RANGER AGAINST WAR: September 2007 <

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Half Empty

The task of the news-writer is easy; . . .to tell
that we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered,
did all, and our enemies did nothing

Idler #30, Samuel Johnson

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

Dream a Little Dream of Me, Walter Adolphus

Ranger finds he has a sensitivity for semantics.

A recent New York Times piece proclaimed,
"American and Iraqi Forces Control Half of Baghdad." Sounds like a strategic step forward in the next five year plan.

But couldn't the headline just as easily have read, "American and Iraqi Forces
DON'T Control half of Baghdad"?

And of course, controlling or not controlling half of the capital is meaningless if the adversaries of freedom and democracy are simply laying low. It is called consolidation and reorganization. Let the U.S. control whatever ground they occupy, since they will be gone tomorrow, or the day after. . .but they will be gone.

In one-third of all Baghdad neighborhoods there are operations under way to “remove all enemy forces and eliminate resistance” said Maj. General Joseph Fil, the American commander in Baghdad. Removing all enemy forces sounds great, but there are no invading, identifiable maneuver forces that are clearly identifiable.

The referenced enemy forces are actually nothing more than the Iraqi citizens themselves. Obviously, if the U.S. successfully removes and eliminates these forces, dissent will be gone, for the moment. Critics call it the "Whack-a-mole"strategy, driving insurgents out of one area only to have them pop up in another.

It reminds me of a milblog posting I read yesterday via
Slate on observations of the night desert, by Teflon Dan at acutepolitics:

"Once I saw what seemed to be a herd of scorpions moving blackly across the road, pinchers waving. Camel spiders emerge from holes, skittering impossibly fast in search of those same armored denizens. Scattered across the desert are moving dirt bumps that turn into hedgehogs as you approach."

The insurgent diaspora lies in wait, like the post's "dirt bumps" waiting to be transformed into hedgehogs. The arrogance of the U.S. to imagine it otherwise.

Three quarters of the way through we read, "American forces had gone into only a small corner" of the Sadr City slum, "
a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad and a stronghold of Moktada al-Sadr, anti-American Shiite cleric. American commanders have held off trying to clear the area of militia fighters, fearing that it would set off a fierce street-to-street battle."

They plan on that move once they have armed enough volunteers (=Sunni militias), who have promised they will eventually join the regular Iraqi police units.

Right-o. The U.S. will arm the Sunnis to the teeth , and of course, these weapons will be used exclusively against U.S. designated targets. Sweet dreams.

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Battle Rattle for the Catwalk

All boys love liberty, till experience convinces them
they are not so fit to govern themselves as they imagined.

-- Samuel Johnson

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism
--George Washington


My last installment from October's Gun & Ammo, promise.

One must really love something beyond the firearms themselves to swallow this garbage about "accessorizing correctly." Get a load of the little camo flag top dead center of the 2nd Amendment-happy blokes' body armor.

Why must citizens have tactical combat rigs, anyway? And why tactical classes and assault fire schools? Who are these people planning on shooting? If they become victims of a home invasion, are they planning to fire and maneuver against the perpetrators?

Ranger loves firearms as aesthetic pieces and collects historical weapons. This is my life's expertise, but people like Mssrs. Sweeney and Fortier in the photo have turned the word "gunny" into a scary and unsavory concept.

Yes, the 2nd Amendment gives the U.S. citizen the right to possess firearms, even those of a military nature, but is this pseudo-military posture that of the average gunowner?

Ranger often wonders why these tactical types so often are not combat veterans, themselves?

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Rebel With a Cause

Tonight the administration its media lackeys hail a great victory, reminiscent of their reportage of the killings of al-Zarqawi, Qusay and Uday:

"Abu Osama al-Tunisi, supposedly one of the most senior leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq "was killed along with two other terrorist suspects in a U.S. F-16 strike that dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a safe house where they were meeting, said the U.S. Central Command Air Forces."

"Terrorist suspect" is code for people without rifles.

Why couldn't they go into the safe house and arrest the guy? The Iraqis, of course, not us. We had intelligence on the ground; we confirmed al-Tunisi's presence from a fleeing inhabitant of the safe house minutes before the bombing. That gesture would give us at least the patina of justice and legitimacy.

Of course, they keep talking about how the level of violence will ratchet up after our departure. And what do they call dropping two 500-lb bombs on somebody's head?

I cannot be happy about this. We have killed a leader of a rebel group of our own creation. (Al-Qaida in Iraq did not exists prior to our invasion.) It is a homegrown phenomenon, discrete from al-Qaida worldwide.

Does anyone else feel the absurdity of this? We are creating them, and then killing them. This is madness. The news trots out the incendiary catch phrases -- "suspected of kidnapping and torture" -- images usually effective in quelling any protest. How can you be for someone who does those dastardly things?

Of course, the U.S. has achieved 25,000 additional prisoners as a result of the Surge -- couldn't you call that, too, a form of kidnapping? We'll leave the torture issue off the table.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson said "he believes al-Qaida leadership is taking stock of its ability to disrupt U.S. and Iraqi government activities in Iraq."

I'd say they're pretty chuffed.

The death of this leader will not change the nature of this organization, nor will it change the fact that the U.S. is an illegal invading army of aggression that drops big bombs on Iraqis who protest the occupation.

Democracy rules.


Peace is our Product

Yesterday the Tallahassee Democrat noted that robberies are up 17% so far this year in our fair city. The same upturn was noted nationwide according to FBI crime statistics, though the average rate of increase was lower.

