RANGER AGAINST WAR <

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blood Simple

 Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
--John Prine 

But what I know about is Texas,
an' down here... you're on your own 
--Blood Simple (1983) 

There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating
than seeing someone else die 
--Paths of Glory (1957)
_____________________

Why our current fascination with snipers? 2013 brought us Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" (which grossed three times its budget), and 2015 brings Clint Eastwood's film based on Chris Kyle's "American Sniper" released earlier this month (which has already outearned "Lone Survivor" in its first month of release.)

Since the inception of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) the SEALs have undertaken a tremendous public relations campaign aimed at propagandizing the U.S. taxpayer into thinking their dollars have been well-spent. For sure, one group of capitalists did benefit handsomely from the propaganda spawned by Luttrell's Lone Survivor, Matt Bissonnette's No Easy Day and Kyle's American Sniper: the video gaming industry. It is unlikely these men considered if or how their missions were relevant to the concept of fighting terror, but their stories are being bled for all they are worth.

Does the impulse to view such films arise from our need to make meaning, or the need to not admit that men's lives are spent often too cavalierly, in the service of projects which reap little if any benefit? Is it an offshoot of the father archetype and the sniper is the Big Daddy who will protect you and keep you safe? Is a tit-for-tat on life's treadmill, an urge to escape the claustrophobic feeling that if they have you in their cross-hairs, at least you have someone on your side whose weapon is trained on them, too? A cosmic Mobius strip of death.

But the recent apotheosis of the sniper belies the fact that no soldier is irreplaceable, nor does any battlefield outcome rest on the scoped rifle of any one participant. Sniping is as old as the U.S. Army. One could even say characters like Robin Hood were snipers, as they were selective marksman. The current sniper movie genre probably began with the 1980's Tom Barringer films featuring modern-day Natty Bumpos -- James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales adopted for Hollywood.

Whether it is Enemy at the Gates or Saving Private Ryan in a theatre Army scenario, or Luttrells' Lone Survivor in a godforsaken valley somewhere in Afghanistan, Hollywood creates the aura that the sniper creates fear and terror in the enemy, but this is not military thinking.

The most common misconception is that a sniper can, by killing the leaders of an enemy unit, destroy the unit's will to resist. But if this were so, why not call in artillery and fire a "battery five" killing them all?

In fact, the Infantry's mission is clear and simple: to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver. Nowhere does our mission entail fear or terror. We either shoot, move or communicate, or we don't. The idea of the mission being to create fear or terror is a myth.

American Sniper's director Clint Eastwood is that rare conservative Hollywood bird whose head space and timing seem to be a few degrees off judging by his surreal performance at the 2012 Republican convention. But that does not keep a patriot in his dotage from turning out a good cowboy film, even if it is in the Arabian desert and the punks are hajjis.

Eastwood cut his teeth on "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Heartbreak Ridge" and "Dirty Harry", finding his groove in romanticizing the unglamorous life of the executioner. Chris Kyle's book does not deviate from this hoo-ah approach. For him, his targets were "savages" and "terrorists" (stating in his book that he would like to kill everyone toting a Koran, a sentiment which Eastwood cannily decided to omit from his film.) Surely Kyle saw himself as an instrument of God's hand, every bit as much as those he shot saw him.

However, as Ranger has discussed before, terrorists do not attack hard targets, an example of which would be the U.S. military. The men Kyle was killing were insurgents, soldiers, militants or guerrillas -- take your pick -- but not terrorists. Of course, since the terrorist menace was the casus belli for the PWOT, the longest U.S. war, it pays to play the term for all it's worth.

Unfortunately, when your film's subject has matters so terribly confused, it is hard to make of him a hero archetype. In Chris Kyle's and Clint Eastwood's world, things are black and white, and do not admit of nuance, and it is he who has the fistful of dollars who calls the tune.

The American Sniper's claim to fame is his 165 confirmed (and possible 225) kills, but how did kills become a metric for achievement? The Vietnam War, despite its hopeful and often inflated body counts, showed that "body count" was a meaningless concept when Saigon fell.

Even had Kyle killed 250 insurgents -- did we win the war? The U.S. is no safer because of the violence men like Kyle visited upon the Iraqi nation, and possibly less so. It could be argued that Islamist State (ISIS/ISIL) is the godchild of the relentless violence wrought by the U.S. military.

Killing without a meaningful military objective is simple murder, whether issuing from Kyle's muzzle of an ISIS executioner's knife. Mr. Eastwood can wrap his movie in a flag and overlay bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace", but the map ain't the territory. 

When Kyle and his actions are apotheosized, it is akin to raising the entire PWOT © to some noble, nation-saving enterprise. Unfortunately, like most of the U.S.'s Counterinsurgency efforts, it was naught more than a bloody game of whack-a-mole. You can put lipstick on a pig ...

Is a film like American Sniper a mass catharsis for the viewing audience eating popcorn and drinking soda? Does it whip up the patriotic fervor that enables a nation to stay in the warfighting game for the long haul? Or is it just another way to shoot two hours of a life being wafted away on the fantasy of some good, clean red-white-and-blue fun?

Hollywood likes to call these fictions "biopics", which is like saying John Tesh's "infotainment" was the news. Viewers leave the theater feeling perhaps proud after the gorefest done in the name of guns, football, hunting, Bibles, beer and cowboys. Eastwood offers up this "heartland bingo", and hopes the cards he has thrown down will constitute a winning hand.

And in the parlance of the Awards that matter, it probably does. But really, it is just another bad movie based upon a juvenile view of life. The director would have done better to have stopped after his film The Unforgiven, for that title explains the plight of the gunfighter best.

America is not about killing people. If it is, then we have morphed into a tawdry version of the Marvel superheroes The Avengers.

