Iran, we disapprove of your present government, we wish to help you bring democracy to your country.' Naturally, they roll their eyes and say -- 'We had a democracy once, but you crushed it.'".

Second, look forward.

The next couple of years present all of us with great opportunities.

Third, get creative.

The ground is fertile for action. The needs and the solutions are here. ---Ralph Nader

Hi, I'm back. On Saturday, 350,000 people marched in Manhattan against our involvement in Iraq. They found the ground fertile for action.

I'm not anti-war. I am pro-Soldier, pro-Sailor, pro-Airman, pro-Coast Guardsman, pro-Marine. We need our strong military to fight for justice in this world. Certainly there was no justice in Iraq before we attacked and occupied it. But justice and peace have continued to elude us in Iraq. Mistakes have been made by our government that have led to the death of over 2,000 American servicemen and women. These men and women were part of our future.

Memorial Day is in late May. I'll be having a lot to say this month about those we have lost during our foreign military actions since The Korean "Police Action." My oldest friend's name is carved on The Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC. She is one of the nine women listed.

If you have lost someone in our military you'd like remembered in this blog for Memorial Day, write me.---Walter Haan,

Friday, April 28, 2006

American Servicemen injured in Iraq and Afghanistan declared deadbeats by US government

According to several news sources, almost 900 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have been charged by our government for questionable debts from our wars that our government sent them to.

In our name, collection notices have been going out to veterans with brain damage, paralysis, lost limbs and shrapnel wounds.

The report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued on April 27th, details how long recognized problems with military computer systems led to the soldiers being charged for a list of debts because of government errors. What computer equipment is the government using? Kaypros from the eighties?

The government has known about the problem for about a year but done nothing. The GAO was asked by Congress to investigate debts among the battle-wounded. The new report shows a problem more widespread than previously imagined.

"We found that hundreds of separated battle-injured soldiers were pursued for collection of military debts incurred through no fault of their own," the report said.

Our government has gone so far as to hire debt collection services to hound injured vets for supposed overpayment of pay, loss of weapons on the battlefield, travel to and from battlefronts and medical services to save their lives!

Our wealthy leaders in Washington, after insuring that their own sons and daughters don’t go to Iraq and Afghanistan, send sons and daughters from poorer families and then, to add insult to injury after these children of the poor and middle class have been injured, destroy these kids' credit ratings. This is being done in our names. Write your congressmen.

NOTE: By the way, April 29th was the late Emperor Hirohito's birthday. In his name, the Japanese killed millions of Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians, Filipinos, Americans, British, Dutch and Australians during World War II. To this day, the Japanese have never fully accepted responsibility for the Asian Holocaust they unleashed. Remember that the next time you are in a Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi or Honda showroom.--Walter Haan,

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Unit

I’ve been watching The Unit on CBS, Tuesday nights, and think it’s time I commented.

The show is based on the book, Inside Delta Force, by Eric Haney. Someone wrote a review of the book saying he found it entertaining, but found Mission Impossible entertaining too.

That’s the way I feel about the television show. It is entertaining, but about as realistic as Mr. Ed, the old TV show about the talking horse.

As someone who’s been in the military, it doesn’t sound right. The language is too clean. The characters all come across as well educated, well spoken men in multiple languages who just happen, when they commute to their offices, go to Indonesia or Afghanistan to kick butt.

If you’ve been in the military, you know what I mean. Soldiers use foul language, pee wherever they want (like off the top bunk or down a staircase), drink heavily and fight each other as often as they fight the enemy. That doesn’t mean they’re not patriotic. They generally are gung ho American.

But CBS can’t show that reality on a family network. This show belongs on cable, particularly FX, which runs The Shield and Rescue Me. Whatever you have to say about those shows, they sound right, and visually look right.

And last night’s episode had a subplot about prayer! Come on! Was the script written by some padre, priest or minister somewhere? It’s supposed to be written by David Mamet.

So basically, what I’m saying about The Unit, CBS’s version of Inside Delta Force, is that it has no balls. It should be retitled The Eunuch.—Walter Haan,

Monday, April 24, 2006

Self publishing versus independent publishing versus mainstream, corporate publishing

Received an email a few days back from a former marine who had self-published a book about his experiences in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He is now trying to get it"properly published and marketed."

