Friday, May 31, 2013

Defending the Indefensible -- Romesha Medal of Honor

--This won't be coming to a roadside in Afghanistan anytime soon 

The trouble with organizing a thing
is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention
to the organization than to what they're organized for 
--Little Home on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder

You pop caught you smoking - and he said, "No way!"
That hypocrite - smokes two packs a day
Man, living at home is such a drag
Now your mom threw away your best porno mag (Bust it!) 
--Fight for Your Right to Party,
 The Beastie Boys 

Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
The Three Amigos!
--The Three Amigos (1986)


In warfare, defending the indefensible is sometimes required, and these actions serve a military function.

Such were the losing World War II Battles of Corregidor, Wake Island, fought in order to buy time for taxed U.S. forces to evacuate, consolidate and fall back to defensible terrain; concomitantly, they served to attrit the Japanese forces.

However, the fights at Wanat, Waygul and now Kamdesh in the phony war on terror did not gain the military (or the nation) anything. After the fight at Kamdesh, Combat Outpost Keating was so rapidly evacuated that U.S. troops abandoned their ammunition (which the Afghan opposition forces later plundered.)

Intelligence failed at Battalion, Brigade, Division and echelons above corps. None appeared to have done predictive analysis of an impending attack, nor did they identify the threat or threat level. The unit can sometimes overcome this failure by vigorous patrolling, which is what you would expect from Cavalry troops, which are supposed to be offensive types geared to mobile rapid developing operations. The failure at COP Keating may be due in part to the fact that they were being used as static defense -- not their preferred mode of employment.

The day after the fight, NATO and U.S. command could not even identify the attackers of COP Keating, and the strength of enemy forces was variously reported as 300-500 men. The attackers were not a ghost army, yet details on this award-earning scenario are scant. Some reports suggest 100 enemy fighters were killed, but this strains credulity, even at the higher estimates of engaged forces. According to military experience, 100 KIA suggests 300-400 wounded enemy fighters, and there is no proof of this.

Reports suggest the HIG were the most likely attackers; the HIG were U.S. CIA-funded in the Russian War, suggesting the possibility that weapons bought with U.S. tax dollars in 1979 were used 30 some years later to kill U.S. Troopers. The HIG were largley Pashtun and hated the Tajiks and Hazara tribes which make up most of today's Afghan National Army (ANA).

The portions of the outpost perimeter that were quickly probed and penetrated were defended by the ANA. After six years of U.S. training they were unable to share the burden of defending Afghan terrain for an Afghan government and force structure, and for this failure U.S. soldiers died.

It sounds noble when SSG Romesha is quoted as saying, "It was our home, and they couldn't have it," but ultimately, we left and they did have it. FM-24 does not state this, but none of our Counterinsurgency wars (COIN) are "our country" -- that is not what COIN policy is about. We are fighting for their rights to party; that may not be the way we party, though, but that is the gig.

COIN is not about defending liberty, democracy or any other high-falutin' concept. The United States soldier kills and is killed for no apparent logical purpose, other than the right of the host nations to carry on in their accustomed manner, a manner not necessarily U.S.-friendly.

The people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam are the determining agents of change (or not) in their countries -- this is "self-determination". When 300-500 armed hostiles can badly handle 52 American Soldiers, it is evident that the situation in Nuristan Province, October '09, was beyond the control of U.S. forces.

Simply: What were U.S. troops expected to accomplish by sitting in an indefensible COP? Does anyone in Nuristan Province care that U.S. troops died for a faulty concept in a tactically faulty position? Does anyone in the U.S. care?

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

American Tribes

There's still time to turn this around
You could be building this up instead of tearing it down
But I keep thinking
Maybe it's too late 
--Not Meant to Be, Theory of a Deadman

 It's a high school prom
It's a Springsteen song
It's a ride in a Chevrolet
It's a man on the moon 
--It's America, Rodney Atkins 

As long as our officers and troops perform tours of duty limited to one
year, they will remain dilettantes in war, and tourists in Vietnam. As
long as cold beer, hot food, rock 'n' roll, and all the other amenities
remain expected norm, our conduct of the war will only
gain impotence 
--Apocalypse Now (1979) 

[I'm on the road again to have my arm checked and hopefully be told that surgery is not necessary, and to get my fiberglass cast. In my kit bag were some crumpled notes from last trip. They remain valid, and set me on my path to considering my relationship with the "news". I'll be writing them out over the next week, interspersed with Ranger's more military sway.]

