WHY AMERICA’S REAL WARRIORS ARE TURNING ON TRUMP – THE SHINBONE STAR REDUX

GENERAL CONSENSUS: WHY AMERICA’S REAL WARRIORS ARE TURNING ON TRUMP

Who would have thought George Floyd, a black man murdered by police in Minneapolis, would spark a revolt against Donald Trump by three generations of retired American generals who have honorably served our country since the Vietnam War.

The retired generals’ decisions to speak out against Trump is not without possible personal liability. Retired officers are not exempt from military court-martial, and demeaning the president by words or deeds remains a violation of military law.

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) criminalizes “contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any state . . .”

In older times, breaching the unwritten and well understood code of honor that marks military officers’ lives was paid for with a self-inflicted bullet to the brain, much preferred to the ignominy of being put against a wall and shot.

There are no such rash requirements today. In 21st Century America, outspoken officers can resign on principle, as former Secretary of Defense and Marine Gen. James N. Mattis did, or simply be sidelined, marked “unreliable, do not recall in case of war.”

In 2016, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opined, “Retired [officers] can . . . become part of the . . . political landscape,” though Dempsey strongly recommended against them doing so.

That was before Trump stood in the Rose Garden last week, posturing like a caricature of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. During his remarks, Trump threatened to use federal troops in response to the demonstrations fueled by the death of Floyd.

Trump warned America’s governors and mayors:


“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”


It was more than Dempsey and a host of other senior military officers could accept without publicly commenting.

Dempsey, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz, said:


“My generation of military leaders, who entered right after the Vietnam War, spent the majority of our careers, whether it was 20 years, 30 years or 40 years, in my case, trying to rebuild our relationship with the American people. I felt it important to try to keep that relationship sound and solid. Inflammatory language can be an impediment to that.”


The first officer to publicly break ranks with Trump was Mattis, the four-star Marine warrior and scholar of military history who led the way with damning comments in an October 2019 keynote speech at a fund-raising dinner.

At the time, the coronavirus pandemic was still in the future and the recorded murder of Floyd George by police was too horrible to even contemplate.

Mattis was speaking to a crowd of wealthy New Yorkers raising money on behalf of America’s neediest children. Mattis, called the “Warrior Monk” by enthralled young Marines, was at his wisecracking best at the swank New York affair. He told his audience he had finally “achieved greatness.”

A slim, fit man with a quiet, sure demeanor, Mattis is a figure far removed from the cheesy “Mad Dog” moniker Trump and his lowbrow cronies once used to characterize him. How they didn’t know that Mattis, as well as most Marines, consider the nickname demeaning is remarkable. More likely, Trump didn’t care. He has no boundaries.

In 2016, Mattis was Trump’s shining star, the crown jewel in his nascent Cabinet. The president-elect told an audience in Cincinnati during his post-election victory lap that Mattis is “the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have.”

Like everything else that drips from Trump’s mouth, his revisionist history is nonsense. Patton was a loud, profane man with a high, squeaky voice, an obsession for stars on his burlesque uniforms, and a penchant for talking like a bordello bouncer. He is best known in military history as a brilliant tactician who motivated his soldiers with stark terror.

Mattis, by contrast, is a quiet thinker who knows how to motivate generals and privates alike to do their best simply by being a man they don’t want to disappoint. His power to lead was burnished by his lifelong study of the military arts. He joined the Marine Corps in 1972 and stayed 44 years. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised Mattis as one of the most formidable “warrior-scholars” of his generation.

During Mattis’ keynote address in 2019 after Mattis had resigned as Secretary of Defense, he told his audience, “I’m not just an overrated general, I am the greatest, the world’s most overrated. I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So, I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals. Frankly that sounds pretty good to me.”

Then he delivered a knockout blow as powerful as the one he administered to the Iraqi Army in the opening weeks of the Iraq War, during the Marines brilliant and decisive drive to Baghdad.

“I earned my spurs on the battlefield,” Mattis explained, “. . .  and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.”

It took more than six months for the dam holding back the outrage that professional military officers feel for Trump to finally break. The apparent turning point was when the president threatened to deploy the elite 82nd Airborne Division, the nation’s battle-ready strategic reaction force, against American citizens.

The famed 82nd, the “All American,” constantly train to bash its enemies into dust whenever they get the chance. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the 82nd to Detroit when deadly riots broke out between police and black residents, and again in 1968 to put down rioters following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump wanted to unleash them against the George Floyd protestors: “We will end it now,” Trump declared last week in the Rose Garden, calling himself, “your president of law and order.”

Mattis, a true believer in the chain of command and his place in it, uncharacteristically went on the offensive in response to Trump’s irresponsible palaver.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote. “The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation.”

Mattis goes on, “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

Since his op-ed was published in The Atlantic magazine, a phalanx of senior generals and admirals joined the quiet coup of the retired officer corps by condemning Trump as a man of little vision, no empathy and, to draw on an ancient Army analogy, “without the sense to pour piss out of a boot.”

On Friday, Foreign Policy magazine published a piece from retired four-star Marine Gen. John Allen, who argued that Trump is putting “the American experiment” at risk:


“There is no precedent in modern U.S. history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor. Right now, the last thing the country needs — and, frankly, the U.S. military needs — is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens.”


Without military support, Trump jumped back into his newly fortified White House, safe and secure inside a prison of his own construction.

Source: General consensus: Why America’s real warriors are turning on Trump – THE SHINBONE STAR

BRUTALLY HONEST – Marilyn Armstrong

Medical terminology is designed to take the sting — and sometimes the responsibility — out of troubling problems. PTSD – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is the latest entry in trying to find a way around admitting war is bad for soldiers and other living things.


A little history

The first army in history to determine that mental collapse was a direct consequence of the stress of war and to regard it as a legitimate medical condition was the Russian Army of 1905 …The Russians’ major contribution was their recognition of the principle of proximity, or forward treatment. … In actuality, less than 20 percent were able to return to the front.

The brutalities of WWI produced large numbers of the psychologically wounded. … This time, they began by attributing the high psychiatric casualties to the new weapons of war; specifically, the large-caliber artillery.

It was believed the impact of the shells produced a concussion that disrupted the physiology of the brain; thus the term “shell shock” came into fashion.

Another diagnosis … was neurasthenia: “The mental troubles are many and marked; on the emotional side, there is sadness, weariness, and pessimism; repugnance to effort, abnormal irritability; defective control of temper, tendency to weep on slight provocation; timidity. On the intellectual side, lessened power of attention, defective memory and will power….” 

At least the early descriptors name the cause — war or battle. Artillery. But those who make war and send others to fight it don’t like taking the blame. Since they are not going to end the war, they try to make its repercussions seem less threatening.

They do this by removing the word “war” from the illnesses it causes. Which of course makes everyone feel better. Not.

By the end of World War I, the United States had hundreds of psychiatrists overseas who were beginning to realize that psychiatric casualties were not suffering from “shell shock.” … Unfortunately, they continued to believe this collapse came about primarily in men who were weak in character.

During WWI, almost 2,000,000 men were sent overseas to fight in Europe. Deaths were put at 116,516, while 204,000 were wounded. During the same period, 159,000 soldiers were out of action for psychiatric problems, with … 70,000 … permanently discharged. 

Then came World War II. Everyone knows the story of General Patton slapping the soldier in the hospital and treating him as a coward. Generals cannot afford to believe that war is bad for soldiers, that it isn’t just a matter of mind over matter. Although Patton is certainly most famous for expressing his feelings on the matter, I doubt he was unique in his opinions. He was just more outspoken than most of the war leaders.

It became clear it was not just the “weak” in character who were breaking down. This is reflected in the subtle change in terminology that took place near the end of World War II when “combat neurosis” began to give way to the term “combat exhaustion.” Author Paul Fussell says that term as well as the term “battle fatigue” suggest “a little rest would be enough to restore to useful duty a soldier who would be more honestly designated as insane.”

Gabriel writes in No More Heroes, a study of madness and psychiatry in war, that contrary to what is in the movies, television, and the military, it is not only the weak and cowardly who break down in battle. In reality, everyone is subject to breaking down in combat. … ” When all is said and done, all normal men are at risk in war.

Vietnam and subsequent wars have kept troops permanently under siege while the medical community has sanitized symptoms. PTSD lacks any obvious link to war and battle. It doesn’t change the problem and has not resulted in better treatment in VA hospitals. Today’s ploy is to not even acknowledge the problem, but instead, ascribe soldiers’ symptoms to “something else.” Anything else to avoid the military accepting responsibility for the care of its victims.

The cost of war exceeds our ability to cope with its fallout. Apparently, no one considers not sending more soldiers into combat might be the best solution. Funny about that.

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS BY ERIC LARSON – Marilyn Armstrong

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Eric Larson

It’s not a new book, but it is nonetheless a relevant book. I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I was about this one. It was gripping, sometimes mesmerizing. Simultaneously appalling and annoying.

William Dodd was made ambassador to Hitler’s Germany because no one else wanted the job and because they didn’t want to put a “real” ambassador in what they considered a lose-lose position.

From the outset, it was the intention of Dodd’s bosses that he should fail. The U.S. government never had any intention of supporting him, of stopping the rise of the Nazi party or to curtail the personal power of Adolph Hitler.


You need to understand this in order for the rest of the story to make sense if indeed it could be said to make sense. It didn’t make sense to me, but maybe it will make sense to you. Given the way our current government is behaving, maybe it makes more sense only because I am finally aware that it doesn’t have to make sense. 

The indifference and callously entrenched antisemitism of US State Department officials and their resulting tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach. This is not an image of our government that would make anyone proud to be an American. And amazingly, we are doing it again. This time, the people who are doing it lack the polish and education of their forbears, but the hideous results are similar.

The failure of all western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could have done so easily is difficult to fathom. Their choice of Dodd, who was considered an amateur and not “one of the club” was an incredibly cynical move by the U.S.

Most of the people in the book are dreadful people in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his own way, heroic. He saw what was happening and tried — within the very limited power of his position — to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the tragedy. Dodd’s daughter, on the other hand, is a feather-headed self-absorbed brat. She reminds me of a case of hives. The more you scratch, the more you itch.

Everyone acts in bad faith to one degree or another. Even more hard to bear are those who failed to act, failed to respond to Dodd’s repeated pleas for help. Usually, it wasn’t because they didn’t believe him (although some didn’t), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites who thought Hitler could rid Europe of the menace of Communism while wiping out the Jews. They thought wiping out the Jews was a terrific idea.

Hitler didn’t get rid of Communism, but he did a pretty thorough job of wiping out European Jewry. Historically, I guess that would make the glass half full.

How revolting is it for me to learn this? I always rejected my mother’s suspicions on this score as paranoia. I refused to believe my government could allow — encourage — the genocide of an entire people. Sometimes, discovering mom was right is not heartwarming. This is one of those times.

William Dodd – U.S. Ambassador to Germany – International News Service (Chicago, IL). Creator and publisher – International News photo – June 10, 1933

To put the cherry on this dessert, the State Department’s little plot to allow Hitler enough latitude to “take care of the Jews” also led us into the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict in which more than 30 million people — military and civilians — died. The banality of evil has never been more terrifying. Read it and weep for the past and weep for the present.

Evil intentions never produce good results. This book offers the ultimate cautionary tale. It is as relevant now as ever.

OUR BAD TIMES DIDN’T START IN 2016 – Marilyn Armstrong

We are having a national moment. We have our worst-ever president and his spineless, corrupt congress. We have an Attorney General who should be up on charges. We’re in the middle of an oncoming election and the Democrats seem more inclined to tear pieces off each other than cultivate voters. Our moment has so far lasted three years — a long, terrible, tormented national “moment” and if we aren’t careful, it could last a lot longer.

I’ve had to go back and look harder at our history. This catastrophe didn’t “sort of show up” in 2016. It gave us a couple of centuries of warning. We knew this calamity was lurking. We’ve been building towards it for our entire history.

American has done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We allowed slavery and we’ve never recovered from its taint. We slaughtered the Natives who lived here and pretend we didn’t.

We have, as most countries do, glossed over the worst parts of our history and focused on the good stuff. We have pretended our failures never happened or really weren’t that bad. We have held ourselves up as a beacon of light to other countries but behaved more like a flashlight with failing batteries.

We need to do a lot better.


One of the many important things Obama said his final speech was although we made progress, we assumed progress meant we left “the bad stuff” behind and moved on. That isn’t what happened. Even when our better selves dominated, the ugly history remained stuck. We never addressed the issue of race. We have yet to give Natives an even break.

We fought our  Civil War more than 150 years ago and although the battles stopped, the war never ended. Now that we have a straight-out racist as president, it has become painfully obvious how deeply rooted our hatred goes. It needs to change economically, educationally, and culturally.

We forget how we became the world’s major industrial power. We built our economy on the bombed-out remnants of Europe and Japan following two devastating wars. We fought, but the fighting was never on our shores. Think about Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Then imagine how different this country would be if both world wars had been fought in this country, on this continent. Who would be the great industrial power then?

This is our time to consider who we want to become. Unless we make a hard and gritty determination to not just say we are great but to also be great, we will be lost to history, a blip on the timeline.

RDP SATURDAY: BEACON

WHY WE’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE A TRUMP “COUP” – Marilyn Armstrong

What with this mess we’re watching in D.C., we wandered into a discussion. “What if Trump decides to take over the country? Like, you know, hold a military coup?” There was a time when this kind of speculation would have been ridiculous, but these days, nothing is ridiculous and anything, no matter how absurd is possible.

Then, I realized a great truth.

Trump can’t stage a coup because he doesn’t have an army. It’s true there’s a parallel between Trump and Hitler (and after he was in office, Hitler did ultimately stage a military coup), but until that point, his actions were legal. It’s important to remember that Hitler was elected. Just like we elected Trump.

But here’s a big difference. Trump has no army.

The military hates him. All the militaries hate him. All the alphabet agencies loathe him too — CIA, NSA, FBI, Intelligence Department and most of DOJ.  I’m pretty sure that none of them will take over the country because he tweets them. Hitler built a dedicated army, including the Gestapo, Brown, and Blackshirts.  Trump has no military support. No matter how rabid his supporters are, they are not a military force and this isn’t the 1700s when a rabble can take over a country with a modern military. Moreover, he has never had the support of the majority of this country’s population.

If he can’t stage a coup, there’s little he can actually do except say “Hell no, I won’t go,” but in the end, he will go. Even if the Secret Service has to carry him bodily from the White house. Which to be fair, I would love to see.

Now, or later, unless he enlists his mythical Space Force, a million tweets will not make him king.

THE REAL BEGINNING – GARRY ARMSTRONG

As much as I hate telephones, I loathed pagers. I was, admittedly, spoiled by years of minimal interference in the field. We did the usual schtick on the 2-way. Hand over mouth responding, “We can’t hear you. You’re breaking up. We’re headed to the story. No landlines. Sorry, can’t hear you”.

There was one phone call where I almost blew a major story and probably would have also blown my career at the same time. I was still working for ABC Network in New York. One night, around 3am, having just gotten home from a late shift and making my way home from Manhattan to Long Island. I took the call with an obvious attitude. The voice at the other end was nonplussed.

“Garry, don’t pull any of your BS. You really want to hear this call.”

Heavy breathing from me.

“Garry, don’t be a jerk.”

More heavy breathing.

“This is a good one! They want to send you to Vietnam with the team …” In essence, they wanted me to go as a grunt back-up to the A-list correspondents. President Johnson was in Vietnam and something “big” was expected.

“Are you serious or is this a bad joke?” I finally asked.

“No joke, Garry. They like your ballsy attitude and think you’ll be a good fit with the ‘old guys.’”

“Jeezus H. Christ,” I answered.

“Yeah, Garry, that’s right. Grab some of your old Marine gear and get your ass in ASAP. There’s a debrief and then you’re on a special flight to Saigon.”

“Okay, thanks for the heads up, round eyes.” Laughter on both sides of the call. I grabbed some of my old gyrene gear and headed to the door.

My mom yelled, “Garry, where are you going, NOW?”

“Mom, I’m going to Vietnam. Call you when I can. Love you. Bye.”

I heard Mom yell, “What?” as I headed out the door and into an exciting new chapter in my life. Glad I took that call.

PROVOCATIVE? LIKE BOMBING IRAN? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #55

It’s the question of the year and this is only January.


Do you feel that Donald Trump was justified in ordering a drone strike that resulted in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an airstrike in Baghdad last week?

Do you think Trump’s decision will lead America into a hot war with Iran?

Do you think Trump’s motives are political and self-serving?


I am essentially in almost every possible way, against war. How many wars have we had in my lifetime? I was born just after World War 2, after which there was Korea. We got out of Korea, but then came Vietnam where we lingered until we declared victory and left. We left as we always do, leaving our supposed allies to face death and destruction. Remarkably, people keep trusting us. I don’t know why they do.

War doesn’t solve anything and inevitably leads to more war. WW2 was a “moral war,” but it wouldn’t have occurred had the terms for WW1 (which was just all the old regimes of Europe having one final “go” at each other because they felt like it) not been so cruel. Every war leads to another. Which leads to a few more. Then there are wars that just break out because someone hates someone else and feels obliged to kill them en masse. Gotta love those genocidal wars.

There are no good wars. Not here, or anywhere.

As far as I can see, there will never be an end to war because we don’t want peace. We say we want peace, but we don’t act like it. Should we have killed their General? I don’t know. If we’re going to do it, we should have gone in and done a quiet assassination and slipped out silently. That is assuming that his death was in some way a good thing for this and other countries — which I’m not convinced is the case.

Will this lead to a hot war with Iran? Maybe not, but last night I was ready to call everyone I care about and say goodbye. If we’re going to get bombed, I hope they hit us dead on. Better that than a slow death by radiation. You can’t figure out what Trump will do. I don’t think he knows what he is going to do.

All of his plans are political and self-serving. I don’t think he has any friends or has loved anyone. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand honor, service, faith, or truth. He certainly doesn’t understand our Constitution, science, or language. If it was some other guy, maybe they would be thinking about why we do or don’t want a war, but this is Trump and I don’t think he believes in consequences, so he doesn’t need a reason to do whatever it is he does. He feels like doing it, so he does it. All that matters to him is being celebrated and told he is the greatest.

In my opinion, he is the greatest of all assholes. Ever.

THE WORLD WAR ONE CHRISTMAS TRUCE – 1914 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Christmas truce (German: Waffenstillstand; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front during the Christmas season of 1914. During the days leading to Christmas day, German and British soldiers left their trenches to exchange greetings. To talk man-to-man, exchange personal information, share food and drink.

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches"

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

World War I had been raging for only four months. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in trenches and extremely wary of sniper fire. On battlefields mired in mud, frozen with snow and ice, soldiers emerged from their holes in a rare, spontaneous outbreak of peace.

Both sides — most notably in the southern portion of the Ypres Salient — combatants briefly laid down their weapons and met in No Man’s Land.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they mingled. Exchanged food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps. Several meetings ended in carol-singing.

The high command on both sides issued warnings to all soldiers that such fraternization would make participating soldiers subject to charges of treason. Not surprisingly, there were far fewer spontaneous truces the following year and virtually none by 1916.

A sad commentary on human “civilization” when peace, however temporary, is called treason.

TODAY IS ARMISTICE DAY–THE 11TH HOUR OF THE 11TH DAY OF THE 11TH MONTH – Marilyn Armstrong

veterans_day_2016

Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, initially celebrated the end of the first world war. The fields in Europe where the war was fought were full of wild red poppies and for many years, red poppies were the symbol of World War I.

The fighting ended between the Allies and Germany at 11 AM on 11/11 — November 11, 1918. This is accepted almost universally as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, this barely interrupted the progression of the rest of the wars we have been fighting — almost continuously — ever since.

The day was originally titled “Armistice Day” since it was the time of the Armistice for World War I — the Great Way. Which is what I still call it.

After the police action in Korea concluded in 1954, “Veterans” was substituted for “Armistice.” The holiday became Veterans Day and honors veterans of all the wars we have ever fought. Which are a lot of wars and a great many veterans.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed amid considerable confusion on October 25, 1971. On September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford returned Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, starting 1978.

The ultimate movie about World War I!

From the Veterans Administration:

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

All honor to all our veterans, of all the wars we have throughout the years and around the world. Let’s hope in future years, we will have fewer battles to fight.

WHAT’S THAT WORD? – Marilyn Armstrong

Words That Sound Right

Although this is subjective, some words sound like the thing they describe. Personal favorites are:

Puffin, Bulbous, Fidget, Prickly, Twitch, Bubbly.  
Words Which DON’T Sound Like Their Meaning
Medical terminology is designed to take the sting — and sometimes the responsibility — out of troubling problems. PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the latest entry in trying to find a way around admitting that war is bad for those who fight in them — and other living things.
The Thousand Yard Stare

It started during the Civil War when it was noticed by a lot of people that many former soldiers were not the people they used to be. They were scary or scared. They had delusions. They thought they were being followed or that the war had found them … again.

The first army in history to determine in which mental collapse was considered a direct consequence of the stress of war and was first regarded as a legitimate medical condition was the Russian Army of 1905. The Russians’ major contribution was their recognition of the principle of proximity, or forward treatment.

In actuality, fewer than 20% were able to return to the front.

The brutalities of WWI produced large numbers of the psychologically wounded. This time, they began by attributing the high psychiatric casualties to the new weapons of war; specifically, large artillery. It was believed the impact of the shells produced a concussion that disrupted the physiology of the brain; thus the term “shell shock” came into fashion.

Another diagnosis was neurasthenia: “The mental troubles are many and marked; on the emotional side, there is sadness, weariness, and pessimism; repugnance to effort, abnormal irritability; defective control of temper, tendency to weep on slight provocation; timidity (also: rage, violence, insomnia).On the intellectual side, lessened power of attention, defective memory and will power….” (1)

At least the early descriptors name the cause — war or battle. Artillery. But those who make war and send others to fight it don’t like taking the blame — or the responsibility  — for dealing with the outcome. Since no one is planning to end wars, they try to make its repercussions less threatening by never mentioning battle in any symptom relating to it.

Thus if you remove the word “war” from the illness, there’s no more war.

By the end of World War I, the United States had hundreds of psychiatrists overseas who were beginning to realize that psychiatric casualties were not suffering from “shell shock.” … Unfortunately, they continued to believe this collapse came about primarily in men who were weak in character.

