RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2006 <

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holiday on Ice

I understand GWB is still on holiday, which started me thinking:

How do they calibrate these things? Similarly, how do they know when he's back, and no longer on holiday?

The answer just occurred to me: Barney stands at a point. I knew Barney was the key after recalling Gertrude Stein's brilliant, "I am I because my little dog knows me." There can be no other definitive identifier for when GWB has actually returned to the job. I'm sure that Barney, like most dogs, is a dutiful sentry. One must have faith in something.

A Safe Bet

From the New York Times: "U.S. is Holding Iranians Seized in Raids in Iraq."

I'll bet my bars that these prisoners will disappear from the radar screen as fast as 1st Lt. Eric Watada and Jose Padilla.

Writing's on the Wall

If they ever black your eyes, put me wise.
If they ever cook your goose, turn me loose.
If they ever put a bullet through your brain; I'll complain.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
"Friendship" lyrics, Cole Porter, 1939
Some of the finest rhetoric supporting U.S. war making is the concept of assisting our beloved allies. The present administration constantly emphasizes that Iraq is an ally in the War on Terror that must not and can not be abandoned. The same people that never fought in Vietnam use that war as an example of abandoning an ally to an unacceptable consequence.

But what is an ally, anyway? Webster's New Collegiate says it's a sovereign or state associated with another by treaty or league, or one that is associated with another as a helper. Sometimes we get wangled into alliances from which we later need to extricate ourselves, after they are no longer defined by the second part of that definition. That is not "cutting and running;" that is prudent and judicial conservation of resources.

An ally can be personal or national in nature. In order to personalize this concept and to make it more relevant to daily life, it would be expedient to compare an ally to a spouse. The list of desirable attributes might include the following:

  • Faithful
  • Long term
  • Mutually beneficial
  • Cooperative (helps achieve common goals)
  • Shared interests, both short and long-term
  • Independent
The same list might also apply to choosing international allies, if we believe that the personal is the political. But what happens when the partner doesn't work out? What if your spouse [national ally]:
  • Is unfaithful
  • Depends entirely upon you for money
  • Spends the money as if there's no tomorrow
  • Has a family is totally dysfunctional and constantly fighting
  • Is schizophrenic
  • Has opposing goals
  • Has religious beliefs which cause you grief
  • Is more receptive to the neighbors than to you.
Well, at least 50% of Americans cut their losses and leave. They accept temporary setback, take their knocks, if they are fortunate, learn a lesson and move on. Should international affairs be any different? Divorce is not necessarily a bad thing, and staying the course in a toxic relationship might do you more damage than leaving.

Choose your allies carefully. The result of doing otherwise is much worse than divorce.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


"The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is."
--Winston Churchill

An Iraqi police station was recently assaulted by British and Iraqi soldiers in Basra, after charges of torture surfaced, reports the New York Times.

U.S. policy in Iraq is to bequeath a strong police and army to the Iraqi nation (there's two words that twist the tongue.) So, on Monday, the Iraqi army conducted combat operations against the police. This warms the soul on a cold day. In the process of the assault, the police station that was probably built with U.S. taxpayers funds, was destroyed. For sure, U.S. funds will rebuild this monument to democracy.

The article indicated that this military action "was an essential step in any plan to re-establish security in Basra." Actually, re-establish is an overstatement, since it's questionable if there ever was any security to begin with.

The two-story building was demolished, "in an attempt to remove all traces of the serious crimes unit," Major Charlie Burbridge, British military spokesman, said. “It had simply gone beyond the pale and it was clear it was time for the serious crimes unit to go.”

Well, it's nice to know that someone has at least defined what the pale is in Iraq. Unfortunately, smashing the structure to smithereens won't eradicate the "serious crimes unit," all of whom escaped the structure prior to its demolition.

In a larger sense, how can anybody in the U.S. criticize the torture of Iraqi citizens by the Iraqi police when U.S. policy embraces torture in the execution of its War on Terror?

Everybody needs to get on the same sheet of music, or the conductor needs to be thrown out of the hall.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Two Codas on Ford's Presidency

There are two questionable points in this article on former President Ford's death.

First, the article states the Gerald R. Ford (38) was the only unelected president of the U.S. However, there is a reasonable argument that GWB was not elected, either. There was an election, but the results of the Florida plebiscite were ignored. GWB was appointed President by the Supreme Court, which suspended the vote count in Florida.

Next, it states the Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. with the fall of Saigon in 1975. In fact, the U.S. was not defeated since our military was not engaged. A country cannot be defeated if it is not in the fight. The only country to lose in April of '75 was South Vietnam, which ceased to exist as a result of the North Vietnamese victory.

Goodbye, President Ford

I served as one of your soldiers, and I'd like to say farewell.

Additionally, my farewell would like to address your WWII military service. That service included the award of 10 battle stars on your campaign ribbons, and included exposure at Okinawa, Wake, Taiwan, the Philipines and the Gilbert Islands.

America has lost a veteran and a Commander-in-Chief. I render a final salute. See you in Valhalla!

Ranger Hruska

The New Centurians

"Only Fourteen Shooting Days Until Christmas,"
--sign on a USMC tank in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.

If television ads are correct, then ED (erectile dysfunction) is the new blight of the American male, much as Dutch Elm Disease and Citrus chancre hit the trees a while back. Victory, however, is as close as your nearest bottle of Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, drugs whose roots suggest vigor, skyward movement or levitation of the lagging member. The little blue pill will soon leave you hanging tough and hard. A panacea that comes with the caveat that you should first be healthy enough to have sex prior to taking the pill.

This would seem to imply that not getting it up might be an indicator that one is not healthy enough to have sex.
What happened to the old remedy--just buy a powerful, flashy hot sports car. This is an adequate response to ED that is time-tested.

Now, how does all this apply to Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, as with the ads, an important question is posed: Is America healthy enough to have a war, or are we simply over-compensating with flashy sports cars?

The ads further stress that having an erection for more than four hours is not normal, and in case of such a event, medical help should be sought.at once. Similarly, a war that lasts more than four years needs more than medical attention, as it's a danger to the entire nation.

Sex, power and combat go hand in hand. Driving, relentless combat wins wars, or at least, used to win wars.
We used to have Generals who participated in a hands-on way, if not on the front lines. They were soldiers, apart from the political establishment, charged with the business of conducting warfare, as decreed by their Commander in Chief. Yes, they were accountable, and had to dialog with their superiors, but their provenance was on the field of battle. That is where they excelled. They enjoyed a rapport with their men which produced results.

