"Fiasco. The American military adventure in Iraq.", by Thomas E. Ricks

I have been waiting for quite some time to find a definitive, exhaustive, comprehensive, politicallly unbiased account of the Second Iraq War - that is Bush the Younger's war.  Well my wait is over - I have finally found it in Mr. Rick's work.

The roots of Iraq War II were in the First Iraq War - Bush the Elder's War - no big surprise.  So that is were the author starts the narrative.  Mr. Ricks shows how Bush I got it right.  Saddam Hussein was contained with minimal loss of US life and treasure.  But the subtitle "The American military adventure in Iraq" gives the Second Iraq War away.  Bush II went and had himself a good old military adventure in Iraq.  And the result was a fiasco.

Essentially, this war was fought on a number of levels.  The first level was in the Bush advisors.  Most of his advisors were bound and determined to eliminate Hussein.  And 911 was a good excuse to carry it out.  Hussein had foolishly shot his mouth off about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).  So these same advisors took full advantage of this and used WMD as the primary reason to eliminate Saddam.  Note: to this day, there is NO evidence of Saddam having WMD.  Absolutely none.  Unfortunately, all of the Western World's intelligence agencies also loudly proclaimed the existance of Saddam's WMD.  Which leads to an interesting question.  Did these intelligence agencies lie or were they just wrong or perhaps some of both?  This question kind of makes it hard to trust these agencies, especially our intelligence agencies - you know the CIA and the like.  I would love to see the author explore this question in a future work.  But I digress.

The Bush I Advisors bring to mind the Nixon Advisors during the Vietnam War.  Both sets of advisors were primarily grounded in civilian life.  They had little military background.  The result, in both cases, was terrible advice and desasterous results.  

"Fiasco" also takes a close look at the Bush II generals.  It shows how most of these generals were cut from the same cloth as the advisors.  Sounds like they were in bed together.  It is really sad when generals act like politicians.  You would think that they would have learned from the Vietnam War.  At least two did - General Petraeus - the 101 Airborne Division and General Mattis - the Marine Corp.

The bottom line is that both of these wars are earily similar.  They were insurgencies.  And the US needed to engage as a Counter Insurgency.  In both of these conflicts, the US Military (for the most part) ignored established doctrine and employed tactics and strategy that did not fit the actual conflict.  They fought the wrong wars.  They "Military Center of Mass" was not "Geography" but rather "The Hearts and Minds of the Populace".  Apparently the military is more enamered with the glamour and glitz of the big land campaigns of WWII.  With the massive numbers of tanks, planes, and ships.

So the conclusion of this book is obvious.  Once again the United States Government and Military blew it.  They fought the wrong war in Vietnam and we paid dearly for it.  They also fought the wrong war in Iraq II and we paid dearly for it.  Let us hope that this novel is required reading in our Military Schools and all Schools of Political Science.  I pray that these mistakes are not repeated.


"The Second World Wars, How the first global conflict was fought and won." by Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson has a stellar reputation as a historian.  He is in fact the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where his focus is classics and military history.  He is also a frequent contributor to the "Claremont Review of Books", of which I am a member and avid reader.

So I was much delighted to pick up this new novel of his.  And boy was I not disappointed.  This tome shows why Mr. Hanson is a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

I consider myself well read on World War II.   So I am somewhat reluctant to read new works on this subject.  My reluctancy quickly dissappeared when I dived into this book.

First of all this work is lengthy, 529 pages of text, and 102 pages of footnotes.  But do not let the length of this book put you off.  This work is very easy to read and very engaging.  Tough to put this book down, once you pick it up.  But you will need to frequently take breaks so that you can properly absorb what you have read.

Once I decided to engage this work, I quickly relised that through this book Mr. Hanson has presented a comprehencive study of why the Allied Powers won WWII and why the Axis Powers lost.  The author divided this book into 20 chaptors which are then grouped into the following "parts" - {Part One. Ideas, Part Two. Air, Part Three. Water, Part Four. Earth, Part Five. Fire, Part Six. People, Part Seven. Ends}.  These Part Names invoke elemental feelings.  Mr. Hanson used this approach to strip this war of all the hype and glitter and get down to the basics.  Thus to really understand WWII, you need to examine the basic elements of war.

