RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2009 <

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Good German

--Thanks from a Grateful Nation,
h/t to reader Underground Carpenter

Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,

Talk about things you'd like to do.

You got to have a dream,

If you don't have a dream

How you gonna have a dream come true?

--Happy Talk
, South Pacific

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;

Other times I can barely see.

Lately it occurs to me,
What a long, strange trip it's been

, Grateful Dead

[This wonderful road sign outside of Las Vegas was snapped by faithful reader Underground Carpenter. It strikes us all a little funny that the veterans of the GWOT only rate a highway "segment", but we guess everything's in short supply these days. Salut.]

The recent resignation of Foreign Service officer and former Marine Matthew Hoh shows the invalidity and misapplication of Counterinsurgency policy in the U.S.'s approach to warfare in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©).

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.

A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed (U.S. Official resigns Over Afghan War).

If a former Captain is the senior U.S. State Department civilian at province level, then we are hurting.
Former Captains lack the experience level to be anything other than Captains; they should not be tapped as senior U.S. officials. It is doubtful that a Lieutenant Colonel (05) would be sophisticated enough to fulfill this function.

Said Hoh in a bizarre interview statement, sounding every bit a character from The Forgiven:

"There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed," he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. "I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys."

A senior State department official heartily endorsing killing is not a way forward. When State Department officials think and talk like Marine Captains, we are on shaky ground. Department of State and Department of defense are supposed to be separate agencies. When killing is happy talk, that person should not be at State. One must wonder if this gung-ho attitude has become de riguer at DoS.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

Why has nobody resigned because the war has become a criminal endeavor? Mr. Hoh accepts the premise that the war is justified; he is merely questioning the why's and wherefore's. But like everyone else, he clearly accepts the "how" of the war. The entire debate is about
how versus why.

"Why" should precede the acceptance or obtaining of strategic or tactical objectives. the how's and why's will never tally up because the war is neither just nor proportional, nor does it address the security concerns of America. Fighting in Afghanistan's insurgent civil war is not justifiable for the U.S. in any rational discussion.

"At one point," Hoh said, "I employed up to 5,000 Iraqis" handing out tens of millions of dollars in cash to construct roads and mosques. His program was one of the few later praised as a success by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

This is a point beyond rationalization. We the American people pay taxes to buy services administered by government. We pay taxes to perpetuate our lives and value systems.
One of these is the separation of church and state. Yet here we have Mr. Hoh stating that our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent to contruct -- mosques?

How strange and bizarre is that? We are fighting phony wars supposedly fighting Islamic extremism, which is propogated in islamic mosques by extremist Imams, so what do we do?
Build more mosques, which help perpetuate the cycle and violates the concept of separation of church and state which our democracy holds so sacrosanct.

Why does the U.S. electorate accept this insanity?

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Pink Houses

And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors
Departed, have left no addresses

--The Waste Land
, T. S. Eliot

I'm sitting down by the highway

Down by that highway side
Everybody's going somewhere
Riding just as fast as they can ride

--Your Bright Baby Blues
, Jackson Browne

The federal deficit sits at $1.42 trillion, a figure greater than the total national debt for the first 200 years of the Republic. Our debt is greater than the entire economy of India.

Meanwhile we pursue our endless wars to shed our grace on the sandbox nations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we
can't seem to give houses away in our blighted-but-once-thriving city of Detroit (Detroit House Auction Flops for Urban Wasteland):

Despite a minimum bid of $500, less than a fifth of the Detroit land was sold after four days.

The county had no estimate of how much was raised by the auction, a second attempt to sell property that had failed to find buyers for the full amount of back taxes in September.

The unsold parcels add to an expanding ghost town within the once-vibrant town known worldwide as the Motor City.

The number of houses in default in Detroit has more than tripled since 2007, and is expected rise. The homes being auctioned represented only the 2006 foreclosure rolls, well before the worst of the economic downturn (GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy this year.)

The number of U.S. homes in foreclosure rose to 938,000 in the July-September quarter, up 5% from the previous quarter (U.S. Foreclosure Filings Rose in Third Quarter). Combined with unemployment rates at a 26-year high, foreclosures are projected to hit 3.5 million this year. Funny thing to have happen on the way to a rosier economy, news of which greets us each day in the papers.

Even if the homes were given away, the poor and underemployed would not be able to cover the maintenance and taxes; that's how this mess started in the first place. Well, perhaps it is some solace that we are kicking about trying to improve some wasteland, somewhere. So Detroit withers away. Buh-bye.

On an upnote: We hear cycling among the ruins in Detroit has become something of a biker's paradise. You see, the lack of civic activity provides for untrafficked boulevards. Broken glass can be a problem, but if you outfit your mountain bike with Kevlar Panaracers, you should be o.k. Weapon suggested.

Why doesn't real estate in Kabul and Baghdad suffer such indignities of neglect? Perhaps if the denizens of Detroit formed proper militias, the U.S. government would turn their sights there, and do more than sympathize with the abysmal plight of our citizens.

