Saturday, May 31, 2008


Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink
from doing so because you might not like what you you find.

--Colin Powell

Men in general judge more from appearance than from reality.

All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.

--Niccolo Machiavelli

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear


In the last week Ranger has been called both an "idealist" and "bitter" by different readers. My psychotherapist says these two stances are not at odds, as idealists often become bitter after disappointments. Hopefully, my patrol base lies somewhere in between.

The idealist comment was aimed at my attitude concerning the Geneva Conventions (GC), so Ranger looked deeper into the connotations.

The expectation that the U.S. should comply with the GC does not make me an idealist, but rather, a realist. As a signatory to the Conventions and a supposedly civilized nation, the U.S. should adhere to the standards contained therein.

Of course another so-called civilized nation, Nazi Germany, recognized the GC's as they applied to the French, U.S. and British POW's -- unless they were Jewish, that is. In addition, the Nazis starved and physically destroyed Polish and Russian POW's in a systematic manner.

When a nation decides they will apply protections selectively, in contravention of their laws and treaties, their right to the title of civility or morality or legality is revoked. Either all are free and protected, or none are. That is the difference between a democratic and a fascist state. That the Nazis applied GC protections sometimes and brutalized at others made of them a bestial nation.

However, the problem for the U.S. extends beyond the application of the GC to the treatment of POW's. Even if the U.S. had honored its GC commitment, the phony wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would still be illegal ventures. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Both illegal invasions and subsequent occupations were only justified by the constructed Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), an illusion created by the master prestidigitator
George Bush.

Ranger misses the point when he argues for the application of the GC when the war itself is illegal.
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor after a hastily-delivered, patched together declaration of war and they were bad guys. The U.S. invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq sans the niceties of a declaration of war, so what are we?

The bitter comment was targeted at my questioning the effectiveness of current U.S. military projects in the PWOT. Since the predicate of legal military maneuvers is mistaken all else that issues from that action is necessarily incorrect.

You can't make the endeavors silk purses regardless of how correctly the detainees may be treated.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Beggar's Banquet

The individual has always had to struggle
to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.

If you try it, you will be lonely often,

and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high

to pay for the privilege of owning yourself

--Friederich Nietzsche


The military's Special Operations Command last week rightly declined a contentious 2004 mandate to conduct "secret counterterrorism missions on its own around the world" per a plan fronted by then-Sectretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

New York Times reported, "Rumsfeld's Unified Command Plan [UCP] proposed that the Special Operations Command 'leads, plans, synchronizes, and as directed, executes global operations against terrorist networks.' He stressed that his reorganization was intended to permit the command to send out its own small teams to capture or kill terrorists."

"The [SOC] decision culminates four years of misgivings within the military that the command, with its expertise in commando missions and unconventional war, would use its broader mandate too aggressively, by carrying out operations that had not been reviewed or approved by the regional commanders ("Wider Antiterror Role for Elie Forces Rejected.")

The MSM suggested the problem lay with a SOC which, due to its UW expertise, would bypass regional commanders like CENTCOM and NATO. However, the key issue is that Rumsfeld/Bush/Cheney were attempting to turn the SOF capabilities of the Department of Defense into assets that could be deployed and hidden from Congressional oversight.

Since Congress demurred from addressing the issue, it devolved to new Special Operations commander Admiral Eric T. Olsen to clarify the situation.

It is not known how [Secretary of Defense and former Central Intelligence director Robert] Gates views the decision by the Special Operations Command to back away from Mr. Rumsfeld’s view of its role. Mr. Gates has not discussed it publicly, and senior aides said they were not privy to his thinking on the matter.

It seems odd for SOCOM Cdr. Olsen to issue a policy statement when senior Gates aides claims they do not know his posture on the matter. Hopefully SOCOM is not wagging the dog.

"[S]enior Pentagon and military officers made clear that the Special Operations Command was not independently carrying out its own secret counterterrorism missions, but was instead coordinating counterterrorism planning across the military, as well as fulfilling its traditional role of training and equipping Special Operations forces for the armed services.

Counterterrorism missions are not strictly a military function. Coordination at the national level is required, especially with the State Department. The world is not the DoD's playground.

Rumsfeld's UCP sounds glam, and would make a great episode for the t.v. show "The Unit," but exactly what were these elite forces to do with any terrorists that they might capture? Again, the adminitsration's confusion with counterterrorism rears its ugly head.

Having U.S. military teams capturing terrorists is not a law enforcement function, and the Special Operators possess neither the legal authority to arrest nor question any captured personnel. Simply stated, the military teams would not be the correct tool for the job.

What happened to the concepts of international cooperation and host nation law enforcement? DoD is not a law enforcement agency. If DoD has co-opted law enforcement purview, then the U.S. has crossed a serious divide unbeknownst to most citizens.

Here is a novel idea: have the DoD fight wars, and the Department of Justice enforce U.S. Code. The two have distinct and clearly quantifiable functions; the plan
may lack bling, but has served our country well for a couple of hundred years.

Besides being efficient it has the added bonus of preserving our Constitution -- no small gain after the past seven years.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Enemies -- A Love Story

Now, now my good man,
this is no time for making enemies


A recent National Public Radio analysis explored a key difference between Presidential candidates McCain and Obama -- the question of how they would negotiate with the Forces of Evil.