As mentioned previously, the author is noted for his authority on the Classics at the Hoover Institute (along with his military prowness).  So throughout this work, he ties battles and other events in WWII to classical battles and events in previous engagements {Roman Wars, Greek Wars, US Revolutionary War, US Civil War, etc.}.  Mr. Hanson uses this technique to show that what proved true in WWII was also true in Classical Wars.  Apparently there is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to warfare.

Mr. Hanson has outdone himself with his latest work.  As far as I am concerned this is his military opus.  I cannot wait to read future works from this author.  If I could be so bold as to make a request.  How about such a novel on the US/Afghan/Iraq wars?



"Guilty Wives" by James Patterson and David Ellis

I tend to enjoy A James Patterson mystery/thriller.  It is hard to figure out were his plots are going, so his books keep you on your toes.  So I jumped right in to "Guilty Wives", not knowing what to expect.

So the plot starts out with a group of four wealthy wives who happen to be good friends.  They decide to have a Chick Weekend in Monte Carlo and they quickly cut loose.  As the story unfolds, these ladies decide to step out their husbands and check out other men.  In the process, they somehow get framed for murdering the President of France.  The four wives are subsequently convicted of terrorism and sent to a brutal prison.

The rest of the story focuses on how these ladies get out of prison.  I found this part of the story most interesting.  The determination and grit to survive is a testiment to the human spirit.

But I have problems with the rest of the plot.  First of all, the reason the ladies are framed for murder is that their husbands set them up.  That's right, the husbands committed the murder and framed their wives.  Apparently all was not well in wealthy maritial land.  All sorts of extra caricular activites were going on by both the husbands and the wives.  So I find it hard to believe that all four husbands would commit murder and frame their wives for the sake of false jealousy.  By false jealousy I mean that the husbands are hypocrites.

Another problem with this story is that the love sceines are way to graphic.  This is not supposed to be a porn novel.

Finally I am put off by the casual acceptence (in this story) of maritial infidelity.  That such behaviour is somehow acceptably and the norm.  And that stories like this somehow happen.  Well I have news for you.  If these people were having problems with their marriages then get some kind of help.  Do not decide to indulge in external relationships.  This whole crazy affair and horrible consequences could have been easily avoided by some basic, decent, moral behaviour.

Mr. Patterson has done us a service.  He has highlighted the wages of sin.  Be worned, you reap what you sow.


"Killing England, The Brutal Struggle for American Independence.", by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

I am a big fan of Bill O'Reilly's "Killing" series.  The entire series - all of the books.  I learn lots of things from each book and they are captivating and easy to read.

This latest addition to the series, does not disapoint.  I consider myself well read on the American Revolution.  I have taken this study upon myself since I am in fact a Native American (I was born in the USA) and I thus have a vested interest in my country's history.  Yes understanding one's roots is important.  Unfortunately this sentiment has fallen out of favor as of late.  I think that is one of the motivators behind Mr. O'Reilly's scholarship.  Bill started his work career as a school teacher, so he is well aware of the national ignorance of this nations foundings.

As previously stated, I am not wholey ignorant on the American Revolution.  So I was much pleased to discover new truths in this book.  Our nation's birth was a close run thing.  General Washington made his share of mistakes.  But he learned from them and persavered.

It seems to be very fashionably today to lambast our founders.  They are called barbarians, sexist, racist, and the like.  We must remember that hindsite is always 20x20.  The founders struggled mightely to create the finest nation that this world has ever known.  They themselves were not perfect, so what they created was and is not perfect, but the result has been a blessing to all nations.

Many are quick to criticize the founding dads but they in turn are lacking in positive, substantive improvements.  These same folk dismiss and essentuall ignore the Constitution.  I think that people dismiss the founders so that the founders creation can also be dismissed.  And how has this attitude worked out for us?  Setting aside technological advances, is 2017 USA a better place to live than. 1776 USA?  Put another way, I would love to see our current form of governance replaced with the Washington DC of 1776.

O'Reilly and Dugard make a great historical, writing team.  I hope they continue to this collaberation.


"Haunted, A Detective Michael Bennet Thriller", by James Patterson and James O. Born

I am something of a fan of James Patterson's thrillers.  In particular I enjoy the Michael Bennett series.  This series centers around Michael Bennett.  Michael Bennett is an accomplished and highly visible New York City Police Detective.  He is a widower with 10 adopted children.  He has a live in Nanny (Mary Catherine - who he is romantically involved with) and a live in grandfather (Seamus) who is a Catholic Priest.

One of the plots in this novell is that one of Bennett's High School sons (Brian) is now facing prison time for selling drugs - an obvious shock.  Brian is attending a Catholic School when he somehow felt compelled to sell meth and ecstacy.  His excuse is that his drug supplier "forced" him to sell the drugs.  The supplier threatened his family if Brian did not sell the drugs.

I in some part appreciate this plot since Patterson seems to be trying to draw attention to the escalating drug problem in this country.  But I have a hard time believing that a school kid from this caliber of family is going to end up selling drugs.   This plot would be much more believable if Brian was using drugs not selling felony weight.  Brian's dad is a very famous New York City Police Detective.  Michael is well know for his toughness and is not afraid to use (and has used) lethal force.  Michael is very close to his children.  So how could Brian not confide in his stud dad that a drug pusher bully was hassling and threatening him and other students?  This series depicts an ideal familiy environment.  Why would Brian not talk to Mary or Seamus?  There was no indication of teanage rebellion or the like.  So this scenerio seems rooted in fantasy.  Way to contrived.

 So James Patterson has written another captivating thriller in the Michael Bennet series.  He is be commended for drawing attention to our country's drug problem.  It would have been nice however, if he would have made the plot a bit more believable.


"Red Platoon, a True Story of American Valor", by Clinton Romesha Medal of Honor Recipient

As far as I am concerned, there should be some kind of biography written about all of our Medal of Honor recipients.  Mr. Clinton Romesha is one such recipient.  And he has taken it upon himself to write his own biography of his military career in Afghanistan.  That is excellent.  We are proud of him and eager to hear his story.

This novel is extreemly well written.  After a few chapters I decided to check out the author and co-authors.  So I did a little research on the web.  And there is a lot of info on this hero.  Since Clinton is an Army Calvery Seargent and not an author by training,  I figured he must have had some most excellant assistance.  Imagine my surprise when I could not find any such writing assistance.  That means that this work is an auto-biography of the first order.

As I said, this novel is an excellant read.  Captivating and engaging.  Very hard to put done once you start reading it.

But one thing that really stood out was the tactical idiocy of the base  (Combat Outpost Keeting) that Mr. Romesha was charged with defending.  Here are some of his own quotes from the book.  "The location the analyst selected was unacceptable by almost any yardstick you'd care to measure it with."  "In short the site was remote, isolated, virtually impossible to supply, and so breathtakeingly open to plunging fire that massive amounts of artillery and airpower would be required to defend it."  "Those flaws were so glaringly evident that the young specilist who was ordered to draw up the initial plans dubbed it 'Cluster'."

Apparently the Taliban agreed with these sentiments.  The enemy launched an all out offensive against Keeting with overwhelming tactical superiority.  The result was that eight of Mr. Romesha's collegues were killed.  It is a bit of a miracle that the entire outpost wasn't anhialated.

The defense of Keating was so horific, that the Army launched an investigation into the battle.  This effort was led by an Army Major General.  The investigation issued a report and concluded that a Captain bore the greatest responsibility for what went wrong, since he was the commander and senior officer of Keating during the period of the attack.  This sounds a little to convenient.  How can a lowly Captain be most culpable?  How about his commanding officers?  Did they provide proper oversight?  How about the actual creation of Keating?  How was responsible for that fiasco?  I would like to see a Cingressional investigation into this matter.

Clinton was awarded the Medal of Honor because he refused to admit defeat and insisted on taking the fight to the enemy no matter what.  He constantly subjected himself to Taliban fire in the effert to defend the base at all costs.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Romesha continues his writing career.  I do not care what genra he picks.  I will eagerly check them out.  The effort and success that he has achieved in the Army and with this first work, speaks volumes as too his future works.

May the good Lord bless him and his family.


"DIY Bitters, Reviving the Forgotten Flavor, A Guide to Making Your Own Bitters, For Bartenders, Cocktail Enthusiasts and Herbalists", by Guido Mase and Jovial King

So you thought that "Bitters" were some weird concoction that bar tenders added to drinks to somehow be traditional.  Think again.  The founders of Urban Moonshine  provide a tutorial on the {history, flavors, chemistry, story} of bitters.

Bitters are concentrated herbs.  Herbs are good for health for a lot of reasons - {digestion, alergies, mood, colds, flu}.  Turns out that bitters were created for a reason - to enhance digestion.  Back in the day (hundreds of years ago), germs were not understood.  But people relised that alcohol somehow purified water.  So they drank a lot of alcohol.  Bitters were added to mask the off flavors of bad water.  They even created a cocktail to cure hangovers - the Bloody Mary, which is essentually a drink with a lot of herbs and bitters.

By the way, bitters are no longer restricted to alcoholic drinks.  They work perfectly well with water, seller, or other non-alcoholic drinks.  But bitters can of course still be a nice additive to an adult beverage.

So the authors have presented a valuable guide to bitters.  First of all as a educational resource.  Secondly on how to make bitters, if you so desire.  Thirdly on how to use bitters.  Fourthly on how to employ bitters in drinkology.  And lastly as a sort of bitter medicinal guide.

I decided to check out Urban Mooshine on the web.  I went a head and ordered some bitters.  And I am quite pleased with the results.


"The Last Punisher, A Seal Team Three sniper's true account of the battle of Ramadi", by Kevin Lacz, with Ethan E. Rocke and Lindsey Lacz

Kevin Lacz was a collegue of Chris Kyle (The Legend).  Chris Kyle holds the record for most One-Shot-Kills as a member of Seal Team Three.  Mr. Kyle wrote an autobiography - "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History".  I would highly recommend Chris's book.  The Last Punisher is essetually a companion book to American Sniper.

Kevin and Chris both served as snipers with Seal Team Three in Iraq.  Kevin provides an interesting viewpoint to Chris's career.  What was it like to server with the most accomplished sniper in U.S. military history?  It is clear that Kevin and Chris were warrior brothers and that Chris's death was a real tragedy.

Kevin does a great job describing his military career and his novel is easy to read and absolutely captivating.  Kevin is brutally honest about his experiences and that is greatly appreciated.

One thing that really stood out in the book was research that strongly suggests that only 2 percent of our population is capable of killing without suffering psychological trauma.  The good news is that Kevin seems to be in the 2 percent.  He seems to have adjusted to civilian life quite well.  He has a wife and familiy and challenging career.  He even has some association with Hollywood.  This is excellent.  I am very greatful for Kevin's service and. I wish only the best for him and his family.  This country owes Kevin a large debt and I hope he makes a ton of money and has a very comfortable life.  He has certainly earned it.

But what about the 98 percent?  You know, those veterans who are NOT capable of killing without suffering psychological trauma.  How are they doing?  Apparently not well.  According to Wikipedia, 20 veterans a day die from suicide.  Check out Scholar for lots of interesting articles on PTSD.

The U.S.A has a long history of using the military to fight our wars.  This country has a rich tradition of men and women sacrificing as members of our military.  This country is unique in that the military is controlled by elected officials.  Isn't about time that we return the favor.  How about we declare a war on PTSD.  How about our government put resources into this problem.

Mr. Kevin Lacz has written a fine account of his military career.  Definitely worth reading.  He has performed a valuable service by artfully describing the mental trauma that his team experienced.  The hope is that Kevin's work will help drive this country to help veterans when they return to civilian life.


"Call Sign Extortion 17, The Shoot-Down of Seal Team Six" by Don Brown

When Osama Bin Laden was finally brought to justice on May 2, 2011 by US Navy Seals, President Barrack Obama was quick to claim credit and perhaps rightly so.  President Obama did make the decision and he did take responsibility for the subsequent killing of Bin Laden.  So since the President took command responsibility, he is also entitled to the credit.  Ok, I can live with that.

But it turns out, there is more to the story.  Don Brown is a former US Navy JAG Officer and his impressive credentials. help him to expose the downside to this operation.  And the downside comes in two parts.

Part 1.  Both Vice President Biden and CIA Director Panetta took it upon themselves to publicly release classified information that placed the Seals and their families in grave danger.  Way to go guys.  I am glad that you were able to place your Public Relations needs ahead of the safety of our Special Forces.  What can you expect from polititions.

But there was another problem. On August 6, 2011, Taliban forces shot down a helicoptor - call sign "Extortion 17".  The attack killed the Air National Guard crew,  seven unidentified members of the Afghan military,  and seventeen members of Navy Seal Team Six -  the same warriers that killed Bin Laden just 90 dayes before.  Also killed were three Air Force Special Forces operatives, one Afghan interpreter, and a military working dog.

Mr. Don Brown does a fine job of detailing why this tragedy happened:

1)  An inappropriate helicoptor was used in the mission.

2)  The mission was suicidal at best.

3)  Unidentified persons were on the helicoptor.

4)  Afghanies were in the mission.

5)  Horribly Rules of Engagement.

In addition, the author superbly details the subsequent and ongoing coverup.  This includes the Congressional Hearing on February 27, 2014.

Mr. Don Brown deserves a lot of credit for telling the Rest of the Story.  For telling the Entire Story.  One hopes that this novell will keep the Extortion 17 Investigation alive and propell it's fruition and thus finally bring closer and peace to the families.  In addition, I hope the the Trump Administration reads this book and takes these lessions to heart.  Let us learn from our mistakes and kill our enemies.

God Bless the United States Military.  May the fallen rest in peace and their families achieve closer and justice.

"The Rooster Bar", by John Grisham


This novel is essentually the story of a group of young law students and their quest to deal with crushing student loan debt.  The story is somewhat slow to develop and it took me a while to see where the theme was going.  I would not rate this as one of Mr. Grisham's most entertaining books.  But the author's theme is substative.

I think that John Grisham has shined a light on a very important problem in these here United States of America.  That is - Federal Government interference in higher education.  Specifically the Student Loan Program.  The result of this interference is sky rocketing college costs.  The Constitution does not give the Feds the right to meddle with college education in any way.

So how did the Federal Student Loan Program get created?  I jumped onto the internet to get an answer.  One of the better resources that I have found is Ed Central.  The federal government began guaranteeing student loans in 1965.  And it has grown and greatly morphed since then (what a shock).

So how is the program doing today?  According to Wikpedia, student loan debt has been growing rapidly since 2006, and is now nearly $1.4 trillion, roughly 7.5% GDP.   Approximately 43 million have student loans, with an average balance of $30,000.  Schools are free to jack up tuition and costs because students can easily get loans that are guranteed by the government.  And the ignorant students are strongly encouraged to invest in their future.  Well not all investments are good.  The Feds in essence have created a Student Loan Scam.  So Houston, we do have a problem.

So what is the solution to this problem?  How about getting the Federal Government out of the Student Loan Program!  But the poor students will not be able to pay for school if the government does not help them.  Or so we are told.

To answer the preceeding question, let me ask another question.  How can today's students possibly afford computers and cell phones?  Back in the 1970's (when I was in High School), HP Calculators were it.  They where very cool (powerful) and very expensive ($100).  Only the wealthy could afford them.  Personal computers did not exist at that time, nor did cell phones.  Fast forward to today and all children (Middle School and on up) have a cell phone with gigabytes of memory.  The Computer Industry is not regulated.  It is thus run by the Free Market.  And look at the result.  Lots of computing power and connectivity easily afforded by the masses.

So why don't we unleash the Free Market on College Tuition?  Make the schools answerable to the students.  If College Costs are too high, then students will not be able to afford them and this lack of demand will drive costs down.  This is Econ 101.  You know that entry level Business class that is offered in every college.

So in conclusion, the author has done a public service by highlighting a big problem in higher education - Student Loan Debt.  I hope that this fictional work can motivate actual progress in solving this problem.