Thursday, May 29, 2008

We need a draft

We need a draft

By Walter Haan,

Considering the public’s almost total lack of respect as usual on Memorial Day Weekend, the very best way to rebuild the links between the battlefront and the homefront does require reinstating the draft. Ever since the Vietnam War era, those with less opportunities have served as our enlisted personnel, with barely a college guy in sight. In my Army Signal Corps company in 1965-66, there was only one college graduate out of 150 enlisted men. Me. Since the repeal of the draft, the situation has gotten worse, with military and economic systems that literally force poorer young people to join the regular forces and the National Guard. The Angrist-Krueger analysis of World War II veterans suggests that they earned five percent less over the decades than those who did not serve. Joshua Angrist’s study of the Vietnam experience calculates that military service during Vietnam reduced average overall earnings for white males by 15 percent. Skills acquired in the military do not make up for lost civilian work experience. Today, our poorer youth are still penalized for military service, not only in the workplace, but by the Veteran's Administration's poor health care and the administration's non support of the latest Veteran's education bill promoted by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

I have published military history and memoirs for 25 years, having read hundreds of manuscripts by anguished veterans. It is arrogance on our part to maintain a two tier system where the disadvantaged that do serve are economically punished for the rest of their lives.

This is abuse of our servicemen and women by the Bush-Cheney administration. The maintenance of military and economic systems that literally force young men and women of limited means to join the regular forces and the National Guard is criminal. These young people then find themselves in Iraq or Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the sons and daughters of the political and commercial elite avoid any risk from the military actions their fathers created and support for their own selfish economic benefit. Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thoughts as we approach Memorial Day

By Walter Haan,

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend. I've written before about things we shouldn't do on Memorial Day, such as racing to the stores for sale events. I think the holiday and weekend should be more respectful than that.

People disrespect the holiday, and by doing that, disrespect our fallen servicemen and women, all living veterans and current members of our military. Perhaps it shouldn't be called a holiday. That just sounds too festive.

Over Memorial Day weekend we'll see national leaders such as President Bush and Vice President Cheney, men who refused to serve in the active military alongside other Americans, disrespect the very people they're pretending to honor by laying wreathes at memorials around the country. Bush was a member of the reserves but his poor behavior and lack of responsibility are well documented.

I think it would make a lot more sense to have ordinary veterans and current service members laying those wreathes at the Tomb of the Unknowns, for example. These would be people who know what it is really like to serve their country.

I saw a picture on the BBC Web Site last month that illustrates the disrespect of service men and women that I'm talking about. The photo also illustrates that we don't have a monopoly in this matter. The photo was of the new Spanish Defense Minister, Carme Chacon, Spain's first woman in the post, reviewing troops in Madrid. She was seven months pregnant in the photo and wore slacks, a casual maternity top and an open casual jacket. The troops were standing at attention in dress uniforms while this woman who looked as if she just stepped out of the supermarket reviewed them. It would be like Cheney reviewing American troops in a golf jacket and sweat pants, which I think he is capable of. My first reaction when I saw the photo of Chacon was, "Put on a dress, for God's sake. Or a tailored, maternity suit."

But she went casual, which I think really illustrates what most citizens around the world really think those who serve in the military really rate: casual, careless, offhand recognition.

Taking the sacrifices of our American military members, past and present, casually, is just poor citizenship on the part of the American public.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Let terrorists into the system?

By Walter Haan,

I've been thinking about terrorists lately. Nation states have been fighting terrorists forever. Great Britain fought what it thought were terrorists in the 18th century in North America. That fight became known as the American Revolutionary War. The terrorists, also known as the rabble, or the American patriots, won.

There's an interesting experiment in Nepal right now. The Maoists, labeled terrorists by the US, fought for ten years throughout Nepal...until the government promised to fulfill some of their demands if the Maoists would put down their weapons and join the system. One of the Maoists' demands was to overthrow the monarchy, which had acted like a terrorist organization itself in 2006 and 2007. In December the Nepalese government agreed to provisionally marginalize the monarchy. Then elections were held in April which included the mainstream Nepalese political parties and the Maoists. The big surprise of the elections was that the Maoists won it. Now they're part of the system and have to perform to make peoples' lives better. The US still labels the Maoists as terrorists. Never mind the election results and that the lives of ordinary Nepalese are better. So much better that tourists are returning.

A former prince of the Afghan Royal Family has recently suggested that the best way to end the conflict in Afghanistan against the Taliban is to let them be part of the governing system. Make the Taliban part of the government and let them run in elections and let's see what happens. That is the prince's idea. He is part of the current Afghani government.

Based on Nepal, I think the idea has merit. I don't like the Taliban but there seem to be enough Afghans that like them, that support them, to keep the war going. Maybe it doesn't matter whether I like the Taliban or George Bush doesn't like the Taliban.

The US is free with its labeling of people as terrorists. During the Vietnam War, the US called the Viet Cong terrorists. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong used terrorism, according to President Johnson. North Vietnam was also considered a Communist state and the US was afraid that the Communist terrorists would win, setting off a domino effect of Southeast Asian nations falling to Communist terrorists across the region. But the truth was that those Vietnamese Communist terrorists were actually just nationalists. They just wanted their nation back from France and then the US. We lost over 58,000 of our best and brightest because we misunderstood.

Now in Iraq, Al Quaida, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish terrorists oppose our efforts there. We've lost over 4,000 of our best and brightest again trying to keep the artificial nation-state of Iraq together. Iraq's artificial border was drawn in 1920 by the British and French.

Of course all of these terrorist wars are really about economics. The US wants to control the Iraqi oil. In Vietnam the US wanted to prevent Vietnam from being a springboard for Communist terrorists into Thailand. Afghani territory could be used for oil pipelines by US oil companies so the US must "hold" Afghanistan.

And in Nepal, the US and India recognize that Nepal is a buffer nation-state between China and India. Conservative Indians don't want Maoist terrorists controlling Nepal. And neither does the US which wants to limit Communists farther south than China. India and the US would probably prefer the Nepalese royalist terrorists because they would be "our" terrorists.

What is that old statement? "They may be bastards, but they are our bastards." There it is in a nutshell. The US only supports its own terrorists, the ones it knows and controls. Like Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti and Trujillo of the Dominican Republic in the sixties. Or Saddam Hussein in the eighties when we armed him to fight Iran.

Terrorists who don't do our bidding must be eliminated according to US policy. Think of the lost lives and treasure we've lost because of that failed US policy. The US, the largest democratic nation in the world, does not support other democratic movements if they get in our way. We overthrew the Iranian democracy in 1953 because it was going to nationalize Iranian oil. So we overthrew that democracy and put the Shah back in power. Another of "our" bastards.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,