Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mission Impossible

 --The bloom's off the rose 

 His stop-loss odyssey 
went Kabul, morphine, 
   Ramstein, Stateside, 
and back—round-robin   
desert wrestling,
tag out, tag in 
--Welcome Home, Troops! 
 Amit Majmudar

 Cause I gonna make you see 
There's nobody else here 
No one like me
 I'm special, so special
--Brass in Pocket,
The Pretenders

One step forward and two steps back
 Nobody gets too far like that
 One step forward and two steps back 
This kind of dance can never last 
--One Step Forward, 
The Desert Rose Band    

Let us do a check-in on the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) at lucky year 13, as President Obama sends more advisers to Syria in what looks very much like JFK's adviser gambit in the early years of the Vietnam War, the poster child counterinsurgency (COIN) failure.

First, a review: After the initial conventional invasion stage, the PWOT© became a COIN war, for lack of a better term. General Petraeus and his post-Vietnam thesis guided our participation, as if this time, we would really nation-build and win hearts and minds.

Hearts and minds, as if Vietnam could be redeemed and made into something of worth. COIN theory redux would modernize Galula, make what they tried to bury count, make it relevant for a new day.

But then the New COIN started looking like its own danse macbre. We forgot that it wasn't a war, and we were fighting the very people we came to democratize. COIN  really isn't a very good way for the U.S. to win a war, or to help a people.

You cannot both fight people and nation build concurrently. Probably, we still do not realize that it is possible to nation build and to fight insurgents, but the process must occur consecutively. It is impossible to fight, kill and destroy while also attempting to build; the concepts are mutually exclusive.

The luster fell away from the erstwhile Golden Boy, General Petraeus, and his vaunted COIN theory has been folded and put back under the trundle bed, like an old Mission Impossible VHS tape. So where does that leave hearts and minds and nation building, as the United States trudges on in the quagmire that is the Not-Arab Spring?

The mask of nation-building has fallen away, as the U.S. realizes that was merely pretense for our frenzied occupation of places in which the U.S. had no legitimate reason to be. "Asymmetrical warfare" has also died a protracted death on the trash heap of a failed policy.

The U.S. is currently yoked to a slug-fest that makes less sense than did the tarted-up, new-and-improved COIN of once-wonder boy, Vietnam vet-manque, Mr. Petraeus.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Earth Day + 4

--It's not nice to fool Mother Nature
In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/9897-John_McPhee
In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/9897-John_McPhee
 In making war with nature,
there was risk of loss in winning 
---John McPhee 

The warm, the richly coloured,
the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday.
 How kind, how good-looking,
how delightfully amusing every one was! 
--Brave New World
Aldous Huxley 

It is a fiction that science can save us
--Ranger thought

If you live in a lovely part of the world, mazel tov. However, if you are drinking water in Flint or Cleveland, not so much.

"Better living through science" was the mantra in the 1950's, and one cannot watch commercial television or read a magazine without exposure to copious advertisements of drugs which will cure what ails you (if it doesn't kill you, first). The scientists can offer fixes, but they are more reticent on the topic of what made you sick to begin with.

The despoiling of our water sources will probably be mankind's undoing. But the water still comes out of the faucet, so it mustn't be all that bad, right? Florida is experiencing the slow catastrophe that is the fouling of its aquifer, but Governor Scott has seen fit to remove most protections and solutions.

Lake Apopka in the center of the state, once a pristine bass fishing area, has been fouled by decades of fertilizer runoff from muck farming by the A. Duda company. (Agricultural interests get a pass in Florida.) Now, it is the home of hermaphroditic frogs, and it has rendered as dead zones the entire Chain of Lakes which emanate from it.

Lisa lives near a Superfund site which, after the top six feet of contaminated earth was scraped and sent up to Georgia, has been converted into "Cascades Park", a capital showpiece. Of course, when she moved into town she read about clusters of illness in the vicinity, but also that doctors were not required to report these observations to any clearinghouse as there was no clearinghouse.

The money today is on chronic illness and lifetime "maintenance drugs". As Ranger observes, there are "well baby" doctor visits, but no "well adult" visits. People are too busy to stop and smell the roses, so they take antidepressants at unheralded levels as a stop-gap measure to keep them working, and working too long without rest and good food, they break down,.

A kindly friend gave Lisa a bottle of COSTCO sublingual B-12 the other day, for nerve health and energy. The pill was unpalatably, sickeningly sweet, creating a radioactive red color in the saliva advertised as a "cherry" flavor. She then read the ingredient list: Sucralose -- a neurotoxin -- and Mannitol, even worse. There is a contradiction here between intent and execution. 