Obama gave his shtick that he would negotiate with our enemies, and went on to identify Iran as one of those enemies.

This is truly disturbing.
It is not disturbing that we would talk with Iran, but rather that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is labeling Iran as the enemy. Don't we have enough enemies of our own creation without preemptively elevating Iran to the enemy level?

Why would Iran want to open discussions with the U.S. -- what would they gain? Whatever they do or say our idiot leaders will tag them as enemies.

Maybe America really does need a few good enemies in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). Since we are taking such a screwing from our friends in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will be refreshing to call someone
enemy. We can not afford the friends we have, who we are moving forward as we daily lose ground.

At least we won't be beholden to float a good, old-fashioned enemy.
It will help remove the ambiguity from this messy thing called democracy.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fix'd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
--Sonnet 116, Shakespeare

Shakespeare may have been speaking of love, but he was saying that it was an unvarying and inflexible quality. It did not become something else at the whim of the observer. The real deal was not fickle. This constancy could also be applied to our allegiance to certain invaluable foundational documents, like the Constitution. As Shakespeare might say, "the star to every wandering bark."

Unfortunately, this steadfastness has gone missing recently in the conduct of our national agencies, according to a 437-page Federal Bureau of Investigation's "war crimes file" recently released by the Department of Justice's Inspector General. The New York Times says the report shows "internal dissent and confusion within the Bush administration over the use of harsh interrogation tactics (aka "torture") by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency (see the DoJ report here.)

To say the "Report Details Dissent on Guantánamo Tactics," is misleading since claims of prisoner mistreatment are not localized. Prisoner abuse went viral years ago, and has approached pandemic proportions. Torture is now an accepted U.S. policy tool for questioning terror suspects. As many FBI reports said, if these detainees were to be designated Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW's), the interrogators would be liable for prosecution.

The so-called "confusion" was based upon George Bush's erroneous philosophical stance that "everything changed after 9-11." Wrong, because the laws that bind all Americans are and will remain the same. If such a day comes that they do change, we are no longer America.

In one report, military interrogators collaborated with visiting Chinese officials to disrupt the sleep of Chinese Muslims held there.
"In another incident, it said, a female interrogator reportedly bent back an inmate’s thumbs and squeezed his genitals as he grimaced in pain."

The report cited "passionate objections" from the FBI over practices like inmate intimidation with snarling dogs, "short-shackling" to floors in temperature extremes and parading the prisoners nude before female soldiers. The report also commends the FBI for its "professionalism," but of course, that is not the concern -- "legality" is the only standard of import.

The FBI is an operational agency of the DoJ; if the DoJ does not object to the prisoner abuses, then the FBI's objections are just dust in the wind.

Terrorism is a legal issue, not a military one. If it were a war issue then the Department of Defense should deal with the intelligence requirements of warfighting. The CIA is a civilian intelligence agency distinct from the DoD, or at least is used to be before its militarization with the appointment of 4-Star nut-twister Michael Hayden.

There should be a national level policy regarding the topic of terrorism. Terrorism needs to be defined, along with an appropriate and proportional response to terrorist incidents. Is it war or is it criminal activity? It cannot be both.

Terming counter-terrorism "warfare" legitimizes criminals and waters down U.S. legal responses to the threat. Conversely, committing to a legal response does not negate the possibility of implementing actions to break up attack scenarios before they reach the execution phase. If U.S. policy cannot live within the confines of the law, how can we villanize terrorists for their illegal activities? How one defines terrorism should not depend on which side of the fence you're on.

In the old lead agency concept of terrorism counteraction, the FBI was the lead CONUS agency. This FBI primacy has become murky since Homeland Security (HS) has assumed the umbrella function. The breakdown is one of organizational hierarchy and responsibilities. The FBI and DoJ are experiencing an organizational disconnect.

Who is the lead agency in terrorist cases? Ask 20 people and you will get 20 different answers.

HS has clouded versus clarified the organizational functions of historical relationships. Lacking a clear definition of responsibility, the issue has morphed into a game of hot potato (or should we write, potatoe, since a lot of Republicans have shaped this confusion.)

No one wants to take the fall, that's for sure. The report notes that some DoJ believed military coercive techniques were "wrong," while others thought them merely "ineffective," and unlikely to garner actionable intelligence.

But Wrong and Illegal are two very different concepts. Emily Post would say it is "wrong" to wear white shoes after Labor Day -- who cares? Illegal is another level. The fashion police cannot throw you in jail; break actual laws and you will go to jail.

The issue of torture outstrips expeditiousness. Today, if it is effective,no one seems to care that an action may be illegal. But the pragmatic business model should not be used when the integrity of our nation is at stake.

The Constitution is an "ever-fix'd mark," and should not be at the whim of the junk bond trader mentality.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Florida 2008 Netroots Award

Thank you very much
Its really nice to know

That you enjoyed the show

--Thank You Very Much
Kaiser Chiefs


Caught up in electioneering fever, we shamelessly yet humbly ask for your vote. Your very own Ranger Against War has been nominated for the "Best National Blog -- Blogs written by Floridians that Cover Primarily National Politics" in Florida's 2008 Netroots Award Competition. It's not the Webbies, but we are pretty chuffed anyway.

