Why Is Trump Unassailable?

Donald Trump is known to have stolen 11,000 documents when he left the White House after his election defeat. That included some 100 that were classified, some as top secret. Press reports don’t specify, but I’m assuming some of those were codeword and SCI (sensitive compartmented information). During my long career dealing with classified material, I held clearances for access to all those categories. They included some of the most sensitive information whose revelation could have threatened the security of the U.S.

Trump also defied the U.S. Congress refusing to appear when subpoenaed. The time specified for his appearance before the January 6 Committee came and went.

I know very well that during my years of working classified material, had I absconded with even a single secret document, I would have been arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned forthwith. I don’t know what the penalty for failure to appear when subpoenaed is, but I assume it is similar.

And yet, Trump continues to go free. He is no longer president. He is a private citizen who stole classified documents and refuses a legal summons to appear. Why is he immune to arrest?

As a retired federal official, I demand that Trump be treated as any other citizen—arrested and tried for stealing documents and failing to appear when ordered.

Why is this man allowed to get away with what none of the rest of us could?   

PTSI

Yesterday, I gave my presentation with slides on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. I was reminded again of the sacrifice our veterans have made for us. What most Americans don’t realize is that being involved in a fight to the death can damage the psyche permanently. Those of us who have witnessed men killed on the battlefield are changed forever—for the worse.

During the presentation, I cite statistics on suicide rates among veterans: 32 per 100,000 every year, 50 percent higher than non-veterans, 22 a day on average. And I understand why. Sometimes it feels like I can’t bear to live another day with my combat memories. But I, well aware of the damage done to my soul, choose to go on living.

The commonly accepted terminology for the malady is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But I reject that language when applied to combat veterans. The conditi0n resulting from combat is an externally inflicted wound to the soul, not something internal gone awry. So I insist that it be called Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

Too often in my experience, PTSI is dismissed as cowardice. If anything, it is a symptom of courageousness. Going into battle where one’s life is at risk is not possible without great bravery.

As the years go by and more veterans die off, fewer and fewer Americans suffer from PTSI. Vietnam veterans are now in their sixties and seventies. More recent wars were smaller, resulting in fewer veterans. The result is that combat veterans now constitute a tiny fraction of one percent of our population.

When I meet another combat veteran, I recognize him instinctively, without being told. Don’t ask me how. Somehow I know I’m with my brother. My respect and, yes, love for him are immediate. And permanent.

Memories

On Monday, I gave my presentation on the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s western highlands to a group of seniors. That brought back memories of being a civilian under cover as an enlisted man in whatever military unit I was supporting in Vietnam.

The troops invariably found my presence hilarious. Here I was a civilian who outranked their commanding officer living with the enlisted men, sleeping on the ground beside them, eating C-rations sitting in the dirt next to them, using their latrines, and going into combat with them.

One morning, I woke up to find my fatigue uniform blouses missing. I put on my skivvies and wandered through the cantonment area asking if anybody knew where my blouses had disappeared to. They miraculously reappeared in my tent. As I eventually found out, the guys had snitched the blouses and taken them to a local tailor. They paid him to sew the number “13” on the blouse collars where an officer’s rank would normally appear—I was a GS-13 at the time—and strips above both pockets, one reading “GLENN” and the other “CIVILIAN.”

The troops couldn’t stop laughing. Nobody could answer the question of whether enlisted men should salute a GS-13 civilian. They insisted on taking my picture in one of the blouses. Because I was operating under cover, I didn’t normally allow any photos of me. But this was an unusual request, so I said yes. Here’s that photo:

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Firearm Deaths in the U.S. (2)

But we Americans have the Second Amendment to the Constitution to contend with. It reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” To me, that says that the justificati0n for unlimited gun ownership is the presence of militias. But the only militias I know of are far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and the 3 Percenters.

So the first thing we have to do is eliminate the Second Amendment. Then we have to pass laws, as other nations have done, to illegalize the ownership of firearms. Those are both mammoth undertakings that I don’t expect to see completed during my lifetime. Hence my assumption that the number of gunfire deaths will continue to grow.

When to the numbers of people killed by firearms get large enough to force us to act?

Firearm Deaths in the U.S

I ask my readers to forgive me if I return once again to a subject that grieves me: American firearm deaths. According to the World Population Review website, “Gun-related deaths are tragically common. In 2019 alone [the most recent year for which I could find statistics], more than 250,000 people died as a result of firearms worldwide. Nearly 71% of gun deaths were homicides, about 21% were suicides, and 8% were unintentional firearms-related accidents.” That year, only one country outnumbered us in gunfire deaths, Brazil, with 49,436. We had 37,038. But in 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far this year, the Gun Violence Archive reports, as of November 14, we have suffered 38,617 deaths from gun violence and 34,410 injuries.

