Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monsters, Inc.

--ISIS, Adam Zyglis

There's nothing more toxic or deadly than a human child.
A single touch could kill you.
Leave a door open, and one can walk right into this factory;
 right into the monster world.
 I won't go into a kid's room. You can't make me.
 --Monsters, Inc. (2001)

What had I done?
[w]e were all quite likely going to be killed,
or beheaded, and for a news story
that wasn't going to change the world.
We thought it was important.
We had the best intentions 
--War Journal, Richard Engel

A seven-year-old's understanding:

A neighbor's young son -- a rabid Star Wars fan -- once asked me to choose my favorite toy from amongst his vast collection of miniatures. I chose what appeared to be a fuzzy benign creature from among the field of oddities.
"I'm just gonna warn you that he's a monster," said Theo, in a cautionary statement.
"That's o.k. -- I think he's cute," said I.
"He eats people," said Theo.
"Well then -- I don't like him anymore," said I.
"He's a monster, and he does what monsters do. You chose him; you can't not like him for being what he is."

Lesson: Know the people you choose to partner with; if their behavior does not comport with yours, you will not change them. (Corollary: they will possibly change you, and not necessarily for the better.) It is Aesop's fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. This one idea is the distillation of half of the advice books on how to achieve a successful relationship.  

Ignore this advice, and the ability to say you forged a partnership will provide you cold comfort. Review the past 12+ years of United State's foreign policy and come to your own conclusions.

From the mouths of babes. Word.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Faster Than the Speed of Thought

--Extremism, Manny Francisco

 Surprise, surprise, surprise! 
--Gomer Pyle, USMC

 Life ... is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing 
--Macbeth (V, v) 

Oh foolish people, and without understanding;
which have eyes, and see not;
which have ears, and hear not 
--Jermiah 5:21

RAW is on holiday now, but the news which rustles other feathers has entered our awareness. The responses we witness seem absurd.

[1] On beheadings by members of the Islamic State (IS):

Expected, totally. Go rambling about in their desert, and you can expect to be on IS's YouTube snuff favorites list sometime soon ... plan on it.

This is asymmetrical warfare at its finest. Didn't we just learn this in our most excellent adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn't this what Israel is experiencing vis-a-vis Hamas? It matters not the names of the players: the U.S. is confronting people who do not share her values-- in their backyard.

The photographer who lost his head was exploiting the situation, and the locals knew it. Professional newsmen or photographers are always looking for the scoop; it is their business. The word is, they want to "document history," but we have already seen enough beheadings and do not need to see more. This is an ugly historicity of our making.

We are exploiting them, and they, us; where is the surprise? Is this placing of ourselves in their grid square -- and the expected resultant sacrificial lambs -- an effort to re-ramp up a United State's military presence abroad?

This is not the first time religious fanatics have shed blood in the name of their cause. Why are we shocked?

Why this need to be horrified, and to jump through the predictable hoops of memorializing those beheaded? While it is a brutal death, to be sure, it is not without sense to those doing the killing. It is merely a method of gaining free propaganda.

If we do not support this lifestyle and their adjudication process, why are we present, creating it, and then documenting it?

IS behavior is not going extinct anytime soon, unlike the language of Wukchumni, which will become so when the last known speaker, Marie Wilcox, dies. So: what precisely is the purpose for the United State's presence in Afghanistan, Iraq or any of the areas of IS control?

The press and we have a field day with every new outrage from the Muslim world, but to what end? For example, what of Boku Haram, the Muslim group that abducted the Nigerian school girls? Off the radar, in favor of the latest cause du jour.  New and more grotesque stories are demanded by the commentariat, all to no end.

Lesson: Do not be a part of stirring the pot in Islamic jihadist nations. 

[2] African disease Ebola cured by act of god:

A doctor, one of two U.S. missionaries who contracted the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia and recently cured at Emory medical center, claimed God saved his life in a miraculous direct reply to thousands of prayers. In fact, the miracle was being born white and Christian. If you wish to call this fortunate confluence which afforded Dr. Brantly access to the latest super drug that cured him, then yes, Brantly is the recipient of a miracle.

