Saturday, September 30, 2017

Veterans Angry, Disappointed Following PBS’ Vietnam War Documentary

Tatiana Sanchez at the Mercury News offer a piece on the complaints of Vietnam veterans who watched PBS’ The Vietnam War.

A gripping documentary on the Vietnam War — described by many viewers as a masterful depiction of a prolonged conflict that divided the nation — has left many American and Vietnamese veterans feeling deeply disappointed, even betrayed.

“The Vietnam War” — a 10-part, 18-hour PBS documentary by American filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that concluded Thursday night — depicts the history of the war through photographs, archival footage and interviews with more than 80 veterans and witnesses from all sides. The film has been hailed as a hard-hitting, raw account of the war and the players involved.

But veterans of the South Vietnamese military say they were largely left out of the narrative, their voices drowned out by the film’s focus on North Vietnam and its communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. And many American veterans say that the series had several glaring omissions and focused too much on leftist anti-war protesters and soldiers who came to oppose the war.

On Thursday evening, hours before the film’s final installment aired, a group of American and South Vietnamese veterans came together at a San Jose home to share memories of the war and talk about the documentary.

Sutton Vo, a former major in South Vietnam’s army engineering corps, watched the series but has told friends and family not to do so. The film is “pure propaganda,” he said.

“The Vietnam War included the Americans, South Vietnam and North Vietnam. But in the 18 hours, the role of South Vietnam was very small,” said Vo, 80. “Any documentary should be fair and should tell the truth to the people.”

After the war, Vo was sent to a communist “re-education” camp, where he was imprisoned for 13 years. At one point, he said, he was confined for three months to a pitch-black cell virtually 24 hours a day — his feet shackled and his hands bound with rubber string — after an escape attempt.

… Like Vo, Cang Dong spent time in a re-education camp; he was freed in 1987. Dong, 70, president of the local chapter of Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, has just started watching the series, but said he’s unhappy with what he sees as the filmmakers’ glorification of Ho.

“Everything is a big lie,” he said. “To our people, Ho Chi Minh was a big liar and immoral.”

Veteran Jim Barker, 70, of San Jose, also said he was surprised by the extent of coverage given to North Vietnamese soldiers in the film.

“What bothered me is the element of arrogance that seemed to come out in seeing themselves so superior. I had trouble with that,” said Barker, who was an adviser with a South Vietnamese intelligence unit in the Central Highlands and survived the siege of Kontum in 1972. “That focus detracted attention from the people of South Vietnam and the idealism that was there.”

… Jack Wells, a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, called the documentary “a masterpiece of video and footage” in which he learned a number of things, but said he identified several omissions that bothered him.

He pointed to the film’s depiction of Kim Phuc, “the Napalm girl” who became a famous symbol of the war after a 1972 photograph showed her running naked on a road with other children, her back severely burned by a South Vietnamese napalm attack. The film said Phuc left Vietnam and eventually moved to Canada but didn’t mention that she had requested political asylum from the Vietnamese communists, who had used her as a propaganda symbol, Wells said.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

On This Day In History The USS Nautilus Was Commissioned

As notes, on this day in 1954 the USS Nautilus was commissioned.

The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, is commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

The Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover (seen in the below photo), a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, the Nautilus‘ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Five Myths About the Vietnam War

Lan Cao offers five myths about the Vietnam War in the Washington Post.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick say their multi-part PBS documentary about the Vietnam War, which concluded this past week, was intended to unpack a complex conflict and to embark upon the process of healing and reconciliation. The series has catapulted the Vietnam War back into the national consciousness. But despite thousands of books, articles and films about this moment in our history, there remain many deeply entrenched myths.


The Viet Cong was a scrappy guerrilla force.

“Vastly superior in tools and techniques, and militarily dominant over much of the world,” historian Ronald Aronson described the hegemonic United States and the impudent rebels, “the Goliath sought to impose on David a peace favourable to his vision of the world.” Recode recently compared the Viet Cong to Uber: “young, scrappy and hungry troops break rules and create new norms, shocking the enemy.”