--Jim and Lisa

(In an interesting aside, American Sniper is poised to out-earn the previous highest-grossing U.S. release, 2012's The Avengers. The Avengers are a Marvel comic Superhero creation with whom Chris Kyle symbolically associated himself.)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rise and Shine

Never, never, never, never give up
--Winston Churchill 

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
--Dylan Thomas

 Then I pray
Don't take me soon
'Cause I am here for a reason 
--One Day, Matisyahu
_____________________

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the recent wars, and there is no quick fix. It is a devastating play-as-you go scenario past the initial triage, the path back to normalcy a no man's land fraught with unseen mines. It is estimated that 400,000 U.S. soldiers currently suffer TBI.

I was impressed recently with Simon Lewis's talk at the first INK conference which was published online in association with the TED conference on his medical journey after suffering TBI and the multiple, often unguessed, internal injuries pursuant to the initial concussive event. While Mr. Lewis, an attorney and Hollywood film producer, suffered his TBI in the civilian world, his experience is readily translatable to that suffered by some of our military readers. Since viewing his talk I have had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, and I believe his message and crusade to protect, restore and improve human consciousness is a vital one.

His injuries were so massive that he was presumed dead at the scene of his auto accident. Mr. Lewis then spent one month in "Glasgow Level Three", the lowest state of coma existence on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and one from which few emerge. When he did, recovery was a grueling process which took him from trying to comprehend children's animations back today to his pre-accident 150 I.Q. Equally as torturous was the fact that there was no clearly enumerated path back, just a continuous hit-and-miss process of brute force effort and will combined with the occasional welcome serendipity.

Reading his book, Rise and Shine, is an antidote to demoralization and will encourage and enlighten anyone on his hidden path to recovery. Being English, Mr. Lewis employs his gallows humor to good effect. He hits the right tone, and his story is engaging throughout.

A recurrent theme is the dismal reality that he must fight for medical coverage time and again before he can even begin the fight on the bodily level for his recovery. Anyone who has been in his position will understand the daunting challenges which face the patient on every front.

Of special interest to those who have or will undergo cranial reconstruction will be the unforeseen complications surrounding the prosthetic inserts.
In addition, the ongoing trauma set up throughout the body following massive concussive damage is often unexpected and not well understood. 

One of his mantras is, "no one will tell you everything"; in fact, the things we are told are often contradictory and potentially damaging. Surviving and thriving seems to hang on a wing and a prayer, many times.

Lewis has made it his mission to raise awareness of the necessity for the medical world to widen their approach to TBI survivors and employ every available modality in order to not lose our most precious asset, consciousness. If you or anyone you know has suffered TBI and is looking for a way, I recommend Mr. Lewis's book. While not a manual for navigating the medical system, it provides one man's clear and stoic efforts to regain the maximal wellness possible for him.

20 years on his recovery continues, and it is his mission to bring the message that there are many unused modalities of treatment -- many which he presents -- and that we should not be satisfied with the often low expectations attached to such diagnoses. 

As he told one interviewer, it seems in America we are satisfied with discharging accident victims after they have achieved a very minimal baseline of function and call that a recovery, with no direction for their future. (Mr. Lewis was discharged once he achieved an I.Q. of 89.)

This is not good enough.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Hostage Rescue Situations, II: Civilian

 Whether we like it or not,
the one justification for the existence of all religions is death,
they need death as much as we need bread to eat 
--Death with Interruptions,
Jose Saramago,

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;
and that which is done is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing under the sun 
--Ecclesiastes 1:9 

When people show you who they are,
believe them the first time 
--Maya Angelou
______________________ 

SubtitleChicken Little, or, The Lone Wolf

Scenario: Sydney (AUS) hostage crisis, 15-16 December 2014.

The media reported yet another Lone Wolf Islamic gunman took hostages at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney;  two hostages and the hostage taker were later killed. But how -- or does -- this situation differ from hostage situations that preceded it?

Instant analysis provided by hasty experts lead to the speedy disappearance of any discrete event from the headlines in favor of the next shock and awe event, and any lessons to be found in commonalities are lost in the relentless quest for the new. So what's new and what's not? 

All hostage taking is criminal behavior, and law enforcement exists deal with such events. The laws already exist in the legal codes of all civilized nations. Motives, tactics and response times may differ, but there is always a police response that is appropriate. Sydney is but another in the ignominious history of the hostage taking event. While there is no comprehensive list online, one can begin ticking off the scores of events in recent memory:

Moluccan separatists (Holland, 1977); DFLP Ma'alot massacre (Israel, 1974); numerous aircraft hijackings, beginning in the 1930's; Mumbai hotel (Lashkar-e-Taiba, 2008); Chechen theater takeover (Russia, 2002); Grozny (Caucasus Emirate, 2014); Beslan School Siege (Chechen, 2004); Grand Mosque seizure (Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1979); Munich Olympic massacre (Palestinian Black September,1972); OPEC ministers (Carlos the Jackal + German and Arab terrorists, 1975); Iran embassy takeover (1979); Iranian Embassy siege (London, 1980); Raid at Entebbe (Uganda, 1976); Norrmalmstorg robbery (Sweden, 1973) -- origin of the "Stockholm Syndrome", etc.

"Lone Wolves" are nothing new. The "shoe" and "underwear" bombers were also lone wolves. Anyone who attempts such an illegal and audacious action is by definition a lone wolf, even if representing a larger group. Most lone wolves are backed by a much larger transnational support system facilitating their operations.


All hostage takers give off intel predictors of their actions, just as all spree killers have. The problem is that we ignore these indicators. The perpetrators of the attacks of 9-11-01 and all subsequent attempts by affiliated groups gave off indicators, but nobody connected the dots. It's not that they are invincible but that we are negligent.