The little blue pill may raise the flag, but it is an ersatz happening. Better than nothing, but not quite spontaneous, either. I analogize the use of the pill to the use of present-day Generals like Pace and Powell. They look good, but both have nominal combat experience in their careers. Neither have any major combat decorations, mostly thanks-for-coming and I've-Been-There awards. What qualifies them to be Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), or to hold any other National Command Authority position? Pace and Powell have no stature compared to the Generals discussed later in this piece.

Powell lacked the depth or major combat background required of this level of leadership. He did not command Centcom or NATO before he moved to the JCS. Both Powell and Pace are talking points-type of Generals. The military now uses General Officers to brief the press. Needless to say, these Generals always appear clean, professional and spiffy, but can they really be called
soldiers? Maybe if they take their little pills.

In fact, Brigadier General Brooks at the inception of the Iraq mess was the briefing officer, and he was resplendent with his
Expert Infantry Badge proudly displayed in his chest. What a joke. No grenades here.

As a quick tour, let's look at the Generals who forewent the spit and polish required of current presentation, in favor of simply doing their duty as soldiers. General U.S. Grant never wore more than a private's coat, with his stars simply attached. He was often muddy and never carried a sabre, since it served no function at his level of command. He did not need to be propped up by a sabre to proclaim his Generalship.

Look at MacArthur on the Missouri in Tokyo Harbor signing the WWII Japanese surrender documents. The Japanese diplomats and military were fully arrayed and appeared magnificent, but they were losers. MacArthur and company were conspicuously down-dressed, wearing stripped down uniforms with no awards or decorations, but they were the winners.

MacArthur had the Medal of Honor and nine Silver Stars to his name, but he never wore these items as eye candy. This General didn't need ribbons. At Tokyo Harbor, MacArthur was simply a soldier. After that point he became a warrior-king, but he still retained his humility of uniform.

However, a new construct of what constituted a General was emerging about the same time. This was
the political-soldier--as embodied by Generals Eisenhower and Marshall. Both of these men were soldiers, but their power was based upon maneuvering within the political arena, affecting strategic combat operations of U.S. forces. Up to this point, Generals were soldiers first, politicians second. Now, the hardness of combat became of secondary importance, and even dispensable.

Many other Generals continued to remain apart from the political-soldier model, but they paid in terms of curtailed promotions.

In Korea, when U.S. forces were being relentlessly pushed back, General Matthew Ridgeway was assigned to reverse the trend. Ridgeway didn't use briefings and Power Points--his trademark was two Frag grenades attached to his combat harness at his chest. The message was clear: attack, using rifles, grenades and bayonets...
but this army is going to attack. Far more persuasive than any Power Point.

General Dean of the 24th Infantry Division was captured in Seoul while attempting personally to kill enemy tanks. Howling Mad Smith, Chesty Puller, Walker--these were the Generals leading our combat troops. Puller, with a bad heart, walked out of the Chosen perimeter after giving his Jeep to the wounded. This was in temperatures of minus 30 to 40 degrees.

All these Generals were dirty, plain-spoken and effective. They were doing what Generals were paid to do,which was to lead by example. As an aside, Puller had five Navy Crosses and U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross, so his actions were consistent throughout his military life, as were those of the others mentioned. These Generals were leading by example. They were healthy enough without mother's little helpers.

Puller never became Commandant of the USMC because he lacked political savvy. He was a combat leader, not a corporate executive. But the die was cast, and top positions were now reserved for that new animal, the political general.

Much is said about the need for more soldiers in the Army, but there seems no shortage of Generals. When the Army shrinks, do General Officer slots get cut? The Army now has nine 4-Star Generals on board. Why so many when the Army is so small? This doesn't take into account the 2- and 3-Stars. The Gitmo penitentiary has a General Officer commanding the facility, which houses 500 prisoners. A good sergeant could do that job. Remember Abu Ghraib, which was commanded by Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. Heck of a job there.

I believe the Army has lost its ability to function at the General Officer level. Generals are now managers wearing meaningless awards and looking good.

As always, the soldiers carry the burden for leadership that depends on little blue pills and Power Points. All show and no go. Present day Generals are technically and tactically proficient, but they go limp when dealing with political issues. Keep the Generals in the Army. When they go limp, make them Secretaries of State a la Marshall, Haig and Powell. But don't make them politicians or statesman while they're wearing a uniform. Keep the grenades on their chest, and they won't need little pills.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Up In Smoke

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
* * *
"What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea."
--Mahatma Gandhi

Because a recent Christmas post here [
Victor] was misconstrued by some as a case of couched proselytizing, I felt the need to set the record straight. It is the greatest obscenity and tragedy that any man would think he has cornered the market on the Truth, and by virtue of joining a particular sect that he alone enjoys God's favor.

Victor's words were actual, and if that is the way he could find peace, more power to him. However, it is not the only way. The New York Times (12/25/06) had a good editorial on Francis of Assisi (The Peaceful Crusader) well worth reading for another approach. The reason for writing about Victor was merely to hold out the hope for peace on a personal level, which is of course what makes up the global level.

Maybe it is because I live in a provincial area, but the words of some of my kind Christian friends disturb me. Though the most devout do believe that God is all-loving, they also believe God makes an exception in the case of the Muslims, one-fifth of the earth's population, who they believe are evil. Therefore, God would sanctify a good trouncing of the likes of them ("What insolence for them to imagine the Christians, who occupy their lands, as infidels.") Of course, sitting on the Muslim side of the fence, that's just how it might seem.

Most wars have been fought in His name, or at least, with His imprimatur. Perhaps even the current one.
But no human words of prophetic doom need transpire, if honest peace brokers could intervene. It is a tremendous elitism, and a terrifying prescription for global devastation, to think otherwise. Do we still cling to such superstitious fatalism in this post-Enlightenment era?

I can have nothing to do with such a death-deifying view. People do not have to die by the hands of other men. Death comes soon enough for us all.

The true believer is the most frightening of men. The most demonic thought, when couched within proper context, will appeal to him as being holy and sanctified. There is another way proposed in the Bible, but sermons which preach this love are often not worth the paper they're written on, for all the good they do. What most people hear is love of my family, my neighbors, my country. I, me, mine, thank you, George Harrison.

