Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another War Contractor Killed

Over the past week or two my close buddy in Afghanistan has sent me pictures. He and I have worked together in the past and he is now working as a security contractor. His pictures show him sporting a full beard, carrying an AK-47 and a personalized tactical vest among several young native kids happy to pose with him for the pictures. If I had to be away from home and in a war zone, I’d much rather be a security contractor, especially now that I’ve experienced both military and contracting. The military is monolithic and difficult to change, particularly the conventional units. In contracting I worked with guys like me—guys I know and trust.

While the news media has had extensive coverage of contracting fiascos and the Blackwater debacle, no one has raised a cry about all the good that contractors have done or are doing, nor the inherent risk they take each day protecting U.S. government assets and personnel.

I received a note today from a friend who works at Hewlett-Packard. He said that one of the young men whom he had taught in church a few years ago “was killed yesterday in Iraq… He was there as a security contractor. His family is still in my [congregation]. I don't know what firm he was with, but just thought I'd check in the chance that you might have known him.”

I wrote him back the following:

His name sounds very familiar to me. The contractor community is very small. I may have met him. I may have heard about him. I certainly know someone who knew and worked with him. I've sent out an inquiry to a couple friends already.

I'm so sorry that someone you know has died in a war/security capacity. I share your sadness. You are now among the very few of us who knows what it feels like to have a friend killed by others. Death is felt differently when those we love die as a result of another human being intentionally causing it. If there were a way I could better offer my sympathies to you or to his family, I wouldn't hesitate. What I can say, however, is what we spoke about in church here in Iraq on Sunday: The Lord is in charge. He who controls and governs the universe can certainly stop bombs from exploding or bullets from destroying or cars from crashing. The Lord called him home. Nevertheless… we should live together in love insomuch that we weep for the loss of them that die.

May the Lord comfort you and all those who knew and loved him during this difficult period. I'm so sorry.



The security contractors I know aren’t heartless killers. The term ‘mercenary’ has such a connotation. No, the guys I know have served in the military and/or in a law enforcement capacity. They want to do go and be good; they want to help protect lives. If contracting were just about the money they would never have gone into the military or law enforcement in the first place. No, these guys are true warriors.

I hope the next time we see news segments about the unappreciated, anonymous ‘war contractors’ we’ll remember that they have families and loved ones, and that the vast majority of them are decent, civil, morally good human beings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Women at War

We’re in the 21st Century. Women are ubiquitous in the workplace, to include the Armed Forces. I’ve gotten a unique look.

“Whoa! See that soldier over there?” a seasoned Army veteran told another male soldier as he pointed to a camouflaged soldier who looked the same as everyone else. “That’s a girl.” Her hair was as short as mine (nearly bald) and except for her voice we couldn’t tell it was a female. That site reminded me of when my old high school buddies talked about the Saturday Night Live skit with ‘Pat’—no one could tell if Pat was a boy or a girl.

To be honest, since I treat everyone equally and since most females in uniform behave ‘professionally,’ I’ve had a hard time realizing that there are female soldiers here in Iraq. The majority of them are noticeably female if you concentrate on that fact, I suppose, but they don’t have the womanly look.

Women in uniform have strict military grooming standards, and except for a couple of them who are overly prissy and/or lack what could be considered good military discipline, they don’t behave like women either. (That’s not to say, of course, that all women are prissy or juvenile, but when female soldiers act that way they are noticeably, impractically girlish. Of course, the same could be said for some male soldiers here too.) For the most part, though, there’s no distinguishable gender difference, really. We all wear the same uniform. Nope, everyone is treated equally, for the most part…sometimes to their demise.

Without being prompted or asked, one female sergeant (who’s married to another soldier here) told a colleague and me about how she was here for the initial invasion into Iraq. She had to drive from Kuwait to Baghdad in a humvee. The convoy couldn’t stop for personal ‘pit stops.’ I was embarrassed as she told us unabashedly that her male driver used a bottle to relieve himself while he was driving and that she “cut the top off of a bottle, stood on the seat and squatted over the bottle.”

I’m sure someone will accuse me of having a WWII-type chauvinist mentality. But is there anything wrong with modern-day chivalry except that it doesn’t exist? Is it so wrong to think women shouldn’t be subjected to some work environments? (Female war reporters, like my friend Sharon Behn, aside.)

Does the world need more effeminate men and more masculine women? I think not. Diversity among the sexes is what attracts us to each other. The population of our species couldn’t happen any other way. But I’m sure my wife doesn’t mind the ‘Pats’ that are here. Nevertheless, on a serious note, there comes a point when some women who want so desperately to have equality with men become man-like, and that, my friends, is a shame and a pity.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Iraq

Ummm, homemade rolls, homemade desserts, anything homemade. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Family gathers together to laugh and play—and eat. I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in a few seasons, but today, I’m not sad. No, I’m grateful. Grateful that the big suicide car bomb here that was reported in the news today didn’t kill more people; grateful that while there isn’t peace in the Middle East, there are a lot of peaceful areas; grateful that people love me and that I love people, my family especially.

I’m thankful when the showers work and the power stays on all day. Even though the water isn’t that warm and it’s not clean enough to drink, at least we have water to shower in! I’m glad that I don’t see more mice than I do in my room—at least I have a room. And, ou, I love it that the fleas have stopped biting since we got new mattresses.

It’s wonderful that no one in our unit has died or been seriously injured here in combat. There have been some accidents, very serious ones. There have been plenty of explosions that have given soldiers concussions, bumps, bruises and lacerations, but no one has been seriously injured or killed thanks in large part to the ultra-heavy-duty armored vehicles.

Oddly, one of the greatest things is to have clean, laundered uniforms and to be able to change from camouflage to my physical training (PT) gear. Wow, what a nice thing to wear something different.

Alas, while the food in the chow hall isn’t homemade and sometime tastes like slop, at least I have food. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Mother’s of Ahmadinejad and Bin Laden

Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity.

—Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

What do Spain, Britain, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States have in common? Each of them has been targets of Islamically-motivated suicide bombers. Sri Lanka has had its own sort of twisted suicidal terrorism. More recently Germany, and even Canada, has broken up major Islamofascist terrorist plots. In order to stop the murderous rampage from continuing and growing, a three-fold key is necessary: (1) intelligence must serve as a frontrunner to stop terrorists in the planning stages, (2) a greater urgency to understand the viciousness of the threat and stop the threat is mandatory, and (3) all strategic and tactical means must be implemented without timidity or apprehension. This includes focusing on women and mothers whose children grow up to be terrorists.

