RANGER AGAINST WAR: November 2006 <

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad Eyes, Good Shooting

I recently received an AP article via snail mail from an old Army associate re. the most recent inquiry into Pat Tillman's death. My friend was on the receiving end of friendly fire in the RVN, and was seriously wounded as a result, suffering to this day from the numerous gunshot wounds he received. Though the article came out earlier this month, since he's concerned I imagine it's best I go into it, trying to look behind the words in the article.

My overall impression of the Ranger operations with Tillman's unit in Afghanistan is that it was a Cowboys and Indians type of situation. Command and control was loose and personnel were everywhere, and it seems, without proper support and coordination.

Using Rangers willy-nilly, having them running up and down roads looking for people to kill, is not the hallmark of combat effectiveness. Ranger Infantry is perfect for fighting units like the Taliban, as both are light infantry. But usually, military missions are defined by clear intelligence of the enemy situation. This information was sorely lacking in theis scenario.

In the Tillman situation, clearly defined mission or objective orders were absent--it was the old "seek and destroy" concept resurrected from the Vietnam War. All the time B52's and B1's are flying patterns, just drooling to drop bombs on the dastardly Taliban. But first the Rangers must find them and fix them. Unfortunately for us, the Taliban has been playing this game longer than any of the Rangers have been alive.

High technology war is great, but it's kind of useless without proper intelligence upon which these assets may be employed. This weakness is exemplified by a low-tech Vespa motorbike escape early on from U.S. forces. The finest Ranger infantry in the world is ineffective without specific targeting data. Like B1 bombers, they're useless without this enemy information.

Back to Tillman. We'll never know what happened on the ground because the Army has zippered the case. I've read that some witnesses have left the Army and are no longer available for questioning by agents. The Chronicle article says investigators are "hindered by a failure to locate key witnesses, even some who are still in the active military." If we can't find former U.S. Army Rangers--some in our own military--how do we ever expect to find Osama bin Laden?

This is garbage. All the enlisted men released from active duty in this incident are within the legal reach of vthe Army. All discharged personnel are in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and could be ordered back to active duty (if the Army wanted them back.) Hell, we could even Padilla them, if we desired. After all, the rules have changed.

What we do know is the same old story. Three officers were involved at unit level, and so far, two of the three have been promoted. The third was expelled from the Rangers, but even money says he'll be promoted, too. Contrast this with the discipline received by the involved enlisted men.

As always, the enlisted men take the fall. I wonder if the officers were West Point Grads. If so, the situation becomes clearer. As a historical example of what I mean, Lieutenant Colonel Schwartzkopf was investigated and exonerated for a friendly fire death incident in which he was involved in Vietnam. The WPPA (West Point Protective Association) rules prevailed, and Schwartzkopf was promoted.

The questions which are pertinent and should be asked in this incident are:

(1) What and where was the indirect fire support for the engaged units? Where were the forward observers? If there was no communication, then there was no fire support. Why?

If air assets were overhead, they could have been used as radio relay assets. Why wasn't each platoon given direct support mortar fire? This fire was essential, and appeared to be AWOL in the operations in question. This is a company/battalion commander function.

(2) The revelations about the eyes of the personnel involved are revealing. There are several visual problems reported.

According to the AP report, "One of the four shooters, Staff Sgt. Trevor Alders, had recently had PRK laser eye surgery. He claimed his vision was "hazy," and he couldn't make out "friendly identifying signals," despite recognizing two sets of hands "straight up." Another, Spc. Steve Eliot, was "excited" by "shapes." Squad leader Sgt. Greg Baker, though blessed with 20/20 vision, said he had "tunnel vision," apparently of a unique type which makes some of your fellow squad team members look like the enemy. The fact that the S1 and medical personnel cleared these soldiers for deployment is questionable.

The battalion and regimental commanders are responsible for this certification, and should be questioned on the veracity of their readiness reports.

(3) All reports indicate the platoon had operational shortages of food and water. Why?

In addition, the vehicle beakdown ultimately led to the split-up of the unit. Where/why/how was there no maintenance support available? Where was the normal combat resupply for essential combat mission-related items?

(4) Where were the reserve forces or reaction forces to extricate units in extreme situations? How were they contacted by the requesting units? Didn't/haven't the Rangers absorbed the lessons of Mogadishu, Somalia?

(5) Where/when/how did Tillman's personal diaries disappear? What about his reported desire to see Noam Chomsky after Tillman returned stateside? As the SF Chronicle and others have reported, Tillman supposedly said, after being stationed in Iraq, "You know, this war is so f---ing illegal." This is a damning statement from a patriotic and well-read individual in the midst of things. A person of Tillman's celebrity would be heard. It is a provocative thought that in order for the conservative darlings to claim him, he would have to go down in a blaze of glory. And of course, the timing (one week before Abu Ghraib broke) killed two birds with one stone, or three bullets, as the case may be.)

(6) Three shots to the forehead?! This is not bad luck--this is the result of excellent shooting. Three in the head is not the result of "spray and pray" shooting. One round in the head is bad luck; three is murder. Did the rounds come from the same weapon? That's right, all the evidence was destroyed.

I know the M4 and current issue black rifle has a three shot Atcheson burst regulator. It fires only 3rd auto bursts. This head shot is not the result of a burst regulator, which is incapable of firing such a tight shot group.

(7) Why was Tillman forward of his fellow Rangers? Spec 4's do not move without permission or the direction of their fire team, or squad leaders in combat. Soldiers and Rangers in combat should maintain visual contact even when fulfilling bodily functions. So why was Tillman in the End Zone when everyone else was on the 50 yard line? Why were no other Rangers forward with Tillman, as Rangers usually operate in buddy teams, esp. in combat?

Why was Tillman awarded a Silver Star? The Army regulations require close combat with an enemy force for the award of this medal. There were no enemy engaged at the time of Tillman's death. Hush money?

If Tillman wasn't who he was, and his parents were less dedicated, this would never have come to public scrutiny. Here was an obviously fine American. The finest, really, in that he served, and he spoke his conscience. The loss of Tillman is a heartbreaking story.

To borrow from Joseph Heller, this is not a feather in the Ranger's cap; it is a black eye.

Mission Impossible

"There is one thing I'm not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," reports Reuters 11/28/06.

I'm more confused than usual. Weren't the recent elections a clear mandate from the American taxpayers that Iraqi policy must change? Contrary to his post-election conciliatory rhetoric, GWB seems to have adopted "stay the course" as the new "stay the course."

"(N)ot...before the mission is complete..." I thought we'd already been there and done that.

Millstone Milestone

We have passed a milestone says AP reporter Tom Raum: we have now been in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we were in WWII.

WWII was fought against nation states, and as such, really was a
war. And it was not elective.

Further, the assigned mission never changed from December 8, 1941 onward. Clearly stated, it was to defeat and destroy the military forces of the Axis powers. As clearly as it was stated, so it was executed.

Contrast this with Iraq. The military cannot be faulted that it has been assigned missions which are not attainable, and which change from day to day.