In the motel, Ranger struck up a convo with a women who's son was deployed in Afghanistan on his second tour. She was glowing over how nice the Afghans were, according to her son. It reminded Lisa of why she was tossed out of her neighborhood book club for questioning the veracity of favorites like Three Cups of Tea (later discredited) and The Kite Runner (a novel).

A pious member of the club who thought well of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq grumbled about the CDC-mandated vaccinations required before her upcoming 10-day church mission in South America; disgusted by the filth, she still enjoyed the cheap tchotchkes and photos of the gathered urchins whom she would soon leave behind as these things validated the worthiness of her travels and her faith. (The missionaries-for-life get the better postings, like Israel and New Zealand.)

It was at the time of the Haitian earthquake, and discussion centered around those poor folks and what would the United States be doing about it. When Lisa suggested there were generationally-needy dark-skinned people in her own city, the clouds gathered, and invites to future meetings were not forthcoming. The only antidote to belief is truth, and that is not to everyone's liking. The prospect of reading The Help was a bridge too far, in any event. C'est la vie.

This reverie dovetailed with the news du jour of Charles Ramsey, the Cleveland man who was operative in the freeing of the Cleveland Three. People Lisa knows -- good and pious people -- laughed sheepishly at the enthusiasm of the man who performed this good deed after eating at McDonald's. What was there to laugh at, and yet the You Tube of the "Happy Negro" got hundreds of thousands of views -- why?

Who among the amused crowd had saved a person? It was a thinly-veiled superiority that said, "Our hair doesn't look like Don King and we don't eat at McDonald's. This man represents the inner city, a place where I do not live." That is our arrogance and tribalness -- we feel redeemed by something new for us to snicker at on our tech toys providing us streaming feeds of non-nutritive tripe.

The tripe that amuses us defines our tribe.

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Tactical BBQ Apron


Wondering if any RAW reader happened to strap on one of these Tactical Aprons during the Memorial Day food festivities (knowing how fond we all are of paramilitary chic)?

The Tactical BBQ Apron straps across your torso like a military gear pack and'll keep you prepped for a (crazy delicious!) war with your Weber. It's stocked with a slew of pockets, pouches, and slits sized specifically for spatulas, tongs, brushes, a thermometer, spices, condiments, and even your phone.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Club Med

--We Will Not Fail, Samira Yamin

~What's this?
~Oh, this is our prototype. RX, uh, Intercontinental, radar-sneaky, multi-warheaded nuclear missile.
~Ah! What does it do?
~Do? Kills the enemy.
~All the enemy?
~Aye, all of them. All their wives, and all their children, and all their sheep, and all their cattle, and all their cats and dogs. All of them. All of them gone for good.
~That's horrible.
 ~Ahh. Well, you see, the advantage is you don't have to see one single one of them die. You just sit comfortably thousands of miles away from the battlefield and simply press the button.
~Well, where's the fun in that? 
--The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

Resistance fighters resist,
not insurgents
who just want to live
where they live 

--"Occupation", fr. Terese Svoboda’s, Weapons Grade

 Cuba, Cuba here I come
There's a place in the Caribbean sun
Land of future
Land of dreams 
--Cuba Cuba, Ace of Base

Sad when Monthy Python member Terry Gilliam predicts your future 25 years hence.

We can tell you where Ranger is not this Memorial Day weekend -- Club Med. But for the $900,000/year price tag we pay to house each prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, they might as well be. We will call it, the Club Med Gulag on Gitmo.

If the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Amendments do not disallow the Federal government from keeping these prisoners without due process, then the money pit aspect of the project should. If we will not outsource their upkeep to the Med resorts, then why not the Playboy Mansion in Wisconsin, for surely that would provide a conundrum: a punishment in the form of a living hell, in the form of the gifts of the martyr's afterlife. But surely it would not exceed the 900K per head we currently pay, for 168 prisoners, for 11 years.

It is not bubkas. Especially not for a country under sequester, with crumbling infrastructure like this latest bridge collapse which the NTSB says should be a wake-up call, and an economy to match. Just ask the tens of thousands out of work for years now -- maybe your neighbors, maybe you.

Gitmo is frivolous, making it not just a national stain on our rule of law, but a crying shame.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

                                           © RangerAgainstWar         

Memorial Day, 2013-style.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

A Day Late

--Clinton L. Romesha
I’d rather have the Medal of Honor
than be president of the United States
--Harry S. Truman
[Note: RAW will run further comments on this action.]