Where will Toledo, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland and Detroit get the funds to update their dilapidated infrastructures? Where is the Coalition of the Willing which will save our citizens?

The financial institutions of America are as brutal to the American dispossessed as the Taliban are to the average Afghan citizen.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Predatory Advertising

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math

Ranger does not play Lotto because it is a sucker's game operated by a corrupt state government designed to siphon money from desperate citizens who see no other way out of their financial straights, shy of robbing a zippy mart.

Ergo, they play lotto with the illusory hope of salvation caused by nothing but a crack at random luck and happenstance. Adverts for Lotto invite the unwitting saps to Play to Win. Nothing but a game, and how dangerous can that be, except when the desperate participants lay down $50 at a time, a sizable chunk of a week's earnings.

The actions of the state are deplorable and unconscionable. The television ads
always stress what you can win, but never mention the infinitesimal odds of actually winning any of the money going into the vampire-like state system.

Where in the Constitution is there implied or stated authority for the state to gather revenue through gambling? Gambling is gambling, even when state-sanctioned. If it is illegal for the Mafia to run numbers, then so too should it be for the state. The state should be held to a higher standard than is organized crime.

When this type of advertising is used by salesmen, disclaimers are always present along with related consumers affairs information. Why is the state Lotto Commission exempt from truthful disclosure in their predatory advertising?

With the cheery colors and confetti and official logos, these ads must seems to many to have the imprimatur of the state. Is it too much to suggest that these insistent ads pitch an aspect of wholesomeness, much as if they were the state Department of Children and Families or any other such agency constituted to help the citizens?

When state governments prey upon the poor
and dispossessed, then it is clear that the American dream is a 22 million-to-one long shot.
Would any rich investor buy a stock with a 22 million:1 chance of success?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

You're above the System. Over it.

Beyond it. We're "them." We're "they."

We are the Men in Black

--Men in Black

Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession.

I have come to realize

that it bears a very close resemblance to the first

--President Ronald Reagan

Well, we're off, we're off, we're off!

I'll tell you what it is! (what is it God dang is!?)

It's some kinda Texas psychobilly freakout, that's what it is!

--Psychobilly Freakout
, Reverend Horton Heat

America is a nation that bases its national policies and life upon denial of truth and the acceptance of lies. Our policy is to lie, and our lies are our policies.

Some of our guiding myths are:

  • The government exists for the benefit of the people
  • Deficit spending will solve all of our problems
  • Taxation rates in our nation are lower than those in socialistic states like England, Sweden, Norway, etc.
  • The government can spend us out of recession and depression

Let's discuss:

Government of, by and for the people does not exists anywhere except on paper. Elective government doesn't work because we elect people that are likable and who resemble us.

This means they can't even conceptualize what $787 Billion in a stimulus program means, or even what it looks like. Our legislators can't imagine what a trillion dollar war deficit actually means. Our lawmakers are just like us: They haven't got a clue, but unlike Ranger, they will not admit their ignorance.

Local officials are equally uninformed, and the city and county managers do some fancy footwork to keep things running, despite our politicians. Spending money that you do not have is not a policy that can be successful on any level.

In the past, the U.S. could squeak by with this fallacious thinking because we were an expanding and growing nation. No longer the case, we must now shift our thinking and jar our senses into pursuing realistic goals. Contraction rather than expansion is a necessary turn. The nature of our curent status requires it. This is not your dad's post-WWII America.

When one defies nature, famines result; to defy economic realities is to court national disaster. You cannot spend money you don't have and cannot pay back, and expect to prosper.
We are a nation in production contraction, not expansion.

The fact is, the actual U.S. tax rate is higher than that of the socialist countries we denigrate. If we consider the costs of servicing our national debt, the monies that we spend are concealed from our oversight, but that does not mean they are not real. It still comes out of our pockets -- it is just deferred.

Let's get back to what Ranger knows best -- walking a trail and tactical movement. When in combat and moving to contact, it is a fact that the easiest trail is always the most dangerous. Our leaders always take us down the easiest trails because we want them to, but it always leads to disaster.

The U.S. would be better served if we raised taxes, while curbing government spending. The leaders of both parties are leading the American citizens down the aisle leading to the slaughterhouse. Judas goats are not leaders.

Don't smoke 'em if you don't got 'em.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Desperate Wives

Even people spooked by guns will be drawn
into the search for new tools of destruction

--Video game report,
Tallahassee Democrat Limelight

Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters.

Most of the smart ones get away

--Ethan Frome
, Edith Wharton

I can't get
Any rest
People say
I'm obsessed

--She Drives Me Crazy,

Fine Young Cannibals


Whilst visiting the far-flung regions of Jacksonville, Ranger had the occasion to stay at an upscale motel for a couple of days and experience America in all its glory.

In the business center checking the news, he had occasion to witness five fine young cannibals playing a violent video game. One said animatedly, "It's really neat to cut off their heads and stick spears into people." The others nodded in agreement. Ranger left, but not before offering, "You are some sick puppies if you think cutting off heads is neat." End of story -- almost.