Possibly, the U.S. could change tack again and consider carpet bombing, fire-storm bombing and selecting two cities for atomic destruction in Iraq. That would serve Iraq right for so cleverly duping us into this mission.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Civil War, Redux

What a misnomer, for no type of war could be less so.

The U.S. is definitely fighting in a civil war in 2006 Iraq, but the problem is that they are employing some of the mindset and tactics from their own Civil War, and worse, they've adopted those of the losing side.

General Robert E. Lee--like the U.S. Army in Iraq--was trying to maintain his humanity in an environmental paradigm which had shifted after the entrance of U.S. Grant and his Generals, Sherman and Sheridan.
When Lee famously said, "It is well that war is so terrible--lest we should grow too fond of it," he was expressing the chivalric view of warfare. It followed rules; you allowed the enemy to regroup for the next engagement. After every defeat, the U.S. Army was permitted to slink off and reconsolidate. Lee was becoming a dinosaur.

Total War, as practiced by Gen. Grant and company, was the new approach, defined by absolute destruction of all enemy infrastructure and support pipelines in order to crush his will and ability to fight.

Military and political wars can only be won if the enemy's will to fight is destroyed. This implies death and destruction of a magnitude that is incompatible with purple thumbs. U.S. forces are in Iraq either to destroy or to help. Both are not achievable concommitantly. You can't destroy cities while claiming to be nation-builders.

Robert E. Lee's tactical battles were masterpieces (Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, etc.), but he never exploited his successes. Because of this, they were meaningless. Winning battles doesn't equate to winning wars.

In addition, Lee was up against a U.S. military that was willing to absorb tremendous losses. The U.S. military spokesmen today love to say, "we've won every battle in Iraq." Perhaps, but we should be mindful of Lee.

Lee also became fixated on the defense of Richmond (as we are on Fallujah and Baghdad).
After Lee's Gettysburg venture, The Army of Northern Virginia reverted immediately to the physical protection of Richmond. The strategic objective of the Southern command was the protection of Richmond, and all the battles after Gettysburg were simply jockeying to protect or capture the enemy's capital. The strategic thinking was that the capture and defense of Richmond would somehow win the war.

Lee's General's were brilliant, as well, but they were hamstrung by their ruinous singlemindedness of objective. They were, in effect, turned from brilliant manuever tacticians into a stationary force.

The protection of Baghdad will not ensure "mission accomplished." Not losing skirmishes and battles is meaningless. We can't win in Iraq unless we decimate them to a man, and we're unwilling and unable to do that. Unlike Grant, we can't destroy their society, their infrastructure, or their fighters. So what can we achieve? We are instead the Robert E. Lee's of this war.

The key foreign policy objective of the Lincoln administration was to keep foreign powers from intervening in the U.S. Civil War. The U.S. should afford the same courtesy to Iraq and Afganistan.

Jim and Lisa

Thanks, Lowell

I've recently been in communication with my former First Sergeant, Lowell Jergens (CSM, US Army, retired). The following is a letter I was going to send, but I've decided to say it here, because really, it's a universal letter to all of the Lowells out there. The Army and the world would be a better place if more people took Sergeant Major Jergen's approach.

What happens on the personal level affects the institution. Thousands of Airborne soldiers were given our philosophy, which was unique to our company. We treated them with dignity and respect, and I hope they took that with them. That's the best that an officer can hope for.


I want to tell you how much I appreciate the help and guidance you provided when I was a young company commander. These things often go unsaid in hard-guy circles. Too many of our friends and associates are beyond these words, so they should be said now.

LTC Anderson, Battalion Commander, used to say there are two types of officers--those that do, and those that tell you why you can't. I'll extend that and say there are two types of NCO's: those that will help a young officer, and those that will screw him every chance that arises. You were a solid helper.

ROTC did not teach this, and I learned it the hard way. Survival depended on being able to differentiate. The other professional NCO's in the company did their jobs and maintained their distance, but they never stepped over the line into the helper mode. Fortunately, they were professional enough not to torpedo the program. I realize this was due to your influence.

Thank you is the least, and most, I can say.


Something to Mull Over, or, How I Learned to Love Dried Peas

The AP reported yesterday that a government report has renamed the phenomenon of hunger; it is now to be known as "food insecurity." I had to address this latest installment in the backwaters (Blackwaters?) of governmentese, as I'd addressed the issue of hunger in America in a previous post (Let Them Eat Cake).

I can understand the impulse to replace such a nasty word with a cleaner sounding, commodities-type term. It is now like a "debt insecurity"--you might sell short today, but you're back in the game tomorrow, when you can buy more securities. Feeling this insecurity, the report says, may result in "discomfort," but it is is only the discomfort of the insecure. Buck up.

The Agriculture Department has now deemed that hunger is "an individual-level physiological condition that
may result from food insecurity." I presume that the urge to get up and tap dance might be another physiological state that would equally arise from "food insecurity".

Further, the word hunger "should refer to a
potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation." The usual uneasy situation of what? Living in these United States? Perhaps, they mean like what you feel after reading a government report.

What in the heck are they talking about? Don't the consequences of food insecurity sound a lot like the administration's convoluted definition of torture
? Under the new Military Commissions Act, I thought that kind of stuff was the new normal.

Jim and Lisa

Monday, November 27, 2006

Alchemical George

A recent USA Today article quotes U.S. military sources as stating the military has destroyed 41% of its 31,500 ton chemical arsenal. My calculations suggest 18,900 tons remain onhand. I certainly hope Canada or Mexico won't strike preemptively before the year 2023, when the DoD projects it will have eliminated these stockpiles.

Why are we dabbling in chemicals at all? The U.S. invaded Iraq because Saddam alledgedly had WMD, to include chemical weapons. President Bush was able to mold the alleged possessors of chemical weapons into imminent threats (remember Chemical Ali and the mobile Dr. Caligari's Cabinets?) But if an enemy uses their chemicals first, so what? Then we light them up with nukes. Four aces beat two pairs any day.

The article does not address biological agents in the U.S. inventory. Officially, the government denies involvement in this arena, but where did the anthrax originate which caused deaths in and added to the terror quotient of 2001? I doubt that it was cooked up in a bathtub like so much bootleg gin.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another Fine Mess

The report on terrorist financing obtained by the New York Times gets some details which the press has widely overlooked right. The report states, "Sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq--independent of foreign sources--are currently sufficient to sustain the groups' existence and operations." Correct--terrorists and insurgents are not necessarily the same animal.

The report continues, the groups within Iraq may be so flush they "have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist groups outside of Iraq." It is estimated that the Iraqis can fund a year of reistance at just over $200 million, less than what it costs the Pentagon (i.e., the U.S. taxpayer) to cover a day of combat operations in Iraq. Terrorism is cost-effective.

The Times article implies a wide base of support for the terrorist and insurgent groups, as the reported level of funding would not be so high if they lacked this. This fact does not leave one feeling warm and fuzzy.

These groups will have three aims:

  1. Strategic and tactical objectives
  2. Recruitment
  3. Finance
Everything that the groups do will facilitate these three objectives. All three activities are police issues; the first could possibly be countered via military action, but not in the way the U.S. military has gone about it.

