RANGER AGAINST WAR: February 2007 <

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That's a Big Stick

Callie: You got a warrant?

Buford: Yeah, I keep it in my shoe!
Walking Tall (1973)

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you
--Nancy Sinatra

With shows like "Heroes" and "24," and cartoonish movies like "Unbreakable," media maintains the vision of tidy episodes featuring people invested with superpowers who will mop things up for us.

"24" reminds one of Dale Carnegie's "daytight boxes"--neat packages for life bookended by two sunrises. Life becomes much easier when we can call it a day and have something to show for it (a bad guy in a cell.) And because our nemeses are super villains, we need the likes of them, those who will contain the encroaching toxic threats with a little moxie.

I realize "Unbreakable" predated 9-11 (2000), but the trend toward such magical protection was already well-emplaced. The only problem is, as Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

I blame the guy with the boots, L. Paul Bremer--the guy who as head of the CPA gave away 360 tons of shrink-wrapped $100 bills--for a lot of this
. As though his office boots were going to save him should a bomb come ripping through his office or motorcade. Perhaps they were invested with some superhero-type powers, which would spirit him away, a la Mercury, with wings that would pop out of his boots, something like the new skate/shoe hybrids.

It was life imitating art, straight out of
Wag the Dog, a film about another presidency fomenting a war to distract the public from discovering crushing internal corruption, and another pair of shoes. In that movie, "Old Brown Shoe" became the motto and the symbol for the war. It was a brilliant marketing construction.

A pair of old boots, supposedly belonging to a soldier, became the war's rallying cry. Willie Nelson was hired to do the soundtrack of an ersatz "long lost recorded version" which never was, complete with a "discovered"
scratched up 78 cut which dovetailed nicely with the visual, paying homage to old brown shoes. In a New York minute, people began displaying their old brown shoes everywhere, collecting them at rallying points to show solidarity with the media-created soldier and the cause.

Dedication to symbolism--the kind that necessitates allegiance lest you be branded traitor--is the New Patriotism. Much easier than the old thinking version, and more lethal. For once you abjure the voice of dissent, you give your leaders free rein, thereby removing one of the most important checks in a democracy on runaway power.

We now have the Homeland, which we are protecting from some unseen menace whose passions we are nonetheless assiduously stoking. It is not far removed from Hitler's Fatherland in its sense of uniqueness and
pride, necessitating preemptive strikes upon vulgar and unsophisticated enemies.


Surge Protection

I don't normally cite wholesale, but I could not top this argument by Jim Hightower(Hightower Lowdown, February 2007.)

"I don't know about you, but I'm with George W on this one: It's time for a surge!

Yes, let's surge into Iraq with another 20,000 American troops. Put 'em out there in the hot spots, sweating sniper fire, praying that the car that just pulled up doesn't explode in hellish fury, fretting that anyone (everyone!) could be a suicide bomber.

The only proviso I attach to my gung-ho endorsement of your surge strategy, Mr. President, is none of the 20,000 additional troops that you're committing should come from the ranks of people who've already been there, many on their fourth, fifth, and even sixth rotation. Excuse me, but it's the stuff of tortuous war crimes to keep recycling the same people through that shooting gallery.

Instead, here's my plan: Draft young Republicans! Yes, they've been your most ardent cheerleaders for invading, occupying, and staying the course in Iraq; they've been on the front lines jeering and sneering at war protesters, they've bravely attached those yellow Support Our Troops magnets to their SUVs, they've consistently voted for you and your war. So I say give it to 'em!

It's nice that your own daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have supported your Iraq policy rhetorically--but c'mon, why not out their boots on the ground? Give 'em a chance to prove what they're made of. Those Halliburton executives, too--draft all of their twenty-somethings. And don't forget Cheney's young relatives.

Any young Republican who says "Support Our Troops" should become one. Surely, George, you can find a mere 20,000 youthful supporters willing to sign up for your "noble cause." The least you can do is ask them."

Army Strong

The Current Army Echoes bulletin features an article on the new "Army Strong" ad campaign. The article concludes by introducing us to virtual Soldier, SGT Star, whom you will meet if you go to the Army site to inquire about the Army. It is he who will answer any questions you might have.

So, now we don't even get a live person to bend the facts; now it's done by a virtual Soldier. First it was the tape recorded taps which are played at funerals today; now it is the mechanical welcome to service. Coming and going discharged without the bother of having actual humans to tend to the Soldier's needs.

What more fitting way to introduce us to Fantasyland. You can meet SGT Star, too, at
goarmy.com. It is, at least, an authentic welcome to the world which will face today's Soldiers apres-service.

The creators model these cyber creations upon human composites. I am imagining that SGT Star's sincerity may have been modeled after someone in the current administration.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

With a Little Bit Of Luck

Oh, you can walk the straight and narrow;
But with a little bit of luck You'll run amuck!

With a Little Bit O' Luck lyrics, My Fair Lady

A recent analysis of Bush's budget by writer Tom Raum states, "One major unmentioned entry in President Bush's new budget is luck."

Luck. This reminds me of the book, "Custer's Luck." Custer was famous for his precipitous combat leadership, until the day his luck ran out. Unfortunately, when Bush's runs out, it will be the American taxpayer that will have to pay the piper. Less than 300 soldiers paid for Custer's folly; GWB has exceeded that number by a factor of plus ten.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said it was "deception to hide a massive increase in debt." It appears that Harry just doesn't understand the finer points of Enron accounting practices.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said, "The president's eyes are shut tight to this country's fiscal reality."

But strong U.S. and global economies are helping to mask present war costs.

"There's a lot of surplus capital looking to be invested, and thus far those funds have been invested in U.S. treasuries, and therefore the world is financing our deficits," said Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank. "That has helped keep inflation and interest rates low, and therefore the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been easier to tolerate."