Our negligence allows these people to slip through the cracks and fly under the radar. Since the agencies tasked to ensure our safety are often no more than theater, look for the attacks to continue. The people leading these agencies often lack a police or security background

The police operate on the belief that all life is sacred, including that of the hostage-taker; but if intel indicates the hostage takers will execute hostages, then police must end the situation by assault. The police assault differs from the military one, however.

When the SEALs entered Yemen their assault was a predetermined, essential part of their plan. In contrast, a police assault should be effected only to prevent further loss of hostage lives. As the police assault phase is fluid, hostage lives always hang in the balance. In Sydney, the police had no option as all intel indicated the hostage taker was intent on killing his hostages.

The only critical observation in the Sydney scenario is that the police may have used too much firepower when they employed fully automatic fire. Prudence in the civilian setting may call for less rounds fired in select single fire mode to avoid accidentally killing hostages. A police response should always be measured, but it is always a judgement call for those on-site.

Hostage barricade situations are not going away, but the Western world has levels of security which can address any criminal activity, to include terrorism. The Euroterrorism of the 1960-90 era was effectively neutralized by good police work, intel and counteraction efforts, without governments crossing into authoritarian mode. The same comment will be made 30 years from now about today's "Lone Wolves".

Today's Lone Wolves do not differ much from their predecessors: they want to broadcast a message, and they often seek to gain ransom for further operational funding. Individually, they seem to be nihilists who do not value their own lives. However, their actions continue to support the viability of their group (=the Islamic State), even if they were not directly affiliated with the group to which they claim fealty.

As an aside: What hath the media and its mandatory political correctness wrought by feeding us the line that Islam is a religion of peace? It keeps us in a state of unknowing, children who must act shocked each time we put our hands on the stove and it burns. Certainly there are good Muslims, but the intermittent terrorist act will continue to erupt from that unsettled pool and we must be stoic in our application of established police protocol.

To deny that there is a large swath of "bad" Muslims who rejoice in their 10th century ethos is to be willfully blind to a movement taking over large swathes of the Middle East and Asia. To paraphrase Sam Kinison, it's called The Islamic State, people. "Bad" to us is "good" to them, and never the twain shall meet.

Our fundamental worldviews are different ... it is not simply a matter of the West disbursing a few more palletized bundles of Benjamins, or more education or fruit juice boxes at the Loya Jirgas. We are as puppets on a string when we recoil in horror at the beheading du jour.

What's new is the environment of fear fomented in the press.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hostage Rescue Scenarios

We will fight hostage taking 
like we fight terrorism 
--Ali Abdullah Saleh, 
former Yemen statesman 
_______________________
 
Hostage rescue situations are among the most fraught police and military scenarios. It is instructive to look at the recent SEAL raid in Yemen, in which neither hostage was retrieved alive, and the Australian hostage scenario, which resulted in two hostage deaths; the scenarios share a few similarities and many differences.

First, Yemen:

In the military hostage rescue operations are usually phased, the most difficult military efforts. The death of the hostage is always a probability.

In military terms, these are raids with a hostage retrieval. The raid is usually in a denied area, requiring an approach or movement to contact followed by an assault phase in which it is usual to kill all enemy except for prisoners, which may provide intel about future enemy intentions. The objective is usually isolated, and approach marches, difficult. Assaulting the objective is difficult not in a military sense, but in the attempt to preserve the life of the hostage.

In warfare, you can kill everyone on the objective if they are combative. They do not need to be armed since warfare does not require rules of engagement. Warfare is a state of belligerency, unlike in civilian law enforcement. A soldier's mission is to sweep the objective and leave it as soon as hostages are secured.

Since SEALs operate in secret there are few details for the Yemeni raid, but these comments are based upon historical context:


1) Hostage rescue is a host nation function, therefore, why didn't the Yemenis conduct the raid?  Does the United States have a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Yemen?

2) Did the US SOF employ agents to approach the hostage-taker's compound? Was this a go-it-alone venture? If so, why are our allies not hands-on in their own country?

3) Why is the U.S. in Yemen in the first place? Why are Western civilians allowed in a high-threat area? Does the U.S. want potential hostages running around the AO willy-nilly?

4) Why doesn't the Department of State declare Yemen, Iraq and all other high-threat areas off-limits to U.S. citizens? If we are banned from travel to Cuba and North Korea, then why not from areas of flat-out craziness? It is no secret that Westerners are desirable targets.

5) If the U.S. is in Yemen to secure Saudi Arabia's flank, then why can't Saudi Special Forces be employed in the hostage rescue efforts? Saudi assets could penetrate Yemen territory more easily than can U.S. SEAL teams.

6) Is Yemen really a country, or a lawless sand pit? If Yemen cannot ensure the safety of foreigners, can we say they are a nation?

7) Are the Yemen hostage-takers proponents of Saudi Wahhabi beliefs?

8) Why are all of the recent raids and hostage rescues being conducted by SEALs? Why are Special Forces no longer being employed -- aren't SF teams part of General Joseph Votel's SOCOM? When did SOCOM become a one ring circus?

Why are the SF not being rotated on the hazardous duty roster? SF has institutional Infantry combat knowledge beyond the capability of SEAL teams.


Next: we will look at the civilian hostage rescue or barricade situation in Sydney, Australia, the so-called "lone-wolf" scenario which may become the face of recurring hostage situations in this century.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Just Fun and Games

 --Team America: World Police (2004)

Hi, I'm Ricky Bobby. 
Christmas is right around the corner,
and what better gift to give a loved one [pulls out knife] 
than this Jackhawk 9000.
Available at Wal Mart!
--Talledega Nights (2006) 

The thing about killing you or her or him
is that I wouldn't be getting paid for it
and I don't like giving anything away for free 
--Suddenly (1954)

Freedom isn't free/no, there's a hefty fuckin' fee/
and if you don't all chip in your buck o' five who will?
Freedom costs a buck o' five 
--Team America (2004)
__________________

From the endless parade of news you can't use comes brouhaha of the week no.2: 

Sony and its computer hacking.

