When Movies Didn’t Need Color

Personal B&W pix-picks by L. E. Taylor

Last month, I passed along a boyhood remembrance from decades ago. The narrative came to rest upon an old movie, The Enchanted Cottage.

Some readers have responded, both to the poignancy of the World War II phantasy, but also to the fact that it was in black and white. I’d already intended to set aside time soon to write about black-and-white movies, which comprised the majority of films enjoyed by people of an earlier generation.

As a painter in my youth, I was branded a “colorist” by my grad school critic. True enough, but the stark poetry of graphite on velum also conveys a color of another kind. Sketches in pencil or ink can jolt the sensibilities as in a dream. (We are told most of us dream in black and white. Maybe.)  Tones of black and gray strip our nature of obvious emotional triggers, and insist upon more form. And fewer flowers.

Without the flowers, here’s my tip: Do yourself a favor and start watching black-and-white movies – some are great classic cinema, some are merely good entertainment. Many are clumsy and banal (just like everything else.) But this list, though admittedly biased to my own Middle American sensibilities, is pretty safe if you want to sample the really good stuff of a younger Hollywood, in glorious black-and-white.

  • Casablanca (Bogey, Bergman, and Nazis, 1942)
  • Brief Encounter (As sensual as platonic love gets, 1945)
  • Roman Holiday (Greg Peck & magical Audrey Hepburn, 1953)
  • It Happened One Night (Clark Gable with no undershirt, 1934)
  • Stagecoach (Debut of “The Duke”, 1939)
  • How Green Was My Valley (Manly sentiments; literary, 1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (Classic Bogart thriller, 1941)
  • DOA (Riveting cinema noir mystery, 1950)
  • All About Eve (Smart, classy show-biz drama, 1950)
  • They Died With Their Boots On (U.S. history on-the-hoof, 1941)
  • On the Waterfront (Best Brando until The Godfather, 1954)
  • Double Indemnity (Sexy cinema noir murder thriller, 1944)
  • The Third Man (Cold War thriller,1949)
  • Some Like It Hot (Best comedy for grownups, 1959)
  • Key Largo (Bogey & Bacall, gangsters in the Keys, 1948)
  • Twelve O’ Clock High (Great psychological war drama, 1949)
  • Mrs. Miniver (English family braves WWII Blitz, 1942)
  • The Sea Hawk (Best swashbuckler flick, 1940)
  • They Were Expendable (PT boats, lots of stars, 1945)
  • The Sea Wolf (Grim film of a great Jack London novel,1941)
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Supernatural, romantic, 1947)
  • Blithe Spirit (Witty, elegant, literary Noel Coward classic, 1945)
  • The Ox-Bow Incident (Tense tragedy. Classic symbolism, 1943)
  • Sergeant York (WWI heroism, Gary Cooper, 1941)
  •  Citizen Kane (Tops on all the “greatest” lists, 1941)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (American family drama, 1942)
  • The Bank Dick (W.C. Fields’ best, 1940)
  • Top Hat (Fred & Ginger invent movie dancing, 1935)
  • The Apartment (Smarmy-sweet story; ‘60s irony, 1960)
  • Red River (Classic western, good character development, 1948)
  • Going My Way (Bing Crosby, the singing priest – Oscar, 1944)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (Great supernatural romantic comedy, 1947)
  • The Big Sleep (Classic cinema noir; Bogey & Bacall, sizzle, 1948)
  • The Keys of the Kingdom (Powerful challenges to faith, 1944)
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight (Tough neo-realism, 1959)
  • Bad and the Beautiful (‘Inside Hollywood’ drama; big stars, 1952)
  • To Have and Have Not (Bogey meets Bacall, Hemingway, 1944)
  • From Here to Eternity (Five-Star military drama with five real “stars”, 1954)

Once you’ve acquired a taste for the better B&W vintages, you might be liberated for good from twenty-first century vulgarity.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome, of course. Leave them at the candy counter, and bring me a tub of popcorn, will you? Salt, extra butter.

Onward.

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Right There in Black & White

Memories of an ex-munchkin among young women and summer breezes, by L. E. Taylor 

The diversions of television and Internet notwithstanding, we who have more life in the rearview mirror than through the windshield often find ourselves drifting off the road and into the past.

Recently, I found myself stock still in the living room with a glass of merlot in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Then I was gone.

