Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Little Help, Please?

I'm confused about Iraq. We got out of Iraq, finally, after Obama took office, though it took more than 18 months. The people wanted us gone. Americans wanted us gone. We got gone.

Now al Qaeda insurgents are taking back the country and the troops the U.S. trained and provided with weapons simply took off their uniforms to reveal their civilian clothes underneath, and fled. The ran away from a smaller, less well armed force, and claimed that the U.S. did not provide sufficient training for them to withstand 1000 armed insurgents against 10,000 armed, trained, and well equipped Iraqi soldiers. I smell a rat.

You don't stand your post with your civilian clothes underneath your uniform unless you know that you will need the civilian clothes quickly and you don't turn tail and run from weak opposition. I guess the al Qaeda insurgents were packing a whole lot of mean that swept government forces away like so much chaff before the Ark of the Covenant carried by the Hebrews when they went to war. The result is the fleeing Shia government forces under Maliki left behind U.S. equipment, vehicles, and materiel for the Sunni forces to pick up and continue hot on their heels

After complaining about the lack of U.S. support in their struggle with al Qaeda forces, I wonder why they want U.S. soldiers back to fight the insurgents. Didn't we go through this already? This is where I get confused.

The United States armed, trained, and supported the sitting Iraqi government and left the country as ordered and now they want U.S. soldiers back. This is what happens when a power vacuum is created as the Iraqi situation demonstrates with the absence of Hussein and no tyrant/despot/powerful leader to take his place. Should we really go back in and take control of the situation again? Isn't this a civil war? Hasn't the U.S. been down this road before with disastrous implications? I'm confused.

Barry Eisler has likened the situation in Iraq to Vietnam and there are similarities, but we left Vietnam to its own devices and accepted the Vietnamese boat people as immigrants, taking them in and providing them with a home and a country. Do we do the same for Iraqi Sunnis fleeing the Sunni Muslim forces of al Qaeda? At what point does this whole circus end?

If I say we leave the Iraqis to fight it out among themselves, I'm being obtuse and elitist. If I say we go back to Iraq and restore order and throw al Qaeda out when the government forces ran from them then I'm an elitist neo-colonialist who supports war mongering. What is the right answer here?

Is there a right answer?

David Ignatius provides his take on the situation and offers a short video at the beginning of his column about the difference between Sunni and Shia. This is not Roman Catholic against Lutheran against Protestant conflict, which often flared into reprisals and armed conflicts, but something much more brutal. The result may well be Syria allied with the Sunni forces in an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against Maliki, who has holed up in the south, and the intervening territory left to whoever is left in Iraq. Both Sunni and Shia forces are brutal in their actions and hatred for their polar opposite faction and it looks like Maliki will not be able to hold the government together. Maliki and his adherents are Shia and not considered to be true Muslims, not for the 1400 years since Mohammed's death when the ideologically opposite Sunni and Shia split over who would control the future of Islam.

What it boils down to is that I do not have the faintest clue about their religion or their politics, except that neither will rest until the other has been exterminated. When religion and politics are so tightly bound together, how can anyone from outside Islam truly understand what is going on and whose side the U.S. should back. This is no longer about democracy, as Maliki's bloody reprisals about Sunni Muslims has shown, nor is it about freedom for the Iraqi people involved in a death struggle for supremacy. The war between Sunni and Shia isn't even about taxes. It's about supremacy and destruction and a death grip on the lives and beliefs of entire nations.

It is clear that control of the oil fields will be at risk, but why should that be a factor since the United States has more oil than Iraq and Syria combined? The Saudis have complained that their way of life will collapse if the U.S. doesn't stop producing and exporting its own oil fields and reserves.

But, no, the struggle in Iraq is not about oil. That's just a bargaining chit to get the Western world involved, and I'm back to being confused. Should the U.S. stay out of this struggle or should we ride to the rescue?

I do not know. Do you?

One thing I do know is that we cannot play cop on the block on the international stage and that has won us no friends and gained us quite a lot of enemies, but we cannot play the isolationist card as we did at the beginning of World War I and World War II because eventually we will be forced to rethink that position as we did when Truman was voted in, Roosevelt and his isolationist tactics out, and the Japanese allied with Germany bombed Pearl Harbor. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Obama has supposed Maliki's government and Maliki has done nothing to build a bridge between Shiites and Sunnis. Instead the reprisals against Iraqi Sunnis have gone a long way to creating the current situation, over and above what 1400 years of strife have done. Maliki, a Shiite, has been as brutal as Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, and nothing was done by the U.S. or the U.N. or any of the western nations. Obama has sent more weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and materiel into this hot zone and the picture is no better.