I am asking this former marine to send a copy for our consideration. While we don't read everything offered us, we are interested in first-hand books about Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and, of course, the Iraqi War.

Veterans have three choices for publication of their books: Self publishing versus independent publishing versus mainstream, corporate publishing. All three have their problems for an author/veteran. If you self publish, your access to the marketplace is severely restricted, as this former marine learned. Independent publishers (such as Southfarm Press) have a wider access to the consumer and tend to keep books in print for long periods of time. But an independent publisher’s access to consumers is less than corporate publishers which tend to own many imprints. Many of the corporate publishers themselves are owned by foreign publishers. Random House is an example of a large book publisher owned by a corporation controlled by a foreign firm, in this case German. I’ve heard it referred to as Random Haus. While at first it may seem lucky that a veteran gets his or her book published by a corporate behemoth, if the book doesn’t do well in the marketplace immediately, it won’t support the book, will remainder it and let it go out-of-print quickly.

To remainder a book means to sell off all inventory at cost to discount book wholesalers. Authors do not receive royalties for books remaindered. And frequently the corporate publisher doesn’t keep the author in the loop when it remainders his or her book. Surprise, surprise. –Walter Haan,

Friday, April 21, 2006

A...B...C...Now you know your ABCs (for adults)

Now hear this: ABC News at 9 am on the radio this morning—Second story is about Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her 80th birthday. Third story is a reminder that Tom Cruise will be on ABC’s 20/20 this evening at 10 pm. ABC Radio News at 10 am reports on Vanna White getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because she knows the whole alphabet, at least according to Merv Griffin.

Leading stories on the front page of today’s New York Times: “Bush and Hu Vow New Cooperation” (whoops, my fingers wanted to type “Confrontation”) and “Shiite Drops Bid to Keep His Post as Iraqi Premier.”

Most Americans don’t know who Hu is or what a “Premier” is. Why? Because popular news wants to keep the American peasants happy with news fluff about Queen Elizabeth, Tom Cruise, Vanna White and Merv Griffin.

That way Americans don’t become concerned about serious subjects, such as Iraq, the Iraqi War and our relations with China (Hu is president of China).

And as long as they’re doing it, why shouldn’t ABC News plug one of its own TV shows under the guise of “news?”

It’s a “Win, Win” for ABC News and its parent corporation, Disney.

It’s a “Lose, Lose” for most Americans. The dictionary says that lose, among other definitions, means “to bring to ruin.”

Big corporations and popular news media are bringing us to ruin. --Walter Haan,

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Broken Record Keeps Repeating Itself and Costs Lives: American, Korean, Vietnamese and Iraqi

In March 1964, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara started a speech about South Vietnam with the statement that "the independence of a nation and the freedom of its people are being threatened by Communist aggression and terrorism." Many speeches later he concluded in upbeat terms that sound frighteningly similar to other proclamations from the Defense Department since World War II:

"When the day comes that we can safely withdraw, we expect to leave an independent and stable South Vietnam, rich with resources and bright with prospects for contributing to the peace and prosperity of Southeast Asia and of the world."

We had heard that before and are hearing it again.

"When the day comes that we can safely withdraw, we expect to leave an independent and stable South Korea, rich with resources and bright with prospects for contributing to the peace and prosperity of East Asia and of the world." Our troops are still there.

"When the day comes that we can safely withdraw, we expect to leave an independent and stable Iraq, rich with resources and bright with prospects for contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Middle East and of the world."

Only this time, Iraq has become our colony. We are building a huge, secure “embassy” in Baghdad. We are building huge, permanent air bases to support our presence there. When will President Bush appoint a Governor General of our newest colony?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Jane Fonda Declines to Protest about Iraq. Thank God!

From Atlanta on network television this morning, some time actress Jane Fonda said she would have liked to tour the country and speak out against American involvement in Iraq. However, she thinks her controversial activities during the Vietnam War leave her with ''too much baggage.''

I’ll say. Her “baggage” is the size of a hundred steamer trunks. I wouldn’t think any antiwar activists would want her on the same continent. She indulged in traitorous behavior during the Vietnam War.

