Friday, December 22, 2006

The Gift of Knowledge

I just survived 5 days adrift in the Philippine Sea with the crew of the USS Indianapolis and I must say, it is good to be back on dry land. The constant threat of shark attacks along with the absence of fresh drinking water had me gulping down gallons of the precious liquid as I turned the pages of: “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis”

This was quite a change after last weeks jaunt around Europe as I traveled with Saddam’s bomb-maker. We were buying up components to make Iraq a nuclear bomb. Thank goodness, Dr. Hamza saw the insanity involved and defected before the program came to fruition. It’s all documented right here: “Saddam’s Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda”.

2006 has been a busy year book-traveling, but one I wouldn’t trade for all the Plasma TVs China can produce.

Why, back in November, I got a first hand look at the trouble in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Vietnam through the eyes of war correspondent Philip Caputo. I was right there with him when a bullet struck him in the leg. Back in 1977, I went along with Lt. Caputo as he fought his way through the Mekong Delta in “A rumor of war” and man, have we lived since those days! You can go with him too by reading “Means Of Escape: A War Correspondent’s Memoir of Life and Death in Afghanistan”.

Jon Lee Anderson led me through “The Fall of Baghdad” and the acrid smell of cordite is still irritating my nostrils! Frankly, I’m surprised we survived that chaotic event and if I hadn’t been witness to Saddam’s Iraq through the eyes of Zainab Salbi, I wouldn’t have understood the reaction of Iraqi’s to his defeat. Saddam’s methodic rise to power and control of once liberal Iraq is told in “Between Two Worlds: Escape From Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam”.

The Middle East adventures were taking a toll on me, so I went to Barsoom, Mars to battle four-armed green giants. It was kind of amazing, really. Because of the difference in gravity between Earth and Mars, I found I could jump 30 feet in the air.

No one can tell a story like Edgar Rice Burroughs and even though he has been dead for over 50 years, his books are just as good today, as they were when they were published. My open admiration for the brave John Carter and his beautiful maiden, Thuvia, kept me on Mars through thirteen consecutive books. You’ve got to love science fiction!

My sweet Mom gave me the birthday gift of knowledge, by bringing me into the old west with Larry McMurtry’s “Telegraph Days” and also Wesley Clark’s “Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire”. I Don’t know which author has the most experience with battle, but Mr. McMurty has a twisted need for excessive violence in his books. After reading five of his books, I think I am finished with him

Current events and the war in Iraq caused me to turn my attention once again to the Middle East.

Feeling the need for something a bit meaty, I plunged off into the ancient Ottoman Empire to rub shoulders with Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill. We sailed around the Mediterranean with the other British royalty and surmised we would control the area for the next 2000 years. Little did they know they would lose it all in less than 20. It’s all here: “Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”. Like I said, it’s “a bit meaty”.

John Miller explained to me in “Inside Iraq: The History, the People, and the Modern Conflicts of the World’s Least Understood Land” how the Iraqi people think and how much the average Iraqi loves their sweet tea, Turkish cigarettes and an evening debate on the Koran. It made sense. Without the violence, it might not be a bad existence.

My Dad always had a book in progress when I was a kid and he went to bed each night reading. My Mom made sure we had extra money for the book fair and the Weekly Reader specials. Without us realizing it, we were learning that reading books was the key to adventure and knowledge.

This Christmas, remember your loved ones and kiddos by giving them something that lasts; give them… books.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bill Hillman said...

Always great to meet another fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom.

Bill Hillman
Editor and Webmaster for the
Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Sites

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