Terrorist and insurgent groups are clearly criminal enterprises that can most effectively be countered through thorough intelligence and police functions. Addressing terrorist groups with military power is like killing a fly with a baseball bat, and our military campaign in Iraq is like squashing a ball of mercury--you break it up, but now you've got 10 balls of mercury. After reading this article it is clear that the problems facing the U.S. in Iraq are much more extensive than officially recognized or conveyed to the taxpayers.

The administration consistently claims that 10,000 insurgents are fueling the violence in Iraq. The same obfuscation is put forth to explain ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

Let's deconstruct that 10,000 figure. For argument's sake only, I'll accept this estimate. This means 10,000 military-aged, trained and hardened fighters form the core of the resistance in Iraq. Forget the terms terrorist or insurrectionist--let's just call them
active shooters. These personnel will fight and die for the organization. They are the cutting edge of the blade.

To support the shooters will be a ratio of at least 10:1 to 100:1 passive supporters. These members provide cover, safe haven, reconnaissance, transport, food and money, if necessary. The ratio in the U.S. Army can be 15:1 support-to-shooter ratio. I'm comfortable applying that ratio to the Iraq and Afghanistan resistance movements.

Therefore, 150,000 people provide passive support. Now we're up to 160,000 resistance personnel. This is no longer a trivial number. Every time the U.S. military conducts operations that kill, injure or insult indigenous personnel, this number will grow. I am using minimum figures to illustrate this concept.

Passive support for the resistance could be something as simple as looking the other way. There are myriad ways to support the movement without actually getting criminally involved. Once a person commits a criminal act for the group, however, the crossover from passive to active support occurs.
The willingness to commit violence completes the transition to active shooter.

Thus it is that the groups thrive, prosper and grow. All this is accomplished without yellow magnetic car stickers or flag lapel pins. (As an aside, I am impressed by the pragmatism of the magnetic yellow ribbons; living in a college town, I also witness the football team's magnetic stickers which go on the fancy SUV's for the weekend, but can be so easily removed after game day. They come off more quickly after a losing weekend; even team loyalty has its limits.)

Now for the rest of the Iraqi population. Since over 60% of all Iraqis polled believed it's o.k. to kill Americans, we can see where their support will fall. In all, it's pretty dismal if one is willing to truthfully assess the scenario.

For whatever reason, the U.S. consistently tried to portray a low level one terrorist threat as a full-blown military threat to America. It just wasn't so. Now, the administration--or more precisely, its military personnel--sits in a hornet's nest of its own unleashing. I have the unfortunate image of a Laurel and Hardy skit: and here's another fine mess they've gotten us into. Unfortunate because the results of this scenario are as predictable, yet far from comic.

The intial violence--Al Quaida's attack on 9-11--was a terrorist undertaking. Al Quaida was a level one terrorist threat. According to Maoist theory, terrorist/insurrectionist groups may grow and progress into level two threats and beyond, theoretically evolving into an end stage of full-blown, military-type operations. At this point, a transformation will have occurred, and
at this time a military response finally becomes appropriate.

But to date, I cannot recall any terrorist organization that has made this complete transition; therefore, my position remains that the U.S. reaction is disproportionate and wildly overblown.

The French defeated the Algerian seperatists, but they lost the war. The U.S. defeated the VietCong, but lost the war. The separatist movements coordinate activities and gain a preponderance of support from the population; this is also happening in Iraq, forcing U.S. forces to ratchet up the violence to suppress the increased resistance operations. This in turn will win more supporters for the resistance, and eventually, the U.S. will be forced to withdraw. I call this the dance of death.

Why are U.S. military personnel being killed and maimed when the suffering will not change the inevitable, inexorable outcome?

Forgetting the Rules

It is possible to fail in many ways...while to succeed is possible only in one way

So, we're trying out all the different ways in Iraq. However, during my time in the Army, in all of my officer development courses, a few rules to stave off failure were deemed iron-clad; we are ignoring them at our peril.

The first is, never reinforce failure. That means not feeding troops into a failed endeavor. It's a waste of assets. It's best at that point to fall back, reorganize and make a new effort. The obverse is, only success is rewarded.

Second, armor (tanks) should never, or rarely, be used in built-up areas, like cities. Armor has no shock effect, and its firepower is reduced in such environments. An entrenched enemy has an enhanced chance in such situations to destroy a very expensive fighting vehicle with a very inexpensive RPG.

An infantryman in an APC (Armored Pesonnel Carrier) or Bradley can be just as effective as armor in developed areas. Armor should haul ass and bypass; infantry should dig 'em out and kill them.

Those were the rules, and they are totally ignored in Iraq and Afghanistan. Doesn't the Army believe its own doctrine anymore?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Kit-Kat Club

Further musings on the New Direction in Iraq--embedding U.S. advisors for the "make benefit" (if I may borrow from Borat, as our policy seems just as absurd) of Iraqi forces.

It should be noted that a large portion of the U.S. military machine has been embedded in Iraq for 3 1/2 years. Apparently, to no effect other than the 2,800 U.S. servicemen killed and over 21,000 wounded. Embedded or not
, more U.S. advisers will not set a hopelessly precarious house of cards aright. Buzzwords and jargon will not change the reality on the ground.

New York Times ran an article today on the expanded Army training for advisors to the Iraqi security forces. "The Army has handed the mission to Major General Carter F. Ham, who has a previous stint as a commander in Iraq." And what did he command? Of course, a U.S. combat unit.

So what exactly qualifies Ham to run the advisory program? Wouldn't it make more sense to appoint an overseer having actual advisory experience in Iraq?

Well, it would...if any of them were ever promoted to the rank Major General.
The Army rewards the career track devotees and not the side-lined reservists and advisers of the early Iraq adventure. I'm not denigrating or attacking early advisers, just pointing out that no top grads from West Point ever fill these positions.

Looking at the Army institutionally, how many Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients in RVN were advisers? The rewards are few and the hazards great. Advisers don't win the MOH; they get Bronze Stars for service or achievement. Line infantry members do. The recognition and money is in killing.

The article is standard pap, save for one telling comment from Maj. Gen. Ham.
"As a matter of Army policy, staffing the (advisory) teams is now a higher priority for Army personnel officers than filling the empty slots in units on alert to deploy in Iraq and Afghanistan." Clearly, the Army is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

If the Army can't properly perform both missions, that suggests U.S. options are severely limited. This is not a formula for success. The program may get MG Ham promoted, but it's not going to unwind the cat's cradle called Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'll bring a 100+-year-old formula to bear upon the advisory question, one used by the U.S. military in previous conflicts. In the Indian Wars, indigenous warriors were placed in U.S. Army units as scouts (the Kit Carson Scouts); same-same, Filipino scouts until 1946. In 1950, the Army embedded Koreans into U.S. Army units. Same in RVN with former NVA soldiers.

In Korea, they were called KATUSA's (
Korean Attached To U.S. Army), and in RVN, they were called Kit Carson Scouts. All these programs were great successes. Former Filipino scouts and Korean Katusa's became prominent in their respective armies after the U.S. stepped down.

