ANOTHER AMERICA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Harder They Come: A Novel

Written by: T. C. Boyle

Narration by:  Graham Hamilton

T. C. BOYLE (AMERICAN NOVELIST)

T. C. BOYLE (AMERICAN NOVELIST)

“The Harder They Come” is a novel about another America; not the America of idealized history but the America of three generations coping with loss in the twenty-first century. 

T. C. Boyle creates three characters who feel beaten down by American life.  Boyle reflects on their disappointments and perceptions of loss.  A young man in his twenties loses identity, a fortyish woman loses faith in government, and a seventy year old loses self-confidence.

Boyle’s imagined characters live in America today.

JOHN COLTER (1774-1813, MOUNTAIN MAN, MEMBER OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION)

Adam, a 23-year-old changes his name to Colter, the name of a member of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Colter explores Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Mountain Range in the 19th century.  John Colter is considered by some to be the first American mountain man.

Historically, a mountain man is a hermit-like explorer that exchanges fur for the necessities of life and lives off the land. Adam’s assumption of the Colter name is a trans-formative event for Adam.  He uses drugs and alcohol to escape the frustrations of his 21st century life. He uses the Colter identity to give him an anthropomorphic purpose in life.  Adam becomes a mountain man.

Sara is a fortyish divorcee who adopts the philosophy of the sovereign citizen movement.  She believes the 14th amendment of the constitution proffers absolute freedom to American citizens.


Sara, like Nevada’s Cliven Bundy, believes she is above the law and a federal level of government that interferes with her right to do as she wishes is an infringement on her independent sovereignty.

TIMOTHY McVEIGH (MEMBER OF THOMAS ROBB KLAN, PERPETRATOR OF THE OKLA. CITY BOMBING 1995)

Though Sara considers herself non-violent, she appreciates actions of domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh who murdered 168 men, women, and children in Oklahoma City
on April 19, 1995 .

VIETNAM WAR

Sten Stenson is a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He is now 70 years old.  As an ex-Marine and former high school principal, he is retired.  Sten is a big man; over six feet in height.

Sten dislikes getting old but has a brief turn at fame, as a hero, when he kills a robber in Latin America that is threatening fellow tourists.  In looking back at his life, he is reminded of American ridicule of Vietnam vets when he returned from war; he becomes unsure of his purpose in life and regrets having killed anyone either in Vietnam or the recent event in Latin America. 
Sten realizes every human being has a father and mother.  He questions the usefulness and value of his life.

Boyle brings these three characters together.  Adam is the son of Sten.  Sara becomes Adam’s lover.  The extreme behaviors of Adam and Sara are compatible on some level, but Adam’s violence and drug habit compel Adam to completely break from society.  Sten loves his son but they have become completely estranged and evidence mounts to show Adam has become a lost boy.

The denouement of the story reveals a great deal about another America; i.e. “another America” that is a consequence of a capitalist culture that breeds psychotic murderers, deluded fringe groups, and psychologically broken seniors.

WEAPONS OF WAR

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at WarThe Arsenal of Democracy

Written by: A.J. Baime

Narration by:  Peter Berkrot

A. J. BAIME (AUTHOR, WRITER AT LARGE)
A. J. BAIME (AUTHOR, WRITER AT LARGE)

“The Arsenal of Democracy” takes a retrospective look at an epic quest by America to build an arsenal of weapons before entry to World War II.  Some surprising names are shown to have Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitic beliefs.  Those abhorrent sympathies and beliefs are cloaked by pacifist and capitalist credos.

There is the capitalist credo that unregulated self-interest is the most important determinant of success.  There is the  pacifist credo that someone else’s tragedy is an opportunity for economic gain.  Some pre-WWII movers and shakers are tainted by capitalist greed and prejudice. A. J. Baime shows there are two sides to the story of “The Arsenal of Democracy”.

