Friday, February 23, 2007


To me the most important travel news of the day is that Dick ("Five Deferrals") Cheney is on a state visit to Australia, which was at least relatively close enough to Vietnam (well, about 4,500 miles) to serve as the most popular R&R destination for those of us who were actually hauled off to Southeast Asia 'way back when, on a mission to defend the domino theory.

Back then, Deferral Dick, you might recall, claimed he had "other priorities" that argued against his going 0ff to a war that, as a patriot, he nevertheless, of course, fully supported -- though about 40 years later he claimed no impediment to helping start a war, again from his usual safe distance.

And this one in Iraq -- hey that's working out real well, huh? The insurgents are using chlorine gas now, just like good old World War I.

Ah, war. It has run in my family, so let me digress on that subject.

Both my grandfathers served in World War I, one coming home with serious injuries from being gassed. I had a great-grandfather in the Union Army in the Civil War. My Dad, who died shortly after I got back from Brazil, was an Army officer in World War II (North Africa, Italy, France, Germany). My Mother was in the Navy's women's branch, the WAVES , during World War II.

I went to Vietnam, in the Navy, on the ground, in Saigon, in early 1968. My brother was a Marine. Another brother was in the Army. I have a nephew who graduated from the Naval Academy. Guess where he could be headed if Cowboy Bush (you know, the self-styled Texas cowpoke and Vietnam-dodger who can't ride a horse and is said to be actually afraid of them?) decides to go to do more surging using other people's children in the Middle East?

I have a son. And I will allow no one to drag my boy off to a war.

I have a friend who is in the National Guard -- and sincerely believes he's going to be sent to Iraq by the summer. The man is 57 and is required to do as many push-ups and run as many miles as the 25 year olds he supervises at his unit. And he expects to be sent into combat this year. He's an optician.

A Washington Post last Sunday on squalid physical and professional conditions at Washington's Walter Reed Hospital, where hundreds of disabled, disoriented and otherwise grievously injured Iraq War veterans appear to have been left to basically fend for themselves, is a must read, by the way. It was written by Dana Priest and Anne Hull. Another must-read is today's New York Times piece by Lizette Alvarez on what this interminable, senseless war and its impossible demands on our troops, is doing to military family lives.

Perhaps Deferral Dick can find time among his priorities to read both stories on his luxury jet ride home.

Or perhaps not.

On my personal e-mail the other day, from Australia, there arrived an invitation from some think tank to interview a certain expert there on the implications of vice-president Cheney's visit to Australia.

I gave that one a silent pass, and resisted the impulse to reply, "Keep him there."

Later on today, I'll get off my high horse for a more mundane subject:

The airline industry gets seriously worried about the traction the proposed Passengers' Bill of Rights is gaining.


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