RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2006 <

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Misuse of Government Property

I just caught a CNN report about the Massachusetts National Guard Combat Engineers Unit which was returning from Iraq. This was called "combat duty," though they spent the year as guards in the now-defunct Abu Ghraib prison.

What the heck is a combat engineer unit doing being utilized as prison guards? This is a total misuse of assets and represents the overall mismanagement of this war.

Further, I believe this is a breach of contract on the part of the government. These soldiers signed up to perform duties in combat engineer specialties. Forcing them to perform M.P.- type guard duty is inappropriate.

I know the enlistment contract reads "at the convenience of the service," but this constitutes an abuse of reserve forces. This misutilization of prime assets is symptomatic of both of this administration's elective invasions. Prior planning would indicate that the resources were not available to implement these nightmarish fantasies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I remember the simple Five P's from my military days: Prior Planning Prevents P___ Poor Performance. Someone should tell the President and Rumsfeld about this rudimentary rule.

Everything That Rises Must Converge

I borrowed my title from Southern gothic writer Flannery O'Connor because her depictions of skewed lives lurking just below the surface fits the following.

On a recent show, pundit Jon Stewart proposed impeaching George W. Bush for his seven minutes of inaction after being told that America "was being attacked" (10/28/06). Stewart's reasoning was that if this were a nuclear attack, then a delay of seven minutes would be catastrophic. In other words, the President failed to demonstrate decisive leadership in a time of crisis. Though I agree, I don't believe this meets the criteria for impeachment outlined in the Constitution.

I would, however, like to add a few observations not raised by Stewart.

First: The official White House version of the President's actions on 9-11 has changed seven times. Bush morphed from being a deer caught in headlights, to a Churchillian hero as the story evolved. Churchill, as we all know, was the real deal; he actually killed men in combat with his pistol. I don't believe Bush qualifies to be included in that echelon.

Second: Is it possible that the President already knew what type of attack was actually taking place? Possibly he didn't act because he knew it wasn't a doomsday attack.

Third: Several of the 9-11 hijackers lived in Sarasota, the site of the President's schoolroom meeting the morning of the attack. I don't know if there is a connection, but I just don't believe in coincidences.

I do not often dwell in the territory of conspiracy theorists; but as I've said, an analyst collates and synthesizes the facts, entertaining all possibilities. I believe GWB should be impeached, but for reasons different than those proffered by Stewart


I have seen more talk lately entertaining the idea of a tripartite state for Iraq. Though I have consistently advocated the balkanization of the country, I no longer think three sections is the solution. There needs to be four.

I believe Sunni and Kurds constitute two distinct divisons. But the Shiites should get two distinct shares of the country. One would be for the Iranian-backed and funded Shiites, while the other would be for the Shiites who affiliate with the United States (of course, this group will only need a small plot of land.)

It's absurd that the U.S. has been supporting Iranian, not Iraqi, foreign policy through our actions. By establishing two Shiite entities, the U.S. could foster the quaint concept that U.S. foreign policy should benefit the American taxpayer, and not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Rather than America, it is these two countries which have reaped the main benefit from the military elimination of Saddam's Iraq; but in the long-run, Iran is the primary beneficiary.

This Iranian hegemony is financed by U.S. military deaths and financial outlay. When will the American taxpayer tire of this travesty?

The best withdrawal strategy would be to make the U.S. exit contingent upon Iranian cessation of nuclear weapons reasearch. Regardless of what the U.S. administration does in Iraq, the winner in the region will be Iran.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Reach of War

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction admits only 12,128 of the 505,093 weapons given to the Iraqis were properly recorded by serial number. These weapons include RPG's, assault rifles, MG's, shotguns and pistols. And sniper rifles.

In response to a previous posting I surmised that it's possible that U.S. forces trained the snipers targetting U.S. forces. Now its' apparent that U.S. forces are possibly providing the weapons, as well.

In my post, I recognized the killing hits versus U.S. personnel as 7.62 x 51 (Nato). This is the standard-issue U.S. sniper round.

RVN is looking like an exercize in sanity compared to U.S. gyrations in Iraq. It appears that U.S. tax dollars are arming and training the militias throughout the country.

Everything's Fine in America...

Thomas Sowell writes in today's Wall Street Journal on "Diversity's Oppressions," with several serious logical flaws hampering his argument.

Being the WSJ, Mr. Sowell states unabashedly that Iraq is a "catastrophe" which grew out of this messy thing called diversity. It's Professor Henry Higgins' A Hymn to Him, this time riffing on race.

America, he says, should not be "gushing about how we...celebrate diversity." Rather, our best achievement is in "taming its dangers that have run amok." From this innocent dais advancing the benefits of homogeneity (as long as you take his suit-brand flavor, I presume,) he says, "However we got into Iraq, we cannot...leave(ing) events to take their course." But in direct contradiction to this, he states earlier that created nations, like those in the Balkans, have "never had the cohesion of nations that evolved over the centuries out of the experiences of peoples who worked out their own modus vivendi in one way or another." Like the administration, Sowell wants it both ways.

Amazingly, Sowell goes on to chastise those who would say that Iraq does not equate with the war on terror by noting that the terrorists "converge on that country with lethal and suicidal resolve." Yes, Mr. Sowell, they too know the benefit of the press, and by noting that they are dropping into the fray you admit that the fine mess we've brought on is what attracts them.

On technical points, the examples of Pearl Harbor, Bataan, the Kasserine Pass, and the Battle of the Bulge as disasters does not bear up to serious review. All cited examples were merely tactical setbacks in the strategic Allied march to victory. It is absurd to analogize Iraq to these tactical losses. Iraq is a strategic blunder that has no equal in the annals of American military history.

Contrary to Sowell's contention, Iraq is not a new nation; it is a non-nation propped up and artficially supported by U.S. interests. Iraq was described by one officer who'd served in advisory capacity in Iraq as "gluing feathers on a body to create a duck." Only problem is, this duck won't even quack, let alone fly.

Sowell further says that abandoning "our Iraqi allies" would be folly, but he does not explain who these hapless souls may be.

I contend that the U.S. has no allies in Iraq, other than self-serving savants promoting their own agendas. An ally considers the welfare of others to whom he is bound. the Iraqis don't care one iota about American objectives; they are in the game for their own selfish interests.

Iraqi operations are hampered by unrealistic strategic objectives that cannot be implemented tactically. Without strategic or tactical plans, there is no option for success. The Battle of the Bulge was a tactical setback that could not affect the outcome of the war. Russian Army groups were closing fast on Berlin, and the Bulge was a minor sideshow.

Hitler was well-advised by his General Staff to implement the last strategic reserve of the Wehrmacht in defensive battle on the East front, rather than squandering them as he did in the Bulge. The comparison of the Bulge to Iraq is a stretch that does not comport with the facts.

The tactical battles in Iraq fail to further strategic objectives. Bear in mind that America never lost a battle in RVN, but...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blowin' in the Wind

Reflecting on the recent John's Hopkin's survey, which puts the loss of life as a result of the Iraqi conflict at 650,000, and the refutations coming from the conflict's supporters, arguing for a much lower number, I'm amazed at the petty accounting. According to the Wall Street Journal's arithmetic, the cluster points used in the John's Hopkin's survey are inadequate, resulting in a 1,200% margin of error.

