Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Third Herd

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups,
parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule
--Freidrich Nietzsche

Nobody thinks in terms of human beings.

Governments don't. Why should we?

They talk about the people and the proletariat,

I talk about the suckers and the mugs--it's the same thing.

They have their five-year plans, so have I.

--Harry Lime, The Third Man (1949)

America is suffering an overarching crisis

of memory and knowledge

--The Age of American Unreason
, Susan Jacoby

Under the category, Deja vu all over again:

News reports say Afghanistan's cocaine cowboys are doing quite well thanks, cornering 93% of the world's opium poppy trade, while U.S. lapdog President Hamid Karzai claims a tenuous hold on 30% of the country
("Thriving Taliban drug trade is grim sign how far Afghanistan has slid since US went in.")

The latter statistic is a lie, however, as Karzai's government doesn't control a square inch of Afghanistan. NATO and U.S. forces secure that shit hole. If the West pulled out tomorrow Karzai and his flunkies would follow, living the life of luxury with the $100's of millions stolen from the U.S. taxpayers.

That is what happened in the Republic of Vietnam and will happen again in Afghanistan if our leaders ever decide to execute the logical course of action.

The Taliban poppy growers have 10-11% of Afghanistan, while local tribes not loyal to Karzai handle the rest,
said National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell. "Afghanistan's Defense Ministry has rejected McConnell's discouraging assessment, insisting the government controls the vast majority of the country."

Ranger has just finished reading Edward Murphy's Dak To: America's Sky Soldiers, and sees the linkage between 1967 and 2008. Something is amiss in both accounts, and in both scenarios, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was a key player.

After reading testimonials like Dak To, one is left in awe and admiration of the courage, stamina and devotion to duty of the average Airborne soldier. Those soldiers of 1967 were as fine as any that ever carried a rifle for the U.S. Army. The paratroopers of 1944, 1967, 2007/8 are everything that a fighting man should be. The only difference is now their lives are expended for dubious [Dubya's (?)] objectives.

A soldier's life should never be endangered except for the most serious of reasons. Of the 3,200 men in the 173d Airborne Brigade deployed to Dak To,

"Twenty-seven percent of them became casualties during the battles. Losses among the individual rifle companies was even more severe.
"The twelve rifle companies of the 173d that deployed to Dak To averaged 125 officers and men each at the start of the campaign. Since at least 90% of the brigade's casualties occurred in their ranks, the rifle companies suffered 51% losses losses in just one month!" (p. 325).

All-told, 376 Americans were KIA, or listed as missing and presumed dead, in the fighting around Dak To. Another 1,441 were wounded." General Westmoreland, returning to South Vietnam from a Washington tour of optimistic speechifying, was "shocked" at the "horrific casualties."

When he asked the Generals on the ground how these could have been avoided, he was told they couldn't without more artillery and air support. Since the support was not to be forthcoming, the simple answer was, the casualties could not be avoided.

40 years later, what has changed? The Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) boils down to a mission statement could be the same as that which prompted the Central Highlands battles. "Kill the enemy wherever you find them."

In the Republic of Vietnam battles the enemy was clearly identifiable as North Vietnamese Army soldiers. This nicety does not exist in Iraq and Afghanistan since the U.S. is actually fighting the citizenry of those countries. It is the ultimate irony and lie that we are there to democratize them, yet we will blow their shit away if they object to our presence.

The U.S. Army of Vietnam did the best possible job they could, as does the present-day military. But killing people is seldom the answer in insurgent situations. Killing NVA soldiers by the 1,000's did not achieve Westmoreland's objectives. Then as now the mission is misstated and not clearly defined.

While the slaughter of Hill 875 was going on, Westmoreland reported that the war in South Vietnam was in the "Third Phase":

"In this phase, according to Westmoreland, the U.S. would not only continue to destroy the enemy but would also increase efforts to build up the South Vietnamese forces. Then
once the ARVN was capable of assuming more responsibility for the war, American troops, in Phase Four, could begin to return home."

Well, it's pretty to think so. Substitute "Petraeus" and "Iraq" and you get the idea. SSDD.

"The Taliban have built a huge and profitable drug operation in Afghanistan while provincial governors looked the other way, the latest grim sign of backsliding in a country the United States has spent six years and billions of dollars (euros) trying to salvage.