Operating Intelligently

I do not understand those who wholeheartedly, vehemently oppose wire tapping and records investigations in order to snuff out terrorists bent on murdering giant groups of innocent people and devastating economic centers. Do I think civil freedoms should be taken? Absolutely not. Do I think wholesale spying on every American is warranted? No. But peeking into the lives and communication portals of those who intend to inflict major harm in order to stop terrorists and stop terrorist’s acts will keep you and me safe.

Speaking of intelligence, how ‘intelligent’ was it for Columbia University to invite the President of Iran to come and speak recently during Ahmadinejad’s trip to the United Nations? Such a divisive move should be an affront to the decency of every freedom-loving country and countrymen. Such an invitation offered a platform for his dogma and anti-Western, anti-U.S. diatribe. Further, it undermines and usurps the U.S. government’s terrorism countermeasures.

The Iranian leader, who has made references to himself as the last Mufti, Islam’s savior incarnate, is accused of boldly rejecting sanctions and international mandates to not build nuclear weapons. The President of Iran, a known terrorist-sponsored State, has said that the Holocaust was fiction and that Israel should be wiped off the map. He and his cronies have boasted of having over 50,000 suicide bombers, including many women, ready too attack anyone (i.e. the U.S. and Israel) who tries to stop his nuclear weapons activities. Perhaps most shockingly, he is accused of being one of the hostage takers during the siege at the U.S. embassy in Tehran which began in November 1979 and lasted 444 days. This last accusation seems to have overwhelming merit in my book. There’s proof in the pictures!

Obviously, no, I don’t believe the pictures released to the major media networks were tampered with.

To make matters worse, the Columbia University’s President, Lee Bollinger, had the audacity to say, something to the effect of, “If Hilter were alive, we would have him come and speak too.” Having toured the melancholy walls of the Holocaust museum in Washington DC, I was nauseated to hear such an epitaph. Is Columbia University really a veneer for anti-Semitism? My word!

Based on the supposed premise or argument that university students should hear an objective point of view goes out the window. Such an overt, counter-intuitive, anti-counterterrorist move went from bizarre to plain sadistic.

Do we need intelligence? Oh yeah, badly, especially our impressionable youth at the many liberal-leaning U.S. colleges and universities, whose many professors and pundits stand far from balanced or objective!

Facing Down the Foe

A friend and retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major, who had served in Lebanon in the 80s, sent me a note on October 23, 2007. That day was the 24th anniversary of the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut Lebanon. I’m glad he reminded me. Unfortunately the major media has somehow forgotten. That day was a major turning point for modern terrorism. It should never be forgotten. 241 U.S. service personnel died when a truck laden with several thousand pounds of high explosives drove into the USMC barracks building. Near-simultaneously, several French soldiers just down the road died the same way supporting the same mission. French jokes should come to a screeching halt at such a memory.

That suicide attack was the modern epicenter and proverbial launch pad for suicide bombers throughout Islam. It inspired the future terror magnate himself, Usama bin Laden and the Sunni-based al Qaeda group he would eventually create. It would eventually change the way Palestinian terrorists operated. Their hostage taking operations would soon become increasingly difficult against the aggressive Israeli commandos. The Syrian-led Hezbollah terrorist group would eventually train members of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and, in time, adopt suicide-murder explosion tactics. It wasn’t only Islamists who committed suicide operations in the nationalistic fight in Lebanon in the early 80s; nonetheless, the suicide attacks were largely Shia-inspired.

The Shiites have an interesting history when it comes to martyrdom. Forget about the Day of Ashura. Forget about the ancient martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in modern-day Iraq. Forget the annual public flogging and disturbing self-mutilation some Shiites engages in at that time. No, what I’m talking about is an incident that happened during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88).

Ayatollah Khomeini and his Shia Islamic republic brutally forced hundreds of young boys into becoming human shields and ‘martyrs’. These boys were forced to run through fields and intentionally step on land mines. The boys lost their childhood, their hope, their innocence and their joy; they became human cannon fodder.

Khomeini, perhaps a too-powerful icon, promised all the boys a key to Paradise.

One day while Iraqi tanks were advancing towards Iran, 13-year-old Mohammad Hossein Fahmideh grabbed a hand grenade, pulled the pin and dove under an on-coming tank. The suicidal explosion stopped the tank.

Khomeini called the boy a national hero and a leader. Murals, posters, book bags, and even a stamp with his name and face were created. A shrine was erected in Tehran that has become a monarch. There is no doubt that many Iranian mothers have spoken to their sons about the great ‘honor’ of the young ‘martyr’.

Is it possible that too much emphasis has been put on this boy’s death, insomuch that it’s created a societal homogeny eager to commit suicide in order to kill others?

…And Their Mother’s Taught Them

As much as I detest giving bin Laden any more voice, I feel quoting him here has merit. Here’s what he has said:

Jihad against America will continue, economically and militarily. By the grace of Allah, America is in retreat and its economy is developing cracks ever-increasingly. But more attacks are required. I advise the youth to find more of America's economic hubs. The enemy can be defeated by attacking its economic centers. (Emphasis mine)

Here’s my concern: the youth! Kids take guns and bombs to school, kill as many as they can, then turn the guns on themselves. American kids! Columbine was not an isolated event. Jonesboro and Virginia Tech were not anomalies. These kids are on the edge from turning into full suicidal bombers. Some are eager to follow bin Laden. Consider this statement from a young National Guard tanker, Specialist Ryan Anderson, “I wish to desert from the U.S. Army. I wish to defect from the United States. I wish to join al Qaeda, train its members and conduct terrorist attacks.”

Some have followed bin Laden de facto. American traitor Adam Gadahn now runs al Qaeda’s media center. He’s the violent, perfidious felon who stated that the “streets of America will run red with blood.” He’s a traitor and under the U.S. Constitution he should be hanged.

Consider the 21-year-old Colorado born, U.S.-native Joel Hinrich III, a young Muslim convert and college student in Oklahoma at the time he accidentally blew himself up less than 200 meters from a packed college football stadium on October 1, 2005. He had ties to Algeria; his roommate was from the Middle East. He, and possibly his roommate, had cooked up several pounds of TATP (triacetone triperoxide), a highly unstable explosive Middle Eastern terrorists have labeled ‘the Mother of Satan’, and had hid it in his backpack. His target: undoubtedly the large crowd of football fans. Fortunately, he was the only lifeless byproduct of his demented plan.

