Of a 16-oz. Soda Cup, of Afghanistan and of Frustration

I usually check once or twice a day at Memeorandum to see what the important news of the day is, to get an idea of what America is talking about, to take America’s pulse, to check the barometer of public opinion, to… Well, you get the idea.

When I checked Memeorandum around 7 p.m., the headlines (around 40 of them) were all about soda, sugar and “big cups.”

Some were as short as CNN’s “SODA BAN SETBACK,” some as long as the U.K Daily Mail’s “New York City to send out health inspectors armed with 17-ounce cups to make sure eateries aren’t selling oversized sugary beverages,” and everything in between.

Many of the reputable, major news media were talking about how the “Judge Halts New York City Soda Ban”(the Wall Street Journal), how the “Judge Blocks New York City’s Limits on Big Sugary Drinks” (The New York Times) and , how “Judge tosses Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary sodas one day before it goes into effect.

Even Reuters was reporting on how “Judge blocks New York City large-soda ban [and] Mayor Bloomberg vows fight.”

Several news organizations and blogs view this soda cup issue as an epic struggle against a “Leviathan” state, as a “Separation of Powers” issue and the Judge’s overturning the soda ban as “One Small Blow for Freedom.

Perhaps.

But talking about freedom, I wrote over the weekend about our Defense Secretary’s visit to a country where 68,000 of our men and women are still fighting and where many of them are dying, supposedly for that country’s freedom.

During the same weekend, I was angered when I read how the President of that country insulted and accused those same troops, and our country, of colluding with the Taliban to sow fears in order to prolong the presence of international troops in Afghanistan.

This morning I was shocked to read that two more of our service members were killed and 10 wounded in another appalling “green-on-blue” incident in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, when an individual wearing an Afghan national security forces uniform turned a weapon on U.S. and Afghan forces.

According to DOD:

This is the third fatal insider attack this year. A British soldier was killed Jan. 7, and an American contract employee was killed March 8.

These attacks escalated last year, with 62 ISAF service members killed in 46 separate attacks. Insider attacks conducted in 2012 killed 35 Americans.

And later this morning I was saddened to receive in my e-mailbox another one of those dreaded “DOD Identifies Casualty” announcements:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Tech. Sgt. Larry D. Bunn, 43, of Bossier City, La., died March 7 as a result of a non-combat incident at an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia. He was assigned to the 307th Maintenance Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

If my sources are right, this would make the 2,158th American service member to die in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” hopefully in support of freedom and rights above and beyond a l6-oz. cup of soda.

And yes, Memeorandum did cover this.

Way down, at the bottom right hand corner of the blog page, well “below-the-fold,” there was one news item on this other kind of freedom: “2 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan insider attack.”

I want to believe that Americans are interested in what goes on in Afghanistan — some disgusted with our continued involvement there, many angered by the antics of the Afghan leaders, most of us frustrated, but all of us saddened by the latest events there.

And I know that the soda cup issue is just symbolic of what many sincerely believe is a case of government overreach and of infringement upon consumers’ personal liberty — of the “Nanny State syndrome.”

After this weekend’s and this morning’s news from Afghanistan, and considering all the other events in the world, I felt that today we just did not have our priorities straight. But that’s just me.

And, finally, I am very frustrated, too. That’s why I use words such as “hopefully” and “supposedly” when referring to our efforts in support of “freedom” in Afghanistan.

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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15 Comments

  1. Dorian, maybe one of the reasons people take breaks from talking about war is because they seem so endless. That doesn’t make them any less important, but when average people have so little control over decisions to go to war or their outcomes, then burnout after years and years of them is to be expected. I suppose the soda controversy provides one of those breaks.

  2. Yeah, it’s very true. But, then ever since the Bush took us into these wars, we’ve never really been asked to sacrifice and reflect on our soldiers’ sacrifices. They return to a society that barely knows they were over there outside their family and community. It’s like,

    Person 1: “Wow, I haven’t seen you around lately. Where ya been?”
    Soldier: “For the last six months I’ve been in the mountains of Afghanistan freezing and fighting Taliban soldiers.”
    Person 1: “That’ll be $13.73. Thank you.”
    Person 2: “Do you want any ketchup with your order? Okay, then, here you go.”
    Soldier: “Thanks.”
    Person 1&2: “You’re welcome. Come again.”

    We like to pretend we care, but the truth is when our leaders don’t seem to have much to say on the subject, unless it’s to politicize it (how many soldiers have we lost in Afghanistan since Benghazi?), why should we expect the rest of society and the media to take notice?

    Now, one of Panetta’s last recommendations before he left was for the Pentagon to award drone pilots a a service medal that would outrank the Purple Heart or Bronze Star. WHAT.THE.FRICK!!! A medal that should be aptly named the “Electronic Arts Distinguished Cross” or the “Flying Call of Duty Medal” is going to be higher than men and women who are putting their lives on the line in the battle arena? Wow! Just wow!! After reading a story on CNN yesterday I’m starting to have second thoughts about drones, not because of their role in collateral damage, but because how much they impersonalize the enemy making it that much easier to kill them by removing the humanity of their target.

  3. Perhaps you have heard of the other war: the War On Obesity. MO has and has she joined MB on the big gulp issue? I don’t know, but I hope she did/does. Of all the freedoms we may have lost (think wire taps, etc), the right NOT to have to juggle a 32oz sugar filled cup of crap should be our last complaint. I know, next they will want to pry candy bars from our dead hands.
    Diabetes and the strain on the heart are two consequences of this beloved drinking activity.
    And, does it cost the victims any pain and suffering along with the financial burden on the afflicted and society in general- you bet it does.

  4. Hey Duckie (I hope you don’t mind if I call you that since your name reminds me of Duckie from “Pretty in Pink” played by Jon Cryer, a closet moderate Republican), I understand the concern by Mayor Bloomberg banning these sizes, but I think it’s really flawed in its implementation, not the least of which is letting people make their own choice. My wife and I, both fairly liberal physicians (well, soon to be in my case), but we disagree with this law because it one does go against the freedom of choice, but more importantly, it doesn’t really address the systemic issue of obesity and good nutrition. I don’t know where you live, but when I walk through East Harlem, I see the bodegas sell all kinds of junk on the cheap. Kids learn these habits at a young age and by the time they are adults they have an ingrained pattern of poor diet choices. The FLOTUS has tried to get healthier lunches into school programs only to be railed against by conservatives. Kids complained b/c the meals didn’t taste as good, due to the low fat, low salt, and low sugar content, compared to their old meals. These drinks alone aren’t the reason for the growing waste lines and shrinking insulin output. This law was just an obvious low-hanging fruit that really won’t contribute to much change without better education and access to healthier foods for these poor communities.

    Lastly, there are now several studies out that say diet sodas are just as bad or worse. Just goes to show you there nothing is safe and there are no freed rides.

  5. I was born at Bellvue and have been a NYer for all my life. We disagree cause the big drinks, yes perhaps the diet ones as well, are a good start. Why because they are big. Poor implementation goes with 99% of laws/regulations/guidelines/etc.
    BTW: let all the education and “healthier foods” ALSO commence, the two plans are not mutually exclusive.

  6. I hear you and I’m not suggesting the two are mutually exclusive. The whole “super size” phenomenon that started with McD’s back in the late 80s has really hurt our health. One would think that companies would charge the same (or slightly less…yeah right!) and give us smaller portions. The size that we truly only need per meal. For instance, a typical Olive Garden pasta dish is enough for 3-4 servings. That’s crazy IMO!

    While I think the general public does need help in many areas, we can’t always legislate personal responsibility to them. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do nothing. I just think we should put more of the onus back on the supplier than the consumer.

  7. OK, we agree.
    BTW, re ducks. If you have any sense of humor, check out Duckman on You Tube.

  8. @ Zephyr:

    Thanks for your comments

    I get what you are saying, and I understand that people can become desensitized about such never-ending wars (especially when the previous administration told the American people to “go shopping”), but it still grinds me that a fight about the size of a soda drink and its sugar content — as symbolic as it may be with respect to our rights to deteriorate our own health or even kill ourselves — gets tenfold as much coverage and attention than the fight wherein our men and women are getting killed or maimed. But, as I said, that’s just me

    @ brcarthey:

    I hope you got to read my post on the Distinguished Warfare Medal and the lively comments thread that followed it. I think I know where you stand and I agree with you on the “precedence” given the medal.

