RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2008 <

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Do Overs

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

--Big Yellow Taxi
, Joni Mitchell

And say my glory was

I had such friends
--The Municipal Gallery Revisited

William Butler Yeats

There's only one rule that I know of, babies

—God damn it, you've got to be kind

--God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
, Kurt Vonnegut

Apropos of this site, I will remember our late friend John (Lurch), of the site Main & Central.

New Years last year John sent me the following message:
"You will never know how much your friendship has meant to me."

I was honored and humbled. The sentiments of one's friends are what adds value to a life.
One may never know the impact of the smallest gesture, or the harm of the slightest misunderstanding.
Take time to set things aright. Tomorrow may never come.

Money can buy a ticket to Zermatt, but it will not buy you heart. All the ashrams, EST and yoga retreats in the world will not buy humanity. Say, "I love you" (if you do.) You will never regret it.

The human heart can sustain only so much before it turns to stone, or breaks into a million little pieces, or becomes apathetic and indifferent. It may happen following only one offense, while the more resilient may sustain repeated assaults. Once changed, that heart is lost from the garden of fully blooming plants. It is usually stunted; sometimes, warped.

Along with living in poverty or a life of extreme want, this is life's greatest tragedy. Somerset Maugham said,"The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love."

Biologically speaking, the impulse to life is strong. Grass will grow in a parking lot if you stop tarmacking over it. Life's yearning for itself will take over once the onslaughts cease.

Nobody gets out of here alive. The show always closes. Be kind. Make sure you had a good run.


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


As a former military officer, he is a hardened,
realistic person who lives in a fortified apartment

with an arsenal of weapons including a Smith & Wesson M76

submachine gun, an infrared-equipped

Browning Automatic Rifle and satchel charges

--The Omega Man (1971)

Mr. Duffy lived

a short distance from his body

, James Joyce

Call a Ranger,
When you absolutely need it destroyed overnight


To thine own self be true

, Shakespeare

No promises, no demands

Love is a battlefield

--Love is a Battlefield
, Pat Benatar


We hope that you have enjoyed a happy
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. Ranger is on the road and Lisa is recovering from a wicked cold, so we will be back to regular postings after the New Year. For the interim, some musings.

Ranger recently met an executive from the Maine potato country who was traveling through Florida on his way to meet his new sweetie, courtesy eHarmony.com. Musing upon this fellow's happy happenstance, Ranger opined that the site might be a fertile area for his exploration. However, when Lisa suggested that he ought not foist himself upon members seeking, well, harmony, he agreed.

Being an idea guy and knowing himself well-enough, he proposed the idea of a sister site, eDisharmony.com. A place which would welcome those who are at home with dissention and would like to dispense with all of the usual drivel (as they see it) of long conversations and walks on the beach. This would be a site for the hook-up crowd.

The audience would be those who wish to dispense with sly suggestions about seeking "possible long-term relationships." Neurotic, narcissistic, borderlines are welcome. Even drama queens are good for a few rodeos.

At eDisharmony, one could state the non-negotiable length of relationship sought. These hook-ups would have a built-in self-destruct button, depending upon one's particular constellation of neuroses. After all, almost anyone can be a success in the three-month range.

It would be a breath of fresh air for the "Sneaky Petes" and cougars of the world, unabashed superficiality and short-term relationships being the catch words. It would offer a level of honesty beyond that of any current dating sites for those who are sincerely insincere. The subtitle would be, "No Soul, but a Whole Lotta Me."

Sample questions:

  • Is your argumentative style more aggressive or retreating?
  • Do you prefer to sulk or cry?
  • Do you prefer to leave your mate wondering to where you have disappeared, or to subject them to endless harangues?
  • Are you masochist or sadist?
  • Do you prefer to shout and berate your mate, or molder in silent discontent and revenge fantasies?

No need for lying here. The site would include a "Me Meter," where one could register one's requirements (measurements, coloration, etc.) No need for exaggeration or false humility. You do not accept the "person beneath the skin." Appearance is the thing.

What do you say when you are beyond sunsets, cooking together, shows, fishing and beaches? What is left? Dissention! Power plays! Cannibalism. Ultimately, isolation. "Between
the desire/And the spasm" falls the shadow, as T.S. Eliot, your poet laureate, dismally declared.

eDisharmony would eliminate the veneer or civility. Those with multiple divorces win bonus points.

Ultimately, Ranger decided the questionnaire process would be too onerous, require too much effort and be more self-revelatory than he would wish for.

