Monday, April 30, 2012

My War

--h/t Deryle

"Quit smiling. What are you smiling for?

This is an arrest." This is your mug shot,

not your prom photo. I was smiling from
my government will not disappear me
--Peace Demonstration
Maxine Hong Kingston

Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it
--George Santayana

Lt. Stanley McChrystal enters an army in the late 70's

that is broken, riddled with drugs and race problems.

The soldiers aren't very good:

a collection of drunks, dirtbags,

junkies and scammers.

--The Operators
, Michael Hastings (171)

Ranger has noticed a dismissive attitude toward the United States Army that fought in Vietnam, particularly at the Bad Boy lad's sites. He is not sure the reason for the snitty attitudes, but it seems like the lads doth protest too much. Their attitude ranges from supercilious to dismissive, implying that the U.S. experience in Vietnam is passe, and today's ranks are far superior in technology, doctrine, etc.

This arrogance of dismissing the recent past as Old School and no longer relevant is short-sighted and dangerous. Wars are not fought
ex nihilo, and that certainly holds for today's supposed efforts at Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Counterterrorism (CT).

Today's military can focus on Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) and pretend that it is a real war, when it is actually (fill in the blank.) In fact, today's Army has slack that we did not have in the 1960's and 70's, despite the rhetoric of how the last decade's stress has been so professionally addressed.

The U.S. fought a war in the Republic of Vietnam while also being deployed to address the Warsaw Pact. My service in Vietnam was preceded by a line Infantry assignment facing this threat on the German border
-- these were real threats. Today, the U.S. faces no such opponent.

As for combat ability, today's Army (USMC) has not fought any battles against hardcore enemy Battalions, Regiments or Divisions. The RVN battles against enemy units with organic artillery and severe unit discipline are legend. Enemy supply columns actually rolled down the Ho Chi Minh Trail like rush hour traffic in downtown Baghdad.
The enemy had the "division slice" of support for their operations, to include timely and accurate intelligence on U.S. intentions and capabilities.

The enemy in Vietnam had the will, the capability and the intent to prepare the battlefield at higher echelons, something unheard of in the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©). The threat faced in Vietnam was real and vicious ... what equivalent did we see after the fall of Baghdad or the months following the invasion of Afghanistan? The Taliban has no Regimental or above combat capabilities.

Per U.S. forces, we had one echelon above Corps, meaning we had a real Theatre Army scenario, to include a Theatre Army Commander with Corps supporting. This means not only did we have Theatre - Corps - Division assets, but we also had the on-call abilities of the RVN forces including all of the usual suspects: Artillery, Aviation, Combat Support and Combat Service Support. We operated as an Army, not as door-kicking combat Brigades sans higher assets.

So what's the reason for the dismissive attitude toward my Army as being anything less than professional?
Where is the evidence that any draftee fought less professionally than did the forces in the PWOT? From whence this lack of fraternity?

The troops in the Vietnam War were largely draftees and they earned their battle streamers with the same valor as did troops in all previous U.S. wars. What battles in Afghanistan or Iraq demonstrated the level of violence experienced by the Infantry units in the Vietnam War?

Further, there is a logical fallacy built into the argument of the Old Army detractors who say the 60's and 70's Army was "amateurish". If that is so, then we must accept that the Warsaw Pact was neutralized by a bunch of quacks. The next illogical step is to believe that today's professional volunteer force is totally responsible for the defeat of al Qaeda, despite the fact that less than 200 al Qaeda operatives exist worldwide (per former Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta.)

Framing the argument qua the Andrew Exum crowd, a crowd of amateurs defended the U.S. against Warsaw Pact with thousands of tanks, artillery pieces and millions of soldiers, while we are now ably protected against a laughable threat by the New Warriors.

Taking their argument to its logical ends, one must also believe the military leadership during the 60's was also incompetent, though carrying experience from two wars before assuming leadership in Vietnam. Contrast that with the present day Professional Army which sports a dearth of combat experience at the highest levels. The depth of experience was greater in Ranger's time frame than it is today, contrary to the hype.

And this is why we need poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan (though the Bushmills tap will always flow.)