In what should have been news for the financial or entertainment sections made Front Page: entertainment company Sony's computer hacking at the supposed hands of the North Koreans, in supposed retaliation for Sony's scheduled release of "The Interview," a supposed comedy about the assassination of the NOK head of state, Kim Jong-Un.

In keeping with the peace and love of the Christmas season, President Obama gave a stern shout-out to Sony in a news conference saying he wished the Sony executive had consulted with him first before deciding to yank the film as he would advised them differently, and in no uncertain terms. Heavy-duty talk from a sitting President about the fate of a feature film (we hear, a not very good one at that), in the vein of "we'll kick your ass because we're Americans and we stand for freedom, y'see?"

Obama also comforted the madding crowds a few days ago reassuring them that the hacking was not an "Act of War", all of which makes RangerAgainstWar wonder, "Just how stupid are we?" Have we not moved beyond the hysteria generated by Orson Welles' broadcast of his "War of The Worlds" in 1938? Must everything be war or terror-related?

Reuters reported President Obama said (in a classic non-sequitur):

"I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately [President Obama said]."

"Obama said one option was to return North Korea to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, from which Pyongyang was removed six years ago."

Get that? Not terrorism, but the U.S. will put them back on the list of state-sponsored terrorism ... and why is that? Because we don't like you, and this is what freedom looks like, big guy.

Are we so insensitive that we forget we have lost Presidents to murders? If we are making a thinly-veiled suggestion that NOK would be better off without Kim, we would do wise to remember that our fomenting of the murders of sitting heads of state like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Khaddafy did nothing to further the cause of humanity in those hapless nations.

Perhaps the insensitivity required when viewing the killing and violence in "patriotic" films like Act of Valor, American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty has seeped so deeply into our consciousness that we are simply inured to any presentation of on-screen murder. That's entertainment.

But let us suppose for a moment that some members of NOK's burgeoning film culture decided to make a film in which President Obama gets whacked (a funny film, mind.)

Let's say the plot features Kim's friend Dennis Rodman challenging President Obama to a pick up game of b-ball-turned-deadly. Some unfortunate and gruesome accident occurs while Mr. Obama is jumping for a lay-up. In the denouement, Mr. Rodman and his friend Kim enjoy some gauche Western vittles in a slight to Capitalism -- maybe pizza and Pepsi, with Cheetos as a side -- while mock-eulogizing the loss of their dear former World Leader. Funny. no?

It's all fun and games til someone puts and eye out, as they say. Do you supposed we would screen the film here, and laugh at its premise?

Na ga da, as Dana Carvey might say.


[An interesting aside: Frank Sinatra starred in two films about assassinating a U.S. President -- Suddenly (1954) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). A year later, President Kennedy was actually assassinated. 

If NOK did in fact commit the hacking of Sony, perhaps it was they did not like those cinematic odds.]

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Death of the Week

 

 --We could make a series of it. "Suicide of the Week." 
Aw, hell, why limit ourselves? "Execution of the Week."
-- "Terrorist of the Week." 
--I love it. Suicides, assassinations, mad bombers,
Mafia hitmen, automobile smash-ups: "The Death Hour."
A great Sunday night show for the whole family.
It'd wipe that fuckin' Disney right off the air
--Network (1982) 

I'm robbin' people with a six-gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won 
--I Fought the Law, 
Bobby Fuller Four

The thief cometh not, but for to steal,
and to kill, and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly
--John 10:10

 Really Doctor, you must learn to govern your passions.
They will be your undoing 
--Star Trek, Spock to Dr. McCoy 
 ______________________

"So whaddya think about the latest shooting outside of Ferguson?" I was asked on Christmas Day.

"Stupid." The policeman was responding to theft in the vicinity of a Jiffy Mart, and he approaches two men in the area, one of whom turns on the cop pointing a weapon at him. Forgetting uncivil, illegal and criminal for the moment; just stupid. Are we at the "jump the shark" moment re. the racist cop meme?

The victim of this latest shooting to reach the news is Berkely, MO's Antonio Martin:

"In the 15 months since turning 17, Martin has faced several criminal charges. According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, they include three assaults, an armed robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action and stealing." 

Why amidst the hue and cry over how "Antonio did not need to die" is no one asking the question: "Who taught Mr. Martin how to behave in his society?" It does not sound like he was starting out the gate as anyone's paragon of virtue.

I think of my experience vis-a-vis a FAMU cop who accused me of an offense I did not commit. I could have been confrontational, and maybe his itchy trigger finger might have flinched, or I might have been strong-armed and knocked to the tarmac, a victim of a cracked skull after hitting the pavement like this poor woman. I certainly wouldn't have pulled a gun (even if I'd had one.) Yes, the officer was aggressive and out of line, but alone in the parking lot was not the place to seek justice.

My experience was not even close to that of Mr. Martin's criminal aggression, but a socialized human being knows the correct way to respond to a police officer. Such a person understands that the policeman is often functioning under pressure of a developing crime-in-progress. Especially a person like Mr. Martin, for whom it seems dealing with the po-po was a fairly routine experience.

As we mentioned in yesterday's piece (To the Point), the precipitating incident in this latest racial brouhaha (the police shooting of Mr. Brown) is irrespective of any other preceding or following police action in or around Ferguson, MO, or in any other town. To use one incident (which a grand jury declined to prosecute) as indicative of some larger cabal on the part of police is disingenuous at best.

