• It’s Personal Now: Apologizing to My Daughter for the Last 15 Years of War

    September 30, 2016

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America

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    I recently sent my last kid off for her senior year of college. There are rituals to these things, and because dad-confessions are not among them, I just carried the boxes and kept quiet.

    But what I really wanted to say to her — rather than see you later, call this weekend, do you need money? — was: I’m sorry.

    Like all parents in these situations, I was thinking about her future. And like all of America, in that future she won’t be able to escape what is now encompassed by the word “terrorism.”


    Everything is OK, But You Should Be Terrified

    Terrorism is a nearly nonexistent danger for Americans. We have more of a chance of being hit by lightning, though fear doesn’t work that way. There’s no 24/7 coverage of global lightning strikes or “see something, say something” signs that warn about reporting thunderstorms. I felt no need to apologize for lightning.

    But terrorism? I really wanted to tell my daughter just how sorry I was she would have to live in what 9/11 transformed into the most frightened country on Earth.

    Want the numbers? Some 40 percent of Americans believe the country is more vulnerable to terrorism than it was in 2001, the highest percentage ever.

    Want the apocalyptic jab in the gut? Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said earlier this month the threat has not lessened. “Those people, those enemies, those members of that terrorist group, still intend – as they did on 9/11 – to destroy your freedoms, to kill you, kill your families, they still intend to destroy the United States of America.”

    All that fear turned us into an engine of chaos abroad, while consuming our freedoms at home. And it saddens me that there was a pre-9/11world her generation and all those who follow her will never know.


    Growing Up

    My kids grew up overseas while, from 1988 to 2012, I served with the State Department. For the first part of my career as a diplomat, wars were still discreet matters. For example, though Austria was a neighbor of Slovenia, few there worried the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s would spill across the border. Suicide bombers didn’t threaten Vienna when we visited as tourists in 1991. That a war could again consume large parts of the world and involve multiple nations would have seemed as remote to us vacationers that year as the moon.

    Even the big war of the era, Desert Storm in 1991, seemed remarkably far away. My family and I were assigned in Taiwan at the time, and life there simply went on. There was no connection between us and what was happening in the sand far away, and certainly we didn’t worry about a terror attack.

    It’s easy to forget how long ago all that was. Much of the Balkans is now a tourist destination, and a young soldier who fought in Desert Storm would be in his mid-forties today. Or think of it this way: either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump entering the Oval Office next January will be the fifth president in succession to bomb Iraq.

    On September 11, 2001, I was assigned to Japan, and like everyone, as part of a collective trauma, watched the terrible events on TV. Due to the time difference, it was late at night in Tokyo. As the second plane hit the World Trade Center, I made sandwiches, suspecting the phone would ring and I’d be called to the embassy for a long shift. I remember my wife saying, “Why would they call you in? We’re in Tokyo!” Then, of course, the phone did ring, and I remember running to grab it not out of national security urgency, but so it didn’t wake my kids.

    My daughter’s birthday falls on the very day that George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq. I missed her celebration in 2003 to stay at work preparing for the embassy to be overrun by al-Qaeda. I missed her birthday again in 2005, having been sent on temporary duty to Thailand to assist the U.S. Navy in setting up a short-term base facility there. When the naval officers mentioned the location they wanted to use to the Thai military liaison accompanying us, he laughed. That’s taken, he said, but you didn’t hear it from me, better ask your own people about it.

    Later, I would learn the location was a CIA black site where the country I then represented was torturing human beings.

    Looking back, it’s remarkable to realize that, in response to a single day of terror, Washington set the Middle East ablaze, turned air travel into a form of bondage play, and did away with the best of our democracy.

    Nothing required the Patriot Act, Guantánamo, renditions, drone assassinations, and the National Security Agency turning its spy tools inward. The White House kept many of the nastiest details from us, but made no secret of its broader goals. Americans on the whole supported each step, and Washington then protected the men and women who carried out each of the grim acts it had inspired. After all, they were just following orders.