In reality, the Viet Cong, the pro-North force in South Vietnam, was armed by North Vietnam — which planned, controlled and directed Viet Cong campaigns in the South — the Soviet Union and China. According to the CIA, from 1954 to 1968, those communist nations provided the North with $3.2 billion in military and economic aid, mostly coming after 1964 as the war accelerated. Other sources suggest the number was more than double that figure.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, September 29, 2017

American Citizen Convicted Of Conspiring To Murder U.S. Nationals In Bombing Attack Against Military Base In Afghanistan

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, returned a guilty verdict today against Muhanad Mahmoud Al-Farekh on nine counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb a government facility and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.  Farekh faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan.

The verdict was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney. Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

“Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is an al Qaeda terrorist who conspired to kill Americans overseas.  The trial evidence showed that he was involved in a variety of terrorist activity, including a VBIED attack on a U.S. military installation in Afghanistan in 2009.  With today’s guilty verdict, Farekh is being held accountable for his crimes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.  “Counterterrorism is the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue to use all tools available across the globe to bring to justice those who seek to harm Americans, including our brave servicemen and women who risk their lives in defense of our nation.”

“Today, an American al-Qaeda member was brought to justice in a U.S. courtroom,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  “The jury’s verdict on all nine counts of the indictment established Farekh’s responsibility for a violent attack on members of our armed forces, his efforts to murder Americans and his commitment to one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations.  The defendant now faces the prospect of life imprisonment for the commission of these serious federal crimes.”

“Today’s verdict is justice for the harm and destruction Al Farekh intended to cause when he conspired with others to bomb a U.S. military base in Afghanistan,” said Assistant Director inCharge Sweeney.  “The FBI stands alongside our military and law enforcement partners to hold criminals accountable for their actions no matter where they are in the world.”

“The defendant in this case faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to bomb a government facility, use a weapon of mass destruction, murder U.S. nationals and provide material support to terrorists,” said Commissioner O’Neill.  “While Farekh’s crimes occurred in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the defendant’s co-conspirator trained Najibullah Zazi and others who also intended to attack New York City’s subway system. I want to thank all involved in today’s verdict, from the investigators and prosecutors to the jury and judge.”

At trial, the government presented evidence that prior to traveling overseas to join al Qaeda, Farekh was a student at the University of Manitoba in Canada. In 2007, Farekh and two fellow students traveled to Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces overseas. Farekh and his co-conspirators had become radicalized watching video recordings encouraging violent jihad, listened to jihadist lectures, including lectures by now-deceased al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki. They traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an area in the northern part of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is home to al Qaeda’s base of operations, where they joined and received training from al Qaeda.

One of Farekh’s co-conspirators, Ferid Imam, provided weapons and military-type training at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in September 2008. Among Imam’s trainees were Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, of Queens, New York, who intended to return to New York City to carry out a suicide attack in the subway system. During the trial, Ahmedzay testified that Imam as his weapons trainer. Zazi and Ahmedzay pleaded guilty pursuant to cooperation agreements and have yet to be sentenced. Medunjanin was convicted after trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Imam has been indicted for his role in the plot.

The government proved Farekh’s participation in the building of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) that was used in an attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman (FOB Chapman) on Jan. 19, 2009 in Khost, Afghanistan.  The evidence at trial showed that two vehicles approached the fence line of FOB Chapman. The operator of the first vehicle, a pickup-sized truck, detonated a VBIED at the gate. The second vehicle, a truck carrying 7,500 pounds of explosives, became stuck in the blast crater. The driver fled without detonating the second, more powerful VBIED, and was shot and killed by local security personnel.  Forensic technicians in Afghanistan recovered 18 fingerprints from the adhesive packing tape wrapped around the undetonated bomb that were matched to the defendant. A hair follicle was also recovered and analysis indicated that the follicle’s mitochondrial DNA was consistent with that of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Richard M. Tucker, Douglas M. Pravda and Saritha Komatireddy of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case. 

