I read Rachel Maddow’s book Drift this weekend. It got me thinking. It rattled around and trying to put some order to the thoughts gave me a sleepless night. A small price to pay considering that others have a lot more on the line.

About me: I’m a boomer. Raised and educated Catholic until 12th  grade. Went to public high school graduated in 1966. In ’67 I enlisted in the Air Force. It didn’t go as easily as I’d hoped. I spent and inordinately long time in basic training. I had difficulties adapting to military life. When I finally graduated I was sent to school in Biloxi Mississippi. I contracted pneumonia a when I was released from the hospital I tried to make up for time lost in school and flunked out. I was offered choices as to where I would go to school I chose Jet Engine Mechanic and was sent to Rantoul Illinois. I graduated and was sent to Yokota AFB in Japan. I spent two years working and interacting with a motley crew of alcoholics and lifers. When my tour was over I took the show to Minot North Dakota and SAC. It was a major bringdown. I was hospitalized after trying to hang myself in a drunken bout of self pity. I was hospitalized, again, and was sent back after aproximately six months on the wards with people with serious damage. I was given Thorazine and other drugs. I snuck out on pass every day to the bowling alley where a group of us drank beer and tried to get normal. I left the Air Force in 1971 with an Honorable Discharge and a trade. I went to school and worked at unsatisfying jobs alternating until I studied Culinary Arts. I spent a long time as a kitchen rat. I saved money and drank. I retired at fifty. Quit drinking and smoking. Now I write and blog.

About Rachel Maddow: Liberal, college educated and commentator on MSNBC. I first heard her comments on Countdown with Keith Olberman. She appealed to my conflicted views. She wrote a book Drift about the U.S. military.

First lets look at our leader. Dwight Eisenhower, war hero, populist favorite and the man who resolved, to an extent, the Korean War. His VP was Dick Nixon, an avowed Communist hater. So when the Communists began insurgencies in Vietnam he sent advisors there to aid the military in a country with a corrupt political system. We should have canned the Constitution and elected him to a third term. The war would have had a possibly better outcome. His sucessor John Kennedy came into office with a lot of promise. He was another war hero. He also was the scion of a political dynasty. Somewhere along the way somebody got his ear and mentioned Vietnam. The advisors were given advanced combat training and Green Berets. He didn’t want to be perceived as soft on Communism. He started sending troops to help the locals fight the NVR and Viet Kong. He had the bad taste to be assassinated by an disillusioned ex-Marine. Lyndon Johnson inherited the war. He was the consumate pol. He wound up sending more troops. The Left marched and screamed. A lot of college kids protested because they didn’t know the cotext of the war, its roots. LBJ was run out of office, his domestic policies all but forgotten. The Democrats became the anti-war party and lost to Dick Nixon. The voting population were not too far removed from WWII and Korea. Screaming college kids don’t vote, they organize. Nixon sent his wizard Henry Kissenger to the table with the North Vietnamese and sucessfully ended the war our troops climbing aboard helicopters as the North overran Saigon. Nixon’s moral compass was flawed and he got screwed when he tried to ensure victory in an election he had in the bag. Gerald Ford, another vet, held the place. Jimmy Carter, another vet, got elected as the anti-Nixon. His family and a helicopter crash got him tossed. An ally in the Middle East was ousted and theocrats took over. They grabbed hostages and waited until Carter imploded. Ronald Reagan got credit for bringing the hostages home, all he did was nto be Carter. Reagan brought the Right into the fore. Images of Barry Goldwater nuking the world were replaced with old fashioned values. Reagan was a vet. Didn’t see combat though. Reagan left office amid cries to coronate him and make hin President for Life. George H.W. Bush got the job. A vet, and former CIA head. A product of all the Right feared and worshipped. East Coast politics, East Coast education and Texas oil money. And Dick Cheney in the cabinet to make sure the money was spread around evenly among friends. Bush whipped Iraq when they misbehaved and reinforced the Teddy Roosevelt view of the U.S. and World Cop. He enjoyed his run. The voters got bored and elected a governor from Arkansas. He was loved. He reunited Fleetwood Mac, had sex with an intern (female) and played the sax. He was too good to be true because he slipped troops into Bosnia and Africa and got them back before anybody noticed. We got tired of the drama. We elected George W. Bush. Same pedigree as the old man. War vet, not so much. This didn’t stop him from putting on a flight suit, landing on an aircraft carrier with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner. He was in over his head and the Right convinced him that Dick Cheney would be a splendid VP and Karl Rove needed a job. Bush listened to the Right and got us stuck in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. After setting up an social agenda to send us back to the fifties we got tired of him. The Right had their dream candidate, in the Democrat party, Barack Obama. Everything they could scare Middle America with rolled in one. He won. And the crapfest began. The Right accused him of not being a citizen, he promised to get out of the Middle East and restore America. We’re still in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We’re trying to get out. The Left can’t get it fast enough and the Right, lacking Communists, decided that those Islamic terrorists needed to get punished.

Those were the stars of the show. I missed 9/11 and other important events and issues because I’m taking a page from the Right. Preach what matters to you. If you do it loud enough they’ll ignore the other stuff. The stars were pawns. They listened to advisors, Left and Right, who had their own agendas. Mostly making money or shoring up inferiority complexes. The pushed the President, the most powerful man in America, into places that no one in their right mind would go. They started minor wars and sacrificed the men and women in the Armed Forces. The regular soldier takes his duty to America seriously. They go into harm’s way and get killed and maimed for somebody else. They’ve been convinced it’s for America, the folks back home. No. It’s for an overeducated intelligence community that needs a war to justify its existence. The majority of the generals who run the troops have forgotten or never experienced combat. The politician who push for involvement have no vesred interest except money. The electorate listens.

What can be done: Bring the military up to date. Stop buying every new shiny object the military/industrial complex waves in front of the generals. They’re in it for the money. Spend money wisely. Don’t let then BS you into paying $100 for a toilet seat. Create a core of professionals and pay them well. $1800 per month isn’t a living wage. Pay them like we pay the contractors who help us sidestep the law. Get rid of the contractors, and at the same time when somebody doesn’t act the way we think they should discuss it in Congress. Open discussion isn’t going to give away any great secrets. Find the enemy, confirm, kill the enemy, make sure he’s dead, go home. It’s simple. Tax the crap out of war profiteers. Spend the money on all the troops screwed up by the latest incursion. Yeah, it’s going to cost between $600 billion and $900 billion in disability benefits for Iraq through Afghanistan. “… (Y)ou cant keep sending people five, six or seven times and expect them to come home just fine.” Barry Jeninoski, Executive Director DAV.  Lincoln told us to take care of the soldier, his widow and his family. It starts when you use proper intel and see another long term swamp is ahead. Soldiers are not machines. They’re sensitive humans, you know, the people next door. Treat them like that. Not like some pit bull who has killing in his blood. They have to fight, make sure you’ve brought back-up. The Guard and Reserves are CITIZEN SOLDIERS. Not a bottomless pool of bodies to be thrown at the enemy. I’m tired. It’s Memorial Day. I’ve pissed off some people, alienated others. I’ll leave with this quote from Linda Bilmes, a Harvard economist; “…ther’e a lot of sympathy and a lot of people want to help. But memories are short and times change.” Don’t forget. Memorial Day should be every day. Pray for the troops. Pray for their families.