Unbeknownst to us, some people liked us well enough to nominate RAW for this Florida Progressive Blogging award. Voting closes down June 2nd, so we've got a small window here to wrangle your precious support. Please cast your vote here.

Now we really do understand where Hillary is coming from. Winning Miss Congeniality just will not do. Ranger says he is for change, staying in Iraq, and women's rights, if it'll get him dinner and a clean kitchen. He wants to make sure he includes all of his constituencies. Shameless pandering knows no bounds.

Thank you in advance for your support, and we approve this message.

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We cannot meet the future either by mere gross
or by mere silly sentimentalism;
above all,
we cannot meet it if we attempt to balance gross
in action by silly sentimentalism in words
--President Theodore Roosevelt,

Memorial Day, 1916


Two stories clashed on the same page in our local paper recently (Tallahassee Democrat, p 15A, 5/21/08.) We'll call it a case of situational ethics.

First, President Bush apologized to Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for an American sniper's shooting of a Koran (Bush Apologizes to Iran for Quran Shooting.)

Second, an audit shows that not too many FBI agents deigned to "engage in terror tactics" when interviewing detainees. Depending on which news outlet you read, this is either a bragging point or a great shame.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said, "While I take comfort in knowing that, for the most part, FBI field agents followed the agency's policies regarding interrogations, I find it very disturbing that many senior FBI and DOJ officials failed to take strong action after identifying interrogation abuses."

Some of the agents seemed embarrassed at the Howdy-Doody nature of events:

"At Guantanamo Bay, two FBI agents 'had concerns not only about the proposed techniques but also about the glee with which the would-be [military] participants discussed their respective roles in carrying out these techniques, and the utter lack of sophistication and circus-like atmosphere within this interrogation strategy session,' the report found."

The Justice Department audit exonerated most of the FBI agents, who "refused to participate when detainees were questioned under harsh and
potentially illegal methods." But the AP report gave a free pass given to the CIA and military interrogators, whom the FBI agents reported had perpetrated the abuses.

There is no potential to it; all of the listed methods, including short-shackling to concrete floors and stress positions, are illegal. When did America cross this street? The FBI and Justice Department should have done more to stop the illegal interrogations, vs. just turning their collective backs.

A chart accompanying the article is titled, "Few agents engage in terror tactics;" subtitled, "Many FBI agents refused to participate in terror interrogations against detainees at military bases in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan." Comforting, no?

The chart lists abuses reported by FBI agents, 34 of which included "abuse of the Quran." Somebody was engaging in these FBI-reported terrorizing incidents of detainees, but thank goodness not many of the Men in Black played along, at least according to their own reportage.

But of those 34 abuses of the Quran, defilements of religious icons aimed at breaking accused terrorists to their will: Mr. Bush has not apologized for those tax-paid interrogators who desecrated the Quran during secret interrogations, so why the apology for the shooting?

A bit hypocritical to apologize for one incidence of offense while allowing implicit institutional endorsement for many other identical offenses via Department of Defense policy, y'think?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire. . .

Go to your vacuum, open the cannister,
and pour it all over you, your bed, clothing,

and your personal effects.

Now roll in it until it's in your eyes, nose,

ears, hair, and. . . well, you get the picture

--Staff Sgt. Parker Gyokeres, letter home on Iraq,

New Yorker (6/12/06)

Once more into the breach, dear friends,

once more



The House passed an amendment to the annual military authorization bill last week mandating investigations by both the inspector general's office of the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office of the Pentagon's "public affairs program," which sought to turn retired military officers into "message multipliers" spouting the Bush administration's party line about war successes ("2 Inquiries set on Pentagon Publicity Effort.")

"Publicity Effort"? Brad and Angelina have publicists. Governments have public affairs officers who parse the news for the press and public. They do not hire Joseph Goebbels types to give a beer garden effect to the wars.

However, in this program retired officers posed as independent analysts on news programs when in fact they had been prepped by the Pentagon to serve as administration "surrogates" (= "shills.) Further, many of these ostensible free agents had undisclosed ties to military contractors.
This cookie-cutter screed was being foisted on the American public as hard analysis.

Like tribbles, "they were wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior government officials." The agencies will be looking into the possible illegal use of government money to propagandize the Bush administration's war policies to U.S. audiences.

Though there is a clear demarcation among the terms "publicity," "psychological operations," and "propaganda," they have a shared intent: they are subjective vs. objective. The so-called analysts were dabbling in one or more of these arenas, while passing their shtick off as objective analysis.

Joe Biden (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently had an excellent Op-Ed piece in the WSJ on the foolishness of optional wars ("Republicans and Our Enemies.") "Are" could have easily replaced "and" in the title. Still, a democratic Congress continues to authorize "emergency funding" to keep the wars going. Somebody needs to tell the truth. In the interim, these investigations may help to staunch the lies

Not all are pleased by the hard look at the bobble heads.

"Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, objected to the amendment, arguing that retired officers working as military analysts were a 'great asset' for the country."

Of course he meant, "for the Bush administration." (And why is it only Republicans have reversible names like "Duncan Hunter," vaguely hinting of the kind of robust manliness gotten from behind the sight of a rifle in a deer blind, while Hunter/Duncan is smartly decked out in Orvis woodland garb?)