Why doesn't the U.S. Army incorporate Iraqis and Afghanis into our units? Two per rifle squad has proven a successful mix. That is one indigenous per fire team.
This is the only correct way to embed for advisory purposes.

It's Greek to Him

I was scanning some back editions of the New York Times today, and a photo that led the 11/12/06 edition caught my eye. It features American soldiers in full battle gear checking the i.d. cards of Iraqi indigenous personnel. The caption reads, "An American soldier checks the i.d. cards of Iraqis during a security operation in Diyala Province."

This sparked two thoughts:

(1) Why is this population and resources control function not being performed by Iraqi units, as this should be a host nation police function?

(2) Can this U.S. soldier read what's on the i.d. card?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey Day

(1) The story, and the titular reference, is Cheney dines with troops in Iraq.

(2)The hardcore tacticians may want to sit this one out. A couple of poems came to my mind, and I saw them in the context of the Iraq War. The poems are short; my thoughts follow.

"An Irish Airman Foresees his Death" (Yeats, 1919)

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before...

* * *

"When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer" (Walt Whitman, 1900)

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Despite all their fancy reckonings, the astronomers are describing the stars, and to look at them is to apprehend them perhaps even more essentially than would knowing their azimuth, etc. Though I am no tactician, The Learn'd Astronomer brings to mind the learned men in the War Room, who need only step out to see that the situation on the ground in Iraq, by any account, is not bearing the fruit they would hope for.

The Irish Airman is every troop for whom his experience in this theatre will neither improve nor diminish his life, nor the lives of his loved ones.
Wilfred Owen wrote in 1918, before dying on the front line,
that his subject was only one--
the pity of war, and further,
"All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poets
must be truthful." (Whitman had served as a nurse in the
Civil War, and was deeply affected by the horror he'd
witnessed. Yeats wrote this poem after a friend's son
had been killed in WWI.)

Truth can be found most anywhere--save at a certain
Thanksgiving dinner table in Iraq.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hedge Hogs

Today's Wall Street Journal advises the embedding of platoons into into 140 Iraqi army battalions and critical police stations as a way to "jump start the Iraqi military." Numerous faulty assumptions erode the credibility of the proposal that the platoons so embedded would serve as force multipliers.

The term "force multiplier" is a misnomer if we're talking about the combined arms team as envisioned in the Army's air-land-battle concept of the 1970's and 80's. With integrated fire support, the concept of force multiplier doesn't really apply. How can you amplify beyond the already integrated fire support, to include artillery and air support? If you want to use U.S. advisers as force multipliers, simply use forward observers and air liason officers to orchestrate fires.

The scenario put forth by the Journal envisions these multipliers as providing "moral reassurance"--something akin to cheerleaders who rouse spirit among the believers to go and fight the good fight. But this is to ignore the realities of the combat environment, wherein the only thing that matters is firepower brought at the crisis moment and unit cohesion. The term force multiplier implies that violence is being implemented and leveraged against an enemy, and combat power is brought to bear to destroy or capture this enemy. The force multiplier refers to the symphony of resources enlisted to bring a preponderance of assets to to bear to subdue the enemy attack.

However, before this can even be accomplished, the enemy must first be identified and fixed. Therefore, find, fix and destroy is the rule. If you can't fix 'em, then all the firepower in the world is useless. Herein lies the problem in Iraq and Afghanistan--the guerilla will evaporate before you can fix and destroy them; that is the nature of unconventional warfare. No guerilla or unconditional warfare force will allow itself to be fixed unless they choose to give battle, and then a wise commander would be well-advised to carefully assess the situation.

The article uses the Marine Corps Combined Action Platoon (CAP) program in Vietnam as an example of the effective embedding of combat advisers, which might cut "the overall U.S. troop requirement...nearly in half during the coming year." The CAPs were civic action platoons which lived with the people, who were accepting of their presence. Their primary mission was not combat; they were out to win hearts and minds. There's no doubt the CAP program was effective in VN, but only because the Marines had organic artillery and airpower to support units under attack. What firepower can the advisers bring down if the troops are not there to back them? Pon pons won't do much good.

In Iraq, will the envsioned adviser cadre retreat to a safety zone at night? if so, they aren't advisers in that sense.

The history of the Vietnam War is replete with times and places that VC/NVA forces saw fit to fight toe-to-toe with U.S. and RVN forces. Those are the fights most veterans choose to forget because the enemy prepared the battlefield before U.S. forces entered the fight. A fine present-day example is the Hezbollah bunker and tunnel systems in Lebanon. They were interconnected to provided escape routes and protection from blasts.

I was an adviser to the Vietnamese Special Forces in 1970. The earliest American approach to the Vietnam War was the Military Advisory Corps (MACV) concept of advisers. The concept of being embedded was not in vogue at that time. Usually, shrapnel was the thing that became embedded. Certainly not the media, and not advisers, either.

My counterpart, a Captain, had 13 1/2 years in the VN army. The VN Camp Commander and Major had each fought in the French Indochina War, each with 25 years military service. The Commander fought for the French, and the Major fought for the Vietnamese communists, before changing sides. At that time, I had been in the U.S. Army 21 months. All three of the VN soldiers in question--a Lieutenant Colonel, Major and Captain--called me, a lowly 1st Lieutenant, "sir". It was a joke that I would be advising such men.

An adviser does not have command authority; an adviser advises. While this does not seem like a news flash, the WSJ article implies that the advised are enjoined to abide by suggestions given. This is not so; the Iraqi commanders on the ground are not compelled to follow orders from an adviser.

In the Vietnam War, most advisers viewed themselves as conductors, vis-a-vis the engineer who was driving the train. Iraq will be no different. Likewise, Iraqi soldiers rightfully can ignore adviser guidance.

So where is the forward movement in implementing a plan to shift assets to embedded advisory positions? This shifting of assets is simply a dog and pony show that signifies nothing. I question why the Iraqi's (those U.S. sycophants) even need advisers when those who are attacking U.S. soldiers seem to be doing a heck of a job without any advisory support. Really, they're bringing it on, truth be known.

Why does the U.S. always seem to support the side that needs advisers to prop them up? Maybe sometime we'd be well-advised to back the fighters. In RVN, the Vietnamese flag was red with yellow stripes. The common quip was, if they're not Red, then they're yellow. The North Vietnamese army did a swell job without recourse to our eminent advisers.

It has long been my contention that the Iraqi situation will never be resolved via combat power, force multiplied or no. Everybody seems to acknowledge this fact, but U.S. policy still favors recourse to arcane juggling and permutations of the military option. Using insane tactics in an insane situation does not imply a healthy scenario, nor one that we're commanding. It just means that we are joining the fray on their terms. After 3 1/2 years, it is sadly evident that destroying cities in the name of democratization is insanity.

In a mind blowing statement, The Journal asserts, "The Iraqi Army has to take on the militias and the police units who side with them." I am left wondering: If the Iraqi army attacks the Iraqi police, which adviser will get priority for fire support? The police should not be fighting their population; they are a law and order function. The army should be for external threats, not civilian oppression. If this happens, we've merely replaced one oppressive army with another.