Many Southern blacks commemorate their dead young relatives by wearing their image on a T-shirt with the birth and death date. The person is often the victim of gang violence, and he or she may have been alternately an innocent victim or a perpetrator, but they are memorialized on the shirts as if martyrs. Do we now have citizens so desperate that they are willing to goad a policeman into shooting them, just to drive up the numbers and amp up hatred and dissent in the populace? If we do, then our problems far outstrip any questionable police action.

In this season it easy to be mindful of the Christian perspective. Christ was supposed to be the last martyr. Don't tell me how bad or unfair things are today; they were much worse and less fair then.

But crying "racism" is so easy. One may feel righteous and expend some lingering angst, but the cry fixes nothing, nor does it address the actual problems which we dare not speak about lest they pull a Bill Cosby on us. Inconvenient and uncomfortable truths remain just that. We have closets for such things.

Perhaps Andy Warhol was right, and we all seek our 15 minutes of fame by any means necessary. Social networking certainly makes that possible today. More likely, certain areas are simply bastions of violence, and once one incident gains the national spotlight, all future criminal incidents in which blacks come up against police are then exploited, 'til knocked off the front page by the next outrageous non-event.

Living in civilized society requires that the members be disciplined and buy into that covenant that opposes the law of the jungle. Police, who are entrusted with maintaining the law and order we often take for granted, cannot be on every corner, in every potentially-robbed Zippy Mart, therefore as citizens we must be self-policing, functioning to protect both our own interests as well as those of our neighbors. We must all be good stewards of the society, and if most of us are not on board, then that society begins to unravel.

What keeps any of us from walking off with the contents of the supply room at work or worse? There would be no Post-it Notes or pens if we all took what we wanted. Fear -- fear of loss, or ridicule, are a couple of constraints. Out in society, the presence of CCTV's on street corners is another possible deterrent. Of course, many criminals do not think they will get caught. They have a sense of entitlement and lack a sense of responsibility.

Ask most criminals about their crime and they will tell you: "I didn't do it -- I was framed." Perhaps this is why for many, the deterrent value of punishment does not work. Also, some are so far down on the social ladder that there is nothing for them to lose in the commission of their crime.

The Christmas season is a good time to reflect upon what makes a society and allows for "goodwill among men". "Santa knows when you've been naughty or nice" pretty much sums up the whole shooting match. Don't do it -- don't take your sister's toys, kill the bird, steal the cookies -- because someone will know and you will be punished, or at least, you will not receive an even greater bounty, and you will suffer the censure of your fellows. Goodwill to you serves my better interests, but it is good behavior, in any event.

What do I think of people who draw a gun on a cop or anyone? If you want to be a pirate, go to Somalia. You can be a criminal every day of what will probably be a short and pathetic life.

Or you can enjoin the project of becoming a productive and kind citizen. Be a part of the solution, and not the problem, like the slogan says. You get to choose. Nobody said it was going to be fair, but we all arrive with basically the same set of tools. 

Unfortunately, we live in the time of the Death du Jour, and the copywriters have their bigotry meme to flesh out. Every killing that involves a racial disparity will now be magnetized to the meme. Everyone so inclined may hop on the feeding frenzy at the media's trough. Of course, in reality this is nothing but petty, unexceptional criminality, often ending in meaningless death, and the cries of protest land on fallow ground because few really want to speak the truth.

Common sense need not apply.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

To the Point

  We don't see things as they are,
we see them as we are
--Anais Nin
__________________

Amidst today's talk concerning police procedure vis-a-vis the deaths of black Americans sparked by the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, there is an unasked question, namely:

"Would the police have acted any differently if the suspect were white?"

If the answer is "No", then the shooting in Ferguson was not a racial incident from the police perspective. The answer to the question is discrete from how the event was perceived by the black population. Moreover, that precipitating event was a discrete event from each future police engagement with a black citizen.

Unfortunately, the concatenation of all following (or preceding) events is a human overlay, and humans have a compulsion to finding meaning or connection; we are pattern-makers. (We must be wary of our tendency to apophenia, as Lisa's Cambridge friend reminds her.)

Law enforcement officers have an unfortunate and built-in adversarial relationship with many of those those whom they must police. They are not filming a Hollywood police procedural and do not have the luxury of several takes. A pretty simple formula for not getting killed would be to not engage in crime, to not point a weapon at an officer and/or engage him in any physical way. Otherwise, it is an easy guess that the outcome will be an extremely violent one.

Lisa has a deputy sheriff friend who explained to her that many officers develop a poor attitude because they are dealing predominately with confrontation and shady characters on a daily basis. He, as a very Christian person, is able to access his faith and maintain a charitable outlook, but he allows that it is difficult in his position. He and his other deputies wear bullet-proof vests daily, a reminder that all do not welcome his appearance on the scene, despite and indifferent to his charitable outlook.

This is the law, which has no exceptions for race. So the question is:

"Do we have a race problem, or a police problem?"

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself a Non-Warrior Little Christmas

--A Charlie Brown Christmas 

I got to keep my image
While suspended from a throne
That looks out upon a kingdom
Full of people all unknown 
--I'm a Man,
Spencer Davis Group

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight 
--Merry Little Christmas 

He who, conscious of being strong,
is content to be weak,
He shall be the paragon of mankind
--Lao Tze   

I've got to leave before I start to scream
But someone locked the door and took the key
You feelin' alright
I'm not feelin' too good myself 
--Feelin' Alright, Joe Cocker
 ____________________

As an extension of the previous post (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen), the labels and identity of our soldiers -- both external and internal -- is a confused matter, adding to the fragmentation that many feel after their service.

The U.S. Army's Soldier's Creed morphed into a Warrior Ethos creed in 2003, and the oath is now a confused amalgam of the two concepts. A dialog on the topic began at the now-defunct site, "IntelDump", and Ranger will attempt his own definition via comparison now. (We also invite original participants and friends FDChief and Publius to continue in the discussion):

A soldier is conflicted by his wartime memories; a warrior exalts in them.

A soldier is shamed by violence; a warrior takes pride in and is defined by his violence.

A soldier fights to end wars; a warrior revels in them.

A soldier fights for humanity, and a warrior, for glory.

A soldier fights for country; a warrior, for his master and/or profit.

A soldier suppresses his memories; a warrior revels in them.

A soldier is self-effacing and humble; a warrior, brash and prideful.

A soldier values life; a warrior, only the life of  his leader.

A soldier fights as a team member; a warrior fights solo [this idea is confused in the 2003 Soldier's Creed, which states, "A warrior fights as part of a team.]

A soldier fights for duty; a warrior sees the fight as the end game.

A soldier's job is discrete and ends with the completion of the mission; a warrior accepts endless war as a way of life.

A soldier retains his humanity; a warrior tortures, takes hostages and assassinates.

A soldier is repelled by the suffering he inflicts; a warrior glories in carnage.

A soldier kills to fulfill a realistic objective; a warrior kills for no purpose beyond the kill.

A soldier tells his story with regret and humility; a warrior composes odes to the violence.

A soldier is mission-oriented, his acts conscribed by law; a warrior is lawless, unbound by civilized thought.

A soldier is committed to his community; a warrior, to his violence.

A soldier's life is not war; a warrior's life is war.

A soldier's death is lamentable; a warrior's death is meaningless.

A soldier acknowledges his weakness; a warrior destroys weakness.

A soldier respects law and authority; a warrior operates outside of the law, and has no restraint.

A soldier mourns the death of his enemy; a warrior kills sans remorse.

A soldier seeks to protect women and children; a warrior inflicts suffering on all, without discretion.

A soldier gives; a warrior takes.

A soldier fights in spite of his leader's lies; a warrior fights for his leader's lies.

A soldier does not endeavor to be a warrior; a warrior may never be a soldier.

Soldiers love; warriors, hate.

A democracy needs soldiers; an autocracy needs warriors.

Soldiers want their children to never know war; warriors raise their children to fight.

Soldiers bury the dead; warriors defile the dead.

Soldiers have sympathy; warriors extinguish their sympathy.

Soldiers defend civilization; warriors destroy civilization.

Historically, those sent into battle were kept apart from the general population for varying periods of time. The Greeks saw the fighting class as unfit for family life. After a probationary period as a soldier, some of these men could then enter the political arena. The Japanese Samurai was the prototypical lone wolf, an entity removed from and unruled by the constricts of his society.

Our Native American societies performed rituals to allow those returning from battle to become eligible to re-enter society. Reader MinstrelBoy, of White Mountain Apache background, explained that process here at RAW. Upon his return from serving in Vietnam, he partook of such a ceremony to assist him in his transition, and felt that the lack of such a passage for most soldiers leaves them with an open psychic wound.

This is not comprehensive, and your views are solicited.

Merry Christmas.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman


 They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy 
--God Rest Ye Marry Gentlemen 

Paciencia y barajar 
(Have patience, and keep shuffling the deck) 
--Miguel De Cervantes

 Chapter 4 
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it. 

Chapter 5 
I walk down another street. 

--fr. Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, 
Portia Nelson 

Innocence behind his broken expression
He's a child of mercy, he's our unlearned lesson
And he's trying to wake up from this wilderness
his world is now become
--War at Home, Josh Groban
_____________________


Subtitle: SEREne

This post is written for a soldier Ranger has never met.

It is prompted by reading David Finkel's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Thank You for Your Service, in which the author wrote about the terrible psychic and physical wounds suffered by the returning combat veterans of one formerly deployed unit from the Iraq War, and the institutional roadblocks to their welfare.

This is written from a soldier's perspective:

How does a combat soldier deal with the trauma he experiences, and go on to live a normal life? The answer -- contrary to what the counselors tell us -- is that we don't. While we definitely (the fortunate of us) learn to live with our reality, we will never be normal. We did what society told us to do, and those were often not good things, things that in the civilian world are quite bad.

Combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes from realizing that nothing good comes from elective wars, and that you have been operative in bringing on the ensuing havoc. One feels stress because the actions executed are not consonant with our views of ourselves as good human beings.

Though elective wars are not about national survival, the ensuing personal wars are totally about the individual's survival. Here are some of Ranger's tips for life in "survival mode":

[1] Stripped to basics, treat daily life as a Survival Escape, Resistance and Evasion (SERE) exercise. If depressed or feeling like withdrawing, force yourself to act like you are in a Prisoner of War cage. Wash, brush, walk or exercise -- leave the house. Eat a meal out just to be around and observe other people. They are not the enemy (though they may seem sloppy.)

[2] Do not drink alcohol to excess. Ranger now drinks moderately, but when he could not he used the mantra, "Alcohol will kill me as sure as an enemy bullet." Try and stay away from drugs of all kinds, both legal and street.

[3] If you feel your gears slipping, seek help. You cannot survive a clinically-depressed state alone. This recognition and action requires strength beyond the norm. VA counseling is available and is a good first step, but VA counselors work for the VA and not you. Counseling in the civilian world provides another perspective, and usually is available on a sliding fee basis or through community mental health centers if funds are an issue.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), ALANON and religious organizations also provide another good outlet for gaining perspective, support and self-understanding.

[3] Remove temptations to self-harm. Do not be baited into a fight, verbal or otherwise; you have nothing to prove; you also have nothing to win. Keep weapons at a distance, not ready to hand. I do not carry a gun on my person.

