Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Back in October 1995, Rush Limbaugh said on his television show "Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And so, if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up." Being an equal opportunity drug warrior, Limbaugh said in response to the charge that drug laws singled out African Americans "Too many whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river too."
Back in April, he agreed to a deal that kept him from jail time when faced with charges about Oxycontin and other prescription painkillers. I guess he didn't learn a lesson about being a model citizen and he may find himself back in front of a judge. Limbaugh, hardly the voice of compassion for non-violent drug offenders, has run afoul of the law again. This time, it's that little blue pill, Viagra.
Limbaugh was returning on a flight from the Dominican Republic when he was questioned by customs agents about a vial of pills that were not labeled with his name. A doctor had prescribed the drug Limbaugh's attorney said, but it was `labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes,''
That privacy thing kind of blew up all over the media, didn't it? Not only do we know Limbaugh is a blowhard, we now know that he needs "a little help" and that is too much information for me!
This schadenfreude is getting to me, does anyone have a pill for that?
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Nadia's 11 year old grandson, Patrick McCaffrey, Jr was there wearing a shirt with his father's photo on the front and back. There is no doubt he is Patrick's son with that smile. How do you explain to an 11 year old that, yes, your father was killed in the war, but it didn't happen like we told you. How does an 11 year old grasp that his father was murdered by some very bad guys?
Stephen Edwards was there, a fellow soldier and good friend of Patrick's. Because of his relationship with Patrick and the recent news that the circumstances of his death was murder by the Iraqi soldiers that their unit had trained, Stephen has been thrown into the spotlight. Stephen tells compelling stories and is very strong in his convictions about the war. He was also respectful, almost reverent of the 3 Gold Star Mom & Dad's who were there; Casey's dad, Ken's mom & Patrick's mom. He told me he wished he had known Ken.
Stephen is one of those guys who cherishes his wife. He looks at her like every woman wants a man to look at her. He has that same look when he talks about his wife and his daughter. I cannot imagine their journey. I'm sure they just want their old life back. I wish I could do that for them.
Stephen was wearing his desert camo shirt. Above the name tag his name was embroidered in Arabic. At least he thought that's what it said. An Arabic woman asked him if he knew what it meant and he said, yes, Edwards. She told him it read "Edwards enemy". The soldiers had what they thought was their arabic names above their official nametag, I'm presuming so that the Iraqi population could read the name. How offensive is it that this embroiderer who had been hired by the Americans to work on the base and to provide a service to these soldiers, felt that their political agenda was more important?
During an interview, a reporter told me that an Army spokesperson told him that the Army has only 6 families who have had the truth delayed to them. I told him "I doubt that's true; I know 4 of the families". Am I lucky or what?
Patrick's mom, Nadia spoke about the two year journey she's been on and about her plans for the future to help returning veteran's of this war find peace in their minds and bodies when they return. I know Nadia, and she will accomplish this vision with a little help from her friends. What a legacy for Patrick.
Nadia & I got to talk briefly on Thursday. The parallels of the journey to truth, or lack thereof, are significant. What amazed me was that both of us had information that the Army had no clue about. Much more so in Nadia's case, but just the same, the Army learned details from me, too. Yes, the families talk and so do the soldiers.
Thursday was also the 2 year anniversary for my friends in Massachusetts, the Lucey family. Lcpl Jeffrey Lucey had returned from Iraq 9 months prior. He couldn't deal with his new life and he killed himself. His father found him that afternoon.
I'm so sorry.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We find out today that my friend, Nadia's only child Sgt Patrick McCaffrey was not killed the way the Army told her 2 years ago. It's deja vu all over again. (the photo of Patrick was taken 45 minutes before he was killed)
Nadia called me on Monday night to tell me that the Army was coming to see her on Wednesday. They wanted to come on Thursday, but that will be the 2nd anniversary of Patrick's death. Were they being inconsiderate when they wanted to meet on Thursday or were they just plain stupid? These kinds of anniversaries are a stab in the heart for Gold Star Families for a very long time before and after that day.
Probe finds Iraqi troops killed 2 American soldiers
Two California soldiers shot to death in Iraq in 2004 were murdered by Iraqi civil-defense officers patrolling with them, military investigators have found.
The deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, of Tracy and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson*, 33, of Riverside were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq, on June 22, 2004.
But the Army's Criminal Investigation Division concluded there was foul play after probing the circumstances for several months.
The investigators found that one or more of the Iraqis attached to the American soldiers on patrol fired at them, a military official said Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the military did not plan to release the report until Wednesday.
