Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lt. General Snowden

 --General Snowden, before a plaque signed
and presented to him by the last Japanese Emperor
of the Empire of Japan (Hirohito) 

Strangers on this road, we are all
We are not two, we are one 
--Strangers, Golden Smog 

We recently had the pleasure of meeting a hometown hero, Lt. General Lawrence "Larry" Snowden (R) who, at 93, is the senior survivor of the protracted and bloody World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, a climatic event of WW II in the Pacific lasting from 19 Feb 1945 to 26 Mar 45.

The General was wounded twice in the battle, leaving the hospital against medical advice and hopping a mail flight in order to get back to the island to command his men. He participated in eleven campaigns over the course of a career in which he saw action in three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam).

But Gen. Snowden is neither your typical military man nor retiree in a conservative part of the country.

Mr. Snowden traveled to Iwo Jima again last month, as he has every year for the last 15 years, to lead a "Reunion of Honor" with both his fellow survivors from the U.S. Marines well as the Japanese soldiers whom they fought. His mission is a solemn one of reconciliation with men who were once his mortal enemies but, as the widow of the Japanese commanding general said to him, "Once enemies, now friends."

As Snowden told a local journalist last year, "Those men didn't want to be here any more than we did. They were doing their duty. You don't hate anybody for that" (After 68 Years, the Battle of Iwo Jima Stays Fresh.)

When we asked how he reached this enlightened state, he smiled and gave his mother credit. He recalls being a pugilistic young man engaging in "fisticuffs" with his fellows and going on about "hating" someone. She told him that he didn't "know enough about anyone else to allow [him] to feel hatred," and that he could find another way of dealing with his anger. He got the idea then that the head could rule the emotions.

With recent attention to the concept of "moral injury" amongst soldiers, the idea of recognition, understanding and forgiveness between fighting men seems an essential move towards healing.

Snowden has commanded every level of combat unit from Rifle Company to Regiment. As a General Officer he served as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC. His route to reconciliation began during the Korean War when he worked alongside his former Japanese adversaries while coordinating logistical efforts flowing through Japan destined for the Korean peninsular effort. It was his first recognition that men need not retain hostilities, and that life had an ebb and flow.

He next bumped up against the idea of reconciliation when  he returned to Japan in 1972 as Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces, Japan (a Joint Services Command.) During that three-year posting he liaised with the Japanese government, becoming familiar with and appreciative of Japanese society. He left Japan for Washington D.C. in the final posting of his 37-year military career, serving as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC.

Upon retirement he returned to Japan as a civilian representative for Hughes Aircraft, focusing on production and economic matters while living in Tokyo for the next ten years. He also served as the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

This is the backdrop to the genesis in 1985, the 40th Anniversary of Iwo Jima, of the idea for the Reunion of Honor, and the General has been involved in the annual event since that time. Notice there is nothing about warriorhood or grand patriotic celebration surrounding the event. It is simply a somber recognition of men who did the heavy lifting for their respective nations.

A Buddhist priest who survived the fighting and the widow of the Japanese Commanding General, along with the General's son, deliver a solemn presentation. Following this, Mr. Snowden and his fellow survivors ascend Mount Suribachi; they then come down and the Japanese survivors then go up.

"I make the same speech three times: in Los Angeles, in Honolulu and Guam. I tell everybody there will be no T-shirts, no hollering and victory celebration. From the very beginning we have pledged that we would not ever, ever crow over our victory there. And we've never had any problems with that." So much for the Toby Kieth brand of patriotism.

 --This painting is a retirement gift commissioned for General Snowden
by one of the riflemen he commanded on Iwo Jima

Ranger asked the General if he had seen the film, "American Sniper". He looked down and said his friends were always after him to see the latest war film, but that he usually demurred. "I have seen everything they could possibly put into one of those films, and I have no desire to see it ever again."

Semper Fi, Lt. Gen. Snowden.

Coda: As we were leaving, Gen. Snowden received a call from the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; he would be nominated as their newest inductee.

Has has Ranger's Army vote.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Inside the Crosshairs

 It's just murder. All God's creatures do it.
You look in the forests and you see species
killing other species, our species killing all species
 including the forests,
and we just call it industry, not murder 
--Natural Born Killers (1994) 

Will ye not cease from this harsh-sounding slaughter?
Do you not see that you are devouring one another
in the thoughtlesness of your minds?