The best medical innovations in the last century have probably been antibiotics and vaccinations, which eradicated scourges like polio (something which the privileged anti-vaxxers forget, and village people in Afghanistan and Pakistan never understood, anyway; just don't trust whitey . . . usually sound advice.) But besides those, how do we know that the things that afflict us are not caused by the things that we have created to "better" our lot? We foul and fix, like a dog chasing its tail.

It will be interesting to see the results of lives lived on smartphones, up until the wee hours updating and trolling Facebook and Instagram feeds. Surely Darwinism will remove many of the driving-texters from the gene pool.

We are already noticing young teens demonstrating nascent Dowager's humps as their faces tilt preturnaturally downward, and "Together Alone" is becoming the norm as all 'round the table get their fix on the smartphone.

Will we be able to stay ahead of the power curve resulting from the destruction which lies in our wake?

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

You Wanted Dead White Males, You Got 'Em

 --And away they go
(Jackie Gleason as Ralph Cramden)

 A dirty white boy
I've been in trouble since I don't know when
I'm in trouble now and I know somehow
I'll find trouble again
--Dirty White Boy,

Twenty five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin' and clappin' man what the hell happened
--Walking on the Sun,
Smash Mouth

The only thing that's left to fear is too late to ever start again
They rape us over and over and over and over
But I'm still alive, but I'm still alive in this dead space 
--Dead Space, Sick Puppies

Subtitle: Requiem for a Heavyweight

The academie has been calling for their heads for decades.  De-center the white male -- eject his works from the canon! And while it is true that society has historically failed to recognize and include females and minorities, the white male artist should not be the whipping boy for society's failures.

Especially white males of the lower and middle strata today, who largely have no power to oppress anyone in society. Yet among the liberal crowd, it is with glee and snarkiness that they -- largely young to middle-aged white males -- express their schadenfreude against the meth-heads and Oxy fiends in Kentucky, largely young to middle-aged white males.

Scapegoats needed, and the bedraggled Khalid Sheikh Mohammed-looking guy in Appalachia in the wife-beater, gaze affixed to the rabbit-eared t.v. will do nicely, thanks. 

Well, we now have the result of this denigration and disdain: the white male young to middle-aged cohort is the only demographic losing in the longevity race in the United States. In addition to alcohol, drug abuse and liver cirrhosis is cited depression, as though the latter were a discrete phenomenon from the former.

After the previous gains had plateaued for several years, they have now begun to dip. Every other cohort continues to gain annually.

This trend should be very concerning to anyone who cares about a well populace. One group need not lose in order for others to gain. There is no penance that need be paid. This is not the bible, and offspring do not pay for the sins of the fathers.

But these dead and dying they are no one's pet project, they are simply lost like so much detritus along the highway that used to be paved with hope. Their jobs have been outsourced and off-shored, their towns, dying due to the outflux of industry. Good union jobs are scarce, once the route into the middle class for the vocational track student. There are few apprentices or journeymen anymore.

Clothes and socks and appliances are bought cheaply from abroad, and disposed of as befits their value. Human's valuation and a sense of pride also landed on that trash heap. These are the designated losers in the sweepstakes of modernity, not educated enough to innovate or escape the dead ends into which they were born, not qualifying for any particular charitable cause.

The last time an administration took note of their plight was back in the 1930's when FDR's administration began improvements like the Tennessee valley Authority (TVA) and the Works Project Administration (WPA). President Obama's Promise Zones plans to bring federal dollars to regions with persistent poverty, like those in Kentucky (the first rural pilot), but it will probably be as successful as Johnson’s War on Poverty and Clinton’s Empowerment Zones. Not.

The causes du jour, gay marriage and LGBTQ rights, have no space for the floundering straight white male. As in The Dark Tower, time has moved on. The People Who Mean Well will bring places like rural Kentucky online, but sans leadership, they will play video games and grow more unfit to do anything but get to the end of the driveway for their monthly check to keep the Mountain Dew flowing.

The too-young dying white males should be seen as a bellwether for the future of any hopeless cohort in our country. Simply as a matter of expediency, we should be utilizing all of our manpower into building a more robust society; forget morals and ethics.

We amuse ourselves with programs like "Justified and "The Walking Dead", but the reality which props up the artifice is anything but amusing. Witnessing large swathes of desolation throughout the land which used to be centers of production -- now become rat holes -- we should all be concerned if for naught else than the corrosive effect upon on our own piece of the puzzle. The contagion spreads from the epicenters of the disease.

Epitaph of the dead white male: I can't go on, I'll go on.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chinese Fire Drill

--The New Europeans 

The greatest patriotism is to tell your country
when it is behaving dishonorably
--Julian Barnes

Islam is a beautiful harmless happy daffodil 
--Earth (The Book),
Jon Stewart, et al. 

