The Legend of Billy Hamilton

Men in every generation tell stories of the people they served with and the ones that never come home. You build incredibly strong bonds living so close to one another and sharing experiences that no one else will ever understand. You go overseas, live under intense stress for 365+ days then head home.

William Hamilton from Redondo Beach, California was not the Soldier of the Month or a Medal of honor winner. He was a guy that had your back and was desperately looking for people to have his. He joined the Army looking for adventure and fun. He got a whole lot more than most he bargained for.

I met him when we were both inprocessing into the 82 Airborne at Fort Bragg, We would do paperwork all day and every night we would go find an under 21 strip club and spend whatever money we could strap together. As a high school drop out, it had been years since I had a friend to hangout with. I think Billy felt the same way.

When we arrived at our unit in August the famous 2-325 A.I.R. they were already in Iraq. Having come into Iraq through Saudi Arabia and Task force Ranger. These were hard dudes. Fighting battles form the border up to Baghdad. Losing friends and living in unthinkable conditions. By the time we made it to them hey were living in different parts of an Iraqi mansion with running water and a small internet cafe. They looked at us cherries as undeserving of attention or respect. Which we were.

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Matthew Hoh & Danny Sjursen: We Are Combat Vets, and We Want America To Reboot Memorial Day

From Mother Jones:

Pandemic or no, resilient Americans will celebrate Memorial Day together. Be it through Zoom or spaced six feet apart from ten or less loved ones at backyard cookouts, folks will find a way. In these peculiar gatherings, is it still considered cynical to wonder if people will spare much actual thought for American soldiers still dying abroad—or question the utility of America’s forever wars? Etiquette aside, we think it’s obscene not to.

Just as the coronavirus has exposed systemic rot, this moment also reveals how obsolete common conceptions of U.S. warfare truly are—raising core questions about the holiday devoted to its sacrifices. The truth is that today’s “way of war” is so abstract, distant, and short on (at least American) casualties as to be nearly invisible to the public. With little to show for it, Washington still directs bloody global campaigns, killing thousands of locals. America has no space on its calendar to memorialize these victims: even the children among them.

Eighteen years ago, as a cadet and young marine officer, we celebrated the first post-9/11 Memorial Day—both brimming with enthusiasm for the wars we knew lay ahead. In the intervening decades, for individual yet strikingly similar reasons, we ultimately chose paths of dissent. Since then, we’ve penned critical editorials around Memorial Days. These challenged the wars’ prospects, questioned the efficacy of the volunteer military, and encouraged citizens to honor the fallen by creating fewer of them.

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Memorial Day Reminiscence in Isolation: For George

I have thought a lot about George lately, one of my ghosts from a past that has been lucky enough to span decades. Luckily, George has never been a triggered recollection, just a benign spectral from my misdirected youth. And at least for now, for this letter to the Wall, just call him George, although his full name and rank are etched in black granite on Panel 26E, Line 48.

I almost never know what prompts my high school version of George to show up. I was listening to some Stones and Creedence last week from a favorite Vietnam era playlist…perfect self-isolation rock. Also Memorial Day is coming up, so who knows? Our lifelines barely crossed, only once as a matter of fact, in the summer of 1965. We were both non-essential workers, stuck in a fast food restaurant, slogging out our last summer at minimum wage before we had to take LBJ’s draft seriously. Neither of us were Fortunate Sons, obviously, both just navigating the grinds of adolescence, topped off by the daily preoccupations and upheavals of a foreshadowed war in Vietnam.

Aside from the shared angst of uncertain futures we had virtually nothing in common. Hometown parents and teachers must have loved George, a reserved, hardworking math-club type, straight A student, from a no-frills, Catholic family. Two years older, my life was his parallel universe in miniature. I was an unbridled college freshman, committed to nothing more than a draft-deferred C+ average, the next weekend, and a military aviation career like my father. Nonetheless, a year at Tech and the suspect worldliness that went with it were street credentials enough for George to look up to me.

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USA PATRIOT Act: Leviathan in Search of a Crisis

From the Independent Institute

Nearly 20 years after its hurried passage, key components of the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001), are currently up for renewal. Yet despite no evidence that its sweeping surveillance powers have prevented any acts of terrorism, Section 215 of the Act looks certain to be renewed without amendment.

At its passage, Americans were assured the PATRIOT Act would be used only in surveilling dangerous foreigners. Yet Section 215 provides for the blanket collection of Americans’ communications. As NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wieber, and William Binney–and most famously, Edward Snowden–have revealed, all electronic communications of all Americans are under constant surveillance and are permanently stored so security agencies can look through them whenever an urge strikes.

In addition to Snowden’s revelations, William Binney, a 30-year veteran of the NSA, has detailed, in print, on TV, and to USA Today and the New York Times, that the NSA has spied on “everyone in this country” since 9/11, laying a lie to President Obama’s claim that NSA only stores “metadata.”

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Intel Vets: To the President – Avoid Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPs)
SUBJECT: Avoiding Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela

Mr. President:

Recent U.S. rhetoric and actions against Venezuela – most immediately regarding Iran’s shipping of gasoline desperately needed during the pandemic – puts the US at risk of an outbreak of dangerous and almost certainly counterproductive hostilities, not only in the Caribbean, but also in waters closer to Iran. As five Iranian tankers approach Venezuela, with the first due to arrive Sunday, hardliners in both Washington and Iran would relish a chance to give a bloody nose to the other side, but it may not be that simple.

While the US can invoke the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, geography trumps doctrine. True, the US holds the upper hand in the Caribbean. It does not have tactical advantage in the Persian Gulf – despite the formidable amount of US weaponry already deployed in the area. We believe there is a good chance Iran will pick the Gulf as the place to retaliate for any quarantine or more warlike actions off Venezuela.

As former intelligence officers and other national security practitioners with many decades of experience, we understand the frustration your Administration feels as its “maximum pressure” campaign to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro enters its 17th month without much progress. Our purpose is not to defend Maduro, whose economic performance has alienated many and compounded Venezuela’s problems. Rather, we wish to ensure that you are aware of the possible pitfalls of the general threatening to use “maximum pressure” and “all means necessary” to effect “regime change” in Venezuela. In our view, any US attempt to interdict access of the Iranian ships to Venezuela will be widely seen as an act of war. It could conceivably lead to unprecedented retaliation in places as far away as the Persian Gulf – events that the US will not be able to fully control.

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The NATO Conquest of Eastern Europe (video)

General Dwight Eisenhower was the first NATO supreme allied commander. After assuming that post in 1951, General Eisenhower wrote about NATO’s goal: “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed.” It did fail because seven decades later, long after the Soviet Union dissolved, NATO still exists with thousands of American troops deployed throughout Europe. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1991 as Soviet troops withdrew from Eastern Europe. The American empire exploited this peace to expand NATO and absorb former Warsaw Pact nations and even former Soviet republics while deploying NATO forces to Russia’s borders.