11 Great Authors Who Wrote For Hugh Hefner's Playboy

I was a regular reader of Playboy magazine when I was a teenager in the 1960s.

Yes, I looked at the photos of the women, but I also enjoyed the magazine’s cartoons and jokes, the feature articles, the long-form Q&As, and the fiction.

With the recent death of publisher Hugh Hefner, Ian Youngs at the BBC News looks back at 11 notable authors who wrote for the magazine, which includes Jack Kerouac, Ray Bradbury and Ian Fleming.

No-one ever really believed any man who used the old excuse for buying Playboy magazine - "for the articles", as opposed to for the photos of nude women.

The nude women were the main attraction.

Yet the magazine does have a long and proud literary tradition, publishing stories by authors like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Arthur C Clarke, Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who has died at the age of 91, once joked with a group of centrefolds at a magazine anniversary party: "Ladies, it's been a wonderful 25 years, and I owe it all to you. Without you, I would have had nothing but a literary magazine."

Former Playboy literary editor Amy Grace Loyd summed up the magazine's formula in 2009: "You've got things drawing a man's eye, then you've got things that are enriching his intellectual and spiritual life."

… Playboy also gave authors an outlet for stories with uncensored, adult and controversial themes, and paid its writers well.

"We were willing to publish things that other people wouldn't publish, and writers were very happy about that," Hefner said. "And very quickly we had the largest circulation in the men's field so we were able to pay more money."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Conversation With Mark Bowden, Author of 'Hue 1968,' 'Black Hawk Down,' And 'Killing Pablo'

I had a long telephone conversation today with Mark Bowden, the author of Hue 1968, Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo and other outstanding non-fiction books.

A former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, Mark Bowden spoke about how he came to write Hue 1968, his visits to Vietnam, and some of the interesting people he spoke to for the book.

He also spoke about his career in journalism and offered the backstory to Black Hawk Down and his other fine books.    

My interview with him will appear in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. I’ll post the interview here when it come out.

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of his previous book Three Battles of Wanat below:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Protesters, Beware: Americans Adore The Flag

Rich Lowry in his column in the New York Post cautions those protesting against the flag and the national anthem.

Old Glory is almost certainly the most honored flag in the world.

The late political scientist Samuel Huntington marveled at its place in our national life: We pledge allegiance to it. The national anthem celebrates it. An incredibly elaborate code stipulates how it’s displayed, handled and maintained. It even has its own holiday.

“Since the Civil War,” Huntington wrote, “Americans have been a flag-oriented people. The Stars and Stripes has the status of a religious icon and is a more central symbol of national identity for Americans than their flags are for peoples of other nations.”

The NFL players who kneel during the national anthem — a phenomenon that increased exponentially after President Trump colorfully demanded they stand — are disrespecting the most potent and enduring national symbol of the most patriotic nation on earth.

Not only are they wrong to do so, they aren’t delivering the devastating rebuke to Trump they may imagine.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

On This Day In History The First American Was Killed In Vietnam

As notes, in 1945 OSS Lt. Col Peter Dewey (seen in the above photo) was the first American killed in Vietnam.

Lt. Col. Peter Dewey, a U.S. Army officer with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Vietnam, is shot and killed in Saigon. Dewey was the head of a seven-man team sent to Vietnam to search for missing American pilots and to gather information on the situation in the country after the surrender of the Japanese.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Watch Don Rickles Roast Robert De Niro And Martin Scorsese In His Final Project

Vanity Fair offers a piece on the late, great comedian Don Rickles.

The piece covers Don Rickles appearance with Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, his co-star and director of the classic crime film Casino, on his show Dinner With Don

Even at a rich 90 years old, Don Rickles was among the sharpest comedians of them all. The legendary insult comic, who died in April, was the king of comebacks, a talent he flaunted in his final project, Dinner with Don. The series, taped last year, features Rickles having a nice dinner with an array of famous comedians, including Amy Poehler, Jimmy Kimmel, and Zach Galifianakis. Of course, that nice dinner comes with a healthy helping of Rickles roasting his guests within an inch of their lives.

