Friday, March 29, 2013

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster 
--One Art, Elizabeth Bishop

 Now is no time to think of
what you do not have.
Think of what you can do
with what there is
--Ernest Hemingway

Ranger and I were dining in a Central Florida Vietnamese restaurant this past week and were the recipients of some thought unbidden but valuable for all of us.

Over the years, we have chatted with the Vietnamese workers there, and one man who served in the Vietnamese Army and worked with U.S. Special Forces has been especially warm.  On this recent trip he brought us tea and a small dessert which we had not ordered, simply out of kindness.  Though it was humble, it was a grand gesture which said "we are family".

Notably, this was a bonding gesture not often seen in Ranger's neck of the woods, even among fellow long-time resident Anglos. Though Ranger has lived in his county over two decades and long ago left Cleveland, he is usually the outsider and has not often been the recipient of such bonhomie. Southerners often demonstrate a scarcity mentality (perhaps born of the Civil War and its aftermath?), and will only offer up pies and such upon someone's death or divorce, the latter is usually a gesture signalling an intent to move on the newly disburdened (a pecan pie awash in KARO syrup is a sure symbol.)

The restaurant worker shared that his father had worked in medicine, and sometimes given free medical care to those who could not afford to pay.  He shared other stories, all of which which demonstrated that the good we do comes back to help us. He said somberly, in making his point, "It is good to smile, and to be happy. Anger is no good for body." He continued in his thinking that sadness manifests in bodily maladies.

This man who had lost family members to the Communist regime, who himself went through years in "re-education" camps, was here to tell us, the only wholesome way forward is with happiness and generosity in spirit and deed. (The New York Times featured a piece this week on the same idea, from a more self-serving point of view -- "Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead".)

A good man bringing a vitally simple message.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meeting Billy Waugh

  --Lisa and Billy, 23 Jan13

--Texas motto 

We recently had the pleasure of meeting a Special Forces icon in the flesh, Billy Waugh.  If there is one word to describe Billy it is "gracious", as befits a Texas gentleman. (This meeting could not have happened without the equally generous intercession of Colonel Paul Longgrear, ret'd., so "thank you" to Paul, too.) 

In the span of a fascinating career still going strong, Billy spent years surveiling Osama Bin Laden in the early 1990's in Khartoum (only to have his project called off before he was able to quarry his prey), and he also located the infamous international terrorist Carlos the Jackal while there (see his book, "Hunting the Jackal").  

As a young Lieutenant and later Captain in Vietnam, Ranger was privileged to work in Army Camp Lang Thanh (sp) (B53 / 5th Special Forces Group (A) / MACVSOC OPS 38) which billeted many luminaries, among them Sergeant Major Waugh -- already the stuff of legend.  While Ranger is not a part of Billy's memories, Ranger recalls one interaction in which Billy told him directly, "Captain, you're not hearing me"; Ranger remembers removing the wax from his ears post haste (Lisa can vouch for the fact that this remains, however, a problem of his.) 

Billy was kind enough to answer a series of questions for the online Living History site (in cooperation with both Jim and the site's London administrator, Paul Bishop) about his Special Forces service during the time he and Colonel Dan Shungel trained up the HALO teams for Studies and Operations Group (SOG) missions. Billy's interview can be read HERE.  In addition, we spent a most pleasant afternoon in South Florida where he took us to CENTCOM and we were riveted by an online presentation Billy gave us about his time in Khartoum and Vietnam.  We also thank him for indulging our many questions in such a forthright manner. 

Billy continues to push his boundaries. In his most recent book about his long-time friend and former Prisoner of War Isaac Comacho, Billy not only researched and wrote the text, he also mastered computer graphics programs and created the visuals to include an online interactive presence for the book (Isaac Comacho: American Hero). He delights, as do we, in his discovery of his artistic side.  [Of course, Billy has always appreciated fine art, and one regret of his is that he was not able to view the Sistine Chapel whilst posted in Rome as he was "packing" (Billy's words) and the guards would not let him enter. Billy is probably the only person I shall know who was denied entrance to the Chapel for this reason.]

In addition to teaching monthly courses at Ft. Bragg, Billy is hard at work on his next book, a retrospective contemplation of lessons learned from U.S. military involvements through the years.  Billy wants to give back and help the young soldiers, and hopes that through education, we may stop repeating the same mistakes.

Thank you so much for your generous attention and kind sharing, Billy.  It has been an honor coming to know you.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Munich Massacre, Revisited

--Palestinian kidnapper, Munich, September 1972

We're gonna take you back, to the year 1939
when Charlie Chaplin and his Nazi regime enslaved Europe
and tried to take over the world...
But then an even greater force emerged, the U.N.
and the U.N. un-nazied the world - forever 
--Idiocracy (2006) 

When my love swears that she is made of truth, 
I do believe her though I know she lies, 
That she might think me some untutored youth, 
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties 
--Sonnet 138, Shakespeare

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side 
--With God on Our Side, Bob Dylan 

If I listened long enough to you 
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true 
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried 
Still I look to find a reason to believe 
--Reason to Believe, Tim Hardin 

Der Speigel last July printed newly-released data concerning the 1972 Munich Massacre, in which nine Israeli athletes were murdered before their participation in the games. These official releases are distressing because they reveal the advance warning and the apparent complicity of members with the German government and police system.

The Germans led the world to believe that the criminal operatives which carried out the murders -- Black September -- were James Bond-level agents executing a split-second attack scenario; the truth is far less impressive.  The Palestinians had not even secured adequate lodging in Munich prior to their arrival, and ended up on the wrong floor of the Olympic village before stumbling into the Israeli quarters.

In 1972 Ranger recalls the dismay among professional shooters that the Germans botched the rescue attempt with inadequate and unplanned fire distribution.  [The event is tangentially related to current discussions on gun control in the United States: How could 11 AK-47's turn up in Munich, in a nation with tight borders and strict gun control laws?]

The German rifleman lacked designated sectors of fire and assigned targets; each was allowed his own selection of target in what amounted to a Chinese fire drill -- not very German, at all. Such amateur hour action surely was an insult to the memory of Otto Skorzeny. (forgetting the abject failure to provide security the Israeli athletes in the first place.) 

Another German failure was when the authorities allowed the situation to escalate by allowing the hostage takers to go mobile -- with grenades and rifles! A hostage barricade should NEVER be allowed to go mobile.  What concessions did the Palestinians make that allowed them to move to the airfield?  Who was the Hostage Negotiator?  What was his relationship to the reaction force leader?  What was the command and control structure between these elements? 

Further, where was the Israeli security for their team members prior to the incident? Was Israeli intelligence asleep at the wheel?  Where were the layers of security usually seen at Olympic events?

During the years Ranger instructed  U.S. Army classes on Counter-terrorism, the word was that Munich was a crack operation, and the Germans did everything in their power to prevent the loss of life; the reality 40 years on does not accord with the myth. At the time, he did not believe the hype, but the United States had hoped that Germany had fully joined the sphere of Western nations, and so went the story.  Even today, U.S. policy is to portray terrorism in an unrealistically elevated manner which exaggerates the threat level.  The aura of the crack terrorist is a safe cover for our failures to address the threat adequately. 

Terrorists then and now are not super operatives.  Even the perpetrators of the events of 9-11-01 conducted their crimes on classically soft targets; trained operatives choose hard targets. The Israeli Olympians were sitting ducks; as with the operatives of 9-11, there was nothing brave or magical about this Palestinian operation.  The fact that no Palestinian was jailed long-term for this outrage against humanity also went against the Western policy of not dealing with terrorists, but realpolitik, or whatever you wish to call it, required we look the other way.

So 40 years later we learn some fragments of the truth neutralizing the mystique of the blitzkrieg terror operatives, eroding a bit of the self-serving, non-truthful analysis of a gravely significant world event. It was a convenient lie, and we were willing dupes in order to facilitate the facade of friendly relations with Germany, a key ally who fed us their fake version of the events. 

We wonder, what will be the revelations to emerge from the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) years after the tales of fictional mushroom bombs and roving chemical labs have become the stuff of vague memories?  The 9-11 Commission report is being revealed to have been based upon fabrications; the whole truth will be revealed, possibly, after several decades.

It was the same with the Warren Commission Report on President Kennedy's assassination.  The full text has yet to be revealed to the public.  When it was first released, 2036 was the end-date for complete release; now, 2017 is the date.  People don't care that much 50 years later; times moves on.

The recent revelations of German active and/or passive complicity with terrorists casts a pall upon the behavior of erstwhile civilized governments vis-a-vis their disliked populations. Germany suffers a history of malignancy and dysfunction ... is the U.S. at the beginning of its downward trajectory?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Equal Rights

Everybody's high on consolation
Everybody's trying to tell me what's right for me
My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon
but it's plain to see that they can't comfort me 
--She's Gone, Hall and Oates 

Someone's gonna feel the pain
Hit the floor, she's takin' aim
Is it you - is it you, is it me - is it me
Who's the next in the line gonna be? 
--Hot Shot, Barry Blue

The complexion of gun shows is changing, and the most recent Tallahassee Gun Show was no exception.

  • The price of ammunition has skyrocketed, and people are acting crazy trying to buy it all up
  • Gun shows have become monthly extravaganzas; they used to be quarterly events 
  • The news media was crawling all over the event, and they seemed interested in speaking only to people wearing tree bark of those covered in tattoos.  Soundbites rule.

The flyer for the concealed weapons class (pictured above) indicates that the CCW permit is a "license".  One must pay for the class, fingerprinting, photograph, notarization, background check and for the license itself. Who determined that the exercise of the Second Amendment would be abridged in this manner?  Our freedom of speech or religion is not regulated in such a manner.  Our right to vote may not be constrained by poll tax, so why must the right to bear arms be sliced and diced?

Ranger understands the need for gun regulation (much as free speech is constrained), but not the requirement to pay the state for his right to exercise this individual right delegated to him by the Bill of Rights. We understand, too, that rights are a quaint notion and not an absolute possession when living in a social structure.  They are delegated, and as such, they are precious freedoms which must be safeguarded at all costs; a right given up to or usurped by a power structure is a right not likely to return.

If one right is fungible and frangible, then so too are all rights. We should not rush to throw away our rights by the fistful out of fear or coercion.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Most Peculiar Man, Pt. II

  and I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don't care what happens next
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it's something in between, I guess
it's closing time 
--Closing Time, Leonard Cohen
(lyrics, Jay/Feinstein) 

Solitude is the profoundest fact
of the human condition.
Man is the only being who knows he is alone 
--The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz 

Rumor had it that he was homosexual;
in reality, in recent years, he was simply
a garden-variety alcoholic 
--The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq

Continuation of thoughts on the Kurt R. Myers shooting in upstate New York:

Once the shooting starts it is hard to control emotions -- police, included.

SWAT teams practice every day for such scenarios, kitted out in their black gunfighter rigs, often in public. They often appear in public wearing black T-shirts with images of cross-hairs trained on a person's head, or sporting cutesy captions like, "We still make house calls" under a depiction of a team busting down a door.  These men sit in local restaurants wearing such togs, weapons holstered in plain view.

We have seen these same images thousands of times during the past decade of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), sometimes over there, sometimes in t.v. or film, now, increasingly in our our towns. This implied terror now walks openly among us, and we assent to tolerate it, guessing that it is being shown for our own good.

However, the citizens of the United States are NOT the ENEMY, and police have no reason to bully us in this show of force.  They are public servants paid for by our tax dollars.  We do not get off by being the passive players in a BDSM fantasy perpetrated by overbearing brutes who are constructed an "us" versus "them" scenario.

Even in the case of shooter Myers, an adversarial relationship between perpetrator and police is not helpful. If we wish to understand the etiology of a spree shooting, the starting point should be the mindset of the shooter, not the type of weaponry chosen to implement his crime.

Why does a 64-year-old man go on a shooting spree? We do not have the answers, but we can observe that the reaction of our police protectors are often just as violent and pathological as that of the perpetrators they encounter, yet we take comfort in this "good violence". We claim to abhor violence unless it is under an official aegis.  We say we are liberal, democratic and humanistic, but we are all of us armed to the teeth, personally and governmentally.

There are times to employ violence correctly, but correct employment demands the ascent on the spectrum of possible responses; lethal force should not be the go-to response.  Rather, it becomes necessary after depleting non-lethal possible reactions.  However, it seems now -- after the inception of the discretionary Wars on Terror -- we have come to accept violence as an acceptable first reaction.

There is a sickness in our society that cannot be cured by palliative gun control legislation.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Most Peculiar Man

 --You could be in his sights
(A member of our Leon County 
Sheriff's Office SWAT team)

He had no friends, he seldom spoke
And no one in turn ever spoke to him,
'Cause he wasn't friendly and he didn't care
And he wasn't like them.
Oh, no! he was a most peculiar man 
--A Most Peculiar Man, 
Simon and Garfunkel

Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
but I can tell what's on his mind
Glory days yeah goin' back
Glory days -- Aw, he ain't never had
Glory days, glory days 
--Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen 

If you look long enough into the void
the void begins to look back through you
--Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

In the Army we have a saying: "Do something, even if it's wrong."  Civilian law enforcement has now adopted that maxim, to the detriment of civilian lives.

The latest stateside spree shooter, Kurt R. Myers, 64, was given a conflicted presentation in the New York Times ("Questions Linger After Gunman is Killed in Standoff"): the report is center page, but it is page A20.  It is written like a sophomoric effort to cover a Stephen King mystery, the shooter described as "spooky", "weird" and "shadowy", the town residents feeling "fearful", the apres-shooting hours described as a "drama" with a "denouement" occurring in the defunct "Glory Days" bar.

The story had all the usual suspects: a loner, unconnected victims and a sympathetic Governor Cuomo calling for solidarity ("'It is now time for mourning those who we lost in this senseless act of violence,' Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Thursday.") The coverage of spree shootings is now become boilerplate, and the outcome (the death of the shooter) is expected.  But the template is not the full story.

In the case of Mr. Myers, the final moments were hardly a standoff: he had abandoned his car, and made his way into the small back room of an empty bar -- the avenues of escape could be clearly seen and barricaded.  The town of Herkimer's police chief said Mr. Myers had "overwhelmed instantly" his small department, but in truth, two police should have been able to neutralize him; hardly a standoff, as the perpetrator ended up on a morgue tray.

If we believed President Obama's dictum that gun laws should be enacted if we save even one life -- if we believed that all life was sacred -- then why could Mr. Myers' life not have been saved? Myers was killed by a team of state and federal officers who had tracked him to the abandoned bar. "After a frigid overnight standoff, officials said that they had decided to move in on Thursday morning."  But why?

Police Special Reaction Teams and especially FBI hostage rescue types are not military assault troops tasked with the mission of killing "bad guys".  They are dealing with us, and we are citizens of this nation, and not combatants.  Unfortunately, the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) view of virtuous SEAL assassination teams killing terrorists in their bedrooms has bled over into LE, who are now given the imprimatur of badass killers. Killers for us, against us ... Killers ARE us (think about it -- maybe K.A.U. deserves a copyright symbol, too.)

Myers shot his victims with a shotgun, and the first question the team of state and federal officers should have asked is, what sort of ammunition did Myers use -- bird shot, buck shot or rifled slugs, and how much ammo was he toting on his body? This information is essential for the assault team to create their threat assessment.  This information is more essential than saying Myers was very quiet, a little weird and spoke in a sing-song way, but we are not presented the facts, only a mantra created to elicit an equally mindless response: freaks walk among us, therefore, we need gun control to solve the problem of possible violence. (It should be noted that Myers' weapon was not an assault rifle, so this sort of shooting would happen despite Gov. Cuomo's latest gun control bill.)

The fact of utmost importance is: Myers was not killed in the execution phase of his spree. He was killed when he was not mobile and cornered in an abandoned building.  He was not an offensive threat since the police and FBI had, by training, an inner and outer cordon around the situational perimeter, and a Situation Command Post.  This is all standard operating procedure, and a Hostage Negotiator (HN) should have been present to talk the shooter down from his perilous position.

So -- since the shooter was barricaded and of no offensive threat, why was he assaulted?  An assault is only executed to save life or to prevent further unnecessary loss of life.  In a hostage barricade situation, even the life of the perpetrator is of value in our system of justice.  The police and FBI are not executioners but LE.

Had Myers attempted to shoot, move or even threaten more shooting, then the minimum bar to assault would have been met, but the report says Myers made no attempt to flee. In addition, were his rounds harmless past 75 meters?  Ranger surmises that his kills were close-up and done with small game shot shells rather than killer slugs or buckshot.  If so, than the assault that killed Myers was an execution by rogue LE.  If so, than the criminal event in Herkimer, N.Y. extends beyond the actions of Mr. Myers.

Why was the FBI even on the scene?  This spree was not of federal interest or jurisdiction.  The State of New York and the County Sheriff  had sufficient assets to contain this situation. Why are we comfortable with police violence and reaction teams using questionable military tactics and employing military weapons?  We no longer question the application of gun violence upon those we view as kill-worthy, even when the killing is done in violation of our laws and accepted police procedure.

It is not fashionable or savory these days to discuss the preservation of a life we deem "bad", but the coherence of civilization as we know it resides on our ability to do that hard thing, when possible and reasonable.  No one of us is Solomon, hence our body of jurisprudence; our viability as a nation depends upon our adherence to it.

In the military we do not have the option of not assaulting an objective nor do we have HN's.  Our job is to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and to apply the totality of the violence that is inherent in our unit's organizational capabilities.  Somewhere along the way. the police have replaced their "protect and serve" motto with the military's maximum force against the enemy.

The problem is, we are not The Enemy.

Boilerplate dictates Myers' shooting spree be called, "senseless", but clearly, it made sense to him.  This is not to justify murder, but to not dismiss it in such a facile manner, either.  "Senseless" implies an act beyond our capacity to reason, but violence perpetrated by those other than psychopaths usually has a reason.

That reason may not be good or pretty, but it deserves to be viewed and understood if we truly are resolved to reduce the incidence of these events.

--by Jim and Lisa

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bronx Red Leg

--World War II M7 105 mm Howitzer, 
the stuff of poetry

From a March 15, 2013 New York Times obituary:

"Sheldon Shocket, 90 years young, Bronx native and longtime resident of Rockville Centre, World War II veteran who served in the field artillery observation battalion and could wax poetic about the 105 mm Howitzer.  He successfully charmed all those who were lucky enough to enter his orbit. Husband extraordinaire to Carol for 66 years ... Considered himself a very lucky man, and he was."

Ranger would have enjoyed tipping a glass with a man who could wax poetic over United States Army materiel.  Mr. Shocket and men like him are the ground which makes America great.

May you Rest in Peace, soldier.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Faulty Premise

I never expected, Perry, to see you
reduced down from a full-grown pestilence 
to such a frivolous fraction of a man 
--The Lonesome Road, O. Henry    

The New Yorker magazine recently featured an essay stating that guns have no purpose beyond that of killing -- an incendiary and obviously false statement, but that is America: "You're with us, or you're against us"; subtlety and nuance is not our strong point.

Most in the anti-gun side do not know that the United States government funds and staffs a program called the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) which sells ammunition and surplus World War II semiautomatic 8-shot Garand rifles and 30-round M1 Carbines for use in training civilians to shoot in coordination with the National Rifle Association (NRA).  The CMP descends from the Directorate of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM), an earlier program with the same goal.

The CMP and the DCM are and were funded by tax dollars for the express purpose of instructing the populace in safe gun handling and shooting techniques.  In our opinion, this is a better use of tax dollars than providing arms and training to foreign armies and police.

However, the killing machine meme is far sexier than seeing weapons as tools or hobbies.  Just as the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is propped up as being an existential threat to the survival of our nation in order to justify an ongoing war, the cries for gun control would have no oomph without the hyperbole of the demon shooting stick.

Guns are more than the sensational spree shootings plastered across the news, much as terrorism is different than the Jack Bauer "24" version in which terrorists © lurk behind every bush in The Homeland ().  Target practice and skill at marksmanship is a long-venerated activity not equivalent to killing. Many collectors never fire their vintage weapons; weapons collectors and sport shooters do not pose a societal threat.

Probably no DCM or CMP gun has ever been used in a violent crime; no registered machine gun has ever been used in an illegal manner. So why do we require collector firearms to be regulated as if they were killing machines?  Why must the transactions of such guns be booked and logged, and necessitate meaningless waiting periods, after we have already passed a background check?  How many background checks are required for a collector to perform in a lifetime of collecting guns before it becomes superfluous?

We in the U.S. will never get realistic and effective gun control because we fail to recognize the fallacy of our basic presumptions.

Guns are not just about killing.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



We in Tallahassee tend to be retro, but not always in the hippest way.

The 1st District Court of Appeals here has ruled that a 16-year-old murderer convicted in 2010 must be re-sentenced because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case that found laws mandating juveniles be sentenced to life in prison without parole are cruel and unusual punishment. The case being reconsidered is that of a Jacksonville youth, which falls under the purview of the Tallahassee Appeals Court, but not all District courts in the state have found the S.C. decision to be retroactive. (Florida Grapples with what to do with underage killers.)

Some nasty spree shootings lately have prompted gun control debate, but we do not know what to do with the killers (the 16-year-old killed his target, Grady Williamson, 49, with a knife, after robbing him of $3.) Norway has dealt with their recent spree shooter -- Anders Breivik -- by cordoning off a wing of prison for him and hiring "friends" to [presumably] keep him sane during the length of his 21 year sentence.  Norway officials were adamant about not changing their gun laws in capitulation to his heinous action, however.

In the United States, we let the weakest links among us determine the strictures for all, like the bad kid in class who earns detention for all. It is not sensible as not everyone talks out of turn, nor does everyone decide to kill.

In Florida, we may no longer sentence stone cold underage killers to life as this is viewed as "cruel and unusual punishment", and we are currently sans legal protocol for this cohort.  But no such civilized niceties hamstring our program of drone killings of American youths abroad.

Unlike actual killers here in the Gunshine State, the U.S. without compunction dropped a bomb on 16- year-old U.S. citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, former BBF of White House habitues. Another U.S. friendship, down the drain.  Another Arab de-friended in our own unique Chicago gangland-style killing. (Working with the Pentagon can be a literal career-killer these days.)

Al-Awlaki's son did not participate in any crime, yet he received a Presidentially-approved death penalty. So why is one 16-year-old American death o.k., while stateside 16-year-old actual murderers may not even receive a life sentence as that is deemed beyond the pale of civilized behavior?

[Further, al-Awlaki Sr. did not commit a capital offense, yet he also received a drone death sentence sans trial; meanwhile, the man he supposedly influenced,"Underwear Bomber" manque Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab received only a 25-year sentence.]

We are walking a thin line when execution-style murder is accepted as just and equitable in the absence of a trial or hard evidence that might possibly result in a conviction of murder, should it stand before a court of law.  If we are a humanistic, liberal and democratic nation, why do our citizens lose those rights in Yemen?

Why such consternation over sentencing actual child murderers in the States, and why such disinhibition about killing our juvenile citizens abroad? If we don't kill underage murders in the U.S. legal system, how can we justify killing them in international waters?

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Moderate Thinking

 --Broken Chains, anonymous 

Gonna pass me a brand new resolution 
Gonna fight me a one man revolution, someway 
Gonna start my rebellion today 
But here come the people in grey To take me away

 People in grey have gone and taken away 
My right to voice my complaint 
Her majesty's government 
have sent me a form
 I must complete it today 
--The People in Grey, The Kinks

 The only way to mobilize popular support 
for secret armies of resistance fighters during the war 
was to stage such dramatic acts of terrorism 
versus the German occupying forces 
--Winston Churchill, fr. Nihilist Monthly (Feb, 2012)

The stated United States' policy is to support moderates in the Syrian Civil War. What does this mean? Following are some questions regarding moderation in the Civil War business:
  • Does a moderate person engage in a Civil War?  
  • How does the State Department define "moderate"?
  • Why are we spending money encouraging Moderates in Syria, while Moderates in the states are becoming a vanishing breed?
  • What are we buying when we fund these Moderates?
  • What do we lose if we do nothing to support the Syrian revels?
  • Are the rebels legitimate?  
  • Do they represent the will of their people?  
  • Are the moderates foreign Jihadists?

Now for the money question:

Does anyone recall any revolution that was won by a moderate force?
"Moderate People of the World Unite" ... somehow that lacks the revolutionary zeal required by such a project.

Answer: Moderation is never the hallmark of a revolution.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On the OP - LP: Working


What's been on your mind this weekend?  We have enjoyed our first sunny days -- harbingers of our soon-to-come, brief spring.  The riot of pollen has begun, and the birds are in transit.  We saw what appeared to be an owl sitting in a low tree a few mornings ago, a rare sighting. Native American wisdom might say we are in for a dose of vision and insight, something I would welcome.

This week I heard many stories of people in transit, too, or whose jobs were transitioning -- not in positive ways. The woman who cut my hair had been an elementary school teacher for seven years, but applied for and accepted a scholarship at the Aveda Institute.  She spoke avidly about the highlights of teaching her student population: watching them learn to read and then make meaning, and mature as a result of their newfound abilities, but the downsides to the job over-matched her enthusiasm.  Her spirit and smile were infectious, and I'm sure she will be a success in her new field.

Next, while checking out at Ross one of the employees told my cashier that she (the cashier) needed to take out the trash.  I asked if this was a new policy, and she could not restrain her disdain, "I did not hire on for that.  I will pick up the hangars and clothes, but I'm not taking out the garbage."  It seems this was a newly-enacted policy, and said she was ready to be fired if need be.

I have checked out with her over the years, and she has always been most pleasant, so this was disappointing to hear; not only a new duty for her, but the loss of jobs for the janitors. (As the dumpster is behind the building in a somewhat dangerous and concealed area, I do not blame her.)

Ditto was the disappointment expressed by a well-spoken employee at Home Depot, who apologized for the wait due to recent downsizing.  Since she was a young woman, I was surprised at her awareness and sorry for her predicament.  She was a good spokesman for the company, said she enjoyed working there, but that it wasn't right for there to be only one sales associate at checkout at 6 p.m.  She said she didn't want to blame Obamacare but speculated it might have something to do with the employment situation.

The man who did my massage left his lucrative job as a software designer because it was killing him.  He was told at the age of 30 that he needed a hip replacement, and he felt like he could do better. He was obese and static all day, and compressing a spinal nerve; he said most of his fellows looked just like him.  He has spent the last several years educating himself about how to return to wellness.  

His said he is happy because his old job and his new one share the challenge of connecting the dots to make things work; his new life will look more like this man's.  He said he has decided to prioritize health and human connection over the ingathering of stuff.

Finally, the manager at Walgreens (about whom I've written of before) shared that her daughter, who is doing a legal internship at a Florida legislator's office, is in her final stages of burnout from the overwhelming need of the constituents and the diminishing resources to address them.  I complimented her on her daughter's strong social service ethic and asked what she had done to help inculcate that. 

The stern mother in her pulled herself fully erect and set her jaw: "Every morning I had my children read a news story from the paper, not just for the details but for understanding, too." Impressed, I praised her protocol but said that a well-informed citizenry might not be what our government is after. She agreed, and left me with the most plaintive question: "What can we do?"

It was not a toss-off -- she wanted to know. 

Labels: , ,

Who Are You, Mountain View?

--Santa Cruz Mountain range

Shallow waters run deep 
--Ranger's recent self-estimation

Having an internet presence, no matter how humble, brings the world to your virtual door.  We have been fascinated by the panoply of humans we have met here at RangerAgainstWar, but one remains the silent watcher in the woods, and visits with such gusto that s/he has us wondering ... "Mountain View, who are you?"

We have met musicians, ranchers, cobblers and builders; metrosexuals, transgendered individuals and everything in between. Military heroes and draft-dodgers, scholars and the unlettered, and this feast of humankind has proven the adage that kindness is what truly matters, and civility is the social lubricant that allows us the possibility of understanding. Anonymity is a great gift, for with the removal of proximity and identity one has free rein to explore one's true thoughts; in this sense, the internet has opened a New Frontier over which we may range far and wide, and nothing more than a CB handle is required.

Ranger has met with readers over breakfast with real local Vermont syrup and been invited to bunkers outside of Ft. Bragg to listen to Lili Marlene amongst Jack-booted aficionados (a big "no-go"), and is always curious when on the road to make the acquaintance of loyal readers, and so it is with you, Mountain View.  When we check our stats, you are always faithfully there, day and night.  We imagine you to be, at best, a loyal partisan; at worst, you are a militia whose members throws darts at Ranger's visage.

Well, self-revelation is not mandatory, but you would solve a little riddle if you chose to pop up and say "hi".  We'll never tell.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Who Do You Love?

For it may be said of men in general that they are
ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers,
anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain 
--The Prince, Machiavelli 

Got no privacy, got no liberty
Cos the twentieth century people
Took it all away from me
--20th Century Man, the Kinks

 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
--Isaiah 5:20 (KJV) 

Bradley Manning is finally getting his day in court, after 1,000 days of confinement, often solitary, without any charges. Manning's case reminds Ranger of that of Lt. William Calley, in an inverse sort of way.

On March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War (that quaint, post-colonial dust-up), the My Lai Massacre was carried out by United States troops under the command of Lt. William L. Calley Jr. Lt. Calley was indicted for his role in the murder of 109 Vietnamese civilians and convicted in the murder of 22, but he was revered at home and considered something of a folk hero for many. He was placed under simple house arrest in advance of his trial, and it was well known that his female guests were many, and they came and went in file during his time in house detention. 

Calley was sentenced to time in Leavenworth doing hard labor, but his life sentence was shortened considerably, and he never saw a day in jail; ultimately, he spent 3 1/2 years in house arrest in his quarters in Ft. Benning, Georgia. (Democratic President-to-be and sometime World Humanitarian Jimmy Carter was one of Calley's champions.) Compare the treatment of murderer Calley to that of Manning, who could be described as a whistleblower, and who will take Calley's place in Leavenworth.

Bradley Manning did not pull a trigger or commit any act of violence. Manning did not sell the documents he accused of trafficking, but instead approached The Washington Post and The New York Times; when these newspapers rejected him, he sent the material anonymously to WikiLeaks. He has been charged with aiding the enemy, but the charge is rather Kafkaesque as we cannot define our enemy, nor have we met them on a major battlefield.  Assuming al-Qaeda is the enemy, how can Manning be said to aid the enemy if there is no battlefield?

Just as with Kelly's fellows, the service members shooting civilians from the gunships in Manning's leaked video have never been court-martialed for their actions.  Who aids the enemy more: Manning's Wikileaks or the actions of soldiers in rogue gunships, a President who calls for lethal drone strikes and secret renditions of surmised enemies to foreign prisons for torture, and the whole lot of extrajudicial behavior which has become institutionalized in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)? 

The recruitment value of torture and illegal policies is high, and they are a better fundraiser for the terrorist's cause than any reasoned response might have been.  Calley's inhumane actions hastened the end of the Vietnam War as Americans were repulsed by the killings of civilians.

Chris Hedges take on Manning's trial is worth a view (here).  In his conclusion, Hedges states:

Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.

Today, a mere 45 years later, The U.S. does not seem to care.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Being John Kerry

  I've been very lonely in my isolated tower 
of indecipherable speech
 --Being John Malkovich (1999) 

Show me the Money! 
--Jerry McGuire (1996) 

The best is yet to come 
And babe won't it be fine 
The best is yet to come 
Come the day your mine 
--The Best is Yet to Come,
Frank Sinatra

[NOTE: Robert Fisk addresses this well in his 7 Mar 13 piece, Which Rebels Should We Support?]

It is hard for Ranger to formulate a clear understanding of the Syrian revolt and the rules for supporting or not supporting such events.

Why would the United States support any revolution?  Why did we rearrange the societies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and what was the result?

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is supported by Saudi Sunni sectarians. Initially, the U.S. invasion pitted the Northern Alliance (NA) against the Sunni alliance.  The NA were and are allied with the Iranian "bad guys". So who are the good guys in Afghanistan?  If the Afghan government and its forces are the good guys, then the definition of "good" and "bad" must be a fungible construct.

In Iraq we imposed a tyranny of democracy on a country which imposes a Shiite, American-backed majority -- one which marginalized the Sunnis. (As for the Kurds, not much can be said other than they are the Kurds.) The present government of Iraq is largely Shiite; Iran is a Shia power -- so who benefited from the Afghani and Iraq shake-ups?

The Syrian government is supported by the Hizbollah, associated with the Iranian Shiites.  So is our current policy in Syria simply a slap at Iran?  If so are we now allied with the Sunni forces that we once fought in Afghanistan and Iraq?

If Syria is overthrown, to whom will the power transfer?  A Syrian government defeat will be a Sunni victory, no?  If Syria falls, who will benefit?

Why does the U.S. support the anti-Sunnis in Afghanistan and Iraq, while supporting the Sunnis in Syria?  The entire Middle East - Southwest Asia gambit eludes Ranger; what is America hoping to gain by throwing in our chips with the Syrian opposition?

Jihadists in Libya and Syria got their combat experience fighting U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are the Islamic equivalent of the Lincoln Brigade of the War on Terror; they are mercenary insurrectionists. In Iraq and Afghanistan they were trying to protect the existing order; now, they are trying to overthrow the existing order.

Where do their loyalties lie and who pays them?  There are linkages to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain. Why do Americans arrogantly presume all rebels are looking for a freedom day like that of 1776?

Ranger is hoping someone of a higher pay grade can clarify his thinking here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


--Guerras No!, Arcadio Esquivel 

Faulty assumptions, overly optimistic,
lack of reality
--General Ron Adams 

A great civilization is not conquered from without
until it has destroyed itself from within
--Will Durant

We Americans worship false political gods, despite thinking ourselves so secular, or so religious.

Here are some of our Golden Calves:
  • Anti-Communism
  • The Domino Theory
  • Counterinsurgency Theory
  • The Long War Theory
  • Necessity of Nuclear Weapons Stockpile
All of these beliefs have guided our thinking to accept irrational behavior from our government.  Logical behavior is a hard thing for the human animal to achieve with any regularity, and as on the personal level, so too on the political.

Anti-Communism was United States policy from around 1917 until we became their allies during World War II.  The day following Victory in Europe (VE Day), they reverted into their formerly reviled slot.  The U.S. created and tended a nuclear arsenal capable of ending life on the planet many times over in order to protect ourselves, thinking this Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) posture would ensure our safety; it was a tenuous safeguard, for we were not sure if the Communist hoards respected life in the same way that we did.

As the Soviet empire collapsed, they did not unleash a nuclear war, verifying that our arch-nemesis was not as anarchic as we has feared.  Perhaps the present-day nemesis -- the terrorists -- are similar in that world destruction-domination is not their goal.

The U.S. Army is currently questioning the validity of the COIN theory in warfare, and perhaps it will be remanded to the graveyard of ideas, just as was the Domino Theory.  COIN did not work when practiced in Vietnam, and Southeast Asian carapace did not fall to world Communist domination after Communist tanks rolled into Saigon in 1975.

This leads us to question another shibboleth and bulwark of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), the Long War Theory.  The Long War concept justifies the open-ended roaming of the world seeking terrorists to neutralize, but the process encompasses its own weakness: Non-terrorists die in the project, forming the basis for the creation of future terrorists.  The Long War advocates are peddling the proverbial self-licking ice cream cone.

From where did the Long War concept emerge, and how did it become the darling of our military and political leaders?  Who decided that terrorism was to be a two-generation war? Why did the Department of Defense buy into such an irrational construct? Certainly it would seem there is a measure of self-serving job security involved for the hawkers of such an economically- and psychically draining policy.

The gods to which we bow usually have feet of clay.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

Although we have a strong nostalgic streak,
we are a hard people who no less than the ancient Romans
entertain ourselves with a steady diet of throat slitting
and torture images that can only work
to pound the tenderness out of us 
--Try a Little Tenderness, Gordon Marino 

They offer me neither food nor drink -- 
intellectual nor spiritual consolation...
[Conservatism] leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal;
it conforms to no intellectual standard, it is not safe,
or calculated to preserve from the spoilers
that degree of civilization which we have already attained. 
--On the Conservative Party, John Maynard Keynes 

The first article ever presented on RangerAgainstWar was titled, "Terrorism -- Is It Warfare?" (first published in Military Police, 1985).  Because the question has never been answered definitively, the United States has been fighting in two countries for over a decade.  23 years later, the question is still in play.

The latest iteration occurs in context of the President ordering drone strikes against U.S. citizens for suspicion of terrorist activities.  Let's go back to the start and talk about the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the document being used as the justification for the recent drone killings.  The AUMF is NOT a declaration of war but rather a feeble effort to apply the logic and standards of war to the activity of terrorism by creating a nether zone between criminality and warfare.

But terrorism is not warfare; terrorism is a criminal activity and therefore, a law enforcement concern.  Congress may authorize whatever is on their agenda, but they may not alter the reality and definitions of what constitutes war. As terrorism is criminal behavior and not war, the President has no constitutional authority to apply the concepts of warfare to justify his assassination program.  Assassination is not a mete response to criminal behavior.

The President may or may not have the constitutional authority to use deadly force to counter a threat, but there is no law allowing him to act as judge, jury and executioner.  The President may order the military to use force in a legitimate manner, but may not order them (or the CIA or the FBI) to authorize extrajudicial deadly force missions.

There are no provisions in our U.S. code for preemptive executions.  We do not field adjudicate even miscreants like the spree shooters of late.  Though these defectives are just as heinous as terrorists, we still respect their right to Due Process.

How have we come to accept a death sentence sans trial as being appropriate for anyone? Why has the concept of "burden of proof" disappeared?  Why do we trust career intelligence analysts to give a "thumbs down" on someone's life?  Ditto sleazy CIA directors or political appointees?

If terrorism is warfare, then the Geneva Conventions would apply, and the terrorists would no longer be criminals, but would this re-definition be either smart or logical?  Assuming that terrorism = warfare (remember: it ISN'T!):

  • Why do we kill in war?  Wartime killing is not limitless and does have parameters. Killing -- and each individual death -- should lead to victory; the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) cannot even define victory.
  • Why do we have and abide by the Geneva Conventions?
  • Wars without ends are a fool's gambit.

If terrorism is NOT warfare, then the U.S. actions vis-a-vis terrorists are criminal; if terrorism IS warfare, then our actions violate every principle of war that was ever taught to Ranger in any service school. Killing sans clearly defined goals is a greater criminality than is terrorism; minimally, it is indistinguishable from it.

While we cannot control the actions of terrorists, we should hold our leaders to civilized standards of conduct.  Killing to no purpose is not a building block of civilization.

Labels: , , , , ,