Were it not for a story reprinted from MilitaryTimes.com in his Purple Heart Magazine (May/June 2013) reprinted from MilitaryTimes.com, Ranger would not have known of the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient who served in Afghanistan, Clinton L. Romesha. Romesha was presented with his medal at the White House 11 Feb 2013.

Press on Romesha's MOH was scant, typified by this brief NYT piece, possibly because Romesha declined Michelle Obama's invitation to attend her husband's State of the Union speech while in town for the award, denying the President an important photo op. Romesha's action deserves some Ranger commentary.

Staff Sergeant Romesha was the section leader of the 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. During the action of 3 October 2009 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, this small unit fought for its life in a nasty little defensive fight reminiscent of those at Wanat and Waygul.

In all, U.S. troops were arrayed for combat in a defense position which was indefensible, to no apparent military purpose; the posts were abandoned soon after each fight.

Commander in Chief Obama said at SSG Romesha's MOH presentation that "A later investigation found that Command Outpost Keating was tactically indefensible". That's what these soldiers were asked to do: Defend the indefensible." If this assessment is correct, why was this not ascertained before eight U.S. soldiers were killed and 22 wounded, and why were the soldiers not extracted? The point of combat operations is that something be achieved as a result of the killing and violence; none of these fights met that bar.

Ranger is not questioning the indubitable valor of this engaged unit -- we are asking why COP Keating was hung out in the breeze, a tasty morsel for the Afghan opposition's picking? Hanging pretty medals from a brave soldier's neck does not erase the question.

In terms of U.S. response, the press rolls endless instant replays of the Benghazi Embassy murders and the Boston Marathon bombings, events in which eight U.S. citizens were killed. We are transfixed and mesmerized by these events, and yet hardly a whisper of the eight Americans killed in this 4th Infantry Division fight. No press and no indignation from the C in C down to the section leaders. Where are the congressional committee meetings searching to assign culpability for the failure?

Oddly, the Army reports four officers (0-3 through 06) received reprimands for the action, but the names or the nature of the reprimands are not stated; as the names are not given there is no way to verify the allegation. If there is culpability, the taxpayers have the right to know the names of the accused as we pay their salaries; this is democracy.

Or does democracy die incrementally in small little fights in insignificant valleys of inconsequential countries?

Why do we blithely accept the meaningless and sacrificial deaths of eight soldiers on some far-flung scrap of land which holds no value and gains us nothing? These soldiers did not die defending our country and Constitution. Their actions in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, were not connected to the safety and security of our Homeland. The U.S. could kill every Taliban fighter in Afghanistan and that country will still never be a democratic member of the fraternity of nations.

So whither the effort, death and destruction?

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Monday, May 20, 2013

It's a Wrap

The finger bone's connected to the hand bone,
The hand bone's connected to the arm bone,
The arm bone's connected to the shoulder bone
--Dem Bones

 The world's perverse, 
but it could be worse    
Sonnet for Minimalists, 
Mona Van Duyn

Being a news junkie, it was hard at first having no Internet the past couple of weeks. However, each time I catch some connectivity I become more underwhelmed by that to which I do not have immediate access. When my phone was offline again last week upon my return, I sheepishly smiled as I called in the latest service request; no phone = no DSL = freedom.

Friday was my last pirated connection, and I resolved to speed-read through a few day's worth of heads on a few sites  (The New York Times, Slate and Reader's News Service.) Most of it was boring, biased, stupid and/or irritating, and an hour later I emerged none the wiser for the scan or viewing. The tempo of the news gives one the sense of being on a treadmill, breathless from the barrage, but what has one left with?

So, for the next few weeks we'll go a little more deeply into those things already there, and just do things a little differently. Following are some highlights of my recent small brush with the medical system.

I broke my wrist May 7th through sheer distraction.  The sickening feeling of bones going "splat" as I fell on open hand prompted me to drive to an ambulatory 24-hour care clinic, not wanting to repeat a dire experience some years ago at our local hospital. That time, after sitting in the waiting room for 6 hours with a 103-degree fever and finally walking out, waiting until I could see my doctor Monday (who almost killed me with a misdiagnosis of H1N1 Bird Flu, but that is another story), I learned that one must begin vomiting or keel over in order to be "taken into a room". Since I did not feel like acting nor did I trust what I would be met with in The Room, I figured Physician's First couldn't be worse, and at 8:30 p.m. the parking lot was a lot emptier.

