Archive for the McCain Category


I hope that my readers will not think less of me when I offer a few words of praise of sanity in the American relationship with those who practice the Muslim faith. During the month of September, pious adherents of that faith are celebrating the month-long holiday of Ramadan. Ramadan requires that the faithful consume no water or food from sunrise until sunset. Additionally, they are barred from having sexual intercourse during those daylight hours. It goes without saying that a debaucherer such as myself could never succeed as a pious believer in the faith of Islam. But Ramadan will be finished by September 30 and then we will have to resume figuring out how we will live with those who aspire to a life in Paradise.

In recent years, the U. S. relationship with Islamic countries has become frayed largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But more to the point is the thought expressed by some politicians that Americans have much to fear from those who believe in the Muslim faith.

Fear has been a centerpiece in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2006, and now in 2008. The central theme in this essay is the thought that those who practice the Muslim faith have one hell of a lot more to fear from the aggressions of the Americans than we have to fear from a Muslim takeover in this country.

If we start at the beginning, we will find that the prophet Mohammed was born in 571. One way or another he preached a faith that converted many to his line of reasoning. Today we find that there is belief in his philosophy among the Arab nations as well as many other nations and groups. It seems clear to an objective observer such as myself that when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Muslims considered it an attack on their faith. For years now, we have maintained a presence of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq and there is a promise by the Republican contender for the presidency that we will be there for dozens of more years.

In the meantime we are reminded endlessly by George Bush, Richard Cheney, and John McCain that we should all fear the “radical Islamic extremists” who are going to defeat our armies and do away with the American civilization. For a time Mr. Bush added the word Fascist at the end of the radical Islamic extremist charge, until he belatedly found out that the Fascist movement was established by none other than Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, who was a practicing Catholic. So now we are warned, mostly by John McCain, of the radical Islamic extremist challenge that threatens to bring America to its knees.

May I suggest that there are many other reasons for the Americans to be brought to their knees, such as the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration. Then there are the housing crisis, the failures in the banking industry, the stock market slide, and the thought that Mr. Bush’s successor, Mr. McCain, seems to be more interested in lipstick and pigs than he is in governing.

For many years, we enjoyed a peaceful existence with those who subscribe to the Muslim faith. During World War II, there were pictures of Franklin Roosevelt entertaining King Saud of Saudi Arabia on a battleship. During that era, oil cost between $5 and $10 per barrel. When I flew in combat in North Africa, I carried a letter from the American government, written in Arabic and English, which was designed to persuade local Arabs to take downed American flyers back to American hands rather than to turn them over to the Germans. I have never known of a report that suggests that downed American flyers were ever turned over to the Germans by local Arabs; they were usually returned to American hands. Our relations with the Muslims were friendly, even through the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush’s presidency. The Clinton presidency had the same warm relations with the Islamic nations.

But now in the era of the radical Islamic extremist movement enunciated by Bush and McCain, we have oil in excess of $100 a barrel and we have made enemies throughout the Muslim world. A few of the Muslims are beheading our prisoners instead of returning them to friendly hands.

I suspect that I am as patriotic as any other American. It is quite true that I enjoyed the days when I could walk on the streets of Muslim cities without fear of being kidnapped or killed. That is probably no longer true. All of this has flowed from the thought that we have declared war on the Muslims by contending that a good number of them are radical Islamic extremists. The simple fact is that we can not go around the Muslim world and stick our fingers in their eyes and expect them to respect or love us. It has been my lot in life to enjoy the hospitality of Muslims living in Rabat in the west to Bahrain in the east. I have no intention of ever making a pilgrimage to Mecca. But I believe that fairness indicates that Muslims deserve our respect. If we attempt to recreate the Crusades of 1000 years ago, the Muslims will resist and will no longer be friendly to us. Perhaps when George Bush goes away, sanity may return once again in our relations with the Islamic nations. If John McCain succeeds George Bush, all bets are off. There will be prolonged warfare for the foreseeable future.

Again I hold that, as an objective observer and as an American as well, the Muslims have one hell of a lot more to fear from our aggression than we have to fear from their domination of the affairs of the great state of Texas for example. The sooner we leave Iraq, it is clear that our relations with the Muslims will improve. Our occupation there is self-defeating.

I hope that I have injected some sanity into this debate about radical Islamic extremism. As long as the current administration holds power, it is doubtful that sanity will prevail. But the celebration of Ramadan is supposed to redeem our souls. Perhaps with redemption we may also enjoy a degree of saner relations with the Muslims in the future.

September 9, 2008
Essay 337
Kevin’s commentary: People get riled up easily, and it’s much easier to generalize and hate than it is to learn and understand. This essay sends some mixed messages, though. I feel like not being categorically awful to people of a different faith isn’t important because of oil prices or because it makes us feel safe but rather solely because it’s the right thing to do.

Thank heaven McCain didn’t make it to the oval office.


In July of 1951, I accepted a transfer from St. Louis to Kansas City.  I knew that Kansas City had hot weather in July and other summer months, but St. Louis was no bargain either.  One of my colleagues told me that in Kansas City during the summer, it gets “hotter than the hubs of Hell.”  Another colleague told me that in Kansas City, it “gets hotter than a ‘by-god.’”  I had already been to Kansas City on a few occasions and I knew about the weather there during the summer, but this was a promotion and I knew that the new job went with the territory.  If it was hotter than the hubs of Hell, so be it.

Now, more than 55 years later, I am still learning about what goes with the territory as it relates to my radio listening and political speeches.  Last Thursday night, I made a terrible mistake in that I listened to John McCain’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for President instead of continuing to listen to a baseball play-by-play of the New York Mets.  It was a blunder of the first order.  On one hand, McCain urged me to go fight somebody on 30 some odd occasions and then he took something like eight minutes or thereabouts to talk about being shot down and serving as a prisoner of war.  In that section of his speech where he urged us all to go fight somebody, he left me slightly confused.  Presumably the object of McCain’s unhappiness had to do with the way things are in Washington.  This came at the close of McCain’s remarks and was delivered by his yelling at the audience.  People who write speeches call the conclusion of such a speech the “peroration.”  I gather that McCain was angry with lobbyists.  I thought to myself that I could return to my former offices on K Street in Washington and look up a lobbyist and sock him in the jaw.  But McCain has so many lobbyists on his payroll that it might be one of his lobbyists that I socked.  So I sit here today urgently prepared to fight somebody in accordance with McCain’s wishes but I don’t know who my opponent might be.