But what a great win-win scenario for the U.S.: since we arm, finance and train both the army and the police, whoever wins is our boy. I believe in economic parlance, that is called hedging your bets.

Monday, November 20, 2006


One of the stops in President Bush's whirlwind Southeast Asian tour was Singapore, where he said, on free-trade agreements in a speech at the National University, "We hear voices calling for us to retreat from the world and close our doors to these opportunities...(T)hese are the old temptations of isolationism and protectionism, and America must reject them."

At first I was worried the rumors might be true about the Chief hitting the bottle, or perhaps he was back to receiving messages from the #1 Father. But the message itself leaves me a little confused: how does the above sentiment--rejecting isolationism--square with his intent to build the new 700-mile fence to wall off Mexico, our southern neighbor?

The AP article indicated that Bush was "directly challeng(ing) newly empowered Democrats in the U.S. who are demanding a fresh course in Iraq...." But to refrain from sticking your nose and guns into another country's politics is another thing entirely from engagement in the economic arena.

It was also reported that Bush banged a gong three times to signal the opening of the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange in Vietnam Monday. Money's money, after all.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

GWB is in Indonesia, and he's successfully "shrugged off protests that greeted him in the world's most populous Muslim nation, calling it a sign of a healthy democracy," so reports the Associated Press.

Now that's really a strange thing to say, when here in the
homeland we must restrict protests to zones far from his physical presense at an event. It is also strange since GWB has frequently equated protest at home as comforting the enemy and unpatriotic, yet in Indonesia, he sees it as healthy.

The president further states that these protests "happen(s) when you make hard choices." Wrong, Mr. President. These protests erupt over your making illegal decisions affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. News flash: we expect our leaders to make the hard decisions; it's just nice if these are connected to reality.

The president stopped in Indonesia for only 6 hours and will not spend the night, "the result of safety jitters in a place where anti-Bush emotions run hot."

This too is extraordinary, since the 3rd U.S. Infantry is being returned for its third year-long stay to an environment that is extremely anti-Bush. Unfortunately, they don't have an easy escape route like GWB does. They must stay the course.

The President won't spend the night in a threat environment, yet he commands the troops to years of daily and nightly terror in just such settings.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're Still Winning

This morning I was searching newspaper archives for early Iraq War data, and turned up a wonderful tidbit from 3 1/2 years ago in the Wall Street Journal (7/28/03). Since retro's all the rage, I thought I'd share it.

Under the banner, "We've Already Won--and We're Still Winning," writer James Taranto tut-tuts, "We've heard a lot of jibber-jabber during the past two years over such abstract matters as
international law, pre-emptive wars, American imperialism, unilateralism, and on and on. Just lately opponents of the Bush administration have been trying to gin up controversy by falsely claiming that the president claimed that Iraq was an 'imminent' threat." Yes, why would people dither over such inconsequential nonsense?

All those terms
are abstract, but then again, so is the bible and the Constitution. We only concretize them through universal implementation and subsequent agreement upon their meanings. How many people have now died because U.S. citizens allowed their government to wage offensive war without a proper legal basis?

At the time of this piece, Taranto says 49 soldiers had been killed in the "guerilla war" since May 2003. He did at least get the type of war correct, but as of 11/19/06, the final score has still not been posted. I wonder if the author has since reconsidered his position?

The thing I am most in awe of is that the American people allow their government to perform illegal activities in the name of goodness, with authors like this one acting as their cheerleaders. My training in sniper school and Special Forces taught us to shoot the cheerleaders first when and if they incited crowd violence. It is an instinct which might not square well with the First Amendment, but I do wonder how much such blather and neglect influences the madding crowd.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fun and Games

In my travels through the bookstore today I saw the following title: Warriors--The Greatest Photographs of Football's Toughest Players. Living in a football town as I do, as I was brought to mind of the ubiquitousness of the misused metaphor. Our local paper, The Tallahassee Democrat, recently entitled their coverage of one of the bigger football rivalries, "WAR!" with that headline leading the front page in font as large as "Dewey Defeats Truman".

In the reverse, I've heard both U.S. military and civilian leaders discuss the present war in sports metaphors. But the two just don't equate. I resent this trivialization of a solemn endeavor. Football is nothing like war, and vice versa.

If you don't believe me, ask Pat Tillman.

Shoo Fly

Shoo fly, don't bother me,
For I belong to somebody!
--Traditional American Song

Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
--"An Irish Airman Forsees his Death," WB Yeats

While thumbing through a book today about the close quarter fighting in Saigon following Tet, House to House: Playing the Enemy's Game in Saigon, May 1968 , I was struck by one long-shot photo.

In it, a soldier fans flies away from the face of a captured Viet Cong who is wounded, lying on a stretcher after B/2-47th (M) Infantry secured the enemy-held street on May 11, 1968. This random picture summarizes the U.S. approach to VC prisoners during the Vietnam War. Note that the VC did not wear uniforms, nor did they represent a country; however, they were still treated as human beings.

Contrast this with the treatment of say, that received by American Taliban member John Walker Lindh after his being wounded on the battlefield. Call him what you will; he had a bullet wound that went untreated for several days, coincident with his status as prisoner. I am not Lindh's apologist. But it is easy to imagine that the blase and callous treatment which Lindh received at the hands of the U.S. military might not be an isolated case.

Soldiers fight, but when they come off the field of battle, they are wounded men. Hatred has no role to play. I realize I am writing this as an idealist. But since the vendetta attitude was the genesis of the Iraq War, every move which issues from that wrongheaded motivation is a mis-step.

Nepotists and Contractors

Bankers, nepotists, contractors and talkies:
on four fingers one may count the leeches which have sucked a young and vigorous industry into paresis

--Dalton Trumbo

Trumbo was referring to corruption in Hollywood, but his statement holds just as well for our current administration. I am concerned that contracting for military support impedes our military operations by reducing the efficiency of the command structure.

The combat division is a self-contained organization for sustained ground combat. All divisions are considered to be manuever elements that possess what is commonly called the division slice of support. This slice is the combat service and combat-service support. These are the Jessica Lynches of the Army, if you will.

They drive trucks, repair vehicles, provide petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL), wash and repair clothes, run water and shower points, collect and dispose of dead bodies, retrieve discarded items from the battlefield, maintain weapons, and run mess facilities. They are generally not discussed, since they were traditionally at the unit level and organic to the units.

This is just a gross overview of combat support and combat service-support functions. The division, corps and theatre Armies have similar support to fulfill increased mission requirements of corps, and echelons above corps.

The trend of recent administrations has been to replace those division, corps and theatre support assets with contractors. I believe this is a politicial decision so that administrations can mislead the taxpayers as to the actual number of U.S. soldiers involved in an operation. The actual number of participants in an engagement is much larger that actual troop numbers, if you would include the contractors who are providing services that used to be provided by Army personnel.

I find it doubtful that contractors can provide the support network more efficiently or cheaper through contract bidding. Further, by contracting these services out, they are no longer subject to the tactical will of the commander.

In addition, contractors sometimes employ more indigenous personnel around U.S. forces. This does not facilitate operational security and, as such, should be discouraged.