In an exclusive clip for Vanity Fair, you can now watch the very first episode of Dinner with Don, featuring the late comedian tucking in with fearsome film duo Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. The trio go way back to when Scorsese cast Rickles as a fast-talking manager in the 1995 gangster classic Casino. They remained friends over the years, with Scorsese and De Niro joining a star-studded lineup for a Rickles tribute in 2014. The drama duo tapped into their inner insult comics when celebrating the comic, throwing hilarious barbs with Rickles–esque alacrity.

“I loved and admired Don, but I don’t want to say anything nice about him,” De Niro said in a statement to Vanity Fair. “It might piss him off and make him come back from the dead.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch the video clip via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Don Rickles via the below link:

You can also watch Don Rickles insult Frank Sinatra on the Johnny Carson show via the below link:

FBI Releases 2016 Report On Crime In The United States

The FBI released the below information:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation today released the 2016 edition of its Crime in the United States (CIUS) report, a part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). The report, which covers January-December 2016, reaffirms that the worrying violent crime increase that began in 2015 after many years of decline was not an isolated incident. The violent crime rate increased by 3.4 percent nationwide in 2016, the largest single-year increase in 25 years. The nationwide homicide rate increased by 7.9 percent, for a total increase of more than 20 percent in the nationwide homicide rate since 2014.

“For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime. And we must do it together,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “The Department of Justice is committed to working with our state, local, and tribal partners across the country to deter violent crime, dismantle criminal organizations and gangs, stop the scourge of drug trafficking, and send a strong message to criminals that we will not surrender our communities to lawlessness and violence.”

The report released today also adjusts and corrects numbers for 2015, showing that the violent crime rate actually increased by 3.3 percent (as opposed to 3.1 percent, as previously reported) in 2015. The violent crime rate increases in 2015 and 2016 each represented the largest single-year increases in the violent crime rate since 1991. These increases were nationwide, with the average violent crime rate increasing in cities over 250,000 in population, in cities under 10,000 in population, in suburban areas, and in every size in-between. In addition to the 7.9 percent homicide rate increase in 2016, the corrected numbers show the homicide rate increased by 11.4 percent in 2015, for a total increase of more than 20 percent from 2014-2016. Rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults also each continued to increase nationwide in 2016.

You can read the full report via the below report:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mob Talk 6: Never-Before-Seen Video Of Former Philly Mob Boss Ralph Natale Talking About Hit-Man Role

As the online publication notes, veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratweiser (seen in the below photo) offer another Mob Talk video.

In this edition the reporters discuss a never-seen-before video of former Philadelphia-South Jersey Cosa Nostra boss Ralph Natale (seen in the above photo) talking about his plan in the 1970s to carry out a public mob hit and a subsequent meeting he attended with Pennsylvania's top mob bosses Angelo Bruno and Russell Bufalino.

 You can watch the Mob Talk video as well as the Ralph Natale video via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column Q&A with Ralph Natale via the below link: 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

U.S. Navy Won't Punish Vice Admiral Stripped Of Security Clearance During 'Fat Leonard' Probe

Carl Prine at the San Diego Union-Tribune offers a piece on the “Fat Leonard” Navy bribary and fraud scandal.

Fretting about his possible role in the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal, in late 2013 the Navy stripped the security clearance of its top spy, destroying the career of Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch (seen in the above photo).

On Friday, the Navy closed its review with what it called appropriate administrative action for Branch, the former director of Navy intelligence.

The U.S. Department of Justice — which has handled the prosecution of those who took bribes from contractor Leonard Glenn Francis (seen in the below photo) and his Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia — brought no charges against Branch.

"The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy's Consolidated Disposition Authority,” said Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka in a written statement. “After completing a thorough and detailed review of the evidence, the CDA took appropriate administrative action. This matter is closed."