Back to the drawing board.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

To Sir, With Love

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there's so much more
--Old Man, Niel Young

This post is dedicated to Publius.

A few days before Christmas, Ranger discovered a new Vietnamese restaurant and surprised Lisa with a new experience.

The Vietnamese owner, Joseph, was born in 1975, spoke Vietnamese fluently and was one of the Boat People. Ranger pulled up his residual memory of the language, and Joseph was most cordial and informative. As Lisa has been skeptical of Ranger's translations in the past, this was an ideal opportunity to fact check.

Joseph confirmed the correctnesss of Ranger's terms, but with one small added teaching point

Om noi and ba noi are the respective terms for "old man" and "old woman." They are usually terms of respect and endearment, and when Om Noi is used as "Old Uncle," the intent is one of reverence. Ranger shared that the Vietnamese workers often referred to him as "Om noi," happily presuming a sense of familiarity and perhaps even some affection, though most likely, he assumed it was meant in the Army sense, i.e., The Commander, Head Honcho, etc.

But Joseph smiled somewhat uneasily and shared that the term has another meaning. Om noi can mean, "bossy bastard." This he said with some trepidation in his impeccable English.
Lisa laughed, confirming the correctness of the latter definition, and Joseph seemed relieved that his astute reading had been taken so well. Ranger replied that he was a bossy bastard; that's why he had bars on his collar.

Maybe next lifetime, the gentler Ranger Om noi.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 1970

God bless us, every one!
--A Christmas Carol, Dickens

Ranger spent Christmas eve 1970 in a parapet at the base of an elevated water tower in the center of Camp Long Thanh, Republic of Vietnam. The U.S. element of the camp was on high alert (before Mr. Ridge's colors became de rigeur.)

The reason for the high alert was that the Vietnamese inside of the camp were having a Midnight Mass; afterwards, 600+ Vietnamese walked the inner perimeter with lighted candles. These personnel were all faithful Catholics. The sight was chilling and mesmerizing. Artillery flashed in the distance.

Ranger still remembers the strangeness of a holiday procession in the midst of a very serious dispute between nations. The gesture was observant and a protest, as the Communists intended to eradicate religious observation if they were successful. In fact, the main cathedral in Saigon later became a museum to the people's struggle after the fall of Saigon, April '75.

That evening's procession is a memory of a country that no longer exists. Is it for better or for worse? Ranger surely doesn't know.

If he had a prayer to offer he would do so for all the souls lost to the wars and to those who are no longer even remembered in the flicker of a flame held aloft in a candle.

Season's greetings to all of our friends. If you have a memory to share, you are invited to do so here.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Run, Levi, Run

--Peray, Thailand

She's some kind of demon messing in the glue.

If you don't watch out it'll stick to you.

What kind of fool are you?

Strange brew -- kill what's inside of you

--Strange Brew
, Eric Clapton

What a friend we have in Jesus,

all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer!

--What a friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph Scriven


What is mulled cider good for if not engaging in a bit of old fashioned schadenfreude ?

Mr. Scriven's lyrics perfectly embody the view of Jesus-as-trash compacter or paper-shredder, take your pick. Given that, Dostoevsky''s dictum (If God is dead, all things are possible) doesn't seem so revolutionary. All things are possible anyway, you've just got to dump your guilt or sense of responsibility in the right bin to avert social anarchy. That's why it is good to be a Christian if you are going to do questionable things.

To be clear: this is a politically non-partisan piece, as the Left surely has their share of nimrods and scumbags. Nothing is sacrosanct at Ranger.

It has been recently revealed
that Sherry Johnston -- mother of high-sticking young Levi Johnston, said-impregnator of former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol -- may be a dope trafficker. Mum now faces six felony drug charges (Bristol Palin's Future Mother-in-Law Arrested on Drug Charges.)

Ranger recalls two mantras inculcated in his days at Catholic school: "Birds of a feather flock together," and, "Tell me who you go with, and I'll tell you who you are." Though Ms. Johnston hasn't been tried yet, if she is a dope dealer it is safe to assume her significant other is, as well. And what about little Levi and his Main Squeeze? Are we to believe they are drug-free?

The amazing part of this story is, Ms. Johnson's substance problems will only enrich Mrs. Palin's cachet. Entire sections of Detroit and Eastside Cleveland now have a sister, once-removed, in the Great White North. Spin is everything, and so degraded and gullible are we as a people that sympathy will be wrung from Ms. Johnston's bust. Somebody will get Jesus, and someone will be pardoned.

