Monday, May 25, 2015

The 173rd Airborne Lands at Bien Hoa May, 1965

This Memorial Day is special to those of us who served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sep.)  in Vietnam because this month marks the 50th anniversary of the Sky Soldiers deployment to Vietnam.   The deployment marked the beginning of the American takeover of the Vietnam ground war.

The Sky Soldiers of the 173rd ("The Herd") under the command of . Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson landed at Bien Hoa air base on May 5, 1965.  The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) were the first Army combat units sent to the Republic of South Vietnam, accompanied by the 3rd Battalion, 319th Artillery. They were supported by the 173rd Support Battalion, 173rd Engineers, Troop E, 17th Cavalry and Co D, 16th Armor. The First Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and the 161st Field Battery of the Royal New Zealand Army were later attached to the Brigade making it the first multinational unit in the war.  The unit was eventually joined by the 3rd and 4th battalions of the  503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, the 1st of the 50th mechanized infantry regiment and November company 75th Infantry (Ranger).

 The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade under Brig. Gen. Frederick J. Karch landed at Da Nang on March 8, to become the first American ground combat unit in Vietnam, but its initial role was to protect the American air base at Da Nang.

The 173rd's mission included defense of the capital of the Republic of Vietnam, Saigon, as well as American bases near Saigon.  Gen. Williamson had been assigned to form the Brigade on Okinawa on March 26, 1963, as a quick reaction force for the Pacific Command.   Nationalist Chinese paratroopers gave the American paratroopers the nickname "Tien Bien" or "Sky Soldiers".  

The 173rd was the only brigade in U.S. Army history that was separate from any division.  The "Fire Brigade"  also acquired the unofficial nickname "The Herd" on Okinawa.   One explanation for the nickname is that to call Reveille, the Battalion Commander of the 1-503rd Infantry, Lt. Colonel Richard H. "Rawhide" Boland  erected a number of very large speakers from which the song "Rawhide" by Frankie Laine would blare.  Another explanation is the practice of the Sky Soldiers to run everywhere they went.  The dust they created caused some to suggest there was a herd of cattle there.

The Herd was the first American unit to go into the enemy stronghold given the name "War Zone D".   By September, 1965, the unit was operating near the Cambodian border at Pleiku.   In early November in Operation Hump in War Zone D the 1st Battalion's Charlie and Bravo companies were surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers in a battle commemorated in the Big and Rich song "the 8th of November". The Sky Soldiers held their position with the help of air and artillery support.   When the battle ended 48 Sky Soldiers had died.  403 Viet Cong bodies were found.

During that battle Sp. 5 Lawrence Joel  became the first living black American to be award the Congressional Medal of Honor.   Joel continued to use his skills as a medic to treat his fellow Sky Soldiers in spite of being wounded himself.   Joel wasn't the only Sky Soldier to earn a Medal of Honor for treating the wounded in battle.  

On November 19, 1967, during the Battle of Dak To Chaplain (Father) Charles Joseph Watters, was killed while helping the wounded.  Father Watters was on his 2nd tour in Vietnam.  He volunteered to accompany the unit in battle even though he wasn't required to.  He felt the soldiers in the field needed him.

During operation New Life (21 November - 17 December 1965) in the  La Nga River Valley the Brigade introduced the idea of small long-range reconnaissance patrols (LRRPs - pronounced Lurps) for the first time.

On February 22, 1967, the Sky Soldiers participated in the only combat jump of the war in Operation Junction City.

I was assigned to the Brigade post office in May, 1969.

The 173rd was the first army unit since the American Revolution to spend six years in combat.   In 1971 the Brigade was withdrawn from Vietnam and redeployed to Fort Campbell, Ky., where it was subsequently deactivated  

 During more than six years of continuous combat, the brigade earned 14 campaign streamers and four unit citations. Sky Soldiers serving in Vietnam received 13 Medals of Honor, 46 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1736 Silver Stars and over 6,000 Purple Hearts. There are over 1,790 Sky Soldiers' names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Calamity" Clinton to Blame for Benghazi Massacre

The Republicans are once again investigating how al Qaeda won a major victory by destroying the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and killing American Ambassador Chris Stevens. 
Hopefully, this time they will abandon conspiracy theories and consider the possibility that American stupidity allowed the massacre to occur. 

