Saturday, September 20, 2014


courtesy of:

What a riveting start to a post. A list of the post you are about to read and the places you can currently read it. All are legitimate, with the exception of "Otto Benjamin Violins, blah blah." Unless you are fluent in Cowface and Dingbat the site is unreadable, but this is how my friends, Andi Roo and Aaron Brinker brought to my attention the fact that my deathless prose had been gasp! stolen.


I first unleashed this little gem on an unsuspecting world back in early August of 2012, and it went on to become one of my most “popular” pieces, right up there with my “nameless guy who fell down in the Falcons' Superdome and was horrified” and “E. T. Phone Home” posts. This piece also has the erm, distinction along with a couple of other nameless pieces of being stolen and sold on a now-defunct “for-content” website. How ironical, I jestically say, as I've never earned dime one for my blatherings. There's a reason for this. I get PAID (or I used to) to play music and not for writing verbiage. Maybe I should be paid to not write verbiage; I haven't a clue as to whether I'm any good or not as a writer, I just know that from the age of fifteen, I wrote, and understood English at a post-doctoral level.

Einstein wrote his “General Theory of Relativity” and I read an English translation of it. I cannot say whether it was riveting or boring; it got the point across, but it lacked something of the elegance of his little E = MC2 equation by pages and pages and so on and so forth. I think my writing is a lot like that. It's kind of hilarious to me that someone “stole” my piece and sold it, when I wouldn't have the balls to try and peddle my own jun -, er, work, yet, in solidarity to my writerly friends, and I owe them much and they depend on their writing for a living, I went the whole route of writing the “publisher” and kindly requesting they remove my piece. I kept it light and airy and the piece was removed within 24 hours. The website disappeared shortly thereafter.

I'll bet he was fun in a string quartet!

I owe what little writing talent I possess to my parents who were very well-read, and downright scholarly in their own ways. My mother held two degrees, and my father, never having graduated from high school, lied his way into the Air Force, went to the Flight Academy and flew B-29s for roughly three years in the Korean action, until he mustered out on a medical discharge, after two crash-landings. That's two whole more flights than I ever want to have endured, WITHOUT the crashing. He continued to fly, privately, as did my mother; I think they were both a pair of loons. I loathe flying. 

 He was the epitome of cool; he brought me home from the hospital and was my primary caregiver until I started kindergarten. He and my mom were great together, until they weren't, due to her own mental illness, but she was a star, too. My folks had the hearts of lions.

He then attended college; went year-round and graduated 3rd in his class. Maybe there were only four students, but he was pretty bright. He did all this while caring for me, as my mom was working three jobs. To keep me quiet, he played a combination of Glenn Miller, Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Tommy Dorsey and Debussy on the Hi-Fi, but not all at once, so he could do his homework. I was a preemie and tended to be fussy. Music was the perfect panacea and the only thing I ever loved deeply and passionately. I love working with computers, but that is more about problem-solving and it kind of sucks as performance art; no one is going to pay for an evening of watching me code, or resolve a system issue caused by the r.schmitt trojan virus. Boring stuff.

My Ma was no slouch in the brains department, either. While working on her second degree, a B.S. in Psychology, she was programming in Fortran, a machine language hardly anyone uses. I found her books, after her death. Since she was taking no classes, she was either plotting a takeover of the world, or writing games for her own enjoyment. I would bet the former.

I went to college on scholarship, and was a lazy student, due to having perfect pitch. But, I have since learned that without music in my life, my life had lost it's anchor. To make this short and sweet, I was diagnosed with essential tremor, after having exhibited symptoms for years and harboring latent symptoms for decades. I finally had to stop playing altogether. This is a condition much like Parkinson's Disease, without the heavy medications; call it “Parkinson's Lite” if you like, but it can be every bit as horrible as Parkinson's, with core tremors and psychosis. I have all the inherent symptoms; tremors, drooling, no sense of smell, I stagger, occasionally and stutter when excited. It also has deep psychological components and at times those were ruinous. But, I found an awesome, awesome neurologist, who found a good medication that mitigates the core tremor and has allowed me to resume my mostly abnormal, life.

Me, the sole offspring of the two pilots above, on the left, with a touring buddy and my partner in crime, "Wolf", a superb viola made only ten years after the death of Beethoven in 1827. I'm happy, because I'm NOT playing the violin!

