April 30, 2003
Good News and Bad News
The good news is that soon we will be celebrating another Midwest Blogbash (maybe this time I'll shell out for a Commemorative Christopher Johnson T-Shirt). For all bloggers and their groupies, mark May Ninth on your calenders in big bold red letters cause J Bowen is hosting at Two Nice Guys in Kirkwood again and I should be free of all cubscout entanglements.
The bad news is J is leaving us, St. Louis that is. Characteristically J is silent about why, but I'm sure we'll find out at the blogbash. It's a sad day for St. Louis, but hopefully a happy day for J.
Irish Proverb 6
It is a long road that has no turning
April 23, 2003
Band Of Brothers
The story of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne experiences in World War II makes for interesting reading. Band of Brothers starts in July of 1942 with the formation of the unit and continues through November 1945 when it was deactivated and finishes with accounts of the postwar careers of some of the soldiers. Mainly concerned with the combat experiences of the men who made up the unit, it also details the training and the personal responses to the intensity of combat. The book has the feel of a biography, but the biography of a group of men rather than just a single one.
Even though Steven Ambrose was a history professor, he writes accessible books. Having seen several of interviews of him, I find it hard not to hear his gruff and gravely voice when reading his works. If his greatest strength was his ability to tell the personal stories of people who made history, his greatest weakness is his lack of providing the larger context. This is not a history of any of the campaigns the 101st fought; it is the grunt eye view of the battles. The book is woefully short of maps and those that are present are small and not very helpful.
Ambrose interviewed the soldiers who made up Easy company in the early 1990s and weaved those interviews into the narrative of the book. He points out that often the men gave contradictory accounts and he had to synthesize what he felt to be the most likely version; sometimes he points out where those accounts differ.
Since I've never been in combat, I can't say how well Ambrose captures the experience. But he seems to do a good job. There are plenty of interesting nuggets: The men who parachuted into Normandy and stormed an artillery battery that was raining down death and destruction on Utah beach were going into combat for the first time and took risks that as veterans they would never do again; the men of Easy Company liked the Brits, didn't like the French whom they found to be ungrateful, lazy, and dirty, loved the Dutch whom they found to be brave, resourceful, and grateful, and felt closest to the Germans who seemed to the G.I's to be "just like us."
You don't have to be a history buff or a military enthusiast to enjoy the book, but it certainly helps.
As seen on Blogcritics
Saddam Hussein The Terrorist
Saddam Hussein was a terrorist, and a very successful one. If a terrorist is someone who seeks political ends through violence and terror or the threat of violence and terror against civilians, then Saddam fits the definition to a T. Saddam didn't just imprison political prisoners but tortured them; he didn't just execute political prisoners but made their deaths as ghastly as possible to deter any dissent. Yet somehow we don't seem to consider Saddam and those like him as terrorists because they achieved their aims. Instead, we seem to only consider failed terrorists as real terrorists. The successful ones, like Saddam, or Castro, or Khadafy, or Lenin, or even Mugabe or Marcos aren't considered terrorists once they seize power and achieve the objective of their terror - namely power. No, its failed movements like the IRA, or Basque separatists (ETA), Shining Path in Peru, or lone wackos like Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) that we label as terrorists. Yet their motives and methods are the same -- only the scale and success differ.
We may talk of state sponsored terrorism when once country uses terrorism against another, like Pakistan does in Kashmir or Syria (and previously Iraq) against Israel, but we never mention that some states are simply ruled by terrorist organizations that have taken over the country. What is the difference between Saddam Hussein and Abu Nidal, or between Fidel Castro and Abu Abbas? One has achieved his goal, and the other one didn't. That's it. Is Yasser Arafat a terrorist or the head of state? He's both, and at the very same time. He and his government probably kill about as many (same order of magnitude) Palestinians it claims to represent as it does Israeli's it wages war against.
I suppose it's too unsettling to consider that governments can be the cause of misery rather than the promoting the general welfare. I suppose the understanding that too many countries are ruled by terrorists would shame us for our indifference to the plight of our fellow man forced to live in those countries. We don't have the ability to topple every terrorist organization masquerading as a government; it's easier to ignore our limitations than to recognize them.
