RANGER AGAINST WAR: January 2014 <

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It isn't what we say or think that defines us
but what we do, 
--Sense and Sensibility,  
 Jane Austin 
Since the recent movie theater shooting occurred at a what was to have been a showing of  the film "Lone Survivor", we will address the event in two ways: today, the film as a misbegotten film effort to apotheosize a failed mission, and next, as the sort of media which serves as an irritant to a society whose attention is already stretched thin.

Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" turned a failed mission (Operation Redwings, 2005) into a celebratory media momento mori. But the the deaths of the 20 fine United States Special Operations Soldiers served no military function, therefore the fight served nothing of value to the outcome of the war. The operation was actuality a dereliction of leadership and a morally bankrupt interpretation of soldiering values. When myth, entertainment and propaganda steal the truth from an event, we are delusional.

Ranger asks -- in opposition to the "Code of Conduct" and the creeds of an imagined warrior caste in the U.S. military-- "What if the SEALs of Lt. Murphy's team had surrendered?" There is precedent for this sort of action (an entire U.S. field Army surrendered at Corregidor and Bataan.) When there is no military purpose served, then why fight to the death? Surely Murphy's team knew they were dead when the hostiles gained contact.

In previous RAW commentary on Redwings, we have written that the Murphy team should not have launched this mission. However, once engaged and the the odds were clear, surrender was an option, even if a risky one; "slim" is better than "none". 

The reasons for not surrendering are to prevent routs, penetrations and all those things that were not present at this fight. No other American units would have been endangered if the Murphy team had surrendered. So what were they fighting for? This must be determined before sending Soldiers into harm's way.

"Lone Survivor" is posed to become a hit, in the same way as did the the Navy's Disneyfied film, Act of Valor; as did the propaganda film "Hurt Locker", by our own Leni Riefenstahl (dir. Bigelow.) Symbol and reality are separate, and when the story is better than the reality, we will always go with the tall tale. 

But soldiering is an act of logic and cold calculations that should not be mixed with romantic warrior ethics of fighting to the death. Our Soldiers are not Ninja, Samurai or Kamikaze, yet they are depicted as such. 

In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, we prefer the comfortable and reliable bland to the real, and we have become complicit in broadcasting the simulacrum through our media. In our Age of Spectacle, we will always prefer the performance to the actuality.   

We could not win the war, but we could take a trivial, tragic defeat and transmogrify it into a heroic, death-defying battle. Defeat then becomes a mythic victory when the man who could be the truth-teller becomes complicit in his own dream.

This is alchemy, and it can only occur in a setting of willing blindness.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Last Picture Show

Garbage. All I've been thinking about
all week is garbage.
I mean, I just can't stop thinking about it. 
--Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)

 There's a dark and a troubled side of life
There's a bright, there's a sunny side, too 
--Keep on the Sunny Side, The Whites

you’ve got to ask yourself one question:
"Do I feel lucky?"
Well, do ya, punk? 
--Dirty Harry (1971)

The liberal New York press had a heyday deriding Florida's most recent unnecessary shooting at a theater in Wesley Chapel, a town with a name that sounds like a sanctuary. How soon they forget their own subway vigilante, Berrnard Goetz (found guilty after shooting four black teens for attempting to mug him, was found guilty of only one charge -- carrying an unlicensed firearm.)

The latest absurd shooting was committed by a retired police captain against a fellow moviegoer who did not cease from texting upon his request that he do so. There are so many aspects to this tragic event which could have headed it off at the pass.

The film was "The Lone Survivor", about a violent engagement that took place in Afghanistan in 2005 (Operation Red Wings.) What is the audience for such a film? Not that films are going to become gentle morality tales anytime soon, but perhaps violence breeds violence?

Despite Luttrell's denial, movies like "The Lone Survivor" apotheosize the fighter and romanticize the fight. Survivor Luttrell was telling a tale of standing one's ground, even when that ground is not exactly one's own.

