Sunday, October 24, 2010


So the Wikileaks people have done another infodump regarding the Seven Years' War in central Asia, a.k.a. the Third Gulf War (counting Iran-Iraq as one and 1991 as two) or, if you insist on the silly DoD "code name" (a "code" which would have a hard time fooling Shaggy and Scooby), Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As usual, there is no shocking revelation here. There is nothing we haven't heard of, seen, or suspected, since the days when the shock came with a side order of awe.What is just depressing to me as an old soldier, though, is the pure predictability of the information we're seeing in the sitreps and TOC logs the Wikileaks people have amassed.

1. Iran was heavily involved in messing with our operations in Iraq. I'm shocked, shocked! After the way the Chinese left us alone in Korea in the Fifties and the Chinese and Sovs stayed out of our hair in Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, who'd have thought it?No wonder the finest geostrategic minds within the Beltway were utterly blindsided by this!

2. The Iraqi "government" we sponsored - in a crude, post-Ottoman, ethnically-divided, bitterly impoverished, historically kleptocratic- and thuggish pseudostate, mind you - turned out to be as or nearly as brutal and arbitrary as Saddam's.Well, DAMN!

Didn't see that one coming.

3. We killed more hapless civvies at places like checkpoints and from the air than we did the muj. I predicted this one from back in '03, knowing what I did about our Army's obsession with force protection. If you capped an Iraqi mama-san you risked at worst a slap on the pinkie. If you let a car-bomb do one of your roadblocks? Kiss that OER goodbye, sir. So we capped assloads of innocent people.

No, duh?

The cumulative thing that makes this frustrating is the same-same-ness of it all. Back in the Seventies Dan Ellsberg took a pretty huge personal risk to expose the mountain of lies that the Vietnam War was built over and the national response was a collective yawn.

Now we're reading - again - that this fucking Mess-o-potamia was built on lies and lies about lies.

Don't get me wrong here. My country has lied its way into war, lied about its conduct in war, time and again. No, the Mexicans didn't invade the Nueces Strip, the Spanish didn't sink the Maine, and the the Vietnamese didn't attack the C. Turner Joy, either. Yes, we bombed civilian targets in WW2, we burned out downtown Panama in 1989 and lied about it. Churchill, no stranger to the politics and strategems of war, said that in it truth needed a bodyguard of lies.

But, as these documents remind us - again - this damn war didn't just have a bodyguard of lies. It had a recon and security screen of lies - lies about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and model airplanes filled with death from above. It had a main line of resistance of lies, lies about flowers and candy, lies about easy peasy, lies about body counts, lies about Iraqi exiles and Iraqi politics, lies about reconstruction and "coalition" provisional authorities. It had reserves of lies, lies about Shiites and Sunnis, lies about weapons and where they went, lies about Al Qaeda and muj and Sadrists. It had a logistical and support base of lies, lies about no-bid contracts and mercenaries and political and diplomatic conditions. It had a no-bid contract of lies, an entire Third Shop of lies, a theatre-level of lies, an entire Base Section, MACOM, and CONUS-full of lies and spin and bullshit.

And all these lies, for what?

Yes, Saddam is gone. In 1918 many an Englishman or Frenchman would have told you that the defenstration of the Kaiser was the best thing that could happen to Germany and that they couldn't imagine anything worse, and many a Russian, a Pole, or a Ukranian would have told you that the fall of the Tsar was a victory for Everyman everywhere inside the old Russian Empire.

And within twenty yearstwo menwould make those wishful-thinking optimists long for the old autocrats.

We had an uneasy arrangement with Saddam for decades. It wasn't good, it sucked for the Iraqis, it was expensive and irritating and we wanted things to be better. So in a moment of hubris and willful ignorance we kicked it to splinters and had to lie our asses off to do it and what did we get in return?