In fact, I have started playing AGAIN, and have auditioned and am playing in the Tampa Bay Symphony, a group I started with 20 years ago, when I first moved to Tampa. So, I'm currently practicing up a storm, and participating in some clinical trials that I hope helps people farther on down the road. The Parkinson's Foundation has been very, very good to me and I am fortunate indeed to have found them. But that is not what this post is about. It's about playing the violin. Now, that I'm back in the harness, I have to say once again, it is to be avoided; at all costs.

Ring ring!

Me: "Hello!"

Manager: "Hey, Mary. Are you doing anything the week of November 20th to the 25th?"

Me: "Well, let me check my calendar." Sound of pages flapping in the breeze. "Hmm, nothing but the “Merry Parade of Turkeys” and “Turkeys, We Got Your Turkeys Right Here with Skitch Henderson Sound Alikes." At this time, I am living in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am also still playing in Tampa and pretty much driving all over the south. I am also exclusively playing the viola.

Manager: "So, you have open time?"

Me: "Yes." To my everlasting regret, I said, "Yes."

Manager: "Great! I need a violinist for..."

I didn't hear the rest. I was in shock. I told people for years that I didn't play the violin. I never played the violin. I hadn't played the violin since I was sixteen, and here I was at 45. I play AT the violin. I still don't play the violin. I hate the screechy little suckers. They're all under your chin being little and screamy. What the hell is that? I just hate it. The only reason I started to "play" the sons of bitches is because I got sucker punched and caught unawares. I didn't even own a violin for years. I refused to buy one. I rented one for years and a student model at that. I figured since I didn't play the bastard, I wasn't going to be pretentious about it and get some big, souped-up Lamborghini violin or something. I have a Lamborghini viola. I rented a violin with steel tuners, tin strings, and tape on the finger board which I never, ever, ever allowed any of my students to use. That pussy Suziki shit with tape is beyond horrible. If you can't use hand-framing and play by ear, like the God Galamian intended, burn that hunk of wood. You don't deserve to call yourself a non-fretted string player.

Aargh! No, it's not "Talk Like a Pirate Day!" Those tapes! When you shift positions, the intervals change! It's impossible to develop your "ear" assuming you have one to begin with, if you're using tape as a "guideline" Fluidity counts. Not everyone is meant to play non-fretted instruments; those folks need to stick to "Guitar Hero!"

So, I'd rent these god-awful violins with tin strings and "play" in these violin sections, in the hopes that people would get the hint and quit hiring me to "play" the goddamned violin. I'd play loud. Real loud and shrieky, when the music asked for piano. I'd ask my managers shit like, "why the hell are you hiring me to play the violin? Did every other violinist in Tampa die/migrate/go on vacation?" They still hired me. I tried drinking my way through rehearsals and that didn't work, because everyone else was out smoking blunts during the breaks; they couldn't tell stoned from drunk.

People thought I was a good violin player; I guess because I didn't give a damn and was reckless; I was the Nic Cage of violinists raging around on my rented violins. I started ending up in first violin sections, so it got exponentially suckier. You know what really, really sucks? Playing Mozart on the violin. I hate Mozart. I hate Mozart, MORE than I hate the violin, if such a thing were possible. Because Mozart's a pussy. He gets right up to an idea and says “never mind” and plays mezzo-forte, before limping off into the 600th pianissimo iteration of the same shit he wrote over and over and over and over. Yes sir, there is Hell in a barrel right there. Eighteen ledger lines above the staff and I'm playing "guess the note." I can't even read that shit. It's in soprano clef. I normally read the viola clef. Okay, I read soprano clef just fine, but when you're up towards the direction of the sun, weirdness starts to happen, physically. Purple becomes yellow. CRYSTAL-BLUE PERSUASION! Mountains walk. Cats do algebra. The horn section is being played by The California Raisins. I look down, unsurprised to find that the stage has turned to lava, when I hit some of those harmonics. My stand partner's hair catches fire. God knows my ears are still ringing.