It can be confusing to differentiate the good kind of standing one's ground from the bad (unnecessary) kind. The book/film depicts an ultimately failed attempt to stand one's ground, and a thoughtful viewer might wonder if surrender might be a better choice than fighting when one is outgunned and out-manned. But surrenders don't make glamorous movies, do they.

Films like this entrench the "Us-versus-Them" mentality.
Hence, the guy texting and throwing popcorn is operating outside of the rules, and a larger threat is required to subdue him. So effectively has our society conflated the Unreal Reality Show mindset with real life that many may find it hard to differentiate the rules which bind us a participant in a society versus being a participant in a "reality" construct of it, as in film or video games. We now accept violence as a viable reaction to any irritating situation.

Further, what is the wisdom behind allowing older retired cops to carry a firearm, carte blanche? Retired police should have to pass the same licensure as any other citizen. The 71-year-old retired police captain who fired the shot showed he was not in control of his emotions.

As in Terror incidents, the shooter threw off indicators of his instability weeks earlier when he went off on another texter in the same theater. Why didn't the theater management alert the local police of the initial incident, and why was the perpetrator not identified on his next trip to the theater? There should be an armed guard in movie houses, as there is a sky marshal on air flights. In addition, ushers should patrol the aisles (as in the past), to report any nascent or evolving incidents.

These, and more, are questions we must ask as society before the next movie shootout in the aisles.

We will address related issues next. The retired police Captain was not Adam Lanza, nor was his victim, an Afghan veteran. Our society has a problem, and the shootings are evidence of that.

Forgetting the coldness in the statement, but the number of casualties resulting from movie theater killings pales in comparison to say, annual deaths by auto accident or medical mistakes, but still: One goes to the theater as respite and refuge. It should NOT be a threat environment.

So what gives?

--Jim and Lisa

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

NSA -- Back to Basics


In every Terrorism awareness training session in the 1980's was a block of instruction called "Legal Aspects of Terrorism," taught by a qualified lawyer in the field and often complemented by an FBI Counterintelligence specialist.

The FBI presence was essential since their counterintelligence function was connected to the criminal nature of Terrorism. The FBI was a law enforcement agency that also used intelligence to counter the threat, but the intel function served to bring criminal activity to court for a judicial determination before a jury.

This function of law enforcement (LE) is the basis of our judicial system. Warrants are issued to LE under probable cause, in accord with the 4th Amendment. The Constitution does not provide for the issuance of warrants to anyone but LE for anything except the investigation of reasonable allegations of a crime. Again, the warrant is issued in order to collect evidence to present to a courtroom to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused (and or course, innocence is presumed.) 

So how does an intelligence analyst operating outside of the LE community usurp the right to request warrants and collect evidence that does not support LE? Why are we ignoring this important fact in the current National Security Administration (NSA) discussions?

Neither the NSA nor the Central Intelligence Agency are anything but intel functionaries separate from LE. The NSA and CIA are intel, classified, closed, interbred and are trained to manipulate and cherry pick data for support of policy. How have intel analysts acquired the right to request warrants separate from LE purposes? Further, since they are contravening the legal procedures accorded the Constitutionally authorized agencies, how will the data they collect be used?


Terrorism is a crime and the collection of evidence to prove such should follow established legal procedure. Analysts are not police and do not serve police functions UNLESS they are working in a LE organization. While all LE agencies utilize intel analysts, those analysts operate under the LE aegis in order for their data collection to support an arrest capacity. 


Do NSA analysts need search warrants? Why issue a warrant if the information gathered will never reach a courtroom? Why has the U.S. created a Terrorism response that is not 100% tied to our legal system? The data gathered by these non-LE agencies may result in actionable evidence, but not prosecutable, so why the legal aura granted by issuance of a non-necessary warrant? 

As RangerAgainstWar has written before, all Terror events like those of 9-11-01 give off indicators of the activity, and shotgun policies are not the best way to counter the threat. The disconnect is the interface between LE -- whose data need not be classified -- and intelligence agencies. The two organizations operate in separate, non-mutually supportive, spheres. To date, there has not been a court case adjudicated on NSA-gathered evidence. 