So here's a Ranger idea for addressing the problem:

Back in the 1970's, the Army trained snipers for possible use in civil disobedience scenarios, paralleling the FBI's Cointelpro. In fact, the establishment expected large-scale riots a la Hough in Cleveland to become a commonplace occurrence. Racial strife was the core issue, so the Army's response was
-- what else? -- to train snipers for domestic use. Hence, my sniper course was a "special" sniper program; we were trained to shoot in U.S. cities.

And you though Kent State was an aberration.

So bringing the war home, let's use the lessons learned in Iraq -- the world's newest democracy -- to help lower our own cities' crime rates. If it's democratic enough for use in our Baghdad freedom initiative, than it is good enough for U.S. streets, n'est ce pas?

Since robberies tend to increase in times of financial stress, the idea would be to put out entrapment scenarios and/or cash-laden wallets variously and variably around town. Cover the trap with sniper fire, and when the bait is nibbled, blast them into the next grid square.

Certainly you weren't thinking some kind of initiatives to help the economy or the disenfranchised, were you? We're talking Army Strong solutions, here.

They are reporting progress on the ground in Iraq. It would be a pity to have all of that highly trained talent go to waste. It seems only right.

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Brave One

Ranger Corollary: This takes some of the fun out of it

I'd say it was probably the fall that killed this guy. . .

or it could be the crowbar embedded in his skull.
I'd say it's about 50-50

The Brave One (2007)

As with most things in life, perspective is all.

Ranger has two observations after viewing the recent vendetta film,
The Brave One (Hollywood doesn't provide too much fodder for thought these days):

[1] If desirous of conducting a vendetta against bad guys, it would be wise to take an NRA firearms handling course before hitting the streets.

[2] Foster's vigilante character used her body as bait to lure her victims, ala Florida's infamous Aileen Wournos. Her gambit is a cognate to recently exposed U.S. policies of baiting the field in Iraq with goodies in order to find targets. If it is wrong in the movie, than it's wrong in Iraq. Cinema verite, right?

In a country where most homes have AK-47's and the economy is not exactly booming (that would be Iraq), nicking munitions here and there doesn't exactly sound like a bad idea. So it is questionable that everyone picking up a strand of det cord is yer average Joe terrorist. Maybe it was just intended to be a little fond memento for the mantle piece.

As Capt. Matthew P. Didier, Ranger sniper scout platoon leader explained, "baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy." Well,
maybe they just want the munitions for home protection--we in America are o.k. with the home-as-castle doctrine, right?

Perhaps the sticky-fingered individual was simply a budding entrepreneur who intended to resell the item at the local gun and pawn. The U.S. can't can't say it is against making a little profit, entrepreneurally-speaking. And it would be disingenuous to use the argument that the seller should be held criminally accountable, as the folks who would then buy this ill-gotten booty would use it against Americans.

If that were so, we would have to hold every American gun purveyor who sold a weapon to a future criminal responsible retroactively. And we won't do that, will we.

Let freedom ring.

--Jim and Lisa

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paying it Forward

Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, has a wonderful essay on confronting climate change in today's New York Times (Our Moral Footprint).

He is not alarmist in terms of the earth's destruction, as the earth will continue to exist, be it hotter or colder. But our place on it may be jeopardized. It is an argument for "a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility," lest we lose freedom by virtue of profligacy and inaction, versus reasoned choices.

Havel appeals to the corporate mindset and fiduciary responsibility (something our current leadership has forgone):

"Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer."

Today the figure of $800 billion was floated as the cost estimate for the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars thus far. Our leaders are spending resources while wreaking havoc on lives and the environment like there is no tomorrow. Perhaps they know something we don't.


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Saving his Meat

"Childrens do learn"
--GWB, on his NCLB legislation

Bless grashus! ef chilluns ain’t gittin’ so dey knows mo’n ole fokes
How Mr. Rabbit Saved His Meat, Uncle Remus

The president said the above at a public school in the Bronx yesterday, where he was promoting congressional renewal of his No Child Left Behind Act, a measure which keeps teachers and students on a year-long treadmill of preparation and standardized test-taking (An Extra "S" on the Report Card).

To many, this program puts a severe dent in creative education, making the school environment tense and depersonalized. It is is the quintessential leveling of the system. Just the sort of thing which might appeal to someone who needs to learn verb conjugation, but who doesn't need people thinking or asking too many questions off the grid.

Per GWB's above faux pas: C-student subject-verb error, or steely-eyed pandering to a perceived untapped, ebonics-speaking base? You be the judge.


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Rule of Law

Brandon Mayfield, and wife Mona

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.

‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,

and they can’t take that away

--Proud to Be an American, Lee Greenwood


Here is democracy in action: for the second time in as many weeks, provisions of the USA Patriot Act have been found unconstitutional (Patriot Act Provisions Voided).

"In a case brought by a Portland man who was wrongly detained as a terrorism suspect in 2004, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Patriot Act violates the Constitution because it 'permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.'

"'For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success,' Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. 'A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised.'"

Kudos to Judge Aiken both for her eloquence and clear-sightedness. And thanks to a stroke of serendipity that this was not just any citizen whose rights were abrogated; this was an attorney.

"Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI bungled a fingerprint match and mistakenly linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain. The FBI used its expanded powers under the Patriot Act to secretly search Mayfield's house and law office, copy computer files and photos, tape his telephone conversations, and place surveillance bugs in his office. . ."

This hysteria-birthed act will soon be whittled into irrelevance.


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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Polizei Machen Frei

Ranger consistently discourses on the militarization of U.S. society and the march to a fascist-type state. Try this Lucky 13 ad from Guns & Ammo (10/07), for instance.