I was laughing about it though, when I thought about all the variations and different types of gigs and positions I've held. I played with Styx and I can't remember how this came up, but it is also the same with a Johnny Mathis tune; one of his “Brazilian” set. "Sail Away" which is so lovely, is an absolute bitch to play. It consists of 64th notes, practically in its entirety. Denis Deyoung's father was part of the OSS in WWII and was one of the first to reach Paris, with the Allies. You can hear the Chopin and Debussy in Styx's music. An interesting little bit of trivia along with the silly today. There, aren't you edified?

Styx's music is challenging and we had a lot of fun playing it. But, one of the things that does happen with playing that type of music, is you lose the edge on your heftier musical "chops" as we call them. We were touring pretty extensively at the time with Styx and "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" -ing all over the place and having a hell of a lot of fun. In the midst of this tour, we had a layover and and my trio, myself, a violinist and cellist, picked up this "fun" gig and none of us were exactly slouches. Being the, uh, "professionals" that we were supposed to be, we show up for this luncheon or whatever the hell it was to provide "background" music and proceed to play trios, for a couple of hours. I just grabbed a bunch of my trio music and off we went.

Beethoven is my muse; he's always been in my life. I auditioned on his 5th Symphony and won it. I am a rock-and-roll violist!

Now, it is axiomatic that the fewer instruments you have, the more difficult the music is going to be, especially if you are going to play, oh say, Beethoven. If we were going to play, Johnny Mercer, we might have stood a chance, or maybe, some Beatles transcriptions, but Beethoven? It was... interesting. I have played all of his String Quartets. They rock. His Trio in C Minor rocks. It also requires lots and lots and lots of practice. Playing Styx's "Mr. Roboto" for 18 weeks straight does not constitute practicing Beethoven's trio. We all learned a valuable lesson that day; leave the Beethoven at home, if you haven't looked at it in the last, say, week or so. Thank god the Luncheon guests were drunk.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Boy, what a boring-sounding title. If I were a reader of my own blog and came across this, I might be tempted to skip it, but let me see if I can make it a bit less weighty-sounding and try to relate it to the blog post I wrote recently, regarding “World War II – Was It the Last Good War?”

In response to my Twitter buddy, Jason Linkins who writes political op-ed for HuffPo and does it very well, he is absolutely thrilled that we are once again being given the opportunity to hop back into a quagmire and protect the political aspirations of a bunch of affluent politicians, I can't say he's wrong at all. Thirteen years after 9/11, we've done. . . what? Killed Osama bin Laden, sure. But we've managed to destabilize an entire region, which we seem to be immensely terrific at doing (see Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) in the mid to latter part of the 20th century.

So, Dubya got a hair up his ass, after 19 terrorists from Saudi Arabia, backed by money provided by al-Qaeda (suspiciously close to the Saud family, who were hand-holding with the Bush family, in case anyone forgot) bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (although I wonder about that) and went tearing into. . . Iraq? Only after we had staged a semi-invasion of Afghanistan, and that was always kind of iffy to me, because Afghanistan is known as bein' the “Graveyard of Empires” and all. I'm still trying to connect the dots. When Dubya made his brave assertion “Mission Accomplished” just what in the Hell was he referring to? We never really managed to “quell” the “dissidents” in either Afghanistan or Iraq, a fact that can still be measured in body counts and terrible stories of atrocities, coming out of, now, specifically, Iraq, and of all places Syria, which has it's very own home-grown Strong Man in place, the son of the late President Assad.

In all honesty, I don't know if this is a good thing, or bad. I also don't know if it's a good idea for President Obama to sit down and treat with this man, seeing as how he's got lots of his own countrymen's blood on his hands. At least, Obama isn't sitting down with al-Qaeda, which was the worst idea I ever heard, since I said “yes” to Bill Nunnally. You DO NOT treat with terrorists. Terrorists are not countries; they are not sovereign entities; they are not realms or Kingdoms. They are a bunch of zealots with nothing in their jackalheads except creating terror in the hearts and minds of the people around them to further their cause, which is usually couched in some amorphous language and difficult to attain, even with more measured people and responses. They have no mission statements; they have no credo, other than “Death to the Infidel” and are sectarian in the extreme; they will kill members of their own “faith” quicker than Christians and Jews, because those Sunnis were closer to Allah and should have understood that they were committing heresies. I liken them to the IRA at its worst. The Crusades sound more moderate, when you remember that the Christians who lived there, routinely met and worked with the other faiths in the Middle East.