There are things worse than Terror incidents, and one of these is the disconnection of the citizen from the information he needs in order to be an informed member of his nation who can vote responsibly. If our votes do not direct policy then the concept of voting is meaningless.

Think: Has there ever been a U.S. national leader who was elected on the platform of promising to make our government "more secretive"? If we do not buy into secrecy before the election, why do we accept it afterwards?

If our government prioritizes secrecy over transparency, we have moved from a democracy into the realm of autocracy.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Is Fallujah Lost?

The sun shines
People forget
 Come and join the party
Dress to kill
Dress yourself to kill 
--Eminence Front, The Who

 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed 
--Amazing Grace, John Newton 

'fore they get ya chainsmoking;
pistol loaded
'fore they get ya chainsmoking;
You can go with this
You can go with that 
--Weapon of Choice,
Fatboy Slim

Why was Fallujah won, than lost? It is a fallacy of conceit. Let us see it through the lens of the Geneva Convention (GC), that noble effort to instill rules of conduct into the act of war.

The GC's are not a quaint relic of bygone days but rather the most evolved effort to separate man from beast in perhaps his most brute undertaking. If we ignore them out of spite or expeditiousness, we have taken a decided atavistic turn. If we fail to comport ourselves according to basic standards, then we must ask why we fight in the first place, and we must surely not hide behind a notion of "helping the people." When what we say differs from what we do, the people understand this.

In the first Gulf War, soldiers gave themselves up willingly to the U.S. hoping that they would be accorded the general civilities which the U.S. Army has generally been known to bestow. This perception changed absolutely in our recent Gulf War expeditions, and that law's detour figures into the current response in Iraq.

The GC's require certain basic humanities be recognized. For example, soldiers -- more specifically, the chain of command -- must mark and identify graves and individual enemy dead whenever possible. This is both military and civilized behavior. However, in recent wars from Korea on, the United States has buried enemy dead with bulldozers and little concern for the GC constrictions concerning the dead. Ditto in Fallujah.

Additionally, we barricaded civilian hospitals and denied medical facilities to the insurgents, also a violation of the GC's. The Red Cross has always maintained a space separate from that of the combatants. Hospitals are not to be militarized, targeted  or denied to any wounded person. Once a fighter is severely wounded that person becomes protected, the same as if he were a non-combatant.

By way of background, when Ranger and his fellows were training as SF officers deploying to combat in the Republic of Vietnam, they received a one-hour block of instruction on the GC's, and a GC card to carry on our person, which basically amounted to squat. No one I knew received anything but eyewash training on the subject.

Why is the government of Iraq destroying one of its own cities? Why is the U.S. providing the money and weapons of mass destruction to facilitate these operations?

How is the Iraqi government's suppression of their citizens different from the Syrian government's treatment of their rebels? Why does the U.S. aid the rebels in Syria, yet kill them in Iraq? They are indistinguishable in a police line up. It is a paradox, a bit like a Zen Koan.

--Jim and Lisa

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Fallujah 2014

--Media's misunderstanding of the Fallujah violence

 Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear --
 kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor  --
with the cry of grave national emergency.
Always there has been some terrible evil at home
or some monstrous foreign power
that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it
--Gen. Douglas MacArthur 

A follow-on to the recent post on Fallujah's "fall" (Fallujah Fallacy) is necessary for the civilian reader to understand the doctrinal thought behind military operations in urban terrain (MOUT).

"Haul Ass and Bypass" has been the pragmatic standard approach when fighting in a mobile theatre Army scenarios with comparative opposing forces. Most Armies decline to fight in cities to avoid civilian casualties and because it is a vicious experience that grinds down a mobile offensive war into a brute slugfest (examples are Stalingrad, Aachen, Nancy and Metz, St. Lo and Hue.)

Armor should not be used in built-up areas as it restricts their shock action and long range fires, and because tanks are designed to fight tanks. Using tanks to support close combat in cities is a waste of an asset. (Some would question even using mechanized Infantry in urban terrain, but since most of our Infantry are mechanized, that is what we use.)

