RANGER AGAINST WAR <

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Charleston

This is politics at its finest
--Wag the Dog (1997)

And that's what it is,
the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement,
and all you got to do to join is sing it
the next time it come's around
--Alice's Restaurant Massacree,
Arlo Guthrie


 Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive 
of all unifying agents 
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer
_______________________

In another Wag the Dog moment not to be unexploited, President Obama plied his pipes last Friday at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, the site of the killings of nine black parishioners.

While the killing was surely a hate crime, against which we have legislation, it was not a massacre as the hyperbolic press is wont to label it. Massacres involve groups acting in symbolic ways. Instead, this was the deranged act of a pathetic, rootless individual.

The President performed a call and response near the end of his oratory: “Clementa Pinckney found that grace,” repeating the phrase after each victim's name. No, they did not find grace but were rather murdered in a deluded individual's vulgar and tawdry attempt at self-glorification. In a self-contradiction, Obama later said, "In the Christian tradition, grace is not earned."

Perhaps more horrifying than the actual killing is the fact that twelve years into the war on terror, none of our military or intelligence was able to predict or deter this event. This was neither an act of terrorism nor of home-grown or sleeper cells of terrorists. This was simply an act of good old-fashioned American hatred. It is a hate crime -- nothing but.

Mr. Obama may fly down in Air Force 1 and interpose himself in a show of force, but he was and is powerless to predict or stop such acts. He may order drone strikes world wide, but they do not make us any safer from terrorists, criminals, or crazy, crusading idiots.

People like the shooter give off little of a predictive nature. When they do, it is often within the confines of their little crazy worlds, often lived in the bubble of innumerable virtual chat rooms, and thought crime is not yet prosecutable. 

Hatred is the glue that holds the world together. Even for those who claim fealty to a religion, it is a hard row to hoe to "love thy neighbor" (= The Other) when your religion -- any religion -- gains its legitimacy by virtue of cleaving from every other. This is by definition, and a built-in failure of most dogma.

You are you, by virtue of not being THEM, and the "them" is an excoriated unknown, condemned by your creator to a life of everlasting torment in the hereafter, at best.

Meanwhile, when the Charleston story was claiming the spotlight, heinous and murderous violence continued apace throughout the world. Hatred and opposable thumbs (to create and carry weapons) may be the defining feature of the hominids -- not a great legacy.

To refashion the lyrics of songwriter George Gershwin, "In time the Rockies may crumble / Gibralter may tumble / There're only made of clay / But ..." hatred is here to stay. Our biracial President trying to get his groove on singing a negro spiritual will not alter the fact. 

We are a nation of hatred and violence protected by a government that holds hatred and violence near and dear. Oh, if you kill the right ones, that is. Someone else's mammas and pappas.

Then the leaders of that same government cry crocodile tears when the violence is visited on the home team. 
It is a predictable and sad story, and the "sad" is a double entendre.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whitewashed

 

 I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and gay
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me today 
--Westside Story 

The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew,
that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian,
saw him as a triple threat
--Zelig (1983)

He married me up at the First Church of Harlem.
He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.
--Zelig (1983)

~I'm colored, Mr. Townsend. I'm a Negro.
~Gerber, what the hell have you been doing - 
sitting under a sunlamp? 
--Watermelon Man (1970)

Who in this world is what they seem to be? 
--The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
______________________


So Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, wants to be black -- our latest tempest in a teacup. How is this relevant to RangerAgainstWar?  Just wait.

First, the obvious: another example of not telling the whole truth. Some are bemused by Dolezal's fabulation ("girl got the hair"); others, outraged at the dissimulation.

But why does it make print that a white woman chose to present as black? If former Olympian Bruce Jenner wants to now be "Caitlyn" because he identifies that way, we are meanies if we do not accept her as a woman. But we mayn't cross the color bar (white-to-black). Why is that?

