Monday, June 30, 2008

In His Own Write

--Drawing by John Lennon

Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country

and trying to destabilize their country

--George W. Bush


Fellow writer Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword recently penned an impassioned and eloquent response on the subject of a soldier's love that deserves to be a post in its own right:

"The [risk] that always caused me the most pain, and the most satisfaction, was when I put my heart on the line.

If you ever get around to reading
Xenophon's Anabasis, you'll come across one of the most significant passages ever written about the soul of a soldier. Hint: put aside what the Japanese said about the sword being the soul of the Samurai; even a closeness that borders on anthropomorphising weapons does not constitute a soul.

Xenophon talks about a dark night around the campfire. The soldiers are far from home and if not lost, they are certainly unsure of exactly where they are, both in relation to immediate presence and how much further they have to walk. However, that is not what they are talking about.

They are talking about things like philosophy, duty and fear. Some are recounting stories from history of the great Greek heroes -- Ajax, Achilles, Theseus, Diekenese, Agamemnon, and Heracles.

But a grizzled old veteran says that these heroes are not the type of men he wants in the phalanx. He does not want men without fear beside him, for those kinds of men create unnecesary dangers for those around them. They break the integrity of the line of battle to seek single combat and glory. That can spell glory for one, but death for the phalanx and the army.

No, the absence of fear does not make for courage. In fact, for courage to be present, fear must be present also, for what is courage if not the overcoming of fear?
Courage has been said by some of our great philosopher - soldiers to be the knowledge that there are things that matter more than one's own fear.

The old man is asked,
"What then matters more than fear? what is the opposite of fear?"

The veteran sighs and says,


We who have fought, for the most part find that when things are at their most dangerous, confusing, and intimidating, it isn't any slogans, songs or patriotism that keeps us on the line when every fiber of sense in our being is screaming
"run! run! run!"

No, what keeps us there, what sends us through the rote repetitions of drill and duty is love. Love for the guys to our immediate right and left. Love for the guys behind us who will take our place should we fall.

We don't love the guys who send us into battle. We don't love the staff pukes who come up with all these great fucking plans.

We love the guys who lace up, ruck up and walk right into the teeth of hell beside us. They will do so much more than easy stuff like dying for us. They will
kill for us.

They are truly our brothers."

--Minstrel Boy

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Paying the Piper

The Aragon was a cock-up, the Yank said.
No artillery, no plans, no timing, no leaders,

everybody running around like rabbits

from Moment of War, Laurie Lee (1991)

To compare terrorism with an all-encompassing

ideology like communism and fascism is evidence

of profound confusion

--Sen Joseph Biden [D-DE]

(from "Republicans and our Enemies")

Where's your shame

You've left us up to our necks in it

, David Bowie

The true-blue cheerleaders of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) are right about one thing: they do want to destroy our way of life. Except the "they" are members of the National Command Authority to include partisan lawyers justifying the Dr. Jekyll nature of U.S. policy.

Two of the worst of the worst, David Addington and "puling scrivner Yoo" (as beautifully embodied by fellow blogger FDChief here) recently testified before Congress to little fanfare. Two men who should raise the righteous ire of any self-respecting Democratic member of Congress, raised nary a whimper.

What is changing our lives and destroying our freedoms are the actions and inactions of our elected leaders. Our lives are being diminished by federal operating deficits in excess of $500 billion per year, the punishing costs of elective phony wars, the skyrocketing price of oil and gas and all that devolves from that and the price of everything rises due to the devaluation of the dollar, the inevitable result of a broken consumer economy. One figure guaranteed not to rise anytime soon is the average paycheck or subsidy allowance.

The threat to the U.S. is not posed by terrorists. The threat is posed by willful ignorance by all players of the ugly issues facing our boy-in-the-bubble societal mindset, or as Steve Pearlstein in WaPo called it, our "mirage economy." Forget Iraq and Afghanistan -- who will pay the piper when the jig is up?

Those regions will both survive without our beneficence. They function as costly distraction, much as the pathologized member of a triangulation functions in a family system. The war hawks can project and focus the ire of a population on The Other for a time, but eventually, when the floor drops out from beneath them the citizens will notice.

Most still accept the long war paradigm vis-a-vis current conflicts, but an even bigger problem is that our national planners are anticipating future wars of the same nature. Even usually lucid Senators Joseph Biden and Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say we need "a new national security act," that gives the U.S. a diplomatic and civil administrative strike force capacity, ready to move into "Iraq-type conflicts as the military is to cope with hostile forces" (Foreign Policy's Best Hope.)

The U.S. must focus on the welfare and survivability of our nation before spending irreplaceable deficit dollars on pipe dreams.

Viewed another way, don't invasions and forced regime changes mean we hate them and want to take away their freedoms and change their way of life? U.S. policy does to them what Bush says they want to do to us. "I know you are, but what am I?" Does this make adult sense?

Such a sham; such a shame. Our combat might enable elections in theatre, but without any meaningful democratic features. Theirs is a government of flunkies, minus country or national consensus or identity. Maybe that is why our confederacy of dunces declare all is going well -- it is a case of narcissistic identification.

Our armies are fomenting hatred and embitterment that cannot be quelled with palletized greenbacks or ballot box props.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008


Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;

How jocund did they drive their team afield!