Bristol Palin's daughter was conceived in sin and will be brought into the world that way.
Though the word during the campaign was that 18 year old Levi would Do The Right Thing and Make an Honest Woman out of Bristol, alas, that happy event has yet to transpire, no longer speeded along by the grease of a political campaign. "Poignantly," As the UK Telegraph reported, Levi, on his MySpace page says, "I don't want kids."

Y'see, this is the reason for sex ed. Had Levi known the probable result of his intromission and ejaculation, he might have refrained. Then again, Bristol might have told a fib about taking birth control, too. We may never know the whole sordid story, but it is a morality tale about responsibility. Without education and active prevention efforts, for too many young girls the litany is Coca Cola douche, followed by prayers that they not be knocked up to finally, resignation and labeling it a miracle.

We suppose the Alaskan doper and the fornicators are happily celebrating this day of our Savior's coming.

White Christmas
takes on a whole new meaning north of the 49th parallel.

--by LISA

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Alter Ego

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new

--Wouldn't It Be Nice?
, Beach Boys

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bailout Blues

By sowing frugality we reap liberty,
a golden harvest


If you lose your money, great God,
don't lose your mind

--"Blind Willie" Reynolds

That ain't workin', that's the way you do it

Money for nothin' and chicks for free

--Money for Nothing
, Dire Straits

Bailout used to be something done by pilots after fighting a good fight. Now it is a given to any screw up.

This is flying by the seat of our pants. These bailout pilots are held aloft by the taxpayer's golden parachute, and so accustomed are we to being screwed, we apathetically accept our fate.
What happened to "a penny saved is a penny earned," and good old Yankee Thrift?

What about the lessons of piggy banks and chores and small passbook savings accounts -- where did we go wrong? Ranger doesn't know fuck-all about economics and as such is on par with other good Americans like John McCain, but he'll wallow around like the best of them.

It is wrong-headed to throw money at bankrupt, improperly managed organizations. If Ranger were on the brink of bankruptcy, would a financial planner advocate large infusions of cash to solve my problem?
Spending more money that you do not have is not the remedy to spending too much money, money that was not even yours from the get-go.

The U.S. threw money at Afghanistan and Iraq in the same pell-mell fashion. No master plan, no responsibility or accountability was forced upon the recipients at any level. Throwing money willy-nilly is like pissing up a rope.

Now the Fed will print money as the panacea, but this will not eviscerate the rot, only paper over it. As Seeking Alpha nicely explains, "This new issuance of paper, not only backed by nothing, but twice nothing, will elbow its way into the already fetid air being pumped into the global economic patient with a bad case of the bends." The problem gets passed down the line to the next taxpayers.

Spending prolifically does not solve the problem of prolific spending
(where is Ted Sorensen?) Contraction and pulling in the perimeter is called for. If a combat unit is overextended, the only logical move is contraction.

The solution to personal overspending is realistic budgeting and restructuring of expenses. Yet the subliminal message in the federal bailouts is that if you are a monumentally big screw up, you will get something for nothing. Poor financial performance is rewarded. It's a mulligan.

The taxpayers accept this because they hope for free government money, too, to save the mortgage that was not economically tenable at the signing. Surely they can print enough money for them, too?

A checkout girl cheerfully shared recently that "they are planning a second stimulus check this year." When asked where this extra money will come from, she responded
just as chipper, "Why, they'll print it!" And the average citizen does not understand how this currency devaluation may detrimentally affect them. All they know is, their government is giving them money to buy something.

What does all this mean to hale and hearty Americans that are fiscally prudent, living within their means? They are adrift among messages to spend,
messages which brand them fools for saving. Since the average citizen lives a deficit lifestyle, current government policy does not even give them cause to blink. There are those who leverage a "bankruptcy lifestyle," maxing out the cards and lots of goodies, in exchange for seven years bad credit. Then back on the treadmill.

Ranger fears it is too late to pull in the perimeter. We will be overrun, even though it may be spun as a victory.

The gaps in our ranks will indicate otherwise.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Filling

File this under "social studies":

This is the back page of a recent ad for Publix grocery stores. Tagline: Everyday economizing. Publix is working hard to help you save on
the staples. Here are some more great deals on groceries you've got to get."

[1] When did Frosted Flakes, Tombstone frozen pizza and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese become "The Staples"?

[2] There are about 15 Publix's in our town, which is not very large. All of the other grocers are disappearing. We lost two of three Albertsons this Fall. While Publix does offer higher tier selections, one will pay dearly for them.

