Thursday, September 12, 2013


There was no bloggy thing on Wednesday.  I ended up not doing much
of anything yesterday, save for nursing a sore back after my office
chair collapsed on me.  My biggest accomplishment was going out and
buying the new chair I should have bought months ago.  I was just too
cheap and stubborn to get rid of the chair I've been writing from
for the past several years. 

I get attached to the strangest things.  I have a vial of bread
crumbs from the bread-slicing machine from the Isabella Brothers
bakery co-founded by my grandfather (after whom I'm named) in the
1920s.  My father worked there until he retired and I worked there
as a teenager.  The bakery has been closed for decades, but I keep
the vial in my top desk drawer.  Lord knows what anyone will make
of it when I'm gone and they clean out my desk.

The old chair will be put out for the trash pick-up on Monday.  The
new chair has a sturdy back that should serve me well.  And I'm
back at work.

For the past three days, I have been struggling to write a bloggy
thing about the situation in Syria.  I am deeply concerned that my
country might be entering into yet another war in a region where we
have already spilled so much blood, that of our soldiers and that
of innocent civilians caught in the grinding engines of war, but I
haven’t been able to come up with the opening for such a commentary
that wasn’t overly dramatic or preachy.  For a moment, I actually
considered posing holding my vial of bread crumbs in mimicry of the
shameful moment when Colin Powell and the Bush administration lied
the United States and the world into unnecessary war against Iraq.
My better angels steered me away from trivializing that dark strain
on the American conscience.

When is comes to Syria, I have few answers and many questions.  I
don’t know what national interest would compel us to take sides in
a conflict where both sides hate us.  I don’t see the exceedingly
fine line between one method of slaughtering innocents and another.
I don’t see how we protect innocents by bombing the innocents who
would certainly be killed by our misguided attempt to protect them.
I don’t understand elected officials whose positions change based
solely on their mad obsession to take the opposite position taken
by President Obama on every issue...though I suppose “madness” is
a fairly decent explanation of their behavior.

I don’t doubt that Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for
using chemical weapons against his own people or that he is a very
bad man.  But if “bad man murdering innocents” is our standard for
military action, then why haven’t we launched bombing attacks on a
great many other countries?

That last one was a rhetorical question.  I know we don’t have the
manpower, the resources or the will to be Superman to every people
suffering the harsh heel of an oppressor.  Nor the moral standing
when our history is littered with our support of men every bit as
bad as and worse than Assad.

I don’t think we should go to war against Syria and, no matter how
anyone attempts to frame the situation, dropping bombs on a country
is going to war against that country.  Even if the evidence, which
is indefinite but compelling, shows Assad did, indeed, use chemical
weapons against Syrian civilians.  Even if the diplomatic efforts
for the United Nations to take control of Assad’s chemical weapons,
which he admits exist, and dismantle them fail because we won’t be
able to verify that all the weapons have been seized and destroyed.
We still have several perfectly awful wars we are still fighting.
We don’t need another one.

Here’s what I believe is a common sense approach to engaging in war
that also address other pressing needs.  Unless the United States
is directly attacked by another country or an organization harbored
by another country, neither President Obama or any other president
gets to go to war until we take care of all the veterans created by
our past and existing wars.

This means no more wars until the Veteran Affairs’ unconscionable
backlog of unfilled claims is reduced to zero.  No veteran should
have to wait more than a couple weeks to get the help he/she needs
and is entitled to for their service to our country.

This means no more wars while veterans are getting sick and dying
from Legionnaires Disease and other diseases that have been covered
up by VA administrators.  Especially not while such administrators
are receiving bonuses of $63,000 and more.  Especially not while we
are paying almost $100 million dollars a year in VA bonus.  We can
talk bonuses after our vets are cared for properly.

This means no more wars while our veterans are struggling to return
to the civilian work force, while they are dealing with mental and
physical problems related to their service on our behalf and while
any of them lack a safe and warm place to live.

We have unfinished business with our veterans.  That trumps Syria
and any other conflict that doesn’t involving defending our nation
from immediate and verifiable threats...and I have a high threshold
for what constitutes immediate and verifiable threats.

In other vital news...

