Tag Archives: war

Here’s how to deal with Syria

As Congress deliberates President Obama’s proposed military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, I keep seeing the same counterarguments on Facebook and Twitter. It’s always something like, “Hey President Obama, let’s stop spending so much on foreign wars; let’s start spending more money at home, on infrastructure, on healthcare, on education.” And while I’m no hippie peacenik, I’ve got to admit, the school system here sucks.

syria conflict map

So let’s send them to Syria. Two birds, one stone. Right, I know, Obama’s only calling for limited military action, with both houses of Congress explicitly prohibiting American troops from engaging in the civil war. But come on, that’s how Dwight Eisenhower got the whole Vietnam War thing started: US military advice led to the draft led to that whole boring scene in Forrest Gump where he’s running through the jungle taking care of Lieutenant Dan.

I’m off topic. Send US students to Syria. After all, the real world is the best classroom. You can’t learn street smarts in school. These kids are going to get hands-on, real life experience, far superior than anything they might learn out of a dumb textbook recited from the podium by some overpaid union teacher. They’ll get to see another part of the world, maybe learn a different language.

The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well what if it is broke? The liberals are always quick to point out the inefficiency of our school system, how we’re lagging behind almost every other developed country, with even some of the poorer ones starting to catch up. What’s the answer, to fix our broken school system? I don’t think so. It’s like when the engine finally went on my car, the mechanic was like, this would be crazy to fix. Just buy a new car.

So let’s buy a new education system. And when I say buy a new education system, I’m talking about enlisting our kids in the military and sending them over to Syria. I saw The Hurt Locker. I know what all of the adult soldiers are up to in their spare time, drinking, punching each other in the stomachs. If all of the soldiers were little kids, there wouldn’t be any down time. We could get all of that formal education reading-and-writing type stuff taken care of when they’re not out patrolling the streets.

But is it safe to have young students moonlighting as frontline infantry? I say, yes, because think about it, imagine you’re one of these Syrian soldiers, or you’re a Syrian sectarian, or a Syrian religious fundamentalist, or maybe you’re a rebel, but you’re taking heavy gunfire, and even though the US is on your side, you’re scared out of your mind, and so you lock and load, ready to pull the trigger on whatever crosses your line of sight. If that’s a regular soldier in the wrong place at the wrong time, well it’s not looking good for either party. But if it’s a little kid dressed up in an army uniform? I can’t think of anything more unexpected, giving everybody a moment of hesitation, just enough time for the Syrian to lower his weapon.

And that’s when we’d open fire, just when the enemy has his guard down, that’s how we’d take everybody by surprise. Kids are so good at video games. I used to love playing XBOX, I’d throw in Call of Duty and sit back to enjoy some online Team Deathmatch. But after a while I’d always give up, throw down my controller in defeat. Why? Because all of those kids were constantly pwning my ass. These little shits are natural killers. If there were just some way that we could program actual guns to operate like XBOX controllers, almost like Ender’s Game, I’m sure we could make the whole Syria thing a really limited engagement, five years, tops, just enough time for everybody to get in, get out, and get back home in time for senior prom.

Why not? We send all of these able bodied adults overseas, they come back home all messed up in the head, and after a few years we’ve got vets living in streets, broken men and women unable to piece their lives back together. I’ll be walking to work and I’ll see some disheveled middle-aged man wearing his army fatigues, begging for change. I feel bad for him, guilty even, I can see his embodiment of living despair, paid for by us as the cost for our freedom. But replace him with an eighteen-year-old kid, I wouldn’t have any guilt at all. I’d be like, come on dude, you’re young, get up off your ass and get back to work.

Let’s do it. Let’s fix the US education system while simultaneously fixing a two-year old sectarian civil war in Syria. If you think about it, the two problems are practically interchangeable. Here’s a sensible solution that deals with both problems without having to worry about diverting too much money to one resource in favor of another. Let’s send our kids to Syria.

Originally published on HonestBlue.com

Hey Donald Rumsfeld, you’re an asshole

Four or five years ago, I was riding my bike home from work one afternoon when I ran into former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. At the time, I was waiting tables at this restaurant on East 60th Street in New York. As a bike commuter, I had to do this weird loop few blocks out of my way to make it to the bicycle entrance for the Queensboro Bridge. It was annoying, because the restaurant was only like one block away. But it was against traffic, and at around five or so in the afternoon, trying to swim upstream like that is suicidal.

And so I was heading north on Third Avenue when I saw him, Donald Rumsfeld. It was definitely Donald Rumsfeld. It had to be. It was maybe a month or so after he left the Bush administration, right around when Dick Cheney was talking about how he was the greatest Secretary of Defense that had ever lived.


