The High Cost of Service

The International Assistance Mission (IAM) began in 1966 in  Afghanistan and except for  a brief 3 month period in 2001, they have been there ever since. Their work primarily focuses on eye  care, although they provide other services as well. Their current executive director is Dick Frans who is based in Kabul. I  think one could  call them unique since Afghanistan is the only place they work.  Frans expresses their approach this way. ” Our faith motivates and inspires us but we do not proselytize.”

Most of those who serve do so at their own expense or through the generosity of  others. On August 5, a 10 member team plus an Afghan driver was returning to Kabul after an arduous 2 weeks working in the remote Parun valley. Initial reports said  they were surrounded by armed Taliban and brutally murdered by gunfire and hand grenades. As further information emerges, it appears that the act could have been perpetrated by armed bandits. It’s possible the truth will never surface or if so, not for some time. I would also doubt whether those responsible will ever be brought to justice.

I have read several articles about this tragedy and the more I read  the more devastated I become. Those ten who were killed were  quite  a disparate group. There were six Americans, a German, a Brit  and two  Afghans who served as a guard and a cook. Their  ages ranged from two grandfathers in their 60’s to a 25-year-old photographer/videographer   and the 24-year-old cook. One, Karen Woo, was a London surgeon who gave up  a lucrative career to serve. The senior member was Dan Terry who arrived in country in 1971 and  met and  married his wife and reared three daughters in the country. Tom Little was much like Cherry and had been in the country for four decades spearheading the mission’s work in providing eye care.  The group’s junior was member Brian Carderelli  from Harrisonburg, Va. Both of his parents had worked there and he knew somewhat the potential dangers he faced. When the opportunity came he grabbed it. Ironically he was putting together an album of photos entitled “The Beauty-It’s Not All War.”

Other team members were dentist Thomas Grams of Durango, Co, nurse Glenn Lapp of Lancaster, Pa and an interpreter from Germany Daniela Beyer. The Afghans killed were Mahram Ali, a guard and a young cook named Ahmed Jawed.

Certainly all had calculated the risks involved and chose to take those risks. Beyond the incalculable losses felt by the families and friends are the heavy toll on IAM’s work. At the least, much of it is in limbo. The  attack was one of the worst carried out on foreign aid workers in many years.

Heartfelt prayers go out to those impacted by these losses, especially those closest to these who gave their all.



August 19, 2010 Posted by | Christianity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future of Europe?

This is a subject that   I have been pondering for quite  awhile and  is probably just an initial effort at expressing  some opinions. To me the subject is at once complicated, disturbing and perhaps  a view of  our ( United States ) future.

I am a great fan of political novels, especially those set in our era. Those that depict events similar  to those that are occurring and make reference to actual people and places in the course of their books. I have referred before to Daniel Silva whom I thoroughly enjoy and I have just finished a book by Michael Walsh, Hostile Intent, that addresses some similar issues but from a  quite different perspective. Factored in to my post is a challenging nonfiction book that I have just begun to read. It  is by British author Melanie Phillips  and it its premise dovetails nicely with my fictional reading.

These slightly disparate works all have one word common to them that struck me quite forcefully. That word is Londonistan, which is the title of Ms Phillips book. Walsh mentions and I am fairly certain that Silva does also. Both fictional writers speak heavily of the concept as well.

What is the concept of which they speak? Ms Phillips says it best in the intro to her book. She begins her intro with the London subway suicide bombings of July 7. 2005 and  its implications . She asserts that  it reveals London as the  epicenter ( good Joel Rosenberg word) of Islamic militancy. She uses the word ” Londonistan” which is  a mocking play of the names of London and state sponsors of terrorism such as Afghanistan. You can think of others. She added this chilling detail that one could argue that al-Qaeda actually began in London in the 1980s and 90s. She continues to  talk about Britain in essence turning on itself and attacking its own historical values.

And this next may be the most troubling. There is underway an attempt to establish a separate Muslim identity in the country. This is  in  a country approximately 5% Muslim . So there is a  minority attempting and succeeding in many ways to impose its values on the host country. A tiny but illustrative example is that piggy banks are banned from British banks lest Muslims be offended. Funny, maybe, but not ha-ha funny by any means. British Muslims actually insist they are under Western attack  and blame any wrongdoing by Muslims on others. One more thought before part #1 closes.

