- 15 December, 1863 -
(In Camp Near Orange, Virginia)
"It snowed hard the night of the fourteenth. Big, white flakes came floating down in the windless darkness. A new moon did not bestow enough light to see well, but if you left your hut to stand alone in the forest, you could feel the snow in your eyebrows and on your cheeks. You could smell the smoke from the chimneys, and hear the gentle sound of the flakes landing all around. You knew from the sound that it would snow all night, and that there would be deep, heavy, new snow in the morning.
Dawn brought with it the still, shimmering brightness that makes a winter's day seem full of new promise. It was the kind of day which gives men back their childhood for a time.
The snowball battle began about ten A.M. in a skirmish between some Alabama men and a wood cutting party from Coppens' Zouaves. The Louisianans had worked hard since breakfast with two man cross-cut saws, dropping trees for their division's saw-mill. The rasp of the saws and the ribald French songs of the detail could be heard across the surrounding fields. Men stood outside their huts to listen. They scratched and spat while making comments on the singing.
It was probably the obsessive nattiness of the Zouaves that set off the attack, the grey baggy pants and the embroidered red vests. Perhaps that was it, or perhaps it was nothing in particular. Maybe they just happened to be there, looking the other way while they worked, and not seeing the stealthy advance through the trees.
One of my pre-occupations is the cycle of novels that I wrote concerned with what I think I learned in life. It is set in the American Civil War and called "Strike the Tent." Why? If I knew why perhaps I could have set it in some other time and place. I have been writing at this for a long time. In one of the books, there is the story of a French professional soldier (John Balthazar), an officer with much service in Africa, who is sent to America to "observe" Lee's army for his government. Once here, he becomes ever more involved until he ends by being asked to form a provisional battalion of infantry from men nobody else knows what to do with. Line crossers, men from broken units, disciplinary problems, etc. He sets out to do that. In this passage we see his battalion going into Winter Quarters in November, 1863 south of Culpeper. Virginia. They have just made a long withdrawal to the south, away from the disastrous field of Rapahannock Station. Pat Lang
"Throughout the army, soldiers started to construct their winter quarters. They had lived so long in the forest that they could build solid little houses of sticks and mud if they had a couple of weeks in which to work. Small towns arose in the woods. They filled up the forests that sloped away to the northwest from the foot of Pony Mountain. Smoke drifted in the wind, eddying and streaming, bringing an acrid bite of wood taste in the air. Oak and hickory, maple and poplar, the smoke brought the smell of their little communities so like those their ancestors had made in the beginning of their new life in America. The men thought of Thanksgiving; some reached out beyond that to remember Christmas. Balthazar watched his troops build their winter town. He had never seen soldiers do such a thing. In Europe, soldiers on campaign lived under canvas or in requisitioned houses.He thought their skill a marvelous thing, and told them so.
-November 6th, 1863-
(Somewhere Near Culpeper, Virginia)
Jubal Early chewed reflectively. “If I understand correctly,” he said. “You met everybody of importance in Richmond. You must have been a busy man.”
He and Balthazar lounged in camp chairs built of tree branches. The weight and bulk of the two of them made those watching wonder if the interview would end in a general collapse of the furniture. They sat with their backs to the open end of a tent. You could see General Early’s field desk and camp bed inside. The chairs were angled toward each other so that discussion was easy but not too intimate. A bottle and two glasses stood on a small table.
The weather was clear and warm in an Indian summer display of generosity to those who lived in the forest. There were still birds singing in the trees. Balthazar noticed a brown bird with a crest and an orange beak. As he watched a second arrived to sit beside the brown creature. This one was brilliant red in color. Ah, the mate, he thought. I must ask of these birds.
"Where've you been since then?"
"With General Lee's headquarters."
Non-Fiction Showcase: Prison Journey, A Memoir by Brigadier FB Ali
(includes chapter excerpts selected by the author)
Christmas Eve Radio Reading: Frederick Forsyth's "The Shepherd"
Out my open window, the Paris sky showed a cold gray above the half-hid rooftops glistening in the rain. It was the month of May.