There is no hunting like the hunting of man,
and those who have hunted armed men
long enough and liked it
never care for anything else thereafter
--Ernest Hemingway (Esquire) 

Since snipers are having their day in the sun, Ranger decided to re-visit the book, Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam by military historian Lee Lanning.

Since today's sniper darling Chris Kyle fairly loathed his targets, here is a representative passage from this book contradicting the idea that hatred is a military value and that snipers are stone cold killers. Lanning quotes Captain Jim Land, who formed the first Marine Division sniper school, explaining the qualities a sniper must possess:

"Honor on the battlefield is the sniper's ethic. he shows it by the standards and discipline with which he lives life in combat. By the decency he shows his comrades. And by the rules he adheres to when meeting the enemy.

"The sniper does not hate the enemy," Land continued, "he respects him or her as a quarry. Psychologically, the only motives that will sustain the sniper is the knowledge that he is doing a necessary job and the confidence that he is the best person to do it. On the battlefield, hate will destroy any man -- and a sniper quicker than most."

An implied sub-story in the movie "American Sniper" suggested there was a bounty offered for the killing of snipers, a sort of head-hunting among their kind, in particular between Kyle and his Iraqi nemesis. In Vietnam also there were urban myths that the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong offered bounties on snipers, but Lanning says there is no hard evidence to prove this claim.

The overlay is a romantic notion of mano-a-mano combat which is not the truth of today's institutionalized warfare. Perhaps it was also an attempt to re-humanize Kyle as someone being hunted down personally, and fighting for his life. The director Eastwood may have had in mind a more metaphorical flight for Kyle, but if so this was never expounded upon, and the audience received yet  another uni-dimensional warrior stereotype.

(As an aside, Lanning and Ranger were classmates in Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC) in 1968, and last crossed paths in the 90th Replacement Battalion in Long Binh RVN in April 1970. Lee was headed back to the United States while I was an incoming replacement; we were both 1st Lieutenants at the time.)

Inside the Crosshairs is an interesting and dispassionate study of the efficacy of U.S. snipers in Vietnam by considering both their materiel and how they integrated the traditions of centuries of expert shooters that came before them.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Useful Idiots

Peace and love is here to stay and
Now I can wake up and face the day 
 --Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment, 
The Ramones

So, c'mon you Moslems and you Jews
We got big news for all of yous
You better change your point of views today
'Cause the Inquistion's here and it's here to stay 
--The Inquisition,
Mel Brooks

 (T)he main emphasis of the KGB is ideological subversion,
or psychological warfare.
What it basically means is: to change the perception
of reality of every American that despite
of the abundance of information
no one is able to come to sensible conclusions
in the interest of defending
themselves, their families, their community, and their country
--Yuri Bezmenov


I wonder how the mainstream media continues to peddle its lies. Are people just naive, gullible, uninformed, lazy, prejudiced? Maybe the whole lot.

In the 3.18.15 New York Times, token Jewish liberal shill Op-Ed columnist Thomas ("Friedman Unit") Friedman's post links Israel, Iran and ISIS as being all entities that offer the United States "only bad choices":


Go Ahead, Ruin My Day


In looking at Israel, Iran and ISIS, why does it seem as though we have only bad choices, and nothing ever works?

Why do few Democrats wish to recognizes Israel as the U.S.'s only solid Western ally in the sump that is the Middle East? If they are a problem, it is only to the radicalized Palestinians who continue to have no honest broker but not to us.

Today, the same paper suggests that President Obama may be unable to deal with Israel's newly-elected Prime Minister Netanyahu and may have to carry out an future communications via a mediator, as though P.M. Netanyahu is incapable of talking to a Western leader. The reason for the acrimony is not mentioned: the fact that our President refused to meet this leader of a sovereign nation on two separate visits to our country -- unheard of behavior.

Yet the U.S. routinely deals with the leaders of our "friends" like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc., dictators who routinely oppress and murder their own Western-leaning dissidents. (In the same 3.18 paper was a piece on a policeman who is being tried in Egypt for the murder of an outspoken female poet  -- Egypt to Charge Officer in Killing of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh.)

For that matter, the U.S. had cordial relations with both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, late leaders of Iraq and Libya, respectively. Friendly, that is, until they were no longer useful. All U.S. Presidents have glad-handed those we later called "monsters" and tossed to the dogs.

The Shiites are killing Sunnis in mass numbers now that the lid is off the pressure cooker, and we don't seem too bothered by this; at least, not bothered enough to cease communication with the "elected" leaders of these countries.