The only reason to fight MOUT is to gain maneuver space to swing free and continue fighting for deep objectives to destroy the enemy's will and ability to fight. Killing is not the objective of warfare and needless killing is not a civilized military objective.

So why was so much combat power both then and now applied to Fallujah? It was not because we had the assets to squander, but something less logical. The effort was not military in nature, but something which could be compared to the German effort in the Jewish Ghetto of  World War II Warsaw (understanding that the latter was not arrayed as a military battle at all, though it devolved into the semblance of one.)

Neither Fallujah nor Warsaw enhanced any commander's  mobile operations. Both were punitive, vindictive and unjustified side tracks per the principles of war. The rebels in Fallujah and the Jews in Warsaw could be contained without hammering them into the ground. Simple containment efforts morphed into "cauldron battles", diverting invading forces from the main objective.

NEXT: Humanitarian failures in Fallujah

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Fallujah Fallacy

--2004 cartoon on what went unseen 

It is a popular delusion that the government
wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth.
Enormous effort and elaborate planning
are required to waste this much money
-- P.J. O'Rourke

Fallujah was neither won, nor lost, despite the shocked news headlines. The violence in Fallujah was not warfare then, nor is it now. It is sectarian violence packaged as warfare to serve the cynical needs of a invading nation. This godforsaken city served the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) template well, and according to the mainstream media, it's the gift that keeps on giving (for the puppeteers behind the scenes.)

Fallujah is a symbolic terrain, a body over which the warring tribes of Sunnis and Shias continue to fight for governmental power. It is not a rogue band of al Qaeda fighters causing mayhem but the citizens themselves. The Sunnis may be "al Qaeda affiliates", but if they do affiliate with this terrorist group it is out of sheer pragmatism and necessity as their goals do not extend beyond securing their city.

No democracy, liberty, freedom or women's rights are being sought; it is just a 1,300-year power struggle played out now with U.S. taxpayer dollars supplying both sides of the fight. What did the killing achieve at any level, and did we ever have a realistic policy in Iraq? The obvious conclusion (from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, et. al.) is that U.S. combat power does not build nations.

Saddam had controlled the violence in Iraq and The U.S. invasion unleashed unbridled violence, and the killing today is simply a continuance of the U.S. set-up. The U.S. gave much to Iraq, but the upshot is a continuing spiral of violence.

When Fallujah was recently wrested from Iraqi Shia control, this was not an al Qaeda success -- this was the Fallujans voting with their guns. The money has run out to bribe the "Sunni Awakening", and so all parties return to their tribal status quo.

As one Marine who fought there wrote in the Guardian (UK) last week:

The Iraqi government's recent actions in Falluja turned the non-violent movement violent. When the protest camp in Falluja was cleared, many of the protestors picked up arms and began fighting to expel the state security forces from their city. It was local, tribal people - people not affiliated with transnational jihadist movements - who have taken the lead in this fight against the Iraqi government (I Helped Destroy Falluja in 2004. I Won't Be Complicit Again.)

In addition, the press is loathe to recognize the role of Saudi Arabia in providing weapons, training and fighters to stoke the instability in Iraq. "Saudi Arabia" may be fungible with "al Qaeda fighters", but our "friendship" disallows such considerations.

Fallujah's fall is no surprise. It's "securing" was smoke and mirrors.

To RangerAgainstWar's mantra: Killing people in a war on terror is foolish if they can be replaced the next day. That is not warfare, but a simple cycle of violence.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ducks Trois Gras

 True peace is not a balance of opposing forces.
It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions.
Peace calls for daily commitment. 
--Urbi et Orbi, Pope Francis

What are you rebelling against?
What do you got? 
--The Wild One (1953)

 The program of the Two Minutes Hate
varied from day to day, but there was none
in which Goldstein was not the principal figure 
--1984, George Orwell 

That is just the way with some people.
They get down on a thing when they
don’t know nothing about it
 --Mark Twain, 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

RangerAgainstWar is a military and political blog. However, to study the military involves more than surveying tactics and missions -- these actions occur in a gestalt. We believe that until the impulse to war is recognized as emanating from within man, we can expect continued strife, misery and destruction.

In this final Duck call, we ask: From whence this tempest-in-a-beer mug? Is it about something, or absolutely nothing? In Robert Reich's documentary, "Inequality For All", former Republican Senator (WY) Alan Simpson notes that in the near political past, we had "adversaries"; now we have "enemies". Reich observed this anger and polarization accompanies times of economic upheaval.

So, was the recent liberal attack on the t.v. Duck clan just another iteration of this generalized agitation? It is certainly not rational for citizens in a democracy to attack a fellow for his religious beliefs or expression of his life experiences, no matter how wrong-headed or foolish one may find them to be. Freedom of religion is sacrosanct (unless you're a Branch Davidian, but that's another matter.)

Part of the problem is the odd confluence of Reality Programming (which is not) and entertainment "news" meeting the simulacrum of ourselves on our social networking platforms. The smash-up is not pretty. Both are constructed realities, and like Narcissus we are so enamored of our reflections both in our choice of programming and our constructed antipodes that we are now living this "Second Life" AS IF -- as if it were real, as if it mattered, as if we can slake off our fears of irrelevance via the ire that we project into cyberspace.

The Duck brew-ha-ha revealed that we are a people who watch (non) reality programs and entertainment masquerading as news who then regurgitate our emotions about these fluffy things onto our created social platforms, our ersatz selves. Is Facebook and our blog villages to be our "event horizon"?

 Well, for me, this is blogtopia's Jump the Shark moment. We started the blog with an idea that intelligent, open-minded people would find Ranger, like a watering hole in an oasis, and there would be an efflorescence of democracy here. Instead, I find myself defending the utterances of a t.v. show family against the madding throng, the liberal intelligentsia that proves itself wanting on the issues of free speech. One does not grow up to think one might have to do such a thing.  

In our hyperreality, people think if they have a reaction to something, it merits being tweeted and read, emotion becoming an itch needing to be scratched versus something to be pondered. We seek "followers" who "like" and "friend" us, a clannish project if it ever was one.

So the evolved non-theists among us find themselves in the perverse position of seeking praise for crucifying a redneck for sins he did not commit, because his beliefs indict the primitive in us all. This is laughable, were it not tragic. This is Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", 2014-style. It is Greek ostracism, and there is no place for this insularity under cover of Progressivism in a robust society.

As gay feminist Camile Paglia says, “In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I one hundred percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right of religious freedom there.”

Paglia calls the public lashing out at the Ducks (besides being laughable) "punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades. This is the whole legacy of free speech 1960’s that have been lost by my own party.”

“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility. This is not the mark of a true intellectual life. This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S. Why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism. Why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc. is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points.”

Was Mr. Duck being "UnChristian" in paraphrasing Christian doctrine? Christianity qua Christianity is "unChristian"! It is a sort of absurd Mobius strip for liberals who argue for inclusivity to exclude a believer.

What we have with Mr. Duck is Christians, atheists and others flushing Mr. Duck out for being Christian, and giving his program publicity they could not buy. Do you want gays and blacks to have equal civil rights in your society? Then you better be willing to allow Mr. Duck his, for he is no less than or greater than any other man.

Instead, we clan-up in  virtual "flash mob" in a moment's notice to crucify the outcast du jour. We develop a template for doing so, handily ejecting the last cause celebre for the next, in perpetuity, like a house of mirrors. It has become imperative to participate in Orwell's "Two Minute Hate" as self-definition, to show we care. The subject is fungible, and the best of us are falling prey to facile dichotomies, leaving nuance behind in the service of immediacy.

All who participate in the social network have become citizen journalists, sans the necessary disinterest to report the data factually. The online commentariat demands instantaneous response. In a perversion of the Cartesian imperative to be reflective, it is now, "I am read, therefore, I exist."

Perhaps the phenomenon of instantaneous anger towards someone like the Ducks was described by Sasha Issenberg's takedown of New York Times editorialist David Brooks:

Blue Americans have heard so much about Red America, and they've always wanted to see it. But Blue Americans don't take vacations to places like Galveston and Dubuque. They like to watch TV shows like The Simpsons and Roseanne, where Red America is mocked by either cartoon characters or Red Americans themselves, so Blue Americans don't need to feel guilty of condescension. Blue Americans are above redneck jokes, but they will listen if a sociologist attests to the high density of lawnbound-appliances-per-capita in flyover country. They need someone to show them how the other half lives, because there is nothing like sympathy for backwardness to feed elitism. A wrong turn in Red America can be dangerous: They might accidentally find Jesus or be hit by an 18-wheeler. It seems reasonable to seek out a smart-looking fellow who seems to know the way and has a witty line at every point. Blue Americans always travel with a guide (Booboos in Paradise).

The hatred and disdain rained down upon the Duck character's utterances on his religion and his experience working with black people was ridiculous. It does, however, show the intolerant ridge runner in so many of us. We are learned bilious people who have traded blunderbusses for the keypad. If we do not understand the absurdity and incorrectness of such tirades, we have little hope of concilience on any grander topics that affect us, much less any hope of reaching a concord with anyone anywhere else.

The Duck's Christianity is nothing new. See Chris Hitchen's God is Not Great for the scope of the problem: he sought true believers, but people pick and choose, which is not what believing is all about. But inasmuch as people do believe (and we are the most believing developed nation), Mr. Duck was spouting a stock take on Christianity. He has the right of freedom of religion. Believe or not; listen or not. That is all. Full stop.

{Just because we're here, I will do my personal Duck riff soon, sure to raise some hackles.}

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Friday, January 03, 2014

Peaceful Easy Feeling

--The Magpie, Claude Monet

And you may look the other way.
We can try to understand,
The New York Times' effect on man. 
--Stayin' Alive, Bee Gees 

I don't stay out late, don't care to go
I'm home about 8, just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin', savin' my love for you 
--Ain't Misbehavin', Fats Waller 

Had the cub thought in man-fashion,
he might have epitomized life as a voracious appetite,
and the world as a place wherein ranged
a multitude of appetites, pursuing and being pursued,
hunting and being hunted, eating and being eaten,
all in blindness and confusion, with violence and disorder,
a chaos of gluttony and slaughter,
ruled over by chance,
merciless, planless, endless 
--White Fang, Jack London 

Happy New Year, 2014.

Standing on my front porch at 0600 the world of nature vibrates with life and the struggle for life.

At night we feed the wild animals, and the turkeys, deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and opossums come up to eat at the kitchen door steps. Every day. My apples, figs pecans and pear trees draw the wildlife, and it is pleasing that they gain sustenance from them. Even the maligned coyotes eat the pears and pecans. I'm no E. O. Wilson, but I respect the insects save for wasps, as Lisa is very reactive to their venom. Even rattlesnakes are left alone unless they enter my house perimeter -- a Ranger professional courtesy.

The ubiquitousness and variety of life is beyond my comprehension, but I will relate one small tale that reflects the mysterious abundance of that universe:

Lisa picked up a small sponge on the porch to use in the kitchen when she noticed two small spiders living in it. They debarked into the sink, and with much effort she finally got both spiders into a glass to repatriate them outdors, but here is the kicker: When she laid the cup on its side anticipating they would run out into the yard, they instead ran to one another and embraced. These were two little lost spiders subject to the brutality of the world and instead of scurrying away, they held on to each other. Isn't this what people are supposed to do?

Somewhere there is a message for all of us. What does this have to do with RAW, you ask? We need to stop and ask, and try to find the center of our humanity and respect life, even that of a spider. Life is all around us and this should be our focus. Cruise missiles surely would not spare two small spiders, and they will not keep people in alive in Syria, either.

Nor is it our concern.

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