RANGER AGAINST WAR: February 2009 <

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two Steps Back

One step forward and two step back

Nobody gets too far like that
One step forward and two steps back
This kind of dance can never last

--Desert Rose Band
, One Step Forward

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

--The Hollow Me
n, T.S. Eliot

I haven't seen such bravery since Dunkirk

--The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Tennessee Williams


We are there for democracy, except when we are not.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a wicked bad
tool for spreading democracy. Take the shoe, for instance.

Somehow those crazy Iraqis got it into their heads that they could express themselves in a public venue, hence the unfortunate tale of reporter Muntazar al-Zeidi, the shoe-thrower. Voice is all good and well, if you're "Reading Lolita in Tehran" in America. But you mustn't dis the one who brought you all of this glorious freedom, else you want a good ass-whuppin' and wish to find yourself in the gulag of your nightmares.

Which is precisely where Mr al-Zaidi sits. Even those who wish to note his action are silenced.

Iraqi sculptor Laith al-Ameri made a fiberglass shoe sculture for a Tikrit orphanage, which was removed the day after it was erected (Monument to Bush Shoe Throwing).

Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director, said,

"Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush's
war. The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's order to destroy the sculpture is the move of a tyrant and a dictator, not a democrat. It was cowardly and craven, and the demolition was supervised by the Tikrit police force.

"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people," al-Zeidi told the court last week. "I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons."

When al-Zeidi threw his shoes at Bush, he shouted in Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq (Iraqi Says He Threw Shoes at Bush to Restore Pride.)"

Reporter al-Zaida had more cahones than our entire Congress.

UPDATE, 3/13/09: Muntazar al-Zeidi has been sentenced to three years in jail for expressing himself. Ain't democracy grand?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Poor Man's Artillery

--Incoherent Recession, Parvez Taz

Take every shortcut you can find
--Hints from Heloise

The Week magazine ran an overview on improvised explosive devices, "IEDs: The Poor Man's Artillery," explaining their lethality and spectacular success.

Having trained in unconventional and guerrilla warfare [UW/GW], Ranger believes that IED's are better than artillery (sorry, FDChief.) The reasoning:

  • Unexpended, out-of-date and generally crummy stuff can be converted into a smashing explosive device
  • IED's are generally command-detonated, so in effect are more accurate than artillery. You can't put counter battery fire on an IED since it is unattended
  • A well-trained gunnery crew and an expensive howitzer is not required
  • IED's are easily hidden and are man-portable. They are flexible in use and employment
  • Every attack can be variants on a theme, and so are difficult to counter
  • They aid recruitment, funding and morale of the bombers
  • Best of all: You do not have to deal with artillery men, nor do you have to clean any guns


Zombie War

--fr. Don Quixote, Gustave Dore

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately, things just don't seem the same
--Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix

He was spurred on by the conviction
that the world needed his immediate presence
--Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

Ranger watched a video of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock last night and was amazed as usual by his tortured version of the Star Spangled Banner which flowed into his Purple Haze. What unintended prescience: Lately, things don't look the same.

1969 and 2009 both find Americans at war and disillusioned by their unsustainable, unwinnable nature and maundering violence. Our nation spoke via the voting booth against war in 2006 and 2008. Or so we thought. Ranger wonders if Generals Odierno and Petraeus are forming war policy, or Obama?

The 2009 war is unlike any experienced by U.S. forces. The enemy remains undefined and undileanted. There are no metrics for disengagement, while the U.S. walks a tightrope for its economic survival. The director of National Intelligence confirmed the idea that the tenuous economy is the greatest threat facing America.

Meanwhile, Obama sees fit to address the terrorist threat in the most conventional way, a way that will not make him look like a pansy: throw more troops at Afghanistan. Petraeus is calling cadence, and Obama has fallen into step.

When will our leaders see that we are tired of fighting phantom terrorists? The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a fine example of "mission creep" -- the gift that keeps on giving. It is impervious to the taxpayer's wishes to disengage. Just like the bad zombie banks being fielded, Afghanistan and Iraq are becoming zombie wars.

The voters have no impact upon national policy. Obama, Biden, Clinton rose to the top denigrating Bush's policies, yet they are now complicit in some of his biggest productions. Ranger is not sure that is the CHANGE! we voted for.

At least Hendrix was under the influence of LSD. What excuse do our leaders have?

The U.S. is a nation that claims to export democracy, while draining it from its own indigenous.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yin and Yang

Would I lie to you honey?
Now would I say something that wasn't true?

I'm asking you sugar

Would I lie to you?

--Would I Lie to you?
, The Eurythmics

[I]t will not be a war about democracy.

Except for Israel, there are no democracies in the Mideast,

and there will be none in the foreseeable future

--Richard Nixon, on Gulf War I


Richard Nixon's 1991 essay in which he defines what the Gulf War would and would not be about shows how far directness has fallen from favor. Today's watchword: obfuscation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says human rights concerns will not affect relations with China because. . . that is the truth.

The Guardian UK quotes Clinton:

"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think that's a well grounded confidence."

China, which has foreign exchange reserves worth around $2tn, is the world's largest holder of US government debt.

Yang said: "In making use of our foreign exchange reserves, we want to ensure the safety of the reserves, the good value of them and also the liquidity of the forex reserves."

"We know what they're going to say because I've had those kinds of conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders. . . .