The year was 1942. It was summer at my old Auntie Kane’s house on the Canadian shore of Lake St. Clair. I’d been sent across the river and into this bucolic yesteryear by my parents to protect me from the annual hot weather curse of cities: polio. Infantile paralysis, it was called, and it loomed over every household, in every neighborhood.

My Auntie (actually, my “great aunt,” my Grandma’s sister) was a widow whose only asset was a two story summer home built in 1912 by her late husband Will, a nineteenth century British emigrant, speedboat whiskey runner, illegal Detroit saloon proprietor, real estate speculator, and family character. Because the Kane’s had lost it all, as the saying goes, in the 1929-30 Crash, Minnie Kane was dependent for income upon a parade of family members and friends from the old days, and the pals they brought along for weekends in the cooling breezes off the blue lake.

That first year, 1942, was a test to see if I could handle June, July, and most of August on the lakeshore and permanently away from my mother and father, my baby brother, and my neighborhood chums (I could). Also, they needed to see if they could handle it (they could, too). So, summers during the War came to mean Canada for me. Not only did I meet a lot of interesting adults of all types and humours, but also (young men being away on urgent business, in uniform), a good portion of these folks were women. Young women.

Now I was only eight when the parade began, but as summers advanced, so did my curiosity about adult ways. I learned a lot. When the adults were relaxed on holiday at Auntie’s, they spoke freely among themselves – about politics, business, sports, sex. Well, the man-woman thing didn’t have a word connected to it then, but the phenomenon was present, always. My parents and their circles of couples would play gin rummy or poker indoors or Indian dice out on a sunny blanket; the men would go golfing; everyone swam in the sandy shallows of the clear lake; meals were always uproariously entertaining and the humor was always ironic and irreverent and full of salty information for the only kid there.

And he was certainly there. Always right there, not missing a syllable or a nuance. In fact, he wrote a book about it.

Many of the long forgotten bits of information little Larry absorbed in those four summers came from the brides and girlfriends of absent young warriors. The military men were my heroes, especially the Marines and the fliers. One of Auntie’s summer girls was married to an Air Corps pilot named Burton, which fascinated me. Her name was Pat. Then there was Mary, and Peg, and Ruth; these three only had boyfriends who were overseas. They were always gabbing, joking, and sometimes one would retreat into herself. They were all lonely. They masked the loneliness with an edgy gaiety that would come in bursts and then disappear like a summer lake squall.

And I was always there.

One day, they were talking about a movie that made a big impression. They settled into a serious conversation about it. Its title intrigued me. I asked what’s it about? Pat did a double take as though to say, “What? Are you still here?” Mary said, “It’s about a homely girl who meets a handsome man who’s engaged to a pretty woman. He goes off to war and comes back with his face all scarred up and ugly. When others are around, they are both ugly, when they’re alone in the cottage you see what they see, two beautiful people.”

Well, I never saw The Enchanted Cottage, but it did show up sixty-nine years later in my living room in Dallas Texas.

Black and white. Good movie.

Onward.

 

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Coming soon, essay: When Movies Didn’t Need Color.

 

 

 

Life in the Attic

Blatant nostalgia by L. E. Taylor

The new house was built to my father’s specifications in 1939.

It was unique. An architect modified the Cape Cod style to suit an idea that the upwardly mobile ex-coal miner had got somewhere, or just got out of the blue. It had two bedrooms, a basement, an unfinished small attic upstairs, a garage in the back yard, and a swath out front for a nice lawn. It didn’t look like any other house on Harvard Road.

That was the idea.

By 1942, the attic had been remodeled into a double bedroom with a commode and shower just at the top of the stairs. In retrospect, it was a young lad’s dream. Knotty pine paneling; two built-in desks with book shelves, separated by two large sash windows and a window seat beneath. The window seat disguised a storage bin, beneath a long hinged lid, perfect for baseball mitts, bats, and lots of “junk.” The floor was hardwood. There were a couple of rag rugs, one between the twin beds, and one at the foot.

But the first born son, only five when his brother was born, now nearly eight, felt exiled. Isolated and, in the popular term of the day, “blue,” he was uncomfortably remote from his former world: Downstairs. Seated at his desk on a sturdy red plastic-padded aluminum chair, the boy’s feet dangled inches above the floor. An expatriate, gloomily idle in his Elba. But not for long.

