Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Legal schmegal.

My relative has a company; I give money to charity earmarked for his company, taking a tax write-off and saving him the tax burden of this gift over $10,000. Legal?

I have a non-profit, and raise more than three million clams. A third goes to my close associate. Legal?

A Short List

Here's a random short list of items I wish to source:

Half of your tax dollars go toward the military. The budget shows roughly a quarter per dollar, but this excludes the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons research budget, and the interest on debt from past purchases on military hardware.

Ultra-sound overdoses. Swedish boys are a third more likely to be left-handed after ultrasound exposure in vivo. What are the reasons for having an ultrasound, anyway? If you are anti abortion, the list is extremely narrow, like the number of fetuses (feata?) and the placement of the placenta. An ultrasound does affect the cells it encounters. Tiny bubbles in the developing brain can affect neurological development. A beam head steadily on the spine for thirty seconds measureably increases the bone's temperature.

Partially hydrogenated oils increase heart-attach death dramatically. Harvard's Dr. Willet and the two-percent increase leading to a 93 percent increase in heart attack fatality chances.

Biodiesel claims and myths. Farming algae is an approach to a sane energy future?

And, as they say, much, much more.

Juan Cole Honored

And not a moment too soon. Kudos to Hunter College for giving cred to where it belongs. Prof. Cole's site www.informedcomment.com should be on everyone's short list.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Oregonian's Julie Sullivan earns a Joe Galloway or Pulitzer Award

Wounded lives

After three years of war, many who served in Iraq are returning home to face a different kind of battle. And the casualties this time are American families.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
JULIE SULLIVAN
The Oregonian
The Fourth of July had fizzled into a tense fifth at the tidy two-story Hillsboro home. Outside, water shimmered blue in the backyard pool and bicycles lay on the lawn. Inside, William R. Stout Jr.stepped toward his wife.

"Give me the gun," he demanded.

Thirteen-year-old Samantha Stout pushed between her parents. Sam was petite for her age, but her voice was strong. "Dad," she said, "stop it!"

"Dad and I are just trying to talk," Wendy Stout recalls saying. "Go into the other room."

"I just want to clean my gun," police reported the father of two saying. He'd started with a beer that summer evening and then moved on to four tumblers of Jack Daniel's and Coke. Then he demanded his 9 mm Makarov.

"It's not here, Bill," Wendy recalls saying. The relief that the 40-year-old woman felt at having her husband return from Iraq nine months earlier had dissolved in his dark moods and the growing realization that he could hurt himself. Wendy was worried enough to have taken Bill's old pistol from its bedroom hiding place, wrapped it in a plastic bag and shoved it under the back deck.

"Give me the gun," he barked again. He smacked the electric fan, sending it skittering across the floor. Sammy's little sister, Maggie, 10, started to cry. Their dad never hit anyone or anything.

Suddenly, Bill grabbed his wife's left wrist. The girls screamed.

Wendy snatched the telephone, dialing 9-1-1 and crying out for help "Now!" Minutes later, Hillsboro police pounded across the freshly stained porch to the front door.

Bill slammed out the back. The Oregon Army National Guardsman limped across the large and well-used backyard. He passed the girls' tiny playhouse and his prized garden of tomatoes, beans and corn, now weed-choked and abandoned. He headed to his motorcycle shed as he had every summer day since returning from Iraq, barricading himself behind a wall of head-busting heavy metal music and the stale smell of alcohol.

As police officers stood before the barbecue grill and lawn chairs, Bill "appeared to be in a trance and remembering the events in Iraq." He didn't want to be ambushed, they said in their official report, by them -- or the Iraqis. Then, as police watched, Sgt. Stout pulled out his cell phone and called in help.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vince" Jacques of the Oregon Army National Guard heard the phone and knew any call that late was important. He picked up.

The two men were an unlikely pair to call each other "brothers." Jacques was nearly 8 inches taller and 80 pounds heavier than Stout. He'd served as a paratrooper in the Persian Gulf War and a platoon sergeant in the current Iraq war. He left a Baghdad hospital with a Purple Heart for his wounds and a Bronze Star for his meritorious service. But his real distinction was how he cared for his men. And Stout was his man, his own "Jack Russell terrier," as Jacques called him, the go-to, gung-ho team leader counted on to blast through a dangerous door first.

When a bomb powerful enough to wreck an M1 tank exploded under Jacques' armored Humvee a year earlier, it was Stout who leapt into the twisted wreckage and, under fire, pulled his platoon leader and a critically injured gunner free.

The Hillsboro police officers waited as Sgt. Stout circled the yard, talking on the cell phone. On his left arm, his wife's name, "Wendy," was clearly tattooed as a ribbon around a small, vibrant red heart. On his right arm was the title of a Metallica rock anthem to American infantrymen: "Disposable Heroes."

He wanted the gun, he finally told an officer, because it made him feel safe. "You don't know what happened in Iraq," he said, growing agitated. Police moved in with handcuffs. Then Bill Stout, the father who sent flowers to his daughters' classrooms every Valentine's Day, the stand-up neighbor and gentle husband, was booked on two counts of felony assault.

Wendy Stout cried at Hallmark commercials, but she watched dry-eyed as police led her husband past her. "Don't look," she recalls saying to her daughters.

But Samantha and her sister could not help themselves. Maggie's anguish carried across the green grass as the strongest man in their world hunched in the patrol car.

"Daddy is crying," she sobbed. "Daddy is crying."

The hippie and the Marine

Twenty months earlier, Wendy and her daughters walked into the only military event they'd ever attended: the 41st Brigade's deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nearly 700 soldiers and twice as many relatives had filed into the fairgrounds in Eugene for the 2-162's sendoff. The Stout daughters had gone Army for the occasion, too: Wendy bought Maggie a new camouflage skirt and Sammy a camo dress.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski warned of hardship ahead. "One parent now has the child-rearing responsibilities of two parents. . . . One bond now must hold together two people over great time and distance. No one should underestimate what you and your loved ones are giving up."

From her seat behind the soldiers, Wendy watched her husband, so sharp in his camouflage uniform and black beret.

They had fallen in love laughing. Both had graduated from Aloha High School in Beaverton, where Bill arrived as a junior in the class ahead of Wendy's. His father was a commissioned Air Force officer who put in 36 years of active duty, including in Korea and Vietnam, before retiring to Oregon. Bill called him "Sir."

But after high school, and over his father's worries, Bill chose the Marines. "I saw the commercials and -- Bam! -- I was there," he recalls. He loved the intensity of the Corps, the ground-shaking booms of artillery and especially the camaraderie. But he failed to get into air-assault training, which dashed his hopes for a career in the Corps. So he finished his four-year enlistment and returned to civilian life.

The first woman he called was Wendy.

With long, golden-brown hair and a natural glow, Wendy was as laid-back as Bill was full-throttle. Her mother was an interior designer, and her stepfather ran a wine shop. She hated shoes. Bill called her his hippie girl; she called Bill her Marine. He loved skydiving, racing motorcycles and driving his Camaro fast, sometimes after drinking. But Wendy saw through the thrill-seeking to a sensitive side. Bill penned tender love notes, sang Steve Perry songs and proposed on bended knee. "He was everything I wanted in a man." Wendy would later say.

They married in the landmark Old Church in downtown Portland. Two years later, they had Samantha Paige, athletic and strong-willed like her dad, and two years after that, Maggie May, smart but more reserved. Adopted as infants themselves, the Stouts cherished starting a family of their own. Wendy's dream was to stay with her children, and Bill made it possible. He worked up from mechanic to assistant manager at a Les Schwab Tire Center in Hillsboro, raced motocross and attracted buddies like newspapers -- one was always waiting on the porch or the couch.

But Wendy was his best friend. Visitors remarked on how well they got along. They passed through tough times, too. Bill, ground down by long hours, quit Les Schwab and didn't work for nearly a year.

Then Bill landed his dream job: He became a certified mechanic and then a crew chief for the Oregon Army National Guard's air-ambulance unit. The 1042nd Medical Company in Salem was best known for its Black Hawk helicopter rescues and firefighting. As a crew chief, Stout handled fuel reports, flight hazards and readiness. He operated a cable that lowered searchers looking for downed planes and combed geographic grids for missing persons. He loved the heart-thumping heights and the sense that he was helping others. Samantha told neighbors, "Daddy saves people."

But by mid-2003, the nightly news was filled with the hunt for Saddam Hussein and his sons. The Oregon Army National Guard had been alerted for duty. "I need to get over there," Bill recalls telling Wendy. "I should be there." E-mails and advertisements bombarded him: The Army needed soldiers. He was one.

Co-workers said they were "floored" that he'd leave his air unit to join ground troops in the infantry. "Once a grunt," Bill recalls saying, "always a grunt."

Wendy believed his sense of duty was as powerful as his love of action. He was his decorated father's son. "If Daddy is happy," she remembers telling the girls, "we're happy. We support each other." At the deployment, though, the gravity of his decision overwhelmed Wendy. Soldiers from 140 towns in Oregon, Southwest Washington and Northern California stood row after row. Nationally, nearly half the Guard are married; 41 percent have children. But many others were single and young enough to be Bill's sons. Such as Ken Leisten Jr., 19, a computer-loving Guard clerk who switched units to volunteer for Iraq. And Ben Ring, 18, a devout Lutheran who'd been home-schooled. All would leave for Fort Hood, Texas, the next morning for five months of training. And then to war.

Wendy looked at the wives and girlfriends around her, stunned that anyone could be smiling and clapping. She wept.

Family man at war

"Sergeant Jacques is hit," the gunner shrieked.

At the sound of the blast, Stout's Humvee whipped around and headed back toward the armored vehicle, crumpled by an improvised explosive device on a broken road near Taji. Burning metal fell from the sky.

Stout was a seasoned buck sergeant by July 28, 2004, sandblasted lean by the foot-deep dust, exploding mortars and an enemy who appeared to be everywhere and nowhere obvious. Twenty pounds had fallen from his trim frame. Photos show him squinting in the desert sun, his nose and cheeks sunburned red.

The "weekend warriors" of Bravo Company were led by so many former paratroopers and Rangers that the Corvallis-based unit was tapped to serve as a rapid-reaction force assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

The assignment sent the roughly 130 Bravo Company soldiers into the Sunni countryside more than 15 miles north of Baghdad, where support for Saddam was strong and the insurgency growing. The 2-7 was a storied unit that -- the Oregonians wryly noted -- had also followed George Armstrong Custer to the Little Big Horn.

Bravo was packed with old friends and four sets of brothers, but Stout fit in easily. At 40, he relished being graded against the 22-year-olds by day and hoisting a beer with them at night. In one final exercise, his four-man team cleared a room so ferociously that Army commanders raised concern about their excessive force. Jacques named them "the Hell Hounds."

The 2-162 officers considered Stout an excellent soldier, a role model. His men liked him because he didn't baby-sit. His chain-smoking toughness belied a genuine warmth. From Iraq, Bill wrote Wendy of his growing attachment, especially to his young team members, Spcs. Leisten, John Rosander and Ken Kaiser.

"I had to go take care of my other kids," he wrote Wendy and the girls. ". . . Make sure they clean their weapons, brush their teeth and shower -- just like at home!"

The men could talk for hours about guns, gear or whether Herbie the Love Bug of Stout's childhood could beat Kit, the "Knight Rider" car, of the young soldiers' era. But the story they all knew best -- of two gunslingers facing off and the fastest draw winning -- didn't happen in Iraq. Their first day at Taji, a mortar attack killed an Arkansas soldier and wounded Jacques' younger brother, Ryan Jacques Howell. Rockets hammered the base twice daily. One attack killed four Arkansas soldiers and wounded 20 others. Another attack dropped three rockets near Stout as he stood outside the PX reading a motocross magazine -- but they did not go off.

Outside the base, the risk of massive roadside bombs was "very high," said Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain, who commanded the Arkansas 39th Brigade at Taji. The danger and the carnage of war -- the men saw an Iraqi mother dying and a soldier badly burned -- only made Stout more protective of his men. When he couldn't go on patrol because he was sick, he wrote Wendy that if his team was harmed, "I would never forgive myself." Jacques recited the 91st Psalm, the prayer of protection, before every patrol. But Stout recited a promise: that he'd bring his boys back alive.

On July 28, their three Humvees left Camp Cooke at Taji for a 12-hour patrol. The slightest exercise in the 130-degree heat pooled perspiration beneath their fatigues. Toward midafternoon, the men entered a village where Iraqi contractors building a school had been killed. Jacques questioned a village leader, then realized the children were drinking untreated water. He gave the villagers eight cases of bottled water, handed a child a small flashlight and asked the medics to bandage a man's infected toe.

They pulled out of the village and had just turned south when Stout heard the blast.

At least five 155 mm artillery shells had exploded as the patrol passed, tossing Jacques' armored Humvee like a Tonka truck and dropping it on the driver's side, pointing backward. The first two Humvees immediately circled back, machine guns blasting.