A little dream, perhaps, but what would be possible if we all could step out and not fear and loathe? What might all of the bomb squads, snipers, and trauma unit workers be doing instead?

--by Lisa

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Media Root of Modern Terrorism

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
--Malcolm X

As I'm in my media analysis mood, I will venture a piece on the genesis of modern terrorism, as I see it.

It was not exactly an instance of violence as protest, but I believe the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City provided terrorists the first glimpse of the power of the media to portray and disseminate a message of protest. The moment was when Tommie Smith and John Carlos--the black U.S. sprinters who had won the gold and bronze medals, respectively--raised their fists in a Black Power salute as the U.S. national anthem was being played.

Immediately, the Palestinians realized the potential of this untapped tool, the electronic media, and began planning the 1972 Olympic operation in Munich. The rest is a sad history.

Terrorism is cheap, and the cost effectiveness is enhanced by the free communications and media coverage provided by the target. In 1972, the target was not solely the Israeli athletes, so much as world opinion--that larger audience beyond the target. Surprisingly, the Palestinians garnered worldwide sympathy for their cause
after they murdered the Jewish athletes.

The only thing that has changed with terrorism since 1972 is the evolving nature of their sponsorship.

There was a time when terrorism was considered state- or non-state sponsored. It is no longer state-sponsorship as such, but unofficial and semi-official proxies of the government which supply support to these groups. The state/non-state etiology is still applied by the Department of State, but with the evolution of support transitioning into the religious realm, state sponsorship is now veiled. However, it is still a factor influencing and directing Islamic extremism.

Iraq used to pay a bonus to Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel. Saudi Arabia pays Palestinians to stay out of S.A. Iran funds and trains Hezbollah. Pakistan supports Al Quaida through the ISI. Jordan and Egypt provide funds, intel and weapons to Sunnis in Iraq. This is but a gross overview to indicate the web of complexity surrounding the problem, which is ignored by a blunt U.S. policy.

When 9-11 occurred, the responsible agency was Al Quaida, a group which had previous alliances with and training provided by the CIA and Pakistan's ISI. The monetary and personnel basis of Al Quaida is Saudi primarily, with Egyptian participation. Surely the Taliban provided safe haven. But only an idiot would believe the bin Laden family is not also financing Osama, or that the family does not have the unofficial blessing of the house of Saud.

Clearly there's a judgment call here: does the U.S. go after nuclear Pakistan, oil-rich Saudi Arabia or our Egyptian partners? Or none of these, and simply focus on prosecuting individuals within the terrorist cells, knowing that members are a renewable resource.

Invading Afganstan might eliminate a safe haven, but what has it done to address the larger issues?
The Taliban is not the threat to America. The threat is Al Quaida and its sponsorship by long-term U.S. allies. That reality is being ignored in GWB's ill-conceived War on Terror. It is a palliative approach to a manifestation, rather than a routing out of the disease process which produced the visible illness.

U.S. policy should address the disease and not the symptoms.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Department of Offense

When a blind man bears the standard, pity those who follow
--French Proverb

President Bush "plans to convene a full meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday at his ranch in Crawford" to discuss the possibility of ramping up troop levels in Iraq, reports the International Herald Tribune. This indicates that the issue is so serious Bush will take a few hours out of his well-deserved holiday to amble over to the meeting to grapple with the issues. His dedication to the job is gratifying.

The article continues, "Mr. Gates, they said, asked General Casey to enter into final discussions with Iraqi officials on the specifics of their role."

This indicates an institutional paralysis of the U.S. government, and that the administration cannot conceptualize solutions beyond the military schema. The State Department should be the lead agency in dealing with Iraqi officials. Since when do Generals function as foreign service officers?

The hegemony of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the absence of Department of State(DoS) are prime factors in the endless nature of this conflict. DoD should not be the spokesman for the State Department.

GWB, Rice and Gates need to establish a "country team," with political DoS leadership directing the coordinated efforts in Iraq.

Since the DoS has taken its cues from DoD, there is nothing to indicate that a correct functioning of U.S. institutions will resume anytime soon.

The broken government is that of the U.S. The muddle that is Iraq is simply a reflection of this fact.

Monday, December 25, 2006


I'm told that good Dr. Andrew Weil recommends occasional news fasts. That's easier than giving up other things, and I will eventually read about it, anyway. So today is a Christmas musing, with a slight military bent.

Several weeks ago I saw my former yardman, Victor, in a restaurant. He introduced me to his wife and baby, and told me of his life's successes. He is now a certified mechanic in the local GM service department.

Both Victor and his wife are legal El Salvadoran immigrants (not to pull a Zoe Baird.) Victor was trained by U.S. Special Forces and was active in combat operations in the 1980's. He spent a total of 12 years in the army, and left as a corporal. I know this because Victor began talking with me about it one day when he saw a Special Forces insignia in my workshop.

His background is essential to the story, as Victor, in broken English, preceded to tell me, "I do not have a rifle in my heart anymore. Now I have Jesus." This he expressed, and touched his heart.

The incident didn't register as significant until I was out later doing my own yard work. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a proselytizer for any faith, but the beauty of his simplicity and sincerity are undeniable. This is an uneducated and simple man, but he had the eloquence and the depth of feeling to convey that most poignant heart image.

Of course, it'd be nice if people could just dislodge the rifle without having to supplant it with something else. But I'm a pragmatist; whatever works. Then again, I realize we're a nation full of Christians, and there still seems to be a lot of "rifles in the heart."

Still, I'm with Louis Armstrong on this one: What a wonderful world, or at least Victor holds out the hope. His life is better than a sermon.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A New Messiah

For all our media savvy, we don't seem to grasp a simple truth: the great masses of people in the world are poor. They are searching for delivery from their misery and for compassion. The serfs may, out of coercion or necessity, respect their privileged leader, and even fight for and defend that overlord. But it is out of fear, or because they cannot imagine another life, and their resentment is not far beneath the surface.

But given something more exalted, something which can rouse their passion along with their fealty--a messiah--the people will reward him with their lives. They now have a cause and a champion, redeemer and savior.