I was 23-years old. I lay atop the hard bed in the attic room, my eyes wide open, and listened to the dripping of the shower on the eaves, the constant patter of rain on the roof slates. Earlier that morning, carrying my suitcase, I stepped from the double door of the bus depot and found myself in a dirty, run-down section of the city. A weak sun greeted my eyes. The solid gray overcast had clear to split into blue pieces, and what had begun by being a damp, dismal day was how lit up by a weak, anemic sun. Even that was something at least, I thought.
"Parash Hill is a scenic overlook near Sderot, which is one of the underserviced development towns originally constructed in Southern Israel to accommodate some of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who arrived to Israel from Arab nations during the 1940s as impoverished victims of government-led campaigns on expulsion. Parash Hill offers sweeping views of the Gaza Strip, and beyond it is the Mediterranean Sea. Here, hundreds of Israelis gathered at the vista to revel in the violence. For them, the hill offered mezzanine seats for the bombing; they cheered or stared with silent satisfaction while the hometown team exacted blood vengeance on the Enemy. “Of course I’m happy,” a twenty-six-year-old Orthodox Jew told a reporter from the UK’s Sunday Times as he watched Israeli jets bombard the strip. “It would be better if innocent civilians weren’t hurt, but the ones who cooperate with Hamas—that’s their problem.” A secular, middle-aged woman pointed to Gaza and calmly explained to Ulla Terkelsen, a Danish TV reporter, “They should just wipe the whole thing off the map.” With a dramatic wave of her hand, she added, “Yeah, I’m a little bit fascist.” A twenty-seven-year-old student surveyed the scene of picnicking Israelis and lamented, “People in Israel are addicted to violence." Max Blumenthal in "Goliath"
Max Blumenthal is a brave man, a brave and honest man. He is the son of my friend Sidney Blumenthal.
"Goliath" will be published by "Nation Press" on the first of October. I recommend it. pl
"The Spirits of the people are very good. The loss of Charlstown affects them no more than a Drop in the Bucket..."
Memorial Day Memoir: Sgt. George Artis Boomer
Close Combat (2)
By Richard Sale
My wife and I came back from Georgetown late one night. It was after one, it was a sweltering, humid July evening without a breath of air. The project crowd had left their sweltering, airless homes and had spilled out into the streets. It was clear a lot of people there had been drinking. Crowds breed fear, but as I scanned this one, my eyes suddenly spotted Skinny Pimp, the gang leader. Sgt. Boomer and his buddy, Harry, had once been attacked in their house in Southwest D.C. by a gang. The gang was trying to get in the front, when Harry and Boomer threw smoke bombs out the front door, then, carrying their M-16s, they came out the back. The gang fled.
The sight of Skinny Pimp put me into a grim, furious, implacable rage. Yes, I had been at a party and had been drinking, but the insult of the little stone rolling by me on the pavement still irked me, and if I wanted to confront Skinny Pimp and the time was now.
I first took steps to get rid of any anger. Anger is the breeding ground of mistakes. Up in my apartment, I put on jeans and a jean jacket. I had a small, short club which I put into the belt of the jeans in case Pimp had a knife. I had no mouthpiece. I kissed my Iranian wife goodbye and went out. Some of the party goers saw me coming and were curious. When I get truly infuriated, I get calm, and my lips go white. I was later told that my lips were white. I was six two and so was Pimp. He was lean, wiry, wore cool clothes, black leather jackets, boots, the dark shades, etc. I told him in front of his own people that he had terrorized the little girl, our baby sitter, and I told him I was doing to send him to the hospital. It was not rhetoric. I was going to break his left ribs, rip his nose from his face, or break his collar bones. There was a tactic that I had trained for in which you sunk both stiff fingers into the hollows around the collar bones and simply sank your weight and yanked them out. I certainly was going to pivot and drive an elbow into his face. My mind was rapidly turning over tactics.