And now, we come to this: I TOLD YOU SO. Russia. Last week, I implied that basically, the whole mish-mash between Russia and Ukraine should be left alone. They've squabbled and gone back and forth for centuries. They are two countries, who, while not having a lot in common, bear a very similar culture and a shared history; at times amicable, at times, downright horrible. Stalin went out of his way to starve the Kulaks, the rich Ukrainian farmers in 1934, and several million people starved to death. It has been referred to as “Harvest of Sorrow” and a fine historical book of the same name, written by Robert Conquest, depicts the horror and devastation wrought upon the Kulaks. But, again, this was not the first time Ukraine and Russia had adversarial dealings with one another and would not be the last.

Again, there are many ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, just as there are many ethnic Ukrainians who live in western Russia and Belarus. The ENTIRE region has seen many different rulers, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, to the Czarist rulers. It really is no wonder that one day, Ukrainians want one thing, and another day, they wish for something else. There is a kind of schizophrenic zeitgeist that exists in this entire region and when you look at the maps and how the empires overlaid one another, it is easy to understand why.
courtesy of:

The writer P. J. O'Rourke once went to Eastern Europe and Russia when the Iron Curtain first fell, and the salient point he took away from his experiences there, aside from all of the horrible automobiles looking like they had been made by the Dinky Toy Company, was the complete and utter confusion that the new “nation-states” wanted and why they wanted it. “We want Democracy!”, some shouted on one day. When asked why, they yelled, “Because, Democracy is good!” without having clue one what it was all about.

 courtesy of:

Later on, during the same trip, P. J. asked some of the same people what they wanted. “We wish to stay with the Motherland!”, they shouted. When asked why, they hollered, “Because she takes care of us?”, although many were not sure this was true. This was over twenty years ago, and it is still pertinent today. If you look at the maps, you see that some of the western parts of Ukraine were in the Austro-Hungarian sphere, the southern parts in the Ottoman Empire, and the Eastern portion were part of the Russian Empire. Divestiture came in 1914, but in 1917, the Russian Revolution took place and the Communists were firmly in power, after fighting a civil war against the Royalists. After World War II, as part of the agreement at Yalta, Russia retained Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and the other “buffer” states, as there were already ethnic Russians living in these places, and because Stalin was a murderous, land-grabbing rat-bastard. Regardless, I believe that, if by some miracle the Romanovs had remained in power, and they were somehow, by another miracle, able to best the Nazis, they would have demanded Ukraine and Belarus and all the rest as their spoils of war. This is a Russian thing; NOT a Soviet thing.

Again, it speaks to the peculiar phobia that Russia harbors towards the West and we help no one by meddling in this. To top it off, today's headline in “The World” is this:

courtesy of: HuffPo


Followed by this article:

courtesy of: HuffPo                   

I mentioned last week that the situation between Russia and Ukraine will find it's own solution. That may sound like weak sauce, but what I mean is they are better left to their own devices, especially since the west and most particularly the United States has such a horrible track record when it comes to intercession. People can quote Panama and Grenada all they want, but the simple fact is, we invaded weak 3rd world countries, one in an attempt to divert a horrendous foreign policy decision on our part, when we were involved in Lebanon, in 1983.

Let's play a "what if" scenario and see if this doesn't make a bit more sense. Suppose the United States was having some kind of squabble with Mexico, over god-knows-what. Water rights, illegal immigration, the number of donkeys displayed in crappy mariachi bands north of the border was in dispute, whatever, and things got heated. Maybe we have some troops lined up along the borders, ostensibly to keep out "undesirables". We've had our issues with Mexico in the past, but we've always managed to get them straightened out. But this time, we're dragging it along, and for some reason, both sides are being belligerent. On the outside, the rest of the world is throwing their two cents in about what a bunch of imperialist dogs the United States is, and we should never have left Merry Olde England. Yada, yada. After several weeks of this, with tensions ebbing and flowing, things get kind of mind-numbing, what with all of the other stuff going on. Then, out of the blue, or not-so, England is invaded by France and Belgium, and some not-so-nice things begin to happen. Do you honestly think that for one minute, the United States isn't going to have something to say, or do something about that situation, to mitigate and save their long-time ally? The same case can be made for Russia as regards Syria, I refuse to say "vis a vis" because it's pretentious, and I realize I am kind of shoe-horning some facts in here and making it a bit ridiculous, but it's for a reason. 