Shortly before McCain reached his peroration, he spent perhaps seven or eight minutes talking about being shot down and being a prisoner of war.  That part of McCain’s speech seemed to me to cross the line.  For a man to cite the unpleasantness of being a prisoner of war to ask for your votes offends those of us who have also been shot down and who have served time as a POW.  Beyond all that, it is an oxymoronic thought that because a man is shot down, he deserves your vote to be President of the United States.  Those two things simply don’t compute.

The question before the house is whether McCain has the competence to carry out the office of the presidency of the United States, not whether he was shot down or served a term as a POW.  The fact that he was shot down is irrelevant as it pertains to the American presidency.

If you look at McCain’s career, you will find that his grandfather and his father were both admirals in the United States Navy.  When it became time for this John McCain to attend a college, he was given a free ride at the United States Naval Academy.  When such a person graduates from the academy, he is obliged to serve a term in the active forces of the United States Navy.  It simply goes with the territory.

Then John McCain learned to fly a fighter plane and he should have known what the price would be if he were shot down.  On his 23rd mission, McCain was indeed shot down and taken as a prisoner of war.  That is entirely usual because it goes with the territory.  We were at war with the Vietnamese and they had McCain fall right into their laps.  McCain had to know that when you bomb people and machine gun them, they will be angry with you.  When they shoot your plane down, they will take you prisoner.  It simply goes with the territory.

Al Goebel, a former colleague of mine, had a pungent thought on this sort of subject.  Goebel was a pompous fellow who had flown B-29 aircraft with the 20th Air Force in the Pacific.  On one occasion, Goebel had remarked that when you put on that uniform, it wasn’t just for parades or to impress the girls.  It meant that from time to time people were going to shoot at you and that they might kill you or take you prisoner.  It simply went with the territory.  On this occasion, Al Goebel was entirely right.  But I will tell you that during the 30 years that I knew him, there were few other things that we agreed on.

Four days after the McCain speech, I am still baffled as to why this man would lower himself to recite his experiences as a POW in the thought that it would translate into votes.  I will stipulate that McCain is a brave man and that he endured unspeakable torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese.  What I will not stipulate is that his experience in that respect qualifies him to be President of the United States.  Again, it just doesn’t go with the territory.

Some of you may remember Bob Dole, who was the long-time Republican senator from Kansas.  Near the end of the Second World War, Dole was injured by German gunfire and was forced to spend more than two years in Army hospitals attempting to recuperate.  This happened in the Po Valley of northern Italy.  The fact that Dole was a hero was never concealed from the American public but when Dole ran for president, he did not cite his suffering as a means of asking people to vote for him.  Dole is a retrogressive thinker and I have no use for his brand of politics.  During his presidential campaign, there were others who told his story but Dole never tried to milk tears from the electorate’s eyes because of pity for him.  Dole was in the infantry and took a terrible injury but he knew that this was a distinct possibility.  It simply went with the territory.  But apparently McCain does not share that view.

In the same Po Valley in northern Italy, the senior senator from Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye, was injured and lost his left arm all the way up to the armpit.  On top of Inouye’s injury, he also suffered the discrimination against the Japanese during World War II.  There was an occasion when he went into a barber shop with only one arm and the barber refused to cut his hair.  The barber said, “We don’t cut no Jap hair here.”  Inouye served with a Japanese battalion that was assigned the toughest missions in Italy.  Now Inouye knew that he could be injured and that he would suffer discrimination when he returned home.  He also knew that it went with the territory.  Apparently, however, John McCain has really not learned that lesson.

I suppose I should know better than to hear a political speech when there is a ball game on the radio.  The fact that I have been interested in political matters in this country for 80 years or so is no real excuse.  I should have known that to listen to the blatherings of any politician would anger me but I did it anyway.  So I suppose that if you are going to listen to political speeches, there is a price to pay.  As we say, it simply goes with the territory.

And as for Kansas City, the summer out there was hotter than a by-god or also hotter than the hubs of Hell.

The political conventions are now finished, which means that political junkies such as myself may return to more noble pursuits such as listening to baseball broadcasts.  Happiness has to do with baseball, our national sport.  That happiness with baseball goes with the territory and is much to be preferred to listening to political speeches.


September 9, 2008
Essay 336
Kevin’s commentary: I’ve never heard of something being hotter than a by-god before. I’m struggling to even interpret what a by-god could possibly be. The closest I can get is maybe it was so hot, that the expression “By God, it’s hot!” is an understatement? Who the hell knows.

In other news, maybe Pop is reading McCain’s claims the wrong way. Instead of saying that being a POW doesn’t qualify you to be president, Pop should take the stance that since he was also a POW, you should have written him in on the ballot.


Those of you who are familiar with the nuances of American southern speech patterns will instantly recognize the term “uppity.” It is used most often as an adjective with the nouns that follow being “colored folks,” “blacks,” or, even worse, the vulgar term that rhymes with bigger. My uneducated guess is that when the term “uppity” is used, it applies about 90 to 95% of the time to people of Afro-American parentage.

David Gergen, who was a counselor to both the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, and who has southern roots, recognized the term “uppity” instantly. In comments broadcast on August 3, David Gergen explained that the term was used always in a derogatory fashion. Gergen, who is apolitical judging by his having served both the former Bush administration and the Clinton administration, can hardly be accused of bias with respect to the current political campaign. It is Gergen’s belief that the McCain campaign is not only playing the race card but is accusing Obama of being uppity as well.

I am familiar with that term and recognize that it has to do with anyone who attempts to rise above his station in life. In the instant case, we are being told by the McCain campaign that for Obama to meet with the President of France, the Prime Ministers of Germany and England, and the Presidents of Israel and the Palestine Authority as well as King Abdullah of Jordan, is a case of being uppity. When other American senators, all white, meet with all of these authorities, they are never accused of being uppity. They are seen as merely doing their jobs. But with Barack Obama, a different measurement is applied and he is considered to be uppity as a mere United States Senator calling on, for example, the President of France. The ultimate facts in this case are that Obama is a black man who also happens to be a Democrat, which stirs great anger in the souls of unreconstructed southerners.

Southerners are not the only ones to share these feelings. McCain’s campaign is, unfortunately, now being run by the same people who in the year 2000 accused McCain himself of fathering a black child. The fact is that he simply adopted a Bangladeshi child whose complexion was quite dark. But these are the people to whom McCain has, unfortunately, turned over his campaign.