It seems to me the exact figure is irrelevant and perhaps forever unknown. What is known is that the majority of Iraqis would like us gone, and too many good people on both sides are getting killed and maimed over this mad morass. If they die from U.S. bombs it's for democracy; if from Saddam's, it's tyrrany. Either way, it's death.

What none of these studies project is how many future deaths will ensue if we continue on our current path
The past is gone, and in that sense, the bookkeeping risks losing sight of the fact that we can only affect what lies ahead, and hopefully mitigate the continued wholesale slaughter.

I'm waxing nostalgic, and remembering Bob Dylan's plaintive refrain from 30 years ago:
How many deaths will it take till he knows, That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Another Kink in the Law...

This week's The Week offers a bit on Britain's refusal to take in the 10 recently released folks from Gitmo who had been, previous to their incarceration, "longtime British residents."

The article concludes by noting, "In many cases, the U.S. can't return detainees to their countries of origin because U.S. law bars extradition to countries that practice torture." Just a small question: so, that leaves out coming to the U.S., right?

Don't Fence Me In

I want to ride to the ridge
where the west commences,

And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses,

And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences,
Don't fence me in.

--Don't Fence Me In, Bing Crosby


Now Saudi Arabia's on the fence-building bandwagon, planning to build one along it's border with Iraq. It's aim: to keep terrorists from infiltrating its territory. A double fence, topped with razor wire and sensors. It's not clear whether the fence will extend the entire 560 mile border, which includes large swaths of barren desert.

It got me thinking about the Israeli's fence, and our proposed fence on the Mexican border ("Mr Bush, build this wall now!" as Don Goldwater urged), and those superannuated fences--Hadrian's Wall, and the Great Wall of China, and the Berlin Wall. Another Republican 20 years ago petitioned for fence-toppling: "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

The wall came tumbling down on cue, and of course, like good Americans, we disppeared when the rubber hit the road. Our moment to step in a big way and help the Russians on the path to democracy crashed with a great thud, and the gangters obliged by filling in the vacuum.

And more fence phrases and images came to mind. In
Mending Wall, Robert Frost said, "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling or walling out,/ And to whom I was likely to give offense." Of course, for everything you fence out, you are also fencing something in. Fences imply the Captain's statement in Cool Hand Luke--"What we got here is...failure to communicate.

The 1981 movie Escape From New York might prove to be morbidly prophetic. It envisions a Manhattan of 1998 which has been walled off to contain a prison population (rogue Enron-type traders?) Not the sort of place you want to drop by, but unfortunately, a hijacked airliner drops the president in the heart of it. A criminal is enlisted to rescue him, and thereby, gain his own release. A tough order by any accounting, for how do you tell the president from the indig? A lot of wish-fulfillment going on in that one.

It seems we're all a bunch of tribes, tribesman with fence-building or fence-rending tools. The wealthy among us live in gated communities; the rest, behind chain link. NIMBY is their motto.

We're naught but a bunch of hamsters, some in older wire cages, some in nicer plastic Habitrails. But we're all running the same path. To continue from Frost, "Oh, just another kind of outdoor game/One on a side. It comes to little more." I'm getting a little antsy myself...where's my wheel.



Friday, October 27, 2006

Reason for Treason

So, now we've charged American al-Quaida member Adam Yahiye Gadahn with treason.

Treason is the only crime outlined in the Constitution, but the Framers had in mind a restrictive conception of the crime. Even American Taliban John Walker Lindh was not charged with treason, even though he carried a rifle, instead pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, aiding the Taliban and terrorist offenses relating to al Quaida.

Treason consists of levying war against the U.S., or in adhering to their enemies. Chief Justice Marshall, in the Burr treason trial, confined the meaning of levying war to the actual waging of war. Said Marshall, "However flagitious may be the crime of conspiring to subvert by force the government of our country, such conspiracy is not treason. To conspire to levy war, and actually to levy war, are distinct offen[c]es...the actual enlistment of men to serve against the governement does not amount to levying of war."

First, I love that someone uses the word "flagitious," though it does seem like a term more befitting the behaviors of Rep. Foley, but that is another story. Marshall goes on to explain that, while an assemblage of men gathered for the purpose of levying war does not consitute treason, still "there must be an actual assembling of men, for the treasonable purpose, to consitute a levying of war."

Speaking of Burr's confederates--Bollman and Swartwout--Marshall repeats that no conspiracy for overturning the government and "no enlisting of men to effect it, would be an actual levying of war." It would seem that, regardless of Gadahn's rhetoric or functioning as a translator for al-Quaida, he has not actually levied war.

Marshall wisely concluded by saying that "atrocious" crimes which are aimed at violent subversion of peacemaking laws and institutions "are not to escape punishment, because they have not ripened into treason. The wisdom of the legislature is competent to provide the case...punishment in such cases should be ordained by general laws."

As I've said before, this is not a war, and terrorism is a crime. Just because the president has committed troops to combat doesn't make it a war, unless Congress declares it to be so.

We have laws in place to deal with crimes such as terrorism. Supporting criminals is not treasonous activity. It's a number of illegal things, but treason is not one of them.

Marshall is mindful of the danger of the mob mentality when he says that we should seek recourse to general laws to deal with most infractions short of treason (waging war).

Of these laws he says they are "formed upon deliberation, under the influence of no resentments, and without knowing on whom they were to operate, than that it should be inflicted under the influence of those passions which the occasion seldom fails to excite, and which a flexible definition of the crime, or a construction which would render it flexible, might bring into operation."

He is cautioning that there is no wiggle room here, for people whipped into a patriotic frenzy will likely try and stretch the definition to fit the apparent threat. He is making it clear that we have a capacious jurisprudence capable of handling the gamut of offenses one is likely to encounter in a democracy, and that we should not seek recourse to treason for every offense against the republic, offenses which might more suitably be dealt with under other U.S. Code.

Gadahn may be guilty of any number of crimes, but treason is not one of them. It's possible that he's guilty of supporting a terrorist organization, and therefore, conspiracy to kill Americans, which is a violation of Federal law. He is probably also guilty of immigration violations, and without a doubt, any jury with the slightest aesthetic sense, would find his beard an offense.

Treason just sounds so Benedict Arnold and Red, White and Blue. If we can ferret out the traitors in our midst, all will be well, right? The subtext is, don't go sporting a scraggly beard and espousing opposing credos.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Juris Prudence

Two small pieces in a recent World Briefing section of the New York Times caught my attention.

First, Germany found no proof that a Turkish-German man held for four years at Gitmo had ties to a terrorist group. No proof, but held for four years. I'm sure we can all sleep better knowing that the suspension of habeus corpus has protected the U.S. citizenry from such threats.

