Welcome to World War III, My Friend

By Gary Kimsey 

Part I of a series for Writers With No Borders

I’m not a philosopher, a scientist, politician, or deep thinker. I’m a guy from middle America who likes beer, pretzels, Sunday football, and naps.

On one specific topic, I’m a fellow who has plenty in common with the observation Butch Cassidy made when he announced to the Sundance Kid: “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

Gary Kimsey is a writer and editor who lives part of the year in his hometown of Independence, Mo., and the rest of the time in his family’s ancestral home along the Poudre River in the northern Colorado Rockies. Learn more about him...

My vision: We’re in World War III and most Americans don’t know or care. The few average Americans aware of the global conflict don’t know what to do. This isn’t a war where we enlist, donate blood, or manufacture tanks, cannons and ships.

This war is being fought with computers instead of guns. Combatants rely on the sophisticated technology of bytes, bots, worms, Trojans, malware, viruses, and 010101s, the coding upon which computer language is based. Most Americans don’t even begin to understand the crucial inner workings of such technology.

During the last few years, the Internet has been crammed with news articles and opinion columns focusing on “when” or “if” World War III ever comes about. The general consensus: the war will be cyber attacks on such infrastructures as power grids, banking and financial systems, communication networks, voting systems, airlines—you know, the stuff of the culture and lifestyles in America and the countries of our allies.

While issuing such predictions, almost every expert qualifies statements by couching their thoughts in the future tense, as if they believe a cyber war may or may not happen in the future. Bifocals they wear; the war is here.

We have yet to witness a cyber Pearl Harbor or a cyber event with the magnitude of the assassination of an archduke that set off World War I. This is a war we’ve slipped into mostly unnoticed by Americans. We continue on with our lives in a state of denial or the bliss of ignorance, save for the inconvenience of having to change passwords now and then.

Some leaders are playing politics at a critical time when wisdom and action are needed much more. The most recent example occurred June 13 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the extent of his knowledge of Russia’s intrusion into the 2016 presidential election: “I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper.”

Does anyone really believe that ignorance constitutes a valid excuse from our nation’s top prosecutor? My opinion: Sessions pirouetted away from the issue because his boss is under investigation in the matter of Russian cyber warfare. Even Sessions himself is under suspicion.

Cyber attacks come almost daily: hacks that steal millions of IDs and supposedly protected information from banks, credit card companies, Yahoo, political parties, hospitals, and even the CIA and Department of Justice. The list is long, detailed and depressing.

The newest revelation came June 13 with the news that Russia’s incursion into the 2016 election was more widespread than previously believed. The attack targeted voter data bases in 39 states, twice as many and more viciously waged than initially identified. The attack upon Illinois, for instance, attempted to delete or alter voter data. These were attacks on the basic core of democracy, on our way of life. Not a single gunshot was fired or bomb exploded.

The cyber weapons reflect the evolution of warfare. World War I had its new technology: tanks and airplanes. World War II: jet propulsion; self-propelled missiles and nuclear bombs. The weapon now is intellect, the ability to arrange a mass of electrons so they go forth in an almost magical way to cause havoc and destruction.

Today’s combatants aren’t the 400-pound guys sitting on their beds, as Donald Trump proclaimed in trying to lay blame for the 2016 hack of the Democratic Party’s computer records. Rather, the combatants are Russia, North Korea, England, France, Iran, China, the Baltic countries, and other nations, including the U.S.

We must not forget ISIS. We frequently see TV news footage of bloodied ISIS battlegrounds. Yet, seldom do we hear that ISIS has a covert “hacking wing” which has the potential to be more dangerous than any other cyber warriors.

The basic purpose of World War III’s technology: espionage and sabotage. They—whoever they are—are trying to take us down. We—our computer geeks—are trying to stop and take them down. Sound familiar? Opponent against opponent. Warrior against warrior. It’s a war scenario.

At the risk of sounding like a hopeless doomsayer, I think what we witness now is tame compared to what we’ll see in the future. The current flexing of cyber warfare muscles is merely a toning and strengthening—like young athletes training for the Olympics. The gold medal represents a discernable shift in the order of the world.

Next in this series: Ted Koppel and the darkness.

Trump Should Study the Koran

By Bear Gebhardt

Although many passages in the Koran seem quite harsh and inhumane, there’s one passage all good ol’ American blue collar workers can quickly agree with: “A worker should be paid before the sweat is dried from his brow.” This is a passage Donald Trump should follow, but doesn’t.

Bear Gebhardt is a writer who lives in Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about him…

One way to describe D.T.’s basic business practices is “Donald the Octopus.”  He has many, many arms (over 500 corporations), and each arm has hands, and each hand has fingers, and each finger has digits. Each digit is a corporation designed solely for the purpose of profit, e.g., designed for getting, not giving. Many, many people who have worked for D.T. over the years have not only not been paid “before the sweat is dried from their brows,” they don’t get paid at all or get paid less than he promised.

In the last three decades, the Trump Octopus has been involved in at least 3,500 lawsuits.  His way of doing business regularly ends up with his partners, his contractors or subcontractors suing him, or he suing them. Apparently his way of doing business is to delay payments, and often not pay at all.  He disputes, disputes, disputes. Not only is the sweat dried from his workers’ brows, they’ve worked and completed a dozen other projects and he still hasn’t paid.

As USA Today documented, Donald Trump may have learned this tactic from his father Fred, who got him started in business. They both have a long history of not paying their contractors, not fulfilling their end of signed contracts, and lying about their true intentions. Anybody who takes even a cursory glance at the business history of Donald Trump, as this Newsweek article documents, would have a hard time defending such practices.

The contractors who have not been paid, or the business partners who want him to ante up his share, naturally, want to use whatever leverage they can—often Trump owes them millions of dollars for the work and materials they have provided, or the investments they have made on his behalf. So when it becomes obvious workers are not going to get paid, or that he’s stalling about his payments, they sue him, trying to get what they are owed. That’s why he creates a new corporation for every new project, or even a new phase of an old project. Contractors can only sue that one corporation, and not the man himself, hiding behind his many “corporate walls.”

But Donald the Octopus is not afraid of being sued. On the contrary, apparently one of his secret business tactics is lawsuits. So he keeps a Tower full of lawyers on payroll whose only job is to drag out the lawsuits year after year, and/or institute counter-suits. Eventually, the contractors and unhappy investors are willing to settle for anything—for pennies on the dollars—just so they can get paid something, rather than nothing. That’s just how he does business.

And if the deal doesn’t work—if he can’t bully local people into doing what he wants them to do—he can disband that little piece of this business, that temporary corporation. Or simply declare bankruptcy, as he has done on six separate occasions. Again, it’s like an octopus.  You fight one arm, and you can win—but he has many more arms. In Donald’s case, 500 more arms that keeps the octopus alive.

Again, the one passage from the Koran that all American blue collar workers will quickly agree with, and that Donald Trump should take to heart: “A worker should be paid before the sweat is dried from his brow.”

Does it take the Koran to teach this man the honest American way of doing business? Then again, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems pretty clear in itself. For a man whose penthouse apartment is decked out in gold, you’d think the golden rule should apply.

Evidence put forth by some of the most respected lawyers in the country documents sufficient constitutional cause to impeach this man. His lousy business practices give further evidence that this man has not yet learned to be an honest, upright, fair-handed American. He does not represent the best of our people, or our history.

The Russians Are Coming

By David Adamson

My wife and I felt it was the right thing to do to expose our children to other cultures early in their lives, in the spirit of Thomas Paine’s humanist declaration: “My country is the world, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

David Adamson is a writer living in Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about him…

Along with traditional American collections of cute animal stories like Mother Goose with happy endings, we included a few translations from other countries which were more realistic. One was a book of old Russian folk tales that was so brutally realistic we donated it to a book sale. But I always remembered the story about a devious fox and a dim-witted wolf in which the former tells the latter he can catch fish by sticking his tail though a hole in the ice on a frozen lake.

To Americans coming of age in the Cold War (1945—1991), Russia has always been coming. We were conditioned in schools and churches to loathe communism. One of the first TV shows we watched was “I Led Three Lives,” about an advertising executive who’s really an FBI agent spying on the Russian-controlled U.S. Communist Party. The commies were evil, denying the existence of God and teaching subversives how to convert vacuum cleaners to bomb launchers.

My family moved to Mannheim, Germany, in the mid-50s as part of a huge post-war U.S. military presence. Purportedly an army of occupation to snuff any resurgence of Nazism, actually we were there to stop any further Russian expansion into Europe. A few times a year we’d be awakened by alert sirens; then my father would don his fatigues and .45 automatic and disappear. We’d watch the long procession of tanks from the 510th Heavy Tank Command roar away, ripping up the cobblestones, to the anticipated battle front along the borders of East Germany or Czechoslovakia.

Nuclear war and kids hiding under tables

Back stateside in the early 60s, the Russians were still coming. Stationed at the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado, my father worked on an anti-missile missile project to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. In high school, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, we practiced crowding into the crypt-like basement of a Catholic church. The room was lined with containers of water and C-rations where we’d wait out the nuclear exchange in case those antimissiles failed.

I was reminded again the Russians were still coming in the 80s as I stood in a cavernous building at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that housed the Nova Laser. It was built during President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative to provide a shield against incoming Russian “independently targetable reentry vehicles” (MIRVs) with multiple warheads.

By then I knew a little more about Russia and the Union of Socialist Soviet Russian Republics (USSR). In college, I learned to admire the great Russian writers from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn, who could only be understood by studying the historic conditions during which they wrote.

Russia’s history like bloody folktales

Russia’s history was as brutal and bloody as their folktales: close to a million killed by Ghengis Khan, millions by Napoleon, millions by Stalin, millions by Hitler. For centuries, Russian was invaded from every direction. As a result, Russia grew hostile to outsiders and systematically and forcibly annexed bordering countries to deter invaders. Inadvertently, they also created a vast expanse of ungovernable expanse of diverse cultures, speaking over 100 languages, which could only be controlled by force. Their isolationist stance spawned a national character that was not really European, but not really Asian either.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991 and the collapse of the USSR, there was absolute glee among the Western democratic super-powers, especially the U.S. We signed some limited nuclear disarmament treaties. We invited the Russians to join the elite G-7 in 1997, to create a G-8, with the expectations that Russia would enthusiastically embrace all things Western—shopping malls, free elections, gay rights, individualism, and rock and roll.

It didn’t work out that way. In 2014, Russia was kicked out, and the club of elites shrunk back to the G-7. Now Russia and the West are back to the future. What happened?

In short: Vladimir Putin, the reincarnation of the Russia’s past, ready to avenge.

Unlike Western Europe, Russia did not participate in the two critical passages that gave rise to democracy and capitalism. Russia skipped both the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation, watershed events in which the ideas of individual rights and liberty took root in Europe.

During the Renaissance, the barbarian tribes, which later merged to become modern Russia, were busy fighting the Mongols, and they never had any exposure to the democratic principles that Europe adopted from ancient Greece. As to the Reformation, it didn’t gain traction because the powerful Russian Orthodox Church was not rotten to the core like the Roman Catholic Church, guilty of selling indulgences and other shortcuts to heaven.

(Russia did embrace the scientific method from the Enlightenment. This enabled them to put the first satellite and human in space, and develop atomic weapons, using little more than slide rules.)

Putin: Make Russia Great Again

Russia has always been hostile to the ruthless destruction of traditions, order, and community bonds that accompany multiculturalism, capitalism, and globalization. They flat don’t buy our way of life. They never did. Russians are not Europeans.

Upon the collapse of the USSR, the first elected president was Boris Yeltsin, a drunk and loud-mouthed buffoon whose “anti-establishment” rise to power was similar in many ways to that of Donald Trump. The privatization of the Russian economy engineered by Yeltsin, and encouraged by the West, was a disaster. There was chaos, near total economic collapse, and the open plunder of the country’s wealth by oligarchs.

As if part of a sinister master plan, Putin, a career KGB officer, learned about geopolitics while a spy in Germany. He showed up on the political stage and became Yeltsin’s understudy. While a witness to the embarrassing debacle, he mastered the ins and outs of Russian politics, including killing opposition. When Yeltsin was forced from office, he appointed Putin president.

A fervid Russian nationalist, Putin despises the West. He was insulted by the USA’s and Europe’s triumphalism during the Reagan years and after. Once in power, he immediately embarked on a project to restore Russian greatness. To aid him in this cause, he formed a surprisingly strong bond with the Russian Orthodox Church, with whom he shares a hatred for homosexuality, to communicate and affirm his message—Make Russia Great Again.

The Russians are coming because the Cold War never ended, as should be obvious to Americans, especially those transfixed by minor threats like ISIS and terrorism, and under the leadership of a president who is a clueless imbecile when it comes to history and geopolitics.

How the folktale ends

Just look at what Russia is up to:

Naive Americans may believe the pop culture images of us trumping the backward Russians at every turn. Think of all those jingoistic Tom Clancy novels, or Clint Eastwood cleverly stealing a top secret Russian jet in “Firefox,” or a bunch of American high school kids repelling a Russian invasion in “Red Dawn.” Were geopolitics like the movies! Especially those happy endings where we always win.

Based on history, sometimes it’s more like a Russian folktale.

In case you wonder how the fox and the wolf story ended, the fox’s advice was a devious trick to punish the wolf for ruining the fox’s life. The wolf’s tail froze in the ice, trapping him.  The fox told the town peasants, and they attacked with their farm implements and killed him.

Trump versus Putin. Guess who’s the fox?

Escaping the Trump Tower Prison

By Bear Jack Gebhardt

Isn’t it funny how often we dream in metaphors? And, when we pay attention, our dreams can help us to better understand and more artfully deal with the challenges of our waking life.

For example, I recently had a dream in which I was arrested for murder, and held in prison in the Trump Tower. The charge against me was so serious that I knew I would never be released from the Trump Tower jail.

Bear Jack Gebhardt has written for many national magazines and published books on various topics. Learn more about him…

The dream went deeper:

Donald Trump himself singled me out personally for perverse psychological experiments. He would have me removed from the cell, take me into the glitzy lobby of the Tower, and tell me falsehoods to see if I would believe them. He obviously didn’t care whether I believed him or not. He even let me walk around the block, there in New York City, as if I were a free man, enjoying the sunshine and the ordinary movement of daily life, all the while knowing I was still his prisoner, with no chance of escape unless I wanted to live a life on the run.

Curiously, waking from this dream, I found I could breathe easier, psychologically and emotionally speaking—easier than I had in months. Through my dream, I had been presented with an accurate scenario—outplaying—of my inner life. With such a glimpse, I felt more empowered to deal with real-life outer circumstances.

“Hope is a mark of spiritual wholeness.”

The contemporary Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, observed, “Hope is a mark of spiritual wholeness.” My dream pointed out how I had inadvertently fallen into a mood–an attitude, a worldview–of hopelessness, which, in Brother David’s view, would be a condition of spiritual fragmentation.  (If you are arrested and charged with murder, there’s little hope for escape.)

The reasons behind my mood, this attitude, were likewise plainly presented in my dream. Our current political upheaval had obviously captured my mood and emotions in a way that feels life-threatening, without hope. In my dream, many others were likewise held in the Trump Tower prison, though for some reason—probably just because it was my dream—I had been personally selected for Donald’s psychological experiments.

Don’t forget to take a short survey about your dream world at the end of this article.

My daughter, Annalee Moyers, is a lucid dreamer, and over many decades we have learned together to work with our dreams—play with our dreams—in a way that most often makes our day-life flow more smoothly. One of our dream practices is to go back, after waking, and “fix” our troubling dreams, sometimes on paper, sometimes by talking them out together. Playing with the exact images our subconscious has offered up allows our mental and emotional and sometimes even physical infrastructure to be repaired.

So, for example, I can go back into my dream, here as I write this essay, and have a fair-minded judge deliver papers to the Tower prison ordering the charges against me be dropped, because they were all based on insufficient and possibly even fraudulently fabricated evidence. While I’m at it,  I’ll have further papers delivered charging the Trump organization with false arrest, false imprisonment, not only for my case (my dream) but for all those who have been likewise imprisoned in the Trump Tower’s jail.

Since it’s our dream, and we can do what we want, we may as well send in blue-helmeted United Nations’ soldiers to open all the prison cell doors, release all of the prisoners, and haul all the Trump guards and prison administrators into waiting paddy wagons.

There. Doesn’t that feel better?

We do need to guard against being imprisoned in the Trump Tower. More specifically, and more importantly, we need to guard against the rising sense of hopelessness, this tweet-induced mental and emotional fragmentation.

Here in our day life, we are whole beings—beings who are nourished by the arts, all of them, and Meals on Wheels, and offering a helping hand to the poor; our compassion as non-fragmented beings leads us to help the refugees, and all those who have been made homeless by our own military and economic actions.

Let us not lose hope. We can wake from this nightmare. We all must work to stay healthy, mentally, emotionally and physically, in both waking and sleeping, in order to artfully meet the challenges we now face. Sharing our dreams, both daytime and nighttime, is an essential part of our healthy healing process.

Click here to take a short survey about your dream world

Don’t miss out. Receive posts by Writers With No Borders directly in your email inbox. Click on the “Follow” icon at the top of the right column.

Why Trump’s Bait-and-Switch Tweets Confuse Americans

By Gary Kimsey

In his use of Twitter, is President Trump performing a classic bait-and-switch scam to confuse Americans?

Well, yes, of course.

Gary Kimsey is a writer and retired marketing specialist. Learn more about him…

“Bait and switch” is a dishonest marketing tactic where consumers (we Americans in this case) are encouraged to believe something about a product (here, the product is Trump). The terrible truth is that the product is vastly different and of significantly less quality than what was promised. It’s often easy to identify a bait-and-switch maneuver. Thus, be wary when someone says, “Believe me”—a favored Trump expression.

I couldn’t help but think about bait-and-switch while watching the March 20 congressional hearing by the House Intelligence Committee. The hearing focused on hacking, Putin, cabinet members’ ties to Russia, and, of course, Trump’s crazy Twitter tweets claiming President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. (I took the liberty of adding the word “crazy,” by the way, for his accusatory tweets were just that.

I found it interesting that Trump conducted a tweet storm as the hearing was underway. He used the official Twitter account of the President of the United States. More than 1.6 million Americans received the tweets.

These tweets contained partial truths, at best, as well as grossly misinterpreted accounts of what was said in the hearings. Predictably, this was the same fantasy pattern that many of his tweets have followed since the inauguration.

Click here for a fact-check on Trump’s tweets during the congressional hearing.

As a person who spent the last half of his 50-year professional career in marketing, I am well-aware that Trump—the quintessential marketer—fully operates on a certain assumption. Americans, especially those who voted for him, will unquestioningly believe information from such a traditionally respected source as a U.S. president.

Think back to your history and civics classes. Many of us were indoctrinated in high school and college classes to believe certain positions in America are above lying. The presidency is supposedly one of the sacred positions. For my generation of Baby Boomers, this myth of total truthfulness was shattered by Nixon.

Don’t forget to take the short survey at the end of this article.

The problem now is that many Americans don’t peer beyond tweets and eye-catching headlines. As a society, we are victims of 140 characters and information overload. Fake News is a stake aimed at our intellectual heart. We fear Fake News so much that many of us will believe, without questioning, a president who tweets “Fake News” whenever someone disagrees with him, whether it’s individuals, the media or intelligence agencies.

Trump knows our fears and plays upon them by telling us in his tweets—without presenting any evidence—that information from such reliable sources as the FBI is wrong. He also keeps the tweets coming as a way to divert the thoughts of Americans away from other issues—his denial of global warming, defunding Meals on Wheels and Planned Parenthood, appointing to his cabinet inept and incapable billionaire friends rather than experts, and the likely loss of health care for 24 million Americans, to name just a few issues. Rather than draining the swamp, Trump is filling it with moccasins and alligators.

The impacts of bait-and-switch in tweets? Many Americans have learned they are unable to trust the person sitting in the Oval Office. Strife is perpetuated in society and politics, continuing to divide the nation. The Office of the President of the United States—the world’s most powerful position—is belittled in the eyes of Americans, as well as people and governments around the world. Important issues are overshadowed. Democracy is undermined. Confusion reigns.

How do we avoid the bait-and-switch of Trump’s tweets? We must cast our vision beyond what we read in his tweets. Seek out at reliable sources. Fact-check information.

Here are reliable fact-checking sites:

Also look at The 10 Best Fact-checking Sites.

Click on the “Follow” button at the top of the right column to have Writers With No Borders posts delivered to your email in-box.

Click here to take the survey…

The Lost SEAL

By David Adamson

Expect no Hollywood reprise of Zero Dark Thirty following the death of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old Navy SEAL killed in action in Yemen on Jan. 29, 2017. President Trump’s explanation for what happened: “They lost Ryan.” The raid on a terrorist compound did not go according to plan. There were civilian casualties, some children, and the target escaped.

Days afterward, President Trump experienced the awful symbolic duty of being Commander-in-Chief as he stood with gravitas on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, watching a military detail remove Ryan’s flag-draped coffin from the cavernous fuselage of a C-17 transport. No doubt this was on his mind when he recently spoke to a joint session of Congress and promised, “We will never forget Ryan!” and everyone present rose from their seats in bipartisan cheering.

For once, Trump spoke at least a half truth. He may never forget Ryan, as he should not because he approved the raid. But sadly, except for his family, old high school buddies, community members, and fellow SEALs, the vast majority of around 319 million Americans will forget Ryan.

SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was the recipient of two Bronze Star Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and nine other distinguished medals. He was killed January 29 during a raid in Yemen, the first American combatant to die during the term of the current president.

Since the Vietnam era, the military has become hermetically sealed. Dinnertime frontline war footage of our wounded and dead, served up by the three major networks, eroded popular support for the war. Ever since, our military has restricted access to combat by selectively “embedding” journalists and exerting tight controls on what can be filmed, photographed, or reported.

Today less than one percent of Americans serve in our all-volunteer force. Many Americans don’t know any Middle East veterans, much less about their lives as soldiers overseas. Consequently, they also don’t understand why this military generation has the highest rates of suicide, divorce, drug abuse, spousal abuse, unemployment, and homelessness of any in our long history of wars.

To minimize U.S. casualties many combat actions are undertaken by elite, small special operations units like Navy SEALs. The demanding and dangerous nature of their work depends on secrecy and the element of surprise. Few journalists could physically endure SEAL missions as it’s not unusual to be dropped by helicopter miles from a target, trek to it carrying 100 pounds of arms and equipment, engage in combat, then trek back for extraction, sometimes hauling the dead and wounded.

After the bin Laden mission, SEALs were as revered as Jedi

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with some retired SEALs whose careers spanned Vietnam to the War on Terror. After the SEALs’ successful mission to eliminate Osama bin Laden, they were revered as Jedi’s. I was curious to find out what these elite soldiers are actually like.

The one I was most curious about was the youngest of them, a retired commander in his early forties. He had just been out of the service for a few weeks when I met him, ending 20 years of service, most of the last 10 in the Middle East. Call him Jim, not his real name (SEALs have a tradition of keeping a low profile; American Sniper-type tell-alls are rare).

Jim was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with an advanced degree in international affairs. He was quiet, modest, of average height, wore a trimmed beard, and was fit looking. You would never pick him out if he were standing in a line to purchase movie tickets with his lovely wife and kids.

Jim wasn’t much for small talk, but we were able to connect when he heard I had moved from Colorado. He said that early in his career he had trained for a mission in Bosnia up in the Collegiate Range west of Buena Vista, Colo. He smiled remembering when the chopper dropped him and a group of other San Diego-based SEALS into waist-deep powdered snow on an unknown ridge.

Most civilians are clueless

Over the few months I spent weekly time with him, I always had questions. He would answer patiently, but I sensed Jim thought most civilians, including me, were clueless and lacked interest in or knowledge of the Middle East or the lives of soldiers serving there.

The older SEALs were curious, too. Sometimes I’d hear scraps of cryptic conversation as he and his shipmates (that’s what they called each other) talked about missions, those that went “kinetic” (their word for violent) like one where they breached a door and were met by an armed “bad guy,” so for some reason the lead SEAL rammed the barrel of his rifle into the man’s eye socket, instead of shooting him. Or the time an Army medic accompanying the SEALs got caught out in the open when an RPG exploded and Jim had to pull him behind a wall, the look on the medic’s face when he regained consciousness, bleeding from his ears and nose, and realized he was alive, but deaf. These snippets were always short, matter of fact, with no trace of braggadocio.

I asked Jim how he learned to function amidst the violence and chaos. He said you don’t ever get used to it, but suggested I read Lt. Col. Grossman’s On Combat and On Killing, as he did during his training.

I asked if he believed the U.S. still needs to be there—the public is tiring of wars. His answer was terse: if we don’t get them there, they’ll come after us here as they did on 9/11. I expected a more elaborate geopolitical analysis, but that was the gist of it.

How does this end?

I asked how does this end? He said you will never understand the greater Middle East until you know the difference between a Shia and a Sunni and the nations dominated by each. The violence will not end any time soon, and will get worse and spread. Turns out, he was prophetic.

How is your knowledge about Islam? Take the quiz at the end of this article.

What do you think—can members of Congress, who vote on the defense budget, identify the location of the countries in the Middle East? For that matter, can you? Click here to test your knowledge.

Jim was looking for work. Fishing or paddle boarding, even going to the local shooting range, didn’t offer much of a thrill to a frogman. He had applied for various corporate jobs, but got no interviews. He tried with the state police, but was turned down. One of the older SEALs asked him why.  Jim surmised that during the interview they asked about any problem areas he perceived with the police and public. He said police departments had become too militarized, especially the tactical squads with armored personnel carriers and carrying very-high-powered assault weapons.

I suggested with his degree and experience he should teach at the local community college. But he said no chance, I’m not politically correct—I don’t like Muslims. He said he’s a Christian, but that’s how he felt after what he witnessed.

I never saw him again after that summer ended. I heard from one of his shipmates that eventually he got a job with the local police department. However, that didn’t last long. Something was missing just handing out tickets and arresting drunks.

Jim ended up going to work for a private contractor providing security to state department facilities in the Middle East. He’s overseas half the year. The work is dangerous (remember Benghazi), but the pay is much better than being a cop (or, for that matter, a SEAL).

Now whenever I hear of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, I pause and think of Jim.

Results disastrous in terms of lives and money

I also thought of Jim when President Trump proposed a $50-billion increase in defense spending. We already spend more on defense than all the other great military powers in the world combined. We’ve always had a militaristic and interventionist streak, but it went ballistic after 9/11. The result has been disastrous in terms of lives (our soldiers, bad guys, and orders of magnitude more innocent civilians) and money.

If you really appreciate the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of our soldiers—as I do—you also need to be very skeptical of anyone who advocates solving international problems with force.

The writer of this article, David Adamson, has worked in high technology and health care. He’s the author of Walking the High Tech High Wire and The Wellness Club. He’s written hundreds of blogs on politics and fitness.

We need to confront the reality that Americans live now in a perpetual fog of war created by their political leaders, the chickenhawks in both parties, striking macho poses in front of the TV cameras. They are actually consumed with fear, and thus vulnerable to the relentless pressure of military-industrial complex lobbyists, apocalyptic religious zealots, and fair knee-jerk patriots.

To do so doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate our soldiers, simply we demand to know the why, what, when, how and where of our defense policies before deploying them to godawful places where Americans are hated.

Ryan Owens joined more than 6,000 other U.S. soldiers killed in the Middle East since 9/11. Due to insidious mission creep, our fatality reports now include losses in Yemen and Syria. I’d wager the majority of people in Congress—who vote on the defense budget—would not be able to identify either country on a map of the Middle East if the countries were not labeled. Neither could their constituents, I suspect.

The financial support for our growing defense misadventures resides with Congress, the very people who rose to cheer Ryan’s shaken widow, a mother of four children. Appropriately, the cheering lasted over two minutes, a record for such tributes. However, there was something hollow and superficial about it, like it was a convenient, carefully staged photo-op.

Prior to voting on more defense spending, a more fitting tribute, and reality check, would be for every member of Congress to drive from the Capitol Building over the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery. It’s only about 15 minutes away.

Amidst the endless rows of white marble tombstones, they’ll arrive at Grave 11483 in Section 60. There they’ll find Ryan.

 

Test your knowledge: 

“I want to stab him in the testicles a million times”

By Mary Roberts 

“What do you think we are? Cattle?”

I’m caught in a tight scree of human flesh, all pretending we aren’t pressed up against each other’s bodies — fleshy, rib thin, and somewhere in-between. Boston’s old subway cars weren’t meant to hold this many people. The cattle remark is in my head. I can’t say it. I’m afraid I’ll stutter or people would laugh at me.

That’s when it happens.

Before the 2016 presidential election, Mary Roberts wrote about real estate, her Irish Catholic childhood in Boston and the 13 dogs that have defined the chapters of her life. Now, she writes to say, “Wake up, people!” Learn more about Mary.

Someone reaches from behind me and slides his hand down the front on my pants. Both of my hands are gripping the overhead strap and my legs are parted to steady myself from the stops and starts of the jolting train.

“Hey!” I let go of the strap with my left arm and squeeze it between two of my neighbors but the hand is gone before I can grab it. It is 1970. I am 19. I burn in shame.

I had returned home after one year of college in New York. Home was Needham, a small town 10 miles west of Boston. Long island, N.Y., was not where I wanted to be. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I had no plan or ambition, except to star in Broadway musicals but I was afraid to speak and couldn’t sing. I had also broken my kneecap twice in high school. My one year as a drama major ended in disaster when I couldn’t manage the role as Marat Sade’s mother. And she was a stutterer.

Mom’s friend got me a job in Medical Records at Children’s Hospital and I went to night school at Boston College. From the hospital, I took the Green Line to the BC stop. Three hours later, I’d head home to the Newton Highlands stop where I would take a bus to Needham Square. I didn’t drive and we didn’t have a car anyway, so the MBTA was my constant companion, riding its street cars and buses four times a day.

“I won’t do this anymore.”

I hated the way men looked at me when I’d make my way through the construction sites that littered the streets and sidewalks along the way. I’d veer out to the road followed by the whistles and calls for blow jobs from the guys with hard hats. I wore glasses, no makeup and baggy turtlenecks with the mandatory skirts but it didn’t matter. I was young.

After the subway incident, I went in to the manager’s office and told her I was done. “I can’t do this anymore,” I told her, “I won’t do this anymore.”

Two weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, 1970, I was on an airplane with my sister who was headed back to Colorado State University after Christmas break. She and I were never the best friends we should have been, only 18 months apart, but it was better than spending the rest of my life terrified of crowds and the subway. I was already unable to drive after a traumatizing car accident. A good sturdy bike would get me where I needed to go in Colorado.

“A bloated, orange-tinted mass of pulpy flesh”

Forty plus years later and Donald Trump is caught saying ‘grab them by the pussy’ and I am outraged. More than outraged.

I am indignant, incensed, I am horrified. In my dreams, I want to stab him in the heart and testicles a million times then write my name — and the names of all women who have been assaulted, grabbed, diminished, denigrated — in his blood as it slowly leaves his body, leaving a bloated, orange-tinted mass off pulpy flesh and pockmarked bone. Again, fantasies in my dream land, not for advocating violence against a president or anyone.

Does such a dream make me a terrorist? Did I break the law by entertaining fantasies of hurting the president?

I don’t harbor those fantasies because I disagree with his policies (which I do) or think that he is a disgrace as a president and a human being (which I do). I harbor those fantasies because he is a predator and a sexual bully. Every woman knows what that is and the women who voted for him have neatly compartmentalized that fact somewhere in their emotional body where it will fester and eventually destroy them.

“Was I that fragile?”

At 65 years of age, I now understand that I left Boston because someone grabbed me by the pussy. I left behind the love of my life, the ocean, my mother, the home I was raised in and the New England I still yearn for—just because an asshole grabbed me and I felt powerless and ashamed and scared that it would happen again.

Was I that fragile? Was I that sorry-ass wimp of a girl? Without the backbone to give the construction guys the finger and yell ‘fuck you’ back at them? Without the courage to call out ‘help’ in the subway car? Yes, I was.

Years later, I hug my dogs tight when I hear the President’s voice over the radio. I’m already considering a replacement for the third dog I just lost to a painful disease. Two is good but three — three is impenetrable.

Click on “Follow” at the top of the right column to receive posts from Writers With No Borders by email.