After a few cursory X-rays the assistant announced that it was broken and they would place a temporary splint. The woman who actually wrapped the compression bandage failed to read the big letters -- "This side to skin" -- and so couldn't achieve the attachment of the Velcro; the assistant then brought this to her attention.  When the arm wrapper left the room, the assistant unwrapped it saying, "She's new here -- from another clinic; let's try and do better." Another clinic where perhaps English is not a primary language. The second attempt at least went around the thumb, successfully securing the arm to the splint, though she chose what appeared to be a midget or child's splint, and I suggested we go for the next size up.

Next morning it was a 3-hour drive to one of Florida's better hospitals and an ER intake and some further X-rays. The blase doctor sent the films to orthopedics who verified the fracture, adding on an additional wrist fracture to the radius and ulna. When I asked if ER could make an appointment with ortho for me, he said, "I haven't been able to do that in 30 years." Everyone seemed to lack certain vital skills.

When I asked the woman in the ER wrapping my arm in a new splint to point out the new broken bone on a hard copy scan she could not, saying she "only wrap[ped] the bones", but could not identify them. After the wrap I got the hustle when two women entered the room, one hurriedly throwing a sling over my head and one shoving papers to be signed at me. Also, I was given a beige 1980's-era touchtone phone ("the new ones keep breaking") from which I could call orthopedics if I wanted to try scheduling an appointment.

Ortho was as clueless as ER, and told me I could wait days or even weeks in order to have my bones set. Explaining I would be there for two days and would like to have it looked at, I was told to call back in two days to see if possibly one of their overbooked doctors could fit me in. Why I would wait until Friday to do so was a mystery unexplained. 

My moment of oasis came when I went to the patient representative who made some calls and assured me that someone in the town would be able to consult with me prior to my return to Tallahassee.  That afternoon, I received a rushed call from an irritated-sounding member of Ortho; "Can you come in the next hour?"  I could, and was met with the most intense, most harried doctor I have met in a long time.

Saith he, "I just want to let you know that I think it is very manipulative of you to go to the ER and think that you could be seen by a doctor the same day!" He was red in the face, his eyes were crazed, and he knew he had crossed the line. I said I do not manipulate anyone, and was simply following protocol as I understood it in order to be seen by the appropriate doctor. He left the room and return somewhat composed, apologizing and explaining that he'd been in surgery all day, was strung out and that his partner had decided to absent himself whenever he felt like it. His apology was sincere, acknowledging that I did not deserve that.

What he could not know was that my day had already been filled with strife; not everyone is happy to accommodate a damsel in distress. Adding onto that I had three hours sleep and was in more than a little pain, and the absurdity of the day was almost complete. 

There would be more small unfortunate events to follow, but what struck me most was how difficult it must be for those stricken who are chronically ill, incurious, uninformed and fully at the behest of people who may not want to give them the time of day. Myself, I am grateful to have been seen by a competent doctor and been given the choice to take a conservative route. Of course, we always have the right to decline surgery, but the doctors notes in such events usually betray the antagonist posture of them-versus-us, and "procedures" are money-makers.

Until we fix (smash) our dysfunctional medical system, one's best hope is to attend a hospital where the doctors work on salary and are not profited by extraneous surgery. For that, I am grateful to Mayo clinic.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that the splint applied by the ER "wrapper" was so painful -- the wrist was at such a poor angle -- that I unwrapped it within an hour of leaving.  Thankfully, I listened to the small voice in the gut which said, "Take your old splint with you." I proceeded to re-wrap my arm in that pre-formed splint until that afternoon. Onward and upward!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Circuses, But No Bread for You

 im ein kemach ein Torah 
(If there is no bread, there is no Torah, Avot 3:17)
And when I have broken the staff of your bread,
ten women shall bake your bread in one oven,
and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight:
and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied 
--Leviticus 26:26

I'm back at the hotel where, last week, I was privy to the incessant drone of the news feed in the common room, as unaffected yet relentless as the spiel of the Costco greeter in the film, "Idiocracy" ("Welcome to Costco;  I love you"). In equal measure it consisted of:

--The Cleveland Three: three women held captive for a decade by apparently a lone man, a neatly tied up ball of evil from which was also recently cut the Tsarnaev Bros., Saddam, Moammer and Osama bin Laden (our very own Stalins and Adolfs -- que fabuloso!)