The first subtext is, who could imagine a desire to be black? Whereas blacks have been "passing" for generations in order to be better situated socially, it seems untenable to them that a "privileged" white woman (all white people are privileged, right?) would want to turn the other way. (This is not to defend Dolezal, per se, who seems like a troubled individual created by a chaotic family.)

New York Times Op-Ed writer Charles Blow wrote a tortuous column opposing Ms. Dolezal because hers was "a form of one-directional privilege that simply isn’t available to a black person." This is illogical EOE thinking, in extremis. Blow even admits "[race] is a societal construct" while trying to deny this participation to Dolezal. He accuses her of linguistic somersaults, yet his piece is full of them.

A female New York Times Op-Ed writer presented a similar non-sequitur argument against Dolezal that historically one has been labeled "black" if only 1/64th black. She seemed angry that this "one drop" rule was imposed upon the black race, but she did not address why she found it unacceptable for a zero-dropped individual to choose for negritude.


--Zelig (Woody Allen) turning black at Jazz club

Why be upset? Blacks do not mind that light-complexioned blacks have "passed" as white, nor do they mind whites co-opting blackness when following rap gansta culture, even adopting the patois and the dress.  What made Dolezal's emulation so unpalatable?

White women may co-opt pieces of blackness, like Bo Derek's cornrows, but they may not fake being black, unlike blacks who may fake being white.

The second subtext is that there are only so many good EOE-type positions available to blacks, and perhaps only a limited pool of qualified applicants for them. Therefore, Dolezal the white woman is cheating a black out of his or her rightful EOE slot. It is a not-so-subtle denigration of blacks by blacks that a white person could do black better than a "real" black person.

As a black woman of power and position, Dolezal would also have entree to a rarefied pool of desirable black males for possible relationship, another thing which many black women are protective of. With one in five black males incarcerated at any given time and a matriarchal culture, relationship-worthy high level black males are at a premium, and Dolezal through her dissimulation would have access to the pick of the litter. Especially in a black culture which favors light-skinned blacks.

Dolezal's "tan and black" costume rendered all of the prizes of the Equal Opportunity system at her fingertips.

There is also the unfortunate overlay of minstrelsy, which threatened Dolezal's project as a possible grand mime. She could simply be some striving academic trying to make a name for herself in a future study by going undercover for years, unlike John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) who could only carry on his charade for a limited time.

But by all accounts, Dolezal has been a genuine and effective advocate for black rights, and her job as President of the Seattle NAACP was not race-dependent. Dolezal's earlier claim against Howard University for reverse racism against her then-identification as a white woman opens up space for a sincere dialog, as did Edward Bakke's reverse discrimination lawsuit in 1977.

Humans tribe up, and it is that exclusionary and insular impulse which we must fight if we are to become an inclusionary world, a world in which we are all part of the human race. While the media is forcing various agendas in the name of removing exclusions -- such as affording the rights of marriage to gay couples and the inclusion of various gendered individual in the Armed forces  -- it is interesting that the racial line is being so vigorously protected.

If a person may go through religious conversions, naturalization ceremonies and gender reassignment, why is one not allowed to choose the race with which one will affiliate?

Probably, it has mostly to do with a scarcity mentality and economics. As in the film Soul Man (1986) where a white student claims for being black in order to gain college entree and tuition subsidies, blacks do not want to share this EOE windfall. It is similar to the Veterans Administration ratings system for medical treatment. Those prioritized in the upper echelons are just grateful that they are not at the bottom of the heap, and do not often fight for an equality in the treatment system for those lower down.

This is what preferential treatment hath wrought -- a mean and petty protectiveness of the succored individual's standing. Divide and conquer.

Whenever a system can get its members to participate in competitive and exclusionary behavior, there will not be the peace of a fully-functioning system.

The tie-in to RAW?:

This attitude of exclusive ownership without an honest discussion of what being black means is why racism persists in the U.S., for surely the black censure of Dolezal is racism, and racism is a form of war.