 British liberals fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic so Muslim extremism goes somewhat  unchecked and  criticism is against the so-called bigot. The London train bombings were, by this logic, caused by American , Israeli or British policies.

My intent is to refer to Ms Phillips book  again in part #2 as well  as some fictional  references from Walsh and perhaps Silva. As I alluded,  her book is a difficult read for me but I hope to plow through  a bit further.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Two Generals and the President

Now that the White House has traded Gen Stanley McChrystal for Gen David Petraeus ( formerly known by liberal Democrats as Betray us, compliments of Moveon.org ) what does it all mean?  Oh and other assorted and sundry Democrats  named Reid and Clinton chimed in with their unflattering comments  as well.

First of all, Obama had to fire McChrystal. I believed that even before I heard it from Glenn Beck or my informal survey of several retired military friends. It brings to mind, just a little, mind you, of Truman  firing McArthur. But no Obama has not risen to Truman’s level with the firing even though Wolf Blitzer says that now he is the commander-in-chief. No, Wolf, he held that title from day one of his inauguration. now if you mean he finally acted like the commander-in-chief, you would be much more accurate.

There are many interesting things about this action, some of which will not materialize until some  time  has passed. Just a few. Petraeus actually is replacing a guy who reported to him in his role as CentCom Commander. So, does that not leave us  a general short?  Petraeus cannot do justice to the job in Afghanistan and run CentCom  at the same time. ( Imagine moving from Tampa to Kandahar?) So, one would think that someone needs to be promoted, right?

Ok, next up, why in the world did a four star general even agree to an interview with Rolling Stone magazine? You have to figure that nothing good will come from it and possibly something very, very bad. And so it did. That would be like, oh I don’t know, say  a Rush Limbaugh interviewing with them only worse. So, an obviously smart and capable military man does this for what reason? At some point, when things have settled down, I hope that he is forthcoming with his reasons.

Finally, was it just 2-3 years ago when Senators Obama and Biden at different times and in different public settings blasted Gen Petraeus for his lack of competency in Iraq?  Indeed it was, Obama at a Senate hearing in which he gave the general no time to respond and Biden in an interview with Tim Russert.

If you are Obama, would it not be a nightmarish scenario to have McChrystal make the  rounds of the talk shows or maybe even write a book? Can you say, bete noir? After all, McArthur had his triumphant parade in New York City.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | military, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why were these people laughing?

Seems Bill Maher is at it again. You remember him, famous for wishing Dick Cheney had been killed  while at an American outpost in Afghanistan. Unlike this next, there was  no humor involved. Bet Maher was thrilled beyond words at Cheney’s recent heart attack though.

His latest attempt at death humor involves Glenn Beck. On his HBO show, he made this statement during his opening monologue.”When we see crazy, senseless deaths like this, we can only ask why, why, why couldn’t it have been Glenn Beck?” The reference is to John Bedell, a disturbed individual who opened fire near the Pentagon a couple of days ago and  was  killed by Pentagon police.

It was bad enough that Maher tried to milk the tragic event for humor. I just cannot countenance that at all, regardless of the object. What is worse to me is that the audience reaction. What was it? Alas, it was laughter and applause. I can only hope that after reflecting on their behaviour, all would be ashamed;or at least a few of them.

Video and a further article by Noel Sheppard available at NewsBusters.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Location and Location

A couple of days ago, I shared a slightly tongue-in-cheek poem about our good friend Al ( protector of the environment) Gore. So, we and others wonder, where is the goracle these days? I assume most,if not all,  of the snow has left Washington and he was not  located in a makeshift igloo. So, where might he be?

Granted, this may violate top-secret government information guidelines, but I think I know where he is or at the least where he is headed. It would be the desolate regions  near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border to meet up with his compatriot and climate change brother in arms, Osama bin Laden.

Yep, bin Laden is now part of the Gore team. Some weeks ago bin Laden declared on  al-Jazeera that  he deplored climate change. He went on to condemn the United States and other developed countries for causing climate change, even including  an obligatory criticism of George Bush junior. He went on to compare United States politics to the Mafia (Chicago maybe?) and calling Americans the true terrorists.

What had to warm algore’s heart though was his assertion that his was a message to the whole world about those responsible for climate change and its repercussions. He added, “speaking about climate change is not an intellectual luxury-the phenomenon is an actual fact.” Who knows, Gore may have even helped him write the statement. Sounds Gore-like does it not?

