Sunday, October 28, 2007



By Kevin A. Stoda in Hawally, Kuwait

On my round-the-world trip back to the USA and then back to Kuwait this October, I stopped for 9-days in northern Vietnam. I had wanted to travel to Vietnam for several decades, especially after I took a history seminar on the “Vietnam War” in Bethel College in Kansas under Dr. James Juhnke in 1984. (I have even been considering stopping my current employment in the near future and going there to teach English, i.e. hopefully y to empower someone.)


Two and a half decades ago, the debacles and lessons of the American-era of the Vietnam Wars of the 20th were relatively fresh. However, as I personally had been too young to have been drafted into that Vietnam War disaster, I needed to spend part of my adolescence and college years acquiring information about the 1960s and 1970s systematically, i.e. as a student of history. The historian Juhnke, whose wife also taught literature at Bethel College (BC), also had us read popular fictional literature as well as took time to show and discuss films about those war years--and various American memories in the wake of the Great Quagmire.

Dr. Juhnke, himself, had run as the Kansas Democratic Party’s Peace Candidate in 1972. Thanks to this seminar under Dr. Juhnke, taken during my senior year at BC, I was already quite familiar (from an academic perspective) with popular film, documentaries, fiction and non-fiction of the immediate post-Vietnam era by the time I received my Kansas state teaching certification in history later the next year.

For example, I knew that the Coppola classic movie Apocalypse Now was based much more on the writing of Joseph Conrad, set in the Congo at the turn of the last century, rather than resembling Vietnam and Cambodia of the 1960s and 1970s.

In those same college years, I had also written a paper on chemical weaponry used in wars of the 20th century, so I was quite ready to discuss the use of napalm, tear gas and other weapons of war in Southeast Asia—had anyone asked me to do so.

Sadly, no school district in Kansas ever asked me to teach American and world history over the subsequent decades. This was:

[1] partially due to the fact that in the state of Kansas one generally has to
volunteer to do sports coaching along with one’s regular duties as social
science or history instructor, and I had decided never to coach after my own
high school football injuries had left me unable to do many sports as an adult
(, i.e. I felt that their is too much pressure to play hurt and get hurt in the name
of a game).

[2] partially due to the way the old-guard school boards in Kansas often
selected particular archetypes of yuppies to teach back in the 1980s.

Therefore, I moved to Germany in a sort of exile for the next few years, where I sought an international school position to teach social studies.

When I did come back to Kansas and taught German and Spanish in high schools from1990 to 1992, I was aware that many lessons from America’s Vietnam War were not being taught in social science and history classes across the state. The story was the same throughout most of the USA.

By late 2000, when I went to Texas A & M University to try and complete a PhD in Political Science, I was surrounded by an astounding number of both undergraduate and graduate level college students who had never taken a course or seminar in American Vietnam War history.

This is one reason why I researched among the Oral History Archive at Texas A & M University in autumn 2001 (just as America’s War on Terror was fired up) and wrote a long article on the memories of the Vietnam War era, especially as revealed in oral history interviews collected by a hand-full of A & M students and professors over the prior two decades:

“In the Long Shadow of the Vietnam War: American Post-Vietnam War Era Individual, Collective and Cultural Memory Since Vietnam”,

Historically, outside of West Point, the University of Texas A&M produces the largest crop of generals and high ranking officers in the U.S. military. However, the students at the third largest university in the USA as a whole were lacking sufficient and well-rounded study of (1) the Vietnam War era, (2) its effect on America over the long term, and (3) the important lessons to have been acquired by a generations of young Americans.

Since I had lived in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s when the Nazi era and the Holocaust were all being discussed in the public domain, this lack in the USA for its Vietnam memories some 3 decades after the war has been shocking. Such a world of ignorance is easily manipulated by neo-cons, conservative revisionists, and the like! Recall, Texas A & M was the university which was taken over by neo-cons and Reagan-era leaders, like Bob Gates, during the 1990s and 2000 period!


One amazing thing I had learned in my listening and reading of oral histories of the Vietnam era in College Station, Texas was how interested the families of cadets and others at the university had been when provided opportunity to public debate and discuss the war, especially after the Tet offensive of 1968.

However, by 2001, it was clear to me that, aside from the few Korean cadets I was teaching English to at A &M University, a generation of ROTC-, national guard- and military leaders all across the USA had been proceeding with life as though the Rambo-type film myths of their parents’ was a reality and that Americans had lost Vietnam because:

(1) Americans didn’t have the will to kill—i.e. not tough and run by bleeding hearts.
(2) Politicians wouldn’t let the military win.
(3) American people had turned its back on the military early on.

These false beliefs or false memories make up America’s version of the Nazi-era propaganda concerning the loss of WWI.

This big conglomeration of lies in 1920s and 1930s Germany is known by historians as “the Dolchstoss” Theory or Lie.

“Dolchstoss” means in English “the stab in the back”.

In the German version, certain groups in Germany are called un-German and are blamed for the loss of German territory etc. after WWI through the Treaty of Versailles. These evil groups identified in this great German lie included socialist politicians, Jews, left-wingers, homosexuals, pacifists, and “bleeding heart” liberals.

The American Version of the theory is that the Great U.S. Military had had its hands tied behind its back in the war with Vietnam.

The misbegotten belief in this myth embedded deeply in American historical memory or psyche. It has also been propagated by many B-grade action hero films over the past 4 decades. Politicians, especially the most radical and abrasive right, have pushed the same post-Vietnam era propaganda.

The pervasiveness of this “stab-in-the-back” or “our-hands-were-tied-behind-our-backs” victim-hood belief enabled the Bush-Cheney administration to use the morally reprehensible so-called “Shock and Awe” war and to-hell-with-just-war theory in creating propaganda to sell American’s on a quick and lasting victory in Iraq in 2002-2003.


“Shock and Awe” actually sounds innocuous, doesn’t it?

It sounds like exactly what Americans do on the Forth of July when beautiful fireworks are sent into the skies above our cities and village. Observing Americas say to themselves as the fireworks go off, “Oooohhh. Awwe! Ahhhhh!”

However, to any good student of the Vietnam War era, “shock and awe” is just a revamped version of “bomb ‘em back to the Stone-Age” approach that the leaders of the U.S. Air Force, like Gen. Curtis Le May, in Vietnam advocated as a solution to persuading the North Vietnamese to surrender.

This practice of lobbing almost unlimited amounts of weaponry on the enemy peoples—even indiscriminately—was tried on-and-off by the USA presidents in Vietnam. Some of the worst bombing levels actually took place during the last three years of U.S. involvement in the war, i.e. it was a bit spitefully done as one might observe a spoiled brat doing (knocking things over) after he has lost a game.

“Bombing the enemy into submission” was unsuccessful even though the U.S. used much more bombing tonnage in Vietnam and neighboring states, like Laos and Cambodia, than had been used in any prior war in the 20th century. (Only the tonnage used in the Iraq and Kuwait in the period starting in 1991 Gulf War through the current 2003-2007 Iraq War exceeds what the U.S. used in Vietnam.

In short, failure to have learned from Vietnam War history that wars are fought and won against people either through hand-to-hand fighting or ended by finding mutual agreement in hearts and minds was not being taught to Americans as whole between April 30, 1975 and the 21st Century.

America and Americans were being short changed and being set up for another Vietnam-like endless war as the new Millennium was dawning.


Over 33,000 Americans visit Vietnam annually. Compared to two decades ago when American films, like FULL METAL JACKET and PLATOON were being filmed, this is positive increase.

However, I personally find this number of U.S. citizens visiting Vietnam to be astoundingly small as hundreds of thousands more Americans visit China each year.

Likewise, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong combine to send nearly 100,000 visitors to Vietnam each year. (Recall that China and the Vietnamese have fought wars for millennia. The most recent war was in 1979, i.e. after America pulled out of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.)

As I first arrived in Hanoi on a Vietnam Airlines flight, several elder Americans (war veterans), their spouses and families were on board.

Some--like me--were a little nervous about what to suspect.

We knew from the American point of view that 4 decades earlier Hanoi had represented for American mythology a key triad city in the Evil Empire of Communism. “The Hanoi Hilton” (or prison) or phrases like “Hanoi Jane” had become idiomatic expressions associated with the city where Vietnamese communists, under Ho Chi Minh, had come into power between 1940 and 1954.

All of us--I am certain--were more than pleasantly surprised by how welcome we were made to feel by their Vietnamese hosts. Our hosts seemed to go overboard to make sure that we were never left feeling as though we represented some evil force in their land.

As I only stayed for 9-days on my first trip in northern Vietnam, I cannot accurately say that my first impressions have totally accurate, but I certainly did feel that the Vietnamese people as a whole seemed more cordial to Americans than nationals in any other nation I have visited over the past decade. (I have traveled in some 60-plus countries on five continents in the past decade. Recall, also, that I am living in a surprisingly very pro-USA country now: namely, Kuwait.)


My first evening in Hanoi, I had dinner at the Little Hanoi restaurant in the upstairs of an old French building with the organizer of my tour, Le Thi Ninh. Ninh was quite open about her life and experiences. She noted that she had previously arranged trips for many U.S. veterans and their families from the Vietnam War-period.

Ninh shared that once she had met one U.S. Veteran’s group in Ho Chi Minh City, she found them virtually shaking with nervousness and expecting the worst of receptions by the Vietnamese.

Naturally, these American tourists had been pleasantly surprised—as I certainly was. (I had not expected a negative reception, but just at times I felt I would find simply a cool reception towards Americans.).

I asked Ninh whether she had experienced the war personally. She said her older family members remember the wars more, but she vaguely remembers having to go into underground areas during bombings. However, her family members were affected by more by the war.

Ninh noted that she had lost uncles in the War for Independence with the French.
Ninh is from the North. Her two brothers were later sent south to fight the Americans. Both were injured. Only one of her brothers returned home and her family never heard a word from the other brother again—until recently.

Ninh shared that, finally, two or three months earlier she had learned of the finding of her older brothers remains discovered through new developments in DNA testing. This sort of research is aided in Vietnam through aid provided by American Veterans organizations. Such organizations work with Vietnamese counterparts identifying remains of various victims of the war years of the 1920s through the 1970s in her homeland.

Ninh also shared that she was aware that one of the soldiers involved in the Massacre at My Lei decades ago now sends all his wealth to Vietnam to aid in the country’s regional development. She shared this because she felt it showed that friendships and good relations with America were enfolding slowly over the recent decades.


The second day, I joined a group of tourists in Hanoi who went early to the Ho Chi Minh memorial.

Although Nguyen Tat, alias Ho Chi Minh, had specifically asked for no special arrangements to be taken with his remains after his death, his communist cohorts had determined that, like the communist heroes of the Soviet Union (Lenin and Stalin) and of China (Mao), Ho Chi Minh’s body should be embalmed and put on public display.

Luckily for me (I don’t believe in deifying or displaying the dead), the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was being renovated--as was the body of poor Nguyen Tat. Being that the Mausoleum was closed, my tour group moved on to other places of memory related to Ho Chi Minh, the nation’s independence & civil war years.

We first passed by the Presidential Palace, built by the French colonialists a century earlier. It is claimed in my guidebook that Ho Chi Minh refused to live and work in the palace as long as his nation was at war.

It was also in his character to live a less pretentious life-style.

Instead, when Ho Chi Minh slept and worked in Hanoi officially as president starting in 1954, he slept either the guards’ quarters in another less fancy structure on the same old palace grounds or slept in a simple two story stilt wooden house across the pond on the grounds of the former French governor general’s palace for Northern Vietnamese territories.

Next, my tour group proceeded to pass by the Dien Huu Pagoda and then went into the Ho Chi Minh Museum. In the 1980s I had visited similar sort of museums glorifying national communist revolution in both Moscow and East Berlin. Currently, Ho Chi Minh’s Museum’s narration still praises communist victory in much the same language. On the other hand, as a whole Minh’s museum was much humbler and visually more entertaining than either of those two I had witnessed in Europe prior to the end of the Cold War.

The focus in the oldest sections of the museum were on happiness (pursuit of?), freedom and a hoped for peace. More effort is made to explain the victories over the French than to explain the war with America. (Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, so he never saw the reunification of the country in 1975.)

One of the oldest displays notes that on September 2, 1945 the first document created by the communist-led coalition, which had just kicked out the Japanese occupiers, was based almost wholly on America’s Declaration of Independence of 1776.

It appeared that many of the most trite communist phrasings have been taken out of display in the museum in recent decades. One of the remaining phrases on the first floor displays a quotation from Uncle Ho that seems to be pointing a finger at the current age of Communist leaders and national bureaucrats in both Vietnam and China:

“The revolutionaries must be ones of virtue. Without virtue, they cannot lead the people no matter how skilled or talented they are.”

Almost any English speaking Vietnamese I met concurred that over the past three-plus decades, the corruption and cronyism in Communist governance has left the whole country not only underdeveloped but disillusioned (and lacking hope).

Hanoi has obviously developed negative aspects in recent decades but I observed positive changes, too. Negatives include the lack of planning for mass transportation in a country that moved from bicycles to cars and motorbikes too quickly.

Positive changes include much more tolerant attitudes towards ethnic groups—allowing Vietnams minority families, for example, to bear more than two children per household (which is the rule in Vietnam for the highly urbanized Viet peoples in the country).

Upstairs at the Ho Chi Minh Museum is an attempt to link Ho Chi Minh to the various artistic and mass cultural developments of the early- to mid-20th Century. This is likely done, not in order to claim that Ho Chi Minh influenced cubism and other movements in the 20th century, but in order to show that he and Vietnam were part of a wave of historical materialism.

In any case, the upstairs displays make up a fascinating montage of graphic design and artwork, commemorating a man (and his generation) that most American youth today know next-to-nothing about.

Meanwhile, we need to remind ourselves and the youth of today that those individuals who grew of age in America of the 1960s or 1970s would have been told at times by propagandists that this relatively humble leader was the “devil incarnate on earth”. In other words, although Ho Chi Minh had never threatened to invade the USA, he had been known in my childhood as our generation’s Osama bin Laden. Therefore, both Australia and New Zealand would send troops to serve alongside the Americans in Vietnam during the 1960s.


Similar to Japan, Vietnam is a fairly long thin nation-state running primarily north to south for well over a thousand kilometers. In addition, it has thousands of many smaller islands along its coasts. In the islands of the Gulf of Tonkin exists a tremendous archipelago consisting of Karst mountains and caves of legend. The most famous bay amongst these isles is called Halong Bay.

I slept a night on a wooden junk in Halong Bay and certainly recommend that experience to everyone who has the opportunity to do so. The experience combines serenity and beauty like almost nowhere else on the planet.

It is sad to note, however, that the U.S. leadership used the Gulf of Tonkin in late summer 1964 as an excuse to make full-scale war on North Vietnam.

In the decades since that debacle, historians have proven through review of official U.S. government documentation and through interviews with participants in the Lyndon Johnson government that (1) the U.S. falsely claimed that its navy boats were in international waters when Vietnamese ships apparently shot on them one August night in 1964 and (2) the Gulf of Tonkin incident was simply the excuse the Johnson administration had been trying to find for months n order to significantly escalate the U.S.’s military activities in Southeast.

In summations, a Gulf of Tonkin Incident was used to write the U.S. President a blank check by the U.S. Congress. That 1964 Congress used a singular event as an excuse to provide a president cover in order to undertake whatever he wanted to make war in another part of the globe in the name of fighting communism.

Naturally the Gulf of Tonkin ploy worked so well during their own formative years of the 1960s that four decades later George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the Neo-Con Clan in Washington D.C. used the same tricks to take Americans into other lengthy wars half-way around the planet in 2001 and 2003.

The scam used in Iraq, namely making an unfounded claim that Sadam Hussein was a threat to America and had major destructive weapons ready to use against America and the planet, was an even more disingenuous ploy (as it was closer to absolute fiction) than the Gulf of Tonkin incident was.

Nonetheless, the name Gulf of Tonkin has continued to have such a bad rap that currently all tours to the wondrous emerald and rocky archipelago northeast of Hanoi are labeled “Halong Bay” tours.

Despite the marketing name change, the Gulf of Tonkin remains a must see for Americans, who will be astounded that a U.S. navy boat so far north, i.e. so far from the DMZ and South Vietnam, and so close to the beautiful isles of north Vietnam could have landed America and the Vietnamese peoples into such a deathly struggle.

A few years later during that same catastrophic war, my uncle, Gerald Gardner, would be gunning a much larger ship for the U.S. Navy in the same Gulf of Tonkin.

One day, it was reported that tanks and a large convoy of Vietcong forces were coming over a hill in the near distance.

Alas, as often occurs in war, the information was incorrect. Instead the U.S. forces ended up destroying a heard of elephants.

My uncle always mourned the deaths of those elephants. (I am sad to say that during my entire trip to North Vietnam I found no elephants at all on either the coast or in the highlands. However, the Vietnamese themselves have been to blame—as they deforested the elephants homelands for decades.)


On the way to-and-from the Halong Bay Isles, my mini-bus was filled-with-tourists from all points on the globe. We stopped at a Vietnamese handicraft center run by handicapped peoples of northern Vietnam.

Like all government run enterprises, it was a colorless affair. The whole structure was painted white--with no advertising signs outside it. The building reminded me more of a automobile garage from its layout than any sort of market I could recognize.

Nonetheless, the handicrafts—especially the embroidery—were wonderful! I fell in love with the scenes that showed daily life in Vietnam--life on the coast, life in the rice fields, and life in the hills and mountains.

Nonetheless, being on a tight budget, I at first balked at buying any of the more expensive embroideries.

Suddenly, a coy sales lady with a slight limp explained to me that the handicraft goods were made by disabled peoples, such as her friend who can only use one hand. She showed me her friend’s work. It was certainly of good quality

I looked around for confirmation that what she was telling me was true, i.e. this was run by and for the benefit of handicapped peoples in Vietnam.

Finally, I spied above the cash register in the corner, a single black and white sign explaining that victims of war, victims of land mines, and victims of agent orange were included among the handicapped peoples who produce in and work at the handicrafts center.

Naturally, I went and bought one of the more beautiful and more expensive embroideries to be hung on my wall.

As I visited the handicrafts center a second time, I noted again that most tourists weren’t being told by their tour guides that the goods there were made by handicapped persons. I noted that only a few of the workers and artists doing embroidery had any evidence of disabilities. I wondered if silence on the matter had to do with the fact that the locals were bending over backwards to be friendly and didn’t want any Americans or Australians to feel guilty for what had been done to Vietnam in their name decades ago. [This doesn’t mean that some peddlers didn’t lay a sort of guilt trip on me at times, though—but that occurred only rarely.]

However, it dawned on me later that in many parts of Asia, people with disabilities are still ostracized and thought of as bad luck. So, they tend to be kept out of the public sphere.

I hope this situation improves and that a lot of other Americans go and buy goods to aid the disabled of Vietnam. (NOTE: Since 1975, at least 38000 Vietnamese have been killed by previously unexploded ordinance left over from earlier wars.)


Next, I took an all-night train to go hiking for a few days amongst the hill tribes and towns on the border of China. I actually slept well as the train wiggled its way from Hanoi to the highlands, where the peoples the French colonialists had called Montagnards lived. So, I was looking forward to a great day when I woke up early one morning in the mistier and much colder part of the country.

The Mortagnards are by no means a homogenous group. The various tour guides I met and the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi reported that there are at least 54 ethnic groups, with their own cultures and languages, living in the country. Some of these peoples are the white Thais. Others are the red Moungs. There are dozens more.

Before going to Vietnam I had been aware of Montagnards. In fact, I had learned of them a bit while reading the novel, The Barking Deer when I took that Vietnam War Seminar in Kansas so many decades ago. It was one of the first literary work by a U.S. special forces officer who worked with the hill people during the war.

Later, I taught refugee Montagnard children called Hmongs (mostly from present day Laos) while doing my student teaching days in Kansas City.

Although almost all of the Hill Tribe peoples of Vietnam (1) are still not well integrated into the growing Vietnamese economy and society & (2) have often been persecuted in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there has been greater regional assistance and expertise in development brought to these Montagnard peoples in recent decades.

NOTE: Similar to the U.S. in its treatment of Native Americans historically, the ethnic peoples have been victims of Viet dominated society. This is certainly one reason why many of the hill tribes in Vietnam and Laos joined with the United States and South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s in their struggles against communism.

The signs of integration among the Black Hmong, the Dzau, and the Giay tribes whom I walked with and stayed among include the fact that paved roads are increasingly reachable by many of the smaller villages around Sapa. Further, most children seemed to be now attending school and learning some of the basic skills in order to achieve in a modern society without having to move or emigrate from their village at an early age just to get by.

The many Hmongs, Dzaus, Giay, and Chinese tribes peoples, especially the female ones, in the market of Sapan and in the villages wore their traditional garb with pride and enjoyed greater preservation of their indigenous culture than I had ever witnessed in my homeland.

Their lifestyles among the gardens and huge terraced rice fields of their native lands are much more similar to the lives of indigenous peoples enjoyed in the highlands of Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador--than any North American indigenous peoples I have seen in the NAFTA states.

On the other hand, poverty is everywhere in Vietnam and millions of citizens in the country have had to move from rural regions to urban areas in order to scratch out better livings. I slept in the home of one Dzau family member who had only a dirt floor under their feet.

However, having dirt floors doesn’t mean one has to be isolated or feel impoverished. Every village has several TVs and satellite receivers on hand. The ancient earth floor felt warm and dry compared to the cool concrete floors many city dwellers have under foot.

Tourism, naturally, is bringing both good and bad to these remote regions with their knock-dead gorgeous hiking trailes in the highlands of remote Vietnam. For example, sadly, some young children are encouraged by their elders to skip school in order to sell goods to the backpackers who wander throughout their homelands.

As well, there is a sort of visual and acoustic pollution of the whole touring experience caused by the handicraft goods and post card peddlers who badger the tourists in order to persuade them to undertake undesired purchases. (Aside from my visits to Egypt and India, I have never been so often hit-upon to by such masses of pesky peddlers—and never to such a high degree in any rural landscape anywhere.)

This all means that Vietnam will need to do more to provide alternative occupations, education, and training in the rural areas of the country.

In concluding, I certainly recommend a visit to the many rural areas of Vietnam. They are gorgeous and the ethnic peoples reveal a world of Vietnam that is hardly ever portrayed in America (& Australian and European) stories, films, and other formats for memories about Vietnam. Meanwhile, nearly 60 years of communism has left too many peoples in the North under-serviced in a society that is crying out for indigenous (Vietnamese citizen) skilled and technical labor.


When one travels to or from the International airport and downtown Hanoi, one sees some large joint-venture firms located in very modern looking plants. However, they are surrounded by fences—apparently to keep a mass of underemployed citizens out.

On my way into town the first day in Vietnam, I had asked about employment opportunities for the average Vietnamese. I was told that the Vietnamese populace faces several problems.

The first problem is that, from the global economic perspective, most Vietnamese labor force is not, in general, qualified enough to fill many positions at such firms.

In short, most of the best paying positions go to foreigners.

Second, in order to obtain the remaining jobs, local Vietnamese have to either use (1) connections, (2) bribes, or (3) both.

In short, just as in China, the booming parts of the Vietnamese export economy are benefiting only a minority—many of those being elite peoples in the government who are well-connected.

Only in the inner city of Hanoi is there a great tradition of starting up firms. This is why thousands try to move ever- closer to the congested center of the capital to find jobs and to earn a living these days—cramming the city full of motorcycles (often used as taxis) and load-laden pedestrian peddlers under an air-polluted sky.

In short, in Hanoi and in the other big cities of Vietnam, the Chinese model of economic development is being followed—leaving many people living on the fringe as have-nots--with little qualification and few connections to lift themselves much further up the ladder on the human development scale.

Partially, the underdevelopment of the political economy of Vietnam is the result of its current and prior development models. One of the disconcerting parts of the current Communist China Capitalistic model is that the haves grow wealthier while the poorest laborers stay at the margins of modern-job-employability in a globalizing marketplace.

Even more worrisome is that democracy and representative access to government are in retrograde. In short, democratic reform and access is needed but the current regime is not budging.


As I drove out past the large multinational companies in their compounds at the edge of Hanoi on my way back to the airport on the last day of my excursion, I recollected what one disheartened Vietnamese had recently told me.

I had been told with a simple sigh, “If I stand in the street and demand democracy, justice or fair access without a bribe, I will be put in jail. It’s that simple.”

That comment made it clear to me that for the current generation of people in Vietnam, “America is no longer seen as the enemy at all in this country. The enemy in Vietnam for the majority of Vietnamese are the usual suspects—i.e. those in government and those with the most political economic power in the country.”


Here is a list of the reasons I call all Americans to commit themselves to going to Vietnam at least once in their lifetime:

(1) In general, despite the fact that the American military tried to bomb the Vietnamese people back into the stone-age in the 1960s and 1970s, the Vietnamese seem to hold few obvious grudges against Americans visiting their land.

(2) Americans who fought the communists in the old days should go and support modern Vietnamese who need international support in reforming their country and government today.

(3) We need to give moral support, financial support or both. As tourists we can leave money where we want to along the way. As possible investors or future donators to charities we can begin to make important connections. [However, if we tour with socially conscious organizations that give back to the planet and local communities, as Green Sapa and other organizations do, we can be more efficient with our financial support. Conversely, we can make purchases of groups that help the disabled.]

(4) Most importantly, once we have met the varied Vietnamese peoples face-to-face, we can put away some of our cultural baggage about the current war on terror [and cultural clash myths] which claim that such cultural wars go on forever, i.e. cultures continue to fear, hate and attack each other forever. Maybe we can then more quickly pull out of Iraq with confidence and know that some day we will have better relations with the Arabs there in the Middle East-- just as we have good relations with the Japanese and Germans today.

(5) Finally, we owe the Vietnamese our hand in friendship. We, in fact, did a lot to destroy all of the prior Vietnamese colonial infrastructure through bombings and through continued isolation through 1995. We owe them much more than we have provided to date. [The Vietnamese showed America that God had not destined it to rule the planet single handedly. This is one reason why, after signing the peace accords with North Vietnam in 1972, our nation managed to have the discipline to stay out of major wars for nearly 20 years--and out of lengthy--wars for over 30 years.]

In addition, I hope that by traveling to Vietnam, all Americans will learn to take time and rediscover more accurately America’s own historical relationship to South East Asia. We can learn so much about ourselves and others.


Green Sapa Tours,


“Living through the Vietnam War”,

Stoda, Kevin, “Americans Trickle Back to Laos—or should be doing so”,

Stoda, Kevin, “NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT”—A Useful Website to See How Taxes are Misspent and Priorities are Lost in America—but some Underestimates of Total Costs of War in Iraq are Evident”,

Stoda, Kevin, “In the Long Shadow of the Vietnam War: American Post-Vietnam War Era Individual, Collective and Cultural Memory Since Vietnam (PART 1)”,

Stoda, Kevin, “In the Long Shadow of the Vietnam War: American Post-Vietnam War Era Individual, Collective and Cultural Memory Since Vietnam (PART 2)”,

Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped,

“Vietnam Defuses 7-Ton Bomb 30Years after End of War”,

Vietnam Development Information Center,

Vietnam War Timeline,


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

LETTER FROM FIJI: A Call for America to Recognize Reforms

LETTER FROM FIJI: A Call for America to Recognize Reforms

By Kevin Stoda

Last Spring, the Kuwaiti government allowed a two month amnesty period for foreign laborers in breach of their visas to leave the country without fines. One friend of mine, who had tried to work to reform treatment of foreign labors in Kuwait, determined to take advantage of this amnesty and finally returned to Fiji after struggling here for three years. This Fiji’s given name is Jiuti Wakolo, and he has a mixed ancestry and cultural identity as a Christian, Jew and Muslim.

Jiuti and numerous other Fiji laborers had been brought to Kuwait over three years ago by one of those unsavory locally sponsored labor sub-contractors who failed to get him a proper visa upon arrival.

This is how Jiuti, despite having been told he would work in an office with one of the fastest growing and larger multinational companies from Kuwait—Agility International—ended up living in poverty for several years, while working to have the wrongs against him and his colleagues righted.

He had been only offered a truck driving job when he arrived—instead of the work in human resources he had been promised. Some of the other Fijis were eventually forced to work in or drive trucks to Iraq—something that Jiuti had never been formally trained to do. Such foreign laborers agree to work in such dangerous conditions only when their backs up against the wall—i.e. due to the fraudulent personal debt being incurred through such unlawfully operated labor contractors. The only options to doing the dangerous job is to go underground or find another employer to take over one’s contract—which is not always an easy thing to do depending on your skills and qualifications.


Jiuti returned to working and living in Fiji this past summer. He had felt quite embarrassed (ashamed) to have had to return to his homeland with no earnings in hand and with only many failures and mistreatments to be shared from his 3 years in Kuwait. Initially, he refused to visit his family as he had no gifts to bear.

Sadly, this has been the experience of thousands of other Asian and Pacific laborers who accepted amnesty from the Kuwaiti government this past year. (My church in Kuwait has had to take up collections and/or make loans to numerous members of our own fellowship who found themselves in such unfair situations over the past decade.)

Now, Jiuti is back working hard to reform his own government in Fiji. He recently sent me a letter outlining the reforms his movement have been involved in or is supporting.

Since the 2000 coup (the sixth coup in the nation’s history), Fiji citizens have had a somewhat tumultuous decade, both economically and socially. Although most coups have been mostly un-bloody affairs, this history of turbulence is one reason that immigration and obtaining jobs abroad is still so important in one of the prime tourist destination points on the planet.

Jiuti writes currently of hope, though. He notes the current reforms being taken by the interim government and those seeking to get democracy and social justice improved on the islands of Fiji.

In writing me, he has asked that I share with Americans, American businesses, and the US government about the progress and reforms being made in Fiji.


Jiuti has worked in and outside of government in Fiji on-an-off for over a decade. Here below are revealed Jiuti’s list of the 10 main points of progress in the government and in his organization’s work showing recent progress in the Fijian political and social landscape:

1.Peoples Charter for Change – is a new “documents prepared and widely consulted by the citizens of Fiji, documents of inclusiveness and love for all the citizens of the republic of the Fiji islands. Documents that will make Fiji a true Democratic Country where all it Citizens are given the rights to survive and lead a better life.”

2.Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruptions – “was set up to get rid of all the corruption elements that was allowed to dwell in Fiji during the last Government. This will set a precedent for likely corrupt minded people in future.”

3.Census – “Census has been completed .This was done to justify the actual population number of Fiji, justify the work of the Election Boundary Commission, justify accurate and timely development for Fiji and it Citizens, have a proper accurate Data for justification our concerted effort to move Fiji forward. It will avoid any frustration in registration, voting and counting in the General Elections, [and] remove suspicious element of rigging during Democratic elections.”

4.Election Boundary Commission – “has been set up to review and re-draw our outdated boundaries and remove any form of voting on Racial Grounds or Communal Voting system. Giving more recognition for other races to be considered Citizens of Fiji.”

5.Diplomatic Relations – “appointment of new and lively [?] diplomats tasked with building relations between Fiji and the world at large.”

6. “Interims Prime Ministers Invitations and presentations in the recent 62nd UN General Assembly in New York on September 2007.”

7. “Interims PM's invitation and contribution to the Pacific Island Leaders held in Tonga on October 2007.

8. “Marketing of Fiji as a healthy tourist Destinations and healthy Investment environment.”

9. “Our Interim Government Commitment to return Fiji to Parliamentary Democracy in 2009.”

10.”Fiji's Commitment in serving the Almighty God faithfully.”

Although it is difficult for me to tell whether these ten points really amount to substantial progress, I do encourage U.S. and global travelers, businessmen and other governments to look into Fiji’s progress in 2007 a bit further and see what can be done to support the new movement for domestic reform in Fiji.

It is certainly interested to notice how God, fairness, and happiness are focused upon in Jiuti’s narration.

Maybe it is time for us all to look at our commitments to development in the Pacific Rim more carefully. Maybe, now is the time to support the Fijian people--and not the coup leaders of the past.


Here is a list of sites and article to get a feel for Fiji politics and history!

Fiji Sun,

Fiji Times On-Line,

Fiji World News,

Government Reforms to Address Business Constraints,

Kruger, Pauls, “Downer Places Conditions on Lifting Fiji Ban”,

Martin, Brian, “Lessons from the Fiji Coups”,

New Intelligence Unit Planned,

Wansolwara Journalism Training Site,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Citibank, U.S. Credit Management and Me

Citibank, U.S. Credit Management and Me

By Kevin Stoda

I have written previously how CITIBANK’s deceitful practices and predatory lending techniques functioned to almost send me into bankruptcy in 2003-2006. These 2 popular articles were simply called CITIBANK AND ME (Part 1) and CITIBANK AND ME (Part 2). I had planned to follow up on this by noting how CITIBANK and other large U.S. credit houses support a whole network of credit counseling and credit management firms. One of the more scandalous of such credit management firms, which I had been involved in, was U.S. Credit Management of Irving, Texas. I will discuss this further below.

The fact is that what Citibank and other banks are up to around the world is far more than a North American affair. (See Mikko’s CITY BANK AND ME—A FARCE IN INFINITE PARTS.) For this reason Citibank-UK is getting its share of criticism in recent months.

My current financial manager in Kuwait calls a lot of the debt management schemes and investment con-games that are soaking the elderly “Cowboys”. This is because the Brits and most of the rest of the planet have come to call the worst of American individualism and unfettered capitalism “cowboyism”.

While I think such terminology is unfair to “honest hardworking cowboys” and “gauchos” around the globe, I think it is safe to say that when America talks about its image problem abroad, America’s corporate actors are among the worst “cowboys” out there.

The obvious problem is that corporations and members of such organizations are not held criminally accountable. Further, America and world communities of corporatists fail to regulate each other. The late Anita Roddick once asked why are not such companies, like CitiGroup, Union Carbide, Exxon-Mobile, being kicked off of Stock Exchanges?

Roddick, who passed away this past month, worked hard to change business as usual around the globe. The following quote of Roddick’s is from one of the last interviews the founder of Body Shop gave. (It was presented on Democracy Now recently.)

ANITA RODDICK: “I remember being invited to the International Chamber of Commerce some years back to do a talk, and I’m always invited, because, you know, I’m supposed to be a founder of a very interesting organization, top brand in the world and no advertising. You know, the question is, ‘What can she tell us? You know, she didn’t go to business school. I mean, she must have tripped, and this must've been a series of brilliant accidents. Well, let's see what we can learn. It’s going to be really cheap bringing her over.’”

“And I remember always going into these conferences and never telling people what I am going to say, because I usually travel. Before I go onto a conference, I spend time in the area. And I traveled with the Huichol Indians, and I saw the pesticides that are produced, that are scattered in those tobacco fields, and all the babies that were born with no genitalia as a result. And within the audience were a lot of the heads of tobacco companies in this particular International Chamber of Commerce. And I was showing the slides and telling the story.”

“And the most painful thing was their reaction. It was almost a coldless sense -- a bloodless sense of good manners. They clapped, they -- no reaction, no embarrassment, no shifting around in the chair, no -- you know, none of this. It was an acceptance: 'Well, this is business. Hang on, you know, this is business. We’ve got business here. Now, come on, grow up. Now, you know, we’re business people. We have to be strong about this.' And it reminded me what Mahatma Gandhi said when he called this source of indifference is timid kindness, where you intellectually know that this is wrong, but that knowledge cannot move you to action, does not polish your human spirit to such outrage that you promise yourself you would never do these things, never be part of this.”

“And so, the question, which is a big conundrum for many of us, is, why do people who are good and true -- care for their kids, are good in the community -- why are they so careless? Is it racism? Is it easiest to say -- is that, you know, well, we don’t care that, because it’s not part of our local community; this is not a local problem; this is so far away that we can’t relate -- is it that? Is it because we have a language which approves of this? You know, we approve of this. This is a language of business. Is it maybe the clothes we wear? The minute we’re going into the office, we’re wearing these suits and these ties, this new coat of appearance that separate us from who we are as fathers and husbands?”

“Whatever it is, it is fashioning a schizophrenia in many of us, or many business people, that allow this to happen. I’ve never understood how people can go to church and pray and ask forgiveness, but never ask forgiveness about their behavior. I can’t get it. I don’t know what happens or what -- maybe there’s something in -- maybe it’s something in the breakfast cereal that stops people having a sense of empathy with the human condition or stops them being imaginative to know the responses of their actions. I am utterly, utterly confounded. I do not know why.”

Worse than adversely affecting the poor, there is also evidence that Citigroup and similar corporations are working continually against good governance and the commonweal. (Check out Jake Lewis’ “Citigroup Bankrupting Democracy” for this and similar trends in multinational corporations born in America.) Profits-before-people is drilled into these people in the corporate world.


Now, if we want to see how the name “U.S.” can become tainted within American borders quite easily through bad corporate greed and bad corporate management, let us look at the service company and credit negotiating company, now bankrupt, called U.S. Credit Management of Texas.

Recall that I had first become involved with U.S. Credit Management in January 2004 after (1) Citibank had unfairly charged me several thousand dollars in penalties and caused me to borrow more money from Peter [i.e., my family] to pay Paul [i.e., Citibank and other creditors] in 2003.

Recall, also, that (2) I had closed out all of my credit card accounts as of November 2003 and had originally worked with a more well-known credit counseling and management company firm out of Florida.

Finally, recall how (3) that particular firm had gotten a number of my creditors to approved a repayment schedule for me--only to later come back to me and try have CITIBANK raise my monthly payment to them by another 8 to 10 percent after I had sent in 500 plus dollars to obtain their services.

This roll-over to Citibank approach of theirs had created great distrust between that particular credit management company. So, I had gone on-line looking for a firm with more integrity.

In U.S. Credit Management, I felt I had found such a firm.

Moreover, since I was registered living in Killeen, Texas at the time, I felt that having a local [Texas State or regional company] handle my debt management and negotiations with tough-guys like CITIGROUP would be very beneficial in both the short and long terms.

After reviewing an article published at that time on about how U.S. Credit Management was working wonders with client’s debts, I agreed at the end of January 2004 to put my debt matters into their hands.

How did U.S. Credit Management claim to operate more successfully and differently than other credit management consultants?

Well, U.S. Credit Management simply told Citibank and other lending & credit agencies that the client would go bankrupt if they didn’t agree to back off. They would then seek first to pay off the smallest loans at a reduced rate of overall debt. All the while, monthly amounts were deducted from my Texas based IBC Bank. This money would become a war chests of sorts. Every few months U.S. Credit Management would contact the bigger lenders and ask them to accept a lower overall debt and reduction of fees and interest if that creditor would take the lump-sum offer.

I was told by a sweet talking and sweet sounding Texan with a Latina-accent (and a great heart for the unjustly treated poor credit-crunched American) that within 3 ½ years all my creditors would settle. If not, I still wouldn’t be expected to put any more of my money in the kitty every month. It was U.S. Credit Management’s contractual agreement to get the big bad creditors to eventually settle. That is why they called themselves credit negotiators.

Now, you may not have believed this sort of tactic to be plausible.

However, over the years, I had come to learn exactly how much lenders and credit management firms were making each year. (Just look at Sallie Mae rolling in the doe back up in Lawrence, Kansas where I once lived and studied!) I felt that the Irving, Texas based U.S. Credit Management could pull this negotiation off and make a profit. All U.S. Credit Management needed to make clear to creditors was that the threat of a my declaring bankruptcy was likely or plausible.

Meanwhile, I was so far in the hole at that time (January 2004) that I had to accept a job to teach in the Middle East.

This move of mine outside continental North America, I felt, should make clear to my creditors that I could or would be ready to go ahead and declare bankruptcy at just about any time.


Prior to the summer of 2005, it was much easier for debtors across America to declare bankruptcy than it is today.

However, the Republican-led Congress of 2005 passed legislation making it much harder for the average American suffering credit problems to declare bankruptcy and start over again. President Bush quickly signed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (S. 256) into law.

This was a hugely mean-spirited act.

This new law has supposedly stopped a few case of unwarranted bankruptcies in the USA. On the other hand, the legislation has certainly adversely affected those people who have been holding home- and condominium loans since 2005.

Many of these people have lost their homes and/or mortgages--and have no recourse to debt relief at much earlier stages due to the less likelihood that they might eventually threaten bankruptcy.

Amazingly, without me knowing it, U.S. Credit Management of Irving, Texas, who had already taken nearly 8000 dollars from my bank account in Texas, quietly decided to use a loophole and did in fact fully declare bankruptcy in late 2005.

Thousands of dollars of mine went up the creek with that bankruptcy of U.S. Credit Management. Many other Texans (and other Americans) lost big in that and related scandals at U.S. Credit Management in the middle part of this decade.

As January 1, 2006 dawned, not only was I up a creek without a paddle (and out of 8000-plus dollars in savings), but I was once again having to renegotiate my own loans individually with all my creditors—including Citibank.


By March 2006, I was fully distraught and aware that I had been a victim (along with many others) of a scam of sorts by U.S. Credit Management, a company ostensibly set up to help people in debt.

I have contacted several Attorney Generals and the police chief in Irving Texas, but I have received no word on whether I will ever get any money back from the bankruptcy of Texas’ U.S. Credit Management.

Meanwhile, I had become busy contacting all the creditors I knew of—including Citibank Mastercard.

The good news is that I was able to settle all of my accounts--accept two--by August 2006.

That is likely because I had informed them all that I was victim of the U.S. Credit Management Scandal. Knowing that I had just been taken through the ringer by U.S. Credit Management, many of my creditors took off all of my penalties--and in some cases part of my debt.

Finally, by September 2006 only 2 creditors remained—and you guessed it: One of these firms was Citibank.


As of this writing, I believe my credit rating in my homeland is still horrendous. I was back in the USA this summer and I tried—just for fun—to see if I could get a credit card.

Naturally, I couldn’t.

Meanwhile, as long as Citibank refuses to fairly settle my debt—by taking off all fees and accrued interest, I do not plan to settle.

Nor will I likely ever have good credit rating in the USA.

This is sad because, aside from my problems with Citibank over the past 4 to 5 years, I have a fairly impeccable credit record.

I have paid down (or off) my school loans—unlike many Republican Party leaders. I have paid off a great range of other debts—including loans I took out to purchase vehicles over the decade. I have also paid off any property debts I have had.

Nonetheless, unless American Banks and the American crediting and lending system improve, I will never likely be able to buy a home in the USA.

I certainly have to thank the 2005 Congress and Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. (Recall that none of my candidates won in November 2004—as usual).

Most of all, I have 2 corporate entities to thank for this plight of mine in the world of banking, lending and credit: [1] the now defunct U.S. Credit Management of Irving, Texas and [2] Citigroup of South Dakota (or wherever in the world it wishes to seek out the best or worst corporate laws).


This past spring 2007, Citibank was back to its old tricks. It had apparently sold my debt to an agency in Colorado.

This agency sweet talked my mom in Missouri out of over 500 dollars last spring to help me (her dear son who has been forced to work abroad for so long) clear that old Citibank-laden debt.

When I heard this, I told mom not to pay, but it was too late.

I explained to my mother that such firms are the bottom feeders (with Citibank at the top). These agencies buy up bad debt for pennies on the dollar and try to badger people into paying off the debt at a reduced rate.

The very existence of these bottom feeders are why I had misread the tough cowboy- nature of U.S. Credit Management of Irving Texas

However, as my new financial planner in Kuwait tells me the American Cowboy can also be the cover for a reckless and poorly managed corporate scheme, like that of the U.S. Credit Management in Texas.


In case anyone else was effected adversely by a Credit Management company in Texas. They might try contacting: Credit Repair Scams Lawsuit site:

I hope they aren’t a scam.

Here is a more national site:

Many U.S. states have similar site. Just google or yahoo for them with these key words: “Credit Repair Scams Lawsuit.”


“Body Shop Founder & Environmental Campaigner Anita Roddick 1942-2007”,

“Citi-Group—Bankrupting Democracy”,


Stoda, Kevin, CITIBANK AND ME (Part 1),

Stoda, Kevin, CITIBANK AND ME (Part 2),

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lars Anderson’s CARLISLE VS. ARMY—What Does it Tell us about the Way Things Used to Be?

Lars Anderson’s CARLISLE VS. ARMY—What Does it Tell us about the Way Things Used to Be?

By Kevin A. Stoda

I was back in the three state region—Kansas, Missouri, & Oklahoma—this past week taking care of my mother who has just gone a knee replacement surgery in Joplin, Missouri. Mom received a knee called Triathlon. The Triathlon brand for new knees would certainly have been welcome in bygone centuries. Some many people have suffered debilitating knee injuries—for example, the famous Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower. The name Triathlon rings of championship, hard work, and overcoming pain and difficulties to gain victory.

This concept of pain, overcoming injury, and love of athleticism fit in well with the legends I was busy reading about upon my arrival in the town of Carl Junction, Missouri this very October 2007. The book I was enjoying while helping my mother out was entitled CARLISLE vs. ARMY: Jim Thorpe. Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football’s Greatest Battle.

The book is by Lars Anderson is not only a form of homage to the characters recalled in its lengthy title, but it is a book that reminds American readers how far the country has evolved and changed since the days when Indians ran the plains and U.S. armies marched Indians off to reservations. It also is a reminder of how defeat can be snatched from victory and victory transformed from defeat (made into a positive gain for a nation—even after individual mistakes have ruined the day for some).

Glen “Pop” Warner, the legendary coach who wrote the book on how college football could be used to build a school’s image coached a total of 14 years at the tiny Carlisle Indian school in Pennsylvania and also rewrote permanently how the game of football would be played in the USA., is one of the three main characters in Anderson’s novel-like history book. Like me, he spent a number of years in North Texas’ Wichita Falls before becoming a football player and coach back out east where his family was from originally.

At the time he arrived to coach the Carlisle Indian School football players in the last years of the 19th century, Warner was certainly still full of the biases against which Native Americans had to confront from the day they were born. These included the belief that they were an inferior race or form of human being who could not compete with the world that the Western Europeans had built in North America.

Lars Anderson determines to remind the readers from the very beginning of his boot that almost every Indian boy or girl in America in those days knew of the disaster that had faced many native Americans in the years leading up to the Massacre at Wounded Knee in the 1890s in the Dakotas. It was, however, these very same offspring of these demoralized peoples whom Pop Warner agrees to coach—and, in fact, tries so valiantly on many occasions to make these native American youngsters recognized as the national football champions for the whole USA.

The author, Lars Anderson, and the actual protagonist of his story, the football coach “Pop” Warner, both portrayed the battle really being fought by the Carlisle football players in 1912 as a battle to balance integration within American society with Native American offsprings’ own developing desire to continue to have identities as native tribesman—which included their own centuries-old senses of tradition and destiny. The match-up in 1912 of the cadet team from West Point against the Indians of Carlisle is thus portrayed as a battle to balance the historical narrations of prior decades which indicated that Native Americans were not capable of beating “white men” at their own games (and culture).


At a personal level, “Pop” Warner, who himself had failed two decades earlier in his entrance exam to attend West Point, this match-up with Army was a chanced to have some sweet revenge. Moreover, as Warner sought a national championship once again that same 1912 season, Warner saw the game with the Indians-facing-off-against-Army as a way to demonstrate his own personal cunning in planning new ways to play football. (In that game, for example, his Indians presented the double wing offense for the first time in college football history.) That is, with the right strategies and techniques, his small group of Indian football talent--who were outweighed against by 25 pounds per—could and would prove victorious.

Anderson writes that this particular game in 1912 was not just any game, “this was the chance to prove that his [Warner’s] new style of football was superior to the power game that Army played. Warner’s players had wowed crowds all over the country with their great speed and agility and with their deception and their cunning. In this game Warner was going to use all his tricks to confuse the bigger Cadet players.

Warner, who understood what made Indian athletes tick better than any other white man in America in that era, knew exactly how to fire up his boys before the game.

He reminded them loudly just before the game that it was “the fathers and grandfathers of these very Army players who had killed their fathers and grandfathers in the Indian Wars. They were the ones who murdered innocent women and children at Wounded Knee. They were the ones who spilled Indian blood all over the plains.”[p. 278]


Anderson adds that Pop Warner ended his pre-game speech on the day of the big game with Army to his players, who represented so many different North American tribes that “[I]t was the Indian’s time to fight back. It was time to make their ancestors proud. It was time to beat the living daylights out of Army.”[p.278]

It is surprising to read such strong language from a white man, but—as noted above--no coach in the USA knew the psyche of Native American athletes better than Warner—who had recently taken two of his Carlisle athletes to win several Olympic medals in Sweden earlier that 1912 summer. These two Carlisle athletes included the “World’s Greatest Athlete” James Thorpe of Sac and Fox heritage from an Oklahoma reservations and the Hopi Indian tribesman & long-distance runner, Lewis Tewanima, from an Arizona reservation.

Before that second decade of the 20th Century was over, Thorpe would have demonstrated his skills in professional boxing, horse-riding, baseball and several other sports before helping found the predecessor league to the NFL in 1920. Already, in 1912, James Thorpe found himself recognized as the greatest athlete in the whole world after winning most of the events (and finishing lower than 4th in any) of a total of 15 (decathlon and pentathlon) events he took part in at the Olympics in Stockholm.

Naturally, Thorpe was also already well-known as possibly the best college football player in the entire nation by the start of the 1912 college football season. The many cadets and Army fans could only applaud him when the Carlisle team under the captainship of Jim Thorpe defeated their West Point team 26 to 7 that October date.

Although the emotional Oklahoman, Jim Thorpe fell far too often into the stereotype of a drunken Indian at times during his various sports careers, in that autumn of 1912, Pop Warner was often able to get Thorpe back on track that fall. He reminded Jim constantly, “You’ve got to behave yourself. You owe it to the public as well as your school. The Olympic Games have made you into a public figure and you’ve got to shoulder the responsibility.” [p. 265]

Jim, as did all of his Carlisle Indian teammates, recognized that very many Native Americans looked up to him. He regularly demonstrated an ability to reflect on his own mistakes and renewed his pride throughout that final season as the Indians finished 12 and 1 (falling only to Penn State).

However, there was a tendency for young confused Indians caught between (1) modern society and (2) historically important facets of Native American culture to wander off away from the particular disciplines required by the modern world. Many young natives ran away from Carlisle over the 3 decades of the school’s existence. Others, like Thorp, ran from all the attention of the media and the control of Pop Warner in Pennsylvania.

For nearly 2 years, Thorpe actually had gone missing or AWOL from Carlisle--in both 1909 and 1910 —turning up in Oklahoma at his sister’s home every autumn after spending time barnstorming with minor league baseball teams in the Carolinas. Eventually, a fellow Indian from his days at Carlisle—who Thorpe looked up to as a big brother--finally successfully persuaded the ever stronger young athlete to return to the discipline of the football gridiron and college life in both 1911 and 1912.

That wasn’t the case for his fellow Olympic medalist, Lewis Tewanima, though. Even as Tewanima successfully medaled in the Olympics in Sweden, he determine simply to return home to herd sheep on the Hopi lands of his ancestors in Arizona once the Autumn 1912 school year was under way.


Although as a whole, Anderson,tells a fairly sanitized version of the lives of Thorpe, Warner and Eisenhower, he is less romantic or sympathetic to the boy from Abilene, Kansas who fought on the gridiron for Army in the greatest match-up of its day. Unlike Thorpe, who lost both his twin brother and mother at an early age, Dwight Eisenhower grows up in a very full house with other Eisenhowers in the working class section of Abilene. Both his parents see him off to the day he leaves the home for the train east to join other new cadets at West Point.

Like his Oklahoman football nemesis Thorpe, “Ike”, as he is called by all, was a sometimes moody fellow who could show great determination when he so desired—and he often was very determined. Even though, Ike was not very fast or as huge as Thorpe, Eisenhower could carry quite a few tacklers or barrel them over as he charged down field.

Anderson notes that Ike grew up in a town where his neighbors would tell stories of the wild days of Abilene, Kansas—two decades earlier--when gunslingers, cattle, brothel’s and saloons ran the streets of the city. The young Eisenhowers were mesmerized with first hand accounts of what the prairie boomtown was like when Wild Bill Hickock was the sheriff of the town (when Abilene was the original end of the line or railway head for the Chisholm trail coming out of Texas).

Eisenhower was obviously more gifted academically than was the Oklahoman, Jim Thorpe, however, he had several character flaws just as Thorpe did, and these were flaws which often got him into grave trouble or fights.

Abilene legends include the hour-long fist-fight he had with a bigger and older boy when he was just 13-years old. In short, as his mother warned him often, Ike needed to learn to not let anger control his actions or thoughts. After the Army loss to Carlisle, in which Cadet Eisenhower severely injured his knee for the first time, Ike would become very depressed and do several things that almost ended his military career before it got started. For example, despite being told by doctors that he should not ride a horse, Ike not only rode a dangerous horse but jumped off the horse. This jump-off a horse on an already-bad knee effectively ended his football career in late 1912.

Thorpe had only done such a dangerous jump after being basically called slacker by the officer in charge of the horses. The pride and anger in Eisenhower was such that he felt that he had to stand up to the challenge. However, in his rage that day, Ike had ignored all the retreats of fellow cadets to back off.

The depression that followed this loss of his sporting ability almost led the young Eisenhower to leave West Point later the following spring. Later, near the end of his time at West Point the future commander of U.S. Armed Forces in Europe and later the two-term President of the USA needed to receive fudged results of his physical to be allowed to continue in the military. (The West Point doctor knew Eisenhower, his health, and character well enough. The doctor, however, ignored the army regulations and despite the weak knee allowed Ike to continue his military career in 1915.)

The fact is that Ike’s injury in the Carlisle and Army Game of the Century occurred because young Ike was out of control and trying to undertake too much. That is, he was seeking to take on the Greatest Athlete in the World in the second half of that game. On that game day, Ike was so angry and desiring so badly to win the game at all cost that he and his peers tried to hit, knock, or tackle Jim Thorpe so hard that Thorpe would have to leave the game. However, eventually it was Ike who ended up having a severe injury on the gridiron.

This is how it happened.

Ike and another football playing cadet twice intentionally tried to injure Thorpe. In the first tackle they were partially successful—leaving Thorpe looking a bit dazed after the hardest hit of the day.

However, a few minutes later when Ike and his comrade on the field once again tried the same double hit on Thorpe, Thorpe simply juked them both. Juke stopped and then shifted. This led the two Army players to hit each other so hard that they both were immediately sidelined—Eisenhower for the rest of the game—while Thorpe continued running down field.


Anderson called Eisenhower the “Huge Kansan” because Ike played like a giant and was considered the most hard-working player the Army coach had ever seen.

Unlike Thorpe, though, Ike got his life back on track a year later. Ike would never play football again but he became a greater leader after that. He volunteered in 1913 to lead Army fans in cheers. At the same time, Ike also learned to lead men as he became a coach for the junior varsity for the cadets of West Point’s Cullum Hall.

Lars Anderson, without stating so specifically in his narration, reveals that there were, in fact, a lot of similarities between Thorpe and Eisenhower. For example, they both came from large families and learned to fight and do various sports on the plains in Kansas. (Thorpe was attending Haskall Indian College in Lawrence, Kansas when he first learned to play football.) The two also both played minor league baseball before returning to their first loves: football
This fact concerning how they both major American figures of the 20th Century had had semi-professional baseball stints is where the key differences between the two men’s lives are also to be found.

The young Eisenhower cheated—as many players did in that era. Eisenhower played under the name “Wilson” while Thorpe played under his own name.

The point is Eisenhower had more adult counsel and American cultural information than Thorpe had about how to succeed in a white man’s world.

Eisenhower knew that if he wanted to play college football some day, he would have to protect his identity. Thorpe, who had grown up part of the time as either a ward for the state at Indian schools (in Oklahoma, Kansas and Pennsylvania), motherless, or simply dropping out of school before heading often out to rural Oklahoma again-and-again, never fully comprehending until after the scandal of his professional status hit the nation’s newspapers in the winter of 1912-1913 that he had done anything wrong by accepting money to play baseball (before running in the decathlon and the pentathlon at the Olympics in Europe).

In short, although Thorpe had not always demonstrated the best judgment in trying to make his own way in the world—i.e. leaving Carlisle for two years and playing baseball over the objections and the opinions of his coach, his teammates, the state, or the American cultural icons of his era. Nonetheless, Thorpe had never intended to break certain rules and bring dishonor to himself or his people while he played semi-professional baseball. He had seen it as simply a way of earning money at doing what he loved sport while trying to figure out what to do with his life in a fast changing America, which was never quite his home.

In any case, as anyone knows today (and it was already true for Pop Warner’s Carlisle sports squads) in America college athletes get paid either (a) under the table, (b) through scholarships, (c) aid from booster associations, or (d) indirectly in other ways to play sports.

This was already a very confusing fact about college sports life and boosterism at Carlisle in Thorpe’s time their under Pop Warner. For a young poor superstar Native American from the prairies to have comprehended in 1910 or 1911 that accepting any money for playing sports would bring disgrace to him, his teams, and his peoples would have taken tremendous insight.