"We have to continue to press them... But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises. "We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those." (
Clinton Seeks Consensus with China)

We are pwn3d by China, and economic concerns trump human rights every time. Yessirree, Bob -- a radical change from the Bush era. Yet Ranger agrees with Clinton: though the policy dooms the Chinese population to lives devoid of personal freedoms, democracy in China is not his concern. The U.S. flushed China in 1949, so why sweat it now? Thanks for all the rubber shower shoes.

WaPo wrote, "Clinton said she would raise human rights issues with Chinese officials, 'but we pretty much know what they're going to say.'" While it is no lie, it is a statement of resignation.

Maybe such frankness is the better part of negotiations, kind of a Neuro Linguistic Programmatic approach, a veiled challenge. Maybe you will not do better, but we who wish you would will ask about it. Maybe that is the correct limit of diplomacy.
One thing is for sure: We are not going to force your hand while you're floating our bonds.

Now, if you are all on board still with the honeymoon idea of "Change," realpolitik leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. But the fact is, the U.S. is no longer the Big Superpower who can pull out big ideological guns; we neither have them free at the moment, nor have we been living by such high falutin' principles for a while now.

The thing that rubs Ranger the wrong way is the hypocrisy and shadow dancing. The U.S. is ostensibly fighting for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet does not seem to mind that our most favored trading partner trammels on the rights of its citizens every day of the week.

This is also schizophrenic.
We either fight for democracy, or we do not. It is not a pick and choose concept. We spend 100's of billions of dollars fighting wars ostensibly to secure freedom in one part of the world, while borrowing the money to fight these wars from an undemocratic country in another part of the world.

The supreme irony is the Afghanis and Iraqis will not have democracy if it were served up on a platter, while the Chinese are clamoring for those same freedoms. But we will not facilitate that, because we are economically hamstrung, because the Chinese would not allow it.

Because we are traitors to our voiced cause.



When did Clinton have "those kinds of conversations
for more than a decade with Chinese leaders"?
She was on the Budget and Armed Services Committee while in the Senate.

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Rosetta Stone

--The Fat Years,
Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland

Many U.S. troops are being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq without prior language training, leaving them incapable of any meaningful communication with local populations without the presence of an interpreter.

Our friend Minstrel Boy at
Harp and Sword mentioned how he had purchased the Rosetta Stone language program for his friend, Sergeant Major Larry, who deployed last year to Afghanistan. (Our other friend Minstrel Boy made mention of the staff officer who tried to broker the Rosetta Stone deal here.)

The New York Times' Ethicist column last week answered a question regarding a bookstore employee who informed a potential Rosetta Stone customer that he, being an active duty serviceman, could actually download the program for free.

This was stunning on several levels. First, that the Naval officer in question was looking to purchase his own language instruction.
Why is the Department of Defense not accommodating this need? We are fighting a Counterinsurgency operation, are we not? Isn't that about winning hearts and minds? Wouldn't elementary language skills be a minimal expectation?

Second, while it is very good of this company to be offering this language program gratis to current service people, why are they not informed about it? Is the DoD offsetting some of this company's costs?

If you can get the word out about the availability of this program, please do. I will try to do the same, and will be thanking Randy Cohen,
The Ethicist, for running the question and Rosetta Stone for offering the program.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On the Sunny Side

Just because the cat has her kittens in the oven
doesn't make them biscuits

--Old Polish proverb, Banacek

It's good news week,

Someone's dropped a bomb somewhere,

Contaminating atmosphere

And blackening the sky
--It's Good News Week
Hedgehoppers Anonymous

The best is yet to come,
and won't that be fine

You think you've seen the sun,
but you ain't seen it shine

--The Best is Yet to Come
, Frank Sinatra

Demand for food stamps is up in most states, and in Florida, the recent demand has been record-breaking.

Providing an upside to the nation's economic woes, 288 new full-time workers will be hired to "help handle" the increased case load:

Already, the Legislature has approved giving DCF $2.5 million more for employees to work overtime processing food-stamp applications.
In the last year Florida has added more than 408,835 new food-stamp recipients, a 29-percent increase (Food Stamps in Large Demand.)

So you see, there is always a silver lining. Servicing the newly impoverished is a growth industry.

anticipating a criminal wave due to said impoverishment, Florida gun owners are flooding the state with requests for concealed carry permits. In response, "[a] legislative panel Wednesday gave Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson the OK to spend $3.9 million more so he can hire 61 temporary workers" to addressed the jacked up demand for the permits (Florida can't Keep Up With Concealed weapons Permit Requests.)

Poverty and crime -- a winning combo.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Do Not Pass "Go"

Get rid of cleverness and abandon profit,
and thieves and gangsters will not exist

--Tao Te Ching,

Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest.
--King Lear, Shakespeare

Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl

for your miseries that shall come on you

--James 5:1


Why do we need a federal stimulus program if we are a capitalist society? The weak corporate entities should be allowed to die. The loser car companies should go into bankruptcy and face total reorganization. Investors may lose, but that is the risk one takes playing the market. No one gives me a loser's bonus if I bet wrong at Jai-Alai or the racetrack.

Why would we artificially extend the life of terminally ill companies? Because we have been primed to believe that artificial life support is the only option when faced with sickness.

Our former Governor JEB! Bush took up the cause of persistently vegetative state patient Terry Schiavo, laying in the idea that
even a being which was not viable without life support should be forcibly kept alive. His brother George Bush famously restricted stem cell research under the argument that each divided gamete was a potential life, therefore must be "protected" even though never in fact living.

