RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2015 <

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Everybody Knows

--Pour féliciter 2016  
Marian Kemnsky (Slovakia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bombing fails because it is reminiscent of any colonial approach:

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


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

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

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

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

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Accidental Terrorist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Thursday, December 03, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fantasy Terrorism: It's Only a Game

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And everyone knows that defense does not win wars.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

How Did That Feel for You?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are we thinking? Are we thinking?

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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