Here in Iraq prepubescent children are being used as pawns. (The nostalgic era of Iranian callousness comes to mind.) Kids are encouraged and/or forced to place improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which target the coalition forces as well as the pro-Western Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army officials. (IEDs or EFPs, explosively formed projectiles, smuggled in from Iran, that is.) Children have even been told to point and shoot toy guns that look real at U.S. troops. Should a soldier or Marine shoot a child with a ‘toy’, that would incite a national outcry; it could turn the local people against the U.S. forces, and stir a Congressional denouncement.

Psycho-analyst and terrorism expert, Dr. Nancy Kobrin, has studied about and written extensively on Islamic females and the mothers of suicide bombers. She and I have had many interesting conversations about terrorism, including TATP referenced as ‘The Mother of Satan’. Dr. Kobrin is the author of the yet-to-be published book, The Sheik’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth About Islamic Suicide Terrorism. I believe she would agree that terrorism cannot cease until mothers teach their boys correct principles instead of encouraging violence and ‘martyrdom’—a euphuism for ‘suicide’ since suicide is outlawed in Islam.

There was a little-known incident that took place here in Iraq a year or two ago. A mother strapped with a bomb walked with two of her sons towards a checkpoint. One son was 11-years-old and one 15-years-old (ages are approximate). The IED was intertwined between her and both of her sons. While walking up to the checkpoint, the older son broke free and ran away from his mother. This exposed the wires and stopped the explosive device or at least shocked the mother so much that she did not detonate herself and her other son. The woman was apprehended and the boys were saved.

Golda Meir, a former Prime Minister of Israel, once said: “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children [‘martyr operations’] more than they hate us.”

There is a fine line between respecting culture—behaving culturally taboo—and properly conducting counterinsurgency operations. When U.S. troops are told to stop communicating with the Iraqi women because “we don’t want to offend our ‘gracious host nation’”, (of course, I’m being sarcastic with that last phrase) then we’re merely circumventing and thumb-twiddling instead of fighting the battle head-on in a place where it can be stopped: motherhood.

Something more needs to be done to help influence the minds for good to the women in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. And, as evidenced by my earlier reference to the unbalanced youth in America, perhaps we need to take a serious look at helping motherhood in our own country too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Rotten Attitude

What’s horrid, dank, and ugly? A rotten attitude. Rotten attitudes are contagious. It’s an infectious, unseen disease that can spread rapidly. It can destroy any individual, group or organization. Some people go their whole lives with this malady. It’s not inherited; it’s learned. Those who have it are dreadful to be around.

On the other hand, we’ve all met some people who have the uncanny capacity to brighten the people around them. Lance Corporal Frantz, a giant young Marine here with an equally huge smile and perpetually optimistic attitude has such an ability. I’ve seen some of myself in him. We’re a lot alike…except for recently. What I don’t want to do is to change for the worse. I don’t want to have my experiences turn my thoughts, and my thoughts shape my character. One year is enough time to change a person—to create habitual thinking. That thinking can be either useful or destructive.
It’s difficult to change. No one becomes depressed in one day, nor do those with cynical attitudes wake up one morning completely healthy, happy and recovered.

One of my greatest friends killed himself when we were in high school. That was one of the most tragic experiences of my young life. Since that time I have attempted to do all the good I can do in life. Anytime I have had a thought or impression to say something or do something nice for someone, I’ve tried to go out of my way to do it. Why? because many people are depressed and because everyone, regardless if they’re depressed or not, appreciates sincere compliments.

Once I heard a woman speak of how she thought to tell a complete stranger in the grocery store how nice she looked. No, that’s strange, she thought, and avoided it. When the feeling came a second time she walked over to the lady standing in the nice red dress, tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I just wanted to tell you that I think you look very beautiful.”

The stranger turned around and soon had tears welling in her eyes. “Thank you.” Expressing her appreciation for the compliment, the unknown woman now with tears streaming down her cheeks proceeded to say words I will never forget, “today I wondered if life was really worth living.” The woman had thought of killing herself that very day.

Now, I’m not suggesting here that those who have suicidal tendencies can be saved by compliments alone, nor am I suggesting that everyone who is depressed wants to commit suicide. What I am saying, however, is that everyone has bad days, whether it’s in Baghdad, Boston, or Boise. Some people even have bad weeks, or worse, bad months. But don’t have a bad year! It’s possible and highly likely that we will have bad experiences and colossal trials. That’s the unfortunate part of life. (A coworker here, who is a firefighter back home, told me today that both parents of a dear friend and fellow fireman were murdered in their home just days ago. Imagine emotionally ‘surviving’ that trial!)

Change often causes us stress. But sometimes change is good, and sometimes stress is good. Consider the life of an oyster, beautifully described by an unknown poet.

There once was an oyster
Whose story I’ll tell,
Who found that some sand
Had worked under his shell.

Just one little grain
But it gave him a pain,
For oysters have feelings that are very plain.

Now did he berate?
Did he curse the government,
Call for an election,
And say that the sea should have some protection?

No! He said to himself as he sat upon the shelf,
“Since I can’t remove it
I think I’ll improve it.”

Well, years passed by
As years always do,
Till he came to his destiny, oyster stew!
But the small grain of sand that bothered him so,
Was a beautiful pearl
All richly aglow.

Now this tale has a moral,
For isn’t it grand, what an oyster can do with a small grain of sand?
And what couldn’t we do if we’d only begin
With all of the things that get under our skin?

I memorized that poem and many other inspirational poems and quotes years ago. As I said, when my friend killed himself, I committed myself to helping buoy and lift the hearts and minds of others. I studied and wrote extensively about positive attitudes and finding happiness in life. I taught it. Oftentimes, even at a very young age, people would tell me I should become a motivational speaker. Since then, I have spoken to a variety of audiences in a variety of places all over the United States and the world. And, I’d like to do it even more.

You’ve heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Not so! That’s a reckless assumption. If it doesn’t kill us physically or emotionally, it can maim, paralyze, and crimple us.

Larry, a paraplegic friend of mine whom I’ve lost contact with over the years, fell two-stories from the outside stairwell of an apartment building in the mid-90s. He was at a party and had become quite inebriated. When he landed on the concrete ground below, his life would change forever. Now, Larry’s bound to a wheelchair. The amazing thing is Larry told me one day while we were out to lunch how fortunate he felt for falling that night. His life took a turn for the better, he said. He steered clear of a destructive path he was on, and he has since engaged in helping others who were handicapped. Larry isn’t depressed; he is happy; he is productive; he helps others and enjoys life.