I don't wanna hear your talking, boy
Your words don't mean a thing 
--Wings, Little Mix

Watching the news today is like watching a Chinese fire drill. Inscrutable Middle East / Arab / Muslim people lead each news hour. If it is not the bedlam in their own countries, than it is their effect upon the others. It is a contagion we are led to believe cannot be contained.

The intellectuals tell us, "refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely", like it or lump it [ "The Non-Existence of Norway".]

When we make a foray into out own nation's news, it is to strike the alarum against Things That Cannot Be, like presidential front-runner Trump. In a democratic nation, Trump's facticity mortifies us. Yet his success is a bellwether for the condition of our electorate. 

In addition, he is not sui generis. We have had businessmen and an actor (a business of sorts) serve as President. In addition, wrestlers, comedians, and everyone in between have served in representative positions.

Rather than The Powers That Be scrambling to pull the plug on the farrago that is Trumpmania, why not look with fascination and concision at that very real phenomenon. No, sadly, that sort of truth-telling we cannot allow. 

We do not ask the right questions because we are too busy constructing the images that tell the story we want to tell.

A recent story-topper in the New York Times was masterful: "The New Europeans" re-constructed Grant Wood's iconic "American Gothic" for a world which is told it must absorb the illegal Arab immigrant (see above). ("Look -- they are just like you", the carefully constructed image tells you. "No worries".)

The clean-cut Middle East couple newly arrived in Bavaria could be in an American Outfitters advertisement, with the photo's appealing bright pinks and yellows. And, it's got kids -- kids in matching little construction boots! Future workmen -- what's not to like?

In addition to the variously imaged immigrants, we see the same news footage nightly regarding the latest Islamic State (IS) outrage, but we never see pictures of IS fighters who have been captured alive. Why?

Does the Iraqi Army, Iraqi militias or the Kurds have enemy prisoner of war (EPW) units? Do these forces abide by the Geneva Conventions (GC) when dealing with IS?

The immediate reply will be, "Well, IS doesn't abide by the GC's". While clearly a true statement, hopefully United States tax dollars do not finance IS. The Iraqis are a different matter since they were created in our image and likeness by our greenbacks.

You won't hear it on the news, but the real Rubik's Cube is a U.S. policy which supports allies who are not allies, and who do not share our values. Allies who practice ethnic cleansing and Genocide Light, something which is opposed to the 1988 Genocide Treaty signed by the U.S. 

What we are given instead are graphics, things we can scroll on our media feed while stopped at traffic lights, possibly even while driving, a little something to enhance that otherwise mundane experience.

We took our eyes off of the road some time ago.

--Jim and Lisa

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Leaving Gitmo

 --Except if you are in Gitmo

 “Who are you? Just another American
who saw too many movies as a child?
Another orphan of a bankrupt culture
who thinks he’s John Wayne?
--Die Hard (1988)

People react to fear, not love.
They don't teach that in
Sunday school, but it's true
--Richard Nixon

If it doesn't fit
you must acquit
--Johnny Cochran

President Obama visited Cuba this week like a shining white knight, a la President Reagan vis-a-vis Gorbachev. "I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas," he said.

In his not quite so soaring rhetoric, Mr. Obama pledged to take down the wall that has separated the two nations for 50 years, proclaiming that is what a democracy does -- it engages in free and open debate. For a little extra oomph, he threw in some Kennedy spit polish, suggesting the universality of man in an "Ich ein Berliner" rip (he chose José Martí's, “Cultivo una rosa blanca”). 

What he failed to do was to address the rights of the men that the United States continues to detain in Guantanamo Bay 14 years into a misbegotten war, a prison joint that the President had vowed to close several years ago.

The New York Times ran a laughably disingenuous editorial on the visit, to wit:

" . . .they saw a cantankerous autocrat who failed to [answer] a journalist [who] asked why his government continues to detain people for their political beliefs."

Were they talking about Mr. Obama or Mr.Castro? Hard to tell. Obama is preaching democracy while practicing totalitarianism. Like all good preachers, you tell the flock what makes them feel good.

The problem of Gitmo seems intractable. The hard core faction wants to bring the prisoners to the U.S. and throw them into Supermax. They face a problem, though: before we throw prisoners into  jail and throw away the key, we must conduct a nicety called a "trial". The individuals must then be convicted.

Instead, the Gitmo detainees have been rendered a stateless people in a pre-Magna Carta state, beyond the reach of legality. Some have been released with no trial, others remain in a prison limboland.

Since they are denied Prisoner of War status -- which would afford them certain protections -- they must be convicted or released.

If it doesn't fit . . .