In Publix's expanding organic Greenwise section, for instance, tofu sausages (4-pack) run about $6. For many such items it is now cheaper to buy from the local health food store. Everyone spoke of how Walmart would put the smaller sellers out of business, but that trend is happening within the niche markets themselves. As the others are muscled out of the market, the one left standing enjoys a hefty markup.

And may beneficently toss out an occasional crumb to their less well-heeled patrons.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gambols and Capers

[D]amage of the same kind can be done by a

bullet, bacteria or mother-in-law

--William Menninger,

while chief psychiatrist of the U.S. Army

Martha Raddatz
: [Al-Qaeda was not in Iraq]

until after the U.S. invaded.

: Yeah, that's right.
So what?
--ABC News interview
, 12/14/08

Oh, Ratty! Can't we have everything back like it was?

--Mole, The Wind and the Willows
Kenneth Grahame


As former president Clinton has the unfortunate distinction of being remembered for his lawyerly deconstruction of the word "is," Bush and Cheney will be remembered for their flip use of the interrogative, "SO?" Sometimes it's the little things.

Wall Street Journal featured an Op-Ed, "The 'Real' Torture Disgrace," which went beyond the usual conservative pale. As expected, they dismissed The bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee as a "torture narrative," agitprop falsely alleging "'detainee abuse," "making Mr. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their deputies . . . morally -- and legally -- responsible for all prisoner abuse since 9/11, not least Abu Ghraib."

Ignoring the bipartisan nature of the report, they say, "The second-guessing of Democrats is likely to lead to a risk-averse mindset at the CIA and elsewhere that compromises the ability of
terror fighters to break the next KSM. The political winds always shift, but terrorists are as dangerous as ever."

A sad state when public and military officials are
risk averse to breaking the law, yes? Yet recent intel summaries clearly indicate that torture does not yield accurate intel; rather, the opposite. Despite this, the Journal insists the "terror fighters" must use every tool in their handbook, using a Marvel comics construction to embody the superhuman nature of a human threat.

Except that's not the story told by men like Matt Alexander, author of
How to Break a Terrorist who led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006. Alexander said,

"I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. . . It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. . . How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans" (I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Afghanistan.)

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies are not "fighters," but agents of the government and its citizens. The U.S. should not "fight terror" but react to and proactively deal with the threat through judicious law enforcement techniques.

The legal response to terror is the only option that will nullify the threat and ensure civil liberties and the rule of law will prevail in the U.S. The NYT
The Torture Report says,

"Alberto Mora, the former Navy general counsel who protested the abuses, told the Senate committee that 'there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo."

The Senate report makes a "case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. . . ."

"[T]hese top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy."

While these miscreants may never be prosecuted, they stand guilty of sanctioning or perpetrating war crimes. By the Nuremburg standard, our leaders and by extension Congress and the American people are guilty of aggressive war in contravention of international law.

In a non sequitur following their argument for the necessity of actionable intelligence, the Journal says,

"In a 2007 interview former CIA director George Tenet described the urgency of that post-9/11 period: 'I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are going to be blown up, planes that are going to fly into airports all over again . . . Plot lines that I don't know -- I don't know what's going on inside the United States.'"

Just so. The CIA charter tasks them as the lead agency for foreign intelligence functions. The CIA is not a police organization. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is by law the agency to perform counterintelligence within the U.S. And just because you "don't know" doesn't entitle the use of conjecture.

Americans should not desire the CIA to operate in the suburbs of the U.S.
This is a greater threat to American freedoms than is the reality of Terrorism. Since Poppy was a CIA director, Bush does not see it that way.

The Journal says, "Actionable intelligence is the most effective weapon in the war on terror, which can potentially save thousands of lives." While this is the mantra, it ain't necessarily so. There was scads of actionable intelligence prior to 9-11, which Bush promptly ignored. CIA reports like, "
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US."

Bush and Cheney had seen " a stream of alarming reports on al Qaeda's intentions." Dana Priest wrote in the
WaPo (4/04): "In April and May 2001, for example, the intelligence community headlined some of those reports 'Bin Laden planning multiple catastrophic operations,' 'Bin Laden network's plans advancing' and 'Bin Laden threats are real" (Bush's Counterterrorism Record: 0 for 1).

Dick Cheney is quoted from an ABC interview this week, "There was a time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from one source" -- KSM." A lie, but presuming it were true: what a sorry state of intel and war-making potential this would indicate for the U.S. (Pack of Liars.)