A Memorial Day Memory: Sgt. Boomer
By Richard Sale, author of Clinton’s Secret Wars
I was prevented from going to Vietnam because of a bullet wound, but by 1971, the wound had healed. In those days, Washington, D.C. was a tough town, full of unrest, drug deals and gangs. I was trained in hand-to-hand combat by a “tunnel rat,” a U.S. Army Sgt. whose jobs was to enter North Vietnamese tunnels, plant charges, and then quickly back out in order to keep from being blown up by the charges he had planted. My instructor was one of those men; he was black, in his thirties, a handsome, sensitive man who had a grip like pair of pliers. His name was Sgt. George Artis Boomer. Once he had killed a man in a North Vietnamese tunnel, using his knife in the dark. (His stories were confirmed by the men he had fought with - I talked with many of them.)
His domestic life was turbulent. One time, his wife in Washington, D.C, had tried to stab him, and when she failed, she fled up the stairs and was found sitting on the bed with her baby in her lap. Boomer had gotten an M-16 and was thinking of firing through the floor at his wife when he went up and saw the baby. (Fifteen years later, they were still married.)
Boomer was a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the 18th Airborne Corps, and he had been a special hand-to-hand combat instructor for the 82nd Airborne. In Vietnam, he was almost been killed in a fight with a Vietcong prisoner. The Vietcong was part of a group of prisoners being held by the American Army. The prisoners were bound with their hands behind their back, and they were sitting on the ground. They were guarded by American troops. An Army lieutenant came by, and told Boomer to release this one man. Boomer objected. “Sir, that man is very dangerous,” he said. The lieutenant was arrogant as he was ignorant. Free the man, he said. Boomer did. No sooner had he done so, than the Viet Cong, with his hands now untied, had sprung to his feet and hit Boomer hard in his chest with a reverse punch to Boomer’s solar plexus. The Vietcong then hit Boomer with a sharp, hard side kick to his lower leg and punched Boomer again in the chest and throat. Boomer fell over backwards. The Vietcong, now convinced he was certain of victory, stepped over Boomer’s prostrate body with his left leg, positioning himself to drop his right knee, with using his body weight to land on Boomer’s face, a blow which would have killed Boomer. But the Vietcong had left his right hand hanging down, just before the knee drop, and Boomer seized that hand, pulled it with his own left, and with his right hand, reached up and took out the Viet Cong’s throat in a single movement. Boomer said that when the man screamed, it sounded like a something screaming under water.
To Order Directly From the Author:
PO Box 16103
Washington, DC 20041
Pricing for Perfect bound Softcover:
The Butcher's Cleaver: $23.95 (Hardcover $33.95)
Death Piled Hard: $18.95 (Hardcover $28.95)
Down the Sky: $15.95 (Hardcover $25.95)
Please add $3.99 S&H handling for each book ordered, or $11.89 for all three books in the Trilogy.
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I was interviewed some time ago by the North Carolina Museum of History concerning the writing of this trilogy.
"The Confederate Secret Services, a conversation with W. Patrick Lang, novelist, retired U.S. Army colonel, and military intelligence consultant
Patrick Lang discusses his two novels, The Butcher’s Cleaver and Death Piled Hard, both of which focus on Claude Devereux, a Virginia banker who is recruited by the Confederate secret service and placed in the office of Union secretary of war Edwin Stanton. Approximate run time: 24 minutes. Podcast "
This podcast is highly recommended
"Science currently holds that time travel is an impossibility, but readers of Down the Sky, thefinal volume of Colonel Pat Lang’s Strike the Tent trilogy will question that assertion. Code-named “Hannibal,” Confederate penetration agent Claude Devereux is firmly lodged in the upper echelons of the Federal war machine. Now a Brigadier General of the Union forces with the new Congressional Medal of Honor on his chest, Major Devereux of the Confederate Secret Service knows time is running out. His minders in Richmond may no longer trust him, his personal life is a shambles, and Union spy-catcher Lafayette Baker is determined to bring him down. Only his peculiar, personal friendship with President Lincoln holds his enemies at bay.
