Monthly Archives: June 2014

No Two Gods are Alike

Life seemed much simpler growing up in the 1950s.

For example, we never wore bicycle helmets.  Apparently we were a tougher lot than the youth of today.  Our reasoning was that falling off a bike was just a part of riding a bike.  Then you had to be tough enough to gut out the injury.   I do not remember anyone ever marketing or manufacturing a bicycle helmet in the 1950s.  Your baseball cap was all the cranial protection that was needed!

I only fell off my bicycle once.  It was due to stupidity.  I was in a race with a couple of my buddies.  I had a ‘country bike,’ which was heavier and had the wider tires for travelling on dirt roads.  We lived on a dirt road.  My buddies had the ‘town’ bikes.  These were lighter and had the narrower tires for traveling on paved roads.  They had the weight advantage of lighter bikes.

We began to race.  Hoping to win one particular race, I cut through a ditch.  Unfortunately for me, I ran straight into a culvert!  To say that I flew ‘ass over teakettle’ would be an understatement.  I was unhurt, but I had sliced the front tire and tube in half.  I provided my two buddies with lots of yuks, as my pride was much more injured than my body.  I did not win the race.

Now the real trouble was going to begin.  I had to face Big Daddy G!  Big Daddy G worked about a half mile from the ‘tire slashing, culvert hitting’ escapade.  Our farm was at least another mile further.   I had to face the humiliation of pushing my bike all the way to his workplace.  Many of my friends saw me pushing, rather than riding, and this accentuated the humiliation.  I finally arrived at Big Daddy G’s workplace, hoping for a little empathy from my father.  What I got was my father and all his coworkers!  Just what I needed—a frickin’ Super Bowl-sized audience!  Or so it seemed.

“What happened?”

“I had an accident.  I hit a culvert.”

“What the hell were you doing in a ditch?”

At that point, being under parental scrutiny and in front of my father’s coworkers, I froze.  I realized  even at this young age, any words that came from my mouth would just add more fuel to this ’embarrassment’ fire.  I just wanted this whole episode to end.  After receiving what my father believed was proper admonishment,  I then endured my very first ‘money does not grow on trees’ speech.  These speeches became more frequent after I began driving.

But my dad, being the dad that he was, walked the 50 yards to the local hardware store and bought the new tire and tube for about $1.75.  A princely sum at that time!  It took him less than 10 minutes to replace the tire and send me home.  Lesson learned.

The toys we were given in the 1950s would absolutely cause parental mass hysteria today!

Nearly every boy got a BB gun.  It was just a matter at what age you received it.  My dad said I could have a BB gun when I saved up enough money.  He knew that I would never save enough, as that major purchase would cost me $6.99.  One lucky Friday night, when I was just 7 years old, I won a $10 drawing at the local movie theater.  Problem solved!   My ‘weapon of mass destruction’ BB gun was purchased. Then the windows began getting shot out on the house.  That BB gun mysteriously disappeared only to be found 50 years later.  My grandfather hid it.  Big Daddy G found it, refinished it, and presented it to me when I was promoted to Colonel.  He now thought I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of the BB gun!

Every baby boomer boy is familiar with, and no doubt received, a ‘Handy Andy Tool Kit.’  This was a tool kit that included the very same tools that dad had, only smaller.  When I say just like dad had, I mean just that.  These tools were not plastic.  They were metal!  The little claw hammer was all metal, and could easily pound a nail.  The little saw was also metal – and sharp!  It would easily saw off a table leg or shorten one leg of your sister’s highchair!   Not that I did either – just sayin’.

Parents today would have a fit before giving that toy!  Just imagine the reaction to my chemistry set.  I don’t need to go into much detail, but lets just say I became pretty adept at making gunpowder in the basement when I was 12 years old.

I digress.  I begin by talking about the toys of my youth, when I really wanted to talk about our local churches.  (After all, my blog is titled ‘Musings of an Old Fart.’   Excuse me for musing!)

My town had three churches.  We had a Lutheran church.  We had a Catholic church.  We had my Methodist church.  The Catholic church had all the ‘hot chicks.’  The Methodists had the ‘singers.’  I enjoyed the singing.  The Lutherans – I don’t really remember what the Lutheran’s had besides lutefisk dinners.

It was all very simple, as we did not confuse the local population with any such churches as Baptist or Presbyterian.  My out-of-town grandparents took me to a church called Grace Alliance.  It had to have been some kind of Protestant hybrid.

In the 1960s, when I began to notice girls, the Catholic girls would not date non-Catholic boys.  This would have been fine except that the Catholic boys were hitting on anything that moved.  Catholic or not.  What was up with that?

My Methodists were really the best, and loudest, singers off all three churches.  The Catholics never sang.  Their services were in Latin.  We could drown out the Lutherans as their church was only a block away from ours.  Apparently they were more concerned with poisoning non-Lutherans with their next lutefisk dinner, than with singing. (I am convinced the Lutherans had an inbred immunity to the effects of lutefisk!)

