Fortunately, I won’t be reviewing Command at Dawn. The book came out last year. And my love for the book is personal, not likely to be shared by the reading public. To be honest in a review, I’d have to point out the writing flaws that prevent the novel from being a top runner. I believe that Carney writes about Vietnam for the same reason I do: to vent his Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). At the end of the text is a note that says the book “is the result of writing to stay sane.”
The novel ends with Ledbetter returning to the U.S. He is greeted by mobs that spit on him and call him “butcher” and “baby killer.” I experienced those rebukes repeatedly each time I came home from Vietnam with the troops starting in 1968. Like Ledbetter, I didn’t speak of my time in Vietnam for decades after the war ended. Like him, when I was finally received warmly, the emotions overwhelmed me. The first time a young person hugged me and said, “Thank you for your service. And welcome home,” I cried.
This isn’t the first time a book about Vietnam has awakened my anxieties. Over the years, it’s happened many times. The memories that cause PTSI never go away and never weaken. It doesn’t take much to trigger them. A sound, a smell, words from long ago—anything can bring them back. So much of my writing was done to help me vent those unbearable memories. Every little bit helps. But I’ll never be healed.
I’ve just finished reading Mel Carney’s novel Command at Dawn (Deeds Publishing, 2019). I bought the book because it sounded like the story paralleled my own. I was correct. Even though I was in Vietnam almost constantly between 1962 and 1975 and the novel deals with one military tour in Vietnam in 1968, the events the protagonist lives through in the novel bear a striking resemblance to my experiences. The biggest difference is that I went through them repeatedly; Carney’s protagonist goes through them once.
The first third of the novel describes combat in the central section of South Vietnam. Reading it brought back repressed memories of close calls, savage clashes, and brutal deaths. The young lieutenant Scott Ledbetter, the central character, is wounded and medevaced first to Chu Lai, then to Da Nang. I wasn’t so lucky. Unlike the men fighting next to me, I survived without a scratch and had no escape from the battlefield.
I was in Vietnam working undercover to assist U.S. military forces, both army and Marine, on the battlefield. I was an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA). My job was to use intercepted North Vietnamese radio communications to tip off our side about which enemy units we were facing, where they were, and what they were doing. I was so good at my job that I would no sooner finish a tour and get back to the U.S. than a message would come saying. “Send Glenn back,” and back I’d go.
I spoke Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, the three languages of Vietnam, and I’d been exploiting North Vietnamese communications since 1960. I knew them like the back of my hand. Those skills and my experience made me both unique and of great value to combat forces. So during those years, I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S.
A reader has accused me of going political in this blog—something I swore I never would do. He pointed out that the series of anti-Trump posts over the past few weeks greatly favors the Democrats over the Republicans.
But Trump and the Republicans have created a threat so grave that it is beyond politics. American democracy is at risk. Trump has repeatedly violated the law, but the Republicans have refused to hold him to account. Now he is threatening to delay the November election. He has hinted that if he is defeated, he will refuse to leave the presidency. Do I need to point out to readers that this is fascism writ large?
It is incumbent upon us as Americans to do everything in our power to use peaceful means bring this menace to an end. We must work together as brothers and sisters to remove Trump and his supporters from power and restore democracy. We owe it to our fellow citizens, our children, and our grandchildren.
It’s up to us. Let’s do it.
The Trump administration, in short, by refusing to fight the pandemic, at least contributed to and maybe caused a minimum of 145,000 deaths. Because the administration is still doing nothing, a second wave of coronavirus is expected this winter. And Trump is considering “herd immunity”—allowing the infections to spread and create widespread immunity as people recover. That approach will cause an even higher death toll and severe economic damage.
It becomes more urgent by the day that we remove Trump from the presidency. Our very lives depend on it. Because of Republican complicity, we are forced do that not by impeachment but by the November election. My guess is that Trump and the Republicans will be defeated by historical proportions.
What will we do if Trump refuses to leave?
Yesterday morning, the New York Times online offered statistics on coronavirus deaths in the U.S. (you can read it in toto at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/01/briefing/coronavirus-kenosha-massachusetts-your-tuesday-briefing.html). I can do no better than to quote:
|“If the United States had done merely an average job of fighting the coronavirus — if the U.S. accounted for the same share of virus deaths as it did global population — how many fewer Americans would have died?
|“The answer: about 145,000.
|“That’s a large majority of the country’s 183,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.
|No other country looks as bad by this measure. The U.S. accounts for 4 percent of the world’s population, and for 22 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths. It is one of the many signs that the Trump administration has done a poorer job of controlling the virus than dozens of other governments around the world.”
As the article points out, the numbers are only estimates:
“Most scientists believe the real U.S. death toll is higher than the official numbers indicate.”
President Trump’s assignment of Louis DeJoy as the Post Master of the U.S. is taking its toll. Mail has slowed down. Some days I get no mail; other days I get a mailbox full. Mail is now delivered at different times of the day. One day it didn’t appear until 6:30 in the evening.
Trump’s purpose in disrupting the mail is to hamper voting by mail. If he is able to delay the arrival of ballots enough, they won’t be counted. His intent is to reduce the vote count for Biden, but studies suggest that slowed-down voting by mail will hurt both parties. On the other hand, polls show that more Democrats than Republicans are planning to vie by mail.