--The guilty verdict of the boyfriend-murderin' Jody Arias, replete with news reports worried about those who had been following the Arias trial on social media for the last year or so, much as they had been transfixed by the Casey Anthony trial before it; there will now be a gap in their lives, it seems

--A limousine erupting into flames on a freeway in California

--An unfortunate woman shot in the head with a spear from her husband's spear gun (How could it have happened! Who could've imagined!)

Today, it is Angelina Jolie's breasts -- same-same, sadly.  Adding to the inanity was the repeat footage of an errant golf ball into a body of water (being as there was a golf tournament going on in Jacksonville, this most average of United State's cities as reported by America's most average paper, USAToday.) The shot seemed to symbolize . . . something.

I was here having my broken wrist set, an injury which was the endpoint of an odd 10 days: telephone knocked out for a week, followed by DSL out in 33 states for days. The IT guy who kindly visited when my computer failed to re-sync yesterday said my lack of connectivity was unique.

Road Warrior of connectivity I remain, typing with one hand when a connection offers itself, and oddly not displeased with my limited access; it is an enforced detachment, but much of what is online really doesn't deserve viewing time. How little of what we are fed is important. Maybe this is divine intervention to allow for some perspective.

Postings will be limited over the following few weeks as my wrist heals; there will be occasional postings. Please feel free to use this space as an open forum and comment as you see fit.

Oh, and a USAToday news flash: the excruciatingly middling Tom Hanks (aka "Everyman") and Sandra Bullock have been named by the most middling paper as the Most Trusted Americans by Middle Americans.

And so it goes.  Good night, and good luck.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Violence is Golden

--Teaching the Young How to Shoot (1931)

What am I going on about anyway? What's the problem? Is there a problem? That's the problem. Maybe.  Maybe not. But anyway. Why do I think there may be a problem if there is no problem and why do I think there may be no problem if there is? Anyway.  Whether there is  or isn't a problem it's a problem how much time to spend figuring out if there is or there isn't anyway what difference does it make anyway if there is or is not a problem what is a problem is a problem anyway.
--Do you Love Me?, R. D. Laing 

Out of 30 films currently showing in Tallahassee, 27 are listed as "objectionable" for reasons of profanity, sex, violence or crude humor. This town is not a hotbed of art house showings -- these are just run-of-the mill ground out studio productions. Most are PG-13, meaning any teen can view these, and one-third of these are rated "R", meaning a viewer under age 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Some of the titles indicate the film's content (Scary Movie V; A Good day to Die; Oblivion; Evil Dead; Disconnect; G. I, Joe Retaliation; Pain and Gain), but not all. The following are descriptions dished out by the local paper for these 27 films: Profanity, crude humor, strong sexual content, gross-out jokes, scary special effects, violence, drug content, graphic violence, supernatural rape, gore galore, lots of disgusting stuff, explosions galore; extreme violence, intense violence, lots of violence and things that go kaboom.

The three films sans objectionable content are aimed at the children demographic.

Why would anyone spend good money and time to sustain such an assault to the senses when you can get it all and more on the nightly news and surrounding infotainment and or "reality" programming?
Who has the time for such addled nonsense? At noise levels in excess of 90 db (the range at which hearing is impaired), what is the physiological effect of being so mired for 90 minutes?

Of course, this is freedom, too -- the good old American past-time, film-viewing at the bijou.  But there's not much wholesome there anymore for you and your gal, just a cessation of the assualt when the film ends, followed an aural numbness and relief from the onslaught. That is, if and until you learn to create your own real-world madness, guided by your Hollywood personal trainers.

But we shouldn't blame Hollywood for your lack of discretion. No, if you get warped, you will get there honestly in the best sense of American individuality. There may be a medicine to bring you down, or you may have to operate at overdrive until you find your OTC palliative of choice, and that, too, is very American.

Vive la artistic license, the template, the studio system, the sequel, quadrophonic sound, forever and ever. Amen.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Weapons Guide for the Perplexed


Due to the spectacular shooting sprees over the last decade or so, much attention is being paid to deaths caused by firearms, but little attention is given to the much larger number of deaths which occur annually in vehicular homicides (In Sharp Reversal, Highway Deaths Rise):

Road deaths in the USA rose 5.3% last year to 34,080, the first year-over-year increase in traffic fatalities since 2005, according to preliminary estimates today from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The fatality rate — which is number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled — is projected to rise to 1.16 from 1.10. ... Crash fatalities were up for every quarter of 2012 compared with 2011, the NHTSA says.