While we did hire indigenous in Vietnam, those were not fast-moving tactical situations. Those were garrison situations, which facilitated the use of the indigenous population. In such circumstances, these personnel can be properly vetted. Without such oversight, indigenous employees are privy to troop movement, as their work schedule reflects our tactical schedules. The indigenous people in your mess hall may be loyal people, but they can be surveilled and compromised in many different ways.

It is a political lie that there are 150,000 soldiers in Iraq. There are untold numbers of military contractors that should be added to that figure, if the public were being told the rest of the story. (Where is Paul Harvey when we need him?)

Could you imagine military contractors at Bataan, Corregidor, D-Day, or the Battle of the Bulge? It just wouldn't work. Military contractors can never work in a traditional ground war because they're not responsive to the needs of the commander. And commanders should not be distracted by dealing with contractors, separately from their regular Army personnel.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

Well, I dunno about you, but I for one am ready for some Good News, and USA Today was kind enough to provide it.

They tell me the number of folks struggling with hunger fell in the Homeland in 2005, the first decline in six years. Coincidentally, those six years correspond to the six years of GWB's presidency, a period during which billions of tax dollars that might otherwise have been spent on needful domestic programs have been thrown into the gaping maw of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what can account for this precipitious fall in the ranks of the hungry--from 38 million in 2004 to 35 million in 2005? Perhaps it has something to do with their getting on the new wave of the longevity theory bandwagon, i.e., restricting food in the hope of extending their hungry lives.

What great progress! I'll bet these 35 million are planning a party to celebrate this impressive drop in hunger stats. Perhaps Mr. Bush will even let them eat cake.

35 million people have hunger issues in America. Does this bother anyone else as much as it does me? This seems like another 35 million reasons to end the Iraqi expedition, now.

By my homely reckoning, if we've just passed our 300 millionth resident, this statistic means that over one out of ten people in America struggles to put enough food on the table, if they have a table. To quote Mr. Bush, we need to make the pie higher. We can't do that by sending all of the apples over to Iraq.

Jim and Lisa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yer Feet's Too Big

Who's that walkin' round here,
Sounds like baby patter, baby elephant patter
that's what I calls it...
There were four of us, me, your big feet and you...
There's just too much feet. Yes, your feets too big
--Fats Waller version, Your Feet's Too Big

A place for everything, and everything in its place. What follows are some simple thoughts on running a democracy well.

Get the profiteers out of the field of operations, and get the statesmen into the deliberation room. We do not need men in boots stomping about Town Hall a la Paul Bremer, neither theirs nor ours. Sending U.S. military officers to Iraqi civilian town hall meetings does not further the agenda of civilian control. This leads the indigenous population to believe that the military should be in control. Yet the U.S. official policy is that there is an official Iraqi civilian government.

We should bring back the concept of civil military operations. The State Department has historically been the lead agency in this venue; bring them back.

The State Department should identify the threats of state- and non-state sponsored terrorism, issue appropriate warnings, and deal with the U.N. to address these threats. If the U.N. fails to act, then U.S. policy should address the issue. Terrorism is not a military issue. (If anybody still believes that it is, then he hasn't been awake this century.)

The CIA needs to regain its rightful place in foreign intelligence--that of assessing threats against American interests. The CIA should be distinct and separate from Department of Defense policy. The CIA must counterbalance military intelligence, with a possible dissenting opinion. All intelligence is not military.

A dedicated counter-intelligence career field should also be developed within the FBI . Had this function not been trivialized prior to 9-11, that attack certainly could have been avoided. All of the intelligence indicators were there to indicate an impending attack. Don't go stomping around with big feet; lead with big, as in expansive, thoughts.


Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue.
--Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Bush's trip to Vietnam will be the second by a U.S. President since the end of that war. Interesting that both of those presidents had a clear personal exit strategy from Vietnam when they were young men.

Bush should now appy his war-avoidance policy acquired during the Vietnam era to finish the war in Iraq. His dedication to peace as a 60-yr-old should be even stronger now, especially after he's sent 2,800 U.S. soldiers to their deaths in a questionable, elective and unnecessary war.

The trip includes a visit to the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, where U.S. efforts include accounting for the 1,800 U.S. service members still missing from the Vietnam War.

There is a smidgen of hypocrisy in all of this. We in the U.S. agonize over finding and accounting for our lost military men, and rightfully so. Yet during Vietnam we bulldozed NVA Army and VC dead into mass graves without making any attempt to identify and record the enemy dead. This effort at identification was bypassed even though most VN corpses had identifying papers on the body.

Similarly in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no evidence that our military records the combat deaths of our adversaries. The humane and legal route is at least to attempt body identification through document searches.

So, in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars, the bodies of our adversaries become disposable and generic as soon as we kill them, yet we agonize over the fate of our war dead. Doesn't it seem logical to give our enemy the same respect that we desire for our dead?

Some recent estimates place the number of unidentifed dead from the Vietnam conflict at 500,000. The previous administration's explanations and understanding of that war were as muddled and unrealistic as the current administration's reasoning for the Iraq invasion.

Michael O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, said "Bush is right to try to win." Great, a wonderful insight, but what is it you win? Bush approached this like a game of Truth or Consequences, but rather than winning the Cadillac behind door three, he may just win the box of Rice-a-Roni.

Winning a war should benefit the U.S., either directly or indirectly, but it should not simply benefit Vietnam, or Iraq or Afghanistan. I agree that Iraq and Afganistan are issues that can spill over into the region, and that terrorism throughout the region will be enhanced. But why didn't somebody figure this out before the elective invasion? I refuse to call it "preemptive," as the only thing it preempted was our national security. The region was more secure when Saddam was in power.

GWB gambled, putting the reputation of America on the table to further his questionable agenda. Now he doesn't want to give up the chips. In gambling, this is called throwing good money after bad.

If money is seen as freedom chips, we don't have unlimited chips to squander. At some point, the croupier will be dealing out more than he is taking in, and the bank will be broken. Of course, we do have the military bodies to squander because our brave soldiers obviously do not have other priorities or personal exit strategies, unlike our maximum leaders did when they faced their turn at the wheel.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sitting Bull

"The whites want war and we will give it to them."
Sitting Bull, on Little Bighorn

Thinking of Sitting Bull and Custer, I am reminded of Saddam's quaint pronouncement to Bush pere prior to Gulf War I about delivering the mother of all wars. If you're the prophesying type (I'm not), Iraq has turned out to be quite a mother.

The NYT reports President Bush says he is reviewing strategic options for Iraq, but cautioned that while he was open to new ideas, it was important for "people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon conditions on the ground."

Following the President's wisdom-laden comment, I can only conclude that General Custer made the correct decision at Little Big Horn. His actions were based totally upon the conditions on the ground.

And his soldiers are still buried in that ground.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Do the Crime, You Do the Time

The front page of yesterday's Orlando Sentinel featured an article on the impending early return of Vietnamese-born Orlando resident Cuc Foshee, accused of involvement with a plot to jam Vietnamese radio waves with pro-democracy messages, following a 14-month detention in Vietnam.