With walls on either side of the sloping roof, the bedroom only occupied the center section of the attic. Twin beds backed up to the east paneled wall. The west wall appeared exactly the same, but at its center, invisible to the eye, was a removable unit of four knotty pine panels, floor to ceiling, cunningly disguised to blend with the rest.

One day, when the boy was eleven, he discovered that he was tall enough and strong enough, to remove the secret panel and slide it aside. Simply a boy’s curiosity, nothing more. Once inside, he found this “storage room” was unheated, insulated from the winter only by some sort of padding that looked like flat chunks of pink cotton candy, stuffed into the spaces between roof struts. Arranged throughout this inner sanctum were the remnants of his mother’s past, trucked from her own childhood home one sad moving day when the old German neighborhood had become unlivable for her aging mother.

The room was unfinished and dark. Dark. Quiet. And oddly peaceful. A narrow spill of light from the opening where the panel had been moved aside allowed for exploration.

Clothing hung shrouded on a line; a tiny lacquered crib made by “Papa” for a first baby, stillborn nearly a half century before, a cedar chest with old costumes, woolens, boots, and a few albums was easily opened to a forgotten past, redolent of mothballs and mystery.

And there were magazines. Stacks next to stacks of Life magazines…. Years upon years of every weekly issue of Life magazine ever printed.

He sat down upon the raw pine floor. He took a quilt from the chest and a pillow from his bed and made a nest for himself, an Indian camp where he could retreat, back against the chest, legs akimbo, and read the magazines.

Life was an icon of the times. It arrived in the mail every Friday for as far back as the boy could recall, well before he could read, or even cared to. Except for the photographs. The slogan proclaimed Life to be “the world in pictures,” and indeed it was. Here in photos was the entire history of the War, and the troubled years that led up to it. And there was more. Famous people – Hollywood stars, great men whose voices he’d heard on the radio, far distant places in Europe and Asia, the polar explorations, the giant auto plants, the silver airplanes that were now shrinking the world. There were writers and musicians, gangsters and lawmen, builders and laborers on the job and scientists in their labs and old-looking leaders posing importantly in their uniforms and uncomfortable-looking double breasted suits.

Advertising touted every brand of cigarette on the sculpted lips of handsome men, soft drinks in the hands of pretty girls and Santa Claus, Campbell’s Soup, Wheaties, and every kind of car from DeSotos and Studebakers to Hudsons, Packards and with the war over, the new Jeepsters in your choice of yellow or maroon.

This became his secret place. Lit at first by smuggled candles. Then, to allow for more comfortable study of the magazines, a single small table lamp of rustic wood and brass with backlit images of the Lone Ranger on its yellowing shade.

After school, with a glass of red pop, he’d mount the stairs to his room. He found it ever easier to remove the pine panel, prop it up just enough to slip into the dark interior, click on the lamp, and from within, slide the panel to near closure. Then, away from the turmoil of advancing puberty in an unfriendly world, he would study the photos and read carefully every word by some of the best writers anywhere.

Time brought near manhood and he was off to a summer job, and then on to college. The images of Life’s black and white photographs, nearly twenty years of them, helped to set his mind’s stage for the new images and more demanding prose he was about to encounter.

A lifetime later, in another place, with another less romantic view of the society of men, one day he wondered what had become of those decades of Life magazines, delivered by mail each Friday at ten cents apiece.

Then he knew. His mother had thrown them out along with all the rest of the junk of life gone by. While he was away at college, the family moved far away from Harvard Road, to another new house, a new life.

Everything would be new. But not as good.

Onward.

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References.

Note to reader: It’s customary to provide a table of source material to for further study. However, all research for this article was done between 1940 and 1952; in an attic. I’m handing it off to you now. Here are a few “key word” suggestions:

Winston Churchill, FDR, Harry S Truman, Tom Dewey, Hitler, Stalin, Spanish Civil War, Margaret Bourke White, Communists, Nazis, Battle of Berlin, Pearl Harbor, Detroit war plants, Rosie the Riveter, Sherman tanks, Flying Tigers, Willow Run, Ernie Pyle, William L. Shirer, Claire Booth Luce, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Erroll Flynn, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Battle of the Bulge, George Patton, Battle of Britain, RAF, Spitfires, P51 Mustangs, Gone With the Wind, Clark Gable, Bobbie sox, Tom Harmon of Michigan, Battle of the Rouge Overpass, UAW, Teamsters, Levittown, Dunkirk, Monty at Tobruk, D-Day, Invasion of Sicily, Berlin Airlift, Kefauver Hearings, Frank Costello, Mafia, Al Capone, Rum running, speedboats, Chris Craft of Algonac, Gold Cup Races, Detroit race riots, Jackie Robinson, Joe Di Maggio, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller, Augie Bergamo, Stan Musial, Marylin Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Bataan, Corregidor, Death March, Rape of Nanking, VE Day, Midway, Iwo Jima, VJ Day, Nuremburg War Crimes, atrocities, concentration camps, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Bikini H-Bomb, the New Look, Stalin Purges, Cardinal Minzenti, brain washing, the Red Scare, Joe McCarthy, Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, I Like Ike…