We also like to think that violence never settles anything. Yet far from being ineffective, violence is far too effective. And even worse, the person who ups the ante on the violence tends to be the winner. Its usually the dictator who manifested a scruple who is overthrown than the one who is willing to do anything to stay in power. Thus the real problem isn't that it is ineffective, but that the outcome is usually not the one we want or deem fair or right. Might doesn't make right, but it usually makes the victor.
I Have the Best Readers
My old physics buddy Carl Drews sent me the following email:
It's April 23, and your last blog entry is April 11. In that time interval: Iraq has finished falling to the American-led coalition, the Shiites have made their first pilgrimage in a generation to Karbala, the SARS virus has spread, Scott Peterson has been indicted for the murder of his wife and unborn son, Holy Week has come and gone, and my daughter Isabel has lost her first front tooth. People need to know your opinion on these things! Interested readers are clicking on Refresh again and again, hoping to read Kevin's latest thoughts. So won't you please please please comment on something? Anything!
OK, our Mesoptamian campaign confounded all the pessimists; religious freedom is great; I'm not sure how much SARS has spread versus how much China has fessed up to how widespread it already was; while a terrible crime, I'm not sure why the Petersons get so much attention when too many others get none; Praise the Lord; a mixture of "I hope Isabel didn't freak out at the loss of her tooth" and "aww, how cute". In four years my daughter will be driving, the thought of which freaks me out.
I'm still as busy as a one armed cashier at Wal-Mart at my place of employment. After more physical labor than I'm accustomed to, my back yard is now a third re-graded but still a sea of mud. I just got the requirements for getting a building permit for a new deck and the fact that it requires six copies of the plans gives you an idea of the hassle that looks to be. Baseball season has started for my son and technically construction continues on our room annex (six months and counting). And that's only part of the stuff that fills my time - not only do I not have any time to write my blog, I have too little time to read other people's blogs. But who's complaining?
April 11, 2003
It's All About Me
I realize it's a shocking display of insensitivity to the sacrifice of our soldiers and the unmitigated horror the Iraqi's went through under Saddam's reign, but now that he's gone from the world stage, I'm hoping people go back to saying I look like a young Omar Sharif instead of Saddam. I'll be able to wear a beret again, not trim my moustache regularly, and hail a cab without that odious comparison.
April 9, 2003
War Status Week 3
I think we've reached the beginning of the end of the Iraq campaign. At this point, it sure looks to go down as another smashing US victory. Whatever lingering doubts I had were cleared up by the recent reports of a warehouse full of cardboard boxes with human remains and detailed records of how victims of Saddam were executed; the terrible details of torture in Iraqi prisons, and the revelation of a children's prison. I know the end doesn't justify the means, but after the fanatical attacks on coalition forces during the war, it seems to me this government would never have been removed by any means short of war, nor would anything but a worldwide united front have achieved disarmament -- and I have my doubts that even that would have succeeded.
Is Saddam dead? I don't know. But last time we thought we got him, the regime continued to function, although in a strangely passive manner. This time, in less than 24 hours the regime seems to no longer exist -- even the police and media minders have dropped from sight. If we did get him this time, it would provide a small amount of personal satisfaction as reportedly he was killed by four BLU-109 JDAM variants (I think that's what they mean when they say bunker busting GBU-31's, which can be either Mark 84s or BLU-109s with the JDAM kit) as I happened to have helped out on the aerodynamics on that particular variant.
Can You Tell I've Been Busy?
Between a new computer at home, the kids, regrading the back yard (by hand), and my job getting in the way of the rest of my life, I've been even more busy than usual. The whole retiring early, selling the house and travelling around the country in an RV is looking better and better all the time.
April 3, 2003
The Washington Post has an interesting article about the Washington Bureau head of Al-Jazeera, the only non-national Arab TV news network. Is it accurate, does it pander? Read the article and see.