Sunday, November 28, 2010

Letters to Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, re: DREAM act


November 23, 2010
Dear Mr. Rodgers,
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 729, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2009. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

Currently, there are thousands of children of undocumented immigrants who seek higher education or wish to join the military after graduating from a U.S. high school.

This year, there will be about 65,000 high school graduates, who, despite their academic accomplishments and strong motivation to succeed, will have to seek alternate routes to achieving success in America. Many believe that providing additional training to these kids will help our overall economy, the individual seeking to improve his or her life, and improve military recruitment and retention.

S. 729 would amend current law to allow children of parents who entered the country illegally to qualify for higher education benefits based on state residence. Additionally, S. 729 would allow certain undocumented immigrants the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Military legally, which could dramatically increase the pool of highly qualified recruits for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Only individuals who entered the United States before their sixteenth birthday, are currently under the age of thirty-five, and have been present in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding enactment of the bill would be eligible for these benefits. In addition, these individuals must also be of "good moral character," and must have earned a high school or equivalent diploma, or been accepted to an institution of higher education. After completing all of these requirements, those who remain in good legal and moral standing after finishing two years of higher education or military service, will earn the chance to obtain legal status as U.S. citizens.

Senator Richard Durbin (IL) introduced the DREAM Act on March 26, 2009. After introduction, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

As you may be aware, Senator Harry Reid (NV) planned to offer the DREAM Act as an amendment to S. 3454, the fiscal year 2011 (FY11) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). However, on September 21, 2010, despite strong support from the Armed Forces and many civic and religious groups, Senate Republicans unified in their opposition, and S.3454 failed by a vote of 56-43 to gain the 60 votes necessary to allow the Senate to debate the measure. I voted to proceed to the measure because the NDAA provides the necessary and critical funding for equipment and resources for our service members currently in harm's way. Giving our men and women in uniform, the resources that they need to continue their important work is a priority of mine, and I am disappointed that this funding is being tied up by partisan politics.

Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind should this or related legislation come before the Senate for consideration.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Rep. Martin Heinrich

Congressman Heinrich,

I would like to comment on two specific points in your letter to me, dated 19 Nov.. These points illustrate either astonishing ignorance or utter depravity – both on your part.

Your letter says that New Mexicans depend on tax cuts to survive - that our survival depends on the government’s giving back to us some of our own money. In actuality, we depend on our ability to work, generate income, and to manage that income effectively.

The government takes an outrageous percentage of my income and uses it to finance programs and individuals - such as criminal aliens - who further corrode my lifestyle. Then the government says, “Wess is having a tough time. Let’s refund some of the money we shouldn’t have taken from him, in the first place.” Then I’m supposed to be so grateful for this that I approve and support the government and those members of it who have perpetrated this economic sodomy.

I think not.

You imply axiomatic enmity between honest people and wealthy people. This is a page taken from the despicable book of a contemptible president who attempts to sustain his power by setting Americans at each other’s throats – by stimulating class hatred and warfare. It is evil, itself, not wealth, that makes some people evil.

Here are two excerpts from your letter: "Washington made a mess of the budget during the last decade, so naturally the best place to look for solutions is outside of Washington…we must get serious about reducing the budget deficit by letting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires expire and using this revenue to balance the budget and pay down the deficit."

You are dead wrong on two crucial points. 1 – the ONLY place to look for a solution to the budget problem is in Washington, because the problem isn’t a lack of revenue; the problem is pathological spending by you people in Congress! 2 – The premise that it is moral to destroy innocent people, whose only crime is success, in order to pay for your insanity is so contemptible, so utterly despicable as to beggar description.

The effort to destroy the wealthy class expresses an astonishing ignorance of one very basic, pragmatic fact: no poor person has ever offered me a job! In fact, I’d like to be very wealthy some day. You claim to be my friend and benefactor today. At what point will become my mortal enemy?

If you want to destroy an evil rich person, you might start looking under rocks for Barney Frank.

Heinrich's letter to which I am responding follows.

November 19, 2010
Dear Friend,
Thank you for contacting me regarding federal spending and middle-class tax cuts. I appreciate knowing your thoughts and concerns on this important issue.

On September 24, 2010, I signed a letter urging the Speaker of the House to pass a permanent middle class tax cut. New Mexicans who have worked hard and played by the rules depend on these tax cuts to make ends meet and to support their small businesses. At the same time, we must get serious about reducing the budget deficit by letting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires expire and using this revenue to balance the budget and pay down the deficit.