For the warrior, killing can be more traumatic than living. The psychological impact of the dreaded things done in combat can fester and burn the soul. I won’t tell you his name, but one of my best friends in the whole world had to use lethal force more than once when he was here in Iraq, shortly after the initial invasion. After his safe return home, he quietly told me about his most difficult experiences. One situation stood out as the worst. His actions were just and tactically prudent, but not without the remorse and pain that would follow. My friend and I share different faiths, but like most Americans, we share Judeo-Christian ethos. He thought of the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, and then he painfully confided, “I lost a little bit of Jesus out of me that day.”

I didn’t know what to say.

In the mid-90s I volunteered as an ordinance worker in the Los Angeles temple of the Church of Jesus Christ—the church I belong to. During a peaceful, quite moment I picked up a book titled History of the Church. As I read along, I found the most terrific words. I quickly penned them down and began to memorize the words which follow:

Unquestionably every experience is of value to an individual or an organization. Some experiences may be sad, and accounted at times as disastrous; but are they really so? The rough wind which shakes it helps the young and slow-growing oak; for by reason of this very shaking the tree takes firmer hold of the earth; wider spread the roots; deeper down into the soil are they thrust, until the sapling, once so easily shaken, becomes a monarch in the forest, mocks the howling tempest, until its height and frame become worthy of the land and atmosphere in which it grows a giant tree... Profitable if not sweet are the uses of adversity. (History of the Church, per. 1, 1948, Intro. Calamitous events, p. XXXII.)

I could only suppose that those words were the words of the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith. As I began memorizing, I couldn’t help but to think about his life.

As a small boy (in the early 1800s) he had an ailment which the doctor’s said was cause for leg amputation. Instead, his parents opted for a newfangled surgery using crude medical instruments. Young Joseph asked his father to hold him down, and without drinking any alcohol to numb the pain, the doctor sliced open his leg and scraped the marrow from his bone! He would experience unfathomable pain and a prolonged limp.

When he told others he had seen a heavenly manifestation—a vision—he describes in his own words,

I soon found…that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.

It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself. (Joseph Smith History 1:22-23)

Many of his children died very young from illnesses. One night a group of men broke into his home and beat him viciously. They ripped his shirt off and one man scratched him horribly. One of his baby twins died as a result of that home invasion. The church leader was tarred and feathered. Men held him down and tried to make him drink poison, which broke his tooth. He received scars on his face he covered up by combing his hair forward.

His life was threatened. His friends betrayed him; some of them swore an oath to murder him. As a result of those who wanted to kill him, he had friends and bodyguards who would travel with him. The followers he called Saints were illegally driven from their homes in Missouri and elsewhere. Some were massacred, some were ravished and many lost nearly every earthly possession they had.

The false reports and rumors were rampant. Much of that went across the nation in the printed press. Joseph Smith was arrested and acquitted 37 times. My own great-great-great grandfather, Parley P. Pratt, was arrested with him. Each of them spent many lonely, forlorn nights in prison and their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the country were denied more than once. Alas, Joseph Smith was arrested on false mittimus and committed to jail in Carthage, Illinois where an armed mob disguised with “faces painted as black as Cain,” as my grandfather described them, overran the small jail and murdered him after killing his brother.

To give some merit to the facts outlined, not too long ago the Illinois and Missouri State governments officially apologized to the Church of Jesus Christ for the heinous crimes, abuses and illegal actions of officials from both states against the Mormons.

When I think of trial faced with optimism and tenacity, I think of growth. Joseph Smith organized the LDS church with only six members in 1830. Today there are 13 million members and it’s one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. Something can be said for any man who believes that “Profitable if not sweet are the uses of adversity.”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Celebrating Veteran's Day in Iraq

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

—Thomas Paine

Last night I dreamed about our youngest daughter, Josslyn. I dreamt I was working in an office building; I wore a white shirt and tie, the same business attire as the other men there wore. Our jovial, happy baby that will soon turn two-years-old, played in the office space—running, hiding and giggling. I picked her up in my arms but she didn’t look at me or hug me, instead when I set her back on the floor she took off running and playing. She didn’t recognize me. I supposed it was because I wore the same clothes as every other male there and, of course, because I will have been away at war for nearly half of her life.

The transition back home will have such unique challenges, but for now I don’t have to worry about that. It will be a long, long time until I’m home again for good.

I hate being here. War is repulsive. I never thought it would be so hard. But this has been the biggest challenge of my life. Fear, anger, frustration, depression, grief, loss, and in short, all the ill feelings humans can experience are intensified a hundred fold for those in war. And, everyone experiences things differently.

This is my own private Mount Everest, a grandiose challenge of trial and trouble. It is something no one else can understand or experience except those who’ve faced the darkened cauldron, the refiner’s fire. Unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you can never really understand. I find myself ignoring anyone who would suggest that my trials aren’t that hard or that I should just ‘cheer up’ if they have not done what I’ve done or experienced what I’ve experienced. I’ve noticed my normally cheerful disposition and perpetually optimistic attitude waning. Looking back, I wonder if I have had a Pollyanna-like ignorance of real horrors, struggles and stresses. I’ve cried myself to sleep more than once.

As a kid Veteran's Day had little meaning. My great-grandfather served in WWI, but he died before I could remember him. My grandfather had served in WWII. I liked when he told me stories of how he was an ‘expert’ pistol shooter. I wish he were alive so I could thank him and jest that shooting well must be a genetically inherited trait. (I’ve won several tactical shooting awards among the best shooters in military and law enforcement.)

His son, my Uncle Jerry, graduated from West Point and served as a career Army officer. All I knew is he lived far away, rarely made it home for family reunions, and kept moving his family every few years. Later, I learned that my Great Uncle on my Dad’s side suffered deprivations, humiliations and even torture after Japanese soldiers captured him in the Philippine Islands shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was held as a P.O.W. in Taiwan for nearly a decade. In retrospect, even though I heard the stories, I was completely oblivious to every feeling and meaning of Veteran's Day.

A man once said, “Freedom will look easy by and by when no one dies to get it.”

A close Army buddy of mine was killed last week. I’ve cried and wept about it on and off over the last few days. Several of us who knew him well have exchanged emails and stories. My wife knew all my Army teammates. She’ll never—ever—forget the day she met John.

My wife wrote to me yesterday about the death of my friend, saying, “It makes me very sad and afraid. You and I both feel like things will be safe with you but I have to wonder, all it takes is one time. Kinda like when the guys died in [Gaza] it made it so much more real to me. What would I do? My whole world would fall apart. I just don’t know that I could ever recover. It makes it so real to have someone we know die that way... I pray that all will be well. Love you tons! Stay safe!”