There is alot more wrong about this than might seem evident. Nadia & I are very good friends. We talk several times a week, often several times a day. She stood with me when I found out that the circumstances of my son's death were not what they told me 15 months prior. I will stand with her as she goes through this continuing nightmare. (the photo is Nadia & me at Arlington West in Santa Barbara)
Nadia has been suspicious for a long time and has been trying to find her way through the military bureaucracy to have someone tell her the truth. When Patrick's unit came home, his fellow soldiers told her stories that did not match what the Army had told her. When she read the autopsy report, she was suspicious, and when she viewed the autopsy photographs, she remained suspicious. There were different caliber bullets and there were more wounds than she was told.
When is the Army going to understand that families want to know the truth at the earliest time? In this day and age, information cannot and will not remain hidden for long. Those terrible secrets from the battlefield will come into the homefront and then there will be more explaining to do.
When the Tillman family was told a different story 5 weeks after the very public memorial service, it was wrong. When I was told a different story 15 months later, it was wrong. Nadia will be finding out the truth the day before the 2 year anniversary of Patrick's death, and that is wrong, too. In all of our cases, the soldiers who had boots on the ground in Iraq knew the truth. This is starting to look like a very ugly pattern of behavior.
The military has to fix this problem about revealing the truth in a timely manner. It seems as if covering up is standard practice and that must change. I told both the Secretary of the Army and the Inspector General of the Army that it is easy enough to change a policy, but it is more difficult to change the culture of the Army. I wish them good luck, but they have no choice, this must be fixed. The staff at the Pentagon must know that when news of a coverup or incompetence is revealed, it is a cold wind that blows in the home of every military family. For Gold Star Families, they wonder if they know the truth about their loved one and if not, how long will it take for them to get this very difficult and different news? For active duty military, they wonder if this is how their family will be treated should something happen to their loved one? There is a lack of confidence in the military and for every one thing they do correctly, this type of revelation, or coverup erases too much hard work and commitment that many members of the military live by. It is easy for us to feel that no one cares about our soldiers.
Imagine for one minute that you have lost a family member in a war. You try to deal with this new normal that your life has become and you try to move on. You start to heal in ways that you don't notice, because it is so subtle. Imagine then that the story of the circumstances of their death was not what you were told. Your heart is ripped open and you immediately move back to the day your world was turned upside down, when you heard about the death the first time. As you listen to the "new" story, you are hearing about the last minutes of your loved one's life. You are trying to listen to the analytical details, the technical side and at the same time, you think to yourself, this is my little boy they are talking about. These are the last minutes of his life. For us, it isn't a "story"; it is our life.
Don't think for a moment that these are the only cases. I know of 2 Army families who were initially told their son's committed suicide in Iraq; they didn't. In both cases no investigation was performed in Iraq. It has to be nearly impossible for a thorough investigation to be held when the evidence is no longer intact and the people of interest are scattered to the wind.
I find the timing of this news interesting, too. How will this play in the media following George's Excellent Adventure to Baghdad last week and the killing of Zarqawi? Things are not going well in Iraq. PERIOD. Two young American soldiers were captured and killed in a very horrendous and public way and now this news of yet another Army coverup. Patrick and Andre were murdered by the very Iraqis that they were training. Is this still continuing? Why are we in Iraq if they don't want us there? Was there a bounty on American soldier's lives as Nadia was told? Why did the Army not respond to Nadia's earlier inquiries? Why indeed? Nadia says she has a list of questions for this meeting on Wednesday. I'll bet she does.
This is all bad, but to me, having someone from the military leak this information to the media before the families are briefed is beyond unconscionable. This is reckless behavior and someone's head should roll.
I was fortunate that the Army played it close to the vest with me. Even though I did not know what the Army was going to tell me, I knew it was going to be bad news. I had called on my Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's office to be by my side during my meetings- my message- don't f**k with Army families, and they didn't. I hope they learned that telling the whole truth, however awful, is really in their best interest. The McCaffrey's and the Tillmans deserve the same; the sooner the better.
When Nadia is told the truth, the whole truth, perhaps Patrick can then rest in peace.
* I do not know the family of Lt Andre Tyson who was also murdered in this ambush. My heart goes out to them, too. I have walked in their shoes.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I thought life would be "better" by now, but I am convinced that life will never be better, it will be different and that's about it. We've all had difficult times in our lives, whether those times are financial, affairs of the heart or illness. I've had my fair share, not less or more than the average Jane. While I was recovering from any one of those difficult times, I would tell myself, "in 6 months, things will be better. You won't know how you got through this, but you will" It always worked like that before.