The deaths caused by the 2,000 pound bullets known as "automobiles" are every bit as gruesome as those caused by guns, but we accept them as the cost of the privilege of living and driving in a free society. The majority of these deaths are caused by people misusing the "weapon" -- high on alcohol or drugs -- but still, we do not think of curtailing the right to drive beyond state licensing tests and drunk driving suspensions. 

The good liberals who wish to characterize gun owners as "nuts" call this comparison invalid, but both activities involve the possibility of non-consensual death at the hands of an out of control tool user. In both cases, the victims are often unaware of the act which will become an imminent threat to their life or well-being.  In both cases, astute licensure of the user and control over the form of the weapon could reduce deaths, yet we seem disinterested altering our driving habits. If reduction of the loss of life due to violence is the goal, why not focus on any weapon of mass destruction?

Some constructive suggestions to help reduce the number of traffic fatalities:

--Limit the horsepower of vehicles. In Europe cars do just fine at even higher speed limits than in the States at considerably lower average horsepowers (70-100 bhp compared to the U.S. which tends to 180-250.)

--Require all drivers to undergo Defensive Driving courses before they can get a drivers license.

--Disallow certain groups of mentally ill people from driving. Perhaps the same groups who would be disallowed firearms would also be disallowed driving licenses.

--Ban cell phones and texting while driving (duh?)

--Lower speed limits, which saves gas and lives

The aggression of a time-pressed society plays itself out in the phenomena of road rage, or worse, the mesmerized tailgating which is a part of daily-driving. People drive offensively to hopefully gain a few minutes in arrival time, risking their lives as well as mine. Both guns and cars are tools which can mete out death, whether intentional or due to inattention.

Why are traffic deaths accepted as the price of life in a free society while gun deaths are demonized? The damage wrought upon the individual is commensurate in either activity, and often just as indiscriminate.

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

McCain and Abel, Pt. II


John McCain used to drop big, sophisticated bombs from weapons platforms off of large mobile airfields called aircraft carriers on North Vietnam during the United States' military action there. He was never tried in court for those bombings, even though many considered them illegal actions.

Mr. McCain is now leading the charge to try the Boston bombers who used knapsack bombs as "enemy combatants". However, is it not Mr. McCain and company who daily delivered high doses of explosives on a nation with which we had not declared war who should have been tried as the "enemy combatant"? The North Vietnamese goverment has films of the U.S. dropping 250, 500 and 1,000 pound bombs blasting their country's civilian as well as military targets. Is McCain less culpable of civilian death because he wore a flight helmet and not a backwards baseball cap?

The U.S. military operated in Vietnam without an act of war or a United Nations mandate. From the NVN perspective, the U.S. soldiers were illegal enemy combatants subject to the rules of military tribunals and execution for their actions.

Can Mr. McCain not see the hypocrisy behind his call for military tribunals for these small-time bombers, while he delivered orders of magnitude more devastating destructions to the civilians of another nation under the auspices of a killing machine called the U.S. military while he himself did not face a military tribunal?

The U.S. did not asked to be bombed in New York City or Boston any more than did the Vietnamese people. We will not begin to understand the phenomenon of terrorism until we are able to view our own part in perpetrating and perpetuating the dance of death.

Somewhere, a Predator drone is launching with Hellfire missiles hanging from the fuselage, and somehow we believe that this is legally, emotionally or humanly different than the bombs that were detonated in Boston; perhaps the pilots even wear hoodies and backwards baseball caps in their down time.

Perhaps it all comes down to which country you are in when the ox gets gored, from which country you originate and to which country you return, and how good your cover and protection is.

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Friday, May 03, 2013

McCain and Abel

Nothing's wrong as far as I can see 
We make it harder than it has to be 
and I can't tell you why 
no, baby, I can't tell you why  
--I Can't Tell You Why, The Eagles 

Am I my brother’s keeper? 
--Genesis 4:9

If Cain were Abel 
he would give you a flower
--R.D. Laing 

In one of our many national divisions, we are riven by how we think terrorists should be adjudicated. Those who know our legal system can prosecute criminals effectively say try them in the Federal court system; opposing them are those who think a terrorist is a new kind of animal, and that we must twist ourselves into contortions in order to deal with them; usually this involves invoking an extrajudicial approach.