CHARLES LINDBERGH’S 9/11/1941 SPEECH IN DES MOINES, IOWA;

HENRY FORD (1863- 1947, AMERICAN INDUSTRIALIST, FOUNDER OF FORD MOTOR CO.)
HENRY FORD (1863- 1947, AMERICAN INDUSTRIALIST, FOUNDER OF FORD MOTOR CO.)

Henry Ford, the “god” of America’s industrial revolution, is awarded the “Grand Cross of the German Eagle” by Nazi officials in 1938.  He is 75 years old.  The Grand Cross is the highest honor that can be given to a foreigner by the Nazi government.  (The only other American recipient is Charles Lindbergh.)

Baime accusatorially notes that Ford is the only American named in Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”; i.e. the most well-known anti-Semitic book ever written.  Ford did not wish to enter WWII.  One may draw their own conclusion, but it stretches credulity to believe it is unrelated to Ford’s personal prejudice and presumed economic gain.

JOSEPH KENNEDY (1888-1969)
JOSEPH KENNEDY (1888-1969)

Ford is not the only self-made millionaire who believes America should not enter the war.  Joseph Kennedy is equally opposed.  Of course, before Pearl Harbor, the majority of Americans were against entering the war.  However, Ford and Kennedy share a capitalist entrepreneur’s amoral belief that everything is negotiable, including peace with Hitler.

This amoral belief is characteristic of an idealized business model reflected by writers like Ayn Rand; i.e. it is a belief that the strong survive. and the weak deserve their fate.  (This is an amoral belief evident in today’s American President, and a number of congressional representatives.)

Though Kennedy is not as clearly tainted by anti-Semitism as Henry Ford, both believe war is not a solution to Hitler’s aggression.  Business men like Kennedy and Ford believe political leaders, like prudent business leaders, will fail if they do not benefit their country’s citizens and employees by staying out of war and making a profit.  They, like most Americans, could not believe holocaust rumors could be true.  Baime suggests the stark evidence of Jewish slaughter after the war shakes Henry Ford’s conscience.  (One is inclined to doubt Baime’s conclusion considering Ford’s history of anti-Semitism.)

WW2 CONSPIRACY—FORD BUILDS TRUCKS FOR NAZIS, B-24S FOR USAAF,

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (1882-1945, 32ND PRES. OF U.S.,1933-1945)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (1882-1945, 32ND PRES. OF U.S.,1933-1945)

Baime primarily focuses on how “The Arsenal of Democracy” came into being.  Baime recounts “The Arsenal of Democracy” speech given by FDR on December 29, 1940.  The year before Pearl Harbor, Henry Ford reluctantly agrees to join the automobile industry mavens in re-tooling car manufacturing for the defense of America.

WILLOW RUN ASSEMBLY PLANT,

Ford’s brilliant innovation in assembly line manufacturing is recognized as key to FDR’s vision of “The Arsenal of Democracy”.  Ironically, Ford despises FDR and explains that Ford Corporation’s contribution is based on defense of America and not intervention in a European’ war.  The leader of the Corporation, on paper, is Edsel Ford but Henry, until Edsel’s death in 1943, retains veto power over any corporate decisions.

THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY SPEECH BY FDR:

EDSEL BRYANT FORD (1893-1943, SON OF HENRY FORD, PRESIDENT OF FORD MOTOR CO.)
EDSEL BRYANT FORD (1893-1943, SON OF HENRY FORD, PRESIDENT OF FORD MOTOR CO.)

Edsel and Ford Corporation’s managers finally convince Henry to build Willow Run, the largest assembly plant of its time, to produce American bombers.  The goal is to produce a completed airplane bomber at a rate of one per hour.  Baime argues that the goal is achieved through Edsel’s leadership; complemented by innovations created by Ford Corporation’s experienced managers; e. g. men like Charles Sorenson, the lead engineer and designer of the company.