America cannot afford to bet on GWB's luck. He is a bankrupt gambler.

Journalism on Ice

The real point is that totalitarian regimes have claimed jurisdiction over the whole person, and the whole society, and they don't at all believe that we should give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.
--Jeane Kirkpatrick

L’État, c’est moi
! (I am the State!)
--Louis XIV

But apparently, journalists don't.

The incarceration at Guantanamo Bay of Al-Jazeera photojournalist Sami al-Hajj since 2002 is meant to cast a pall upon dissenting journalistic voices within our reach.

The military only acknowledged holding al-Hajj last April, when the Associated Press filed a FOI Act request for a list of Gitmo detainees.

The grounds for his detention are "that he transported money between 1996 and 2000 for a defunct charity that
allegedly provided money to militant groups, and that he met a 'senior al-Qaida lieutenant.'"

Alleged is a legal term necessitating proof and subsequent trial to substantiate the actuality of the allegation. It is not legal proof of guilt.

Likewise, the meeting with al-Qaida personnel. Since when has it become illegal for a journalist to meet with representatives of al-Qaida?

A meeting with an individual does not imply fraternization, nor cooperation, nor affiliation with the group represented by that individual. Didn't Ed Bradley and Dan Rather do the same? It's part of the job. You meet with some unsavory characters. Some even cover the White House beat on a daily basis.

Even assuming al-Hajj did funnel money to bad guys, the basis of all law is jurisdiction. U.S. laws do not bind the likes of al-Hajj, who as a Sudanese is operating outside of U.S. influence.

What is the basis of jurisdiction for arresting a newsman in a foreign country, as a citizen of another foreign country, and holding him without trial in another foreign country for breaking laws of another foreign country?

Where does the jurisdiction lie, and what then is the rule of law?

Ranger must agree with Lamis Andoni, Middle East analyst for al-Jazeera, who, speaking of U.S. bombings of both their Baghdad and Kabul offices, said, "When you are targeted once, it could be a mistake. But when you are bombed twice, it's something else."

Looks like our bombs are smarter than our leaders.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Scattered MIB's

Maybe...but don't be too sure they're keeping them under lock and key.

The FBI has had more than 300 weapons and laptops lost or stolen in just under the past four years, and some of the computers contained sensitive or classified information, the U.S. Justice Department inspector general recently said in a highly critical report.

This type of toe-tripping may be why your FBI still can't find the original mailer of the Anthrax packages from early in the PWOT. Sleep soundly tonight knowing your FBI is protecting you. Three-piece suits at the ready are the finest line of defense for America. Possibly if they use two hands, they'll find their...

The Other Colossal Wreck

Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
-- Proverbs 16:18

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace

--Jimi Hendrix

Last night I heard Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand," whose refrain basically laments the ephemerality of all lives and relationships--"And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually."

These lyrics brought to mind a poem forced upon me in grade school, Shelley's "Ozymandias." In this poem, a traveller remarks upon the last vestiges of a monument to the ancient king Ozymandias, whose project it was to build a monument to his own immortality in the desert.

Hendrix's reality clashes with the certitude of the ancient king, who arrogantly challenged, "'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'" We now know with the benefit of hindsight that Ozymandias is all too human.

"Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,/The lone and level sands stretch far away."
GWB should listen.

Red-Handed in the Cookie Jar

"Tong Sun Park, a once flamboyant South Korean businessman (found guilty) of...trying to influence the U.N. oil-for-food program, was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison ("South Korean Gets Five Years for Dealing with Iraqis.")

And on the other side of the world, the U.S. taxpayers are paying 100's of billions of dollars supporting Iraqi President Talibani, another grubby player who had
his hands in the same scandal.

One goes to jail, one retains political office. Is this 21st century parity? I thought justice was supposed to be blind. Apparently, the new justice is applied or withheld depending on whose team you sign up with.

Blues You Can Use

Wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin'
Plannin' and dreaming each night of his charms

That won't get you into his arms

Wishin' and Hopin' lyrics
, Dusty Springfield

I was very happy and secure until I went into the army. Then I started to feel there was something I should know that I didn't know.
--Bill Evans

It don't make sense you can't make peace
--Willie Dixon

The last two quotes are from blues men of the 20th Century. Let's ignore the hype and hoopla surrounding the surge and America's hope to impose order upon a far-flung corner of the earth.

Let's assume that GWB's hopes and prayers for Iraq are completely answered, and Baghdad becomes the Paris of the Middle East.

One must then ask: How does this achievement benefit the average American taxpayer? Is our government helping Slidell, Louisiana to blossom into the stateside equivalent?

Maybe the new Baghdad will provide a home for still-displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina, kind of like a sister-city. Blues might catch on in some sort of Arab-fusion melange. It could be big, for those music-playing refugees, that is.

Tortuous Route to Torture

Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong
--Thomas Jefferson

What is left when honor is lost

--Publilius Syrius (100 BCE)

Democracies die behind closed doors

-- Judge Damon J. Keith, Federal Court of Appeals

If we aim to be an honorable nation, we can't get there from here.

Egyptian cleric Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr spoke out publicly for the first time about his alleged torture at the hands of Egyptian officials during his four years in custody there. Italy says it will try the 26 U.S. personnel (25 CIA; one USAF Lieutenant Colonel) tied to Nasr's kidnapping from a Milanese street
in absentia. This will be the first criminal trial of the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects.

In one sense, this is not news, as it is an everyday truth that torture by proxy and by U.S. personnel is the order of the day.