Note the police identifier in camouflage on his left sleeve. The background script is from the Declaration of Independence, so the implication is that the Police make us free. Had you thought otherwise?

In addition to the combat garb, here in the Gunshine State police are getting outfitted with assault rifles. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on 9/23/07,

"In Broward County, hundreds of deputies are undergoing training on the sort of high-powered rifles (AR-15's) originally designed for soldiers in combat. In Palm Beach County. . . Sheriff Ric Bradshaw plans to purchase 1,000 assault rifles to arm his deputies.
" (Police take up assault weapons; some fear an arms race).

Perhaps the most bizarre observation was made by one of Broward's largest gun dealers, Stephen Corn, who said some people think "they could need (an AR-15) at home should there be a problem after a hurricane." Now I'm thinking, duct tape (nod to Tom Ridge), bottled water, tarps. . .but an AR-15? My, but shows like 24 certainly have affected the national psyche.

From the Miami Herald,

"Miami Police Chief John Timoney, a longtime advocate of tighter gun control, blames the 2004 expiration of the federal ban on assault weapons for the escalation of firepower on Miami's streets.

''This is really a failure of leadership at the national level. We are absolutely going in the wrong direction here,'' Timoney said. 'The whole thing is a friggin' disgrace" (Miami police get O.K. for more firepower)''

That may be, but it's not often you hear a police-type advocating for gun control. In any event, Ranger feels so much safer knowing that wannabe commandos are now enforcing civilian law.


Global Warming

Mama used to tell me

Girl, you better load your gun up right
She said ya, ya gotta come out smokin'
Hit it with your best shot every time

I've got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
--Love is in Control, Donna Summers

Here's a throwaway posting, but Ranger Boy was slavering over the gun porn --his ideal woman -- and so fashioned a little post to go with it. I s'pect some of our male readers will be happy to have viewed it. To those of you who haven't had the pleasure of opening a gun magazine or catalog, they are rife with this exact pose, different get ups.

First Ranger's astute observations, then mine.

"If you want to know why the ice is melting in the Arctic ice pack, just feast your eyeballs on this ad for the ever-popular AK-47, featured in Guns & Ammo, October 2007.

Note the polar bear hat!

Yes, Ranger wants to see more!

And he wants one. Two would probably be better."

Lisa's deconstruction of the ad:

As with all of these ads, the women have the best boobs money can buy. Their head is always cocked slightly awry, mouth agape. It says, I want to fellate your big weapon, and the angle of my head will facilitate entry. Invariably, they are fingering the trigger.

Note the 5-inch heels she's tottering on -- falling off of, actually. She might not be very grounded, but hey, she's got a gun.

The confluence of guns and sex is ubiquitous in these publications hawking weapons. This is where it gets too esoteric for me; I s'pose seeing something bloody and writhing or dead is an aphrodisiac to some. Maybe, just seeing or imagining yo' big man with his high-powered sight send some critter to his maker imbues him with a god-like power (transference). Probably, it is just that I.O. Inc. is paying her the big bucks to look both vacuous and inviting -- that lethal combination.

Perhaps for the man, he thinks the fact that he can shoot a target recommends him as a great lover. We'll get Freudian here, and substitute ejaculate for bullets. The target. . . clitoral, G-spot--take your pick. Donna Summers here we come.

My conclusion: men can be pretty gullible, at times. Some men, most of the time. I'm sure no Ranger readers are in this gulled category, however.

Addendum: After it is was pointed out to him that he was not raised in all reader's eyes by the inclusion of this post, Ranger took his nose out of the latest Blue Press long enough to say, "I hope everyone knew I was just pointing out how absurd these ads are." Noted.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Three Down, . . .

Two Bad Mice, Beatrix Potter

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
--To a Mouse, Robert Burns

That mice have shown up twice in as many days at Ranger says we smell a rat closeby.

Several bloggers have taken note of the fact that three of the seven soldiers who wrote the NYT Op-Ed piece last month are dead or wounded now.

Gun Toting Liberal excerpts from Editor & Publisher, and says,

If anything, this should serve to highlight the fact that there is a “Left” and a “Right”, not only in our country but in the United States military as well, and all opinions are valid and valuable. . .

Left-leaning, liberal-thinking soldiers and officers are generally sidelined and given short-shrift in their careers. I do not want to consider how far the organization might go to silence such voices. That absurd endpoint is too harrowing to consider in a democracy.

Instead, I will consider the corporate culture in the Army.

The service academies by their very nature inculcate conservative values and reward both instructors and students reflecting those values.
The value of ROTC officers used to be their non-regular attitude that often offset this institutional bias. However, now even ROTC has become a cookie-cutter operation churning out robot-like leaders.

That makes the published opinions of these seven soldiers all the more remarkable. Perhaps it was because they were not plotting a career in the armed forces they felt free enough to think and speak their conscience. Freedom used to be the watchword in America.

When was the last time an O-6 (Colonel) or above advocated liberal viewpoints while still in uniform? It doesn't happen because they don't exist. The system eliminates them before the O-6 window. Of course, this is a gross statement of fact, but it is a gross situation that our leaders inhabit such a narrow mental milieu.

Some members of the retired forces have spoken out, perhaps because their sleep is now troubled. But while working on promotions, that was not an avenue they chose.

Even the vaunted Special Forces have become a repository for Ranger-thinking direct action-types. When SF crosses over to direct action, then the UW/GW role is effectively neutralized.

The U.S. has been gunning for awhile now to emulate the hammer-like rigidity of the Spartan army, but the Spartans fell in part because of their inability and resistance to innovate. The UW/GW attitude could equate with liberal thinking, which allows for adaptation and survival in the face of scenarios which defy the best-laid plans of the most decorated thinkers.

