Women and Harley’s and Power and War

rftw-flag-bikesSometimes, in my more cynical moments, I think the Monday Holiday Law was enacted to make us forget the cause of the holiday. Proof, I suspect, if you needed it, that I have my full share of the traditional American distrust of the government and all its doings. It may be misplaced but, I’ve always found it a good guide.

But sometimes it backfires because it gives us more time to reflect, and this Memorial Day is one of those for me. As I mentioned last Saturday when General Logan issued the orders to the Grand Army of the Republic that instituted Decoration Day, he specified that it should be done on 30 May, and frankly moving it to 25 May is nearly too far. But there is nothing really wrong with America’s memory, and we know both what and why we celebrate it.

Bruce Catton in describing a route march of the Federal army observed that march discipline was terrible with stragglers all over the place, where men stopped for a drink and a rest and all. He also noted that when the battle lines were drawn all those stragglers were right there, and no armies ever had better battle discipline.

Not because the officers demanded it, a few thought discipline should be like the regulars, but the volunteers, with their mostly elected officers weren’t having it. He made the comment that Billy and Johnny were very much like GI Joe that he knew in the forties as well. American armies always have a sort of loose-jointed, lanky discipline. Pretty much everything important gets done, and on time, but there’s not much spit and polish in evidence.

And that is about as American as it gets, ad hoc, informal, git ‘er done. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this Memorial; Day: Rolling Thunder. What could be more American than a bunch of veterans, sick of being ignored because of the war they fought in, getting together to commemorate their comrades, and all the others, from Washington on down to those still ‘downrange’.

Stanton S. Coerr wrote movingly about it in The Federalist.

Yesterday, nearly a million sunburned Americans converged on Washington DC’s National Mall for the Rolling Thunder Run, a combination memorial event and motorcycle rally held since 1988. Hundreds of thousands were mounted, roaring one at a time along the nation’s front yard; more than half a million watched from sidewalks, ice cream in hand, yelling and cheering from the sidelines. Wives rode pillion, and flags snapped and streamed behind the bikes: the Stars and Stripes; POW/MIA flags; Navy unit crests; Marine Corps colors; Ranger flags; the yellow and black of the Airborne.

Devoted to good Detroit steel and unmuffled V-twin combustion from Harley Davidsons built in the heartland America of small-town Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Missouri, these veterans celebrate every year, in booming engines and determined presence, the American fighting man. […]

They started gathering early Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Pentagon, that building which sent them to war and their friends to early graves. Looking up from the rally point, these riders could see the Arlington gardens of white stone, thousands of acres of perfect, serried ranks where their brothers lie. Standing sentinel above those rows of crosses and Stars of David, looking out at Washington, is the house which came through the Washington family to Robert E. Lee, and which the Union took from him, its land appropriated for the graves of the Union fallen in the War Between the States.

Low and right of that house, riders could just see above the trees the American flag flying above the Iwo Jima Memorial, Joe Rosenthal’s photo come to life, commemorating the fallen of the Marine Corps’ wars. Carved into black stone on the base of that monument are the dates and wars in which Marines have fought….but only wars which are complete. Iraq and Afghanistan are absent. […]

The Harleys flowed, too. They passed monuments to America’s best moments and her worst: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History under construction, the White House, the Capitol, the National Museum of the American Indian. Black leather, black bandannas, black helmets, black motorcycles, black POW/MIA flags snapping in their breeze, they motored past the quiet white buildings of the United States: government agencies, art galleries. They passed within feet of the National Archives, engine noise thrumming in the rooms that hold the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. They passed the block-long glass of the Air and Space Museum, the busiest museum in the world, a monument to the strength and can-do know-how of Americans who conquered the skies, won our wars and put men on the moon.

All of this is America. The roads of Rolling Thunder– Independence and Constitution – are bookends to the ideals for which these men joined and fought, and for which their friends died. […]

Returning to Virginia, the bikers did what Americans do. They shut down the bikes and men, women, and engines cooled. They gathered. Some went to visit their brothers in Bobby Lee’s backyard, leaving totems atop the cool white stone: rocks and unit patches and jump wings and bottles of Jack, cards and boots and bullet casings. They turned for the cameras and left space for their brother between their knees. They put their arms on one another’s shoulders and looked at the frozen lives, carved now into the nation’s stone. And they wept.