''I wanted to do a tour like I did during the Vietnam War, a tour of the country,'' the Oscar-winning actress said this morning on ABC's Good Morning America. “But then Cindy Sheehan filled in the gap, and she is better at this than I am. I carry too much baggage.''

Sheehan’s soldier son, Casey, died in Iraq in 2004 and she has become a leading anti-war figure.

Fonda said that during a recent national book tour, Iraqi war opponents, including Vietnam veterans, asked her to speak out. Other Vietnam War veterans spit in her face on that tour.

Because of that “baggage” she carries, the Georgia Senate in March overwhelmingly rejected a resolution honoring Fonda, an Atlanta resident, for her work preventing teen pregnancy, donations to universities and other charities. They know she can’t buy her way out of what she did.

Her political activities protesting the Vietnam War, including a trip to North Vietnam in 1972 where she sat pertly on a North Vietnamese anti aircraft gun, have long made her a target of veterans.

I actually saw Fonda in person in 1962 in a Broadway play. I can’t remember the title of it, but it was a comedy starring Celeste Holm, Fonda and James McArthur (the Danno of “Book ‘em, Danno” on TVs Hawaii Five-O). I saw her come out the stage door after the show wearing a hat with a brim the size of a flying saucer. Anyone near her could have been decapitated by that hat.

She is an exhibitionist. Always has been. To keep her name in the papers, that’s really why she took her traitorous trip to North Vietnam and protested that war. She is the last person you’d want within miles of a serious Iraqi War discussion or antiwar demonstration.—Walter Haan,

General Richard B. Myers defends Donald Rumsfeld

General Richard B. Myers, who retired six months ago as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who was appointed to that position with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's approval in 2001, has emerged as one of Rumsfeld’s chief defenders. He repeated his comments from last week on a Sunday TV program that retired generals speaking out against the defense secretary are inappropriately breaching military etiquette, which dictates that officers discuss complaints with the civilian leadership privately.

Inappropriately breaching military etiquette? I am assuming that these generals had discussed their misgivings about Iraq with Rumsfeld before they retired. And Rumsfeld evidently didn’t listen to them. So what are these generals supposed to do while American servicemen and women are continually exposed to dangers unanticipated by Rumsfeld? Bury their heads in the Iraqi sand?

LBJ’s Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, is on record as knowing we could not win the Vietnam War, but kept on sending our men and women anyway. Now over 58,000 of them are named on The Vietnam War Wall Memorial in Washington.

Standing on etiquette, and watching silently while our men and women are being killed as things go from bad to worse, seems insane to me.—Walter Haan,

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Military Experience in the Peace Corps

As I said in my profile, I served in the Peace Corps before serving in the US Army in the sixties. I arrived in Allahabad, India in September 1962 and not long after I arrived, war broke out between India and China over the positions of the borders between them. I was teaching printing technology at a government of India printing college near the Ganges River. Immediately upon the war news hitting the papers and radio, the principal of my college called me down to his office. He wanted me to take charge of air raid drills and supervise the digging of trenches around the hostel for students to jump into if we came under Chinese air attack.

I pointed out to him that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and not trained for what he wanted me to accomplish. He replied, “You’re an American. You know what to do.”

Arranging air raid drills in that Indian College wasn’t easy. When I was in high school in the fifties in Floral Park, New York, we’d line up in the school hallways and face our lockers during air raid drill. But hallways in Indian schools and other institutions are usually on the outside of the buildings, open to the outside. Birds came in the classrooms from the hallways and open windows. I managed to arrange a few drills inside the classrooms away from windows and doors.

But my greatest failing came in supervising those trenches being dug. I enlisted the students to dig them and they were very enthusiastic about it, so it didn’t take long. Then one night we had a visitor for supper, another American about 10 years older than me who was a Fulbright Scholar. When conversation waned, I invited him to admire my trenches.

“Walt,” he said, “You have a big problem here. Your trenches are all in a straight line. Students seeking refuge in them would be mowed down by a plane on a strafing run. You need zigzag trenches.”

