Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heads Will Roll

--Terror, Pavel Constantin (Romania)

If I should ever be captured,
I want no negotiation,
and if I should request a negotiation

from captivity they should consider that

a sign of duress

--Henry A. Kissinger

"Now, I give you fair warning," shouted the Queen,

stamping on the ground as she spoke;

"either you or your head must be off,

and that in about half no time! Take your choice!"

--Alice in Wonderland
, Lewis Carroll

I'm a prisoner of your love

enraptured by the beauty

I'm a prisoner of your love

enslaved by the passion

--Prisoner of Your Love,

Yngwie Malmsteen


The police - investigations program Person of Interest recently featured a kidnapping scenario in which the victim was not blindfolded, yet perhaps intended for release, hence this comment on hooding in a capture scenario.

In criminal ventures, hoods and blindfolds are a good thing because this indicates the abducted has a chance of surviving the scenario. Criminals are inspired and motivated by financial gain, their primary goal. Criminals use violence to gain profit, and the achievement of the goal often obviates the need to murder the captive, who was a means to an end.

Terrorists do not use violence for simple profit in most scenarios, although they do rob banks and kidnap to finance their operations. Terrorists are usually (unless they are of the nihilistic stripe) in it for the long haul, so they must maximize the profit of each operation.
When Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) robbed the Beirut Bank of the Middle East and made of with $400 million (1976), he achieved three goals: training, recruitment and financing.

However, unlike garden variety criminals, terrorists are more prone to violence for its own sake. These groups operate in a spectrum beyond criminality, and their operations are dictated primarily by dogma, with recruitment and financing merely being necessary adjutants to insure the group's longevity.

Unlike criminals, terrorists will keep a bag over your head to depersonalize the abductee so that when the time comes for execution, it is easier as the victim has been denied his humanity. This gesture makes the kill easier for the shooter.

It is strange but usually true (aside from the aberrations like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) that even terrorists find it hard to kill in an absolutely ruthless manner, like performing execution-style murders.
This is a subtle yet valid concept. From the recent, "Mad, Bad, Sad: What's Really Happened to America's Soldiers",

"A couple of decades ago, Dave Grossman, a professor of psychology and former Army Ranger, wrote an eye-opening, bone-chilling book called On Killing. It begins with the premise that people have an inherent resistance to killing other people and goes on to examine how the military overcomes that inhibition."

So for criminals, blindfolding or bagging suggests the victim may survive, and the blinding is a means of preventing the criminal from being identified by the released victim. For terrorists, bagging is usually a means of depersonalization to make it easier for the executioner to kill the now-faceless victim.

So what does the United States do when it captures a suspected terrorist? We put his head in a bag.

What is the message?

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 1833 Shop

--The Martin DVM Veterans series

Ooo, your kisses
Sweeter than honey

And guess what?

So is my money

, Aretha Franklin

The motto of chivalry

is also the motto of wisdom;

to serve all, but to love only one

--Honore de Balzac

Out upon it:

I have loved
Three whole days together;

And I am like to love three more,

If it prove fair weather

--Sir John Suckling


Subtitled: Penny-pinching Patriotism.

Respect has been an issue at RangerAgainstWar the past several days (truth be spoken, the past several years.) Ranger says hostility prompts him to write this, as he feels he wishes to be true to himself, even if he is not tuned to A440.

As a veteran and a guitar player, Ranger finds the Martin Guitar Company to be striking an odious and hypocritical note these days. The
CF Martin DVM, Veterans Model, Limited Edition is marketed as follows: "Martin wanted to thank the U.S. Veterans for what they have done for our freedom." The headstock is emblazoned with emblems of all service branches, including a National Defense Service Ribbon.

