What Was 4/29/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

A meme crossed my path today that read “wise people study history, because if you don’t know what was, you can’t understand what is.”  It’s quite a powerful statement, actually.

In graduate school (circa 1990), a good friend of mine, an established physics professor at MIT, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Richard, having a degree is not an honor, a privilege or a right.  It’s a responsibility, because it automatically puts you in a leadership position.”  Because of the degree, he went on to wisely explain, means that people will look to you for answers, whether or not it’s in your discipline.  Because of that, you must be aware of world events, and have a little map of the world in your head of conflicts around the world.  Even outside of your discipline, if somebody asks you about the war in the Sudan (as there is today), you should at least be aware of it happening because, whether you have an opinion or not, it will harm your credibility to say, “there’s a war?”

Because of him, I am fully aware that there is a war in Sudan today.  He is the one who taught me to read the papers, every day.  I don’t read them word for word, and I don’t have them delivered, but every day I look at the online version of the BBC news (for an outside perspective), CNN (for a conservative perspective) and NPR (for a liberal perspective) of world news.  Notice that these are all highly respected sources known for telling the truth; if they’re liberal or conservative, it’s how they lean, not an agenda that they push. 

When the second President Bush was searching for excuses to begin a ground invasion of Iraq, I surprised people when I talked about the war already underway.  Since the Kuwait offensive where we pushed Saddam’s forces back, we had had continual and daily sorties flying over the nation, shooting down the rare fighter they put in the air, and destroying the anti-aircraft defenses they tried to install.  The “no fly zone” imposed by the US on Iraq was in response to Saddam’s actions against the Kurds in northern Iraq who had supported the US during the Kuwaiti action.  I knew of this continuing war, which had long since fallen out of the eye of the public, because I was reading the paper.

As the second President Bush fell on the concept of weapons of mass destruction, I knew it was a lie.  Not just because the second Bush was, at that time, lobbing excuses to launch the ground assault pretty much every other day hoping one would stick, but because I knew of these sorties.  Yes, I’m sure Saddam applauded efforts of other nations to build nuclear weapons, but no nation in the world would have worked with Iraq to do so simply because the nation was in the eye of the US.  We were sending warplanes over Iraq every few hours patrolling the skies.  There is no doubt in my mind that, because of that, Iraq was being closely watched by US intelligence, and any nation or terrorist group trying to build a bomb would want to come into the light of the US by working with Iraq.  And when we finally did invade?  No weapons of mass destruction were found.  We were suspicious at one point, but what we found turned out to be a toxic waste dump. 

Today, as I write this, it’s actually my birthday.  My birthdays are actually morose and depressing affairs because I tend to dwell on the past year, what succeeded and what failed, and where I want to go to improve in the future.  A friend of mine who, like many of my friends, lives very far away convinced me to have an online virtual birthday party.  As I write this, the birthday party is raging with zero guests.  My friend who suggested it did hop on to say hello, and it was very nice visiting with her, but I suspect that will be all.  In the meantime, I’m going to finish writing this post, and ponder what in the hell went wrong in my life.  Honestly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I’m not happy with where I am in life right now, but if I can figure out how I got here, maybe I can find a path back out of this patchwork of thorn bushes.  If it’s not too late.  Which it is.


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