Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are Veterans like brackish puddles to be stepped over by America's privileged?

By Walter Haan,

I was at the VA on Friday to see my doctor. She prescribed medicine and I had to wait 30 minutes for it. I've waited longer at CVS for prescriptions that were called in hours ago.

When I went to the window to receive the medicines, the pharmacist asked my address just to be certain the medicines were going to the right person. So I gave her my address, including my town.

As I waited at the elevator to go down to the ground floor, another veteran in the waiting room, 10 to 15 years younger than me, asked for a ride to my downtown. I agreed to drop him off.

We talked while I drove. We both had been at Fort Gordon for training. We both have had the same illness recently, and the VA is treating him. He's had Hep C, doesn't have a car or job. His first wife died of Hep C. He had liked being in the military because it gave him direction and had grown up on the streets of the Bronx.

I felt very sad after dropping him off. He was in the military after the Vietnam War ended in the mid 70s and I would guess that nothing has gone right for him since the military.

It made me think of the current crop of American servicemen now in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wondered what their lives will be like 15, 20 years from now without education, without association or connections with men and women from other sections of society. Probably not that good.

But this is what happens when we don't have a draft and the privileged of this country allow, even encourage, men and women with limited futures to enlist for death, injury or even more questionable futures after they serve. And of course we've lost 40+ men in Afghanistan this month, making August 2009 the deadliest month for American troops in that country in years.

I've seen headlines recently that ask whether Afghanistan will be Obama's Vietnam. That's the wrong question. It should be: Will America be even more divided, the haves versus the have nots, 20 years from now, with ill, homeless veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq roaming our streets. And will privileged Americans continue to step over our veterans in inner cities as if they were brackish puddles? My bet is they will. --Copyright 2009 by Walter Haan; www.war-books .com

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy against "Clean Gene" McCarthy

Teddy Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy against “Clean Gene” McCarthy

By Walter Haan,

The media is full of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy today. Not only that, memories of his brothers, President John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, are laced into the Teddy stories.

I went to my desk to pull out a file I hadn’t looked at since 2006: my collection of articles about Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. McCarthy was the man who stood in the way of Bobby obtaining the Democratic nomination for president in 1968. McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire primary over the Vietnam War. Bobby stood back, too afraid of challenging Johnson over Vietnam, worried that challenging Johnson at that time would hurt his chances of running for president later when it was safer.

McCarthy took 42% of the vote in that New Hampshire primary, only 7% shy of Johnson’s total. But it was viewed as a McCarthy victory because of the closeness: an unknown Minnesota senator and poet had almost beaten Johnson, a sitting president. By doing that, he had defeated Johnson.

Suddenly, Johnson bowed out of the race and Bobby announced his intention to run for president in the remaining Democratic primaries. The problem for the Kennedys now was to get rid of McCarthy. Part of that effort included sending Edward Teddy Kennedy to meet with Eugene McCarthy and his wife Abigail to convince McCarthy to bow out and the hope was that McCarthy might say something damaging to himself during their talk. Ted Kennedy was wired to catch any misstep McCarthy might make. Abigail threw Teddy out of the room.

The crux of the disagreement between McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy has echoed through the years: Kennedy’s followers considered him courageous. McCarthy’s supporters saw Bobby Kennedy as opportunistic. And Bobby wasn’t above using Teddy to get dirt on “Clean Gene,” as he was known. And Teddy wasn’t above participating in a McCarthy smear.

This is what I remember about Teddy Kennedy and Bobby.

McCarthy said the following about the Vietnam War on December 2, 1967: “…a war of questionable legality and questionable constitutionality, a war which is diplomatically indefensible…a war which cannot be defended in the context of the judgment of history…a war which is not defensible even in military terms…Finally it is a war which is morally wrong.”

Over 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War.

We needed a Republican McCarthy clone during the Presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraqi War. But there were no Republicans in the Federal government with the balls of Eugene McCarthy.

Nearly 5,000 Americans have died in the Iraqi War.

For the next few days the lionizing of Teddy Kennedy will continue. I hope I don’t throw up. –Copyright © 2009 by Walter Haan;

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"The world is shitting Dutchmen!"

“The world is shitting Dutchmen!”

By Walter Haan,

Yesterday, August 18, 2009, was the 345 year anniversary of an English fleet sailing into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanding the surrender of New Netherland in 1664. The Dutch governor-general, Peter Stuyvesant stomped around on his wooden leg and at first refused to surrender. Convinced by towns people that New Amsterdam’s fort was too weak to resist and that they didn’t want to see the town destroyed in a bombardment, Stuyvesant did surrender under very generous terms. The English didn’t want the town and colony destroyed either because it was valuable real estate and a very successful trading colony: New Amsterdam became New York City and New Netherland became the English colony of New York.

2009 is also the 400th anniversary year of Henry Hudson, under contract to the Dutch, sailing up the Hudson River looking for a passageway through North America to the riches of the Orient. Next month there will be events in New York City and up the Hudson River as far as Albany to mark Hudson’s voyage and the beginning of almost 60 years of Dutch rule in the area. Among the happenings, a Dutch frigate will sail up the Hudson to Albany, which they called Fort Orange.

Throughout the 17th Century, the English and Dutch fought wars for naval supremacy. Not generally known, but in 1672 a Dutch fleet, after looting and bombarding Virginia, sailed into New York harbor and demanded the English surrender. The Brits promptly surrendered and one reason was that the Dutch fleet was the largest armada ever seen along the eastern coast. New York City became New Orange for a year until another peace treaty returned New York to English control.

During one of the Anglo-Dutch wars, the Dutch had the audacity to sail into London’s harbor to tow away the largest English warship and set the harbor and London in flames. Samuel Pepys, English politician, declared, “The world is shitting Dutchmen!”

I happened to see figures recently that show the Netherlands is still very important today in world trade. It is the fifth largest export nation in the world, after the usual suspects such as China, Japan and the United States. Now my question is how could a nation of 16 million people, just double the population of New York City, be the FIFTH largest export nation, up there with us? We are a nation of 300+ million people. What are we doing wrong or not well enough to allow a runt of a nation to compete with us so effectively?

Perhaps we need the world to shit some Dutchmen in America to help us be more competitive in world trade.—Copyright © 2009 by Walter Haan,