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The System Worked ?

So said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in commenting on a failed terrorist attempt to take down Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam  to Detroit. No,wait a minute. Yesterday, she said that it failed miserably. So, which is it? Did it fail or not ? If one measures that by the new security measures and  the additional U S marshals assigned to aircraft, I’m going with failure.There are lots of  ways to look at this event that could have , but thankfully, did not have tragic consequences. The alleged bomber, who

is in custody, is Nigeria, although funded from Yemen  and claims that there are more like himself on the way. Comforting thought, is  it not? Yemen  itself does seem to be developing into fertile ground for Al-Qaeda. Although it is located at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, it isn’t  that far from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,etc.We sorta know about them and terrorists,do we not?

The President issued  a statement today from Hawaii, 3 days after the near bombing, if you are counting. What he said sounded good. We’re gonna get ’em, not just words but”every element of our national power.” No matter where they are, he added.

Imagine, if you will, thoses words coming from Bush, war mongerer, etc. And, if he had waited 3 days before speaking on the issue. Wonder if there will  be any criticism of the President  in that regard?

We have been providing support, both overt and covert to Yemeni  forces and that support is slated to increase even more next year. Senator Lieberman, who has been there recently thinks that Yemen could be the next battleground, not that it hasn’t  been before. In October, 2000, the USS Cole was victimized by a suicide bombing.And, there is even a 9/11 connection.

So, let us hope that the President backs up his rhetoric in an appropriate fashion.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | International politics, military, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Forgotten Holiday

Wanted to get this out a little ahead of time. My far and away #1 candidate for the most forgotten holiday is Thanksgiving. Overwhelmed by the growth in Halloween preparation and paraphernalia on the one hand and the holiday shopping season on the other, the humble day of thanks has no chance. Perhaps it even should get a new name. Oh, how about Holiday Shopping Eve. Since the Friday afterwards is known as Black Friday and people must shop or else, it makes perfect sense. Rest up on Thursday, forget the big meal and hit the mall and Wal-Mart  ASAP.

In my family, I am sometimes indicted as one who “hates” holidays, modern-day Scrooge, if you will. But Thanksgiving, now that is one that I like. Can’t really eat as I once could, but that’s not  a problem. The food is just a backdrop, I think for the reconnecting with family that we wish were more commonplace.

I remember with great fondness songs like, “Come, Ye Thankful People Come and  “Over the river and through the wood”. If my memory does not totally fail me, we even sang some of those in elementary school. Not so sure that would happen today.

I know, I know all of the stories about the 1st Thanksgiving are not 100% accurate but there are elements from  that day that remain with us. The day itself has only been a federal holiday since 1941 and who knew what was going to happen in just a couple of weeks. obviously, there are stong religious  underpinnings but the day is much more secular now than religious. Wonder how long it has been since families actually started eating out  on Thanksgiving, have even done  that myself. Perhaps the pressure to create a culinary masterpiece has just become  too great. Here’s  a thought, it doesn’t have to be  a biiiggg deal meal to be a time for thanks. I will admit that Snoopy’s thanksgiving meal left  a bit to be desired though.

I understand that the First Family does not give Christmas gifts to their children and that’s ok. Hope they celebrate Thanksgiving though. And, if you need a little extra something for which to give  thanks, try this link, militaryfamiliespray. That could include those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ft Hood and… you get the picture.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Holidays | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month

November 11,1918 marked the end of the war to end all wars or WWI. Alas, as we know all too well, that was not to be. Truth be told, it had no chance to achieve that goal. Wars have continued and continue; in all sizes and for a multitude of reasons. The day we call Veterans Day remembers those who served, those who returned,those who didn’t and honors those who serve now. We know all too well about those in Iraq and Afghanistan but also South Korea, on ships around the world, in numerous other countries and on bases here at home like Ft Benning and particularly Ft Hood.

The day originated as Armistice Day on November 11,1919,  the first anniversary of WWI’s conclusion, at the urging of Pres Woodrow Wilson. It did not become a national holiday, however,until 1938. The name changed to Veterans Day until 1954 when President Eisenhower signed legislation to honor those who had served in any  and all wars. Appropriately so, since he was the Supreme Allied Commander in WWII.