Administrative action can include a non-punitive letter of reprimand or an oral counseling chiding a sailor for questionable conduct. Unlike other judicial or military sanctions, administrative action cannot take pay and privileges from a shipmate.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dean Martin's Daughter Reflects On Father's Music Legacy, Funny Encounters And Rumors

I'm a huge admirer of singer, actor and entertainer Dean Martin.

He was one cool guy.

Stephanie Nolasco at offers a piece on Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana, who is also a performer, and the author of a book on her memories of her late father.

Deana Martin knew she wanted to be an entertainer when she sat in the front row of the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel and saw her father Dean Martin entertain all of Las Vegas.

 “My dad would walk out in a tuxedo with a red pocket square,” the 69-year-old told Fox News. “He would sing and he was funny. He looked great and the audience loved him. It was like magic. So I always wanted to be an entertainer.”

Deana, who’s traveled the world performing beloved jazz hits, recently unveiled her new album “Swing Street." The release was recorded at Capitol Studios, the same place where she watched her father record his first number one hit, 1955’s “Memories Are Made of This,” which is also the title of her memoir.

… “He was an Italian father,” she said, chuckling. “He would go, ‘These are the rules. You make your bed in the morning, you clean up, you come straight home after school, you do your homework, you’re on time for dinner. And this is it. If you don’t want to live by those rules, there’s the door.’ I would go, ‘Dad, I’m 9!’ He’d say, ‘Come on! Rules are rules!’ We never wanted to do anything to disappoint him.”

And there were plenty of perks to being one of Dean’s beloved daughters. Deana considered the Rat Pack as her uncles, who were constantly over at her Beverly Hills home. On Christmas, she sang carols with Rosemary Clooney and as a teen, met some of her rock idols.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch videos of Dean and Deana performing via the below link:

Note: You can learn more about Dean Martin in Nick Tosches' Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dream.    

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Hemingway Library Edition'

The Washington Times published my review of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Hemingway Library Edition.

I’ve been an Ernest Hemingway aficionado since I was a teenager and read all of his novels, but it was not until a few years later that I discovered his short stories, which were even more powerful than his great novels.

In the mid-1970s I was in my early 20s and serving on a U.S. Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland when I came across several paperback collections of his short stories in a Glasgow book store. Like his novels, the interesting and insightful stories were about crime, hunting, fishing, boxing, bull-fighting, rugged individualism, grace under pressure, and love and war. To use a simile that Hemingway, a boxing aficionado, might approve of, his short stories deliver like a right cross.

… This collection, edited by Hemingway’s grandson, Sean Hemingway, with a foreword by Hemingway’s son Patrick, is the fourth in a series of annotated editions of his work. The book offers some of his best known stories, such as “The Killers,” “Fifty Grand,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (three of my favorites), as well as a few unpublished stories and his early drafts and notes.

“Ernest Hemingway is widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His writing, with its powerful, understated prose and economy of words, has influenced countless writers,” Sean Hemingway writes in his introduction to the collection. “More than any other writer of his time, Hemingway changed the course of literature and furthered the written expression of the human condition. His novels, such as ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ have entered into the canon of world literature, but it is arguably his contributions to the art of the short story that are his greatest literary achievement.”

… In the book is an early draft of “Fifty Grand.” The story has a beginning that Hemingway removed prior to publication based on a recommendation from fellow novelist and friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway later regretted the cut.

“Up at the gym over the Garden one-time somebody says to Jack, “Say, Jack, how did you happen to beat Leonard anyway?” and Jack says, “Well, you see Benny’s an awful smart boxer. All the time he’s in there he’s thinking and all the time he’s thinking I was hitting him.”

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Missing From Ken Burns' 'Vietnam': The Patriotism And Pride Of Those Who Served

Former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan and Marine Vietnam veteran Bing West (seen in the below photo) offers his take on Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War documentary series in the New York Post.

To understand Ken Burns’ 18-hour Vietnam documentary, listen to the music. The haunting score tells you: This will be a tale of misery. And indeed, Burns and his co-author Geoffrey C. Ward conclude their script by writing, “The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasurable and irredeemable. But meaning can be found in the individual stories . . .”