Proceeding to breakfast, he overheard the three young mothers equally animatedly discussing the colors of their toe nail polish (true!) Breakfast continued until one of the daughters walked by my table and deposited her dirty glass upon it. The garbage can was three feet away.

Ranger stood up and stared directly at the girl until the mother said, "The gentleman is upset about something." In explanation he described the video games and the glass, to which the mother replied, "My boy is a good boy!" And indeed, in today's society they are probably sterling examples, and would probably never execute a Columbine-type shooting. Maybe.

Where does this start, and where does it end? Television is full of Jerry Springer-type nastiness -- the abject end of respect for one's fellows, replete with slap downs, wrestling and cage fighting. Reality t.v. encourages nasty behavior and rewards it with prizes. We have moved the Roman Circus to prime time.
The huge market of fantasy kill games glorifying murder are but an outgrowth of a society which disdains and ostracizes the losers.

We celebrate when stealth bombs snuff out human life, but cry when the Twin Towers fall. Death is death, but we do not find it equally hideous in its application.
What is the difference between cutting off heads in video games and remotely piloting drones that kill people in a really neat, precision manner? If you don't have to see it and smell it, it is all rather, surgical, isn't it?

The America that was my pride no longer exists. Or perhaps, the America that I thought was my pride no longer exists. The U.S. is on a cultural bobsled ride, and it is not over until we hit the bottom of the run.

The judgment will be that Ranger is a grouchy old fart out of touch with reality. If participating in this behavior is being in the game, Ranger prefers the sidelines.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Free For All

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong

Was I unwise to leave them open for so long

--Doctor My Eyes
, Jackson Brown

Ranger is not very interested in the topics of medical insurance reform or the universal health issue, but he is interested in the health care promise to veterans.

President Obama is investing a lot of energy and political capital into these issues, at the expense of our two theatres of military action. Why doesn't he inform the taxpayers about why their money is flowing to endless wars, rather than engaging in obscurantism and telling them his health care plans won't cost them a red cent?

We would like some justifications for the continuance of the wars, rather than distraction with other less pressing issues. Even David Letterman quipped that we discuss health care financing, but never question war financing. The latter is accepted as a given, a necessity.

The federal government currently provides neither medical coverage nor health insurance for all veterans. Vets are prioritized due to funding restrictions, and have financial means testing as a discriminator to determine priorities of treatment.
If the government cannot find the money to medically treat all honorably discharged veterans, then where is the money coming from to cover medical care for all Americans?

We are extremely sympathetic to the universal health care concept, but everybody is not going to get everything for free, nor can it be paid for if there is not a funding source. The truth is, to have a viable universal health coverage, we will pay higher taxes, a word anathema to the average U.S. citizen.

On the other hand, veterans earned their health care through their service. After they are discharged, they learn the country they served, to include combat duty, is slipping them a shabby deal. Before the U.S. starts new health insurance programs funded with tax dollars, there should be comprehensive medical care for veterans, care that they were promised and services they have earned.

We do not want free health care, we want what we paid for with our service. Obama is simply following a path firmly established in both legislatures, whether Democratically or Republican-controlled. Both parties continue to neglect the big veterans issues by throwing us little bones with promises of better funding to come.

Some people believe the rhetoric, but it's time to open our eyes.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Dart to the Heart

Some folks you don't have to satirize,
you just quote 'em

--Tom Paxton

In a free and republican government,

you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude.

Every man will speak as he thinks

or more properly, without thinking.

--George Washington

A bullet to the heart

is worth two in the bush

--Ranger Hruska


There is a doctrinal disconnect in the use of the basic rifle (M4) and squad and platoon level machine guns (MG).

The individual rifle has characteristics which limit its use in both the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©) and conventional combat. The design limitations of our weapons are not being considered when training the troops, leading to unnecessary deaths for U.S. forces.

Recent Army experience shows that troops are experiencing stoppages and malfunctions in prolonged fighting scenarios -- the rifle overheats and/or fails to operate. The MG's also overheat and cease to be operational.
The problems are due to weapons characteristics and/or training deficiencies.

Weapons characteristics: The U.S. systems are based upon war fighting considerations. The MG is designed to quick change the barrel in combat before it overheats, rendering the unit inoperational. The M240 and M249 have quick change barrels, so overheating and chamber welds should not happen, even in extended actions.

The above is true if the gunners/assistant gunners carry extra barrels and service the weapon, honoring the designation, "crew-served weapon". In addition, the ammunition must be kept clean, dry and protected from contamination.

The rifle will overheat if fired excessively in combat or range firings. Both individual and crew-served have extreme operational limits which can be ameliorated by training.

Training deficiencies:
The U.S. Army is organized and equipped to fight theatre level scenarios. The PWOT is an unexpected scenario, and the Army simply applied a tactical tool to an insurgency environment. The Army is designed to fight other similarly arrayed forces, so our training emphasizes volume of fire and fire superiority. This is relevant in attack/defense environments on the conventional battlefield. Volume of fire is the key to winning, but not in counterinsurgency scenarios.