WaPo says, "The hodgepodge of tax cuts and spending programs won't solve the country's basic problem of rot at the heart of the banking system and excessive borrowing by large numbers of people and corporations" (Time is of the Essence for Stimulus.)

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said that the stimulus package was "probably too little, especially given that it is badly designed [and] we haven't yet fixed the mortgage problem so the financial sector is likely to continue bleeding."
We must staunch the bleeding first.

An excellent Post essay laid out the problem thusly:

As the real income of Americans stagnated and their debt mounted, the wizards of Wall Street grew rich by collecting commissions on derivatives of derivatives of derivatives. By 2007, when Wall Street's profits amounted to an astonishing 40 percent of all American profits, the business of American finance was no longer American business -- providing loans for domestic production, technological innovation, that sort of thing -- but swapping bets and hedges on bets and hedges, all for hefty commissions (The Money-Changers.)

Ranger thinks that bailouts and surges are not the answer. While not an economist, how can spending more on credit because you spent too much to begin with be an answer to liquidity problems? Living a viable individual economic life seems pretty simple: expenditures should not consistently exceed income (End the War on Savings.)

The U.S. has reached a point where the people are afraid of the institutions they must trust. This issue must be addressed before the economy can begin a recovery.


Visions of Lily

Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,

But now, God knows,

Anything Goes
--Anything Goes
, Irving Berlin

So please please please
Let me let me let me
Let me get what I want
Let Me Get What I Want, The Deftones

anyone noticed while hailing the recent Iraqi elections -- the yardstick for success of our COIN policy -- that the women are dressed to serve as extras on a Crusade movie set?

Mind you, these are the same women who wore secular garb under Saddam Hussein, and attended schools without having acid flung in faces and worked at jobs equal with men.
These women, on whom the Department of Defense is spending your tax dollars to, among other things protect their rights in theatre. Has anyone else noticed that retrograde progress, usually called regress?

In an effort to sync what the photos show with U.S. claims, one might try the following:

  • Women wore western-style garb during Saddam's reign only under duress.
  • The women are now so liberated and democratic that they actually prefer 13th century styles. They share a retro impulse.
  • They are so confused that they do not know what they like, so they throw on any old thing, finding a uniform so much easier than coordinating. [Added benefit: If they have weight issues, the burkha gives the added benefit of being forgiving of those extra inches.]

COIN policy addresses the issues of killing people, but ignores the key issue of dishabille.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009


Paresh Nath,The Khaleej Times [UAE]

This year [1930], when we all needed something
to take our minds off our troubles, miniature golf did it.
If we cannot find bread, we are satisfied with the circus
--Elmer Davis


2008 saw the fourth straight year of increases in soldier suicides, with this January being the grimmest month since record keeping began in 1980, with 24 soldier suicides.

Iraq and Afghanistan Vets of America [IAVA] Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff said, "The DOD and the VA must take bold and immediate action. Our new report recommends tangible, effective policies to help troops and veterans get the care they need (Congress Must Act.)" A
Florida Today editorial good-heartedly echoed his concern.

"Yes they must. Lest more brave men and women in uniform and out become casualties of war."

But here is a novel thought:
Why not stop sending these troops on second, third and fifth rotations in a meaningless endeavor? The solution goes beyond money and programs. If you sincerely wish to stop the casualties, you stop the war.

Any good therapist will help you identify and shift the causative behaviors which are yielding poor results. A bad shrink will just give you more drugs.
Ditto a good economist, a good General and a good President.

Ending the wars is the solution. Anything else contributes to the problem.

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Air Land Battle

Truth will ultimately prevail
where there is pains to bring it to light
--George Washington

This republic was not established by cowards;
and cowards will not preserve it
--Elmer Davis

The battles in Afghanistan and Iraq
illustrate how the Army is desperately and unsuccessfully attempting to apply the Air Land Battle concepts of the Cold War and the 70's to the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

The Air Land Battle (ALB) is nothing but the integration of of air power applied synergistically to the ground scenario. In effect, the battlefield becomes and Air Force responsibility, which on the conventional battlefield is as it should be. The invasion of Iraq was a fair depiction of the ALB, except the scenario was not extended to echelons above corps.

The ALB always plans for the preparation of the battlefield before the fight starts. At Wanat and several other recent battles, this was not so. In addition, in most of these fights the engaged units depended on aerial delivery of ordnance rather than organic indirect fire assets. This is all fine and dandy in an ALB, but there the air assets are frosting on the cake.

The engaged units have assigned mortars, attached and dedicated artillery at Division/Corps and Theatre level used by the ground commander to facilitate successful completion of the mission. These assets are controlled and task organized by the ground commander.

In present COIN operations, ground units lack the assets presupposed in the ALB, a lack which is getting soldiers killed.

Historically, the ALB worked in the following scenarios: At The Bulge in 1944, the Air Corps couldn't fly interdiction for the ground forces, but the Infantry units held on and successfully defended their positions until the clouds parted and the aviation assets flew, and the enemy was pushed back.

The U.S. Marines marching out of the Chosin Reservior was classic ALB, even as a retrograde movement [apologies to Mike for having to use "retrograde" and "Marines" in the same sentence.] The Navy and Air Force flew suppression missions that gave an escape corridor to the Marines, and the Marines fought under a pre-planned, carefully coordinated umbrella. The result is one of the greatest examples of a break out from the encirclement and a shining example of coordinated action.