During WWI, almost 2,000,000 men were sent overseas to fight in Europe. Deaths were put at 116,516, while 204,000 were wounded. During the same period, 159,000 soldiers were out of action for psychiatric problems, with 70,000 permanently discharged. (2)

Then came World War II. Everyone knows the story of General Patton slapping the soldier in the hospital and treating him as a coward. Generals cannot afford to believe that war is bad for soldiers, that it isn’t just a matter of mind over matter. Although Patton is certainly the most famous for expressing his feelings on the matter, I doubt he was unique in his opinions. He was just more outspoken than most.

It became clear it was not just the “weak” who broke down. This is reflected in the subtle change in terminology that took place near the end of World War II when “combat neurosis” began to give way to the term “combat exhaustion.”Author Paul Fussell says that term, as well as the expression “battle fatigue,” suggests “a little rest would be enough to restore to useful duty a soldier who would be more honestly designated as insane.” (3)

Gabriel writes in “No More Heroes,” a study of madness and psychiatry in war, that contrary to what (we see) in the movies and television, in the military, it is not only the weak and cowardly who break down in battle. Everyone is subject to breaking down in combat.”When all is said and done, all normal men are at risk in war.” (4)

Vietnam and subsequent wars have kept troops permanently under siege while the medical community has sanitized symptoms. PTSD lacks any obvious link to war and battle. It doesn’t change the problem and has not resulted in better treatment in Veteran’s Hospitals. Today’s ploy is to not even acknowledge that any such problem exists and deny treatment by ascribing soldiers’ symptoms to “something else.” Anything else. Anything else to avoid the military’s accepting responsibility to care for its own victims.

The cost of war exceeds our ability to cope with its fallout.

Apparently, no one considers not sending more soldiers into combat might be the better — best — solution.

Funny about that.

IT STARTED BY A CAMPFIRE IN VIETNAM – Garry Armstrong

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small-time commercial radio to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam. The sights, sounds, and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not be distracted from the job.

I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening in Vietnam. In the background was the never-ending rumble of artillery. This was what we called “downtime.”

It was dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians, and news media were all hunkered down for chow. The conversation was completely off the record.

Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. We skipped the meat.

President Johnson or LJ as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. LJ was drinking from a bottle which he passed around.

Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because LJ gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” LJ guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States.

I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain. But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. It was history,

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening. LJ was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of America’s truly great Presidents.

I thought that ended my personal relationship with Lyndon Baines Johnson, but there was, it turned out, a lot more to it than I imagined. I’ve never written about this. In fact, I’ve never even talked about it, not even with Marilyn. It seemed too much like bragging, but today a very old friend of mine asked me if there was more to the story. He wanted to hear it. All of it.

This is the part I heard from “Tip” O’Neill and which I didn’t knew.

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician who served as the 47th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, representing northern Boston, Massachusetts, as a Democrat from 1953 to 1987.


Your “LBJ IN VIETNAM” comment triggered something I’d forgotten for the past 45 years or more. You graciously inferred there should be “more to the story.”

This part of the story has been posted quite a few times, leaving me wondering whether people are tired of hearing it. Marilyn says she posts it every time she needs to remember we used to have “real” presidents in this country.

There IS more. I realized while I was shaving in my “thinking room,” but it doesn’t involve LBJ exactly. It involves Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr., otherwise known as “Tip” O’Neill.

It occurred on a rare day when I have an actual photograph of Tip and me. It has been around this block a few times, but I don’t have a lot of pictures.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

I’m going to write this as I remember it, profanity and all. So, please don’t be offended.

Tip and I were having a liquid lunch at a bar we frequented. It was near the TV station that employed me and across the street from a funeral home run by the brother of a famous Boston mobster. That’s another story. Tip and I were swapping tales between long slugs of lunch. I told him I had an LBJ story he’d enjoy.

Tip interrupted me: “Hold on, Garry. Betcha I know the story. LBJ, Vietnam and you.” I stared at the venerable Speaker of the House and my fellow imbiber. He just smiled as I stared. I nodded, just a bit ticked off.

Tip began to talk, savoring lunch — and the story. “LJ told me about the night in Vietnam, the night he was pondering whether to run again in 1968. LJ told me he was confused, torn by the decision he didn’t want to make.”

I nodded. Tip continued. “So LJ’s nipping at his bottle around the Vietnam campfire with you guys. He wasn’t pleased about the local civvies and the Washington coat-holders being there. He did like having the GI’s, the Vietnamese and our guys.”

I was staring at Tip who was clearly just warming up, a smile spreading over that big Irish “boyo face” that intimidated so many D.C. Pols.

“Anyway, Garry, LJ told me about spinning stories, ragging on about the same bullshit I deal have to deal with in the House and Senate. It’s like dealing with hacks and amateurs, lemme tell ya, Garry. But you know this shit, Pal. I don’t hafta tell ya.”