[4] Avoid violence as much as possible in entertainment choices. As a result, most television programs are unacceptable. Ditto much of what parades as television news, as it prompts a depressingly false perspective of a world as populated by violent freaks. Most talk radio is also unhelpful. Listen to calming music.

These media outlets stoke in us the negative and hopeless feelings that keep us in thrall to Big Pharma. The goals is not to become a user of any dope.

[5] Contra conventional wisdom, do not shoot. Ranger has stopped shooting competitively and does not hunt. The act of shooting (and killing) is too evocative of what we are trying to suppress. Weapons are not needed for recreation, and our identity need not revolve around out excellence at the skill which wrought our problems. At our level, weapons are tools that we should hold in reserve unless our survival requires them. 
[6] If possible, adopt a dog, and preferably a rescued animal. The needs of the animal will take you out of yourself, and his needs will humble you. The ever-present spectre of your own needs will recede as you begin to forefront another being in your care, one whom you will come to realize is more needy than yourself. You will feel gratification as your friendship grows, and as you see the healing process take place external to you.

Once you have gained a grip on your basic personal needs, you can begin thinking about your human relationships.

We come by our trauma legitimately but we need not spread it like a virus.  If you cannot live with yourself, Ranger suggests you live alone, understanding that for those in a marriage this may not be technically possible. (But don't isolate yourself, as previously mentioned.) If you must cohabit, some sort of understanding should be emplaced which allows you the space you will now need to reconstruct and re-integrate yourself. Trust yourself before you trust anyone else.

Don't try to be happy, just try to be.

These idiosyncratic tips have worked for Ranger, but only you will know what is best for you. Please do not forget that we are lucky and fortunate to be alive, so don't waste that chip on a poor hand or careless betting. Honor our fallen comrades by living the best life they would have wished for you, and for themselves.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ft. Apache, Cleveland


--Peace on earth, 
Arend Van Dam

I'd rather be a farmer than to be a police
I'd rather be a singer than to be a police
I'd rather be a father than to be a police 
--Mr. Policeman, Rick James 

I went back to Ohio 
But my city was gone 
There was no train station 
There was no downtown 
--My City Was Gone, 
The Pretenders

 --Any information from the street so far? 
--Are you kidding?
Anyplace else a guy sees a cop get killed,
he runs to the phone, here the doors close.
Right now there could be five people
who know who did this, in a few hours maybe ten,
maybe more, but not us.
Up here Captain, cops are like husbands --  
they're always the last to know   
--Ft. Apache, the Bronx (1981) 

Idle hands are the devil's workshop
__________________

What sort of country has police that kill people for illegally selling cigarettes on the street, or a boy aiming a toy gun outside of a community center?

It should not happen in a civilized nation, yet it has happened here. The U.S. is one nation under fear, and it needs to get a grip on itself if it is to succeed.

Sadly, as always, the response to these and like events is the predictable bifurcation along political lines: The Left expresses outrage about a Stalin-esque spectre; the Right defends the response of those charged with maintaining law-and-order. Digging in thusly, neither accomplishes the thing that needs doing -- an honest assessment of and reckoning with the state of race relations in America. We can't do it because we are not honest, are restricted by our resentments and hamstrung but the strictures of political correctness.

Last month Ranger found himself in Cleveland re-visiting the remains of his old neighborhood. The house he grew up in on Eaglesmere had been demolished since his last visit, but the majority of the houses remain, in various stages of hideous decay. Very occasionally one will see a homeowner attempting upkeep that consists of more than Visqueen over the windows, and it is sad to think that there is nowhere for their property value to go but down.

The homes in the blocks surrounding Ranger's childhood home were solidly white, labor and Catholic, with some Jewish merchants thrown into the mix. The complexion has changed: it still ethnic, but now the predominate groups are African American and Asian. At some point after the early 1970's, white flight to the suburbs began, and urban decay set-in.

Still, five minutes away sits the grand neighborhood of Bratenahl, and the police treatment of the two zones is telling.

For countless blocks of Cleveland degradation one will not see a police cruiser, only the forlorn residents drinking alcohol on their porch at 11 a.m., except when the police must come in to investigate a crime. The day Ranger drove through was such a day.

On 11/9/14 a teen was shot on the same Eaglesmere corner where another man was killed the previous week -- the same street on which Ranger grew up.

The police were taking reports. The residents of the house on the corner claim the shootings were unrelated, and that the police should be protecting them; a city alderman calls the residents thugs and is moving for their eviction.

"Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek says the occupants are a nuisance and a threat to the public's safety. 'It is chaos. It is no coincidence,'" said Polensek. "Look at the number of times police have had to run to that house.'"

This was an area that was once safe for children to explore by bike, or ride public transportation. Now only a fool or a desperate person would walk these streets or stand at a bus stop at night. Ranger feels naked traveling this ground without a firearm.

Another thing you notice in the 133rd Street Eastside area is the lack of business. When Ranger was a boy he alternately worked at a corner grocer, and set pins at a local bowling alley, among other odds and ends. His peers also all had jobs, often multiple ones at any given time. There was no time to consider violence; there was too much to do. Ranger has always loved guns but he did not have his first handgun until age 21, and certainly he and his fellows never thought of shooting one another.

As a FAMU sociologist friend explained to Lisa, when blacks from the hood succeed in business, they often leave their neighborhoods versus investing in them. Upward mobility is the idea of American success, after all.

But in Ranger's Cleveland, the ethnic residents mostly did not seek to leave. Generations found brotherhood in a common background, and he idea of success was a hoped for incremental generational step upward; many of Ranger's schoolmates still live in the same neighborhoods as their parents.