"My wife, who is an ambitious reader, recently set out to read Henry James two-volume work, The Portrait of a Lady. Feeling she should enjoy some solidarity, I began to read it as well. I have read it three times, but long ago, and I truly believe that you never read the same book since all of evolve mentally all the time. Things which were mediocre at the beginning become startling vivid over time. So I set out." Richard Sale
Tal Afar was nothing like Mosul. We had been moved up from Mosul after our battalion commander, in a bid to get to ‘where the fighting was’, handed over our sectors to the Iraqi Police and Army and declared ‘Mission Accomplished’. He was bucking for a chance to go to Ramadi, where the marines were limited to moving around at night and the fighting was thick and furious. I reckoned that the ploy was transparent (I found out years after the fact that the CG in charge of Northern Iraq didn’t think much of our Colonel) in its attempt to get some serious war ink on his record and in all likelihood a lot of us killed. The 172nd Stryker Brigade was not what I would call the most ‘elite’ of organizations. I had come from the 1/501st PIR, and served a tour of duty on the eastern border of Afghanistan, so I had a frame of reference that many of the ‘captains’ who had promoted from second lieutenant to captain were lacking. Mainly that there was no need to go looking for fights in a hostile country, because sooner or later they find you.
Strange things took place at the end of the Cold War. It was all the war many of us had ever known. This is a fiction story, but the millieu is real enough.
Some of our leaders were the "rough men" from previous conflicts and they often questioned, just as we did, whether the incessant meetings with former foes were real or fantasy. This is an extract from a novel called "The Goodbye Kiss." Some here have read parts of it before. Perhaps someday you may read it all.
My thanks to our host for sharing many memories of the time and for being a good writing partner.
For me, it was scutwork.
The end of the Cold War, at least my part of it, came with bewildering rapidity. It shouldn’t have been that way, I admit. Our jobs in West Berlin clearly involved understanding what was going on “Drüben.” It was German for “over there,” and that’s we called the East. Of course in Berlin it wasn’t just east in direction it was all around us.
Since the occupation zones were set up at the end of the war we had been smack in the middle of five Soviet armies. It was the new kind of normal. Politicians on the Potomac wailed and gnashed teeth about the dreaded “Fulda Gap,” and the threat of marauding Soviet Armor, but sitting literally inside the Group Soviet Forces, Germany we didn’t think about it all that much. We carried on spying as normal.
When Gorbachev came we began to hear unthinkable things. “Common European Home,” “Perestroiks,” even Maggie Thatcher opined that Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev was one with whom we could do business. When Ronald Reagan said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” he ruined our business.
by Richard T. Sale for Carol, Christmas Eve 1987
The new Soviet leader had come, as far as we were concerned, out of nowhere. He had already said things never heard from any other Soviet leader, and worse yet for our business, he had withdrawn tank divisions from the five Soviet armies that surrounded us and another tank division each from Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
We had heard it before—thin out one army in order to bring more tank regiments into the adjoining army, or empty a garrison to allow the introduction of some new missile, radar, or gimcrack, but when the divisions began to pack up and actually leave the forward area, we were, in the words of our British colleagues, “gob smacked.”
This is a true story. It is a kind of “war story." “Basilisk’ asked me to tell you this story. We were out wandering around the Virginia countryside in the rain yesterday. “Harper” joined us for lunch at a country inn. We have those.
In the middle of the Vietnam War, I was in an Army school for captains and majors. It was a long course, nine months long. There were about 100 officers in the class. Nearly all had already served one 12 month “tour” in the war. They were all intelligence officers but as lieutenants or captains they had served with infantry or other combat arms battalions, or in SF or so far out in the “boondocks’ that what branch one belonged to did not matter much.
They were all going back to the war as soon as they graduated and were not very tolerant of people they thought of as “REMFs.” (rear echelon mother-fuckers- this is necessary vulgarity) they had seen a lot of death, had inflicted a lot of death and were going to do it again. There were not a lot of West Point grads in the group.
"A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.
Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.
The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official “that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.”
The letter’s existence has been reported before, and it had been written about as if it were genuine. It was passed in Baghdad to a reporter for The (London) Sunday Telegraph who wrote about it on the front page of Dec. 14, 2003, under the headline, “Terrorist behind September 11 strike ‘was trained by Saddam.’” Politico
Suskind argues that this charge, if proven, would constitute a "High Crime." I agree. "Reasons of State" may be an excuse for such behavior in some polities, but, it is clear that it is not in the United States.