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Few, The Proud, The Fetus Lovers

I saw Jesus at McDonald's at midnight...

He said he wasn't doing alright

He said he didn't feel so fine fine fine

--Jesus at McDonald's
, Mojo Nixon

"Christians - can't live with them

can't throw them to the lions anymore"

--Bumper Sticker Wisdom:

America's Pulpit Above the Tailpipe


A tidbit, a trifle, a Sunday Homily in a bumper sticker combo:

This killer duo was seen in town recently:

[1] Abortion is a Killer Choice

[2] USMC Insignia

There seems to be a slight conflict in message here. To borrow from Ms. Stein, a killer, is a killer, is a killer, no?

We couldn't find the actual sticker online, but instead found the winning non-sequiturs below --

Here's wishing you a Sunday free of conflict in mind or bumper sticker.


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Friday, April 27, 2012

War Path

We owe God a death
Henry IV, Part 2

Not even God can change the past

--The Betrayal of America,
Vincent Bugliosi

Hence we can have no standing armies for defense,

because we have no paupers
to furnish the materials
--Thomas Jefferson

Fascism will come to America

in the name of anti-fascism.

I'm afraid, based on my own long experience,

that fascism will come to America

in the name of national security

--Sen. Huey Long


Our endless "Long Wars" pose the question: "What does America stand for?" Who are we, and what are out core values? Are our domestic and foreign policies in accord?

Why do we fight wars?

1914 saw the start of a Big War which grew out of an assassination which kicked into play interlocking treaties and alliances. The United States was neutral at the inception, having no treaty obligations to any of the belligerents. Up until World War I the United States only fought declared wars with England, Mexico and Spain, unilaterally in today's parlance. These wars were for sovereignty and land grabs.

Before 1914 there was 1813 and the Battle of Leipzig, the "Battle of Nations". The countries of Europe countered the great General Napoleon on the battlefield. The U.S. was fighting the Battle of New Orleans, and was interested only in territory
and our nation's survival. The War of 1812 insured U.S. survival, and the nation stayed out of foreign entanglements, instead fighting its war against each other and against the Native Americans.

During the U.S.'s inner-focused period, Europe had Leipzig (Napoleon), the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, The Russo-Jap War and various local flare ups. The U.S. kept its hands off. But then came 1914.

The Europeans continued their 500 year+ dance of death, but the U.S. had transmuted this war into a democratic endeavor. Being a beacon of democracy seemed to mandate our entrance (sound familiar?)

Entrance into WWI was a point of fracture in U.S. policy: the isolationists had lost out to the interventionists. But the transition was not to be seamless; the U.S. entered the war but failed to follow through, the isolationists defeating the U.S. entry into the League of Nations. This ambivalence of national definition has continued through to today.

In World War II the U.S. allied with Communism to defeat Fascism, yet then adopted fascist tactics to defeat Communism. The post war years saw the U.S. join the United Nations, even signing on to their manifesto declaring the Rights of Man. However, now we roamed the world in a military posture. It was an existential dichotomy which allowed the U.S. to lose sight of its lodestar.

Does the U.S. trust the UN, or is the lone swaggering sheriff of the world? Many U.S. presidential wars and regime change invasions have come and gone, and the issue of national definition goes undiscussed. We have entered today new territory in which our political parties favor tax cuts for their base, but also the maintenance of a strong military.

If the taxpaying voters oppose this practice, they have not made that clear. There has been no groundswell against the Long Wars favored by both parties, the people instead happily ensconcing themselves in their niche issues: gun control, gay marriage, reproductive rights -- things they can understand, and which make them feel moral.

It's 2012 and the same question remains to be addressed as in 1917, 1941, 1950, 1964-72, etc., namely, what does the country gain from intervening militarily in foreign wars? How does a democratic nation become a Warrior nation, when its roots were otherwise?

Where is our once-fear of standing Armies? How have we become so comfortable with preemptive invasions and attendant regime change? As Bugliosi wrote, even God can't change the past, but we seem comfortable re-writing history and reinterpreting the facts. We can even forget that we once hung people as war criminals when they conducted wars of aggression.

1813 - 1914 - 2012?

