Tuesday, April 30, 2013


By the time a person hears the news,
it is not news at all, but opinion.
It becomes a message of some kind,
rather than fresh, straightforward news
--Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 … Have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?

As a teenager, Michel believed that suffering
conferred dignity on a person.
Now he had to admit that he had been wrong.
What conferred dignity on people was television 
--The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq

[What follows is a meditation on media; more military and politics back tomorrow -- ed.]

Two weekends ago I visited a friend who is a t.v. watcher, and over the course of that weekend I passed before the set for perhaps 30 minutes total, but those 30 minutes reminded me why I do not watch.

First came the superannuated momentous query on the news: "WHAT would turn an Elvis impersonator into a would-be killer?" The mind reels in contemplation of such a question. Before a cutaway to an ad, the voiceover suggested the next feature would be advice to survivors of the Boston bombing. We catch a glimpse of a woman staunchly dispensing heartfelt words from a rehab facility, presumably a victim of some other tragedy: "Don't never give up".  But -- is this news?

Earlier, the local news devoted 6 minutes of a 30-minute broadcast to -- the weather.  All that is needed in order to know whether to wear one's mac is the 5-day forecast, but instead they must dazzle with all the bells and whistles and Doppler Radar, the "forecaster" (how medieval!) giving his best guess as to how the winds will blow, with his usual 50/50 accuracy rate. [An intelligent friend once observed that he kept the Weather Channel on all day as background, and wasn't sure why it held such a fascination for him.]

Six minutes of weather patterns, while the world turns and events of import are never suggested. We are lucky to get six minutes of international news each night, hence why Lisa stopped watching t.v. news back in college.  She witnessed the "Tessification" of the media news with the advent of the dreaded "infotainment" industry.

But even before the degradation that ET ushered in, an absolutely disinterested posture seemed impossible for humans, especially when they've entered the realm of celebrity. When a trusted news reporter like Walter Cronkite grafts his opinion upon his reportage (as he did following his Vietnam visit when he declared that war to be unwinnable), the facts as presented are no longer trustworthy.

I largely stopped watching much television after Hill Street Blues ushered in the use of vertiginous shots to suggest a strained verisimilitude; cinema verite it was not. The static angles of film noir are tolerable but one feels like a seizure victim when the entire program is riddled by close ups and fade outs and a shaky hand; it's exhausting. (Needless to say, classics of the film canon, like "Blair Witch Project", are outre for me.)

Later, was a performance of Otis Redding tunes at the White House hosted by Queen Latifah.  Being a Redding fan, I stayed with this program the longest, hoping for some soulful and heartfelt renditions.  I entered to hear the underwhelming Justin Timberlake butcher a tune, straining himself beyond all credibililty, lacking an ounce of feeling. He was decked out in a too-tight suit trying to strike a cross between Sinatra (more at Michael Buble) and Daniel Craig's Bond, but he couldn't open the collar to correct effect lest his tats show. It was a truly painful performance.

There was one campy but spirited performance of "Knock on Wood by an older performer, followed by a dismal performance of Redding's anthematic "When a Man Loves a Woman" by a young man who did not appear to have ever loved a woman, who went falsetto when he failed to mine the pathos of the tune. This effort garnered him the requisite "oohs and ahhs," but in fact the performance was another dud. Latifah sang one and hit the notes, but did not inspire. Any day of the week in our town one may hear the angelic and inspired voices of simple church choir members doing a far more credible job of invoking feelings.

Nonetheless, the white people squirmed uneasily, smiled and clapped to some unfelt rhythm. But when Cyndi Lauper began a tune which she could clearly not honor, my hopes for hearing any more singers with feeling were quashed. Lauper's "True Colors" back in the '80's was masterful, but Redding is not her league. Who scheduled this lineup of abysmal failures?

Lastly, I caught a moment of the nighttime soap "The Good Wife", in which actual t.v. interviewer Charley Rose appeared in a cameo on the program doing his interview schtick. I know there is precedent for public personas making appearances on t.v. programs, but this was disappointing. This simulacrum might easily confuse a young person trying to discern fact from fiction.

Charley Rose was great early in his career on late night public t.v., when he provided a forum for people of note to explain their thinking. He was an informed and respectful host who largely took himself out of the equation, but about 20 years ago he was repackaged into the ubiquitous form of the interrupting, "gotcha" interviewer and was no longer unique. No longer what he was, this jump into pure fiction wasn't a tremendous jump for him.

My 30 minutes of t.v. time was a bridge too far.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Inglorious Bastards

   I'm aware what tremendous feats human beings
are capable of once they abandon dignity 
--Inglourious Basterds (2009)

He kept dreamin'
That someday he'd be a star.
But he sure found out the hard way
That dreams don't always come true 
--Midnight Train to Georgia, 
Gladys Knight and the Pips 

Do you think because you are virtuous, 
that there shall be no more cakes and ale? 
--Twelfth Night (II, iii)

The Boston Marathon bombings occurred almost two weeks ago -- a world away, in Twitter years -- and the reaction to the perpetrators was visceral and immediate shock along the lines of "who could have imagined such a thing." Though an understandable protestation, it is disingenuous as we have been down this road before, and outrage will not stop these events.

Most are quick to use the latest atrocity as a stump for their agenda, but we need neither a police state nor more gumption to go out into the world of fun activities uncowed. This bombing is also discrete from gun ownership issues. For those unwilling to tag violent video games, movies, television and music as the genesis of the violent impulse, guns can also not be blamed for the recent eruptions of violence.

The non-sequitur after the bombings was a renewed call for gun control by those self-loathing Americans who blame our rights for the misconduct of a few. For those who earnestly argue the point, the U.S. is a hopelessly, malignantly violent society as it is predicated upon the ownership of killing tools. However, this view is hopelessly ethnocentric.

The United States does not have dibs on violence.

Photographer friend Zoriah (former embed with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan) recently published a harrowing series of photographs of acid attack victims, people who will live out their lives horribly disfigured and in pain, many unable to even keep food in their mouths and much worse. This horror is conducted routinely around the globe, and without access to guns. Hatred and will are the only necessary components.

Less spectacular than acid attacks are the brutalities committed daily in any ordinary life without weapons, but actions whose indelible mark will be borne for a lifetime by the victims. We are all murderers, some figurative and some literal. The Shadow said it best: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Bottom line: Mankind is a brutal species, and removing guns to the hands of a few will not change that fact. Guns are not the Nodes of Ranvier which you may neatly remove to interrupt the perpetration of violence. At a garage sale last weekend was overheard the following exchange: "Do you suppose we should remove the pressure cookers?" And for what reason? And should we remove Borax and Jello and Ivory Snow and Popsicle sticks and anything else which might be used to go "BOOM"?

Because the will to power is so strong, and attacks render us impotent, the recourse to counter-attack is expected. We love Uncle Ruslan Tsarni's judgment -- "They were losers!" He removes the heat from his back by joining in our collective disgust. The usually-reasoned editor of The Week magazine, William Falk, called them "bastards", and otherwise poised commenters everywhere let loose with a passel of hauteur.

Comedian Sasha Baron Cohen captured Americans well in his low-brow film Borat when he has his undercover Kazakhstan newsman decked out in Toby Kieth red-white-and-blue shirt spouts a biblical litany of curses to be meted out upon our Middle Eastern enemies. At first, the crowd joins in, and not until Borat takes his invective to the absurd do the dupes get it and back off.

To us the brothers are "dummies", yet our Central Intelligence Agency missed Tamarlan Tsarnaev's recent 6-month visit to Russia due to a misspelling on a plane manifest (reminiscent of the original tragedy in the dystopian film "Brazil", wrought by a fly falling into the teletype which changed the name "Tuttle" into "Buttle" and ensuing bureaucratic errors.) Name-calling is rather schoolyard, and at best is a crude attempt to show the name-caller is inured to the harm caused by the bully. But as in school, slander usually only serves to promulgate the offense and ratchet up the efforts of the offender in order to re-establish his "good name".

The media called the older brother a "two-bit boxer"; in fact, he was the Golden Gloves champion from Massachusetts for two years. He lacked finesse, as did Serbian tennis champ Novak Djokovic, but he lacked the expensive handlers to shepherd him through the system. An interesting investigative piece at the NYT surmises that the insurmountable blocks with which he met may have contributing to his choice of violence (A Battered Dream.) The younger, Dzhokhar, was a college student at Dartmouth.

This is not a case of reifying national identities or political affiliations, it is about not participating in and perpetuating the violence. Labeling the problem stops progress; it is like doing medicine by the numbers. Inquiry opens it. For our own benefit, we should cease finding succor in name-calling.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day 2013: The Pale Blue Dot

(National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency)

“Abandoned automobiles and other debris clutter an acid water and oil filled five acre pond. It was cleaned up under EPA supervision to prevent possible contamination of Great Salt Lake and a wildlife refuge nearby.” 
--Bruce McAllister, near Ogden, Utah, April 1974
Now there is one outstandingly important fact
regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is
that no instruction book came with it 
--Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,
Buckminster Fuller

Earth Day 2013 passed quietly yesterday, the media focused on the human-on-human destruction more to the tastes of an anthropocentric society. (For more 1970's environmental atrocities, see Smithsonian Best and Worst of 1970's.) Almost 70% of Americans though preserving and restoring the environment was an important goal when the day was commemorated in 1971; today, less than 40% think so.

Meanwhile, the brutalization of our planet continues apace. In our neck of the woods, consumption of the once-popular Apalachicola Bay oyster is down, some reports suggesting by as much as 60%. An unknown amount of the oil dispersant Corexit -- banned in Europe -- was dumped into the Gulf to make the slicks "disappear" in 2010, but in fact increasing the toxicity of the spill by a coefficient of 50 (in keeping with SNL character Fernando's dictum, "It is better to look good than to feel good.") Many people who care about their health, and who have the liberty to make a choice, have declined swimming in or eating from these waters.

The Gulf Coast doesn't have too much in the way of natural resources, but seafood was one of them until BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill cruelly arrived just in time for that year's Earth Day. On the three-year anniversary of the event, our Florida Attorney General Filed Suit Against BP Over the 2010 Spill for lost revenue in the state. 

The Environmental Protection Agency Reports: More Than Half Nation's Rivers in Poor Shape, unable to support healthy populations of aquatic insects and other creatures. 

If you can do something to help your piece of the planet stay healthy, please do it; likewise, if you can refrain from harming it, then do that.

Happy Earth Day, 2013.

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Why He Does What He Does

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory 
--And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, 
The Pogues 

He was quick-tempered with a
strange halting way of speaking 
--Seinfeld, Lotus episode

The answer to the titular question is, neither for love nor money, fame nor fortune. He is not gunning for the ubiquitous "consulting" position. He earns no buckaroos for the project. No -- the origins are to be found in a career with the organization in which he discovered that thinking was not allowed, at least, not aloud.

Ranger was the perennial gadfly, or "pain in the ass", depending upon whom was doing the accounting. It was the same in Vietnam. To questions concerning our function in country he would say, "It is THEIR country, after all ..."  This did not win him acolytes.

Ranger retired as a Terrorism Counteraction (TC/A) training specialist for the Department of the Army, designated a subject matter expert (SME) who, at the time, was one of few who had graduated from every school the Department of Defense ran on the topic of terrorism -- including all Special Forces training and Air Force Training in Low Intensity Conflict (TLIC). He maintained his interest in the topic following retirement, and his analyses at RangerAgainstWar are not based in idle speculation.

While in the field, he also disagreed with the official doctrine that terrorism was a great threat to our national security and one that would affect the operation of our Armed Forces, believing instead that terrorism would be a manageable nuisance were correct protocols emplaced. His view was not popular as the dynamic nature and flashiness of the terror threat provided a great moneymaker for the military.

The news media and the security apparatus of the United States were in collusion selling this fear, and the contractors in three-piece suits with leather attaches selling lesson plans two years out of the Military Police corps were a dime a dozen, their legion whisked through revolving doors.  Fear sells, and the Dod was its pied piper.

RangerAgainstWar's recent piece, "The Boston Massacre", was a down-and-dirty evaluation of the tradecraft usually associated with a well-planned and executed event. Terrorist's must use Old Special Forces tradecraft in order to penetrate the U.S. and operate in any successful manner. Their success indicates our failure at practising these methods which used to be a standard part of SF Officers Training course. (Even CIA operatives came through our course which was based on the old OSS tradecraft.)

Direct action and fancy gadgets have largely supplanted that approach, but that's another story.

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Monday, April 22, 2013


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication 
--Leonardo da Vinci

A successful act of terrorism requires a certain sophistication.  A RAW reader recently challenged this contention by stating 22 million not-very sophisticated Mexicans penetrated our first level of security, which is our borders.

Besides the obvious difference in intent (most Mexicans hope to make a new home in the U.S. whereas the intent of terrorists is to gain entry to spread mayhem), the reader is correct that support -- both active and passive -- is necessary for the success of either infiltrative endeavor. In a future post Ranger will explore the analogy between how Mexican aliens and terrorists have successfully breached the U.S. borders and gained a foothold in a future post.

For now, we will point out that it is minimally essential to gain transport (driver's license), safe house (shelter), identification documents and financing.  Beyond that, terrorists must have language facility, handling, intelligence, targeting data, swept passports and avenues of escape. Staying in country and becoming operational require all of the above, not just pole-vaulting over a hurdle.

Our media rarely provides a look at the support chain behind the terrorist.  It strains credulity to believe that two men carried out OKC or 19 the WTC attack with little or no support beyond the attack team. Both events had more active and passive support personnel than we were led to believe. Ditto the current brothers suspected of setting bombs at the Boston Marathon.

As an outside-the-box guy, Ranger has never believed the official versions of the Oklahoma City Murrah Building (OKC) bombing or the attacks of 9-11-01, both of which are seminal fear-generating scenarios for the U.S.  One event was used to start wars versus stateside militias, the other to create the new concept of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), the Long War. 

The OKC bombers were depicted as malcontent losers acting alone who pulled off a spectacular terror event, but the two ideas are contradictory. The coverage of the 9-11-01 events never go beyond the hijackers themselves, save for the mention of their ties with the shadowy organization al-Qaeda and a chart of the group's top organization. The latest sound byte on the Boston brothers (from their uncle) is that they did what they are purported to have done because they were "losers".  Case closed ... or is it?

It is perhaps a comfort to imagine that this could not have been foreseen, or as former Secretary of State Rice said following the WTC attack ("Who could have imagined?" . . . despite a prior attack at the same facility less than ten years before.)  But such disingenuousness is no longer acceptable, and ignorance is not bliss when the price is one's life. 

Being rational in the U.S. vis-a-vis violence and terror in our society is the new outre topic among liberals. We dare not racially profile, and the price for the privilege of sitting at the table of democracy is to put on one's blinders. "These things will happen," and "let's get those gun rights curtailed right quick," only this is a non-sequitur: if you are willing to suck up the routine occasional bombing for fear of losing your freedoms, then why so quick off the block to limit the rights of gun owners?

All linkages between terrorism and the society in which it occurs and from whence it is generated should be made, and the beginning is to form a profile of the suspect population.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut

--Terror in DNA, Pavel Constantin (Romania)
RAW thinks this may the most accurate rendering
of terror by a political cartoonist 

The world has moved on 
--The Dark Tower, Stephen King 

How comforting to know we're
the "right sort of people" 
--The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

Nothing's wrong as far as I can see
We make it harder than it has to be
and I can't tell you why
no, baby, I can't tell you why 
--I Can't Tell You Why, The Eagles

Some are hung up on the correct nomenclature to describe the recent bombing in Boston, as if not calling it "terrorism" makes it something it is not, which is a crime, and a crime of indiscriminate violence. It is something the world and the United States has seen before, yet the response is more shock, albeit a bit benumbed (save for those directly affected.)  Why should this be?

The main question to arise from the event is, "Why did it occur at all?" The biggest failure was that the Boston Marathon was not identified as a threat environment, and as a result security was deficient. What are the people in the Department of Homeland Security doing if not identifying and training relevant personnel for JUST SUCH AN EVENT? They are not organizing ice cream socials, after all.

Ranger had just written "Commando Cop" the day before the event, questioning the combat posture of regular law enforcement to effectively confront stateside terrorism. The bombing in Boston proves that all the neato paramilitary gear and vehicles in the country will not do what simple vigilance can accomplish: Identify two unattended black backpacks in clear sight, soon to maim and kill.

Such potential threats would not sit long on a parade route in Londonderry, or on a Japanese or Madrid train or an Israeli bus. Those cultures have accepted that acts of terror can occur in any public space, and their police and citizens carry on with due diligence. This loss of naivete is not exactly paranoia, but it is pragmatic.

They are not less free, and we are foolishly naive if we think we can roll back the clock by watching enough episodes of Mad Men; that is no longer our world.  We are also fools if we think the vaunted Seal Team Six will kill the bad guys in their jammies.

Nor will our guns protect us from such crimes. Terrorists do not get into counter productive gun fights; they do not fight fair.  It would be a doomed effort with no attendant benefit to their group (or their person.) All terrorist operations have the goal to increase their funding, to gain new members and to create spectacular terrorist events; this is their raison d'etre.

Even archetypal terrorist Osama bin Laden did not elect to utilize his weapons in such a scenario.  Terrorists engage only soft targets not in a defensive posture. If it is a lone terrorist, getting killed does not allow you the toothsome pleasure of reading about or seeing your maimed victims. Just ask the Unabomber or the BTK killer.

The bombings in Boston show that the U.S. has lost the counter-terrorism knowledge won after the era of 1970's and '80's Euroterrorism. Distracted by our high-tech tools and focusing on far threats, we fail to identify clear and present threat situations in CONUS.

When U.S. military installations were the targets of terror bombings there were standard operating procedure both on post and throughout most NATO nations. Israeli intelligence developed the concept that any unguarded package or case was a possible explosive device. Simple countermeasures like removing trash canisters from crowded areas were adopted. The Boston bombing could have been prevented had one person noted the unguarded backpacks hiding in plain sight.

This is not armchair quarterbacking -- this is a lament for the loss of institutional knowledge from the not-too distant past. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars on counter-terrorism experts, firearms training, SWAT tactics and all the attendant tools, but the simple and obvious was overlooked.

The police failed in crowd control and security, and this is a slam on their training and not their individual capabilities. Photos showing the Boston police drawing their guns after the explosion were both instinctual and tragic, for a gun can't kill a bomb. They were bunched up -- bad if there were a secondary bombing -- when they should have been setting up a cordon and keeping the uninjured away while treating the wounded.

The one apparent success was the Boston trauma team which had been trained by Israeli trauma personnel.  Alasdair Conn, Chief of Emergency Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, credited that training with their success in treating the victim expeditiously.  This fact is not getting the press, but it should, as the Israeli's have gained a hard-won effective protocol against terror attacks. Our police need the commensurate training that those medical personnel received.

To properly counter a terror threat, the government must utilize layers of security and concentric circles around any potential target.  Though anything can be a target, this does not mean counter-terrorism measures are doomed to failure. Effective response requires real coordination between agencies that transcends 9-5 business hours with classified OPLANS hidden insecurity vaults, written by retired soldiers.  This is our world today, and it demands a real-world engagement of all relevant personnel.

Forget analyzing the chaff on the radar, which apparently was not detected in this case. A simple-minded homeless person could have broken up this attack by asking an officer, "What is this back pack doing here?"

In disasters, "It did not happen" beats, "We'll never forget" any day.

--Jim and Lisa

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bring it On!, Redux

--Hajo de Reijger 

Bring 'em on 
--President George W. Bush (2003)

 Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn? 
--Where Have All the Flowers Gone, 
Pete Seeger

This is probably the most foolish editorial thus far on the Boston bombing:
Thomas L. Friedman

Op-Ed Columnist

Bring on the Next Marathon


We're just not afraid anymore.

Friedman expresses the same bravado that began the enervating Wars on Terror, namely, "Bring it on!" But that machismo rings false, as any act of terror does not come with a "bring it on" response; your emotions, Mr. Friedman, are tinny and false, disrespectful and callow.

From the Op-Ed,

"We still do not know who set off the Boston Marathon bombs or why. But we do know now, after 9/11, after all the terrorism the world has seen in the last decade, what the right reaction is: wash the sidewalk, wipe away the blood, and let whoever did it know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society or way of life. Terrorists are not strong enough to do that — only we can do that to ourselves — and we must never accommodate them. 

"So let’s repair the sidewalk immediately, fix the windows, fill the holes and leave no trace — no shrines, no flowers, no statues, no plaques — and return life to normal there as fast as possible. Let’s defy the terrorists, by not allowing them to leave even the smallest scar on our streets, and honor the dead by sanctifying our values, by affirming life and all those things that make us stronger and bring us closer together as a country."

"Left no trace"? Oh, Mr. Friedman, you are a little late off the starting block on this one.  The time for arguing "Get on with it!" is past. The U.S. is inextricably committed to a long, feckless war, one which leaves us not one jot safer from the thing with which we claim to tussle -- terrorism. If anything, our wars disallow us to ever return to normal.  Brave words now: Defy the terrorists.

That wasn't your tune a decade ago, so how dare you co-opt the loser's phrase in service of your new-found bravery? "Sanctify our values"? And what exactly would those be? And does your advice hold to those upon whom we are committing violence?  Do they just wash off their streets and commence again?

Your piece is rifled by contradictions: "eyes always on the prize, never on all those 'suspicious' bundles on the curb", yet you admit "The explosives were reportedly packed into six-litre pressure cookers, tucked into black duffel bags and then left on the ground." The Israelis do not ignore untended packages, and perhaps neither should we.  The time for you to laud that "quintessentially American naïveté" is not now. 

How easy to celebrate a human reaction as a rational impulse ("When you watch the video of the bombing aftermath, notice how many people you see running toward the blast within seconds to help, even though more bombs easily could have been set to explode there"), when you might be suggesting helpful lessons which would allow our citizens to live sensibly in the midst of the reality of such actions, while not cowering or being Pollyannaish, either.  Running toward the sight of probable secondary explosions is not helpful.

Now we've moved past the "Friedman Unit" (FU) to the Friedman Ostrich pose; neither are very attractive or functional.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Massacre

--In "Brazil", the steampunk technocrats
can't keep up with the bombers

 ~How do you account for the fact
that the bombing campaign
has been going on for thirteen years?
~Beginners' luck 
--Brazil (1985)

Two bombs were detonated at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon 15 April 2013 resulting in 3 deaths and over 100 injuries. The event proves the maxim that to counter a threat we must be right every time, while the terrorists only need to be right once.

Why Boston? Key portal cities will be the only targets of terrorism. Terrorists have limited assets, and these cities offer easy ingress and egress.  Authorities are suggesting this is the work of a lone man, perhaps a Saudi national, but the lone wolf theory does not comport with historical events.

We must assume that any ancillary team members exfiltrated prior to the execution phase. The reason is asset value.  Bomb makers require sophisticated training and are the most valued members of the team; his life cannot be jeopardized in peripheral activities.

His specialty is not reconnaissance, security or any other support function of the planning stage.  Both active and passive support provide these functions, to include materiel gathering for the bomb maker (unless the explosives were provided by a State or non-State sponsor.) The explosives must also be infiltrated, and the maker is not the mule.

The pertinent question regarding whoever executed this attack is: How did they get past Saudi police, intelligence, Interpol, ICE, FBI, CIA and the Boston Police?  Note also that neither the 3rd Armored Division nor Seal Team 6 could have stopped this event, which shows that terrorism is not a military concern.

The  targeting of the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day is similar to the Irish Republican Army's bombings in London streets during The Troubles. The targeting of a popular sporting event will cause terror beyond the actual destruction. The terrorist's goal is always far-reaching trauma, exceeding that of the physical damage.

A down and dirty listing of the perpetrators:
  • There were reconnaissance personnel familiar with Boston to select target locations
  • Security teams to protect the bomb maker
  • Administration personnel to provide safe houses, working areas and money, cover and transportation
  • A handler for these people; this is the coach and coordinator
  • A clean up team to sanitize their quarters
  • A driver, and possibly a photographer to document the event.  Today, that could mean carrying a cell-phone.

The bomber(s) and handler are expendable, and did not build the bomb. They only place and arm the bomb, and ideally will be killed in the explosion leaving no live intel sources behind (though Boston police are stating at this time that the bomber was not among those killed.)

These people are all like Chairman Mao's fishes swimming in a big river. In our little city, there are groups of Middle Eastern men who frequent local coffee shops playing chess, coming and going every few weeks, fading into the background, hiding in plain sight. We are not saying they are threats, but in a free society we have anonymous people coming and going at astounding rates; not being a police state is a double-edged sword.

The Boston bombing shows that despite the U.S. invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, we have neither sufficiently or correctly identified the threat to the U.S., nor have we eliminated the motivation for attacks by these groups. While we send Special Operations Forces worldwide, a bomber gets through the levels of security cast by our supposed specialists.

Simply: All of the SWAT teams, drones and armored divisions will not protect us from a core of dedicated adversaries.

The question to be answered: From whom do the attackers obtain their operational abilities and support, and why do we fail to focus on the actual threat to our nation?

An event like the Boston bombing suggests we should reassess the logic and assumptions of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)

Follow-on, per the IED/bombs: 

Most likely these were commercial explosives, as they were in backpacks.  They probably weighed no more than 40 pounds and no shrapnel was incorporated, keeping them light and concealable. This also implies they needed to be placed strategically to employ the surrounding area to act as shrapnel.

This means the bomb-maker knew his craft both technically and tactically.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Commando Cops

--Anaheim (CA) SWAT team member 

It's a hard world to get a break in
All the good things have been taken 
--It's My Life, The Animals

Did you ever think about life
as a metaphor for television 
--Chuck Paluhniak

"Training for Terrorism: Do You have the Mindset to Deal With the One-Percent" is an an article in Combat Arms (2013) suggesting training United State Law Enforcement to confront terrorism in a military manner; this so wrong in so many ways.

U.S. police are not soldiers, and combat training and  methodology is not a police function.  The streets of America can be mean, but they are not a battlefield. The last armed terrorist attack in the Continental U.S. was an attempted assassination of President Harry S. Truman in Washington D. C. by Puerto Rican separatists in 1950.

The author ("SGM Kyle Lamb, Ret.") incorrectly states that attacks like those in Mumbai (2008) are "coming to a street near you". Lamb states, "These terrorists decided that the United States was not prime for this particular attack, so they chose Mumbai."  WRONG.

The group that carried out that attack exploited a porous border and Pakistan ISI support (reportedly).  The group, Lashkar -e-Taiba, does not target U.S. interests nor are they capable of attacking the U.S. homeland as they lack the training, personnel and assets to do so.  Mumbai was only "chosen" because it was soft and easily exploited; suggesting that such a group could attack the U.S. is a paranoid fantasy.

Who are these murderous 1%, anyway? When was the last time a terrorist team killed a target here in the U.S.?  They are non-extant, but they are useful for raking the bucks for the paranoid fanatics selling a combat version of LE. However, combat and LE are two different concepts. U.S. LE must treat all threats the same. A properly-trained policeman or SWAT should react the same in a terrorist or law scenario; if loss of life is imminent, then the team may use deadly force.

The author suggests a "head shot" if a "vest-wearing terrorist [is] detected with thermal devices". We presume this would involve some profiling to determine if the threat is not "an average citizen" but instead, "terrorists we must kill to protect our citizens." 

"Cops are forced to treat everyone they come into contact with the same as a law-abiding citizen being pulled over for speeding [ugh, then he's not "law-abiding", right? -ed.] Unfortunately, terrorists are prepared to die for a cause and take you with them. You cannot treat these individuals as you would the 99 percent of the population who make contact with you daily."

If this article were based in reality, it would acknowledge that it would be more beneficial to capture terrorists than it would be to kill them in the execution phase; a live prisoner is worth 1,000 dead terrorists.

In fact, cops are the last line of defense that would confront a terrorist threat here. Terrorists will never use AK's and military tactics to attack targets in America. As this would be an imported threat, there would be layers of detection and prevention before any such act could even hope to reach the execution phase. Sigint and Humint filter out most attacks, both foreign and domestic, before they exit the planning stage.

Since the advent of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), the military and the police have cross-trained in federally-sponsored exercises such as "Emerald Coast" (in N. Florida). The result is a weak-minded and wrong-headed blending of military and police philosophies -- police are not combat-assets and vice versa.

We should be especially mindful of the lines as many police are recruited following military service. In order to avoid the militarization of LE, the "serve and protect" posture should be reinforced to replace the "search and destroy" mentality.

The author further conflates the concept of Rule of Engagement (military) with Use of Force (civilian), suggesting that policymakers should adopt a no-holds-barred policy for the police.  His frustration arises from the military's ROE constrictions, but were this a real war, there would be no such constrictions.  His frustrations do not apply to the civilian world of LE which abides by federal guidelines and Constitutional restrictions, none of which have changed or lost their viability since the events of 9-11-01 mesmerized our reptilian brains.

Terrorists are still just bog-simple criminals, and our laws still apply handily.  As well, the basis of all federal guidelines is the sanctity and preservation of life, even that of the shooter if at all possible, a concept which is antithetical to military thinking. (Lacking in this piece is the role of the Hostage Negotiator (HN) to resolve a situation before or even after the shooting starts -- what happened to the HN's?)

The U.S. is a nation guarded by the rule of law.  If the police become mobile death squads, then we have become worse than terrorists.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Raw Awe

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chained CPI



"A proposed formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other federal benefits -- called the "chained CPI" (C-CPI) would save money for the government, some budget experts say. But it would also take a disproportionate toll on one group -- disabled veterans. 

. . .

"Call to Action: Tell Washington to leave Social Security and veterans benefits out of any budget deal Call 866-584-3909 toll-free."

The Call to Action was removed from the online posting.

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Mad, Mad World

“We are great. We are free. We are wonderful.
We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle!
We all say so, and so it must be true.” 
--Ther Bandar-log monkeys,
The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling 

Team, this is all my fault. 
I screwed up with Cairo ... 
I let racism cloud my judgment ... 
I was so sure the world's ultimate terrorist 
must be Middle Eastern that... 
I never suspected he was a God-damn gook. 
I'll never be racist again. 
--Team America: World Police (2004)

Kipling's Bandar-log monkeys are considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their total self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity. A form of madness anchored in lack of self-awareness and ego, and by which definition we are perhaps all a little mad.

The sabre rattling by North Korea's leader Kim Jung-un provides a little diversion form the very real threats still facing the U.S. in its unresolved (unresolvable) military posture formerly known as The War on Terror.

The news dutifully churns out the "Mad Man" meme, but does Jong-un have a choke-hold on the title?  There are many ways to be mad.  The U.S. dropped the A-bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and we are still protecting Japan and Taiwan 67 years after the end of World War II. We are the idiots with an Army in South Korea 60 years after that war ended (another undeclared U.S. war.)

The U.S. is the nation which almost entered what would have been a devastating war over the Cuban Missile Crisis and which has a nuclear arsenal capable of frying the earth many times over, yet North Korea and Iran are the mad men. Certainly the leaders of these nations lack any finesse, but madness is as madness does.

Madness was invading Iraq in 2003, for instance.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gun Guys

 --Guns composite, Paolo Pellegrin

The New York Times recently ran an interview on gun control with Joe Nocera and Dan Baum, a liberal gun owner and author of the book, "Gun Guys: A Road Trip" (What Gun Lovers Think).

It makes sense that we "need to speak with a different voice" on this topic. Now, we have only the National Rifle Association who have totally cleaved from the political Progressives, and the non-gun owning Liberals who deride almost every argument for private gun ownership (they are the knee-jerk liberals who will see fit to laugh even at the man's book title ("Road trip ... like with Bob Hope?")  Everything is fair game for their scattershot attacks.

We need to stop taking potshots and consider the objective, which is our society's safety in this case. Even in this NYT piece which should have been a reasoned debate, the Times writer could barely restrain his thinly-veiled and yet poorly-developed disgust with all things firearms.

Here is an excerpt from Baum's argument:

You don’t understand guns, and you don’t know gun guys, yet you want to make rules for things you don’t understand for people you don’t know. And that is not how we’re going to end up safer.  . . .  We should be insisting on real responsibility from gun owners instead of doing what we’re doing now, which doesn’t get us anywhere. Because you don’t really think that by adjusting the number of rounds in a magazine we’re going to make everybody safer. You can’t possibly believe that. 

. . .

I think somebody who wants to carry a gun should be at least as well trained as the police. Right now, for example, if I wanted to carry a gun, my permit would be good in 30 states. But in every state it’s different. I can wear it in a restaurant in this state, but not in that state. In this place, I can take it near a school, but in that place I can’t. Flip the script. Say, “If you get licensed to carry a handgun, you can carry it anywhere. But you have to be trained at least as well as a police officer.” Do you worry when there’s a police officer in your kid’s school? No. You trust the police officer. Trust gun owners. Raise everybody’s level of responsibility instead of treating them like children. It’s getting us nowhere.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post Traumatic Society Disorder

--Net Warriors, Deng Coy Miel 

If you're in it for love, 
you ain't gonna get too far 
Watch out boy she'll chew you up
She's a maneater 
--Maneater, Hall and Oates

Temper filled with blindness
Leads this lost and lonely man
Dragged around your whipping tree
A scourge you can`t command 
--Another Bag of Bricks, Flogging Molly

Ranger met a fellow Vietnam Army veteran last week and they discussed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and related topics. The Marine has stayed away from the diagnosis of PTSD, but it took him over a decade to begin processing his experience of profound anxiety, nightmares and the whole constellation of related symptoms; this got Ranger thinking.

We vets get labelled with the diagnosis of PTSD when in fact we are perfectly adapted to live and survive in an environment which requires hyper-vigilance, violent instantaneous reaction and all the other related behaviors of a predator in a prey environment.  The "problem" arises when we return to the civilian world, and our finely-honed responses are deemed inappropriate.

The situation is, we (I) do not consider PTSD to be our problem, but rather a problem for members of a too-lax society which does not know how to deal with self-contained and self-sustaining individuals like us.  "Okay", you say, "so, WTF?"

Well, aside from the fact that your government is producing more of us daily, we are -- in addition to our predator sensibilities -- resentful that we are held to a standard that our own government clearly does not adhere to.  After over a decade of involvement in a Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), we as a nation have still not fessed up to the fact that our national reactions are no longer appropriate or applicable to leading functional lives; that in fact, they never were functional. 

The events of 9-11-01 were extremely short-lived: one day of madness.  The recovery should have been implemented immediately thereafter, except a disingenuous government pumped us full of fear and kept us in a heightened state of alert. Contrast this reaction with those of a soldier who must live a tour or more of tension, something that takes more than a moment from which to recover.

We tag our vets with PTSD, yet our National policy is as aberrant or non-adaptive as is the behavior of the most afflicted vets in our midst. We do not call our government "disordered", however.

When our society partakes of maladaptive behavior we call this "an action plan"; when vets do it we call it PTSD. Maybe a new meaning for the acronym could be, "Post-Traumatic Society Disorder."

[NOTE: There will be a follow-on called, "Good Soldiering".]

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Handsome Harry

[Note: This is a belated OP- LP post. 
We will have another post up later.]
It resembles him. Still, I remember him as handsomer.
To the point of illness: that's how sensitive he was,
and it illumined his expression.
Handsomer, he seems to me,
now that my soul recalls him, out of Time
--Aboard the Ship, C. P. Cavafy

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all 
--Hamlet (III, i), Shakespeare  

"Oho!" they cried, "The world is wide,
But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with
Sin In the secret House of Shame." 
--The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde

Handsome Harry (2009) a quiet but powerful film which didn't get much play, but it deserves to be seen.  It is the story of a brutal act committed by three Electronic Technicians in the Navy during Vietnam wartime and how this violence has played out in each of their lives.

The plot revolves around the titular Harry, who is charged by the dying ET Thomas (Steve Buscemi) to ask for forgiveness from a fellow, Kagan, whom they severely brutalized while in a drunken fervor. Harry initially tells him not to be a "pussy" and to suck it up, but the layers of Harry's involvement and complicity are slowly revealed as he pursues the truth of the attack.

The origin of the violence resides in each man, dis-integrated in his own way, living within a more or less comfortable rationale to make life bearable. All the men had married a "nice"  woman, and had one child, but their bow to conformity did not provide consolation. The repercussions from the brutality meted out 30 years ago upon one of their own has haunted each man, but we discover the first cause in Harry himself.

As Harry visits each ET like an amateur sleuth, he is pulled from his safe, low-affect existence; repressed emotions will eventually out.

Spoiler alert: Harry cannot accept the passion he enjoyed in his forbidden relationship with Kagan, and so has lived the life of a semi-recluse and sexual neuter.  His example suggests that we don't know how to live with the raw power of eros, and so prefer to sublimate it. Harry's love is so strong and "disordered" (for one who sought to be a priest at one time) he must disfigure it, and by smashing it he disallows it into his realm.

He will only live his title ("handsome") in the rugged figural and superficial sense. By maiming Kagan he maims his psyche, while remaining handsome in the sense of Wilde's "Dorian Gray" -- the sense which our society most sanctions.  Under his surface calm, Harry is a roiling soup of contradictions.

"Handsome Harry" is a fine character study of a group of adolescents growing into men which grinds to its inexorable and ambiguous ending. Have you ever witnessed or participated in an action which required the suppression of your moral instinct, especially in the service?

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

War in the Time of Facebook

 --The New Androids? 

ET, phone home! 
--E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982) 

There's no place like home 
--Wizard of Oz (1939) 

Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night 
 I can see paradise by the dashboard lights 
--Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf 

We shall meet in the place 
where there is no darkness 
--1984, George Orwell

USAToday's Weekend edition happened to have a sickly greenish hue to all of its photos yesterday, but the one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fronting the Money section bore a special pall. "Facebook: No place like home" was the homey title of the piece.

"We're calling this Home," said Zuckerberg of a download for "a family of Facebook apps" for the home screen of Android devices. The implication is that this device is a place you live, and a portal through which the world may enter and on which you may interface with them.  But this Home is nowhere.

We feel that if there is such a thing as "evil", its name is "Facebook". Facebook disappears people into dark dungeons lit only by the screen lights. It is a compulsive narcissism which has been imposed upon the users by the imperative to check the updates of their hundred or so friends throughout the day, and to likewise compulsively post the minutiae of their own daily so-called lives. Everything is neat and tidy on the 3 x 5" screen because we have all become editors of our existence, filtering out anything which fails to further the narrative.  But editors do not generate copy, at least not first-person.

Facebook is a Voluntary Servitude. Not only is it a supreme arrogance to imagine anyone cares to follow the timeline of your life, but it is also a supreme idiocy to reveal yourself so publicly to any comers. While Facebook might be a helpful escape for shut-ins or people housed in gulags, it is mainly useful for data mining by government agencies and cat burglars.

Like the students who used to hang non-functioning cell phones from their belt loops to show they were Somebody, today's Facebook slavers suggest that one is a (hopeful) player in the flow of life provided one swears one fealty via compulsive keyboard tapping, and proffer a suggested-though-false paradigm that everyone has a chair at the table of Facebook Home.  It is HOME, after all, and home is where they have to take you, right?

The new Facebook app also lets you "Like" something by double-tapping, or "Chat Head" with a "friend" whose mug pops up in the middle of your other Facebook distractions. Why are adult humans clicking on "thumbs up" icons across the internet?  It is so "middle school" to want to be liked in this way of being approved of.

Run away, while you still can cut the umbilicus.

(Note: If you tossed your AOL or Yahoo! account under the bus in favor of Gmail -- if you hop on the latest technological bus -- you are probably beyond this action. By my Old School homies still have a chance of rejecting the ersatz and finding a real home. If you've tried to rein in your habit, please let us know how that's going for you.  This is not heresy; the revolution WILL be televised, only you won't be there, as you will be watching it at HOME.]

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Day Late and a Dollar Short

 These celebrations are a fiesta of illusion.
As Spain’s conquistadors discovered,
and we too often forget, Florida is like Play-Doh.
Take the goo; mold it to your dream.
Then watch the dream ooze back into goo
--Ponce de Leon, Exposed

Leon County declared March 30 "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" two years ago, and this year the county offered a Saturday breakfast at our local Vietnam Veteran Memorial following a talk by former Prisoner of War Bruce Archer.

It was a nice effort, and all of the "Operation Thank You" staffing the event were as pleasant as can be. Panera provided the coffee and a local restaurant, the food. The veterans were allowed to approach the food in their own line, and the young people slinging hash sent up a loud cheer and applause.  All nice, a bit anti-climactic, and moving in a sad sort of way.

What was wrong with the event was twofold: the haphazard way in which it was publicized, and the lack of any program other than food and a speaker.

Ranger is active in the veteran community and yet had not heard of the event; Lisa saw a placard at the local library a few days beforehand.  Tallahassee has a Veterans Outpatient Clinic -- signs should have been present on-site, and in all service and fraternal publications.  Over 4,000 Vietnam-era Veterans live in the Leon County vicinity; less than 150 were present, and some of those were questionable.  

Also conspicuously absent was the presence of the Governor, a color guard, or any National Guard representation. The latter is an especially egregious oversight as Tallahassee has several National Guard units.

The body count provided by the city was probably inflated (taking a leaf from Mr. MacNamara's book.) Among the breakfast group were many homeless people claiming to be veterans, some of whose stories of time in service didn't quite mesh up.  Of course they had every right to attend, but just wearing a surplus fatigue item does not make one a veteran. 

In addition, the event organizers should have presented a compelling line-up of speakers, had they taken more than a cursory effort to organize the functional part of the event.  It is not that Capt. Archer's speech was not good, but rather that many viewpoints were not presented which might have engendered some dialog.  Instead, the bureaucrats arranged the perfect bureaucratic breakfast in which the participants could not wait to eat, and once done, were ready to quickly depart the AO.

When Ranger was in the Army, he often heard, "Eat yer shit and get" as he and his fellows were hurried along and denied the dignity of an tranquil meal.

This event felt a little like that.

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Monday, April 01, 2013

Reverse English

There isn't a more profitable undertaking for any country
than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated 
--The Mouse that Roared (1959)

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist
--Indira Gandhi

President Obama recently traveled to Israel and met with President, Benjamin Netanyahu (after rebuffing him on his two previous trips to the United States.)  The visit was a set piece allowing Mr. Obama to co-opt some of his erstwhile mentor Wright's hortatory when he bade Israelis to reach out in peace to their mortal nemesis, Hamas (Obama will not meet with Hamas himself.)

Americans enjoy the feeling of newness and the appeal to youth-as-salvation, but Obama in Israel is not President Kennedy forming the Peace Corps. We err in many ways when we envision the Arab-Israeli peace process (NOT) as one of overcoming terrorism via application of our own template. 

Of course, that is not exactly what Obama did when he exhorted the young Israelis reach out with the olive branch to sworn enemy Hamas. The U.S. template of elective warfare is anything but nurturing and peace-loving. (One of the best political cartoon takes on the meeting was a two-panel, showing Obama in his pulpit apparently excoriating Netanyahu and government for being aggressive and building fences as no way to surmount problems and achieve peace, while the next panel has the president saying, "But enough about Washington ...")

The Israelis face an existential threat from terrorists who are chartered to destroy their nation. In fact, Hamas has organized beyond garden variety terrorism into low-intensity conflict, military in nature.  Israel is not the United States -- their Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is largely that, a defense force incapable of long-term, mass-casualty theatre operations. However, they maintain their military aura as they are a key ally of the U.S. in the area and we like to envision them as a maneuver force of the U.S. military machine.

While exhorting the Israelis to embrace peace, love and beauty with their avowed enemies, Obama failed to mention that he had just befriended the new Egyptian government with 200 new battle tanks. Did Obama feel this gift would increase or decrease the chance of peace in the region?  We peddle the fiction that whoever leads Egypt will protect the peace with Israel, but Anwar al-Sadat was a one-off in the Arab world, and his assassination was a shot across the bow from any of his fellows: do not deal with Israel unless you, too, want to be dead.

Did Obama gift the Israelis with 200 tanks? Did he de-fang the Egyptian support of Hamas? A country may not arm everyone and expect peace to flow from that; that is how the World Wars started.  Yet the U.S. president has the chutzpah to exhort Israeli leaders and public to subscribe to Flower Power, a posture that will get Israeli knocked down quicker than Robert Blake off of his Electra Glide in Blue.

Our president had no qualms about spreading his fairy dust within Israel, but he did not repeat his performance to Hamas or in any of the States supporting the elements that are hostile towards Israel. He did not address Egypt's anti-Semetic President Morsi or that nation's Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological father of al-Qaeda elements which are the U.S. enemy of choice in its Phony War on Terror (PWOT © ).

And at the same time Obama was calling for peace with the Palestinians and gifting the Eyptians with war tanks, he was discussing the possibility of Israeli, or U.S., or U.S. - Israeli military action against Iran. The Iranians are always a convenient whipping boy and distraction. So why must Israel strike a peaceful posture versus Hamas, but a military one versus Iran?

After two disastrous long-term wars, the U.S. has left the region anything but peaceful. We disingenuously tell the Israelis to be peaceful while remaining militarily engaged in Yemen, Somalia and the Horn of Africa -- while Africom uses the African continent as their playground.  We call it "defense" when we employ our forces worldwide, while telling Israel to bite the bullet in their own terrain.

The U.S. left Iraq behind with no insured peace and it will be the same in Afghanistan.  We have forgotten the principles of war and cannot remember the foundations of peace and prosperity. While we hunt and kill terrorists worldwide, President Obama has the Chutzpah to tell Israeli youth to embrace Hamas in a warm, fuzzy bear hug.  It is the scorpion and the frog, and Obama is either a callow 2nd term president or his fiendish machinations know no shame.

Speeches are not reality and effective policy must be based in fact, not feel-good tripe. Ranger's view is that of a detached observer.

If Obama were an honest broker, he would tell the Palestinian's Hamas that they will never have a place at the table of civilized nations until they accept the right of their neighbors to exist -- not until they demonstrate they can build in addition to destroying. That is a position from which the Palestinians could operate with credibility.

Anything short of that is nihilism, and that is not the posture of an advancing Western civilization.  Nihilists welcome death, hardly a dealer's card.

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