In a muddled side story, the role of Harry Bennett is explored by Baime.  The story is muddled because it is shrouded in mystery involving rumors of Bennett’s mob-informant role for the FBI; his contacts with foreign interests, and his strong-arm tactics against union sympathizers. Henry Ford expresses great confidence in Bennett’s ability.

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF HARRY BENNETT : <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z0jyOfSg0P8&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen> Baime suggests Henry Ford treats Bennett like more of a son than Edsel.  When Edsel dies, Baime writes that Edsel’s wife accuses Henry of being the proximate cause of Edsel’s death because of Henry’s constant criticism (Edsel dies in 1943 with a diagnosis of stomach cancer).

FOOTAGE OF THE 1941 STRIKE WITH A GLIMPSE OF HARRY BENNETT: <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/PLN1svpbPBA&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

This is an interesting story but one has to remember the context of the time to have a fair perspective of villains in sheep’s clothing.  Henry Ford is an anti-Semite but he joins a vast number of Americans that were equally anti-Semitic.

5 CORPORATIONS THAT HELPED CARRY OUT THE HOLOCAUST: <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/RXh7HfEFhik&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>German anti-Semitism did not suddenly spring from one demented leader.  Henry Ford came from the same primordial swamp that all human beings came from.

THE TWO FACES OF HENRY FORD:

Baime notes that Edsel Ford had contact with Hitler’s French puppet government leaders.  Edsel is accused of aiding Ford Corporations’ manufacturing capability in occupied France.  Intertwining relationships often distort truth but there is a conflict-of-interest odor surrounding Ford Corporation’s actions before and during the war.

The facts are that creation of “The Arsenal of Democracy” would have been a pipe dream without Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, Charles Sorenson, the industrial capability of the auto industry, and the American people.  Truth and history do not forgive anti-Semitism, manager’s exploitation of workers, human greed, illegal dealings with the underworld, or nasty treatment of a sons by fathers.  The truth is and always will be–human beings are good and bad.  Baime’s story of “The Arsenal of Democracy” joins a pile of books affirming the moral duality of humankind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EISENHOWER

The “Wall Street Journal” calls the Eisenhower monument, “Monumentally Mediocre”. Jean Smith’s interesting biography suggests otherwise.

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Eisenhower in War and PeaceEISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE 

Written by: Jean Edward Smith

Narrated by: Paul Hecht

JEAN EDWARD SMITH (AUTHOR, JOHN MARSHALL PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MARSHALL UNIVERSITY &amp; PROFESSOR EMERITUS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO)
JEAN EDWARD SMITH (AUTHOR, JOHN MARSHALL PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MARSHALL UNIVERSITY & PROFESSOR EMERITUS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO)

Jean Edward Smith’s biography of Dwight Eisenhower defines the meaning of political leadership. Smith does not show Eisenhower to be a great intellect or military genius.  Smith suggests Eisenhower is similar to Ulysses Grant in having come from a modest family to rise to the office of President of the United States. 

Like Grant, Eisenhower is shown to be a consummate leader who politically manages and develops people who understand how to get things done.  Unlike Grant, Smith shows Eisenhower to be a better President than battlefield commander.

The newly revealed Eisenhower monument in Washington D.C. shows Eisenhower in command of others.  It correctly infers Eisenhower is a leader who trusts others to be the best they can be.  Eisenhower is not a doer but a manager of others who do.

Eisenhower leads Allied forces on D-Day by using the best battlefield generals of WWII.  Smith implies–without the Allied generals’ experience in battle, Eisenhower would likely have failed on D-Day.

Smith notes that Eisenhower had minimal combat experience.  The one time Eisenhower directly manages a battle is in Sicily.  If it had not been for superior manpower and material, Smith argues Eisenhower would have been defeated.  Smith goes on to suggest that British Field General Montgomery is unjustly scapegoated for Eisenhower’s Italian campaign mistakes.

FIELD MARSHAL BERNARD MONTGOMERY (1887-1976, ENGLISH FIELD MARSHAL THAT MATCHED WITS WITH GERMAN FIELD MARSHAL ERWIN ROMMEL)
FIELD MARSHAL BERNARD MONTGOMERY (1887-1976, ENGLISH FIELD MARSHAL THAT MATCHED WITS WITH GERMAN FIELD MARSHAL ERWIN ROMMEL)

Smith also notes Montgomery’s role in D-Day is unfairly characterized.  Montgomery argues for concentrated forces at critical points in German defenses; while Eisenhower demands a broad frontal attack along the entire front.  Eisenhower’s tactics, in some generals’ opinions, prolong the end of the war by six months; i.e. increasing the casualty count and stalling Montgomery’s advance on Omaha Beach.

However, Smith’s biography of Eisenhower shows that military successes and failures make him a perfect political leader. 

Smith reveals an inner moral compass that defines Eisenhower’s beliefs and decisions.  Eisenhower uses that moral compass to become Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in WWII; and later, President of the United States. 

Smith infers, despite tactical failures as a battlefield commander, Eisenhower’s innate ability to get things done through other people make him one of the great twentieth century American Presidents.

EISENHOWER AND SOMERSBY
Eisenhower is no saint.  His power as Allied forces’ general leads to the Somersby affair even as Eisenhower professes a deep need and affection for his wife, Mamie.

Smith offers a comprehensive picture of Eisenhower.  Eisenhower is no moral saint.  His power as Allied forces’ general leads to the Somersby affair even as Eisenhower professes a deep need and affection for his wife, Mamie.

Somersby appears to have been loved by Eisenhower, but she is unceremoniously dumped in a “Dear John” letter when Eisenhower is ordered back to the United States.  On the one hand, Smith is showing Eisenhower is human; on the other, Smith is showing the perfidy of men in power positions.

Smith explains Eisenhower’s path to the presidency.  A part of that trail is festooned with Eisenhower’s sense of duty, but it is also tainted by the power and glory of high office.  Eisenhower is solicited by both Democratic and Republican parties.  In the end, the Republican platform more closely adheres to Eisenhower’s belief in fiscal conservatism.

However, Smith shows Eisenhower to be a domestic social liberal.  Eisenhower is no ideologue.  The inner compass that directs Eisenhower’s life recognizes the cruelty of poverty, the shallowness of red-baiting exemplified by Joseph McCarthy, and the importance of patience when dealing with international and domestic affairs.

EISENHOWER'S VIEW OF SOCIAL SECURITY

Eisenhower resists the hawkish tendencies of his Republican colleagues.  He insists on withdrawal from the Korean conflict.  Eisenhower abjures any suggestion that nuclear bombs should be used to attack American enemies.  He forthrightly confronts Governor Faubus when the governor refuses to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

MOHAMMAD MOSADDEGH (1882-1967)
MOHAMMAD MOSADDEGH Though Eisenhower initially rejects a British assassination plot against Mosadegh in Iran, he changes his mind when he begins to believe oil availability is more important than one human life. (1882-1967)

On the other hand, Eisenhower succumbs to the machinations of his defense department and several covert plans to overthrow foreign governments.  Though Eisenhower initially rejects a British assassination plot against Mossadegh in Iran, he changes his mind when he begins to believe oil availability is more important than one human life.  

Though Mossadegh dies from natural causes, America supports a military junta that overthrows Iran’s government.  Eisenhower’s support of the overthrow is based on British settlement of an Iranian oil agreement with Iran, and Iranian oil availability in the United States.

Eisenhower also mistakenly establishes the domino theory of communist infiltration.  Though he refuses to support the French in Indochina, he believes the fall of Vietnam will expand communism in Southeast Asia.  Eisenhower sets the table for Kennedy’s and Johnson’s mistakes in Vietnam.

Eisenhower is well-known for his opposition to the military/industrial complex growing in America.  He insists on balancing the budget by reducing military expenditure.  He reduces financing for American military forces while strengthening Air Force capability as a more modern military deterrent.  Eisenhower faces down numerous military commanders that insist on expanding conventional forces that can intercede in foreign conflicts without employing weapons of mass destruction (an argument that is being made by today’s military establishment).

COMMUNIST DOMINO THEORY
Eisenhower mistakenly establishes the domino theory of communist infiltration.

 

recruiter
Eisenhower faces down numerous military commanders that insist on expanding conventional forces that can intercede in foreign conflicts without employing weapons of mass destruction (an argument that is being made by today’s military establishment).

Smith shows that Eisenhower refuses to balance the budget by cutting domestic programs that serve the poor and aged.  Eisenhower presses unsuccessfully for increases in medical services for the American public (quite different from today’s Republican President).

Smith offers a balanced picture of Dwight Eisenhower.  America benefited from Eisenhower’s political acumen.  He may not rank with Washington and Lincoln, but he drew from an inner moral compass that makes human beings as good as they are capable of being.

In contrast to America’s current President, Eisenhower made one proud to be an American. (This was written when Trump was President of the United States.)

WORLD CITIZEN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The SympathizerTHE SYMPATHIZER

Written by: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Narration by:  Francois Chau

VIET THANH NGUYEN (AUTHOR)
VIET THANH NGUYEN (AUTHOR)

“The Sympathizer” defines the idea of a world citizen.  It is the first novel of Viet Thanh Nguyen.  In the beginning, “The Sympathizer”, Nguyen’s fictional hero, seems like another version of a war Americans would like to forget.  Chugging through the story a listener nearly derails but the denouement spectacularly realigns one’s senses.

As widely acknowledged, America’s abandonment of Vietnam in 1973 left thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers in peril. (A scenario that may repeat itself in 2021 with America’s departure from Afghanistan, but that is another story).

In 1975, the last American marine leaves the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon.  Nguyen’s novel begins with hard decisions made by South Vietnamese commanders to identify native supporters, and their families, who would or would not be saved by American military transport.  Nguyen’s main fictional character is chosen to be one of the lucky evacuees.  The irony of that selection is that he is a communist sympathizer, a spy.

LEAVING SAIGON
 In 1975, the last American marine leaves the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon.

Nguyen’s spy is a Vietnamese outcast.  He is one of the “children of the dust” noted in the musical “Miss Saigon”.  He is a bastard son of a white American priest who seduces his teenage mother.  As a sympathizer, he becomes an undercover agent working for a committed South Vietnamese general.  It appears this communist sympathizer has gained the trust of the General by being the go-between for the murder of North Vietnam collaborators.

WHO SHOULD STAY-WHO SHOULD LEAVE
When evacuation from Saigon is imminent, the General asks the sympathizer to choose who should join them on their flight to America.

When evacuation from Saigon is imminent, the General asks the sympathizer to choose who should join them on their flight to America.  The sympathizer has two close friends.  One friend is a communist; the other is not.  The three are “blood-oath” brothers, characterized as “The Three Musketeers”.  The two friends are chosen by the sympathizer to go on the journey to America.  The communist friend declines and stays in Vietnam to be the sympathizer’s handler; the other friend agrees to leave when his wife and son become collateral damage in the war.  His communist friend tells the sympathizer to never come back to Vietnam.  The significance of that statement becomes clear at the end of the story.

FREEDOM
Most of the novel is about the sympathizer’s experience in America.  He experiences a degree of freedom and independence never felt before. 

Most of the novel is about the sympathizer’s experience in America.  He experiences a degree of freedom and independence never felt before.  But he still reports to the General.  His close non-communist friend is an assassin for actions demanded by the General.  The sympathizer is the go-between when orders are given.

The obvious irony is that this communist sympathizer carries out orders to kill suspected communist sympathizers in America when he is the penultimate sympathizer.