Even with three different Protestant churches in our town, our town had perfect religious harmony.  We were a friendly, close-knit community.

My segue into the present is this: Why can’t three Islamic religions live in religious harmony like the three Protestant churches in my hometown?  Have you been following what is currently happening in Iraq between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds?

The United States got involved in Iraq in two wars.  The first war involvement was because Suddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  The second occurred because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against our allies.  Whether Suddam Hussein had WMDs or not is irrelevant to this particular blog.  What this tyrant did do was kill an average of 40,000 of his own people every year he was in power.

The US got involved with two costly wars in an attempt to establish a self-governing democratic government in Iraq.  For a while, it looked like we may have succeeded.

Now, the religious strife appears to be rearing its ugly head and will eventually nullify any gains made in establishing a democratic Iraq.

I am not sure what the primary differences are between the Sunni, Kurd and Shiite religions.  It astounds me that they are so willing to kill each other over what appears to be minor differences.

As a country, the United States is naïve about these religions.  We Americans were raised to believe that our first loyalty is to our country.  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  We’re number one!   We’re number one!  We believe that religion is just something that can be freely practiced within the context of our country.

The Arabs don’t see things that way.  Their first loyalty is to their religion.  They do not have the national pride that most Christian-dominated countries have, nor do they really embrace a strong central government.  They embrace their religion.  Period.

My theory for quite some time is that the Muslim religions provide the excuse for conquest, which leads to wealth.   Why are the revolutionaries capturing oil wells in Iraq?  Why does the Taliban want Afghanistan?  The oil wells bring money in the form of oil revenues.  Afghanistan is the largest poppy growing nation in the world.  This leads to opium, which leads to money.

Unfortunately, the wealth is in the hands of very few.  99% of the wealth in Saudi Arabia is in the hands of less than 1% of the population.  This is not uncommon in many Islamic countries.

Another unfortunate event is that the least educated religions in the world are the Islamic religions.  The religious leaders call for a jihad, and the uneducated followers willingly go to war in the name of Allah.  Apparently one Allah is different than another Allah.   You don’t see the educated Muslims becoming suicide bombers.  Nor do you see Lutherans, Methodists, or Catholics becoming suicide bombers.

I shudder to think of what would have become of my quiet, peaceful hometown had the three Protestant churches fought like the Islamic religions are currently fighting in Iraq.

The United States has made a major investment in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  I don’t know how we will be able to disassociate ourselves from the malaise of either country.

After all, it has been going on for 1400 years.

Prisoner Closeout Sale: 5 for 1!

There is not one former or present member of the military who does not have an opinion about Bowe Robert Bergdahl.

As you are probably aware, Bergdahl was the last missing soldier in the war in Afghanistan.  His release from Taliban captivity was a result of the White House exchanging  five Taliban detainees that were held since 2002 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  You notice that I said that the White House was responsible for this exchange, as apparently none of the members of Congress were notified before releasing the five Taliban prisoners.  This is supposedly required by law, but it is certainly not the first time this administration has circumvented the law.  The required procedure was to notify Congress 30 days before the exchange.  This did not happen.

All the White House wanted was a huge, widely publicized photo opportunity with Bergdahl’s parents that would give all of America a warm, fuzzy feeling.    ‘Look what we did.  We got an American fighting soldier released after a five year captivity!’  What the White House got was an unanticipated firestorm.

Young Bowe Bergdahl had a non-conventional upbringing.  He was homeschooled.  He received a GED certificate through the College of Southern Idaho by the time he was in his early 20s.  As an adult, Bergdahl studied and practiced fencing and martial arts before switching to ballet classes at the Sun Valley Ballet School in Ketchum, Idaho.  He never owned a car.  He rode his bicycle everywhere.  He spent time in a Buddhist monastery between 2007 and 2008.

He joined the Army in 2008, and he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division.  He was described as a  ‘focused loner’ by his fellow platoon members.  He told a fellow soldier before their pending deployment to Afghanistan, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”

Apparently, Private Bergdahl did exactly that.

It is obvious in emails that he sent to his parents that he had become disillusioned by Army life in general and with his deployment to Afghanistan in particular.  In part, one of his emails read, “The system is wrong.  I am ashamed to be an American.  And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools…….. I am sorry for everything here.  These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live………..There are a few more boxes coming to you guys.  Feel free to open them, and use them.”  According to a fellow soldier, those boxes contained Bergdahl’s computer and other possessions.

Bergdahl went missing on the night of June 30, 2009,  five days after sending that email.

A Pentagon investigation in 2010 concluded that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Bergdahl walked away from his unit.  Bergdahl wrote emails to his parents that he was both disillusioned by the war effort and bothered by the treatment of the Afghan people by American soldiers.  According to The New York Times, a military investigation revealed that on the night he went missing, he left a note in his tent that said he was leaving to start a new life.  The letter said that Bergdahl wanted to renounce his citizenship.  However, according to Senator Saxby Chambliss, the White House said that there was no note during a meeting with Congress on the release of Bergdahl.

