Sunday, July 25, 2010

92,000 Military logs?

A commentor going by the name of "Podunk Paul" asks: "Where are you guys? Just what the Guardian calls the biggest intelligence leak in history and you're talking about Netroots, or whatever. Your experience is needed to explain what these 92,000 military logs mean."What Paul is referring to is described here as "more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports" published by Wikileaks. Including in the specialite' du maison are stuff like:

- the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight.

- a US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and

- Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman (supposedly in response to attacks set by or assisted by the villagers).

- four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general.

- second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008.

And throw in the usual drone attacks on the random wedding or funeral, black ops units topping people, sometimes including the people they were sent out to kill, and, from the other side of the hill, the Taliban SAM threat and the bloody work being done by their demo guys.

I guess my question would there anyone who should be surprised by this?

Heavily armed foreigners shoot you when you approach them?

Or bomb you based on poor or nonexistent intel?

Or just fuck up?

The history of war is full to overfull, bursting with stupidity, meaningless death, mistaken killing of friends or harmless passersby. The notion that the Western nations could send fighting men into a chaotic failed state with a 30-year history of internal war and external invasion and somehow fight a delightfully sanitary, perfectly choreographed campaign was neither sensible nor likely. The idea of "fighting for their freedom" was utter nonsense that sprang, like some moronic Minerva, from Paul Wolfowitz's forehead. Afghanistan has been chaotic but never "free" in any Western sense.

How sending 30,000 grunts was going to change that is something only Dick Cheney's turgid mutterings can explain.

No, there is no "news" here, no revelation. I can't "explain" it any better than to repeat what Bill Sherman said; war is all hell, and you cannot refine it.

And, really, we should be congratulating ourselves on our restraint! Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives crucified 5,000 men and women at the end of the Third Servile Rebellion; the Appian Way from Rome to Capua was shaded with the trees bearing this wretched fruit.Poor Crassus, "for all his self-approval, did not venture to ask for the major triumph, and it was thought ignoble and mean in him to celebrate even the minor triumph on foot, called the ovation, for a servile war." (Plutarch, Parallel Lives)


  1. Every September, our high school principal, F. Hamilton Whipple, an amazing wise man, would gather the sudents in the auditorium and give us a welcome talk. And every September, he told us:

    Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls. Kids will be kids. That means that during the coming school year, one, some and/or all of you will do something incredible stupid. It's the nature of the beast. That neither excuses nor mitigates whatever stupid stunts you will do. It simply explains why that will happen. It is my hope that you will use your better judgment to avoid such errors, but your judgement is still developing, so again, there will be times when it is lacking. So, when you do that incredibly stupid thing, if you step forward and admit to your error and are willing to accept responsibility and learn from it, we will see that as maturation in progress and treat you accordingly. On the other hand, if you shirk your responsibility, or try to shift blame to someone else, or lie, well, we can be be quite harsh in our response. So you can mature voluntarily, or involuntarily. I assure you, the former is much more pleasant.

    F. Hamilton Whipple was a man of his word, and when those inevitable screw ups occurred, those who stepped forward were dealt with quite gracefully, and those who didn't received stern punishment. And, over the years, many of us in my class discussed F. Hamilton Whipple and how his "Boys will be boys...." talk and actions truly influenced us. Some profoundly. In fact, I took this approach with my daughters, and they with their children. And it works.

    Now, what does tha above have to do with this thread? Well, F. Hamilton Whipple knew very well that teen years were unavoidable. We had to go through them. Therefore, he did his brilliant best to make them productive for us, even when we screwed up.

    The protracted war in Iraq/Afghanistan was not unavoidable. Our leadership voluntarily placed our troops into one of man's greatest moral cesspools - combat. In my experience, I found that there were many parallels between the sage words of F. Hamilton Whipple quoted above and troops in combat. Give a bunch of people loaded weapons, identify targets for those weapons, make killing a typical (and noble) daily task, make survival critical, and we become capable of doing incredibly stupid things. The very environment is conducive to it. People often do not have the time, wisdom or information to make morally, no less tactically enlightened decisions on the spot.

