RANGER AGAINST WAR: September 2006 <

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I, Spy

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act --George Orwell

President Bush recently told a military group that "asserting Iraq made the U.S. less safe swallows the enemy propaganda" ("Wall Street Journal", 9/30-10/01). I am so glad to have Bush on the watch, outing the moles in our very midst. It is all feeling very much like an episode of "I, Spy," with our own President ferreting out the double agents on our Federal security payroll, as we assuredly can't trust them.

Clearly, Bush mistakenly thinks we have paid for subversives to work in our own agencies. They have attempted to make us think that the Iraq invasion was a wrongheaded move, and the source of this "enemy propaganda" was none other than the consensus of all the intelligence agencies of the Federal government, accumulated in the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). I might add that their total budget is unknown, due to secrecy requirements.

So it seems that Federal agencies are now the source of insidious enemy propaganda... Lest you think I believe any of this, I do not. The agencies are faithfully fulfilling their assigned duties; the President should do the same.

What the President is really saying is that the intelligence professionals will not be compromised when doing what they do best--analysis. Too bad these words--
non-compromising and analysis--are not in Bush's vocabulary.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Waffling on Terrorism, or, WOT

Ronald Reagan once quipped in a presidential debate: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? The question is still a good one, and the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) says that when it applies to terrorism, the answer is "No". Furthermore, why has there been only one NIE since 2002 on the topic of terrorism? And nobody needs a NIE to know that the economy cannot sustain our WOT.

Following are some personal observations on the terror front--

(1) The NIE indicates that the U.S. is not safer as a result of the Iraq invasion and occupation. This NIE is either [A] incorrect, or [B] correct.

If incorrect, then why do we have intelligence agencies, especially if they are not producing better data after the vaunted intelligence reorganization following 9-11? If correct, then why are we still in Iraq? Personally, I think the NIE is being correct because it mirrors my view;, so, why are we there, shooting ourselves in the collective foot?

(2) Assuming the absurd--that the U.S. military killed every man, woman, child and goat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem of terrorism would still exist. The death of Osama bin Laden will not end the threat, either.

(3) Remember when Habeas Corpus was a bulwark of Constitutional law?

(4) In the past, the Bush administration had the good graces to lie about torture. Now it's being institutionalized, as long as rape or mutilation is not involved. I'm proud of these exceptions; otherwise, America could be denigrated for allowing inhumane treatment of captured persons.

(5) As a result of #4, American soldiers don't have a match's chance in a windstorm to survive capture in either Iraq or Afghanistan. If there was any chance of survival before, it is surely gone now. The new U.S. torture policy is a death sentence for captured U.S. military personnel.

(6) Why is the FBI no longer used to interrogate terror suspects? Isn't the FBI the U.S. lead agency for enforcing U.S. code? The FBI can arrest, detain and extradite.

(7) How did the CIA become the lead agency to question terror suspects? If the CIA questions suspects, what is the legal basis for this in international law? The CIA cannot arrest and detain, since they are not law enforcement agents. (If I were in the FBI, I'd file a grievance that if the CIA can torture, then the FBI should be allowed to, also. Fair is fair.)

(8) If the National Security Agency (NSA) intercept program is as efficient and all-encompassing as we are led to believe, then why do we need to rely on torture?

(9) President Bush recently said the flow of terror funding had been staunched due to his policies. Does this fund interdiction include the billions of dollars earned from the Afghani drug trade?

(10) President Bush also recently said that all U.S. presidents from Washington on used military tribunals. Historically, I doubt this statement is true, except during the post-Civil War period. What military tribunals is he referring to? Perhaps this is secret info, protected for the national good, and it was kept out of my civics books.

(11) The U.S. Congress may/will pass the legislation concerning torture, military commissions and habeus corpus, but this does not imply moral correctness nor compliance with international law.

The U.S. is out of step with the rest of the world, and our military will pay the price.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Rule of War

I'm not a great military thinker, but I've developed one axiom for living as a result of my military service. Its application is equally valid in both the civilian as well as the military sphere. To honor my site's namesake, we'll call it a corollary to Roger's Rules for Rangers. It is simply this: never fight a war that you can afford to lose.

If you can bail when the going gets tough, you will. You will exhaust you resources, your energy, your goodwill. Witness the military mediocrities of our time. Since WW II, U.S. Presidents, with Congresional compliance, have committed U.S. combat forces to action in Korea, RVN, Kuwait and Iraq. Additionally, minor engagements were undertaken in Greece, Dominican Republic, Grenada and Panama. U.S. national survival was not threatened by any of these enegagements.

The Powell Doctrine--which states that if you undertake a military action, you must have a clearly stated mission, adequate force with which to undertake said action, and an exit strategy or endgame--has come and gone, and is as discredited as its namesake.

If we still adhered to the doctrine, we would see that Iraq is one war we cannot afford.

Confusing Conflation

Letter writer Charles Magruder (9/27/06), in responding to James Taranto's WSJ article on Gitmo, says: "Our enemies must be delighted with our agonizing over the rights of non-combatant terrorists" (Sept 23-24, 06).

We should not be agonizing -- we should be applying correct definitions, rather than engaging in hot-headed intentional confusions of the terms in order to deny rights.

This writer sums up of our country's confusion -- our confabulation of the terms "
(non-) combatant" and "terrorist". A combatant is a soldier. If captured, he is a POW, and accorded the rights of the Geneva Convention. If one is a terrorist, then he is adjudicated by the rule of law, as he is a criminal.

Magruder's confusion is needless -- if one is a terrorist (=criminal), then by definition, one is not a combatant, even is one uses the word "army", as in
Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), let's say. SLA members were terrorists, not combatants, and so were subjected to criminal proceedings.

The 9-11 attackers were terrorists, not combatants. There should be no confusion over rights accorded, if we use terms correctly. We have laws so that life can be simpler, and ambiguity removed, much as possible.

Of course, if we disallow this confusing conflation of terms, then our preemptive invasion of Iraq, and subsequent prisoner abuses, become that much less defensible.



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Crossed Transactions

I was musing today over my visceral discomfort with the Bush administration. Take away the obvious gaffes, lies, Constitutional encroachments...why don't I like these folks, not even a little?

As a child of the 60's--that self-indulgent era that heralded the advent of pop-psychology and the much-needed though little-effective self help genre--I was brought to mind of Dr. Eric Berne and his Transactional Analysis (TA) model.

For those who don't remember, Berne divided all interactions as arising from either a parent, child or adult ego state. A successful transaction (interaction) must be complimentary, and not crossed, meaning that the sending ego state must be met by the receiving ego state. So, if you transmit your message as an adult, and are speaking, say, to a child ego state, your correspondent must reply to you in kind--as a child--in order for a non-conflicted communication to occur.

As it pertains to the Bush administration, I feel they assume the mantle of the Parent, treating the U.S. electorate and the rest of the world as children or adults. Unfortunately, speaking down to the world from a disingenuous authoritarian state elicits a crossed transaction, and will never lead to harmony or understanding. Berne introduced his idea to the public in his book, Games People Play. Unfortunately, the games this administration plays have deadly repurcussions.

Well, I'm off to revisit Alan Watts, and his idea of the human as an ego sack. Why do I have an image now of Mr. Bush zipped up in his flight suit?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Full of Sound and Fury

I'm less than impressed with the criticisms against the Iraqi invasion now issued by retired military officers ("Retired Officers Criticize Rumsfeld", David Espo, AP Special Correspondent, Salon.com, 9/25/06).

All career military men know the time for questions is before the issuance of the operation plan. Criticizing the plan years following its implementation, when you are safely out of the planning room, is disingenuous and self-serving.

What is lacking from our administrative and military behavior is the consideration of all options before decisions are made. We should be operating from a realistic planning posture which integrates all eventualities, and does not project only willful desires. All op plans address before/during/after the mission. This is so basic I do not even need to comment on it. Soldiers are trained to do this, so why not our senior civilian Department of Defense appointees?

Major General Bastiste is quoted in the article as saying, "Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the need for a post-war plan in Iraq." However, nobody at the time played "You bet your bars," as far as I can see. Even Colin Powell, who couldn't be fired, held his criticism in abeyance.

The problem is systemic, as the officer corps is professional and unhinged from society in general. The military lives by rules and customs and courtesies that are not reflective of U.S. society, and certainly not reflective of civilian values such as openness and free discussion.

As illustration, during the Clinton years, Army level directives were issued which forbade soldiers from telling Clinton jokes, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (USMJ) forbids any Army serviceman from making derogatory comments about the Commander in Chief, even if the comments happen to be true.

If this sounds like the cautionary fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes, you are correct. Dialog is not
generally viewed as a military virtue. Therefore, if dialog is to occur, the civilian leadership must add this to the mix. And that countering civilian dialog should come from the Congress, which unfortunately has been AWOL from this debate all along.

Only two options are currently considered on the national level regarding the Iraq morass, and with minor variations they are, (1) cut and run, or (2) stay the course. Simplistic and jingoistic, neither realistically addresses the issues at hand.

Also interesting is the fact that the current criticism is focused only on the operational aspects of the U.S. plans, but nobody questions the ground zero of this entire project: the very legality or morality of the preemptive invasion itself. The ruling that we wrote at Nuremburg in 1945--that aggressive wars are illegal--is lost on our present administration.


Bill Kill

The New York Times reports former President Bill Clinton "worked hard" to try to kill Osama bin Laden. Clinton states, "We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since...I did everything I thought I responsibly could." ("Bill Clinton Defends bin Laden Handling", Karen Matthews, 9/23/06).

These statements are as amazing and self-indicting as Bush's admission of rendering prisoners to secret prisons which we operate in foreign lands.

There was a time when Clinton was a feel-your-pain (or intern) kind of guy, but now we hear he "contracted with people." And who were his peeps who were gonna execute this hit? Did you talk with the Mafia, Bill? Well, did ya, punk?

I am sorry, but I am feeling very anti-hero right about now. Since when can a President condemn a person to death without a trial? Isn't assassination a violation of national policy and international law?

Did William Jefferson place an ad in Soldier of Fortune? We know he didn't ask the NRA for help, since he's anti gun, and guns are bad (though I'm sure some loyal NRA members would be chomping at the bit for just such an opportunity.) The hit probably specified using a knife or baseball bat, and that's why it wasn't too successful. The NRA could've done the job, if only Bill had acknowledged the 2nd Amendment.

Surely Osama is a Big Creep, but do we want the same attributes in our President? A President is not a Mafia don; if he wants to be, let's prosecute him under RICO. Forget impeachment.

What is happening when good Christian Presidents authorize torture and put out murder contracts? Seems our moral compass is pointing due South.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Pound of Flesh

Recently, Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) reentered the world of the undead when President Bush transferred him to Gitmo. The reward for his capture was $25 million.

Usually rewards for captured suspects are disbursed upon successful prosecution in a court of law. Apprehension was merely the beginning of the process of determining guilt, and thereby, of granting the bounty reward.

We have supposedly superseded the days of the Old West bounty hunters where fugitives were wanted dead or alive, and awards were conferred accordingly. Today, a presumption of innocence should be carried by all who face arraignment; the fact that they are in the docket--or in Gitmo--is not an indication of guilt ipso facto.

At 200 lbs. and $25 million, the U.S. taxpayers forked out $125,000 per pound for this questionable example of humanity. Relative to this, consider that a U.S. Army infantry Private would have to serve 1,000 years in Iraqi combat to earn that gross (pre-tax)amount. (A not unimaginable scenario given the infinite extensions of tours expected of today's servicemen and women.) A soldier who lost a limb in combat could receive 40,000 months of disability payments. 100 years of U.S. Presidential salaries could be covered.

Looked at through another lens, single food stamp recipients receive about $25 per week to buy groceries. This means one million weeks of food stamps could be funded by this amount.
So, by government reckoning, over 19,380 U.S. residents could eat for a year.

Of course, when's the last time you covered your food allowance for the week for $25? And what do you guess the food allowance is per inmate per week at Guantanamo Bay? I'd bet it exceeds 25 bucks. It seems terrorism pays. The government nourishes terrorist's stomachs better than those of poor Americans. Why do we feed these suspects better than we do our own noncriminal citizens?

Where are the U.S. priorities, and is anybody worth a bounty of $25 million? Since Al Quaida has a large worldwide membership, are we willing to buy them all? In a sidebar to this story, it is mentioned that the "former" Al Quaida member that ratted out KSM has been relocated to the U.S. with his family. How does the Federal government justify ignoring immigration policy by allowing the "worst of the worst" to settle in the land of the free.

I guess the bounty feeds the media circus, but yesterday's bad boy is tomorrow's has-been. And tomorrow is where we should be looking.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's Good for the Goose...

The title of a recent piece in the New York Times, "Security Forces--Iraq Stumbling in Bid to Purge Its Rogue Police (0/17/06)" is self-explanatory. However, one paragraph in the story was most instructive:

"There is little accountability. The government has stopped allowing joint Iraq and American teams to inspect Iraqi prisons. No senior ministry officials have been prosecuted on charges of detainee mistreatment in spite of fresh discoveries of abuse and torture... Internal investigations into secret prisons, corruption and other criminal activity are often blocked."

Keep in mind, this quote is about the Iraqi Interior Ministry--not the U.S. Department of Defense--both of which are supported by your tax dollars.

Let us never fear that the Iraqis are not able students, nor that our lessons by example on democracy have been lost on them. The hypocrisy of my childhood lessons from adults who should have known better--"Do as I say, not as I do"--comes to mind. It is no more convincing in the State arena than it was on the personal level. As they say, the personal is the political.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Saw the News Today, Oh Boy

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
--Macbeth, Act V, sc. iv

I watched the UN address last night by Bush and Ahmadinejad and was highly entertained by the pleasing and earnest smiles of President Bush, being as they crossed his face at the most inappropos of moments. But the thing that concerned me was the conspicuous absence of U.S. diplomats when the President of Iran addressed the chamber.

Granted, the content of his ideology is to be rejected, even loathed, and his speech--as Bush's--was so much fluff. But it is the U.N., and you give the devil his due if you intend to deal with him as a member of the world community. And there are many devils, and few angels, out there.

This may be what passes for diplomacy these days, but it exudes contempt for Iran. Is this the U.S.'s idea of how to go about achieving an accommodation with Iran?

Has the U.S. made a policy decision already, and therefore needs no further data to confuse the matter? Why does the U.S. even have a State Department anymore? Let's just bully everyone into submission; it's so much faster (at least in the beginning). I have heard the hawks slavering over the prospect of "nuking them all", so confident are they of the righteousness of their position and the infinite capability of our military, even as it is stretched to its brink.

Here are a few thoughts beyond the pale:

(1) As a military planner, the worst-case scenario should be assumed. Since our intelligence is lacking, then one must assume that Iran already has a nuclear weapon. To omit this option is pie-in-the-sky planning; Iraq should put an end to that approach.

(2) If we bomb Iran, then assume that the military and political situation in Iraq will deteriorate due to Iranian counter pressure. It's safe to assume that the Iranian apparatus in Iraq is in sleeper mode, awaiting the call to activation. If and when this occurs, does Stalingrad or Little Bighorn ring a bell?

(3) A concerted Sunni/Shiia/militia/Iranian offensive would be a tough nut for the U.S. military to crack. Has any military planner addressed this worst-case scenario with an Operations Plan? How does a nation reinforce and resupply an army thousands of miles away? Think Bataan and Corregidor.

(4) The U.S. has shifted its ADHD-ADD focus to Iran because it is so easy to hate them (and, because once you messy your blotter up with all of your finger paint, it is so easy just to start on a new sheet). But why are the extremists so powerful in that nation?

We rattle our swords at Iran, but Pakistan can sign a treaty with the Taliban and maintain a precarious balance with radical Islamists, all the while sitting on nuclear weapons. Nobody at the National Command level seems interested in this fact. Someday, Pakistan nukes can be in the hands of those radical Islamists. Oh well, tomorrow's another day.

Depleted Uranium is the New Orange

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

* * *

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;

--Rudyard Kipling, Tommy

Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are displaying a cluster of similar medical problems, problems which many attribute to their exposure to depleted uranium (DU) on the battlefield. But they are not finding advocates among the doctors who are treating them, nor among the government officials that sent them into battle (New York Daily News, "Justice for GI'S?", 9/09/06).

The government's position is that soldiers cannot sue for injuries sustained in the line of duty. As always, the government contends "any trial of this would be second-guessing sensitive military matters that civilian courts should not be discussing." Sound familiar? The same old chant--truth must be sacrificed an the altar of "national security".

To circumvent this little matter of cloaked evidence, why doesn't the U.S. simply do away with the cumbersome civilian court system entirely and institute military and secret tribunals to satisfy its lust for secrecy?

The article compares this new mystery illness to the "massive illnesses that afflicted Vietnam war soldiers from Agent Orange." Of course, the use of the past tense verb here implies that problem has been laid to rest--that there were illnesses, and that soldiers were affected. However, speaking as one of the "afflicted" and on the behalf of many others, I can attest to the fact that the sickness does not always resolve itself.

If the cause of the illness and appropriate treatment is left undetermined, these soldiers will not simply suffer the immediate and obvious results of, say, deformed offspring, but a slow unfolding of debilitation over the length of their own lives.

If my case is representative, there will be suggestions in the medical record that the etiology of the illness lie in the soldier's own makeup, and simply lay dormant until, quite coincidentally, illness manifested following service duties.

The implication is fantastic, really: that the fine VA doctors discovered that you were actually a blighted individual all along, but thank goodness you came on board with Uncle Sam, and His medical team can then dismiss you to the dispensary to pick up your satchel of drugs to quiet you down now.

Soldiers now get debilitated from their service not only via direct bodily assault, but by exposure to unknown toxins, and suffer painful maladies that are ignored by the people with the "We Support the Troops" bumper stickers. Sick + soldier is not an equation that feels good to the cheering masses. Soldiers are supposed to recover and get back up on their feet, to be recycled for the next tour.

I cannot adequately express my reaction to the dismissive treatment received by U.S. combat veterans from all agencies which they must ultimately deal with upon their return from duties--revulsion, anger and disgust are but a few. The full extent of disease caused by Agent Orange is still ignored by the government, and DU-related sickness will get the same lip service. Unfortunately, the VA offers no second opinions, and the economic status of most combat soldiers precludes their access to alternate civilian medical care.

Looting the Booty

President Bush recently posed the question, "Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia?"

Now me, being a very literal kind of guy, put the question into motion: what exactly was it that George's father and grandfather accomplished? Being the savvy businessmen the Bush's are known to be, Prescott Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush both busied themselves with administering ill-gotten Nazi monies during and following WW II--that is, until forced to halt these activities by the U.S, government

Projecting that same business ethos into today's Middle East, President Bush is probably referring to enabling foreign subsidiaries of Haliburton to fulfill contracts in Iran and make money from all sides, with profits accruing to the Bush family and cronies.

Is this what your grandfather accomplished during the war? Mine was mining coal for the war effort.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Shell Game

The Afghan and Iraq adventures are here to stay until our Congressional leaders start exercizing a counterbalance to the dictatorial-like attitudes emanating from his holiness, Pope George, and his cardinals.

Congress authorized and allowed two crusades and all indicators point to an impending unilateral invasion of Iran. Forget all the rhetoric about evilness; something must be done to short-stop this madness. There's a whole lot of evil and downright bad behavior shakin' all around, but military responses are not the only solution. Problem is, your evil is my pleasure. Unless we're serious about mutually assured destruction, coexistence is the only alternative to obliteration. I don't fear Iran so much as our own unreasoned and illogical justification for this looming military action.

When will America say enough? Preemptive invasions addressing non-existent threats, secret prisons, secret courts, torture and a military apparatus incapable of dealing with the actual problem, whether that be mopping up after invasions or ferreting out terrorist cells which are, supposedly, the actual threat to the U.S. The military does a very good job of attacking people, but it is not in the business of finesse. Certainly not in the modality it has been employed in these two expeditions.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the U.S. does not possess the military, economic or political ability to address the issue of Iran with a military option as long as our military is bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American people and Congress had better address this issue before further unreasoned action is initiated.

As always, the administration continues to play the shell game to distract attention from its true intentions and actions. The American citizen faces a very real danger posed by the injudicious actions of an out-of-control president. I'm speaking of Bush, not Rafsanjani. Our reigning monarch must be reined in.

Bush, who possesses thousands of nuclear warheads, can go on t.v. and tell a national leader to get out of town by noon or else, and that's called leadership. But Rafsanjani wanting nukes is portrayed as unreasoned and crazy. In truth, both men are extremely dangerous.

George the Dog

Duane "The Dog" Chapman--the heavily tattooed, avowed Christian and bounty hunter-celebrity--is presently awaiting extradition to Mexico for perpetrating what was a kidnapping posed as a bounty hunting expedition.

Doing his self-appointed (anointed?) job, Duane pulled a certain Mr. Luster from Mexico to face rape charges in the U.S. Admittedly, the lusterless Mr. Luster is a rapist, but extradition is the correct legal route to gain his return to the States for proper legal prosecution. We cannot legally sic Mr. Chapman on Mr. Luster, even if the latter is a sicko.

The Dog has a television audience that applauds his borderline derring-do. Satisfying both our fascination with redemption and low brow culture, Mr. Dog bites people for Jesus and money, and not necessarily in that order.

In the same issue of the Times is an article about Maher Arer and his rendition to Syria as a terror suspect. Of course, torture is the focus of this article.

Even if Arer is a member of Al Quaida, the use of torture is not justified against him. Mr Arer was simply rendered. Without extradition, there is no legal basis for his subsequent rendition to Jordan and Syria.

Bear in mind that Syria is not even one of the good guys
. So, why are we in bed with torturers? These people don't listen to Oral Roberts, or Rush Limbuagh, or even the Drudge Report or FOX news, for that matter--that's how evil they are.

The Duane Dog is a small blip on the pop culture radar screen, and is mildly entertaining in his Jesus schtick. At least Duane has the cahones to do his own dirty work. The George Dog is another story entirely.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Moat Point

"Mr Gorbachev--tear down your wall!" Thus spoke everyone's favorite silver screen Republican. And the Iron Curtain fell and the show was over. The evil empire soon followed (though Evil itself still lurks). Score one for the Gipper.

Now we're building our own wall on the Mexican border. Remember Hadrian's, and the Great Wall of China...do they ever work? What about Israel--has their wall protected them from Hamas and Hezbollah? It doesn't appear so.

Nonetheless, it seems that our lawmakers, happy as they are living in their gated communities (so constructed to keep out the riff-raff), feel that America should follow suit. Forget that the average American cannot afford to live ensconced within such premier protectorates. The men with a plan have devised a separation from our Mexican neighbors. I guess globalism doesn't apply to the Southern U.S. border.

But the terrorist threat will not walk across that border. Hell, I don't even want to cross Texas, and I'm a loyal U.S. citizen.

Nonetheless, along those same lines, a recent initiative to secure Baghdad was suggested: that a moat be dug around that city. Now there's a novel idea. And will there be portcullis's, and perhaps boiling vats of oil to drop upon the heads of the hapless invaders...of what? Of our citadel? I feel like we're racing headlong into the 14th century. This is not progress.

Road Warriors

A recent AP article titled, "U.S., Afghan Troops Unleash Mountain Fury (9/17/06)" features a photo of a wheel of a destroyed vehicle on a "main" road in Kabul provence. The road is, of course, dirt and rubble, and struck me as being a fine location for Mel Gibson, actor from hell, to film yet another installment in the Road Warrior series.

My first impression was that of our first lunar landing on the moon's desolate, pock-marked surface. Why would we have U.S. troops fight and die for land that you couldn't even sell in Florida, if you owned it? Possible NASA could gather some astronaut reenactors to film the "lost" lunar landings in this landscape. I can't imagine anything else useful coming from this effort.

It's possible that Bush may be using Afghanistan to fulfill his early presidential aspirations to explore Mars. Since obtaining funding for Mars exploration was a reach, possibly opium funds can sustain our colonization of this biosphere.

Creative Miscreancy

The current debate over military tribunals is a distraction to protect the administration's miscreant torture policies from reaching the scrutiny of an open court. And before I continue, I'll say it again: terror suspects should have the same legal protections of any person bound before our courts. Any other proposition is preposterous if we are to be entitled to the designation "democracy".

I must further declare that I am not
anti-American, nor am I soft on terrorism. In fact if a terrorism suspect is condemned to death by a duly convened court, then I will gladly pull the trigger. (Could you imagine your garden variety, pro-war flag-waver doing the same?)

But if we do not have legality, then what is it that defines the U.S. as the good guys? Bush decreeing it so does not equal a papal edict. Even a papal edict is just a piece of paper. Sorry George. The Constitution is the piece of paper we're sworn to abide by.

I believe the present administration policy is soft on terrorism exactly because they do not allow the trials which could lead to appropriate sentencing if the suspect is in fact found guilty.

Legal categorization is the name of the game, and there are no fuzzy categories here:

(1) If a person is captured on the field of battle by the U.S. military, that person becomes a POW. While what constitutes a battlefield may have changed from the old model of massed armies facing each other, whatever constitutes a battlefield today (the street, a desert, etc.) entitles these combatants to POW designation. We must bear in mind, we are invading armies in both countries; so wherever we fought our way in, therein is the field of battle.

This means no torture. No trials, as POW's are not criminals (no matter how distasteful their credos or leaders are.) They are detained until the end of hostilities, at which time they are released to their home nation. After all, 900,000 SS soldiers were not tried in civilian courts after WW II.

(2) If a person is suspected of terrorism, then under international law that suspect should be turned over to the host nation for adjudication. If that suspect violated U.S. code and is in a foreign nation, then extradition should be effected to bring that person under the jurisdiction of U.S. Federal courts. This means no torture, extraordinary renditions, kidnappings, etc.

(3) If somebody is claimed to be an "armed enemy combatant," then the Geneva Convention applies. Maybe I'm stupid, but armed + enemy + combatant = POW. Armed enemy combatant is a nomenclature that has no precedent in international law. But unfortunately, it is a term which does delegitimize the soldier.

(4) Another viable option is to hand terrorism suspects over to the International Court of the Hague. This is not presently an option open to the administration because Bush cannot or will not allow the court to transparently expose the illegal nature of the U.S. response to the terrorist threat, namely, that of torture.

The two problems facing the U.S. are (1) Al Quaida terrorism aimed at American interests worldwide, and (2) what we are calling terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is targeting our military presence there.

Those falling into category #1 are terrorists. The persons in category #2 who are fighting the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are legitimate POW's and must be treated as such.

Terrorists--Al Quiada operatives--should go to the Hague Court or host nation or U.S. Federal Court. Jurisprudence requires this reasoned and unambiguous response. Our confusion arises only because we imagine we are a special case in the arena of world terrorism. But we are not. Now is the time to act with moral rectitude against those lacking this quality.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chicken Little

President Bush utilizes the Chicken Little approach to leadership by trying to convince the American public that the sky is falling.

America needs to be steadied by leadership rather than being shaken and stirred. Unfortunately, Bush's credentials for shaking and stirring are unquestioned.

The Iraq imbroglio is being repackaged as a
World War and the keynote event of the new century.
The entire threat from Islamic terrorists has been unrealistically portrayed as being more virulent than evidence warrants. Others more erudite than myself support this position, including writer Ted Galen Carpenter (This is not Another World War).

Carpenter's recent article recognizes that
terrorism poses a frightening and tragic, but manageable, threat.

Why is Chicken Little leadership acceptable to the American public? Today my health magazine had an article on "The foods we are afraid of". Articles abound on inanimate objects that kill -- everything from toys to air fresheners seem to pose a threat to our well-beingn and very existence.

Have we become so skittish of our world that we see it as a malevolent and antagonistic place? We deserve better than a timid and fearful existence. And make no mistake that our sustained attack in Iraq can only be propped up by such fear--the "We need to get 'em over there before they come over here" mentality.

A country like Israel may have to launch an all-out attack against her aggressors, as her back is against the wall; our backs are not against the wall. Moreover, it's not our job to homogenize the world under the umbrella of democracy. Christians may be charged with evangelizing and spreading the Good Word, but that is not the task of a democracy. Demagogues, yes; democratically-elected officials, no.

--Lisa and Jim

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The Undead

I have already addressed the issue of plying statistics (see When Dead Isn't Dead), but the stance underlying the duplicity in the U.S. military briefings which had stated a 46% (or 52%) drop in violent deaths in Iraq troubles me.

Over 1,500 Iraqis died violently in August, nearly the same number as had died in July. In other words, over 3,000 dead Iraqis in two months, in Baghdad alone. And yesterday, America was mourning the one-time loss of 2,550 Americans in 9-11. Seems a touch ethnocentric.

And President Bush says, even with the benefit of hindsight, he would do it all again--not a thing differently. Sounds like the lyrics to some morbid C & W song, where the unrequited lover hangs onto the shard of what was, even though it was doomed from the start.

When Dead isn't Dead

In my Liars Figure posting, I address the use of statistics as justification for a particular course of action. I'd like to extend the concept to the realm of briefings, specifically as practiced by the U.S. military. The Army is my experience, but I've also had the singular pleasure of attending joint operations briefings, as well.

A briefing is concise and addresses a topic requiring a decision, and should include only facts, with assumptions being clearly identified as such. The problem arises when assumptions or hunches are presented as facts.

"They will greet us on the streets of Baghdad with flowers" is a good ex
ample of an assumption, as was Colin Powell's briefing to the U.N. supposedly based on "slam dunk" intelligence. (loosely translated, that means, Medals of Freedom for all involved.)

The erroneous U.S. military report on a drop in August murder rates in Baghdad was based on the assumption that being killed in a mass attack by bombs, mortars, rockets or suicide bombings made the victim somehow less of a "violent kill" than being shot by an AK 47.

Hence, the murder rate was briefed by a Major General as having dropped drastically. Now, one would like to believe that a MG would be more critical, and question the presentation. But in the government, it seems that once it's briefed, it becomes true. The written minutes testify to it. But hopes and wishes are not the same as facts. If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their froggie bottoms on the ground.

So the Major General briefs, the press reports, and FOX news declares how successful we are in Iraq. But briefings are not reflective of reality when based upon faulty analysis presented as truth. And as we all know, Pres. Bush favors a briefer who is confident of his facts, regardless of their veracity. Alas, the decisions so derived are based on appearances rather than reality. Hence the failings in Iraq.

Briefings cannot quantify the ephemeral nature of a symbolic situation.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Liars Figure

The New York Times Reports, "Iraqi Casualties Have Risen 51% U.S. Study Finds (9/02/06)", with civilian deaths soaring. This from a Pentagon report entitled, "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq" (I certainly hope they use a micrometer in the measurement of such things.)

However, in an AP article (8/30/06) reporting on the deaths of 13 G.I.'s killed in Iraq in the preceeding few days, Major General William B. Caldwell says the murder rate in Baghdad had fallen 46% from July to August, and "we are actually seeing progress out there." An additional AP report (9/07/06) states the U.S. military said, "The murder rate in the capital (Baghdad) has fallen by 52%". However, Iraqi officials note no such decline. "Baghdad recorded more than 1,500 violent deaths in August", according to the Iraqi Health Ministry. This number is roughly the same as the July figure.

How to reckon the two--one study reporting a 51% casualty rise, and the Army spokesman who says the murder rate has fallen 46%...

Reminds me of the old adage from statistics: Liars figure, and figures lie.


Puttin' on the Ritz

Let us not negotiate out of fear,
But let us never fear to negotiate

--President Kennedy


Since repackaging the war is all the rage these days, I'm noticing a concomitant attempt to repackage the President himself. I recently saw a clip of Bush on CNN delivering a talk with a giant video depiction of the Red, White and Blue unfurling itself behind him...one is almost brought to mind of George C. Scott's rousing portrayal of Patton's Blood and Guts speech. And as the G.I.'s of the time used to say, it's our blood and his guts.

Bush has been dusted off, and variably referred to as a new Lincoln, Wilson or Truman. I have already addressed the bogus comparison to Truman in a previous post (Bush is no Truman). The Wilsonian spin doesn't work either, because Wilson actually petitioned Congress for a declaration of war, and he had a postwar plan. (As a child, I was forced to memorize these 10 Points--now that was torture.) But I'd like to focus on Newt Gingrich's recent feeble attempt to draw parallels with Lincoln (Wall Street Journal, 9/7/06).

Bush, like Lincoln, does/did stretch the war powers of the presidency, albeit for different reasons. Lincoln tortured the Constitution solely to protect and reunite the Union. However, Bush seems to stretch the limits to instate a new, imperial presidency.

Lincoln entered his presidency with the country torn asunder by the Southern rebellion (what else can I call it without losing readers? I'm down to two as it is!) His main goal was reunification.

In contrast, Bush took the national and international upwelling of unity after the 9-11 attack and squandered this across-the-board goodwill and support. One started from minimal consanguinity; the other, apres 9-11, from 100% bipartisan support. But spending political capital seemed more important to Bush than non-divisive leadership. Now, even this supposed external threat to our national identity serves as a internal wedge-issue for clever political spin meisters, i.e., "You're either for us, or you are a traitor."

When Newt quotes Lincoln, "As our case is new, so must we think anew, and act anew. We must dis-enthrall ourselves," he suggests that Bush faces something totally new in this Islamic terrorist threat. But that is not true, which is why we, along with the international community, have laws for dealing with such criminality. The world has dealt with this criminal behavior in a legal and judicious manner prior to 9-11.

Lincoln always considered the Southern rebels to be human beings who would eventually have to be reintegrated into society. Viewing terrorists in the same way could be constructive.

When you torture people, you must face the consequences when you release them. It is like pressing a ball of mercury--you may break it, but you break it up into myriad replicant little balls that go rolling away from your grasp. Democracy applies to prisoners at Abu Ghraib as well as the citizens of Baghdad. That's the American democratic way.

Newt's linkage of the Kerry/Gore/Pelosi bloc to moderate Civil War political factions is a stretch, but such moderation would be refreshing, and not "weak". As Thomas Friedman recently said, "It's the center that's not holding" (New York Times, 9/9/06). Politics used to be about compromise and finding the center ground.

The position that we will not negotiate with "enemies" flies in the face of diplomacy and the facts of national statehood as we know them. If all nations established this policy, imagine the results. Newt may establish this cutoff policy in his personal life, but it simply does not fulfill the needs of a realistic national policy.
War is classically defined as the extension of diplomacy by other means. Warfare does not coopt the legitimacy of diplomacy.

Violence on a national level can only be justified if it serves a higher goal, which is generally arrived at via diplomacy. Diplomacy does not equate with Newt's statements on national resolve, which seem to translate into "going it alone." What so sets America apart from other nations that for us, negotiating with an enemy becomes abhorrent? Even Reagan and Nixon had personal relationships and discussions with dictators.

Trying to equate the threat of Al Quaida to the imperiled state of Civil War America is absolutely false and overstated. The U.S. is not engaged with an adversary that can threaten our national survival.

We risk entering the realm of fantasy when calling the present struggle WW III. Assuredly our adversaries are real, but a realistic threat assessment must address this issue. (See "The Security Industrial Complex" (WSJ, 9/7/06) by Heather Mac Donald [directly below Newt's article] for a clear discussion on this topic.)

Newt is correct that we should not compromise our self defense to our external critics. But when those critics are American judges, voters and legislators, then the disputed issues need to be examined critically.

Unlike Newt, I believe that America's safety is best ensured by a legal and moral response to terrorism, rather than "entrepreneurial national security systems," which is simply throwing money at the problem. Security has become the new national product of America.

When Newt fingers the terrorists as threatening a "determined American people whose very civilization is at stake," I would remind him that Rome fell from within.

Do not look either high or low alone for threats to American civilization--the corruption is pervasive. Junk bond and insider trading, gangsta ethic music and lifestyle, inane television prying into private lives, now offering racially segregated teams duking it out for survival of the fittest on a desert island...we've come a long way, baby.

I submit that American culture no longer exists as Truman, Wilson and Lincoln knew it.

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Crossing the Line

America's political and moral climate amazes me. The country's seeming willingness to abridge the democratic principles which have long defined our nation is perplexing.

As example of how life used to be, I offer the following testimony from personal knowledge. On June 5, 1944, U.S. Navy Task Force Gallery (22.3) captured the Nazi U-Boat U505 off North Africa. This U-boat had sunk thousands of tons of allied merchant ships, certainly in violation of international law, not to mention their unique position representing the heinous Nazi regime. Despite this, the captured seamen were afforded POW status.

The Nazi officers aboard surely had intimate knowledge of U-Boat warfare and design, including order of battle and all facts needed to defeat this Axis threat. But the officers were not tortured to gain that sensitive information that surely would've saved additional lives in this very real war. I know this, because my father was a member of that capturing task force; later in life, I had the unique experience of meeting one of those German POWs, who was later naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

After WWII, many of the Italian and German POW's which we had detained petititioned to remain in the states. For those who left, fond rememberances of America and their treatment at America's hands is generally the order of the day.

Fast forward to 2006, where we have 15% of U.S. citizens believing that torture is justified against terrorist prisoners. Our present administration favors eliminating Geneva Convention rights in our phony War on Terror. A shared humanity is unlikely to be the experience of most prisoners from the Arab world. We have squandered 200+ years of decency and goodwill in the military and political arena.

How did we get here from there?

I am including song lyrics below that came to me as I wrote the above.

From the Leon Russell song, Ballad for a Soldier:

When I was just a young boy, I played with swords and guns, and I dreamed of the day I'd become a soldier, and kill all of the enemy, my country`tis of thee. I sing this anthem sadly, won't you hear me. I watched the cannons blazing, on the giant silver screen. The swastikas were burning and the hero was me. The general gave the order, gladly I obeyed. But the movie faded quickly all at once today. And now I stand alone with the charges made,no where to run, not a place to hide. We`re sad little children playing grown-up games. Guess the time has come, the damage has been done. Stray dogs that live on the highway, walk on three legs. Cause they learn too slow to get the message. Just like the indians in the early days. Battles lost and won, yet it still goes on. It`s just another ballad for soldier. I had no understanding 'til I saw my mother cry,when they told how many babies I had killed that night. A dozen color photographs inside of a magazine, told the morbid story like a movie screen. But I was not the hero I thought myself to be, movies are much different than reality. The general was convicted to get off of the hook, but the President might free me for the chance I took. And we all stand alone when the charge is made, sad way to live, what a way to die. We're all little children playing grown-up games, can we burn the gun before the next time comes. Stray dogs that live on the highway walk on three legs, they move too slow to get the message. Give up and win, that's all I have to say, we haven't really won 'til all the fightin's done, and there are no more ballads for the soldiers.


"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as they do when they do it from religious conviction."
--Blaise Pascal (1670)

(Written 9/11/06) The religious right make a big conservative play that their position vis. Iraq is legitimate, and also reflects Christian values. But legality and morality, and truth and justice, are not equivalent concepts.

The first rule of leadership in the military is that a commander never asks a soldier to do something that he personally would not do. Since Clinton, Bush and Cheney never saw fit to participate in active military service in a time of national need, this moral dimension is AWOL.
Both Bush and Clinton were Commanders in Chief of our military in the legal sense, but this does not mean they wielded the moral authority to command honest military personnel.

A leader (Bush, not Osama) that claims to look to a Higher Authority should take a better look at Jesus's morality, which invalidated the Old Testament concept of an eye for an eye. Jesus taught to turn the other cheek and love your neighbor. He beseeched His Father to "forgive those" who had transgressed against him.

Congress can propose retroactive legislation legally forgiving torture and torturers, but this legality will be as shaky as the notion of Christians espousing torture. Morality can't be legislated, and legislation can't dictate morality. The protection of American life never justifies torture, The preservation of American lives cannot be a justification for torture under our humanistic or Christian heritage. Some things are more important than life; isn't that what the image of Jesus on the cross is supposed to embody?

As Dylan wrote in Masters of War, "even Jesus would never forgive what you do." The ash and rubble surrounding 9-11 signified nothing less than the disintegration of the Constitution and the New Testament.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns

You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Bob Dylan, (c) 1963

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sub Rosa Transmogrification

I was just scanning the Letters to the Ed. section of 8/24/06 Wall Street Journal when I noticed letter writer D. Horowitz's letter, "Cult of Soros," in which he correctly says that a million Iranian Muslim fundamentalists were yelling "Death to America" way back in 1979, and that their fanatical hatred is nothing new.

True enough, but it got me to thinking: why did the Reagan administration then provide them arms (including TOW missiles) as proven by Iran-Contra? Reagan's policy on Terrorism was as bankrupt as Bush's.

If strategic bombing was ever justified, it was in Iran during the 1979 embassy takeover, and why President Carter ignored this option is an unknown.

Please remember that Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton all presided over administrations that provided arms, training and chemical weapons to this Mid East region, including to the mujahadeen. How did that serve to inhibit the threat? Those weapons were provided to Saddam and Osama bin Laden, to name but a few.

And when Osama bin Laden fought the Russians under Carter administration support, he was backed implicitly. He was our pet Saudi in Afghan Shepherd clothes. Until he decided to bite us, that is.

When they're our dogs, we don't care who they bite. When Saddam employed chemical weapons vs. Iran in the early '80's, rest assured they were provided by America.

When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the Carter position was that this was an illegal action, unjustified and in violation of international law. However, a few years later, when the U.S. invaded the same country, the action of invasion has morphed into a democratic action.

The Iran-Contra affair was the result of illegal executive actions that sold arms to Iran to gain illicit funds to run illegal operations in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. (Since oral sex was not involved, there was no impeachment.)

Given this history, one must wonder what's happening under the table in this administration.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Game On

It's Monday night and I'm watching a college football game, something I rarely do. Suddenly, I had an epiphany (this affected my psyche!) Maybe it was the cheerleaders, but I was pumped. I now understood the Iraqi Game Plan in a holistic way.

George Bush is a sports fan, and as such, he views Iraq and Afghanistan in sports terms. Winning is everything, lest you walk off the field in defeat, no company endorsements...a business failure. It's not how you play the game. You lose the final point, Nike doesn't want you. There are two ways to look as this in sports jargon. Here are my fantasy football scanarios:

#1. Bush states that we must stay the course--stick with the game plan. In military terms this means that you have maintained the military principle of objective, and continuing along this course will lead to victory.
Obviously, this is not the case in Afghanistan or Iraq. But in this scenario, Coach Bush stays the course.

#2. The other image I conjure is that of Coach Bush at half-time coming up with a new game plan. When the coach regroups, this means that you are losing and must do something different to stave off defeat. A majority in America seem to believe that a new plan is needed, which means that we are losing.

Unfortunately, people are dying from Coach Bush's unflinching certainty in the hypothetical scenario #1.

Eyes Wide Shut

The Journal always provides me such entertainment--two in one day with "The Tribunal Fuss" in Review & Outlook (WSJ, 9/01/06).

The title of this article says it all. It's nuthin' but a "fuss", demoting the issue of second-party testimony by CIA interrogators
to a churlish childish conundrum (I wanted to be alliterative.)

The administration says information gotten from interrogations of alleged 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (KSM) by the CIA should be given in court by his interrogators, rather than putting KSM on the stand himself.

As I've written before, it would be refreshing and wildly democratic to hear anything about KSM, who has disappeared from the scene these long months. At this point, any testimony from KSM would be welcomed--even if it were ill-gotten.

But the article justifies keeping KSM out of court, claiming analogies to the practice of proxy testimony by referring to the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal (ICTY), and its use of voice- and image-altering devices, so as not to "compromi(se) the right of defendents to face their accusers."

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this arguing for the very right the administration is trying to withhold--the "right of defendents to face their accusers", even if their countenances must be obscured? I mean, it's not like we don't all know who KSM is, right? And it is his testimony, yes?

Further, the administration proposes to give only defense attorneys access to classified information; the accused are not considered trustworthy enough to be given the facts that can prove their innocence or guilt. This whole idea of tribunals is against the entire flow of U.S. legality and jurisprudence.

Simply: why don't we trust our legal system anymore? If a person is accused of terrorism, then that person is a criminal, and should be tried in a court of law, with proper representation and dialog with that counsel. Let's start with KSM since he's the worst of the worst, or so we are told. Let's prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Surely his alleged criminality will be revealed in court.

I wonder how the author or readers of this article would feel about these rules of evidence if they were being charged with terrorism? Would they be more concerned with state secrecy, or a fair and impartial trial?


Bush is no Truman

In a laudatory opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (Opinion, 9/01/06), writer Daniel Hennninger says, "(t)he parallels between Truman then and Bush now are eerily pertinent," comparing Bush's current actions to Truman's "limited war in Korea".

Truman and Bush are not militarily similar in any manner, contrary to the forced allegations of Henninger. It is just as well that his column is entitled "Wonderland"; Alice would be at home here.

First, Truman presided over a police action that was endorsed and nominally presided over by a coalition of willing U.N. members. It was a sanctioned U.N. action. In addition, there was the niggling detail that North Korea had actually invaded South Korea, thereby evoking a legitimate military response to this aggression. The invasion of Iraq fails these tests.

The article goes on to state, "What occurred on 9-11 was off the charts of human experience". What jingoistic hyperbole, Mr. Henninger.

The bombing of civilian targets in WW II by all the belligerents was "off the charts", leading to millions of civilian casualties. The "terror bombing" of 9-11 was preceded by some as-yet unmatched historical episodes which one could say provided the foundation for what could be accomplished by projecting missiles from the sky upon unsuspecting targets. When terror comes to the "Homeland", everybody implodes. What ethnocentrism.

Tell the people of London, Hamburg, Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Hanoi about "off the charts" bombing experiences, and they'll understand the fullest implication of the term.


This Land is My Land, This Land was Your Land

Mike Allen recently quoted from President Bush's Freedom Agenda, "(e)very person of every religion, on every continent [with oil, I suppose], has the right to determine his or her own destiny" (Time, "How Bush Plans to Repackage the War, 9/04/06).

Right on, Mr. President. However, how does your manifesto square with preemptively invading countries? How does one accomplish the lofty goal of allowing others to "determine their own destiny" by forcefully insinuating one's own? Please explain this to my simple infantry brain.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Candle in the Wind

CNN reported today on a Chicago house fire which killed six children. The fire was the result of a candle which was being used for light. The apartment had neither electricity nor a smoke alarm (I guess not).

Note well: America's heartland has poor families lacking the financial means to even have electricity in their homes. Concurrently, the U.S. is doing everything possible to enable Iraqis to have this convenience.

It is reminiscent of the good churches which send clothes and other amenities abroad as part of their ministries and mission, when children go hungry across their own railroad tracks. We already have them in the flock, therefore, let them fend for themselves. So the Iraqis are the new coup. Once we have them--or there are no more favorable photo-ops to be had--they will no longer be the favored child either.

Why are American citizens too poor to have electricity? You are just as dead dying from a candle fire as you are from a terrorist attack. Our poorly-funded social safety net caused these deaths, and this fact is ignored by a war-making nation.

The bright side of this story is that the surviving family members probably won't have to pay estate taxes. And there'll be six less mouths for the No Child Left Behind program to feed.


Moving Around the Pieces

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld recently addressed the American Legion in Salt Lake City, likening our current war efforts in the Middle East to those in WW II. (As an aside, I'm always amazed when President Bush has the gall to give rah-rah addresses to veterans groups that he cannot join because of his astute avoidance of active service duty during the Vietnam War.)

Rumsfeld's reasoning is that they (Muslims) are as fascistic as the Nazis. Dictatorships, oligarchies--whatever you wish to call these Arab governmental systems, they are not in the business of world domination.

What we in America confronted on 9-11 was not a hostile takeover effort by a nation, but rather, an attack by a terrorist organization called Al Quaida. They happen to be Muslims, as the IRA happens to be Catholic, and their purported reasons for their attacks are much the same--autonomy over their regions.

Leonard Pitts recently wrote an excellent piece riffing on that speech, "Iraq War Supporters are in a Fantasy World" (9/01/06), however, I disagree on one point.

Pitts and the administration say that "we quickly knocked over Afghanistan." You can't knock something over that is already on the ground. As veteran newsman Daniel Schorr noted at the time of our invasion, we simply moved the rubble around.

And if we did accomplish our objectives in Afghanistan, then why is the place still a morass? As only one example, it was just reported that this year their opium production outstripped world demand by 30%; what kind of an efficient business model is that? (of course, there's always a bright side--an unintended benefit is that junkies worldwide enjoy lower prices and better quality.)

Grasping at straws, the administration proclaims Afghanistan a success, somehow foisting off the idea that it was necessary, and but the first domino to fall in a series of necessary Muslim takedowns. And a hopeful nation embraces this dissembling.


Under Every Rock?

I am concerned about the artificial dovetailing of terrorism into the war in Iraq.

The war in Iraq is not about terrorism, and does not realistically address the threat to the "homeland" or to American interests. Though another stateside attack is a very real threat, the probablity of its occurring is negligible compared to the probablity portrayed to us by the Administration. And the actuality is, our tremendous outlay of national treasure on "attacking the problem" has only left us more vulnerable to Muslim aggression

Today's New York Times presents a study on the precipitous decline in prosecuted terrorist cases ("Study Finds Sharp Drop in Number of Terrorism Cases Prosecuted," NYT, 9/04/06). If there is such a great threat out there, then why does the Justice Department not address it in a realistic manner? The figures do not reflect a DoJ which is very vigorously pursuing the criminals we call terrorists. Could it be that they're not out there?

Method to His Madness

al-Sadr having his army fight the U.S.--or as he sees it, the U.S. proxies in the form of the new Iraqi government--makes perfect sense as it enhances his position at little cost to him. This thought is a follow on to my previous piece, Down the Rabbit Hole, which asked why al-Sadr would be inciting fights with his fellow Shiites in the Iraqi government.

Sadr understands that the future leaders of Iraq will come from the cadre of those who have fought the U.S. after Mission Accomplished, and not from amongst the quislings. He is putting his ducks in a row.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole

What could have recently incited Shiites (al-Sadr's Mahdi Army) to fight the Iraqi forces, which represent a majority Shiite government anyway ("Iraqi Troops Battle Shiite Militiamen In Southern City," Washington Post, 8/28/06)? No matter what the reason, I'd like to point out that another 13 Americans were killed over the weekend, and with a kill-to-wound ratio of 1:10, then at least 130 were probably wounded. Why are we sacrificing our soldiers on this Islamic alter?

The Sadr faction occupies a position within the Iraqi governmental power structure. If his forces engage U.S. and Iraqi military forces, then for what reason? Some possibilities:

(1) He is attempting to consolidate his power position within the Iraqi social network. The Iraqi's admire power and resistance to the foreign invading force of the U.S. This opposition strengthen's Sadr's power, and as well, is directly beneficial to Iran and the pan-Shiiaism of the region.

(2) He's directly under Iranian orders to foment violence and uncertainty in Iraq. This forces the U.S. to remain in Iraq, thereby reducing U.S. options in the region. If U.S. forces are tied down in Iraq, then they can't invade Iran. Ths is logical, and could be a factor in al-Sadr's actions.

Unfortunately, it doesn't factor U.S. non-logical actions into the mix. Even though our military is maxed out in Iraq there are indications of plans to militarily engage Iran. I can understand Iranian actions better than I can logically explain U.S. policy in the region.

(3) He is as mad as a neo-con . Any one of the above three make him a formidable adversary.

To sum up my position: In Afghanistan we have a consortium of warlords, drug lords and Islamic operators, and we call it democracy. In Iraq we have a Shia majority exacting revenge on the Sunni minority with an at least 100,000 man wild-card in the deck. The Sunnis in turn are killing Shiites either in reprisals or as acts of civil-type war. All of this keeps U.S. forces tied down in the region with no clearly defined mission or endgame.

The U.S. support of both regimes is not a policy; it's madness.


Meet the New Boss...

A recent New York Times article describes the tenuous reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan since our toppling of the Taliban government five years ago ("Order in the Courts," 8/28/06). Writer J. Alexander Thier says "It's been a bad year" for that country. That is of course from our perspective, vs. say that of a poppy grower's.

But the article tries to stay upbeat, Banging the drum of reforms and checks and balances, and even suggests that the present moment in Afghanistan is like that which motivated our Founding Fathers to develop our democracy.
But the analogy does not hold, as the movement in Afghanistan is toward constriction of freedoms. Witness Their's comment, "The Supreme Court must be able to fulfill its central role in deciding questions concerning Islam...(t)he court (must) determine whether laws are in accordance with the 'beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.'" He goes on to say "the Islamic legitimacy of the government and the courts must be strong", lest the Taliban accuse the government of being "the corrupt puppet of infidels".

So that's it...we're over there dying so that we can sneak in some semblance of a court system--albeit a theological vs. a secular one--and we'll call it a success? True democracy would be ridden out on a rail under the guise of being of being a "corrupt puppet (government) of infidels". Great. Mission accomplished.

Actually, my reaction is that the Taliban had the very same court with the very same function. Further, the "morality police", the Department of Vice and Virtue--a centerpiece of the former Taliban regime--is to be reactivated in Afghanistan (www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/HH10Df01.html.) And you thought the Scarlett Letter was an outmoded response. And this is happening under the watch of a "moderate" government, so this is as good as it gets.
We've accomplished nothing beyond loss of our national treasure, treasures lost both on the domestic front, and in the the international arena in terms of lost goodwill and reputation.

This is the untenable absurdity of the situation. Hundreds of Americans have died in Afghanistan, thousands have been wounded and untold billions spent to remove the Taliban. And what did this outlay buy the American taxpayer? A court based upon obeying the sacred tenets of Islam is not what the U.S. Founding Father's had in mind when institutionalizing the concept of the separation of powers. Do American taxpayers really want to support a legal system that cuts off the hands of thieves and stones adulterers?

The entire Afghan adventure is in violation of the spirit of America, unless we now condone religious censorship of civilian government. This sounds like Iran, redux. If Islamic extremism is the threat, then why is our national policy creating Islamic theocracies that will encourage and obey this fanaticism? I wish Condi would explain that one clearly to the U.S. taxpayers. I for one really wanna know.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Not Comme Il Faut

I've been wanting to play the Nazi card for awhile, but my editor wouldn't let me (she's very strict). She advised that it is too provocative, a low-blow, not comme il faut. Besides, it just exceeds the bounds of propriety and common decency. Cooler heads prevailed, for a time. I'll try to be restrained.

Thinking about the geopolitical nasties playing today, I thought: what's not to love about the Hitlerian Nazis as an example of the most egregious sort in the rogue's gallery of right wing-nut insanity? I want to present a concise summary of the reasons they are our favorite villains. Please do not think me an insensitive clod; their reality makes me want to wretch. My father and uncle fought the duration of WW II to defeat this manace. But there is a method to my madness, so if you will forbear me:

(1) They had a cult of personality based upon a warrior leader. He even had combat experience, albeit as a corporal. There was an overreliance on his willpower and willingness to stay the course (y'know--Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk...things weren't looking very good.) His will dictated the death of millions of German soldiers--among untold millions of others--and those were the friendlies.

(2) His 2nd in command was fat, had a heart problem, and liked to hunt with a shotgun. Reportedly, he drank while doing so.

(3) He invaded countries based upon conjured phoney border incidents. He invaded Russia preemptively. He was forced to do so before Russia could attack Nazi interests.

(4) He recruited and trained new police and army forces in the conquered territories. This was to inculcate Western European values to the culturally deprived and backward Eastern nations.

(5) He curried favor and fully cooperated with the rich and powerful to gain and maintain power.

(6) Human rights were curtailed and ignored in Nazi Germany. People were imprisoned and held indefinitely. Torture was allowed and the Geneva Convention was ignored. (After the war, the Nuremburg trials addressed these issues and hung the top Nazi leaders.)

(7) Hitler embraced unilateral German action. Others like the Italians were on board for a while, but their presence or absence mattered little in the final scheme.

(9) The German military was ultimately strained to the breaking point, yet the military was expected to perform political miracles. Even when strained, he could always find another country to invade as distraction from his previous miserable failures.

(10) Hitler relied on emotion and gut reaction, along with his unwavering conviction of the the inherent superiority of the German system and people. He looked Chamberlain in the eye and he knew he could trust him.

(11) Remember his cocky, premature, goose-stepping victory strut when claiming mission accomplished in 1940 France?

Well, as Rod Serling, a fellow paratrooper might say, submitted for your consideration...

Feeling A Little Angsty

Mike Allen reports in Time (Frustration Nation) that President Bush, when asked if he felt frustrated about the war, said, "These are challenging times...they're straining the psyche of our country."

What exactly is he saying? What does our collective psyche usually look like? Do countries have psyches? People do; Bush may. Perhaps it was his earlier reading of Camus'
The Stranger that got him in this angsty way. He may have checked out the crib notes, and discovered a reference to the existential concept of "bad faith", and is suffering a tinge of anguish.

Editorial comment
: as Jim's editor, I felt a definition of the term "national psyche" was in order. Below is my discovery. Jim indicates that he was only a soldier; he knows how to salute and align his sights. The following editorial comments on the national psyche he feels are beyond his psyche.

Psychiatrist Stephen Ducat claims in his book,
The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity (2004), that our nation is obsessively focused upon masculinity, and he paints a picture of a "national psyche defined by a deeply flawed definition of manhood."

O.k.--I could work with this. The national psyche is strained because it's on steroids, and we all know the havoc they wreak. So there is no anima to the animus in the USA; it's all Johnny Goes Marching Off to War, and we're feeling, well, strained. All Stanley, no Stella. We're all taut sinews, no fat, so to speak.

Ducat said in an interview, "The problem with our current notion of masculinity is that it’s a definition of manhood based on domination. The problem with a definition of manhood based on domination is that domination can never be a permanent condition (Someone needs to tell that to ranger.)

"It’s a relational state – it is dependent on having somebody in the subordinate position, which means that you may be manly today, but you’re not going to be manly tomorrow, unless you’ve got somebody to push around and control. This definition goes back to the ancient Greeks, and it makes masculinity a precarious and brittle achievement – which has to be constantly asserted. It has to be proven over and over again. It is the ultimate Sisyphean pursuit."

So there it is--if Bush will now only round out his reading with Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, he may understand better how to stop draggin' our psyches around.

--Jim and Lisa