As though it were a news flash, Slate reports "a new report from Human Rights Watch details serious abuses by the U.S.-supported, pro-government Iraqi Shiite militias fighting ISIS" (Are America’s Allies Committing Ethnic Cleansing in the Fight Against ISIS?). Shocked, in a very Captain Renault sort of way.

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov saw a parallel to the USSR in the way our leaders, educational institutions and the media were shaping our nation's mindset. We behaved like Bezmenov's useful idiots when we swaggered into Iraq, deposing the strongman needed to hold these roiling entities together. Then the inhabitants came after each other and us, and we act surprised.

We continue to be idiots when always for the underdog and not for our obvious ally. Idiots when we are always for change in the M.E., imagining that these newly-sprung people will yearn for a Western lifestyle like that enjoyed in the U.S. or Israel. We refuse to see the facts because we have an inculcated guilt to overcome.

In this case, we think if we favor the Palestinians over the Israelis, they will not turn their aggression upon us, but where is the logic? Why favor an unknown quantity over a known one? Nations have interests -- not friends -- and it is in the U.S.'s interest to maintain an alliance with any reliable partner in the M.E, for there are not many.

Friedman's piece goes so far as to suggest that the U.S. arm ISIS. While he agrees they're pretty repugnant, he argues that it is in our best interests. A sad coda to the misbegotten group-think many in the U.S. shared regarding M.E. violence as ushering in some sort of "Arab Spring".

Moreover, why do we care to continue hitting our heads against the wall? How does this focus help us along?

It's Sociology 101: You help the underdog, he's not going to lick your feet because you've uncovered the fact that he is an underdog (via the need for your assistance.) The only way to save face is to attack back. It's not very appreciative, but there it is.

When the U.S. was dealing in slavery and liquidation of its Native American population, other sovereigns did not withhold negotiating with the U.S. We found our way. Israel is less than 70 years old, and it is trying to find a path to existence against a sworn enemy within in its borders which has as its stated mission the non-recognition and extermination of said country. It is not a hard row to hoe; it is a row that refuses to be hoed.

Why don't people see this hypocrisy? Maybe we just want something easy around which to glom on with our fellows, or distract us, or to Tweet about.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mission and Objective

--War, Agony in Death, Hans Burkhardt (1939)

 Chaos, control. Chaos, control. 
You like, you like? 
--Six Degrees of Separation (1993) 

Sometimes you're better off dead 
There's gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head
You think you're mad, too unstable
Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables 
--West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys

War is the spectacular and bloody projection
of our everyday life, is it not?
--Think on These Things,
J. Krishnamurti

The terms "mission" and "objective" are easily confused, especially since the military uses them interchangeably. But they are different words, y'know, with different meanings.

The common reaction to the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East is emotional and unfocused. If the United States intervenes with a greater military air campaign, then this would be the mission. However, the objective of the mission remains unstated.

Since 1898 the U.S. has used violence in the objective of winning wars. Today, we have substituted generalized violence as an objective, sans mission. We use violence and bombs to force our will upon the enemy, but the bombing campaign has no significance or national purpose without a quantifiable and reasonable objective.

Today violence is both mission and objective, sans any achievable and delineated objective. However, reactive vindictiveness is neither a military concept nor an objective.

Assuming that following the bombing campaign these countries roll over -- then what? Have we not learned in 120 years that, while violence can force people to bend to our will, the effect is always short-lived? Violence does not necessarily produce long-term stability (unless that is a desire of the subdued people.) So is the resultant temporary cessation of violence worth the outlay (in manpower, lives and money)?

If U.S. national policy now relies on bombing campaigns, that is somewhat akin to using assassination as a political tool. Without a plan, we have become the violence, and are merely a participant in the relentless destruction. 

We live in a violent and troubled world, and should ask how our actions are helping to mitigate or contribute that violence.

Violence is a dead-end unless a greater good is the mission.

[NOTE: Neither we nor Krishnamurti are saying "the West is to blame for all of this." The burden of the violence within is harbored by all. The only difference is in the outward wealth accumulated by the players.]

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Lowest Common Denominator

 I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free 
--Proud to Be an American,
Lee Greenwood

 Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings 
--Let America be America Again,
 Langston Hughes
What makes us Americans?

Ranger suggests the lowest common denominator is that we are all immigrants who left "The Old Country" behind when we headed for the United States. That goes for all of us, from descendants of the Green Mountain Boys to today's first generations.

Our grandparents left Europe to escape the wars that characterized the empires which ruled Western civilization. They left everything behind to escape the dissolution and ennui wrought by the wars of empire. 

So what has happened in this great nation of hope since 1914? The United States has involved itself in the wars of Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia and untold other zones. As of 2012, the U.S. had a military presence in almost 80% of the world's nations.

Our history since 1914 has been one of aligning and realigning with empires across the globe. in 2015 the U.S. is involved with Iran, North Korea, Russia and Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, et al. -- and to what purpose? Is the U.S. destined to destroy itself through continual war, as did the empires of Europe?

We need to determine what we will leave behind, and what is necessary to keep for our future welfare. Ranger's family left Slovakia and he does not think that either NATO or the United States should fight any war on behalf of the Slovaks, just as they should not for Ukraine or any other national entity.

The Slovaks are no longer his concern, nor should they or any other aforementioned nation be the concern of U.S. military policy.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Not an Emo Boy

 Interesting. You Earth people glorify organized violence
for 40 centuries, but you imprison those
who employ it privately
--Mr. Spock

 Dispassionate, objective reasoning was Spock’s core.
Honing our skills to think, as opposed to emote
 is crucial to good decision-making.
--Lessons Learned from Mr. Spock,
Judge Michael Warren   

The Strength of a civilization is not measured
by its ability to fight wars,
but rather by its ability to prevent them
--Gene Roddenberry

Actor Leonard Nimoy has taken the Big Beam Up to the Sky, but his Star Trek character Spock remains a compelling indictment of human foibles. The unshakable logic he represented is a quaint depiction of a man that never was.

Spock hailed from the Vulcan race which placed the highest value on reason unfettered by emotionalism. (His mother was human, however, which was his Achilles heel.) Vulcans chose that path to fend off a potential racial holocaust due to their previous hyperemotionalism. Spock's logic tempered Captain Kirk's sometimes hotheaded reactivity, and it was these two poles around which most of the plotlines revolved.

Ranger sees an analogy to early 21st century American martial conduct. Almost a century after World War I -- The War to End All Wars -- we still follow the same reactive and emotional policies that brought the United States into that highly emotional powder keg.

From a crazy Yugoslav to crazy Islamists (or, anarchical, if you prefer), we still bring out the big guns as the meet reaction to most hostilities. What else would Homo sapiens do, being the warlike toolmakers that we are?

Star Trek developer Gene Roddenberry offered a searing indictment of a nation mired in the mud of Southeast Asia with his outer space fantasy featuring the "Starship Enterprise" on a mission to find amenable life forms among the galaxies with whom to forge a peaceable federation. "To boldly go where no man had gone before" (the most famous split infinitive in television.) But like President Wilson's League of Nations, this was a camaraderie that was beyond earthling's capabilities.

If Spock could rule the world, it's a fair bet he would eschew both the magical feel-good hope-and-change rhetoric of our leaders as well as the fear and hatred which serves as its balance.

Perhaps our battle cry should be, "WWSD" ("What Would Spock Do?")

[A friend sent this interesting clip of Nimoy explaining the source of his famous "live long and prosper" hand gesture. It was intended as a gesture of fraternity from a being with an otherwise inscrutable visage --L.]

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The First of the Boomers

 Urge and urge and urge, 
Always the procreant urge of the world 
--Song of Myself, 
Walt Whitman 

I'm glad it's your birthday 
Happy birthday to you
 --Happy Birthday, 
John Lennon 

It's a boy, Mrs. Walker, it's a boy!
A son! A son! A son! 
--Captain Walker, The Who 

Some are born
Some men die
Beneath one infinite sky
There'll be war
There'll be peace
But everything one day will cease 
--Childhood's End,
Pink Floyd

This is Ranger's 69th birthday essay.

On 15 June 1945 his father Stephen signed out on 9 days of leave (ending 24 June.) The USS Chatelaine (DE149) was pulled into a naval shipyard for repairs following years of wartime combat patrols and operations. This was required as the DD149 was home from the European War and heading off to the Pacific to finish the Japanese campaign.

Just prior, the USS Davis was sunk (9 Apr 1945) by a German submarine, resulting in the deaths of 115 United States Sailors. It was the luck of the draw that took the Davis rather than the Chatelaine that day.

This visit with his mother was a seminal Baby Boomer moment, as it planted the germ that was to become the Ranger you know and love today.