When platoons and companies operate independently against similar sized opposition forces not supported by normal national army assets, then we have problems. At Wanat, the defenders had a winning hand but they violated doctrine:
  • They overheated their weapons
  • They were defending non-defensible terrain
  • They underutilized or improperly placed their organic mortar assets
All of these deficiencies could be overcome by leadership and training, but this presumes the leaders possess the requisite skills to impart to the troops.

Volume of fire and firing weapons at their maximum rate is not wise unless employing final protective fires (FPF). FPF is only used when it is clear that the final assault is being pressed. Firing weapons excessively at max is an invitation to disaster. Why did the MG's overheat? Were the barrels not changed in a timely manner?

Training should teach soldiers to fire at selected distant targets; simply putting out fire is not an effective infantry tactic. In the defense, each team member should fire selectively on semi-auto.

Easy to say, hard to do, but this is why we have professional soldiers paid to do hard jobs in hard environments.

Speaking as a former infantryman, it would be preferable to give the troops bolt-action rifles that shoot every time rather than full auto weapons that malfunction at critical times. This is not said frivolously.
In a COIN environment this would be an acceptable modification consideration. Another modification would be to issue only semi-auto versions of the M4 to all troops in the COIN environment backed up by normal MG's and battalion level weapons.

If a U.S. Platoon or Company cannot defeat 3:1 when defending, then the Army needs some serious reconfiguring.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Spray and Pray

Not every Taliban is an extremist ally
--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton


A recent commenter on RAW stated that the AK-47 was the cause leading to the defeat of worldwide colonialism. This started Ranger to consider the idea.

In Ludwig Olsen's book,"The Mauser Rifle" was a poster
from the Boer War which stated (from the Boer perspective), "God and Mauser made us free." Before this war, the British Army controlled their colonies through riflery and backed it up by cold steel, which was a result of training and discipline

The Mauser rifle ended this era by putting long-range rifles into the hands of non-professional soldiers. “
Vertrou in God en die Mauser!” This was the death knell for colonialism, but it took a while to play out. the AK simply ended the trend started by the Mauser rifle.

In truth, Ranger believes that any force today armed with Mauser rifles would give a good account of themselves in a counterinsurgency environment. Full auto weapons are not necessary: More soldiers were killed in Iraq by improvised explosive devices (IED's) than by rifle fire. The rifle is not the centerpiece of modern insurgencies; it is but a building block.

The central tools of present insurgencies are the video cam, television uplink and computer and cell phone-generated images. Present-day insurgencies and terrorism are the direct descendants of such technologies. Building large armies and police forces ignore this reality.

Weapons will not defeat ideas. And firepower is useless unless the adversary can be found and fixed.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dead Space

Marine mortarmen on Fox Hill in the Toktong Pass
phase of the Battle of the
Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War
[cribbed from Gordon and Fixer at Alternate Brain]

Ranger Definition of the Day:
COIN [n]: The tunnel at the end of the light

In war, truth is the first casualty


Your cheap words that you brought on sale

Won't help you through tonight

--Dead Sound
, Raveonettes

This entry is about mortars and their use, or misuse, in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

As stated previously, mortars -- either 60/81/4.2" -- are some of the best support that an engaged
infantryman can hope to utilize. Mortars are commonly called "hip-pocket"artillery, and are organic to the infantry battalions. This means that they are responsive and are part of the engaged unit's TO & E, which translates out to trust.

These mortar men are fellow unit members and they are effective when properly utilized. The problem is that the U.S. Army has lost, or shuns, this skill set.

For readers without military training, here is a gloss: Mortars are indirect fire weapons that actually lob a mortar bomb a great distance. These are crew-served weapons requiring teamwork to be employed effectively. They must be properly emplaced and defended so that
they may affect the fight by covering dead spaces in the direct fire weapons coverage.

When a U.S. unit at any level is defending, then it can be a hasty or a planned defense. In either case, the unit should do an integrated comprehensive fire plan to include all organic assets. Additional air and artillery assets should be added frosting on the cake.

With direct fire, you must see them to hit them as bullets follow line of vision, flat eye-to-target trajectory. The exception to this is final protective fire, in which pre-planned defensive fires are projected without aiming at specific targets. The idea is to kill anything 6" to 70" off the ground. Mortars cover the dead space that bullets cannot reach: Ditches, hollows, etc.

Mortars may not be being effectively employed because the easy fix is to use the 203/40 mm grenade launcher to fulfill the function. But the effectiveness is limited because these grenades cannot reach objective rally points, avenues of approach and attack positions prior to the final assault.

Sometimes, the best way to win a fight is not to fight it. This can be achieved via judicious use of assigned mortars to break up attacks before they happen. This requires savvy combat experience and leadership.

Over years of discussions with young old soldiers alike, Ranger has generally met with resistance against the use of mortars. Perhaps lack of training accounts for their lack of understanding of the
flexibility of the mortar as a synergistic combat multiplier.

In Mogadishu, if Shughart and Gordon had mortar support they would probably be alive today. When the Army requires soldiers to live and die solely by the rifle and machine gun, then the craft of war fighting has devolved, and combat has become a dull brawl open to any outcome.