    That neither excuses nor mitigates the incredibly stupid things that are happening in Afghanistan. It simply explains them. Yes, leaders and troops alike need to focus on avoiding stupidity, but the stage has been set and stupidity will rear it's ugly head. In high school, our stupidity never cost human lives, as it was typically manifested in dumb pranks. But in a combat zone, where death and dismemberment is part of the "plan", we see what is described.

    Initiating wars of choice is not only stupid, but it gives rise to the stupid things people do in war. Stupidity breeding inevitable stupidity. Dragging out the war in Afghanistan, in a major part by stupidly initiating an unnecessary war in Iraq, is stupidity squared, and we have probably increased the occurrence of stupid things exponentially as a result. F. Hamilton Whipple's goal was to guide us through "outgrowing" our teen years, exiting all the better for it. In creating and accepting "The Long War", we have ensured that one or two generations of service members will be trapped in years where stupidity is going to take place and costs lives. No one is being called to step forward to accept responsibility for it, so no maturation is being assured. Rather the stupidity is excused, hidden, accepted or mitigated. Why? Because of "The Mission". The end justifies the stupidity.

    You see, it's almost a case of voluntary arrested development!

  2. These leaks won't amount to much. Maybe, just maybe (most likely not) the American public may become a little more understanding of the ugliness of war. At the end of the day, this very pragmatic administration will chalk it up to the cost of war, and will probably also point out how much of it happened prior to them taking over. If someone wants to leak something of some significance, leak the Iran war plan. That might actually stop a war before it starts, as compared to simply trying to put a spotlight on actions that have already happened.

  3. To all,
    I still call all of this phony war.
    It's not a war- it's pointless and meaningless violence, which is an alternate definition of Terrorism.
    We are using pointless violence to counter pointless violence.As Al says this is stupidity squared.And if BG is right and the American public is understanding and accepting this violence as legit , then lets bring it up to the third power.
    Restraint has never won a war, and doubtfully ever will.Remember war is not the topic here, but rather military madness.

  4. Chief,
    I like to analyze pics.
    Look at your squared away troops in the 1st pic.They are STRAC, look clean and well kitted,BUT THE DUMB FUCKS ARE NOT USING THE TERRAIN.
    They are obviously scanning the skyline for snipers , or whatever, so the question is-WHERE ARE THEIR FLANKERS UP ON THAT SKYLINE?
    Why are they standing in a potential kill zone with their proverbial thumbs up their asses.
    I reckon walking trails is now the thing to do, although , as a Ranger/SF dude this was always a no no in the past .

  5. To all,
    I went and read all i could on the NYT data, and it boils down to what i always say.
    We are always discussing the HOW AND NOT THE WHY.

  6. We are always discussing the HOW AND NOT THE WHY.

    Yup, and you're not a sensible, non-partisan commenter if you do not understand the necessities of war and you'll never ever get interviewed on the TeeVee.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Charlie Rose

    One Friedman ago today, Charlie Rose had a panel discussion about the surge. His guests were:

    Fareed Zakaria who supported the war.
    Bill Kristol who supported the war.
    Richard Holbrooke who supported the war.
    Ken Duberstein who supported the war.
    Rahm Emanuel who supported the war.
    David Ignatius who supported the war.

    Michael Duffy, Tom Ricks, and Robin Wright who, as "straight" journalists, presumably took no public positions on the war.

  7. Jim is right, there is nothing new here. A few press outlets had several weeks to go over this and the most they can find is stuff they claim is "new" but really isn't. In the end, this database of reports will simply serve as a resource for people using the Doug Feith method of analysis.

  8. I trust that you all noticed the technological revolution that just happened here.

  9. I'm a little surprised that nobody caught the sarcasm here. Restraint? Because we didn't crucify 5,000 slaves?

    Damn! Maybe we ARE becoming the Warrior Society..!

    Anyway, the real bottom line here is that all the people we're killing are just towelheads. The American public could give a picoshit. The fact that these foolishly undisciplined "blue-on-whites" make a nearly impossible task even more impossible doesn't occur to anyone, it seems, even to the Jedi leading our clone troopers against the Sepratist hordes.