Her early release was secured by U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who "threatened to halt permanent trade legislation if Foshee, a pro-democracy activist and Republican supporter, were not returned home safely," reported the Sentinel, referring to Congress's consideration of permanent trade status with Vietnam. In addition, President Bush will soon be visiting Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

While it is true that when wars end, there must be a perception of reconciliation and normalization of relations, that is not the issue here. Foshee was found guilty of violating U.S. and Vietnamese law through her involvement with smuggling and communications interference operations. This story carries several implications.

First, the article contends that Foshee's detention in a Vietnamese jail for the past 14 months is a human rights violation (she was convicted of terrorism in Ho Chi Minh City two days before her release, and was scheduled for release in early December.)

If Vietnam held Foshee for 14 months without bringing charges, how does this differ from our treatment of prisoners in the current War on Terror? In terms of denial of
habeus corpus and long-term imprisonment without trial, Vietnam is simply following the U.S. lead.

Further, why should she be absolved of her wrongdoing, as she clearly engaged in criminal activity by violating Vietnamese communications laws, which are analogous to our FCC laws. They are restricting freedom of speech in their airwaves as we do in ours; as Americans, we should respect that restriction and regulation. And they don't even have a First Amendment.

The U.S. has no right to force Vietnam's hand to release Foshee. We should not be encouraging our citizens to violate U.S. neutrality laws by giving her a soft place to land. She should be tried under U.S. laws for violating that neutrality. Let's keep this international, and not personal. If an Arab citizen attempted the same activities as Foshee in America, she'd be incarcerated without a trial.

Second, having voiced support for normalizing trade relations with Vietnam, I wonder why our national policy forbids trade with Cuba. Cuba is no more repressive towards its citizens than Vietnam or China is towards theirs, yet anachronsitic U.S. embargoes remain in place.

Of course, the contradictory policies are the result of varying political pressures. The displaced Cuban population in South Florida is dictating Cuban policy to a compliant and acquiescent U.S. We won't trade with Communist Cuba, but we will trade with a Communist Vietnam, even though they killed 58,000 of our soldiers.

The Vietnamese and Cuban exiles here want U.S. policy that is antagonistic to Vietnam and Cuba. Both want the U.S. government to represent their interests, but both groups chose to run, versus opposing the takeover of their countries by Communist forces. The U.S. is not responsible for salving the hurt pride of these expatriates. The job of the U.S. is to create realistic policies towards Vietnam and Cuba.

Last, it seems the Republicans are in the business of whitewashing criminal activity, so long as it is done by one of the party faithful. In the recent past, why wasn't evangelist Ted Haggard or his john tried for sex crimes or methamphetamine sales and possession? When Haggard said he was "tempted" by the meth he had purchased, but did not use it, the drug violation was morphed into a moral one, and not even that; it became instead a close brush with a moral violation, somewhat akin to former President Carter's admission to "lusting in his heart." Nothing more, nothing less.

When our own Florida Governor Bush's daughter, Noelle, was caught trying to fill an illegally gotten prescription for Xanax in 2002, she got whisked away to rehab, and everyone in the Bush family was very sorry for the mistake. Living in the Sunshine State as I do, I would wager a guess that if a poor minority resident were caught doing the same thing, he'd be incarcerated right quick.

Now it is Cuc Foshee. I'm sure she will become some sort of democratic outreach poster child. And she has worked hard for the Republican party, after all. She is being rewarded for criminal activity in the name of force-feeding democracy abroad. Our own Tokyo Rose, but ours stumps for democracy. But like Rose, she is a criminal, and should be dealt with accordingly.

Jim and Lisa

Monday, November 13, 2006

Not P.C.

If terrorism is the greatest threat facing America, then let's get down to brass tacks. Here are a couple of thoughts on our friendly co-conspirators.

(1) Examine the role of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in terrorist activity. Afghanistan is simply a pawn that is manipulated by all the major power players. This is a strategic consideration, and policy should be adjusted accordingly.

(2) If Islamofascists (not my term, nor do I agree with it) are the threat, than address it. Anybody with a scrubbed or new passport from an Islamic country should be isolated and properly screened. No commercial flight should allow more than one Islamic foreign passport-bearer on board any U.S. domestic or foreign flight.

If more than one must board, then a U.S. Air Marshall should be on board. If this is offensive to anyone's sensibilities, then weigh it against secret detentions, renditions, etc. My proposal is libertarian when viewed in this manner. This is a proactive, tactical measure.

(3) Get the U.S. military back into being a military force. An airborne/ranger/mechanized/armor/ artillary unit is not complete without combat support and combat service support apparatus. Contracting these functions through sweetheart bids does not facilitate the war-making abilities of our forces. All this does is to enrich the Carlyle-Haliburton contingent.

Please bear in mind that this comment is to the end of enhancing military performance. This does not imply that military power can negate terrorism, nor that I endorse the military option.

(4) Eliminate contractor fraud. Since the only elements that benefit from our misguided War on Terror are the contractors, graft is not surprising. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Saudi Arabia, the bin Laden family, Haliburton and Carlyle Group are the true beneficiaries of the WOT.

The interrelationships between thes elements should be examined now by Congressional committees.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Since We Have a Hammer

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening all over this land

--Pete Seeger

On Friday, General Pace said U.S. military leaders are making their own assessment of the course in Iraq." Well, when you're a hammer, all problems look like a nail. Predictably, generals will advise more violence and combat operations to solve the problem of violence in Iraq.

Events have proven that military measures have broken Iraq, and now is the time for diplomatic and political solutions.

The President also said on Veteran's Day, "America faces brutal enemies who have attacked us before and want to attack us again." I agree wholeheartedly, as should all aware citizens. But how is being party to the death and violence in Iraq addressing this issue? Iraq is a self-inflicted wound that does not address the threat of non-state sponsored terrorism aimed at America.

Further, GWB said "I have a message for these enemies...our nation is committed to bringing you to justice..." Well, sort of.

The American military machine does not administer justice. This should be a Department of Justice function, which would imply no torture, secret prisons, or any other legal shortcuts. Perhaps GWB sees the military as exacting some kind of cosmic retribution, but they are not the Four Hourseman. Our Consitution made sure to preclude that possibility.

I contend that GWB is soft on terrorism because his policies deny justice to the American public. Only bringing terrorists to trial for their criminal actions will satisfy that necessary criterion of a democracy. This legal approach would be true shift in policy, realigning us with our constitutional foundations.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Showing the Pretty

I'm heartened that a young Marine, Corporal Jason Dunham, has been awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on 04/14/04 in Iraq, albeit posthumously. But I have another, darker, thought on the matter, as well.

The Navy Seals also have a member that sacrificed himself as did Cpl. Dunham. I assume he'll also rightfully be awarded the MOH. Therefore, there will be one Navy, one USMC and one Army MOH so far from this campaign, all three posthumously awarded.

I think the MOH has not been awarded to living recipients because this would focus the news media on the brutal level of combat experienced by U.S. forces.

My admiration and sorrow at Cpl. Dunham's death are in equal proportions. I even hesitate to comment lest my comments be misconstrued as a diminuation of his incredible courage. Further, I know that daily our combat troops exhibit this selflessness in the face of brutal adversity and combat. My admiration knows no bounds.