The article says that Murat Kurnaz, 24, was arrested in Pakistan in 2001. If he was arrested, then why wasn't he charged with crime, and why was he not tried? If Mr. Kurnaz was not sympathetic to the Al Quaida cause four years ago, I'm sure he's at least receptive now. Gitmo was a great recruiting tool for Al Quaida.

How are we planning on handling the hundreds or thousands of civil suits which may arise from these illegal and injudicious false imprisonments? America used to have a functioning legal system.

Opposite that brief was another: "Pakistan: Court frees Islamist leader." The Lahore High Court set Hafiz Muhammed Saeed free, declaring his detention without trial since August illegal. This is truly amazing, as Saeed allegedly has ties with the bombers responsible for 180 deaths in the Mumbai train attacks in July.

It seems that the U.S. ignores the rule of law by jailing innocent people, while Pakistan honors its laws, even when the released suspect is most probably implicated in terrorist acts. Forget the national animosity, the question here is one of legality.

The old philosophy of jurisprudence in America was that the integrity of the system was more important than any individual. This includes President Bush.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Keystone Cops

When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President. Now I'm beginning to believe it.
--Clarence Darrow

President Bush recently campaigned on behalf of Pennsylvania Rep. Don Sherwood (10/19/06), whose confessed infidelity has put his House seat into jeopardy this upcoming election, according to the New York Times.

Bush and the Sherwoods also stopped at an ice cream shop for a photo op near Keystone College, where Mr. Bush spoke on Sherwood's behalf. I hope the symbolism is not lost: you can lick the cone and share family values, if you're a Republican.

This hypocritical Bush support of an avowed adulterer (though at least Sherwood had the good sense to choose the right sex and age) is doubly damning in light of the allegations of a former faith-based initiative White House staffer. The author, David Kuo, has written in his recent expose Tempting Faith, of the Bush league calling "nuts" and "goofy" the faith-based contingents responsible for his election.

The Ten Commandments that the Bushies want displayed in courthouses and schools does have an injunction against adultery, last I checked. Somehow this entire scenario is just plain strange. Of course, money and influence make for strange bedfellows.

I think I'll have a double scoop of Rocky Road.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Recently, several thoughts and events converged for me, and I haven't even hit Sedona yet (I'm on the road headed West, just so you understand).

The first came after doing a cursory review of Marighella's Minimanual of Urban Guerilla Warfare for a previous posting. This was a work familiar from my past, and I especially noted the sections on marksmanship and the urban guerilla.

Shortly after this review I went to Ft. Benning, Georgia, to visit old friends from the sniper period of my life. I breakfasted with two men who were attending the Military Marksmanship Reunion, who between them had 115 kills, if not more; the actual figures are unknown, because they won't say.

Hours before the linkup, I turned on CNN only to see footage of U.S. military personnel being killed by a well-trained sniper. Since snipers work in teams, it was evident even to CNN commentators that we were being shown the work of an experienced, well-trained and equipped team. Obviously, no dead-enders.

My sniper training dates to 1973, when the U.S. military and civilian police were developing skills for use in built-up areas such as Baghdad, Fallujah, etc. I feel comfortable making statements about fields of fire, shooting locations, escape routes, pre-positioning equipment and counter-sniping operations. In the normal theater of operations, the best counter-sniper tactic is artillery fire on all likely and suspected shooting positions and escape routes. Unfortunately, this is not an option in Baghdad.

The salient point is that one sniper accounted for five U.S. casualties that we know of. A professional shooter. In a CNN interview analyzing the footage, the author of the book Shooter--a former U.S. Marine sniper--said he couldn't guess what rifle was used by the sniper. After watching the horrendous film, I'll venture it wasn't a 5.56 or 7.63 x 39. It was a 7.62 NATO or 7.62 Russian, both of which are the hallmark of snipers worldwide. Obviously, the Iraqis are taking Bush at his word, and are bringing it on.

The U.S. military men targeted are sitting ducks and don't have a chance. Why are they exposed to this needless violence?

Think of the cost effectiveness of the sniper concept. I won't pontificate about the price of missiles versus the price of a bullet.

Why am I even exploring this topic? Well, the U.S. military in Iraq is subject to IED's, and all personnel in the field are fish waiting for their turn in the barrel. Now snipers are in the mix. The military should not be put in a place where they don't have a fighting chance. Our troops should be removed from Iraq ASAP; BSAP won't cut it.

As an afterthought, it's a strange world when U.S. taxpayers can't view photos of troop coffins coming home, but we can watch videos of U.S. military being killed. Strange brew, indeed.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Boots are Moot

In a previous post I suggested that Iraq is more analogous to the Northern Ireland experience than to that of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). Unfortunately, I failed to cross the T's and dot the I's. What follows is a lengthy explanation, but I hope you'll bear with me. My stickler of an editor brought it to my attention that I commit the editorial sin of telescoping my thoughts, so away we go...

It is my contention that Iraq is more similar to the IRA experience than to the Vietnam experience. The Northern Irish battle has been ongoing for 600 years; the Shiite vs. Sunni rift has existed 1,400 years. There will never be trust between the adversaries, but a tendentious coexistence will emerge. Northern Ireland, like Iraq, will only be solved politically, not militarily. The Irish troubles are more recent and have been ongoing, but the IRA/Sinn Fein has the sense to negotiate.
In Iraq, there may be a brutal, bloody civil war, but ultimately, an accommodation will have to be arrived at between the sects.

In contrast to this, North and South Vietnam could put their differences aside and form a unity government, albeit, a communist one. Everyone might not be happy, but they do enjoy safety and security. In fact, it's doubtful anyone gets tortured in Vietnamese prisons. (If they do, it's a holdover from the French experience, and not the benign American effect.)

Some more dissimilarities from Iraq: The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese cause enjoyed the sympathy of American liberals. Now, no liberal would dare voice support for the Iraqi combatants. In addition, the defeat of RVN was effected by an external army. In Iraq and Northern Ireland, the threat is indigenous and city-based. The only question is that of tactics, not objectives.

While the Irish Republican Army (IRA) stance in Northern Ireland does not equal terrorism, terrorist tactics are used in that conflict. The following are some characteristics of the IRA:
  1. They are an army
  2. They wear a uniform
  3. They have a military chain of command
  4. They generally abide by the Rules of War as outlined by the Geneva Convention (GC)
  5. They carry weapons openly

So the IRA are the shooters of the Irish Nationalist movement, and they do have legitimacy if they abide by the Rules of War as outlined by the GC. Separate from the IRA is the PIRA, which uses terrorist tactics and is not composed of legitimate soldiers. The PIRA is analogous to the terrorists in Iraq, while the IRA is analogous to the guerillas. In truth, the separation is probably arbitrary in both cases, and I will outline the Iraqi scenario later.

Both the IRA and the PIRA are supported actively and passively by the majority of Catholics. So as in Iraq, these groups have religious affiliation and fealty. Even though Catholics may not support or endorse the actions of the IRA, they will never rat out the IRA, whether through fear or loyalty. In addition, the IRA has a social agenda, which is to remove the British presence and to establish self-determination. They want equality with the Protestants in their society.

