Some blogs are more enjoyable to write than others. I really like writing about the people of Luga and my interactions with them. I’ve also gotten a lot of positive feedback from readers who enjoy those the most, so that makes it even better. I also like writing blogs which focus on questions readers have about life here in small town Russia. I guess these are also my favorite blogs because they usually involve positive interactions. The ones I’ve done on politics get some positive feedback, but they also get the negative as well. That is the nature of politics. Yet, given recent international events that are all over the news, I thought I needed to give one perspective from here. It is the first time Russians have actually asked me with a negative tone about the political situation in America.
Another factor is the impact these events have had on me. In my blog I’ve written several times about the reasons for our move to Russia. There were personal factors, e.g., I am an older father of two small children. I wanted to spend more time with them. Some reasons were philosophical or religious. I worried about what kind of education and socialization those two children would receive in America now that traditional morality has been exchanged for new ways of defining gender, sexual expression, and even the concept of truth itself. Further, there were financial concerns. Despite making well above the listed median income in America, we continued to struggle financially, especially with medical bills. I have discussed other factors along the way, but this blog entry aims toward understanding the results, not the cause, of our move. How has living here changed me? It is the toughest one I have written for reasons that I think will become clear.
The main result of recent events and my research and reflection on them is it made clearer than ever the sense of alienation I have toward my home country. We’ve been back in Russia for over three and a half years, but I in no way think of myself as Russian. I have never hesitated to let people know I am American. I study the Russian language, read the history, try to stay familiar with Russian politics. I also love the food and climate. Some Russian friends tell me I am “russified.” I guess I am to some degree, but I am not Russian. Now, however, I wonder in what sense I am still American.
I guess the good news is that the lead news reports have finally moved away from Russia. We moved here June 7, 2016 and “Russia, Russia, Russia” has been one of the stories, frequently the top story, on all the news feeds seemingly every day. I would groan at the lies I heard about what the Mueller report was going to show regarding the “Russian collusion,” but was gratified that the final report found nothing. Still, the networks and some politicians continue pretending that there was interference, collusion or at least some form of Russian malfeasance. The IG report, however, has caused some, e.g., James Comey, to back down a bit–although in a hypocritical and still arrogant manner. When John Durham announced his inquiry was being changed to a criminal investigation, things got even more quiet on the Russian collusion front. Yet, in the last couple of months stories have emerged that have hardly fueled my optimism. Here they are.
OPCW FRAUD. In my last blog I mentioned the fact that we last bombed Syria because Bashar al-Assad had supposedly (again) gassed his own people. I said the story was untrue, but no main stream media outlets were going to report that. I was wrong. Ironically, the day after I posted that blog I saw a report by Tucker Carlson that Wikileaks had released e-mails demonstrating the falsity of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons’ report. The e-mails showed that the findings of the OPCW team who had gone to Syria to investigate were altered and evidence indicating a chemical attack had not occurred was deleted. The folks at the OPCW who were higher up the food chain wanted to make it appear certain that an attack had occurred. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojItF6MGL-0&list=FLTWw7o6lq9KT2xzmvJt79_g&index=2&fbclid=IwAR0imuml4I4hXnGLsykcwJ2A79aRT3MJyL-H0_APAMkfOTZPNPXBPWRuH8c.
The U.S. has long wanted to do regime change in Syria. The line put forward is “Assad is such an evil guy he gasses his own people. The people of Syria hate him, but they live in fear of saying that.” I have stated on a number of occasions I have read and watched reports out of Syria showing the truth is actually the opposite. I have mentioned an independent researcher, Janice Kortkamp in several blogs. She has spent a lot of time in Syria, and has done a ton of research on Syria—unlike the reporters and politicians who appear on the MSM for American television. I trust her.
As best I can tell from polls Assad has about an 80% approval rating among the people. He is Muslim, but neither Sunni nor Shia, and he believes in religious freedom. I have gotten feeds from Christian organizations, especially Orthodox, who have been pleading with America to leave Assad alone. He is their protector. I have seen a number of videos with Assad and his wife visiting Christian monasteries and churches. Just this past week Putin met with Assad in Damascus, and on Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7) they attended a liturgy together. I know what the cynics will say: They are two evil men who are using religion to play politics. The truth is one would NEVER see any Sunni or Shia leader in a Christian Church to gain popularity. Attending a Christian liturgy is NOT the way Muslims win support in most Muslim countries. Syria is obviously different. As for Putin, I’ve given up trying to change the minds of those who know little about him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bETazEjALhw. The Syrian Christian leaders feel quite comfortable having Assad in their church. I trust them more than I do our political leaders who have a commitment to war that runs deeper than any religious affections.
THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS. On December 9, 2019 The Washington Post published an article on what they called, “The Afghanistan Papers.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/ The article was based on research done by John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Sopko and his team began work in 2014 and worked until 2017. It took The Post 3 years of legal battles to get their article on the report published. Freedom of the Press is an ideal for some Americans, but in truth many in D.C. believe it means the freedom to report what we think the American people should know. They fought hard against this article.
The information from Sopko’s research is based on 2,000 pages of notes on interviews done with U.S. generals, diplomats, and other officials involved with our Afghan war effort—the longest war effort in American history. Obviously, I will need to summarize the major findings of the report. The main conclusions are not all the complicated, however. Remember, they concluded their work in 2017, so people are still dying and more money is still being spent in 2020.
1 There were about 2,300 American military personnel who died. Another 20,000 were injured.
2 The U.S. spent approximately one trillion dollars on the effort. Noted from interviews were these oddities: a) Salaries were paid to thousands of “ghost soldiers,” whose identities and locations could not be verified. b) Half a billion dollars was wasted on second hand aircraft that simply did not function acceptably. c) Twenty-eight million dollars was spent on uniforms that had the wrong camouflage for Afghanistan.
3 In the course of interviews with Gen. Douglas Lute, who was the “Afghanistan Czar” under Presidents Bush and Obama, he stated, “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan…We didn’t know what we were doing.” This was from the general in charge of military operations.
Here is a short video (10:42) summarizing the results and questions with two “academics” who have studied the report and the war. I would like to call attention to the first two and a half minutes of this video especially. Note how Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump ALL lament the failure of Afghanistan and promise to end it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp-zFxOE_14&fbclid=IwAR0k_-g7efC1YPdodZJUTwFp6KVW_faW-I6Ep5y_bsahevxJORl09-P_rz4. The personalities and political leanings of these three men are quite different, yet all three clearly stated the failure of our military efforts in Afghanistan. And after 18 years, we’re still there.
The last two commanders of our troops there have stated the mission is still unclear. What would “success” look like? No one seems sure—even the men and women in charge. I hear, “We’re fighting terrorists!” Really, which ones? Those who are there seem unclear about that. As a veteran I get on different feeds from sites on FB and other social media. Please listen to those who are there! They tell us it does not matter if we leave in 10 days or 10 years. The situation will not change. Stop listening to American politicians and listen to our troops. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6c6ADB6CwI
As I completed my “research” on Afghanistan, what I found most disconcerting was the fact The Washington Post report received very little attention. Many Americans didn’t even hear of it. The country was immersed in the House impeachment inquiry over President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. No one died as a result of that phone call, by the way. I felt significantly less American as I reflected on that point.
THE ASSASSINATION OF QASEM SOLEIMANI. Obviously the big story now is the assassination of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. The missiles were fired by a drone outside the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq. The kill was a direct order from President Donald Trump. Trump has openly said he ordered it. That is not under dispute.
Iraqi Prime Minster Abdul-Mahdi said Soleimani was arriving in Iraq from Lebanon. Abdul-Mahdi was working on negotiations between Iran, which is predominantly Shia, and Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni. His Iranian contact was Soleimani, who was a very influential leader in Iran. He was obviously more than a military leader. Abdul-Mahdi said he had received positive messages from the Saudis and had invited Soleimani to Iraq to discuss further negotiations. He also stated he had talked with President Trump by phone about how well the negotiations were going. He said President Trump thanked him for his efforts.
Then the Americans killed Soleimani and nine other individuals involved in security and diplomacy. Abdul-Mahdi has had a good relationship with the Americans, but he was extremely upset at the fact a leader he had invited to his country, with the full knowledge of the American president, was killed in cold blood by the Americans. The Iraqi parliament voted to tell America their troops must leave Iraq. PM Abdul-Mahdi agreed, and the request was sent. America still is deciding whether to obey international law or not.