    @ dduck:

    Thanks for your comments

  9. “I’m starting to have second thoughts about drones, not because of their role in collateral damage, but because how much they impersonalize the enemy making it that much easier to kill them by removing the humanity of their target.”

    I’ve been thinking about this side of the issue as well. I thought that perhaps the use of drones may lesson the PTSD of our solders. The reality of the humanity of the target is concentrated in the person doing the killing. I would be interested in knowing if drone operators suffer less.

    I am concerned about escalation of war with drone use as well, due to the change in risk/reward ratio. Less risk of loss to us and perhaps greater chance of success for any given offensive action. Would this make us more likely to engage in war than we would have previously.

  10. On

    I’m starting to have second thoughts about drones, not because of their role in collateral damage, but because how much they impersonalize the enemy making it that much easier to kill them by removing the humanity of their target

    Of course the “impersonalization” of killing other human beings, even in war, as well as collateral damage, are things we should be concerned with.

    I just suggest — not approve of it or condone it in any way — that “impersonalization” of warfare(and collateral damage) have both been going on for a very long time.

    Examples: The blitz fire-bombing and other carpet bombing (I am leaving out Hiroshima and Nagasaki) flattening major cities during World War II by pilots flying at such high altitudes — and frequently at night — that they had little idea of the carnage they were inflicting; or the stand-off launching of precision guided missiles from even higher altitudes and distances by our more modern (stand-off)fighter bombers; or the submarine launched missiles from hundred/thousands of miles away, without ever seeing the target, except on a computer screen

  11. @brcarthey:

    Just announced:

    In light of recent discussions concerning the new Distinguished Warfare Medal and its order of precedence relative to other military decorations, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of the award, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

    More later

  12. Splat.

  13. Just saw the news DDW!! That’s really good news.

    In response, to your reply about aerial bombardments, you’re right. The dehumanization did start with that during WWII. However, there was still a small measure of human connection to the battle because you were directly overhead and bomber pilots had to worry about their own lives and the lives of their crew. Whereas now, pilots are sitting in an air-conditioned room in a pseudo la-z-boy recliner thousands of miles away watching a tv monitor. It has the look and feel of a video game or an interactive movie. The most they have to worry about now is when to take a piss break.

    As for the cruise missile launches, I agree with that view and that maybe drones are just the off-shoot or next generation of that style of warfare. Submarines are a little bit of conflict to me. I’ve read countless stories about the advent of modern submarine warfare and how older admirals at the time thought it was a very dishonorable method of fighting due to the sneakiness of subs. Yes, the whole point of their mission is to attack using stealth, but again, the humanization comes back to making sure that every one watches each other’s back so the whole crew comes back alive.

    Maybe I’m splitting hairs too much. However, like with most methods of land combat, air and submariner combat usually rely on teamwork and camaraderie. That’s never going to be the case with drone piloting. It won’t surprise me if one day in the near future (after the Pentagon gets its own private internet via DARPA), pilots will perform their jobs like many radiologists do now from home–wake up, scratch their ass, empty their bladder, get some coffee, walk into their home office, turn on their computer and start their work/mission. That could be a very scary day!

  14. We agree more than we disagree, brcarthey — and that is something to be pleased wit these days.

    Funny you should mention “after the Pentagon gets its own private internet via DARPA,” because ARPANET ( Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was originally a DoD funded and used network.

    As a matter of fact, my Masters thesis was on the ARPAnet and its then innovative packet switching communications technology and protocols.

  15. @DDW, Yup. I knew that (which is why I mentioned it b/c I figured you’d get it :)). Back in the late 90s when I was learning web design one of my profs had done his post-doc in Organic Chemistry at the Los Alamos labs and gave me all kinds of information about the old ARPAnet starting back in the 60s until it was handed off to the academic establishment sometime in the 80s IIRC.

    A couple years ago, I had heard that the DOD (along with MIT and Cal-Berkley, I believe) were looking into a parallel internet that would be >10x faster than current trunk lines, but supposedly be completely inaccessible to the regular public and under uber-tight security.

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