Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Good, Bad, and Ugly on the Fourth of July

The ugliest image I'll remember from this Fourth of July is the broadcast footage of young Mister Bush playing Commander in Chief for the camera in front of the troops at Fort Bragg, home of the fabled 82nd Airborne Division.

The bad thing I'll remember is how many members of the 82nd Airborne were in harm's way in far flung corners of the world thanks to the delusional policies of Mister Bush and the rest of the neoconservative cabal that hijacked control of the mightiest nation in human history.

The good thing I'll remember is the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

Not too many years ago, when I was the skipper of a Navy E-2C Hawkeye squadron, we took one of our planes down to Florida as part of a contingency shuttle launch rescue operation. There wasn't much to the operation. If the shuttle had gone down in the waters off of Florida, our job would have been to launch and coordinate recovery efforts.

We flew down to Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida the night before the lift off, had a halfway decent dinner at the officers' club, and spent the night in a pretty good motel. Come morning, we suited up, went to the flight line, powered up the airplane's radios with electricity from gas powered ground carts, and sat on the tarmac. We watched the spaceship launch from miles away, and followed its trajectory until it disappeared from view.

A call came from mission command at Cape Canaveral telling us we were released from duty. We climbed into our Hawkeye, turned the engines, taxied, took off, and flew home to Virginia.

There's no real describing what witnessing a daylight launch of an American spaceship in person evokes. Trust me, it's nothing like watching on television, and I'm told that eye-witnessing a night launch is even more awe inspiring.

It has something to do with the determination of the human spirit, and the realization that American determination is the leading edge of that spirit.

But that thought brings me back to the image of young Mister Bush playing Alexander the Great with the 82nd Airborne Division today, and it sucks all the spirit out of me.

Imagine, if rather that squandering untold billions of dollars on optional wars in a vain attempt to rule the world and procure fantastical weapons that contribute nothing to America's security, the Bush administration would have taken advantage of the peace dividend to pursue scientific manned and unmanned space exploration that would have discovered secrets of the universe that would have benefited all humanity.

Just think. If we'd worked things differently, we could have rounded up Osama bin Laden when we had him cornered and sent him to the moon, Alice!


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. More ugly.

    Osama bin really forgotten!


    I wonder why?


  2. Night launches really are beautiful. living in FL, right next to the space center, i have seen my fair share of day & night launches and the night ones are by far better. ;)

    It would be nice to see all those billions of dollars spent on something that could benefit all of mankind instead of this stupid war, which i dont see benefiting anyone.

  3. Re the shutdown of the Osama unit, my guess is that the last thing Bush & Co want is Osama's capture. Why? One, Saddam Hussein was captured and look at the debacle of his trial, and, two, who would be the new boogie man for Bush & Co to scare us with if Osama is taken? He's of greater value to the current administration running loose and recording cryptic ominous messages for the internet.
    Jeff, re Bush's visit to Bragg, I was struck by his continued gunfighter stance & swagger with arms out to the side like he's ready to draw... The active duty guys are obliged to put up with him. The worst thing I've seen him do, and this was two or three years ago, was to go to the Vietnam Memorial in DC.

  4. Hope everyone had a safe holiday.

    Looks like the North Koreans had themselves quite the celebration.

  5. Went to a small-town fireworks display here. It was very nice. Glad everyone is safe and sound after the holidays.

    My cousin was in the 82nd Airborne for about ten years, perhaps a little more. He left in the late 90s. He's probably glad he did. I didn't see Bush's performance at Ft. Bragg, though. In fact, I studiously avoided all politics over the long weekend. Relaxed. Did some writing. Took my daughter swimming, to a Shakespeare play, and to an open Blues jam in Kansas City. It was a blast (although she was mortified when the musicians in the blues jam pulled her up onto the stage and handed her a tambourine. Heh).