RANGER AGAINST WAR: September 2016 <

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Transrational Terrorism

  --IS BrainWashing,
 Arend Van Dam

The eyes see only
what the mind is prepared to comprehend
--Henri Bergson

We can do the innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done
We haven't told you a thing
--Dirty Laundry,
Don Henley

He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
Excitable boy, they all said
And he bit the usherette's leg in the dark
Excitable boy, they all said

--Excitable Boy,
Warren Zevon

Ranger enjoys simplicity. Some things change, while others immutable.

After the events of 9-11-01 we were told that everything has changed, but everything is the same. We are born, we live, we die. Maybe we have eyes to see different things now; that is all. The only thing that changes is how we view the journey.

The United States is now focused on terrorism, a threat so small that it could be ignored if the world were so inclined. There are so many more actual and imminent threats posed by our environment, yet we ignore those, and at our peril. 

Where can we go for perspective? The press warps already warped behavior calling the recent New York bomber Ahmed Khan Rahami an “average American” and a "class clown". That is a stretch. Anyone who builds and attempts to detonate an explosive device is not an “average American”.

Likewise, the New York Times calls the recent Minnesota mall stabber, Dahir Adan, a "Normal American Kid". 


More distressing is that fact that Mr. Rahami's father had contacted the authorities years ago regarding his concern over his son's activities.  This apparently fell on deaf ears. Shades of the Underwear Bomber manque -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- whose Nigerian father alerted authorities about his son's activities, again to no effect. 

But aside from the media lies and the police failures, the actions of terrorists, while repulsive, are not an existential threat to a nation of 320 million people, with 10,000 grain elevators of corn. We have so much grain Bloomberg reports that farmers are dumping it in parking lots. 

Contrast the dozens or hundreds of people who may be killed in a terrorist action with the thousands who could be killed by a failure of infrastructure or infection by a drug-resistant superbug. Add onto that thought that those inherent weaknesses might be exploited by a terrorist and you can see the actual measure of the problems we face

We are riveted to the media talking heads nattering on about terrorism, but we have no realistic understanding of the concept. 

Recently some junior league explosions occurred in the New York and New Jersey area. Most of the mainstream media declared, “the perpetrator had been CAPTURED by the police”. That statement betrays the disregard of the actual threat and actions of the bomber.

Terrorists on our soil are not captured, since they are not combatants. They are arrested as the criminals they are. Using war terminology not only confuses the issue, it lends legitimacy to their criminal endeavors. 

Our confusion remains consistent over our recent history. Domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski was arrested 20 years ago, but the caption under his image in Wikipedia says, “Kaczynski after his capture by police in 1996.

In 20 years the U.S. has moved into the world of transrational terrorism yet we still do not realize that police arrest people, while only soldiers on the battlefield may capture them. 

There is a lot that the average American has to figure out. There is not much clarification available.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Roberts Ridge Revisted

 --USAF Technical Sgt. John Chapman 
(KIA, 2002)

 "It was just a moment of pure panic." 
--Pilot of Razor 4

Fourteen years after the first publicized meeting engagement in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) -- the Battle of Roberts Ridge -- USAF Technical Sergeant John Chapman (KIA) is being considered for a posthumous Medal of Honor (MOH) based on "newly accessed" graphic data.

The new data? A grainy and indistinct film recently released in the New York Times. But this fuzzy footage is superfluous because the Sergeant's 2003 Navy Cross award citation already told the story of an action which clearly met the bar for a MOH.

The Blair Witch Project-style footage seems an absurd criteria for reconsideration of Chapman's award. 21st century photo technology could render clearer footage (or what's a DARPA for?).

In a 2010 post on this blog [War and Remembrance], Ranger said that Sgt. Chapman should have received the MOH. Why is the Air Force only now considering the upgrade of his Air Cross?

What was being hidden, and why now?

In an incompetent mission, Airman Chapman was left for dead on the battlefield by SEALS. He continued fighting for an hour, before dying from his injuries. Were the authorities waiting to release this Bad News until all living players had received their retirements?

Certainly the war effort and the concept of a viable Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) would have been harmed if it had been acknowledged that the SEALS had abandoned a member of a sister service. Special Operations have not come far since Desert One, despite the Hoorah and exorbitant funding.

The Special Operations Command ratholed a clear MOH action because it would have shed light on the fact that the vaunted SEALS left a seriously-wounded man to die on the battlefield. While they returned to find injured fellow SEALS, they did  not do so for Air Force member, non-SEAL, Sgt. Chapman.

The SEALS have gained a cachet following the release of Marcus Luttrell's book, Lone Survivor (later a movie). Luttrell was the first of the literary SEALS in the PWOT.

But Ranger questions why the Navy even has an element like the SEALS. They are essentially Naval Infantry which lack the training, experience and institutional knowledge to be infantry. Why does a United States fleet Navy need its own infantry personnel thrown into a fight which is remote from any fleet activity?

Why were the SEALS on a frozen Afghan hillside with nary a whiff of salt in the air?

The Navy has the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for land combat purposes. The Marines have  depth of knowledge and Combat Support (CS) and Combat Support Services (CSS) to support their mission. The SEALS are a redundancy.

This battle lacked the hallmarks of advanced military thought or action. In addition, the players lacked for functional equipment. A quick review of the enemy situation reveals the irrelevance of this mission for which Sgt. Chapman died on a meaningless piece of real estate:

They were a squad or platoon minus, or a reinforced squad, occupying an isolated high-altitude observation post; one could stretch the point and call it a combat outpost. Whatever we call it, it was probably occupied by Chechens who got there by climbing the mountain.