As co-author Amos of the much-raved about "Petraus" Counterinsurgency manual said, sometimes the best action is no action, and heavy-handed use of force can often backfire.

--Jim and Lisa


Unctious Piosity

If you are interested in a brief and well-done etiology of the mess that is the current Veterans Administration, please see this must-read by Aaron Glantz (frequent reporter from the Iraq war), "Letting Our Veteran's Down." [This piece ran at Truthdig; Glantz runs the website War Comes Home www.warcomeshome.org]

In it, he discusses the Bush administration's politicization of the VA, and the appointments of such toadies as Undersecretary Daniel Cooper.

"(T)he head of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Undersecretary Daniel Cooper—the main point-person in charge of processing those claims—made his priorities clear in a fund-raising video for the evangelical group Christian Embassy, in which he proclaimed that Bible study was “more important than doing my job."

To the wounded and suffering returning veterans who wait for their claims to be dealt with, Cooper's shamelessly blatant piosity doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

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Slings and Arrows

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

--Hamlet, III, i, Shakespeare

Ranger question of the day:
Why is instituting the military draft politically unacceptable?

Especially if we are facing, as we are told, a grave national threat?


Dale McFeatters [Scripps Howard] has been an able commenter on the Iraq fiasco since the outset. As she recently said, "as long as Bush can count on the support of one-third of the U.S. Senate, enough to sustain his vetoes, there's little Congress can do about it" (Depends on what you mean by "success").

There's the rub. But can't Congress cut off funding for the war simply by not passing a funding bill? To hell with a presidential veto. Let him veto -- then the funding bill is null and void. No further bill would cut off funding.

There is always a solution, but the Democrats will not find it and do not have the political will to make such a move. And as such, the military will continue to fight and die for a folly.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

A Better Mousetrap

Hunting had ceased to be what you call 'a sporting proposition.'
It had become too easy. I always got my quarry. Always.
There is no greater bore than perfection.

I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--

lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--

a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."

The Most Dangerous Game, Richard Connnell

New revelations about U.S. military techniques to ensnare potential targets in Iraq prompt many thoughts in Ranger's mind, living as he does in a hunting-friendly neck of the woods.

From the WaPo:

A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.

"Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces" (U.S. Aims to lure Insurgents with "Bait").

Engage being military-speak for kill, many questions arise for these "engaged individuals":

  • Does it count if they are under five feet tall? Must you pass up the shot?
  • Do you get extra points for an Imam? Bonus points if it's in a burkha?
  • Do two kids = one adult in the body count?
  • If the engaged individual doesn't have a rifle, does that count as a confirmed kill? Are they only "suspected" bad guys after we've killed those particular engaged targets?
  • Can you fix them when they are within three feet of bait? How long must they finger the bait before you can take them out?
  • Have they considered putting some pheromones on the bait to up the attraction?
  • Doesn't this count as shooting over a baited field? If so, then this counts as sport, yes?

A Sporting Proposition

This last point is rife with troublesome implications for the Army.

It would cause a blurring of the concept of military versus civilian arms, a popular topic with opponents of the 2nd Amendment. This might rule out the use of certain weapons. In this particular endeavor, should the military therefore use civilian weapons?

Will we need to introduce game wardens into the theatre of operations to keep this a sporting proposition? According to classic theories of hunting over a baited field, you must bait the field all year long in order to legally hunt there.

There must also be declared open seasons. Generally, you are not allowed to shoot bucks and does at the same time.

These thoughts arise because if we are introducing democracy, we must go all out with the concept. We must have a sportsman package that is game.

Moon over the Euphrates

Will there be bag limits? If you bag the highest number of fair targets within a certain period, do you win a good sportsmanship prize?

Here's a big thought both for beefing up our forces and helping finance the Iraq undertaking:

Ranger proposes selling hunting junkets to the Guns and Ammo crowd. They've hunted the Big Four; they've been on safari to Africa. Now, they could be enlisted to hunt the Ultimate Game. They would sign responsibility waivers, they would provide their own gear. The opportunity of a lifetime for some decked out, Lee Greenwood-listening hunters just chomping at the bit to do their patriotic duty.

Just a thought.

Did Vice Vice President Dick Cheney, avid sportsman that he is, advocate this policy? It is certain that his attorney did not.

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The withdrawal of the occupation forces is a must because
they have caused the destruction of Iraq,

they committed massacres against the innocents,

hey have double-crossed the Iraqis with dreams

Ahmad Umar al Esawi, Baquba employee

Misprision in the highest degree
--Twelfth Night, or What You Will, Shakespeare

General thoughts--

Ranger reads til he's blue in the face; it's always the same stuff. What nobody clearly states is that the Phony War on Terror © (PWOT) is is antithetical to military training, logic and craft. The entire PWOT is based upon hysterical emotionalism based in and justified with jingoistic bombastic sound bites:

--Stay the course--Fight them there so we won't fight them here--Mushroom cloud over NYC--WMD--They want to end our way of life--They hate our democracy--They want to kill us--We're fighting now, so our grandchildren won't

Of course, they won't have the strength to, so depleted will they be with having to work to pay off the incomprehensible national debt currently being racked up. As for ending our current way of life, I'm down with that, as far as the last six years are concerned.

If this were a corporate undertaking, we would be yelling for their heads, as we do when we hear pensioners are raped of their earning by insider trading schemes. This one is jockeying with our future as a solvent nation. Perhaps because of the enormousness of the enormity, we cannot summon the will to shut it down.

In reviewing a stack of articles from the past several weeks I see the repetitiveness of the assault. "We're trying to get them (Iraqi police) to develop enemy targets, but the enemy targets are their friends (Many Trainees are Complicit with Enemy Targets). "The police and army need to be remade to root out secularism" (General's report Offers Bitter Truth).

It's not working, folks, whatever it is. Forcing our "Iraqi friends" to accept the gift of democracy, American-style, or accepting occupation forces in their midst; routing out the original al-Qaida terrorists, who were not there in the first place.

I (Lisa) learned the last lesson early on as a girl. Knowing nothing about basketball, I joined a game, and got the ball. Delighted, I looked around and saw lots of free space--at the other end. I ran down and promptly scored a point for the other team. Lesson: you can make all the right motions, but if you're in the wrong court, you don't get any points. A sobering lesson.

Military virtues include hard-edged assessments of realistic ability to achieve a mission with the assets at hand in a given scenario. This is reality-based and clearly quantifiable.

Military action and the PWOT are diametrically opposed concepts. They are not complimentary.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

'Til the Cows Come Home

"Could it be. . .SATAN?"
GWB as Enid Strict, SNL's
The Church Lady

Tony Blankley at Real Clear Politics recently offered a concise summary of the rationale for the Phony War on Terror (PWOT) © (The War on Terror Six Years On). But like all apologists, he fails to mention the things which bring about the diminution of the rationales.

He bemoans the fact that "six years after 9/11, there is little consensus in the United States or Europe as to the nature and magnitude of the threat," and says he "never imagined that six years into the ordeal, we would remain so utterly divided in the face of a unique and little understood enemy."

But therein lies the problem. Because of the secrecy shrouding the whole undertaking, we are unconvinced of the dimensions of "the enemy."
We are divided because half of the country refuses to follow blithely a war-mongerer who has never warred into a cataclysmic crusade. One rightly seen as an overreaction to a criminal act carried out by a relatively small stateless group terrorists.

Terrorism is not something the world has not already seen. Ditto religious fanaticism. We know that religious adherence brings with it oftentimes a nonsensical and passionate distrust/hatred of the other, the infidel. This is all simply a sad fact of being human in this world, whatever your creed.

But the hubris and idiocy involved in attacking a nation because their major religion happens to be that of the criminals who attacked you, is horrendous. It is adding lighter fluid to the flame. If what we had to argue against their stated form of criminality (the religious jihad) was a reasoned democracy where all men are considered equal, we have lost it.

We no longer have the moral high ground as defense. Because we have abdicated our dedication to our Constitution and the freedoms guaranteed therein, we have lost any sense of justified cause in this undertaking. How can we inseminate democracy when what we have to offer has become so distorted?

Even as one reads the above indictment of a corrupted Union, the antithetical nature and sheer insanity of fighting a war to "bring democracy" must be evident.

Having lost strict adherence to democratic principles, all of the tawdry vulgarities which are also a part of freedom come to the fore. Because of the loss of the mighty prop of a just democracy, the initial attack must seem increasingly justifiable to those sympathetic to the cause. What is seen from the outside is a rapacious, more-for-me, hypersexualized society. We could not have performed a better PR job for the jihadists if we tried.

Even Thomas ("6-months more FU") Friedman wrote recently,
"(T)he war there has become disconnected from every conceivable worthy goal (Somebody Else's Mess)."

But Blankley continues, "Much of the ferocious controversy over electronic intercepts, Guantanamo, CIA renditions, semi-secret foreign-based CIA prisons, coerced interrogation methods, and the Patriot Act provisions is a product of not seeing a sufficient threat to national security to justify tough wartime intrusions into civil liberties. " The paranoia is palpable. What makes this threat so different that we must forgo being the nation that we once were?

"Europe is the canary in the mineshaft regarding cultural stress between Muslim and indigenous culture. If we permit unmanaged cultural drift, in five to 10 years we will be where Western Europe is today -- in the throes of violent inter-cultural contention."

Yet he admits that our Muslim population is largely assimilated and prosperous, and gives the answer to those who are problematic a few paragraphs earlier when talking of the Brits: tougher immigration and deportation procedures. Deportation and border patrol should be areas of concern anyway for a functioning and properly vigilant nation. But for any of Europe's immigrant problems, they are not bleeding away their resources in a foreign land, with guaranteed poor returns.

The most problematic assertion of this administration is that we are in a death-struggle against radical Islam for our very existence. Since the beginning of the PWOT, Ranger has espoused realistic threat assessment. Taxpayers have a right to know why their dollars are being spent at a prodigious rate on non-citizens, yet they are not given the intelligence upon which this profligacy is based.

We want to know the actual nature and magnitude of the threat. Facts, versus propaganda.
Not GWB's incendiary Revelation theology about great powers crashing and confrontations in the "Holy Land," not platitudes about "baby steps"; actual data upon which the actions are based. GWB cannot ask this level of commitment and sacrifice for an indefinite period without explanation to citizens who live in a democracy.

Ranger has consistently hypothesized that al-Qaida does not have more than 100 hardcore, dedicated operatives ready, willing and able to direct viable attacks against U.S. targets. The reason the U.S. has not been attacked since 9-11 is al-Qaida's abilities were degraded through the loss of 20 operatives.

The 9-11 attack scenario cannot be easily replicated. And of course, al-Qaida wins again since daily vigilance and expenditure of resources is required to maintain a reasonable defensive posture.

The defensive nature of the problem is the key point because wars are never won by fighting defensively. Look at what our forces are doing in Iraq and you can figure out this is not a winning proposition.
Who are the Americans fighting? I'm sure they don't know, but they are pretty clearly-marked targets for anyone with a beef against the new colonialists on the block.