In modern times, while we may lack for an actual messiah, we do have leaders "of the people," proto-messiahs. Leaders who don't put on airs; who mimic the appearance of the man or woman in the street. Mohandas and Indira Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And the military despots who do not vary their simple uniform, like Quadaffi, Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il, Mao Zedong, Hitler and Chiang Kai-Shek. It does not matter the extreme wealth these people have, or might have come from. They present a figure of solidarity with the people. It is "leader branding," par excellence.

The current U.S. President attempts that through his various costuming, such as the the flight suit of the Navy pilot, or the boots and brass buckle of the farmhand. But mostly, he comes across as weekend warrior sort of average guy, merely playacting the part.

Osama bin Laden, though a millionaire many times over, has forsaken the worldly life and adopted that of the desert nomad. He is a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia. And he is crusading against most things you hold dear. What's more, those things mean nothing to his loyal following, or worse, are anathema to them. Osama stands for the purification of the defiled Arab lands. They are backward-looking people, yes, but in an obvious statement, that is their choice. Freedom means the freedom to choose; freedom does not equal Western-style democracy. Who are we to foist modernity on a culture which has remained apart for well over 1,000 years?

So as we celebrate this Christmas, and worship the berobed, simple man who lived in the desert 2000 years ago, be mindful of another, newer messiah whose followers worship him equally well. And who brings a message to drive out the infidel, and tells the enslaved that they will find reward for their martyrdom. Nothing is really new under the sun.

--by Lisa

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pie in the Sky is Falling

What luck for rulers that men do not think.
--Adolf Hitler

This title is based upon the
Jeopardy Before and After category, and it is useful for this entry as several previous pieces have addressed the Pie in the Sky planning of the Department of Defense, and the concomitant Sky is Falling fear-mongering of the GWB White House.

These diametrically opposed ideas provide the basis of the war with Iraq. In propaganda meister's Goebbels' terms, it was a concerted policy to condition the American citizen to accept an unacceptable concept. That is, preemptive, unjustified warfare had to be sold as a desirable and indispensable project.

GWB, Cheney and Rice hawked the Sky is Falling leg on which the project is partly based. A chance to induct the public into this solidarity borne of fear was never missed. The rhetoric is so tired and onerous that it need not be repeated, but the best was Rice's--We can't accept a nuclear explosion cloud over America. No projected image of flags unfurling or Willie Nelson appearances could trump this high-concept imagery. The only thing lacking to make this agitprop complete would be the work of a muralista like Diego Rivera, but this administration doesn't hold much truck with the arts.

The other leg supporting this unprecedented march to war was the Pie in the Sky projections that spewed forth from the Department of Defense neocon mouths (They'll greet us with flowers...but how do you do that when the nearest FTD florist is far away?) The idea was that this would be a cakewalk which would rebuild America's military confidence post-Vietnam. Unfortunately, pie-in-the-sky does not equate to military planning, even when it is the gospel of the Secretary of Defense.

The two policies could be seen as a coordinated administration effort to cow the public on one hand, while calming them on the other, thereby grooming them for a tame acceptance of the war project. It was a shameful mob-mentality ruse to whip them into an attack frenzy with promises of easy victory.

Of course, those ploys give only two legs to the stool, namely, fear and hubris. No wonder it keeps tipping over.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Taliban Tamers

The new good news is, three entire Taliban training compounds have been wiped out by U.S. Special Forces, reports Jason Straziuso of the AP.

The bad news is, that is akin to taking out three KOA campgrounds, serving only tent campers. Minus the nifty Coleman halogen lights and bright neon outdoor garb of the campers therein. And no Airflows, not even ca. 1970. What a coup. Remember that U.S. taxpayers paid through the nose for this earth-shattering victory

More bad news is that the Taliban fighters were only driven out. "Drove out" is not a mission accomplished moment.

Our leaders should perhaps be mindful of King Pyrrhus's costly victory over the Romans (as reported by Plutarch): "(T)he Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war."

If the Taliban fighters are not destroyed, they will return to the fight as soon as they consolidate and reorganize. Capturing them wouldn't have been very beneficial anyway, since there was no mention of Al Quaida fighters being present. The Taliban is not the threat.

The U.S./NATO commanders are portraying this action as a model for "taming the Taliban." I must be operating in another dimension, because taming an enemy is a darn site less desirable than actually defeating them. You tame captive lions, not people. Certainly not people who are passionate about their cause.

Would somebody please explain how these military actions are making us any safer from the threat, which is Al Quaida? Has anybody explained how the Taliban is a threat to America?

The internal politics of a country should not be a concern for American military power.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

Well, if you're a lizard, it might just be your mommy. You know, I just had to comment on the following. It may seem far afield from politics, but I can see the ramifications. And if you squint and turn your head sideways, you can, too.

The story line reads, Virgin Birth expected at zoo on Christmas. Well of course...where else? What a miraculous sounding, feelgood story. Since the blessed event is to occur at a British zoo--a coalition of the willing partner--it almost seems to imply God giving us a sign that all is well, that He still sheds his grace on thee, and that this really is a happy holiday. That is, if you're the sort who looks for those signs. And when the pickins are slim, I guess anything will do.

It seems a Komodo dragon lady has self-fertilized her own eggs, in a not unusual biological happening called
parthenogenesis (though in Komodos it is news; however, this is not the first recorded instance.) Kevin Buley, of Chester Zoo, speaking on the possible origins of this adaptation for survival in an environment of limited resources said, "The genetics of self-fertilization in lizards means that all her hatchlings would have to be male. These would grow up to mate with their own mother and therefore, within one generation, there would potentially be a population able to reproduce normally on the new island."

So it seems this new Mary would have to commit incest in order to survive in a solitary environment, hence the origins of parthenogenesis. Unless they just found the company of males too distasteful, which is almost too hard to imagine. So, while we're lauding the propitious Christmas virgin birth, we should be mindful, too, of the implications, namely the superannuation of the male (in the initial fertilization), the necessity for incest in the second generation, and the possibility that solo fertilization might just be discretionary.

All the recent chatter about a certain other Mary who is soon due to give birth without benefit of male partnership makes one wonder: so maybe it's o.k. that there's more than one way to make it. Ah, for those of a certain political sway, to every silver lining there's a dark cloud. God works in mysterious ways.

--by Lisa

New Cash Cow?

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."

--From Hamlet (II, ii, 206)

There may well be method here, but I don't see it. GWB has signed into law the "U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act." This law carves out an exception in previous U.S. law--the Atomic Energy Act--to allow civilian nuclear trade with India in exchange for Indian safeguards and inspections at its 14 civilian plants.

Considering the Indians already have 14 civilian plants, why do they need further access to fissionable U.S. materials? Further, trade usually implies a quid pro quo. This seems a lopsided trade benfitting only one party--India. How does America profit?

President Bush assures us this "will make the whole world safer." But the International Herald Tribune notes,
"The deal also could be a boon for American companies that have been barred from selling reactors and material to India. 'India's economy has more than doubled its size since 1991 and it is one of the fastest-growing markets for American exports,' Bush said." A new cash cow?

The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved this bill, which exempts 8 military plants from inspections. Further, India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

What does this all mean, especially in light of the fact that Iran and North Korea (No more iPods for you, you naughty boy, Kim Jong Il) are the latest whipping boys because they will not allow inspections of their nuclear facilities. As a consequence of that denial of access, U.S. policy has declared those two countries to pose grave threats to U.S. security. Yet U.S. foreign policy now permits India to expand its nuclear weapon inventory--without full transparency--with the blessing of the U.S. Congress and administration. Strange days.

Presuming a grounding in realpolitik, always a shaky proposition with this administration, the only sense I could make of it is that the Bush policy is designed to counteract global warming in a way that wouldn't actually require him or his associates to suffer any immediate losses. When Pakistan, India and China, or any combination thereof, start popping nukes, then the resultant nuclear winter will introduce a new Ice Age, thereby reducing the criticisms aimed at the administration's lack of concern for global warming. (Stock tip: Thinsulate.)

Perhaps this scenario is the result of my ingesting too many rum babkas. But what actually goes on in the policymaker's minds is beyond my comprehension, even on the best of days.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barney Cam

After recently viewing the script for "Barney Cam V: Barney's Holiday Extravaganza," issued by the White House, I was left incredulous. Was this a hoax? (No.) Who possibly could have approved this cruel and insensitive bit of flipness?

The premise of this video Christmas card presented by the Bushes is that Barney the dog, beautifully groomed, wants to make a Christmas video, but he find he has limited funds. He thought it would be a cakewalk [he's witnessed a lot as First Dog], but after OMB turns him down, he must fly by the seat of his pants, and the script has him running about the decked out White House in order to arrange the video on a presumably shoestring budget [it seems the trickle-down effect stops just shy of the canine family members]. I shall include actual lines in blue; my comments are in blackface, er, boldface:

Barney, it’s time for BarneyCam. Are you ready for it this year? Say, what’s the plot about? (Close-up of Barney, blank look.) I can see from the look on your face, Barney, that you haven’t even thought about the plot. [In this way, Barney's a chip off the old block.]

Next, "Barney...enters the library and noses through various books on filmmaking and theatre production. After completing his research, he has an idea to plan a holiday show called "Barney's Holiday Extravaganza"...
[If only GWB had done some research prior to his production.]

Barney next meets the Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, and Paulson tells him, "Barney, there’s no easy way to say this, but we’re out of money." Portman advises him "to get creative." [So, Barney is in the same boat as our servicemen in Iraq. At least the dog can work within budget constraints, which is more than we can say for his master.]

Barney then hangs out a shingle for "auditions". First, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is rejected because, "Barney said I can’t dance!" [Everyone knows ramrod white women like Spellings can't dance. Not to worry, in comes Emmitt Smith furnishing a bit of minstrelsy to save the day.]

Smith offers a bit of up-by-your-bootstraps advice to Spellings: "follow your dreams and do not get discouraged. Look what happened to me! [I got an invitation to the White House, now that I can dance.] Look, I gotta go now. I gotta go dance."

Karl Rove, Tony Snow, Dolly Parton and a cast of others make appearances. Mrs. Bush thanks the dogs and wishes a happy holiday to all at the close. I dunno about you, but I am left feeling mighty surreal after this viewing.

Barney's cute. alright, but he's high maintenance, with hair like Tiny Tim of ukelele-playing fame. He's no tunnel rat (that's o.k., Karl Rove has that job sewn up nicely.)

I know, FDR's dog Fala was also a Scottish Terrier, but Fala became an honorary Private by donating a dollar to the war effort, setting a trend for the country. You know, in the same spirit that Jimmy Carter came out in his little zippered cardigan when asking us to turn down the thermostats during the oil crisis. There was a concept of collective shared sacrifice presented. Instead, Barney shows none of this in his efforts at self-aggrandizement as emcee of his show.

They say dogs reflect the attitudes of their owners. GWB has always enjoyed the show--the simulacrum experience. How could any more be expected of the dog. It is the difference in ethos between a true communitarian feeling, which looks out for the neighbors, as opposed to the inward and egoistic focus, which sees only how things will affect oneself.

Don't get me wrong; I like dogs as well as the next guy (Jim's Buddy the Dog is definitely second in command in his house...which is not to say he has much sway, as it is a big drop from Top Dog around there.) But it does seem like a more somber, sober and sedate tone should have been struck for this Christmas release.

This is entirely too ebullient in the face of current events. It shouts remoteness and insincerity, if indeed the White House wishes to portray a sense of solidarity with the troops at all.

--written by Lisa

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Marshall Plan

You have to have a positive strategy to make more partners and fewer terrorists. Harry Truman and George Marshall took a little bit of our money to build a world that had more friends and better enemies. Foreign assistance is national security--not charity. the Marshall Plan saw it that way and we have to do the same today.
--Bill Clinton

After considerable thought, I find there is no clear explanation for the expenditure of U.S. dollars flowing endlessly into the bottomless pit called Iraq. Strangely, there isn't even a name for this program.

Marshall and the U.S. were proud to implement the economic recovery program for Europe. The father gave the baby his name, while Iraq remains a bastard child though the father is clearly known. Why hasn't it been dubbed the "Bush Plan"?

The answer is, because it is not a plan so much as an ad hoc throwing of money at a nebulous problem. The Marshall Plan was carefully planned, crafted and applied to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals. The Plan was an investment in America, as well as in Europe.
There is no one this side of an insane asylum that would call the $8 billion squandered monthly in Iraq an investment. This money will never bear dividends to the average American taxpayer or U.S. policy.