If the U.S. national leadership would take the nation into a war lacking intel on the adversary, this alone would be a high crime and misdemeanor.

The Journal continues, "As for 'stress positions' allowed for a time by the Pentagon, such as hooding, sleep deprivation or exposure to heat and cold, they are
psychological techniques designed to break a detainee, but light years away from actual torture." In fact, all of these technique are forms of physical torture, and meet all international definitions of such. Second, psychological torture IS real torture.

"None of the dozen or so Abu Ghraib trials and investigations have implicated higher ups; the most senior officer charged, a lieutenant colonel, was acquitted in 2006. Former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger's panel concluded that the abuses were sadistic behavior by the 'night shift (WSJ).'"

But a few bad apples did not produce the murder of the "man on ice" from the Abu Ghraib trove. The dead man was a homocide victim of brutal interrogation. The blame is not on the night shift, but the behavior demonstrated by the murderous day shift encouraged their grotesque gamboling around the corpses and brutalized detainees.

A night shift operating sans officer supervision is a violation of U.S. military procedure. Where was the Duty Officer?

Finally, the Journal counsels, "Messrs. Obama and Holder would be foolish to
spend their political capital on revenge." Only, following the rule of law and confronting criminal allegations is not revenge.

It is justice.

--Jim and Lisa

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Missiles and Spears

--Let's hang 'im!
--No, burn 'im at the stake!
--But 'es innocent.
--Boiling oil!
--Life of Brian, Monty Python

The cognitive basis of anger:

surrender freedom of choice and abdicate rationality

to become prisoners of a primal thinking mechanism
--Prisoners of Hate, Aaron T. Beck, M.D.

[R]e-examine all you have been told at school or church,

or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul

--Walt Whitman

Ranger ≠ smart


Oorah, Dr. Beck.

The blog name says what it is: a Ranger against war. This fact has drawn much fire from supposed comrades in arms who
call Ranger a "non-patriot" because he speaks his mind clearly and with the force of conviction.

We have received some incredible threats at this blog, most ham-fisted and vulgar, a few from more able opponents. These proto-conservatives can not brook an alternate point of view from within their ranks. Because they can not or will not engage in dialog, they choose to fight
ad hominem, attacking Ranger' impeccable credentials.

Being a Ranger does not make one Superman. We surmise every occupation has its share of petty and embittered yahoos. To our SOCNET brothers:
Lighten up -- you have an old Ranger in town, and he does not happen to agree with your war hawk stance.

Because a man is a Ranger does not mean he must check his brains at the door. Civility may also be retained. Y'all are some crack investigators once you get going, and you are pretty rabid about
your project of discrediting thinkin' Rangers, but maybe you could channel that energy into something productive. At least muzzle your vituperative until you have some proof of something.

Ranger has been informed that many of these men have never left the jungle or the desert, and so these erstwhile patriots periodically launch vulgar and reactive attacks against Ranger, whom they have identified as "enemy."
It is sad that many of the "bravest and best" have chosen to turn their minds off in the name of patriotism. Blind allegiance is the dead opposite of patriotism.

Since this crowd seems to be keen on cartoons, the character they most resemble is the Tasmanian Devil, whipping himself into an uncontrollable dervish over the least irritant. They are like wild dogs laying on a piece of meat. It is ungentlemanly, to say the least.

If they are patriots, they should understand the Bill of Rights. Their efforts to squelch the First Amendment are so un-American. Those who call Ranger anti-military have not read the site. It hurts my soul to read the vile poison pens -- a corrosive way to think and to live.
Egocentrism bound to ideology = hate.

The tab is simply a symbol. It neither validates nor obviates thought.

"How can he disagree with our Commander in Chief? He's a freethinker -- he's
liberal --he can't be one of us!" And indeed, he is not. We fancy we are patriotic Americans with moderate views, but our positions are anathema to those who soldier on, sniffing out every instance of supposed stolen valor, of which every freethinking military man is suspect.

They have a template, beginning innocuously enough: "Hey there old Ranger Buddy/fellow snake-eater/etc.", which invariably ends in the ambush. "Your credentials aren't the right (color/font/paper/etc.); you are a phony/schoolhouse Ranger. . ." Yadda yadda.

Exactly two of these Ranger buddies were the real deal. You know who you are, and we are grateful you are on the flanks.

Since Ranger has his pick of mottoes, he says, "De Oppresso Liber, All The Way!"