How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

--Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,

Thomas Gray

I carn't not believe this incredible fact of truth

about my very body which has not gained fat since

mother begat me at childburn.

Yea, though I wart through the valet of thy shadowy hut

I will feed no norman. What grate qualmsy hath taken me

thus into such a fatty hardbuckle

--"No Flies on Frank
" (from
In His Own Write,)
John Lennon


Well, we don't know how many of their furrows were broke by stubborn glebes, nor how jocularly they drive their teams, but as the Baptist church house doors opened after services today expulsing their flock one commonality was clear: every last one of them was fat. And so what, you say?

Ever making connections, Ranger thought about the implications of the avoirdupois/theological nexus, understanding that our neck o' the woods is a somewhat parochial area, its citizens generally not given to the level of fitness one might see in parishioners exiting, say, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

From the pulpit streams a reliable schtick to support the troops, if the troops are mentioned at all. What this means in the New America is "consume," with the blessings of President Bush. Get thee tax rebate checks to a WalMart SuperCenter near you. God has blessed us so let us eat 'til we bust, spend 'til we are broke buying what we do not need, and fight wars to protect it all. If you should get sick in your existence minus healthcare, "you can just go to an emergency room," as the munificent President Bush said.

This brought to mind the economic bifurcation between the fatties and skinnies. To be fat today one must [a] have enough money to buy quantities of savory food, or [b] be poor and so purchase foods that provide maximum calories to extend your minimum amount of dollars, which usually translates to fats and cheap carbohydrates.

To be skinny one must [a] Have enough money to own a gym membership and shop at Whole Foods, or [b] be poor and hungry. Many do not understand how a person can be on food stamps and be heavy, but that is often the result of poor, cheap food choices.

Let's all get fat and go to church, or is it, go to church and get fat? If you have money, you can pick up some CLA and and buy the latest Denise Richards tape with your groceries. God will save us and in any event, heaven is right around the corner where they are waiting for you to change into your new, "glorified" body.

--Lisa and Jim

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

To Sir, With Love

Wrong or resolute but in the mood to obey
Station to station desensitizing the nation

where'd all the good people go

Going, going, gone

--Good People
, Jack Johnson


It's a cold, hard world out there beyond the comfort of our little corner of the blogosphere, but there is warmth out there, also.

Particularly I'd like to tell MinstrelBoy (both of you), Mike, Publius, FDChief, DK, tw, Mr. Oblivious, CT, Gordon, Fixer, Arkhamite, Labrys, GSJ, FNord, jo6pac, UndergroundCarpenter, Martin K., Spiider, Ranger Hazen, BadTux and Lurch (posthumously) how much I rely upon their positive regard and presence in my life.

The order listed in no way implies a preferential bias. All are equally true and great American heroes and it was worth the ride just meeting these guys (you too, Labrys.)

I also salute Claymore of the Texan National Guard, who was banned from our site due to his unfortunate proclivity for ad hominem attacks. Although he is not present for duty, Claymore too is a patriot. We didn't agree on much but he does and did put his balls on the line for his beliefs. That is far more than most.

The dialog we have established has brought me strength to persevere in these troubled times.

Ranger Hruska

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Jail House Rock -- The Sequel

No performer should attempt to bite off red-hot
iron unless he has a good set of teeth

--Harry Houdini

Ill send an s.o.s. to the world
I hope that someone gets my

Message in a bottle

--Message in a Bottle
, The Police

Thank you for getting me out

--The Great Escape


Ranger will look at the recent Afghanistan prison break at the Sarposa Prison through the lens of the second most popular book of the current federal government (after the Bible) -- FM 3-24, Petraeus and Amos's COIN Field Manual, as the last time we checked into the net the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) was being billed as a counter-insurgency.

The manual was good enough to earn Petraeus his 4th star, but it failed to discuss the use of cell phones. Rule #1 for maintaining prison populations: don't give your prisoners no cell phones.

"Human Rights Vetting" [D-8] says Congress will limit funding for foreign security forces if Department of State (DoS) provides credible information that they have "committed a gross violation of human rights." The conditions in the Sarposa Prison violated those human rights. It would seem that the Rules of Land Warfare would require such action, but the rules are different in the PWOT. It seems inhumane facilities are the rule versus the exception.

After six years in Afghanistan it is reasonable to expect that imprisoned persons be treated with minimum legal and humanistic protections. From an extract of the "Detainee Treatment Act of 2005" published in FM 3-24 [D5]:

"Prohibition on Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of Persons Under Custody or Control of the U.S. Government" [Table D-1]

(a) No individual in the custody of . . . the U.S. Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

(d) . . . "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" means [that] prohibited by the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the U.S., as defined in the U.S. Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)."

These standards apply to host nation (HN) as well as U.S.-run facilities. But why is the U.S. running prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq anyway? This should be exclusively a HN function as it is their country and they are trying to establish new societies. Order is not ideally externally imposed upon a developing nation, not six years in.

If being used in violation of standards of human rights, Congress has the moral and legal responsibility to cut off funds. If the military Department of Defense and the civilian DoS fail to report such violations, it is incumbent upon Congress to monitor reliable new sources which indicate inhumane prisoner treatment by our erstwhile client states.