Ranger celebrates the day humbly, recognizing the fragility of life and the game of chance in which we all roll the dice. His father's mother lost a husband in 1914, my father served in World War II and I, in Vietnam, so Ranger is a war baby in two senses of the word, both temporally and filially.

He celebrates his birthday for all of those who are no longer with us. Here's to the War Babies.


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Lower Than a Flea on a Camel's Knee

  Now I'm ready to feel your hands
Lose my heart on the burning sand
Now I want to be your dog 
--I Wanna Be Your Dog,
Iggy Pop

My baby makes me proud
Lord, don't she make me proud
She never makes a scene
By hanging all over me in a crowd
--Behind Closed Doors, 
Charlie Rich

Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant 
--High Hopes, 
Frank Sinatra

Did anyone else hear Diane Rehm's recent NPR broadcast with the "First Lady of Afghanistan," Rula Ghani? What an amazing bit of piffle and administration propaganda.

The NPR website even  misrepresents the role Ms. Ghani herself said she plays (or rather, doesn't): "She is running an office in the presidential palace and is working to shape the troubled country’s future." Well, no, not actually.

Mrs. Ghani was not going to have modernity thrust upon her in the public sphere ("na ga da", as George Bush père might've said.) It just wouldn't have done for her to be seen as anything approaching an equal to her husband.

Mrs. Ghani has the honor of having perhaps the second shortest Wikipedia page. ("First Lady of Afghanistan" returns the only shorter entry.) But it does confirm that she earned her master's degree from the American University of Beirut (where she met her husband), and another master's from New York's Columbia University. Her education, the fact that she is Lebanese and holds dual Lebanese-American citizenship are not bragging points for her.

It all suggests that her husband, Mr. Ghani, is a happy State-installee whose days on his country's throne are numbered. But she did yeoman's duty playing everything down in her interview. Her journalism masters served her well, and Diane was no match.

Ms. Rehm broadcasts from inside the beltway, and while not a terrible incisive interviewer, she is reliably non-threatening and toes the administration's line. Perhaps Mrs. Rehm secured the interview because she was born to Syrian parents, and someone thought the two might have have had some common ground.

But Mrs. Ghani made it clear she was not a sistuh to Diane, and rarely has Ms. Rehm been a more obvious shill for the State Department. Mrs. Ghani held her corner.

When Rehm pressed her about her activities, Ghani said she spent the first two years of her husband's regime ensconced in the official palace watching videos and reading books. She said she got bored, and found a "little room" for herself where she would entertain a nominal number of groups each week.

Ghani emphasized she met with no one personally -- one-on-one, preserving her deferential role as a women in her society not accorded such privileges lest she be accused of impropriety. She also said she accomplished little, emphasizing what a slow "process" everything was. "Nothing here is going to change fast," she said, basically.

Mrs. Ghani understands the need for her to retain her self-subjugation, even if this is a construction to allow for her husband's continuance in his leadership position. She was not going to be bullied by Rehm into some sort of dominance or parity which her country and her life will not allow her to assume. Life in a palace is pretty plush -- not something to be trifled with or risk losing foolishly.

And if Mrs. Ghani is afraid to be seen as little more than her husband's mirror, how much less is the average Afgani woman allowed?

Undeterred, Rehm would loudly describe Ghani as the "First Lady" at every program break, and her guest's unease was palpable by her exasperated laugh. "Please, Diane, I am the President's wife. I take no role in politics."

"I have a little room. I never see visitors individually; always and only groups." I am kindly permitted this diversion.  I am lower than a flea on a camel's knee -- do you understand?

As Mrs. Ghani was trying to make herself very small, like Alice in Wonderland, Rehm attempted to impose a stature Ghani would not claim. She asked her to confirm that the Afghan President -- her husband -- did in fact recognize her as his wife in his acceptance speech. She allowed that he did, and that it was a nice gesture. But you could tell she wanted to interject: "But he also has a nice stable of Arabian horses, too, and Mercedes and Audis."

When pressed by Rehm to name anything she might be proud of, Ghani spoke of some school textbook publishing issue, a matter of some teachers explaining that the textbook publishers were not always issuing correctly translated texts and that she was working on the issue, though emphasizing she would not be directly responsible for any implementation of new policy. Hardly a matter of pressing social import even if Ghani were to have assumed some praise for it.