President Obama seems to favor the first approach, but he has been ineffective in imposing his view. In his first term he promised to close down the black hole that is Guantanamo Bay, yet it remains an open gulag. "Terrorist Mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he of 183 waterboardings infamy, has still not been tried in court.

Leading the opposition, oddly, is former Prisoner of War and Arizona Rep. Senator John McCain, he who had previously led a principled argument against the use of torture on prisoners in the War on Terror, from both a pragmatic and a moral position. Now he is leading the call for military tribunals for terrorists on the grounds that they be re-branded "illegal enemy combatants", a fuzzy construction conferring a false military quality to their being. This is based in the false presumption that because terrorists are such an aberrant being, we must become aberrant to deal with them.

Fact: The U.S. is not involved in a low-intensity conflict in CONUS, is not in a state of insurgency nor is there a unconventional or guerrilla (UW/GW) warfare scenario either extant or ready to blossom into a full-blown war.  There has never been a combat action in the U.S. conducted by terrorists. Terrorists are simple craven criminals.

Sadly for McCain, his current posture directly opposes and perverts his previous objection of torture, namely, it would make us no better than them. It makes him seem disintegrated or worse, forgetful or a madman.  Instead, he is probably just pandering to the disjointed madding crowd, which amounts to the same thing.

The provenance of the terrorist is immaterial.  Whether U.S.-born,  immigrant or foreign national, a terrorist commits homicide, kidnaps, bombs, attempts murder and violates firearms statutes, ergo, they are criminals to be tried by U.S. courts of law. That's simple.

Next: Pt II McCain and Abel

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Liquid Fears

Our fears today are diffuse and hard to pin down.
They are "liquid fears"—fears about paedophilia,
for instance, which are amorphous
and which have no easily identifiable referent 
--Zygmunt Bauman 

You make me dizzy Miss Lizzy,
The way you rock'n'roll.
You make me dizzy Miss Lizzy,
When you do the stroll 
--Dizzy Miss Lizzy, The Beatles 

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
who comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash
with a gleam in her eye 
--Dirty Laundry, Don Henley 

The Boston Marathon bombing was not a significant terror event, but it was a media feeding frenzy.  All of the talking heads stoke and feed on our emotions -- a salacious circus that does not add to our understanding but does encourage future terror hacks. Meanwhile, we sit dazed and confused, in a tizzy awash in a flurry of speculation.

It is a mutualism borne of power-madness -- the Terrorists feed off the media and vice versa, and we feed on the rotting corpse they present us, thinking it nutritious and capable of life sustenance. These productions have become our ultimate reality show in which the audience is the prey and any amateur videographer with a cell phone, our scribes. The commentators and the terrorists share the same goal, which is creating viewership and an aura surrounding the event. 

However, whether significant or not, despite the immediate casualties they will never be more than an irritant to the United States.  In fact, terrorism that produces significant casualties (as did the World Trade Center attacks) are often counterproductive to the terrorist's cause as world response is usually one of revulsion to such slaughter. 

What is significant is our emotional response to such events as Boston and the Sandy Hook shooting. These criminal acts which should be viewed in the harsh light of clear facts in order that they may be understood and hopefully thwarted in the future.  Belying any calls to "get on with it" is the 24/7 news coverage of the events. 

Instead of actually moving on, the U.S. suffers from a feeling of exceptionalism which imparts a false sense of entitlement to safety. When we do suffer calamities, we tend to memorialize them as they have been so infrequent, witness the Oklahoma City memorial and the Twin Tower memorial. The Amish razed the school which was the site of a mass shooting in 2006, so site destruction is often equated with expulsing the violence. 

But instead of token attempts at erasure, why not do the realistic work of a modern society, members of a violent world, and seek ways to reduce the incidence while accepting their periodic occurrence. The "shock and awe" response -- "Who could have imagined it" -- is getting a little long in the tooth. 

Our factionalized society which seeks to use each succeeding violent action as a way to scapegoat their particular bugbear is totally disingenuous. The question of Islamic radicalism is a red herring; we did not ask the religion of Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski)). The facts we should seek include timely questions like, if the brothers were part of a larger terrorist cell, will there be follow-on attacks?

Instead we are stymied by our requisite collective outrage and distracting side streets of speculation regarding the bomber's mother's shoplifting record or Dzhokar's Twitter feed. 

The talking heads feed our emotions, insecurity and voyeuristic expectations of entertainment.  Director Bigelow's next Academy winner is knocking.

--Jim and Lisa

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