Stout and the gunner fired at two cars speeding away. As they took small-arms fire, Stout leapt over an unexploded 155 mm shell on the road to reach the wreckage. Jacques hung upside down inside the mangled vehicle, his burned body peppered with shrapnel. Stout grabbed the big man's harness and yanked up on the nearly 300 pounds of man and equipment. But Jacques' feet were pinned. Sweating, swearing, Stout screamed until another soldier bent steel and boosted the sergeant so that Stout could lift him free.

The Army medic who'd been sitting behind the driver, sat in the road, his legs broken so bad they were nearly severed. Ring was still in his turret. Stout recalls grabbing the young gunner under the arms and pulling, falling backward to the ground with Ring on top of him. Dark blood soaked Ring's fatigues from his armpits to his knees -- he was bleeding to death. Spc. Marty Theurer, a McMinnville firefighter and paramedic in civilian life -- raced to cut through Ring's armor. Theurer found a small wound under Ring's right armpit, where shrapnel had severed nerves and a vein. He applied a pressure dressing and started an IV. Stout ran to resupply the gunner's ammunition.

"Where's Leisten?" the gunner, Rosander, screamed.

Stout and Theurer both ran. They spotted Leisten about 100 feet away. "Oh, no," Stout recalls screaming. "No."

Leisten had died instantly. Stout dropped to his knees to gather him in his arms, but Theurer stopped him. They pulled a poncho over the young soldier, anchoring it with rocks. Then two Black Hawks approached. Stout and the others hauled the wounded across the deeply rutted field to the helicopters. Jacques insisted on being loaded last. Eleven minutes later, the wounded men were delivered to a hospital in Baghdad. By then, Ring had lost more than five pints of blood.

Back at the scene of the attack, Theurer vomited. All were dangerously dehydrated. Stout felt an urge to cry and pushed it down. They still had to get out of the kill zone. But as the orders came to return to base, Stout said, "I'm not leaving Ken. He was my boy. I'm taking him with me."

He was adamant. Another Bravo platoon arrived to assist and recover Leisten's body. Theurer convinced Stout they could trust the platoon sergeant they both knew well. They had to leave as ordered, and Stout needed to guide his vehicle. Stout started to walk, knowing with each step that another bomb could explode.

They drove away and quickly approached Camp Cooke, their Humvee full of spent shells and blood, their ears ringing. Then Stout said to Theurer, "I can't feel my arms and legs."

"It's just the excitement," Theurer recalls saying. "It's the adrenaline."

But in the morning, Stout could not move. Lifting Jacques had compressed two discs in his back, chipped his vertebrae and cracked his pelvis. Returning to duty, doctors later said, would cause a paralyzing injury.

In the days ahead, Bravo Company would face the bloodiest days of its Iraq tour, including the transfer of authority to the Iraqis, the battles of Fallujah and Najaf, and the U.S. and Iraqi elections. For the soldiers still fighting, the task was clear. They had a duty, and they had one another. But the wounded such as Stout would never get to clean their weapons, find those responsible or finish the job they'd been sent to do.

They'd been banished to a terrible limbo between the living and the dead.

A soldier at home

The 2-162 returned to Fort Lewis on March 17, 2005, to thundering cheers, flags and a Rogue "Sunset Ale" specially brewed for the homecoming of a unit that traces its history back to Oregon's famed "Sunset Division."

Six months earlier, Bill had arrived at Portland International Airport alone. On Sept. 20, 2004, Wendy and the girls waited at the gate holding signs: "I love you Dad!" They threw themselves into his arms. Bill's absence had transformed their lives.

Her father had always taken Samantha to softball practices and games. With Bill gone, she quit. Maggie watched "Seinfeld" -- Bill's favorite program -- every day. Wendy helped with homework, attended parent-teacher conferences, organized birthday parties, mowed the lawn and washed Henry the dog. When the back porch collapsed after a snowstorm, she called Bill's best friend, who appeared that day with construction workers. When a driver hit her car, she took it to a body shop and arranged for a rental. Once a week, she and the girls packed a box for Bill with comedy DVDs, big-hair '80s rock band CDs and Gummi Bears.

He wrote Wendy and the girls every day, tender letters full of longing. "All I want to do is grow old with you," he quoted from a favorite love song.

But at the airport, Wendy barely recognized the man she once called her Marine. "He looked," she recalls, "broken."