In the last week or so, after the conclusion of the Obama trip abroad, they have accused Obama of trying to be a celebrity. Apparently being a celebrity is a great sin to those who are running the McCain campaign. To prove their point, they have cut a commercial featuring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who they claim are two true celebrities while Barack Obama is just an ordinary uppity Senator from Illinois. This has not gone unnoticed by observers on the American political scene. Yesterday in the closing remarks that Bob Schieffer offered to round out his August 3rd Face the Nation broadcast, Bob Schieffer, who also has southern roots, used the term “tarts” to describe the two females in the television commercial. “Tarts” is a term not often used these days but in point of fact it is a synonym for prostitutes. Are we to view this commercial and conclude that because these two “tarts” seem to favor John McCain, he should get my vote as well? I assume that the McCain campaign paid these two young “tarts” to show their picture in the commercial. It might also be observed that prostitutes accept money for their services as well.

McCain says that he is proud of this ad, but his 95-year-old mother says that he should be ashamed of it. This old essayist agrees with McCain’s mother as it relates to this commercial. Paris Hilton’s mother also disapproves.

I regret that the campaign has now taken a turn toward the unseemly. John McCain used to be considered a brave and honorable man. It is regrettable that he has lent his name to this campaign which is now being marked by vitriol. However in the final analysis, it should be remembered that the word “uppity” is merely the adjective that is used in most cases to precede the noun that follows, which makes it a loaded term. David Gergen and Bob Schieffer recognized this instantly, as did I.

My first recollection of the American political scene took place in the election of 1928, when Al Smith, the Governor of New York, was running against Herbert Hoover. Smith was a Catholic and I regret to say that the same forces who united to bring us the good and great Herbert Hoover were very much the same as those today who accuse Obama of being uppity. I regret to say that in 80 years it seems we have made very little progress in tolerance. For my own part, I simply hope that there will come a time when the Constitution will be fully honored and men and women may compete for the presidency without the age-old prejudices. Hope springs eternal.

August 5, 2008
Essay 331
Kevin’s commentary: It’s astounding that they’d even consider using that word in a campaign against a black candidate. It just seems extraordinarily short-sighted — how on Earth is that ever, ever going to help?

I attended a big conference the other day where Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, asked the audience how many women there had been labeled “bossy” at one point or another in their lives, and about two thirds of them raised their hands. She asked the same question to the men in the audience and almost nobody raised a hand.

All this reminds me that I personally have it really lucky. I’m a white male in a country which has historically been controlled almost exclusively by white males. I am this country’s “default” insofar as there is one of those, and discrimination hasn’t ever hurt me. It frustrates me that attitudes have been so slow to change.


All things considered, my mother spoke less than perfect English. Her rural background often seeped through in her manner of speaking. While she may have made grammatical mistakes and mispronunciations, the burden of her message was always clear. If she were alive today, there is some doubt that she would read my essays. But perhaps she might. My essays would interfere with her reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a great newspaper in the decades before 1960, and her reading of her Bible. She was fond of reading the Bible and when she had a passage that she liked, she would underline it, using a fountain pen. Upon her death, her Bible had very few passages that had escaped the underlining of Lillie’s fountain pen. But if she were to read my essays, Lillie would say, “Boy, you have already given them a large dose of them random thoughts of yours. Now, are you going to give them another dose?” Sort of sheepishly, I would be obliged to respond to her question by saying that “Yes, I am.”


My first random thought has to do with a report that our Secretary of Defense, a Mr. Gates, is having trouble with the United States Air Force in carrying out his orders. As Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates is the superior of the Army Chief of Staff, the Naval command structure, the Marine Corps Commandant, the Coast Guard hierarchy, and the Air Force’s command structures, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is supposed to have unified the services. He is the boss of all of these people.

Today is April 25, 2008. This morning the powerful Mr. Gates lamented that he could not get the United States Air Force to do what needed to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Gates said this morning that there are many targets of opportunity in those two countries that needed to be bombed. He called them “targets of opportunity.” Mr. Gates seems quite certain that our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are being hampered by the Air Force’s intransigence. Perhaps those targets of opportunity have a big “T” on their roofs so that our precision bombers may have a better opportunity to hit them.

History will record that at one point in the life of Sergeant Ezra Carr, he had a hand in dropping bombs on enemy targets. Whether they were legitimate “targets of opportunity” was rarely discussed. In those days, that term was unknown to me. The point was to fly over the target, to drop the bombs, and then to fly away as quickly as possible. Warfare has made many advances since I had a hand in the armed forces.

These days there are drones that are unmanned that can fly over targets of opportunity, take television pictures of those targets and drop bombs on them. This would seem like great stuff to me in that there are no pilots and crewmen to lose. If a drone is shot down, all we have lost is a drone, not a pilot or crewmembers. But Mr. Gates has a lament that won’t go away.

According to the Secretary of Defense, who is none other than this Mr. Gates, the Air Force requires that full-fledged pilots must operate the drones. It takes about 18 months to turn out a full-fledged pilot in the Air Force. According to the Secretary of Defense, other services such as the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Navy use less-qualified people to operate the drones. This arrangement means that flyers can go fly their missions while less-qualified people can operate the drones.

I am at a loss to understand why it takes a fully-qualified pilot to operate a drone, as the Air Force requires. If a drone, for example, flies over an outdoor meeting being addressed by Osama Bin Laden using a lectern together with a slide projector, with an audience of say perhaps 1,500 Al Qaeda members, this would seem to be a legitimate target of opportunity. Obviously the drones carry bombs under their wings or in their bellies. It seems to me that a Private First Class could push the button in the Headquarters drone machine operation that would release the bombs, just as well as a Rhodes Scholar who holds a fully-qualified pilot’s license in the United States Air Force. But the Air Force adamantly refuses to operate the drone machines unless a fully qualified pilot is sitting at the drone machine control center. This refusal means that targets of opportunity go unbombed and Osama can complete his lecture to the terrorists unharmed.

As an old flyer of airplanes with bombs on them, I must wonder what in the world this dispute is about. But the Air Force demands that only fully-qualified pilots sit behind the drone machine while the other services say that it can be done with lower level employees. My guess is that a janitor could release the bombs just as well as a fully-qualified pilot in the United States Air Force. But that is not the way the Air Force sees it.

Mr. Gates is the former president of Texas A&M University. That school must have converted Mr. Gates into a gentleman with a desire to offend no one. If I were the boss of Mr. Gates, I would tell him to quit lamenting this intransigence to the media and to go down to the Air Force headquarters and to kick ass until his leg throbs. Ah, but you see, I am not much of a gentleman, particularly a college-educated gentleman. If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps in Iran are to be decided by such petty jealousies as this, we will still be at war when my great great grandchildren are born.