My new office chair offers me great back support.  I’m liking it a
whole lot.  When the sales person at Staples asked me what kind of
work I do, I told him I was a writer.  When he asked me what kind
of writing I did, I told him I used to write comic books.  Which is
when he asked me the question that always comes next:

“Do you know Stan Lee?”

I have to remember to share that with Stan.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  
© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Well said. I don't completely agree with you on the matter at hand, and I have serious doubts about my own position. I may very well be mistaken.
    While I don't believe that the U.S. should be the world's policeman, I think it just maybe possible that an action taken here could save lives and begin to re-establish the U.S. as a force for good in this region.
    I did not agree with the last Iraqi war, still don't, and I don't feel I understand the war in Afghanistan enough to decide whether it's worthwhile. I hope it's not a complete piece of shit.
    I am a veteran. I have served overseas although never in combat. I was never stationed in the middle east.
    I would have preferred to see some unified action here, some support from Europe (which I helped defend in Germany from the Soviets in the 80's) some organized effort from the U.N. to put a stop the horrors everyone saw in the Balkans, which go on in Africa today...
    If Americans choose not to at least attempt to help, no matter how misguided that attempt might be, then no longer claim the moral high ground. I never wanna hear "American Exceptionalism" after this again, ever.
    Either you're about something or you're not.

  2. It sort of baffles me that everyone is viewing the very limited engagement that's being called for in Syria as "Iraq II: Electric Boogaloo." In 2011, we saw danger of a war crime against civilians in Libya, and took limited military action from the air against strictly military targets. We saved a lot of lives, and didn't become entangled there. That seems a much closer analogy.

    I'm particularly moved by this article:

    In the final paragraphs, we see this:

    Mohammed Abdullatif, who witnessed the attack, had a message for the United Nations.

    "Dear United Nations, you are calling peace, you are calling for peace. What kind of peace are you calling for? Don't you see this, don't you see this? What do you need to see?

    "We are just human beings, we want to live. It is our right to live," he said.

    I don't see an outcome to Syria's civil war that will be particularly good for the United States, and yes, we're so very tired of war...

    But I don't want to let that war-weariness make us into the international equivalent of Kitty Genovese's neighbors, or Peter Parker standing aside to let an armed robber escape with armfuls of cash.

    With great power, as I've read somewhere, comes great responsibility.

  3. I think there are a couple of factors which play into Syria. The first is the lies the previous administration told to cause a wholly unnecessary war in Iraq. The second is the president's advisers who advocated for response in Rwanda and watched a genocide move forward unabated. Can we offer definitive proof of atrocity and should we be the greater people who will not abide it?

    On the VA issue, part of the problem is the locations of vets and the poor allocation of resources. I did my VA indoc in Cincinnati and was through the process in four months. Here in Tampa, I am trying to revise my status and it will take four months because I am already in the system. If I were just starting it would take more than a year. Why? because of the HUGE population of vets in the Tampa Bay area. Which brings me to poor allocation of resources. If the populations are larger, there should be more resources in place to take care of the problem. (Also the VA is using a woefully outdated paper record system that is glacially being revised). But the main thing standing in the way of shifting those resources is a House that refuses to pay for anything.

  4. I find myself with mixed emotions regarding Syria. I was against the Iraqi invasion, but initially supported the incursion into Afghanistan, until it became obvious that the Bush Crime Family really had no interest in finding Bin Laden. Our troops should have been out of their long ago. I personally believe that targeted strikes on military installations in Syria would have been a wise move at one point, but the elapsed time has allowed Assad to move everything. Now we can only hope that Assad & Putin are serious about allowing inspectors in and turning over the WMDs to the UN. (Honestly, would anyone really trust either of these guys to watch their house if they went away for a couple of days?)

    Re: the VA - you are sadly correct about some of the problems with that organization, but I have had few issues with them myself. I know fellow vets (friends & family) who for the most part have found the people working there to be professional, friendly and willing to go out of their way to help veterans and their families.

  5. We definitely should not be sending troops anywhere unless we properly fitting them. I recall reading many news reports of private fundraisers to give individual soldiers appropriate body armor. Shouldn't that gear have been issued by the Department of Defense?