Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Problem With ISIS

 How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown! 
--Sound of Music

 I would remind you that extremism  
in the defense of liberty is no vice!  
And let me remind you also that moderation  
in the pursuit of justice is no virtue! 
--Barry Goldwater

This is not an "ISIS problem", but rather, a perception problem.

The media is reporting "major setbacks" in Iraq. Typical is The Week magazine's gloss which in the first two sentences called ISIS "militants," "an Islamic terror group" and "Sunni extremists". Maybe it is all of the above, but if you cannot accurately name or define a problem, you cannot solve it. The first lesson of good soldiering is learning to define the problem.

It is strange after more than a decade of war in the region, our press and government do not know how to label the players. They hedge their bets by a scatter-gun approach to naming, but precision is necessary for understanding and determining correct action.

Are extremists necessarily terrorists? One could say Presidential candidate Marco Rubio and most of the other Republican frontrunners are extremists and radicals, along with almost everyone working in the FOX newsroom. We in America are comfortable with extremism as long as it looks and sounds fairly white and Right.

Are ISIS members militants? If so, do they follow the Rules of War? Do we treat them as Geneva Convention Prisoners of War when captured? What do the Iraqi government forces do with captured ISIS fighters?

We are informed that Iraqi militia members are arresting captured ISIS members -- is this good news? When did militia groups get arrest powers?

Do we capture or arrest ISIS members taken on the field of battle? Are they criminals or POWs? Do the GC's identify them as legal combatants?

Does the United States care or believe that Iraqi forces are treating these prisoners in a humane manner? Why does the U.S. turn a blind eye to this travesty?

ISIS was born because the Shia Iraqi government imposed upon the country never was free, representative or non-sectarian. If I were a Sunni man, would I support the corrupt Shia government or a corrupt Sunni group?

At this point, is ISIS really a terror group? They use terror tactics, but so does the elected government of Iraq.

Further, what is the choice for the U.S. taxpayer? Do we shrug our shoulders and flip off the problem by throwing a few thousand soldiers / advisers, more or less, into the fray? Can we admit that there is no true, equitable or ethical position on either side of the equation?

Our participation on either side sullies the concept of democratic thought and action.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Moral Injury, Pt. II

--Luojie (China) 

To put it still more plainly:
the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity
are the same thing.
To hold your breath is to lose your breath.
A society based on the quest for security
is nothing but a breath-retention contest
in which everyone is
as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet 
--Alan Watts 

You and I may talk about peace, 
have conferences, sit round a table and discuss,
but inwardly, psychologically, we want power, position,
we are bound by beliefs, by dogmas,
for which we are willing to die and destroy each other 
--On War, Krishnamurti (1948)

He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought
will never be able to change reality
--Anwar Sadat   

"Moral injury" is a wound which corrodes the psyche, throwing one's self-orientation over a cliff. It is a wound of the soul. The brunt is borne by soldiers who wanted to do the right thing but somehow got off track. Scenarios abound, but we will stay with the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) for the purpose of this small inquiry.

Did the SEALs who gunned down Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad perform a morally correct duty? Did President Obama and the National Command Authority that executed his kill order deliver their violence in accordance with the Rules of Land Warfare or the laws of the United States?

Our citizens should know that torture, assassination, black sites, secret prisons, drone killings, kidnappings, open-ended imprisonment, isolating prisoners and all of the other illegal hallmarks of the PWOT © were immoral (besides being illegal), yet we went along with the program.

So leaving the soldier's moral injuries aside for the moment, let us ask a question of great importance:

Is moral injury a national burden, and are we as a society demonstrating any of the symptoms of moral injury as exhibited by our soldiers?

Nine years ago, President Bush said the Iraq war was "straining the psyche of our country," but that leaving would be a disaster. Did he foresee the sorry blight of "moral injury"?

If so, why aren't Mr. Bush and Co. so afflicted? Ditto for Mr. Obama who orders "death squads" that roam the earth and rain death from the skies?

Could one also say that the very conception and implementation of these actions implies a mind suffering from moral injury? Can moral injury affect a society en masse, a sort of collective pool of damage? If so, any actions which issue forth from that damaged place are in question.

This is not a small consideration. The implications of the answer to this simple question are profound.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 25, 2015

Moral Injury

--White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
(Zwerger) --
He's a little late

Forgive us now for what we've done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag
--O Children, Nick Cave

Torture is not just a matter of policy;
it is an addiction, a deadening mindset,
a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis,
a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence,
and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers
--America's Addiction to Torture,
Henry Giroux

It took until 1980 for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a diagnosis, thereby validating the recurring trauma which many returning veterans from the Vietnam War experienced. Today, "moral injury" is the new designation on the medical radar.

Surely the concept of moral injury is solid. However, Ranger takes exception with a Special Forces Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds (then a Special Forces captain) who has written a book about his moral injury in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) based upon his experiences witnessing torture and in which he felt complicit.

Edmonds "volunteered for duty in an ad hoc organization, the Iraqi Assistance Group, which the United States military created to supply advisers to the nascent Iraqi military. He was sent to Iraq, given a brief training course in Baghdad and then loaded into a convoy to Mosul, where he would spend the next year on a small compound Sad­dam Hussein had called the Guest House" (God is Not Here).

Forgive me if Edmond's claim of suffering moral injury does not move me, but as an SF officer he was trained and conversant in the Geneva Conventions and the Rules of Land Warfare. He knew what he was doing, and he chose to "just follow orders."

Moral injuries are real, devastating and corrosive, and characteristically fall upon the average soldier unprepared for what he experiences. It is too much to believe that an SF Captain would go along to get along yet once safely awarded his LTC rank, finally wake up to smell the coffee. It sounds like bandwagon-hopping to this retired SF officer.

As Edmond was purportedly injured when a Captain, he was later rewarded for his transgressions as he is now an LTC. How can one be morally injured and yet still wear the beret and revel in the rank awarded you for your subservience?

Further, what was an SF trooper doing  in the bowels of an Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) compound running amok with captured  personnel? Is this what JSOC and SOCOM hath wrought both to our Army and society?

There was a time pre-JSOC/SOCOM when interrogations were handled by military intelligence specialists and tip of the spear guys, where the rubber meets the road guys never got involved with enemy prisoners of war. Why was an SF officer performing this duty?

Clearly, the Military Intelligence types would not prostitute themselves by torturing and insisted on following the Rules of War. (At least, Ranger hopes there was an enclave of legality somewhere in this otherwise immoral war.) So, the Special Forces assumed the illegal function.

In short, the Captain insured his own moral injury by playing fast and loose with the morality of soldiering. His self-perversion earned him a promotion, retention in active duty, and a book detailing his experiences. Sorry, but this does not go down well.

Nobody ever said that SF guys were stupid.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Being There

If you think that I don't know
about the little tricks you've played
And never see you when deliberately
you put things in my way 
--I Can See for Miles and Miles,
The Who 

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day 
--I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash 

Your lips are moving
I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing
But the words aren't clear 
--I'm Looking Through You,
The Beatles

A mirage is an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions. What you think you see is not there.

In long-distance marksmanship, shooting through a mirage requires sight adjustments as the target is not where the eye perceives it to be. The adjustment compensates for the optical illusion, allowing one to hit his mark. As with shooting, so with the never-ending Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

The politicians and the media place our focus in one grid square, while the facts are in fact skewed somewhere off-center. Some see what they wish out of denial or hope; some make the shift off-kilter for more purposeful and self-serving ends.

What did President George W. Bush see when looking at Iraq? It is a safe bet that he saw terrorism, latent democracy, weapons of mass destruction and a preponderance of other reasons enlisted to justify the invasion of that nation.

What did the Iraqis see when looking at us through the same mirage? Whatever their looking glass revealed to them, it was not democracy or any of the other evocative words we used to serve up this war.

The Iraqi saw a way to settle old scores and to establish a Shia hegemony, a dream which would have never materialized under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. The United States blustered in and let the genie out of the bottle, using hope and a cheesecake filter to make the mirage look like the fact.

The U.S. version never adjusted for the mirage in their sight picture. However, the Iraqis wisely did adjust their sights; the situation in May 2015 shows that they performed their sight adjustment, and it was realistic and achievable.

The U.S. was never able to correctly compensate for the mirage. The spotter could have used a 40 power scope to do the job. Apres and ante-war, the real picture could be given only by men on the ground. Teleconferences and news coverage failed to depict the subtlety of atmospheric events.

It is a simple rule of good cognition: make sure the eye is actually seeing the thing the brain registers as being there.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Eastern Western

--Propaganda questions 

 But behind all this, the circus is
a massive machine whose very life
depends on discipline and motion and speed.
A mechanized army on wheels,
that rolls over any obstacle in its path,
that meets calamity again and again,
but always comes up smiling
--The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Look at that! That is a complete fucking fraud,
and it looks a hundred percent real.
It's the best work I've ever done in my life,
because it's so honest
--Wag the Dog (1997)

Come to your house,
no he doesn't stay long
Look around the room,
you see your father will be gone
--Death Don't Have No Mercy,
Rev. Gary Davis


 From a Special Operations perspective, the Osama bin Laden raid as presented by the Obama administration has some gaping holes. As Seymour Hersh said in a recent interview:

They're going in [ST6] just repelling down was the plan. You know, a perfect target for anybody with a BB gun. And they're going to go in like that without any air cover. (OBL) is going to hide out in a compound at Abbottabad, sort of a resort town, and a resort town 48 miles or so outside of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, within a mile or two of Pakistan's West Point where they train young officers, the army does, and a couple of miles from a regimental headquarters full of army troops. He's going to hide out there? I mean, As I wrote in the article, it's a Lewis Carroll story. It just doesn't sustain any credibility if you look at it objectively.

All Special Operations leave a paper trail, even though an event may be highly classified. Special Ops does not have any secret methods of mission preparation; they are all based upon logic and similar to those used in any combat unit. Troop-leading procedures and staff planning remain the same.

Pre-mission planning

-- Was Tac Air protection planned for all phases of the operation?
-- Was aerial rocket artillery pre-planned to seal off all avenues of approach and the objective?

-- Were medical assets on standby to receive the mission wounded?

-- Were intelligence assets designated to receive the Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW)?

-- Were the local U.S. Embassies alerted to the action?

-- Were "spares" designated for any helo losses at the objective?

--Was there a command and control element designated in the pre-mission planning which would be airborne during the operation?
--Were Air Forces assets on standby to deliver OBL to United States jurisdiction, should he be captured?

Actions at the Objective

-- Were avenues of approach blocked? 
-- Was there any near or far security element?
-- Were demo teams designated to destroy U.S. property left behind? Did the    Operations Order designate this?
-- What was the medevac standard operating procedure for friendly casualties? Were hospitals  on alert in Afghanistan?
-- What actions were anticipated Should Pakistani forces compromise the mission?
-- Were air cover assets on station?
-- Were Army Special Operations aviation assets covering the actions at the objective?
-- If the objective was too strong to be breached what actions were expected from the assault  team?

Actions upon leaving the objective


-- Were any assets designated to destroy any enemy forces reinforcing the objective?
-- Was there a designated temporary assembly area protected by friendly fires should the assault be repulsed?

These are all elements that a leader should address before, during and after the operational phases are actually conducted. An investigator should ask if these were present in the mission preparation and examination of the OPORD is vital in determining these points.

As example, the downed helo would not be destroyed until after the team was airborne and exfiltrating. No Special Operator would blow anything up until the assigned mission was completed. The mission is the highest priority.

The helo would be rigged and set to blow upon team exfiltration. Anything else would be calling additional local attention to the operation (though the sounds of gunfire and helo rotors bellowing into the night were all indications that the mission was operational, anyway.)

The team's actions indicate that this was a pre-determined cake-walk, and a real investigation would reveal this fact. Seymour Hersh's investigative piece begins the questioning, but it seems the media outlets are more interested in toeing the Obama administration's party line of denial, rather than doing their job as our watchdogs.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 15, 2015

Osama bin Laden: Anticlimax

--It's a Wrap:
National Command Authority viewing the 
Osama bin Laden execution 

make em laugh make em cry
make em dance in the aisles
make em pay make em stay
make em feel ok
we've got to get on with the film show
Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow 
--Not Now John, Pink Floyd 

Let me entertain you
Let me make you smile
Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then some new tricks
I'm very versatile
--Let Me Entertain You, Gypsy 

You brought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all 
--We are the Champions, Queen

Say, did ya hear about that tornado in Texas? They say we've had a tornado a day since May 2nd. Kinda blows your little mind, no? Oh, and black men who run from the police, some of them have been killed, too.

And an impeccable journalist (a vanishing breed) named Seymour Hersch has just revealed an explosive news story to little attention: that the Osama bin Laden kill-raid was a well-scripted affair in collusion with the Pakistanis for a couple of years before the scenario actually went into live action action on May 2011. The body parts of the target of the assassination, Mr. Bin Laden, were strewn in the mountains of Afghanistan (in contrast to the official story of a burial at sea.) 

The non-event was in the can before the film started rolling.

The Big News is: President Obama's approval of this assassination is an impeachable offense, but the media cabal will not allow that to happen, in the same way it (and we) have allowed Mr. Obama to order previous assassinations (four of whom were U.S. citizens.)

The point is, we are distracted by the predictable, the intractable and the insoluble, while a real and present threat to our democracy is issued from the White House to little fanfare. We are slaves to our self-imposed notions of political correctness, missing the forest for the trees.

When the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed by the same Mr. Hersch, The New Yorker magazine was only too happy to oblige. It brought proper shame and howls of execration upon the administration of President George W. Bush. The press was game to follow the meticulously researched trail of grotesqueries revealed by Hersch's reportage, but not so now. Why?

Mr. Bush was a natural flak magnet, a Privileged White Man (PWM) who began the dreadful bungle of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) in a spectacular fashion, with the support of many. However, as the realities of the failure began to unravel themselves, the easy derision -- often from his one-time supporters -- came easily.

Though Obama has continued what Bush began and taken the legal violations to new heights, there is not much outcry. Obama is a "serious man". He embodies what we like to imagine as our triumph of will: The election of our first black president.Our underlying collective guilt and bigotry allow us to do naught but allow for the hagiography of Obama.

But The London Review of books did run Hersch's piece, and it is just as damning, just as vulgar as anything committed in the Bush administration if not more so by virtue of its scripted nature. Where much of Abu Ghraib was a ghoulish cock-up perpetrated partly by misfits operating under incapable supervision, partly by a hubristic system gone rogue, reveling in its sadistic power, the killing of OBL was accomplished by a master plan long in the making, staged to look like a heroic mission.

However, heroism is not a term to be applied to either Mr. Bush's or Mr. Obama's escapades in the conduct of the Phony War on Terror. We do not need Mr. Yoo anymore; Obama brings his own lawyerly skills to the execution of his administration's dastardly deeds.

One and a half years later, Hollywood's script of the Army's scripted action -- the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) -- was released, winning an Academy Award for Kathryn Bigelow (a FEMALE director!) capturing the "essence" of war. She had cut her teeth on "the Hurt Locker" in the same way the Army cut its on the Jessica Lynch fable. Our own Leni Reifenstahl, helping to further the war effort; a good lap dog.

The White House fabulists began the simulacrum with their early construction of a "daring" multi-force assault story-board for the rescue of Jessica Lynch, the plucky blond West Virginian who went down shooting in 2003, except it was not true. Twelve years have passed since that foundational tale, and it was bookended with the daring OBL raid and the fake-modest book by one of the perpetrators (Mark Bissonnette), "No Easy Day."

No, you will not hear the calls for President Obama's impeachment over his complicity in and approval of this shocking action because, well, you choose the reason.

We will offer a few:

--The nation needs its heroes.

--The trade-off for the blacks who have been killed in recent months and have been forefronted by the media is to not try our first black president. (Forget that they and he are not fungible quantities. For the sake of a Tweet they are.)

--If President Bush was not tried for impeachment, we can't try Obama.

--Living as we do in philosopher Baudrillard's hyperreal, to reveal the fact behind the portrayal of the spectacle would be a tertiary
"event" for us, and therefore, much diluted in its potency.
The real is less appealing, and we are collectively less heroic, more demonized, in its revelation.

The OBL raid was DOA as a news item; an anticlimax. The ailing older man had been superannuated by new leadership presenting new challenges. The only thing left was to rub out the lingering non-threat (OBL) and to imbue the supposed capture-kill mission with an air of western bravado, another daring raid, a la Jessica Lynch. An Eastern Western, fit for the agog Facebooking masses.

Like propagandist Reifenstahl's homage to the Third Reich (Triumph of Will), Bigelow's No Easy Day  depicts Americans as well-intentioned and successful. Like director Clint Eastwood's American Sniper earlier this year, these movies show events populated by men and missions acting for the greater glory of the State. There is little room for ambiguity. Things are necessary, and the gruesome and ambiguous nature of the reality is sucked up by the "get ir done", can-do of American moxie.

It seems the supposed liberals think it better to let Hersch's expose die with every other failure by denying it press, by focusing on the things we know how to talk about, giving our sympathy to things familiar and tried. Pity, given the dangerous nature of the news Hersch has presented

A nation which pretends to democracy while hiding its violations dies the death of a thousand small cuts.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 04, 2015

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Responsibility

 Instead of truly speaking to others today,
we are all waiting merely to unload on to others
the words that have collected inside us 
--The World of Silence, Max Picard

Today's Diane Rehm show featured a discussion on the press's latest concatenation on race (Fallout From Freddie Gray’s Death And Underlying Causes of Urban Poverty And Racial Strife In Baltimore And Across the Country).

It provided the usual Public Radio imbalance of 4:1 uber-liberal opinions, everyone talking at cross-purposes to the other's view in the service of advancing his (or more often, her) agenda. Which was particularly amusing considering the rhetoric of the Left was to champion the position of the "Othered". Perhaps only other Others are favored (=patronized) on Rehm's platform.

The rhetoric was getting so thick that the moderator asked the panel if white people suffer from problems of oppression and mobility, too. Does anything indicate naivete and bias more than such a question?

Former Army Lt. Colonel and black State Representative Allen West (FL-R) held up his 20%, but his opening statement was too logical, and he was therefore marginalized. He laid out his and his family's history in segregated Atlanta of the 1950's, and the ways in which the black community thrived then as opposed to its dismal state today. (His opening presentation is impressive, but re-plowing through the other voices on the re-broadcast would be intolerable, so that mission is left for the staunch reader at the above link, if you so choose.)

The impossible female voices which have come to define public radio jumped in with their shrill patter of "Otherness" and how Baltimore and other cities are being "over-policed", and the problems with not being racially-diversified, when Mr. West interrupted by re-stating that the businessmen in Atlanta of his youth were not racially diversified, and that blacks walked amidst positive role models every day.

West continued with the example of Harlem's "Success Academies," public charter schools which have shown outstanding success thus far with traditionally blighted student populations, yet which NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants to shut down, caving to the pressure of the teacher's union. 

He used the "R" word: Responsibility, a thing outre on NPR when talking about anything, really. You may simply presume the blame lies with the U.S. government not throwing out enough money, and call it a day.

Someone asked the panelists about "black-on-black" crime in Chicago, the ensuing response eliciting my only laugh during the show. One of the apoplectic females insisted that focusing on personal responsibility was a misbegotten path. 

"We don't need to be saying, 'Mom's need to take responsibility for their babies'!" The 80% refused to even entertain ideas like the welfare state might have entrenched a fractured family unit for many in the black community, or that family cohesion is a bedrock of a sound society. But as Ranger says, "Don't breed 'em if you can't feed 'em," and this goes for all people of course.

The concluding caller, who said that he had grown up in the worst of NYC hoods and yet managed against the odds to get out and get an education, seconded the problem as expressed by West, namely, no examples and no neighborhood opportunities. The moderator gave the final word to one of the shrill panelists as to how this problem might be addressed.

Of course, she would not veer from her well-trod path. "The police should have asked Mr. Gray, 'How can I help YOU, young man?' He's part of our community, our society."

But to that Mr. West had already given a pre-emptory reply.

He said in the Atlanta of his youth, if a policeman approached you, the only possible reply was, "Is there a problem, officer?" As he said, if you're not guilty, why wouldn't that be the first response out of your mouth? Certainly, you would not run. West's brother, who joined the Atlanta police force after returning from service in Vietnam, would expect no less.
Courtesy and civility -- it works both ways.

Labels: , , , , ,