But in another sense, the logic of extraordinary rendition and secret prisons still escapes my comprehension. Why the executional gymnastics and contortions when we have a very simple procedure in place for dealing with criminals, a category to which terrorists also belong?

If a person is a "suspected" terrorist, then why doesn't the Department of Justice request extradition through the normal legal process of warrants, charges, trials and punishment or acquittal, if the charges are found to be unproven?

America was founded upon this very simple legal approach, one which would guaranty a uniformity of treatment for all who came under criminal prosecution. It was an effort to eliminate favoritism or undue harsh or prejudicial treatment of any category of suspect. So simple, even a Ranger can grasp this concept. Now that is elegance of design.

The honor of America requires an honesty that goes beyond that of marginal individuals,
like Nasr. the entire basis of American jurisprudence has been that it is better to release guilty men than it is to convict an innocent man.

It doesn't appear that Nasr is a snow-white virgin, but by compromising our moral position, we can never prove this in a regular court of law. And we have handed a a victory to the terrorist organizations, both by joining them in lawless behavior, and by jeopardizing the possibility of legal conviction.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Riding the Gravy Train

War is capitalism with the gloves off
--Tom Stoppard

In time of war, the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers

--August Bebel (1870)

Under the category "bad management" or "venality"--take your choice--almost $10 billion dollars has been discovered to have been squandered in Iraq thus far. Investigators cite "contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses," warning "significantly more taxpayer money is at risk," reports the AP.

Following are some excerpts from the article:

"Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Noting that auditors still have $300 billion of Iraq spending to review, Waxman said the total amount of waste, fraud and abuse 'could be astronomical.'"

"Senate Democrats said recently cited cases of waste were "outrageous rip-offs of the American taxpayer" and introduced legislation Thursday to stiffen punishment for war profiteers and cut down on cronyism in contracting.

"...Iraqi officials, they said, must begin to take primary responsibility for reconstruction efforts. That is an uncertain goal, given the widespread corruption in Iraq and the local government's inability to fund projects.

"(They) Urged the Pentagton to reconsider its growing reliance on outside contractors in wars and reconstruction efforts. "

"The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

"More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

"There is no accountability," said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable."

When will the Congress and the American taxpayer tire of this travesty that is being foisted on honest, hard-working Americans? This is not a War on Terror; it is an undeclared war on the great American middle and lower economic classes that benefits only the very rich. As the hideously unsophisticated character Borat got right in his naivete, this is a War of Terror, and it is being perpetrated upon every citizen who stands to suffer from the profiteering of a few.

Do you know how many programs to aid our own society, and for how many years, might be funded by $1 billion of these lost funds? Wake up, America, and call to end the insanity while you still have a voice.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Someone once said that every form of government has one characteristic peculiar to it, and if that characteristic is lost, the government will fail. In a monarchy, it is affection and respect for the royal family. If that is lost, the monarch is lost. In a dictatorship, it is fear. If the people stop fearing the dictator he'll lose his power. In a representative government such as ours, it is virtue. If virtue goes, the government fails. Are we choosing paths that are politically expedient and morally questionable? Are we in truth losing our virtue? ... If so, we may be nearer the dustbin of history than we realize.
--Ronald Reagan, 40th President

The office of president is a bastardized thing, half royalty and half democracy, that nobody knows whether to genuflect or spit
--Jimmy Breslin

I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face
--The Queen Mother, WW II

The Queen Mum was quite a woman.

Britain's Prince Harry will serve a six-month tour in Iraq. Harry, a Second Lieutenant, will command a four vehicle, 12-man unit of armor-type activities. The Royals will once again look the East End in the face.

Terrorism is a symbolic activity that is aimed at an audience beyond the immediate target. This move by the Royal family and Prince Harry is sublime, since it addresses issues beyond 2LT Harry's actual duties and responsibilities. The message is: the Royal family will share in the same burden as do other families in Great Britain.

The Brits are pulling in the colors and bringing along 1,500 soldiers. In effect, they are admitting the whole campaign was not successful. But at the same time, they're sending their eligible Prince. This is an admission that it was an error, but that the Queen's household is willing to have the last man out be a prince of a fellow.

My best wishes go out to this young man, who supposedly was a wild one on the party scene. His maturity exceeds anything seen in the Bush household.

Friday, February 23, 2007

You're in the Army Now

We're happy as can be.
Have lots of company.

The cooties at night

Drop in for a bite.

We're in the Army now

--You're in the Army Now lyrics, Abe Lyman (1940)

Smiling faces as you wait to land

But once you get there no one gives a damn

You're in the army now

Oh, oh, you're in the army now
--You're In the Army Now lyrics, Quo Status (2006)

It seems that Walter Reed Hospital is a sick place ("US Probes Troops Neglect Claims," BBC, 2/21/07).

Buildings infected with roaches and rodents, mold and mildew along crumbling walls...Four years into a war, and one of our most esteemed military hospitals is revealed as a festering sore on the soul and body of wounded GI's.

If this is the condition of a premier medical facility, then what is the military hiding on lesser-known bases?

Dr. Winkenwerde, Assistant Defense Secretary, said trust in the Army has "taken a hit." Actually, it is the wounded soldiers that have taken the hit.

My personal experience with the poor conditions at Central and North Florida VA hospitals resonates with the findings at Walter Reed. I have even questioned the attending specialists re. the mildew along bubbling areas of concrete walls. How can such a thing be adequately sanitized?

Don't take my word for it--ask other veterans who have attended specialty clinics there, or go see for yourself. The facilities are open to the public, so you can go on your own walk-through.

This is a fine "thank you" for seriously wounded veterans. It is also appropriate, because it prepares them for what awaits them, as veterans, in the real world.

Call for Position Unification

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers
--Jose Narosky

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official
--Theodore Roosevelt

[Back from travels, and back to posting...]