President Bush is called a liar and a law-breaker in this book. The charge is that he, personally, ordered some documents forged and others ignored in order to lure the American people into support of a foreign war. These are charges that make Bll Clinton's difficulties with his libido look rather trivial.
The charge is so serious that Bush deserves an opportunity to clear his name of the accusation. Therefore, the House Judiciary Committee should meet to consider a bill of impeachment. Anything less will leave a stain on Bush that will follow his family name down through the ages. pl
Note: I know Ron Suskind fairly well and respect both him and what I have read of his work in the past. I have not discussed this book with him although we have talked about the general direction of his work.
"...in a chapter titled "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."
"Over that summer of 2002," he writes, "top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage."
McClellan, once a staunch defender of the war from the podium, comes to a stark conclusion, writing, "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary." " WAPO
Change a couple of words and this probably will serve as an epitaph for Scott McClellan. Perhaps if McClellan had had the welfare of his country closer to his heart than the idea of service to his emperor then fate might have been kinder to him. Or perhaps not; duty is a hard thing. "Duty is the most sublime word in the English language" Apparently, McClellan has only recently developed a sense of duty that the epigramist would have understood.
McClellan's book will be believed by those who have known or suspected the truth of the massive and continuing propaganda campaigns waged by the Bushies and the Jacobin flatheads. It will not be accepted by those who still believe that Saddam hid his nuclear program in a lake somewhere, or in Syria or maybe in Ruritania. In the end his book will have little impact. I hope it makes him a few dollars. He will need them. In Texas where the easily deceived seem legion, he will find it hard to go home again.
The administration manipulated the "sources" of public opinion? Really? Can that be? (irony alert) The administration and its Ziocon allies systematically drove truth speakers out of the public square? Really? Well, folks, the American people were stupid enough and gullible enough to have allowed that.... Are we to believe that the American people have become smarter and more discerning in the eternity of the last years?
The media? Has the catastrophe of our foreign policy changed the media? Let us see how much "play" McClellan's book receives. pl
Like the rest of us, none of these soldiers wanted to die. None of them wanted to fight a war. In fact, these men despised war as much as any generation. In their hearts, they wanted to be back home, in America, with their families and loved ones. Yet, at sunrise on June 6, 1944, when they crossed the stormy English Channel headed for a French beach code-named Omaha, they certainly knew they were going to their slaughter. Only God truly knows the anguish of their prayers. But even in this agony, when their landing crafts finally ran ashore and the ramps splashed down into the waves, these Americans did not hesitate. They all headed straight into a violent death and left us what is now an eternal scene – dead bodies floating in the water, cries of the young dying, and dark red blood soaking the sand.
Yet amazingly, this eternal scene – this passion at Omaha – was just one drop of blood in a generation's sacrifice, for blood was spilled the world over. The number of casualties staggers the mind. At Omaha Beach alone, America suffered over 8000 casualties. By war's end, nearly 300,000 Americans had died – white Americans, black Americans, Americans of all heritages. France and the British Commonwealth each sustained over 500,000 deaths. Poland suffered 120,000 battlefield deaths and, incredibly, over 5 million civilian deaths. And then there was the USSR, where the suffering becomes unimaginable. 20 million killed, 7 million of whom were civilians. In China, 13 million people died, 10 million of whom were civilians. And certainly in the heart of this sacrifice was the innocent Jew – 6 million men, women and children gassed. All told, Allied deaths reached 44 million.
This kind of suffering is impossible to fully comprehend, but it does establish forever that this generation was one of supreme sacrifice. Like few others, the WWII generation saw its darkest moment during the prime of youth – a time when other generations enjoy the most life has to offer – weddings, families and careers. So, some sixty years later, when you step back and see the sacrifice endured, you can't help but wonder if during this most tragic time, when so many good people were dying the most horrible of deaths, their silent cry was, "My God, why have you forsaken me?".