This means that United States forces could have interdicted their support and utilized ambush and blocking positions to kill them as they went up or came down the mountain. This is Infantry 101, of the sort any Army or USMC grunt instinctively understands.

The Battle of Robert Ridge is reminiscent of the Battle of Ia Drang (LZ X-Ray, 1965) in the Republic of Vietnam, the first meeting engagement of the North Vietnamese Army against a heliborne U.S. Army. The Roberts Ridge debacle could also be equated to the Battle of Mogadishu ("Day of the Rangers", Blackhawk Down, 1993) in Somalia.

The truth is simple: if the enemy is assaulted, he will fight back and accept the losses. Our technology means naught when the equation is reduced to rifle against rifle. At that point, you have already lost..

Obviously, the SEALS have no patience for the basics of ground combat, and assaulted an objective without proper visual reconnaissance.

The Operations Orders for this action are still classified -- why?

[cross-posted @milpub.]

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2001 -- 15 Years On

 --A Little Firework to 911 
Marian Kamensky (Slovakia)

Once there  was a way to get back homeward,
Once there was a way to get back home
--Golden Slumbers, The Beatles
 All the fakeness just rolls right off them,
maybe because the nonstop sales job of American life
has instilled in them exceptionally high thresholds
for sham, puff, spin, bullshit, and outright lies,
in other words for advertising in all its forms 
--Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Mankind survived the last ice age.
We're certainly capable of surviving this one.
All depends on whether or not we're able
 to learn from our mistakes 
--The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

This is a call for a momentary cessation in hostilities, whatever your stripe.

It is a reminder of a time, not so long ago, when we were able to cohere.

I live near the top of a little hill. It's not much, but it's what suffices for such here in our state capital. As such, I am privileged to watch the cast of regulars who summit the hill daily.

There are the high school ROTC runners and their barking drill instructors, and the local marathoners. There is the elderly gent with the broken straw hat who travels the route daily atop his John Deere tractor mower.

But yesterday, it was an old woman who stopped my attention as I saw her make her way along her familiar daily route.

She is always to herself, inscrutable, with a seeming self-contained pleasure about her. She often stops and bends to pull weeds to tidy a neighbor's planter, to gather twigs or to set aright a fallen recyclables bin. She is usually silent.

My friend Rhett, lifetime resident and self-proclaimed "dirt-road country boy", diagnoses her unwavering sashay as being the result of some good lovin' when her husband was alive.

This week, she reminded me of the events of 9-11, and this particular woman on that particular day.

That infamous day began when I walked into the office to be confronted by the stricken look of a co-worker, who directed me to go to the staff room and watch the events on the television, what was to become the unceasing loop to which we would be served for weeks to come, the burning towers of NYC's World Trade Center.

In my next class that morning, I shared my supposition that this was an Islamic terrorist act. Most students did not yet know what Islam or terrorism was, a blissful ignorance from which they have since awoken.

As I drove through downtown on my way home that day, I was struck by the silence. No planes, but more than that, the road noise was brought to a hush. It was as though no one dared to crack the uncustomary silence. There were no horns, and no music blared out of windows.

In retrospect, it seems that most windows were closed, even on that pleasant Indian summer day. Perhaps they were listening to the radio. Most faces stared obediently -- stunned? -- straight ahead.

In stores, there was a palpable politesse. What had just happened to us, by whom, and why? But the  questions were not asked aloud.

When I arrived home, the lady on the hill soon passed my window singing a mournful spiritual. She knew what time it was, figuratively -- a knowing that we seem to have lost today.

Her dolorous dirge was a snapshot in time for me, and when I saw her yesterday, in context of the ceaseless strife and chatter during this election season, I thought about her Cassandra-like break in her silence.

15 years later, proportionately few Americans have served in the so-called Wars on Terror. Many of those who have done so have returned with poor or ambivalent views of their actions in the Middle East theatre.

Taking a parachute view of our country, we are still a nation of law, we still have a Supreme Court (though we cannot seem to fill the vacant seat.) We remain a capitalistic democracy, and many people continue to so very well. But some things seemingly remote from the events of 9-11-01 have changed.

We are two months away from a Presidential election, and our papers of note shave till failed to adequately cover the candidate's positions, in lieu of squeezing the humor value, tabloid-style, out of personality gaffes. Everyone wants to be on someone's feed, and one must be absurd or outrageous to get "Liked" in that way.

Recently released studies show middle-aged white males are the one demographic no longer making gains in longevity; in fact, they are losing time. Cheaper adulterated drugs like heroin are resulting in more deaths among users, especially in that demographic.

Most people are now preternaturally connected to their smartphones and other devices, an era-defining development.

It is difficult to imagine a time when life was lived in real color, and not pixels. So, much has changed for the worse in the 15 years the start of the 21st century, and much of it wrought through our our own malfeasance.

When we let the genie out of the Middle East bottle, we ensured that we would have a perpetual problem to hold our interest for the remainder of our lifetimes, at least.

But by putting these people -- who had mostly been quietly living their lives in a pre--modern fashion -- on the world's stage in such a spectacular fashion, the U.S. has unfairly ensured the rest of the world face the fallout from our discretionary wars. As a result, it is they who live in closer proximity to the region of unrest who are suffering the brunt of the problems.

My philosopher-cabdriver friend called that afternoon 15 years ago to say, "Everything has now changed."

I thought that was a bit of an overreaction at the time.

[Note: so enamored are we with the piffle which has characterized the last year of public national life that when I searched on my political cartoon website, I found predominately European cartoonists who had remembered today's significance.

Most U.S. cartoons still featured GOP candidate Trump's blond coiffure in some disdainful manner. Life in 2016, U.S.A. Go, team.]

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