I tried to comfort her by telling her how safe I am. We are winning in Anbar. After she sent that note, I wondered if I should have even told her.

No one understands war until it hits close to home. Believe me, Veteran's Day means something to me now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

John is Dead

Not 20 minutes before I heard the news, I was thinking about my old team and my buddies. I thought about John and wondered how he was doing. As an Army noncommissioned officer, he was killed near Kirkuk just days ago. Like so many others who die here in Iraq, his life was taken by a roadside bomb. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Another email will have to be deleted from my address book. I probably won’t ever delete it though. I haven’t deleted the email addresses of my other friends who’ve been killed, whether here in the Middle East or at home. Instead, it’s a nice reminder to see the address every once in a while and remember the good times and the pleasant memories. John and his jovial, energetic attitude will be profoundly missed. I pray for his loved ones.

Three of our other teammates and the Lieutenant Colonel Provost Marshal we respected so much plan on attending the funeral. I wish I could go. We were a tight knit group. On a full-time Military Police Special Reaction Team (SRT), we trusted each other with our lives. We knew each other and had formed bonds tighter than any other military unit I have ever been associated with. We were akin to a police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Besides in name, the only difference is whenever we had to make an entry against a hostage taker, a barricaded or suicidal suspect, or serve a high-risk warrant, we were up against well-trained military soldiers and potentially military weapons. In short, we had to be better, more capable and disciplined than local SWAT teams. We were.

Just last week I called Herb who's in Taji. He stayed in the Army. So did John, Jeremy, Paul, Don and others. Many of them have been back here to Iraq numerous times. Paul lost his jaw in an explosion in OIF I. Jeremy flies helicopters for the Army and is here in Iraq. Juan, Dave and others went into the Green Beret Special Forces. Tony worked as a private security contractor in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Herb and I spoke about how much we missed the camaraderie and closeness of SRT. There is nothing like knowing perfectly that the guy close behind you or the guy on your right or left will not hesitate to kill to save you or another person; that he’ll make the right tactical decision. There’s nothing like the trust and bond; you know he’ll do the right thing. There’s a trust there that cannot be shared with anyone else. You don’t trust your spouse that way; you don’t trust anyone else that way.

Most of us got out of the military. Jason is in Nevada, Rob is in Colorado, Mac is in Missouri, Eddie is Georgia, and Alexander (I’m choosing to use a pseudonym for his protection) is flying the not-so-friendly skies. All of those listed operate in a law enforcement capacity. They are the crème de la crème, the tip of the spear. They are my best friends. The close ties with them will last an eternity. The kind of unique friendship that derives from serving on an elite tactical unit cannot be replaced nor mirrored by any other bond. In life or death, we are brothers in arms.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Tribute to My Angel Wife

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise...
...I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

—Elizabeth Barret Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, no. 43

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then my heart is about to explode with effulgent, tender and affectionate love for my incredible, wonderful and supernal wife. I’ve been apart from her for far too long.

Being in the military, working in law enforcement and having done a tour as a private security contractor, I’ve missed birthdays, Christmases, and plenty of Thanksgiving Day celebrations. We’re approaching our ten year anniversary. I will miss it. But I made a promise to her years ago that I would take her on a cruise for our ten year anniversary. The planning stages have begun!

We never went on a honeymoon. I was a poor Army private when we met. I had a 1972 Oldsmobile. It was an eye sore and it barely ran. When I went alone to buy an engagement ring for her, the run-down car wouldn’t start back up. I left it in the mall parking lot and, totally fed up with it, I chose not to ever see it again. Fortunately, it was quickly towed away.

She must have seen something good in me because she certainly didn’t marry me for my money.

I still remember the day I saw her at a barn dance for young singles. She walked up to me after we had only met once before. “Hi,” she said with that incredible smile and bubbly personality of hers, “do you remember my name?” Without hesitation her attractive French-given name escaped my lips. How could I ever forget?

It was only after our marriage that she found out I wasn’t as good with people’s names as she imagined. I confessed, “I only remembered yours because I wrote your name and number in my book and put five-stars next to it.”

We were married in Denver, Colorado and I chose economic prudence instead of an elaborate or even a simple honeymoon. We stayed two nights in a hotel there and drove to our first townhouse outside an Army base a few miles south. We were penny-pinching, and now, four kids later, I still haven’t ever treated her to a real honeymoon.

We were poor back then. In fact, she worked two jobs. Like her dad told me, she was—and is—a hard worker. I helped her fold newspapers at 3 a.m. for her second job. I handed her the newspapers as she drove her route and tossed the papers out the window. I can still recall the terrible smell from the bundled up newspapers. The stop-and-go car pace coupled with the horrific smell made me car sick nearly every day.

One could think that such a job would be reserved for the lowly in station, but my wife is classy, confident and knock-dead gorgeous. We went to get donuts after throwing papers one morning and a couple young boys who had been out partying until the early morning hours as it appeared, drove up and made some kind of comment about how ‘hot’ my ‘girlfriend’ was. I made the mistake of a young groom and said something to the effect that since my wife had her hair pulled up, was wearing a sweat shirt and had no make-up that they must have been drinking. I’m sorry again for that. (Oh, did I mention she’s forgiving?) Truth be told, my wife is naturally beautiful and when she gets dressed up, she’s perfectly stunning.

I love that my wife is so humble. She is beautiful on the inside and on the outside. She makes friends easily and people like her. She’s attractive to men and women alike. She’s faithful and devoted. She’s smart. She’s an incredible mother and wife.

I had to leave her for several weeks here and there during our first years together to attend military training. In fact, we had to adjust our wedding date around a military school held in another state. I’ll never forget how crushed she was when I called and told her I would be home a day late.

After I got out of the military we moved, and moved again. One night working as a cop, I didn’t come home on time. We had gone to emergency work hours and a 45 minute car chase right at the end of a literally long shift kept me late. To make matters worse, that particular case was a paperwork nightmare. When I failed to call her, she called the substation. “No, he’s not here. He left hours ago.” Fortunately, she called the phone in the patrol car. I was nearly asleep at the wheel. I can’t imagine the panic that must have given her not knowing where I was, especially with all the tragedy, deaths and shootings in south Dallas.