An alternate view of the Marshall Plan is that the success was achieved by the recipient nations. The U.S. bankrolled the program, but the successes were indigenous national expressions of growth and hope in a better future. The pen (or typepad) will not allow any comparisons of this phenomenon to the current Afghan and Iraq scenarios.

The U.S. Marshall Plan was a barrier to Soviet economic expansion [91] and a loan/grant program that was to be repaid by the recipient European neighbors. The Plan rebuilt friends and enemies alike.

It must be stressed that the plan was not initiated until the fighting stopped, and after the Germans reintegrated back into the European community. Trying to rebuild a country while active combat is taking place is equivalent to spitting in the wind.

Another point is that the Marshall Plan had strings attached [90]. Simple things like requiring recipient nations to end colonialism and protectionist import quotas. In effect, the U.S. was financing its foreign markets, a role simlilar to that now played by China with the U.S., as their funds are financing our purchases of their export commodities.

The only difference between these programs is that China's developed without the antecedent of a military victory. In today's world, the economic victory is more desireable than success in a military fray. Unfortunately the U.S. leadership is all but ignorant of this evolution, save on the personal level.

So the question remains: What are the hundreds of billions of dollars buying for the U.S. taxpayers? If anything, this expenditure is more detrimental to the U.S. future than the terrorist threat could ever be (and on the latter point, it will only serve to aggravate the problem to an unknown degree.) We are burying ourselves in untenable debt, which is ultimately what destroyed the Roman, British, French and Soviet empires.

U.S. foreign and fiscal policy must become based in reality before it's too late to recover.

[page references are to the book PostWar--A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt (Penguin 2005).]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Free Bird

Eagles are a majestic species . . . living in the thin searing air
building nests on precipitous ledges . . .
they are endangered . . . but unafraid . . .
* * *
people are improperly imprinted ducklings . . .
Eagles (a poem for Lisa), by Nikki Giovanni

The media is so habituated to government speak that it still refers to the Gitmo prisoners as
detainees. These people, whether terrorist or not, were held for years without trials, convictions or any other niceties of U.S. or international law, and still they are called detainees. I guess because it wouldn't sound too good to append the words "illegally held" to the front of it. Too clunky; doesn't ring.

The AP article, "'Vicious Killers' of Guantanamo are Routinely Freed" (Andrew O. Selsky, 12/15/06), reports on the fate of almost 250 former Gitmo detainees. Almost all have been released by their countries of transfer. This suggests either they are not so vicious--as Donald Rumsfeld had referred to them--or these countries, some our "staunchest allies," have set terrorists and militants free.

All of them spent years isolated from family and friends, often in solitary confinement, enduring stress positions, endless hostile interrogations, and generally treated as scum and still we can't call them what they are. Where is Solzhenitsyn when we need him? When the Russians did this, it was brutal and inhumane. When the U.S. does this as an institutional policy, then it's called a strategy in the War on Terror.

The U.S. cannot imprison anybody legally without charges, trials and guilty verdicts. Since the administration denies POW status to these individuals, then they must be dealt with through the federal legal system. Any other approach is criminal behavior by the U.S. administration.

To sum it up, the vicious killers of Gitmo, generally speaking, were as dangerous as a bucket of fish bait. Many had been sold down the river by warlords to U.S. forces for bounties.

It will be interesting to see if any pursue legal redress against the U.S. government. After all, this is why we have courts. Also, accountability is a democratic concept, so let freedom ring. As Ashcroft so wonderfully sings--it flies like an eagle once it escapes the Gitmo prisons.

Discomfort Zone

Recently, I've been trying to discover the source of my discomfort with Iraq and Afghanistan (aside from the obvious unjustifiability of the U.S. endeavors.)

Soldiers are meant to die, and battlefield deaths are expected. However, the purpose of the U.S. military is not to fill up cemetaries, but rather to win wars. U.S. deaths must serve a larger purpose

In wars like the Civil War, Spanish-American, WW's I and II, every military death led America one step closer to a clearly-defined endpoint. Across Europe and the Pacific, personnel died for every yard of soil wrenched from the Nazis and Japanese.
Every soldier died for a purpose, and the enemy paid dearly in casualties. In this sense, every step closer to Berlin and Tokyo was another step closer to successful termination of the conflict. The present administration has overused and misapplied the concept of victory, so much so that the use of word now feels labored.

Take the famous photo of the USMC Corporal who was shot and rescued in Iraq. What a wonderful picture of the courage and determination of our combat troops,
but did they get the shooter? Since no one has addressed this in any article, it's a safe guess that the answer is no.

Bravery and courage do not win wars--killing the enemy does, and the Iraq scenario is definitely favoring the resistance fighters over the U.S. forces.
Unless U.S. forces achieve and maintain a favorable kill ratio, the lives of our soldiers are being wasted.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

He's the Decider

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
--T.S.Eliot, Little Gidding (Four Quartets)
Re. the quotation: maybe, maybe not. Sometimes you just end up at the same place, stupefied and none the wiser.

"Three U.S Troops Killed in Iraq Fighting," (AP, Kim Gamel) got second page billing in our local paper. It shared a page with "Judge orders Paternity Test in Rape Case [Duke Lacrosse players]" and a college hazing story. The troop deaths are not news we need to open the paper with. It might put a kink in an otherwise pleasant breakfast.

The article also speaks on al-Maliki's plans to reshuffle his cabinet. "'I am not obliged to accept anyone and I will choose ministers myself if I have to,' he said. The warning came as the Shiite prime minister's
national unity government is facing growing dissent by coalition partners..."

Somehow, something seems to have been lost in the translation as to what constitutes a democratic approach to government. It looks like Malaki is adopting a Saddam-like approach to leadership. Democracy implies approval of all cabinet members by the members of the elected government. Remember the oversight function of the legislative branch?

Possibly this fine point can be scrapped. But, isn't that where this whole mess started? Saddam was the decider, minus any democratic niceties. So, after $2 billion a week, almost 3,000 U.S. deaths, 25,000+ U.S. wounded and untold Iraqi deaths, we've arrived back at square one.

Is this administration borrowing from the Nietzsche play book, as well as Tom Cruise's? Like Nietzsche, we are creating our own "myth of the eternal return" of which we do not seem capable of ending. This particular return (to Afghnistan and Iraq) was not a particularly enlightened nor beneficial one. Had we consulted the playbook of history, we might've taken a hint from Britain and the USSR.

Come to think of it, using the literary analogy, the Iraq attack is actually more like the psychedelic vision of the poet W.B.Yeats, than anything. It is an artistic thing, relying on symbols, like that of the eagle (for Yeats, it was a falcon) flying high. But like Yeats' tethered bird, America is really just flying in circles, round and round. Who is the falconer who holds the string?

Pirates of Foggy Bottom

This is about the picture accompanying the article, "Rumsfeld Honored for His Service," AP, 12/16/06. If I wasn't an infantryman, I would've been an art critic, I'm sure. Forget Rumsfeld; he's not worthy of comment.

[I wanted to provide a link to this picture, which was featured on the front page of The Tallahassee Democrat's "Nation & World" section (12/16/06). Unfortunately, our capital city paper hasn't yet cached the article. If interested, I'm sure the video provided with this AP link will provide the image to which I refer.]

The photo is a great "grip and grin" with GWB and Rummy. Included in the frame is VP Cheney and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Pace. (As an aside, Cheney actually appears to be smiling, vs. snarling, though the shutter may have just caught him mid-snarl. Otherwise, it's another Botox miracle.) A caveat: for readers fond of Pace, reading on will only generate hostility, so best to stop now and save everybody grief. Generally, this site avoids personal observations, but I could not restrain myself.

Pace is wearing a chestful of ribbons, none of which are worth more than a bucket of spit. Above these medals is a U.S. Army paratrooper badge--junior jumper style. This hero never earned his USMC wings. He does sport white gloves though; how cute. Clapping, nonetheless. Reminds me of Japanese Noh theater. But since I must view this a (tragi-)comedy, we'll call it Kyogen theater. WTF...is he a cheerleader or the military head of the U.S. Forces? The overall effect is limp-wristed. The USMC deserves adult leadership.

Remember when the USMC had Medal of Honor winners wearing the four bullets? Think of the men that held national command authority military leadership posts--Grant, Sheridan, Pershing, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Marshall, Bradley, Wilson (USMC), Harold K. Johnson, Westmoreland, Abrams. These were the leaders that the military groomed and rewarded with command.

Fast-forward to today's Phony War on Terror. The military leaders are simply parrots on the shoulders of the Rummy characters. Times were when soldiers were chosen for military expertise rather than religious and political reliability.

Possibly the Baker Commission could explore this topic.

Labels: ,

By George

A federal judge in Miami has denied bail to the son of Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was indicted last week on U.S. torture charges, reports AP's Curt Anderson. Liberia, Siberia...so many places all sounding very much the same anymore.

It seems Charles Emmanuel, or "Chuckie," as chief of Taylor's Anti-Terrorism Unit, is charged with abducting and torturing a Liberian man in 2002. The unnamed victim was detained for almost a year, in, among other places, a "prison consisting of water- and trash-filled underground holes covered by metal grates. The victims could not lie down. They could not sleep," said prosecutor Karen Rochlin.

The article further reports, "Human rights organizations and Liberian exiles say the unit was responsible for widespread murder, torture, kidnapping, looting and recruitment of child soldiers while Emmanuel was its commander."

Emmanuel will be the first person to be charged under a 1994 law which criminalizes U.S. citizens who commit torture overseas (Emmanuel, unfortunately for him, was born in Boston.) So the devil is in the details here; which is why--if you're American--outsourcing your torture is so important.

By my estimate, Emmanuel will prepare a unique defense. George did it, recent U.S. law permits it, so what--at least I'm not soft on terrorism. The only aspect of his actions that could possibly offend U.S. sensibilities is that Emmanuel failed to name his victim an "armed enemy combatant." Then his actions would have been firmly within the purview of official U.S. policy on abductions and torture.

Chuckie Emmanuel seems like an ideal candidate for a position with the federal government. He has all the requirements to be a successful CIA interrogator.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Theatre of the Absurd

(T)he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.--Hermann Goering

I am concerned about the portrayal of the terrorist threat in television series today. Naturalistic theater, it ain't, though is has the veneer of such. Not that commercial t.v. could ever claim to be a bastion of verisimilitude for the lives it portrays; still for many, it is a stand-in. Not only is the threat posed by terrorism distorted, but the response to the threat is, too. In effect, a terrorist lurks behind every episodic bush (Bush?)

In addition to the unrealistic threat portrayal, the advisers of these series seem to have less knowledge about the military than either Bush, Cheney, or the new Sec Def Gates.

Specifically, I will comment on the series
The Unit (episode aired 12/12/06), which upset my military and fragile psychological equilibrium. This is a series about Delta Force of the Military Special Operations Forces. Each episode covers a day in the life of the supposed War on Terror.

In this episode, the black Sergeant Major's retired Army NCO grandfather receives a Silver Star, fifty years after his action occurred in Korea. The implication is that the grandfather didn't get a Silver Star in Korea because of Army racial prejudice. Some facts would be helpful here; some will be general in nature, some, more technical.

  • The first Army Medal of Honor in Korea went to a black infantry soldier. (On a personal note, my favorite ROTC instructor--MSG Wilbur C. Davis--had a Silver Star from Korea. I served with many other black soldiers with valor awards from Korea.)
  • The dates are incorrect. 2006-50=1956. In order to kill a tank as is alleged in the plotline, his grandfather would have had to serve in the 24th Infantry Regiment, which was actually fighting tanks in 1950. (The Chinese couldn't get tanks to the battle area after 1950.) In addition, the enemy (N. Korea) did not employ tanks singly; they were used in formations.
  • If the hero of the series, the Sergeant Major, was four or five years old after this action, then he would be well over 50 years old--closer to 60-- today. Either figure is too old for a Special Operations Forces detachment leader, as he is supposed to portray. This is assuming that they are, in fact, led by Sgt. Majors.
  • The old soldier also supposedly killed two racists in Mississippi after an incident in a bus station. When was the last time an Army Master Sergeant of any race rode in a bus, let alone, the back of a bus?
  • A sub-plot involved a nephew 1st Lieutenant Armor just returned from Iraq. He was wearing a Combat Infantry Badge and no personal awards for valor, service or achievement. Since when do armor types qualify for a CIB? CIB means Infantry, unless the 1 LT was assigned in an infantry slot, which is possible, but not probable. The 1st LT's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was treated as superficially as was the phoney race card.
  • Another sticking point (no pun intended) is the Commanding Officer, who is having an affair with the wife of one of the senior enlisted men. If a top secret operator can't figure this one out, he probably shouldn't be on the team. Also, so much for honor and dignity.
This is not my usual entry, but it seems illustrative of the fantasy mindset which pervades the representation of war in the media. If a technical adviser can't get these simple historical facts right, then how will there be any correct evaluation of the Iraq misadventure which we are stomping through? Of course, it is absurd of me to imagine that a television program might impart a more correct perspective to the adventure than that offered by many of the supposed news shows.