These points are absent from the PWOT because the fight is being marketed as COIN and not ALB, yet the attempts to suppress the enemy are always based in the ALB concept.

At Wanat, the After Action Report stressed the lack of drones and problems with helicoptors. In reality, the deficiency was in the confusion of concepts.
Any combat action should be reasonably sustainable if the synergy of the combat arms are properly applied, but that is not COIN; that is ALB.

Air power is not necessary in COIN if the units have responsive coordinated indirect fires, but even this is illusory since COIN is not supposed to be classic ground combat. There is a disconnect between the wars we are taught and the wars we fight.

The entire Infantry Officer Advanced Course and Command and General Staff College was dedicated to the ALB in the 80's. COIN did not appear in the program of instruction. Ranger does not imagine there has been a seamless introduction of the separate concepts in the intervening 25 years.

The problem is, U.S. leaders do not know what war we are really fighting. After seven years, somebody should be getting a handle on it. As a military official told NBC News about a question regarding the endgame in Afghanistan, "Frankly, we don't have one."

But they're working on it.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

One Down

The 9-year-old Arizona boy accused of killing his father and a friend has pled out of spending any time in a correctional facility. Because, y'know, he is little.

Not old enough to go to war and kill people legally, but old enough to kill two people, nonetheless. The boy told a Child Protective Services worker that he made a pledge to himself:
on his 1,000 whipping, he would kill his father. In the commission of the murders, the then 8-year-old reloaded a .22-caliber rifle seven times.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brewer said, of the murders,
"I think this experience probably can change an individual, and I'm hoping this doesn't tremendously change him." No kidding. Yeah, we wouldn't want him to be anything other than the youthful murderer he is now.

I originally read about this story earlier in the week on an AOL or Yahoo release, and the phrase that struck me came from the police chief who said how relieved he was the boy would not be incarcerated,
because he could pick up some really bad habits in there.

Wouldn't want that, eh?
I was dumbfounded: had he not already picked up some bad habits?

Now, we are told the town "has been spared" the trauma of a murder trial as the boy has not had to 'fess up about the father, but only confess to negligent homicide in the case of the father's friend. If you don't admit to it, it didn't happen, did it? Sweep it under the carpet as though it never happened. There, that's better. He'll be ready for a job in a big brokerage house in no time.

Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting explained the reason for dropping the charge of killing his father thusly:
"How is he going to deal with 'I pleaded guilty to killing my dad'?" So, we are to presume he will be much better off knowing he was not held to account for his actions.

This is the sort of thing that makes America what it is. Delusional.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Presidential Unit Citation

Michael Bishop, Military Rep to Congressman Boyd,
pinning Ranger with his
Presidential Unit Citation,


Ranger was awarded his Presidential Unit Citation this week for his service with B53/5th Special Forces group, in a "highly classified mission in 1970."

I remember asking him what he did in Vietnam when I first met him. When he said he was with "B53" I pressed -- "So, what was that?" He shrugged his shoulders and said that's what they called it. This secret name of a letter and numbers sounded a bit fishy to me, until he explained it was a part of the MACVSOG project (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group.)

Ranger was glad to be in the SOG environment at B53 versus Command and Control South, Central and North [CCS-C-N]. B53 was the training camp of the Special Operations Augmentation. As all SOG assets passed through his camp, he saw everything that was being performed by them.

It was a heady experience for a young man. Ranger met, worked with and befriended some great people in SOG -- Bob Howard, Jon Caviani, Franklin Miller, Fred "Lightening" Wunderlich, Frank Norbury and Billy Waugh, among many others.

However, the fact that Ranger's PUC -- officially awarded to the unit in 2001 -- was initially denied, though he provided the Army Awards branch with all necessary documentation, is an indicator that the Army still does not prioritize Special Forces or COIN, despite the lip service. Or, it is a sign of extreme inefficiency.

The award was made 29 years after SOG closed shop. Why so long? The official answer is, "classified missions." (Good luck to those in Gitmo hoping for documentation.) If the Army really cared to recognize us, they could have sanitized the PUC, as they did with Howard's and Miller's Medal of Honor (MOH) citations.

Why was SOG classified anyway? We were no secret to the North Vietnamese Army who had watchers along the entire Ho Chi Minh Trail dedicated to spotting SOG teams. Answer: It was classified because the unit violated Laotian and Cambodian neutrality every time they entered these countries.

The NVA killed hundreds of SOG men: 10 teams disappeared, 14 others were seriously compromised, with every indigenous SOG agent inserted into the NVA compromised and captured. It is safe to say the NVA knew our mission. But because the unit was not a conventional entity, the Army did not and does not consider SOG's recognition a priority.

Meadows, arguably the most famous SOG NCO/officer, had difficulty being retained and promoted. Only repeated intervention by General Westmoreland saved Meadows' career, allowing him to retire as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Imagine: Bull Simons and Charlie Beckwith retired only as 0-6's. SF MOH winners Howard and Donlon both retired as 0-6's in an Army that rewards West point football players 0-6 if they are still breathing after 20 years service.

Yes, Singlaub and Healy made General Officer, but that was only on the conventional airborne side of the house. The Reduction in Forces (RIF's) following the Vietnam war were heavy with Special Forces officers.
There was no career protection for Special Forces officers in the Vietnam era.