Reads it all at: In Washington, Motorcycle-Mounted Veterans Remember Their Own

And that too strikes as so very American, veterans parading in good order and discipline without any real semblance of leadership, while the American people cheer. Jess has told us several times that in Britain the military is nearly monastic, separated from the people most of the time. Not here, the American military is the darling of the people, well, the no nonsense folks from the Heartland anyway, it’s quite rare for a soldier out here to buy his own beer. And this in a country that at it’s founding abolished the Army because of its threat to domestic tranquility.

Orwell was right you know, we sleep safe in our beds because of rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.

I spoke above of how the Civil War soldiers always showed up for battle, and here is why, then, and now, they are a band of brothers, who fight for each other, the question really is always, “Who were you with?”

What’s it all mean? Perhaps as usual Kipling put it best.

We cleansed our beards of the mutton-grease,
We lay on the mats and were filled with peace,
And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south,
With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth.
Four things greater than all things are, --
Women and Horses and Power and War.
We spake of them all, but the last the most,
For I sought a word of a Russian post,
Of a shifty promise, an unsheathed sword
And a grey-coat guard on the Helmund ford. […]
 
"Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the grey-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is grey.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!"

Although perhaps today we should substitute Harley’s for horses, since they perform much the same function, and that throbbing sound of power is also America at its best

I think General Logan would approve

Memorial Day 2015

suvcw1Headquarters Grand Army of the Republic

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of JOHN A. LOGAN, Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN, Adjutant General

Official:

WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

And so began one of America’s most solemn holidays. It nearly always featured the reading of the names of veterans departed during and after the war. It is very close in meaning to the British (and Commonwealth’s) Remembrance Day, for it too commemorates a lost generation. In 1860 the population of the United States (free and slave) was 31,443,321. Out of that population in the next five years there would be over 600,000 casualties or one out of every 52 people, and they were mostly young men.
They were nearly all volunteers, both sides had a draft but, in both cases it was ineffective and easily evaded. These were men who said what they meant and meant what they said, and proved it with their devotion to their cause. We’ve talked about them before and we shall again but, today let’s listen to some of their legacy, the music of America. This were losses on the scale of what Britain suffered in the Great War, and yet somehow we continued, carrying out our perceived mission.
As other wars happened, the losses in those wars were added to the lists, and the roll of the honored dead lengthened along with the list of faraway places with strange sounding names, which had once seen American soldiers, and their willingness to die for the cause.
And all those people also came to know one of America’s most dread but also most loved tunes, as we said goodbye to our comrades.
And so as you go about your day this Memorial Day, spare a thought and prayer for Johnny Reb and Billy Yank, those Americans who fought so hard for freedom, that they destroyed slavery as a by-product. They are also the only armies I know of that after a battle, or in camp would cheer themselves hoarse for each other.
And in a strange coincidence, today is also the Feast day of the Venerable Bede, that English monk who wrote what is still the standard history of Anglo-Saxon England and has become the patron saint of historians. In these sad days, when many denigrate the Faith of our Fathers, as well as the many virtues of our fallen soldiers, and indeed history itself. It is indeed fitting that we celebrate that these men did indeed once live and continue to inspire us.
Fort McPherson National Cemetery

Fort McPherson National Cemetery

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God
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Planetary Soldiers

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The phrase comes from Robert Leckie’s The Wars of America and has been apt since the Spanish-American War. American Forces have fought just about everywhere and in just about every climate, in defense of freedom. And so this weekend, from Fort MacPherson, Nebraska, to Manila, The Philippines, to Luxembourg, to Cambridge, England and on Robert E. Lee’s own fron lawn, free men and women will honor American soldiers who died for their freedom.

This is Memorial Day weekend when we honor those brave men (and often women as well) who gave their lives to save America, and to keep the beacon that was lighted so long ago, lit. America, the first Revolutionaries, winning our independence in war with the Greatest Empire of the Age, and keeping the torch lit down through the centuries.

On 13 December 1636 a Royal Regiment of Foot was organized in Massachusetts from the pre-existing trained bands. From that regiment once known as the North Regiment is descended the 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard.

37762_132550020116358_2738621_nThe unit carries battle honors from French and Indian Wars, American Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II, Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War.

Their honors include: Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for actions in the ARDENNES (1944), French Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star (1918), French Croix de Guerre with Palm (1945), French Fourragere (1945).

This is the oldest military unit of the United States formed only 16 years after the Mayflower and in existence for 376 years. From that day till this we have depended on our military for the defense of our liberty and they have never failed us.

Of them, General of the Army Douglass MacAurthur said this

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.

But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

General MacAurthur’s words seem a bit dated sometimes, his verbiage a bit purple for our tastes but I say the deeds they commemorate are the only justification they need. An example follows.

Peacekeepers

FVhF8GUArchbishop Cranmer yesterday shared his thoughts about the British Trident, and they’re apropos for us as Americans as well. Trident is, of course, the British submarine based nuclear deterrent force, comparable in most respects to the US Strategic Command. The British were the world’s second nuclear armed power, because of their contribution (a huge one) to the Manhattan Project, and they have, as always, been steadfast in their duty.

I doubt I’m the only one who remembers with gratitude the sight of the American strategic forces at RAF Greenham Common guarded by the RAF regiment from the Moscow inspired Greens of the CND.

But that was then and now is now. The old Soviet Union is gone, although it does seem to be stirring somewhat like a phoenix, and its nukes still exist as do China’s, Pakistan’s and North Korea’s. Nor does it lo0k improbable that Iran, and perhaps others in the Middle East will develop nuclear weapons, and some may not be as rational.

Here is some of what His Grace had to say:

Trident is the price we pay not only for peace and national security, but for the contribution Britain makes to the security of the world. Our seat on the UN Security Council is contingent on our nuclear potency, which the SNP may not care very much about, but they will if President Putin keeps making incursions into Scottish airspace.

And it’s not only Russia: there’s also North Korea, and President Obama has just gifted the eschatological ayatollahs of Iran the means of ushering in the Mahdi and wiping Israel off the map. There is denial that this deal will do anything of the sort. But an assurance that Iran will open up their nuclear programme to inspection and not make a bomb for 10-13 years is no assurance of anything at all. When you believe you have a prophetic role to play in ushering in the End Times and the Second Coming of Isa, a decade-long delay is as a few minutes in the quest to reestablish Allah’s kingdom of righteousness.

There is no ‘Christian’ approach to nuclear deterrence: Jesus would no more bless a Trident submarine than He would a fruitless fig tree. And it’s hard to square a nuclear bomb with the Just War theory on the grounds of proportionality alone, let alone the collateral incineration of civilians. There is no jus post bellum after a nuclear strike: you’re dealing with the fallout (quite literally) for decades if not centuries.

But Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ And Trident helped to establish international treaties of concord throughout the Cold War era, even if that peace was sometimes hot. How would a nuclear-free Scotland defend herself against a nuclear aggressor?

Keep reading Archbishop Cranmer.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? These ugly weapons, always restricted for ‘no first use’, that no one ever wants to use, have kept the peace in Europe, for 70 years, courtesy of the United Kingdom and the United States. These two great maritime powers have taken the doctrines that allowed them to first make and then protect the modern world and turned them into a doctrine that has allowed them to keep the peace worldwide, for nearly 70 years.

It has been hugely expensive for both countries both fiscally and psychically. It is a power no rational man would desire, the ability to end life on Earth, and yet our countries have done so, and kept the peace.

It was no joke when back in the 1940s the USAF Strategic Air Command took as its motto:

Stategic Air Command

Stategic Air Command; via Wikipedia

Peace is our profession

For truly these warriors, some of the best in the United States and the United Kingdom are indeed the peacekeepers. To them every person in the world owes their life, and such freedom as they have, or even hope for.

As Cranmer said above:

But Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’

For truly:

Si vis pacem, para bellum

American Ingenuity and Winning Friends, Redux

"No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don't have a dream because I don't have a life. That's all I have to say." I think we can do much better Photo courtesy of "Spirit of America"

“No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don’t have a dream because I don’t have a life. That’s all I have to say.”
I think we can do much better
Photo courtesy of “Spirit of America”

[OK, I posted this the other day, and with all he nonsense, I’m not sure anybody actually read it, so here its again. i think it a very worthwhile endeavor. Neo]

A while back, Jessica wrote a post entitled We’re Americans, We Act, As always with her articles, it is excellent. it deals with the problems last summer in northern Iraq, and don’t kid yourself, those problems are still there, we have perhaps helped hold the ring, but it ain’t all sweetness and light. Much remains to do.

You’ve all heard me complain about elephantine American/multinational big business and how the little guys can run them into the ground six days a week and twice on Sunday as well, given a level playing field. Nothing has changed on that front either.

And we all know that a S&P 50 firm is agility itself compared with the US Government, even that part that works fairly well, which would be the US Military.

But all problems have solutions, if we have the vision to see them but, that’s the hard part: seeing them. Well actually it’s not, our young men and women in the military, with their butts in the weeds are as adept as anyone in the history of the world at “improvising, adapting, and overcoming”, that’s one of the main reason our military is justly feared by our enemies.

But they are too often stymied by the elephantine bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and even so, some of the things that Captain Lunchbucket thinks would help him get along with his new neighbors are not things that the taxpayers should be buying but, neither should the Captain’s wife, really. Talk about a nightmare, how about a Pentagon program to supply 50 softball bats to a village in Afghanistan? It would likely be cheaper to airlift them to Colorado and give them a lifetime income.

But the American soldier has always been America’s best ambassador, everywhere he goes, his basic goodness reflects well on us, and people are drawn to him. In fact, when I was young I knew many men who flew in World War Two in 8th and 9th US Army Air Forces, the two based in England. they were proud of what they had done in the war. But the ones who had stayed in were even prouder of what they had done in 1948. In something called Operation Vittles, where we (and the British) completely supplied the city of Berlin during the blockade. That was a mission a man could really be proud of. But even in that one, the story we all remember is the pilot who bought candy out of his own pocket and airdropped it to the kids watching the planes land. Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, indeed.

So how do we harness American entrepreneurial skills to the young soldiers’ needs in the field? We know we can’t do it with a Pentagon program, too slow, too expensive and other reasons as well.

Here’s one way that has worked for 13 years. From the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal learn about Spirit of America and its founder Jim Hake.

American ingenuity: winning friends and influencing people since 1776 (at least).

Here’s the link to Spirit of America

American Ingenuity and Winning Friends

"No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don't have a dream because I don't have a life. That's all I have to say." I think we can do much better Photo courtesy of "Spirit of America"

“No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don’t have a dream because I don’t have a life. That’s all I have to say.”
I think we can do much better
Photo courtesy of “Spirit of America”

A while back, Jessica wrote a post entitled We’re Americans, We Act, As always with her articles, it is excellent. it deals with the problems last summer in northern Iraq, and don’t kid yourself, those problems are still there, we have perhaps helped hold the ring, but it ain’t all sweetness and light. Much remains to do.

You’ve all heard me complain about elephantine American/multinational big business and how the little guys can run them into the ground six days a week and twice on Sunday as well, given a level playing field. Nothing has changed on that front either.

And we all know that a S&P 50 firm is agility itself compared with the US Government, even that part that works fairly well, which would be the US Military.

But all problems have solutions, if we have the vision to see them but, that’s the hard part: seeing them. Well actually it’s not, our young men and women in the military, with their butts in the weeds are as adept as anyone in the history of the world at “improvising, adapting, and overcoming”, that’s one of the main reason our military is justly feared by our enemies.

But they are too often stymied by the elephantine bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and even so, some of the things that Captain Lunchbucket thinks would help him get along with his new neighbors are not things that the taxpayers should be buying but, neither should the Captain’s wife, really. Talk about a nightmare, how about a Pentagon program to supply 50 softball bats to a village in Afghanistan? It would likely be cheaper to airlift them to Colorado and give them a lifetime income.

But the American soldier has always been America’s best ambassador, everywhere he goes, his basic goodness reflects well on us, and people are drawn to him. In fact, when I was young I knew many men who flew in World War Two in 8th and 9th US Army Air Forces, the two based in England. they were proud of what they had done in the war. But the ones who had stayed in were even prouder of what they had done in 1948. In something called Operation Vittles, where we (and the British) completely supplied the city of Berlin during the blockade. That was a mission a man could really be proud of. But even in that one, the story we all remember is the pilot who bought candy out of his own pocket and airdropped it to the kids watching the planes land. Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, indeed.

So how do we harness American entrepreneurial skills to the young soldiers’ needs in the field? We know we can’t do it with a Pentagon program, too slow, too expensive and other reasons as well.

Here’s one way that has worked for 13 years. From the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal learn about Spirit of America and its founder Jim Hake.

American ingenuity: winning friends and influencing people since 1776 (at least).

Here’s the link to Spirit of America

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