When we look exclusively at high-income countries and territories with populations of 10 million or more, the U.S. ranks first in gunfire deaths. Accord to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. has a ratio of 4.12 per 100,000 killed by gunfire every year. That compares with 0.5 for Canada and 0.04 for the United Kingdom.

There is only one solution to this problem: reduce the number of guns in the hands of our citizens. Worldwide, the ratio between the number of guns held by the citizens and the number of people killed by gunfire is constant—the more guns, the more gun deaths. The U.S. has the highest number of guns per person in the world: 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents. We have more guns than people.

The facts dictate the answer: pass laws to require Americans to give up their guns. The sooner, the better.

More next time.

November

The month of November is an emotional one for me. It starts with All Souls Day (November 1), the annual day of mourning for those who have died. That’s followed by All Saints Day (November 2), the day of celebrating all the holy people who have gone before us and whom the Catholic church has canonized, that is, declared to be saints. This year, November 8 was election day, unquestionably the most important election during my long lifetime.

Then comes November 10, in 2022 the 247th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. My military service was the army, not the Marine Corps, but during my many years as a spy, supporting friendly troops in combat with signals intelligence, I had my greatest successes with the Marines. In my support role, I lived with the troops I was helping, slept in the dirt next to them, ate c-rations with them sitting on the ground, used their latrines, and went into combat with them. The Marines, unlike the army, invariably exploited to the hilt the information on the enemy I was able to supply them with. That led to some spectacular tactical victories. And it was the Marines, headed by Colonel Al Gray, who saved my life during the fall of Saigon in April 1975 when I escaped under fire. Gray went on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps and is still a hero to many, many Marines. It is because of my experience on and off the battlefield with Marines that I insist on capitalizing their name.

On November 11, Veterans Day, we honor those, including me, who served their country in the military. These are the men and women who were willing to risk their lives to defend us against our enemies. They deserve all the thanks we can give them. Veterans who served in combat are few and far between these days. They make up a tiny percentage of one percent of the American population.

Two more days of importance to me in November are my birthday, and, this year, the day after that, Thanksgiving. Then comes a day new to me, Giving Tuesday, on the 29th. It is defined by the website of that name as “a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.”

Hence November. The month overwhelms me with reminders of subjects, events, and memories that are dear to my soul.

Book Reviewing (2)

Returning to the subject of book reviewing:

Once I have completed a first draft of the review, I put it aside for a day or two, then return to it with fresh eyes for revision. I check for clarity and freedom from error, then for economy, finally for beauty of writing thanks to vocabulary, variation in sentence structure (simple, compound, complex), and sentence length. I know the power of very short sentences, especially those of one word. So I look for opportunities. One-word sentences I’ve used before: “Stop.” “Enough.” “Congratulations.” “Continue.”

Then comes the final test: reading the text aloud. Nearly always, voicing the written word reveals errors or clumsiness I had overlooked. Once those are corrected, I’m ready to submit the review for publication.

I should mention in passing that I write in the literary style, not the journalistic style. The differences are small—for example using no spaces on either side of the em dash. Had I been using the journalistic style, that sentence would have begun “The differences are small — for example . . .”

Is it hard work? Yes, but it’s work I was born to do. So, as with all the writing I undertake (I now have six books and 17 short stories in print while working on two more books), I find it fulfilling.

Veterans Day

“To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation. As one of the Nation’s finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be called upon to perform. Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace.”

Harry Truman. He said it better than I can.

Book Reviewing

For more than eleven years now, I’ve been reviewing books. I got started when fellow writer David Stewart created the Washington Independent Review of Books as a web site and invited me to contribute. Then I was approached by the Internet Review of Books who offered to send me books for review.

Early on, I set a rule for myself: don’t give a bad review. If I believe that a book isn’t worth a reader’s time, I simply refuse to review it. And if I personally don’t like a book, that’s not a reason to give a bad review. My personal taste is not the issue. Just tell my readers what they will gain by reading this book.

And reviewing takes time. I’m a slow reader because I love to savor the innate poetry—the beauty of the writing—that characterizes the work of any successful author. If the book is fiction, artistic writing is expected. If it’s nonfiction, beautiful prose is still preferable to flat text.

When I’m reading a book for review, I make notes with page numbers so I can go back to passages I might want to cite. Then I draft an outline that I’ll follow while writing. I always start with what I hope will be an entertaining opening observation. Then comes the bulk of the review, a series of paragraphs describing the book’s content, how it is organized, and what comprises the various sections. Next, I write a paragraph on which readers are most likely to enjoy the book. I end with a judgment or observation designed to both entertain and enlighten.

More next time.