"Dear Col. Lang -- I've now read "The Butcher's Cleaver." It's both a remarkable and a very unusual book, with those qualities being inseparable, I believe. In particular, there is its pervasive, perambulating, almost dreamlike air -- both in narration and description. That is, everything that Claude takes note of (but not only Claude, Bill White as well) is presented to us as though it were preserved in amber -- estimates of men and situations but also the then-existing "look" of things, natural and man-made. Of course, to capture or evoke the "then-existing" as it was then felt is the great yet elusive goal of historical fiction, and that you have accomplished. In addition, a feel for, or a need to evoke, the "then-existing" implies a no less powerful sense that much of what existed then is lost. It is here, without ever becoming too explicit, that "The Butcher's Cleaver" is -- sorry for term -- so poetic. Again, this is present I feel in the most seemingly ordinary descriptive passages (as time seems to slow down a bit to allow Claude to notice the look of a street, a piece of architecture, etc.). After a while one begins to feel that that all this noticing -- this verbal and visual "touching" -- amounts to a continuous farewell on Claude's part, and not only because he almost certainly knows that his cause and way of life are doomed but also because we know (as he anticipates) what acts Claude himself will bring to pass after the span of the novel itself is completed (i.e. Lincoln's assassination). Two more things: The perambulating, near dreamlike quality of the book comes to a climax of course in the scene where Claude and Patrick observe Pickett's charge. I can't praise the writing here -- and I assume the decisions that lay behind it -- enough. Again, one would think that in the face of such a famous scene of "action" that the tempo of the writing would have to accelerate, but instead, if anything, it slows down a bit more, to convey what probably does occur in the minds of trained men who are observing combat but also to convey, in this case, their awed, horrified reluctance to take in what they cannot avoid seeing. Further, the death of Patrick in the midst of this is a beautifully handled grace note. One suspects that it is coming; one doesn't expect that it will take place almost offstage, as I think it needs to. (Patrick is a beautifully modeled character; his role in the double game the Devereux brothers are playing is at times almost heartbreaking -- in part icular when we are told that Patrick now understands just how Hooker's intelligence staff has come to form accurate estimates of CSA troop strength and that he hopes to put this knowledge to use upon his hoped-for return to Richmond.) Finally -- and this is a shot in the dark -- much that I've said above about "The Butcher's Cleaver" reminds me of a superb short novel by the Austrian writer Alexander Lernet-Holenia, "Baron Bagge" (1936). In that book, the title figure is a cavalry officer serving on the Eastern Front in World War I (as was the case for the author). Riding eastward on a vague, dubious mission into Hungarian territory, under the command of an especially impetuous officer, the Baron and his men come to an enemy-held bridge and are ordered to charge across, which they do under heavy fire, despite the Baron's belief that the order to charge was unwise and merely a function of the commanding officer's need to precipitate something bold and glorious in what all suspect are probably the final days of the war. The cavalry charge prevails, and the unit then moves on into the Carpathians, where (without going into too much detail) a subtle sense of strangeness begins to prevail when they arrive in a welcoming town and are entertained by th e townspeople, and Baron himself meets a beautiful but elusive woman with whom he falls in love -- all this as though the Baron and his men have wandered into another, ideal world. Finally (and while this gives things away, I'm sure anyone who reads "Baron Bagge" already will know this) it becomes clear that the Baron and all his men were killed in their charge across the bridge, and they have been existing for some nine days hence in a kind of dreamlike purgatory that is reserved for men who have died in battle in the way that they have. With all that in mind, while I'm sure that it would be erroneous to literally think that all that follows from the opening 1853 scene in "The Butcher's Cleaver" is more or less a dream and that Claude did not survive the duel, I am sure that the striking of that initial elegiac note is no accident. Again, my congratulations on a remarkable achievement. Best," LK
The picture is of the head of Michael, archangel and patron saint of the Confederacy. His face looks down on us from the front of an insignificant Catholic Church, the kind of place in which Devereux and his family might worship.
Larry K has done me the honor of writing this memorable review of TBC. There have been a number of memorable reviews but this one captures something of the psychology of the composition.
Writer's of fiction should avoid "explaining" their works to death. I owe LK a debt.
I have never heard of "Baron Bagge" but am sure I would like the book. pl
I thought about writing something today about the looming menace of Iranian ICBMs (quoting the commander guy here) or the irony of the thought that we might bomb Kurds because they are an unruly pain in the tail. Yes I know. The PKK are really screwing things up, but it would, nevertheless be an irony perceptible for those who are condemned to ironic contemplation. Then there is the Syrian boondoggle of the Israeli Air Force. Why has there been secrecy about the strike? The Israelis wanted it that way. Simple. Occam, Sherlock and the duck rule strike again. (Look it up or someone here will explain it to you) Not today, folks.