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

In the Name of the Rose

I say father, and you say pater,
I saw mother and you say mater 
--Let's Call the Whole Thing Off,
George Gershwin

A rose by any other name  
would smell as sweet 
 --Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

 Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose 
--Sacred  Emily, Gertrude Stein 

Terrorism is like a tiger that changes it's stripes, and everyone is grasping for its tail, but he eludes capture. Like a game of musical chairs, each government agency must find a chair at the money feeding trough, and so must make a case that terrorism is something they can best confront.

Although terrorism is an observable fact, the way we interpret the facts leads to different theories regarding how to confront it.

Simply put: Terrorism is a CASH COW.

Many agencies share the task of defining and confronting terrorism, and so each must define it slightly differently in order to justify their viability qua agency. When the failed War on Terror began, the FBI had proponency under their counterintelligence functions. Terrorism was a legal concern under United States code and practices. Terrorists are civilians, and criminal law covers their actions.

Then there is the CIA, a civilian intelligence agency which has a paramilitary branch. Therefore, it is to their benefit to mold the subject into a military plus civilian concern.

Next is the Department of State, which can trump the CIA because they can get the Department of Defense  (DoD) to do their bidding. The DoD speaks of bringing freedom and liberty to countries, while breaking and destroying the same countries. But the DoD also has some intelligence agencies at the strategic level, so why not employ them for terrorism counteraction?

It behooves certain agencies to define the symbolic violence of terrorism as "warfare" for funding purposes. But the criminals acts of 9-11-01 were different in scope and nature than the activities of ISIS, which are warfare. Further, as ISIS does not abide by the accepted rules of war this confounds the issue, making them look like terrorists.

This inter-agency one-upmanship creates a dynamic tension which seldom facilitates good long-term results.

The problem facing us is to define terrorism and decide the correct approach to confronting it. Each agency is disingenuousness in the name of defending their corner of the pie.

The DoD has the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) and use them they must, even when there is no foreign government to target in their collection cycle. In such a pickle, they can also turn their alphabet monitoring apparatuses on U.S. citizens and sell that function as a security concern. DoD will target anything in their need to find a niche in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

The CIA doesn't even bother with such cover stories to mask their dirty work, and the Homeland Security Agency (HSA) is rife with political appointees coordinating with courts composed of political appointees.

So, the DoD, Department of State, HSA, CIA, Special Operation, the President, the Attorney General and the Pope all have conflicting theories on what the term "terrorism" actually means. 

After 14 years of war we still cannot define the problem because it remains theoretical.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Good News Day

--Died for Nothing,
 Andy Singer
I heard the news today, oh, boy,
The English army had just won the war 
--A Day in the Life, The Beatles 

Come on, baby
Jump up
Jump back
Well, now, I think you've got the knack 
--LocoMotion, Little Eva 

Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan 
--Here War is Simple, W. H. Auden

The Big News a few days ago was that United States Delta troops had captured an ISIS chemical weapons expert who specialized in the manufacture and use of mustard gas, a "Chemical Ali" for our times.

Yet despite the Good News of Good Guys triumphing over Evil, here we are 14 years into the Middle East war project and not one millimeter closer to an endgame. The capture and killing of an individual is meaningless effort, signifying motion with no progress.

But Perhaps Good News is relative -- what is good for the talking heads and Hollywood filmmakers and contractors is not good for us taxpayers in the homeland.

As RangerAgainstWar has said from the inception of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©): there is nothing for the U.S. to win, and all is effort with no benefit. Our soldiers are not fighting for our freedom (though they may be fighting for the freedom of the war profiteers to profit.)

Iraq and Iran will never be bastions of liberal democracy; meanwhile, freedoms in the U.S. wane daily. So what is the soldier's mission? 

We were sold The Surge and The (fill-in-the-blank) Spring as worthy soldierly goals. Yet historically, surges and springs come to no good end. Stalingrad, Kursk, the German efforts at The Bulge, the Prague Spring. Sounds good, but they had no staying power.

The Surge was a media event, the Sunni Awakening and the Sons of Iraq being bribed to pretend to fight for U.S. goals when in reality it was Sunni fighters consolidating and reorganizing for their next effort . . . with the help of U.S. weapons and training. Add a spoonful of sugar and the result?

That's right -- ISIS. And the conclusion: all of the troops killed, wounded and mentally unbalanced by these wars were used for no good thing. What do they see when they look into the mirror now?

For a war to be just, the sum of the good must exceed the evil, suffering and death required to achieve it. What good has been achieved since the U.S. invasion in 2002?

Ronald Reagan's question holds: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" 14 years ago?

