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.