Spoken like a true Georgian, Representative Paul C. Broun (R-GA) brilliantly said: “Of course Americans engage in propaganda. It’s a vital part of the mission of the United States to promote democracy and protect our country from harm.”

The basis of propaganda is lies. Psychological operations are generally based upon skewed truths and presented to sway an enemy's opinions and affect his will to fight. Psychological ops and propaganda are aimed at enemy personnel -- not the citizens of the U.S.

Ergo Congress's ban on funding domestic propaganda. Not only is it not based in truth, but the American citizen is not the enemy. At least, not the declared enemy. Not yet.

We the taxpayers foot the bill for everything done by the U.S. government. As the supposed bosses, we should not be bombarded with lies from our civil servants.

If, as Rep Broun argues, the goal of the U.S. is "
to promote democracy and protect our country from harm," then the government better stop disseminating lies and tell the truth.

--Jim and Lisa

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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Taps Brigade

Tho' all the world betrays thee,

One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,

One faithful harp shall praise thee!

--The Minstrel Boy


"The Traveling Taps Brigade" is a moving piece in today's WaPo about retired veterans who continue to serve and witness through sounding taps at funerals in place of the military's recorded version, and whose devotion to cause is unwavering. A worthy read, and a salute to the Taps Brigade.

We'd also like to note friend and fellow veteran blogger minstrelboy at Harp and Sword, who volunteers his services playing music at veteran's funerals, too. We render a salute all the way around.

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Memorial Day

I sing what was lost and dread what was won,

I walk in a battle fought over again,

My king a lost king, and lost soldiers my men;

Feet to the Rising and Setting may run,

They always beat on the same small stone

--What was Lost
, W. B. Yeats


This Memorial Day I'd like to remember an old friend Rob Valentine, former Infantry Captain with 46th Company, Special Forces, Thailand (1970-'71).

Rob served in a SF combat role during those years in Laos. He was always chafed that he didn't get his Combat infantry Badge, though he was an active participant in ground combat operations there.

This is the nature of Special Operations -- you do the duty, but you don't always receive recognition or promotion as a result of your activities because they are by definition, secret. Even the promotion boards do not know of your activities.

Valentine died in 1998. Following his death, the CIB was retroactively awarded to the 46th Co. for combat in Laos. Rob never was awarded his coveted CIB.

I once had a photograph with Rob, myself and James (Jay) Goolsby taken in SFOC 3-70 before we all went our separate ways. Jay was killed in the Republic of Vietnam while serving with MACVSOG in 1970.

The picture is now lost, but my Memorial Day memory is of two friends, Jay Goolsby and Rob Valentine. Both good men and good soldiers.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Operation Red Wings Failure

Marti was a fightin' man
Whose story should be told

He was a son of circumstance

He couldn't quite control

--Marti's Last Stand

Enter the Haggis

The soon to be published book Sawtelo Sar: The Untold Story of Operation Red Wings and Whalers, by Ed Darack, will discuss the "disinformation and missed-information" surrounding Red Wings, the operation for which Michael P. Murphy received his Medal of Honor (Michael P. Murphy MOH).

While we are glad Mr. Darack has written his book, why is there
disinformation attached to any U.S. combat operation in the glorious War on Terror? Of his statement I have no doubt, but why does it devolve to an embedded independent stock photographer and adventure writer who was never in the military to expose these facts?

Included on the website promoting the book is a picture of Jason Kamiya, Commanding General of CJTF-76, so this operation was a Task Force, which generally translates as a combination of forces arrayed under a single commander to fulfill a specific mission. T.F.'s are usually of a short duration and are not habitual unit relationships.

As a small aside, the General is wearing an Expert Infantry Badge, so the task force was commanded by a MG without a Combat Infantry Badge.

"The objective of [Operation Red Wings] was to 'disrupt anti-coalition militia operations that could potentially affect the upcoming national elections,' Translation: the Marines along with local Afghan forces would interdict those responsible for the creation and employment of IEDs (improvised explosive devices, commonly referred to as 'roadside bombs'), mortar and rocket attacks, and ambushes that destabilized the remote Kunar Province."

To the best of my memory, T.F.'s are usually Battalion-sized efforts with attachments, i.e, artillery, aviation, armor or whatever is required to fulfill the mission. Therefore, a Battalion Commander should be the T.F. commander, and T.F.'s are usually named for the T.F. Commander.

One of the difficulties that should have been anticipated before the operation kicked off was that this was a CJTF, with inherent problems built-in. As example, the Iranian hostage fiasco during Desert One demonstrates the services still have problems working J-level operations. Bay of Pigs, Son Tay Raid, Grenada offer other examples.

Operations are difficult enough at the service level, and adding outside resources does not make things go more smoothly. When will the U.S. services learn this lesson?

The target for Murphy's SEAL team was a militia led by Ahmed Shah which was
neither Taliban or al-Qaeda, though it probably had financial links to both. It was one of "approximately 22" distinct oppositional units operating in the region. Murphy's unit was ratted out by a goat herder.

Once again, U.S. military members are being used to suppress and/or kill non-Taliban, non-al-Qaeda personnel;
how does this constitute a part of the War on Terror? Surely Ahmed Shah is a rough customer, but so what? How does this impact the welfare of the U.S.?

When there are 22 distinct anti-coalition militias (ACM) in the area, one must question the validity of elections in such a region. This indicates a civil war, which has nothing to do with the security of America. To throw American troops into the fray is like putting them in a bumper car in which they will be buffeted by any number of known and unknown hostiles. The cars may be different colors, but they all look alike.

The actions of these militias can not even be justified as terrorism as it is a classic guerrilla / unconventional warfare scenario.
Why does the U.S. military kill people and conduct combat operations to prop up phony puppet governments that do not reflect the will of the people?

It is doubtful that Afghanistan will ever have a representative government even if the U.S. military were to kill every goat , chicken, dog and goat herder in the area.
Some things are beyond the purview of combat power. Afghanistan was a failed state when the U.S. invaded; the production of choreographed elections does not alter that reality. Kabul will never be an Athenian democracy.

Battalion 2/3 decided to name its operations after hockey teams. Why do we believe that sports analogize to combat operations? The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is not a sporting event, and there will be no winners, though there are cheerleaders, but they never were in harm's way.

The fact that Shah was shot and chased out of the region in a subsequent operation (Whalers) is as meaningless as warm spit. He is simply regrouping in another location for another day, and his units will return as soon as the Marines pack their rucks and split the scene.

Shah and his inheritors will still be there when the Marines are old and telling their war stories in a VFW post.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Doing Time

Dey tells all you chillun

De devil's a villain,

But it ain't necessarily so!

--It Ain't Necessarily So
George Gershwin


Italy began its trial last week against CIA operatives and intelligence officials who participated in the 2003 extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorist collaborator Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric.

After Omar was abducted from an Italian street he says he was taken to an Egyptian prison and tortured. Following a series of incarcerations and releases, he was finally released from the prison system in 2007.

Also charged are "26 Americans — 25 Central Intelligence Agency operatives and one Air Force colonel," but the U.S. says it will not extradite them, and the Bush administration remains noncommittal on whether it was involved in Mr. Nasr's disappearance.

"Far more vulnerable, though, are more than a half dozen high-level officers of Italy’s secret service who have also been indicted, all accused of in some way approving, masterminding or carrying out the kidnapping plan (Italian Trial of C.I.A. Operatives Begins with Torture Testimony.)"

So the U.S., great exporter of democracy, refuses to cooperate with Italy within the rules of international law. If the CIA agents are not guilty, why will the U.S. not extradite them? If you do the Crime, be prepared to do the time.

Many members of Italy’s law enforcement agencies were furious about the kidnapping. They say they could have arrested Mr. Nasr at any time and had long had him under surveillance for potential connections with terrorists. They say his clumsy and illegal kidnapping erased years of police work that had put them on the verge of gaining valuable information about Muslim groups in Italy.

Once again, potentially criminal activity by U.S. operatives is being officially condoned and exhibits illegal U.S. activity within the sovereign nation of Italy.
Something did change after 9-11: the U.S. has become a rogue player on the international legal scene.

Kidnapping is not justified nor is torture condoned in a democracy, even when conducted by surrogates, even when sugar-coated as counter-terrorism.

Without adherence to the rule of law, both national and international, can the U.S. claim to be a civil and democratic participant among like nations? Without the rule of law, what is the purpose of democracy in America?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Hat Trick

"Which road should I take?" she asked the cat.
"Where do you want to get to?" the cat asked helpfully.

"I don't know," admitted Alice.

"Then," advised the cat, "any road will take you there."

--Cheshire Cat,
from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

We all knows times are not good, so corporate members often have to wear many hats. Add to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's vita that of necromancer or magus. It is unclear if he matriculated an accredited program at the Hogworts School.

Gates says, "today's enemies are the foes of the future,"
conventional conflicts are probably passe, and warns the Pentagon not "to fall back on Cold War mentalities." Are these diktats based upon intelligence, or is he pulling this out of his magic hat?

Historically our enemies have morphed into trade partners, so what does he have that indicates the future would be otherwise? China, Italy, Germany were all enemies who now regularly trade and inhabit our world.

When Gates says, "the armed services and their corporate counterparts should steer technology and resources toward battling insurgencies," exactly how and when did the U.S. become the epicenter of COIN? It is still the "Department of Defense," not "Department of COIN."

The U.S. should not feel compelled to fight insurgents unless they're in the streets of America.
Let other countries fight their own insurgencies; putting our horse in the race only complicates the bookkeeper's job.

Gates also addressed the need to prioritize current needs versus projected ones:

He mentioned the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected truck, a $1 million vehicle designed to protect U.S. troops from improvised bombs that Gates said met resistance because some officials said it would not be useful after the war in Iraq. He said that in more than 150 attacks on MRAPs, only six soldiers died, citing it as an example of a system that troops need now but that is "competing with the funding for future weapons systems with strong constituencies inside and outside the Pentagon (Defense Secretary Urges Military to Mold Itself to Fight Iraq-Style Wars.)"

Just imagine if the U.S. would quit their job as Baghdad security guards. We wouldn't need the MRAPs and no soldiers would be dying. Saves lives, saves money. Sounds like an aphorism even George Bush could spit out.

Similarly Gates spoke of the Air Force's F-22 fighter jet, "which that service covets for its speed, agility and ability to battle advanced fighters from countries such as China, but which has not made a single combat sortie over Iraq or Afghanistan."

In historical context, the British Hurricane and Spitfire planes didn't keep the Germans from conquering Western Europe in 1940, but they sure saved Britain during the Battle for Britain air campaigns. The M60 tank never fought in combat against the Russian hordes of 1960-75, but they served as a bulwark versus Soviet tank invasions. Only time can tell if the cost of the AF F-22 is justified.

Gates has said we have untapped Naval and Air Force reserve power to "defeat any adversary who committed an act of aggression." While he conceded there would be a risk,
"it is a prudent and manageable one." Perhaps wisdom from George H.W. Bush should be enlisted about now -- "wouldn't be prudent at this juncture."

When Gates argues for success in Iraq --
"That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win" -- he forgets this is a war which defies all definitions and cannot be quantified in objective mission terms. How can you win if you don't know what winning looks like?

Ranger, enjoying precision and commitment as he does in his daily life, would be happy if the U.S. could just state what it wants to win, in quantifiable terms.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Soup for You

Americans, indeed all freemen, remember
that in the final choice, a soldier's pack is not
so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains
--Dwight D. Eisenhower

I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope

There ain't no substitute for the truth

Either it is or isn't

--The Truth
, India Arie

More members of the military revolt against participation in the kangaroo trials for Gitmo detainees (
A Few Good Soldiers.) These defections are excellent evidence that some principled men and women in uniform still navigate by the Constitution.

"These refusals, affecting two trials [last] week, suggest that the whole apparatus—seven years and counting in the making—cannot ever be fixed. The trials are doomed, and they are doomed from the inside out (A Few Good Soldiers.)"

It is doubtful the military tribunals can ever be fixed, but
why did they come into being in the first place? The U.S. has done well up to 2002 with a Department of Justice and a Federal court system, fully capable of trying terrorist cases. All terrorist acts are violations of normal U.S. Code. Terrorist acts are criminal in the same way as are murder, kidnapping, bombing, etc.

How can the Court Martial Convening Authority for these trials be a Department of Defense civilian with no military or command authority? Courts martial are convened by the Commander in a particular chain of command. Why is this different for Gitmo?

The system was created to provide an extra-legal sphere in which torture and relaxed rules of evidence could prevail in kangaroo courts. But there is no need to get tricky and cute with the law, as this tinkering threatens the integrity of a democratic society. Either we are or we aren't.

As the judicial process stands vis a vis detained potential / possible / probable enemy combatants (POW's?) and terrorists, we have created a grotesque pastiche. Small part democracy; large part gulag. They are incompatible processes, hence the attorney's declining to play on such a mined field.

If we don't trust our own legal system, what are we fighting for?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Since We're Here Already. . .

The Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,
but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched,
and the persons or things to be seized.

Ranger Question of the Day:
Why are we exporting democracy when
we are eroding it here in the homeland?

The Supreme Court affirmed 4/23/08 that police have the power to conduct searches and seize evidence, even when done during an arrest that turns out to have violated state law. Probable cause is the justification the Court used (High Court Rules for Police Power.)

Imagine: the arrest may be in violation of state law, but the search and seizure is still permissible.
What is clear is that police can now fake any arrest, and the subsequent search and seizure will yield evidence leading to a prosecution anyway.

This is abuse of the 4th Amendment and a travesty of justice. In the case of David Lee Moore, he was a drug dealer, but what about when it happens to you or yours? Remember 50% of all high school students have used illegal drugs.

Imagine a young Barry Obama during his cocaine days, driving while black being searched for drugs incidental to an illegal traffic stop. Wouldn't make for a very good presidential candidate, eh? You get the idea.

To continue the thought project, can you imagine British police in Boston making an illegal arrest of a colonist and subsequently searching and seizing items from his person to be used in prosecution?

Might just be enough to incite a rebellion.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Oil Slick


Getting above the fray for a moment, we will not engage in discussion of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) and instead call a spade a spade. The entire war is between the US Dollar and the Euro.

We are like the pugilistic little boy who only knows fisticuffs as a solution, and cannot mature past that. Meanwhile, the world is moving on.

Representative Jack Murtha said of the nation that actually won the war in Iraq:

"The Chinese, Murtha said, have become our strategic competitors for oil. "They're all over Africa because of Nigeria's oil supplies. They're all over Iran. They're all over Venezuela, competing with us for oil (Selling a Military Budget that will "Make the Rubble Bounce.)"

The U.S. needs oil and a stable economy, too, but our choice is to antagonize Iran and Venezuela at every opportunity. U.S. policy alienates all of the major oil producers except Saudi Arabia, which occupies a favored position in the Bush family of patriots.

U.S. actions are not those of a free market competitor but rather those of a hostile, martial power. So what actually dictates U.S. foreign policy?

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss

How the U.S. sees the world,
according to domestic news coverage,
Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio International,
"Why We Know Less than Ever about the World"

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans,
and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought
under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
--Mohandas Gandhi

You know, if I listened to him long enough,
I would be convinced we're in an economic downturn
and people are homeless and going without food
and medical attention and that we've got to do
something about the unemployed
--Ronald Reagan on Michael Dukakis

Happy days are here again

The skies above are clear again

So lets sing a song of cheer again

Happy days are here again

--Happy Days Are Here Again,
Yellen and Ager (1929)


If Mr. Reagan learned one thing in Hollywood, it was to leave them smiling. And smile they still do. Even candidate Obama doesn't mind a comparison to the Gipper.

But there are two Americas, and one gives little reason to smile. As defined by the Republicans and Democrats, the nation is divided politically -- "Them" and "Us". But this rhetorical divide ignores the real America inhabited by the vast majority of us who are the suckers that pay the taxes that allow Them to rule our sorry little asses.

To many of Us, the choice of Democrat or Republican is immaterial, for our lives do not operate in the ideological spheres of political dialog. As well, there seems little difference in the initiatives for those who demographically don't count for much, those who are all but disenfranchised due to illness, or ignorance or work.

For a look at one slice of the great middle: Ranger uses the public library to do his computer work. Upon arrival at 9:55 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. library opening, the entire outer lobby is filled with homeless people waiting for the doors to open, too. Why? Because this is their home from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday except Sunday, at which time their library home hours are truncated from 1-5.

Keep this in mind when evaluating Candidate McCain's outline which envisions an Iraq victory by 2013. The great divinator said, "It's not a timetable; it's victory. It's victory. . . " Well that's just fantastic -- oh, happy day.

Of course, this does nothing for the homeless at the library, who would define victory as being allowed to sleep on the library floor in the comfort of a climate-controlled environment.

To the extent politicians are concerned about the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, it is to aid and abet wayward borrowers, or to help bailout greedy investors. But nary a word about people for whom owning a home shall never be a reality.

It is acceptable to throw
$6 billion down the drain in Pakistan, but the local homeless shelter in Tallahassee turns people away each night due to lack of funds and lack of beds.

Where does democracy start, and where does it end? How has our leadership become so remote from the reality of everyday America?

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Droning On

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you

I can read your mind

--Eye in the Sky, Alan Parsons Project


Fellow blogger Abu Muqawama recently wrote on the dishonesty of the new high-tech Air Force advertisements which imply conflicts can be fought neatly and tidily from above, going so far as to suggest drones would dispense with much of the dirty work ("Eyes in the Sky").

Well, that may be how it looks from up there, but as Abu M. suggests, nothing can replace HUMINT and boots on the ground, things which are decidedly not always neat and tidy.

Ranger takes it one step further. The drones are seen flying over a mud hut, backwater village in some generic Afghanistan / Iraq / Pakistan scenario. The suggestion that the USAF will be able to neutralize the terrorist threat simply be flying over and then peering into the evil souls inhabiting these areas is patently absurd. The take home is the dropping a few surgically placed bombs will bend them into submission (or smash the evildoers into smithereens.)

This is a lie and a misguided fantasy for two reasons. Eyes in the sky will never see the evil intent hiding in men's heads, nor will it be able distinguish those who simply think evil thoughts (that is, from our side of things), versus those who can or will be able to implement their dreams of destruction.
Secondly, mud huts are not the origin of the terrorist threat.

It is the terrorists that originate in the palaces, boardrooms and bank offices of Saudi Arabia that need to be overflown by these drones.
Let's put some realism into our advertising.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

It Takes a Village

When I was in the military, they gave me a medal

for killing two men and a discharge for loving one

--Epitaph, Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say
there are twenty gods or no God.

It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg

— Thomas Jefferson

Can't you see we need a hand

In the Navy

Come on, protect the motherland

In the Navy

--In the Navy
, Village People

There is nothing wrong with going to bed

with someone of your own sex…

People should be very free with sex;

they should draw the line at goats

–Elton John


Happy Armed Forces Day.

Thursday's ruling by California's conservative State Supreme Court allowing gays to marry, only the second state in the nation to do so, reminds us how bigoted and provincial we are as a nation (
California Strikes Ban on Same Sex Marriage.) The court decided marriage was a fundamental right of the individual, and barring it between same-sex couples is akin to the now-discredited ban on interracial marriage.

If the Republicans are the party of family values, what could be more value-filled than allowing two people to legally declare before the eyes of the community and the law that their partnership is binding? That commitment adds value to everyone's life.

On the other hand, forcing people to live in shame does nothing to foster a healthy society. As with abortion, drinking and biracial marriage -- people will engage in these behaviors whether they are state-sanctioned or not. You do not eradicate the behavior by denying its legality.

The only question is, will rights be protected, and will goods and services be provided in the safest, healthiest manner possible? Or will people be punished for their predilections by a moralist state.
In my book, only the church should be allowed to shame you, should you choose to tolerate that censure, that is.

The wedding vows say you shall love, honor and cherish. They don't say you will create a passel of kids, and that may be a good thing. (Bad for the church maybe, which wants to create more hands for the donation plate.) On the other hand, should a gay couple wish to adopt, the is one less child out of the maws of the foster care system or the orphanage, another thing which is not bad.

Homosexuality is a biological fact; 3 - 10% of animals are queer. I know the fundamentalists run re-education camps to un-queer members, but why fight one's essential nature? It is as meaningless as making left-handers become right, because left-handedness was considered evil at one time. Then again, some people are naturally ambidextrous. These are biological facts. What do you do -- chop off the offending hand?