I smiled and he went on. There was no stopping Tip now.

“Garry, Gar? What the hell do the guys call you? I heard some calling you “Ka-Ching” and “The Samoan.” What’s with that crap, Garry-O?”

“More stories, another time, Mr. Speaker,” I answered.

Tip said: “Cut the Mr. Speaker, crap, here, Garr-ree.” I smiled and saluted as he continued.

“So, where was I? Oh, yeah. LJ is regaling you guys with the beans, that ‘Nam meat crap and his hooch. LJ sez he was really rolling, having his jollies and you were possibly the only guy really listening to him. He sez cut loose with a couple of BIG farts. Those beans can kill ya. LJ sez it felt so good to fart, but you were almost holdin’ your nose. He figured he’d have a bit of fun. He remembered you as that polite, young colored reporter. No disrespect, Garry. That’s how LJ described you.”

“Did he call me SHORT too?” I interrupted.

Tip guffawed. “No, he said you had nice hair with a silly part in the middle — old-fashioned. Nothing about being short. But, hey, kid, you’re not exactly John Henning (NOTE: A local, respected journalist who stood 6’5″ and a helluva good guy.) No disrespect, Garry. Hey, what about Billy Bulger? (ANOTHER NOTE: He was the State Senate President and brother to the noted mobster Whitey Bulger.) Billy’s a little guy but talks big. Okay, where wuz I? Oh, yeah, LJ tells me about facing you up about your stinko look. You apparently backed down and LJ loved it. You, I believe, got him with stuff about cowboy movies?”

I nodded, trying to remember.

Tip says: “LJ sez he told you that cowboy campfires didn’t smell pretty. LJ liked that ole’ Gregory Peck “Gunfighter” sweatshirt you wore. You impressed him with your interview with Peck.” (THIRD NOTE: I’d interviewed the star a few years earlier at my alma mater, Hofstra University. Peck gave me the sweatshirt.)

Tip continued, “Garry, you told LJ that Gregory Peck turned down “High Noon” because he’d just done “The Gunfighter” and didn’t want to do another western so quickly.”

I nodded and Tip continued. “LJ was really fascinated about that little piece of Hollywood information. He loved westerns and boy, I got to tell ya, LJ was impressed with your knowledge of westerns, good and bad ones. He remembered from his days growing up in Texas. LJ was looking forward to seeing you again, to talk about cowboy movies. Dammit, Garry, YOU had a fan in LJ”.

I just sat there. stunned, as Tip O’Neill rambled on, his smile getting bigger and bigger. We stared at our now empty glasses. Tip sighed heavily, shoving my hand aside as he paid the tab.

Tip at Boston Statehouse

He got up slowly, Tip patting me on the shoulder: “Garry, I love these chats. So much better than the crap I gotta listen to most of the day.” We walked out into the sunlight, cursing its brightness after our time inside the darkened bar.

Tip looked down at me: “See ya, Pal. Have a good day. Don’t let the bastards get ya.” Before parting company, Tip and I were photographed. I was showing him my new wristwatch. It looked like I was selling him some hot merchandise.

It was a long, long way from our college days and that little radio station where we all got started.

HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #44

From Fandango:

“You’re probably familiar with this quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“

Or my favorite version of this particular saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

So, speaking about what you remember about the past or have learned from history, how would you answer this question:”

Achievement? By the human race?

Right now, I’m having a lot of trouble crediting the human species with any significant event. I suppose it depends on what you think is significant. Would it be something that makes a life for people better? Or for a specific part of the human species better? Even if that “advancement” decimates or destroys other important aspects of the world in which we live? Like, for example, when we learned to plow and created the Sahara desert? And eventually killed ever last living mastodon? Was that an improvement?

Or how about when we broke the sod in the west and created the Dust Bowl? You know all those westerns where the sodbusters are the Good Guys and the ranchers are the Bad Guys? You know — the ranchers were right. We destroyed the prairies.

How about the invention of the government? After the Black Plague, the central government that was created produced giant grain silos and thus managed to feed the starving people after the plague wiped out the serfs — aka, farmers.

So the central government enabled people to rebuild after the worst (known) 100 years of human life or at least the worst time we still know about. But the deep plowing of the soil essentially was the beginning of what we are now experiencing: the ending of the world as we know it.

Will we take from that lesson that few have understood and somehow avoid total annihilation? Shall we yet come up with a world in which we can all live? Not just the human race, but all creatures?

Was the world better when we foraged for food and hunted our meat? I suspect it was. Were humankind’s invention of the railroad, automobile, and the airplane an improvement or was it the beginning of our end?

Do I live with any substantial hope that we will find a way out of this disaster we are in and rebuild a world in which we can live at peace as a part of nature and not its murderer?