Most people familiar with al Qaeda realized that the organization would likely attempt to attack American interests on or near the anniversary of their successful attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.    The CIA shouldn't have needed to use torture to recognize that the extremely unstable situation in Libya made it a likely target,  particularly with the American Ambassador isolated in Benghazi.

Benghazi wasn't the first successful attack on an American diplomatic facility so the attack shouldn't have come as a surprise to members of the Obama administration, especially Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton.  The Johnson administration couldn't have been expected to anticipate the attack on the American embassy in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive because the military underestimated the capabilities of the Viet Cong.   The Carter administration couldn't have anticipated the the mob attack and takeover of the American embassy in Tehran because the CIA underestimated the negative attitudes the Iranian  people had toward the deposed Shah of Iran and the toward the United States for supporting him.   Hillary's husband President Bill Clinton couldn't have been expected to anticipate the bombing of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that introduced Americans to al Qaeda.

In early September, 2012, Secretary of State Clinton should have known that al Qaeda was likely to do something on 9/11.  She knew that al Qaeda had previously attacked American embassies and that a Muslim anti-American demonstration in Iran had been used to take over the embassy in Tehran.   She should have recognized that al Qaeda would be likely to want to kill a high American official as revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden.     

She should have been able to figure out that the best way to protect American diplomats in Libya would have been to have them travel to Europe for some type of conference, such as had been done before.   Such an action wouldn't have prevented an attack on American facilities in Libya, but it would have made an attack nearly meaningless.   She should have at least gotten the Ambassador out of the country to deny al Qaeda the opportunity for a revenge killing.

Republicans who blame  the size of the security force for the fall  of the Benghazi consulate fail to consider that a successful defense might have required at least a military company sized unit [about 100] and that a successful defense would have produced sufficient casualties to cause a backlash against the American presence. 

The Obama administration had been claiming a significant victory each time it killed a high al Qaeda official.  Al Qaeda's killing of the American Ambassador to Libya gave it a major victory and demonstrated that violence could be used successfully against the United States.  

The British had enough sense to leave Benghazi before the fateful attack.  The stupid Americans failed to recognize that the foolish decision to overthrow the former Libyan government without setting up a replacement had given al Qaeda a green light to attack American interests in Libya.

Clinton and President Barack Obama were so clueless about what happened that months after the attack they still acted like they thought the video al Qaeda distributed to incite the riot had just magically appeared. 

Hillary Clinton has been an ongoing calamity  for the Democratic Party.  Her involvement with a corrupt savings and loan nearly cost her husband Bill the 1992 presidential election.  The health care program she designed with the health care industry helped Republicans take control of Congress.   The fall of Benghazi could have helped Mitt Romney win the 2012 presidential election if he had known how to use it. 

I realize that Clinton's apparent memory problem in the earlier hearings could indicate she is in the early stages of Alzheimer's or some other degenerative condition.  However, her continued involvement in politics means she does not deserve special treatment based on such a condition.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Racist Kentucky Judge Needs New Career ASAP

Racist Kentucky Judge Olu Stevens should be removed from office for his mistreatment of the parents of a small child who may have at least a borderline case of PTSD.

On March 21, 2013,  two armed black men [Gregory Wallace and Marquis MacAfee]
Gregory Wallace and Marquis MacAfee
broke into Jordan and Tommy Gray's home near Buechel, Ken., while their 3-year old daughter was watching SpongeBob Squarepants and robbed the couple at gunpoint.   "Two years later when Gregory Wallace was about to be sentenced, Jordan wrote in a victim impact statement that her daughter was still 'in constant fear of black men.'"  "Whenever we are running errands, if we come across a black male, she holds me tight and begs me to leave," the mother said. "It has affected her friendships at school and our relationships with African-American friends."

Judge Stevens, who is also black, ignored the fact that the child had obviously been extremely terrorized by the incident and only gave Wallace probation.