You think about the George W. Bush presidency, and again, I don’t want to get too political here, but those are the years that I came of age. I was a junior in high school when W got elected, I was a senior during 9/11, and I remember it was in the middle of our spring break during my freshman year of college when the President got on TV and gave Saddam Hussein that twenty-four hour ultimatum.

I had no idea what was going on back then. I didn’t read any papers or watch the news. But I remember seeing that speech and watching people’s reactions to Operation Iraqi Freedom. There were a few dissenting opinions here and there, but mostly it was stuff like, yeah, let’s get them. Let’s get those assholes. Nobody fucks with us. Stuff like that. Remember, it was like a year after 9/11. I still remembered being that senior in high school and watching the Vice President on TV telling us that it wasn’t a matter of if there’d be another attack, but when. So this stuff, to me anyway, it wasn’t anything that I thought of as being outside the realms of how the world was supposed to operate.

And then throughout the course of college, I started keeping up with current events. We weren’t out of Iraq in six months. I thought for sure, I just knew it, that Kerry was going to win the 2004 election. He didn’t. We’d be in Iraq for a while. I graduated college. I started watching documentaries about the Iraq war and what was happening overseas, why we were doing what we were doing.

A big moment that I’ll remember, something that, I hate to say cemented, because I want to have this idea of myself as being open to change, but something was firmly planted in my mind when Saddam Hussein was captured, when we handed him over to the new Iraqi government, and he was executed. Someone present at the event managed to record the act via cellphone, and for a whole weekend in February, this grainy footage was playing on repeat over every news channel.

I remember thinking, this is the culmination of American justice? This is why we went in there, we insisted that this guy get out, all so we could hand him over to his own political enemies for a good old fashioned hanging? A hanging, with a noose. It’s medieval. And we enabled that. We went over there and this big result was a hanging. It was crazy.

And throughout everything, as things got bad, then better, then bad again, as civilians got massacred, as it came to light that the administration had all but lied to the world regarding the justification of the invasion, everybody in charge, all of the real key players, every weekend they’d run around to all of these interview shows and double down on their arrogance. Even now, these idiots are still parading around the country, giving lame speeches in a pathetic attempt to defend their actions, belittling their opponents as they try to carve out a legacy that doesn’t involve the words war criminals.

Toward the end of his presidency, even Bush knew that he’d given too much power to the wrong group of people. It was too little, too late, unfortunately, but Rumsfeld resigned in disgrace, Alberto Gonzalez as well. Even Cheney’s grip on executive authority was curtailed significantly, leaving relations between the former President and his VP strained to this day. But in thinking about everything that went down, all of the lives lost and reputation squandered, yeah, these guys might have lost their jobs, but they got off easy. They’re still greeted as champions by certain sectors of the political spectrum. Their agenda, their worldview, while maybe it’s in remission, it’s hardly been defeated. It’s all a waiting game, they just bide their time utnil another like-minded President is elected, the right environment to carry out their goals. To borrow from a popular TV show, all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

But back to me, riding my bike on Third Avenue, it was definitely Donald Rumsfeld. He was at the head of his pack, surrounded by an entourage of old men in suits. I was going pretty fast, but I knew that this was a unique encounter, for me anyway. I wanted to say something. But what? I couldn’t think of anything, so I wound up shouting, “Hey Donald Rumsfeld!” and he kind of looked up, that Rumsfeld scowl, and I yelled, “You’re an asshole!” and that was it. I turned onto East 62nd, made the right onto Second Avenue, and I was over the bridge pedaling away back home.

Every once in a while I’ll think about what went down. It was a very minor interaction that I’m sure I’ve unconsciously embellished in my head over the years. Like, did he really look up at me? Was I really yelling in as strong a voice as I think I was? And I was so certain that it was him at the time, but thinking about it from four year’s distance, what was he doing over by that part of the city? Why was he in New York? Was it really him?

I’m sure it was him. And I’m pretty sure that, even though I didn’t really have anything to say, I think I said exactly what I should have said. Because seriously, what hasn’t this guy heard before? He goes to Washington, he sits at the head of whatever think-tanks and conferences, and he probably hears arguments from both side of the coin, from people more educated and up-to-date with what’s going on than I could ever hope to be. What was I going to do, stop my bike and get into a policy argument with the former Secretary of Defense?

No, a guy like Rumsfeld, I felt that it was important for him to be faced with his legacy as it is, not as how he and his buddies planned it out before they ever sent the first troops overseas. And maybe he can dismiss opposing arguments from the highest levels of government officials. Maybe he can listen to professional journalists and analysts rebuke his decisions and dismiss everything as something fundamentally flawed.

And probably, my comment didn’t register at all. I’m nobody. I’m some dude on a bike screaming out an insult. Maybe he didn’t even hear me. But that was my moment. For just a second, I had this guy’s attention, I think, and I wanted to let him know, one guy to another, hey Donald Rumsfeld, I think you’re an asshole.

I sent a friend request to Andre

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, about positivity, about being positive and staying positive and doing and thinking positive things. It’s been a journey, a real journey, deep within, I’m accessing like universal things here, about humanity, about positivity, words like oneness and the universe and consciousness. It’s a real spiritual awakening here, and so it came to me, not really like an epiphany, because it wasn’t just one thing, but a lot of epiphanies, not little epiphanies, but big epiphanies, one after the other, and so everything’s constantly changing.

And so I thought about Andre. We kept butting heads, reaching out, pulling back, ultimately it got to the point where we lost all contact with each other. Our friendship was all but destroyed, almost like it never existed in the first place. But it did exist, I think, and so as I continued deeper and deeper on my spiritual cosmic journey of universal self-discovery, I felt like there was something holding me back, preventing me from achieving that real oneness. It was Andre.

I resolved to make things right between us, to absolve the stain from our shared history, make true amends. I sent him a friend request on Facebook. I was the one who severed that digital tie months ago. We had this botched fishing trip and when I got home I removed him from my friend list that night.

But a day passed. And then another day. And Andre didn’t accept. I sent him a text message, “Yo, u get my friend request?” with no response. I tried clicking on his profile, but only very limited information was available to non-friends. So I asked our shared friends, a group that, to be honest, I’d kind of lost touch with over the past year. I really just stopped taking most phone calls from those guys. I didn’t want it to be weird, if the both of us showed up, Andre and me, ruining everybody else’s good time.

My friend Tony filled me in, told me that Andre joined the Air Force, that he left like six months ago. They had a big party, this huge send off. Was I even invited? I could feel my grip on the positivity starting to slip. “But hey,” Tony told me, “He’s coming back earlier than expected. He got wounded, and so he had to be discharged. We’re all having a huge welcome home party this Thursday. You should come. Nobody’s seen you in forever.”

I felt like a huge dick, like I’d alienated all of my friends, like I’ve been spending so much time on my positivity training that I had totally lost touch with everybody. And yeah, I wasn’t on speaking terms with Andre, but I would have come to his send off. Come on, they should have reached out; I would have been there for him.

I showed up on Thursday and everybody was huddled around this one stool by the bar. I only saw the top of Andre’s head because he was sitting down. All of these crazy thoughts went through my head, like what were the extent of Andre’s injuries? Did he have all of his limbs? Would he still recognize me?

But then he got up off the stool, like stood up by himself, and he turned around to order another drink. That’s when we made eye contact. I went up to him, I told him, “Hey man, sorry it’s been so long. I sent you a Facebook friend request.”

“Thanks man,” he said. That was it, which was good, because normally he’d say something like, “That’s big of you,” and whatever, we’ve always, or I’ve always had this who’s-the-bigger-person complex, but it’s all silly, it doesn’t matter. This guy’s a vet now, he’s totally the bigger person.

And so I threw in a, “Thanks for your service Andre,” and he kind of shrugged, “You know, just trying to do my part,” and he just sort of looked down at his shoes. “So what happened?” I asked, “Why’d you get sent home?” and he looked up and said, “My injury.” I was like, “Yeah, is it bad? Did you get wounded in a conflict?”

He shook his head, “No, I was just getting all of this back pain during training, so before we got shipped out, they sent me home.” Just then our friend Hank, he shouted out to the whole bar, “Hey let’s welcome back our good friend Andre, a real American hero!” and everybody started cheering. Andre did a casual salute to the bar and everyone went nuts.

“So,” I tried to bring him back to our conversation, “you never even really went?” “No, I went, I just, you know, I’m injured.”

“Three cheers for Andre!”

“Hip hip, hooray!”

And I felt myself drifting slightly from my spiritual center, and I was about to say something, I had that look on my face, like, are you serious? And you’re going to stand here and take this hero’s welcome? I didn’t say it, but I didn’t have to, because, like I said, I was making that kind of weird skeptical face.

“Well what about the friend request? Are you going to accept it?” and he said, “OK, sure,” and he took out his phone right there and accepted it, but when he exited the Facebook app, right before he put his phone away, I looked toward his text message notifications, and I wanted to check his messages, to see if he ignored that text message I sent him, so I said, “Do you mind if I borrow your phone for a second?” and he just said, “What? Uh, hold on, I have to go to the bathroom,” and when he came back he didn’t mention the phone thing, didn’t mention the text message.

The rest of the night went by without incident. When I got home, I went onto Facebook and Andre was back on my news feed. He wrote, “Glad to be home! Thanks everybody for coming out! War is hell!” and like three of our friends responded, stuff like, “USA! USA! USA!”