The Russian-Ukrainian relationship is a very special one; much like ours is with Great Britain. Why? Because, history.

I'm not a historian, or a military historical buff, but I do understand long arcs and how actions from the past resonate into the present. What we do now will make a difference. It might be a decade, or it might be a century. Wise men have the gift of being able to predict what our actions now will predicate for our future. I am not one of those, but I'm a damned good observer and student of global hegemony. I truly think that we should do nothing at all about the Russian-Ukraine situation and tread very, very lightly with this mess in the Middle East.

This isn't even a war movie. It's an exploration into the heart of darkness, based on a Joseph Conrad novel.

I know I called for taking a stance last week, regarding ISIS or ISIL and they are fearsome and what they are doing is beyond horrific. I cannot imagine the charnel house over there, and the suffering of the people who live there. I have friends in Tunisia and Morocco and Egypt and I fear for them, but we did a terrible job in Iraq. We destabilized the country; something we excel at, and upon our departure(?) we managed to foist some mediocre bureaucrat upon the country, along with a less-than-useful fighting force. This is nothing but Vietnam Redux. Francis Ford Coppola did a much better job with “Apocalypse Now Redux” and it still sucked. Watch the original. But, let's not create our own “Iraq Redux”. That's nothing anybody wants to sit through.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Prior to the attack on the United States in Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, 1941, Winston Churchill was in nearly constant contact with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two were trying to seek a way to bring the United States into the conflict in Europe. This war started on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland, over an act of fait accompli, engineered by Hitler, who then proceeded to eat up most of western Europe and was on the brink of invading the British Isles. Both Roosevelt and Churchill saw the necessity of America's involvement, as Britain was the only democracy still standing, but was a hair's-breadth away from falling. The summer of the Battle of Britain was behind them; Russia had been invaded by Nazi Germany on June 22nd, 1941, in violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Stalin and Hitler, and most of Eastern Europe, along with the USSR was losing territory that could be counted in miles – daily – so rapid was the German Army's invasion.

Without bringing down the approbation of an “isolationist” Congress, Roosevelt and Churchill were looking for any way they could to bring in the U. S. and the industrial might she could offer. The closest thing to this, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, was the famous “Lend-Lease” program, wherein Roosevelt likened our assisting both the United Kingdom, Russia and to a lesser extent, China a “garden hose to put out a neighbor's fire”. In this capacity the power-house of American industry was retooled from churning out American automobiles to building tanks, planes and other war materiél to send overseas. With the Japanese attack and then, Hitler's Declaration of War on the United States on December 8th, 1941, the United States entered the war for real. The hostilities went on for over three and a-half more years, not ending until August 15th, 1945, with the surrender of Japan.

Rather than repeat the punitive mistakes and treaties of World War I; the Versailles Treaty and Treaty of Trianon, which had a direct influence on the start of World War II, the Allies were merciful in their victory, for the most part. The lone exception being the USSR, which maintained her grip on every inch of territory gained during World War II, thus realizing both Winston Churchill's and General George S. Patton's fears. It was no different in the east; the USSR maintained a presence on Sakhalin Island (formerly part of the Japanese Empire), which was the site of the shooting down of a KAL airliner in 1983, due to the fact that the airplane had “strayed” over Soviet airspace. A little-known fact is that, indeed, the KAL plane was carrying spy equipment. The Russians never forget their history lessons, as we see today in what has become a confused mess in Ukraine.

I, for one, am not the least bit surprised by this at all. There are ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and on any given day, they may be for Ukraine, or Russia. They speak both languages, as do the ethnic Ukrainians. Yes, it's a bloody mess, but it's also something that has its roots in centuries of history and is not uncommon in that region. The lone exception has been Georgia, a former SSR, that was helmed by Eduard Sheverdnadze, until shortly before his death. A counterpart of Andrei Gromyko and a survivor under Stalin, he dealt with Vladimir Putin handily while President of his native Georgia, and relinquished no territory to Russia. Eastern Europe and western Russia have a long and complicated history, but they are more likely to resume amicable relationships without American or Western European involvement, if left alone. Russia's seemingly peculiar xenophobia is particularly pronounced towards the West, and we would do well to remember that.