But if you believe that, you also believe that the prayers of the African victims and their families are somehow inferior, as infected Africans do not usually recover from the virus. Such belief of a favored religion is medievalism at its finest, so to return to point #1 -- why the shock at the power of conviction?

Dr. Brantly further asks his fellow believers to pray for the Africans that their prayers might be heard ... by an obviously Christian-favoring God.

Lesson: Do not go mucking about in Liberia when Ebola is ravaging the nation, and do not claim God favors you over them.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Murder, Inc.

Well I'm hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three

Come on baby, do you do more than dance?

I'm hot blooded, I'm hot blooded

--Hot Blooded
, Foreigner

--Why'd you do it? Why did you kill him?

--He had bad breath

--Murder, Inc. (1960)

When Smith attacked Mr. Clutter

he was under a mental eclipse,

deep inside a schizophrenic darkness

--In Cold Blood, Truman Capote


["Murder, Inc." is a re-post of a 9 April 2011 entry.]

February 1, 1968, B. G. Loan, Chief of the Vietnamese National Police, executed what was a guerrilla, Vietcong soldier or terrorist (take your pick, as this designation is irrelevant to this discussion.) Whichever, the recipient of General Loan's attention was shot dead on a Saigon street corner.

This was called field adjudication at the time, and in a perverse way this shooting was understandable and strangely appropriate. The killing was done in hot blood during a period of extensive combat.

However, this photo was a galvanizing moment which enabled the U.S. to pivot against the war.
From 1 Feb 68, there was not a chance for the U.S. to win the war in Vietnam. Even though the execution was explained as a consequence of guerrilla activity and war crimes and due to a pervading wartime mentality -- despite any possibly legitimization of the act -- the pure violence was a turn-off to the American public.

The stark reality of the brutality was the final straw which broke the American voter's backs. That one death symbolized the futility of the shooting match in a black-and-white manner, in a way that no amount of debate could achieve. Gen. Loan's photographed action was the beginning of the end.

That was 43 years ago, and now
we allow a U.S. president to issue a death warrant without anyone blinking an eye. In 1968 the U.S. public recoiled from the sight of a naked street-corner execution; in 2011, we exult at a presidentially-ordered murder of a thug in cold blood, no better or worse than a VC member on some Saigon street corner.

Why the recoil then, the approval now? The only difference is that Loan had the stones to pull the trigger himself in broad daylight. Why do we glorify a once and future president when both are akin to cold-blooded killers, something we once found so repugnant in the not-so-distant past?

Are we so disconnected from our national policies that we accept this violence in passing as business-as-usual? What does it mean to be an American today vis-a-vis war and assassination?

The lesson from Loan's/Obama's assassination is that any government with a tenuous hold on a situation will resort to desperate acts. Though the South Vietnamese restored short-term order via brutal tactics, NOTE: Saigon no longer exists.

When regimes execute people on street corners the end in nigh. Gang-style executions are symptomatic of bankrupt policies. If the U.S. was being successful, it would not have to resort to such activities.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Ready for Prime Time


Can we film the operation
Is the head dead yet
You know the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet 
--Dirty Laundry, Don Henley

 So, why should I waste my beautiful mind
on something like that?
--Barbara Bush

Per The Photo today of the 7-year-old son of the Islamic State member gleefully holding up the severed head of the Syrian gloatingly posted to his father's Twitter account, there's not much to say.

Who can call this "Photo of the Year"? Why do we give this insanity any press? "Warning -- Graphic Photo!" as we salaciously anticipate our own voyeuristic John the Baptist moment. Yet, the press did not gift us with the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl ... why is that? After all, his murderers kindly provided footage, too.

In the past, the press made decisions based upon more than desperation for readership. Eddie Adams' photo, "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon" showed the human tragedy that is war, but the frame did not rely on showing the soon-bloody head. By freezing the moment of impending doom, one did not have the benefit of release.

