Pennsylvanian Honored With Medal of Honor

Hamburg native and Vietnam War casualty Richard L. Etchberger was honored by President Obama by posthumously receiving the Medal of Honor.  The Chief Master Sergeant heroically defended a mountain top radar installation from attack saving his fellow technicians from a massive enemy attack.  Because the installation was in Laos in violation of international law the U.S. wouldn’t admit the event or recognize Sgt. Etchberger’s heroism for decades.  The Pentagon and White House at the time routinely lied to the American people about our penetration of neutral country’s territory during that conflict.  Now the story of this Berks County man’s exploits can be aired and commended at the highest levels.  Remarks by the President yesterday:

Dick Etchberger was a radar technician and he had been hand-picked for a secret assignment.  With a small team of men, he served at the summit of one of the tallest mountains in Laos — more than a mile high, literally above the clouds.  They manned a tiny radar station, guiding American pilots in the air campaign against North Vietnam.  

    Dick and his crew believed they could help turn the tide of the war, perhaps even end it.  And that’s why North Vietnamese forces were determined to shut it down.  They sent their planes to strafe the Americans as they worked.  They moved in their troops.  And eventually, Dick and his team could look through their binoculars and see that their mountain was surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese troops.  

    Dick and his crew at that point had a decision to make — ask to be evacuated or continue the mission for another day.  They believed that no one could possibly scale the mountain’s steep cliffs.  And they believed in their work.  So they stayed.  They continued their mission.

    There were 19 Americans on the mountain that evening.  When their shift was over, Dick and his four men moved down to a small, rocky ledge on a safer side of the mountain.  And then, during the night, the enemy attacked.  Somehow, fighters scaled the cliffs and overran the summit.  Down the side of the mountain, Dick and his men were now trapped on that ledge.  

    The enemy lobbed down grenade after grenade, hour after hour.  Dick and his men would grab those grenades and throw them back, or kick them into the valley below.  But the grenades kept coming.  One airman was killed, and then another.  A third airman was wounded, and then another.  Eventually, Dick was the only man standing.    

    As a technician, he had no formal combat training.  In fact, he had only recently been issued a rifle.  But Dick Etchberger was the very definition of an NCO — a leader determined to take care of his men.  When the enemy started moving down the rocks, Dick fought them off.  When it looked like the ledge would be overrun, he called for air strikes, within yards of his own position, shaking the mountain and clearing the way for a rescue.  And in the morning light, an American helicopter came into view.

    Richard Etchberger lived the Airman’s Creed — to never leave an airman behind, to never falter, to never fail.  So as the helicopter hovered above and lowered its sling, Dick loaded his wounded men, one by one, each time exposing himself to enemy fire.  And when another airman suddenly rushed forward after eluding the enemy all night, Dick loaded him, too — and finally, himself.  They had made it off the mountain.        

    That’s when it happened.  The helicopter began to peel away.  A burst of gunfire erupted below.  Dick was wounded.  And by the time they landed at the nearest base, he was gone.

    Of those 19 men on the mountain that night, only seven made it out alive.  Three of them owed their lives to the actions of Dick Etchberger.  Today, we’re honored to be joined by one of them — Mr. John Daniel.

Vietnam was a tumultuous time, I remember because I lived the era.  The people were being lied to repeatedly and there came to be known a “credibility gap” due to all the lies and propaganda.  Unfortunately true heroes were denied their due because of bad policies driving a bad war.  Unfortunately we’re still seeing such conduct with the likes of Pat Tillman when a propaganda driven White House saw a golden propaganda opportunity and tried to twist the NFL star’s death as something it wasn’t.  There’s very little I believe coming these days from the CIA.  The credibility gap in this war is as bad as it was in Vietnam.  I wanted to be happy last week when Iran released an American “hiker” but I have no confidence she wasn’t a spy.  What crazy person goes hiking in Afghanistan these days?

I do commend the Etchberger family for finally being honored for Richard’s deeds but let’s strive to be able to honor our heroes when they die heroically instead of forty years later and let’s do it legitimately.

Defining the Mission in Afghanistan

Following an epic triumph in the Persian Gulf War, one which was launched through considerable lying tot he American people, America was exuberant at a solid military victory after the ignominious defeat in Vietnam.  The lessons of Vietnam and the Gulf were that when we did go to war we needed a clear mission, a strategy which supported that mission and superior tactics.  The strategy was to go in with overwhelming force and have a clear and defined exit plan.

That strategy enabled us to win a war even when we shouldn’t have had to.  History shows we allowed Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and only turned belligerent towards him after world outrage made it politically expedient to do so.  Support for the war was created by a smear campaign lying to Americans about Kuwaiti babies being thrown out of incubators.  George H.W. Bush led us to war on a lie just as his son did later.

The climate of defeatism which shrouded the American military after the debacle of Vietnam disappeared because of the Powell doctrine which succeeded so well in the Gulf.  The U.S. was flying high and all those ugly ghosts disappeared.  Now they have returned because we lost our way once again.