In view of Martin's uber-patriotic sentiment, Ranger took the initiative to request a veterans discount from the Martin Guitar repair factory for a recent repair he sent to them.
The pertinent transmission follows:

To: Paula Primrose
Subject: Re: C. F. Martin Repair Quote
two things-
-i'd like the original bridge returned with the guitar.and
- i asked before but didn't get an answer from L Mamele.
do you give totally and permanently disabled, wounded vets a discount?
i have documents to verify.
jim hruska

From: Paula Primrose <pprimrose@martinguitar.com>
Subject: RE: C. F. Martin Repair Quote

I’m sorry we do not give discounts. I’ll make a note to return bridge.

Remember: The DVM Model was ostensibly issued to honor us vets, yet totally and permanently disabled vets do not receive discounts from Martin. It seems their patriotism stretches as far as making a profit from their superficial gesture of recognition. Why do people claim to honor vets when they themselves never bothered to serve in the military? What is a yellow ribbon magnet if you don't put your money where your mouth is?

Ranger suggestion for Martin: Resurrect the "Coffin Guitar Case" style -- it would be perfect for your DVM series.

Ranger kudos to local Martin-authorized dealer Gordon Scott at
Gordon's Stringed Instruments.
Gordon is a U.S. Army veteran and he offers ALL veterans a 10% discount on their purchases. Gordon, like all us vets, understands what being a member of the service entails.

It ain't always a pretty thing, like a Martin guitar.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Asymmetrical Awards


The military loves buzzwords like asymmetrical warfare, but often fails to examine the words beyond their simplest, most useful meaning.

If our wars are asymmetrical, then are our soldier's heroism and awards also become asymmetrical?
Can asymmetrical warfare produce symmetrical valor and asymmetrical awards for this valor (i.e., medals)? Unlike Napoleon, the U.S. Army does not travel on its stomach but rather upon its awards and decorations. While we do not win many wars lately, but the awards sure do look good.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is so insubstantial, unquantifiable and insignificant that the suffering and valor of the fights -- though real -- seem diminutive and illusory compared to symmetrical war standards. While our soldiers are exemplary, the so-called wars and battles are devoid of any meaning beyond the violence.

The awarding of medals for valor rests upon the assumption that the violence has a legitimate purpose. Medals try to reassure us that combat is not the same as a drive-by shooting or a barroom brawl. Our medals add dignity to an undignified endeavor, but one which it is presumably undertaken in order to reestablish some more positive order to society. All combat soldiers understand the undignified part of the equation; the only possible salvation is the idea that there is a larger purpose to the brutality.

A brief trip through past award winners gives an idea of what is being suggested:

Lew Millet led a company-sized bayonet assault against a dug-in and fortified Chinese main line of resistance. Contrast this against Staff Sergeant Robert Miller's death struggle; the substance is lacking (with no disrespect to Miller.)

Contrast Lt. Murray's Medal of Honor (MOH) to Gene Ashley's at the Battle of Lang Vei, or Franklin Miller's in Studies and Observations Group (SOG). Think of Crandall's MOH at LZ X-Ray, or Commando Kelley at Anzio. Think of Sergeant York. Think of the magnitude of these past battles.

Assuredly Lt. Murray met the standard for the award, but the scenario lacked military logic. One must ask: Why are we expending valor for no recognizable purpose?

Compare recent MOH winner SSG Salvatore Giunta to Captain Donlon's award, the first of the U.S. Vietnam War. Think of SSG Basilone on Guadalcanal. If Basilone had caved, the perimeter of a Regiment would have been fractured. One man prevented the collapse of a front, while SSG Guinta saved two men. Again, SSG Giunta acted with courage and valor, but it is a flavorless meal leaving no sense of fulfillment.

Perhaps that is why SSG Giunta was angry upon being interviewed after receiving his award. Perhaps he understood the essential insignificance of the losses his unit incurred, for it is there where he put his emphasis -- on the loss, rather than the gain.

The award is real, but the circumstances are like wisps of pipe smoke in nature.

{SFC Smith's MOH is not mentioned because this was a force-on-force battle on a conventional battlefield, and was not asymmetrical warfare.}

The actions of all of the Medals of Honor from Iraq and Afghanistan pale to insignificance when viewed historically. This is not a criticism of our soldiers but rather of our political leadership which puts brave men in untenable circumstances. It should be noted: All of the awards in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan did not add up (will not add up) to victory.

Valor is too precious to expend frivolously. It is apparent that our soldiers are now pawns and targets in incomprehensible and unjustifiable conflicts, and all the sound bytes and awards cannot justify the non-military complexion of the violence.

[RAW will occasionally re-post relevant entries which received no play during their original postings.
Asymmetrical Awards
is a re-post of 12.7.10 entry.]

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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Grim Reaper

Humans are crazy -- you never know
if they'll pet you or shoot you

--A Coyote's in the House,

Elmore Leonard

Of all the creatures that man kills for

his amusement there is only one that he kills

out of hatred -- other men.

Man hates nothing as much as himself

--Under the Glacier
, Haldor Laxness

Fred Eichler is as good a starting point as any to investigate America's culture of death. The most fearsome enemy of the varmint, look at his simpering smile in his advert for his arms company which boldly threatens, "The Food Chain Ends Here." Eichler's specialty is cowing the outside-the-Beltway "predators" and varmints among us.

Why do we prey upon animals for blood sport, those engaged in the hunts often dragging bags of their quarry away not to eat, but for ... bragging rights? Why is it legal to kill coyotes, foxes, wolves groundhogs and prairie dogs, while dog fighting is not? Both are blood lust sports unnecessary for survival purposes.

Why does the Left not protect these animals from serving as unwitting moving targets, while meaninglessly objecting to the use of "hoodie" targets? In the first case, actual lives are being lost; in the latter, the group merely renders itself as polemical and irrelevant as its ostensible target audience.

We expend energy in a welter of meaningless fights: The Left railing against the hoodie target, while Gary Reeder custom pistol smith is marketing a Grim Reaper pistol, with an image of the hooded figure on the cylinder. The Reaper wears a hoodie, wherever you are on the political spectrum, and killing machines are going to be called Reapers or Predators whether you like it or not.

In last month's Outdoor Life, Eichler shows off his $1,395 predator rifle, replete with coyote prints on the handgrip -- look at that rig:

"This 5.56/.223 AR is a handy little predator rifle. . .
(that) should have coyotes
quaking in their dens"

Yeah, buddy ... the enemy are quaking in their dens, unarmed -- not exactly a fair fight. Ask a varmint shooter why he kills and the common NRA-tutored reply is, because they're predators (exception: prairie dogs and groundhogs.)

But the predators kill only to live, as is the wont of nature, whereas the varmint shooters kill only for the thrill of the splatter of a jacketed bullet upon living flesh. If we can justify killing predators due to their label, it is not a far shot to liken coyotes to terrorists, who are cut of the same cloth, killer drones and snipers becoming our defense.

It is beyond the scope of this entry, but the subjects of this form of "hunting" can be analogized to the subjects of current war efforts (there is Camp Coyote, on the Iraq/Kuwait border.) There will always be the human predator equivalent of the coyote, and perhaps we should be more focused on what creates this human analog, especially if he is the primary target of our war efforts.
Maybe the question of who gains the predator status is simply a question of which side of the fence you sit on.

Looking at varmint killing strictly from an ecological point of view, removing predators from the natural world upsets the homeostasis of life. However, humans must satisfy their urge for dominance, their impulse to kill or capture prey, and will discharge this need by any means necessary, using any justification available. We are logically unfit for our place at the apex of the food chain, and surely we reside there only momentarily.

If you kill it, you should eat it. We find it aberrant for grown men to find enjoyment in killing these creatures deemed varmints en masse for sport alone.

That it is tolerated reflects a degraded and decadent sensibility in our society.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

A Yard Sale

Where does creation end
and destruction begin?

--Under the Glacier, Haldor Laxness

When I discovered that history is a fable,

and a poor one at that,

I started looking for a better fable,

and found theology


"Summertime and the living is not easy"

--Heading for a yard sale advert,

6.15 Tallahassee Craigslist

Wars are poor chisels for carving
out peaceful tomorrows
--Martin Luther King, Jr.


At a yard sale last weekend, a middle-aged woman living in a most humble house tried to sell me some books by Right-wing political writer Cal Thomas. Ranger replied to the effect that he would not read such tripe, to which the woman said she was a Conservative and proud of it.

Putting her to the test, he replied, "What has the Conservative philosophy or leaders ever done for you?" To this, she could not reply save to say honestly, "I don't know."

Pressing on, "The Conservatives have given us middle Americans nothing but war, and we are still suffering the consequences." As many good Americans do, she sought refuge in her faith:

"In the Bible, God wants us to have wars. What if my neighbor strikes me? What am I to do?"

Ranger: "Wouldn't Jesus say to turn the other cheek?"

She: "If they strike my children, I will strike them!"

R.: "Strike them maybe, but burn down their house?"

Well, it was clear this was not what the woman was in for when she tried to sell her Cal Thomas book. Surely her intellectual rigor is not grossly less than that of her local fellows. Ranger hopes his point was not lost, adrift in a sea of contradictory biblical directives.

If his followers think Jesus wants war and killing, Ranger suggests perhaps his message was not that successful.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Contradiction in Valuation

The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.

So what?

Would you be calm and placid

If you were full of formic acid?

--The Ant
, Ogden Nash

Last Wednesday the Pentagon released an analysis showing that behind combat death, more U.S. servicemembers die of suicide than any other form of death (Suicides #2 Cause of Death in the Military). The Army has the highest number, which is commensurate with the civilian rate.

Army Colonel Carl Castro, lead researcher into suicide prevention and treatment, said the Army was slow off the mark to respond to the need:

"We were slow to react (at first) because we weren't sure if it was an anomaly or it was a real trend," Castro said. "Then it just takes time to program the money and get the studies up and going."

Military suicide is not a new problem.

The U.S. Army has been in the kill business for 235 years. Ranger remembers a high suicide rate when he was at Fort Benning -- home of the Infantry -- in the early-mid 1970's, a rate probably exacerbated by the Reduction in Forces (RIFs) following the Army's drawdown in personnel following the Vietnam War.

If the suicides were broken down by MOS (military occupational specialty), the deaths would probably cluster around the combat arms, meaning more than 25% of non-combat deaths in the combat arms would be due to suicide, and
that rate would exceed the rate in the general public. Suicide is probably not correlated to military service, per se, but rather to combat military experience. This is the crux of the matter. (The Navy had the lowest suicide rate, supporting Ranger's contention.)

Any organ
ization that requires its personnel to willingly sacrifice their lives for the mission will suffer this problem of improper valuation of life. How to convince soldiers that we care about their individual lives during suicide prevention programs while at the same time training them for their next deployment, a mission that may violently end their lives or make them incapacitated for life. The two missions are in contradiction.

How can one conceive of his life as valuable when you know you are an asset easily replaced? We in the combat arms know that we may be killed doing our soldierly duty; that's part of the deal -- we know we are sacrificial lambs. But we all fear dying needlessly for concepts that have nothing to do with American or soldierly values.

The disconnect is that no organization can claim to value the individual lives of its members while making them swear allegiance to a (soldier - Ranger - Special Forces) creed that commits them to a doctrinally-required self sacrifice for the mission.

Suicide is a by-product of war. A soldier need not be a constitutional law scholar to understand the real message coming from the head shed.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If It's Bears You Want ...

--God Offering Rope to Aging Adam,
R. Hanssen (Sweden)

If back stairs you like,
If love affairs you like

With young bears you like,

Why nobody will oppose!

--Anything Goes
, Cole Porter

In shallow shoals English soles do it

Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it

Let's do it, let's fall in love

--Let's Do It,
Ella Fitzgerald

Pay my respects to grace and virtue
Send my condolences to good
Hear my regards to soul and romance
They always did the best they could

, The Killers

I'm pretty nonplussed about the reaction surrounding the pull-out of Brett McGurk from his nomination to the Ambassadorship to Iraq.

Slate's Fred Kaplan wrote an apologia today for what seems the correct step-down of an entirely mediocre candidate for the position (Our Man in Baghdad). If the United States is trafficking in its moral rectitude, it can do a whole lot better than McGurk.

If the U.S. stands for dignity of all and morality, if we shun the degradation of women and frown on Afghan's dancing boys, then we must offer something better. Bigamy and adultery, and just generally bragging about your manly bits to women not your wife are behaviors we still frown upon. Such behavior just brought down Army Colonel Johnson, and Representative Anthony Weiner fell from grace last year this month for similar shenanigans.

But here's Kaplan whitewashing those two wild-and-crazy kids -- McGurk and Chon -- not addressing the real threats and offenses involved in the debacle, attempting to make the whistleblowers seem like some backwards malcontents. So what are we: A nation committed to human dignity, or are we dancing bears?

The lesson is, keep your Johnson in your BVD's, unless you are with your wifey. If that is becoming too provincial for us, then we should admit we're going French. However, that is something I have yet to hear any of society's machers proclaim. Not "trending", as they might say today.

My on-site reply to Kaplan's article follows:

"Does Mr. Kaplan honestly believe Mr. McGurk is the best the U.S. can front for Iraqi Ambassadorship?

"An ambassador should demonstrate impeccable personal judgement, being as he will be the face of our nation abroad. Kaplan offers a Frank Capra-esque tale, Chon's and McGurk's emails, "show(ing) a diplomat and a reporter exchanging flirtatious banter and, in the end, falling ga-ga for each other."

"'Ga-ga'? Puh-leeze spare us your Hollywood overlay. The exchanges were bumptious, sordid and sufficient to force a reporter to be released from her WSJ posting for violating company policy.

"Why are we not congratulating the sources for revealing what would have been yet another in a long line of mistakes in that hapless nation. Who is re-configuring the lines of what makes for suitable journalism? What would a Kaplan have said of a 1970's Woodward and Bernstein?"

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

McGurk the Jerk

Why does it have to be wrong or right?
Why does it have to be one way or the other?

Won't somebody please, please tell me

--Why Does it Have to Be (Wrong or Right)?

Restless Heart


The flagrantly smarmy Brett McGurk withdrew his name yesterday from consideration as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Fellow blogger and whistleblower Peter Van Buren did yeoman's duty exposing McGurk's unfitness for the position @ his site, WeMeantWell.

Van Buren has covered the situation with aplomb, and my intent is not to add anything further to the story, but to note the pass the media has given McGurk by stating it was merely a matter of "some racy emails", making one think the hapless McGurk fell prey to being skewered for some foolish indiscretion revealed and magnified by some overactive prude (Obama pick for Iraq ambassador withdraws after racy emails.)

In fact, it was not a too-daring epistolary faux pas that knocked him out of the running. McGurk (like our recent hero (not), Colonel Johnson) was having an affair with Wall Street Journal writer Gina Chon while in Iraq. The WaPo reports that he "later married" Chon, making him seem like a do-right guy making an honest woman of Chon, but they fail to mention that he was already married at the time to the erstwhile Mrs. McGurk -- a moral and legal lapse.

Chon was trading information from upcoming WSJ stories with McGurk, while he slipped her things she requested -- much beyond the helpless flirtation suggested by the headline. As an employee of the National Security Counsel at the time, the emails suggest he provided Chon insider information in exchange for her favors. McGurk, 39, was a weak candidate with nothing to recommend him, so it is hard to understand why the Obama administration stood by their man (until he withdrew his nomination.)

If you're scanning the daily heads, we commend you; that's more than most. But if you want to get the rest of the story today, it's a mosaic affair.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning -- another leaker of information to the press -- languishes in some prison cell, with nary a hope of appointment to any post, no matter how menial.

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