My whole reason for this brief little history lesson is merely a framework for what I really want to discuss: wholesale genocide. Towards the end of World War II, the Allied soldiers were liberating towns with names like Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Treblinka, and Bergen-Belsen. What these towns held were horrors never before witnessed, but most certainly have been perpetrated before. In 1912, the Albanians were massacred in the Balkan Wars, but there were few pictures released to the public. There were pogroms in the Pale in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries, with entire Russian-Jewish villages burned and looted; the stories have been handed down through the generations by survivors. I've heard stories of predations against Hindus by Sikhs and Indians by Pakhistanis, in 1947.

But, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that we, as a civilization were faced with whole-sale genocide, and bone-chillingly, a very economic and organized slaughter, at that. It's not just the pictures of the families being led off to the trains with their belongings and wearing their Sunday best; the little ones often very formally dressed, in hats, gloves and looking for all the world as if they're going to a formal outing. Then, in later pictures, you see the mass graves with naked bodies being bulldozed into the pits. The bodies, arms and legs askew, heads all shaved (the Nazis saved their hair, eyeglasses, even prosthetic arms and legs for some hellish reason, and neatly catalogued and stored them) are pitiful; no dignity, no hope. Mercifully, you seldom see their faces. What must their last moments have been like?

Initially, the Nazis machine-gunned their victims and just pushed them into the pits, but this was too inefficient. A better, faster method of extermination was needed, so Hitler went back to his doctors and scientists, who tried various types of gases; thus, the infamous “showers” were born. The earliest of these gaseous concoctions didn't kill quickly enough. People were screaming, and clawing the walls; urinating and defecating and pummeling one another in a desperate attempt to escape. The Nazi guards and doctors complained that it took too long for them to die; the howls and screaming were unnerving and the clean-up was too messy. Eventually, the Nazis found the right combination, Zyklon-B and that was quickly distributed to the Death camps.

Killing Jews and other undesirables became so much more efficient! This way, the Nazis killed over eleven million people in the camps, five million of them Jews, before they were stopped. Not every camp was a Death camp. The actor Robert Clary, who played “Labeau” on the 60s T.V. comedy, "Hogan's Heroes" was in eight different camps, before being liberated. A french Jew, he was snapped up early, after the French surrendered. He somehow managed to survive through his wits and cunning, by working and taking odd jobs; he was transferred from work camp to work camp. He was also in the West, while most of the death camps were in Eastern Europe; Hitler had a hierarchy from least desirable – Jews of Eastern Europe – to less desirable – Lutheran Pastors who dared to speak out, late in the war.

Still, if the United States had not entered the war, where would Hitler and his ilk have stopped? Or would they? Would the killing machines have just kept going? Where would the line have been drawn? Or would it? Stalin was infamous for doing away with his "enemies". He had no Army High Command when Russia was attacked, and it took several years to build an efficient leadership for the Red Army. After World War II, he was taking down scientists and archaeologists for not teaching "Soviet Science", whatever that is. He was on his way to killing off physicians in the infamous "Doctor's Plot", again, a mystifying thing, only he was aware of, when he mercifully died in 1953; where would he have stopped? He had already killed off his most famous assassin, Lavrenty Beria of the Lubyanka and was using substitute assassins, I guess. Their names are lost to history. But it is a tail of a snake eating itself, tail first, in all cases. There is no end until the evil is dead.


It is often said that World War II was the “last good war” primarily because of the atrocities we discovered in the East. We cannot forget that we were attacked and it took THAT act to get us into the war; in that sense, we were “fighting for democracy”. But, we've managed to overlook the horrible genocide in Cambodia, during the reign of Pol Pot and his return to “Year Zero”, later in the 70s. A beautiful country, Cambodia had a population of five million people. By the time Pol Pot was through, he had killed two-fifths of his compatriots. That's two million people. The United States bears some responsibility for the destabilization of that region.

We had promised, during the Nixon administration that we were going to cease bombing North Vietnam, yet in secret, the administration had been bombing North Vietnam and parts of Cambodia for months. We expanded that in 1970, although the administration had promised “Vietnamization”. We did eventually do that, but in such a haphazard and slap-dash way, that the North Vietnamese quickly took over the South and a war broke out between Vietnam and Cambodia. The United States had left the building, long ago.