"A report Friday on drugs. . .comes hand-in-hand with the resurgence of Taliban militants despite U.S. anti-insurgent efforts. Also on the rise: terrorist violence such as roadside bombs, suicide bombings and attacks on police.

"The problems have worsened rather than diminished on the watch of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and the relatively small number of American forces stationed in the nation while larger numbers are deployed in Iraq.

"More than 6,500 people, mostly insurgents, died in violence in 2007, according to an Associated Press count of figures provided by local and international officials. It was the bloodiest year since the U.S.-led toppling in 2001 of the government controlled by the Taliban, a religious militia."

"Mostly insurgents" allows
a lot of wiggle-room; that could mean 51% were insurgents. It would be instructive to see actual civilian casualty figures, but that will never be reported. As in Vietnam, the body counts were a lie, and so too are present-day civilian casualty figures.

"That is despite the $140 billion (euro92.3 billion) Congress has appropriated for Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks that were the original reason given for U.S. involvement. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is still at large, thought to have fled through Afghanistan's tribal lands to a hideout across the Pakistan border."

So in 1967 U.S. paratroopers died for the real estate of SVN, to what end?

In 2/05, the entire unit of the brave 173d deployed to Afghanistan for a 14-month tour. For all the expense, effort and loss of lives, we have, in the name of democracy, the failed narco-state of Afghanistan to show for this lie.

Good airborne troopers continue to die propping up corrupt governments and perpetuating this lie.

Will we ever learn?

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

and the answer my friend
is pissing in the wind.

the answer is pissing
in the sink.

jerry jeff walker

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 12:15:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys the Bitter said...

The Minstrel Boy beat me to my exact comment! Damn is he fast! ::::tips hair braid in his general direction::::

I'm at my limit on news on the war and campaign; it makes me scream like bad b-movie vampires now.

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 9:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Barbara Tuchman who is one of my favorite historians, wrote about this very problem eloquently in "March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam" where she illustrates from both documented history to legend how nations, empires, and even large businesses can sow the seeds of their own destruction over the course of years.

it's impossible to blame the folly of vietnam on just one policy or administration. every administration from FDR through ford made the same, stupid mistakes there. it took almost five stupid popes, doing the same stupid shit to absolutely guarantee that the reformation would take place.

over and over again, usually for the same reasons, we seem to have a human condition that insists on fine tuning the data in order to receive the signals we want. as humans we tend to ascribe order, where there is really chaos, and talk about chaotic systems that are really quite orderly (for a brilliant discourse on this human trait go to the quark and the jaguar: adventures in the simple and the complex by murray gel-mann (he's throws in some great tips on how to apply the math needed for quantum physics to the horse track).

will we ever learn? we're learning all the time, it's the lessons we choose to absorb that will constantly lead us astray.

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 11:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"Over and over again, usually for the same reasons, we seem to have a human condition that insists on fine tuning the data in order to receive the signals we want."

The above is an excellent statement. Nietzsche said, "We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers."

Vietnam has been over for 30+ years, yet we still make the same erroneous assumptions and conclusions about it. This false knowledge is the same paradigm we apply to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Conventional wisdom is not necessarily wisdom.

I will read the Gel-Mann link you provide later and comment. Thanks.

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 12:05:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


They are doing some fascinating stuff at the Santa Fe Institute.

I remember reading some related books--How the Leopard Changed its Spots (Goodwin) and Consilience (E. O. Wilson.) Many thinkers are searching for the thing which will help us "overcome the illusion of our separateness."

The concept of fractals is interesting: the repetition of forms, like tree branches, which project out and out in mimickry of the original. That is what the thinking you are describing is like. We keep "learning," but it is like a repetition, like a musical variation on a theme.

We have yet to hit the revolutionary break with our patterning, which would be a very hard thing to achieve indeed as our very survival is predicated on repeating ingrained behaviors. It is the "break," or mutation, which is often the dangerous thing, the carcinogenic thing.

But mutations can also occasionally be for the organism's benefit. We have a big job to figure out when the behavioral template needs to be smashed. The people who do so are usually called "heretics" and burned at the stake. . .

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 3:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Old Bogus said...

Actually, I agree with the analysis that Karsai is Mayor of Kabul.

Friday, March 7, 2008 at 7:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

old bogus,

That large a constituency, ya think? Ah, but we've rarely had a more dashing mayor, paid for with bigger bucks, than Mr. Karzai.

Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 10:35:00 PM GMT-5  

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