    You'd think that someone would "get it", but given that there is no indication that these were ever given out as "lessons learned", there doesn't appear to BE a learning curve, as Al's Mr. Whipple knew perfectly well would be the problem if he made "zero-defects" the goal.

    Oh, well.

    As with an Army, so with a nation. Deeds done in the dark and in secret will never serve, either as cautionary tales or as signposts to success; for those reasons the Founders and Framers intended the bulk of the Public's business to be done in public.

    We're foolish to accept these tactical boners as classified; it serves no purpose other to hide the culpability of the killers, their supervisors, and the reality of colonial war/rebellion suppression from Joe & Mary Lunchpail.

    But the caissons go rolling along...

  10. jim: I noticed the Recon Commandos "Shoot Me Now" IMTs, too. WTF? The only thing I can think of is that they were in a secure area and just pretending for the photog. Maybe they want the Talibs to think they're that fucking lazy...

  11. If what I think Ael means by "technological revolution" is true, and BAM correct me if I'm wrong, I do believe we're entering an era where it will be impossible for governments to hold any hallowed secrets or to BS its way through a misbegotten foreign adventure.

    As with an Army, so with a nation. Deeds done in the dark and in secret will never serve, either as cautionary tales or as signposts to success; for those reasons the Founders and Framers intended the bulk of the Public's business to be done in public.

    I read a response by a General Jones that these papers will ruin us all!

    . . . White House National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, who was reportedly one of many US officials calling the release of the documents irresponsible. He stated, "The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk and threaten our national security."

    Obviously, if a legitimate action ( say an attempt to rescue some citizens in danger or to defend a specific interest ) is put at risk by this new tool, it can be dangerous. But on balance, this is good. I'm very tired of hearing BS that I cynically know is BS and having to make guesses as to what really is happening.

    A government that regularly lies to its citizens on any issue rapidly loses credibility, AFAIC.

    According to the Wikileaks website, the organization’s hope is that pushing transparency upon government will reduce corruption.

    “We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies,” says the site. “All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information.”


  12. Maybe they're warding off hacked drones.



  13. Ael: The only "new" thing about it is that such a huge portion of the mainstream press has become so fucking lazy, venal, incompetent and sputum-suckers to the powerful (let's call this the "Judith Miller Press") that people wanting to blow the whistle on this silly crap have to go to the electronical Internets. Because they know if they went to the NYT, or CBS, the editor there would call one of his cronies at Defense or State and, after hearing that his "news organization" would lose it's coveted seat at the White House Press Dinner, would spike the story...

    But here's the real point of this whole macguffin: sending Western troops into Third World countries is a mug's game unless you want to actually rule the place.

    Basically you have to kill a pantsload of people to work it - even the British and French, who were relatively decent as colonialists go (don't even ask what the Belgians were up to in the Congo, the Spanish in Peru, or the Portuguese in Angola if you want to keep your supper down...) had hundreds of years of famines, whippings, massacres, all the way up to unbelievably savage stuff like the suppression of the Bengal Rebellion (the "Sepoy Mutiny") of 1857 in which perhaps 200-300,000 Bengalis died or were killed to avenge the deaths of several thousand Europeans.

    And, in the end, the Westerners went home.

    If we wanted to shove a pliant Qusiling on the throne of Afghanistan, as so many foreign invaders have done before, we could have and should have done that in a couple of years. Instead...well, I have no idea what we're doing "instead". Trying to make some sort of First World army and police force in a place with a gross national product about the equivalent of Groton, Connecticut? Kill every single Afghan and Pakistani wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt?

    I have no fucking idea. But right now there seems to be no end in sight, because, among other things, these dumb blue-on-whites.

    My feeling is that the "news" is that if you don't want your people wandering around central Asia killing natives, you need to pick a day, roll up the tents, and go home. Because otherwise this stuff will just go on and on...