And I'm back to being confused. What do we do now?

I don't know. Supporting either side may come down to the flip of a coin because both sides are brutal and blood-thirsty and the man in the street will always be a casualty.

I'm open to suggestions to learn more about the players and the game. How about a little help?


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Navajo Mesa

Navajo Mesa is the community where I'm moving. It's rural. At the sign for Navajo Mesa the paved road becomes dirt, washboard dirt road. Those will be fun on the old suspension. I'm not too worried. I managed 2 years above Tabernash and there were more dirt roads and they were worse than the ones in Florissant. I know they periodically add dirt and grade them, so not a big problem, and certainly nothing to keep me from moving up there.

That is the side between the 2 decks and the doors that go down under the house into the crawl space, except you don't need to crawl. It's built like a bomb shelter and enough head room to stand up. No, that is not a real deer. It is plastic. Someone has a sense of humor. That is the place where I'll plant my herb garden though. It will be easy to get to and will look nice laid out there in a circular pattern.

One of the pluses of living up there is seclusion. Then there is peace and quiet and a small community of people my age, which means I will have to mingle from time to time. Another small price to pay. Neighbors can be helpful and even nice as long as they don't consider my doors (and there are 4) always open to them. I'll be the exotic for a while, but not too long a while.

I have plans, like planters full of growing food on the decks until I get the greenhouse built, up, and running. I did notice that one of the outbuildings is a lot larger than I thought. That has possibilities too. David suggested a chicken coop, but I don't plan on raising chickens. I'll figure out something.

There are the 2 outbuildings, and the one on the left is the larger of the two. It's a nice size for an office or gaol for miscreants or maybe a place to hide from irritating neighbors. It used to be the pump house. Or maybe that is the other shed on the right. I'll check it out again when I go up there.

That's a nicer close-up, but you can't see the picnic table on the other side. More pictures will be required. 

Right now, it's all organizing and planning and forcing myself to pack, knowing I will eventually have to unpack. I hate both jobs, but I will do them and I will get them done before the movers descend on the 3rd.

The hardest problem I've run into is setting up a change of address with the post office. Not only do they mess up my mail, but they charge for changing my address on line -- twice -- and claim that I'm doing it wrong and my debit card doesn't work, in spite of charging me twice for the service. Not only do the snails get stuck in their slime trails, but they evidently look upon me as one of the millions of people willing to give up their money to fund their business, which has been failing for years. After the experience of dealing with the mail carrier at this address for more than 5 years, I understand why.

No matter what happens here, the bills keep coming and I still have to pay for them. Luckily, I planned that into my budget and I should be all right. Better than all right since the mover will charge me less than I expected and I'm keeping my money unspent. I'll save a lot over the next 12 months while building my nonexistent crediting rating into an actual credit rating. No more living off the grid if I expect to buy this house.

And so it goes.

On my down from the house on Saturday last, I took a few pictures.  These pictures are of the cabin and outbuilding that are going back to the earth. They look much older than what has popped up over recent years and may even date back to the 19th century. I'll have to do some research and find out.

The outbuilding but not a great view. I'll have to get out of the car next time.

The cabin. I'm torn between wanting to salvage the wood and rebuilding it. Since I don't own the land, that isn't possible. I'll check into it. It's far enough away from my house to be a great guest house and could be a great vacation property if it can be restored.

Don't forget to click on the photos to see them better. 

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Good Men

Three weeks ago when I was told by the bank that I would have to leave my home of 6 years, I was thrown back into a place where I did not want and had not expected to be - back to apartment hunting. I found a place I liked and contacted the owner who was enthusiastic (at first) to rent her house to me. Three bedrooms and 2 baths and a kitchen to die for. I wanted the house the moment I saw the photos. That was not to be. After that initial burst of communications and promises, and asking her to send the application, I heard nothing more.

Did I offend her? Did I not praise the place too much? Did I not move quickly enough? What had I done wrong? These are all default positions for me.

I found her Yahoo! email and forwarded my messages to her there and waited, but did not sit idle. I kept looking and found a 1-bedroom house 2 blocks away. It was spacious and had a bay window with a tiled window seat. I had visions of sitting in the window seat reading or just watching the seasons change and people go by. Against my better judgment, I paid the $30 fee and put in my application. I also had to forward copies of 3 pay stubs and provide a phone number for the previous landlord, the one who lost $2 million in properties, my house and the one next door included, to foreclosure. That was Tuesday. That day everything changed.

I called about another apartment in Divide, Colorado west of Colorado Springs and up Hwy 24. As I spoke with the landlord I found he and I had similar feelings about application fees. His father owned a property in Florissant he was getting ready to sell. Would I like to speak with his father about buying the house and 3 acres? Of course, especially since his father owned the house free and clear and would be willing to hold the mortgage note and take my payments directly. Then everything hit the fast track.

The next day after running the numbers and my meager resources, I decided I had to tell David I couldn't afford to accept his offer. It was outside my budget.  He said, "We'll make it work. I want you to have the house. Whatever it takes we will do. I don't need the money; I have more than I can spend now."

We agreed on a monthly rate I could afford and then I called the realtor about the house 2 blocks away. I listened as she told me they had not received a call back from my previous landlord. No surprise there. I explained she probably wouldn't any time soon. Then she told me my employer had not called back so they couldn't verify my income.

Uh, excuse me, but they had 3 pay stubs and my 2013 tax return and a bank statement proving my deposits. The pay stubs had the name of the company on them and waiting for a call from my employer was no longer necessary, but I didn't tell her that. Instead, I told her to cancel my application. I was buying a house in Florissant. She sounded a bit deflated, but I felt powerful and good. I was no longer at her mercy, or the mercy of any realtor any more. I was buying my own home.

Things have progressed since last week and I have been up to the house. I hate the pattern on the commercial carpets, but they are durable and thick and I know how to use area and throw rugs to best effect. Not a problem. A few minor things still need to be done, e.g.; rods for the closets, shower rods for the 2 bathrooms, phone jacks throughout the house, and a few other little details, like tightening up the hand rails all the stairs and both decks. David agreed to all of it quickly, and he agreed to remove the trash from the build before I move in next month.

But there must be a fly in this ointment. A sick feeling came over me that somehow, some way I was about to be screwed. Talking to David again last night and this morning have removed that doubt. His son Mike, the man I originally called about the apartment in Divide, will move all my things from this poky little cottage to the most beautiful home I have ever lived in -- and the first I've ever owned. He will also hook up my washer and dryer and help set up everything. This is real. I am moving. But there is more.

I found out through the realtor that David had been held in a concentration camp, specifically Auschwitz. He was taken there with his family in 1940 when he was 13 years old and was liberated by the Americans under General Patton in 1945 when he was 18 years old. That is one hell of an 18th birthday present. David was liberated without his family, all of whom died in Auschwitz. I knew he had come from Poland to the United States, but I did not know he had been imprisoned for 5 years.

Susan, the realtor, suggested I offer to write David's memoirs. I am a writer after all. I spoke with David and he agreed, so what was initially a casual acquaintance willing to sell me his house and hold the mortgage for me has become much more. He put me in touch with Susan, the realtor, to handle the paperwork, and Susan put me in touch with Ingrid who is a mortgage broker and will help me establish credit.

This man who knows nothing about me other than that I was looking for a house, has become a part of my life, and not just because of the house but because of his generosity and his indomitable spirit.

David and my father were both born in 1927. Their lives were so very different. Dad began his military career in about 1949 and David began his life as a free man, a citizen of the United States in 1949. The link they share is me. My father was a good man and that is the highest compliment any man can get. David is also a good man, not just because of what he has done for me, but because he is a good man. I have been privileged to know them both.

Just when I thought I had no options, I found options and the realization of a long held dream to own a cabin in the mountains here in Colorado. I don't have to wait 2 or 3 years; it is happening now and I am grateful.

If you like to read a little more about David, follow the link. The only thing that surprises me is that his own daughter, a newspaper reporter, never wrote about her father. Then again, maybe not so surprising, I never wrote about my father either, at least not in a memoir. Maybe now that will change as well. Two such good men should be celebrated and cherished.