Still feeling patriotic, and not totally satisfied with being a beat cop, I joined the Reserve military. I was off again for several months, alone. Later, I brought her with me to Officer Basic Course. For four months she had to suffer in a disgusting spider-filled, two-bedroom apartment on a military installation. I literally had to chase a flying bat out of the living room once. My darling watched as the maid (this is revolting) dipped her mop into the toilet, wrung it out with her bare hands, and proceeded to mop the bathroom and the kitchen floors. Shocked, my wife didn’t say a word. But after the maid changed our sheets with her filthy hands, we asked that the maid service stop. My wife was pregnant and we had two little ones then. That was hardly a vacation or a honeymoon.

Ring! Ring! I called to wake her up years ago around 2 a.m. I was in the Middle East. “Just in case you see something in the news, it wasn’t me,” I said.

“What? What?” she said, barely awake.

“Some of my co-workers were killed and I just wanted to call you and tell you I’m okay.”

She went back to sleep and after several hours I thought I had better call my in-laws. They’re news junkies. My mother-in-law was in tears when I called. They all knew about it, but they wouldn’t dare call my wife, for obvious reasons.

I briefly came home for the birth of our third child, and then off again. Thankfully my in-laws were with my wife when they came home from dropping me off at the airport. Our house had been burglarized. My wife wouldn’t hurt a soul. But she was frightened and alone—a helpless, pretty woman all alone with three tiny kids. Her fear made her think again about her dislike for guns. While I was armed to the teeth protecting others, my own VIP had to protect herself.

In total, I was gone from home for a year and a half. All the moves and the government orders were the best options at the time, though. I wouldn’t have done it if I had had better options. My wife and I have prayed together often. I can attest that a family that prays together stays together; although the definition of ‘together’ might be relative. Of course, there’s too much of the story to tell all here.

Believe me, I have often wished to know something else besides gun-sling and counterterrorism. If I had been a dentist, not only would I be home for every holiday and home every night, but I would look at the world differently. I’d look for nice smiles, not bombs and bad guys whenever I go. My mind has changed and my world is different. Unfortunately, my wife has had to listen to stories about terrorists and criminals more than she has wanted to. But she’s been a good sport. For the most part she listens and the fan isn’t dirty (inside joke).

Thanks again to my wife, she cleaned and sold our house, packed up the U-haul alone again, and we moved. But not before I had to attend yet another school for the federal government. It was months gone again. Such is the bane of the modern-day warrior.

As an air marshal, I was continually gone several days and nights each week. One of our neighbors threw a fit when she learned that her husband had to go out of state for five whole days of vocational training. “What will I do?” she said nearly in tears, “I have been with my husband every night since we were married over 15 years ago.”

“Yes,” my wife comforted the bereaving lady, “it’s difficult isn’t it.” My sweet spouse could have ignored the plight or commented upon how often I’ve been gone, but she didn’t. She comforted her. It’s that charming sweetness that I love.

Today, while walking through the fine, cloudy dust in Iraq, I told a co-worker how much I’m in love. “Boy, you should see her when she gets all dressed up for church. I miss that!” I couldn’t help but to smile even thinking about her.

While I was literarily telling lies as an undercover police officer on commercial airliners nearly every Sunday for over three years, she got the kids dressed and sat alone with them as they squirmed in the pews. Once she overheard someone say, “Oh, it must be hard for [so-and-so] who has to sit alone with her kids while her husband sits up on the stand each week.” I guess some of the church-goers just viewed my wife as a single mother who had everything under control, although inside it was torture for her to be alone. It wasn’t until I got orders to come to Iraq that people really realized she’ll be all alone, even though I was hardly ever there before.

The break finally came. After prayerful consideration, I found just the right job: self-employment. During the interview for a sole-source contract it came up that I was a Mormon. The interviewer, who would oversee the contract, threw his hands up high in the air, leaned his head back and slammed his hands over his head, simultaneously saying, “Oh, I hate Mormons!” The interview took an interesting turn. His wife was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the home teachers were going over to his house that night!

I took the job as a self-employed contractor. I would have weekends off to be able to attend church with my wife and kids…finally. Further, I would be able to concentrate all my efforts on marketing my security consulting company. I was finally in business for myself, a full-fledged entrepreneur. Life was just what I thought it should be.

But the Lord had other plans.

Only after a few short weeks, a call to serve my country came. I lost the contract; all future plans had changed. Like my buddy here says, “I’m a plan-B kind of guy, because plan-A has never seemed to work out for me.”

So here I am all alone again. It’s not just me who’s alone, it’s my darling companion. We’ve gone through hell together. We’ve suffered catastrophes, but we’ve enjoyed triumphs. We’ve lost money in scandalous real estate deals; we’ve worried about jobs and money. With four kids there never seems to be enough. But we have a big, beautiful house and the kids have the best play-set in the county.

We’ve made what seems like hundreds of trips to the Emergency Room with kids’ injuries and illnesses, but we have good health overall. We’ve had sleepless nights and fun dates. She’s been with me through the thick and the thin, in health and sickness, in tears and trails, and in smiles and laughter. We’ve gone through dogs and cats and even three sets of couches (long story).

I’m simply amazed at how beautiful she is. She’s so skinny and attractive it’s almost impossible to believe she’s had four of the cutest kids in the world. (They look like their mother.)

Someone once said you don’t fall in love you fall in a hole. Well, I was attracted to my bride years ago, and in retrospect, the longer I’ve been with her the more I love her. The more I want to spend my time with her and only her. The kids will grow up and leave and I still want her by my side. I don’t want to be with anyone else but her. She is my life-line, my confidant, my sweetheart, my help-meet and companion.

I don’t want to travel anymore. I’ll hang up the sword, the buckler and the shield if I must. I feel too old for this stuff anyway. I’m tired of it. I want to leave this war and fighting stuff to the young, robust, testosterone-driven youth. I just want to be a family man. I want to take my wife dancing, take her to a concert; treat her with all the fun things I never treated her to because I was too busy with work or school or a hundred other projects I had. I want to take her and the kids to the park. I want to sit down and play toys with my kids. I don’t know how many times I didn’t have ‘time’ for the kids when they said, “Daddy, come and play.”

It takes leaving to realize what you’ve lost. In all the hustle and bustle of life, each of us occasionally fails to take those moments that are worth everything. Nothing is more important than family. I want to treat my wife and kids better. I want to spend more time with them. No amount of outside pressure, obligation or interest would stop me from spending time with them now.

If Iraq has done one thing for me, it’s helped me prioritize myself. It’s helped me realize that being sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, particularly and especially with family members, matters most.

If I could give one piece of advice it would be leave the office early; do the thing you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. Life is too short; too short for cruelty; too short for anger; too short of bitterness or melancholy. When it’s all said and done, the best thing we can have is an excess of wonderful memories with the people we love most.