The War on Terror isn't tough on terrorism, it's tough on the everyday working American. We are spending our treasure on no Good Thing.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

An Untenable Situation

Americans love to drill holes
in other people's countries
--Syriana (2005)

--Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?
--Whadda you got?
--The Wild One (1955)

 --Why do we do this?
--You've gotta do something.
Don't you?  
--Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

In Clausewitzian thought, war is considered an extension of the political process. War is deadly politics.

Here we are in 2016 and this 19th century thinking is still taught in our military schools and guides our geopolitical behavior. But post-Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), Arab Spring and the lot of it, the dichotomy no longer seems so relevant.

Using Syria as an example: There is no political goal that can be applied to the military endeavor, and vice versa. The military effort will not sustain a politically successful conclusion for any of the players. Politics and military violence are not mutually supportive, nor is one an extension of the other.

For the United States there is no political solution that will be won by force of arms. There is also no military treatment that will effect a political decision. If we accept this, then the solution to the Syrian Civil War is outside of the rules of war and of politics.

If the U.S. uses military power we can destroy the current iteration of the Islamic State (IS), but that will not end the civil war. Neither Iran, Iraq, the U.S. nor the Russians will allow such a thing. Additionally, IS will be re-born under another sobriquet.

The political entente cannot be achieved because none of the players – including the U.S. – can impose its political will short of a decisive war. The problem is that the U.S. Department of State (DoS) cannot achieve a political consensus, and the CIA cannot achieve a military success.

Possibly, I have this reversed, and the DoS cannot achieve a military victory and the CIA does not have a political solution of any value. The CIA and the DoS have contradictory goals, and their efforts are cancelling one another out. Why did the U.S. support rebels when this war started? Lose/lose is a far piece from win/win.

Neither politics nor military action have produced any results in Libya, Syria or Iraq. Iran remains the wild card sitting in the catbird’s seat. Saudi Arabia is also outside of the military – political sphere of influence.

So, why did the U.S. get enmeshed in the Syrian Civil War to begin with? What will the U.S. gain by throwing its lot in with the rebels – any of them?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Muslim 2.0

 I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
--Coke commercial, The New Seekers 

Why can't we all just get a long neck,
And make a toast to peace and harmony? 
--Why Can't We All Just Get a Long Neck?
Hank Williams, Jr.

 Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be 
--Sonnet 138, Shakespeare

President Obama recently forcefully rebuked the rise of "inexplicable political rhetoric" against Muslims, decrying the fact that the entire Muslim community was being blamed for the violent acts of a very few. Strange days indeed, as this was spoken by a president who has killed Muslims worldwide, both observant and secular.

Besides being hypocritical it is disingenuous, for the violence perpetrated by Muslims who have recently invaded Europe makes the anti- Muslim rhetoric very explicable. Saying the reaction to Muslims is "inexplicable" does not make it so, even if it perpetuates the finely-honed image of inclusion and liberalism which we have embraced as an American self-definition.

One thing is certain: devout Muslims do not share Western Enlightenment values. Muslims are homophobic and misogynistic (which is not to say that die-hard Christians are not, but to a lesser degree and in a less public castigation), among many other beliefs they hold which do not jibe with Western protocol.

Especially dissonant at the President's talk was the presence of women in hijabs and burkas gazing agog at this president, Lewinsky-like, while he argued for the inclusivity of Muslims into Western society.  Meanwhile their bodies were hidden beneath bag-like 13th century garb. How can these women pursue happiness and the American dream when their very exclusion violates the separate-but-equal clause of the U.S. Constitution?

Is importing such reactionary foreign behaviors into America really wise? Is not the United State's the great "melting pot", into which all newcomers throw themselves in order that they might emerge from that cauldron tempered and defined as a new entity, that of the "U.S.citizen"? The modern U.S. ideal is rational thought which promotes individualism, freedom of religion, and all associated freedoms, rights and responsibilities.

While no American can deny the use of controlled immigration as a national tool, should we allow immigration of peoples en masse whom opposes the very values of our national life. Creating Enlightenment values was a hard road to hoe, but it is precious and should be defended against those who would revel in its dissolution.

Islam is not the problem, because they are very clear. No, the problem is that we Judeo-Christian types extend charitable thoughts and actions to those who neither deserve nor want this largess. U.S. charity and immigration policy should address the welfare of our nation and apply only to those willing to integrate into our value system.

The U.S. government is clamping down on social benefits across the board for our own citizens, yet we espouse bringing people in to the country who can't say with a straight face that they want be Americans.

 And we say with a straight face that they will enrich our nation. 

"You lie with me, and I with you ..."

