Nov 9, 2008

November 3, 2008: Republican Legacy, Reflections on the Rough Rider, Buried in Shit

This journal welcomes the periodic contribution of my old friend Lawrence F. Hamp.

Larry and I go back nearly 40 years now, we met facing each other across the ramparts of that great divide known as Vietnam. First confronting each other during those contentious times, I first met Larry as a classmate in Dr. Batchelder's Political Science class. Later assigned by Dr. Mapes to do a joint study of the Civil War era Draft Riots, we quickly became fast friends. Seeking adventure wherever he may find it, Larry, who is never at a loss for words, can be depended upon to provide a unique and prescient perspective. So, without further ado, I welcome to these pages my dear old friend.

Should democrats win 60 votes in the senate, our first orders of business should be repeal (or rewriting) of the 'Patriot' act and tightening the rules regarding war-making powers of the president. These 'little' presidential wars are proving the bane of America's democratic society. Two (of half-a-dozen) have lasted a total of eighteen years, devoured tow huge public fortunes, cost the nation well over 60 thousand lives (as well as several hundred thousand life-long cripples), and left our position as the world's 'shining city on a hill' corroded to the point of dissolution.

Blame, of course, lies totally on our congress. They long ago abdicated constitutional war-making powers, and have allowed the 'little' wars to become full-blown, long-lived, wastefully mis-managed, poorly thought-out, planned and executed military adventures. Iraq/Afghanistan have become gut wrenching slaughters of innocent civilians (much like Vietnam), our air power killing far more of them than Taliban and al Quaeda combined.

Our government is already trying to weasel out of Iraq while saving some face and preserving some semblance of success. Outside of Baghdad, the country is seething, burning, exploding daily. The only reason the Shrub/McPain Baghdad 'surge' appears to have worked is because we bought-out the Sunni leaders who rand the place under Saddam, while selling out the Kurds, Christians, Turkmen, and the Shi'ah we (supposedly) went in to save.

Military commanders (American and NATO) say we've wasted our opportunity to save Afghanistan—victory there, they now claim, cannot be won on the battlefield and will have to be negotiated. Between Iraq and Afghanistan, how many tens of thousands (in each nation) will we now leave to the tender mercies of their former oppressors? Many, I expect.

Our whole national security apparatus is dis-functional, inept, more interested in spying on us than on the enemy. Failure of our intelligence services dates way back to WWII's Manhattan Engineering District Project, when Joe Stalin often learned of atomic bomb developments before FDR.

Recent reports of the National Security Agency (NSA) from two retired military officers who worked there for years, claim they routinely break the law, listen to our electronic communications, pry into our personal lives at will—and without legitimate reason. The fools are still fighting the same old turf wars, and the right hand knows not what the left is doing.

Our pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA (and countless other creepy fascist spooks) are still being run by those who left us vulnerable on 9/11/01. They've been shuffled in and out of agencies in what amounts to a giant shell-game. Much more of this, we'll have to learn to speak and write Arabic.

It's interesting how John McCain and Dubya have both tried to calm (or hide behind) Teddy Roosevelt's Republican mantle, when neither of them would amount to a small pimple on the great President's ass, academically, politically, or in any humanitarian sense. Bush was a complete wastrel as a youth, and his youthful ignorance still rules, eliminating any possible comparison.

McCain, without his father's status as a high-ranking navy admiral, would never have made it into the naval academy, or survived his many derelictions as cadet. His standing (fifth from the bottom) in his academy class would have meant no chance of flight training for any other cadet. It seems his father's influence got him into the academy, then condemned him to five-and-a-half years in the Hanoi Hilton (where his conduct was not always 'heroic').

I'd tell you to check his military records, but they're sealed—at his request. As navy flyer, he was a rowdy officer very much like (and likely one of) those involved in the notorious “Tail-Hook Club” conventions.

On the other hand, TR was a serious young fellow from childhood. As undergrad student at Harvard, he wrote “The Naval War of 1812”, a study which is, far more than a hundred years later, still considered the most complete work on the subject. Through the course of his life, in addition to almost continuous public service, he authored more than two dozen books on a wide variety of scholarly subjects, and hundreds of thoughtful articles. As president he won the Nobel Peace Prize for reconciling war between Japan and Czarist Russia.

Teddy never made a threatening gesture, or uttered a threatening phrase. He never carried the 'big stick' he quietly spoke of. He didn't have to. His record as NYC police commissioner, Dakota rancher—bully-buster--and outlaw-catcher, Navy undersecretary and leader of his “rough-rider” friends to combat in Cuba during the Spanish conflict, assured all due respect.

TR was the last Republican president (bar Ike) to believe wealth and influence owed the masses financial honest, political integrity, and well-managed affairs at home and abroad. His handling of crooked bankers, brokers and corporate officers we so often see today would doubtless be a bit more harsh than buying up their messes. Military inefficiency demonstrated by the pentagon through Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan would certainly have called forth his wrath, and resulted in many premature retirements, and many more demotions.

Theodore was a no-nonsense sort of guy (though contemporary Republicans of the Bush, Cheney, McCain ilk often spoke of him as “that damned cowboy”).

To sum up, I'll quote my old grad school advisor, military history and WMU Professor of History emeritus Sherwoood Cordier. “I must say the current economic disaster could not happen to a more deserving President, but the rest of us certainly do not deserve this Bush legacy—our civil rights destroyed, endless savage wars, our economy in ruins, record national debt, and our political culture buried in shit.” (Emphasis added, because in a thirty-six year friendship I've never before known him to utter or pen either obscenity or profanity).

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