A lot of you wanted to read more of Alan Farrell's musings. This appeared in "Arion." Have at it. I have mostly quit expressing Alan's level of skepticism of professional "NAMVETS." I found that such thoughts are not tolerated by many. In particular I remember a retired diplomat who said that my lack of "compassion" told him that although I had been near combat I had never actually fought. He told me that although he had never served in the military, his trauma was a burden. You never know... pl
"Draper emerges with a treasure trove of detail and anecdotes, but he often doesn't delve -- or isn't allowed to delve -- into the deeper questions. Early in his book Dead Certain, he tells the story of Bush's failed bid for Congress in 1978. Against all the best advice, Bush decided to run against a conservative West Texas Democrat, Kent Hance. He lost badly, but not embarrassingly. Explaining his decision to Draper, he said, "You can't learn lessons by reading. Or at least I couldn't. I learned by doing. I knew it was an uphill struggle. But see, I've never had a fear of losing. I didn't like to lose. But having parents who give you unconditional love, I think it means I had the peace of mind to know that even with failure, there was love." Wolffe reviewing "Dead Certain."
Wolffe is a very clever man. He and Olberman "play" well together. Wolffe remains essentially European in his manifested attitudes. His casual dismissal of the behaviour of Royal Navy and Royal Marine people in Iranian captivity as "meaningless" had much about it that most Americans would not approve. We would not tolerate that behavior in our forces.
Nevertheless, his review of this book points to a couple of interestin' thangs about Dubya.
Bush's insistence that he reads a lot and his statement that one can not learn from reading are mutually exclusive, I think. I am reliant on a few things the Army taught me. One of these was the Myers-Briggs personality indicator classification system. This system has been useful to me in understanding people I meet and work with. Dubya hates tests like that and also hates talk about it. That is a typical reaction of several of the grous classified under the test.
I don't think he is lying in the ridiculous statement about "learning." I think that he is (in MB terms) A "Sensory-Perceptive" (SP) type. This groups typically does not learn much by reading and is quite capable of holding two mutually exclusive views at the same time. About 50% of the American public belong to this broad group. Look it up.
Then there is the matter of "unconditional love." There is very little of that in the world. Rational beings may SAY that they love without condition, but it is not usually true. I suppose there are parents who will love a child who is a sadistic child molester and murderer, but they must be few. In fact, only dogs love unconditionally, at least until they meet Michael Vick.
That kind of statement from Bush reveals how much he needs to be loved. that probably points to something less than "unconditional love" in his past. Perhaps that is why he needs to surround himself with adoring women.
This "biography" of Bush reinforces my belief that he will never, never, never give up in Iraq. Never. pl
There ought to be a lot of room in this post for enraged comment by loving parents and defenders of Her Majesty' Forces.
"In a number of different settings I have recently heard the opinion voiced that Ithna'ashari ) Twelver) Shia 'Ulema (scholars) have traditionally chosen to hold themselves apart from political power in whatever state they have inhabited and that they believe in something akin to the Western notion of a proper separation of church and state. Usually, the same speaker or writer will accompany this with a description of the late Ayatollah Khomeini as a "heretic" for holding a different view of this matter. I find these positions to be inadequate in both statements for two broad reasons:"
The issue of Shia clerics and political ambitions never seem to leave us, and so I have decided to publish here an old essay of mine on the subject.
Seeking a moment of relief from the intensity of the storm system surrounding the Washington Beltway, I offer this short story by Alan Farrell which reaches levels of Kafkaesque "insight" unseen for some time.
This story is the work of Brigadier General Alan Farrell who is a distinguished professor of French at my alma mater, VMI. Dr. Farrell served as a sergeant in USMACVSOG in Vietnam after receiving his doctorate in French literature from Tufts University and study at the Sorbonne. His mastery of the Montagnard French spoken by the hill people of SE Asia is remarkable.
I am not Major Grunwald.