War Hawk Apologetics with General Cracky McCracken

So, my political posts in BFN probably suggest that, no surprise, I read Orwell's 1984 perhaps one too many times. Threads I started here and here are so distrustful of the military-industrial complex that I'm basically calling the United States and its western allies the Fourth Reich. Perhaps that's not too surprising considering the attitudes of the domestic and international press since the Second Iraqi War began in 2003.

But, like I said in my first post, I like to challenge my beliefs.

In some of those BFN threads I'm being didactic, emotional, and whiny. I hate when I get like that. I've also noticed that many of the people I have encountered in person over the past year tend to be whiny as well, most of who, I can't fathom the reasons for their complaining about everything .

So, I spent the last two weeks writing a fictional interview that gives the U.S. Military more than just the benefit of the doubt over the past 50 years since World War II. This interview provides reasoning that determines that U.S. soldiers are perhaps the greatest heroes and agents of peace in the 20th century.

I guess the trigger for me was thinking about the Korean War and trying to figure out why the U.S. became involved in the first place besides the reason that the Military-Industrial Complex was looking to dominate the planet. Another trigger was this thread on "Faking the Faking."

I'm not saying that I believe everything in the interview (the benevolent reasons for the Vietnam War I'm literally pulling out from the crack of my ass) or that I've completely changed my perspective on western imperialism just yet, but the entire perspective of General McCracken is more than just plausible. It's believable. Even the part about the Second Iraqi War.

The justifications for military intervention that I'm providing are rarely the mainstream ones. In fact, my reasons are probably more convincing than those provided by the mainstream press, history textbooks, or even the military.

I'm providing (after a little slapstick with the first three questions) a much better case for the American military than I have read anywhere to date. Incidentally, the interview is just about events after World War II. As far as criticisms that western capitalists used the backs of slaves to get ahead, or that the U.S. cavalry gunned down Native Americans after the Civil War, or the interventions in the Philippines were perhaps less than charitable, I would say this: society and culture may have changed since then. I say may only because the depiction that Keith Harmon Snow gives about the Congo are just horrific. Even then, the horrors going on in the Congo are not obviously the responsibility of the Pentagon, but the fault of unscrupulous investors and corporations.

So, here's the 18-question interview. Printed out, it's probably about 10 pages long:
War Hawk Apologetics
Interview with 1-star General Cracky McCracken

by Cracrocrates

Christopher Ulysses McCracken, known as "Cracky" to friends and enemies alike, is a recently retired 1-star general.

Retirement came earlier than expected for General McCracken, whose career advancement higher military brass deemed limited for rumored personal transgressions. Atlhough McCracken would have preferred a career that continued moving up the chain of command, he still views the Pentagon with utmost respect. McCracken will take a year-long vacation before joining the private sector with his own company, Crackwater Security & Tourism, which will provide armed guided tours of Colombia, Libya, Kashmir, and France.

This interview allows General McCracken to respond to the criticisms of anti-war movemements since World War II concerning American military interventions in Korea,Vietnam,Yugoslavia, and Iraq. McCracken sees the recent labeling of America as an empire as a mistake. McCracken also provides opinions on the end of conscription,welfare, the War on Drugs, the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars, and Indonesia's slaughter of East Timor with American weapons.

Question 1: What are the reasons for your early retirement ?

I slept with a four-star general's daughter. Legal, but just barely. Her father is the vindicative type, so career advancement is pretty limited after that. I always dreamed of having four stars on my uniform, but it's not gonna happen.

Question 2: So you regret your decision ?

No. Best 50 bucks I ever spent.

Question 3: $50? You paid for s--?

Champagne. Yes. Damn fine wine, it was too. She doesn't and didn't drink, thank God, or her father would have sent me to the stockade for providing alcohol to a minor. I bought another bottle of champagne, same brand and year, from the restaurant the next day after it dawned on me that my military career was probably over. I finished the bottle alone that night and Sunday morning.