Other characterizations of the IRA are:

  1. It is often allied with other activist groups. There was cross-fertilization with the Palestinians in the 1970's and 80's.
  2. The members are treated as terrorists when they are captured by the British, and they are often tortured and assassinated by the Brits.
  3. Has interior lines of supply and defense.
  4. Receives support from the Republic of Ireland, and has sympathizers across porous borders.
  5. Its shooters are folk heroes.
  6. The shooters and soldiers receive pensions and death benefits from the IRA.
  7. They train outside of Northern Ireland.
  8. Their cause is a Northern Ireland free and independent of England.
  9. They are similar in appearance to the Protestant population, and at first glance are indistinguishable. Because they arise from a homogenous social group, British soldiers can't distinguish friend from foe often until too late.
  10. British soldiers were never safe out of their safety zone. They could expect an attack anytimes they ventured into Catholic enclaves. It should be noted that the Catholic and Protestants live in enclaves, just as the Shiites and Sunnis do.

Considering the parallels to the current Iraq situation, the Iraqi fighters and the IRA sound mighty similar.

Now to the North Vietnam and Viet Cong experience:

Vietnam was a Maoist Guerilla war, until about 1969. Animating the peasants in the countryside was key to the predominant theory of that war, if not the total practice. And it basically came to pass, as the VC were basically agrarian, and attempted to control the countryside. Since that was General Westmoreland's theory, that was the way we executed the war.

The present Iraq war will never transition into conventional military tactics, as it did inVietnam with the entrance of the NVA units. We are not fighting a Maoist guerilla war, with distinct phases of evolution. Instead, we're fighting a level II threat, and it is very doubtful that it will ever evolve into a conventional warfare phase. It was that phase which, after 1972, destroyed the Republic of Vietnam.

U.S. operations in Vietnam were generally in the hinterland, with the concept that this secured the cities. The U.S. had conventional combat power in Vietnam addressing a military threat that was often portrayed incorrectly as external to the people. After Tet '68, this myth was blown to smithereens.

In Iraq, the opposite is true; we seem to be concerned with securing only the cities. Obviously, there are combat operations outside the cities, but these are not the main thrust of U.S. operations. However, similarly to Vietnam, the U.S. government is spinning Iraq as a battle against Terrorism when really, it is a groundswell movement to evict American power from Iraq.

In Vietnam, the level of engagement was in the area of conventional combat operations, with full power brought to bear. The Vietnamese were grabbed by the balls, and their hearts and minds had to follow.

In Iraq, it's just the opposite; the threat resides well-ensconced within the indigenous population. Obviously, we could bomb them further back into the Stone Age, but this approach does not square with the concept of freeing them. Destroying towns to save them is absurd. Full combat power cannot and should not be employed. Therefore, more boots are moot. What could they achieve, other than providing more targets?

The British in Northern Ireland never brought conventional combat power to bear in the cities. The situation is the same for us in Iraq; at least, we should not, if we're trying to win hearts and minds.

In Vietnam, the experience was tied into an international agenda of communism, and it had the support of China and Russia. Though the Viet Cong had popular support, it was nothing similar to that seen in Iraq; 61% of Vietnamese didn't espouse killing Americans, and 77% didn't want America to get out.

As flimsy as the pretext was, the Vietnamese government did invite the U.S. to help in their fight. I stress this was flimsy, but it's still conferred more legitimacy on our presence than we have in the present Iraqi invasion.

North and South Vietnam were split by the Geneva Accords. The North Vietnamese war was to reunite the country and institute communism in the South--a forward-looking nationalistic agenda. If anything, the factions in Iraq welcome fracture, and its agenda is backward-looking.

The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong had extended vulnerable lines of communication and supply. This differs from the Iraqi and IRA experience; the Vietnamese would welcome Russian support after they expelled the Americans, whereas the Iraqis most likely will not enlist the aid of any Westerners after they are expelled.

Back to Iraq, the Iraqi Unity government is the moral equivalent of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein, and performs loosely the same function. They are associated with the shooters who are fighting the Americans (as is Sinn Fein vis a vis the IRA against the British), regardless of their protestations to the contrary.

In one dissimilarity from Iraq, the IRA does have some U.S. support, especially in the Northeast. Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, even had dinner with former President Clinton, so they enjoy a veneer of legitimacy in the American viewpoint. Many Americans believe the IRA is justified in their fight. As mentioned previously, American liberals might have also supported the North Vietnamese cause, but you will not hear that same support for the Iraqi guerillas today.

The tide of history is against Britain in Northern Ireland and America in Iraq. the times are gone when you can arbitrarily occupy another country. The good days for colonialists are over. (One of the objectives of WWII was clearly stated in the North Atlantic charter was the end of colonialism.)

Call it what you will, the occupation of northern Ireland and Iraq is neocolonialism, and it's no small wonder that the U.S. and Britain support each other in these endeavors.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

The title was just too good to pass up.

You can fill in the blanks yourself.

What should this story say? Your input is invited. A little interactive project.

Get Smart

And now for a more political turn:

In the last presidential election, I was disappointed by the Democratic party's slogan, "For a Stronger America." Well folks, Bush and company have that corner of America nailed down tight.

My free advice to the Democrats is to take the following tack: "For a Smarter America." Personally, I've had enough of the stronger America. What's needed is smarter...not necessarily on a personal, but a systems level. Someone who understands how the federal government works (and doesn't), and who doesn't believe the Constitution died on 9-11.

I understand America doesn't like intellectuals nor elitists, and we often conflate the two. Hence why Adalai Stevenson and Hillary Clinton are losing tickets. Ditto John Kerry and Al Gore. Don't bring left-wing losers posing as centrists on board.

The candidate must communicate on an emotional, versus an intellectual level. He should reflect the core values that used to be the basis of the Democratic party--the workingman, the great middle class. GWB doesn't represent this America, coming as he does from the top 2% of the economically elite.

The Democrats must front a candidate that represents the majority of the people. W is only an ersatz workingman.

What the Democrats need are hale fellows well-met--someone happy and smiling and perhaps, slightly smug, with some wily, someone like Joe Biden. (I'm not endorsing Biden, mind you. He's just an example.) Someone who is not dour, and who looks like an actor playing a politician. I am serious.

Americans identify with confident and cocksure. Dems should definitely go for that package, and hopefully find a little substance in the stuffing. America doesn't really care if they're right (=correct), as long as they are confident and project the aura of leadership. Being born-again wouldn't even be a requirement.

A Bedtime Story

In the "It's better to fight them over there than over here category":

Bush recently offered: "Years from now, people will look back on the formation of a unity government in Iraq as a decisive moment in the story of liberty, a moment when freedom gained a firm foothold in the Middle east and the forces of terror began their long retreat..." (Washington Post, 10/01/06)

Yeah, when we legalize marijuana.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Red Dawn (?)

Just a small thought: It's easy to call the Iraqis and Afghanis "terrorists" for fighting U.S. forces, the Good Guys.

I pose the question: What would be expected of U.S. citizens if we were invaded and occupied by a superior force? Would we not welcome an uprising as freedom fighters, rather than demonizing them as insurgents or terrorists...even if they were setting off car bombs?