I just received two letters of appeal for support from the veterans groups Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Here are some excerpts from the letters:

from the VFW (Feb. 2007):

"With every passing moment, the situation grows more serious for our veterans. Many are struggling to survive...unable to get a simple VA doctor's appointment...receive a response on a VA claim...or simply get the quality health care they were promised!"

"Please consider sending a generous gift...so we can wage these important battles on behalf of all veterans."

"VFW urgently needs your help to take a strong message of responsibility to our nation's leaders. We will demand what is rightfully ours--timely, adequate and accessible health care!

...we refuse to be another number in line...a faceless statistic caught in a bureaucratic maze of red tape and excuses!"

"Your gift will...serve struggling veterans."

"Together, let's send a strong message that veterans will not be forgotten."

from the DAV (Feb. 2007):

"You remember how tough it's been, at times, since you left the armed forces."

"We disabled veterans will never outlive the consequences of our service, will we?"

"The Commanders Club campaign is our effort to take care of our own...to make sure others get the service they need."

"We need to make sure no fellow disabled vet is forgotten."

"As we say in the DAV, 'We don't leave our wounded behind'."

Well, we know who does leave their wounded behind...

As I have noted previously, the VFW often runs articles in its magazine that glorify or lend support to the phony War on Terror. However, their collection appeals sing another tune.

There is nothing patriotic about the fact that fraternal military organizations are in fact necessary to insure that all veterans are treated fairly and equitably by a "grateful nation." Considering the beneficiaries of this war, one wonders why the oil companies don't support veterans programs with hefty donations.

Ranger's position is that
fraternal organizations should not be necessary to provide services to veterans to help them secure the benefits to which they are entitled. This should be a governmental responsibility.

Unfortunately, until such time that veterans are not treated as adversaries or dispensable citizens, groups such as DAV and VFW are a necessary requirement to help insure our veterans are not ignored by the system.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' (DVA) disability determination process is adversarial and does not treat veterans with respect. Our lives are expendable in combat, but our claims for proper remuneration are questioned after the fact, shoved through a byzantine determination process, all traveling on a slow boat to China.

The sole function Ranger advocates for all veterans groups is to oppose all wars that are not declared as such. If a war is worthy of fighting, then Congress should bless it with a declaration of war.
The groups should unify their platforms. One can't support a war and then complain about poor service to vets. There is currently a fissure in these group's policies; they have put themselves in a double-bind.

You must oppose the war if you are opposed to the poor treatment of vets. The yellow ribbon magnet may say "We Support the Troops", but it really doesn't amount to whole hill of beans when that troop-cum-veteran is turned away from treatment back home.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Uniforms Sell Things

Some ruminations, led by a prefatory reminder of the nature of some of the charges against Lieutenant Ehren Watada, currently undergoing a court-martial for his refusal to participate in the Iraq campaign based on his belief that the war is an illegal action.

"Each of the latter charges relates to his public comments...the military judge also rejected defense arguments that 1LT Watada's remarks are protected by the First Amendment

Yesterday while spending the night in Columbus, Georgia, the town supporting Ft. Benning, I watched a TV advertisement that was illustrative of the Army's schizophrenic behavior.

The ad had two enlisted soldiers describing the great deals they got from a local car dealership. Both soldiers were dressed in battle dress type uniforms. Just seems odd: Watada can't talk to the press, but enlisted soldiers can wear the national uniforms to help sell cars. Freedom of speech obviously has different interpretations at Ft. Benning than at Ft, Lewis, Washington.

Soldiers seem to have freedom of speech to pimp for used car dealers, but not to oppose an illegal war.

another article, Lieutenant John Head noted that "contemptuous speech by an officer directed at a President" is grounds for prosecution under military law. What if contemptuous and truthful are the same thing? If one's statements are truthful and accurate, though they be construed as contemptuous, is that then illegal?

"Head also said Watada was not entitled to a hearing on the legality of the Iraq war and had no right to defend his actions by arguing that they were motivated by his opposition to an illegal war. Those are
political questions that a military court has no authority to consider, he said."

How can a military judge possibly say that Watada's objections to the war are political issues rather than legal in nature? The legality of this war and GWB's orders are the crux of this legal issue. Legality can be determined by recourse to written treatises. One's politics are a separate issue, and subjective in nature. Opposition to this war transverses political boundaries.

If Nuremburg taught any lesson, it is that the legality of all orders must be addressed by all soldiers, and not only officers.

The Kiss

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Won't Get Fooled Again, The Who

This is based on a recent must-read New Yorker article on Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, wheeler-dealer extraordinaire. It is titled, "Mr. Big," and like Carrie Bradshaw's eponymous commitment-phobe boyfriend in "Sex and the City," Talibani's allegiances are mightily amBIGuous. You will be left utterly confused about the direction of the war.

Talibani, an avowed socialist, refers to GWB as his "good friend," but Mao Zedong as his political role model. He recalls fondly his meeting with Chou En-lai in 1955--"I kissed him, too," he said. Reassuring stuff from the president of a country totally propped up by U.S. tax dollars. I'm sure that 3,000+ dead U.S. soldiers should not have died to insure Talibani's political life as a socialist.

In addition, Talibani spent time in the mid-70's in Beirut, working with the group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "a Marxist Palestinian guerrilla organization." PFLP was also a terrorist organization that also killed American citizens, in addition to Israelis, according to the State Department.

It appears that former terror direct affiliation is not a disqualification for leadership in the wonderfully democratic people's republic of Iraq. As this Ranger previously stated, nobody in this administration or the MSM will discuss or examine present Iraqi government support to Hezbollah. Talibani would be a great place to start this investigation due to his past linkages to terror international.