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Everybody Knows

--Pour féliciter 2016  
Marian Kemnsky (Slovakia)

If you make people think they're thinking,
they'll love you,
but if you really make them think,
they'll hate you
--Don Marquis

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
--Everybody Knows,
Leonard Cohen

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
--Look on the Bright Side of Life,
Monty Python

Whether mass murders are committed by criminals, crazies or crusaders, all activities that can be conducted by terrorists can be predicted and countered; they all throw off indicators. Adequate Human Intelligence (HUMINT) should be keen to these tells, and it seems they are by the speed with which suspects are identified.

The above descriptive categories are not necessarily discrete and do not negate the humanity of the perpetrator, who has merely amplified his innate human qualities and tendencies to pathological levels. They are simply helpful labels to distinguish a potential "them" from an "us".

And yet, though the pathology and criminality can be predicted, detected and monitored, this failed to occur in Boston, Aurora, Newtown, Ft. Hood, University of West Virginia, San Bernadino or any of the other recent spree shootings that occur with sickening regularity. Why?

Why do our authorities not develop a protocol for response, as though each incident is de novo? We are no longer shocked -- only in the disingenuous sense of Casablanca's Captain Renault. What is shocking is our response to these hideous events.

Why didn’t the police barricade and contain the final scenario? Why no effort to capture the killers? If this was an example of terrorism, then capturing the suspects should have been a primary goal, as live intelligence sources are of vital importance.

Why are the identities of attackers with a tie-in to extremist Islam instantly released, yet they were not on anyone’s radar prior to the attacks? Suggestions of police racial profiling are avoided at all costs, yet immediately following these much-too-many attacks, racial profiling is the order of the day. If we know who the murderers are, why do we close the barn door after the horse is out?

Beyond this event, we should be mindful of what our responses hath wrought. Last year the U.S. movie-going public rose in admiration of Clint Eastwood's Hollywood fairy tale, "American Sniper", but to the people on the other side of the fence, neither he nor the country he represents are heroic. In fact, the response to such "heroism" has created the void into which Islamic State was birthed.

James Meek had a good piece recently on the bombing of Syria, in which he outlines the obvious, inevitable failures. As in all recent bombing campaigns, "[First] bombing, then ISIS franchise."

Bombing fails because it is reminiscent of any colonial approach:

"The country is present, but doesn’t have a voice. ... [A]ir attacks on Syria, before they are an attack on Islamic State, are an attack on Syria, a foreign country, whose citizens have no say in our affairs, and which has not attacked us, or our allies."


It doesn’t make sense for Cameron to argue that air attacks on Raqqa will help prevent IS attacks on London, when the recent attacks in Paris happened 14 months into an intensive series of air raids on and around IS-held areas, led by the world’s leading military power, which has spared no airborne military resources or technology to try to wipe IS from the earth. Russia’s recent experience, losing a passenger jet to an explosive device soon after it began bombing Syria, seems to confirm the intuitive assumption that bombing is more likely to provoke terrorism than to thwart it.
We have been here before, with al-Qaida and then with the Taliban: Western governments have mistaken a super-decentralised network, somewhere between a franchise and an ethos, for an agency with a postal address. The attacks in Paris certainly had IS links – some of the attackers had been to Syria or tried to get there – but most, if not all, were French or Belgian, who sought out IS because they had been radicalised at home, and who did most of their killing with Kalashnikovs from the former Yugoslavia.

It is useful for an IS aspirant to have a Raqqa to go to for training, for battle experience, for validation by a set of jihadi peers. But for a mobile terrorist franchise like IS or al-Qaida, Raqqa is a concept, not a place. Once Osama bin Laden’s Raqqa was in Sudan. Then it was in southern Afghanistan. It could be in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, in northern Nigeria, in the Russian Caucasus, or all these places at once.

On the bright side, San Bernadino does show that gun control laws are working, as the shooters had to obtain their weapons via an intermediary (a "straw purchase", which is a federal crime.)

The San Bernadino attack forefronts the fact that Islamic State lacks the ability to attack hard targets in the U.S., even when the attackers are willing to die during the execution phase, thus emphasizing their minimal and haphazard capabilities.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Accidental Terrorist

Men are not a new sensation
I've done pretty well, I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink 
--Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, 
Lornz and Hart 

[You're ugly] and you're boring,
and you're totally ordinary 
--American Beauty (1999) 

 Leaders proclaim a government
To last forever,
Then walls collapse and refugees
Come pouring over
--Farmer Sowing,
 Adam Kirsch

Killings like the recent one in San Bernadino are often called “senseless”, “horrendous” and always, “terrorism” -- but is it so?

Even assuming that it was those things, was it “spectacular”? The San Bernadino attack feels like any of the other tawdry mass shootings conducted by criminally-insane, marginalized shooters. Sad to say, but as the character Ricky Fitts says in the film American Beauty, it was "totally ordinary," in the state of our new normal.