The film is meticulous in the veracity of the hundreds of factoids that were selected. Everything depicted on the American side actually happened. But that the chosen facts are accurate doesn’t mean the film gets everything right. Indeed, the brave American veterans are portrayed with a keen sense of regret and embarrassment about the war, a distortion that must not go unanswered. And the film implies an unearned moral equivalence between antiwar protesters and those who fought.

Burns’ theme is clear: A resolute North Vietnam was predestined to defeat a delusional America that heedlessly sacrificed its soldiers.

… An American lieutenant who fought there in 1965 is quoted at the end of the film saying, “We have learned a lesson . . . that we just can’t impose our will on others.” While that summarizes the documentary, the opposite is true. Wars are fought to impose your will upon the enemy. If you don’t intend to win, don’t fight.

Our civilian and military leaders were grossly irresponsible. At the height of the war in 1968, Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford is quoted as telling President Lyndon Johnson, “We’re not out to win the war. We’re out to win the peace.”

Our senior leadership granted the enemy ground sanctuaries in Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam and bombing was severely restricted.

The North Vietnamese were superb light infantry. The film points out that we grunts called the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) the Dead Marine Zone because we were pounded from North Vietnam and forbidden to attack. The real lesson: Never fight on the enemy’s terms.

… The film casts the antiwar movement in a moderately favorable light. Air Force pilot Merrill McPeak is quoted as saying, “the antiwar movement itself, the whole movement towards racial equality, the environment, the role of women . . . produced the America we have today, and we are better for it.”

Are the protesters the real heroes here? What about the valiant US soldiers, 75 percent of whom were volunteers?

This documentary succeeds in vividly evoking sadness and frustration. But that is not all there was to the story. “The Vietnam War” strives for a moral equivalence where there is none. The veterans seem sad and detached for their experience, yet 90 percent of Vietnam War veterans are proud to have served. So there’s a large gap between what we see and the attitude of the vast majority of veterans.

Their sense of pride — so vital for national unity — is absent from the documentary. And that’s a glaring omission.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

On This Day In History Benedict Arnold Commits Treason

As notes, on this day in 1780 American General Benedict Arnold committed treason.

On this day in 1780, during the American Revolution, American General Benedict Arnold meets with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled and Arnold, a former American hero, became synonymous with the word “traitor.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

'Raging Bull' Boxing Legend Jake LaMotta Dead At 95

Bob Fredericks and Laura Italiano at the New York Post report that former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta has died. LaMotta, the author of Raging Bull: My Story. was 95.

Boxing great Jake LaMotta – who was memorably portrayed by actor Robert De​ ​Niro in the flick Raging Bull — has died at the age of 95, his family announced.

“Rest in Peace, Champ,” De Niro [CQ] told ABC News.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

My Washington Times Review Of Nelson DeMille's 'The Cuban Affair'

The Washington Times published my review of Nelson DeMille’s The Cuban Affair.

In October 2015 author Nelson DeMille and his wife toured Cuba. Mr. DeMille made good use of his field research trip and in his new action-adventure novel “The Cuban Affair” we are offered his wry observations and running commentary on Cuba via his fictional character, Daniel “Mac” MacCormick.

Mac, a U.S. Army veteran who served as a combat infantry officer in Afghanistan, has settled in Key West, Florida. Mac, like Mr. DeMille’s other well-known character, John Corey, is an irreverent, laid back and wisecracking tough guy.

Like Ernest Hemingway’s Key West character Harry Morgan in his novel “To Have and Have Not,” Mac is a charter boat captain. And like Harry Morgan, Mac’s boat is hired for a trip to Cuba by some shady characters.

Ernest Hemingway looms large in this novel, as Mac discovers that the late, great writer is revered publicly in communist Cuba and there are statues, signs, T-shirts and photos of him in nearly every bar and restaurant he was said to have frequented when he lived there in the 1940s. So much so, that one Havana bar advertised proudly that Mr. Hemingway, “did not” drink there.