Speaking of targets of opportunity, shortly after our invasion of Afghanistan when we were hot in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, the estimable former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said that there were more targets of opportunity in Iraq than in Afghanistan. And so we turned our attention to a diversionary target. Now more than five years later, it seems that we are still pursuing what the generals call “targets of opportunity.”


So much for targets. Let us now turn to a term in warfare that only recently became settled in my mind. For the past year or two, the people at the Pentagon, particularly Rumsfeld and now Mr. Gates, have referred to the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war as “asymmetric engagements.” I had never really understood this new term, but I thought I was simply out of date because I had left the military services more than 65 years ago.

I know what symmetry is but “asymmetric” is a new term in that it means that there is no symmetry to the proposition at hand. Recently I learned from some chance encounters with people who report from the Pentagon that “asymmetric warfare” involves insurgencies. There are no soldiers with uniforms on firing bullets at each other, but rather people in the streets wearing t-shirts who lob grenades at our troops. That, my friends, is asymmetric warfare. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but even as an old soldier, it took me a year or more to determine that asymmetric warfare meant an operation against an insurgent force in the streets. I will have to get a lot smarter than that or my application to become a Fulbright Scholar will go down the drain.


To turn to another completely random thought, it baffles me beyond belief that our presidential candidates require spiritual advisors. In the beginning, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago made some remarks that are being used to abuse Barack Obama. I have heard Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks in full context, and it seems to me that they are very much in keeping with the traditions of Afro-American preaching. The point is that if you attend an Episcopal church in a fashionable neighborhood in New York City, you will be addressed by a person with a string of degrees who will read his sermon and then sit down. The same may be said for other churches, such as the Presbyterians’ or the Congregationalists’. In those churches, there is no give and take between the preacher and the congregation.

On the other hand, there is a black Baptist preacher who is quite typical who preaches here in Summit, New Jersey. Upon beginning to speak, this preacher says that he wishes to have a dialogue with his congregation as opposed to a monologue. And so it is that this congregation shouts encouragement to the preacher. They say “amen” or “halleluiah” and when the preacher really gets after Satan, they might say, “Go get him!” But that is a different style of preaching than what staid church goers may be accustomed to. What Jeremiah Wright in Chicago was preaching was the traditional black style of spreading the gospel. But be that as it may, Reverend Wright was Barak Obama’s preacher, not his spiritual advisor. In this case, however, Obama has not been spared from being flayed fore and aft for the remarks of his preacher.


Now we turn to one of the candidates, named John McCain, who has at least two spiritual advisors. One of them is named Reverend Hagee, who calls the Catholic Church “a great whore.” I am not sure why Hagee uses this terminology, but he seems to have repeated it on more than one occasion. Hagee is the same figure who said that New Orleans was destroyed by Jesus because they were permitting homosexual parades in the Mardi Gras procession and perhaps they might even approve of homosexual marriages. I suspect that John McCain is kind of slow on the uptake in that he has not only not repudiated what Hagee has had to say, but he has accepted an endorsement from the Reverend Hagee.

And then there is the Reverend Rod Parsley. Reverend Parsley runs a mega-church in Ohio where, among other things, he has waged a battle against the “false religion of Islam.” Reverend Parsley says that this false religion must be destroyed, which I assume would take several millions of American soldiers to do. He also has expressed his violent opposition to gay rights as well as his opposition to the idea that this government should have a separation between church and state. I would say that Reverend Parsley is simply a man who is afflicted by “bonkerdom”. Put simply, he is nuts. But he has not only become a spiritual advisor to Mr. McCain but has also endorsed him as well.

To the best of my knowledge, Senator Clinton has not publicly named her spiritual advisor, if she has one. If she has no spiritual advisor, that may be a reason to vote for her.


Well, there you have my random thoughts on a Thursday afternoon in April, 2008. I suspect that before life is done, some more random thoughts may intrude upon my brain and, in accordance with the military code of justice, they will be reported in some of these essays. I hope that the dosage that my mother would have alluded to is within your limits to choke down. But in the final analysis, perhaps it is meritorious that at an advanced age such as mine any thoughts at all will invade my mind. For that, I am grateful. Thank you.

Shortly after the story appeared on the wires about the refusal of the Air Force to fly the missions involving the drones, there was a story from Albuquerque, New Mexico, about Amanda Montoya. One morning, Miss Montoya was watching a pornographic movie in the apartment that was rented by a good friend, who happened to be male. One way or another, Miss Montoya concluded that the actor in the pornographic film was, in fact, the boyfriend who was watching the movie with her. She did what any red-blooded American girl would do. She went to the kitchen and got a long-handled steel knife and stabbed her boyfriend in the face. The boyfriend, who was clad only in his underwear shorts, began to run and left the apartment and was running down the street with Miss Montoya in full pursuit. The cops came and not only charged her with attempted assault but she had also left her eight-month-old child in the apartment while she chased her boyfriend down the street. So she was charged with child abuse.

It seems to me that if the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, had a bit more of the spirit that moved Miss Montoya, the Air Force would be a lot more willing to carry out his orders. But in the final analysis, Mr. Gates is a gentleman who watches few pornographic movies. Perhaps if he were to watch porno movies, it might give him the courage to make certain that the Air Force followed his instructions. But in the end, friends and foes alike are entitled to believe that military discipline in our armed services is not what it used to be.

April 24, 2008
Essay 311
Kevin’s commentary: Well, this completes the Random Thoughts trilogy of early 2008. It must have felt pretty good to empty his brain of all these thoughts bouncing around there. Unfortunately publishing this essay will probably serve to bring them back, though they are admittedly less pressing now.

Speaking of Asymmetric Engagements, I think drone strikes probably qualify there too. Sure, it’s not symmetric for a marine corps to be fighting a band of dudes who know the town and use guerrilla tactics. But it’s also not symmetric when one side is gambling with lives and the other is gambling with equipment. I’m all for controlled drone strikes but we have to be very very careful when and where we use them because they’re rapidly becoming one of the most hated symbols of the US abroad. Part of this problem, I thought, stemmed from inexperienced people controlling the drones and hitting the wrong targets. Turns out they’re all pilots — makes me glad that the janitor isn’t behind that joystick after all.


My soul, such as it is, was tormented by the thought of giving a title to this essay. Originally I had planned to call this essay “The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost.” Then it dawned on me that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright had used that comment recently, and the results were far from rosy. The second title that occurred to me was one that originated with Lillie, my mother. It holds that “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” The fact of the matter is that my mother never saw a cat skinned, nor did I. Quite to the contrary, this house here has been the home, in order of progression, for Sean, Shannon, and Shamrock. All were wonderful cats, and I would die first rather than to see them skinned.