We have  around 24 million living veterans, about 10% of whom are women and  slightly over 10% are African-American. Some the more interesting  facts I discovered was that about  40% of of our living vets are over 65 but only 10% of  our living vets are from WWII. That is  a number that is rapidly declining. Numbers also indicate that about 1/3 of  veterans live in  just 5 states; California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. I know numbers can be mind numbing but just  a couple more. The number of living veterans   comprises roughly 1/2 of  the veterans that served in wartime since Revolutionary  War  days .

So, today, we salute them all (the approximately 1.5 million on active duty) those who have served and remain  and in particular those who are gone.

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Holidays, military | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scary Things

Tomorrow is Halloween and that means different things depending probably on your age as much as anything else. For the little people, it means legally sanctioned plundering. All the candy and goodies and McDonald’s coupons you can persuade people to give you. Fyi, don’t you hate it when people  who are old enough to know better come to your door with no costume  and a pillowcase, asking for a handout?

Then there are us old curmudgeonly types who just wish the holiday no longer existed and we did not have to be with the incessant door knocking and door bell ringing, even though we did it ourselves once upon  a time. Halloween etiquette says you must give out treats if you turn on your porch light. That one was shared by DiNozzo on NCIS  just recently.

Of course, there are adult Halloween parties and haunted houses to attend. No, the Capitol building is not one of them. Costumes at these parties seem to run the gamut from ridiculously expensive to just ridiculous.

I would be remiss if I failed to toss a memorial bone in the direction of our sainted golden retriever, Rameses. This kindly soul, who loved all and thought  that all loved him was quite excited by the constant parade of visitors to the house, just to see him, of  course. I remember one year in which he slipped out the door and proceeded to accompany a group of trick or treaters on their rounds for a while. Apparently sensory overload brought him back home.

Scary movies, pass;try to avoid them. MSNBC OR CNN is usually enough for me. That brings me to this and I really hate to admit it. When channel surfing earlier today, I came across Chris Matthews and heard him speak of Afghanistan. What I heard sounded something like us. Either defeat the Taliban or get out. Wow, something that sounded rather close to what I think. Did it really occur or was it  a Halloween mirage?

Don’t know for sure. Gotta go and write that letter quickly to the Great Pumpkin. Wait for me Linus.

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Children, Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

April 12,1945 to August 6,1945

The year 1945 was momentous in an almost unprecedented way. The dates referenced above are not the only events of major significance, but they will suffice for now. April 12 is one of those days that  people would always  remember where they were when they heard the news. President Roosevelt  was dead. The only man to be elected to 4 terms; he was just beginning his 13th year in office when he succumbed to a  stroke and died in Warm Springs, Ga at the age of 63. His death elevated a virtually unknown  man to the Presidency at one of the nation’s most critical junctures. WW II, at least in Europe was drawing to an end but the Pacific theater, another story indeed.

Harry Truman was neither  a Dick Cheney or Joe Biden in terms of power or influence. He was Roosevelt’s 3rd veep  and was not what you would call highly influential or knowledgeable and in fact had only occupied the office for 82 days. Thus he was not really aware of the feverish efforts underway to develop the atomic bomb.

Apparently he came up to speed very quickly since his decision to launch the Enola Gay with the first bomb came less than 3 months after he took office. The decision was made even though it  was by no means universally lauded and was opposed by some 70+ scientists.

I would like to draw  a comparison to the situation in which Mr Truman found himself and  the ongoing process about what should be our next step in Afghanistan. I read excerpts frm  a Eugene Robinson column today that lauded the reasoned approach the President is taking versus the “ready, firm, aim” approach of George Bush. He of course makes the typical comments about  this as  well as Iraq being George Bush’s doing.

I have had the nagging thought for some time about Truman’ s position. It was not his war that he was tasked with completing and it might have been easy or expedient politically to not blame Roosevelt, but  to give either him or his policies part of the “credit” for his controversial decision. I don’t think that he did so. Remember the buck stops here?

My point, which I am not making as well as I would like is not to say the President’s reasoned approach is  all that bad. But, given the fact that this  war was frequently referenced in the campaign, it is not conducive to fall back on the Bush’s war approach.

When he took office, WWII became Truman’s war. We could always the question, if Roosevelt had lived would he have dropped the bomb or bombs?  But it remains a specious question. For good or bad, Afghanistan is Obama’s  war ( hopefully his main adviser is not John  Kerry) and history will doubtless allocate to him the credit if he succeeds.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | History, military, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments