Wife Amy talked me out of accepting an offer to cover the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as an embedded journalist.
“I have a bad feeling about you going there,” she said. It was the first time in our marriage that she asked me to not go somewhere on an assignment.
Three months after a friend who took my place went to cover the war died in an accident when the military Humvee that was carrying him as a passenger. Although there was no way to know that if I had been there in that Humvee at the same place at the same time, I have learned to trust in my wife’s “bad feelings.”
As a reporter and photographer, I have worked in areas of conflict often: Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Israel and other locations around the world. I have hip and knee problems from a helicopter crash decades ago. I also ventured into areas of conflict while working for Congress and as a “communications/security adviser” for a business consulting firm.
Yet my closest brush with death came from my motorcycle’s encounter with a steer on dark U.S. 221 in Roanoke County a little over seven years ago. I’ve probably been injured more times in recent years from encounters with athletes trying to escape tackles or catch passes on the sidelines while photographing high school football games in Southwestern Virginia over the last 15 years.
Still, too many soldiers and journalists have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and other military “hot spots” around the world.
Will too many more die in the coming weeks as a result of the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani by an American drone strike ordered by our president last week? In retaliation, Iran attacked two military bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq Tuesday? News reports say no reports of U.S. casualties from the strikes by more than a dozen ballistic missiles.
Donald Trump promised to end military involvement in Iraq and other locations during his campaign for president in 2016. The Pentagon this weekend announced at least 3,500 troops are headed for the region as a response to the death of Soleimani.
Iraq wants the troop stationed in their country gone. Trump says they’re not going anywhere. The United Nations announced it is moving its peacekeeping forces out of Iraq, at least for the moment, and keeping them in nearby Kuwait.
Is full scale war with Iran now a foregone conclusion? Let’s hope not. Twenty years ago, I kept a “go bag” containing cameras, clothing and a passport” by the front door of our condo in Arlington. No such bag here in Floyd. I’m too old to head back into any conflicts.
Trump, in a speech to the nation Wednesday morning, said he and Iran are “standing down” and the U.S. will not retaliate for the missile strikes that killed no one — American or Iraqi.
But others will go to war if the matter continues eo3w escalate. Some will die. For what?
I have a nephew serving with the special ops teams of the Navy. I worry about him and his fellow operators. I honor them for serving their country but I worry that their country is not serving them or the rest of this nation.
America’s current “commander in chief” evaded the draft in a stunt where a podiatrist manufactured a fake diagnosis of “bone spurs” as a favor to Trump’s father, who was the doctor’s landlord. Elysa Braunstein, daughter of the podiatrist, Larry Braunstein, told USA Today that she didn’t think her father ever even examined young Trump.
“I know it was a favor,” she said.
That favor, in 1968, gave Trump the final draft deferment he needed after his college deferments ran out.
Trump is not the only draft-dodging president who has led this nation into armed conflict. Bill Clinton played fast and loose with post-dated documents to keep out of the military during his college days and as a Rhodes Scholar. George W. Bush used time in the Air National Guard in Texas to avoid going to war and records show he never completed his reserve duty and skipped out on meetings and assignments.
Clinton ordered a 1997 bombing of a what he said was a Sudan building where he said nerve gas was under production. It turned out to be a pharmaceutical facility providing medicine for hospitals. Bush ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq on false claims that Saddam Hussein was storing “weapons of mass destruction” but none were ever found and intelligence reports warned him beforehand that they didn’t exist.
Two failed presidents. One Democrat, the other Republican. Now we have a third president, who has been both a Democrat and a Republican, who ordered the drone murder of a Iranian commander who may or may not have been working on plans for a major attack against Americans. The attack, in Iraq, also included the deaths of Iraqis and that country has escalated its orders to send American troops home.
Things are badly broken in the way America handles its foreign policy.