Stevens said, "I am offended. … I am deeply offended that they would be victimized by an individual and express some kind of fear of all black men."

"This little girl certainly has been victimized, and she can't help the way she feels," he said. "My exception is more with her parents and their accepting that kind of mentality and fostering those type of stereotypes."

As a Vietnam Vet, I quickly recognized the possibility that the child was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   I don't have the professional credentials to make a definite diagnosis,  but I believe the child needs professional help even if she doesn't have a full blown case of PTSD.

Based on my studies of the southern system of injustice during the Jim Crow era,  Steven's behavior is similar to what a white judge 60 years ago might have done in a case with white criminals and black victims.

I'm not familiar with Kentucky law, but Wallace should be prosecuted for psychological child  abuse if that is possible under Kentucky law.

The judge's treatment of the parents was totally unjustified.   They are not responsible for the actions that traumatized their daughter and they lack the professional expertise necessary to deal with their daughter's trauma.

Overcoming the  psychological impact of traumatic events can be difficult enough for adults, such as some of my fellow Vietnam vets.   It is harder for children who don't have the ability to understand the way adults do.

The article doesn't say if the child consciously remembers what happened that night.   It's possible the only thing she  remembers is that men with dark complexions did something very bad in her home.  She fears black men because of what black men did to her family not because of something her parents said.   It is  common for memories of traumatic events to be triggered by an object (living or dead), a sound or even a smell.  

Incidentally, the double meaning of ASAP is intended.  The judge who is "a sap" should be removed "As Soon As Possible".   

Congress Should Preempt Marriage Issue

For too long the U.S. Supreme Court has gotten away with claiming that it has some special power to interpret the Constitution.   In Marbury v. Madison the only authority Chief Justice John Marshall could find to allow the Court to rule an act of Congress unconstitutional was the oath the justices take to defend he Constitution.

Members of Congress take the same oath and thus collectively have the same authority to interpret the Constitution.   All Congress  needs to do to express an opinion on the Constitution is for each house to vote to adopt  a joint resolution on the subject. 

Republicans  should seriously consider passing a resolution stating that the judicial branch has no authority to tell the states how they can define marriage.  The issue involves a social policy that the courts have no authority to impose their own opinions on.  The resolution would indicate that states do not have to obey "unconstitutional" court orders on this subject.  Adopting such a resolution now might cause the Court to recognize it has on authority on the issue.

Presidential approval is only needed on measures that prohibit or require some action.  A resolution expressing Congressional opinion about the Constitution doesn't require presidential action. 

14th Amendment:  "Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."  This section means that Congress has superior authority to determine what the amendment requires.   Members of Congress get their authority directly from the people.  Federal judges do not.

If we are to call ourselves a democracy, the people must be able to control social policy and define social institutions.   They cannot do so if autocratic judges are allowed to impose their personal opinions such as the Supreme Court did in Plessy v. Ferguson when the justices told states that they could pretend to obey the 14th Amendment by calling separate public facilities "equal".   The people through Congress and state legislatures had said that states had to guarantee "equal protection of the  laws" not "separate but equal protection of the laws".   The Court waited 60 years before it corrected its mistake.

The issue isn't whether or not homosexuals can marry, but what the definition of marriage is.   States allow homosexuals to marry members of the opposite sex.  For example, homosexual actor Rock Hudson was married to Phyllis Gates. 
Marriage is a biological activity related to human reproduction in which a male and female form a relatively permanent union for the purpose of producing children.    Marriage predated governments.   Governments have traditionally regulated marriage largely to help protect the process of adding new members to the society.   For example,  some regulations attempt to insure that fathers provide for their children.   It is common for governments to  prohibit marriage between close genetic relatives to reduce the possibility of children born with genetic defects. 

Some states have decided to humor homosexuals who want to pretend they are normal heterosexuals by allowing them to pretend that a relationship with another person of the same sex is like a marriage.  Failure to go along with this fantasy is not discrimination against homosexuals.   States have no obligation to support such therapy by going along with fantasies.

Providing special benefits for belonging to a couple, such as greater pay or fringe benefits,  discriminates against single people.  Special benefits to heterosexual couples can be justified because such couples can produce new members for society. Two males or two females cannot do so.  