I don’t know. Do you know?

We aren’t going to live long enough to see the end result of this madness and I’m not sorry about that. I love this world with its birds and bunnies and squirrels and eagles. With its tigers and lions and the elephants that crush the crops — but they were here before me and they have the right to live, even when it makes our lives more complicated.

Doesn’t every living thing deserve the right to survive? And our grandchildren — do they deserve the right to survive too?

We came out of our caves as killers and so we have remained.

And here’s my answer:

The most significant thing we ever invented were weapons. Significant isn’t, after all, the same as “good.” Or positive. 

IS THIS THE END OF DAYS? – Marilyn Armstrong

I know, because I keep reading about it, how “end of days” is supposed to work. This is when the good guys (not me or mine) will go wafting upward to heaven whilst the unshriven and/or non-religious, disbelievers, and the many who believe in “the wrong gods” are left behind in a world of Bad People. Or, at least not good enough to be drawn into heaven.

Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the “end of the world” or “end times.” In Judaism, the end times are usually called the “end of days” (aḥarit ha – yamim, אחרית הימים).

If ever we’ve faced a genuine “end of days” for all of humankind — rather than for a specific group of people at who is one of the many current objects of local (but highly effective) genocide, it’s right now. This oncoming “change of climate” is no local holocaust on some “other” continent. This is the one that is going to hit everyone, though not everyone at the same time.

And there will be no gentle ascension into heaven for the praiseworthy and most righteous. To put it in musical terms, one more Tom Lehrer song for those who like a little humor with the “end of the world.”

Now, of course, we don’t expect to do it in one big flash-bang of bombs, though given one thing and another, that’s not entirely out of the picture … but this is still a good summary number.

Me being me, I never expected to go wafting up to heaven but I also didn’t think I would hit my 70s and wonder if the world was going to survive through my granddaughter’s midlife crisis.

POSTWAR: A HISTORY OF EUROPE SINCE 1945 – TONY JUDT – Marilyn Armstrong

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt

Available in paperback, hardcover and as an audiobook

FOWC with Fandango — Previous

I have run this review a few times before because I think of all the reviews I’ve written, this one in its current and previous version, is probably the most important review I’ve written and I cannot street sufficiently how important a book I believe it is.

Every time I write about history, this book comes up. I know it’s long and I know it’s a serious read (or listen), but it changed the entire way I looked at World War 2 and to a degree, World War 1. I mostly read “light and fluffy” these days, life being stressful enough anyway, but this one, I cannot possibly encourage you enough to read it. Even if you read it in pieces, bit by bit over a long period, I guarantee you will understand everything about today’s world a lot better than you do.

Lying national leaders are not new to our world. They weren’t new in 1945 and they will never be new. National politicians lie to protect themselves, to protect their country, to protect their belief systems, to hide the shame of what they or their countrymen did.

Reading PostWar was a project, an immersion experience during which I first unlearned, then relearned everything I knew of modern European history. It was worth the effort.

This is a long book — 960 pages — crammed with so much information I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material.

Dr. Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretense of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is really neutral. Every historian has an agenda. Whether or not he or she puts it out there for all to see is a matter of style, but there is no such thing as historical neutrality. If an historian is writing about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history is slanted, changed by the historians who write it.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Dr. Tony Judt believed the role of an historian is to set the record straight. He undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch — exposing an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ethnocentricity.

Although Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he doesn’t do it as a strict “timeline.” Instead of a linear progression, he follows threads of ideas and philosophy. Tracing cultural and social development, he takes you from news events through their political ramifications. You follow parallel developments in cinema, literature, theater, television, and arts, not just the typical political and economic occurrences on which most history focuses.

After two consecutive readings, I finally felt I’d gotten it. Postwar changed my view of the world, not just what happened, but what is happening.

Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during the same years, but his Old World roots gave him an entirely different perspective. He forced me to question fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was any of the stuff I believed true? Maybe not or at least, maybe only partially. It was hard to swallow, but he convinced me. I believe it.

If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful issues. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach-churning. Pretty lies are easier to deal with than ugly reality. It’snot hard to understand why so much of what we know is wrong but I think it’s important to recognize that it is wrong. Sometimes completely wrong.

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

Even though I knew history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened.

I was wrong. What was reported by American media barely scratches the surface of “truth.” The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of the war to modern Europe is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I had grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally.

I read Postwar on paper, then listened to the audio version. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily-tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational (and controversial) writing style.

Postwar is analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, totally worth your time and effort, an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you will never see Europe or World War II the same way.

Moreover, what is happening now will make a lot more sense, in an awful kind of way.