In the recent fight in Afghanistan in which eight U.S. soldiers were killed, the other side effectively used mortars during the assault and in general support of the entire operation. News reports routinely support effective mortar attacks employed by the opposition forces.
(The action is covered well here at MinstrelBoy: "U.S. Ignored Warnings before Deadly Afghan Attack.")

They are not fighting as insurgents, but rather as an integrated combat force with experience and discipline, and the ability to press a planned ground assault This was not a hasty assault. The U.S. is fighting as COIN, while they are fighting a real war.

None of our fine military pundits will admit that the opposition will take 3-6 months to prepare the battlefield and the assault. My analysis is that this assault leader is more sophisticated than the defending Battalion Commander. It is obvious this leader prepared the battlefield in depth. If we want to study professionalism, we should study the enemy's action in this battle.

The question is, why are weapons which are being used so effectively for the opponents being marginalized in U.S. operations? This old 11C Ranger would like to know. My bunker is tight, so fire away -- I'm ready for incoming.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Bare Bones

--More Troops in Afghanistan,
Peray (Thailand)

You've got to ask yourself one question:

"Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

--Dirty Harry

One argument from last week's
Time for deploying more troops was,

This is a sound policy. If U.S. forces were not in Afghanistan, the Taliban, with its al-Qaeda allies in tow, would seize control of the country's south and east and might even take it over entirely. A senior Afghan politician told me that the Taliban would be in Kabul within 24 hours without the presence of international forces. This is not because the Taliban is so strong; generous estimates suggest it numbers no more than 20,000 fighters. It is because the Afghan government and the 90,000-man Afghan army are still so weak ("Two Arguments for What to Do in Afghanistan".)

Assuming the Taliban has the capacity to take Kabul if U.S. forces were absent: If, after eight years of phony war the Taliban with their 20,000 fighters could defeat the 90,000-man strong Afghan Army + a larger national police force, then Ranger says -- let 'em.

The war in Afghanistan boils down to one significant question:
Do we believe in freedom and self-determination, or don't we? Yes, the Taliban consists of repressive fundamentalists representing values that are repugnant to most U.S. sensibilities, but then again, our regional allies share many of these characteristic identifiers.

The number of Taliban
fighters is estimated between 10-20,000, and depending on the news source the dirty nasty al-Qaeda and generic foreign fighters are also thrown in for good measure. But the unanswered question is: Where do 10-20,000 fighters get their munitions, rations, weapons, clothing, transportation, medical support and battlefield intelligence?

Being anti-government does not just happen.
Contrary to the report that Afghans do not favor the Taliban,
someone is supporting them. This is a fact that is conveniently omitted from our canned news coverage of the war.

If the Talibs have 10-20,000 fighters, this is merely the "tip of the spear." All fighting hierarchies show the same pyramidal scheme. The ratio of fighters to support is always skewed, with
the support always outnumbering the fighters. In a counterinsurgency environment, the U.S. addresses this weakness by contracting out and using assigned troops outside of their military occupational specialties (MOS).

The anti-government forces do this by streamlining unit organization and multi-tasking. But for every Talib fighter there are at least 10 active supporters and 10-30 passive supporters. This is a fact seldom discussed: The Taliban have a solid base of support, and the U.S. military can't kill them all.

If the people desire the Taliban, then this is self-determination, and U.S. policy should not oppose this fact. If the Karzai government is a fiction that cannot stand on its own, then it has no legitimate right to exist.

COIN policy is deceitful when support for non-sustainable governments is presented to the American public as a War on Terror. Ranger lives in an alternate universe from the COINistas and the counterterrorism advocates. Neither al-Qaeda nor a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan have any significance when assessing U.S. national survival.

We Americans institutionally and personally believe that all problems can be fixed or overcome, but there are some that are insoluble. A can-do attitude does not change this fact.

Our problems are much closer to home.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Through the Past Darkly

--Peray (Thailand)

Nearly all men can stand adversity,

but if you want to test a man's character

give him power

--George Washington

You've got to pick up every stitch
The rabbits running in the ditch,

Oh no, must be the season of the witch

--The Season of the Witch
, Donovan


Ranger doesn't discuss conspiracy theory because doing so leads to derogatory comments, and one becomes slotted with the wingnuts, either right or left.

"The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11" by David Ray Griffin delves into some gray areas, but it poses some questions worthy of consideration. Our question is, why didn't the 9-11 Commission ask some of the same questions as Griffin? A report that skirts the hard questions is hardly a vigorous report.

Griffin notes that Max Cleland's criticism of the 9-11 Commission and Bush's involvement and interference with the project cost him his bid for the Senate reelection. The questions the author poses should be required reading for understanding the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

Along the lines of botched investigations into terrorist incidents, it was recently revealed that sections of the Oklahoma City Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had been edited, specifically, 10 minutes of surveillance tape were deleted on several tapes prior to the 9:02 a.m. explosion (Where are you, Rose Mary Woods?)
"Long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited, an attorney who obtained the recordings said Sunday." (Attorney: Tapes From Oklahoma City Bombing Edited.)