Her father won't forgive me because the dinner alone with her was his idea. She told him that she wanted to pursue a career in the military, and he wanted me to talk her out of it. He wanted his precious little snowflake to become a doctor, but she's got her own mind. I did try to talk her out of it, but she asked the right questions, and I couldn't lie to her. At the moment, she's trying to decide between the Air Force and the Marines.

But, do I have regrets? No regrets, none whatsoever. I'm a realist, but I like looking at the bright side too. Four stars is impossible, but on the bright side, seven figures in my bank account is a strong possibility in the private sector.

Question 4: Why did you join the military?

To serve my country, and the world, really. To serve humanity. I view the United States Armed Services as , if not the most, then at least one of the most noble and selfless institutions that has ever existed on the planet. Since joining, my admiration of the service has only grown stronger. There can be few higher aims in life than the pursuit of world peace.

Question 5: What about the growing number of critics worldwide who, especially since the Second Iraqi War started, denounced the United States as the greatest obstacle to world peace?

Reminds me of the fickle crowd in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar . The crowd has a short attention span, and is swayed one way or the other depending on the tone of the politician talking.

A good deal of the world hasn't seen armed conflict in over 50 years, but because of the smoke & mirrors of politics and "if it bleeds, it leads" media, kids now are growing up thinking Armageddon is just around the corner. Well, if you haven't heard it yet, let me be the first to tell you that "world peace" won't come about just because some bimbo at a beauty pageant hopes for it. It takes hard work and constant vigilance. It takes grand strategy.

Question 6: So you don't view the United States as an empire trying to conquer Iraq for its oil ?

Last time I checked, filling up my gas tank doubled since before the war. If we were an empire, it should have halved. We're not an empire.

The United States has walked away from more power than any other nation on the face of the Earth. We could have turned into the Fourth Reich either after World War II or after the fall of the USSR. We didn't. At the height of the Cold War in the late 1960s, 1 out of 200 Americans served in foreign nations. After the USSR fell, it became 1 out of 800. Even our military budget as a percentage of GDP shows a similar decline.

We may have military bases across the globe, but on a day-to-day basis, those bases have little to do with the daily operations of their host nation. The population of the foreign bases is way too small to be considered an occupation force by anyone. And in probably 95 % of the time, excluding maybe Cuba and possibly a few others, the host nations wants us to be there just in case to hold the peace and deter foreign powers from having any crazy ideas about conquest. Go ask any Saudi Arabian - not even a member of the royal family - whether he or she wants the U.S. to leave their country; only a tiny, insane fraction of the populace would want us to leave Saudi Arabia.

Even our smoke and mirrors politics and bipartisan squabbles give our allies faith in us that we won't turn into an totalitarian regime. It takes us too much energy just to pass the freaking budget, how could we possibly agree on conquering the world?

Question 7: Well, what about the theory that the United States conquered the oil for Exxon and other American or western oil companies. Higher oil prices have vastly increased their profits.

That's a pretty lame theory. Look, profit is not a sin. And in case you haven't noticed, Fortune 500 CEOs seem to have multi-million dollar golden parachutes even if the company stock price plummets. If institutional money wanted a better return, they should have bought more Google stock.

Oil is a fungible commodity. The higher prices in the states are because of higher demand in southeast Asia, along with a weaker dollar during a period of larger budget deficits, and concerns about stability in the Middle East. However, because of much lower taxes, gas is still a hell of a lot cheaper in the United States than in most of the world. Our economies keep on humming with only minor blips.

Incidentally, higher oil prices are benefiting a diverse range of entities, including the economies of Russia,Indonesia, Libya, Venezeula,Mexico, and Canada. Stabilizing the economy of our former enemy turned friend Russia is a very, very nice coincidence considering the turbulence that nation's people had gone through since the collapse of the USSR. So, American oil companies and their stockholders weren't the only indirect beneficiaries of the Second Iraqi War.

Question 8: Then why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003 ? Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs, and he did not plan 9/11. Incidentally, Hussein was once a CIA asset, and the United States helped fund Iraq during the 1980s Iran-Iraqi War.

I'm not going to dodge your question, but beforehand, let me just say that a complete answer as to our motives in Iraq is probably classified and way beyond my pay grade. As a 1-star general in peacetime who did not serve overseas, my responsibilities were more along the lines of deterring French Canadians from vandalizing Mt. Rushmore. I was not privy to Cheney's Energy Task Force papers, for example.

However, speaking as a private citizen, I have a few guesses concerning the two gulf wars.

Domestically unpopular short-term policies which will help foster long-term stability will need to be sold to the public using the tricks of the public relations industry. The "WMDs" thing, well its the smoke and mirrors of politics and mass media that I mentioned earlier. I'm not saying that concern about WMDs wasn't necessarily involved somehow in the long run, maybe they were foreseeable in the region soon, in five or ten or twenty years according to whatever military intelligence we have. It's just that WMDs probably weren't the only reason for war even though the Pentagon's press releases and press conferences said as much.

Let me emphasize "domestically unpopular short-term policies." For example, the oil that the American people use in their cars doesn't really come from the Middle East at all. Middle Eastern oil goes to Europe or Asia. So, an out-right announced policy that would likely double prices at the pump in America for protecting oil that goes to, let's say, China and India, would have serious domestic and media backlashes. Even though American consumers are the primary beneficiary of China's cheap manufactured goods, and this type of global economic interdependency vastly decreases the possibilities of another major world war or regional conflict that would kill tens of millions of lives, the public wouldn't understand and would start calling for their local politicians' heads. Just like in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar .

But since WMDs and national security were the announced reasons for the Iraqi invasion - the military, the public, and the media (at least during the invasion) all hopped on board. The military gets higher budgets, the public benefits from additional military spending done by domestic bases, and the media gets something exciting to report at first and then later complain about for the next few years.

So, in a way, lack of consistent oil supplies to southeast Asia or Europe because of Middle East instability really would be a Weapon of Mass Destruction. The entire world's economy would return to a Great Depression like in the 1930s, or at the very least, take another decade to sort out. If there was no world war, millions could still die in regional conflicts in this type of scenario. In a worst case scenario, there would be a powergrab for colonizing oil-rich nations from Africa to Indonesia by the strongest players in the region, especially between China and India. Japan would feel insecure and would either have to pick a side, or even more likely, bring the U.S. and NATO into the conflict.

This "weapon of mass instability" perspective would explain why higher military brass decided that U.S. intervention was necessary in the Iraq-Kuwaiti conflict. Post-Cold War, the First Gulf War in 1991 also helped maintain the credibility of the U.S. military throughout the world, as well as giving our politicians ample reasons to justify military budgets to their constituents. This action signaled to the entire world that violations of national borders - especially in an oil-rich region - would not be tolerated. The aim of this message would be to give wannabe dictators and authoritarians pause.

We didn't get rid of an authoritarian like Saddam entirely in 1991 because of the power vacuum and, at the time, the United States was not yet willing to commit hundreds of thousands of ground troops in Iraq for an indefinite period of time. So we neutered his regime with sanctions. We also seem to have stuck around guarding the nation in the north and south with our watch of the no-fly zones, which makes me wonder if this was a signal to Iran to not even think about revenge against Saddam for invading Iran in the 1980s. The U.S. wasn't going away any time soon. Even way before 9/11, during the Clinton administration, America's official policy asked for regime change in Iraq.

Whether Saddam was a CIA asset or not all the way until 2003 is irrelevant. Saddam had ruled that country since 1979. Unlike the Saudi royal family, there were no clear cut successors, and even his sons were rumored to be either crazy or retarded. Plus, there was a historic enemy at the border, Iran, which further threatened the world's economy. The United States - for the sake of the entire world's long-term stability - needed a democracy in Iraq.

By the way, guess Saddam's age when we removed him from office in 2003?

He was 65.

That's retirement age.

So, we retired him.

Question 9: If the government and military is lying to the public, doesn't that mean that America is not a democracy?

That's ridiculous. The United States is a representative democracy. Our senators and most of our congressman understand that the Defense Department does not act without reason. Any elected representative who isn't an idiot knows the real reasons for our foreign policy actions, and if he or she doesn't know common historical knowledge, he or she just has to make a couple of phone calls. During the last fifty years, the only exception I can think of is the illegal expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos without informing Congress.

Even though it seems sometimes like our representatives are stupid or crooked or zombies, they're not for the most part, or at least they're not stupid whenever the U.S. military tells them that the free world is at stake and we need to take action to avert global depression or world war. They can act like contrarians, but 95% of the time, disagreeing with the Defense Department is career suicide, and the political parties, corporations, and voting public wants to remove the idiots from office as soon as possible. This contrarian scenario rarely plays out, because the vast majority of our elected representatives are not idiots when matters of national and world security are at stake.

Our public relations people give the media some basic storylines to follow, and the congressman usually repeat these to their constituents, though in this free society, they have the freedom to say whatever they want that doesn't get even more of our soldiers needlessly killed.

Question 10: Please explain why the United States and NATO became involved in the 1990s conflicts in Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo)?

Yugoslavia was destined for civil war ever since strongman and dictator Tito died in 1980.

Tito had ruled Yugoslavia from 1945 until his death in 1980. "Yugoslavia" was not a cohesive political or cultural entity after he died, with the last straw being the fall of the USSR. By 1991 different groups in that fake nation were all asking for self-autonomy. Serbians on one side, and Croats, Bosnians, and Albanians mostly on the other ; but then also in Bosnia, the Bosnians and Croats started fighting each other, and in Macedonia, the Macedonians and Albanians were fighting each other. The whole region was a mess. In 1990, a small Serbian elite tried to declare martial law, an attempt that just barely failed on the vote because the Bosnia rep - whose a ethnic Serb by the way - voted no. By 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declare their independence, and the wars start.

The entire region was too important to let it turn into an even greater mess, like the civil wars in Africa right now. NATO had to take drastic military actions throughout the 1990s to avert prolonged instability.

After seeing what had happened to the Yugoslav region in the 1990s, we all can see why the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 before Saddam died.

Question 11: Do you agree that the Vietnam and Korean wars were mistakes, an over-reaction to the flawed "domino theory" and the supposed intentions of the USSR at taking over the globe? These wars were merely excuses to extend United States influence across Asia that needlessly killed tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese and Koreans.

No. Interventions in Vietnam and Korea were necessary to achieve the global security the entire world benefits from today. Korea and Vietnam were proxy wars fought against a China that was aided by the USSR, not civil war conflicts the United States stepped into as an excuse to conquer the world.

The popular myths you repeated can be easily refuted by looking at a globe or world map. Find China, then North Korea, then South Korea, and then, most importantly, look at Japan. And, for the heck of it, look at India, too. And then finally, find Vietnam.

In case this is your first time looking at that region up close, you'll be surprised to find that South Korea is about as far away from Japan as Cuba is from Florida. That's pretty close. Remember, what the Nazis did to Europe in the 1930s, Japan did to southeast Asia for the first 45 years of the 20th century.

In the 1950s,China is ruled by recently declared dictator for life Mao, and Mao and the Chinese are not happy at all, because Japan has a history of raping and pillaging the entire region. China may not have had much of a navy at the time, but Mao is in complete control, and he has tens of millions of soldiers, an axe to grind for justifiable reasons, and probably assistance from the USSR. The Koreans, by the way, probably had the same opinion of the Japanese as Mao. And the Russians historically had fought Japan in the region because they wanted to dominate the same regions Japan wanted - Korea and Manchuria.

So, the only way that the United States prevents World War III or a continuation of World War II is to draw a line at the 38th parallel and give assurances to protect both South Korea and Japan. If we don't, somebody --China alone or Soviet-and-Chinese-aided Koreans-- goes after Japan's throat within ten to twenty years of World War II officially ending. Truman fired General MacArthur because MacArthur advocated total war instead of a limited, defensive one. Total war would have risked starting World War III. U.S. assurances to defend South Korea and Japan explain why technically, the "Korean conflict" never officially ended and both sides of the DMZ are heavily defended even today. Militarily,North Korea remains a proxy of China.

China had undergone a political revolution, and in the ensuing decades, analysts were still debating Mao's real intentions for the region. Mao kept us guessing.

In the 1960s, China showed signs of belligerence, including a 6-week border war with India over a disputed region that they called "South Tibet" in 1962.

The Vietnamese, perhaps to their credit, fought with everybody. They fought the French when they colonized. They fought the Japanese in World War II after the Vichy French made a deal with Japan to use Vietnam as its most important staging area in southeast Asia. And after we left, the Vietnamese even fought their Chinese backers in the Third Indochina War over border disputes.

The United States became involved in Indochina to gain credibility with China and Mao. If the Vietnam War had really been a colossal political and military failure, why did China become more open to diplomacy during the Nixon administration? As odd as it sounds, we lost the war, but we won the peace.

In 1969, Ho Chi Minh dies, China has a falling out with the USSR over border clashes, and the United States begins hinting that it would consider relaxing trade restrictions against China. In 1971, Ping Pong diplomacy begins. In 1972, Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to visit China, the first step in formally normalizing relations. In early 1973, the Paris Peace Accords officially end direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Not surprisingly,also in 1973, the U.S. and China establish the U.S. liaison Office, headed the following year by George H.W. Bush, who becomes Director of the CIA in 1976 for about a year. Mao dies in 1976 at the ripe old age of 82, but most of the diplomatic work has already been done by then. Beginning 1979, China and the U.S. officially establish diplomatic relations. A generation later, instead of instigating World War III, China's the world's leading maker of manufactured goods and joins the World Trade Organization (WTO) in late 2001.

I don't want to imply that the Vietnam War was flawless. Congress should have been told about Operation Menu, the necessary expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos to protect our troops in Vietnam. I also don't understand why, unless purely a psychological Shock & Awe tactic, why the U.S. dropped more bombs over Cambodia and Laos over a 14-month period than the total bombs the Allies dropped during all of World War II. Those bombs were apparently not aimed at people for the most part, because if they had been, the casualty rate would have been much higher - approaching genocide - which is not what the United States does. Oddly enough, Hanoi did not even formerly protest the bombings of Operation Menu; if they had, the U.S. Congress and the American people would have found out about this illegal operation much earlier via the international press.

Perhaps an unintended consequence of our preoccupation with Indochina in the 1960s was Israel, which had expansionist goals at the time, starting its 1967 "Six-Day War" with its Arab neighbors. In 1973, Egypt retaliated against Israel. Soon afterwards, the U.S. ensured relative peace and security in the region by buying both sides off with foreign aid that continues to this very day.

Question 12: Why would the United States want to heighten international tensions after only narrowly averting the end of the world during an earlier superpower standoff - the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Well, I have another, though extremely unorthodox, explanation for the Vietnam War which wiser people than I would probably consider as realistic as the Easter Bunny or the Loch Ness Monster. I mention this possibility only because the timing of two events may be relevant, one roughly before the Vietnam War, one roughly because of the Vietnam War. Before the war, in 1962, was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which scared probably half the country half to death. And then, over the next dozen years, we fight this ridiculously expensive ensuing war in southeast Asia - where I mentioned earlier we drop more bombs than the Allies did during all of World War II but apparently aim so poorly that the United States loses its only war in the 20th century - that causes the United States and Nixon to "close the gold window" in 1971, meaning termination of the post-World War II economic system known as Bretton Woods. This means that internationally, the U.S. dollar could no longer be converted directly to gold.

Ending the Bretton Woods system, a system that favored the United States enormously, essentially devalued the U.S. dollar, even more so after the 1973 and 1979 Middle East oil shocks, and led to what appeared at first to be a chaotic system of floating exchange rates where nations could not control their own monetary policies because of currency speculators. However, this "chaotic" system seems to have fostered world peace, ending the Cold War essentially by 1973, as well as fueling globalization and poverty reduction. China went from a relatively stagnant economy during all of the 1960s, to the world's leading manufacturer today, reducing its own poverty by perhaps 200 million. The United States was forced to become a post-industrial society after ending Bretton Woods, going through massive deindustrialization because of needing 20% interest rates to support the dollar in the late 1970s and early 1980s, plus having a booming budget deficit funded by foreign nations buying United.States Treasury bonds, with the leading foreign U.S. dollar holder being China now. The U.S. went through some economic pains in the 1970s and 1980s, but American consumers also benefited tremendously with low-cost manufactured goods and electronics imported from all over Asia (China,Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,and Singapore).

So, my Easter Bunny or Loch Ness monster scenario is, maybe the Cuban Missile Crisis terrified policy makers enough where they sped up their thinking about ending the Cold War as soon as possible, especially before an elderly Mao died leaving even more uncertainty. The problem to making an economic and politically stable world may have been transitioning from the Bretton Woods system into a new system which allowed the Chinese, Russians, and others to join the western world. And the only way policymakers could domestically justify spending to insolvency was an incredibly expensive war like Vietnam, which also wasted China's resources and eventually brought Mao to the negotiating table. LBJ entrenched American soldiers into Vietnam, and upon knowing the pain that would be ahead, decided not to run for re-election in 1968. Seeing this future pain, the federal government began accepting many more welfare applications than before. Welfare benefits were not reduced until the Clinton administration, after the fall of the USSR.

In 1971 Nixon ends Bretton Woods.

In 1972, Nixon meets Mao in China.

By 1973, the Cold War was more or less over, or at least its end relatively predictable by policy makers.

In 1973, the United States ends conscription, changing to an all-volunteer military force.

In 1974, the United States leaves Vietnam.

Nixon, a renowned Cold Warrior, was probably one of the few American diplomats who could get away with diplomacy with Red China. By ending Bretton Woods,however, Nixon probably became hated by many influential and wealthy Americans who had benefited so greatly from America's sheer economic and industrial dominace after World War II, which probably explains the pressure to out the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign.

Question 13: So, you have a positive opinion of Richard Nixon, even after Watergate?

Absolutely. Richard Nixon was a hero. Nixon did the dirty work to end the Cold War, but Reagan got the credit.

Question 14: What about the War on Drugs that was started by Richard Nixon, which has led to millions of nonviolent offenders being locked up in prisons and jails for years, receiving longer sentences than even murderers sometimes?

Nixon may have started the War on Drugs in 1969 as simply a future campaign issue to distance the Republican Party from that of the Democratic Party. Social conservatives needed an issue to shift the country to the right after the social chaos of the 1960s. Federal money from the drug war spread throughout local police departments, money sometimes used to prepare police for anti-war protests or race riots. However, Nixon may honestly have feared that drugs may have led to further deterioration of civil order and society, similar to China's historic problems with opium.

Administrations after Nixon may have also continued the drug war because after ending conscription in 1973 and leaving Vietnam in 1974, ending the drug war would signal to those abroad that the United States planned on ending its international security commitments to allies.

I am conflicted on the War on Drugs because of the gigantic black markets that the drug war created, which contributed to crime, murder, and chaos throughout the inner cities during the 1980s.

Question 15: What is your opinion of the Bush family, who had a history of doing business with the Nazis during World War II?

I'm a bit wary of Prescott because of the Union Banking ties. Business is business. I'm sure he wasn't the only one to act like a traitor for profits. In fairness to him and others, some war profiteers had agreements with Germany before the war started. Because of their greed, some businessmen continued their deals and lied to the government even during World War II. Treason.

But let's not blame the sins of the father on the sons or grandsons, as far as the Georges or Jeb are concerned. The remainder of their family, as far as I know, have served their country well. That family is rich, so the sons didn't have to do squat if they didn't want to, and certainly could have avoided the discriminating public spotlight. Instead, the elder George, for example, was one of the leading men responsible for establishing diplomatic relations with China in the 1970s. All of them have accomplished a hell of a lot more than, let's say, the male members of the British royal family.

Question 16: How do you feel about Indonesia occupying and slaughtering East Timor using America weapons since 1975?

The East Timorese did an unbelievably stupid thing by declaring independence the way they did in 1975.

East Timor was a colony of Portugal. In 1974, Portugal announces that they don't want the colony and abandon it completely. So, the following year, the East Timorese announce their independence to the world just like that, with little to no foreknowledge by the remainder of the world, not even the United Nations, and no official recognition of accepting their independence by any nation in the known world.

Not only is Indonesia the only regional power, the other half of the island, West Timor, is already a part of Indonesia. So, East Timor, surprise, declares independence without the diplomatic acceptance and acknowledgment of the other half of the freaking island, which is a part of the region's only military power? That's just stupid. No wonder Indonesia was paranoid, occupied East Timor, and declared their political party as a bunch of communists.

Bloodshed could have been avoided all of these years with better diplomacy in 1975, no matter what Indonesia's attitude was towards East Timorese independence. Let's assume - giving East Timor the benefit of the doubt - that Indonesia knew that Portugal had abandoned East Timor, East Timor then told Indonesia that they wanted to be independent, but then Indonesia was apprehensive of the idea or were stonewalling in 1975. Having failed negotiations with Indonesia, East Timor should have made a case with the United Nations, as well as providing the international press with wonderful stories about the East Timorese culture and how it was completely different from West Timor and Indonesia. Considering that Portugal abandoned the island instead of formally handing the administration of the island to Indonesia, the East Timorese should have had a decent shot at independence within another few years.

Even if Indonesia had stonewalled or vetoed East Timorese independence in 1975 because of concerns, probably exaggerated, of influence from Communist China, it's possible that over time - with the right cooperation and diplomacy - that Indonesia could have viewed East Timor as an innocuous ally over time, allowing that side of the island more self-rule and possibly independence after trust between the two entities had been established.

Question 17: According to Keith Harmon Snow, western investors and corporations are benefiting from slavery in the Congo. These corporations are practically stealing Africa's mineral wealth as well. Why has the United States allowed these despicable practices and not fined or sanctioned the corporations involved?

My, oh my. If the United States isn't being criticized for intervening too much in the affairs of other nations, it's being crititcized for intervening too little.

I've actually read some of Keith Snow's essays. I've noticed his website sometimes give me pop-up ads from the U.S. military. Maybe he's subconsciously advocating a benevolent U.S. intervention, perhaps?

Frankly, I don't know what to make of Keith Snow's accusations of some very influential Americans and companies. Maybe they're true, maybe they're not. I don't know. I know very little about the conflicts in the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo. From what little I do know, that entire region has been a mess for a long time.

Not only the Congo, but much of Africa, has not developed politically or industrially. With the fall of the USSR, I could see the United States be definitely more involved in the region in the future, but only after long-term stability in the Middle East is assured. Several of the Pentagon's grand strategists, including Thomas P.M. Barnett, have suggested that the next region of concern in the War on Terror is Africa.

Question 18: Is there anything else you would like to say?

I would like to comment on the perception that the United States military wastes the lives of young men and women. For example, you used the phrase "needless deaths" to describe the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of Americans in Korea and Vietnam. Their sacrifice has helped ensure the American way of life and a more peaceful world today. The Pentagon does not make the decision to send Americans into danger lightly. No one else had the courage to do what we've done since World War II ended. Much of the world seems to have forgotten the American sacrifice as of late, taking for granted the security we have safeguarded, but that phase will pass.

On a final note, I'd like to end this interview by reading a quotation from the movie A Few Good Men , by the character Colonel Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson); while I don't condone the excessive hazing mentioned in the plot, Jessep's attitude seems appropriate :

COLONEL JESSEP: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post.

This post was last edited 1/05/2008 at 8:31 P.M.