It will soon be bon voyage, my dear, and the honeymoon will be for the rest of our lives...for time and throughout all eternity.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Internal Cleansing of America’s Social Disasters

How can we fight an enemy when we are fighting ourselves? We must first cleanse the internal disruptions in our own government and communities to be able to successfully ward off the attacks of external opponents. We have to take the fight to ourselves first. Self introspection is often needed in security procedure evaluation.

There is so much good among our own people and in our own country, but when conducting a survey and consultation, the good things in place are rarely mentioned, if ever. So this blog will focus upon some things needing change as I see it. The media will be targeted here, as they spread, support and/or develop many of these social ills. It is good, however, to mention that there is also much good, educational and wholesome entertainment and news. News and entertainment media is the catacomb that leads to the heart and soul of American society, values, customs and all. This is how we view, and incidentally, shape ourselves. This is how the world sees us.

Foreigners I’ve personally met think no city in America is safe because of all the sex, doom and despair at times, unintentionally, but often, incorrectly shown on our screens and broadcasted to theirs. Muslim terrorists and their sympathizers, all of whom don’t really know the real America, are forced to agree with clerics who call America the land of the godless, violent, and sexually obsessed Christian. This ignorance, sewn through the media medium, infuriates them to action and fuels their apathy towards us even more, or at a minimum gives them one more hateful and supposed justification on their apathetic platform against the West.

(The suggestions for change below are in no particular order except as they come to mind.)

A genuine mistrust of law enforcement lurks among our free society. Too many question the badge and do not respect the authority or position of law enforcement. This leads to arguing and fighting of those confronted by law enforcement. The number of violent crimes against police has risen dramatically in the past few decades. From reality television showing police work to the hundreds of movies and sitcoms about police work, people feel a connection and, paradoxically a disassociation with law enforcement. The connection comes by way of alleged enlightenment of individual rights and a profound legal right to verbally attack police. Some feel they can defiantly object police orders.

The social condition of highlighting (filming) what in some cases are ‘minor’ problems in justified policing actions, or spotlighting the very rare but truly poor police decisions, and suing police for uncanny things is, frankly, thwarting the future ability for police to maintain civil order. It is good that police should be held accountable, but perpetually targeting police as the “bad guys” gives the criminal element an upper hand. Truly there is a misperception that one of every two is corrupt. In actuality one ‘apple’ cop in several hundred bushels are sour and rotten.

This same mistrust is directed at our government leaders and government agencies. We have the right to question their motives and policies, and to investigate records and actions; but at times the lurid focus upon the “poor government decisions,” whether they in actuality are really foolish or not as interpreted by the pundits and media tycoons, is occasionally nauseating. As long as there’s an ongoing defamation of character and decisions, and vengeful bipartisan contention, there will continue to be mistrust. When American citizens wholeheartedly mistrust their own government and its respective agencies (FBI, CIA, DHS, etc.) due to rampant calumny, corrupt and ineffective policies, the citizens won’t cooperate or be content. Such a lack of stabilization from the foundation of American government leaves the whole country on a wobbly and shaky foundation.

Interestingly after large-scale criminal and terrorist disasters we’ve tended to blame everyone and everything but the perpetrators themselves. As in every organization, there are clearly occasional foolish choices. The government is no different; the government is run by people with imperfections. However, while an investigation is most definitely needed and conclusions must be made, placing the full load of the blame on supposed negligence of people and things other than who is pointedly to blame, the terrorists themselves, sets a bad precedence for the future.

The corrupt politicians and pundits who curb otherwise meaningful, effective policies, and who shape American philosophies, do not represent the bulk of the American people, yet they get all of the attention. One problem is that politicians with poor ideas but popular names get to stay in office for too many terms. Another problem is money: individual, wealthy, political magnates.

Money separates every society. Politicians with money are no different. Just take a look at those currently running for office. Is their one non-multi-millionaire among them? How can a millionaire, who has most everything s/he wants, possibly understand what the lower and middle class individuals need? Where’s the candidate who’s been unemployed, who makes an average wage, who is scraping to get by, and who with every pay check must budget carefully and behave frugally? Does such a candidate get media attention or endorsement from a major party?

Rich Hollywood entertainers often use their clout to spawn their own webs of ideas, and do they get media attention? Absolutely. Hollywood television and movie producers and pundits, so far from normal Joe Everyone, show their ideas and values not only on the influential big screen, but also in real life (verses reel life). Sadly reel life plays a significant role in the shaping of our minds. Though accepted as make believe, many thoughts are nevertheless shaped, consciously and unconsciously, by what is seen on the big screen.

An absurd obsession with the famous thespians has stolen worthwhile heroes and heroines of yesteryear and has replaced even traditional value. No more are the ladies lady-like, but head shaven killers like GI Jane. Quality dialogue and story lines have been much replaced with the inane and callow, violent and sexual.

In movies and in life children have children and children kill children. Tempers and aggression aren’t checked. Discipline and order is replaced with chaos and anarchy.

The broadcasted sexual obsession among Americans is equally disturbing. But sex sells. The Middle Eastern Muslim population, in general, is quick to condemn making public what should be private. I would have to concur. Scantily clad women offend them as well as many Americans. Many modest and decent, monogamous couples abound in the U.S., yet it’s not chic, faddish or considered the norm by the popular media and trend setters.

Adultery, fornication, and in short, ‘Sex in the City’, may be popular, but it is not omnipresent or ubiquitous. To say ‘everybody’s doing it’ is a lie. Yet I cannot name one single Hollywood movie or one single television show where when propositioned for sex, the character says, “no, I have morals and standards.” All too often titillating bedroom scenes show adulterous affairs instead of monogamous ones.

Fidelity and trust in marriage makes that union more peaceful and loving. My conscious is clean and my heart is glad because I do not cheat nor am I cheated upon. The heart of my tender wife and the confidence of my children is intact and will continue to be. That tranquility, comfort and peace cannot be enjoyed by those who ‘cheat’—the biggest, most damaging lie with the most serious consequences that someone could ever engage in.

The perverted, lewd, and bizarre sexual behaviors, and the sexual obsession in America, has plagued and vexed our society. Yet infidelity, adultery and fornication, is often viewed as acceptable, excusable and justifiable, whether it’s with the same or the opposite sex. Sexual experimentation among small children and unnatural lust has clouded the true meaning of love, family and commitment. Violent sexual assault and hard core pornography has usurped the wholesome, tender minds of our young people especially. Pornography, in any degree, shouldn’t be so available to our children, yet it’s easily available; and further, they’re desensitized just standing in the grocery line looking at provocative magazine covers.