This is not a war the military can fight, and good national and international police and intelligence work is the only logical response to the threat. Unfortunately, this cooperation is exactly what present U.S. policy refuses to implement.

"If we in the United States can't agree on the nature and magnitude of the threat, we aren't likely to agree on the means of protecting ourselves from it." Correct, and the half of the country that disagrees with the war is the half with its eyes open, asking for someone in power to reveal what it is exactly we're supposed to be rallying behind, and how we are going to be made safer by doing so.

U.S. secrecy and arrogance will compromise our safety more assuredly than will al-Qaida.

--Jim and Lisa

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Hair Trigger

In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibralter may tumble,
They're only made of clay,
But our love is here to stay
--Our Love is Here to Stay, George Gershwin

A "firefight" in which "at least 11" Iraqi civilian were killed by members of the U.S. contracting firm Blackwater has resulted in their being banned from working in the country. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday,
"We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood."

But by Friday, Blackwater was rolling again. "Secretary of State Rice declined to comment on Friday's resumption of Blackwater-protected convoys but paid tribute to the guards from the firm." What an unfortunate, yet apropos use of the term tribute, for mercenaries they are.

To Ranger, a firefight is a significant military disagreement. Opposing soldiers engage in firefights, but civilians are usually involved in exchanges of fire, shootouts or just good, old-fashioned gun fights. Sometimes, they're just caught in the crossfire. And Blackwater dudes, despite their military demeanors and love of camo as a complete fashion statement, are, in fact, civilian. As in "civilian contractors." Rent-a-cops.

"A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, said Monday that authorities had canceled the company’s license and that the government would prosecute the participants. But under the rules that govern private security contractors here, the Iraqis do not have the legal authority to do so."

"The deaths struck a nerve with Iraqis, who say that private security firms are often quick to shoot and are rarely held responsible for their actions. A law issued by the American authority in Iraq before the United States handed over sovereignty to Iraqis, Order No. 17, gives the companies immunity from Iraqi law
(U. S. Contractor Banned by Iraq)."

So our thugs are a law unto themselves. But IF Iraq is a sovereign nation as the GWB administration always hypes, and IF it is a democracy, and IF killing its citizens is what terrorists do, then why not allow them to prosecute the terrorists?

Even if they work for Blackwater USA.

The Blackwater contract
[What an appropriate name for a business involved in obfuscation and shady doings] is purportedly run through the auspices of the State Department, a group which should realize that hiring thugs is not a valid hearts and minds protocol.


Open Season

If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense,
we have defeated terrorism

--Fareed Zakaria, How to Restore America's Place in the World


A military hearing convened last week at Ft. Bragg considered the evidence against two Special Forces soldiers charged in June with premeditated murder in the killing of Nawab Buntangyar, a suspected Afghan "enemy combatant."

"The case revolves around differing interpretations of the kind of force that the Special Forces team that hunted and killed the man, Nawab Buntangyar, were allowed to use once they found him, apparently unarmed (Green Berets Face Hearing on Killing of Man in Afghanistan)."

The American Special Operations Command has labeled Butangyar an enemy combatant, and the attorneys for Captain Staffel, who ordered the shooting, allege Butangyar organized suicide and roadside bomb attacks. But just what is an "enemy combatant" in a UW/GW environment? Is he an enemy as in "criminal," or is he a soldier, as in "combatant"?

If he is a soldier on a battlefield, then he is an "enemy" combatant by definition. And there is nothing new about soldiers confronting on the field of battle, so why a new definition? What facts and deeds are enlisted in forming that pastiche definition?

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command determined in April 2007 the shooting was "justifiable homicide." But how can shooting an unarmed man in a foreign country be justifiable homicide?

Soldiers may kill an enemy, but the concept of homicide is outside the military purview. If Buntangyar was an enemy, then he may be killed. However, that is if there is a state of belligerency or of war. Since there is no declared war in Afghanistan, it is a UW/GW environment, and in such settings, the host nation's rules provide the guidelines.

In a premeditated action, Capt. Staffel, upon hearing of Butangyar's location in a home, "ordered a seven-man team to investigate the tip," and ultimately, ordered Master Sgt. Troy Anderson to kill the man with a head shot.

Mark Waple [civilian lawyer representing Capt. Staffel] "said Mr. Buntangyar had already been 'vetted as a target' by American commanders,
an enemy combatant who could be legally killed once he was positively identified."

What is this legally killed designation? U.S. soldiers are not killers, even if the adjective legal is tacked onto the concept. If the target is a real, live bad guy, then let the local police arrest and detain him. Then let an Afghan court adjudicate his case.

U.S. soldiers are not target selectors, judges and juries. Shooting unarmed personnel -- even if they are terror suspects -- is in and of itself a terror tactic. Because a soldier is a Green Beret in Afghanistan does not confer upon him the right to shoot to kill without expending all other efforts to capture the target.

American combat power is being expended in Afghanistan to form a democratic government, and democratic governments do not gun down their citizens in the street. "Do as we say, not as we do."

In addition, U.S. or NATO forces should not be given the authority to designate Afghan citizens as "enemy combatants." This should and must be an Afghan government responsibility. Killing Afghans in Afghanistan is not the correct formula for binding the citizenry to the government.

"Confirming [Capt. Staffel's order] order, Sergeant Anderson fired once, killing Mr. Buntangyar. The American team drove to the village center to explain to the local residents, 'This is who we are, this is what we just did and this is why we did it,' [attorney] Waple said."

This is who we are, what we did and why? Swell idea, but did that win any converts to the newfangled concept of democracy? Not bloody likely.

Incidentally, this incident demonstrates the arbitrary nature of justice meted out via the barrel of a rifle. The lesson will not be lost on these people, and the cycle of violence will march on.

Like we said in the Republic of Vietnam: If you kill for money, you are a mercenary; if you kill for fun, you are a psychotic. If you kill for both, you are Special Forces!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keeping It Real

Many bright threads,
From where I couldn't see,

Were running through the harp-strings


And gold threads whistling

Through my mother's hand.

I saw the web grow,

And the pattern expand.

--Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, Edna St. Vincent Millay


We have had the pleasure of coming to know fellow blogger Minstrel Boy [of Harp and Sword] both from his online writing and through personal correspondence. MB is a decorated Vietnam veteran, who continues to serve his country in myriad ways.

Over the past year, he has written some poignant pieces commemorating his losses in connection with war, both then and now. Today, he is playing music at the funeral of another fallen soldier, as he has done several times before. He has written his reasons here, and it merits a read.

"In three short hours I will be playing yet another funeral for a fine young man who has fallen due to the misguided policy and schemes of George W. Bush and also because of the craven cowardice or callous cynicism of the Congress that refuses to do their duty.

". . .I'm doing this because it hurts."

His thesis is, if we participated, we would become awake in such a jarring manner that being complacent would no longer be possible. He is advocating for a participatory democracy, and a truly shared grief.

Each soldier's death should prick the conscience: why was the soldier there? Did he or she so love his country that he volunteered out of sheer patriotism? For some, yes. And the country has let him down, by allowing his death in pursuit of a chimera.

Did they join for educational benefits? For many, yes. And this indicts a system which places great hardship on all but the wealthiest students.

In the post, MB mentions another blogger, Liz at Blondsense, who recently cited a survey showing that middle-aged Americans are engaging in risky behavior once thought exclusive to the young. She posited the question, Why?

In the survey, 50% of newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 2005 were in the middle-aged group. They are old enough to know better, but perhaps smug enough to feel immune. After all, they do not consort with dirty people who have track marks; their friends take their clothes to the cleaners, own cars and houses nicely appointed with good furniture. But if they personally knew someone so afflicted -- and realized some entirely functioning and attractive people have AIDS -- might that change their behavior?

Maybe they think they can buy or finagle their way out of any trouble they might find. That attitude is ignorance in the young, but arrogance in the more mature. You can only be arrogant if you haven't woken up, and that is what MB is talking about. Wake up.

You can enjoy your Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Provence while sleepwalking. You can copulate, procreate, equivocate, prevaricate and vegetate all while in this liminal state. You can postpone making the hard senatorial votes for a later day.

But you can no longer remain unmoved when you awaken. You can not use people then, because you feel the pain.

Thank you, Minstrel Boy, for what you do when you play at the funerals takes a rock hard constitution. It is generous and decent, and honorable. Thanks for being a participant, and not just a spectator.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One Nation, Under Mammom

Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful?
What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership!
A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong
against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality.
--Lost Horizon (1937)

"I never got to ask the enemy why he hated freedom

because he was too busy hating us for being there"

--columnist Reg Henry, on his service in Vietnam


Why is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board expressing anything other than Federal Reserve business to GWB, Cheney and Rumsfeld?

Not only has former chairman Greenspan said in the past week while discussing his dystopically titled memoir,
The Age of Turbulence, that Iraq was predominantly about oil, but that he personally advocated "taking Saddam out." As Dan Akroyd's Leonard Pinth-Garnell might say, "Monumentally ill-advised!"

"Mr. Greenspan was himself a behind-the-scenes advocate of overthrowing former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He says he felt 'getting Saddam out of there was very important,' not because of weapons of mass destruction, but because he was convinced the Iraqi dictator wanted to control the Strait of Hormuz, through which a sizable portion of the world's oil passes.

"He said he conveyed that view to both Mr. Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, another friend from the Ford administration, but doubts that played a part in the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq
(Greenspan's Dismay Extended Both Ways.)"

Elsewhere, Greenspan has been quoted sounding something like a General, saying he did not suggest war, but that he "did not know what Plan B was."

"Greenspan said he had backed Hussein's ouster, either through war or covert action. '
I wasn't arguing for war per se, he said. But 'to take [Hussein] out, in my judgment, it was something important for the West to do and essential, but I never saw Plan B' -- an alternative to war(Greenspan: Ouster of Hussein Crucial for Oil Security.)

What is the Fed Chairman doing talking about taking anyone out? Not only the boychick was wearing a six-shooter -- the bravado had even spread to cooler heads like Greenspan, the money counter?

What need had he to know of Plan A or Plan B? Acts of military aggression are totally not his domain.

What geopolitical grasp does the Chairman of the Fed possess? The problems facing America are the result of everybody doing somebody else's job; nobody is doing the job they are paid to do. For example, the Department of Defense now co-opts Department of State and Department of Justice, and who knows what the State Department is doing.

Greenspan's views on Saddam are as meaningless as tits on a bullfrog. It was an erroneous and unauthorized bleeding of personal views over into official, behind-the-scenes power-mongering.

"Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing on ABC's This Week, rejected the assertion in Mr. Greenspan's book that the Iraq war 'is largely about oil.' Mr. Gates said, 'it's about stability in the Gulf. It's about rogue regimes trying to develop weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Gates' contradiction of Mr. Greenspan's assertions are absolutely incredibly dumb. If it is a war about stability, and the U.S. is the destabilizing factor in the equation, then we are not achieving our stated goals from the outset. War ≠ stability, and it is only U.S. actions which have totally destabilized the region.