The public should realize that shows like The Unit are pure theater, in the same sense that the Bush Iraqi invasion was. The only difference is, good American military personnel are dying in this theater.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Believing is Seeing

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend
--Henri Bergson

USA Today's "President Discusses Strategy This Week With Military, Diplomatic, Iraqi Leaders," suggests GWB is expanding his discussion of the Iraqi situation beyond Laura and Barney the Dog.

Except the strategy concerning Bush is how to save the next presidential election for the Republicans. Iraq be damned.

"When I do speak to the American people, they will know that I've listened to all aspects of government." Perhaps, but listening is a far piece from constructively synthesizing from the facts presented. GWB appears to ignore all except what's in his heart; anything contradictory to his will is dismissed.

President Bush repeated Monday that success in Iraq would "help protect the U.S. in the long run" by denying safe haven to "extremists and radicals." So, if they can't live there, then...they can't hit us here. Or something like that.

It is somewhat akin to the gentrification of our inner cities--the addicts and street people may be pushed out in the name of tidying things up, but they have to go somewhere. Perhaps we will provide an institutional setting in which the Iraqi misfits can be housed. Something like the new Gitmo, except a whole lot bigger. A mini-Iraq-within-Iraq. And then, one day when the funds dry up, we will empty them all out, dumping what will then be even angrier and more disaffected people on the world.

And what does "the long run" look like? Does it mean until he's out of office, or the U.S. is out of money? In case he hadn't noticed, the entire populace and government of Iraq is filled with "extremists and radicals." Anyway, even if these unsavory elements were run out of Iraq on a rail (leaving it a ghost town), I'm quite sure any and all of Iraq's neighbors would be happy to put up the overflow, all in the name of giving America a good run for its money.

GWB further defined success as achieving a nation that governs and defends itself and "serves as an ally in this war on terror." That sure is a clearly defined goal. What does "ally" mean? Is this a nation that is happy to spend our tax dollars and give us nothing in return?

Hope Springs Eternal

Top story in the New York Times (12/13/06): "Iraq Army Plans for a Wider Role in Securing Baghdad."

Yes, and Hitler's Army planned to take Moscow.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Terrible, but Not so Enfant, Part Deux

Marley poses a good question, and for GWB's sake, we hope it'll be alright. However, as I do not have the benefit of the spliff which Mr. Marley probably did when writing these inspired lyrics, I cannot "feel alright" about the whole thing. Over morning coffee, not in a canteen cup, I considered a recent posting--
Enfant Terribles. My infantry brain went about deconstructing and extending the ideas, and this is the result:

The combat arms of the Army are death-dealing machines, their only function, to utilize fire and maneuver to defeat an enemy on the battlefield. To a limited extent, this combat power can be modified and utilized to counter resistance movements that are unconventional or guerilla in nature. When this modification occurs, U.S. soldiers start wearing Green Berets and are referred to as Special Operations Forces (SOF). Unlike conventional combat units, the SOF generally has four missions:

  • Unconventional Warfare (UW)
  • Guerilla Warfare (GW)
  • Intelligence
  • Direct Action (DA)
Somewhere, Psychological Operations are thrown into the mix.

Those are the differences from regular Infantry, save for Mission Four (DA), when they are functioning exactly the same as every other combat soldier in the U.S. forces. Direct action consists of closing with and destroying the enemy. Generally, it is my impression that DA has become the main mission of SOF in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Going "toe-to-toe" with hostile forces negates the "combat multiplier" effect of these elite units. A regular Army private can do the same thing in a more cost-effective manner. The loss of an Infantry PFC is not equivalent to the loss of an E-7 SOF asset. Please realize that I am not speaking on any essential, moral level here; it is a cold statement of invested training value. SOF assets should not be the soldiers of choice in individual deadly combat.

But beyond this incorrect employment of combat assets, my larger concern is that Iraq and Afghanistan embody complex sociological, psychological, religious, economic and
political issues, with armed resistance and religious militias also on the scene, which no amount of U.S. force application will resolve.

Unfortunately, a sizeable percentage of Americans think the answer in Iraq is throwing a preponderance of Army and Marine power in there to smash the hell out of everybody and everything. Kill them all and let God sort 'em out. Sounds tough on wannabe T-shirts, but it's a disastrous policy on the ground. While I'm not opposed to legitimate use of military violence, legitimacy is not on our side in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The combat forces of the U.S. military are similar to a predator missile, in that both forms of violence are applied correctly only after the intelligence cycle has determined which legitimate target to engage. Combat units have intelligence shops (S2) designed to deal with enemy order of battle and other intelligence pertinent to ground combat. However, these S2's are not tuned to resistance movements and insurgencies/UW/GW.

The intel utilized by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq is usually provided by the host nation, which may or may not be providing accurate intelligence. The U.S. military should not utilize foreign intel to justify support of Shia dominance in Iraq. Fighting Sunnis is not the solution to this conundrum.

In effect, the U.S. military is now functioning as a strike arm of the Shia majority. Destroying Sunni towns will not address the core issues. You don't deflect and neutralize a threat via combat power; if you use it, it must be as a part a coordinated civilian/military program. This collaborative team effort is necessary to model the desired outcome.

Optimally, you use your enemy's power against him to immobilize or attrit his force, as in the Japanese martial arts of Jujitsu or Aikido. The goal is a blending, versus a clashing.
I'm not suggesting we borrow another move from the Tom Cruise playbook (The Last Samurai), but getting back to my intial statement, the combat arms of the Army are death-dealing machines, a mission incommensurate with mediation or peace-keeping.

There are no historical examples of successfully defeating resistance movements solely with overwhelming destruction dealt by combat forces. Combat power minus diplomatic or political justification is murder.