Training and Equipping Foreign Forces [D-32]
says Congress should authorize expenditures to train and equip foreign forces, provided DoS verifies the HN "is not in violation of human rights." Establishing the Rule of Law [D-38] states this is a "goal" and "end state" of COIN characterized by:
  • A government [which] derives its power from the governed . . .
  • Sustainable security institutions . . . [Penal institutions] should be perceived by the local populace as fair, just and transparent.
  • Fundamental human rights . . . Respect for the full panoply of human rights should be the goal of the HN.
Perceptions trump reality, even in the FM. And who determines when the full panoply will devolve to the indigenous population? Maybe they'll only get a half-panoply. What if they do not want the panoply? (What kind of a word is panoply anyway for an Army FM?)

For sure, the panoply is not trickling down to the poor suckers in the detention facilities (which is another word for "shit-hole.")

If the right of government derives from the people per the COIN manual, one presumes that "people" does not include the foreign invading and occupying army. The imperious nature of U.S. policies and actions are clear. COIN is a fairy tale written to appease Congress into funding wars of aggression with gee-whiz "emergency funding." But words, however pretty, cannot ameliorate U.S. illegitimacy in the region.

"In periods of extreme unrest and emergency, HN legal structures . . . may cease to exist . . . Under these conditions, counterinsurgents may need to undertake a significant role in the reconstruction of the HN judicial system in order to establish legal procedures and systems to deal with captured insurgents and common criminals. . . . This support continues as long as insurgents continue to disrupt activities that support the legitimate rule of law."

The term captured insurgents in D-39 is confusing. Are they POW's, since one captures POW's, and arrests criminals? FM 3-24 is rife with such obfuscation of terms, which leads to obfuscation of purpose, which may in fact be the purpose.

What is "legitimate rule of law"? Is this law externally-imposed and mandated, as interpreted by NATO and the U.S.? Or does it mean as seen and interpreted by the indigenous populations?

What is "extreme unrest," and why is extreme unrest in a foreign nation my taxpaid dollar's concern? One must question the legitimacy of the initial U.S. control of the HN. Does NATO/U.S. have the right to impose standards on a non-member state?

The actuality of the PWOT clashes with the phantasy PWOT (P2WOT). The actuality is that prisoners are kept in crude, uncivilized substandard conditions. This jailbreak was mandated by illegitimate government treatment of prisoners and overall government corruption.

Charging prisoners $100/month to keep cell phones is corrupt and self-defeating. The fighting and instability in Iraq and Afghanistan will never reach a sustainable endpoint because legitimacy is lacking. Legitimacy is a fancy word in a fancy COIN manual which is absent from current U.S. policies and actions. Legitimacy does not flow from preemptive and aggressive invasions.

Like the manual says, a government derives its power from the consent of the governed.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

American Infantry Preservation Society


Ranger would like to recognize a friend and his Vietnam reenactment group in the South of England, the American Infantry Preservation Society (AIPS), going 20 years strong now.

Jack and his group have traveled to Vietnam and been featured in several international magazines, including Armchair General. The AIPS is unique far as reenactors go in many respects. From their mission statement:

"We are the only group in the U.K. that represents the classic grunt in any great numbers, and as part of this commitment to the memory of the line infantryman, the unit we represent is C Company, 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment (Mech), 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division. Known as 'Bandido Charlie,' this unit served in Vietnam from 1966 until 1970."

Our friend, Jack, shows the utmost respect and humility in his involvement and unswerving commitment to authenticity. Unlike some U.S. reenactment groups, Jack's insists upon no pretense. The AIPS understands the importance and integrity of every job well done in a company, and are proud of their grunt status.

They even have a Viet Cong unit, "whose role it is to provide opposition to the U.S. forces, as well as reminding us of the sacrifices made by the Vietnamese people." That is brilliant OPFOR for their reenactments.

Ranger's attraction to the unit is as a former mechanized infantryman familiar with their tactics and doctrine. Additionally, he knows the terrain the C-5-60 Inf (M) fought for. For a time the 60th was at Bearcat, a rifle shot away from the small Special Forces camp where Ranger was stationed in 1970-71, Long Thanh.

The AIPS is totally professional and dedicated to realism. "We don't glorify the Vietnam conflict or war in general, but try and recreate what the Grunts went through." Ranger has been pleased to receive and comment on many photos Jack has sent for critique, and hopes to visit with the group and possibly issue them an operation order.

Ranger finds it amazing and heartwarming that a bunch of British blokes care to preserve the living memory of the lowly rifleman from a little recognized war.

If anyone cares to volunteer input to the group, Jack's email is jackthegun81 - at- hotmail - dot - com. The AIPS grunts are the real deal.

Jack, on the right

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!

That's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me

--Thank You Very Much
, Scrooge (1970)

How 'bout them transparent dangling carrots

How 'bout that ever elusive kudo
--Thank You
, Alanis Morrisette

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks

--William Shakespeare


We won, we won! You like us! Thank you one and all for voting Ranger, Best Progressive Florida National Blog from the Florida Democratic Party Netroots Coalition. Our shameless grandstanding hit the target, and you got out the vote. Thanks.