Today's photo depicts a vulgar, bestial, monstrous action, and a gleeful boy joining in the celebration. Are we surprised? Do we really not know what the Western world confronts in the name of IS activities?

What is special, newsworthy or shocking about this photo? This is child porn of a most chilling form. We ban such things in our nation, yet consume it with gusto under the rubric ... I do not know what rubric; perhaps you can tell me.

Is there nothing sacred?

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Monday, August 11, 2014

A Life of Assumptions

 But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain:
 The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men 
Gang aft agley,
 --To a Mouse, 
Robert Burns

Our lives are based upon assumptions we call "reality", or, "the Truth".

We assume that if we work hard, we will get ahead. If we marry, we will be happy (or at least, have our needs met, mostly.) If we lead responsible lives, we will gain and retain our personal property. And so it goes.

The military and civilian sectors also make assumptions before constructing plans and policy but these ideas are often horribly off-base, and when a clunky organism like a military-industrial complex becomes committed to a plan, it can be very hard to change tack.

Some grand failures of the modern era:

1) The Domino Theory: If the Republic of Vietnam fell to the Communists, so too would the rest of Southeast Asia

2) Commie Killing: Killing the Communists in SE Asia would create a democracy in Vietnam

3) The U.S. military can protect the U.S. Homeland from Islamic Terrorists

4) Killing Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan will make the U.S. immune from terrorism

5) The "Reverse Domino Theory": If Iraq stands up and becomes democratic, so too will the rest of the region

6) Defeating the Taliban military forces will result in a democratic Afghanistan

7) Requiring health care insurance will translate into affordable health care for all U.S. citizens

8) Globalization will benefit the American people

Of course, killing Communists in RVN did not prevent the North Vietnamese from uniting the country under Communism. The dominoes did not fall, either.

Defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan did not destroy al Qaeda. The deadly whack-a-mole game merely caused them to move to other locations, and become more virulent, much like the result when whacking a ball of mercury.

Requiring health care insurance does not translate to more affordable or accessible health care. Just as did the Communists and the terrorists, The health care behemoth will create new tactics to insure their profit margins.

Assumptions must be based upon reality, and not vice versa. Reality does not emerge into being from assumptions. When our assumptions are false, the plans made upon them and their results will not be effective.

Depending upon which side of the fence you sit, you have assumptions about Russia, Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. Those who engaged the U.S. military participation in so many foreign wars also made assumptions. Do you think your assumptions are any more reality-based than theirs?

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Relative Worth, Revisited

[Re-post: In his 16 December 2011 piece, The Medal of Honor and Messenger, Ranger suggested his associate MSG Benny Adkins receive the Medal of Honor (MOH) for his action in 1966; subsequently Adkins was belatedly awarded the MOH in October 2013.

In his 20 December 2010 piece, Relative Worth, Ranger wrote that Stephen Sanford should also receive the MOH, especially in light of the recent upgrades to medals received by veterans of the Vietnam War. We hope Mr. Sanford does not have to wait that long.

  Cpl. Stephen Sanford received DSC (2007)

And I believe we need heroes,

I believe we need certain people

who we can measure our own shortcomings by

--Richard Attenborough

The ultimate measure of a man is not

where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,

but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one

--Baltasar Gracian


In continued consideration of the Medal of Honor, let's compare Staff Sgt Salvatore Guinta's recent MOH (the first living MOH recipient since the Vietnam War) to the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) awarded to Private First Class Stephen C. Sanford.

[See SSG Guinta's MOH citation HERE; PFC Sanford's DSC HERE. Note, 7, AUG 2014: Two additional MOH's have been awarded, both to 2/503/173 members.] 

The short and sweet question is, why did Guinta receive a MOH when Sanford received only a DSC? What differentiates their actions? Even patriotic site BLACKFIVE posed the following question regarding the dearth of coverage on the actions of PFC Sanford: "Read this and ask why this story hasn't been all over the media. It was released more than 8 weeks ago...only the Army has information on it. I found no media services have picked this up at all..."