Love, Hate and Half-baked Writing

Observation & Opinion By L.E.Taylor

The opposite of love is not hate.

The opposite of love is indifference. I heard that somewhere and after a lot of thought – and a lot of living, it made sense. Indifference means not caring. Hate is something else. Hate cares.

Hate is focused. It has a purpose, a target. Just like love. Passionate, sensual love (eros); brotherly, congenial love (philos); spiritual, selfless love (agape). All are bred into us. The Bible tells us, and I’ve had an inspired moment or two that assured me: God is Love.

Well, if you acknowledge that hate is also focused, and has an objective, then you may come to understand the problem good people have when confronted with evil. They are looking into the mirror. Darkly.

Tricky stuff when you’re trying to write truthfully and you want to keep it positive and sunny.

I found myself down this rabbit hole a couple of weeks ago when I was organizing some old books on my shelf and came upon the 1950s classic The True Believer by the magnificent Eric Hoffer.

I always play a trick on myself with a “new” book – I flip the pages without looking and let it stop at random. (Try this with your Bible some night instead of staring at X-Factor.) The True Believer is a slim little paperback, a mere 168 pages and deeply footnoted. The book fell open to a passage on page 95:  Chapter XIV, Unifying Agents. Subtopic, “Hatred.”

Hoffer was no sissy academic; he was a tough, lifelong drifter, for 25 years a San Francisco stevedore (longshoreman) of rough Middle European peasant stock, and he looked it. By 1953, his cerebral musings had brought him fame as a learned, articulate mid-century commentator on the times. Eric Hoffer wrote four treatises “in his spare time, while living in the railroad yards.”

The premise of True Believer, his most famous book, is that there is a common thread that runs through all obsessed advocates of causes, political, religious, humanitarian, revolutionary. He explores what attracts ready followers to such monsters as Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and their great predecessor, Napoleon. Common people are persuaded to surrender their freedom to the will of an angry sociopath who has provided them with something to hate.

So? What’s the point?

Lately, I’ve found myself leading a series of workshops for people who’ve stored up a lot of life and are motivated to write about it. Call it “memoir writing” or “family history”. I keep the topic simple: Great Storytelling.

Because these seasoned veterans of life are mining their own memories for stories, the product is by nature, subjective. Lots of judgments, revelations, emotions, and conclusions. No study. Just honest “remembrance(s) of things past.”

Before long, though, an honest writer finds him/herself staring at a sentence that is true, but troubling. An answer is needed. A moral resolution. As promised five months ago, this series of anecdotes and essays will not be a soapbox. But it is a forum. You are expected to comment. But…

To help make sense of what we writers are moved to send out for others to read, I believe our wits are sharpened by reading what others have written – not merely for the craftsmanship, but also to observe the spiritual wrestling match that informs quality thinking.

Eric Hoffer is one of those clear thinkers. There are countless others.

Also, please consider C. S. Lewis; among his finest contributions (beyond The Chronicles of Narnia) are Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves. Two anthologies gathered by Bill Bennett are Our Sacred Honor (verbatim letters and notes by America’s Founders); and The Book of Virtues (stories, myth, cultural lore about our moral and intellectual past).

These are not dry tomes. They are full of the juice of life. Their content  used to be taught, not only in colleges, but also in high schools, and – read it and weep – elementary home rooms across these prairies.

Look around you. Do you see a vibrant world of bravely energetic seekers? Or somewhere along the line, has the nourishment of wisdom and virtue been scrubbed from the cultural memory and replaced with tasty junk food with lots of calories and no nutrition?

Loving to read is one thing. Hating to think is part of human nature that must be defeated in order to produce writing that’s worth reading. The consequences are all around us: half-baked conclusions, drift, and indifference.

Onward.

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Living the Mulligan

A True Story – Reflection by L.E. Taylor
Don and I were late for our tee-time because we had to stop at his buddy’s house so I could borrow the fellow’s clubs and spikes.

I was only visiting my brother in Florida for a few days and he wanted to play some golf as we used to on the public links in Detroit, when we were kids. Don was a Delta pilot, working only three or four days a week by law, so when he wasn’t sailing or fishing he’d spend an afternoon at his club sharpening his game.

I hadn’t been on a golf course in fifteen years.

As I jammed my normal-sized tootsies into the size eight-and-a-half shoes, my kid brother, confident that this would be my only chance, said, “Your honors.” So I grabbed a driver.

It was a par-four with a slight dogleg-right and a wooded rough along the left. The flag was a wee dot, far, far away. With no time for a warm up at the range, I teed up, addressed the ball, shoulders square, overlapped grip, knees slightly bent, slow, deliberate backswing. The breeze from my whiff disturbed snoozing seagulls on the next fairway.

Don glanced at the pristine Acushnet still smartly on its yellow tee and chuckled. “That’s okay,” he said. “We didn’t have time at the range; let’s call it a Mulligan.”

Embarrassed and a little pissed off, I focused and went through the ritual again. The click was like music. The trajectory was straight and elevated before the ball came to rest on the left apron about two-hundred-twenty or so yards away.

“Nice shot,” Don said, and teed up. His drive was long but hooked into the rough at about a hundred-sixty yards. He drove the cart, stopping in the fairway near his lie. He waded well into the tangled rough, past a stand of big trees, found his ball and hacked impressively. The shot advanced the ball nicely past the trees and beyond my lie, but it remained in the rough. He grumbled, got in, and the cart hummed silently to a halt near my ball.

(The rest of this mundane tale holds the point of our conversation. So stop fidgeting.)

I went round to the borrowed old canvas bag of clubs and withdrew an iron. A five-, maybe a three-iron. My ball was slightly raised on the deep apron. It had been so long since my golfing days, I was very deliberate and I remember telling myself the drill: Line up the ball off your left heel… align thumbs… square shoulders… head down… fix eyes on the ball… bend knees… touch the club-head to grass one inch behind the lie. I turned my head just enough to see the flag, but it was gone, replaced by a foursome of Lilliputians who’d got to the green and were busy putting out. Good enough – I lined up my shoulders with the green. Slow backswing, swivel at waist. Keep left elbow stiff, cock the wrist. Fire!

Because dad taught me to keep my head down through the swing, I stared at my divot for a second or so before craning to search the fairway for my shot. The foursome was leaving the green. Suddenly they were animated, shouting nonsense in our direction and waving putters overhead.

In the cart, Don’s back stiffened. His eyebrows rose, his jaw dropped. “It went in the cup,” he said. “The ball went in the cup! You made an eagle!” I was stunned but don’t remember what I might have said. The four guys nearly two hundred yards away were yelling – I did make out, ‘great golf shot,’ but I just stood there. Don scowled at me. “Get in the cart!” As he pressed the pedal to take us to his ball (still in the rough), my wonderfully funny, albeit very competitive, young bub muttered, “I’ve never even seen an eagle.”

Question: Did I really make an eagle? Well, in a friendly round of golf, I guess so. But, these three decades later, it makes me think. (I told you to be patient.)

Now that I’m committed to the writer’s life, 24/7, I’m finding that my mind races from topic to topic faster than I can write it all down. And all this reading makes it even worse. Last week, deep into the night (my most fertile thinking time – a curse!) I mused, ‘If only I could just keep going hard, learn all that I can, write well, and teach and help others on their own journeys, and then, exhausted, follow in the way of all flesh to Heaven for a rest and some soul-work, and then come back, wiser and ready to go at it again.’  If only.

Then I asked in so many words, “I wonder if I could have a Mulligan.”

And without missing a beat, the Lord replied: “You’ve got one,” He said. “This is it.”

Onward.

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Bully Boys – Part I: Terror

Remembrance and Reflections: By L.E.Taylor

1943.

The damp yellow clay of the pit smelled of rancid grass cuttings and mutilated earthworms and what the boy would later think of as Death. He was wrestled into the grave – what else could you call it? – by the four “big boys” from another neighborhood. He pled to be freed, but they laughed. As he cried they closed off the sky with a sheet of particle board and scrap planks from a construction site. The last small opening to life was blocked with a chunk of concrete suspended by a length of close-line just above his head.