We've seen the results of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthy--record deficits and a tax code that encourages wealth stagnation rather than innovation. Returning to the same failed policies of the Bush administration, which took our country from surpluses to record debt, is completely unacceptable. Instead, I support cutting taxes for middle-class working families, seniors, and small business owners.

As you are well aware, the United States national debt currently stands at more than $13 trillion. In Congress, I am working to build a strong foundation for long-term fiscal responsibility. That is why I voted for statutory Pay As You Go legislation that forces the federal government to live within its means, the same way New Mexican families must balance their checkbooks. This means new programs or tax cuts do not add to the federal debt.

I am a supporter of the SAFE Commission Act, which would set a timeline for Congress to act on the nation's fiscal crisis. The SAFE Commission would be tasked with holding town hall meetings around the country; getting ideas from working families, small business owners, and local government officials; and submitting a report that balances long-term spending and revenue for the nation. Washington made a mess of the budget during the last decade, so naturally the best place to look for solutions is outside of Washington.

I am also a supporter of the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010, which would allow the president and Congress to work together to come up with a package of spending cuts that will eliminate wasteful and unnecessary spending.

Again, thank you for contacting me. For more information and additional details about legislation, please visit my website, While you are there, you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on my work in Congress.
As always, I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you.

To my Congressional delegation

I would like to ask you to support my values and principles on a few specific points.

First, please do not support, advocate, or vote for the DREAM act. It is an abomination of the greatest magnitude. It would wreak even greater havoc on the economic and cultural fabric of this nation. It is very clear that the vast majority of legal American citizens do not approve it. To pass a bill like this during a lame duck session would be an act of despicable passive aggression against the American people.

Second, please do not support, advocate, or approve in any way the appointment of Andrew Traver to the post of director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The man is a degenerate political hack on the best days, and a fascist thug the rest of the time. His appointment would be without virtue or advantage of any kind to anyone – with the possible exception of Al Queda.

Third, please support, advocate, and approve the extension of the so-called “Bush tax cuts.” Our goal should be to eventually enlarge these cuts and make them permanent. The idea, expressed by Obama, that the revenue from these taxes is the rightful property of the government rather than of the citizens who earned it is staggering in its dishonesty and cynicism.

Finally – for today – please resist pressure from the President and leaders of the Democratic party to push through any punitive, spiteful, or vengeful legislation during the lame duck session.

I’ll be in touch later.

Wess Rodgers

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review of "Unhearalded Victory - the Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army - 1961-1973"

Before I say another word, I want to go on record as saying that I was not a combat Marine in Vietnam. I was a radio repairman with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division. I was never in combat, and fired my weapon in anger only one time – well, more in fear than in anger – and the target was a solitary figure in the wire about 2- or 3 o’clock in the morning. My Vietnam experience was endless guard duty, 24-hour workdays, and getting drunk on my nights off. I spent a few days under six months in country at LZ Baldy, near the town of Hoi An, south of Da Nang.

For years, I had what I suppose was akin to survivor’s guilt about not having been in combat. I was just an REMF (ask a veteran about that) and didn’t feel I really deserved to call myself a veteran. The feeling was made stronger by a couple of smart-mouthed jackasses who, upon reflection, probably had even less claim to the title than I. In the early ‘80’s I was attending UNM, and met a fellow who had served two tours with the 5th Marines as a machine gunner. Whether he really had or not is not relevant to this anecdote, because he gave me something very, very valuable. I told him of my feeling of unworthiness and he shut me up right quick. “Look,” he said. “You put your [sensitive masculine body part] on the block. The axe didn’t fall. It’s not your fault. Get over it and get on with your life.” Thinking back on that fellow, I don’t recall his ever telling a single war story. I think he was probably the genuine article.

For my 58th birthday, my brother gave me a gift certificate for Border’s Books. With that certificate, I bought a book called, “Unheralded Victory – the Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army – 1961-1973,” by Mark W. Woodruff, Ballantine Books, 1999. The back cover says that Woodruff was a Marine in Vietnam, and that his book puts forth the idea that the war was an overwhelming victory for American arms. With an eye wary for revisionist propaganda, I started the book. By the time I’d finished it, I was proud, enraged, bitterly depressed, furious, really, really proud, and madder than a sonofabitch.

The book is 344 pages of text with a few photographs, 28 pages of footnotes, and 6 pages of bibliography. It does NOT include the famous photo of the naked little girl running from an American napalm strike, nor of the ARVN general blowing the brains out of a Viet Cong.

Woodruff sets the stage for America’s involvement in the war with a very brief history of the region, and a description of the world political atmosphere in the mid-50’s. To wit, there had been bad blood between the north and south for generations – bad enough to include several wars and a good deal of bloodshed. The French had tried to reclaim their colony after WWII, but couldn’t simultaneously feed that war and keep a legitimate army in France to bolster NATO. The Russians were rattling cages all over the world, and the US was extremely anxious that France be a major player in NATO. The French said they could only do that if we’d support them in Indochina. We supported them with money and material, but no troops. (I have read elsewhere that Ike’s cabinet discussed using tactical nukes to relieve the siege of Dien Bien Phu, but Woodruff does not bring this up.) After the French walked out, we already had many of millions of dollars invested in the region, and a vested interest in stopping the spread of Soviet and Chinese communism. The South Vietnamese asked us for help, and we gave it.

The first myth that Woodruff demolishes is that the war was a civil war. It was not. It was a war of conquest by the North. Period. Funded and equipped by the Russians and Chinese, the North Vietnamese recruited, trained, and equipped entire divisions of Viet Cong. The early VC were NVA in all but uniform and name – a far cry from the barefoot, freedom fighter militia the world press loved to paint them.

The second myth Woodruff tears up is of the efficiency of the VC as fighters. They were dangerous, and given an advantage, could do some damage. But the US and Australian military knocked the snot out of them on a regular basis. The main force VC were especially well-equipped and trained, but never learned to cope with the lightning reflexes of American company and platoon leaders, nor the savagery of the American air-ground team. (Woodruff is also generally complimentary of the ARVN, and especially so of the South Vietnamese Marines and Paratroops, and backs up his opinion with quotations and statistics from both sides.)

The first action that saw US troops meet NVA was, likewise, a serious butt-whuppin’ for the North: The Marines’ Operation Starlite. The Aussies gave them a shellacking at Long Tan. The US Army killed more than 3,000 NVA in the series of actions generally called the Battle of Ia Drang. Americans and Aussies died in those actions, but they gave better than they got, by orders of magnitude. Woodruff offers a list of 66 actions in which the enemy lost more than 500 men each, prior to June of 1968!

Typical of Woodruff’s analysis of these events is a quote by Army general Kinnard: “When General Giap says he learned how to fight Americans and our helicopters at the Ia Drang, that’s bullshit! What he learned was that we were not going to chase him across a mythical line in the dirt.” I have read Giap’s claim in many books, but never Kinnard’s refutation of it.

I have long known that the Tet offensive in January and February of 1968 was an unqualified catastrophe for the Communists, especially the VC. What amazed me was the degree to which I have been misled by the American media reports of that action. For example, I’d always believed the VC had taken most of the US embassy in Hue. In fact, they never got into the buildings. The Marine guards and a couple of soldiers on the grounds shot them down like dogs as soon as they crossed the fence. Another example: how long after the war was it made generally known that the VC murdered many hundreds of civilians in Hue and the surrounding area? We were finding the graves for years. The Tet offensive was not the masterfully organized thunderbolt we’ve been lead to believe. Some NVA outfits jumped off a full day early, so poor was their organization, due in no small part to the intense pressure put on their supply and communication lines by aggressive patrolling. Woodruff does not take a particle from the fighting ability and spirit of the NVA. He shows the courageous stand in the Citadel of Hue for what it was, and gives them full credit. But he doesn’t perpetuate the myth of their being superior to us in any way.

The Allied commanders were congratulating themselves on a brilliant victory, and were dumbfounded to read in the world’s press that they’d been defeated! General Giap, likewise, was amazed to see what the press had made of his debacle. It was at this point that he realized he had divisions and corps unnumbered in the copy rooms and news-stands of the world. He began to attack US troops with the specific intent of causing casualties in order to play his new-found ace for all it was worth.

Khe Sanh gets a chapter of its own, and, like Tet, Woodruff tells a story I’d never heard before. Grossly underestimating the resolve, toughness, and flexibility of the Americans – and their willingness to carpet bomb entire grid squares - Giap figured he’d blow past the little post at Khe Sanh and flood the south with men and supplies. As the American press was portraying the Marines at Khe Sanh and the Special Forces at Lang Vei as demoralized, whipped, and scared, Giap’s divisions were being more than decimated. In the end, he pulled in his horns and slunk back across the DMZ and into Cambodia and Laos, being saved only by the totally arbitrary and whimsical sense of propriety of Washington. Unlike Meade at Gettysburg, the victorious Americans and South Vietnamese were more than ready and able to annihilate the routed enemy.

The reason so many Blacks were killed? According to Black writers and leaders, it was because they volunteered to go where it was hottest. They’d found a way to be, not just equal, but superior, and they took it. Where else have you heard this perspective?

Did the American’s fixation on body count lead to wildly exaggerated claims of enemy casualties? I heard from one of our grunts that if they found a foot, a hand, and a head, they counted three enemy dead. Based on that, I’d always looked with contempt on the published figure of 500,000 enemy dead. However, in the late ‘70’s, Hanoi admitted to more than 1.1 million! Hanoi admitted that!

According to Woodruff, drug use in the US military was less than in the general population in the States, especially in combat units. This is one particular point that has challenged me. I have said that in the six months I was in country, my battalion lost 16 men to drug overdoses. Now I know for a fact there was at least one, because it was a fellow from my platoon. However, being encouraged by Woodruff to really ask myself where I got that number, I must admit it came from scuttlebutt. I have thereby resolved to do some research and see just what the real number was. [As of Nov., 2010, I have not investigated this. One more thing I need to do! WAR]

There is a short chapter on men who lied about their service – some of them so convincingly that they became leaders of veterans organizations, or even counselors to veterans! How many times have we all heard claims of individuals having been in the SEALS, Recon, Green Berets, LRRPS, Operation Phoenix, or other elite organizations? I have met not less than 100 men who claimed to have been in one – or sometimes two! – of these elite groups. I’ve met a dozen Navy Cross claimants, but not one of them appears on the official list of recipients – ditto Silver Stars. Oddly, I’ve never met anyone who claimed to have the Medal of Honor. Could it be that at least one thing is held sacred by liars? I’ve probably met two dozen who claimed to have been assassins with Operation Phoenix. Unfortunately, some of these clowns have received a great deal of attention from the press, and even after their lies have been made known, the press has never recanted or withdrawn the articles and programs.

Woodruff goes to some length to discuss the stories of American troops being abused on their return to the States. This is one item on which I’m unwilling to grant his point. He says that documentable cases of people spitting on veterans or otherwise assaulting them are extremely rare. He posits that most of the stories are hearsay – “A buddy of mine said…” or “…the buddy of a buddy said….” Until, over time, the stories have achieved the status of unimpeachable fact. Now, I know for a fact that when we landed at Seattle for refueling, we were allowed to walk through the terminal for a little while. A few people threw garbage at us and sneered. At least one bitch yelled, “Babykillers!” to the group I was with. That is not hearsay. Other than this, though, I must admit to believing without questioning what I’ve heard from other veterans. Perhaps Woodruff has a point, but I’ll have to see some more serious research done by someone who has no political axe to grind.

In chapter after anecdote after statistic, Woodruff lays down an unassailable case to show that we not only whipped the VC and NVA, we utterly destroyed their will and ability to wage war. This was not, as it has been patronizingly called, a case of winning the battles but losing the war. We won the stinking war, too! The NVA withdrew from the fight. The VC were reduced to starving bands of hobos and bandits, able to do nothing more than mine a footpath or murder the odd schoolteacher.

Giap, with his allies in the press and the US antiwar movement, broke our government’s will to win. No, that’s not exactly it. They convinced our government that we’d lost the war, after we’d already won it! Woodruff devotes several chapters to exposing specific lies and mythology about the war, from “combat correspondents” who never left the Saigon whore houses, or who deliberately and knowingly fabricated stories about the wily Viet Cong making fools of the fat Americans, and on and on and on. Eddie Allen, the man who took the photo of General Loan killing the VC, bitterly regretted what had been made of his photo. (The VC had just confessed to having slit the throats of Gen. Loan’s best friend and entire family, including several children.) Other correspondents and photographers are quoted expressing regret about how their work was either ill-advised, inaccurate, or twisted for propaganda’s sake. Where have you ever heard anything like that?

And you know what makes me just absolutely pig-bitin’ mad? The bastards are doing the same thing again in Iraq! Exactly the same thing! Treason is too weak a word for what they are doing.

This book was obviously a very powerful experience for me. I don’t know just yet what I’m going to do about it, but I think I need to take some action to get Woodruff’s message out. I wish to goodness my own kids would read this book, because it gives a stunning portrait of the power of the press to manipulate a nation’s resolve. This is not just a history lesson; we are seeing this same thing again every day. It is absolutely current events!

I recommend “Unheralded Victory” without reservation to veterans of Vietnam or other wars. (My own father, a Marine veteran of WWII, once sneered at me and said, “At least my generation never got their asses kicked by a bunch of gooks!”) I recommend it to all Americans, including Americans of Vietnamese descent. I recommend it to all members of the press, including those who would write books or produce video works on the present war, whether fiction or non-fiction.

And I’ve just got to say it again: We whipped those suckers to a fare-thee-well, and we didn’t lose the war. The war was won before the politicians went back and gave it away later.

To my fellow Vietnam veterans, “Well done and welcome home.”

Better Men Than I - For My Fellow Veterans of Vietnam

I received this essay in an email from a dear friend and Army veteran. It moved me deeply, and it seem right to post it here. Semper Fidelis!

Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb, and now Democratic Senator from Virginia, was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam. His novels include The Emperor's General and Fields of Fire.

Here he offers a very personal, first hand, relatively short, but ever fascinating, history of the Viet Nam era and, more importantly, of the War in Viet Nam.
Find a quiet place and take the time to read this gritty story! It is very introspective about a generation and a war that is remembered, by so many, both as a gallant battle and a pointless struggle. Their mixed emotions have been greatly influenced by frequently inaccurate reporting; by politicized characterizations by an agenda-driven, elite gentry of the day; by current historians, who cut their teeth during that time, and who were shaped by poor communications of the facts of the War in Viet Nam.

Heroes of the Vietnam Generation by James Webb

The rapidly disappearing cohort of Americans that endured the Great Depression and then fought World War II is receiving quite a send-off from the leading lights of the so-called 60s generation. Tom Brokaw has published two oral histories of "The Greatest Generation" that feature ordinary people doing their duty and suggest that such conduct was historically unique.

Chris Matthews of "Hardball" is fond of writing columns praising the Navy service of his father while castigating his own baby boomer generation for its alleged softness and lack of struggle. William Bennett gave a startling condescending speech at the Naval Academy a few years ago comparing the heroism of the "D-Day Generation" to the drugs-and-sex nihilism of the "Woodstock Generation." And Steven Spielberg, in promoting his film "Saving Private Ryan," was careful to justify his portrayals of soldiers in action based on the supposedly unique nature of World War II.

An irony is at work here. Lest we forget, the World War II generation now being lionized also brought us the Vietnam War, a conflict which today's most conspicuous voices by and large opposed, and in which few of them served. The "best and brightest" of the Vietnam age group once made headlines by castigating their parents for bringing about the war in which they would not fight, which has become the war they refuse to remember.

Pundits back then invented a term for this animus: the "generation gap." Long, plaintive articles and even books were written examining its manifestations. Campus leaders, who claimed precocious wisdom through the magical process of reading a few controversial books, urged fellow baby boomers not to trust anyone over 30. Their elders, who had survived the Depression and fought the largest war in history, were looked down upon as shallow, materialistic, and out of touch.

Those of us who grew up, on the other side of the picket line from that era's counter-culture can't help but feel a little leery of this sudden gush of appreciation for our elders from the leading lights of the old counter-culture. Then and now, the national conversation has proceeded from the dubious assumption that those who came of age during Vietnam are a unified generation in the same sense as their parents were, and thus are capable of being spoken for through these fickle elites.

In truth, the "Vietnam generation" is a misnomer. Those who came of age during that war are permanently divided by different reactions to a whole range of counter-cultural agendas, and nothing divides them more deeply than the personal ramifications of the war itself. The sizable portion of the Vietnam age group who declined to support the counter-cultural agenda, and especially the men and women who opted to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, are quite different from their peers who for decades have claimed to speak for them. In fact, they are much like the World War II generation itself. For them, Woodstock was a side show, college protesters were spoiled brats who would have benefited from having to work a few jobs in order to pay their tuition, and Vietnam represented not an intellectual exercise in draft avoidance, or protest marches but a battlefield that was just as brutal as those their fathers faced in World War II and Korea.

Few who served during Vietnam ever complained of a generation gap. The men who fought World War II were their heroes and role models. They honored their father's service by emulating it, and largely agreed with their father's wisdom in attempting to stop Communism's reach in Southeast Asia.

The most accurate poll of their attitudes (Harris, 1980) showed that 91 percent were glad they'd served their country, 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service, and 89 percent agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win." And most importantly, the castigation they received upon returning home was not from the World War II generation, but from the very elites in their age group who supposedly spoke for them.

Nine million men served in the military during Vietnam War, three million of whom went to the Vietnam Theater. Contrary to popular mythology, two-thirds of these were volunteers, and 73 percent of those who died were volunteers. While some attention has been paid recently to the plight of our prisoners of war, most of whom were pilots; there has been little recognition of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground.

Dropped onto the enemy's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompletely on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total U.S. dead.

Those who believe that it was a "dirty little war" where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it is was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought, five times as many dead as World War I, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of World War II.

Significantly, these sacrifices were being made at a time the United States was deeply divided over our effort in Vietnam. The baby-boom generation had cracked apart along class lines as America's young men were making difficult, life-or-death choices about serving. The better academic institutions became focal points for vitriolic protest against the war, with few of their graduates going into the military. Harvard College, which had lost 691 alumni in World War II, lost a total of 12 men in Vietnam from the classes of 1962 through 1972 combined. Those classes at Princeton lost six, at MIT two. The media turned ever more hostile. And frequently the reward for a young man's having gone through the trauma of combat was to be greeted by his peers with studied indifference; of outright hostility.

What is a hero? My heroes are the young men who faced the issues of war and possible death, and then weighed those concerns against obligations to their country. Citizen-soldiers who interrupted their personal and professional lives at their most formative stage, in the timeless phrase of the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, "Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, but in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it." Who suffered loneliness, disease, and wounds with an often-contagious elan. And who deserve a far better place in history than that now offered them by the so-called spokesman of our so-called generation.

Mr. Brokaw, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Spielberg, meet my Marines. 1969 was an odd year to be in Vietnam. Second only to 1968 in terms of American casualties, it was the year made famous by Hamburger Hill, as well as the gut-wrenching Life cover story showing pictures of 242 Americans who had been killed in one average week of fighting. Back home, it was the year of Woodstock, and of numerous anti-war rallies that culminated in the Moratorium march on Washington. The My Lai massacre hit the papers and was seized upon the anti-war movement as the emblematic moment of the war. Lyndon Johnson left Washington in utter humiliation.

Richard Nixon entered the scene, destined for an even worse fate. In the An Hoa Basin southwest of Danang, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in its third year of continuous combat operations. Combat is an unpredictable and inexact environment, but we were well led. As a rifle platoon and company commander, I served under a succession of three regimental commanders who had cut their teeth in World War II, and four different battalion commanders, three of whom had seen combat in Korea. The company commanders were typically captains on their second combat tour in Vietnam, or young first lieutenants like myself who were given companies after many months of "bush time" as platoon commanders in the Basin's tough and unforgiving environs.

The Basin was one of the most heavily contested areas in Vietnam, its torn, cratered earth offering every sort of wartime possibility. In the mountains just to the west, not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese Army operated an infantry division from an area called Base Area 112. In the valleys of the Basin, main-force Viet Cong battalions, whose ranks were 80 percent North Vietnamese Army regulars, moved against the Americans every day. Local Viet Cong units sniped and harassed. Ridgelines and paddy dikes were laced with sophisticated booby traps of every size, from a hand grenade to a 250-pound bomb. The villages sat in the rice paddies and tree lines like individual fortresses, crisscrossed with the trenches and spider holes, their homes sporting bunkers capable of surviving direct hits from large-caliber artillery shells. The Viet Cong infrastructure was intricate and permeating. Except for the old and the very young, villagers who did not side with the Communists had either been killed or driven out to the government controlled enclaves near Danang.

In the rifle companies, we spent the endless months patrolling ridgelines and villages and mountains, far away from any notion of tents, barbed wire, hot food, or electricity. Luxuries were limited to what would fit inside one's pack, which after a few "humps" usually boiled down to letter-writing material, towel, soap, toothbrush, poncho liner, and a small transistor radio.

We moved through the boiling heat with 60 pounds of weapons and gear, causing a typical Marine to drop 20 percent of his body weight while in the bush. When we stopped we dug chest-deep fighting holes and slit trenches for toilets. We slept on the ground under makeshift poncho hooches, and when it rained we usually took our hooches down because wet ponchos shined under illumination flares, making great targets. Sleep itself was fitful, never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we mixed daytime patrolling with night-time ambushes, listening posts, foxhole duty, and radio watches. Ringworm, hookworm, malaria, and dysentery were common, as was trench foot when the monsoons came. Respite was rotating back to the mud-filled regimental combat base at An Hoa for four or five days, where rocket and mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night. Which makes it kind of hard to get excited about tales of Woodstock, or camping at the Vineyard during summer break.

We had been told while training that Marine officers in the rifle companies had an 85 percent probability of being killed or wounded, and the experience of "Dying Delta," as our company was known, bore that out. Of the officers in the bush when I arrived, our company commander was wounded, the weapons platoon commander wounded, the first platoon commander was killed, the second platoon commander was wounded twice, and I, commanding the third platoons, fared no better. Two of my original three-squad leaders were killed, and the third shot in the stomach. My platoon sergeant was severely wounded, as was my right guide. By the time I left, my platoon I had gone through six radio operators, five of them casualties.

These figures were hardly unique; in fact, they were typical. Many other units; for instance, those who fought the hill battles around Khe Sanh, or were with the famed Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment, or were in the battle of Hue City or at Dai Do, had it far worse.

When I remember those days and the very young men who spent them with me, I am continually amazed, for these were mostly recent civilians barely out of high school, called up from the cities and the farms to do their year in hell and then return. Visions haunt me every day, not of the nightmares of war but of the steady consistency with which my Marines faced their responsibilities, and of how uncomplaining most of them were in the face of constant danger. The salty, battle-hardened 20-year-olds teaching green 19-year-olds the intricate lessons of the hostile battlefield. The unerring skill of the young squad leaders as we moved through unfamiliar villages and weed-choked trails in the black of night. The quick certainty when a fellow Marine was wounded and needed help. Their willingness to risk their lives to save other Marines in peril. To this day it stuns me that their own countrymen have so completely missed the story of their service, lost in the bitter confusion of the war itself.

Like every military unit throughout history, we had occasional laggards, cowards, and complainers. But in the aggregate, these Marines were the finest people I have ever been around. It has been my privilege to keep up with many of them over the years since we all came home. One finds in them very little bitterness about the war in which they fought. The most common regret, almost to a man, is that they were not able to do more for each other and for the people they came to help.

It would be redundant to say that I would trust my life to these men. Because I already have, in more ways than I can ever recount. I am alive today because of their quiet, unaffected heroism. Such valor epitomizes the conduct of Americans at war from the first days of our existence. That the boomer elites can canonize this sort of conduct in our fathers' generation while ignoring it in our own is more than simple oversight. It is a conscious, continuing travesty.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To Rep. Martin Heinrich

Thank you for this response to my note about the Lame Duck session of Congress. Please be kind enough to forward this note to the Congressman, too.

I will not go into the complexities of people being told by Congress how much to pay their employees. Instead, I will discuss the concept of “playing politics.”

You use the term to dismiss the positions of others whose positions you cannot refute by reason. In a word, if they agree with you, it’s called “integrity.” If they disagree with you, it’s called “playing politics.”

When so many Republicans were collaborating with the Obama regime and helping to hasten the destruction of our republic, they were called, “visionary,” and, “bi-partisan,” and “cooperative.” They were explicitly playing politics, but it was YOUR politics. The things they were collaborating on were strictly and militantly promoted by the regime.

Now that some Republicans might have developed some guts and integrity, and are rejecting the manically strict line of the Democrats, they are, “playing political games.” I reject absolutely your criticism of them; they have done precisely what I’ve been hounding them to do for years: to impede this nation’s plunge toward a degree of absolute statism that would have the fascists of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s weeping in joy.

Your president has said the election was a mandate from the American people to end the obstructionism and logjams. The man is insane. The election was a mandate from the American people to shove a stick in the spokes of this tax-and-spend velocipede. At this point in our history, the slower we go, the more progress we make.

If you would contribute to the economic well-being of American families, stop promoting programs and ideas that corrupt and destroy the very thing that provides that well-being: capitalism. The vast majority of Americans do not wish to be the kept lapdogs of government, nor to live off the stolen dreams and souls of their countrymen.

I am just getting started, and will stay in touch. Please, Sir, reconsider your support of your president’s self-destructive insanity.

Rep. Heinrich's letter follows.

Dear Wess,
I am disappointed to inform you that Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act today, which passed the House nearly two years ago.

The Paycheck Fairness Act gives teeth to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and is designed to combat wage discrimination on the basis of gender.

The fact that there is still not equal pay for equal work in this country is unacceptable. In an economic climate where every penny counts, rewarding work fairly is critical. We must close the gender wage gap by ensuring equality in the workplace—creating a fairer, more just society and strengthening the economic stability of our families.

It is time for Congressional Republicans to stop playing politics with something as fundamental as equal pay for equal work. Americans want and deserve concrete and immediate action to improve the economic security of working families, not political grandstanding.

It’s an honor to serve you in Congress.


President Barack Obama
Re: Lame duck session

You have made no secret of your intention to push through Congress as much legislation as possible before the will of the people can be asserted in January. Sir, I beg you not to do this. Our ancestors – well, the ancestors of some of us, at least – engaged in mortal combat over the idea that “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

The lame ducks in the Congress are not the representatives of the people, except in the most disingenuous, twisted way. The people of the United States have spoken, and those members of Congress, along with your policies, have been very soundly and irrefutably rejected. Those of us who have thrown off the yoke of the Democratic party find ourselves, quite literally, with no representation in the Congress. Anything done by you and that Congress is illegitimate at best, probably illegal, and most emphatically immoral in the extreme.

I submit that if you pursue what seems to be your determined course to brazenly spit on the will of the people of this nation, you and your followers will reap a bitter harvest. You will earn the enmity of all who love freedom and the liberties that our fathers – well, the fathers of some of us, at least – fought and died to define and keep. You will be spitting in the faces of the good men and women of all races who built this nation so that their children might be free, and better of than they.

Unemployment and disgrace will be your lot, and your children will live in the shadow of your depravity - and in the wreckage of nation which will be your legacy to them.

I beg you, Sir, in the names of decency and justice, to abandon this plan of yours to do as much spiteful hurt to this nation as possible. It is an evil plan, Sir. Please give it up!

to Senator Jeff Bingaman, 18 Nov., 2010

Thank you for replying to my letter to the Senator. Please be kind enough to forward to him this letter, as well.

The claim that the Congress has done any of the things listed herein is false. Congress has done none of these things, and has, in fact, done the opposite by slowing or blocking the economic recovery, adding trillions to the cost of health care, and shoved the middle class very close to the edge of a cliff. I shudder to think what damage Congress can wreak in the realms of education and energy!

Here is a news flash, Senator: Congress can NOT do any of these things! Only the American people, acting as free agents for their own good, can do these things. The answer to all these problems is a free market, and a government that protects that freedom. The government can not give anything to anyone without first having taken it from someone else. The entire thrust of the Obama government has been to openly and mockingly rob some people and give a tiny portion of the spoils to others.

There is an old, old proverb that says, "He who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." The Obama government - and, yes, much of the Bush government - has been dedicated with a singleness of purpose to destroy Peter. The Pauls of this nation are all those who are willing to be the lapdogs and kept serfs of a patron-state.

Senator, there is only one thing you can give us that you do not first have to steal from someone else, and that is Liberty. Please, PLEASE! Do your best to stop this suicidal plunge into the kind of state control that the fascists of the '30's and '40's could only dream of.

And speak of DREAM, I vehemently oppose this obscene act, and urge you in the strongest possible language to oppose it!

Thank you,
Wess Rodgers

The note from Sen. Bingaman's staff is shown below.

Dear Mr. Rodgers:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with me regarding various issues. I appreciate your taking the time to write.

I believe that we must advance a forward-looking agenda that will rebuild and strengthen America. Congress has passed legislation to create jobs, restore economic growth, strengthen America's middle class, and provide affordable and accessible healthcare. I believe that we must also focus on promoting an energy agenda aimed at conservation and renewable energy initiatives, and providing quality education opportunities for all Americans. To this end, I will continue to work to pass responsible bipartisan legislation that produces tangible and quality results for New Mexico. I will continue to work to ensure that the values and policies that have made this country great are not undermined. These values center around improving the quality of life for all Americans and upholding the rights embodied in our Constitution. As always, the public plays an important role in our democracy by voicing concern and keeping the government in check, and I encourage you to stay engaged.

Again, thank you for writing. Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding any other matter of importance to you and your community.


United States Senator

Friday, November 5, 2010

to my Congressvermin

Congressman Lujan,

I didn't realize until I got my ballot on the 2nd that I am in your district. We live in that little gerrymandered protuberance where district 3 herniates into Paradise Hills. I spent a great deal of time and money fighting against Martin Heinrich, and let you off scott-free. Well, I'm your companion for the next two years.

It is my most sincere hope that, as you look at the shattered remnants of the Democrat population in the House, you will realize that the people have spoken. The fact that you won against an opponent who was ignored by his party (and many of his supporters, like me!) does not mean that you have a mandate to persist in your support of immoral policies.

I read some of your literature, and it is filled with attempts to buy loyalty with money stolen from those who earned it. The government cannot give anything to anyone without first having taken it from someone else. You - and I mean YOU, personally, Sir - cannot legitimize the wanton destruction of some people by giving their looted wealth to other people.

Please vote against the president in all matters. The man is utterly without scruple, virtue, or saving grace. He will lead you to the unemployment line. He said the voters have spoken and their demand is for an end to squabbling and logjams. He's insane. We demanded that he and his party stop their mindlessly savage rape of the American nation and its people. We demanded that HE stop! And by association, that YOU stop!

No human has the right to live at the expense of another. I suggest you begin voting on that principle