Take your pick, but rest assured that this topic will not be addressed in the entertainment we call the 2012 presidential election. It hardly even qualifies as infotainment.

Would you like a Ginzu knife with that candidate?

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going MAD

there is enough treachery,
violence absurdity

in the average human being

to supply any given army on any given day

--The Genius of the Crowd
Charles Bukowski

You're semi-evil. You're quasi-evil.
You're the margarine of evil.
You're the Diet Coke of evil.
Just one calorie, not evil enough.
Dr. Evil in Austin Powers (1997)

I'd say that you're all in line

for some important promotions and personal citations

when this thing's over with.

That goes for ever' last one of you

regardless of your race, color or your creed

--Dr. Strangelove (1964)

for Chief

Let us pretend we are a lensatic compass and that we can turn the bezel ring and change our declination a few degrees -- let us reorient our bearings. Then let us talk about Hitler and World War II.

Let us start with Ranger's belief that the United States should not have participated in World War II. In his opinion, this war was as fruitless and meaningless as any war ever fought (from the U.S. perspective.) Also be aware Ranger is not a closet Nazi or fan of Hitler or of the Japanese Emperor.

Let us set a ground rule: A nation does not fight wars with the sole objective of opposing evil. Foreign policy that opposes evil will always find a war to fight.
National strategic objectives and fighting evil are two exclusive concepts, unless one believes in comic book superheroes.

The most common comment justifying the entrance of the U.S. in WWII is that we had to fight the evil that was the Japs and the Lugerheads. But did we really, or did we just bite the big one for the team?

If the Japs were so bad, then why did we not hang Hirohito as a war criminal? Why did the German high command swing but not the Jap chap, and especially since he was a certifiable war criminal, defined as a dude that invades foreign countries, bombs, kills, tortures and generally ignores international law?
If he was evil we should have hung him high, especially if fighting evil were our objective.

Compare the actions of Hitler, everyone's favorite bad guy, to those of Hirohito. He was a carbon copy, with the addition of a nasty bit of work in the genocide arena. Hitler also had millions shot, gassed, starved, worked to death and more; the worst sort of customer. But then compare his actions to those of Stalin -- did not the latter do all of those evil things in spades, as well?

Let us remember, too, that Hitler thought Communism the greatest threat facing Western society, and that Fascism and Communism could not exist on the same chessboard. After defeating Hitler, the U.S. adopted his beliefs and policies concerning the Soviet Union; his idea was right but obviously we objected to his operational imperatives.

U.S. Cold War policy was to oppose and destroy Communism, in a civilized manner, meaning no genocide or other nasty stuff. Instead, we adopted a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in which we were willing to destroy the entire world to defend Capitalism. It was a policy that made sense to us, and we were all in.

The Question is: Why was Hitler evil for his operations, while were the good guys for standing ready to light up the world with unrestrained nuclear war?

If WW II was a just war from the perspective of the U.S., then the resultant good would have had to outweigh the evil required to counter the forces of Hitler and Hirohito.
Considering the stance the U.S. chose, it is hard to say that good would have triumphed with any certainty.

The same moral conundrum also addresses the issue of Iranian nuclear aspirations. Are we afraid that they will adopt our policies? Evil is evil wherever you find it, and the employment of nuclear weapons would be evil, regardless of who slings them in his quivers.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The War to End Them All

--Anzac Day

Liberty has never come from the government.

Liberty has always come from the subjects

of the government.

The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

The history of liberty is a history

of the limitation of governmental power,

not the increase of it

--Woodrow Wilson

We'd fight and never lose

Those were the days

Oh, yes, those were the days

--Those Were the Days, My Friend,

Mary Hopkin


There was a time the United States used to fight wars and at least pretend that they were being fought to put an end to wars.

World War I -- that was The War to End All Wars. It was certainly savage enough and meaningless enough to earn that title, but it did not work. It has been hypothesized that some countries grew sick enough of the carnage after WWI, due to their proximity or profound losses, that it did put an end to their war lust. But the U.S. was not one of those countries.

Just 92 years and at least a million casualties later and the U.S. now gladly accepts the concept of a long war that even might be an endless one. Now we fight not to achieve a goal, but to keep the restless natives in check. For their part, the indigenous will do their best to fill their roles, too.