Ranger is fortunate to have a Vietnam vet congressman who takes a sincere interest in veterans issues, and whose vet rep assisted him in getting his PUC individually authorized.
This hoop-jumping with congressional support is par for the course.

It is the same formula Ranger experienced in receiving his Department of Veterans Affairs Service Connection compensation and his Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC).

Note to young soldiers:
Expect the yellow ribbons to stop shortly after your service viability expires.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gun Nuts

The art of our necessities is strange,

That can make vile things precious.

--King Lear
, Shakespeare

Ranger attended a recent gun show and got a taste for life on the other side of our comfy corner of the blogosphere.

First, the amount of hatred for Barack Obama is palpable, and the vitriol is not contained -- it overflows. Frequently heard was the assertion that Obama would ban assault weapons, pistols and ammo. The T-shirts show a new level of defiance: "Liberals are Posing as Americans," "Infidel and Proud of It."

But best of all were the featured celebrities, look-alikes of Sarah Palin and George Bush holding assault rifles. Since this crowd is so concerned about their assault rifles and the ban they imagine Obama will impose upon their ownership, Ranger feels like setting the record straight.

First, a definition.

The first assault rifle was the StG 43 or 44 variant, along with the MP 43 and 44. These evolved into the AK 47. All assault rifles are selective fire, meaning they are automatic weapons. They are full auto, but they are not machine guns. (Machine guns are belt-fed, open-bolt fired, crew served and are not individual weapons; assault rifles are.)

StG is an abbreviation of Sturmgewehr, or "storm rifle," which became assault rifle in English. They use lower intensity, intermediary cartridges, meaning they lack in power and range, but are excellent for assaulting objectives when a heavy volume of fire is called for. Assault rifles are shoulder-fired individual military weapons.

There was a ten-year assault rifle ban, from 1994-2004, but contrary to the name, the weapons targeted were not assault rifles but rather look-alikes, which lack the selective fire feature. Again -- all assault rifles are selective fire.

So, the U.S. government denied the citizens the right to own bad ass looking weapons with high capacity mags and which fire in a semi-automatic mode. But the hypocrisy is weighty: IF one wishes to own a real full auto assault rifle, one need only pay a $200 fee and purchase a Federal Tax Stamp and voila, it is legal to purchase a fully auto weapon, to include machine guns. It has always been that way, even during the "ban".

So why the phony ban? If you can own the weapon provided you plunk down $200, it is a violation of the constitutional concept of rights, as one must pay to exercise their rights. The $200 is the issue, and not the ban, which never was.

As so often in our society, the simulacra stands in for the actual. It looks like we ban assault weapons, but we do not really. What is actually being banned is a full, unfettered access to our 2nd Amendment rights via a "gun tax."

The gunnies are so terrified that an "assualt weapons ban" will be implemented. They do not care that the economy is crumbling beneath them -- just don't take away their stupid damned rifle. They fail to see the intricacy of what is actually at stake.

Their argument is always, "What if we need to rebel?" It is Ranger's experience that no one ever became a rebel who was a fat ass in tree bark.

You cannot revolt if you are watching the Super Bowl XLIII but you sure can stroke your rifle, even if it's a little one.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Neo Colonialism

Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland

The obscure we see eventually.

The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer

--Edward R. Murrow

are never deceived; we deceive ourselves

Quick decisions are unsafe decisions


For I have sworn thee fair,

and thought thee bright,

who art as black as hell,

as dark as night

--Sonnet 147
, Shakespeare


A recent New York Times feature discussed Infantry and combat soldiers getting pedicures because their boots are so harsh on their feet.

Imagine that! Soldiers now train and run in running shoes, versus my generation which did everything to include physical training in our boots. When was the last time someone ran in combat in running shoes?

Anyway, the pedicures started Ranger thinking about comparisons between counterinsurgency, then (Vietnam) and now. (He is wearing his Special Forces cap while making the comparisons.)

In Vietnam -- as in Iraq and Afghanistan -- there were serious disconnects between COIN as practiced by SF units versus that practiced by maneuver units. The advisers of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) shared the SF experience and deserve to be called Special Ops since they actually lived, fought and died serving VN units as embedded advisers.

In the Vietnam war, SF types lived, worked and stood side-by-side with the Vietnamese and indigenous troops. We knew them as soldiers and friends and knew their families, attending weddings, funerals and celebrations. We were invited into their homes, we ate and drank together, played and had personal realtionships.

Many say disapraging things about the RVN's ability to fight, but Ranger served with RVN soldiers that fought at Dien B
ien Phu and were combat-hardened and wise. They were at DBP, but they were Viet Minh, and crossed to the South after the Communist takeover of the North. They had forgotten more about fighting than most U.S. officers knew.

Most of the VN/SF officers were educated and westernized and spoke both French and English. Most were Catholic. Yet despite all of this, we still lost. [But there is a karmic gain, as we now have Asian nail salons in every mall in America and on the bases in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) to tend to the soldier's rough paws.]

But seriously: though COIN strategy in RVN was solid and institutional, it could not change the reality of the war.
That reality was that colonialism of any form was longer acceptable. Any government government was more acceptable to the VN than one imposed from external sources. That is one lesson from COIN in VN we still have not gotten.

Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan can describe their own experiences implementing COIN, but Ranger cautions them to sweep aside the rhetoric and see what is real. What is real is not U.S. combat power alone. Tom Ricks
The Gamble explains why Iraq is a political failure, even as it seems The Surge was a military success.

Ricks says violence went down for a number of reasons, including the U.S. shift to protecting the Iraqis by functioning more like soldiers on the beat. But the troops are not cops. Policing should be the function of the Iraqi Army and police.

Iraqi interpreters are back to wearing face masks to conceal their identity (
Iraqi Interpreters May Wear Masks.) That says something about the U.S. reception seven years on.


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Dilbert on Sport Killing

This Dilbert cartoon is the perfect accompaniment
to yesterday's piece, "Craig Bodington Must Die."

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Way Things Oughta Be

Those black-eyed peas
They tasted all right to me Earl

And it turns out he was a missing person

Who nobody missed at all

--Goodbye Earl
, Dixie Chicks

No, I ain't got time to waste on killin'

some old Ranger with holes in his underwear.

There's plenty more need killin'

I hate rude behavior in a man...I won't tolerate it

--Lonesome Dove


[1] Craig Bodington must die! Craig is the Great White Hunter - gunman extraordinaire and wholesale killer of every manner of large mammal on the planet for the pure pleasure and sport of killing.

He can be seen decked out in his Thinsulate goodies and tree bark of the latest pattern on the Hunting Channel taking glee in his murders, always yanking the head of the dead or dying noble beast back by its antlers, a la porno submission shots.

If Craig Bodington meets his demise it would save untold hundreds of big game animals from dyng needlessly violent deaths. It should occur via the rules laid out in "The Most Dangerous Game," he stripped of his sophisticated blinds and warm clothing and high-powered rifles and laser scopes.

For good measure, some doe urine should be sprayed on his person, and an 18-pointer allowed to go into his grid square as the coup de grace.

If justice prevailed, Craig wold be bled out in the same manner met by his victims, the poor, dumb animals on the canned safaris. And someone would pull his head back, mouth agog and tongue hanging, for the money shot.

[2] Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation of America, his plant manager, board of directors and their families should have to subsist on their own peanut products for a week of digestive Russian Roulette. They are responsible for nine deaths and over 500 illnesses resulting from salmonella-tainted products the factory knowingly released (Peanut Company Owner Refuses to Testify to Congress.)

[3] The L.A. fertility doctor,
Dr. Michael Kamrava, who implanted unmarried, unemployed, unstable Nadya Suleman, with six more embryos after the first batch produced three disabled progeny out of six, should have to pay for the new batch of octuplets until they reach they age of consent. The latest brood was also produced from the same sperm donor.

ABC's chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, said, "Long term, because some of these children will be physically or mentally challenged, there’s a looming price tag out here. The hospital bill alone will run $1.5 to $3 million. . . just to get through special-needs stuff — it’s going to have to come from somewhere, either the taxpayers of California or her family or her church or the hospital. But she can’t do it alone.”

Justice implies taking responsibility for one's actions, and this mass implantation was beyond irresponsible.

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Monday, February 16, 2009


Afghanistan grows a lot of nuts
--commenter on Diane Rehm Show 1/16/09
(speaking of pistachios and pecans

Some roads bring renewal

Some roads hide and wait

Some roads promise everything

And steal your fuel away

--Loose Change, Neil Young

I know just how to fake it,

And I know just how to scheme;

And I don't know how you do it,

Making love out of nothing at all

--Out of Nothing at All, Air Supply

Nothing will come of nothing

--King Lear
, Shakespeare

Ranger likes to think tactically, That is what Rangers do -- we try to break things down into their components, thereby simplifying the planning process. Without planning, there can be no successful execution of operations. Ranger wonders why our leaders often fail to recognize this simple fact.

A unit can attack or defend. They can fall back
, retreat, prepare, move to contact, etc. -- but it boils down to attack or defend. Historically, wars are won through offensive action, and soldiers are imbued with the offensive attitude. Ranger was trained as an assault troop with a bayonet on his rifle. The spirit of the bayonet is still the spirit of the infantry.

Is the U.S. in 2009 attacking or defending? And what are we attacking, and what are we defending? Why do we want to do either, literally or figuratively?

The Bailouts are an example. Are these hundreds of billions a defensive or offensive gesture, and should we be attacking or defending?

Assuming it is offensive, what is the next objective? Surely the economic system will not be salvaged by a simple movement forward. What are the long range objectives of any of these economic moves?
What happens when the attacks bog down, as surely they must? What happens if they fail?

Attacks are only successful when made in-depth to achieve deep objectives. The bailouts are limited-objective operations. The action is reactive versus planned. Success is patterned upon success, while the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) and bailouts are based upon failures. Failure never forwards a national agenda, even when spun to sound like success.

Look at Hitler's wars: he overextended Germany with unrealistic objectives, requiring the economy and military to perform beyond their capabilities. Add in the psychotic nature of the enterprise and you get something that looks like America's PWOT and bailouts on crack.

Hitler and Napoleon showed you can invade countries, set up quisling governments and impose your ideology on the populace,
but they will never love or respect you. One can force compliance, but not respect. This is the first rule of COIN that is not in FM 3-24.

The U.S. is committing the same errors but is too distracted to notice the front is collapsing. Committing reserves to plug the gaps is not a national policy. A complete strategic reevaluation and new mission is required. The sanity of the moment will be shown to be insanity to history.