In the final analysis, this essay is about the greatly inflated prices that we are now paying for gasoline, food, and every other commodity that must be moved from its place of manufacture to its place of consumption. At heart it is my fundamental belief that the major moving force in these inflationary prices stems from the war that George Bush has declared in invading Iraq. Absent this war, we would still be friends, I hope, with the Arab nations and with the other oil-producers around the world. But that clearly is not the case.

Let us deal first with the chickens that are coming home to roost. When the United States invaded Iraq, it was interpreted in every Arab country as an assault on Islam, their religion. Even George Bush referred to our efforts there as “the Crusades.” One of his brighter aides told him that “the Crusades” were anathema to any person who subscribes to the Islamic faith. Obviously Bush did not know this, but in any case he has quit referring to our misadventure in Iraq as “a crusade.” So from day one of this tragedy, we are viewed as cruel interlopers who are determined to wipe out the faith of Islam. Westerners who believe that this is just another war are greatly mistaken. To the Arabs, it is an attempt to subjugate them and to destroy their faith.

So Bush has started this misadventure by poking every Arab in the eye and wondering why the Arabs do not love us as liberators. The fact of the matter is that much of the world’s oil supply lies in Arab lands. It is the ultimate foolishness to believe that any nation that has been deliberately poked in the eye is inclined to do you any favors during a time of strife. May I suggest that very few people in Saudi Arabia are distraught by the thought of Americans paying four dollars or five dollars per gallon for gasoline. The fact of the matter is that they are laughing their heads off at our predicament and their King told Mr. Bush last week that he should go perform an impossible sex act on himself when he asked for the Saudis to increase production. Clearly, the chickens from the Arab lands are indeed coming home to roost and before long, many of them will settle in Crawford, Texas.

Not only did we alienate the Arab countries, but we went out of our way to alienate the oil producers in Iran. If that is not good enough, it was our policy to isolate the Syrians who might have helped us at this time of dire economic circumstance. But the Syrians are saying to Mr. Bush, “Please get lost.”

Bush’s flouting of the feelings of the rest of the world did not stop with the Arab countries. In eight years in office, Mr. Bush has visited Canada only once, and that was a time he used to brag about his re-election and the fact that he now had additional capital to spend and he was going to use it. The result was an effort to privatize Social Security, which was roundly defeated. Mexico, our other neighbor, has been treated very much like a pariah. Unfortunately, Canada and Mexico have some oil to spare but they are not going to look favorably upon people who ignore them and step on their toes. So the Western Hemisphere chickens are indeed coming home to roost also.

To go a little bit further, Mr. Bush has gone out of his way to provoke President Chavez of Venezuela, a country where oil is produced in great gobs. Earlier this year, when he visited Africa, it was interesting to see that he avoided going to Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, Nigeria and Venezuela are afloat in oil, and it is of the best kind, called “sweet” oil. But the Nigerians and the Venezuelans are not prepared to send us any love letters. They are sending their chickens to the United States for roosting purposes.

So you see that Mr. Bush has started a war and he clearly has no idea of how to finish it. John McCain, the prospective Republican nominee for president, promises us that the war will go on until the year 2013. That would make the Iraqi war of at least ten years in duration. During that time, it is clear that many other chickens will be sent home to roost in this country.

I am quite aware that increased demand has driven up the price of oil. But those increased demands have always been taken care of in the past. The thing that is different in this case is that we have sent our crusaders to subdue Iraq and, to the Arab mind, to subdue Islam. Much of the rest of the world is angry with this war in Iraq. No one really wishes us well.

Under the Bush administration, this country is no longer feared, nor is it respected or admired. The fact that this administration has engaged in torture is another reason to send chickens to this country to roost. And so I am forced to the conclusion that the chickens that are coming home to roost are products of the misadventure in Iraq, a war with unintended consequences. We now know that the consequences of that war may well result in the bankruptcy of this country.

And so at this point let us turn from chickens coming home to roost and proceed to skinning cats. The phrase “skinning cats” is a metaphorical one and I know of no one who has ever really skinned a cat. The phrase “skinning cats” merely means that there is more than one way to get the job done. For example, if I cannot get from this house to New York City by car, I will take a train. When it comes to crossing the Hudson River, I might take a ferry or I might skin a cat by taking the Hudson tubes. The point is that there is more than one way to get the desired result.

When we set out to invade Iraq, the Iraqi Army was no match for the forces of the United States Army or its Air Force. Within a matter of a few days, the Americans were knocking on the doors of Baghdad. But those Iraqis who regarded us as occupiers did not intend to engage our army in a symmetric game of warfare. They resorted to an insurgency which has kept our forces hung up for more than five years. If John McCain has his way, the blood of Americans and Iraqis will be spilled for at least five more years. But while the Iraqis could not defeat us in this asymmetric war, they and the other Islamic nations had another card to play. The other card had to do with accommodating the world’s desire for greatly increased amounts of oil.

The Indians and the Chinese are now competing for the oil that can be produced and we find ourselves paying a highly inflated price. The cost of a barrel of oil is increasing by about four dollars per day and, if my memory is correct, it was well into $130 per barrel this morning. And remember, please, that the Iraqis have a strangle hold on much of the world’s oil. So if they cannot kill all of our soldiers in Baghdad, they can retaliate by making it very uncomfortable for the American oppressors when they fill their gas tanks or when they go to the grocery store.

It is my belief that, within a short time, we will soon be paying five dollars per gallon for gasoline and we will remember four dollars per gallon with fond memories. A respected commentator who deals with oil as a business, this morning suggested that the price of a gallon of gas may eventually approach twelve to fifteen dollars. Simply put, when the cost of oil and other commodities reaches a level that is beyond the purchasing power of the American public, there will be an effort to do something about the root cause of this inflationary exercise. The root cause, of course, is the Iraq war. When our legislators and perhaps a new administration in Washington get this message, there will be no choice but to end this conflict as quickly as possible because of the drain on our financial resources. In the end, it is becoming much more clear that the misadventure in Iraq is perhaps the most catastrophic failure since the founding of the American government. This war was brought to you by George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, who will soon leave office. When their successors go to straighten out this terrific mess, Bush and Cheney will accuse them of “cutting and running” and denying the American people a great victory if we had only held on for another year or so.

So you see, the people that we set out to subjugate in Iraq have the means of fighting back. It is not necessarily a matter of bullets and bombs but of oil and dollars. Bush and Cheney brought this tragic event to the American people, but with their financial resources they may well be able to avoid its ultimate consequences. The losers will be all of those of us whose net worth is substantially less than one billion dollars.