Mr. Gates' statement of plurality -- "It's about rogue
regimes trying to develop WMD" leaves the barn door open. Remember that inconvenient fact that Iraq did not have WMD, and someone's just gotta have them.

So why are we fighting in Iraq? Is the Battle of Baghdad Pt. I of the Battle of Tehran?

And of course, an attack on Iran will be for the stability of the region.

--Jim and Lisa

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

214,475 and counting. . .


214,475 is the current number of disabled veterans in Florida, alone.

Consider the expense involved in their care, and then add on the newly disabled veterans, many suffering catastrophic injuries, created each day in the futile endeavors of Iraq and Afghanistan.

And do not simply calculate the monetary costs of their lifelong care, but consider their impact upon your society, upon their families and their quality of life, for life.

Then ask yourself if it seems worth it to add to this daunting number, for a failed endeavor guaranteed only to reap further outrage and indignation among the peoples perpetrating these damages.

To the surgeons, who will gain battlefield experience and treatment innovations, it is justifiable. To the weapons contractors and the military, it allows for real-world testing of new technologies. For war profiteers, it allows profit. But what about you -- does it seem worth it?

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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Duck of Death

Little Bill Dagget: That you here, Bob, on the cover? "The Duck of Death?"
W. W. Beauchamp: Duke. It's the Duke. "Duke of Death."

The president of the United States

does not have the sense God gave a duck

--Molly Ivins, on GWB

And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job.
I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president.

from president's bio Dead Certain, Robert Draper

I'll bet he hasn't; not everyone is limited in his counting ability by his number of fingers.

Below are some thoughts on Bush's 9/13 address:

"There come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people. We are now at such a moment."
We are at such a moment, but the character of our people is not at issue -- it is the character of U.S. leadership that falls short of reflecting the greater historic values of this nation.

"In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival. Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq's government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home. "

There is truth and falsehood in equal measure here. Terrorists and extremists may be trying to topple Iraq's government and dominate the region, but isn't that exactly what the belligerent U.S. policy also inflicted upon the Iraq nation?

U.S. forces are fighting to enforce GWB and Cheney's will and to dominate the region. It is no surprise there is a counteraction. The U.S. is far from home and lacks legitimacy in this phony war. It is doubtful that al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) is interested in attacking the continental U.S.

What a crock

"General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress about how that
strategy is progressing. . .conclud(ing) that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working."

Progressing and improving are nice, nebulous, non-quantifiable words. If this qualifies as progress and improvement, Ranger hopes these words never enter a description of his life. Note that GWB calls U.S. adversaries in Iraq the enemy, thereby conferring legitimacy upon them.

Ranger assumes that since they are the enemy, the U.S. will now confer POW status upon their captured personnel.

"As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home." Of course, this is unscrupulous and disingenuous, as this drawdown after the surge's tour would occur anyway.

". . .in areas that have been cleared, we are surging diplomatic and civilian resources to ensure that military progress is quickly followed up with real
improvements in daily life." And what improvements to the daily lives of American taxpayers are we seeing from this surge?

"Anbar province is a good example of how our strategy is working. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda."
When intelligence reports can be twisted to fit GWB's perverted logic, then they are relevant and cheered as administration successes. Otherwise, they are marginalized. Intel reports are the analysis of facts, anyway, and generally reflect the bias of the senior man in the cycle.

GWB assures us that "new jobs are being created and local governments are meeting again."
Hopefully, these reconstruction teams can move into my blighted hometown and produce jobs for some desperate U.S. citizens.

"One year ago, Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants were gaining strength and targeting Sunnis for assassination. Today, these groups are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed."

And what of it? Okay --they are captured. Then what? Please tell this dumb Ranger --then what?

"The [Iraqi] government has not met its own legislative benchmarks -- and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must."
If these are their own benchmarks, then why must they be met, and why does GWB's order that they must have any relevance to a sovereign Iraqi nation? If the President would read the much-touted U.S. Counterinsurgency Manual, you'd find it's not about us.

"Yet Iraq's national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget." Woo-hoo--they've passed a budget. Simple enough, since the U.S. taxpayer is floating the bill. Maybe the Iraqis, in a goodwill reciprocity project, can send consultants to Congress to help our leaders pass a realistic budget based in fiscal realities and tending to American needs.

"The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States."
How is this true? America was safer when Saddam was in power. Do we forget this -- that Saddam was the balance to Iran?

The coup de grace: "[If we leave] Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare. . . And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people."

Dire Straits

Iraq IS a humanitarian nightmare, one of our own making. 9-11 did not originate from Iraq. The war in Iraq has absolutely nothing to do with the security of America, but everything to do with the security of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz, as Mr. Greenspan was so kind to clarify recently.

"[We must]
work for peace in the Holy Land." What is the "Holy Land"? Ranger cannot find this in State Department guidebooks. This isn't bible class.

"Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East." How about strength in America? The middle East is not in Ranger's backyard, but a lot of indigenous poverty, ignorance and need is.

Bush exhorts the Iraqis to be resolute in the path he has set out for them, and says, "have confidence that America does not abandon our friends, and we will not abandon you." When did we start this policy? We have and do, and the Iraqi's are well aware of this.

He mentions cooperating with the "new and expanded mission of the United Nations in Iraq." A 180 from his early derision of that organization. Consistent participation in that often-flawed body is the key to U.S. security. The coalition's questionable 36 nations (2 of whom remain missing) are meaningless if the world community views America as an aggressor nation.

"It is never too late to advance freedom." True enough, so let's rock and roll. We could start by making motions of impeachment against both GWB and Cheney, the terrible twosome.

This divestment would best serve the freedom of the average American taxpayer.

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