Those obsessed by pornography waste time. Time is used when police must react to the inevitable negative results of those acting upon their evil fantasies. Minds and lives are altered by infidelity, rape and rampant disregard for the sanctity of natural, monogamous intimacy.

Prophylactics are handed out to children while abstinence, chastity and virtue are sidestepped because they sound too religious. Is it a society of religious freedom or irreligion? Children have babies and cannot care for them. They usually drop out of school. One in four end up on government assistance. Often these children are left fatherless.

A fatherless America is perhaps one of the most destructive social disasters. What becomes of these young kids? Poverty, a lack of good education and good future employment, criminal involvement, aggression, drug use, abuse, and a cycle of similar behavior is not always the result, but often occurs. The lack of solid spiritual and emotional nutrition in the form of two loving parents has sullied us as a nation. Unhealthy music, video games, media and unrestricted access to the web have jumped in where chores, hard work, wholesome education and honest physical activity left off. Marriage is like a faddish event, and divorce is as common as water.

Families that endure and strengthen one another strengthen communities, cities and even nations. Families that take care of other family members, from troubled youth to the aged and forlorn, would save our government millions of dollars and add to the mental and emotional health of individuals. Surely Welfare and Social Security costs could be cut if families and neighbors would live together in love and selfless service. Instead we’re afraid to talk to our neighbors, afraid to pick up hitchhikers and afraid to stare too long at someone in a car right next to ours for fear we will offend someone who then may produce a weapon in violent road rage.

Like broken homes vex societies, a permanent dole cripples us. Welfare reform is badly needed. Perpetually giving something for nothing helps neither the recipient nor the giver. We ought to wisely follow the ancient axiom-proverb, which says, “Give a man a fish and he won’t go hungry, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” We ought to admonish them do civil service for their dole when possible, stopping indolence and begging and replacing it with self worth for having worked to receive.

Nothing good can be said of illicit drugs and alcoholism. During a 9-year period of the Viet Nam war, there were 40,000 deaths of U.S. servicemen and women. During that same time, there were 250,000 deaths as a result of intoxicated drivers. (The figures are estimated as I do not have my library with me here in Iraq.) In sort of a nauseating irony, we still talk about what a quagmire Viet Nam was, but relatively speaking little was done then and now to stop the alcohol and drug related deaths on American streets! We still sell alcohol from drive up gas stations, and allow drunk or drug using drivers to get out of jail on bail after repeated offenses before the police can even fill out all of the processing paperwork.

Drugs destroy lives. The number of deaths relating to drug use and the drug trade are astonishing. From 1999 to 2002 there was over a 50 percent increase in drug-using gang related homicides. Finances from drug sales often go to terrorist funding and other illegal activities.

J. Edgar Hoover, the father of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “Distorted, abused, cynically disregarded -the standards of conduct, once regarded as sacred and inviolate, stand tattered, torn and forgotten by those who disregard our laws.”

Any and all lawbreakers are ruining and wrecking an otherwise peaceful society. Theft, dishonesty and crimes against persons simply hurt the societies themselves. Millions of dollars are lost each year. Critical time is sapped. The lack of honest employers and honest employees has crumbled large corporations, burdened societies, and impaled ache and break into many hearts.

Pride, arrogance, and haughtiness destroys individuals and organizations. We cannot think we are better than others and expect to be favored. Humility and gratitude begets wisdom and success. Whether its individuals thinking they are better than their subordinates or vice verse, or whether it is organizations against organizations or nations against nations, pride will be the inevitable downfall of every great society or great person.

The skipper of the Titanic, the most qualified man among all the crew, said that the Titanic didn’t need rescue boats, as it would be inconceivable that they would ever be used. We must always conclude we have weaknesses somewhere.

America, the world’s superpower, is not better than other people or other nations. The FBI and the CIA were admonished to cooperate only after 9/11. Social stigma and awkwardness could be blamed, but so could pride. Traditionally, military units and branches of service have jested and boasted of their superiority to one another. This chest pounding has been taken too far in too many instances. We each have vulnerabilities and we each can learn from one another. Such a perspective will ensure evaluations and ongoing remedies in the future.

We must get along with each other. If we could get along with each other as a nation then we could do a more effective job in getting along with other people and other nations. Would this make the terrorists of the world stop hating us? Probably not, but it would help us unify our efforts against them.

We’ve sympathized with the strange one’s in society. We’ve allowed those with puny voices and terrible ideas to blare out their ideas—those who are fanatic and extreme. We’ve given into the demands of the irresponsible, decadent and indolent in our society too often. We have not supported the mainstream ideals and beliefs of the majority often enough. And usually the main body of a civil society is good, decent and makes wise decisions. The entertainment and news media looks to what’s unique and different rather than what’s actual and verifiable on a whole, and capitalizes on it. Truth is thereby surreptitiously distorted. Inaccurate pictures are painted. This has shaped our nation and will continue to do so.

Frivolous, ridiculous law suits are constantly filed. The most outrageous cases are heard. To top that, the final judgments are surprisingly outlandish. Where is common sense in the court? We need judges, lawyers and juries with personal merit and common sense, not deviance and so-called educational intelligence. Both criminal and civil suits are shocking and appalling in the precedence they’ve set. Case law has gone entirely too liberal, siding with the criminal while thwarting the rights of the law abiding, and tying the hands of those sworn to protect us. From the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the United States Supreme Court Justices, there have been too many decisions made barring societies’ best interests.

Too many supervisors and employees in law enforcement and intelligence agencies are afraid to act for fear of litigation. We need to stop suing each other so much and focus on stopping the real threats. Too much focus is put on the private attorneys who get paid much more than, and are often much more experienced, than county, state and federal government attorneys. Too many have become selfish. Too many have become sympathizers with those who break the law. We’ve embraced fashionable forgiveness.

Is the hand of justice, which grips the offenders and keeps them from further injury of the innocent to be severed by mercy as if it were a sharp sword? Can we continue to offend the victims of atrocities by placating the wrong-doers? We have over two million in our jails and prisons, and sadly, only two percent of those convicted of capital punishment are actually carried through.

And, oh, there is so much more…

Finally, how can we fight an enemy when we are fighting ourselves? We must first cleanse the internal disruptions in our own government and communities to be able to successfully ward off the attacks of external opponents. We have to take the fight to ourselves first. Sound familiar?