Why did it take a FOIA lawsuit and 14 years to release these tapes? If only two people were involved in the bombing, then what purpose did classification fulfill? Why is everything these days classified Top Secret and deemed essential to national security?

Tapes from four different security cameras all have blackouts in the minutes leading up to the explosion. Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney and brother of one of the victims who sued for release of the films said, "The absence of footage from these crucial time intervals is evidence that there is something there that the FBI doesn't want anybody to see."

Yet more conspiracy: The UK Daily Mail speculates Osama Bin Laden -- the reason for the season, after all -- has been dead for seven years (Has Osama Bin Laden Been dead for Seven Years?) If so, the natural conclusion would be that the U.S. and Britain are covering this supposed fact up to justify the war's continuance.

Since Ranger doesn't dabble in conspiracy theory, this info is presented for thought purposes, only. But too many unanswered questions remain unanswered surrounding terrorism and U.S. policy relating to the topic.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turtle Dreams

Turtle netsuke

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,

Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.

A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.

The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.

The turtles had everything turtles might need.

And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were... until Yertle, the king of them all,

Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.

"I'm ruler", said Yertle, "of all that I see.

But I don't see enough. That's the trouble with me.

--Yertle the Turtle
, Dr. Seuss

Oh, can't anybody see,

We've got a war to fight,

Never found our way,

Regardless of what they say

--The Road
, Portishead

Why do turtles cross roads? This often pops into mind when swerving to avoid one in transit. Why cross the road? How is one side different from the other?

It then came to mind that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is just like a little turtle crossing a busy road here in the Deep South. To wit:

  • Putting more turtles on point and flank security will not ensure a successful crossing
  • Speeding up will not help, nor will slowing down
  • Pulling in the head under the shell will not ensure a successful crossing
  • Once in the road, going back or forward is exactly the same movement
  • The turtle should ask, "Is the risk of getting squashed worth the trip?"
  • Growing a thicker shell will not facilitate not getting squashed

Turtles cannot solve their little problem with can-do positive attitudes and assertiveness, and studies and review groups. If one is a turtle, it is best to stay off the road.

Piece of Prize

Now that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, will this bring the Prize of Peace to the U.S.?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Discretion Advised

--Levi in Vanity Fair (10.02.09)

Also weak in their minds
Also fake, also blind

Lies and lust and hate

, Front Line Assembly

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,

They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,

Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules,

--Working Class Hero, John Lennon

Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy

Always gettin' so restless, nothin' but trouble

Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy

Leave me feelin' breathless, nothin' but trouble
--Bad Bad Boys, Gloria Estefan

[I love this photo of Levi for the tattoo along his forearm -- "Johnston", just so he wouldn't forget.]

Ranger says babies are "shit making factories." Many continue the behavior into their adulthood, both literally and figuratively. This, is a rant.

It is not that Ranger or any other progenitor is necessarily a bad person, but many are and do produce some unsavory specimens. This has been a week of seeing those results, hence the
turn from my usual upbeat Sunday installment.

The bad behavior shows a predictable arc, from indulged (or neglected) childhood, to entitled adolescence and adulthood. Egocentrism is a normal part of childhood development, but if it is not contained and refined, it explodes into something very ugly.

Kids are mean, and sometimes, it just gets worse. Just ask
Nicolas Godin
, of the duo Air (Air Calls Kids Evil), who was quoted this week in Spinner of his salvation in music: "[Music] was magic when I was in class with all these mean kids 'cause kids are f---ing mean. Everybody loves kids but kids are evil. And I have kids! But it's true."

To begin: the littering ingrates who speed past my door every weekday morning and afternoon, to and from the neighborhood high school. Those in the BMW convertibles kindly slow down to drop their Burger King bags on my front lawn. The rednecks in the jacked up Fords offend with their Cherry Bomb Mufflers and "Dixie-blaring" horns. If I am home during these times, I must wear earplugs

Next, the adult vehicle offenders: Those who block intersections (de riguer, in Tallahassee); those who blare their horns when they violate roundabout rules (we shouldn't have "traffic calming" roundabouts in the U.S. if people aren't taught how to navigate them), and those who are simply oblivious.

I've had to beep at numerous cars this week to even have them see me as they drifted into my lane unawares of my presence. I drive a small car, and was once hit by a cell-phone talking woman in a hulking SUV who said, "I didn't even see you." Well, you didn't even bother to look down from your precipice, did you?

Next are the figurative train wrecks:
Levi to pose nude for Playboy (and here and here.) Alaska's favorite son, Levi Johnston, to be paid for bearing his newly beefed-up body. Levi --what an utter failure. What a bunch of nothing, not even pap.

Ranger's response to hearing the news was, "He's not even a man." (How does that even matter in the realm of skin mags? I thought younger was better?) But Levi the person is not better. The fornicating baby daddy of a wayward once-governor who also shuns her responsibilities seems an unlikely candidate for heartthrob.

Which leads me to wonder: Who and what do we esteem today? Maybe we want ineffectual, non-adults. If so, what does that say about our collective self-esteem?