She told herself time would bring her tough guy back. Bill underwent two surgeries that installed screws and a bone graft in his back to reduce pain. Sgt. Jacques visited and brought others. But the "Blasted Bastards," as the wounded soldiers called themselves, lived miles away around Corvallis.

In Hillsboro, Stout struggled. The man who'd packed his days with work, hobbies and friends could barely walk. No one came by. As his body healed, he felt out of sync, barking at the girls and Wendy. "We're not your boys," she teased.

But there were other behaviors that only later did she learn were classic markers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bill would stand before the television and yell at the newscasters, "People are dying. Nobody cares!" He fixated on war movies, watching "Saving Private Ryan" and dozens of others, in between flipping to the Military Channel. When customers arrived at a nearby business, he stood at the window, daring the drivers to park in front of the house so he could pick a fight. He lay awake at night, chain-smoking cigarettes, his ears ringing. When he finally did sleep, he flailed in the bed next to Wendy.

Then a physical exam revealed that Bill would probably never be fit to work with the air ambulance again -- he could remain in the Guard only in a limited-duty category. "I'm busted, Wendy," both he and his wife recall him saying. "I am completely broken. I'm completely done as a man."

He started drinking more, nursing a whiskey until he'd fall asleep on the couch. He closed himself off in his workshop. One day, he exploded at Sammy, and Wendy was horrified at the crumpled look on her eldest daughter's face.

"This girl worships you," she remembers telling him.

The girls asked Wendy why she ever married Bill.

"He wasn't like this," she recalls saying. "Don't you remember your dad?"

Wendy called the Oregon Army National Guard and reported that her husband needed help. The officer she talked to scheduled a psychiatric evaluation, then said it was a confidential matter between Bill and the provider. Bill agreed to go, but he returned so soon that Wendy never knew if he'd kept the appointment.

Desperate for advice, Wendy went to her father, a Marine. He told her to stand by Bill.

"I don't think he wants me to," Wendy recalls admitting. The lover who once bought her lingerie and called her the most beautiful girl in the world -- even after she gained weight during her pregnancies -- disappeared. There was no more laughing, no easy silences, no holding hands. She cried all the time.

Wendy stopped calling her family and her best friend, fearful they'd hold whatever she disclosed against her husband. She went to her doctor, who prescribed antidepressants, medication for high blood pressure and sleeping pills. For the first time, Wendy questioned investing so much of her life in Bill Stout. Finally, she started avoiding home altogether, taking the girls to the beach or shopping.

When Bill asked for his gun that July 5, she knew he was in a mood to hurt himself.

She did not know that Bill was thinking of a young man who died before he'd ever met a girl to marry, who'd never have a child, go to college as he'd dreamed of doing or even become a legal adult.

July 5 was Ken Leisten's 21st birthday.

The morning after the arrest, a horrified Samantha came to Wendy with her dad's notebook. Inside, past Bill's list of household chores, his careful writing covered three pages.

"I am William R. Stout Jr. I am a proud former Marine and a combat vet of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I have always been hard-working and determined. . . . I learned only the best traits from my one and only father, Lt. Col. William R. Stout Sr., the greatest man I have ever known. I feel I have done some great things in my life because of how he taught me. I have experienced honor, bravery, courage, how to stand in combat, fight back standing and saving my wounded brothers. I am proud of every Marine and Oregon National Guardsman I've known. They are the finest people on Earth and no one will ever know this except people like them and myself who have been there.

I used to feel normal. Since I've been to Iraq, and seen and done the things I did, PTSD has taken control of me. I can't be happy anymore. I can't stop the nightmares of losing Ken. It drives me crazy, thinking about it. I haven't slept for months, my stomach is always upset. No matter how hard I've tried, nothing goes right with my family. I can't put it together. I am always angry. I have to force myself to be social in any way. I hate myself and life now. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get it together. The calm ways of this life are making me crazy. I feel like I always have to be going 120 mph. I feel like I should constantly be in a firefight. Even with medication the doctor has given me, I feel like I can't control myself anymore."

Wendy turned the pages. Bill had written that he planned to put on his uniform and, with an unloaded gun, get into a confrontation with police that would end his life.

"I want no one hurt," he wrote. "No demands." Then he changed his mind.

"I want the soldiers to come home."

Wendy dialed the Hillsboro police. "He has never done anything violent. He needs mental health treatment," Wendy told anyone who would listen. When officers came to investigate, she resisted surrendering the notebook. She wanted Bill to get into a hospital.