I don't think we even know yet. I think we will have no idea what we will see there for a decade, or two, and whether it will make us long for Saddam's mere brutality as a zek perishing in Stalin's lead mines may have pined for the Tsar.But this leaked pile of crap reminds us that what we do know is that whatever rough beast is slouching towards Baghdad to be born was engendered and midwived by lies, fucking lies, piles and heaps and mountains of lies upon lies.


  1. And all the original lies beget only more lies . . . since we have quite different powerful domestic interests to comply with than those powerful domestic interests that originally got us in this mess. Or more simply the interests behind the original "grand transformation of the Middle East" have morphed into "the generational war against 'Islamofabulism'".

    Or more simply, War as the continuation of economic corruption and cashing in at the government trough through very specific means . . . Which brings us to the main distinction with the past, as in all our earlier wars had definable and more or less rational political purposes (a means to an end), whereas those of today are the ends in themselves.

  2. Chief,
    There's a fine line here.
    I think that your take is really well done and comprehensive, EXCEPT to call it lies would put it solidly into reality.
    Istm that it resides in illusion and unreality which indicates fantasy and psychotic delusion on a national level, which dovetails well with the way that Hitler and Stalin achieved power and domination. They were not poster boys for mental health, and our leaders display the same irrational orientation to objective reality.
    I find it wishful thinking to elevate this behavior to the level of lies. At least a liar knows that there is a larger truth and this knowledge is beyond a man like Bush, and now apparently Obama.. Calling this stuff a lie is like calling aids/hiv an infection.
    It's a hard pill to swallow that our system is based in behavior described in the DSM .

  3. jim: I think there is a distinction here between the Tom Fools that led and the Jack Fools that followed.

    I think the people that engineering this nonsense - the Cheney Ring and their tools in the media - knew perfectly well that they were telling lies. They knew we had Saddam boxed in, knew he presented no danger to anyone except his own people and those only the ones he could reach (i.e. the Kurds were relatively safe under our aerial umbrella), they knew that the UN inspectors were right and that his cehm/bio/nuke programs were gutted. I think they DID know those truths but wanted to ignore them. If you close your eyes and sing "lalalalala!!!" to drown out something you don't want to hear you're a fucking idiot but not a nutjob. If you believe your own propaganda you're a colossal fool but not a madman.

    But they thought they could snap up a strategic asset on the cheap, and so ignored the realities and told all the lies they had too - and practically everything they SAID prior to 2005 was a lie - to make that happen.

    Now there were other fools who believed those lies, whose excuse really is some sort of dementia or fantasia in repeating and believing the lies when it didn't take a very big dose of common sense to see them as the lies they were.

    These people may genuinely be classed as delusional.

  4. I find it wishful thinking to elevate this behavior to the level of lies. At least a liar knows that there is a larger truth and this knowledge is beyond a man like Bush, and now apparently Obama.. Calling this stuff a lie is like calling aids/hiv an infection.

    Money for ratings and money for high-paying government contract jobs and full campaign chests . . .

    In retrospect, much Banfield criticism reflected a hardening of American attitudes — or a closing of American minds — after 9/11. Her interviews with Arab groups, extremist and otherwise, weren’t assailed for her performance, but for having taken place at all, as if Americans would rather clap their hands over their ears than listen to disagreeable or different viewpoints. “With friends like Banfield, who needs enemies?” asked a typical disparager. Her most virulent critic, the conservative talk-radio star Michael Savage, hosted a weekly TV show on Banfield’s own network. Incredibly, on the air, Savage called her “the mind-slut with a big pair of glasses” who “looks like she went from porno into reporting.”

    Banfield objected. Her bosses did nothing.

    One must recall the zealous tenor of those months in order to make sense of what happened to Banfield next. Over on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly was attracting 7 million viewers a night to his bold, blustery, and sometimes ugly opinion show The O’Reilly Factor — easily the biggest success in cable news. As the Iraq War drew near, O’Reilly struck an ever more belligerent tone. Dissenters were “bad Americans,” and “anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well, let’s just say you will be spotlighted.” (Sean Hannity, another signature host with a huge following, often out-ranted O’Reilly.)