The other day Oprah said, when she was having a crisis, she always knew there would be something better on the other side. I know that to be untrue. A broken heart? yes; a job loss? yes. An illness or death, I don't think she can say that for sure; I know I can't.
This year I survived 10 days into May before I fell apart, which is 10 days better than I did last year. The part that is different, though, is that I haven't gotten off the bottom yet. I feel that I am in a tsunami and going down for the 3rd time. I don't know what makes this year different, but it is darker, deeper and more lonely than any time I have ever known. It is also more hopeless.
It could be that way because of the political climate in this country. But with only 20% of people supporting this administration, I want to know WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? On a recent flight, I was fortunate to sit with 2 of the very few Democrats from Texas. We were talking and I said I cannot imagine where those people are, those 20%. She said, they are her neighbors. Oil people, I asked? No, conservative Christians. That makes sense, but 20%? Come on out people, please identify yourselves. If only from a socialogical study, I want to know who you are. We need to study you and find out why you think the way you do faced with empirical evidence of the lies that this adminstration uses for their own purposes.
My therapist says it's grief, this black fog that I am in. I don't know what that means exactly. According to the dictionary, grief means Mental anguish or pain caused by loss or despair. I know that, but dealing with grief is just so personal and so unimaginable. I know I am not the first one to lose a child, I know I am not the first one to deal with grief and mine isn't the worst or the best case. It's all bad, this grief stuff.
My family is lucky, we had to deal with the loss of our grandparents, by the decade, in 1960, 1970, 1980 and then in 1992. I have no living grandparents, and I lost an uncle to polio in the 50's, but for the most part we have not had to deal with grief. We have been blessed in some ways, although I could make a case that life didn't prepare me for this journey of bereavement I am on.
I just needed to say that.
Monday, June 12, 2006
But my friend got me thinking. I hadn't heard of a word and I wondered why not. I thought there must be a word in another language as English is somewhat ascetic when it comes to those kinds of emotional words.
I asked a friend whose native language is Spanish if there was such a word. No, she didn't know of a word in her language either. She said losing a child was too terrible to have a word for it.
I still thought, this act of losing a child has been around forever, why has no one put a name to this awful existence.
I posted the question on Yahoo Answers hoping that a linguist would answer. I am sorry to report, although I received numerous answers, there doesn't seem to be a word to describe a parent who loses a child.
Here are some of the responses I received:
jmmevolve said No parent should outlive their child. It is just too devastating.
dcfringringhoe said "desolation I think. There is no word to describe the loss of a child - it must be the most awful thing in the world. So bad that no-one has invented a word for it.
eduardo agreed with my Spanish speaking friend and said "I think the idea itself is taboo, so nobody even dares to give it a name. In Spanish, my native language, there is no word for that either. It's too painful."
hafiz said "There is no single-word. Let's assume, if at all you need then there can be two-words: 'grieved-parent/s' (God forbid)."
cj said "devastation-incredible sadness, emptiness. No parent should survive their child. "
imagineitnow2012 said "I remember in some movie it was said "It's just too horrible to have a name"
and country girl said "I can't imagine losing one of my kids. But, you make a very good point. I can't think of one. "
And some people just responded "there is no word"
Obviously, this is my very meager attempt at finding out, to give myself a name, a descritpion; but it seems no one has been brave enough or had enough love to assign a word to this terrible predicament, this awkward position that I find myself in.
It's kind of sad, really.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Shame, shame, shame!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
al-Zarqawi, was suspected of being the masked man who beheads U.S. hostage Nicholas Berg, as he lets out piercing screams.' on a video that his group posted on his website.
"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage for some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib (prison), and they refused," the voice said. "Coffins will be arriving to you one after the other, slaughtered just like this."
How does the CIA feel about him now that he is dead? Afterall, they were the ones who recruited him to fight in the Soviet-Afghan war.
There will be jubilating. Zarqawi is dead! We are winning (or have won) the war on terror! Ain't it grand? There's no denying he was a bad, bad man, perhaps even evil. So is Saddam Hussein. The President will call this a watershed day, we are staying the course to victory- see, I told ya so, he'll say as he smirks into the camera! Not so fast, cowboy, there will always be bad guys. Who's next? Will it be the punk, Moqtada al Sadr, or Al-Masri?
Meanwhile, more than 20000 US soldiers are dead or wounded, as are probably more than 100,000 Iraqi citizens. And where in the world is Osama bin Laden?