Talibani is lavishly wealthy, and is "believed to have amassed many millions of dollars in 'taxes' of oil smuggled out of Iraq through Kurdistan between 1991 and 2003, when the country was under U.N. sanctions." So his fabulous wealth is ill-gotten.

A Kurdish M.P. is quoted as saying "The Prime Minister and President have discretionary funds to spend as they like of million or more dollars a month," and "I think the corruption is widespread and systemic and comes from the very top."

On a recent trip to Paris, Talibani spent $13,500 per night for accommodations, and and a half mil over the length of his stay. This is stunning, since the average American working for minimum wage must pay for this largesse through his tax dollars.

While in France, Talibani was attempting to set up a joint oil venture with French oil company Total. The company was attempting a multinational partnership, including an American "in the hope that the U.S. military would help with security." Now the U.S. military is a proposed security arm for foreign oil companies? Total also "allegedly paid for Iraqi oil under the scandal-ridden Oil for Food program."

Proudly speaking of his home area in Iraq, Talibani said, "There are now 20 billionaires and 2000 millionaires in Sulaimaniya alone!" I wonder where the money came from to produce this effusion of wealth? Hint: April 15th deadline.

So, we have another oil man prospering in the world of GWB, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer who funds, and the U.S. soldiers who keep dying. "Chemical Ali," Ali Hassan al-Majid, once called Talibani a "wicked pimp." Not a bad assessment from the "it takes one to know one" files. People such as Talibani are opportunistic scum, and good Americans should realize that our support props up former supporters of terrorism and current Maoists.

American foreign policy has certainly come a long way, baby. We had a generational struggle against Communism, and now we support an avowed Maoist. It seems obscene and insane. Perhaps if I were on the other side of the looking glass...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Rustlers

Riding on the range,
I've got my hat - on,

I've got my boots - dusty

I Wanna Be A Cowboy lyrics,
Boys Don't Cry

Well, another of our long-term allies is taking legal action against U.S. illegal renditions. Italy has indicted 25 suspected CIA agents and a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel Friday "in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric who had been under investigation for recruiting Islamist fighters."

Bear in mind that both Italy and Germany, which recently tried a similar case, are long-term NATO allies with real interests in defeating terrorism. Both nations have treaties and legal ties to American terrorism counteraction policies since the 1970's.

Both nations struggled with domestic terrorist groups (RAF and Red Brigade), and ultimately neutralized those groups within their borders. This was done through police and intelligence, and correct court procedure. Constitutional frameworks guided these efforts.

One example of following correct protocol when dealing with terrorists is the Red Brigade kidnapping of Brigadier General Dozier in 1982. The manhunt for Dozier was orchestrated by Italian police, and his subsequent rescue was achieved through an armed Italian police raid upon a Red Brigade safe house. All done with cooperation, legality and allied partnership acting in tandem. This was when America knew how to cooperate with allies and to uphold the rule of law.

Now we have a faux cowboy for president, and so cowboy tactics are de riguer. Unfortunately for America, cowboys do not understand international law regarding extradition protocol. You can't just rustle up a suspect off the street like so many wayward sheep.

It appears that an Italian court is about to teach us an old law that is clear and distinct to the rest of the world: kidnapping is not a legal option when dealing with suspected criminals, including terrorists. Even if you do affix the suffix "rendition," which has a legal definition, to the
extraordinary prefix, it is kidnapping by any other name.

This is serious business, having paid government operatives acting outside of the purview of the rule of law. Last time this happened, our country underwent the resignation of a president. One must wonder why there is no congressional reaction to this illegal approach to the phony GWB war on terror.

One must further wonder: Why is America in NATO if our national leaders are unwilling to work with our allies?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

No to Drug Traffickers and Homosexuals

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.
--Albert Camus

Criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government.

--Sen. Robert Taft, (R) Ohio

The USMC and U.S. Army are recruiting more enlistees with criminal records, "including some with felony convictions." This is a questionable and illegal action by those entities. It seems Department of Defense (DoD) policies are above the law. Where in the phrase, "Duty, honor, country..." does it say, "convicted felon"?

It is illegal for a convected felon to be around firearms unless legal rights have been restored. In fact, felons are not allowed to own cartridges or any other ammunition. For the average felon, the likelihood of this restoration is akin to an act of God; it seldom happens. The legal costs to do so and the policies of the federal government preclude restoration of gun rights for ordinary individuals.

The Army calls these "moral waivers," in a manner of doublespeak. Shouldn't they be "immorality waivers"? It seems that even with higher enlistment cash bonuses, allowing more high school dropouts and low-scoring aptitude candidates, and loosening weight and age restrictions, the Army is still not making its numbers.

The number of moral waivers has increased 65% since 2003. from 4,918 to 8,129 in 2006, with the sharpest increase in waivers for "serious misdemeanors," including
"aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide." Waivers for less serious crimes, like drug use, have "dropped or remained stable."

There are also indications that the Army is wooing skinheads and other gang members to flesh out their ranks. Possibly it is that intimidating skinhead tactics are an excellent skill set for today's new Army requirements of imposing torture upon detained individuals.

Still, the Army has its pride. They will not recruit those with more than one felony, or drug traffickers. Considering the waving poppy fields of Afghanistan, that seems like a wise restriction.

As a citizen and a retired soldier, this writer finds it exceedingly strange that convicted felons can openly join our military, but homosexuals are treated as scum by recruiters and the administration, alike. Forget the criminals--allow open service by homosexuals and DoD can remain a law-abiding institution. DoD must comply with the law and disallow felons from carrying weapons.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Call off the Dogs

Say, A doggy is nuttin'
if he don't have a bone
--Who Let the Dogs Out, Baha Men

I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee

Meditation 17, John Donne

Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us

is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing
--Ronald Reagan

I live in an economically depressed rural Florida county that has numerous social problems, but unlike those created by GWB in Iraq, nobody is throwing money our way.