Remember when Congress declared war? Now we accept generational war commitments which fly in the face of the previous "get in and get out" once the objective is filled ethos. America is no longer a refuge against the ravages of war.

Republicans actually fought in wars back then (and not just Academy graduates.) There were active isolationists, too, who touted an "America first" platform. Reserve forces, including the National Guard, were adjunct forces, rather than additional professional deployable assets. Our military was actually a combat force defending the shores of America rather than the back streets of Mogadishu, Baghdad, Kabul or Kandahar.

Remember when threats were quantifiable and the National Intelligence Estimates were based upon concepts like capabilities and intent of hostile forces? The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) were oriented towards defeating enemy states rather than nebulous undefined individual non-state threats.

Being a citizen meant having in alienable civil rights, back then, too.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Number 10

Gadsden Elementary -- 10th Best?

Nine little Indians,
Their hearts were full of hate.

One took his neighbor's goods,

Then there were eight

--Ten Little Indians
The Yardbirds

Kind of makes me feel sometimes,

didn't have to go

But as the eagle leaves the nest,

it's got so far to go

--Ten Years Gone
, Led Zeppelin

My arms enfold the dole queue
Malnutrition dulls my hair
My eyes are black and lifeless
With an underprivileged stare
--One in Ten, UB 40

The Vietnamese used to call GI's By the moniker, "Number 10". One was a No. 10 if one was a "Cheap Charlie". Number 10 was not a term of endearment.

So Ranger was surprised to see this sign on the grounds of his local Elementary School
: "10th Best School in Florida, 2012". Looking very penitentiary-like and down at the heels as it was built the same year the Titanic sunk, that linkage was probably portentous; not all sinkings are swift. But the surprising thing about the school was that it was thrilled to be #10.

It was not easy to find online how this modest rating was achieved, or by which agency it was awarded; Gadsden Elementary is not a SACS affiliated school. Surely it can't be 10th best in every metric. Most of the hits gave a generic thumbs up by real estate companies trying to woo potential clients of young children to settle in this modest town. However, some of the rankings of the local Quincy Shanks High School were online, testifying to a more dismal public school legacy:

Quincy Shanks High School is an "F" school -- the lowest ranking possibly, and it has held that position for a number of years, probably since the rating system began. (The other two schools in Gadsden County are only marginally better: West Gadsden is ranked in the bottom 20%; East Gadsden slightly higher in the bottom 40%.) The dismal Quincy Shanks High School is 95% black; 9% of the students take the SAT, with an
average COMBINED score of 702 (Quincy Shanks High School data.)

In this context, #10 would be noteworthy. Now if you want to discuss football rankings, you will get a far cheerier picture.
After graduation, Gadsden County jail or a number of fast food joints await.

If this elementary school truly is the 10th best school, something bad is happening between childhood and young adulthood. But the county is No.1 in one ranking: It has the highest sexually transmitted disease (STD) rate in the state. And per capita recently, Gadsden's AIDs rate was in the running for top spot, just behind that of the nation of Ghana, actually.
(When national magazine Essence featured Quincy's remarkable AIDs standing in Feb. 03, it was not the sort of notoriety the poor town was hoping for.)

But hey, we have the annual Tomato Wrestling event, and are vying with neighboring Wakulla County to host the 2013 Worm Gruntin' Festival.

It all depends on where your priorities lie.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

War is US

Go ahead, make my day
--Sudden Impact

What if I had a spear?

--Bowling for Columbine (2002)


Signe's cartoon shows a bullet with various American sites of gun violence, and the caption, "Does not discriminate by race, creed or national origin." Except when it does. Maybe we should not use the word "discriminate", but "select" or "target".

Why does this political cartoon not include Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and all the other places in which the U.S. government kills people with firearms every day?
We act shocked when the violence on our home ground is occasionally fed to us in the headlines, but that is a disingenuous posture. Violence is us.

We focus on the local and obvious while ignoring
the larger problem, which is: We are a society which officially condones violence.