    MSNBC, running third behind Fox and CNN, increasingly sought to mimic Fox’s patriotic overdrive. On February 24, 2003, less than a month before the invasion of Iraq, MSNBC dumped Phil Donahue, cable TV’s most visible dissenter, citing low ratings. It’s true that Donahue’s ratings never approached O’Reilly’s, but it’s also true that Donahue had risen to the top of the MSNBC heap, ahead of Hardball with Chris Matthews.

  5. Part 2

    A leaked in-house memo told the real story: “Donahue represents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.… He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” A nightmare scenario, the memo continued, would have Donahue’s show become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

    MSNBC replaced Donahue with the respected if self-described “extraordinarily conservative” Joe Scarborough. It also hired Savage. The turn was unmistakably hard right.

    As Banfield surveyed developments like these, she began to question the state of cable news: Had the line between journalism and entertainment grown irreversibly blurred? Her unease deepened with the coverage of the Iraq War in March and April of 2003, which she thought celebrated the triumphs of war at the expense of the scarcely visible tragedies. These concerns formed the basis of a lecture Banfield delivered at Kansas State University on April 24, 2003, a couple of weeks after the fall of Baghdad. The lecture caused a furor — especially among her bosses at NBC, who publicly rebuked her: “We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her.”

    Banfield had no inkling that her comments would severely damage her career. “Perhaps that was my naïveté,” she admits. “I try to put myself in my own shoes now: Would I have made the same speech [today] knowing what I know? I would like to say yes.”

    What on earth did Banfield say? A review of the transcript shows the lecture was fairly tame, hardly the screed that headlines like “Banfield Lashes Out at Own Network” suggested. Her embedded colleagues had sent home extraordinary pictures, some of the best ever, Banfield observed; yet these pictures represented only a partial view of the war. “What didn’t you see? You didn’t see where those bullets landed. You didn’t see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage?”

    Banfield lamented the paucity of Arab and Muslim perspectives on our airwaves, an imbalance she had sought to redress. “As a journalist,” she told her audience, “I’m often ostracized just for saying these messages, just for going on television and saying, ‘Here’s what the leaders of Hezbollah are telling me, and here’s what the Lebanese are telling me, and here’s what
    the Syrians have said about Hezbollah.’ Like it or lump it, don’t shoot the messenger, but invariably the messenger gets shot.”


  6. Part 3

    We live in a sea of lies. I believe I've been saying this since the intel-dump days.

    Don't know what good that's done me.


  7. Chief,
    I roger your transmission, BUT, i still believe that the entire country has been in severe psychosis since 9-11.
    This fact prompted all of our actions both Executive and Legislative. The Judicial is even ett up with this madness.
    We wanted irrationality to rule us.
    And we still do.

  8. This regards OEF but deserves your attention:

    Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan- Today General Robert W. Smith held his first press conference since being tapped as the chief American commander (C-TRAGICOM) in Afghanistan three days ago, after the abrupt departure of General David Petraeus. The behind-the-scenes luminary – the two-star commander of Fort Distant, Wyoming - showed the charisma that made him a natural pick for the top job when he answered tough, even carping questions from the reporters flown from Kabul to the press conference. The affable general – an impressive 7’ 2” tall –won most of his audience over by the conclusion of the q&a.

    While it is now nearly six months since I have taken one of my helicopter tours of the Afghan battlespace with a top general – readers may recall my blog entry from June, when my trip was cancelled due to our handing over Kandahar Air Force Base to the Taliban –I have heard from acquaintances who have traveled around Afghanistan without our military that there are still areas – notably the city centers in Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat – which remain safe from Taliban incursions. I have never actually been to any location in Afghanistan by myself, but my military sources corroborate these accounts.

    Read the whole thing

  9. Andy: I did, and got a very dry laugh out of it.

    All the problems in the world right here in Smallville, USA, and yet we have to go find more in the mountains of central Asia...