In particular, Gadsden County suffers an infant mortality rate almost double that of the rest of Florida.

A local editorial recently stated, "It is the story of the Third World-in our backyard." Further, "economic and educational deprivation are a clear and present danger to human welfare," and "the continuing lack of universal health care has the effect of condemning many poor people to significantly less healthy lives."

"A system that guaranteed primary health-care services for all would provide more than medicine; it would better educate, thus reducing the knowledge deficit that's at the root of the tragedy and, perhaps, diminish the rate of poverty that infects America's economy as well."

On the same day, a U.N. study on child welfare was released, showing the U.S. ranked second to last among the 21 wealthiest countries surveyed (Great Britain was 21st.)

"'What (the U.S. and Britain) have in common are very high levels of inequality, very high levels of child poverty, which is also associated with inequality, and in rather different ways poorly developed services to families with children,' said [Jonathan] Bradshaw, a professor of social policy at the University of York in Britain [and one of the study's researchers.]

"'They don't invest as much in children as continental European countries do,' he said, citing the lack of day-care services in both countries and poorer health coverage and preventive care for children in the U.S."

The new federal budget has granted hundreds of billions of dollars for Department of Defense death machines, but poor babies, who offer no votes and whose parents probably are disenfranchised from the system, are largely ignored in a federal budget scheme that seems set up to protect more valuable assets. Valuable in our current system is defined as profitable.

Ironically, federal funds cannot be expended on disbursing birth control education, condoms or abortion assistance, yet little is done to aid the mother and fetus during pregnancy and beyond.

How can the administration justify expenditures on Iraqi children, when we have hungry children among our citizenry?
So much energy spent on fomenting fears to justify exorbitant and illegal military action towards an imaginary threat, while the day-to-day reality and shame of hunger in America persists.

If this administration gave more than lip-service to human rights, serving the needs of our own citizens would be primary in their budgetary considerations. However, it is evident that fiduciary solvency is a prerequisite to gaining favor at the federal disbursement table.

The dogs must be called off, not just to save the lives of our troops, but to keep our precious tax dollars funding necessary programs at home, instead of being frittered away building and rebuilding futile efforts in the future theocracy of Iraq.

If we don't, we may find ourselves like Old Mother Hubbard who, to her surprise, could not give the doggie a bone as the cabinet was bare.

by Jim and Lisa

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Leaving Home

All wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the whole world to do the fighting for them
--The New Colossus, Emma Goldman

We are told the White House has decided to accommodate more Iraqi refugees ("
White House Opens Doors to Iraq Refugees ") Of course, we probably shouldn't take that headline literally, unless we're talking about photo-ops for the next Christmas card.

Webster's Dictionary of Law defines refugee as "an individual seeking refuge or asylum; especially, an individual who has left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution (as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.)" Democracies do not create refugees.

About two million Iraqis have settled outside of their country since the inception of hostilities four years ago, with 1.8 million more relocating within Iraq. The administration said they will accept 7,000 new Iraqi refugees this year, up from 202 last year. As well, the U.S. will contribute $18 million for a worldwide Iraqi resettlement program, to aid the countries absorbing this
"human tide" of refugees.

What great news. Another 18 million going to help actual Iraqis. One must ask, if one had a modicum of sense, "How does encouraging Iraqis to leave Iraq help form a democratic nation?"

Does one imagine that America's poor are able to leave this blessed nation? I don't think other nations have the welcome mat out with bennies to welcome our huddled masses and homeless wretched refuse. Rather, they must perdure in GWB's imposed dystopia. The privilege of relocation is only open to the economic upper echelon.

The argument goes that interpreters, soldiers and police that helped the U.S. are at risk of death if they stay in Iraq. While this is probably true, it reveals the Big Lie that democratic ideals are creating a new democracy in the Middle East. If the above personnel are at mortal risk, then accommodation has not been achieved. So, we have created such a shining beacon of democracy that people are dying to leave.

Democracy is not going to be the endgame in Iraq, and U.S. taxes will form the basis of this new Iraq. Who is the U.S. supporting--those leaving, or those staying? The refugees prove this experiment is a failure.

If Hesse was right about the laugh of the immortals, then the gods are rolling in the aisles courtesy of GWB.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Show Me the Money

Show me the money
--film Jerry Maguire

All wars are fought for money

The anti-war commentators refer to the neocon commitment to Israel with the term
Likudnik. This appears to be an overblown concept. It would be more appropriate to call them nudniks, if one must use the mamaloshen. And why not, in keeping with the multi-culti ethos which pervades pop culture today. (Just look at any Lost episode and you'll see what I mean. Don't look at your neighbor's, or your own, next barbeque function, however.)

Ascribing any prescient policy or devious planning at a strategic geopolitical level is beyond the limited vision of GWB and either of his equal opportunity Secretaries of State.

U.S. cluelessness and lack of sophistication does not imply a Likud link. U.S. policy does not have a bit in its mouth; it is more like a runaway stallion.

American policy must become proactive rather than reactive.

Ranger is inclined to follow the money. Israel is not the beneficiary of this war, and in fact, stands to suffer. The money is beyond the national sphere, and is favoring the oil producers and transnational bloodsuckers.

Not Too Clever Bad Boy

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace

--George W. Bush

Well, thank God for that, George.