Sanford was wounded in the initial burst of fire, yet he elected to continue the assault. He repeatedly assaulted into the face of the enemy though wounded, receiving two "potentially fatal" gunshot wounds in the service of saving and protecting other soldiers. He administered combat life-saving while under direct fire, sustaining two additional solid hit wounds while so doing.

Objectively reading the citations, it is clear that Sanford exceeded the requirements for the MOH, and in fact, his actions exceeded the valorous acts of SSG Guinta.

Of the eight MOH's awarded in the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©), three have gone to Special Operations Forces - Special Operations Command assets and five to the rest of the entire military. That is a heavily weighted fact. Is the SOCOM more valorous than regular line soldiers?

Some painful questions arise from this comparison. Would Stephen Sanford have received the MOH if he were to have been killed? Would Sanford have received it if he were an SOF asset?
If so, why?

This is not a criticism of SSG Guinta, who is a fine soldier and an MOH-worthy recipient. The sole purpose is to question the apparent bias in the conference of this prestigious award. If Guinta deserves the MOH, then so, too, does Pvt. Sanford. That is as clear as a front sight on an M4 carbine.

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Monday, August 04, 2014

Gee Whiz, Again

Let no guilty man escape
--U.S. Grant
on the Whiskey Ring scandal of 1875,
in which he used the pardon to do just that

To conclude,

they are lying knaves
--Much Ado About Nothing


[This is re-post of "Gee Whiz", orig. published 2 APR 2009. "Everything old is new again ..."]

The commonly-held assumption is that this war is at a final stage -- "Six years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the end of America's costly mission is in sight" (Iraq Improved but Problems Remain). But the Vietnam war had another phase after the U.S. bowed out of the fight.

The same will be true in Iraq, so we oughtn't to pull a "gee whiz, who'd a thunk it" when it happens.

In the final stage of the war, America's challenge will be to prevent ethnic and sectarian competition from exploding into violence on the scale that plunged the nation to the brink of all-out civil war two years ago.

If the U.S. really wanted to prevent ethnic and sectarian violence, we would not have invaded six years ago.
Saddam had that problem under control. Oh U.S., you are so disingenuous.

The concept that the U.S. will honor the existing non-congressionally approved Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) -- "U.S. combat troops are due to leave by September 2010, with all American soldiers gone by the end of the following year" -- is a dream at best; a lie, at worst.

The U.S. has no intention of disengaging. If we did our troops would be assing up and returning to their peacetime permanent stations. The troops remain on station because the Joint Chiefs want them to remain on station.

As Ranger's momma used to say:
Mark my words!

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Unbridled Enthusiasm

Oh, I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean 
d-do ya?
--What I Am,
Edie Brickell and New Bohemians 

Have you ever seen the film Being There,
in which Peter Sellers plays a vacuous imbecile
 who through a series of misunderstandings
ends up poised to become president? 
--Watch Out, World, The Sunday Times

[Of course, Ron Liddle was comparing Mitt Romney to the hapless character Chauncey Gardener, but the comparison works just as well for George W. Bush. Come to think of it, it applies to an endless number of candidates, hence the brilliance of the construction.]

Last month, former Vice President Dick Cheney wrote in a WSJ op-ed,:

"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many," -- not referring to President G. W. Bush, but President Obama (The Collapsing Obama Doctrine).

How is this level of shamelessness possible in a man who has held a position of respect in our government? Could Cheney be deluded? Perhaps just terribly confused, or bombastic? Does he care that his legacy be one of an inveterate liar -- a  criminal creep? Perhaps he is simply a flat-out criminal, engaging in some Projection 101.

Ranger recently came across a photo in General (RET.) Hugh Shelton's book, Without Hesitation, of the General standing with President George W. Bush on 28 September 2001, a mere two weeks after the World Trade Center attacks:

The President looks positively glowing -- nary a sign of furrowed brow for him.

Remember the "high striker" game at local fairs and carnivals? If you struck with the mallet hard enough, you could max out at the top of the scale. Now, if you were charged with choosing the penultimate word or phrase for describing chutzpah of VP Cheney, and then for Mr. Bush, what term would you choose?

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