The title is a triple entendre.

You say To-MA-to, I say, To-MAH-to...

"You say po-TA-to, I say, po-TAH-to,
Let's call the whole thing off"
--Louis Armstrong

I believe it is a mistake to look to the Vietnam experience as the template for the guerilla-type of war being conducted in Iraq. I have commented previously on this site that the Iraq experience is closer in tone to the IRA campaigns in Northern Ireland.

It would be wise for the U.S. military trainers to resurrect and mine Carlos Marighella's
Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla for concepts that are relevant to Iraq. The U.S. government will not admit it, but a guerilla war is what we're fighting in Iraq.

We won't accept that guerillas are trying to evict the U.S. occupying forces. We prefer to call the fighters
insurgents or terrorists, who are trying to overthrow the Iraqi government, but this cannot be proven to be true. It adds legitimacy to our project to imply that the fighters are simply the occasional irregular band, a fire which can be doused with assiduous application of force.

However, we err in not correctly applying defining terms. An
insurgent is attempting to topple a legitimate government. If the Iraqi fighters are insurgents, then they are aiming to topple a puppet government they see as installed at the behest of the U.S. regime.

If they are
guerillas, they are trying to expulse the foreign occupiers, i.e, the U.S. forces. Either way, we are implicated as the enemy. It is not a good scenario for the U.S. fighting man, either way you cut it.

The mistaken stereotypical western military thinking is that insurgencies or guerilla wars can be won by building roads, airfields, hospitals and schools, and creating large police forces and armies. The Republic of Vietnam had a large, well-equipped police force and military apparatus. The U.S. built schools, hospitals and even bowling alleys, but this did not address the key issue.

The driving force behind guerilla and insurgent movements in the third world is
pride. Yes, national or religious pride, which cannot be pimped off with dollars. North Vietnam preferred bombing to U.S. domination. The Viet Cong accepted horrendous casualties to battle a foreign invader (first France, then the U.S.) The Vietnamese even resisted Japanese occupation when the Vichy French wholly cooperated with the Japanese.

The fact is, nobody likes an invading, conquering army, even if it builds bowling alleys. So much for the hope of a placated, Arab Dude Lebowski. In fact, the term guerilla was coined by Spanish fighters resisting the overwhelming combat power of Napoleon's invading army. History is replete with examples of guerillas fighting and dying, often to the last man, even though the odds againts them are hopeless. The resistance in Russia and France to Nazi occupation are instructive case studies.

With the guidance of T. E. Lawrence, the primitive Arab guerilla forces humbled the great army of the Ottoman Turks. Although this was an advanced stage of guerilla warfare, it illustrates, the resolve and determination of the present generation of Iraqi guerillas. Today's Iraqi guerillas are every bit as motivated and tenacious as their forefathers.

I doubt that roads, schools or hospitals will remove their will to dominate the affairs of their nation. In the new paradigm of asymmetrical warfare, you are dealing with underdogs who will enlist any resource, including traditional combat. America used to understand the underdog.


A simple thought on Iraq vis-a-vis Vietnam: 500,000 boots on the ground didn't save the Republic of Vietnam, and 500,000 boots wouldn't/couldn't/shouldn't try to impose anything--whether we call it salvation or not--onto the people of Iraq.

The U.S. cannot save Iraq from Iraq.

Has anybody ever explained how more troops will solve the problems encountered there?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dogs of War

News exclusive: Barney Revokes Support For War

Highly placed confidential veterinary sources close to the White House report that Barney, the First Dog, has withdrawn support for the Wars of Middle East liberation. According to several sources inside the doghouse, Barney has been politicized by reports of military patrol dogs being wounded and killed at a rate much higher than that sustained by the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve troops serving in theatre.

Barney revoked support after his master, GWB, refused to let Barney join a National Guard patrol dog training program. Barney felt that even a doggy member of the Bush family could be helpful in the War on Terror. Four more paws on the ground from the First Family would inspire the dog corps, he felt. Barney appeared dogfaced after his rejection, but seemed placated after Mrs. Bush pinned a small enamel flag on his collar.

The President went on record and said that Barney could not be deployed to a combat zone because he is knowledgeable of classified information that must be kept out of enemy hands. Barney maintained that he won't roll over, even if tortured, but was finally overruled by the President. Mr. Bush is quoted as saying at a recent press conference, "This would send the wrong message to the terrorists. Members of my family, including Barney, must be protected to carry on the dynasty." Mr. Bush would not comment on the fact that Barney appeared to be neutered.


No, this isn't exactly a travelog. It's a gloss on the principles of war and how these are necessary to win, and how we have ignored them in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following are a few examples of the failure that can result by straying from these principles.

In 1812, Napoleon forced his entry into Moscow. But the occupation of that city did not effect the defeat of the Czar's forces nor the subjugation of Russia to Napoleon's will. This failure was partly due to Napoleon's inability to properly gauge the nationalism and patriotism of the Russian people.

As well, the Russian army refused to join combat in any unfavorable situation. The guerillas that we are currently fighting are following this example; they will only fight at a place and time of their own choosing. As such, they control the pace of the battle.

In the U.S. Civil War, the South held Richmond, but they still lost the war. The Confederate folly of defending their symbolic capitol bled off maneuver forces sorely needed by the Army of North Virginia. For the South, defeating the U.S. maneuver armies should have trumped defending real estate.

In the Vietnam War, Saigon and all the provincial capitals were secured and kept safe from effective enemy combat operations, with the exception of Tet '68. However, the protection of Saigon did not address the communist insurgency nor the military power of the NVA. The protection of the capitals did not address the security issues of the countryside, which contained the majority of the population. Without a secure population, the viability of any government is in jeopardy.

The same can be seen in Kabul and Baghdad today. The only areas tenuously held and consistently administered by the governments are these capital cities. The combat assets in country are not sufficient to secure both the country and the capital. Both Afghanistan and Iraq share similarities in that the police and armies are not totally controlled by the central government. Militias, warlords, druglords and mullahs influence the makeup and operations of these entities.

This new paradigm of war must address the issue of rogue police and army operations. Not only are the civilians not safe from the guerillas, they are not safe from the federal government, either. A population whose focus is survival is less likely to rally around a new experimental government.

Defeating armies and destroying the adversary's will to fight are the key objectives of military operations. Defending terrain does not necessarily equate to victory.

The principles of war apply to both current situations
in that in neither has the U.S. truly attained a strategically offensive posture. Technically, U.S, troops may occasionally achieve a local offensive, but even then the actions are reactive in nature. The battles of Fallujah come to mind.

Coalition forces consistently react to the military threats posed by the opposition forces. Therefore, the opposition forces control the time and place of battle and subsequently, the pace of operations. We have lost offensive, and classic military doctrine recognizes that the offensive is required to win a war.

The coalition forces in battles like Fallujah can concentrate firepower and troops, achieve mass and initiate combat. But as the Confederate and VN experiences show, winning the terrain will not defeat the Iraqi guerillas, nor destroy their will to fight, since we are seen as an army of occupation.