We now know what it's like to win a contest based on votes alone. One knows one was the most popular, but not necessarily the best. (Well, in this case, the best.) So with Obama and McCain who are also fighting a personality contest, as we have no Solomon to mediate such matters (or any matter, for that matter.)

We'll just have to hope for Surowiecki's wisdom of crowds to prevail. In that vein, if anyone knows what the logo represents, please tell us.

At first glance it is a stylized Pacman. On second, it appears to be a blue and orange billiard ball wearing a yellow hardhat. Why a billiard ball would need a hardhat escapes us. Blue and orange are the colors of the University of Florida football team, which we must oppose out of reflex, hailing from Tallahassee as we do.

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Hokey Smoke!

Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader,
--Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

The Roman promoters really did things right.

They needed a show that would clearly excite.

The attendance was sparse so they put on a fight

Threw the Christians to the lions, sold out every night

--Give the People What they Want
, The Kinks

But here, cleverly disguised as a bomb, is a bomb

--The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (1961)

This, too, shall pass

--Jewish folklore


The WaPo's David Ignatius offered a "Fix-It List for The Spies" following a recent Washington conference on how to fix the intel community.

President Bush broke the Central Intelligence Agency's credibility with Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld's policies, which allowed Defense Department (DoD) agencies and non-intelligence offices to co-opt the functions of the CIA. The agency was buried with Tenet's infamous "slam dunk," the famous end-run to war.

While the agency had failures in the lead-up to war, they occurred due to our leaders' insistence on designer intelligence favoring their predetermined plans. The President, Vice President, DoD, National Security Adviser and Department of State wanted a war, so they produced intel to justify and validate that decision, rubber-stamped by Congress.

Ignatius says the next president, "will see the power of intelligence reporting but should also understand how the CIA has declined as an effective (and secret) arm of the commander in chief."
This is the crux of the intelligence problem.

Both Porter Goss and William Tenet felt that they worked solely for the President -- faulty logic. The CIA doesn't work solely for the President. The CIA works for the U.S. policy makers and taxpaying citizens. We taxpayers can't read their reports but our lawmakers should assuredly read CIA intelligence briefs before voting on issues of war and peace. Briefings to the intelligence oversight committees are not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of a democracy.

What is the value of a vote based upon emotion versus facts, or at least predictive estimates based upon intelligence indicators? The President is not the Decider when it come to declaring war. Congress must be in the intel loop or its powers will be usurped and will osmose into the actions of an imperial President.

Ignatius says the the impending reorganization "should be rationalized." However,
before rationalization a realistic mission for the CIA should be defined. The CIA was the premier civilian intel agency of the U.S. government until it became a subsidiary of the DoD under Hayden's stewardship. But the CIA does not work for the Secretary of Defense.

There needs to be a clear demarcation between civilian and military intelligence functions, as the two are not necessarily the same. A reorganization should address the areas of intersection.

Notably absent from discussions on reorganization is discussion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counter-intelligence mission. The FBI used to be the tool that protected the homeland from the terror threat. Where does this function reside now, and what is the action agency?

The FBI was and is the best tool to address domestic threats.
The Department of Homeland Security is a redundant make-work project addressing a function that was already adequately addressed. The only FBI deficiency was in the area of resource allocation and interface with state and local law enforcement.

Ignatius reports,

"Art Brown, a longtime CIA case officer in Asia, said that when he finally came in from the cold, he realized that '99 percent of what we were producing overseas, nobody was reading.' That's got to stop."

Intel estimates must be declassified and disseminated to members of Congress. Reports and estimates are useless unless they are read by the key players in our government. Keeping congressmen out of the loop is not democracy.

Washington should learn from what's working in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Out in the field, you can see one intelligence community. The kids operate together -- analysts and collectors, military and civilian," said one former top DNI official. David Kilcullen, an Australian who is a counterinsurgency adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, explained how soldiers and spies who understand tribal cultures are putting al-Qaeda on the run.

But why should Washington learn from what is working in Afghanistan and Iraq? In the long-term, nothing is working. Despite operational successes, winning or losing is not determined by one good capture in a chess game.

What is happening to America while we guard street corners in Kabul and Baghdad?

Military intelligence as it applies to the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) should not determine the reorganization of intelligence assets in the U.S.
Intel is either civilian or defense in orientation, predictive or useless. These are the yardsticks.

Iraq and Afghanistan will come and go. Meanwhile the long-term interests of America are a constant needing to be addressed by the intelligence community. The definition of these interests and the implementation of policy to address and safeguard those interests are the function of intelligence.

Operational in-theatre military actionable intelligence does not equate to predictive national level intelligence. Military nuts and bolts, on-the-ground intel is separate from that required by national command authority. Intel in theatre is tactical; CIA intelligence is strategic -- two different animals.

Our leadership must define the collection requirements and the government must act upon these estimates once the intelligence is interpreted.

We must also remember that intelligence agencies are not action agencies. Strip the paramilitary direct action function from the CIA and put it in DoD where it most appropriately belongs.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ranger Challenge 2008

I don't want to bring a sour note
Remember this before you vote

We can all sink or we all float

cause were all in the same big boat

--One World
, The Police

Ranger Challenge 2008

Any and all comers are invited to explore, justify or explain how or why terrorism is a form of warfare. Emotion will not be considered justification. References to international law, federal law and other legal documents will be considered qualifying sources.

This challenge is specifically directed to our readers at SOCNET and SOFORP, who habitually attack our evaluation that terrorism ≠ warfare. If this puts a bee in your bonnet, tell us why. Reminder: we are all about dialog at Ranger. Ad hominum is not cricket.

We further challenge anyone to justify the use of torture within a legal, moral, judicial or military purview. Hit us with your best shot. Elegance is appreciated, but a sturdy workhorse argument will do.

No stuffing the ballot box.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


Who turns the wheel
And who throws the dice

On the day after tomorrow?
--Day After Tomorrow,
Tom Waits

Oil escalates in price $10.75 a barrel in a single day earlier this month and nobody blinks. The head of Russia's Gazprom says look for $250 barrel soon. Corn tops $7.00 a bushel for the first time and this becomes a significant news item. So, we have come to expect petroleum prices to increase daily, but the price of corn surprises us?

All of our commodities are on an escalator ride, and we are getting a real world lesson on the web of life. The price of corn (feed) rises, then meat and dairy rises. Ditto petroleum. The price paid is not only direct but indirect. Bill McKibbon writes in today's WaPo about "
the [clear] trend toward scarcity" and the rolling back of our frontier mentality (End of the Open Road.)

We spoke with a waitress this weekend in a Georgia restaurant from Cocoa Beach, Florida, where she and her husband owned a home and their family lived well on his income as a trucker. He recently lost the trucking job due to escalating costs and is now unemployed. They sold the house and she is currently the sole breadwinner. "You'll see me here from 10 til 8 most days."

Analysts are predicting $4.50 at the gas pumps before Summer's end, but it will be there before corn rises again. What Americans won't verbalize is their fears for tomorrow. We are not afraid of terrorism, we are afraid for our wallets, and the McCain/Obama roadshow is not playing that song.

It is a nice game of transference to focus on the wars abroad versus the battles at home. Terrorism is so antiseptic, in a way. Oh, unless you're over there in uniform trying to ferret THEM out.

One can natter on endlessly about matters which do not actually lacerate the skin or the soul. That is an intellectual exercise, twice removed. One can shake one's head ruefully and not feel a pinch. But what is not being said is that the other shoe has not dropped, and that we all know that oil prices are not going to stabilize.

Ranger predicts $8.00 gas within the next two years, if not sooner. These are the fears too dark to speak. It is easier to ignore and just hope it is a bad dream that will go away before it bites our nuts.

Through habituation
and accommodation, the average consumer adjusts to these daily assaults. The WaPo ran an article yesterday on the concept of transaction utility. Many are going without basics, let alone iPods. When sheer existence is threatened, will anyone advocate for those so pressed?

The only bad dream that will go away is George W. Bush, but we will not get out of our nightmare anytime soon.

The reality is not a bad dream that can be left behind upon awakening from our collective Ambien-induced slumber.

--Jim and Lisa

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What is it you want?
What is it you want to change?
--I of the Mourning, Smashing Pumpkins

Since FDR was an avid philatelist, we featured his last postage stamp in the previous post, and the above depiction of his Little White House today.

As an addendum to the previous post on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Rehumanize Yourself), Ranger will mention Franklin Delano Roosevelt's humble retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia--the "Little White House." Ranger visited this little home where FDR developed many of his New Deal policies this weekend (we couldn't tell you ahead of time due to OPSEC), and was struck by several observations.

The simplicity and modesty of the place was most surprising. Little in the way of design or materials separated the Roosevelt's home from the servant or guest quarters on site, save that it was larger. But it is a small abode by today's standards, and is constructed of local materials constructed by local craftsmen.

It fits the definition of "green"--nothing precious, none of it expensive. Simple rock, simple pine. The bedrooms were small, and the beds also simple, without posts or headboard. The furniture was mostly made by craftsmen at the Val-Kil compound in Hyde Park, Eleanor Roosevelt's experiment in teaching agricultural workers industrial skills as a backup vocation.

Though the Roosevelts had money and Hyde Park, they chose more humble appointments for their relaxation time. To a larger degree than we see today, they lived what they preached. FDR was famous for talking to the poor Georgia locals about their lives. Even on vacation he was getting in touch with the needs of everyday rural Americans. His Rural Electrification Administration was born of these discussions.

Eleanor established the first black grade school in the area, which still stands and will soon undergo restoration. Eleanor Roosevelt was an exceptional First Lady whose efforts on behalf of the world's forgotten are legion, who also routinely made visits to wounded troops in theatre during WW II. This is behavior in stark contradiction to that of the current White House inhabitants.

Roosevelt built the house in 1932, and died there of a stroke in 1945. When you see this level of simplicity, you understand why he is not an imperial president.

When one sees the handsome but humble Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cottages of hewn stone which dot the area, one wonders why there is no CCC today. It is not like we don't have broke down levees and poor people today. Pride and integrity are lacking in a culture of entitlements without productivity. Instead, we buy garbage from China to fill our needs.

The Roosevelts spearheaded so many fine social initiatives, many of which have fallen by the way; one wonders where that civic impulse went.

Is it human nature to try and staunch a wound, but to stop shy of a truly excellent solution? To just get by limping instead of learning to run?

--Lisa and Jim

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rehumanize Yourself

Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock,
by liars who refuse them news,

and by fools who cannot govern.

"The New Name,"
G.K. Chesterton

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights

have resulted in barbarous acts which have

outraged the conscience of mankind

--from the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Billy's joined the National Front

He always was a little runt

He's got his hand in the air with the other cunts

You've got to humanize yourself

--Rehumanize Yourself, The Police

Don't be tempted by the shiny apple

Don't you eat of a bitter fruit

Hunger only for a taste of justice

Hunger only for a world of truth
--All That You have is Your Soul
Tracy Chapman

When President Bush held forth on the "nation's soul," Ranger winced.

He usually discusses targets easier to hit than the soul, but has decided to give it a go: What is the soul of America, and what was it? How did we arrive where are today? Who drew this map for us, and why have we followed?

It is easy to say Hitler (Saddam, Mugabe or your tyrant
du jour) was/is evil. But no tyrant exists without the support of his nation. One could say Germany was evil, independent of Hitler. He was merely a manifestation of the psychotic breakdown of a once civilized nation.

The U.S. and allies fought this evil and destroyed the Nazi regime, for a purpose. One outcome of WW II was the formation of the United Nations, and from this body was issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a general declaration of the rights of man.

The Chairman of the drafting committee, Eleanor Roosevelt, saw it as a universal "Magna Carta," though it is not a treaty and does not rise to the level of international law as it is not a ratified document. Then again, neither is the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Both are foundational documents for standards of civilized human interaction and direction.

The UDHR was a direct outgrowth of WW II to justify the expenditure of life by moving into a positive new world. 60 years ago, this is where we were, and the UDHR was an expression of our souls. These are the concepts for which our military personnel fought and died.

The U.S. now has quibblers for leaders, and we the citizens and Congress accept their blather and neglect. Whether we were deceived or whether we were hoodwinked in immaterial. We are at a crossroads and this is an indefensible location.

The last seven years have seen arguments and presidential pronouncements that the Geneva Conventions don't apply sometimes, and the constitutional concept of habeas corpus has been gutted when it applies to Terrorists.

The nice thing about the UHDR and 60 years ago was the recognition that even terrorists are primarily human, and as such are accorded basic rights, and we do this as much for us as for them. The Declaration of Human Rights is not spoken of much today, but it is relevant to the current road map of official actions toward the diminution of human rights in our Phony War on Terror ( PWOT ©).

The UDHR gives an expansive view of humanity accorded basic human dignities. The Preamble is a must-read, and Ranger will include a few of the articles below:

Article 5.

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

    (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

How did the U.S. go from being the major proponent of the UDHR to following the twisted course laid out by some convoluted minds? And why have the people allowed it?

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are born

Every Morn and every Night

Some are born to Sweet Delight,

Some are born to Endless Night

—Auguries Of Innocence
, William Blake


From the local obit page:

"Robert Stamps, 57, died 6/11 in Madison (Florida). . . He was one of eight surviving students shot at Kent State in 1970. (He) died of neuro-lyme disease."

Stamps was shot during the protests against the Vietnam War, specifically, the incursion into Cambodia. (Incursion now sounds like a cruise-liner word, or the name of an SUV.) But that's Stamps' side of the equation.

Ranger was particularly affected by the shootings (murders) at Kent State. During my youth, Kent was often the party destination of choice. The Kent/Bowling Green football and baseball rivalries were a yearly tradition.

On May 2/70, Ranger was a young 1 LT assigned outside Bearcat, home station to the 2nd Battalion 47th Infantry (Mech), one of the spearhead units into Cambodia. My friend and associate John McKee was with B/2/47.

Kent State was the beginning of the end. While the invasion of Cambodia was an extremely successful military venture, the tide of public sentiment was turning against the war. Vietnam is still Communist, and now a favored trading partner with the U.S.

Thinking of Kent State and the protesters and domestic opposition to the war back then,
this Ranger constantly marvels that there are no such meaningful demonstrations opposing the present Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). Why?

Or, why not?

Familiarize yourself and family members with the symptoms of Lyme disease. This disease is treatable if caught early.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Man Without a Country

Why don't we focus on what Afghan women can do?
They can cook, bear children and pray.

As I recall, that was fine for our grandmothers

--Al Franken


Reprieve, a British human rights group, says the U.S. is operating a network of prison ships worldwide on which terrorism suspects are held incommunicado and abused. They claim many of the prisoners are later rendered to dark sites where they are tortured, and that the ships are chosen as detention cells to keep the misconduct away from the press.

They base their claim on Pentagon reports, testimony from released prisoners and European government sources. Their report can be read

The Guardian (U.S. Accused of Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships):

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

The Navy Times reports the U.S. denies these allegations, though admitted that some prisoners were held on ship for "a few days" at the beginning of their confinement. If the allegations are true, Ranger wonders where such actions begin and where they will end.

Jose Padilla was a U.S. citizen banished to a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., minus
habeas corpus protection. If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us. All that is needed is a trumped-up charge.

It appears that torture is no longer outsourced across the pond; just far enough out that it is in international waters, or off a friendly coastline. The U.S. Navy ship is not a legal detention facility, and stashing prisoners aboard is not a good omen.

If someone is apprehended as a bona fide terror suspect, they should be arrested and placed in pre-trial confinement in a federal detention facility.

Remember "American Taliban" soldier John Walker Lindh's treatment aboard U.S. Naval vessels following his capture on the battlefield? It wasn't anything that would get honorable mention at a Mother Teresa convention.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Showdown: Air Combat

Ranger recently participated in a telephone round table with USAF Major Paul “Max” Moga of the Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing about the Air Force and the Military Channel's new program, SHOWDOWN: AIR COMBAT, which he will host. The program premieres Sunday, June 15 at 10 PM ET, and our talk can be heard here. The P-38, P-47, P-51, the Zero and the F-22 will be featured.

With him was Dr. James Arthur Mowbray, Professor of Strategy, Doctrine, and Airpower, in the Department of Strategy and Leadership at Air War College. Doc Mowbray was kind enough to provide contact information should anyone have further questions:

From the AF site:

The series will not only look at the history or story of what happened. The series actually takes the dogfight and looks at the men who flew them, the men who designed the aircraft . . . "We will look at aircraft weapons, communications, and flaws. Then we will go in the air with the actual planes and re-enact the dogfight."

Should be an interesting show for flyboys and sympathizers.

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Inconvenient Truth

Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups

that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster

that dictates every move we make.

--"Republicans and our Enemies," Joe Biden

I learned our government must be strong

It's always right and never wrong!

Our leaders are the finest men

And we elect them again and again

--What Did you Learn in School Today?
Tom Paxton

No people ever recognize their dictator

in advance. He never stands for election

on the platform of dictatorship.

He always represents himself as the instrument

[of] the Incorporated National Will

--Dorothy Thompson

For now we see through a glass, darkly

--1 Corinthians 13:12


While shop talk at Ranger usually involves counterinsurgency thinking and does not politick on behalf of any of the candidates, still Ranger is concerned with the '08 Presidential candidates and spends time pondering the vagaries of the campaign.

We have been impressed with the mediocrity of the pool of candidates, which has caused consternation about America's course. After some thought, Ranger concludes that the U.S. is going where it always goes -- the great middlin' course, as we embrace mediocrity in our political leaders.

When thinking of historical examples of Presidential greatness, one is brought to mind of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR. Honorable mentions go to Polk, Truman and perhaps LBJ. But there it is: six names jump out of the history books as great presidential exemplars.

So what does that leave us? That's right, 36 mediocre-to-middling and One Absolute Disaster (OAD) who have served as chief executives of this nation. One could take the scientific view and argue that like a supernova, we are now entering our contraction phase, with the OAD hastening the whittling down to size.

The law of averages and our profound middling tendencies say that our history will be fair-to-middling, all things considered. Pragmatically, we have had quite a few "up times," so we need some down to balance things out; regression towards the mean. We just wish it hadn't happened on our watch.

Obviously America gets the leaders it deserves, and Obama and McCain are what it boils down to in this critical election. Last week proves an example of this apothegm: lame duck George Bush is running around Europe on a farewell tour to cement his reputation, and all he can focus on is Iran.

Here is a news flash: America faces myriad issues of concern to our citizenry, and Iran is on the bottom of the list. We all know President Bush's weaknesses, and they are all overcome by events unless he bombs Iran before leaving office.

The real question Americans should be asking is: Will Obama or McCain address the real issues facing the U.S. citizen daily?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Jailhouse Rock, Redux

The only way to win a war
is to be as nasty as the enemy

--The Guns of Navarone (1961)


Something doesn't ring true in reports about the recent jailbreak executed by Taliban in Afghanistan.

Reports indicate a suicide bomber breached the back prison wall. Considering bombs were reported as exploding from within the prison and without, this bit smacks of sensationalism to Ranger. Suicide bombers provide just the kind of crazy image that keeps this
Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) stoked.

Why would a Taliban assault leader waste a perfectly able and willing suicide bomber on such an inconsequential explosive breaching entry
? A suicide bomber is a terrible thing to waste. Anybody, including the suicide bomber, could have placed an explosive breaching charge against the wall without the need to blow himself up. This was a useless act, if true.

However, if true, this is an ominous sign that anti-coalition forces have a surfeit of potential suicide bombers. This is one intelligence indicator that should be considered by the forces of good in their epic struggle in the Long War against evil. Take home: there's a whole lotta evil going on.

The press reports also failed to emphasize that Afghanistan has its citizens in substandard, inhumane mud-hut prisons. This doesn't seem to affect many people's ironclad contention that "Afghanistan is the good and necessary war."
Ranger does not accept this "good and necessary" hogwash.

It seems our country is afflicted with the same black-and-white thinking that clouds George W. Bush's vision; if Iraq is bad/difficult, then Afghanistan is good. In this manichaean world view, Afghanistan had the "better" justification of the two conflicts, so weighed against "miserable," it is slid to the left on the spectrum of actions and therefore becomes "good."