In the Middle East we see this harsh affiliation/disaffiliation playing out daily in a deadly game. If the warring members could rise above and see they are all one, with an agenda of a better life for them and their families, there would be a new day.

If divisions like race were not so contested and protected, perhaps the racial crimes we continue to witness would disappear. The guarding of race by the black community via harsh criticism of others reveals an exclusivity guaranteeing their isolation and resentment.

Unfortunately, the human animal cleaves from just as strongly as it cleaves to


NEXT: A wrap up on our general blindsightedness.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Confabulatory Amnesia in America


In particular, it should be possible
to have a highly meaningful life
that is not necessarily a happy one
(e.g., as religious missionary,
political activist, or terrorist.) 
--Some Key Differences Between
a Happy Life and a Meaingful Life,
Roy F. Baumeister, et, al.  

 The less justified a man is in claiming excellence
for his own self,
the more ready is he to claim excellence
for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause  
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer 

A land which … had given itself up to dreaming,
to fabulating, to tale-telling
--Lawrence Durrell 
____________________

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf
_______________________

Further thoughts on the government's mythologizing of the Osama bin Laden raid.

It has been Ranger's consistent position that the age of terror was a sham which served no useful purpose to the citizens of the United States. The profiteers of the fabulation are many, however -- everyone from the contractors feeding off the military feeding off the government, to Hollywood.  A somewhat moribund film industry has found a new way with the pyrotechnics of the much-too-many films exploiting the easy meme of all against Terrorists.

Media has taken the Western out of the mothballs, and Destry Rides Again. The template is an easy one, and computers create vivid canvasses across which our eyes move and our brains are re-wired.

RangerAgainstWar has analyzed many of the Medal of Honor actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded that, while based upon actual battles, the facts have been massaged, misrepresented and sometimes created and/or omitted as serves the meta-story (= This is a great battle against misshapen, craven malcontents, and the U.S. is there to save them -- an undefined quantity -- and us.)

However, since the Dakota Myers MOH it was clear the USMC and Navy were willing to stretch the truth. The same is true with Lieutenant Murphy's MOH, sanctified by Marcus Luttrell's hagiographic and ass-covering tale, The Lone Survivor. May as well kill two birds with one stone.

Ditto the book and subsequent movie, "American Sniper", based upon the life of the truest, bluest fightinist man since John Wayne. If you can get the people stomping mad and teary at once over one of the best if not brightest of theirs, you have won them. There are no more questions. Dismissed. Go to Chilis and watch a game (any will do) on t.v. and feel good (if not great) about being American.

Ranger's questioning is called unpatriotic blasphemy by some. But questioning the stories upon which a grave and lengthy military operation is based is the highest expression of freedom and love of country, and kicking ass in foreign lands is not the only way to be a hero.

So what does a people do when they learn the coveted truth upon which their democracy is based has been conflated with a fiction? When, contrary to the story of the brave troop of national leaders who sat riveted, watching the live feed of the OBL operation, they were in fact they were just watching another home invasion murder, as tawdry and meaningless as as a cop shooting down a man in Ferguson, Mo.?

The Middle East continues to flounder after untold loss of life and money. The (hoped for) redemptive OBL action was in fact a simple assassination, costly, but of no worth to anyone. Now we know the fix was in and it was scripted, a wrap before the helicopter lowered the troops into OBL's courtyard.

The is No Easy Day to be an American.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, June 08, 2015

On and On

 Some will win, some will lose,
some are born to sing the blues
While the movie never ends,
it goes on and on and on and on 
--Don't Stop Believin', 
Journey 

I know nothing stays the same
But if you're willing to play the game
It's coming around again 
--Coming Around Again,
Carly Simon

If they can get you asking the wrong questions,
they don’t have to worry about answers 
--Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
________________

What a delicate madness.

For the folks who now think arming the Sunnis in some pastiche of "elite Iraqi units" might be a good idea (as does NYT editorial board), RAW would kindly point you in the direction of  Mr. Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), he of blessed memory, who led what passed for an "elite bunch of Sunnis" back in the day.