    Protocols now exist allowing the president to select American citizens, without a whit of due process, for drone killing. Only overseas, he says, but you can almost see the fingers crossed behind his back. Wouldn’t an awful lot of well-meaning Americans have supported an aerial drone killing in San Bernardino, or at the Pulse club in Orlando? Didn’t many support using a robot to blow up a suspect in Dallas?


    Back in the Homeland

    The varieties of post-9/11 fear sneak up on us all. I spent a week this summer obsessively watching the news for any sign of trouble in Egypt while my daughter traveled there to visit some old embassy acquaintances. She had to risk her life to see a high school friend in a country once overrun with tourists.

    So, I want to say sorry to my daughter and her friends for all the countries where we Americans, with our awkward shorts and sandals, used to be at least tolerated, but are now dangerous for us to visit. Sorry that you’ll never see the ruins of Babylon or the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq unless you join the military.

    Arriving back in the U.S., my daughter called from the airport to say she’d be home in about an hour. I didn’t mention my worries that she’d be stopped at “the border,” a new name for baggage claim, or have her cell phone confiscated for having traveled to the Middle East. She was, in fact, asked by an immigration agent her purpose in going there, something that even the Egyptians hadn’t bothered to question her about. We don’t yet say “papers, please,” but we do refer to America as the Homeland.

    I also wanted to apologize to my daughter because she will never really know what privacy is in our new surveillance world. I needed to ask her forgiveness for how easily we let that happen, for all those who walk around muttering they have nothing to hide, so what’s to worry about. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was that she’s now afraid of the police, not just for herself but especially for her friends of color. I wanted to tell her how badly I felt that she’d only know a version of law enforcement so militarized that, taking its cues from the national security state, views us all as potential enemies and so believes that much of its job involves repressing our most basic rights.

    I’m sorry, I want to say to her, that protesting Americans can be confined in something called a “free speech zone” surrounded by those same police. I want to tell my daughter the Founders would rise in righteous anger at the idea of the police forcing citizens into such zones outside a political convention. And that most journalists don’t consider such a development to be a major story of our times.

    As I sent her off to college, I wanted to say how sorry I was that we had messed up the world, sorry we not only didn’t defeat the terrorists the way Grandpa did the Nazis but, by our actions, gave their cause new life and endless new recruits. Al-Qaeda set a trap on 9/11 and we fell into it. The prison American occupiers set up at Camp Bucca in Iraq became a factory for making jihadis, and the torture chambers at Abu Ghraib remain, like Guantánamo, an infomercial inviting others to pick up a weapon.


    The New Normal

    My daughter is not naïve. Like most of her classmates, she is aware of most of these things, but she has no point of comparison. What fish truly sees the water around it? And it’ll be even harder for her kids to try and do so. Her adult life has been marked by constant war, so much so that “defeating the terrorists” is little more than a set phrase she rolls her eyes at. It’s a generational thing that is too damn normal, like Depression-era kids still saving aluminum foil and paper bags in the basement after decades of prosperity.

    I’m truly sorry that her generation copes with this by bouncing between cynicism and the suspension of disbelief. That allows many to accept the idea that invading Iraq was a reasonable response to an attack on America by a group of Saudis funded by Saudi “charity donations.” And by now, “well, it wasn’t actually a crime” is little short of a campaign slogan for acts that couldn’t be more criminal. That’s a world on a path to accepting 2+2 can indeed equal 5 if our leaders tell us it’s true.

    We allow those leaders to claim the thousands of American troops now stationed in Iraq are somehow not “boots on the ground,” or in the newest phraseology, “ground troops.” Drone strikes, we’re told, are surgical, killing only bad guys with magic missiles, and never on purpose hitting civilians, hospitals, children, or wedding parties. The deaths of human beings in such situations are always rare and accidental, the equivalent of those scratches on the car door from that errant shopping cart in the mall parking lot.


    Cleaning Up After Her Dad

    If anyone is going to fix this mess — I want to tell my daughter — it’s going to have to be you. And, I want to add, you’ve got to do a better job than I did, if, that is, you really want to find a way to say thanks to me for the skating lessons, the puppy, and for me not being too mad when you almost violated curfew to spend more time with that boy.

    After the last cardboard boxes had been lugged up the stairs, I held back my tears until the very end. Hugging my daughter, I felt I wasn’t where I was standing but in a hundred other places; I wasn’t consoling a smart, proud, twenty-something woman apprehensive about senior year, but an elementary school student going to bed on the night that would forever be known only as 9/11.

    Back home, the house is empty and quiet. Outside, the leaves have just a hint of yellow. At lunch, I had some late-season strawberries nearly sweet enough to confirm the existence of a higher power. I’m gonna really miss this summer.

    I know I’m not the first parent to grow reflective watching his last child walk out the door. But I have a sense of what’s ahead of her. Fear is a terrible thing to be sorry for. And that can be scary.


    (Photo is for illustration only; it is not my daughter)



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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      “Everything is OK, But You Should Be Terrified”

      It’s a real American Horror Story. Send in the clowns:

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/09/30/clown-threats-close-ohio-schools-after-woman-reports-being-attacked/91312994/

      09/30/16 10:27 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      And where are you going to send your daughter if this clown wins?

      https://s3.amazonaws.com/wp-ag/wp-content/uploads/sites/72/2016/02/New-York-Daily-News-Clown-1.jpg

      09/30/16 10:55 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      3

      Rich..that’s the wrong clown. ….

      https://i.ytimg.com/vi/l0M5HUR1scY/hqdefault.jpg

      I’ll be back later.

      09/30/16 1:30 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      4

      Thinking of clowns, is there a George Carlin video about voting? I will have to google it. Cant link.

      09/30/16 2:21 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      5

      Did Wikileaks or someone (Nov 5 guy) say they would make a release of Truth in Oct. ? Happy September!

      09/30/16 2:23 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      6

      Peter..2 years ago, I wrote a letter to each of my grandchildren, instructing their parents, my kids, to only give it to them on their 16th birthday. In the letter, I apologized to them on behalf of my generation for 3 things, with a lengthy explanation of the subjects.

      1. Their enslavement by the 16th Amendment, the lies and history of the IRS and what it really is, and what it means for their own progeny in the future, and the failure of my generation for not revolting by force, once the truth came out of how the wealthy and corporations pay little or no taxes, compared to the poor.
      2. The Surveillance/Police State. How it came to be, and what it is and is not, and why we failed to hold our Government accountable.
      3. Continuous war on terror. How it came to be and why we failed to do anything about it.

      Furthermore, I plead with them not to spit on our graves for our failure to protect their, and their progeny’s future, from living under a fascist, tyrant legal imperialism after loosing our Constitutional rights.

      Little did I know at the time, soon, a sociopath and a war monger would become candidates for the POTUS, in the most bizarre, truth free, lie contest in the history of US elections. I’ll have to send a post script for my letters now explaining what happened to Murika that allowed these scum sucking maggots to rise in such a way, they were nominated by criminals within each party’s conventions.

      I’m hoping they won’t laugh out loud as who knows how, and what that generation will be educated to think. I also told them..fuck the Pledge of Allegiance.

      09/30/16 2:25 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      7

      Sir,
      Your good people. Your daughter already knows.

      As a thought for you… My son in his last year of high school had an assignment about quotes. To find his favorites.
      His first…
      By Edmund Burke.
      The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

      His second, was all him, original.

      I truly miss the country I knew knew.

      He was 4 years old at 9/11/2001.

      He has grown up in the country that exists now.
      He sees the pattern and trend.
      It scares him to see where the pattern goes at its ultimate conclusion.

      09/30/16 3:49 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...

      8

      What part of the NAZIs (now PNACis) Beating US, won’t we understand? It IS Poppy Bush (CIA) Company und affiliated putsch in power. I, at least, opposed them all my career; but foreign oder “Heimland”, they’re determined to do It ANYWAY : See Poppy’s 1988 promise of, “Every wetland, NO MATTER HOW SMALL, should be PRESERVED”, and its complementary enabling 1985 Clean Water Act Pollution ELIMINATION DEADLINE ! (Seen even any water pollution reduction or wetland destruction cessation For 3 DECADES?). His ‘environmental’ Schutzstaffel, Billary and Browner are today running around teh Lake 0′ Florida, ecosystemically collapsing watershed; providing even more singular labia-flapping fraudulent “promise” for an equable aquatic future (e.g.). Fat LIP$ !

      09/30/16 5:19 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      9

      Bruce said…:

      A mouth full of thoughts that he can’t coherently establish a legitimately train of reality. Meanwhile.. in an expression of ultimate psychopathic power of those who possess the real military power on the planet,
      those with real power continue to express their own dreams of devastation and wrath upon their enemies. Exactly like Revelations predicts.

      09/30/16 7:46 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      10

      Mitch said….

      A shit load of truth. My god. Mitch, welcome to the place where humanity sees, and expresses the truth. Thanks to Peter Van Buren. Afterall..he is the one who bravely confronted the reality of the lies of the USG and more, at the risk of losing everything. But there is more here. Stick around and contribute. We are listening.

      09/30/16 8:02 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch. said...

      11

      Thank you.

      Been reading for a while now. Ever since a mainstream picked up the essay about ‘why we are at war’.

      It is very refreshing to read and see comments from people who just get it. Very refreshing.
      Daily, I see and hear people that always have some motive other than …Ummmm….the truth.
      Its got me in to more than one interesting situation.

      1st….I apologize to anyone I may offend….sort of..:-)

      2nd…. Anyone else here thinking Peter should run for office???

      Some good common sense is needed in power positions.

      M

      09/30/16 9:37 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      12

      One way or another, the neocons and neoliberals in Washington want a hot war with Russia, China, and/or Iran. Voting for either Trump or Clinton gets us there. Clinton, because she lives for the thrill of remaking other countries against their wills and finds killing enjoyable; Trump, because he is completely disinterested in actually governing, doesn’t give a shit about anything involving anyone not named Trump, and will let the PNAC assholes do as they want.

      In the meantime, the wealthy elites are enjoying sight-seeing cruises in new areas opened by the loss of ice in the Arctic. Neither Trump nor Clinton seems disturbed by that, either.

      “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. ” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

      10/1/16 5:18 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      13

      teri said…

      “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. ” – Martin Luther King, Jr.”

      ummm.. spiritual doom is what we are seeing now.
      The physical doom is only a nuclear war away. Or.. an EMP of biblical proportions, of which I think the latter is more likely. All I know, is within my faith, the foundations of the predictions of Revelations are being checked off daily. And this election is a massive node in that trajectory of the future.

      10/1/16 8:21 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      14

      quote”In the meantime, the wealthy elites are enjoying sight-seeing cruises in new areas opened by the loss of ice in the Arctic.”unquote

      Yes they are. However,they have no clue that the Titanic of their lives is approaching the largest iceberg in history.

      10/1/16 8:26 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      15

      Given this site was originally oriented around the gross criminality of the US Department of State, it behooves me to post the latest laughable attempt by our current Sec. of State, Kerry, to quell the violence in Syria. Behold.. absolute frustration of a Secretary of State..with his own employer…the USG.. to which even he doesn’t understand who is pulling the strings undermining his own attempts at so called… “diplomacy”
      What a fucking joke…
      quote:
      “Over and over, he complained that his diplomatic efforts on Syria had not been backed by a serious threat of US military force. He bemoaned Russia’s continued bombing of civilians, its seeming disregard of international law, and his inability to stop it”unquote

      http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/syria/what-kerry-told-syrians-behind-closed-doors-1.1905213?utm_content=1.1905213&utm_medium=RSS&utm_source=Feeds&utm_campaign=What+Kerry+told+Syrians+behind+closed+doors&localLinksEnabled=false&utm_term=Most+viewed+RSS+

      I’ve got $20 bucks that says pretty quick, Kerry is going to say fuck this shit, come back and spit in Obama’s face, and quit. Any takers?

      10/1/16 9:33 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      16

      I think Obama chose Kerry because he was a doofus and easily a useful tool for empire without even knowing he was being used. I don’t see Kerry “waking up”. Obama may be a perfect example of someone whose huge blunder (regime change in Libya) taints for the worse all subsequent considerations. Because of his Libya blunder he got cold feet regarding what to do in Syria. Saying, “Assad must go”. clearly captures Obama’s petulant hubris.

      10/1/16 10:29 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      17

      Pitch,
      In the article you link to about John Kerry’s secretly recorded talk, we have these things:

      “…Over and over, he complained that his diplomatic efforts on Syria had not been backed by a serious threat of US military force. He bemoaned Russia’s continued bombing of civilians, its seeming disregard of international law, and his inability to stop it…”

      So, another erstwhile Sec. of State who believes that “diplomacy” should include the threat of military force. Interesting definition of the word “diplomacy”, although to be fair to Kerry, he is merely following in the footsteps of some of his predecessors, particularly Kissinger and Clinton. [In another article on the same topic, it is pointed out that Kerry also made the remark that, “you have nobody more frustrated than we are (the US)” that the Syrian issue is “now being solved diplomatically”. Strange remark from our top diplomat, eh?]

      “….I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration who have all argued for use of force, and I lost the argument,” Kerry told the group. Referring to chemical weapons, he added, “I’m the guy who stood up and announced, ‘We’re going to attack Al Assad because of the weapons,’ and then, you know, things evolved…..”

      Here is our SoS admitting he wanted to illegally attack a foreign country from the beginning to oust a foreign leader. And the claim that al Assad used chemical weapons against his own people was been proven false long ago. But Kerry throws it out there again in the hopes that repetition will equal truth.

      “At the meeting last week, Kerry tried to explain that the United States had no legal justification for attacking Al Assad’s government, whereas Russia had been invited in by the government. ‘The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do,’ he said…”

      He’s correct that the US has no legal justification or right to be in Syria. AND RUSSIA DOES. However, he fails to point out that the US began covert operations there 5 years ago, setting up the “rebels” as proxy forces against Assad, and furthermore, he makes the above remark about Russia’s lack of adherence to the rule of law a mere few weeks after the US bombed the air force base of Syria’s legitimate government, killing around 100 people, and the whole thing was obviously in collusion with ISIS, who used the resulting melee to swoop down from the hills and attack the base themselves. Attacking Syria’s troops is, obviously, a war crime and was when the US did it. It’ll still be a war crime the next time we do it.

      “…Kerry himself described an election set up by Western and regional powers and the United Nations, ‘under the strictest standards.’ He said the millions of Syrians who have fled since the war began in 2011 would be able to participate.
      ‘Everybody who’s registered as a refugee anywhere in the world can vote,’ Kerry assured the Syrians with whom he met. ‘Are they going to vote for Al Assad? Al Assad’s scared of this happening.’…”

      Uh, hate to tell you this, Kerry, because having to point this out makes you look ignorant, but Syria just held elections last year. All the Syrians who fled to other countries were allowed to vote along with the Syrians still in Syria, and al Assad won the election by a huge margin. Perhaps the alternatives to Assad are just scarier than he is. Perhaps the Syrians don’t want to be “Libya’d” by the US.

      Oh, and I don’t think your link points this out, Pitch, but the Syrians that Kerry was talking to were all from NGO groups which are known to be linked to US “opposition forces” [aka, the CIA-funded “rebels”, the CIA-funded “White Helmets”, etc.].

      And now we have State Dept. spokesman, Kirby, threatening Russia with terrorist attacks: last week, John Kirby said at a news briefing that “if the civil war in Syria continued, extremists could attack Russian interests, and perhaps even Russian cities.” He said that “Russians will continue coming home in body bags.”

      These people are openly criminal. Obama is out and about playing the buffoonish gadfly for Clinton and shilling for passage of the TPP – his only two jobs now being to Get Her Elected and Get the TPP into Law, as per instructions from his capo – while the country is actually being run by competing forces in the Pentagon and the CIA.

      Here are a couple of other articles on the same topic that you started with and I responded to:

      https://www.rt.com/op-edge/361313-syria-kerry-leaked-tapes/

      http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/10/01/diplomatic-frauds-kerry-power-kirby-lying-and-shilling-for-body-bags-and-war-in-syria/

      10/2/16 6:37 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      18

      Good news today. Guantanamo being evacuated ! (not because of Obama but weather)

      10/2/16 8:03 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      19

      teri said:
      “…his only two jobs now being to Get Her Elected and Get the TPP into Law, as per instructions from his capo – while the country is actually being run by competing forces in the Pentagon and the CIA. ”

      BINGO!

      Ha. In the event Trump is elected,I’d give a million bucks to see the look on his face, on his first day, when certain DOD and CIA personnel lock the oval room door, and enlighten him of the consequences, lest he “think” he now runs the show. The coup d’etat took place in 1964. Even Jim Garrison found out the hard way. At least he tried to tell the world. No one listened.

      To this day, funding of the CIA is not understood by newer Congresscritters. But those who have been in Congress over two years understand, should they rock the funding boat, they won’t be around to see another term. The Pike Committee was the first to rock that boat. After that, the CIA funding became a game of forking over a portion of every agency budget in secret. Only the heads of those agencies know how it’s done. Even the IC “oversight” committees are owned. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if half the Congress are actually CIA secret agents working on it’s behalf.

      Speaking of the PIKE Committee, you should read the actual transcriptions of the hearings. Unfuckingbelievable..notwithstanding, the report and it’s aftermath, and later declassified CIA doc’s that show what was going on behind the curtain. It makes Hollywood spook movies look like a kindergarten writing class. However, the best info I’ve ever seen on the reality of the CIA is the book and writings of Col. Fletcher Prouty. Even the story of the first publishing of his book, The Secret Team is a lesson in the scope of the CIA octopus tenticles.
      Ok, nuff about that. It doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing and no body can change it now. It is what it is.

      10/2/16 8:17 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      20

      Is itis a new terror group?!

      10/2/16 9:14 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      21

      Questions….

      As we are questioning….everything????

      WTH???????

      Common sense has gone around the bend….

      So, how many here are prime for needing this …therapy????

      http://topstories.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=17224&external=3782628.proteus.fma

      M

      10/2/16 12:14 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      22

      Hillary and Trump are Clowns, working for the Empire. Do you feel good when you vote? What about the other 364 days? Do you, for these extra days, work for the people and Planet? If I vote , it will be for Jill. I’m with her. Voting does not change the u.s. Empires control. Free Manning. BDS.

      10/2/16 5:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      23

      The clown who runs this circus says he will be free to talk only AFTER he isn’t the clown-in-chief:

      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article105126401.html

      10/2/16 9:31 PM | Comment Link

    • StarkNakedTruth said...

      24

      The current circus clown actually thinks people are interested in what he has to say…

      …after he is escorted to the curb at 1600 Penn Ave next January?

      Ya, sure.

      NOT.

      10/2/16 10:43 PM | Comment Link

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