by John Walters
From Beirut To Kabul
October 23, 1983
A suicide bomber drives a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. That same morning, 58 French soldiers were killed in their barracks two miles away in a separate suicide terrorist attack. The U.S. Marines were part of a multinational force sent to Lebanon in August 1982 to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. From its inception, the mission was plagued with problems–and a mounting body count.
I remember that day well. I believe it was a Sunday morning when the news broke, my senior year of high school. I remember it being tragic, the worst loss of U.S. military life in one day since at least Vietnam. And I remember no one calling for President Reagan to resign, but then, he had been so damn good in Knute Rockne: All American and Kings Row (films in which, respectively, he had lost his life and legs).
It wasn’t really Reagan’s fault, after all. The mission was next-to-impossible, and whenever you have an opponent willing to commit suicide as part of their attack, it presents problems (ask any Naval commander in the Pacific from World War II).
Yesterday a dozen or so U.S. military personnel were killed in Kabul (a dozen, not 243) while executing a near-impossible task: evacuating Americans and Afghans from Kabul via the airport. For those citizens to not flock to the airport means they risk being kidnapped or killed by the Taliban or ISIS in their homes or wherever they are hiding. Their best escape route is via the airport, of course, where more than 80,000 have been evacuated the past week or so, but that means bunching up in crowds outside the airport gates, which, of course, makes them an inviting and vulnerable target.
And yet here are plenty of disingenuous Republican “leaders” calling for President Biden to resign. It was not President Biden who released 5,000 Taliban prisoners nor was it Biden who brokered a deal with the Taliban last year (it was President Trump and Mike Pompeo). These Republicans know that, but they also know that so many of their cult are sheep who don’t care to possess the ability for critical thought.
Beirut was a terrible day. But we were one country then. Kabul was, from a body-count perspective, far less significant. But we have awful people on one side of the aisle in 2021. And useful idiots supporting them.
Ten Turns 30
Happy 30th birthday to one of the very best debut albums in the history of rock and roll.
I remember the moment. Labor Day, 1991. Walking into an appliance store on 72nd just west of Broadway, in search of a stereo. You know, it’s the early ’90s so I need a CD player that also plays cassettes. So sad that I abandoned my turntable (what were we thinking?).
Then I hear it. This BELLOWING guitar that sounds like a battle cry. The opening chords of “Alive.” It was a beautiful late summer afternoon in Manhattan, the kind where the humidity has departed and you can feel the early strains of autumn. The golden late afternoon sun outside. And inside, this sound I’d never before experienced.
Make no mistake, Pearl Jam came out of the gates early that fall, before Nirvana. The other Seattle-based grunge band would soon take the lead. By Christmas holidays they’d be sharing a stage together, both serving as warm-up acts for RHCP.
Our favorite songs from Ten, in order: 1) Alive 2) Release 3) Jeremy 4) Oceans 5) Black 6) Once 7) Evenflow
Won’t See You In September
Not appearing at the U.S. Open that begins next week: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Venus Williams. That foursome represents 17 U.S. Open singles titles since 1999. Or nearly half.
The door is wide open for Novak Djokovic to become the first man with 21 career singles titles (and he should celebrate at the iconic 21 in midtown Manhattan). And as far as we know, Naomi Osaka is coming to Flushing Meadows. Naomi versus the New York media. Should be a fun show.
Death Valley Daze
Two male hikers have died in separate incidents at Death Valley National Park this week. Why? Because it’s really, really, really hot there and they were really, really, really unprepared. The men were 52 and 60 years old (man, is that old!) and to be honest, it wasn’t even that hot in Death Valley. Only about 109 degrees.
You have to love a national park that lives up to its name. And the hype.