My first job had to do with selling gasoline at Carl Schroth’s Mobil Gas Station in Clayton, Missouri. Before life is done, I may be back selling $12 gasoline to people like myself who cannot afford it. But, boys and girls, that is what happens when the chickens come home to roost and when there is a cat to be skinned.

May 22, 2008
Essay 317
Commentary: As a concrete prediction this has yet to pan out – John McCain didn’t get elected, oil is back to around $98 per barrel in February 2014, and gas in New Providence costs $3.40. Would this have happened under a McCain presidency? My gut reaction is no, but then again, maybe we’d all be filling up just by dipping gas cans directly into Sarah Palin’s Keystone Pipeline.


This is not a political essay but rather it is a call for neurological help or even psychiatric help for Mr. McCain’s brain. Mr. McCain’s brain needs at least a mammogram before he sets off to encounter the Democratic presidential contender in an effort not to make a fool of himself. There is a bit of a story behind Mr. McCain’s thought processes and it starts in the year 2000 during the Republican primary season in an effort to gain the nomination that year.

The two main contenders for the Republican nomination for president in that year were George W. Bush and Senator John McCain. This was an unfair competition in that Karl Rove was assisting Bush, which made it a matter of one-and-a-half brains on the Bush side versus McCain’s one lonely brain on his behalf. In the New Hampshire primary, which occurs very early in the nominating process, the Rove/Bush team started the rumor that five years of captivity by the North Vietnamese had loosened the bolts in John McCain’s brain. According to his opponents,
Mr. McCain could not be trusted with the presidency because his thinking apparatus had been compromised or destroyed during his captivity. The voters in New Hampshire saw it otherwise. They voted for McCain and gave him an 18-point margin over George W. Bush.

The South Carolina primary followed the New Hampshire primary and the Rove/Bush team decided that it was time to play the big casino. They hit the jackpot when they started the rumor among the press corps that John McCain had fathered a black daughter out of wedlock. As most of you know, Mr. McCain had adopted a Bangladeshi child who had a dark complexion. John McCain was not guilty in any sense of a dalliance outside of his marriage. But in South Carolina, the race card worked, and McCain was defeated by George Bush. From that time on, Bush went on to become the nominee for the Republican party in the year 2000.

For many years the relationship between McCain and Bush was considerably cool and strained. In 2004, McCain campaigned for Bush and was even photographed embracing the Duke of Crawford. The relationship between Bush and McCain, even today, appears to be cool and strained. Nonetheless, in 2008, after the delegate count had reached the required number, Bush invited McCain to the White House and endorsed him. My belief is that John McCain will not often call on George Bush to attend his rallies. But McCain wants to succeed Bush and will do all he can to achieve that end.

When it became apparent that McCain would be the presidential nominee in 2008, there were prognostications by commentators all over television who would contend that Mr. McCain’s presidency would be a matter of “Bush lite.” But McCain’s performance since his endorsement by Bush seems to demonstrate that he has no intention of being “Bush lite.” In effect McCain intends to be “Bush heavy,” which would in effect provide nothing less than a third term for George W. Bush.

Of all things, McCain has pinned his presidential quest on continuing the misbegotten war in Iraq. The American public wants to end that war, not continue it. McCain seems to think that this is a sacred endeavor worthy of sacrificing American and Iraqi lives. So far, more than 4,000 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, and there is the matter as well of more than 30,000 of our troops being wounded. The consequences for Iraqis have been disastrous. It is believed that as many as 100,000 have been killed and that four million other Iraqis have been displaced. In the sectarian fighting, they have been moved from their homes and a good many of them have fled the country to Syria and Jordan. Some 40,000 have even moved to Sweden.

Yet John McCain says that for a long time in Iraq, we were staring into “the abyss of failure” but now we have a hope of success to bless our war there. Mind you, in his speeches and in his questioning of General Petraeous, McCain used the word “success” as distinguished from victory. For a presidential contender to base his campaign on the war in Iraq might lead you to conclude that he needs much more than neurological help; he may need a brain transplant.

The war is now costing this country at least $12 billion per month and it is estimated that, before it is done, the United States will have to foot the bill for something in excess of $3 trillion dollars. Aside from the loss of lives, this is fiscal madness. Our misadventure in Iraq is coming close to destroying the American economy. The US dollar is now down there flirting with the value of a Guatemalan peso or an escudo. Because the Arabs control a good part of the oil supply that feeds the United States economy, they feel free to charge exorbitant prices. At the end of April, oil is selling for $117 a barrel. This ripples throughout the economy and together with the valuelessness of the American dollar, produces food prices, among other things, that are perhaps 25 to 35% greater than at this time last year. This reflects the cost of getting the food from the producer to the consumer. The price of diesel fuel that is used by American truckers is now more than $4.25 per gallon. Yet Mr. McCain says that we must pay any price to achieve “success” in Iraq.

The facts are that the American Army and Marine Corps are deeply troubled by the frequent assignments in that war-torn land. Many are on their fourth or fifth tour of duty there and as any soldier will tell you, he can’t go on dodging the bullets forever. Yet Mr. McCain would send those soldiers back for a sixth or seventh or eighth tour of duty because of the “success” that he sees at the end of the tunnel.

We have known for several years that graft and dishonesty are endemic in the political process in Iraq. There was an inspector of Iraqi descent who was interviewed on 60 Minutes recently. He has fled the country because of fear of his life. It now develops that al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, has issued a decree that prevents inspectors from examining the conduct of all of his ministers as well as of himself. In other words, graft and embezzlement will take place and if an inspector of any kind tries to call attention to it, his life will most likely be in danger. Yet this is what John McCain has tied his campaign to.

The American economy is in shambles. The American Army and Marine Corps are in pretty much the same shape. It will cost trillions of dollars to replace the equipment that has been destroyed and worn out in Iraq. Yet Mr. McCain says that we should stay a hundred years or more. In explaining the remark about the one hundred years or more duration of this conflict, Mr. McCain has said that we should stay a hundred years if no one is shooting at us. That is all well and good, but if we have established such peaceful relations where no one is shooting at our soldiers, may I ask, why in the world should we stay there one day, let alone 100 years?

The list of the failures of the Bush Administration government is nearly endless. But Mr. McCain suggests that we can go on poking our fingers in the eyes of our neighbors while spending enormous sums of money that have to be borrowed from, of all places, China. For John McCain to base a presidential campaign on asking the American people to support a disastrous war endlessly is a nutty proposition. Three quarters of the American people want the war ended and the troops brought home now.