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Uphill Battle III: Synthesis

6 June 1944, Pointe du Hoc

He will win who knows when to fight

and when not to fight

(or, Choose your battles wisely)
--Art of War
, Sun Tzu's 1st Rule for Victory


Ranger has visions of tabs, not sugar plum fairies, this Christmas season.

Yesterday he had the pleasure of meeting a WW II 2nd Ranger Battalion Normandy invasion soldier, having noticed the Ranger plate on his car. The ensuing conversation started another free association, with thoughts slamming around concerning what it means to be a Ranger.

How can two Rangers separated by a generation meet and greet and accept one another as brothers in arms? The older Ranger even applauded the use of the Ranger tab in opposition to a phony war. Both the 2nd Ranger Bn. vet and Ranger were trained to fulfill direct action missions, to accomplish a tactical plan.
This is a given and was the price of admission.

Yet Ranger lacks that same camaraderie with many of his younger Ranger fellows. They are too often quick to criticize an alternate view, marching in lock step behind the conservative political agenda. Will they ever realize the futility of killing to achieve peace?

How does one compare 6 June 1944 actions of the 2nd Ranger Bn. at Pointe du Hoc with
those of the ODA of the 3rd Special Forces Group 6 April 2008 in Nuristan's Shok Valley?

The action of the 2nd Rangers in '44 was crucial to a successful landing and establishment of a beachhead. If they failed, then the mission could possibly fail. The entire beach had to be taken and held in depth. The 2nd Battalion accepted this, and paid the price in young blood to achieve a quantifiable mission, earning their motto -- Rangers Lead the Way.

Contrast that with the battles in the denied areas of Afghanistan. The "insurgents" held a remote safe haven way off the beaten path. The mission is to kill, capture, and/or generally spread death and mayhem, except it doesn't happen that way. What happens when the SF are kicked off the hill and the locals remain king of the hill?
Does the action affect anything, either positively or negatively?

The goal of combat is not to kill and die, but to win. Preferably in a war with meaningful goals. The business of the U.S. Army is winning wars, not killing. The Union Army at Gettysburg was not there to kill rebels; it was there to engage in combat and to impose the Union will upon the Rebel Army and government. Killing was but a tool, not the reason for the battle.

The same was true at D-Day. The goal was the destruction and defeat of the Nazi war machine. Killing was a means to effect that end, and not the sole mover on the battlefield. Killing in battle can be done like a rapier rather than in sweeping Claymore strokes.

On that 10,000 ft. mountain range in Afghanistan the SF attacked a fortified mountain position. Even assuming they killed everyone in the defensive complex, how would this accomplish anything? The SF cannot kill everyone opposed to the Karzai government. Assuming the alternate view, with the defenders having killed every attacking government soldier and ally.

So what?

Killing and destruction, bravery and suffering will not change anything in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) The entire operation is futile, on both sides of the fence.

The grueling and pivotal Point du Hoc action garnered two Distinguished Service Crosses and one Silver Star. How can a soldier reconcile the two events?

The tab on my uniform indicates conferred training and knowledge. These truths are no longer self evident, and what was taught as Army policy is now roundly ignored or blatantly violated. Reality has lost its relevance, and eyewash trumps a clear mission. This is not combat, it is insanity.

To cover this fact, we call this heroic and necessary.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Uphill Battle II

Theirs is not to make reply
Theirs is not to reason why,
Theirs is but to do or die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred
--Charge of the Light Brigade,
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Once more into the breach dear friends,

once more

--King Henry V
, Shakespeare

Part II:
That chilly morning, Walton's mind was on his team's mission: to capture or kill several members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) militant group in their stronghold, a village perched in Nuristan's Shok Valley that was accessible only by pack mule and so remote that Walton said he believed that no U.S. troops, or Soviet ones before them, had ever been there.

The first thought is, “Why assault?” Why not just buy them off like we have the Sunnis of Iraq? It is cheaper in the long-run.

Another thought: why not ambush the limited ingress and egress and kill the baddies as they come and go? This would be cost effective and within the capabilities of an augmented Operational Detachment A (ODA). Here is an Air Force wet dream: why not Arclite the objective at H -15 minutes? Then the SF mission could be changed to a Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) and Big Souvenier Hunt.

But as the soldiers, each carrying 60 to 80 pounds of gear, scaled the mountain, they could already spot insurgents running to and fro, they said. As the soldiers drew closer, they saw that many of the mud buildings had holes in the foot-thick walls for snipers. The U.S. troops had maintained an element of surprise until their helicopters turned into the valley, but by now the insurgent leaders entrenched above knew they were the targets, and had alerted their fighters to rally.

