Quote: I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so …

“What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.”

Andrew Olmsted

Remembering Andrew Olmsted

From the Rocky Mountain News: Major Andrew Olmsted, who posted a blog since May 2007, was killed in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2008. Olmsted, who had been based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, began blogging after his unit was sent to Iraq with the mission of helping train the Iraqi Army. A sniper killed Olmsted as he was trying to talk three suspected insurgents into surrendering. A sniper’s bullet also cut down Capt. Thomas J. Casey. They were in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.

Major Olmsted also posted at Obsidian Wings. Here is Freedom Isn’t Free to remember Andy Olmsted. Thank you. May you rest in peace.

Can we afford to be the ‘Bank of Afghanistan R Us’ in the next 15 years?

World Map, showing Failed States according to ...Image via Wikipedia

Below is an excerpt from the publication in SSQ authored by: Justin Logan, associate director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and Christopher Preble, the director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free (Cornell, 2009): 

The American foreign policy establishment has identified a new national security problem. Over the past two decades, foreign-policy scholars and popular writers have developed the ideas that “failed states” present a global security threat, and that accordingly, powerful countries like the United States should “fix” the failed states. However, the conventional wisdom is based on a sea of confusion, poor reasoning, and category errors.
The essence of strategy is effectively balancing ends, ways, and means. Squandering scarce resources on threats that exist primarily in the minds of policymakers is one indication that, as Richard Betts has pointed out, “US policymakers have lost the ability to think clearly about defense policy.”79 The entire concept of state failure is flawed. The countries that appear on the various lists of failed states reveal that state failure almost never produces meaningful threats to US national security. Further, attempting to remedy state failure—that is, embarking on an ambitious project of nation or state building—would be extremely costly and of dubious utility. Given these connected realities, policymakers would be wise to cast off the entire concept of state failure and to evaluate potential threats to US national security with a much more critical eye.

Continue reading Washington’s Newest Bogeyman: Debunking the Fear of Failed States here from the Strategic Studies Quarterly.

Also read the Failed States Index. Note that the US is at war in #6 Iraq and #7 Afghanistan and has poured gazillions of dollars to another country occupying the #10 spot, Pakistan.   But there are other places “more failed” than where we have boots and money trees on the ground — Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad and the DAR, the top five countries in last year’s list. The 2009 list also includes Yemen as #18, Colombia as #41, China as #57 but does not include Mexico.  Seriously.

Table from Foreign Policy’s Failed State Index – view in full here.

I watch with grave concern as I see the news of climbing military and civilian deaths in Afghanistan and with unease as money continues to pour like honey into Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.  In a few days, on June 7, this war will complete its 104th month in Afghanistan.  It is now America’s longest war. Longer than Vietnam.  According to iCasualties, the military deaths as of  May 28 has claimed 1,007 souls. So many more wounded, so many more suffering the solitary stalker inside their heads. And all so very young it breaks your heart. 

Representative Schakowsky recently noted that “as of 10:06 on Sunday, May 30th, we will have spent $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan” and asked, “What have we bought for $1 trillion? Are we safer? As our troops and treasure are still locked down in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists are training, recruiting and organizing in Somalia, Yemen and dozens of other places around the globe.”

The National Priorities Project which runs the cost of war counter in real time (site may still be down due to spike in traffic) has released a list of what you can get with $1 trillion (I had to count the zeros in a trillion – that’s 1 and twelve zeros):

Federal Funding For Higher Education — $1 trillion would give the maximum Pell Grant award ($5,500) to all 19 million U.S. college and university students for the next 9 years.

For $1 trillion, you could provide:
294,734,961 people with health care for one year, or
21,598,789 public safety officers for one year, or
17,149,392 music and arts teachers for one year, or
7,779,092 affordable housing units, or
440,762,472 children with health care for one year, or
137,233,969 head start places for children for one year, or
16,427,497 elementary school teachers for one year, or
1,035,282,468 homes with renewable electricity for one year
Taxpayers in the Borough of Brooklyn, New York will pay $9 billion for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. That’s enough to supply renewable electricity to every household in Brooklyn for 19 years.

Some food for thought and mental indigestion.

As a taxpayer who owes $118,152.00 as part of the US national debt, and whose minor child already carry a $42,098 share of the national debt,  I have some questions rattling in my brain: 

How many more times can we still swipe our national credit card before it is finally declined?

With soaring deficits and problems right on our doorsteps, right on our borders, how can this road be sustainable? How can we afford to be the ‘Bank of Afghanistan R Us’ in the next 15 years?

If we start selling national properties to pay for these wars, might we stop and think twice before we write any more checks to “fix” these failed states? 

The end.

A Warrior’s Poem: "Murder–So Foul"

by Sgt. James Lenihan
World War II Veteran (1921- 2007) and Purple Heart Recipient

I shot a man yesterday
And much to my surprise,
The strangest thing happened to me
I began to cry.

He was so young, so very young
And Fear was in his eyes,
He had left his home in Germany
And came to Holland to die.

And what about his Family
were they not praying for him?
Thank God they couldn’t see their son
And the man that had murdered him.

I knelt beside him
And held his hand–
I begged his forgiveness
Did he understand?

It was the War
And he was the enemy
If I hadn’t shot him
He would have shot me.

I saw he was dying
And I called him “Brother”
But he gasped out one word
And that word was “Mother.”

I shot a man yesterday
And much to surprise
A part of me died with Him
When Death came to close
His eyes.

The above poem was published in the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) blog with the following notation:

While cleaning out their father Sgt. James Lenihan’s basement after he died, Brooklyn, N.Y. based Rob Lenihan and his sister, Joan Lenihan, found this poem that he wrote about World War II. Lenihan was assigned to the 413th Infantry in the 104th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, nicknamed “the Timberwolves.” He toured Europe fighting.

With the mantra, “nothing in hell must stop the Timberwolves,” the division was responsible for overrunning the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, and was later recognized as a liberating unit by the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Sgt. Lenihan was wounded in action and later received a Purple Heart. He never spoke with his family about the emotions he experienced during war, and they were very surprised to find this poem. Towards the end of Lenihan’s life, he actively sought out his old war buddies and described his time serving as one of the “worst and greatest experiences” of his life.