The imposition of any moral doctrine recorded by man should not counter natural inclinations, certainly not so long as these impulses are in keeping with the Golden Rule. Love, that is the directive, not hate and ostracize.
In any event, religious doctrine should not trump legal doctrine in a nation under rule of law.

Isn't our goal a healthy and civil society in which neighbors love neighbors, for the good of the whole? Does our greedy desire for salacious news and the scapegoats override our sense of decency? If you are straight, seeing a gay couple carrying in groceries or mow the lawn is not going to turn you gay if you lack the impulse. So why the homophobic fear?

The papers are abuzz with the idea that this will become an issue for the presidential candidates. But this is a constitutional matter, a question of basic civil rights and freedoms.
It would be great if any of the candidates had enough dignity to declare that fact, to say that their own preferences matter not a whit. That would be a welcome step away from the stance of the god-like, unitary executive. They all lack the backbone, however.

If we really wanted to cease unfortunate incidents like Senator Larry Craig's bathroom trolling, we would come clean about our true natures and allow people to marry appropriately. Is it better to force people into a marriage of propriety, for show, or to allow them to select mates based upon choice? As we no longer have arranged marriage, the idea should be that people join of their own volition.

On a pragmatic level, how mean-spirited to deny partners in a homosexual union medical benefits, etc., when they are life partners every bit as much as those who have joined in a heterosexual union. Gay and lesbian couples often suffer censure from their families and society at large; why deny them the refuge of a happy family life?

Shouldn't we celebrate love and care in whatever form it takes? Do we not smile when the zoo gorilla pick up a tot who has fallen into the enclosure, or when the swan becomes attached to the perfect swan peddle boat? Love in all its forms is a marvel. Nature is a mosaic.

Different strokes for different folks.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

We've Got You Surrounded

I sell guns to the Arabs
and dynamite to the Jews

--Smuggling Man
, Richie Havens


After the Shiite Hezbollah Iranian/Syrian muscle flexing in Lebanon last week, Prime Minister Faud Saniora's government is a shaky proposition.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said last week,
"We will stand by the Lebanese government and the peaceful citizens of Lebanon through the crisis and provide the support they need to weather this storm." But how?

Since we are deadlocked in two elective wars, do U.S. policymakers plan to expand into another conflict? President Bush naively called the "Ceder Revolution" -- the end of Syria's 30-year Lebanese occupation in 2005 -- a victory for his pro-democracy vision. But they are now back on the brink

We are watching a simple action : reaction.
The U.S. moved to depose Sunni elements in Iraq and Afghanistan, moves which benefited the Shiites in the region, which is now spilling over into Lebanon. The Sunni situation remains unclear, and resolution is not a done deal. The Saudis will not roll over for the Shias.

The U.S. decision to scrap
realpolitik and intervene thusly has neutralized 80 years of a delicate balance. The U.S. can threaten, cajole and intimidate Iran all day long with nuclear armed carrier groups, but Iran has the real power in the area, delivered courtesy the U.S.A.

That power is that the region no longer fears the combat power of America, because it cannot address the issues that are relevant to the region.

As Thomas Friedman said in "The New Cold War,"

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

Furthermore, quoting author Aaron David Miller, he says America is “not liked, not feared and not respected,” and “'cannot defeat, co-opt or contain' any of the key players in the region.” That is it in a nutshell.

Hezbollah is a regional power, with or without Iranian and Syrian support.
U.S. policy must do a better job selecting its friends, and a decisively better job selecting its enemies. U.S. policy should not be contingent upon the House of Saud, yet presently U.S. postures reflect Saudi aspirations in the region.

What are the long-term strategic benefits envisioned in U.S. foreign policy? Can anybody state these clearly? Foreign policy does not react to events: it should shape them.

As it stands, U.S. policy in the region is simply knee-jerk reaction that benefits naught.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

We're Fighters, Not Lovers

Forget about the losses,
you exaggerate the wins
--The Road, Jackson Browne

Well I can roar like a lion,
I can sting like a bee.
But some times I think, baby,
I've got rabbit blood in me
--I'm a Lover Not a Fighter, The Kinks

Ranger Question of the Day:
If our military personnel are now all warriors,
does that make the President the Warrior in Chief?

The U.S. portrays its military personnel as warriors, yet its official policy is that it is involved in COIN operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

COIN, portrayed as the key element in our phony elective wars, is not based on combat power. Yet national leadership and policy insists our service personnel be designated
warriors. We say one thing, and expect to do another. Surely the warrior ethos will not resolves COIN concerns.

Iraq and Afghanistan clearly cannot be solved through the avenue of power, yet all services have signed on the designation "warrior." Even the vaunted Army COIN strategy is based in the concept of advisers, implying a symbiotic relationship between occupiers and indigenous. But where are these midwifing sorts? That's right -- they are now combat arms warriors.

COIN is simplicity itself. It is their country and they do not want us there. That is simple. What is complicated is that U.S. policy tries to circumvent this fact.

Current U.S. policy is like going out to a ball game where the rules are unknown, and when they become known, change. Also, the location of the ball park is a secret, as is the ticket price. The ability to score or the way to score is also a secret known only to the referees. And of course, the refs are deaf and blind.

This is a working definition of the U.S. Warrior COIN Policy.

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