The next day I ordered new, zigzag trenches.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Falkland Island Situation in the Caribbean?

I was reading Pravda online last week and came up with an interesting item. Seems that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at a recent meeting with the Dutch Defense Minister, Henk Kamp, called the Dutchman “a pawn of Washington” and a “truly ridiculous man.” Chavez thinks that the Dutch are being manipulated by the United States and that the Dutch Islands off the coast of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) could be used by the U.S. as a staging ground for a U.S. attack on Venezuela. Some in the Dutch government think it’s possible that Chavez might launch an attack on the Dutch Islands, just as Argentina did in 1982 against the British in the Falkland Islands.

Oddly enough, this is history repeating itself. In the late 19th century, a Venezuela dictator threatened the same Dutch Islands and the Dutch responded by sending a fleet to blockade Venezuelan ports. Washington pretended to ignore the situation in spite of the Monroe Doctrine which looked unkindly on European nations sending fleets to threaten nations in the Western Hemisphere. But the U.S. was unhappy with the Venezuelan dictator and let the events unfold. The U.S. has experienced difficulty with many Latin American dictators. Currently the list includes Chavez and Castro of Cuba. Coincidentally, the name of the Venezuelan dictator that threatened the Dutch Islands in the late 1800s was, are you ready, Castro.

I wish some foreign leader would call our Secretary of Defense a “truly ridiculous man” to his face. Besides being a truly frightening individual contemplating a possible nuclear attack on Iran, Donald Rumsfeld, along with Vice President Cheney and President Bush, is a ridiculous, dangerous man. This trio seems to enjoy putting American fighting men and women in harm's way.--Walter Haan,

Monday, April 10, 2006

Don't Let a Dear John Letter Screw You

When I was in the US Army in 1965-1966 I was stationed in Germany. I considered myself and my buddies to be lucky. We weren't posted to Vietnam or Korea for that matter. I was 24 -26 years old, older than the other guys in my signal corps company. Most of the guys were 18 to 20 years old and hadn't been out of the USA before. Over and over I heard guys say they were going to volunteer to go to Vietnam. I would pull them aside, kick the door closed, and ask, "WHY?" We had it made. Why would anyone do that?

Over and over I heard the same answer: "I just got a Dear John letter from my girl. She's dumping me and going with another guy stateside. If I volunteer for Vietnam, I get to go home for a 30-day leave and can kick that guy's ass!

And I'd yell back: "BUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THOSE 30 DAYS? THAT'S RIGHT. YOU GO TO VIETNAM!" I can honestly say that I didn't convince any of those guys to change their minds. They went home, kicked someone senseless and then wound up in Saigon or Hue in time for Tet. I was the only college graduate in my company of 150 men and have often thought that more older guys like me were needed to "protect" these young troops from themselves.

Last year I met a kid who was about to graduate from high school and I asked what his plans were. "I'm joining the Navy," he said. I told him that was great, but stay away from Iraq. He replied: "That's all over, isn't it?"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hire veterans

If you are an employer, hire returning veterans before you consider hiring non-veterans. Studies have shown that those who serve in the military have less lifetime earnings than those who do not serve.

Let's correct that injustice.

Public idolization of Bill Clinton from a Vet's viewpoint

I continue to be dismayed by the public idolization of Bill Clinton, as seen again and again in the USA. To me, as an army veteran of the sixties, and as a publisher of war memoirs and history books for 20 years, he personifies what was unfair during the Vietnam War Era and is unfair again now in the Iraqi War.

The draft of the sixties was so porous that men of Clinton's inclination to avoid serving had an easy time of it. The result was an armed forces made up of soldiers from poor, uneducated backgrounds placed in peril by those better educated and more affluent. In my 150 man company, I was the only soldier who was a college graduate.

Now in Iraq draftees have been replaced by reservists who needed extra income to raise families. The better educated and more affluent do not have to worry about being sent to war. Again. Until fair is the determining factor as to who serves this nation on the front lines, the Clintons of our society will continue to dodge their responsibilities to further their ambitions at others' expense.

Put me in charge of the draft, which undoubtedly will come about again. I'll make sure it's fair. First to go: the Bush daughters.--Walter Haan,