I had only one friend in Vietnam. My childhood friend, Deems Webster, was “over there”. And he knew my imminent decision. A letter from Deems influenced my thinking when he said “… this ain’t John Wayne and SANDS OVER IWO JIMA. Don’t come.”
Deems was like a little brother to me. Why was he there and I was not?
In my first job I taught a lot of freshmen. Being at a small school I knew most of the kids by name. In my third year of teaching I was informed a young man named Butch Benton had been drafted and sent to Vietnam. He was killed shortly thereafter. I didn’t know Butch any better than most of my students, but I can see him now in my mind’s eye. He was a tough kid I knew, and a nice young man, reddish hair, standing at the gym’s entrance in his “P.E. uniform” of blue shorts and a white tee shirt that said A.C.C. P.E.
I was beginning to consider volunteering for the military service. One school day, after breakfast, I went into the office of Ira Norfolk, the director of athletics and the men’s basketball coach at Atlantic Christian College. I had served for two years under Coach Norfork as the freshman team coach. Coach Norfork was a retired career marine. He had been at the Chosin Reservoir battle in Korea. I sincerely suggested to him my intentions and asked his opinion. He was very clear in stating that”… I need you more than they do. “While this may have been the answer I wanted, I accepted his advice and thus continued a forty year teaching and coaching career. Several things became apparent over the years. One was that I was not alone in seeking Coach Norfolk’s opinion about military service, and it seems, having seen the worst of war, he did all he could to discourage me and other fellow athletes under his supervision from enlisting.
The years also made me aware of other beliefs. Up until 30 years I was single. My players and students became very close. Certainly it is not the same as being a parent. But you do become very aware and attached to these young people, and I began to appreciate them and to value their worth at a high, high level. Becoming a parent only magnified my love for young people,
and I began to detest any thought of an unnecessary war taking one of them. I can only imagine the loss of a child. I surely don’t belittle the loss family’s bear. As the saying goes “… hate the war, but love the warriors.” If anything has manifested itself in the last ten years of war, it has been the noble behavior of the majority of our troops.
And yet one has to wonder about the cost of blood and treasure of the Iraq war. As the announcement was made of Desert Storm in Iraq I was much older. SCUD missiles and infrared green television screens on daily news, and “success” came quickly. It became obvious that the American military could be very efficient. In short order, we began to hear about how easily and how many had killed. Sentences still ring in my head from the time: “Americans are very good at killing.” Or “…we mowed them down so easily.”
And I did wonder.
Two of my generation’s highlights were the family car and the television set. And from the moment of the first test pattern until now, there has hardly been a day that did not feature Middle East violence. Over and over again we watched something bombed ad nausea. It didn’t make sense that our killing thousands indiscriminately would be taken lightly. (200,000 Iraqi citizens).
As I have mentioned, strong political beliefs have dictated a lot of thought on my behalf, and I was becoming more and more aware of America and what its role should be in dealing with the “bad guys” that always seemed to be out there.” There will be wars and rumors of wars.” But do we have to fight them all? And for everybody. And for what reasons? The loss of any noble young American seemed a high price in any currency.
I had a son in New York City on 9/11. We didn’t know his whereabouts for several hours. I shared America’s anger over this tragedy, and I can understand the desire for revenge.
Any good coach knows the adage” don’t get mad, get even”, but it seems the administration at that time could not wait to join in a new war.
This was a turning point for me. As a long time coach I had developed a pretty darn good BS detector, and it seemed to be flowing. George Senior had been told”… if you go in the Middle East you will own it”. “W” however didn’t seem to be in a listening mood. Brent Scowcroft? Hadn’t he given pretty good advice? Or maybe advice was coming from more aggressive sources: Cheney, Rumsfeld and the like?
My years of watching told me to be cautious about getting into war. And the Bush Administration was moving way too fast for me. It was obvious that not much listening was going on. I doubt my conservative friends would know who Jello Biafra is. Jello said”…even the most Bush- happy, flag suckling jack-arse knows deep inside something is wrong”.
Where these guys stupid? Evil? Was it pure hubris? E.L. Doctorow referred to “…hierarchal warrior nonsense”. Was it for money? Was it to protect the oil industry? Why this a headlong leap before you look?
They bought a guy named “Curveball”. Chalabi wasn’t it? Never in my life and in certainly no more important moment, or with more surety, did I know someone was lying to the country than the “sixteen words”. (“The British Government has recently learned that Saddam Hussein sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” —-George W. Bush in the State of the Union speech). The main source, “Curveball”.
Watching this performance, mainly from the look on W’s face, was it for me. Holy smoke, somebody better start watching these guys.
But George had his nose open and in we went.
Pretty soon all kinds of crap hit the fan.
This book will conclude mainly as an anti-war statement. And I intend to say much more on that subject later. Yet there were all kinds of blunders appearing, and while the war is the one that seemed to me as most dangerous to our country and world, there was stuff, mostly of ghastly proportion, unfolding at a rapid pace. Try deregulation and the silently unfolding second most serious financial collapse to hit our nation.
I intend to list some of the happenings of 2000– 2008. It’s hard to keep the war out of the politics. Some are interwoven. Chalabi, Cheney, “Scooter” Libby, and Valerie Plame? From Clinton and a rare surplus, to a trillion and a half in the red? Someone explained a trillion dollars this way: If you could initial a dollar bill every second, non-stop for 32,000 years you would have a trillion dollars. The wars “off the books” and the collapse during the Bush W. years created a chilling, galloping debt that will long be with us, no matter who or what. In the words of the great philosopher, POGO, “…it happened during my administration.”

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