  14. Explain please, "blues on whites".

    And back up to Al, we had a rash of teen deaths a couple of years ago. One incident, a teen girl pulled out of a truck stop on a highway and got creamed with a couple of her friends by a semi hauling ass.

    Cell-phone in her dead hand.

    A kid I had in class went off east for school somewhere ( Baltimore? ) and shot himself. I still have a drawing of Zeus he did for me as a project. He was a very good artist.

    These days, I don't think Mr. Whipple would matter.

    I truly believe these times are deadlier.


  15. bb-

    Mr Whipple was not simply trying to prevent what you describe. He was trying to, and did, instill a sense of responsibility in us. There was no over nor under reaction. No CYA, for the students, the parents, the faculty nor himself.

    No matter how deadly the times, if no one learns to accept responsibility for their actions, mistakes will not only be repeated, but encouraged.

    As FDChief said, he did not pursue a ridiculous notion of "Zero Defects". Rather, he worked to get us to minimize dumb stunts through rational understanding of how dumb they were and being held responsible when we were dumb.

  16. Chief:

    The press has always been venal and lazy.
    Furthermore, as printing presses are expensive, they tended to be controlled by the elites.

    The internet has decisively broken the oligarchical political information flow. You could see it with the rise of the blogs, but it is dramatically demonstrated by the NYT, The Guardian, Der Speigal and the Whitehouse all dancing to Wikileak's tune.

    Over time, this will dramatically change our democracy.

    I expect to see a crushing administrative and legislative response. I don't expect the response will, however, be ultimately successful.

  17. To all,
    Obama pledged and promised transparency and open gov't-until he got elected.
    And a lot of fools believed this.
    xin loi.
    Who cares what O's reaction is to any of this- it's the citizens reactions that count.
    And they ain't gonna do squat.

  18. basil: "blue on blue" has always been US Army slang for friendly fire; we use blue on tactical maps to denote friendly forces, hence the term.

    So "blue-on-white" means friendly troops slotting neutrals or civilians.

    Ael: The majority of the press has always been venal and lazy. But you're insulting people like Upton Sinclair and the great muckrakers - the people who helped break open the oligarchy of the late 19th Century and first two decades of the 20th and usher in the New Deal - when you say that all the newspapers pre-Internet were like the Hearst empire.

    I don't see anything really "new" in the Internet, other than that it is a natural response to the consolidation of the media chains and their growing coziness with government and industry. Prior to the Eighties you typically had two newspapers and two or three TV stations in a major city. They competed for readership by breaking stories (among other things). This helped get stuff like the "Pentagon Papers" and other leaks published.

    Now? It's likely that all the print media and most of the TV in your city or town are owned by one company. Ad revenue, not circulation, drives coverage.

    And the cult of "access" has replaced the nasty habit of earlier journos. Look at the wire service stories and count now many of the quotes are from someone OTHER than a government or business talking head. Count how many times that the journo actually tells you "The govenment account does not agree with the observed facts".

    And public indifference has not changed. Historically we have been extremely casual about killing people who don't look like us, whether they were Kiowa, Filipino, Japanese, Panamanian, Iraqi, or now Afghans.

    I believe this entire story will be out of the news cycle this time next week.

  19. Bacevich's view . . .

    His conclusion?

    "The real significance of the Wikileaks action is of a different character altogether: it shows how rapidly and drastically the notion of "information warfare" is changing. Rather than being defined as actions undertaken by a government to influence the perception of reality, information warfare now includes actions taken by disaffected functionaries within government to discredit the officially approved view of reality. This action is the handiwork of subversives, perhaps soldiers, perhaps civilians. Within our own national security apparatus, a second insurgent campaign may well have begun. Its purpose: bring America's longest war to an end. Given the realities of the digital age, this second insurgency may well prove at least as difficult to suppress as the one that preoccupies General Petraeus in Kabul."

  20. Seydlitz,
    The coin crowd never did care about winning hearts and minds in CONUS.
    In addition they want to secure the pop/prc in theater while the Ami population is twisting in the wind.
    I hope that we few were the start of the 2nd insurgency.