The UK's Daily Mail speculates, "Taking the pill for past 40 years 'has put women off masculine men
" It argues from a biological perspective that a woman's receptivity to masculinity is down due to her artificially regulated cycles. If so, then the Cherry Bombs are for naught. Maybe the men are becoming like girls, who primp mainly in competition with other women. Maybe our society is becoming perfectly autoerotic.

But that presumes Hollywood is totally responsive to the desires of the audience versus creating that desire. And it presumes girls are the recipients of their mother's proclivities, as they themselves are not necessarily on the Pill. That also presumes a drug causation, and we may be a little too pill-centric.

I look at the aggressive monster truck drivin' rednecks offending me with their blaring gangsta rap or Alabama (a riven lot, those) and search for their counterparts in true masculinity; I come up wanting. We've gone from Steve McQueen and Sean Connery to
Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and Zac Efron.

Maybe everything is a pendulum, of greater or lesser arcs. Maybe we shut down our idealization of the Tough Guy after Vietnam. Maybe a lot of those guys left the game, too. That is not to say they reentered on any more authentic plane. Maybe they just bowed out, as the prototypes they had followed met with disdain and derision.

Where are we now?

There. That feels only slightly better.

[cross-posted at Big Brass Blog]

Friday, October 09, 2009


Prada, 2004, Todd Eberle

Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair

And that you would never leave

--You're So Vain
, Carly Simon

They caught you in the park after dark

giving head to a statue, girl.
Oh, cruel!
--I've Overestimated My Charm (Again),
Black Kids


[Mr. Eberle, my high school nemesis -- you've done well. My congratulations -- Lisa.]

If we anthropomorphized U.S. policy and actions, they would be arrogant, myopic, irrational, self-centered and overbearing.

If they were a person, they would be an intolerable, autistic, immature, preening and irresponsible bully.

This country punishes mature, responsible behavior, and rewards poor, greedy, juvenile, malicious and criminal behavior, across the socio-economic spectrum.

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Like Lambs to Slaughter

To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
--Hamlet (III,i), Shakespeare

“Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?”
And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle
--Like a Lamb to Slaughter, Roald Dahl

Ranger is not an economist. (To read one who is, see Dark Wraith in the sidebar.)

But he sees a simple trend: It does not matter whether the administration is Democratic or Republican, the bottom line is always the same.
We the People are treated as objects which exist solely to provide the money for the Big Guys to play with. We are like Heidegger's Being-as-tool, a perversion of our rightful state of existence.

"The inspector general who oversees the government’s bailout of the banking system [Neil M. Barofsky] is criticizing the Treasury Department for some misleading public statements last fall and raising the possibility that it had unfairly disbursed money to the biggest banks."

"Mr. Barofsky’s office also says that regulators were wrong to tell the public last year that the earliest bailout recipients were all healthy.

"Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., for instance, said on Oct. 14 that the banks were “healthy,” and that they accepted the money for “the good of the U.S. economy.” The banks, he said, would be better able to increase their lending to consumers and businesses.

"In truth, regulators were concerned about the health of several banks that received that first bailout, the inspector general writes."

The inspector general said government officials need to be more careful when describing their actions and rationale. In a letter included with the report, the Federal Reserve concurred with Mr. Barofsky’s concern about the statements made last year, but the Treasury Department said that any review of announcements last year 'must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made' (Report on Bailouts Says Treasury Misled Public.)”

It is the whore's promise:
"Daddy, I'll always love you if you'll buy me this diamond necklace," and we continue to toe the line, feeling we are receiving our rightful due even when we are pinched almost beyond our ability to sustain. We gain an uneasy sleep with Ambien or Lunesta knowing that all is not right, but grateful for the purchase, nonetheless.

When elected and appointed officials are less than truthful and deliberately misleading, how can we pretend we are living in a democracy?

Democracy is not based upon lies.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Border Patrol Agitprop


Ranger saw a Border Patrol advert on television this week. This was not a recruitment ad, but rather depicted the agencies' officers as protecting our way of life.

What gives? Why are our tax dollars being spent on such non-essential items? Do we have funds to waste on such frivolity, or this necessary to encourage the groupthink that will not question the encroachment on our civil liberties?

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Are We in Kansas?


Seldom do we see logic and clarity when the concept of state secrets and the need for uber security arises. In the interest of sharing such a find, the below New York Times letter is reprinted, in toto:

Published: October 4, 2009

To the Editor:

Re “An Incomplete State Secrets Fix” (editorial, Sept. 29):

Please add this to the list of reasons we need legislation to check government use of the state secrets doctrine, which has been asserted by the Bush and Obama administrations to thwart court claims by victims of torture and other illegal government conduct:

The United States is party to the Torture Convention and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Both treaties require member states to provide enforceable remedies for human rights violations. If the United States is to regain its reputation as a credible champion for human rights — indeed, if the United States wants other countries to take seriously the very concept of an international legal order — it must be seen to walk the walk of respect for its own international legal obligations.