Regardless of what we call the event, it was a cold and calculated murder executed within the social circle of the shooters. It is possible it was an act of revenge by Syed Rizwan Farook against co-workers who criticized his Muslim religion. It was a terror-filled event, but Terrorism and terror are distinct terms. And since all terrorism is criminal activity, does it matter that these killers pledged allegiance to the Islamic State? If so, In what purview does it matter? Most assuredly, the killings were not an act of war.

There is a sense that this couple camouflaged their personal animosities and called it a “jihad”. This can be inferred because of the location they chose: instead of entering a federal building or a military compound, they attacked Farouk's co-workers at a Christmas party.

Contrast this action to the recent Paris attacks which were clear acts of terrorism as they affected an audience beyond the killing (i.e., the French government). Paris gained the Islamic State diplomatic recognition as an army, based on the reactions of the French government.

In comparison, there is no discernible evidence that the U.S. shooters were trained in soldierly skills or that they possessed any tradecraft or experience in the world of “sleeper agents”. Their bombs could not bomb (said in our best Inspector Clouseau.) Only unsophisticated bombers use pipe bombs, anyway. Only idiots would use metal, screw-on pipes.

Their home-made hand grenades were as bad as those of bombers manqué Reid and Abdulmutallab (the shoe and underwear bombers [not], respectively.) If they were tied in to the World Terror Network, their behavior violates the rule that Terror groups learn, cross-fertilize and don’t repeat the same stupid mistakes.

They used semi-auto rifles with 30-round magazines, with back-up pistols. When they entered the crime scene they had 60 rounds locked and loaded, yet achieved only 14 kills (my sympathy to those and their families) because they did not seal the avenues of approach. A professional would not have overlooked this fact.

Further, why did the shooters use M16 clones, versus AK47 semi automatics available in any gun shop in the United States? The AK47 is the terrorist weapon of choice in close quarters fighting, so the AK's absence would indicate that these two were not educated in a terrorist training camp.

Their escape route was not effective, either (echoing the mistake made by the Boston bombers.) During the final shootout they were reported to have had a large supply of rifle ammunition, but in the news photos, the ammo appeared in stripper clips, and not loaded into magazines. This is amateur behavior, as a trained fighter would have all ammo loaded into magazines, ready for the fight. (A soldier’s basic load is 140 rounds, in magazines.)

San Bernadino was another grotesque mass murder, of no consequence, committed by two bumbling idiots, two disturbed, vacuous and soulless individuals.

If this is the best that Islamic State can array against us, then they are of little consequence to the U.S. This is not a “bring it on” moment; this is a fact.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Thursday, December 03, 2015


--Still Life with Three Puppies,
(they're probably innocent) 

It may be useful to remember 
that a peacetime political machine
is built essentially on patronage 
--Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,
David Galula 

 It seems so easy 
Oh so doggone easy
Yeah it seems so easy
--It Seems So Easy,
Buddy Holly and The Crickets 

Oh, it's a blue, sick world, Rip 
--Dead Reckoning (1947) 

Subtitle: Retour, or, "Payback is a Bitch".

We love the emotion behind easy statements of solidarity ("Je Suis Charlie") and the laying of stuffed animals, crosses and candles at murder sites. It is all very primitive, as befits an act of primal rage, like murder. It is behavior at the reptilian brain level.

However, beyond soothing ourselves with these rituals, it would be helpful to understand the origins of these rages. In the case of the recent French attacks, one may look at colonial and  neo-colonial actions to find some answers.

In the early 1920's the French partnered with the Spanish in using poison gas against Arabs in the Moroccan Rif war in an act of State-sponsored terror.

War can be seen as the breakdown of rational thought and civilized behavior, ditto terrorism, but the two are separate concepts. During World War II, the French Vichy government and their police collaborated actively with the occupying German forces to round up and send French Jews to their deaths in camps far to the East. Was this an act of war, or was it terror? Whatever we call it, we cannot accurately estimate the deaths caused by these collections and deportations.

In Algeria (1954-62) the French tortured, extrajudicially murdered and otherwise conducted themselves in an often barbaric manner. Earlier this year in the Central African Republic it was reported that French peacekeepers raped young African boys, criminal acts which certainly did not sit well with the Boku Haram branch of Islamic extremists.

But for those who know the history of the French colonial occupation of Vietnam, pederasty of the locals has a long and profane provenance for them. Compare these abuses with the most recent terror incident in Paris, and draw your own conclusions,

Violence is never the answer. Another reality is that none of us are innocent or untouched by the insanity and illogic of violence, whether it is visited in war, or terror, or our own domestic lives.