Eight years ago when Karl Rove and George Bush contended that John McCain’s captivity had shaken his brain loose from its moorings, they may well have been prescient. In the year 2008 it might well be that a mere mammogram will not tell us what is wrong with McCain’s brain. Perhaps he could use ultrasound treatment or, if that fails, he might present himself at a hospital for wheel alignments. As an old aerial engineer, I would prescribe a complete overhaul of his engine with particular attention being paid toward the rings and pistons for abnormal wear.

Finally, we now learn that McCain finished fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. Perhaps at this late date, we are now finding out what the teachers at the Naval Academy knew many years ago. My own analysis is that if he continues to support the Iraqi war so vigorously, he does not have the smarts to be president of this country or any other country that comes to mind.

April 16, 2008
Essay 304
Kevin’s commentary: I’m forced to ask — why a mammogram? Is this a big “McCain is a boob” joke? Also, the “fight in Iraq until the end of time” platform is perhaps the craziest I’d ever heard. There was simply no rhyme or reason. Everyone else could see that it was time to leave.


Those of you who follow Republican politics will be aware that John McCain is the presumptive front-runner in the quest for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. McCain has such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it is only a matter of days until he is declared the Republican nominee. While McCain is trying to wrap up the nomination, there is a gnat buzzing around him named Mike Huckabee. Huckabee has no chance to be the nominee of the Republican Party but he seems to enjoy the spotlight and, all things being equal, Huckabee is an entertaining speaker.

McCain’s biography is well-known to all people on both sides of the political fence. During the war involving the Vietnamese, his airplane was shot down and he was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He spent five and a half years in the custody of the North Vietnamese at the infamous Hanoi Hilton Hotel, which was actually not a hotel but a mean and cruel prison.

Following his release, McCain became active politically in Republican circles and eventually wound up as one of the two senators from Arizona. In the year 2000, McCain had the temerity to challenge George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination. At the outset, McCain was accused by the Bush supporters of having lost his ability to think rationally, brought about by his long imprisonment by the North Vietnamese. That of course was a lie. McCain won the New Hampshire primary, soundly trouncing George W. Bush. When the contest reached South Carolina, Karl Rove, Bush’s confidante, played the race card. He accused John McCain of fathering a black child out of wedlock. The fact of the matter is that McCain and his wife adopted a daughter from Bangladesh. Bangladeshis are often dark. But the race-baiting accusation in South Carolina was enough to turn the contest into a favorable outcome for George W. Bush. In recent weeks there are some Republicans who have accused McCain of having sold out to his North Vietnamese captors, presumably seeking better treatment at the cost of his fellow American prisoners. There is not one iota of evidence to this effect.

It would seem to me as an independent observer that John McCain has suffered quite enough. He has been shot down, which is trauma enough by itself. He has suffered long imprisonment by the North Vietnamese and in his political career, he has been bludgeoned by lies sponsored by members of his own party. But McCain trudges on.

Now, as this essay is being composed, McCain appears to be in a commanding position for the Republican nomination. There is one quality about McCain that is instructive to liberal democrats such as myself. For the eighty years that I have been following politics, a high percentage of the Republican advocates have practiced outright hatred. They hated Franklin Roosevelt. They transferred that hatred to Harry S. Truman. As time went on they hated Jimmy Carter and finally they not only hated Bill Clinton but, by the process of osmosis, they have now begun to hate his wife as well.

Say what you will about John McCain, but to the best of my knowledge, John McCain has never been a hater. He has done some silly stuff such as seeking the endorsement of Jerry Falwell a year or so ago, but those things come with the territory when a person runs for the presidency. Aside from not being a hater, McCain seems able to laugh at himself. When he was asked about an event that took place during the Vietnamese war, McCain replied that he did not attend that event because he was “tied up.” The man laughs at himself and I applaud him for that quality. But mostly I applaud him for not being a hater.

Now we come to the endorsement problem. This morning John McCain took time off from campaigning in Wisconsin to travel to Houston, Texas to receive the endorsement of George H.W. Bush. In my estimation, endorsements are much like bumper stickers and lawn signs. I have never known a voter to say that he is going to vote for a candidate because he has such a nice bumper sticker. The same logic goes as well to lawn signs. But this morning John McCain got the endorsement of George W. Bush’s father and then turned around and flew back to his campaign in Wisconsin.

Now here is where the fairness to John McCain must appeal to every independent observer. It seems to me that receiving the endorsements of the Bush family is a lot like seeking the endorsements of Typhoid Mary. I suspect that, sooner or later, his eminence, George W. Bush, will bestow his blessings on poor old John McCain. That, my friend, is nothing less than cruelty to animals. Once George W. Bush has blessed John McCain, may we expect the endorsement of the black sheep of the Bush family, Neil, who followed his brother’s example? For years, Neil has flirted with the limits of the law in an attempt to become wealthy. Before life is done, good old Neil may need a criminal lawyer.

But once the Bush family has endorsed McCain, can you imagine his not being endorsed by the likes of Harriet Miers and/or the estimable Alberto Gonzales? Then, without encouragement from McCain, he may be endorsed by the likes of Scooter Libby. And then there is one endorsement that everyone is seeking, that being from the the former FEMA director, Mike Brown. You will recall that wonderful line, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!” John McCain will soon be 72 years of age. Campaigning for the presidency is hard work. But should McCain also be asked to carry on the legacy of the Bush family while he dodges all of these potholes? I have never contributed a dime to John McCain’s treasury but it seems to me that fair play is at stake here. At this juncture, McCain should pray that he not receive the endorsements of Jack Abramoff or of Barbara Bush, Karl Rove and Roger Clemens. Fair play is fair play and McCain should not enter this contest with a one-hundred-pound anvil anchored to his shoulder.

A final thought. Typhoid Mary was really an Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon. Mary was a cook in domestic residences and started the typhoid epidemic in 1907. If you care to look on the internet, you may find her history of some interest.

February 25, 2008
Essay 295
Kevin’s commentary: I did find her history of some interest! I felt sorry for her at first, because she was locked up for so long, but on further reading she seemed kinda terrible for refusing to cooperate with people who were trying to protect public health. Pride is a nasty thing. Typhoid is nastier.

Spending any amount of time in the public eye is also pretty rough, from all appearances. For presidential candidates this phenomenon is further exacerbated.