Cleveland was changing by the early 60's. South of Superior Ave. and east, between 79th to 105th, had become clearly black-held terrain. At age 13 Ranger defended himself with a baseball bat from attack by an 18-year-old black teen armed with a bayonet near this area and landed in juvenile detention, until the event was adjudicated self-defense. Some ethnic neighborhoods tried to hold onto their fragment of the American dream, but Ranger's family was more typical, moving to the suburbs of 140th and Lakeshore where he spent his high school years.

Perhaps, urban blacks have missed out on some of the intermediary steps to finding social cohesion. Many were refugees from the agricultural South who sought out the same factory jobs as the low-middle class worked, and for a generation they did work side-by-side with their white counterparts. But after this first generation which straddled the 1940's and 50's, things began falling apart.

Unfortunately, the abruptness of the Civil Rights movement was operative in the break. Many black workers lacked a generational history of working in industry and riding the slow grind required to impart to coming generations the tools needed for possible escape. Instead, for many, after only one factory generation came the advent of quotas. Concomitant was the explosion of media-driven conspicuous consumption, which cannot easily be had on a worker's salary, so what's a poor boy to do?

As an aside, our town (Tallahassee) was recently reported to have the second highest crime rate in the state. Under the Tallahassee Democrat article online a commenter requested a map be given showing the areas of highest crime concentration. The following exchange occurred in response:

--Look for the Africans.

--Wait, what about the whites who commit bigger financial crimes daily?

--With evolution comes the ability to commit bigger and better crime.

This exchange illuminates one strain of thought among our citizens. Clearly, crime pays. Everyone wants nice material things.

We don't have the answer. Maybe you have a piece of the puzzle to share.

--Jim and Lisa

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Good Tidings, et. al

Dear Ranger Readers:


We've been off-post, but not without thoughts and reason.

Please stay tuned ... we have much in the pipeline. We promise to get some posts up in the next few days.

Meantime: Glad Tidings to all,

Your Ranger Staff

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Ferguson


Hope is a four-letter word
Make that money, watch it burn 
--Counting Stars, One Republic 

I the Lord your God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
to the third and the fourth generation
of those who hate me
--Exodus 20:5 

For there is but one essential justice
which cements society, and one law
which establishes this justice.
This law is right reason, which is the true rule
of all commandments and prohibitions. 
--Cicero
 _______________________

America's distraction du jour is the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The Grand Jury decided not to indict, as the officer did not shoot Brown in a premeditated act.

Life is supposed to be sacred, and anything with a whiff of heresy in contravention of that belief makes us feel uneasy, at best. Yet what did we feel when our President ordered a very premeditated drone strike which killed a 16-year-old American teen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen?

After the targeted kill, former Obama Secretary Robert Gibbs stated that the boy's father was to blame for the young man's murder ("should have [had] a far more responsible father.") Where is the responsibility in the face of that convoluted, biblical argument?

Is death by drone a Presidential prerogative not subject to court oversight, and is a police shooting something different? Dead is dead, right? Further, how many children have been killed as collateral damage to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we weep equally for them?

When a cop kills, he may be subject to a Grand Jury investigation. The President is the same fallible man -- why is he not held to the same legal standards?

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Soft Targets

 --the Jolly Roger 

 We kindle and char and inflame and ignite
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho
We burn up the city, we're really a fright
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho 
--A Pirate's Life for Me

 And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
from where we came 
--The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell
_____________________

Terrorists -- our topic du jour and theme de l'annee, for the forseeable future -- habitually attack soft targets. Vis-a-vis this fact, let us look at the United State's Special Operations Command (SOCOM), a group of not-terrorists, and its historical tactics.

First some history. Your study assignments are the S'on Tay Raid in Vietnam and the Cabanatuan prison camp raid of World War II.

At S'on Tay, U.S. Special Forces led an incursion into a hard target, killing enemy soldiers and exfiltrating following the mission's completion. The Rangers breached another hard target at the Cabanatuan prison camp in the Philippines, deep in enemy terrain ("The Great Raid"). There, they sought to liberate allied prisoners of war and civilians. (In the European theatre, the Hammelburg raid was a similar operation, though with a more dire outcome.)

At both S'on Tay and Cabanatuan, there was a great possibility that the action could go South, which is exactly what happened to Task Force Baum, but those difficult actions characterized the Special Forces credo. The Special Forces of yore enlisted special men for challenging operations.

Today, the U.S. enlists its Special Forces to "take out" soft targets, crowing after the fact about the foregone conclusions. SEALs now kill such soft targets in their bedroom (= Osama bin Laden), or kill meaningless pathetic targets like the Somali pirates (the fictional Black Spot still inspiring fear.) The U.S. may as well paint targets on the foreheads before doing them the favor of releasing them from their miserable lives of poverty and desperation.

--Special Forces recruiting poster, ca. 1970

Now you have men like former SEAL Robert O'Neill bragging about being the triggerman in the OBL assassination, but not all soldiers in his community find his braggodocio endearing.

No one has the pirate's backs, and if the UBL raid went South the Pakistanis (stationed a short hop away) would not have moved to destroy the SEAL team; they love our money too much for such a dumb overreaction.

But what happens when the SEALs move against medium threat targets as in Robert's Ridge (Takur Ghar), the site of the Murphy Medal of Honor scenario? Well, they get blown out of the water.

Now to the current Islamic State (IS) - ISIL scenarios. Why don't the SEALs attempt hostage rescues against hard targets, like the British-speaking beheading specialist, for he is surely no less a target than the pirates. Do they lack the capability? Why not attack and destroy an IS command post? 

Word is, the SEALs who whacked UBL in his jammies received Silver Stars (SSM) for conducting their assassination. However, the Army regulations for bestowing such an award requires "close combat with the enemy", none of which was reported. Where is the heroism required to meet the bar of "conspicuous gallantry"? 

Special Operations has become specialized in "taking out" soft targets, much as the terror organizations against whom they are arrayed.

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