“Larr-reee,” came the call from somewhere far off.

The boys scrambled and disappeared. My mother came bustling through the high weeds and the swampy standing water of the big vacant lot. She wore a patterned cotton house dress as even young women did in those days, and sensible shoes. Before she arrived at the pit, I’d freed myself, and was running toward her. She scolded me for not staying near home or telling her where I was going. The vacant lot was only a block from home, but a mother’s instinct and racial memory informed Grace of a vast universe of peril.

I was eight. I never told her about being buried alive. The spanking was painless and made us both feel a lot better. For different reasons.

Onward.

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Next time, Bully Boys – Part II: Mad Men

Remember Yourself (2003 Redux)

[Author's note: Among the unexpected bonuses of personal journal-writing is the shock, often humbling, of what you learn about yourself when you read your words ten years later. Yesterday, the following essay popped out of a old "Notes-To-Me" doc/file. It's dated March, 2003.]

We’re each a product of a journey that began before we got here. This young American journey has been unique. Our republic was crafted deliberately by its founders from the start. It was about something. Something new that had never been pulled off before. The United States of America – the Old Republic – was an invention inspired by God. Certainly by men whose lives were informed with deference to a Creator.

I believe that because they said so.

At the bloody birth of our new identity as a new People, enough good men reflected and drew a covenant to help us remember our better selves, not only as warriors, but also as free-born creations of God. We have institutionalized these First Principles in our documents and reinforced them in our lore.

I was reminded of this tonight as I washed my dishes and listened to the week’s Frontline documentary on PBS. Neither PBS nor Frontline is among my favorite political places on the the tube.

Tonight’s subject was the evolution of the current George W. Bush Administration, with special contrast between its balky start and the rapid maturing of its leader from tyro before September 11, to self-assured, hawkish, Commander-in-Chief afterward.

I began to re-examine my own support of our march toward war with Iraq.

My mind drifted. I was transported back to a high school stage, seated terrified at an oaken table with a monstrous black microphone inches from my nose. The mic bore a logo of three capital letters: “WJR”. The debate was broadcast live across the Midwest on the most powerful regional radio station in America: “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes.”

In my senior year, I was one of a tiny handful of vocal Republicans in a union-dominated Detroit high school whose enrollment topped 4,200. On WJR, that fall morning in 1952, I was the “anchor” debater ‘against’ a politically contrived “police action” that came to be known as The Korean War.

The principles that drove me to an anti-war stance in 1952 are still valid. War is troglodyte stupidity, the highest risk path to a solution. Armed conflict is justified when national interest is at stake – after an attack, certainly; or when the peril is imminent and pre-emptive destruction of a hell-bent rogue nation is the only sensible defense.

Regarding 9-11, we certainly were attacked. And, even at that, for most of a year Bush showed restraint, mounting strikes against known terrorist bases in Taliban Afghanistan.

But now, nearly two years later, we’ve kept going. Returning to Iraq after thrashing them in the Gulf War is troubling. And, recalling Korea and Vietnam, all too familiar.

I wonder; couldn’t we have marshaled an alliance to take out this guy? Bush (41) had maneuvered politicians, domestic and foreign, to support us after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It was smooth and decisive. No one doubted whose cause was just. Clearly there were national U.S. interests. Wouldn’t this current action against Iraq have been more effective and less antagonistic to alliances if more had been done behind the scenes and less in center stage to the boom of an ever-increasing drumbeat?

This Wolfowitz fellow seems to have been far too influential in a place that called for quiet power moves. We know the motives of France, Russia, and China for obstructing us: They have vast investments in shady commerce and crooked arms dealing with a gangster regime. But what logic do we have for our choice of ground warfare as a tactic? How about coming up with something just as persuasive to a bully, but off camera.

War is still idiotic. Reagan won everything for us without it. Except for the attack on our Beirut Marine barracks, and our retaliation on Libya for funding air-piracy, he ran the table without bloodshed, and the Evil Empire became finished business. At Reykjavik Reagan had called and raised, and he won the pot. No war was waged. Only the clear threat was sent that we were willing to fight and were resolved to win.

So what’s happening now [in 2003], as we send a new generation of young fresh blood into another far-distant nest of mad primitives? Maybe we’re forgetting who we are.

LT

03/21/2003

Fast-forward to September, 2013. Sounds familiar.

Onward.

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