The U.S. invades Iraq, and the macho good guys win. Yea team. Saddam is out, but neighbor Admadinejad is elevated in stature, thereby gaining regional hegemony for Iran, another bad guy. Oops...my bad, says the U.S. administration, or so would say the administration if they had any integrity and humility. Unfortunately, the president must have dropped those qualities out of his flight suit on the deck of that aircraft carrier back when.

Well, the only answer when faced with eating crow is to press on, and fight the next bad boy. This action will result in increased oil prices, but that's the price to pay for dealing with Iran.

Except now, higher oil prices increase profits for all oil-producers, so emboldening Venezuela's Chavez to foment his anti-American policy in this hemisphere. Alright, so Chavez gets it next (it's been awhile since the U.S. has carried out these games south of the hemisphere), meanwhile giving Iran a chance to consolidate and reorganize.

We know where Iran and Venezuela get their funding, but who pays for the U.S. war policy?

The Chinese are happy to lend the money to execute these endless wars, and the Saudis get to sell their petroleum to keep all the war machines well-oiled. And the Chinese provide weapons to all of our adversaries, in the name of fair play.

The U.S. is like a naive yet blustering entrant on the playground who lacks a sense of discernment, but is so full of bravado he imagines himself cleverer then them all. America is sucking up to the Saudis and Chinese, all the while having its feet unwittingly yanked out from under it.

America has the best politicians and career diplomats that the Saudis can buy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wearing two Hats

A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy
--Benjamin Disraeli

I am confused again. Pentagon Chief Gates told Russian President Putin this weekend, "One Cold War was quite enough," and that he would go to Moscow "to try to reduce tensions." Never mind that Putin was
correct in fingering U.S. foreign policy "for inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an 'almost uncontained use of military force.'"

Isn't Gates the Secretary of Defense? Shouldn't diplomacy be the purvue of the Department of State? Or has Gates been given a lateral transfer without Senate approval? We're still a democracy, and you mayn't coopt another's cabinet position, even if she's not doing a very good job of it. It's not kosher.

One would think that as Secretary of Defense he would have his hands full, what with overseeing two elective wars, and not have enough time to carry out diplomatic missions as well.

Here's a simple idea: Let defense handle military matters, and State perform the diplomatic functions. That is so simple, even a Ranger can understand it.

Hungry Democracies

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God had granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world
--Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife (1864)

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding
--Louis D. Brandeis

Much is written about how to succeed in foreign interventions. Frances Fukuyama recently suggested that America fails in winning hearts and minds where Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeed, because the later two offer assistance to the neediest of their constituency ("Keeping Up with the Chavezes".)

He says, "Washington stresses democracy and human rights--that is, procedural safeguards that institutionalize popular sovereignty and limited government--as well as free trade, with its promise of economic growth," an approach that appeals to the middle class and the educated, who do not comprise the majority of the populations we are dealing with in the Middle Eas
"(I)f true supporters of liberal democracy and free markets are ever to compete successfully with the Islamists and populists of the world, they need to have a social agenda that gives some hope not just to the middle-class and educated, but to those who are isolated and excluded, as well. ...our influence is dependent in large measure on our ability to offer people around the world what they want, and not what we think they should want."
Fareed Zakaria recently pointed out how the Bush administration sees the introduction of "an election" as the cure to every problem, ignoring more basic human needs ("The Limits of Democracy," Newsweek.) He suggests only aiding countries that "protect human rights, reduce corruption and increase the quality of governance," rather than pointing to elections as the benchmark for success. Of course, that puts us in a quandry, as we can't rightly stop funding our own government.

It is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You do not become an entrepreneur before you have food in your stomach and rid yourself of parasites (something we couldn't accomplish in two elections.) Democracies do not flourish without a stable middle class. This is true in Vietnam, Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuela, Iran and Iraq. Fighting wars never addresses these issues.

And while it is true that a working social agenda is needed if you are to deal humanely with an occupied population and gain their trust, it brings us back in a kind of eternal return to the primary question for our nation: Why is this administration choosing to nip and tuck from the meager subsidies available to the neediest among us, our "isolated and excluded"?

Since we're in a new "faith-based" era of social services, it brings to mind the many churches who will send groups on far-flung missions, while they only need to seek across town for their own poor and needy. Alas, that doesn't look too interesting on the Friday film screen. Much more exotic to be standing next to a Malawian in brightly colored wraps smiling broadly near the great white missionary. Just ask Madonna.

If a political party in America could realistically address these domestic needs, then we'd see true democracy here. Only then would we be qualified to address the needs and wants outside our borders.
A novel idea: America and Americans first. Our auto makers may be having a tough time of it, but they've got some great slogans. How does this sound: America is Job One.

Jim and Lisa

Monday, February 12, 2007

Maybe He's Your Pal

President Bush getting chummy with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

In all my fifty years of public service, I have never seen a document so crowded with infamous distortions, on a scale so huge that I never imagined that any government on this planet was capable of uttering them
--Cordell Hull

What a way to fly into a war... unarmed and outta gas
--Major Truman Landon

from Tora! Tora! Tora!

It's an accepted tenet of American faith that the invasion of Afghanistan is the good war, and it is kicking terrorist's asses. Don't forget that Al Quada is hiding and operating under the protection of the Taliban. Do forget that the Taliban is making a great comeback there, following our supposed victory.

But why not address the primary issue, to wit: all of the radicalism and funding for these groups hostile to the Western world originate in Saudi Arabia, and are funded with petro dollars provided by willing U.S. oil consumers?

None of the terrorists would or could operate in Western nations without this invaluable Saudi support. Without money, the Al Quada operatives would be eating goat meat in a Tora Bora cave network.

When is the U.S. policy going to address the main threat to America--Saudi Arabia?