Instead, a Washington County circuit judge boosted bail from $10,000 to $500,000. The National Guard, Wendy learned, considered Bill absent without leave and cut off his pay. He faced up to five years in prison.

"They broke him," she said. "Then they threw him away."

He had truly become a disposable hero.

Brothers rally around

The morning after the arrest, Sgt. Jacques called Wendy promising help. Haunted by survivor guilt, physical pain and his own enforced inactivity since his return, Jacques and two other wounded soldiers had devoted themselves to making others' homecomings easier. The Blasted Bastards worked to get returning vets medical care, jobs and housing. But Jacques also knew he owed a powerful debt to Bill Stout. He went to work.

Jacques called his superiors at the Oregon Guard, who told him to do whatever it took to help Stout and restore his pay. Then, Jacques called military historian John Bruning, who had grown close to Stout while researching a book on the 2-162 campaign in Iraq.

When Bill appeared in a Washington County courtroom in an orange jail jumpsuit a week after his arrest, Bruning joined Jacques on a courtroom bench packed with Oregon Army National Guard members in uniform. They watched the proceedings, then raised their hands in silent salute.

Bruning used his connections to reach Terrance Hall, a Hillsboro attorney who agreed to take the case pro bono. On July 19, two weeks after Bill was arrested, a Washington County judge released Bill to Jacques, who contacted the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center psychologist to arrange treatment.

Jacques drove him to the post-traumatic stress disorder unit at the Seattle VA hospital. Bruning accompanied them, watching as the two men embraced before Bill disappeared into the hospital, where he would undergo a psychiatric evaluation and therapy. In Bill's first class, a Vietnam veteran spoke of feeling anxious, of boiling inside and reliving the worst moments of his life, like a movie he couldn't stop or rewind. "It was exactly what I was feeling," Bill recalls. When he heard the story, he put his head in his hands and cried.

At home, friends urged Wendy to file for divorce. A relative advised her to check into a shelter and get a job. The more she worried over what to do, the more Samantha and Maggie drew close to their mother. They stopped talking back, cleaned the house and hovered protectively over her.

Bill's progress at the hospital was rapid and marked. Within five days, he was elected a leader of the ward, in charge of welcoming others. Sober and talking, he saw how isolation and alcohol fed his anxiety and grief. He learned that genetics determined some of his reaction and that he could learn ways to cope with his triggers and go on to a healthy life. After two weeks, he transferred to an outpatient care program. For several months, he met with a psychologist, attended group meetings and stayed at the Army's Vancouver barracks, where he sent brochures about post-traumatic stress disorder to Wendy.

Once Bill entered treatment, Wendy got the judge's permission to have contact with him. They talked every day. At first, she didn't understand the diagnosis. How could someone so tough, who chose to go to war, be so changed? She didn't know that one in three combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom sought mental health care, or that post-traumatic stress rates were highest among National Guard troops. She didn't know those soldiers with the most symptoms were also least likely to seek help for fear of being seen as weak. She didn't know that testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs by another military wife echoed her own experience. Except that woman's husband committed suicide.

But Wendy knew Bill. Without her and the girls in his life, Bill would drive too fast on a road going nowhere. He would die.

"I will spend the rest of my life making up for this," he told Wendy. "I will do anything -- therapy, counseling, you name it, anything to be with you."

Wendy was uncertain, but she had always taught the girls that family was most important. "I decided to fight for what I believed in," she recalls, "just as he had fought in Iraq."

She told the Washington County prosecutor she wanted the case dropped. "I love him. We're committed to keeping our family together."

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey MacLean asked the judge to dismiss all charges. "This case was unique," MacLean said. "It wasn't what I would consider a domestic situation at all. Based on the evidence they'd provided and the fact he is in counseling and has been in treatment, we just decided it was appropriate to dismiss."

On Jan. 4, 2006, more than two years after he deployed for Iraq, Stout went home.

A family reunites

Ken Leisten Jr. was buried in Willamette National Cemetery with full military honors and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. His family was never allowed to view his body, but months after his funeral, the Army discovered the remains of his left foot and several teeth. They cremated them and returned them to his anguished father.

Ben Ring remained at Fort Lewis awaiting medical discharge. He is in constant nerve pain he controls with morphine and other painkillers, but he plans to enter Martin Luther College in Minnesota next fall. He hopes to become a Lutheran minister.

Marty Theurer returned to work as a McMinnville firefighter and paramedic. He and his wife, Sarah, a Corvallis high school teacher, expect their first child in May.

John Rosander moved to Kuwait as a security expert specializing in explosives for a private company. He is studying Arabic.

On Jan. 27, 2006, Vince Jacques and his wife, Rhonda, had twins, Owen and Faith.

Of the 12 Oregon Army National Guardsmen who have died in Iraq, eight were from the 2-162. Still, more than 70 percent of the unit's eligible soldiers re-enlisted while still in Iraq. Of those eligible in Bravo Company, 83 percent re-upped.

At the Stout home, Wendy says, "six out of seven days are good." Bill practices his coping techniques daily, connecting with old friends and talking with Wendy. Both went to counseling, and Bill is hoping to join a veterans support group. He worked at a Tualatin factory for several months but is now looking for a job more suited to his mechanical skills. He recently drove Wendy to a Dodge dealership, where they dreamed aloud over a king cab pickup for her. He takes Maggie to Baskin-Robbins once a week. For the first time in two years, Sammy is calling for "Daddy."

"We've had a lot of long talks," Wendy says of learning to live with post-traumatic stress disorder. "It's like an illness. We pull together. We are learning."

Jacques still calls. The Blasted Bastards' work was formalized by the Oregon Army National Guard into a four-man team that answers a help line around the clock. Crisis calls come daily, and so many callers seem to phone after drinking that the team printed 5,000 refrigerator magnets to place helpful numbers between soldiers and their beer.

Jacques nominated Bill for a Bronze Star for valor. One day, Bill and Wendy ran into a fellow guardsman who asked if Bill would volunteer again. He thinks about the uniform, about being with the boys and saving the world. He never felt more competent, he says, never did so much for his country or his brothers, as he did in Iraq.

But when he begins talking that way, Wendy is firm. She breaks into his thoughts with a simple message. She puts her hand on her husband's arm, leans forward, looks straight into his eyes and says, "We need you here."

Julie Sullivan: 503-221-8068, juliesullivan@news.oregonian.com

Torsten Kjellstrand: 503-753-0497, tkjellstrand@news.oregonian.com


©2006 The Oregonian

Third anniversary; what is the appropriate response?

A morning radio show is attributing the less-than-capacity crowd to the fact that conventional wisdom holds that the war in Iraq is a mistake.

I know that I would have liked to attend, but I would not like to get my photo in an FBI database.

Apparently it is possible for me to lose my citizenship, be disappeared, held incommunicado without charges, and not be heard from for years.

My worse fear would be that my wife, not a U.S. citizen, would be targeted.

This is not a paranoid fantasy. Just ask the Society of Friends from Colorado to Florida, peacemakers from the Thomas Merton Center in New York from last week to those in Carmel three years ago.

Last night I was reading Walter Breuggemann's The Prophetic Imagination. He seems to assert that the old prophetic model of confrontation will not work in today's world. I am deeply interested in understanding his thesis. I am inspired by the quotations from this book I have read in the past; so far in reading the book my cynical side wonders if his non-confrontational approach has any chance of effectiveness. I also have heard people dismiss Brueggemann out of hand for some perceived heresy, but just what that supposed error is I do not know.

Hidden headline: Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson are not familiar with Christ's teachings. The Sermon on the Mount is the focus of Lent, starting with the beatitudes.

Blessed are the destitute in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Poor in spirit, because of the state of my soul; poor in spirit because of the state of the world.

Poor in spirit because of the state of the church.

The church is the body of Christ. Christ's body is scourged, bloody, near death.

Prominent preachers advocate assassination, war, and condemnation.

But the examination and experience of the sickness unto death must not be the end of this.

One must turn one's eyes to the divine to avert death, either by murder or suicide.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I have experienced mourning for Mom, taken too soon. I have been brought to my knees by grief. I have had a glimpse of what much of the world experiences daily. How many tens of thousands have we taken before their time in the past three years? A score, that is, possibly 200,000 innocents.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. "The Earth, for what it's worth." Here is the core that must inform an imaginative prophetic voice. My desire for a clarion call is tainted with a desire for revenge, for a self-righteous domineering over those %&@!*#ers who have wrought this evil on the world. Christ and Moses, apparently, are the only two in the Bible described as "meek." How might they respond? What might be an imaginative response that would still communicate with appropriate directness just how diametrically opposed to the message of Christ so many so-called Christians have positioned themselves?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Bring it on. Or so I say. I am ready for those I accuse to meet justice. How about myself? I am called to love my enemy. I am called to forgive as I would be forgiven.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The pure in heart know they are not perfect. They are the utterly sincere, the utterly transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. Sadat had his reward; Gandhi had his; Martin Luther King Jr. had his; Christ had his.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you for my sake. Rejoice and be glad.
And if we are not peacemakers, indeed if we are not being persecuted, can we be called Christians? Is there any doubt how MLK would be treated if he were alive today?