States could allow limited privileges  to those couples [any two adults including close genetic relatives] forming civil  unions, such as joint ownership of financial assets, without being discriminatory  because such an arrangement would be the equivalent of a business partnership and would not give the members of the couple anything of value.

If we are to continue to call ourselves a democracy we must be able to determine the nature of social institutions through a direct vote or through the actions of  our elected representatives.  Allowing judges who never have to face the voters to define social institutions is inconsistent with democratic government.  Only Congress whose members are chosen by the people has the authority to impose a uniform definition of marriage on the states.  Perhaps the time has come for Congress to do just that.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The United States Is Not a Democracy

"Power is the great evil with which we are contending. We have divided power between three branches of government and erected checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. 
However, where is the check on the power of the judiciary? If we fail to check the power of the judiciary, I predict that we will eventually live under judicial tyranny." -- Patrick Henry

Americans are now living under judicial tyranny as one of our greatest patriots Patrick Henry predicted.   For those who have forgotten Henry, he is the man who said "give me liberty or give me death."

The judiciary's subversion of the Constitution was already recognized by Declaration of Independence author and third President Thomas Jefferson on Oct. 31, 1823 when he wrote the following to Monsieur A. Coray: "At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account."   

In a democracy the people either vote directly on the nature of social institutions or choose those who make such decisions rather than having those decisions made by autocrats who never have to face the voters.    There is no legitimate reason to allow judges or other  non-elected officials to make decisions about social issues.  

The political hacks who serve as federal judges have no special qualifications for making social decisions.   They are chosen for their political loyalty to a president or his party rather than their intelligence.  There is no legitimate reason to allow them to impose their views on social issues on the people.

As President Thomas Jefferson said:  "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." \

Contrary to a long standing myth, the U.S. Supreme Court has no special exclusive authority to interpret the Constitution.   When Chief Justice John Marshall claimed the Supreme Court could  rule an act of Congress unconstitutional in Marbury v.Madison  the only authorization he could find was the oath he and the other justices took to support and defend the Constitution.  The President, members of Congress and state leaders take the same oath and thus have the requirement to support and defend the Constitution. They thus have the same authority to decide what actions are consistent with the Constitution.     

Although officials subordinate to the President, members of Congress and the Supreme Court take the same oath they lack authority to act independently of the officials whose powers are defined by the Constitution.   In particular, the federal courts created by Congress cannot rule on the constitutionality of acts of Congress.  The inferior courts can only delay enforcement of questioned  laws pending a review by the Supreme Court.  Allowing inferior courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws would  make them more  powerful than Congress and equal in power to the Supreme Court which is supposed to be the most powerful court. 

If the United States is to provide equal justice under the law, then federal law must be the same in Arctic City, Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii. Key West,Florida, and Portland,Maine.  The current practice of allowing inferior  federal courts to interpret laws or rule them unconstitutional divides the country into separate judicial provinces or colonies each with its own autocratic judicial rulers.   In general, the inferior courts can have no authority to rule state laws or practices unconstitutional, or otherwise illegal, unless the Supreme Court or Congress has determined those laws or practices invalid.  The only potential exception would be laws or practices that involve the operation of state courts or law enforcement agencies.     

Article IV of the Constitution requires the United States government to guarantee the states a republican form of government.  A republic is a form of government in which the people determine social policies directly or through their elected officials.   Federal judges who attempt to impose their social views on the states are violating their oath to support and defend the Constitution.  Congress would be justified in impeaching judges who attempt to deprive citizens of their right to determine social policy.    Only the elected members of Congress can impose uniform social policies on the states.

After the Civil War  Congress proposed that the states add the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to guarantee the recently freed slaves equal treatment.  In 1896, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Plessy v.Ferguson   told the states they could ignore the intent of Congress by pretending to treat blacks separate but equal manner.   The Court refused to admit its mistake until 1954 when it overturned the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.   

Some autocratic federal judges are currently violating the Constitution by usurping the people's right to decide the co-called "same-sex marriage" social issue.   The issue does not represent a real legal controversy.