Diane Ream imposed a faulty representation of Afghan's "First Lady", which sounds like it holds as much sway as being "first donkey". Rehm's agenda was to promote Mrs. Ghani as a harbinger of women's right in Afghanistan, but the truth lies a good piece away.

Such is the news from inside the Beltway.

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Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Last Martyr

 One man's heaven is another man's hell
One man's buy is another man's sell
One man's day is another man's night
One man's peace is another one's fight 
--Two Sides to Every Story,
Joe Walsh  

She could never be a saint,
but she thought she could be a martyr
if they killed her quick 
--Flannery O'Connor

And it repented the Lord
that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him at his heart
--Genesis 6:6

A Clarification on the previous post, You're All In or You're Not:

While death, killing and dying are central issues in both Islam and Christianity (and Clint Eastwood movies and lots of other things) religions accord their own values to them. This is my view on the differences between the current two players, and why this is essential to their play of war.

Before proceeding, yes, this a military blog and most interest surrounds the "wars" qua war; the Phoney Wars on Terror (PWOT ©), in particular. But since tanks are driven and mortars lobbed by men, it seems fair to go to the human ground when considering war, despite the Department of Defense types who see the whole thing within the confines of their operational maps

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but whereas the United States has a secular Army composed of members hewing to a variety or religious beliefs or none at all, the Islamic State (IS) fighters are one thing: Sunni Muslims. (This is not a logical fallacy. I am not stating all Muslims are IS sympathizers, but simply all IS members are Muslims. ) When they complete a mission, they are always reported as hailing their god, "Allahu Akhbar!"

For those who wish to displace religion from its foundational position motivating most of the Islamic attacks in the past 35+ years, I would suggest that is a mistake. My position is to neither denigrate nor praise any particular religion, only to recognize a foundational belief driving today's hostilities.

Christianity worships a meek prophet, Jesus, who according to the dogma martyred himself so that others may live (John 10:10). Looking at the the Eucharist, what could it mean when Jesus insists that his followers will actually be eating his flesh and blood when they partake of the ritual?

One understanding might be that, beginning from the premise that man is fallen and therefore all are killers and betrayers and every other bad thing that humans are capable of, through the grisly Eucharist man is made to re-enact his responsibility for his murderous impulse each time.

The believer must face his failures in a very real way, by ingesting Him and therefore integrating His faultlessness into his being, perhaps analogous to a pluripotent stem cell injection. Ergo, every Eucharist is the drama of death and Resurrection, writ small (the Resurrection being the continuance of the life in the believer who has partaken of the meal.) Whether that is a precise analysis of His intention (who can know?) one point is clear: Jesus intends to be the last and ultimate martyr.

He will redeem man so that he need not continue carrying out his petty part (though it hasn't quite worked out that way.) Despite man's continued bad behavior, Jesus's death is memorialized at most services. No more sacrificial lambs, no more Crucifixion, no more martyrdom.

Jesus is known as the "Prince of Peace" and the "Lamb of God". This stands diametrically opposite to the warrior Mohammed, who does not preach love of one's brother. In fact, this is a tightly fraternal religion and its members are charged with killing the infidel, who in fact, may just be a member of another sect of Islam (Shi'ia).

To say this interpretation of Sharia is extremism is like calling the Catholic, who believes he is consuming the body and blood of Christ, misbegotten. In fact, they are both faithful adherents.

Followers of Christianity may not have gotten the brotherhood message correct for several centuries, and gross numbers committed grave crimes under cover of their God. Many still do not understand the message of the religion they would claim. But the message is naught but love, and especially, love the stranger.

However, for the Muslims warring today, for those who fight behind the aegis of their prophet Mohammed, they are not misunderstand their doctrine, they are fulfilling it. It is not for them the self-immolation of the Hindu or the Buddhist. There are no Gandhis.

Maybe someone should have done a cultural study prior to invasion and occupation. Some liberals might have stopped insisting what a peaceful religion Islam is.

Of course, it can be expected that anyone will fight against the colonizer, as the French and later the Americans saw in Vietnam. But in Iraq, we were two-down, for not only were we the unwelcome invaders, but the people had been seething at least since they were thrown together into that great confabulation called Iraq last century. We simply unleashed the controls on all of that anger.

Time to say, "We can't do this anymore. We are aiding and abetting the violence by our very presence. Sorry, gotta go." Yes, it's shabby, but who hasn't the U.S. betrayed at one time or another? That's realpolitik, baby.

Or we can continue with the showdown at the Apocalypto Corral, and give the talking heads more daily predictable fodder. And give you something predictable to view when you flip on the news, and a sound byte for when you want to have a little banter with business partners on world matters.

I write on a military blog, and I'm getting bored with this.

Are you getting bored?

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

You're All In or You're Not

 --Ceci n'est pas une pomme 
  (This is not an apple), 
Rene Magritte   

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, 
the word "snapshot" was originally a hunting term 
 --One Hour Photo (2002)

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know the boys in the newsroom
got a running bet 
--Dirty Laundry, Don Henley 

--It’s strange that we’ve never
 read of this in the newspapers

--Well… that’s newspapers for you, ma’am.
You could fill volumes with
what you don’t read in them 
--The Green Berets (1968)

Subtitle: This is not a Muslim. 

"The Islamic State is not really Islamic" -- perhaps one of President Obama's most disingenuous recent statements. Perhaps they remind him more of Urantians?

Now that's like saying a Dodge Ram pickup is really a Toyota, or a cherry cheesecake is actually a rhubarb pie. Is it blasphemy, a lie, or a massive denial? Perhaps cognitive dissonance of the highest level, or just the canniness of a politician seeking to curry favor with the less animated members of that one-billion strong religion?

Of course it is Islamic, as Islamic as Islamic can get. It's just that most Muslims practice a form of Muslim Lite, like cafeteria Catholics who haven't the stomach for transubstantiation, a doctrine which explains the transformation of the bread and wine of the Eucharist into the body and blood of Jesus.

Religions in general serve as primers on how to live a good life, and they are founded by crusaders with an agenda, some more benign and ecumenical than others, their words often warped by their inheritors. They basically tend to man's basic needs and they all have their quirks, but if you're a believer you cleave to The Word, regardless of those seeming hiccups.

For the Catholic, The Word is that you are eating His flesh and drinking His blood in the rite of the Eucharist. It is cannibalism, but by invitation (sort of like the Germans in the recent press who had placed classified adverts requesting to be eaten, like a nice sushi.) Christopher Hitchens deconstructed the idea of belief completely. The dogma is clear and if you reject any of it, you are a hypocrite at best. But hey, religion (and the world) is full of them.

Likewise, if one is a true believer in the prophet Mohammed, one believes that infidels (= those of other religions) should be killed. It is all there, in their Good Book, the Koran. It's not a very happy (for non-Muslims) or modern concept, but for those feeling nostalgic or who have never entered modernity, it is spot-on and clear as day.

Just as the Christian crusaders fought both for belief and booty, so too the thoroughly modern Muslim crusader. To have a caliphate of your own is a pretty fine thing, after all.

Our misbegotten wars have served to animate vast swaths of often unemployed usually young people disenfranchised in their own countries, subjected to the brutalities and insults of an invading and occupying Army. Some people come to God when their back is against the wall -- it is the last comfort of and the last depot for the desperate.

These desperadoes are finding common ground with the True Believers (always a much smaller minority.) They yearn to live in their own "ownership society" (as President George W. Bush encouraged us to do) and regain a state of grace and dignity (regardless of how undignified their methods might appear to us.)

And being salacious Westerners in bondage to easy and gory visuals we give them incessant free press, providing them with the most valuable asset they possess: the ability to spread fear beyond the discrete beheading or other vulgar murder. We are aiding and abetting the criminal/terrorist, wittingly or not. Do we acknowledge our role in the crimes we behold?

We are like Yuri Bezmenov's demoralized useful idiots. But to what end?

Waging jihad is every bit as faithful to doctrine as the flesh and blood consumption of the believing Catholic. What right have we to dismiss or deny the validity of these doctrinal beliefs to the adherent? But to deny these realities is not to do justice to the facts.

If indeed the slashers and hackers and beheaders are the rare breed, why are we proliferating their self-aggrandizing videos? Shouldn't the goal be to minimize that message while elevating anything opposed to it?

Have I missed anything?

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Modest Proposal

 --this table is not really for sale

I'm looking out for the two of us
And I hope we'll be here
When they're through with us

--Long, Long Way from Home,

For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;
he will not forsake thee
--Deuteronomy 4:31

Subtitle: For want of a table.

The trial of Eddie Lee Routh, shooter of American Sniper Chris Kyle, concluded recently with a "guilty" verdict. Sentence: Life, with no possibility of parole. “We’ve waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son,” Judy Littlefield, Chad Littlefield’s mother, told reporters after the verdict. “And as always, God has proven to be faithful.”

Littlefield's's brother piled on, calling out in the courtroom that Routh was an "American embarrassment" -- the loser, to Kyle's feted heroism.

The NYT reported, "After serving in the Marines, Mr. Routh received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis, and relatives testified that he had been suicidal and paranoid in the months before the shooting."

Surely there is nothing commendable in Routh's actions, but did he get fair consideration? He had been recently released from a Veterans Administration healthcare facility where it is reported he was taking nine different medications including Risperdal, a drug for schizophrenia -- the devil's drug if ever there was one.

Routh is reported to have told authorities that he knew "right from wrong," but he also said evil strode the earth and that he needed to do more killing.

The prosecuting attorney said that Routh could not suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as "he lacked the 'T'". Routh, a former Marine, worked behind enemy lines in a protected zone. Because he was not a shooter, the reasoning goes, he could not have PTSD. While understood that Marines aren't supposed to show anything that smacks of weakness, I feel traumatized when passing a television broadcasting violence such as he program "The Walking Dead", so perhaps trauma need not come from the muzzle of a gun.

On his way to the shooting range on the day of his killing, Kyle texted Little field that Routh was "straight-up nuts." What sort of discernment does it show to tote such a person to a live fire exercise? What was Routh's mental condition upon entering and exiting the Marine Corps? What was his diagnosis at the VA hospital? One does not just develop schizophrenia, one is born with it. Are the pickings for today's volunteer Army that slim?

If Routh's sister and mother had already reported they were afraid of him, how did Routh get on the roster for Kyle's non-profit shooting rehab program?

When we send troops to fight we know many will return suffering reintegration issues, so why is their trip home so piecemeal? Why are there mostly shooting and hunting and extreme sports type of programs for these returning veterans? Why not something like a VA creative arts campus where rehabilitation could be effected via artistic construction?

Something which allows the soldier to give voice to or transform his angst would seem a more constructive outlet. The gun is a mute tool which can only explode and cause damage. With this veteran population, the damage needs to be mitigated.

 --this one's not for sale, either

Eleanor Roosevelt developed a similar program to what we are suggesting at her Val-Kill campus in upstate New York to teach furniture making and various crafts to the unemployed of the Depression era. Why not a WPA-type program for those veterans more inclined to the visual or language arts? Why must vets poke around willy-nilly in the hopes of stumbling upon a vet-friendly program on a college campus, or something like the Combat Papermaking Project?

Why not a Veterans Administration initiative creating a woodworking campus in North Carolina, to re-create the once thriving and quality American furniture-making tradition? It's not an unreasonable thought to impart a marketable skill to a returning contingent; why should creativity be so hard?

In the past weeks I have unsuccessfully attempted to source a small, well-made small table from several outlets. The company All Modern has featured a stylish 28" square model on both the NYT and Slate's homepage, but when contacted the company admitted they did not carry the table (they would be happy to sell you the stools at $325 a pop, however.)

Next was a rustic cross-leg model featured in the recent Grandin Road catalog. No go, as it was "privately-owned" and the company explained they sometimes featured private items which complemented their stock. They admitted several people had inquired of the table before me. Why can't we get nice, American-made things if one cannot afford a bespoke item or make it oneself?

If we were an optimally-functioning society, we would take up John McCain's idea of two years of mandatory post-secondary school service in an area of one's choosing. Americorps/VISTA or Peace Corps would be as valid as joining the armed forces. Of course, the "S" word (socialism) is verboten in the United States and war is our racket, so young people must join the Armed Forces to earn their educational benefits, even if being an artist is ultimately what the soldier wishes to pursue.

But why risk the medical damage which will have to be treated on the taxpayer's dime if the enlistee would actually have preferred another line of service in the first place?

Apprenticing would be recognized as the legitimate good that it is, and needful work could be undertaken both for the good of society and of the individual. PTSD could be bypassed, and lots of meds could not be prescribed. Of course, everything is political, and following Clinton's administration his civic improvement program, AmeriCorps, was soon gutted.

Mrs. Littlefield was "elated" that Mr. Routh will be locked away for life, but is she elated that her tax dollars will be housing and feeding him for the rest of his days which will be spent doing nothing of benefit to his society? Will anything good come of this incarceration? Will he be a lesson to anybody?

Unlikely, as all sane people know that murder entails a prison sentence.

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