The enduring anomalies that are referred to in the title of this brief have to do with religion and politics. Both of those subjects have fascinated me since I was a lad of six years. Now that I am entering my 86th year, it might be said that I am older but no wiser or alternatively that I am too soon old and too late wise. But this is the season for politics and I am struck by two puzzling anomalies. Let us deal first with the political end of this question. As of this writing on February 8, it appears that John McCain, the war hero, has virtually sewed up the Republican nomination for the presidency. A female commentator this morning, based here in the East, said that he only had to worry about “that hick” from Arkansas. She should have remembered that Arkansas has produced some memorable scholars such as William Fulbright and we should not overlook Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, who went on to serve two terms as President of this country.

It would appear to me, a non-Republican, that the party of the elephant is in great shape. Their nominee is virtually in place some nine months before the November election. He proclaims loudly and effusively that he is a conservative. All signs point to the thought that the party has nine months to come together, to heal the fractures, and to go on to support the conservative candidate for the presidency. The anomaly is that John McCain, the so-called conservative candidate, is now being attacked from several quarters because there are those who contend that he is not conservative enough. This phenomenon is matched only in the Democratic Party, where there are black people who contend that Barack Obama is not black enough. But this essay is about the Republican Party and we will get to the Democrats sooner or later, before I quit writing essays.

John McCain endured five and a half years of torture by the North Vietnamese in their prison system after he was shot down during the war with Vietnam. It would seem that a war hero running for the presidency might be a shoo-in but that certainly is not the case. First there is Laura Ingraham, a right-wing radio commentator, who contends that McCain is not conservative enough for her and her listeners. Then we have Ann Coulter, who purports to be an author of some sort, but when she appears in interviews, her vitriol is unending. Madame Coulter is the most unlovable creature that I can imagine. Yet there was a gossip columnist who reported that she and her boyfriend had recently broken up. I am at a total loss to understand why any man would find her the least bit attractive.

From the male side of the attacks on John McCain, there is Rush Limbaugh. Rush appears three hours per day on a syndicated radio program, and while I am not a listener, I gather that he has more hatred for people who do not agree with him than any sane person could imagine. Limbaugh is beyond the farthest reaches of the lunatic right.

Finally there is James Dobson, a minister of the Nazarene Church. I happen to know a little about that church because as a child, my parents demanded that I attend their services. The Nazarene’s believe that every word in the Bible, whichever version you choose, is literally and absolutely true. Speaking for myself, I must observe that Christians who become allied with the Nazarene sect are bordering on becoming nutty as a fruitcake.

So there we have four people – Ingraham, Coulter, Limbaugh, and Dobson – all attacking John McCain on the ground that he is not conservative enough.

I am not a defender of John McCain and have no intention whatsoever of ever voting for him. But the anomaly is that until now, the Democratic candidates have said virtually nothing against John McCain. The attack has come almost exclusively from the right-wing nuts who have arrogated the right to speak for the entire Republican Party.

John McCain appeared before the convention of the CPAC organization this week. I assume CPAC stands for Conservative Political Action Conference. His speech was laced with apologies. As far as I am concerned, McCain has nothing to apologize for. None of his attackers have ever faced the threats in life that McCain has faced. Yet here he is apologizing to the CPAC convention. Another anomaly.

Finally, if the attacks coming from the Republican Party are not enough, I find today that McCain is being endorsed in a fashion by none other than George W. Bush. It seems to me that any candidate in 2008 would regard Bush’s endorsement as nothing less than an anathema. Can anyone imagine an independent voter saying that he would support McCain because George Bush recommended him? I can imagine that Howard Dean, the Democratic National Chairman, is giggling with great glee. It is not enough that McCain has suggested that we should stay in Iraq for 100 years but now he has the endorsement of the President who is presiding over the recession, or the depression, that has dampened the American economy.

Well, for an old-timer who has been around the block a time or two, it presents an anomaly. It is a case of too soon old, too late smart or a matter of growing older but no smarter.

Now that we have dealt with the political aspects of my anomaly, perhaps it is time to turn to the religious aspects of that question. My experience with religious organizations is that uniformly they contend that their religion is a force for peace. As far as this old observer is able to understand, there are no religions that endorse war as a fundamental principle. Most all contend that they are peaceful in nature.

Before accepting that premise, I must remember the Crusades that were aimed at turning the Moslems into Christians and the Inquisition in which the Jews were burned at the stake for their failure to accept the message of Jesus Christ. In sum and substance, I hear what the religionists have to say about their peaceful intentions, but my ¬-skepticism has yet to be satisfied.

If we take the current war in Iraq as an example, polls for the past two years have indicated that nearly 70% of American citizens wish for that war to be concluded and for the troops to be brought home. Yet the war goes on. The war is unsupported by the Christian nations of Western Europe and by the Hindus of India or the Buddhists who reside in oriental countries. When you scrape away all of the hash about radical Islamic fascist insurgents and fighting them over there to save fighting them here, it seems to me that the war is supported primarily by those citizens who reside in what we call the Bible Belt.

The anomaly here is that the more religious, particularly of the Protestant faith, the more there is support for the war. How can a religion that preaches peace support a war that is now into its seventh year with thousands dead and with our treasury being depleted at an alarming rate? This is nothing more than the Crusades and the Inquisition all over again. The Crusades and Inquisition made no sense then and now, 700 years later. The war in Iraq makes no sense either. Yet we have some of our politicians contending that only they stand in the way of a caliphate being carried out by those horrible radical Islamic Fascists.

In 1942, I joined the American Army as a volunteer because it was the right thing to do. In the year 2008, joining the American Army to stamp out the imaginary caliphate is clearly the wrong thing to do and will get those volunteers killed in the bargain.

Well as you can see, this old essayist is still wrestling with the anomalies both political and religious. I leave you now to sing a verse or two of “Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching As To War.” That is a rousing hymn but it does nothing to resolve the anomalies that are boiling in my soul. Perhaps it would be better for Christians, Moslems, Jews, and heathens to sing “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.” At least it would make me feel better to hear that old spiritual.

February 8, 2008
Essay 291
Kevin’s commentary: There are many things upon which Pop and I agree. The abject worthlessness of Ann Coulter is perhaps the strongest of those. Despite never meeting her, I hate that woman in a way that – were it not for her – I would not even know that I was capable of hating.

I had forgotten about the 100 year Iraq thing. That was pretty dumb to say. It’s no 47%er comment though. If I were to advise the next Republican candidate, my rules for personal conduct would be simple:
1) You are always being recorded
2) Given rule 1, always always always think before you speak.

Ain’t gonna study war no more is here:

Lastly I would note that I think that being a war hero and running the country well have very little to do with one another. At best it can show a sense of discipline or whatnot, and can indicate the quality of a person’s character which is important but not as important (at least to me) as policy decisions.