Neither a nation nor an Army can survive a hostile environment by making short-term, reactive fixes. The PWOT and the bailouts are reactive knee-jerk responses that promise no long-term benefit. Why do our leaders choose untenable objectives.

All of Ranger's military training boils down to this:
A commander at any level should never reinforce failure. Only success matters, a goal which should be extended to economic and diplomatic matters. Today's U.S. reinforces failure (Challenger license plate, anyone?)

The Surge in Iraq is a case in point. 30,000 more troops did not return magic. The momentary reduction in troop casualties was the result of tactical changes, as journalist
Tom Ricks explains here. Ultimately, the return will be a reinforcement of failure.

In Dec. 1944 Hitler gambled on a strategic offensive to recapture Antwerp resulting in the Battle of the Bulge, an offensive operation that even if successful would not have affected the outcome of the war. Offense is not always the correct maneuver.

In Korea 1950, United Nations forces arrived at the Yalu and the Chosen Reservoir following various successes and advances. But what had passed for offensive success was actually an over-extension of the front, leading to the isolation of forward engaged divisions which lacked depth and reeled when assaulted by Chicom forces.
What looks like success is often illusory.

After seven years of war in Afghanistan it is time to separate the illusion from the reality. The fiction is, continuing the battle in Afghanistan is critical to the safety of the U.S.

The bank bailouts are a logical extension of the PWOT. Hurry up, throw valuable resources into a money pit.

The PWOT is attempting to forge viable democratic states out of nothing and the bailouts are attempting to conjure capital out of bad paper.
You can't build something out of nothing.

This caveat should be the subtitle of FM 3-24.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Milk and Honey

You can go your own way
Go your own way

You can call it

Another lonely day

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

If I had a mind to

I wouldn't want to think like you

And if I had time to

I wouldn't want to talk to you

Wouldn't Want to Be Like You
Alan Parsons Project

In time the Rockies may tumble,

Gibralter may crumble,

They're only made of clay,

But our love is here to stay

--Our Love is Here to Stay
, George Gershwin


The press and the popular mind lump all terrorism into the same vat. Recent events in Israel demonstrate a variant, as the terrorism the Israelis must address is distinct and different from the threat facing U.S. interests.

Size matters, as does philosophy. Terrorists differ in their intent and capabilities, their organizational structure and operational methods, whether overt or covert. A terrorist differs from those who merely use terror tactics.

Terrorist operational assets are too valuable to waste. They preserve their assets, only expending their disposables. Therefore, Hamas is not a classic terrorist organization because they have a large disposable base. Hamas has evolved beyond terrorism, though they have splinter groups that are purely terroristic. Otherwise, they are a group that uses terror tactics in their unconventional war with Israel.

There is a great deal of sympathy for Hamas, the group viewed as the underdog, but the underdog is not always in the right. In the case of the U.S. versus al-Qaeda, the latter is the underdog, but we do not extend much sympathy their way.

The Hamas threat is observable, has a large popular support and has crossed over into political and military legitimacy. They are not clandestine and have stated-goals: the establishment of a new state dominated by religious fervor and aimed at the destruction of Israel.

The Israelis can address this threat either militarily, politically or in tandem, but address it they must. The threat is within homemade rocket range. While it is doubtful that such attacks could ever destroy Israel,
the relentless pace of these attacks ruins life for all involved.

Terrorists do not necessarily gain anything tangible from their operations. Often their attacks are simply acts of frustration, much like the reaction of the Israeli military. Much as with al-Qaeda's 9-11 attack, a counterstrike is forced out of all proportion to the initiating event.
This cyclical dance of death escalates until the mindlessness becomes institutionalized on both sides of the equation. It is a merry-go-round that doesn't require tickets.

The press coverages continues the confusion of terms when they refer to Israel's 23-day offensive as both a
"war" and a "conflict". It was surely a conflict, but hardly a war. The Islamist government of Gaza vowed to acquire new rockets and other weapons, and though Eqypt and the West vowed to help keep them from this goal, how will they prevent it?

Chicago Tribune called it a "short ferocious war with no winner," but it was not a war. It was a tactical counterstrike. That Hamas did not "lose" is a victory for them. Further, "Hamas showed again that it would eagerly sacrifice its people's lives and security in the name of its terrorist goals." However, this same observation can be made concerning legal state power.

Doesn't the U.S. sacrifice the lives of our own soldiers to bulwark security for Iraq and Afghanistan? Does the U.S. military not kill civilians in those countries to secure U.S. goals in theatre?

This is modernity. Perhaps Hobbes was right -- it is a battle of all against all. Computer hackers will always breech the best defenses of your privacy.
The New York Times reported this week that food will always be adulterated with rot, mildew and maggots (The Maggots in Your Mushrooms.) Terrorists are here to stay (unless our agenda is to kill every last one of them, which is clearly an impossibility due to rising generations.)

The U.S. goes romping and stomping over two countries when they get singed by their anger, but would censure other countries for doing the same. Hypocrites. The Limbaughians have a saying: "We can be right 99% of the time; they only have to be right once." That is right, and that, sadly, is a risk one must take in order to live in liberty and freedom.

The best one can do is ramp up their protective posture through better intelligence gathering, analysis and policing. If we believe all these words about freedom and democracy, then we must abide by the rights of the newly freed Iraqis and Afghanis to be other than we might like.