This is not to knock The Times editorial board, as that would be a sucker punch, and we do not do ad hominem's at Ranger, anyway. No, this is simply to recognize the idiocy and irrationality of the much too many who believe this would be a good idea.

Welcome to the Mobius strip world. Whatever you just saw go by will be coming around again, if you just stay wired for a little bit. And this endless loop will not present a good thing, but something made to sow discord and distress in the viewer.

For those who check into the evening news broadcasts, they will see a revolving cast of characters who gain and lose favor with an appalling speed. An eternal return, that is, until you get bored, begin asking the right questions, and decide to check out of the net:

 "The best chance of quickly responding to the Islamic State would be to get weapons and training directly into the hands of Sunni tribal fighters in Anbar.  ... Given the urgent threat, the Americans should consider working more directly with the Sunni tribes if Baghdad continues to refuse."

"Now, under the new threat of ISIS, the politically dysfunctional state is under more strain, and may be in greater danger than ever of splitting apart into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni sectors. That would make defeating Islamic State forces even harder."

"That would make defeating Islamic State forces even harder."  Are we "tarded", as the film Idiocracy might say? To quote the late Freddie Prinze's character Chico, "Ees not my job, man!" It is not the United State's job to reinforce the created state of Iraq, after so foolishly deposing its leader. 

Iraq might split into three (or multiple) regions? Welcome to 2003. Anyway, as we say in the South, "That dog won't hunt for you," so let it split, baby.

We have our own country to maintain, and this extends beyond the interests of the military and its contractors.

We should let the war gravy train dry up.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, June 05, 2015

We're Surrounded!

 If you have one bucket that contains 2 gallons
and another bucket that contains 7 gallons,
how many buckets do you have?
--Idiocracy (2007)

 We know where they are.
They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad
and east, west, south and north somewhat
--Donald Rumsfeld (on Iraqi WMD) 

It's not the voting that's democracy;
it's the counting
--Tom Stoppard
 ______________________

Some Ranger geometry:

The newscasters crowed recently that Iraqi forces had the city of Ramadi "surrounded on three sides".

Surround, tr. v.
  • 1. To extend on all sides of simultaneously; encircle. 
  • 2. To enclose or confine on all sides so as to bar escape or outside communication. 

If the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad were surrounded on only three sides, they would not have been defeated and captured. Ditto the Confederate Army at Petersburg, Virginia, in the United State's Civil War.

So ....

If a force is surrounded on only three sides, then they are not surrounded, duh! They may break out from an encirclement by reading how Lee and Gordon did it 140 years ago. If one is surrounded on all four sides, or 360 degrees, the one may cash in one's chips, but three out of four is not all.

Please lord protect us from ignorance, which is a bigger threat than ISIS.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

That's All Folks


 The blundering history of the human race
is always given coherence by power elites
and their courtiers in the press and academia
who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks.
They need to manufacture national myths
to hide the greed, violence and stupidity
that characterize the march of most human societies. 
--Our Mania for Hope is a Curse
 Chris Hedges 

I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedy's?"
When after all
It was you and me 
--Sympathy for the Devil,
 The Rolling Stones 

The people who burned witches at the stake
never for one moment thought of their act as violence;
rather they thought of it as an act
of divinely mandated righteousness.
The same can be said of most of the violence 
humans have ever committed 
--Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie
 _____________________

For the Ralph Peter's crowd, the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a legitimate given, not to be questioned or deconstructed. As he said with the manly swagger of the armchair FOX warrior in a recent NY Post piece, "Sorry folks, but that's war (it's not dainty)." His view complements that of people like Mr. Rumsfeld who saw democracy in the rubble (war smells like democracy in the morning?)

But the United State's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq defy the logic of war. The actions of ISIS in the region make more military and political sense than anything exhibited by U.S. policy to date.