… Mac is asked to join a Yale University tour of Cuba with Sara, who offers the boat captain 50,000 dollars to also have his first mate take his boat to join a fishing tournament in Cayo Guillermo, Cuba.

“It was a favorite deep-sea fishing place of Ernesto,” Carlos tells Mac. “Hemingway, not Guevara.” Must be an old Cuban joke, Mac thinks.

In addition to the charter fee, she offers Mac two million dollars if he will travel with her on the tour and help her recover the 60 million dollars her Cuban grandfather banker hid in a cave in Cuba before he fled Castro’s revolution. Once they’ve recovered the money, her plan is to meet up with his boat and escape from the island with the loot. Mac and Jack sign on.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The U.S. Defense Department Celebrates Constitution Week

Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2017 — The Defense Department, along with all other federal agencies, celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day Sept. and is celebrating Constitution Week Sept. 17-23.

The Constitution was signed in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.

"The U.S. Constitution has withstood the test of time for more than two centuries as our nation's charter of government and the guarantor of our liberties," Stephanie Barna, assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, said in an Aug. 31 memo to all service assistant secretaries for manpower and reserve affairs.

"This founding document reflects our core values and enshrines the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence: that we are each endowed with certain unalienable rights," she added.

Section 11l(a) of Public Law 108-447 requires all federal agencies to commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by offering education and training to new and current employees and making duty time available for this activity.

Citizenship, Constitution Online

To help DoD and the military services meet statutory requirements for the observances, the department hosts an online U.S. Constitution course and provides information on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and Constitution Week on a special website.

The website has a range of information on the observances and hosts an interactive short course the Constitution, in which visitors can test their Constitutional knowledge or play the "You Be the Judge Game" and earn certificates, DoD officials noted.

The course is designed to provide interesting and educational information about events leading to the Founding Fathers' creation of the Constitution and the document's evolution through the 19th and 20th centuries, they added.

Website visitors can watch a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and access governmentwide resources that include a center for educational civics material.

Commemoration Highlights

This year the department is highlighting links to the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Defense Privacy, Civil Liberties and Transparency Division, and a Navy website that offers more resources and highlights the commemorative events.

"Please join me in making Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, a time for DoD personnel to reflect on and reaffirm their rights and obligations as citizens," Barna wrote in the memo, "and to honor the commitments and sacrifices made by DoD personnel in defense of our nation." 

On This Day In History 'Goodfellas' Opened in Movie Theaters

As notes, on this day in 1990 Martin Scorsese’s classic crime film Goodfellas opened in movie theaters.  

On this day in 1990, the Martin Scorsese-directed Mafia film Goodfellas, starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco and Joe Pesci, opens in theaters around the United States. The movie, which was based on the best-selling 1986 book Wiseguy, by the New York crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, tells the true story of the mobster-turned-FBI informant Henry Hill (Liotta), from the 1950s to the 1980s. Goodfellas earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as the psychotic mobster Tommy DeVito.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Q&A With Robert O'Neill, The Navy SEAL Who Shot And Killed Osama Bin Laden, America's Enemy Number One

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden, the planner of the horrendous 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the world’s most wanted man.

Robert O’Neill is the author of The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.

You can read the interview below:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Inky Readers Hit Paywall: If You Want To Read The Philadelphia Inquirer (And Philadelphia Daily News) Online, You'll Have To Pay

From 1999 until recently, I was a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The newspaper cut way back on freelance contributors, so I’ve moved on to the Washington Times and other publications.

Another change at the Inquirer, known also as the “Inky,” is that you will have to pay to read the newspaper online.

Ralph Cipriano, a former Inquirer staffer, offers his take on the newspaper paywall at 

Philadelphia At 10:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend, visitors to ran into a big surprise -- a brand new paywall.