Falling Star

Hitch your wagon to a star
--Ralph Waldo Emerson,
"American Civilization"

So, Condi Rice is "not the woman she once was," reports the
Economist ("The Falling Star of Condoleeza Rice"). They concede, "Being a perfect protégée can get one a long way up the greasy pole. But it is not the best qualification for being a successful secretary of state".

She is now receiving flak from both sides of the fence over her performance. The International Herald Tribune reports Senators Carl Levin (D) and John McCain (R) demanded earlier this month that Rice explain the conditions the Iraqis must meet for continued U.S. involvement.
After receiving Rice's explanation, they issued an irate response saying, "What Secretary Rice's letter makes abundantly clear is that the administration does not intend to attach meaningful consequences for the Iraqis continuing to fail to meet their commitments."

Rice never provided a challenge to the administration's will. She, like Colin Powell, is and was nothing more than an administration shill who enabled GWB to run America into an unwarranted war. Her personal fealty to the President and his policies preclude any actions that will actually benefit the interests of America.

With Rumsfeld gone, eyes are on Rice. "Before, nobody assigned her the kind of ownership or authorship over the administration's policy — she did get something of a pass," said Michael McFaul, a political science professor at Stanford who knows Rice.

Secretaries of State should not get "passes," like they are high school hall monitors. Presumably they are hired on the basis of credentials, which do not necessitate awarding of a pass.

Before a Senate panel on 1/11/07,
Senator George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, told Rice, "You're going to have to do a much better job" explaining the rationale for the war, adding that the administration could no longer count on his support.
"The censure continued last week during three days of rare Senate testimony from a cadre of Rice's predecessors. While the former secretaries of state and national security advisers — Baker, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski — were diplomatic in their critiques of the administration's foreign policy, all left the impression that as America's top diplomat, Rice was not engaging in real diplomacy.

"That's what we hire a secretary of state for, not to sit there and proclaim categorical statements, but to engage in the process," said Brzezinski, who was national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter."

Albright suggested it might be good to "communicat(e) with countries with which one disagrees," and Scowcroft called the troop buildup a "tactic, not a strategy."

One must ask: What did Rice or Powell ever achieve in the diplomatic arena while serving as Secretaries of State? Further, as National Security Adviser Rice was asleep at the wheel, and this was a major contributing factor that lead to the actual events of 9-11. I guess she passed there, too.

Kenneth Pollack, a research director at the Brookings Institution, said: "It is no longer the case that Rumsfeld is the administration bad guy. People will look much harder at Condi's role now, and Iraq is really going to rest on her shoulders."

The intelligence indicators were there, yet the National Security Counsel ignored these signals. Rice should bear a burden of culpability in this fiasco, as should GWB. Vacations in Crawford always seem to trump actual operational requirements, be they terrorism or natural disaster.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Center for the Intrepid, Take Two

A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves
--German Proverb

It is a road that leads to nowhere
The road that leads to war

If no one knows or seems to care:

"What was the dying for?"

Robert Clippard, fr. poem Iraq (found in "Day of Poetry for the War," 2/12/07)

[Ranger and I both unwittingly (separately) wrote on the Center for the Intrepid, the privately-funded rehab facility in San Antonio, as it struck the wrong chord in each of us. Below is my take.]

The above poem celebrates the glorious American invasion of Gulf War I, and the poet puts the words in an Iraqi soldier's mouth. But it seems American soldiers might also ask the same question, today.

I can not feel good about this celebration of maiming and capitalism, the reason for the hospital, and the celebration. The facility did not have to come into existence, as its clientele did not have to incur their devastating injuries.

At opening ceremonies for the center, John McCain said, "...your service demands us all to do what we can..." I agree, but these maximum efforts should be at curbing the insanity of a military engagement run amuck, versus its institutionalization.

Now, what it it our troops are doing in Iraq? It sure looks like they're serving as bullet magnets from all sides, helping in this regard to slake off some of the Iraqi's anger and ammunition as they move through their civil war, on the way to their eventual theocracy. And why is it we've had a hand in this?

No, I can't be happy about the new Center for the Intrepid. Call it what you will, it's a damn shame.

--by Lisa


Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it
--Douglas MacArthur

I read the Wall Street Journal's editorial coverage of opening ceremonies for the new, privately-funded rehabilitation facility in San Antonio dubbed Center for the Intrepid with a heavy heart ("Help for the Intrepid"):

"The center is a 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility...built entirely with private funds. More than 600,000 Americans contributed $50 million to construct the Center for the Intrepid. Thousands more donated the $8.3 million needed to build the new Fisher Houses for Brooke Army Medical Center, home to the sole Army Burn Center and one of two Army Amputee Care Centers. BAMC has treated more than 2,600 service members injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. has cared for more casualties."

John McCain said, "What you have done for us, we can never do for you." What garbage. Although I appreciate the private funding for this facility, it is a step in the wrong direction.

Our soldiers fought for this country and this country should care for them in a realistic medical manner. Soldiers are not beggars, and should not and need not be the recipients of privately-funded care. This is a responsibility of the federal government.

In fact, the state leadership should also step up to the plate, since the National Guard is also being bludgeoned and bloodied in this phony war.

This country owes veterans care and benefits that are not contingent upon politically-based budgetary considerations (see previous post on Congressman Boyd's comments.)

":Democratic strategist Paul Begala told (author Joanathan Gurwitz's) colleague Scott Huddleston, "It is an obscenity that a government that can find billions in no-bid contracts for Halliburton and trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy cannot find a few million dollars to bind up the wounds of its heroes."

America must honor all its veterans, both service-connected disabled and non-service connected, with realistic service and benefits. This is not a free ride; these benefits were paid for by their selfless service. American lawmakers must put our money where our mouths are. This is something my WW II veteran father used to say.