We are engaged in an illusion when we think to turn violence on and off. We are not separate from that anger or violence. We cannot hold it and only express it over there, or only sublimate it via some word or action. We are violent, and until we find a way to understand that, violence continues, sometimes more, sometimes less spectacularly. The National Rifle Association's unofficial motto, "guns don't kill people -- people kill people" is half right; the modality does not matter -- if violence is there, it will find expression.

We often call violence a good when expressed as competition, or protection born of divisiveness or a sense of high and mighty righteousness, but it is all violence, expressed in more or less socially acceptable forms. Thinker J. Krishnamurti said:

Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence. When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent.

And we do these things every day of the week.

--Jim & Lisa

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day, Panhandle Style, 2012

Virgil Caine is my name,
and I drove on the Danville train,

'Til so much cavalry came

and tore up the tracks again

--The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,

The Band

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one
--The Walrus and the Carpenter,
Lewis Carrol

In the morning laughing happy fish heads

In the evening floating in the soup

Ask a fish head anything you want to

they wont answer they cant talk

--Fish Heads, Barnes and Barnes

Happy Earth Day, 2012. This weekend marks the second anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be a post of local concern, but the consequences ripple outwards.

The Panhandle of Florida doesn't have much to be proud of, but Apalachicola Bay oysters and scallops used to enjoy national renown; no more. A recent study showed 89 percent of post-spill specimens displayed the signs of metaplasia, a condition in which tissues are transformed in response to stress. Oysters suffering from the condition often have trouble reproducing, which could have detrimental repercussions for the species further up the food chain that depend on them (
Gulf Oysters Full of Heavy Metals.)

The government study group will tell you not to worry. Don't believe them.

Because you won't see the shrimp without eyes or eye sockets or decay on their heads because the restaurant will kindly remove it for you. You won't see the eyeless fish or their fin rot, or the festering sores, because we don't like fins and fish heads, anyway, and the purveyors will kindly fillet the rotting innards of certain seafood, which is also being found off of our Gulf Coast (2 years later, fish sick near BP oil spill site.)

Accommodation can be made for the crabs lacking claws; they can just be sold as lump crab meat and no one will be the wiser that they, too, lacked eyes as well.

The AP toes a bureaucratic line, saying, "[t]he illnesses are not believed to pose any health threat to humans", and the lead of the federally-funded team Murawski (and former government adviser) says, "It's not a people issue, and people should not be concerned about fish entering the market."
What does that final statement even mean? Of course it's a people issue, and of course we should be concerned if these fish enter the market!

How can they say "don't be concerned" with any certainty
when they follow with, ". . . the immune systems of the fish were impaired by an unknown environmental stress or contamination." In addition to the oil, the dispersant Corexit is mutagenic; several generations of shrimp and small fish have spawned since the environmental disaster and their terrible deformities are heritable. Worse, we do not know the effects farther up the food chain.

Dahr Jamail at Al Jazeera has the story (Gulf Seafood Deformities Alarm Scientists), and it would not do it justice to condense the reportage; read it, and weep for the once lively Gulf fisheries. The refrain of scientists and fishermen alike is, "We've never seen anything like it" when referring to the terrible blight of the sea creatures in the region. Daily KOS has also covered it here: We've never seen anything like It.

Independent journalist Greg Palast is one of the few who has actually gone deep into this story since it happened. (I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Palast briefly tonight on the radio program of South Florida activist Rick Spisak, and Palast said he was preparing to bring his findings before Attorney General Holder; thanks for the heads-up, Rick.)

Palast's latest post on 4.19.12 --
"BP Cover-up 'They Knew'" -- tells his story of finding the same blowout protector failure in a BP rig blow up in the Caspian Sea in '08, two years before the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and for the same reasons. He found some of his materials in Wikileaks, and he went to Azerbaijan himself to follow the story. Vultures Picnic is his latest book on the dirty dealings surrounding the tragedy.

Everyone can do something to help preserve the earth. Become your own advocate and voice your concerns. Get involved, and don't listen when they tell you it's a "fish problem", not a human one. Maybe the wealthy ones can just rattle their jewelry, to borrow from John Lennon.

Bottom line: Don't eat them oysters.

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