Who do Americans admire most?

In December my wife and I went to see the The Wolf of Wall Street; then on Friday, January 10, Lone Survivor (its opening day).

Walking the mile-and-a-half home, both films stirred emotions and made for conversation. I admit that I didn’t think The Wolf of Wall Street was about a real man. It was so outrageous, so amoral, and so greedy—you name it—that I thought it was the product of a very active imagination.

When I Googled the film, I discovered it was based on a real story and was surprised that anyone could be this rotten other than a serial killer who loves murdering innocent people—the real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, was as depraved and greedy as they come. The film is worth seeing. DiCaprio does a great job playing Belfort, a man who is often unfaithful to his wives, and in the end has no loyalty to anyone when it comes to his own survival.

Belfort and his employees lead a lifestyle of total debauchery with lavish parties, sex and drugs both in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering, but he only served 22 months in a federal prison designed for white collar criminals. This prison, as depicted in the film, was more of a country club with tennis courts—but still a prison you can’t leave until you’ve served your time. It seems that today, Belfort is worth millions again (although nowhere close to the amount—about $200 million—he took from his victims); hasn’t paid back what the court ordered; lives in Manhattan Beach, California and is engaged again.

Lone Survivor is about a team of SEALS in Afghanistan and is also based on a true story. The film starts out with SEAL boot camp and in short order shows how tough it is to earn the right to be a SEAL. These are tough guys who value loyalty, patriotism and honor above all else and they are more than willing to die for what they believe.

Mark Wahlberg plays the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell. Three of the four SEALS in his team are killed in combat with a vicious enemy, the Taliban, who once ruled most of Afghanistan while supporting Al Qaeda.

While I was disgusted at Belfort’s debauchery and greed, I was angry at what happened to the SEALS in Lone Survivor. Not long after they were dropped off in the Afghan mountains to carry out their mission, they discover that the intel was bad. Instead of a few Taliban, they were up against hundreds and they lost radio contact. When the help arrives, it’s without the proper support because there are not enough Apache gunships to support all of the ground operations in Afghanistan. The result, one of the troop carrying choppers is shot down with everyone aboard killed aborting the rescue attempt.

Why was I angry? Because when I served in Vietnam—several times while in the field—I lost radio contact—once on a deep recon where four of us were dozens of miles in front of our own lines. We even drove our World War II vintage jeeps—with no armor I might add—through an abandoned village where the cooking fires were still smoldering and there was a Vietcong flag flying from a radio antenna sticking out of the top of a tree. Several decades later, and Congress should have done something about fixing it so no ground troops would ever be out of radio contact, and I blame the lack of enough air support on Congress and President G. W. Bush for not making sure the troops had all the support they needed to succeed and come home.

Then there are the rules of combat that limit our troop’s ability to fight a war. We had them in Vietnam and they sucked. Noncombatants should not be allowed to make rules for combat. Most Americans—who live in a real fantasy world—do not understand war.

The challenge is how do we measure who Americans might admire most?

For The Wolf of Wall Street, the film—with a $100 million budget—opened in December in 2,537 theaters and has earned $90.8 million as of January 10, 2014.

Lone Survivor opened wide in 2,875 theaters on January 10; had a production budget of $40 million and has earned $14.782 million (the film started in 2 theaters on December 25, 2013 and went wide on January 10) compared to The Wolf of Wall Street that made $18.5 million its first weekend.

Who do you admire most and why: Belfort’s and his mob or Marcus Luttrell and the SEALS?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

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Know your enemy: a brief history or Iraq

Sun Tzu wrote that “not only must we have worthy goals to be successful, but our methods, the last of his five factors, must be honorable as well. … Sun Tzu teaches that leaders must be honest.” Source: Frugal Marketing.com

How honest was America’s political leaders when it came to starting the war in Iraq?

“Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the Bush White House’s case on Iraq’s alleged biological-and chemical-weapon stockpile in a dramatic Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the U.N. Security Council.” Source: USA Today.com

More than a decade after President George W. Bush started the war in Iraq, those weapons of mass destruction have not been found and no one is looking for them because they didn’t exist.

Instead of going into detail starting with 3500 BC when Mesopotamia became the world’s first known civilization in South Eastern Iraq, I want to focus on several elements that are eerily similar to Afghanistan.

332 BC: Alexander the Great conquers the Persians and the area we know of as Iraq becomes part of his empire.

In 633 AD, Muslims conquer the region that is Iraq today.

Mongol invaders led by the grandson of Genghis Khan destroy the Muslim Arab Empire that includes Iraq in 1258 AD.

The British—militarily and politically—become involved in the region in the 19th century to protect their trade routes with India and the East. In 1917, British troops occupy Baghdad and in 1920, the League of Nations gives Great Britain a mandate to rule over Mesopotamia. The British then set up King Faisal the 1st as the monarch of Iraq.

Then in 1932, Iraq becomes Independent and during World War II—wanting to get rid of British influence in the region—allies with Germany, Italy and Japan.

Great Britain defeats Iraq in 1941. In 1945, Iraq helps form the Arab League that declares war on the newly formed nation of Israel.

King Faisal the 2nd becomes Iraq’s leader in 1953. But in 1958, there is a military coup and the monarchy is destroyed. In 1979, Saddam Hussein becomes the Iraqi President and in 1980, Iraq invades Iran starting the Iran-Iraq war. In 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. In 1991, a coalition of 39 countries starts the First Persian Gulf War and liberates Kuwait. Iraq accepts a ceasefire. Source: Dates and Events.org: Iraq-Timeline

In July 2012, Con Coughlin writing for the Uk’s Telegraph reported, “The modern-day states of Iraq and Syria once formed the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia. They share the same tribal culture, heritage and a lengthy border.”

What does that tribal culture look like?

The Council on Foreign Relations says, “There is … a consensus among experts that tribal traditions remain culturally important to many Iraqis. … Tribes are regional power-holders, and tribal sheiks are often respected members of Iraqi communities.

“Among Iraq’s Shiite majority, [Islamic} religious leaders appear to be a more potent political force, … That said, religious leaders … appear to derive some of their strength from tribal connections. …

“Some tribes pre-date Mohammed, the prophet of Islam … For centuries, the tribes were the primary form of social organization through much of the region. While their influence has diminished through the years, the Ottoman Turks, the British, the British-backed monarchy, and the Baathists all sought their cooperation.”

Do you see the similarities between Iraq and Afghanistan? Both regions were conquered by Alexander the Great and ruled over by the Greeks. Both have tribal influences that have been around for centuries.

The Islamic religion swept over both regions about the same time. The Mongols rolled over both regions. Then the British arrived followed by the American military.

You may have noticed that there has been no mention of Russia yet, but starting July of 1979, Saddam Hussein “used the Soviets to support his program of military expansion and to strengthen his regime. Baghdad acquired arms and advisors from the USSR; the KGB and East German Stasi also trained the Baathist secret police apparatus.”  After Saddam argued with the Soviets, France became Iraq’s second biggest source of military aid after the USSR as Iraq’s dictator-for-life played the West off against the Communists in Russia. Source: History in Focus: The Cold War

Remember how the Mujahedeen were supported by the United States and some of her allies as they fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, the same Islamic, Mujahedeen warriors that the US trained and supplied with weapons become the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Do you think it is possible to build a democratic nation in Iraq where all of the different religious, political and tribal factions will learn to cooperate sort of like the very honest and moral [tongue-in-cheek] Republican and Democratic Parties do in the United States?

Continued on August 16, 2013 in A brief history of Vietnam or start with Know your enemy: a brief history or Afghanistan

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”