If you were one of those readers who had already read 10 stories on that month, you were out of luck. No more freebies. Your only option, besides hopping on another computer, or accessing the site from another web browser, was to sign up for "unlimited digital access for 99 cents for four weeks, and $2.99 per week thereafter."

… So, as a free service to all those former visitors to who are now restricted from the site, here's what you missed.

Today, the Inquirer's PC posse led the webpage with three different stories about the city's ongoing statue wars.

First, Tirdad Derakshani, an Inquirer staff writer, breathlessly reported the big news that the city's PC Mural Arts program had just installed right behind that racist Frank Rizzo statue a new statue of a 12-foot high steel Afro-pick, topped by a fist raised in a black power salute.

Take that, Big Bambino.

Next, Solomon Jones, an Inquirer columnist, visited the two statues and found the Afro-pick statue to  be empowering. But not empowering enough the columnist said, to combat the continuing racism emanating from the Rizzo statue. So, for the umpteenth time, the courageous Inquirer columnist called for the removal of the racist Rizzo statue.

Climaxing the newspaper's blanket coverage of the statue wars, former Inquirer fashion columnist Elizabeth Wellington weighed in to say that she also visited both statues and found the Afro Pick statue to be not empowering.

This was a major development, and in shocking contrast to Jones's stance.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: It is a shame that newspapers and other publications can't seem to come up with a way of financing themselves through online advertising. This is, after all, the information age. So what better way to offer information to all than through free online access?  

USS Iwo Jima Offers Humanitarian Assistance Following Hurricane Irma's Landfall At Key West

In the above U.S. Navy photo the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) is seen from Landing Craft Unit 1643, attached to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, during humanitarian assistance efforts following Hurricane Irma's landfall in Key West, Florida.

The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency, in helping those affixed by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and as one component of the overall whole-of-government response efforts.

The photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Lehman.

Note: You can click on the above photo to enlarge. 

Harry Dean Stanton, Quintessential American Actor, Dies At 91

The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on the life and work of Harry Dean Stanton, one of my favorite character actors, who has died.

Harry Dean Stanton, the character actor with the world-weary face who carved out an exceptional career playing grizzled loners and colorful, offbeat characters in such films as Paris, Texas and Repo Man, has died. He was 91.

Stanton, who also was memorable in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) and John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986) — in fact, what wasn’t he memorable in? — died Friday afternoon of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John Kelly, told The Hollywood Reporter.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: Below is a link to a brief video clip from Repo Man, where Harry Dean Stanton offers his view of “ordinary people.” Classic:

Friday, September 15, 2017

John le Carre: Why I Brought Back Guillam, Smiley And The Cold War

Nick Miller at the Brisbane Times offers on a piece on spy novelist John le Carre ad why he wrote a Legacy of Spies.

Recently, John le Carre found himself sitting in the bleak banality of an old Stasi interrogation room in Berlin. It wasn't much to look at: small, peeling linoleum, plain furniture. The horror comes from imagining the psychological torture inside those walls a generation ago.

Le Carre went to the headquarters of the secret police of the former East Germany to remind himself. Partly he wanted to check details – he hates those smug letters from readers informing him that, for example, the church in his latest novel should have faced west. For the same reason he tracked down the old Berlin safe houses he remembered from his time working for MI6 in Germany in the '60s – one he found ("much tarted up"), the others he had to go to the old Stasi files to track down, much to his amusement.

But at Stasi HQ he wanted more than just geography.

"I had time alone in those horrible little rooms," he says. "It gave me back the smells, and the fear. And also – which can easily go missing – the justification for what we did. Because this was a foul regime."

This trip down nightmare lane was not for old times' sake. Le Carre was researching his new book, A Legacy of Spies.

It's a companion piece to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, revisiting and (literally) interrogating the events from those two classics of spy fiction. Peter Guillam, loyal lieutenant to the legendary George Smiley, is called to account over their old schemes by a new generation of spies for whom the Cold War is a story, not a life's work.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of A Legacy of Spies via the below link:

And you can read my Washington Times review of John le Carre: The Biography via the below link: