Saturday, November 29, 2008

Colonels & Generals & a Retired Lieutenant

Colonels & Generals &
One Smart-assed
Retired First Lieutenant

One should read, cum grano salis, Italian General Fabio Mini’s foreword and afterthought in Guerra Senza Limiti: L’Arte della Guerra Asimmetrica fra Terrorismo e Globalizzazione, the Italian rendition of the controversial book by the two Chinese futuristic colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. And for two decent reasons: the general asserts that his translation is a translation of a perhaps bogus translation; and, because the general being blinkered and unduly subjective in his analysis, frequently sounding off in a pathetically pious quality of sound in his disgruntled state of mind, must be held up to scrutiny. I feel sorry for him.

I only wish he had read, twenty five years ago, my trilogy about the Vietnam “War,” The Hippie Lieutenant, because he just might have saved himself oodles of confusion and would not come off today as a uniformed “Gianni come lately” expounding options which have been often already debated in war colleges and international military circles. In Italy, things evolve slowly—but not surely. General Mini, who for decades thrived under the military umbrella of the United States, is currently content that the “gioco” has changed but not delighted that the playing field is, for once, very much more level. And he talks about, freewheeling all the time, this new state of affairs declaring that he can function as a wedge between the United States and China and bring these two extremities together to form a new interpretation of humanity, id est, a Christian militarism founded on Machiavellian generalizations! (Credit must be given to the general on at least one count: he is the first Italian I know who has admitted that Machiavelli's corollaries are not really his but were discussed indeed centuries before in China!)

What can we expect from an individual whose schizoid tendencies fit well with other Italians who fanatically declare themselves to be Christian but act contrariwise; or, when still others in The Boot, professing to be communists, exploit their workers con gusto? Why not an Italian swivel chair general who probably has never fired a shot at any enemy, who has enjoyed the security blanket of the United States since the end of World War II but who, at present, gloats over the twenty-first-century quagmires the Pentagon is stuck in these days, and who seeks a Christian militaristic movement (Crusade?) to rescue that essence of Man, his!, he proclaims to be the wisest of all? Absurdity! And a tad bit grandiose! He speaks as if he is in the Roman era—he, too, on the road to extinction? When the winds shift, General Mini will snuggle up again to the bosom of the Pentagon. Isn't it time for him to sit down and eat a nice plate of pastasciutta? (We can thank Machiavelli for teaching the Italians to say “Yes” today and “No” tomorrow. And that attribute has contributed to putting Italy at the top of's List of Most Corrupt Nations in Western Europe. Ronald P Spogli, Republican-appointed United States Ambassador to Italy, are you, Sir, proud to have Italy as an ally? Are you a simpleton?)

I have never ever offered sympathy to any general! Most of them with whom I came in contact would have been horror-struck at such a thought. The majority of them did not enjoy my esteem. They did not appreciate me, either! (When I taught missilery for the United States Army, they called me The Wayward Missile; and, when I was an artillery forward observer in Vietnam's Central Highlands, they labelled me The Loose Canon! And I cannot really believe, even today, that the United States Army wanted to promote me to captain—two times!) Two generals I served under, Westmoreland and Peers, were imbeciles. These lummoxes would have kowtowed to whatever felonious caper (for example, complicity in duping the citizens of the United States into believing that there were nuclear warheads in the missiles Nikita Khrushchev sent to Cuba...was that possible?) US senators and congressman hatched up for them.

Listen to what President Harry S Truman, first to order the use of atomic weaponry, said about General Douglas MacArthur and generals, in general: “I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.” Last year, on a bus travelling home to Calenzano, I met an Italian colonel who was extremely cordial and inquisitive. I asked him: “Do you know why generals are so thick-headed?” He queried why. “Because they are chosen from the colonels!” He roared with laughter—something General Mini rarely does.

United States' generals are these days substantially more intelligent and educated, but they chime in too easily with political forces. Many of them, when in retirement, speak out when it is too late. These reactions are disappointing and unfortunate. I loathe the behaviour of John McCain, John Kerry and Al Gore who have used their Vietnam “War” experiences to further their political agendas. No one ever took my picture when I served in the boonies on the border of Laos and Cambodia where my unit was ordered to stem the flow of troops and arms into Vietnam from along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. When I hear that a British general has been knighted a “Sir,” I wish I could vomit.



What glory for a warlord fagged out on old days?
--Only nonsensical rows of flushing ribbons.

Only salutes and dues and tokens
can rub out the thorny terror of his yore.

Still more boring chores; still more whores galore.
The rites of rank salve ferocious brain bustles.

At night, in the dim light, our hero bleats,

And his finger flounces Bible leafs.

What anodyne can we divine to quell his pinings?

Hour sessions housed in the halls of dream teams?


Whisky sours to whist away the wildish traits of his ways?


A tryst, with kisses and caresses, to temper his distress?



...Old soldiers never die; they just fade away...”


Let him “fade away” through the spectre of his bitterness and hate.

3 August 1996

I'm in a good mood today, so I want to tell you a story about The Hippie Lieutenant that I have already narrated to only a few intimate friends but now wish to put into the “public domain” for posterity! I am doing this because I think my insights, and especially those in The Hippie Lieutenant, are relevant to the military strategists of our own era.

When I finished the The Hippie Lieutenant manuscript in Caracas, Venezuela in the late 1970s, I channelled it by mail to many publishing companies located all over the world. No one would publish my trilogy. Later, in the mid-1980s, a literary agent in Zürich, Switzerland, Paul Fritz, who had read it, informed me that my revelations about the United States' intervention in Vietnam would never be printed in the United States because they were “white hot” (Eldridge Cleaver stuff!) and The Establishment would be too much embarrassed by them. So what?

I took the idea for the title of the book from an article I had written for Playboy and titled The Hippie Lieutenant. Geoffrey Norman, then Assistant Editor, and now associated with the right-wing National Review for which I had worked before going to university, commented (13 March 1970) on my article: “Finally the decision was not mine alone. I generally see all the Vietnam stuff first around here. I always show something as good as your piece to at least one other editor, in this case Jim Goode, our Articles Editor. He agreed with my evaluation (not to publish because of editorial suitability) and told me to write a note of explanation to you. I can assure you that Mr. Hefner would agree with our judgement in this case....” I sent the article and rejection letter to Larry “The King of Interviewers” King who, at the time, was hosting a radio program on Miami, Florida's WIOD situated on the beautiful Key Biscayne. L “The King” K invited me to participate, and I gladly went. Again, no luck in finding a publisher.

In Venezuela, I had made the acquaintances of Ramón Escovar Leon and his father Ramón Escovar Salom, Venezuelan foreign minister in the Carlos Andrés Pérez regime and United States' Department of State choice to be President of Venezuela. RES took my The Hippie Lieutenant MS with him to Harvard University one summer after having been invited to pass a sabbatical there studying international relations. Here, too, he was to be indoctrinated, and Milton Friedmanitized, in the manners of being a President of Venezuela committed to spreading the NeoTheoCon Northamerican political and economic mindset that was then taking hold in the United States, unfortunately.

Upon his return, RES handed me back my MS and quipped this zinger: “Stanley Hoffman (Pol Sci guru at Harvard and intimate of that idiot Henry “The Carpet Bomber” Kissinger) read your book and told me you are crazy.” I let out a sigh of relief. Could I have had a better compliment than that? No way.

SH inspired me to do something I never would have imagined I could do—would have the balls to do—and which was more difficult for me than even the combat assaults I made from helicopters with infantry soldiers in the hills north of Pleiku. I was not going to let those bastards keep me from telling The Truth about Vietnam.

I took The Hippie Lieutenant to the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Caracas and, with a bouquet of red roses, rang the embassy's bell and sucked it in hard...exceptionally hard. I was petrified with fear.

The receptionist referred me to a Novoski journalist, Alexander Borisov, always treating me amiably and with respect. AB suggested I write articles for the communist newspapers in Venezuela, but I refused saying that I wanted to be published only in Pravda. He laughed and so did I. Because AB's English was not advanced, I was “transferred” to Yuri (last name?) who served as the embassy's commercial attaché and was fluent in English. Yuri told me he had been a very high executive in the Gazprom organization. I did not dare ask him why, then, he had been assigned to Venezuela. He suggested that I meet the vice-director of the USSR's largest publishing company who was on tour in Southamerica and wanted to meet with me on his last leg before returning to Moscow. I accepted hesitatingly. I was offered vodka during the meeting and I wanted to pinch myself to see if I was really in that room with those Soviet officials. Nothing productive came from the meeting as far as the publication of my literary work was concerned, but, thereafter, my heartbeat rate lowered.

For three or four months, I called the Soviet embassy obsessively trying to pry an answer from Yuri who told me over the telephone that my book was being considered for publication. How many times had I heard that? One day, as if a bolt from the sky had hit me, Yuri nixed my request stipulating himself with these words: “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will not publish your manuscript for fear it might offend the newly-elected President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.” I was speechless. And I could not believe, and still do not to this day, that what Yuri had told me was true. Nevertheless, I would have given my right arm to offend that jackass Ronald Reagan.

Over the years I have come to believe that the Vietnam veterans who remained as “lifers” in the United States Armed Forces have conspired to do their best to “make-up” for the “loss” they suffered in Southeast Asia, in the Vietnam “War.” Soldiers are born to fight; United States' soldiers are born to win—at all costs. Give them a right-wing carte blanche, and they are off and running. Including Colin Powell, Uncle Tom's Atom Bomb. The Hippie Lieutenant proves that they might one day be considered the biggest assholes (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, p 69) in the history of warfare. And I am as proud as punch that I wrote it...

Post Scriptum

My dear reader, do you think
I have a problem with Authority
or does Authority
have a problem with me?

Written by Anthony St. John

Calenzano, Italy

9 October 2007

No comments: