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Phil-osophically Speaking

Killer Angels

The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in late April 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War. After more than a decade of fighting that brutally snuffed out 58,000 American lives, who could forget the pathetic and pitiful scene on the morning of

April 30. As the NVA ominously and murderously approached the capital of South Vietnam, the last U.S. Marines were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy by helicopter. As the helicopters whirled off into the great blue yonder, panicked Vietnamese poured into the grounds around the Embassy. Many of them had been employed by the Americans but were now left to their bitter fate.

 

It was not America’s finest hour. The war had been lost not by the military, which certainly made their share of blunders, but by Congress who felt beleaguered by the war’s political unpopularity at home. Depressed and devastated by our sojourn into Southeast Asia, many Americans had resolved never to enter a war they were not prepared or willing to win. War is a much too costly and tragic affair to take half-measures with. 

 

In one sense, this is the context that Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense under President Bush and President Obama, writes about in his recently released memoirs about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book is called Duty and many of the points he makes are informative, thought provoking and poignant. Despite my criticism of the Obama Administration’s war policies, I had reservations about the book’s release while Obama was in office. Certainly facts are important, so is history. We have an obligation to absorb, profitably I pray, the lessons of these two traumatic wars.  

 

But then the idea of loyalty is also critical and one which I highly value. There is a time and place to tell one’s story. When one serves the Commander in Chief, etiquette and good manners would demand, at least to me, that one reserves comments until the president is out of office. I say this even while acknowledging that there is no gainsaying Robert Gates’ service to his country. A recipient of the “Presidential Medal of Freedom,” he was instrumental in turning around two wars that the U.S. was losing. After serving under

George Bush he agreed to serve another year under President Obama. As it turned out, he spent 29 months fulfilling his role as Secretary of Defense.  

 

In Duty, we learn some things. Congress over-politicizing the war, President Obama having little or no faith in the Afghan strategy even though he sent 30,000 troops, Vice President Joe Biden’s appalling foreign policy positions and Hillary Clinton’s admission of opposing the Iraqi surge in 2007, even though she actually agreed with it for purely political reasons. She was running for president and had to appeal to the left wing of her party. On his book tour, however, Gates makes it a point, perhaps justifiably, from making partisans run too freely with some of these judgments.

 

While it’s true that on a visceral level, Gates informs us, President Bush wanted to win the war and President Obama wanted to find the nearest exit, Obama showed courage in resisting pressure from his own party, especially Vice President Biden’s staff who were zealously trying to convince the president the war was lost. While Obama didn’t send as many troops as Gates recommended, they both agreed to try to get more allied troops into the theatre of war, which they did successfully to supplement American forces. Gates also has positive things to say about Hillary Clinton despite his dismay over her political considerations during a presidential primary.

 

The release of Gates’ book is undoubtedly connected to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Iraq after so much blood and treasure has been lost. It’s almost impossible for those not directly involved in the decision making process how emotionally and mentally draining it is to fight a war. In Michael Shaara’s classic work of historical fiction, Killer Angels, Robert E. Lee tells his top General James Longstreet that “to be a good soldier you must love the army. But to be a good officer you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. No other profession requires this.”

 

Administrative policies from civil authorities and orders from generals are not merely words and directives. They often mean death sentences for young soldiers and terrible grief for their loved ones. That’s a difficult reality to live with and Gates has lived it very personally and directly. Writing letters to all the families of the loved and lost, visiting those terrible burn units and reading up on the personal lives of all those who made the supreme sacrifice. He detested his job but nonetheless served out of a sense of duty. He does not want those losses and sacrifices to be in vain; but that for the dead and maimed of these wars to have made a difference.

 

So Gates’ memoir serves a higher cause than a tell-all account. This cannot be any more doubted than Gates’ wish that he be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


News

At the Oct. 17 meeting of the Herricks Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Bierwirth discussed the recent investigation of students who have been illegally attending school in the Herricks School District, despite living in outer areas. Bierwirth said that 14 prospective cases were investigated and eight students were forced to leave the district.

 

Board of Education President James Gounaris said weeding out students who are attending school in Herricks under false pretenses is boiled down to one fact: it takes away valuable resources from the children of tax-paying members of the community.

Local school districts are reaffirming student hygiene standards in the wake of the non-polio enterovirus (EV- D68) that’s been found in the United States. A strain of the enterovirus was found in Southampton’s middle and high schools, but officials say it was not the virus that has caused the national EV-D68 outbreak.

 

The disease disproportionately affects infants, children and adolescents who lack immunity, according to the Center for Disease Control. School districts have been notified to follow New York State Health Department guidelines to combat possible infections.


Sports

The Sewanhaka Indians varsity football team hosted Elmont Spartans on Saturday, Oct. 18 in its final home game of the regular season. 

 

It certainly did not go as the Indians had hoped, falling 18-8, in a mistake filled game. Head coach George Kasimatis said the Indians had their chances, but kept digging themselves into a hole with mental mistakes on both sides of the ball. 

 

Playing from behind, senior running back Brenton Mighty was able to break free for a long touchdown run, to put the Indians on the board. 

Sewanhaka Indians Head football coach George Kasimatis told his team to expect a dogfight in this weeks game against the New Hyde Park Gladiators, and he was right after its 35-21 victory last week. 

 

“All the kids know each other really well, it’s always competitive when we play each other,” he said. 


Calendar

PTA Meeting - October 22

International Night - October 23

Halloween Dance - October 24


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com