The explanation for the murder was that Soleimani was responsible for the deaths and injuries of Americans and was planning more. The past deaths of the Americans was apparently in reference to his “proxy” efforts during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I had and still have my doubts about that, but I can’t say for sure about Soleimani’s actions. He was, according to the Americans who knew him at the time, very anti-Sunni. His goal was for Iraq to come under Shia control. He was not particularly concerned about Americans. We sent those Americans who died to Iraq based on a lie. Candidate Donald Trump seems very angry about our lies in this video of his debate exchange with Jeb Bush. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4ThZcq1oJQ&fbclid=IwAR0PWg4hSTBzE4AYVG4wctnRjkyROhWIrLUt4JZtyiGULAp_-EuhdOvP0iQ What happened to that anger? What happened to his claim he got along with everyone?
The Americans invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003. By May 1 President George Bush gave what was essentially a premature victory speech with the “Mission Accomplished” banner waving in the background. Most of the fighting had been in the north between the Americans and the Sunni led Iraqi fighters. It seems no one can say for sure whether Soleimani’s proxy troops were in the north or whether at any time he had given orders for the deaths of Americans. There are obviously those who claim that, but the man I trust more than any others on knowledge of Iraq and Soleimani himself is my fellow South Carolinian Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who declares it CERTAINLY was not the case that Soleimani did so. Wilkerson speaks from extensive personal knowledge of Iran and Soleimani. He also made it clear in a recent interview he does not believe anything the U.S. Government is saying about the event.
I will warn my easily offended readers that Wilkerson, while a Republican, is not afraid of calling out the lies he hears from D.C. Wilkerson was Chief of Staff under Secretary of State Colin Powell during the Bush administration. Powell is perhaps best known for his false testimony to the U.N. Security council that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After we invaded Iraq it was clear there were no WMD. Powell later wrote in his book that his testimony would always be a “blot” on his record. He blamed false intelligence reports for his testimony. In the following video a tape of his testimony precedes the interview with Col. Wilkerson. Note how emphatic Powell’s claims are about the presence of the WMD. We had eyewitnesses that saw them, he testified. Col. Wilkerson would later say he also believed the false reports, but never tried to excuse himself from blame. https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/6/lawrence_wilkerson_iraq_iran
So was Soleimani responsible for those deaths of Americans? The government says yes, but there are other responsible voices that say no. Regardless, anywhere between 405,000 to almost one million Iraqi civilians lost their lives because of our invasion that was based on lies—either by Powell or by others working in American intelligence. But we killed Soleimani for his questionable role in the deaths of Americans. And now I see all these posts about “Americans Lives Matter” in support of his murder. What about Iraqi lives?
I have stated many times that I am an Orthodox Christian with a Protestant background. What I find especially disturbing is the posts from Christians who seem to think American lives matter more to God than those of other nations where we have killed thousands based on lies. There is no sense of even needing to apologize. I guess that seems weak and un-American. One pastor I know sent a circular video to me of a man speaking Arabic who is suddenly blown up. Then Trump appears on screen with a taunting “bye-bye.” The pastor included a profane, “LMFAO.” The deaths of Iraqis or Iranians is funny to some I guess. It’s American lives that matter.
The other justification for the assassination of Soleimani was that he was planning on killing more Americans. Col. Wilkerson and others are not convinced to say the least. But I have no sure way of knowing. The U.S. refuses to release the evidence it has that Soleimani was going to kill Americans. At a January 3, 2020 State Department press briefing a reporter asked the State Department spokesman for the evidence they have that Soleimani was going to kill Americans. His angry response was, “Jesus! Do we have to explain why we do these things!?” End of conversation. Essentially, the U.S. Government tells us to trust them. Apparently, they think most Americans do.
I admit over time I have learned not to trust my government. I’ll explain. First, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, I served in the United States Marine Corps and was on active duty from March 15, 1973-June 14, 1976. The war in Vietnam was from February 28, 1961-May 07, 1975. I was told I would be going to Vietnam after my MOS training. For some reason, I was never sent.
The country singer Brad Paisley has a song, “If I Could Write a Letter to Me.” It is a fantasy about his older self wanting to write a letter to his younger self. In the photo above you see me not long before I finished my recruit training at Parris Island, S.C. I was ready to take on the world. If I could write that young Marine I’d tell him to get out any way he could. The people of America were told we could whip North Vietnam easily. Look at the map! We’re huge compared to them. So we went and we stayed…and we stayed. We didn’t whip them. As the video I posted above said, Nixon gave us a “fig leaf” by saying we were pulling out just so we could turn things over to the local government. The truth is we couldn’t figure out a way to win. I would warn that young Marine of how he was going to feel when he learned in 1975 that the deaths and injuries to so many of his fellow Marines meant nothing.
I would also tell him the people at the top of his chain of command cared nothing for his life. That young Marine in the photo wanted to go. He was willing to die for his country. In fact, if that young stubborn Marine wrote me back I think he’d tell me he was staying. The motto was, “Ours is not to reason why…but simply to do or die.” Those dead Marines meant a lot to the people of America; they meant nothing to politicians who made money off the war.
The truth is we lost the war. A lot of American military personnel died and many more were injured. There is no way to estimate the number of innocent Vietnamese who lost their lives—at times at the hands of the Americans. We killed a lot of innocent people. That I know. The war changed nothing. South Vietnam eventually gave up to the North. Over time, the nation healed. It is Communist now, but the economy is much better than it was during the war. So my lack of trust in our government started in retrospect as I looked back on the experiences.
We went into Afghanistan with the same promise of a quick resolution. We are the most powerful military in the WORLD! Of course, we will defeat those terrorists. It’s been over 18 years and we keep hearing every president say that same thing: “Just a little longer…we’re almost there.” In the meantime, we learn our generals have had no clue about what kind of country they are in or what “victory” would look like. More U.S. military die. Way more innocent civilians die. We don’t know how to win.
Nevertheless, Donald Trump assures us we have the most powerful military in the world and if a battle with Iran results, it will be over fast. I’ve seen the FB posts. People believe we’ll crush them. First, Iran is not Iraq. It’s much bigger and much more powerful. And it controls 25% of the oil the planet produces. Think about how American will handle a strangled economy. Second, what war have we won lately? We didn’t win Korea; we didn’t win Vietnam; we are not winning in Afghanistan. How many deaths does it take?
I live in Russia. I have seen lies from our media and our politicians since I’ve been here. I don’t have to compare reports. I know when they are lying because I live here, I have friends here, and trusting “these people” in America is beyond my reach. I do not understand why President Donald Trump trusts advisers who have never supported him and intelligence agencies who have worked against his presidency. Maybe he thinks he’ll appease them somehow. The wars of my lifetimes have been Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They were all based on lies in one form or another.
I checked my news feed this morning. A clear majority of talking heads were saying what a great decision it has been to risk war in order to kill this evil man. We killed Osama bin Laden; we killed Saddam Hussein; we killed Muammar Gaddafi. Now we’ve killed Qaesem Soleimani. Gosh, at least we had all heard of the first three. How many Americans had heard of Soleimani before he died? And what was accomplished by the deaths of the other three evil men? Has the situation in the Middle East improved? Is our nation more secure? We released the dogs on Libya’s leader Gaddafi in 2011. They sodomized him with a sword and then killed him. Hillary Clinton giggled about it. A year later they sodomized and killed Christopher Stephens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. I’m quite sure he did not die thinking how secure we’d made things for Americans. I am not arguing those men weren’t evil. I am asking what place on earth is not an existential crisis for America. How many evil men do we have to kill to make the world right? And have we made it right thus far by our killing? Have we held the American intelligence experts responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens?
I looked at the business news quickly after the assassination. The price of oil went up. Bad for America, but good for Russia. The stocks went down. Well, except for the companies that produce military weaponry. They went way up. Do you really think that is a coincidence?
In his first public appearance after the assassination of Soleimani, President Trump told an audience of Florida Evangelicals that, “God is on our side.” My old mind keeps going back to the other wars—when God was on our side…
“Oh my name it ain’t nothin’ My age it means less
The country I come from is called the Midwest
I was taught and brought up there The laws to abide
And that land that I live in Has God on its side
Oh, the history books tell it They tell it so well
The cavalries charged The Indians fell
The cavalries charged The Indians died
Oh, the country was young With God on its side
The Spanish-American War had its day
And the Civil War, too Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes I was made to memorize
With guns in their hands And God on their side
The First World War, boys It came and it went
The reason for fighting I never did get
But I learned to accept it Accept it with pride
For you don’t count the dead When God’s on your side
The Second World War Came to an end
We forgave the Germans And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million In the ovens they fried
The Germans now, too Have God on their side
I’ve learned to hate the Russians All through my whole life
If another war comes it’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely With God on my side
But now we got weapons of chemical dust
If fire them, we’re forced to Then fire them we must
One push of the button And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions When God’s on your side
Through many a dark hour I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ was Betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot Had God on his side.
So now as I’m leavin’ I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’ Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head And fall to the floor
That if God’s on our side He’ll stop the next war…” (Bob Dylan)