In short, as Pop Warner would say about the American Press and politicians who closed down Carlisle Indian School less than four years after Jim Thorpe left the school, there were people in America who were out to get the Indians at every turn. The system was not set up to be fair too all.


I certainly recommend Lars Anderson’s narration. It does a good job of telling and intertwining three, four or more major histories simultaneously in one work.

There have been books, for example, about Eisenhower—as leader, general and president. There have also been many books about Thorpe and Pop Warner over the decades. However, never before has a book tried to tie together the lives of these three individuals so well.

Anderson shows how these three individuals’ lives came together on a single field on a single date in time. By placing the shadow of Wounded Knee over this narration of a football match between Army and Carlisle, Anderson does a great service to the American reading public by indicating how history needs to be told.

Good history writing must be broad enough to:

(1) Link the past with modernity.
(2) Connect dots in a way that dots have not been connected before.
(3) Fill in the blanks where previous narrators have trod but not extended their research..
(4) Introduce new sources that extend the research presented by prior good scholarship.
(5) Provide either an example of how the past fits into the future or indicate where future researchers need to go to find out more about the past

It is only on the second and fifth point that Anderson seems to occasionally falter often. For example, I have noted above that Anderson was reticent to explicitly note that Eisenhower was favored by both knowledge of culture, historical context, personality, personal connections, and race in his day. This is in contrast to Thorpe, who represented Native American peoples whom were mistreated in fact and fiction of the day. (Eisenhower’s connection were cultivated over time. He was not born into wealth and connections as some recent U.S. presidents were. Interestingly, though, Ike’s older brother Arthur once shared an apartment with Harry S. Truman in Kansas City, but such connections never led to a presidency for Eisenhower. It was his leadership that got him there.)

Many other players played semi-professional sports or baseball under assumed names throughout the 20th Cetnury, but it would be Thorpe who would have his name, reputation, and Olympic medals mistreated for decades. Moreover, it would be Jim Thorpe and Carlisle who would suffer for the success of their training and for their somewhat poor indoctrination into the sports world at the turn of the century.

By 1917, Carlisle would be closed by the U.S. government and turned over to the Army to open as a hospital for U.S. troops coming home from WWI. Meanwhile, Caucasian Warner would get a slap on the wrist by the media world and went on to get for national titles coaching for Pittsburgh State.

On the other hand, the Greatest Athlete in the World would get little respect and advice from a society which continued to try to force Indians to either assimilate, go on a reservation, or die throughout the first half of the 20th Century.

It would have been helpful if Anderson had indicated what institutions one might turn to in order to further help Native Americans make their way in a Caucasian dominated world. All of us need to donate money, time and service to help integrate and empower the many native peoples who are still marginalized in the USA. My family has donated money to Indian missions and projects for decades. I would like to do more and see more done—especially by successful Native Americans in the area of creating awareness of continuing needs in Native American communities, too.

My mom just sent a check upon her return from the hospital with her new Triathlon knee to the St. Labre Indian School in Montana. Looking on-line, I see that there is a Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma that helps Native American Athletes. That appears to be a great cause to support. I’ve donated to Hopi and Navaho projects through the Mennonite Central Committee and Quakers. Look around America! See what can be done and do it!

On the hand, I would certainly recommend the book by Lars Anderson on CARLISLE VS. ARMY. It is a good read and could certainly be used in ethnic studies programs and American studies programs around the world. I’m sure that Bedouins and marginalized peoples around the world have similar tales to tell. These should be encouraged, collected and published.


Anderson, Lars, CARLISLE vs. ARMY: Jim Thorpe. Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football’s Greatest Battle , New York: Random House, 2007.

Jim Thorpe Association,

New Narratives in Olympic Sports,

Sunday, October 07, 2007



By Kevin A. Stoda

A month ago, I was rereading Douglas Jacoby’s THE GOD WHO DARED: Genesis—from Creation to Babel (1997). When I came to the final chapter, I was astounded to find the appearance of the sort of code language shared so often by FOX News, Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson and others who have blindly supported the rightwing and conservative-Christian marriage which ultimately led to the Neo-Con takeover of the White House in the early part of this century—and all the related endless wars plus helping jumpstart a further growing division between rich and poor in America.

I had been planning to share Jacoby’s 1997 book (and to discuss its contents) with a young Christian from India at my own church who at that time was studying the book of Genesis in his own free time.

However, disturbed by the consistent usage of particular phrases by Jacoby in his chapter of that book, entitled “The Infernal Tower: Babel and Beyond”, I determined not to share that book with the young non-USA Christian.

I had found the phraseology in that chapter (and to some degree in some earlier chapters of Jacoby’s book) to be so objectionable that I had quickly decided I would write a blog about the terminology and code language used.

Happily, a good friend persuaded me to contact Douglas Jacoby at his own website on-line and ask him whether Jacoby now (ten years later) regretted a lot of his word choices in that ultimate chapter of that study of Genesis.

Hoping to provoke an on-line discussion about the usage and abuse of certain language which had led to very poor politics lived out by many mainstream American and right wing Christians over the last 3 to 4 decades, I wrote Jacoby as follows on his discussion board:

“In the chapter called THE INFERNAL TOWER in Jacoby's THE GOD WHO DARED (1997), the author's tone of voice and word choice moves away from his approximately 90% balanced narration—i.e. used in most parts of his work on Genesis--to one verging on "Neo-conservative Right-wing ultra stubborn Christian Culture War style" of writing—i.e. more common to Dobson and Robertson. In this final chapter Jacoby spends considerable time and uses numerous narration techniques calling the folks at Babylon "liberal humanists". Would he like to rewrite the chapter? The author seemed to be implying to conservatives Christians who believe in the God of Capitalism that it is OK to invade a sovereign country and try and rebuild a regime in their image. If the author had a chance to reword the chapter, would he?-Kevin”

Within one or two minutes, I received the following e-mail reply from Douglas Jacoby himself:

“Politically I am on the exact opposite end of this interpretation!

Anyway, the book is out of print. The 2004 GENESIS, SCIENCE, & HISTORY
is similar (included 33% of original book and another 33% rewritten)
but not quite the same. So maybe make suggestions based on GSH

Thanks for writing

BTW, you have completely misread me. Please search the website and you
will see that I am not your typical right wing Christian! Far from it.

Best wishes

Next, I asked Jacoby to send me a copy of his newer book on Genesis, and for the subsequent two weeks I have continued to ponder whether or not to bring this matter of “language choice” in Christian bible studies to either an article- or blog format, i.e. in order to invite further reflection and discussion about who audiences are and what they might read into certain code words or catch phrases which have a tendency to pander to a particular political-economic narration of the world and the Word.


Being an evangelical Christian who lives in the Middle East and tolerates the evangelisms of Muslims and other theists sharing the country and planet with me, I have tried to live out in words and life the beliefs I have about how to make the world a better place for the old and the young. Previously, I have also worked in the country of Japan where both Shintoism and Buddhism have held sway for far longer than Christians (or many Christian ideals)--who first approached that island state’s shores less than 500 years ago for the first time.

It strengthens one’s self identity in many ways to either (1) live abroad or (2) live as a minority in any land.

This is why Americans or Brits living overseas often hang out with each other and identify memories and traditions more clearly as part of their heritage when living far from their friends, family, and other fragments of familiarity. Similarly, Muslims or Buddhists who move to the U.S. or Europe in some cases over time take on clearer cultural and religious identities than they manifested when living in the land of their birth.

For example, I know of several Palestinian and Turkish women who started to wear headscarves or other traditional coverings of their native lands only after they had lived in the U.S. or Europe for a number of years. Similarly, some people who are not strongly religious at home begin to seek our support groups among peoples of their own or of other faiths while living abroad.

Living abroad, one often finds many opportunities to clarify who one is and what one believes (is more important). In short, distance in both place and time can become either empowering or a divisive force to one’s sense of self or identity.

I recall feeling irritated one day back in 1994 when upon my arrival for a weekend of church service in Tokoyama, Japan, the wife of a pastor from California reported in one of our discussions, “Oh, I sometimes feel so outraged to see the large Buddhist statues and Shinto shrines all over town!”

I could tell that from her evangelizing background she felt called to denounce the “false Gods” of Shintoism and the statues of Buddha encircling and enveloping her life lived out in Japan.

Admittedly, I had occasionally felt such anger or moral outrage in my life about certain forms of cultural and economic worship, but I have seldom directed such anger towards images of religious themes or figures—regardless of the official religion or faith being discussed.

I replied to the preacher’s wife and questioned, “I feel the same way sometimes when I look across cityscapes in my homeland. Just look at the towers built encircling our urban landscapes as the 20th Century comes to an end! Many of them are constructed to commemorate insurance companies, finance offices or banks, and even world trade--or the Sears & Roebuck Company. Did you ever feel such a sense of condemnation back in San Francisco or some other part of the USA?”

I added, “It makes me shiver to think how man’s vision of mammon is manifested in the great construction projects of every age—but particularly in the engineering feats of this age.”

I recall how my history professors had made clear that every age is exemplified by the architecture it places at the hearts of its cities and among its connected rural landscape. In Roman times there was the coliseum, the pantheon, temples to a variety of gods, heated bath houses, and magnificence aqueducts. In the Middle Ages, the Cathedral dominated the landscape of cultures across Europe. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, minarets, mosques, madressas (schools), fountains, and waterwheels dominated.

In the 19th Century, factory chimneys reached to the sky and the train station and railroad lines became the focus of city planning and architecture.

By the late 20th Century tallskyscrapers, huge sporting complexes, and interstate highways dominated America’s design landscape. In the meantime, the military industrial complex had not only sent spacecraft far from the Planet Earth. Amazing new stealth technology and robotic devices came to dominate America’s place in the world as the 3rd Millennium started, and worshippers of USA’s warrior technology spent billions—of other people’s money—to try and build a new American Empire.