The purpose of war is to achieve a peace. The PWOT © has not in any instance led to peace. Military violence -- whether theirs or ours -- is not war, but simply violence unrestrained, unjustified and lacking an achievable strategic military goal. This violence is merely criminal activity.

The media shovels us the "Good News" when the Iraqi forces (or some semblance of them) "regain territory previously held by ISIS," as though the conflict was about terrain. What it is about is a millennial struggle within Islam for hegemony of the combatants, the different stripes of Islam.

The violence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not about terrain or body counts [though body counts are de rigueur again, thank you Mr. McNamara.] It is about which side is the true and divine representatives of their god here on earth. 

That is pretty simple and, if true, U.S. participation in the rodeo violates our core belief in separation of church and state for as members of Western society we are not supposed to kill for religious reasons. That behavior is so Middle and Dark Ages.

So why is the U.S. funding and conducting military violence to support sectarian violence?

If we fail to confront this basic reality, we are doomed to live our military and political lives as if they were violent video games, which is but a poor simulacrum of real life.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Problem With ISIS


 How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown! 
--Sound of Music

 I would remind you that extremism  
in the defense of liberty is no vice!  
And let me remind you also that moderation  
in the pursuit of justice is no virtue! 
--Barry Goldwater
_______________________

This is not an "ISIS problem", but rather, a perception problem.

The media is reporting "major setbacks" in Iraq. Typical is The Week magazine's gloss which in the first two sentences called ISIS "militants," "an Islamic terror group" and "Sunni extremists". Maybe it is all of the above, but if you cannot accurately name or define a problem, you cannot solve it. The first lesson of good soldiering is learning to define the problem.

It is strange after more than a decade of war in the region, our press and government do not know how to label the players. They hedge their bets by a scatter-gun approach to naming, but precision is necessary for understanding and determining correct action.

Are extremists necessarily terrorists? One could say Presidential candidate Marco Rubio and most of the other Republican frontrunners are extremists and radicals, along with almost everyone working in the FOX newsroom. We in America are comfortable with extremism as long as it looks and sounds fairly white and Right.

Are ISIS members militants? If so, do they follow the Rules of War? Do we treat them as Geneva Convention Prisoners of War when captured? What do the Iraqi government forces do with captured ISIS fighters?

We are informed that Iraqi militia members are arresting captured ISIS members -- is this good news? When did militia groups get arrest powers?

Do we capture or arrest ISIS members taken on the field of battle? Are they criminals or POWs? Do the GC's identify them as legal combatants?

Does the United States care or believe that Iraqi forces are treating these prisoners in a humane manner? Why does the U.S. turn a blind eye to this travesty?

ISIS was born because the Shia Iraqi government imposed upon the country never was free, representative or non-sectarian. If I were a Sunni man, would I support the corrupt Shia government or a corrupt Sunni group?

At this point, is ISIS really a terror group? They use terror tactics, but so does the elected government of Iraq.

Further, what is the choice for the U.S. taxpayer? Do we shrug our shoulders and flip off the problem by throwing a few thousand soldiers / advisers, more or less, into the fray? Can we admit that there is no true, equitable or ethical position on either side of the equation?

Our participation on either side sullies the concept of democratic thought and action.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Moral Injury, Pt. II

 
--Luojie (China) 

To put it still more plainly:
the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity
are the same thing.
To hold your breath is to lose your breath.
A society based on the quest for security
is nothing but a breath-retention contest
in which everyone is
as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet 
--Alan Watts 

You and I may talk about peace, 
have conferences, sit round a table and discuss,
but inwardly, psychologically, we want power, position,
we are bound by beliefs, by dogmas,
for which we are willing to die and destroy each other 
--On War, Krishnamurti (1948)

He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought
will never be able to change reality
--Anwar Sadat   
 ___________________

"Moral injury" is a wound which corrodes the psyche, throwing one's self-orientation over a cliff. It is a wound of the soul. The brunt is borne by soldiers who wanted to do the right thing but somehow got off track. Scenarios abound, but we will stay with the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) for the purpose of this small inquiry.