Gabor Rona
International Legal Director
Human Rights First
New York, Sept. 29, 2009


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

For Want of a Nail

--Old Shoes, Van Gogh (1887)
Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.
The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Many long years ago

I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you
In worn out shoes
--Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker
Uh-oh! I'm getting.. Happy Feet!
See, every once in a while that happens,
I have no control over it.
Sorry. Okay. We're moving along now
--Steve Martin, SNL
Ranger likes his 18 year-old Florsheims, and not being a spendthrift happily gave them over to his local cobbler when his soles became unhinged from the body (of the shoes). This is a sad tale of a sole for which there is no redemption.

Nick Camechis, the second-generation proprietor of Capitol Shoe Fixery, broke the bad news. The shoes were built on the cusp of Florsheim's conversion to a plastic insole -- one which disallows nailing. The shoe company has joined its fellows in the age of planned obsolescence.

Florsheims no longer have leather insoles, the sort with sturdy nail construction, soles which allow for re-soling. A shoe which allows the wearer to establish a comfortable familiarity with the product. A shoe with which one can carry on a long-term relationship. Now, like so much else, shoes are disposable.

Nick said, "There's nothing substantial holding these shoes together." This little slice of life is indicative of society in general: Everything is slap-dash, held together by glue, lacking nails and real staying power.
We are happy to have these cheap shoes, and no longer expect quality.

According to Nick, in the 1930's there were over 130,000 cobbler shops in the U.S. Compare that with a paltry 7,000 in 2009. Today, there are 3 cobblers in Tallahassee.

So here is a craft industry that provided jobs to many Americans, which is fast becoming obsolete. Like so many of our household items, shoes are now cheap and roughly-made, so why fix them? U.S. citizens no longer demand craftsmanship -- cheap garbage is the watchword, as long as it will do, for a while.

It is upon this
philosophy we have built Walmart lives. More is better, not better is better. Hence our lust for more square footage of particle board houses which will begin their decay soon after the mortgage is signed. Gone are the days of reasonably-sized craftsman houses worthy of the name. Just Super-Size Me, thanks.

Ranger is waxing nostalgic, viewing America as something no longer recognizable to him. Things are made to be tossed. This may be the fate of all creations of man, but the cycle seems to be shortening.

We wonder how long our glue is gonna hold.

Note: I just discovered photographer friend Zoriah did a feature on recycling in Cuba, which is an eloquent counterpoint to our disposable lifestyles. It is worth a look:


Monday, October 05, 2009

Darkness at Noon

War is a ritual, a deadly ritual,
not the result of aggressive self-assertion,
but of self-transcending identification.
Without loyalty to tribe, church, flag or ideal,
there would be no wars

--Darkness at Noon
, Arthur Koestler


The Guantanamo Bay detention facilities remain an open sore indicting our inappropriate and illegal response to the perceived terror threat.

Undoubtedly there are some serious criminal elements which target American interests worldwide. Even so, what about the ones held at Gitmo without a glimmer of judicial relief -- either for themm or for us?

Americans expect and need a fair and equitable court system, one which offers liberty and justice for
all, no exceptions. Suspected terrorists are not beyond this concept. Liberty is applied blindly, without regard to any predispositions.

USAToday considers the Gitmo quagmire:

At the top of the list is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of 9/11. Trying him and others in the U.S. justice system could be problematic for reasons that include the inadmissibility of some evidence (because it was obtained under torture, is hearsay and so on). And what to do with anyone found not guilty? (Guantanamo Blame Game).

The last sentence is the crux of the biscuit. If one is not guilty, the answer to the question of one's legal status is axiomatic. In our legal system, if one is found not guilty, one is released from custody. What could be simpler?

A case like that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would seem to be simple, as he is portrayed as a really bad guy. But is he really? We are all innocent until proven guilty, and trial by newspaper is not a judicial event. The proof against KSM has not been forthcoming. Evidence must follow evidentiary rules. Furthermore, torture and years spent incarcerated awaiting trial are not elements of U.S. jurisprudence.

If KSM is a bad man, then he should have been tried immediately after capture. Why wasn't he? Instead he was spirited away to secret sites and subjected to Skull and Crossbones initiation rights. Clearly, he was tortured. How could KSM ever receive a fair trial in a U.S. courtroom today?

A bigger question than what to do after these inmates are found not guilty is: How will we handle the civil suits which will most certainly arise, including denial of civil rights, illegal imprisonment and torture? Then what?

The "worst-of-the-worst" are probably being held in super-secret isolation because they know too much, rather than merely what they know. It is a big lie to say they cannot get an open trial because of national security concerns. The trials would concern 9-11-01 and the plans and related operations. This is not operational or strategic security. This is merely historical data at this point.

Ranger's solution:
Forget the trial. Let Yoo, Addington, Wolfowitz, Tenet et. al. form up a firing quad and just shoot them. Dick Cheney would be the honorary color guard. This would be done at midnight, to ensure that we stay on the Dark Side.

But seriously folks -- What progress have we seen since George Bush was replaced by Obama?

We are still up to our asses in alligators, and no one is trying to drain the swamp.

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