It is no coincidence that the World Trade Tower buildings in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia were the targets on September 11, 2001 for a people named Al-Quaeda—a people who were intent on rolling back most of recent world history.

In short, some people—like me—look at what kind of world is being worshipped by our wealth and mammon each year, and they see red!

This anger is misdirected, of course, but one cannot deny that images made by man can become the focus of our rage at a world—a world that is not on a good course to ensure the lives and security of our children and coming generations.

Many of us who marched against the nuclear arms races in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s felt that missile envy (and abuse of our financial resources on war) was a the root of great evil in our world. This was true whether one was a religious person or a so-called agnostic humanist. By the way, humanism was one way an agnostic (or someone who was dissatisfied with dysfunctional Christian practices) could find a voice against those who blindly took from Paul and Peter to pay an unending amount of tax dollars on John Doe Defense.

In the 1960s, this trend towards rejecting the religiosity of one’s elders or the elder generations’ manifestations of faiths was a reflection of the great discomfort a young generation felt at the shallow choices between a world at war and an international cold war. People were told that through supporting consumerism and the “American Way”, the world could conquer totalitarian communism. (This is not dissimilar to Bush’s request that Americans go shopping after the WT Towers were bombed in autumn 2001.) The objective through the 1950s was spend, spend, spend. A promise was made or implied—everyone could attain a middle class lifestyle! Everyone could enjoy a day a Disneyland. Everyone could enjoy the American dream of home and lifestyle.

Despite the near financial collapses of the 1970s and 1980s in the USA, the strange polygamist marriage between capitalism, right wing conservative religionists and the world’s largest military industrial complex continued to blossom.

This is where America found itself in the 1990s—i.e. with no evil empire in sight and with no apparent need for the post-1945 marriage of religion and capitalism to continue!

This feared loss of a long-term oversea’s enemy was one reason why—as early as the 1960s—a sort of culture war was promoted in the American landscape. This led to a growing division among Christians over the next few decades. It also led to a blind alliance between the so-called religious right and the new Republican party in the post-Vietnam era.

The subsequent battles in this period oversaw a born-again Christian Baptist, Jimmy Carter, called a non-Christian by the new right or so-called “Moral Majority” in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan, simply followed or continued to follow (the truly fairly conservative) Carter’s 1979-1981 arms buildup, but Reagan took all the credit by using “God’s” name in connection with the “American Dream” more often than had any of his immediate post-WWII “so-called humanist” predecessors.


Douglas Jacoby, in the Spirit of 1980s and 1990s CBN religious phraseology, begins his final chapter on the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) by describing what the world looked like in the time of Babel—just a few short generations after Noah and the Great Deluge:

“The spirit of gratitude after the rescue from the flood gave way in time to a self-assured and humanistic outlook on life.[Italics mine] Mankind lost gratitude and became grasping. At Babel he grabbed for the same thing he was really grabbing in Eden; personal autonomy, ‘freedom,’ the right to be master of his own destiny.”[p.153]

Jacoby continues his narration by noting that in Gen. 11:2 the Babylonian city of Shinar is mentioned as the location of Babel. Jacoby states, “Unity is a good thing, provided those unified are good people. But this was hardly the situation at Shinar.”[p.154]

It should be noted that in this chapter (and in my online communication with Jacoby), the author had had ample time to indicate that not only humanists—like those in the states of the former Soviet Empire—had had the ability to be unified and in error before God, but so did Christians who align themselves with one political party or in another in the name of unity.

Yet, not once does Jacoby clearly point this fact out to his 1990s’ audience in any straight forward manner.

First, Jacoby notes, “Man had a plan. He had superior construction techniques. Still on the run from God, he wished for security. The Tower of Babel was nothing more than man’s monument to his own ego.” [p. 154]

I respond, “Security? Wasn’t that the reason the U.S is now in several foreign wars simultaneously? How can we talk about Babel or Iraq today and not see a connection to the Homefront?”

As (1) I was living in Kuwait while reading this particular passage last month and because (2) the region where Babel was reported to be is only a few hours drive north of where I was living, I began to think of the Bush and Cheney leadership which captured the USA state department in 2001 from the democratic party--a supposedly more humanist American regime.

I thought about the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld plan to take over Babel or Babylon from Sadam Hussain’s regime. I realized clearly what happens when men have plans and are seeking security. I thought, “The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was nothing more than a coalition of men building a monument to their own egos.”

Nonetheless, in the 1990s when Jacoby published this particular Bible study on Genesis, he attempts to keep his finger clearly only in the direction of humanists. Is that a responsible way to narrate when already the country is overrun with such hyperbole?

Jacoby writes, “What was so dangerous about the brewing situation that God had to ‘come down’ and act so dramatically? What sort of citizen was being produced in Shinar?” [p. 155]

Jacoby answers his own questions with these replies concerning the characters of these people of Babel. Babel was for the:

(1) Haughty (Ezekiel 16:50), humanistic, “liberal” thinkers who flatter themselves ‘too much to detect or hate’ their own sin ((Psalm 36:2).”
(2) Men and women who commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong (Psalm 36:4).
(3) “Guilty men, whose own strength is their god” (Habakkuk 1:11).
(4) It’s a city where people sacrifice family for money, where lust is confused with love, where weekends and vacations are lived for self, where everyone is too busy for “religion”. [p.155]

Even though, all four of these statements appear to describe the approach Americans have witnessed to governance by the Republican Neo-Con clan since 2001, the author Jacoby painfully used jargon pre-W. Bush American Christians in writing, “We too must watch ourselves lest we become too humanistic.”[p. 155]

Why did Jacoby repeatedly state that the enemy at Babel was “humanism”? Was he trying to please a certain faction of Christianity? I hope not, but that is the way it appears looking back ten years later and after Jacoby wrote much more critical pieces in other areas of research, critical essays, and discussion. On the other hand, perhaps 1990s America had hoodwinked Jacoby into misreading the muse of history and the spirit of biblical narration.

Jacoby called Babel the place of “The Infernal Tower”. That means it is a place of the damned—kind of like many now living, fighting, struggling, and dying in Iraq and other wars.

Jacoby warned readers, “Babel was the infernal tower. Its ego was inflated so large that its field of vision was totally blocked; it did not see God, arms outstretched, pleading. In unmitigated pride it embodied the spirit of the age, having forgotten the truth about the past and refusing to consider the truth about the future. It promised everything, but delivered nothing. In pretense it reached towards the heavens, but its true foundations were in hell.” [p. 158]

By the time I had read these lines summing up what the story of Babel and its tower meant to Ibrahamic Faiths, I could see that in the first decade of the 21st century those words written by Jacoby (a decade earlier)and the projects and plans of men in Babylon today now pointed the finger of Babylonian witness at the strange coalition of Christians who considered humanism the enemy—rather than the follies against God and against the will of God or the desires of God for man as the really of their faiths.

These Christians had agreed to blind themselves to the facts on the ground which showed that the plans of the Neo-cons and others in the executive branch leadership did not serve either the will of God nor the American people. The crimes against humanity done in their name should call all involved to search their souls and to end the pretense of the enemy as being (1) someone who hates America or the enemy being someone (2) who is humanist.

The enemy is found sometimes in the sort of unity we seek with and in groupings with others.

Do we ignore God’s out-stretched arms to build a better world for current and subsequent generations? Or do we ignore his commands to do it on our own? I.e. Do we serve ourselves and undertake big projects and wars on behalf of God?--Or simply for mammon, fame, so-called security, and profit?


To be fair to Douglas Jacoby, he does ask many of the right questions in 1997 when he wrote this particular study of Genesis. Jacoby asks his students:

(1) Do we hunger for honor and recognition? Do we seek to make a name
for ourselves?
(2) Are we easily flattered? Do we feel ourselves influenced by
the “sophisticated”?
(3) Do we cringe when someone else gets credit for something we have done?
(4) Are we more likely to follow God’s commandments when others are watching?
(5) Are we more impressed with degrees and qualifications or character and
(6) Are we more impressed by who somebody knows or what he knows?
(7) Which do we know more thoroughly: radio song lyrics and sports stats or
the Word?
(8) Are we false optimists? Confident the future will be better because
we have ‘plans”?
(9) Do we seek security in neat systems? Or in our relationship with god?
(10) Is God our “tower”—the biggest, most exciting, most impressive part
of our lives? [p. 157-8]

There were too many Christians claiming that those who opposed and marched against the shameless takeover of Iraq in 2003 “were drinking Saddam’s cool-aid”. What a horrible thing to say about your brothers and sisters in Christ seeking the best for your soul and America’s soul—as well as for the children and mothers of so many since-dead in Iraq.

Jacoby in his footnotes also asks, “What about our ideological or political arrogance? Did we ever think totalitarianism was a good idea? ‘Enlightened’ leaders making all the important decisions for the people who, after all, are just ‘children’?”

From my perspective, too many Christians—including too many in my own church—began to get Milton Friedman Capitalism and Pat Robertson Christianity confused with a living faith that involves fighting political and ideological ignorance.

This lack of will to call Christian leaders and others to account when they rage on-and-on about foreign- or humanist dangers but lead a whole country, people and political-economy to war-without-end MUST STOP NOW!

It should have stopped decades ago.

But, too many good Christians in America and in Europe were silent and let others define Christianity and living faith for them. The same has happened over the centuries in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean we all need to do what John Doe Babel does.


International Teaching Ministry of Douglas Jacoby,

Jacoby, Douglas. THE GOD WHO DARED—Genesis: From Creation to Babel, Woburn, MA: DPI, 1997.