The General is planning an insurgent action to be organized in Thailand to attack communists in Vietnam.  The sympathizer’s best friend is selected as one of the people to go to participate in the insurgency.  The sympathizer asks the General to let him go.  However, his primary reason for going is to protect his friend.  The General initially says no but recants when another suspected spy is targeted.

The General advises the go-between sympathizer that he does not feel he is qualified for the Thailand mission because he has never killed anyone himself.  If he can murder the newly suspected spy, the General will let him go on the Thailand mission.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE
The sympathizer, upon returning to Vietnam, is protected by his friend by using sleep deprivation to make him understand something he knows but cannot remember; the other is left to be physically tortured by camp rules, but not killed because of the camp commander’s orders.

The sympathizer haphazardly murders a suspected spy and goes to Thailand.  The valued meaning of the story becomes clearer.

The sympathizer and his friend are caught by a communist cadre.  The cadre is led by the communist friend (the third musketeer) that told the sympathizer to never come back to Vietnam.

Both the sympathizer and the non-communist friend are imprisoned, under the command of their communist friend.  Under the guise of communist re-education, the communist friend protects his two blood-brothers.  The sympathizer is protected by his friend by using sleep deprivation to make him understand something he knows but cannot remember; the other is left to be physically tortured by camp rules, but not killed because of the camp commander’s orders.

While many escaped death from America’s abandonment of the South Vietnamese, the communist friend who stayed is severely wounded from an American napalm attack.  His experience from the severe wounds and life under communist rule appears to have taught him an indelible lesson.

NAPALM USED IN THE VIETNAM WAR
While many escaped death from America’s abandonment of the South Vietnamese, the communist friend who stayed is severely wounded from an American napalm attack. 

The communist friend asks the sympathizer what is most important about being either a citizen of America or of Vietnam.  After many days of sleep deprivation, the sympathizer says it is freedom and independence.  Wrong says the friend.  After more sleepless days, the sympathizer says death.  Wrong again.  Finally, after more wakeful nights, the sympathizer answers the question correctly.

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
All people are citizens of the world.

The answer is a seven letter word–nothing.  The answer cuts through political ideology.  All people are human beings; subject to the sins of being human.  All people are citizens of the world.

REDEPLOYMENT

Commanders say we do not shoot children, but children are killed.  Long range artillery and drones mask the consequence of killing. 

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

RedeploymentRedeployment

Written by: Phil Klay

Narration by:  Craig Klein

PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)
PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)

“Redeployment” is a work of fiction.  It is written by Phil Klay, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2007/2008.  (Klay is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for stories written in this book.)  “Redeployment” is about military’ enlistment, deployment, redeployment, and combat.

recruiter
There is an unpaid price for a military recruit who goes into combat.  The price is unseen and unknown until after it is experienced.  Those who first join have no idea what is in store for them when placed in a circumstance of killing or being killed.

Joining the military, particularly when one is in their teens or early twenties, is often an escape.

Enlistment is often a way to escape (or transition) from parental control, poverty, or life’s rudderlessness.  For a few, military enlistment is an adventure, a career, an opportunity to get in shape, a chance to see the world.  For others, joining may be a family tradition, a romantic notion of defending one’s country, a desire to impress parents, guardians, or friends.

One of Klay’s characters joins because of financial help offered by the service to pay for an education; another character joins because of family tradition, another because it impresses his father.  Klay’s stories offer insight by explaining most reasons are too simple, or clearly misunderstood by new recruits.   

VIETNAM WAR
Klay’s stories show that training for combat is not being in combat.  Military training creates a sense of team entitlement, i.e., of being tougher, more unified, more capable and important than civilians.  Training is meant to break-down individualism.  Military training masks the humanity of anyone that is not part of the team. 