The coalition forces continually fail to fix the guerillas. The infantry term is "find, fix and destroy," with
fix meaning to maintain contact once initiated.
Without fixing the target, firepower and mass are meaningless. Otherwise, he'll slip away, as he is wont to do. (Personally, I cannot see how Americans fail to grasp that we are an occupying army.)

The attitude and loyalties of the host nation citizens also affect success, as in Napoleon's case. Per recent surveys, the majority of both Sunni and Shia Iraqis and Afhanis agree that attacking and killing U.S. forces is acceptable. This indicates that the population is, at the least, providing passive support to the anti-coalition warriors.

It's ironic that the coalition forces believe that their mission in country is to introduce democracy, a concept in contradiction to their actions.
Forced democratization is not in the best interests of any of the involved parties.

Above this, the U.S. President must be more concerned with the welfare of America than the regimes in Kabul and Baghdad. American policy must address the needs of the American taxpayer over the requirements of failed client states.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New Policy

Talking recently about his approach to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, President Bush said,

"I believe the commander in chief must try all diplomatic measures before we commit our military" (Jennifer Loven, AP, 10/12/06)

Hmmm...when did he start that policy?

The Count of Monte Cristo

I presume the goal of this War on Terror (WOT) is to diminish further terrorist attacks, and that one way to accomplish this is via the apprehension and trial of terrorist suspects. To that end, presumably, the U.S. put a bounty of $5 million on the head of one suspected 9-11 organizer, Mustafa Setmarian.

Setmarian is also suspected of being involved in the planning of the 2004 Spain commuter train bombings, which killed 191, and is the alleged founder of Spain's al Quaida network. Obviously, both the U.S. and Spain have a legitimate claim to arrest and extradite him, which should lead to a criminal trial.

Last year Setmarian was apprehended, and is said to be in a CIA secret prison, according to Pakistani and European security agencies, as reported recently by Spain's El Pais newspaper.

The problem is, Spain's high court is unable to request his extradition as he has not been officially imprisoned. He must be arrested before he can be legally extradited. Please note that being imprisoned by the U.S. no longer means that you were arrested or extradited through international legal cooperation. According to the Reuter's report, "Spanish judges complained U.S. officials were concealing information on his whereabouts."

So, Setmarian languishes in prison somewhere, our own Count of Monte Cristo, while countries which abide by the rule of law would like to bring him to justice.

What are the U.S.'s intentions? Amercian officials must cooperate in accordance with international law, and stop making this a secret spy game. The problem is, we're not trying anyone. If we would, then Iraq and the rest of the world would see that the Gulag system is not acceptable, as should the American taxpayer.

Unfortunately, we're following Saddam's lead. Why does America accept this extralegal behavior from President Bush?

This is a sickening example of the WOT gone completely against all standards of civilized conduct. The U.S. pays $5 to capture this slimeball, and then he's not brought to justice. Surely extradition to Spain would be appropriate, as would a fair and open trial within the U.S. Federal courts. One could even envision Setmarian being bound over to New York state courts for the murders and conspiracy charges relevant to 9-11.

In addition, one must wonder why, if this prisoner is so important that he is in a secret prison, the President didn't bring him to Gitmo with the other 14 evil ones.

The actions of our leaders do not reflect the values of a democratic nation. The fact that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been passed into Federal legislation doesn't mean it will pass under the constitutional bar.

Trying terrorists in open Federal court would be the safest, most judicial path to follow if constitutionality is our watchword. How cathartic and refreshing it would be to exercize our judicial imperative. To put democracy into action, on display for all the world to see. To display a democracy that is not delivered with a bomb.

Arrest, extradite charge and try these alleged terrorists.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The President is sounding like a follower. "(i)f you [General Casey] come into this office and say we need to do something differently, I support you. If you need more troops, I support you. If you're going to devise a new strategy, we're with you," Bush said recently. Sounds like he's about to hang one of those yellow "We Support Our Troops" ribbons on his door.

The article further states 23 of 36 Army Combat Brigades are deployed worldwide. This indicates that 13 Brigades are not in combat. Does the administration actually believe that the Army possesses the combat power to address Iran and North Korea with a military option? A viable exit strategy for Iraq is not to move the troops to Iran or North Korea.

One must bear in mind that the 13 Brigades not committed are degraded in operational status due to attrition in men and materiel. I won't even discuss training and morale.

What Bush is really saying is, "we're grasping at straws here." During my military training, the term WAG was used a lot. A WAG is a "Wild ass guess", which is often used in planning operations; a SWAG is a scientific WAG.

Why does it appear that WAG's and SWAG's are the best guesses that the National Command Authority have up their sleeves?

If there is a God, I hope he/she/it'll keep U.S. soldiers out of Iran and North Korea.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Exit Strategy

The tail is wagging the dog. The L.A. Times reports the head of Britain's Army, General Richard Dannett, endorses pulling U.K. elements out of Iraq. The British have been told by Shiite leaders in Basra that their presence is inciting Shiite violence. Though Gen. Dannett has backpedaled from his earlier comment yesterday, the concept of British troops leaving immediately would be a great test scenario.

This should be welcomed by all involved. This could be a trial separation to see if troop withdrawal is a viable option.
The U.S. policy to Iraq would clearly delineate U.S. withdrawal upon success of the Basra experiment. If violence abates and Iraqis cooperate in a reasonably national manner, then the U.S. can withdraw, too, knowing that the mission is complete--or at least, close enough for government work.

A Martyr is a Martyr...

Nothing like a little heresy to shake things up...

Are our martyrs different from their's? Is going up on the cross different from plowing a car or plane into a building?

Westerners cannot imagine what is in the radical Islamist's mind. How can they perpetrate martyr missions, a desecration of life? But is there any analogy in our own culture to this seemingly arbitrary madness?

The one is a meek lamb, sacrificing only himself, while the others are taking innocent and unwilling victims along with them. But that's not how the Roman's saw it.

Jesus welcomed and sought out his own martyrdom. He was no meek lamb. If we view Jesus in the Essene tradition, then the Romans executed him because He was a threat to their occupation of Pale
stine. The current Christian thought denies the violent nature of Jesus, but the takeover of the temple illustrates the physical threat, to both the Jewish and Roman leadership.

Because Jesus was a threat to the power of the state and the pharisees, He was arrested, tortured in accordance with Jewish and Roman law, and executed as an enemy of the state. This savior was required to be a martyr in order to fulfill biblical prophesy, and Roman law kindly complied.

The Romans feared Jesus was leading a movement that would force them out of the Jewish holy land. The suicide bombers are employing martyr operations to get America out of their holy lands. They are not opposed to our freedoms and liberties; they are opposed to the occupation of their Islamic homelands.

The Islamists believe the messiah has already arrived in the form of Mohammed, and has charged them with expunging the infidel
from their lands. They illustrate their piety and conviction by attempting to repulse the occupiers from their lands. Islamic terrorists believe they are fulfilling Koranic prophesy via their martyrdom, just as Jesus fulfilled biblical prophesies through his martyrdom.

They bomb in the name of Allah (their Father), so it is an observant and selfless act, inasmuch as these things can be.
Of course the Islamists, like their pious Christian counterparts, hope for their place in heaven by fulfilling a social function in this life.

Everything in the radical Islamic religious training brings them to this point. After all, the occupiers or perceived persecutors are heathens, and so destroying them would be benficial. Onward Christian, er, Muslim, soldiers.

Religious fanaticism is not constructive, but it brought us Jesus and suicide bombers.

I am no terrorist apologist. However, I am not so ethnocentric that I miss the parallels.


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Urge for Going

According to the most recently released statistics by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, between 426,329 and 793,663 deaths have occurred in Iraq as a result of the hostilities there, with 601,037 of these being violent deaths. The article did not indicate the number killed by U.S. forces, but we all know they were bad guys.

The article goes on to state that as of the final week of September, the Iraqi government had banned the central morgue in Baghdad and the Health Ministry from releasing casualty figures to the press. After all, the American taxpayers are paying for this war, but they do not need accurate figures as they are accustomed to being in the dark.

It is amazing how quickly the Iraqi flunkies learn the finer points of mind control from their American overseers. Of course, the U.S. military does not agree with these figures, and the President himself said in his latest news conference that he would accept the figure of 30,000 Iraqi dead, max.

Americans must question the violence that is a result of the Iraqi invasion. These are real people dying every day as a result of failed U.S. policy. While we cannot stop the sectarian violence we have unleashed, we do not have to continue to be a part of it. We should pull out and let them have their civil war, which has been long overdue.

A great civilization such as the U.S. cannot and should not be associated with such brutal and open-ended violence.


Your Check's in the Mail

Do you know any veteran who says he hasn't been screwed by the Department of Veteran's Affairs (DVA)? If you haven't done so already, try asking and prove it for yourself.

A recent study suggest vast costs loom in disability claims by newly returning U.S. veterans. The DVA director said, "as they get older and their injuries cause more problems, then they're more likely to file." And, he fails to add, more likely to be denied benefits.

It's no surprise how official medical records disappear. As a result of hard won lessons, I constantly counsel soldiers to keep every sick slip and medical record during their service. Keep copies of everything, or you'll get shafted. It's sad when this is the best advice one can give a young, dedicated soldier, but it's rock solid advice. (I won't bore the reader with my tales of DVA battles.)

If the Bush administration believes that the Social Security Administration is in danger of running out of funds, then where does he propose the monies will come from to pay disability claims for the present generation of warriors?

Mr. Bush will come and go (thankfully), but the soldier's disabilities will remain, and most will only increase in severity.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An Axe to Grind

A recently released review of a May crash of a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan indicates the inaccessibility of the landing zone, and the fact that the troops on the ground needed to cut down the most problematic tree obscuring their access, but they "had no ax."

The Accident Investigations Division of the U.S. Combat Readiness Center found the CH-47 Chinook was too large for the LZ, which could only accommodate its two rear wheels, while the two front wheels hovered off the mountainside. The copter went down in remote Kunar province, killing ten soldiers. No mention is made in the article of survivors, or any injuries that might been sustained by them.

I'll accept that no ax was available to clear the LZ, but being a leader, or even a soldier, means that one must force his will upon any obstacle. Why didn't the soldiers use explosives to clear the trees? Infantry soldiers are trained in explosives and their expedient uses.

Another solution to chopping the tree is to put your machine gunner to the task. Chop the tree down with belt ammunition. After all, that's what a machine gun does best--it'll cut down people or trees.

Moreover, one must question the military logic of a nighttime landing on a restricted LZ in mountainous terrain. The altitude and winds aloft make this feat hazardous even in daylight. Again, unsound military tactical judgements are reported as an accident.

Accidents are preventable through forethought and judicious planning. For the want of an ax, 10 soldiers and a helo was lost.
This article leads me to question the state of training, readiness and equipment usage of U.S. soldiers in combat.

I found my answer a few pages later.

"Lower Standards Help Army Surpass 80,000" (AP, 10/10/06). To justify their lowered standards, the Army said, "Good test scores do not necessarily translate into quality soldiers." This statement contravenes the Army's testing policy for admission since 1918.

If the Army believes this, why don't they just do away with tests altogether? It's just more window dressing, to make us feel that things are under control, being policed and regulated--but the bar keeps lowering. Like in limbo, you can only go so low, and the repurcussions here are greater than simply falling back in the sand.

The Department of Defense now permits the Army to recruit a max of 4% recruits scoring below certain aptitude levels. One cannot help but wonder if this policy leads to deaths on lonely forsaken Afghan mountains in the dead of night.



Quid Pro Quo

I'm trained to look for ulterior motives (I've been married twice), so it's not a far stretch to look at the Department of Justice's recent approval of the BellSouth and AT&T merger as based upon the Federal government's desire to continue listening in on citizen's telephone conversations.

This deal allows the Federal spying apparatus to cozy up to AT&T with a sweetheart deal (not like my marriages). As the Russians say, hand washes hand. Quid pro quo.

The media's tossing us a red herring by focusing on the anti-trust issues of the matter, framing the merger in terms of buyouts, markets, competition, service and all the other pretty buzz words that are used to describe U.S. policy towards monopolies.
Many questions have arisen in the past months over AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth's collusion with the National Security Agency. This governmental head nod carries implications which may further entrench government intrusions into our privacy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

When Standing Up Is Falling Down

This administration's Stay the Course project equals building up Iraq's police force and army so that when they stand up, we can stand down. But when they stand up, the question is: how does this differ from Saddam's regime, in which the army and a repressive police force were used to subdue the citizenry?

Now we've added a new dimension to make this equation work: Saddam-style torture. We have institutionalized this approach with our Military Commissions Act of 2006, with the President's imprimatur. How many people are in prison in Iraq that have not been adjudicated by a court of law?

Our message with the Act is: welcome to democracy. Torture is now a liberal asset.

Recommended President's Reading List

I'm a fan of the "Five Best" book selections offered by different professionals each week in the Wall Street Journal's Books section. I found the latest warfare picks all entirely applicable to the situation we face in Iraq.
  1. The Irish Guards in the Great War, Rudyard Kipling (1923). Yes, there were great wars that were, in fact, cataclysmic in nature. (I personally believe that Western civilization began its rapid decline as a result of WWI.) Kipling lost his son in the Battle of Loos. In this this recounting of wartime details, he states, "tales...carry each their separate significance to each survivor, intimate and incommunicable..." Kipling expresses the cosmic nature of war and its effect upon the survivors .
  2. Lost Victories, Erich von Manstein (1958). Manstein was dismissive of the concept of turning points and contends that the war was never winnable for Germany because of the leaders prosecuting it. The toppling of Saddams's statue, Qusay, Uday and al-Zarqawi's murders, and purple thumbs aside...it don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing, to borrow from Ella.
  3. Some Desperate Glory, Edwin Campion Vaughan (1981). In this, Vaughan's diary of eight months spent in the trenches, he includes a relentlessly stark account of WWI's bloodiest, most futile battle, at Passchendaele. Someday, the books on Fallujah and Samarra, et al., will reflect these same sentiments. Battles well-fought on both sides, but a useless glorification of military operations for no useful purpose.
  4. Storm of Steel, Ernst Junger (1920). Junger's memoir of his WWI service. Includes a poignant moment when he claims he declines to kill an enemy soldier who shows a family picture, thereby affirming his own humanity. Whether this is an imposed memory is up for debate. One thing one does get from the book: it's not good to be imperial when you lose. Words we might consider in our present self-righteous approach. It holds out the hope, however chimerical, that enemies may coexists if their shared humanity can ever trump their ethnic or racial animosities.
  5. But Not for the Fuehrer, Helmut Jung and Mike Nesbitt (2004). This self-published, "brutally honest," memoir is labeled "the most shocking" of the quintet here. Jung was a private in the Seventh Panzer divison, and he recounts among other things, his pleasure at committing retaliation torture against his erstwhile torturers, which included Russian women soldiers. The gloss states, "(f)ighting for survival apparently can include the thirst to commit atrocities." Cruel as the German's vengeance was, Jung said he and his comrades all "felt better" afterward.
The latter is a timely comment on torture, Haditha, etc. Yes, these acts may make you feel better, but in the long-run they drain your humanity.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Na' Kill, Fatten

In Jamaica, they have a wonderful saying: What na' kill, fatten, meaning, what doesn't kill you, will fatten you (strengthen you)--Nietzsche, island-style. I would like to take the phrase literally, however, for a moment.

The Gitmo diet is reported to be packing the pounds on the detainees ("Gitmo Diet Fattens Up Terrorist Detainees", Michael Melia, AP, 10/04/06), and people are up in arms about this seemingly posh situation. But methinks there is a method to their madness.

The meals, totaling 4,200 calories per day--"well above the 2,000 to 3,000 calories recommended for weight maintenance"--have even allowed one inmate to double his weight, to 410 pounds. "Most are now normal to mildly overweight or mildly obese", a state, I presume, correlating to being a "little bit pregnant". Can there be a purpose in allowing inmates to achieve Hurley-like heft?

Yes, I think, and the purpose of this dietary special-ops is simple:

  1. They will make bigger targets if they attempt to run away.
  2. Fat people are jollier.
  3. They are less mobile and therefore, more sedate. Ergo, less likely to run away.
  4. It will be harder for them to hide.
  5. They are less likely to miss meal call.
  6. More work for fast food vendors.

Though we are told they are given indigenous food choices like yogurt and fruit, along with other foods "for variety", I think I perceive a sixth reason. I imagine the unspecified
other category includes that most nefarious of American exports--fast food. If we can get them hooked on the deep-fried, salty and sugary stuff that has made two-thirds of us obese, then we've got them, well, eating out of our hands.



Detainees are the New POW's

I'm confused (and it's not just because I'm an infantryman.)

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the head of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, and quoted him as saying, "Over 40,000 pieces of mail have come in and out of here. If you chose to write one of them a letter, all you need to do is put their name on it, say
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, put our zip code on it, and they will get that letter" (WSJ, "War Inside the Wire," 10/16/06). It all sounds very upright, tinged with that humble, yet earnest, note that we envison in the consummate civil servant.

But then I see, less than two weeks on, that the Navy has confiscated more than 1,100 pounds of detainee mail, "hampering detainees' ability to confront accusations against them" ("Navy Confiscating Detainees' Hopes," Andrew O. Selsky, AP, 10/29/06). I'm guessing it's not the Pottery Barn catalogs that get confiscated, and denying defense materials goes beyond the pale.

Feeling rather Clintonesque, I knew the whole thing hinged on a word, so I looked up the definition of
detainee: a term used by certain governments to refer to individuals held in custody, such as those it does not classify and treat as either POW's or suspects in criminal cases.

The focus of U.S. efforts should be prosecution of terrorist criminals, and respect for the rights of genuine POW's. I highly back judicial action against terror suspects; I equally support Geneva Convention (GC) protection of POW's.

In the WSJ article, Adm. Harris, BMFIC, says, "Prisons are about rehabilitation and punishment." Correct, except this usually happens
after conviction, and not for years before conviction.

U.S. policy lumps terrorists, POW's and detainees into one amorphous lump, ignoring international law. Sec. II, Article 22 of the GC states: POW's shall not be interned in penitentiaries. Common sense implies the same for detainees. Terrorists should be placed in pre-trial security facilities, such as prisons. POW's and detainees are not terrorists, and should not be treated as such.

Harris further states,
"What we are about is keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield...the enemy combatants that we have here were captured on the battlefield and they were engaged in combat operations against Americans... What we're trying to do here in Gitmo is simply keep them off the battlefield."
Sounds a lot like a POW to me.

Also significant are Articles 2-5 of the GC, addressing the legal status of militias and other organized forces. Article 4 allows for the protection of anyone fighting against invading forces.

The common Gonzales argument against according GC protections is that the prisoners of Gitmo do not represent a national army. While this may be true, that is not a requirement for the POW or detainee--or whatever you label them--to be accorded GC status.

In fact, the U.S. commonly utilizes such forces as the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) in RVN, the Contras and the warlord/druglords in Afghanistan. These are viewed as legitimate uses of thugs and paid conscripts; but the Taliban and such affiliated groups are denied this legitimacy. The administration wants it both ways.

As of 9/29/06, only 10 of the approximately 460 Gitmo detainees, some held for over four years, have been charged with crimes. Incidentally, the killing of U.S. soldiers on the battlefield is within the rules of warfare and is covered by the GC.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Camo Looks Smart

The girls they love to see you shoot
(Bang bang you're dead)
I love a man in a uniform
--lyrics "I Love a Man in a Uniform," Gang of Four

I'm not commenting on the article which spurred my thoughts, "Thousands Wrongly on Terror List" (Leslie Miller, AP, 9/6/06), as the title needs no explanation.

Rather, I noted the AP photo accompanying the piece. The caption states, "A National Guard (NG) troop walks through a terminal at Logan International Airport." This NG member is not an air traveler, but rather, is on patrol.

As I've written before, this is a violation of Posse Comitatus, since it is utilizing the military to enforce civilian law.
Posse Comitatus allows the use of NG assets as a short-term fix, but five years have passed since 9-11; one could reasonably expect civilian law enforcement to police our domestic airports. National Guardsmen have no civilian law enforcement function.

Why do Americans accept the encroachment of Department of Defense functions into our domestic life? Are we so cowed that we welcome this Constitutional abrogation and insidious militarization of our government? I suppose having the camo and boots on display makes us feel somehow protected.

Further, this policing seems like a grand waste of time and resources, as the Guardsmen are not effectively reducing any terrorist threat. Policing the airports like this is the proverbial shutting of the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Are there any intelligence indicators that U.S. airports are currently being targeted by terrorists? If so, why not alert the citizenry to this fact?

Instead, the next significant terrorist scenario will avoid U.S. airports. Terrorists are dynamic, and will creatively operate to minimize U.S. security measures. And a lone National Guardsman will not deter a determined adversary.