Did the SEALs who gunned down Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad perform a morally correct duty? Did President Obama and the National Command Authority that executed his kill order deliver their violence in accordance with the Rules of Land Warfare or the laws of the United States?

Our citizens should know that torture, assassination, black sites, secret prisons, drone killings, kidnappings, open-ended imprisonment, isolating prisoners and all of the other illegal hallmarks of the PWOT © were immoral (besides being illegal), yet we went along with the program.

So leaving the soldier's moral injuries aside for the moment, let us ask a question of great importance:

Is moral injury a national burden, and are we as a society demonstrating any of the symptoms of moral injury as exhibited by our soldiers?

Nine years ago, President Bush said the Iraq war was "straining the psyche of our country," but that leaving would be a disaster. Did he foresee the sorry blight of "moral injury"?

If so, why aren't Mr. Bush and Co. so afflicted? Ditto for Mr. Obama who orders "death squads" that roam the earth and rain death from the skies?

Could one also say that the very conception and implementation of these actions implies a mind suffering from moral injury? Can moral injury affect a society en masse, a sort of collective pool of damage? If so, any actions which issue forth from that damaged place are in question.

This is not a small consideration. The implications of the answer to this simple question are profound.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 25, 2015

Moral Injury

--White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
(Zwerger) --
He's a little late

Forgive us now for what we've done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag
--O Children, Nick Cave

Torture is not just a matter of policy;
it is an addiction, a deadening mindset,
a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis,
a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence,
and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers
--America's Addiction to Torture,
Henry Giroux
_____________________

It took until 1980 for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a diagnosis, thereby validating the recurring trauma which many returning veterans from the Vietnam War experienced. Today, "moral injury" is the new designation on the medical radar.

Surely the concept of moral injury is solid. However, Ranger takes exception with a Special Forces Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds (then a Special Forces captain) who has written a book about his moral injury in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) based upon his experiences witnessing torture and in which he felt complicit.

Edmonds "volunteered for duty in an ad hoc organization, the Iraqi Assistance Group, which the United States military created to supply advisers to the nascent Iraqi military. He was sent to Iraq, given a brief training course in Baghdad and then loaded into a convoy to Mosul, where he would spend the next year on a small compound Sad­dam Hussein had called the Guest House" (God is Not Here).

Forgive me if Edmond's claim of suffering moral injury does not move me, but as an SF officer he was trained and conversant in the Geneva Conventions and the Rules of Land Warfare. He knew what he was doing, and he chose to "just follow orders."

Moral injuries are real, devastating and corrosive, and characteristically fall upon the average soldier unprepared for what he experiences. It is too much to believe that an SF Captain would go along to get along yet once safely awarded his LTC rank, finally wake up to smell the coffee. It sounds like bandwagon-hopping to this retired SF officer.

As Edmond was purportedly injured when a Captain, he was later rewarded for his transgressions as he is now an LTC. How can one be morally injured and yet still wear the beret and revel in the rank awarded you for your subservience?

Further, what was an SF trooper doing  in the bowels of an Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) compound running amok with captured  personnel? Is this what JSOC and SOCOM hath wrought both to our Army and society?

There was a time pre-JSOC/SOCOM when interrogations were handled by military intelligence specialists and tip of the spear guys, where the rubber meets the road guys never got involved with enemy prisoners of war. Why was an SF officer performing this duty?

Clearly, the Military Intelligence types would not prostitute themselves by torturing and insisted on following the Rules of War. (At least, Ranger hopes there was an enclave of legality somewhere in this otherwise immoral war.) So, the Special Forces assumed the illegal function.

In short, the Captain insured his own moral injury by playing fast and loose with the morality of soldiering. His self-perversion earned him a promotion, retention in active duty, and a book detailing his experiences. Sorry, but this does not go down well.

Nobody ever said that SF guys were stupid.

Labels: , , , ,