They may have friends we may disprove of. They are adults, now freed from the yoke of the dictator that kept their tenuous societal balance.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009


You're not gonna lose this one
You don't have to cut and run

I think you can choose to love and what is more

That is how you survived the war

How You Survived The War, The Weepies

A fine romance, with no kisses

A fine romance, my friend this is

We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder

But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder

--A Fine Romance, Fred Astaire

We don’t have that time

For psychological romance

No romance

No romance

No romance for me mama

, Word Up

I want to put on my my my my my

boogie shoes

--My Boogie Shoes,

K.C. & the Sunshine Band


Ranger was recently informed that the NPR radio show "Car Talk" is successful partly because the hosts -- Click and Clack -- are not afraid to tread into gender psychology and feelings. Personally, Ranger feels more comfortable with gauges, calipers and precision instruments that allow quantifiable readings.

It is an old battle, trying to make men feel something they just don't always feel -- love and emotion. Townes Van Zandt's "If You Needed Me" is a wonderful love song about devotion that melts the heart, but what if one just doesn't feel those things? What if one doesn't care that he doesn't feel those things?

Some of us prefer to ignore or compartmentalize those emotions. It doesn't play well, but why should anyone get their shorts in a wad over the fact that some of us operate in this mode?

On a personal, professional and national level, emotion is always the point man in disastrous patrols. Take the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) -- based mostly on emotional reactions and decisions, leaving us flummoxed when our troops are devastated by IEDs. A logical analysis would have predicted this event.

Emotions are something to be wary of, and examined in the light of cold logic.


Land of Goshen

Then the Lord your God will prosper you
abundantly in all the work of your hand

Deuteronomy 30:9

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,

or what's a heaven for?

--Men and Women
, Robert Browning

That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff
while you go out and get more stuff!
--Stuff, George Carlin

There are a few things that are self evident in these United States, and one of them is that most people are drowning in their stuff. They have rooms and closets cordoned off for its storage, and even buy sheds and rent square footage in other people's storage facilities in which to store their stuff.

"Buying Clubs" have encouraged the construct of laying up goods, inculcating a paranoid squirrel mentality in their members. I know of a family who own a very lovely home, but for whom several rooms are simply storage depots for 48-count paper towel packages from Costco. They live in a small room with Barcoloungers and t.v., secure beside their private PX.

Such people have become professional quartermasters or pursers, leading to one of the U.S.'s largest exports -- "used clothing." We have been told to go out there and shop -- it's good for our recessed economy. Yet we do not in good faith need what we already have, and buying it on credit is in part what has landed us here.

Ranger lives as simply as anyone, yet even he lives in excess. Our wants exceed our needs. The Seven Deadly Sins have been transvalued -- greed and gluttony have become positives. Frugality in America is the First Deadly sin. We are the shopping nation, forever and ever, amen.

We read with curiosity books on simplicity, about people like the Dalai Lama who wears that same saffron robe every time, and hope magazines like Real Simple will help us get it down.
Yet this urge to purge is countered by our leader's directives to get out there and buy.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government will continue to print money and send it downwind, and Ranger will continue to re-sole his shoes.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Institutional Thinking

Dwayne Booth, Mr. Fish

--I don't know anything about public relations.

--Who does? You've got a clean shirt and you bathe everyday.

That's all there is to it

--The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

The centrists insist on comforting the comfortable

while afflicting the afflicted

The Destructive Center, Paul Krugman

We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle,

having blundered in the control of a delicate machine,

the working of which we do not understand

--John Maynard Keynes (1930)


In the USA there is a quaint notion that we elect our government, and we thereby can control policy via the exercise of the franchise.

However, there is a large bureaucracy called the Civil Service System, along with the excepted service of the spook and legal agencies. Add to this the burgeoning Homeland Security Agency and the Department of Defense (DoD) and you have an amoebic-like mass of entrenched power.

The President is supposed to be our chief foreign policy authority, yet DoD and the Department of State implement long-term programs which dictate policy and often hamstring any new directions the leader may wish to take.

The DoS and DoD are influenced by their members' institutional biases, specifically, Ivy League Schools and West Point, Annapolis and other military affiliations. Because of these standardized influences, policy mindset is entrenched, and very little shifts over time (Obama Assembles an Ivy-Tinged League.)

While the Ivy League outlook is more liberal than that of the military academies, there remains the belief that
the U.S. is always right, is the best, and is obliged to exert influence upon one and all, like missionaries spreading the gospel.

It is also accepted that our actions are always based in certitude. The military take adds the idea of thoroughly stomping any country that gets in our way. Morality is sometimes subjugated to fealty to execution of orders.

In the last century, the preponderance of judicial, executive and DoS and DoD leaders were products of this system. All of our Presidents were former military officers, Ivy League and/or West Point Point grads. While Obama promises change, he is just the next link in a long chain:

FDR: Ivy League (IL)
Truman: Former Officer (FO)
Eisenhower: West Point (WP) + FO

Kennedy: IL + FO

Nixon: FO
Ford: FO
Carter: Annapolis + FO
Reagan: FO [sort of]

Clinton: IL

GWB: IL + FO [sort of]


While I'm not arguing leaders arise from Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical, the point is that our leaders share an institutional bias and fellowship, removing them from the experience of the average American. It leads to stereotypical thinking in our elected officials.

We have so many wars because we elect aggressive and elitist leaders, ideologies they learn in the elite Ivy League and military academies.

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