I know I've left something out; wonder what the Freudian read of my omission would be.

Overall, the beatitudes describe different attributes of one person, not several different people. And maybe they describe moments in a dynamic dialectic.

An encounter with the notion that the Kingdom of God has arrived, that the future is breaking into the present, opens our eyes to the state of our soul, the state of the world, the state of the putative church in the world.

This brings a destitution of spirit, entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

This leads to mourning, with the promise of comfort.

This leads to a meekness rooted in the knowledge of our own brokenness, and the knowledge that, e.g. if I were a Palestinian I would likely want to murder an Israeli, or vice-versa. This meekness is to be be rewarded with the Earth, and hopefully that reward will be worth having.

All of this is a prelude to hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

Righteousness means right-relatedness. We are big enough, strong enough, good enough, if we realize it, to be in right relatedness. Or are we? The message is that we are not, but we have the choice to ask for the needed help to be so.

This hunger and thirst leads to acting as peacemakers. In the world today it is not hard to see how this leads to persecution.

Thus the good news, "The kingdom of God is at hand: Turn around," translates into, "Take up your cross and follow me."

The church lies and hides the message in a feel-good delusion. God does not want worship without sacrifice. God would prefer obedience to sacrifice. God. God help us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The long and short of it. A semi-manifesto.

It all started back in the run-up to the war.

I was trying to figure out what in the world had happened.

I e-mailed Ray McGovern as a sanity check, and he didn't tell me I was wrong.

He didn't endorse it, but he didn't deny it.

He has taken the most charitable view possible, chalking up to mere incompetence the actions and inactions that opened us up to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In his view, as much more experienced than my own as possible, given his decades' experience on the inside of intelligence and the executive branch of government, it was more important to focus on the pack of lies that was leading us to an ungodly, unjust, illegal invasion of Iraq.

I tried to find on the Web some citation of the facts I had strung together, but my googling yielded only a post I left on washingtonmonthly. So I was left to myself to wonder if I should break out the Reynolds Wrap and fashion a chapeau.

The run-down of scary facts seems almost mild today, and has some retroactive updates.

Bush comes into office having said he wants to go into Iraq.

National Security Advisor Sandy Berger hands off his anti-terrorism dossier to incoming NSA Condi Rice, telling her this will take up most of her time and attention. It sits unopened on her desk until September 12, 2001.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill recounts the Iraq invasion plan being floated at the first cabinet meeting.

In February 2001 Cheney melds his energy task force with fast-strike military plans, and studies Iraqi oilfield maps in his energy meetings.

The Clinton White House held meetings on Osama Bin Laden every two weeks. The first Bush White House meeting on Bin Laden doesn't occur until mere days before 9/11.

The Clinton regime had stopped negotiations with the Taliban. In the first months under the Bush/Cheney regime the Taliban receives forty million tax-payer dollars.

Anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke is demoted, frozen out, delayed, hampered. FBI Bin Laden task force head John O'Neill is frozen out, delayed, hampered. He resigns in disgust, tries to draw attention to the Bin Laden threat, takes a job as head of security at the World Trade Center, dies returning to Tower 1 to retrieve victims.

On and on the warnings tried to get through, from the FBI and CIA, through and beyond the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing.

The wild surmise: As the PNAC stated, without a new Pearl Harbor it would be difficult-to-impossible to invade Iraq. Is there any evidence they did anything to prevent a terrorist attack? Might one be forgiven for thinking their actions and inactions actually encouraged one?

FAA delays, missing scrambled jets, stock-market puts on airline companies affected, and many other data points feed this nefarious conspiracy theory.

Unlike others, I would very much like to be disabused of such notions. Is there anyone out there to help me out?

Sources? We don't need no stinking sources!

Iran is responsible for major components of IEDs found in Iraq.
Who thinks this stuff up?

Ay-yay-yay.Ay-yay-yay. Does Richard Clarke know what he is talking about? What are his sources, may I ask?