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Senate didn't spend a lot of time, but more than was necessary to discuss how homosexuals are ruining marriage and children and everyone else and sending this country straight to hell. Attention Washington, how many heterosexuals are threatened by gay marriage? There are obviously a few, like James Dobson and his crazy crew in Colorado, but really, not enough to make this kind of fuss about it. In the end, the 49 to 48 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate.
The Democrats said the vote was an attempt to muster conservative support ahead of the November congressional elections and divert public attention from more pressing issues like the war in Iraq that reflect poorly on Republicans.
I agree with the Democrats and I would much rather have the president and everyone in Congress spend their time figure out how to bring the troops home NOW! Our soldiers are dying while our legislators are playing games about the sexuality of this country.
Also, Congress voted this week to increase the indecency fines ten times for television shows that may not air obscene material at any time, and may not air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when children are more likely to be in the audience.
"We're not going to stop until marriage between a man and a woman is protected," about the Marriage amendment and "This is a victory for children and families," said Senate sponsor Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. "The higher fines were needed, he said, "in a world saturated with violent and explicit media." about the indecency fines. I'm glad Senator Brownback is worried about violence on TV, which may be why photos of the war are not shown, but that's another subject. (26 soldiers from Kansas have been killed in Iraq since the war began)
"We simply cannot strip marriage of its core that it's a union between a man and a woman," said Arizona Republican Jon Kyl. (58 soldiers from Arizona have been killed since the war began)
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TX, said the House will proceed on what will be a solely symbolic vote on gay marriage ban "because it's important at times to let everyone be on the record on where they stand on key issues." (222 soldiers from Texas have been killed since the war began)
I could go on, but really, our legislators need to pay attention to the public. The numbers of people who disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq is in the 60 percentile. With 2484 US casualties in Iraq, our legislators need to work on ending the war instead of whipping up a frenzy about a non-issue like sexuality.
Friday, June 02, 2006
"A US soldier", as he has been referred to, is Captain James A Funkhouser, 35, from Katy, TX was near his Humvee during reconnaissance patrol operations when the car bomb detonated on Memorial Day.
Funkhouser, a 1989 graduate of Katy's Taylor High School was assigned to the 1st Bat, 12th Infantry Reg, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at the time of his death. Funkhouser, who was known by his middle name, "Alex," was commissioned by his father, retired Army Col. James Funkhouser Sr.
Jennifer said her husband served at Fort Hood as an armor officer training men for Iraq. He was a "great husband and a hands on father", his wife Jennifer said. He also leaves behind his 2 daughters, Kaitlyn, 4, and Allison, 2.
An Iraqi interpreter, "Sam" also was killed in the blast, and six U.S. soldiers were injured.
We don't know much more than that about the interpreter and we don't know the extent of injuries to those 6 US soldiers who were injured in the car bombing, but now we know about "A US Soldier", whose name was not known immediately. Presumably the delay in releasing his name was due to the notification process, but we need to know these names and see these faces of who is dying in this war.
We Gold Star families and those whose loved ones have been wounded would not wish this journey on anyone. If this incident serves as a reminder that Iraq is a dangerous place for everyone, including journalists, soldiers and Iraqi civilians, then let that be the purpose. TV viewers need to understand that the dread the families of Dozier, Brolan and Douglas lived with every day while they were in Iraq is the new normal for military families every day. Welcome to our world.
*Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Correspondent
**Paul Douglas, CBS News Cameraman
**James Brolan, CBS News Soundman
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Mister Bush, you deserve a good reaming for your performance at the United States Military Academy graduation on Saturday. Post around to my room for some character guidance.
Come in, wackhead. Slam up against that wall! Suck up that capacious gut! Shoulders back! Pop up that puny chest! Fingers along the seams of your trousers! You want to be our big buddy, Mister? What’s that? I can’t hear you… Sound off, dumbsmack! Yes, you say? Yes, what? That’s an incomplete statement, beanhead. Tack a “sir” at the end. That’s better.
So you think you can be our big buddy by spouting some cadet slang in a speech? One hour here at Hudson High, and you’re falling out, acting like an upper classman. That’s pathetic behavior, Mister Bush. This is one place where you have to earn privileges, Mister! You got that? You think all we care about up here is war? From your speech one would think so. You must love yakking about IEDs, convoy operations, and running checkpoints. There is so much more going on up here, mister, and you make us out to be cannon fodder. So run your feeble neck in another notch for that.