Orders are orders.  Hierarchy of command is inviolable.  If a commander orders flattening of a town, soldiers are expected to act without thinking and remember without conscience.  Soldiers are able to act by dehumanizing those outside of their team.  In Vietnam humans become gooks.  In Iraq humans become towel heads.  These are tricks of propaganda that allow short-term actions but often fail to leave soldiers’ consciences. 

Klay tells the story of a soldier who wants to know how many of an enemy are killed in a bombardment.  The soldier asks if there was an investigation.  The commander says no and sees no reason.  The soldier visits a behind-the-lines’ command post which cares for the dead.  He asks if a team will be sent to the site that has been bombarded.  The NCO asks if Americans were killed.  The soldier says no.  The NCO answers the question–“No, there is no investigation because we only concern ourselves with our own”.

BASEBALL IN THE VIETNAM WAR
Klay tells the story of the American financier that donates baseball equipment for Marines to teach Iraqi children how to play baseball.  The request goes up and down military channels despite the ludicrous misapprehension of what is really happening in Iraq.  A Marine officer is ordered to comply with the request to mollify the uniformed or ignorant financier’s request.

Another story is written about a civilian contractor hired to build a waterpower station in an Iraqi community.  The Marine assigned to oversee the utility installation is told by a local Iraqi that the pumping station being built will create too much pressure and blow-up the plumbing in town.  The Marine explains the problem to the civilian contractor, but it does not stop the project.  It is an assignment that is being paid by the American government whether it works or not.  All the contractor is concerned about is completing the job and being paid.  Klay offers more stories, i.e., equally appalling–examples of wasted dollars and efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Klay writes of the misunderstandings that compound America’s mistakes in Iraq.  There is the story of the Egyptian American recruit that speaks Egyptian Arabic but does not know Iraqi Arabic and must learn the difference on his own because the military believes there is no difference.

The character Klay creates who oversees the water plant construction and an Iraqi baseball assignment is also responsible for producing Iraqi jobs.  This Marine’s civilian subcontractors are often ill-equipped to do what needs to be done.  One of the opportunities is farming but the civilian subcontractor assigned to help knows nothing about farming.

Another story is of an Iraqi who starts a women’s clinic to help women in Iraq who need medical assistance.  However, because her clinic is not creating enough jobs, there is little financial assistance to expand the service.  Klay implies Iraq is a “Bizarro World” where no one seems to communicate understandably, and most act without accomplishment.

BIZZARO WORLD OF WAR

Klay implies the experience of becoming a Marine saturates the being of some soldiers.  Their experience in combat and the comradeship of belonging compels re-enlistment and/or redeployment.  Being a civilian becomes too unstructured.  In some cases, Klay suggests civilian life is threatening to a soldier with experience of combat.  Some redeployed soldiers become command officers that live in a world of only “us and them” with all of “them” as expendable sub-human beings.

America’s pending departure from Iraq is a betrayal of “you broke it, you fix it”.  America tried and failed.  In that failure, the realization is–“the fix” can only be made by Iraqi leaders.  Iraq’s dilemma is America’s forgotten lesson of Vietnam.

(Baghdad Bombing kills 32 and wounds over 100 on January 21, 2021.)Baghdad Bombin kills 32 and wounds over 100 1.12.21

In a final story, Klay writes of a Marine veteran horribly disfigured by an IED.  A Marine that joined and served in the same place and at the same time as the disfigured veteran is a close friend.  The uninjured friend stays in touch with his fellow ex-Marine.  They recall old times.  They are close friends, but the IED has so profoundly changed their relationship that the friendship has devolved into a friendship of un-equals.  Intimate civilian relationships, taken for granted by both before disfigurement, are now probabilistically experienced by only one of the friends.  Klay’s stories show that combat is a psychological, often physical life changing experience.

ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM
ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM

Klay is a veteran.  He seems to be saying it is important to understand what it means to become a soldier before signing up.  “Redeployment” is neither right or wrong, but it can be right and wrong.  The best civilians and soldiers can do is “try to do right”.