This is an all-too obvious point. The element of surprise is lost when the sound of approaching assault aircraft is beating the air into submission. It is an Infantry maxim that troops drop all heavy equipment before crossing the line of departure. One does not assault anything with 80 pounds on one's back; one struggles instead of shooting and scooting.

This action did not have a defended line of departure. Further, the assaulting troops lacked a clearly defined objective rally point should they have to run for their lives, which is exactly what they had to do. Did any of these considerations enter into the planning? If so, it wasn't evident in the execution.

"All elements were pinned down from extremely heavy fire from the get-go," Walton said. "It was a coordinated attack." The insurgent Afghan fighters knew there was only one route up the valley and "were able to wait until we were in the most vulnerable position to initiate the ambush," said Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, the team weapons sergeant.

Walton is an 03, SOF-type and he is saying the insurgents coordinated an attack. In fact, the insurgents were defending a prepared position and the SF types were attacking, obviously not in a coordinated manner. Why do so many of these SOF actions follow the same inadequate scenario?

Is it arrogance on the part of the planners? Why do teams launch into such hopeless situations? Is there not photo intel and recon available for planning purposes? Obviously, HUMINT is lacking. It is hard to imagine that the team assaulting a position would be unaware of firing ports in the defensive belt until fired upon.

Air Force jets had begun dropping dozens of munitions on enemy positions precariously close to the Green Berets, including 2,000-pound bombs that fell within 350 yards.

Imagine, if you will, 2,000-pounders landing within 300 yards of friendlies. This is a formula for traumatic brain injury. This type of explosion would rattle one’s brain housing group with ease. This is definitely not the minimum safe distance for using these bombs. This was an act of desperation.

If we went that way, we would have all died," said Howard, who was hiding behind 12-inch-high rocks with bullets bouncing off about every 10 seconds. Insurgents again nearly overran the U.S. position, firing down from 25 yards away -- so near that the Americans said they could hear their voices. Another 2,000-pound bomb dropped "danger close," Howard said, allowing the soldiers to get away.

The team is employing 2,000 pound bombs and they lack grenades to deal with enemy within 25 yards. Too much tech and not enough simple grunt intelligence being employed here. Since they were in such close quarters, where was the most basic Infantry weapon -- the grenade?

By the time the battle ended, the Green Berets and the commandos had suffered 15 wounded and two killed, both Afghans, while an estimated 150 to 200 insurgents were dead, according to an official Army account of the battle. The Special Forces soldiers had nearly run out of ammunition, with each having one to two magazines left, Ford said.

How did this team possibly estimate the insurgent losses? At best, this is guesswork and based in guesstimation. With that figure dead, the bad guys should have had at least 600 wounded. It is Ranger's rule that estimated dead don't fill up a coffin.

Ranger doubts these figures, but it sure sounds good in a press release. Every time these actions hit the papers and the service organization magazines they are played up as great examples of heroism, and of course the soldiers on the ground gallantly faced the fire. But for what benefit?

These battles are meaningless slug fests that will not insure Afghanistan a democratic future, nor will they contribute one iota of additional security to the American Homeland. The solution? What else -- another surge, violating the basic rule learned in OBC: Never Reinforce Failure. Which, of course, is the basic play in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©.)

All the king's horses and all the Silver Stars in the world will not translate into strategic success in the current quagmires.

The change we voted for will never play out on the battlefield.

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--Emad Hajjaj, Al-Ghad (Jordan)

I took potpourri for one hundred

And then my head started to spin

--I Lost on Jeopardy!

Weird Al Yankovic


He didn't, really.

This is shout-out for one of Ranger's most favorite people, Minstrel Boy (Stevie) of Harp and Sword, and more recently, Group News Blog. Watch him on Jeopardy! tonight, 12/17, on your local NBC affiliate.

Case you don't know him, Stevie is a Silver Star recipient, musician par excellence, master truffle maker and too many other things to mention. He is a polymath with millennia of military historical knowledge who frequently brings invaluable perspective to yer humble Ranger blog. He has written some of the most moving essays I have read on his Harp & Sword (live, though on hiatus.) In short, he is a mensch.

We hear the show will include a rivalry between SEALS and flyboys. Stevie brings lots of ammo, and does not go quietly.

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Duck and Cover

I get so tired

Of the same old blues

Same old song

Baby, it won't be long

'Til I be tyin' on

My flyin' shoes

--Flyin' Shoes
, Townes Van Zandt

The other shoe has dropped. We've come full circle since 1960. 48 years later and it's still about shoes, throwing this time, not banging.

D'ya suppose this is a step up?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Uphill Battle I

Do you feel sick when you read it?

Do you think that I can feel it faster?

--Uphill Battle, Saosin


Special Forces troops can always be counted on to kick ass and take names when the chips are down. But reading about the 10 SF troops who received Silver Stars Friday, Ranger asks: Why were the chips on the table in the first place?

Are U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to kill insurgents or terrorists? Are we nation building or war fighting? History shows that the two are incompatible missions. There is a protocol: First, win the war. Later, build the nation. Building a nation while blowing its citizens to hell is not conducive to victory -- whatever that is.

Afghanistan is largely composed of Taliban-types, and killing them does not further the development of the nation. Killing all of the insurgents in Afghanistan would depopulate the country.

If al-Qaeda is the threat, then fighting Afghan insurgents is a red herring and a waste of precious assets. Al Qaeda is not Taliban. Obviously there are linkages, but the exportable threat is the enemy of the US. The Taliban does not export their brand of violence.

Some questions regarding the awarded action [in two parts]:

After jumping out of helicopters at daybreak onto jagged, ice-covered rocks and into water at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the 12-man Special Forces team scrambled up the steep mountainside toward its target -- an insurgent stronghold in northeast Afghanistan (Ten Green Berets to Receive Silver Star for Afghan Battle.)

Why would a combat assault be launched at daybreak, when locals are active and starting their day? Why not utilize the advantage of a night attack, enabled by U.S. night vision technological supremacy? Alternately, why not illuminate the area with indirect fire and fly in?

"Our plan," Capt. Kyle M. Walton recalled in an interview, "was to fight downhill."

If the plan was to fight downhill, why didn’t they? Landing in depressions and stream beds indicates one is not on a hilltop. These troops made the same error as in the engagement at Roberts Ridge and in Lt. Murphy’s Medal of Honor scenario.

A team should land above the enemy and attack downhill. This has been an Army rule since air-assaults were first conceived. Attacking up hills in denied terrain is not conducive to long life and prosperity. Nobody of sound mind lands in a beaten zone and then tries to fight uphill to attack prepared defensive positions.

This type of direct action mission is best assigned to Rangers or regular Infantry types. SF assets are too valuable to waste in close ground combat. Private soldiers are most cost-effectively used in this scenario. Deliberately using SF assets as assault troops is downright criminal and wasteful of valuable assets, especially if a long endless war is the Commander's vision.

A harrowing, nearly seven-hour battle unfolded on that mountainside in Afghanistan's Nuristan province on April 6, as Walton, his team and a few dozen Afghan commandos they had trained took fire from all directions. Outnumbered, the Green Berets fought on even after half of them were wounded -- four critically -- and managed to subdue an estimated 150 to 200 insurgents, according to interviews with several team members and official citations.

This is interesting. When attacking a prepared defensive position the old rule of thumb was 3-4 attackers for each entrenched enemy. This rule assumed an artillery prep and force multipliers, to include adjacent units and adequate reserve forces with depth to the battlefield.

Ranger wonders what forces were available as ready reaction to reinforce or exploit any successes. If these were not on call and ready to jump off, then this whole scenario was a meaningless shoot 'em up.

So why was a 12-man SF unit with green indig troops attacking using an inverted formula? The SF attacking force was outnumbered and tactically compromised from the jump. 200 insurgents versus about 36 U.S-led troops.

Conclusion: SF/Rangers/Seals are not impervious to hot steel and it's obvious that staff planners still do not understand SOF asset capabilities. Further, the SF team commander should recognize a mission impossible when it is still in the planning phase. Nobody short of Superman can fight with 60 to 80 lbs on their back; especially at an elevation of 10,000 feet.

Today, Walton and nine of his teammates from Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group will receive the Silver Star for their heroism in that battle -- the highest number of such awards given to the elite troops for a single engagement since the Vietnam War.

This reference requires Ranger to tip his hat to old friend Paul Longgrear, of Lang Vei fame, the Vietnam engagement often called The Night of the Silver Stars. Now historians will have to determine which battle was more devastating. The roles were reversed, however, as the NVA lost the toss and were attacking; SF/Longgrear defending.

Both scenarios required SF troops to attempt the impossible-this is not what military actions are about. If a team does not have a reasonable chance to fulfill the mission, it should not be attempted.

Tomorrow: Part 2

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