You must be corrected about this place, West Point. It’s not a “tin school.” That’s just a joke, and not one for either you or Rumsfeld to crack wise about. West Point is supposed to develop military leadership to provide expertise in the increasingly complex world of geopolitics. Rumsfeld’s wishful thinking and arrogance swept all that away. His (and your) tragically flawed, ego-driven ideology trumped empirical, professional judgment and leadership. Over a score of generals walked rather than bow their necks under the deceitful yoke of Rumsfeld. And then you ended up with the likes of Tommy “We Don’t Do Body Counts” Franks. But now he IS counting bodies… those of our own troops. “What we’re talking about is neither 2,400, 24,000 or 240,000 lives,” the dismissive Franks said at a recent NRA bash, adding paradoxically, “It (terrorism) doesn’t have anything to do with politics.” Does this make you feel proud, Mister Bush? To have people like this develop policies for the United States of America? When you get back to DC, you tell Rumsfeld to drive around to our room and we’ll explain a few things to him too.
We pay attention to everything up here at West Point, Mister Bush. Even the fact that you told the same joke about giving cadets amnesty that you told four years ago. You should be more respectful of West Point, Mister Bush. That seems to be a pattern in your behavior, smackhead. Telling the same stories over and over. And you throw around the names of old grads like Eisenhower and Bradley, using them to somehow justify what you and your big buddies in DC have done to the world. What do you know about Eisenhower or Bradley? You might get away with that stuff in the oval office, but not up here. Not at West Point. You got that, wack? You got that loud and clear, beansmack? Good. Retain same.
The Long Gray Line spans the generations, mister. Its spirit fills the geographic, intellectual, and moral space that is West Point. The old grads are always there. – Mister Bush, you want to buy this place? No? Well stop gawking! Keep those slimy eyeballs straight ahead. Pick a spot on the opposite wall and examine it! – You never said anything about what those old grads said. You just got the cadets’ attention by saying the words, Eisenhower and Bradley, but then that was the idea, wasn’t it? Then you launched into how President Truman did this, that, and the other thing. You even pulled a Winston Churchill with your “…never back down…never give in…never accept anything less than a complete victory” routine. It reminded many of us of that “mission accomplished” crud that you blabbed off the coast of San Diego a few years ago. Just who are you, Mister Bush? Makes cadets wonder whether there’s anything inside that fine civilian suit of yours? You read me, Mister Bush?
Do you remember what you said here at the Academy four years ago? About pre-emptive action? Do you know what Dwight Eisenhower said about that much earlier? Don’t hem and haw, Mister Bush. Here at West Point there are only three answers for smacks like you… Yes sir. No sir. No excuse sir. Remember that! And remember this! Eisenhower said, “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.” And his fellow classmate from the class of 1915, the class the stars fell on, Omar Bradley was even clearer. “Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked,” he said, “and we who fail to prevent them must share the guilt for the dead.”
You feel like sharing any of that responsibility, any of that guilt, Mister Bush? Your decision, your deceit-filled decision, to attack Iraq has cost tens of thousands of lives. What do you have to say about that? It seems to us that you have to watch your language, Mister Bush. I mean you still maintain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that he was somehow responsible for 9/11. Your evasions and quibbling and lies have cost the world dearly. Cram your neck in, Mister Bush. And you implied as much again in your speech at West Point:
“On September the 11th, 2001, we saw that the problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.”
Which country might that have been, Mister Bush? No specification followed. Rack your neck in further for another gross deception!
Four years ago, you were introduced to the graduating class of 2002 as “a man who exemplifies the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country.” That now revolts some graduates of West Point. At West Point, we uphold the Cadet Honor Code… a cadet will not lie cheat or steal or tolerate those who do. Mister Bush, it seems to us that you and your ilk have done exactly the opposite. (Keep that chin firmly in!) And you are still, cooking up war stories, unalloyed of truth, further proving, if such was now necessary, that lying, even under your combat imaginings, jeopardizes the lives of fighting men and women. And Saturday you told the graduating cadets that “the war began on my watch but it’s going to end on yours.” Perhaps you would like to correct that statement? Perhaps consider adding what is now widely known, that the assault on Iraq began premised on lies. That it is illegal. That these lies have severely dissipated the capability, morale, and reputation of United States military forces, and the United States of America. And that the young men and women of West Point in this year’s graduating class may also be soon at risk for crimes against the Geneva Convention. And that you don’t give a damn for anything we just said. Would you like to make a statement, Mister Bush?
*(”Urp” is (or was) cadet oral slang directed at first-year cadets (plebes) and stands for “RP” an acronym for the command, “Respond promptly.” )
James Ryan graduated from West Point in 1962. He is cofounder of West Point Graduates Against The War.