Afghanistan was attacked and invaded in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.  Rather than choose to follow the way of allowing justice to pursue those responsible bloodthirsty Americans ripe for revenge went to war.  I look at India’s response to the Mombai attacks last year and think they are far more intelligent and civilized than us.  That’s off the subject however…

Going to Iraq and abandoning the Afghan conflict was an historic mistake.  We forgot about Al Qaeda and the Taliban because Saddam was seen as easy pickings by Bush/Cheney.  Vast oil fields and the opportunity to reform a foreign nation in their vision of free, unfettered and unregulated pure capitalism for American business was too tempting.  Unfortunately there was no clear military mission, no overwhelming force and no clear exit strategy.  Since Bush didn’t intend to ever leave Iraq no exit strategy seemed necessary.

Oops, no one stopped to consider the Iraqi people might not want a foreign occupier transforming their culture and economy.  They fought back and we wound up in another Vietnam.  Meanwhile Afghanistan was forgotten and the Taliban began regrouping, reorganizing and earning vast sums of money growing heroin for American junkies.

The ghosts of Vietnam returned.  Now President Obama is considering a new strategy for Afghanistan.  The first consideration must be ‘what is the mission?’  We must know what our mission is there before we can develop a strategy.  First things first.  With a thoroughly corrupt government which has absolutely no support from its people I cannot fathom an acceptable mission.  Anything we do there will be seen by Afghans as propping up Hamad Karzai after he tried to blatantly steal a national election.

What do we envision for Afghanistan?  The answer to that question defines our mission there.  Al Qaeda is out of the country and in Pakistan now and our policy in the region must be focused against that threat.  The Taliban poses no direct threat to our strategic national security.  Supporting a thoroughly corrupt government there does because it undermines our values and foreign policy elsewhere.

Without a clearly defined mission no strategy can be developed.  I’m not sure what strategic decisions are being considered in the Oval Office but let’s not take our eye off the ball again and forget the mission must come first, then the strategy, then the tactics for implementing the strategy.

McBush will ride a downward spiral of failure

McBush will ride a downward spiral of failure. The time of failed Bush-McCain policies is over. His best bosom buddy Bush has given us, the American people, 8 miserable Republican balance of power monopoly years of incompetency, a national deficit, a corrupt, cronyistic executive branch that escapes oversight and the limits of the Constitution’s habeas corpus and transparency under a declaration of so-called ‘executive privilege,’ and a failed party agenda resulting in a washed-up, disposable Republican brand and a beyond lackluster base.

McBush has been the recipient of soft-ball, push-over favorable press, but his campaign risks a political cliffdive. Various sources have exposed that different major corporate anchormen and women, and reporters have succumbed to McSame’s press-oriented pseudo-charm, ego-stroking, party invites and free boozes to the journalists covering him. I’ve got to admit, it’s a conflict-of-interest causing approach but effective plan to propagate the free press right out of the “Compassionate Conservative” Bush-Rovian playbook. McSame has made the bed and now the corporate journalists are lying in it. However, in the morning, when it’s time for the journalists to do their jobs and inform us about McBush’s extremist views, perpetuation of the status quo, his self-admission that he is “not an expert on the economy,” his inability to feel and understand your eeconomic pains, his admission that he believes everything going okay with our economy, his gazillionaire wife’s refusal to release her tax records for the view of the American voting public, his canoodling with various corporate interest groups and 527 groups, McBush’s flip-flopping and Far-Right wing courting of “Catholic Church is the great whore…Hitler is the great hunter of God” evangelist John Hagee and “America’s mission is to destroy the Muslim religion” evangelist Rod Parsley, and McBush’s votes against every health and economic livelihood-protecting initiative that the American people had demanded Congress to pass, the press does not come through and put out information that people should know about their McPolitician-

Let’s be honest, he doesn’t have a f**king chance of getting the presidency. In a change year like this, you cannot attract moderates when you have Far-Right extremist evangelist wackos, like James Dobson, fighting your opponent for you and you base your political career voting 95% of the time for your buddy Bush and for the GOP’s old-hat, yesterday’s song-and-dance positions.

In a year when James Hansen, NASA scientist and top expert in the study of the global warming pandemic, says that the earth needs drastic action to avoid cataclysmic ecosystem destruction, further sea level rise and mass extinction in the next two decades we cannot afford Bush-McCain tent-preaching the archaic cult philosophies of maintaining the status quo- like off-shore drilling and further environmental pollution.

Not to mention that McSame has said on a conference call that he is justifying a military draft if he saw the Iran war situation as a World War III scenario. It’s a direct continuation of Bush’s wet dream of total war. He wants to play Shoot-Em-Down Battleship with our young children’s lives. He’s f**king nuts. An overwhelming majority of American citizens want our troops home in under a year, and the Bush-McCain policies have already drained our economy and had us borrowing money from China and posting the bill on our children’s heads. The American people see where this is going, and in this year it is critical we vote for a different path.