But how can the U.S. support any regime that imprisons its citizens without the benefit of recourse to a legal system?
(. . .Uh, oh.) Afghanistan puts people in prison without charge or trial. Many of those incarcerated in the Sarposa prison had been held for over two years without being charged.

The basis of the
PWOT © is COIN, which is supposedly aimed at winning hearts and minds. Putting people in prison without trial is simply grabbing them by the balls and hoping their hearts and minds will follow.

Ranger reads anti-Taliban commentary in the European press justifying NATO's involvement in the
PWOT, presumably built upon anti-immigration sentiment. The arguments revolve around the assertion that the Taliban is basically evil, nasty and dirty, by Western standards. But, so what?

If this is a problem that concerns civilized nations then those concerned should handle the scenario through the auspices of the United Nations.
NATO and the U.S. have no historical, legal or moral mandate to selectively and electively invade countries to impose external standards of conduct.

NATO was formed as a defensive alliance to protect its member states from invasion, but it has recently morphed into an invading entity.
NATO has become what it was founded to oppose, and the U.S. proves a poor example in this arena.

This coercion is illegal and fits the definition of a war of aggression. It is still aggression, even if you wrap it in swaddling clothes.

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Jailhouse Rock

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense

--Mending Wall
, Robert Frost

Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes
the merciless reality of war

--John McCain

Can't anybody here play this game?

--Casey Stengel


A phased Taliban attack on the main prison in Southern Afghanistan Saturday sprung possibly upwards of 1,000 inmates, leading to our subtitle:
COIN in Afghanistan, or How to Lose an Insurgency (4 Marines Die in Afghanistan; 870 inmates Escape.)

Why the subtitle? Let us start with the simple observation that facts are elusive in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). How many Taliban escaped? The article begins with an unattributed "about 870," but reports the police chief of Kandahar Provine says 390, while the NATO spokesman says "around 1,100."

This is a simple prison operation and someone should know the number of escapees. If we can't tally up a prison population, how do we account for monetary expenditures?
There must be accountability and accuracy in figures, otherwise how do you gauge progress? If we can not count former prisoners in an exact manner, can there be any hope of winning the war?

While Brigadier Gen. Carlos Branco admitted that the assault was a success, he said it does not have a strategic impact. "We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."

Clearly, however, these Taliban fighters have a tactical acuity on par with U.S./NATO elements. They demonstrate planning and execution right out of the Ranger Handbook.

"The complex attack included a truck bombing at the main gate, a suicide bomber who struck a back wall and rockets fired from inside the prison courtyard, setting off a series of explosions that rattled Kandahar, the country's second biggest city."

This was a phased raid, a difficult operation for any military unit. It indicates rehearsals, intelligence, leaders reconnaissance, rally points and avenues of approach and escape were carefully evaluated prior to the successful execution phase of the operation. A Taliban spokesman said "militants had been planning the assault for two months."

Regardless of whether this operation was UW/GW/COIN/criminal or terrorist,
why did intelligence functions miss the fact that this operation was afoot? There had to be turbulence, which would be an indicator. Because police are being used as soldiers, these indicators were not picked up and evaluated.

That these indicators were missed indicates the government does not have a firm grasp on "population and resource control" -- what used to be the basis of all operations in the UW/COIN scenario.

If the liberators of this prison were local or mobile, the local government should have been aware of their movements. The fact that the police, military and intelligence of Afghanistan's second largest city cannot discern the movement of the indigenous citizens is not a sign that Afghanistan is winning the insurgency.

Further, Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai, a deputy minister at the Justice Ministry, said
"the [Sarposa] jail did not meet international minimum standards for a prison." The Kandahar facility was not built as a prison but had been modified into one, he said." So if the prison did not meet minimum standards, then why were prisoners being sent there?

This is not the first instance of substandard jail conditions revealed in this PWOT ©. Does democracy mean that nasty prison conditions are permissible in a Civil War/I
nsurgent War? The jailbreak also reveals Afghan government war crimes or crimes against humanity, all done in complicity with U.S. policy. This type of activity by government forces only raises the ante in this campaign.

Hashimzai said there are plans "to renovate all the prisons around the country."
One can assume that once these prisons are built then democracy will really take off in Afghanistan. Good prisons = good citizens, a proven U.S. formula. But Americans need to ask if prisons and all that go with them are the best of the U.S. Is this the vision of the future?

On the same day, a bomb in the western Afghan province of Farah wounded one and killed four Marines "helping to train Afghanistan's fledgling police force, said U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. David Johnson."

Why are Marines training Afghan police? Unless these are law and order MP's, there is no legitimacy in this endeavor.
Afghan police are not Marine recruits; the skill sets are not interchangeable.

"Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, California, arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and were sent to southern and western Afghanistan to train police."

Since 2/7 Marines are an Infantry unit, what values of police work can they impart? A police mission does not include "close with and destroy," despite those who would wish a move towards the militarization of police in the U.S.
The Marines should be training Afghan Army elements, a task which would be commensurate with their skill set.

Police forces are not fighting units, although that is the role assigned to them by a faulty U.S. COIN policy.
One can be either police, or one can be military; one can not be both (MP's do not count.)

Militarized police and overcrowded, inadequate prisons -- two parts of a recipe for disaster.

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