The recent terror in Paris was not warfare, but there is a cry for help somewhere in the equation. This is not to excuse it, but only to understand.

What makes any man or woman capable of butchery and killing devoid of any greater good?

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fantasy Terrorism: It's Only a Game

They're still fighting
With their tanks and their bombs
And their bombs and their guns
In your head in your head they are dying
The Cranberries

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland
--Winter Wonderland,
Dean Martin 

This world's divided into two kinds of people:
the hunter and the hunted.
Luckily I'm the hunter. Nothing can change that
--The Most Dangerous Game (1932) 


We have passed into Turkey Time, which means entering the twilight of the gridiron heroics and, for those who want too much of a good thing, the Fantasy Football Leagues. It occurred to Ranger while considering his Affordable Terrorism Act (ATA ©) that the United State's anti-terrorism plan looks a lot like fantasy football.

Imagine Fantasy Terrorism as a new American pastime: we can give $50 million to the person or group who kills Osama bin Laden, or $25 million to the 50 people who kill the Number 2 man in charge of al Qaeda (as we have done numerous times in the last 12 years.)

We can shift terrorists from one group to another and even allow them to change group designators and locations before putting a bomb strike out on them.

We can grant bonuses to the fantasy anti-terror team members that make the more spectacular kills in cafes and restaurants, with the highest fees going to those who can breach the terrorist's home and kill him in his jammies, preferably with a wife standing by.

Bonuses given for innovative torture sessions and successful kidnappings. (Unofficial bonus: a book contract and movie licensing fees.)

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a game that anyone lacking previous subject matter knowledge can play. The ending is a foregone conclusion: the players are designated losers, because the terrorists control the tempo of operations. Therefore, they have the initiative, putting us on the defense.

And everyone knows that defense does not win wars.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

How Did That Feel for You?


The #1 movie in America was called "Ass."
And that's all it was for 90 minutes.
It won eight Oscars that year, including best screenplay 
--Idiocracy (2006)

--How do you account for the fact that the bombing campaign
has been going on for thirteen years?
--Beginners' luck. 
--Brazil (1985)

Yesterday was busy, so I allowed myself a few minutes of National Public Radio news at around 5:15 PM. Accustomed to NPR programs like Fresh Air, I presumed the same level of expertise with their evening news cast -- not so!

Tuning in at the end of a feature on the recent Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Mr Dear, the commentator asked, "So what's next for Mr. Dear?", casual-like. And I'm thinking, "Well, maybe they were expecting to hear, 'a career in stage and screen'"? Perhaps his own farm-to-table featuring nothing but aged beef?

No! Of course, what's next for Mr. Dear is a trial by law; that is how our system works when someone is convicted of killing someone else (provided they are proved mentally competent to stand trial.) Have we become so estranged from the Constitution that we have forgotten that we have a system of jurisprudence in place to handle such matters?

The following question to the hapless reporter on the scene  concerned the citizens of the town: "How do they feel about it?" 

How do they feel? Have we learned nothing in eons of populating this planet? Imagine, if you will, a primitive Anderson Cooper (in loincloth) interviewing a tribesman about his recent loss: "And how did you feel, Unk, when the dingoes ate your baby?"

UNK: "Unk feels bad." That is about the size of it, right? What sensible Colorado Springs resident would say that the shooting made them feel like snowboarding followed by a peppermint hot toddy? Na ga da. Just that.

Later,  an OB-GYN who practices abortion services in Kansas is asked how she feels. Can you guess? It's not good, right?

Do these seemingly inane questions following each new publicized episode of public violence serve a purpose? "What was it like for you in (Paris, Boston, etc.)?" asks the fatuous reporter. "It was a bloody shrieking mess, yeah?" Are we moving to the point where we will one day become so inured to the events that the spectator will perform as an Olympic judge? --

"Well, Frank, I'd give it an "8" for effectiveness, but a "3" for execution; it was sloppy, and many escaped unscathed. He also loses points for style and creativity."

Has our level of discourse so eroded that we share no level of commonality besides the basest emotions?

The very next story featured the Courageous Conservative darling Ted Cruz, a "good Christian man" (according to a whistle-stop attendee) who is "moving up on frontrunner Donald Trump." (Donald Trump is the frontrunner? For President of the United States of America?) Mr. Cruz, loaded for bear, is featured quoting from his favorite movie -- The Princess Bride -- to his avid band of followers who are presumably voting adults somewhere in the hinterlands.

These men are considered Presidential material by their cohort, your fellow Americans.

Having not tuned in to the evening news for decades (I started viewing as a babe) after tiring of the "SAD- BAD-MAD-GLAD" tetraptych that parades as the evening news, I was disappointed to find more of the same on NPR.

What are we thinking? Are we thinking?

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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