DeJoy maintains that he ceased removing equipment and mailboxes when Congress complained. But he didn’t say he had put back into operation machinery already removed or restored mailboxes. Nor do we know if he is now allowing overtime pay to assure delivery of the mail on time. All we know for sure is that mail delivery is still disrupted.
Have we really come to this, that the president of the United States damages the post office in hopes of winning an election?
We have two more months before the election. What else will Trump do?
The Washington Post is publishing “a series of editorials on the damage President Trump has caused — and the danger he would pose in a second term.” The series is titled, “A second Trump term might injure the democratic experiment beyond recovery.” The second of the series appeared yesterday, Sunday, August 30. It’s titled “Global freedom would suffer grievous harm in a second Trump term.”
The emphasis in this installment is Trump’s friendliness for autocratic leaders and hostility to democratic ones. It concludes, “If the 21st century is to be a time in which human societies are grounded in individual freedoms, rather than dominated by an all-powerful state, Mr. Trump must be defeated.”
The article dwells briefly on Trump’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, “who aided Mr. Trump’s 2016 election and whose foreign policy is laser focused on weakening the United States.” It points out that “Mr. Trump has never uttered a word of criticism of Mr. Putin, even after receiving U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Moscow paid bounties to the Afghan Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers.”
I’m struck by Trump’s partiality to Russia. Why? Granted, Russia is a dictatorship, and we know from Trump’s words and actions that despotism appeals to him. But he favors Russia more than any other autocracy. I’m stumped to unearth the source of the attraction.
The best theory I can come up with is that Putin has something on Trump, that he is able to pose a threat to Trump’s wellbeing that forces Trump to do his will—including withdrawing military forces from Germany, Syria, and Afghanistan. But what Putin’s ace in the hole might be eludes me.
So I’ll pay close attention to the Post’s editorials to see if they name—or even hint at—what Putin’s hold on Trump might be.
A little more than two months from now, we will be called upon to elect new representatives at the national, state, and local levels. The November 3 election will take place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Polls and other data strongly suggest that Trump and the Republicans will lose, perhaps by margins greater than we have ever seen.
Trump, seeing the writing on the wall, has suggested that he will take steps to subvert the election. He threatened to postpone it, presumably until a time more suitable for his reelection—or maybe indefinitely. He hinted darkly that if he is defeated, he will refuse to give up the presidency. He has said that he will send police to polling stations, which would intimidate voters. Now he’s talking about sending secret federal agents into cities to attack peaceful protestors. And he wants to cripple the post office to suppress vote by mail.
If Trump actually does any of these proposed actions, he will be behaving as a dictator. His moves towards fascism will be come concrete. American democracy will be severely threatened.
I call upon all government officials of all political stripes to step up to oppose each of these moves and to do everything necessary to facilitate voting during a pandemic. We all must work together to make the election as free and fair as possible. We must do all we can to assure that the election goes forward despite the pandemic. And we must ensure that those defeated comply with the will of the people.
News reports are forecasting a second wave of covid-19 infections in the U.S. this fall and winter, due in part to the insistence by President Trump and his Republican supporters on reopening schools and businesses. While other advanced nations of the world have brought the pandemic under control, the U.S. has not. There has been no federal program, launched at the national level, to combat the virus. Instead, President Trump and the Republicans have urged us to resume normal life and get businesses going again so that Trump can brag about the excellent economy on his watch as a way to persuade more people to vote for him in November. The first wave of the coronavirus hasn’t yet played out, but already a new one is coming soon.
How bad will it be? We don’t know. If Americans embrace masks, social distancing, and avoidance of crowds and internal gatherings, we could keep the second wave to a lower level of damage than the first wave is now inflicting. I think that’s unlikely. Too many Americans feel that their rights to free expression and freedom of action are abridged by having to wear masks and not touch others. Others see disease prevention actions as political support for the left. I would remind them that the rules of health are for the purpose of saving lives. The survival of my neighbor obviates free speech or political preference.
In the midst of this struggle, Trump has undermined and humiliated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, forcing them to become what the Washington Post calls “campaign stage props.”
As we approach 180,000 deaths from the pandemic, Trump is once again still putting his personal interests ahead of the good of the nation and survival of its citizens. Why do Americans tolerate such behavior?
Picking up where I left off yesterday, the news this morning is rife with reports on falsehoods that filled the last day of the Republican convention last night, capped by a Trump speech. This morning’s Washington Post lead editorial is titled “A litany of fictions.” Reporter Dan Balz notes that “Trump’s convention stands out for its brazen defiance of the facts.” Reports from broadcast news echo the same refrain. Truth is being forsaken in the interest of reelecting Trump.
Quite aside from the politics of the current situation, the Republicans are doing grave damage to themselves and, more importantly, to the country. To favor lies over truth is to invite disaster. The pattern of autocrats of history has been to use distortion and denial of the truth as weapons to seize power. Does no one see the parallel between Hitler’s rise and what Trump is pursuing at the moment? Trump apparently intends to dismiss the election results as “rigged.” He has toyed publicly with refusing to leave the presidency if he is defeated in the election.
Wake up, America. Genuine disaster could lie ahead.