I bring all of this up for the simple reason that we, as a civilization are now faced with something akin to the Nazis: ISIS, or ISIL, and this is a group of people who are hell-bent on spreading their ideology. They're different, obviously, in certain aspects from the National Socialists of post-World War I Germany, but their methods are similar. They not only use terror and humiliation to strike terror into the hearts of their “enemies” which more often than not, tend to be people from their own countries, but they use the media and propaganda to huge advantage, much in the way Joseph Goebbels used it to sway people who were indecisive about the wonders of National Socialism. Let it not be lost on us that ISIS or ISIL are of the wahabbi sect, and extreme fundamentalists; they are also relentlessly focused on replacing the Saud family as the reigning faction in the Middle East.

When I started to write this article, I had a couple of things that I wanted to bring home to any readers here in the United States. Typically, I have written my posts for a global audience and this should not be lost on them, either. The United States made a conscious decision to invade Iraq after September 11, 2001. Why on earth we ever did that was beyond me, because it really didn't make sense. We were after Osama bin Laden, who was the leader of Al Qaeda at the time, and in Afghanistan. Sadam Hussein, as big a villain as he was, was the strongman of Iraq, who did keep the peace, much like Tito did in Yugoslavia. Sadam Hussein also never invaded or attacked the United States, much as George W. Bush likes to try and paint some kind of devil's horns on the man.

Whatever. We ended up there, much as we ended up in Afghanistan, now fighting Al Qaeda, who in case anyone has forgotten, we helped in the early 80s, when they were fighting the still-then USSR. We sowed some dragon's teeth on that one. But, General Colin Powell, during his term as Secretary of State under Dubya said something very cogent, and something I think bears repeating. He called it the “Pottery Barn Doctrine”; you break it, you own it. I have to agree with this, because of the horrifying scenes I've seen coming out of northern Iraq in the last several weeks. We've not only broken it and not fixed it, but we've created the kind of vacuum that allows sectarianism to rise and fundamentalists to have free rein. The result is a charnel-house of horrific proportions and atrocities that are nearly unimaginable. Yet, our response to date, has been tepid and measured, the only true outrage coming from Vice-President Joseph Biden, and I am not sure if it's over the entire situation, or "just" the fact that two American journalists were beheaded.

Like South Vietnam at the time, there is now a weak leader propped up in Baghdad. The Iraqi Army, as trained by the United States Army is not a good fighting force, yet we spent billions to make an army to replace the soldiers we sent there. The new Iraqi Army's leaders are weak and corrupt, again, much like the South Vietnamese Army was, after we left that quagmire. The forts in the north of Iraq, have seen their leaders desert, when approached by ISIS or ISIL forces and the men left behind are ill-trained and easily captured.

I understand President Barack Obama's hesitation to act, but what kills me is he is not moved to act by the sight of Iraqi soldiers, stripped bare – a horrifying humiliation to any Muslim, by the way – lying face down, in the hundreds and being machine-gunned to death, or being forced to march for miles, bent over. He is not moved to act by the sight of little children with their heads bashed in, lying in gutters. He is not moved by the sight of men, marching in lock-step, in black, with weapons and missiles on platforms that can level villages. No, he is not moved by this.

He is moved by the beheading of two American journalists; a gruesome act. Horrifying enough to contemplate, but even more so when we realize that ISIS or ISIL has many hundreds more hostages to torture, crucify, behead and machine-gun and push into trenches, after taking away their last shred of dignity. I just wonder this: is there not somewhere some ISIS or ISIL group of doctors and scientists looking for a more efficient way to kill even more people in a single act? Do we really want a repeat of the Third Reich?

I realize that this is a tremendous sacrifice for the free world to undertake, but this is a scourge like none I've ever countenanced. I know there are people who will say, “Well, it's in the Middle East, we're in Gloucester, U. K.” or “Sorry, but we don't do violence here in Sweden.” That's all well and good, but these people, this ISIS or ISIL will not rest until they are the only ones left. That is what jihadists and National Socialists do. The only reason we aren't speaking German today, is because the United States stepped in and helped with Lend-Lease and then, when Hitler declared war, we had no choice, but to fight. It was a good war. This might be another one.