But the U.S. military deserves live winners of this award, too, as this validates both the individual and the institution. The award should serve to enhance civilian support for the military. There is no doubt that the yardstick for earning the award has been exceeded on numerous occasions. The military institution and the soldiers as individuals must see these awards as a timely recognition for a job well done.

The government wishes to show the pretty, and hide the ugly. Deceased MOH winners can't talk.

Where There's Hope, There's War

Watching an old Jack Paar episode last night hatched the following thought: We can never win in Iraq and Afghanistan because we've lost our distinctive sense of humor, and with it, all perspective of what we are as Americans.

Historically, Americans were self-deprecating and iconoclastic.
We've become flip and brazen. We laugh at everybody and everything in a withering sense, but we used to be able to laugh at ourselves. Can you imagine Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Pinochet, Noreiga, or Saddam telling a joke? None of them lightened up, and they're gone--losers all! (Watch out, Kerry.)

I read the fairly grim exhortations of some Iraqis--"We haven't had enough of your blood yet," taunts Abu Ayyaub al-Masri yesterday; his version of "bring it on," and "we'll kick your asses," I s'pose. But when we engage on this level, we have lost sight of fighting as a means, rather than an end. And of course, the reason is that we have not defined an end, other than the narrow one of corporate hegemony--an end which the Iraqis loathe.

During WWII, Korea and Vietnam, Bob Hope toured all theatres of operation bringing his snappy humor skewering the President as Commander in Chief, the Generals and the entire chain of command. And the men hooted, laughed and were happy, even if for a moment. Hope was brought to the battlefield, hope and a joke. Not a hope and a prayer.

Our leadership can no longer bring us hope, and we're way beyond a prayer.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veteran's Day

While reflecting on my Ranger training, I realized that a lot of folks might not know exactly what being a Ranger means. For those who don't, I decided to write down some of the distilled lessons that I carry through life as a result of that training. Here goes--
  1. No guts, no glory
  2. Only the next minute counts
  3. Respect your troops, AND your enemy. This is on both a human and a professional level
  4. Soldiers must love each other to make it through adversity
  5. Rangers never leave their buddies. It may be necessary to abandon a body, but that Ranger will always be with you
  6. Never wimp out. Quit if you must, but carry your share of the load at all times. Sometimes you must carry others when they are weak. I've carried, and been carried
  7. Evaluate all courses of action, and select the best
  8. Always have a fall-back option. Always establish an escape route, and always designate a rally point.
  9. Maintain your equipment and yourself, and trust both.
  10. The Ranger tab won't stop a bullet
  11. Keep it Simple Sir (KISS)
  12. Learn your own strengths and weaknesses, and that you can push both limits
There is much more, and this is the briefest of overviews. All Rangers from all wars are the same animal. Today's Rangers are the equals of Rogers, Darby and all previous wars.

Happy Veteran's Day.

Drama Derry

Some thoughts on how the newly-minted Democratic leaders might spend their political coin:

(1) Figure out what constitutes our current defense policy. Drop the "fight 'em there" emotionalism and assess what's actually transpiring over there. Neither Nazi or Imperial Japanese forces had the ability to project combat power onto the shores of America. Germany couldn't even hop the English Channel with an invasion. Japan shot their wad at Pearl Harbor, and this was apparent afterward at Guadalcanal, Midway and Coral Sea.

Somehow, I can't quite shake the image of an invading armada of floating camels out of my mind. America faces a terrorist threat, but it's nothing on the order of that described by Bush.

(2) Remember that Congress is ultimately in control, and if they quit playing the "emergency funding game," then the war is over. Congress can set a drop-dead date for this funding, thereby giving the C in C the opportunity to disengage U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.

(3) Resuscitate democratic values. No more warrantless wiretaps. No more torture, secret prisons, secret courts, secret fundings and secret threat assessments. If the taxpayers are footing the bill, they should be able to see it.

(4) Release the Gitmo prisoners, or try them in open Federal court. I'd even accept releasing them to the World Court/Hague for adjudication.

(5) Become an active member of the United Nations. Cooperate and graduate. More than lip service is required to solve this impasse. U.S. unilateral military actions must cease, unless addressing actual imminent threats.

(6) Return the CIA to civilian control so that it is a counterbalance to military intelligence. The President must have unbiased evaluations of potential threats to U.S. security.

(7) DoD intelligence gathering should be aimed at external enemies, not focused on U.S. citizens. The latter should be an FBI-counterintelligence function.

(8) Properly fund programs for low-income Americans. VISTA and AmeriCorps come to mind.

(9) Get the Federal government out of morality-based legislation, i.e., gay marriage, abortion, etc. In fact, the Federal government might financially underwrite voluntary abortions and institute financial benefits for voluntary sterilization.

(10) Institute cost-cutting measures, to include the use of Air Force One and consolidating aircraft useage. Let's cut out the imperial presidencial perks.

Wie Gehts?

While stationed in Germany as a young soldier, I sometimes heard discussion of the German mindset. One NCO sized it up fairly precisely: "If the German has you down he'll kick you in the face, but if he's down, he'll lick your boot." This evaluation was rendered by a soldier who was experienced fighting in the European Theatre of operations during WWII.

It seems that GWB is exhibiting this same unsavory trait since the 11/07 elections. Everywhere one reads wonderful news of Bush reaching out to achieve consensus with the new political realities on the ground in D.C. Call me a cynic, but perhaps this is because the Dems now have more wingtips on the ground than the C in C anticipated, with some troublesome high heels thrown in for good measure. (Where are the burkas when they're really needed? I can hear Hillary tapping her toes now.)

But I don't believe this newfound humility for a moment. This impulse to bipartisanship on Bush's behalf is lip-service, naught more. He'll change his rhetoric, but not his spots. Any political concessions will simply facilitate his strategic corporate vision for America. He'll bend tactically, but only if it serves his strategic agenda.

Now to the choice of Gates after Rummy was run out on the rail. Through Gates' position on the board of Duratek, he is firmly in the bosom of the Carlyle Group. Duratek and Carlyle come up in proxy statement searches.
It seems that the membership in the unholy trinity of Enron/Haliburton/Carlyle is required for service in the present administration. Hopefully, the Senate confirmation hearing for Gates will explore these linkages. A few questions about Iranscam would also be appropriate.

The Gates nomination is aligned with the administration's rubric of defense profiteering. But then again, Rice, Baker, Armitage, Negroponte, W. Bush, Cheney, Francis J. Harvey, Karzai and Khalizaid are all long-term energy and/or defense contractor types. The War on Terror has benefitted one group, and that is the energy and defense contractor circuit.

If the Democrats are sincere about ending the Iraq War, they would throw out the Baker Iraq Study Group report without reading it. Without access to the non-published report, I'll venture that it directs the DoD and the government to continue all actions that benefit Carlyle and company. Nothing less.

If the Baker report got canned, then hopefully Gates could follow and a DoD candidate could be found to represent the American taxpayer's interests rather than those of the defense contractors. A good place to start looking would be Max Cleland's office.