Are you beginning to see the inconsistencies in the accounts of this event?  The White House says there was no note expressing his desire to renounce his American citizenship, but The New York Times says that there was indeed such a note.  Hmmmm.  Senator Chambliss said that there was no note during the meeting with Congress, but numerous legislators have indicated that Congress was not notified of the five Taliban detainees being exchanged.  Double Hmmmm.

After Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, there were numerous propaganda videos released.  One of these shows Bergdahl helping the Taliban with bomb-making and infantry tactics.  The Pentagon dismissed this as Taliban propaganda.

The military made numerous attempts to locate Bergdahl.

CNN has reported that, according to soldiers involved in the operations to find Bergdahl, at least six soldiers were killed.  A spokesperson for the Pentagon has said that it is impossible to confirm whether anybody’s death was directly linked to the search for Bergdahl.

So after much negotiating over an extended period of time, on May 31, 2014, Bergdahl was released by his captors.  The release was brokered by the American, Qatar and Afghanistan governments with the Taliban in exchange for the five Guantanamo detainees.  These detainees are to be in Qatari custody for at least one year.

Here is another inconsistency with this story.  The Afghan government has indicated they did not know about the five Taliban detainees being released!  Who are these detainees?  The names are not important but their positions are.  They are the Taliban army chief of staff, a Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, a former Taliban interior minister, and two other senior Taliban figures.  Holy crap!   No wonder the Afghan government is upset!

It is obvious that no notice was given to Congress.  So the White House response?  When President Obama signed the bill, he released a signing statement saying that the restriction interfered with the president’s executive power as commander-in-chief.  The White House released a statement acknowledging that the release of the Guantanamo prisoners did not comply with the law but cited the president’s signing statement, and ‘unique and exigent circumstances’ as justification.  Doesn’t the law apply to everyone?  Even the POTUS?  A year ago, Jay Carney (then spokesperson for the White House) had assured the press that the decision to free Bergdahl would only be made after consulting Congress, in accordance with said law.

In addition to circumventing the law in this entire matter, the White House has been accused of ‘negotiating with terrorists.’

But in true White House cover-up fashion, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the release should be considered a ‘prisoner of war exchange’ since the Taliban Five were members of the government of a sovereign state, and that, “We didn’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Did you hear that?   Especially all those military members who have served in Afghanistan?  Those people shooting at you where not terrorists!  Those roadside bombs were just fireworks gone awry!  Those Taliban guys were just the product of a bad childhood!  OH MY GOD!  I am going to have to look in my Hammond Atlas of the World for the country of Talibanistan!  A sovereign state?  Their sovereign state is any country in which they can displace the existing government and impose their will!

Time Magazine has published an article stating that the Taliban are “not really a ‘terrorist’ enemy as we commonly understand the word.”  What exactly does that mean?  They shot at you.  They try to kill you.  They consort with other terrorist groups that try to inflict as much carnage on America as possible.  Exactly what would make the Taliban ‘not really a terrorist enemy’?

I have a theory as to why the White House did an exchange for Bergdahl.

Firstly, what mother does not want her son returned from a war zone.  This is understandable.

Secondly, I believe that the White House is attempting to be proactive in the eyes of the military after the fiasco at Benghazi.  White House inaction needlessly resulted in the deaths of heroic Americans.  ( I appreciate that Secretary of State John Kerry offered, then recanted his offer to be questioned about Benghazi by a Congressional committee.  He was not the Secretary of State at the time.  It was Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton.)

Thirdly, I believe that the White House really thought that their actions concerning Bergdahl would bring a myriad of accolades and positive publicity upon the administration before the midterm elections.  That has not worked well for them.  They should have consulted the Pentagon before trying to turn this event into a media frenzy.

Lastly,  I believe the POTUS wanted to take a step toward closing Guantamo.  This was one of his first term campaign promises.  Hopefully, he did not intend to reinforce the Taliban.

What about Bowe Bergdahl?

Well, Sgt. Bergdahl (promoted after capture) is somewhere between European military and American military hospitals being evaluated for his physical and mental condition.

His ‘hero welcome’ parade and reception have been cancelled in his home town in Idaho, supposedly for security purposes.

The White House is under fire concerning this situation and is attempting to do the ‘back pedal shuffle.’  Jay Carny, the White House press secretary, has suddenly resigned.

The military has already concluded that Bowe Bergdahl willingly left his post in Afghanistan.  He is a deserter.  If they determine that he is directly responsible for the deaths of other servicemen attempting to rescue his sorry ass, I know of five vacated cells in Guantamo Bay, Cuba.

We are not done hearing about Bowe Bergdahl, or the Taliban Five any time soon.

PS  Since writing this blog on D-Day, there is an unsubstantiated rumor that the US government exchanged prisoners, and paid monies for Bergdahl’s release.  One Taliban leader has already indicated that his organization intends to kidnap more Americans, because he did not know that ‘they were worth so much.’  Do you think any ‘common sense’ was utilized in the handling of this situation?